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BOCES' proud legacy, present concerns and hopes for the future as a vital provider of educational services for New York's under-served students were top of mind for the more than 150 union members who participated in NYSUT's 38th annual BOCES Leadership Conference Oct. 22-23 in Albany.
"We know BOCES is unique and valuable," NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira told a roundtable of local presidents. "We will stay in constant communication and give you useful guidance on practices, trends and initiatives." Neira leads the union's efforts in school reform, finance, educational services and research, all affecting thousands of NYSUT BOCES members.
The local presidents spoke with Neira on a variety of members' concerns, from Medicaid reimbursements to overcrowded classrooms and staff cuts.
"Kids are not getting what they need when there are too many of them in a classroom," said Kathy Taylor from the Ulster BOCES Teachers Organization and a member of NYSUT's Board of Directors.
Many of the issues facing BOCES - such as overcrowding - are high on NYSUT's legislative agenda, said NYSUT's Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta, who coordinates the union's political and legislative efforts.
"We make sure your voice is heard in Albany," Pallotta said, citing thousands of pre-election mailings to members in support of pro-education and pro-BOCES legislators. "We are relentless and we will not stop. The hedge fund managers have their money pumped into this election; we have the voting strength of our members."
In workshops were filled to the maximum, leaders found information to bring back to their members, such as using IEPs to support student instruction and discussing recent legal decisions affecting members' rights on the job. Workshops about the future of BOCES and developing the next generation of local union leaders also provoked spirited discussions.
"Our commitment is that we will continue to do quality work for you and your members," Neira told participants, "whether your issues need to be addressed locally or on a larger level."