WOODBURY, N.Y. April 27, 2012 - Thousands of Nassau County teachers and other school workers, in a first-ever joint effort by the county's local teachers' unions, will fan out next week to deliver a heart-felt message to their communities that is not often heard in this time of painful layoffs, deep program cuts and the new property tax cap: Thank you for supporting public education!
Calling themselves Take Action Long Island (TALI), Nassau County teacher union leaders have organized activities that will range from pancake breakfasts at volunteer firehouses, to dinners for local PTA members and "reach out" phone calls home from teachers to parents. Many will take leading roles in already-scheduled community days. Several thousand teachers and other school workers will also wear special "Save Our Schools" buttons and hand out leaflets celebrating the accomplishments of local schools at commuter rail stations, Little League fields and community events.
The activists - all members of the 600,000-member New York State United Teachers - want to drill home the point that, while educators are fighting for the resources that students need, teachers and support staff inherently know that parents and community members on Long Island are their strongest allies and some of the most stalwart supporters of public education.
"Nassau County schools are excellent, and they're excellent because of the hard work of dedicated teachers; the commitment that parents make year after year to support local schools, and the consistent backing we receive from our local communities during school budget voting," said Daphna Arm, a teacher in Merrick and a TALI organizer. "Although local teachers' unions in Nassau and Suffolk counties regularly engage in meaningful community relations projects, this is the first time we are coordinating our activities in a way that shows our unity while also recognizing the broad support that public education enjoys across Long Island."
Arthur Cooke, a Port Washington teacher and co-chair of the TALI steering committee, said teachers countywide are cognizant of the support that educators receive – even in difficult economic times. "Teachers and parents, working together, are unstoppable. And when you add the broad community support we receive year after year, you have something special – and that's what we want to acknowledge and celebrate," Cooke said. "It's important, especially this year, to pause and take stock. Local schools do an excellent job educating Long Island's children, and the challenge going forward is to continue to do that, even with dwindling resources."
Although Arm and Cooke acknowledged that the May 15 school budget votes are approaching, they said the massive community relations project has been in the works for months. They said TALI is more aimed at involving local union members in positive community activities than the politics of school budgets and school board elections.
Some highlights of the events taking place from Sunday, April 29, to Saturday, May 5 are:
Freeport teachers and teaching assistants will be supporting the district's Peace March at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 5, at Freeport High School. Teachers are partnering with the local NAACP and will provide healthy snacks to participants. Contact Stu Napear, 516-510-8983.
Hicksville: Teachers will host PTA and other parent leaders at a special recognition dinner. Teachers will also participate in special "reach out" program to parents. Contact: Joan Deem, 631-291-6125.
Bellmore-Merrick and Merrick teachers will support Robbie's Run, which raises money to purchase defibrillators for local Little Leagues Sunday, April 29, at 8:30 a.m. at Norman Levy Lakeside ES. Contact: Michael Dolber, 516-729-9139 or Daphna Arm, 646-269-6706.
Island Park teachers will be joining the local MS Walk and Barbecue; Long Beach Boardwalk @ Riverside, with the barbecue to follow at 84 Island Parkway. Contact: Pat Collins, 516-606-0527.
Amityville (Suffolk) teachers will host a pancake breakfast at 9 a.m. Sunday, April 29, to thank volunteer firefighters at the firehouse, Oak Street, Amityville. Contact: Carolyn Dodd, 631-374-8712.
Meanwhile, teachers and support staff will be handing out pro-education "thank you" flyers across Nassau County at numerous railroad stations, Little League and softball fields and other community events.
NYSUT, the state's largest union, represents more than 600,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher education, professionals in education and health care and retirees. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.