September 07, 2011

Neira calls for 'innovation through collaboration'

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT Communications
Caption: NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira meets with Endicott Teachers Association President Lynn Gilyard. Photo by Steve Jacobs.

In back-to-school visits with staff at North Syracuse and Union-Endicott school districts this week, NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira celebrated the power of collaboration and urged educators to take an active role in their professional growth to improve teaching and learning.

Neira praised the work of North Syracuse's labor-management team, one of six school districts participating in NYSUT's Innovation Initiative to design and pilot a model teacher evaluation system. After limited field testing last spring, North Syracuse will be expanding the use of the model at the elementary and high school levels.

As New York moves forward to phase in new teacher evaluation regulations, Neira said North Syracuse's efforts show what's possible when practitioners are empowered and have a sense of "shared responsibility" to move forward together.

"People came out of there with a healthy dose of inspiration," said North Syracuse Education Association President John Kuryla. He said a union survey of staff found about two-thirds of teachers were willing to participate in the observation model, knowing it would be a practice year.

At the Union-Endicott school district, where the union is just beginning to negotiate a new Annual Professional Performance Review plan (their current APPR plan remains in place until negotiations conclude), Neira urged staffers to take a deliberative and thoughtful approach.

"She stressed the importance of making the most of this opportunity and working together to move forward," said Endicott Teachers Association President Lynn Gilyard.

In both visits, Neira concluded with a quote from Winston Churchill: "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty,"