NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi and AFT President Randi Weingarten delivered a message of unity to hundreds of educators, students, parents and community activists at a town hall forum on education reform Monday night at Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica.
"What I"m seeing, friends, around the country is that when we fight the fight that unites those who serve with those whom we serve, when they see us working together, then things turn around," Weingarten told the gathering, as many in the audience nodded in agreement and applauded. A broad, inclusive outreach to parents and community stakeholders is giving a stronger voice to NYSUT and AFT as the unions work with state and federal education departments on the implementation of teacher assessments and Common Core curriculum.
Iannuzzi said NYSUT has been developing closer ties with community organizations and parents, an approach that has proven highly effective. "Our message is simply not a message we can carry ourselves," Iannuzzi said. "The only way to carry that message is to engage the parents in the local community. There's nothing about NYSUT's principles that are contrary to what parents want. The goal is the same. How you get to that goal is the critical part."
Both leaders reminded the audience that parents provided critical backing to the striking Chicago teachers two months ago, and it was their support for their children's teachers that helped steer the strike to a favorable contract resolution for the union.
Iannuzzi said the union has been a measured voice of reason during the implementation of teacher assessments and a Common Core curriculum when the State Education Department has at times seemed "on a quest to get things done fast rather than see they get done right."
Allison Doughtie, president of the NYSUT local Mohawk Valley Community College Professional Association, moderated the forum. A number of NYSUT board members, local leaders and legislators were part of the audience of more than 300.