In a message that echoes NYSUT's call to "get it right," AFT President Randi Weingarten opened the national union's conference in Washington, D.C. urging members to stand up and work together to reclaim the promise of public education.
NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi (pictured above with Weingarten) said he was proud to see NYSUT's inspirational "One Voice United" June rally featured prominently in the video preceding Weingarten's keynote speech.
"Randi's call to action perfectly complements NYSUT's ongoing effort to get our members engaged and mobilized," Iannuzzi said. He praised Weingarten's focus on fighting poverty - she noted that one out of every two students in public school live in poverty - and reclaiming the promise of a great public education for all children.
Weingarten's address [ press release | video ] included several shout-outs to members from NYSUT locals big and small - from the United Federation of Teachers' community schools project to Keene Valley's Julie Holbrook, a food service manager featured on NYSUT's "It's What We Do" website, who created a school garden at her North Country district to provide students with fresh, healthy and delicious meals.
Weingarten said all the many examples, along with the much publicized efforts in Chicago, St. Louis, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, demonstrate how AFT members are standing up for public education around the country.
In the first day of the three-day conference, numerous NYSUT leaders and members were front and center:
• NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira (pictured above), an AFT vice president, got a warm welcome when she introduced Marco Antonio Quiroga, a national grassroots organizer with Immigration Equality. AFT Executive Vice President Francine Lawrence remarked, "You can tell New York is in the House!" [video]
• Alicia Pizzuto and Lisa Goldberg, both members of North Syracuse's Innovation Initiative team, served on a panel about how to implement and support a peer assistance and review program. Participants also heard from unionists in North Suburban Teachers Union in Illinois and Toledo.
• Michael Fabricant, treasurer of Professional Staff Congress/CUNY, led a panel discussion on the impact that privatization has on teachers, students and impoverished minority communities.
• Jose Luis Jiminez, and elementary school teacher and UFT member, was slated to serve on a panel about "The Power of Teacher Leadership."
More on the AFT TEACH conference at the NYSUT blog