Summer 2011
June 27, 2011

Locals in action

Source: NYSUT United
Caption: Students and educators from the Washington, Saratoga, Warren, Hamilton and Essex BOCES participate in a lesson on child labor practices in the cocoa industry. Anne Kelly, left, Fair Trade coordinator with Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State, discusses the importance of Fair Trade. Photo by Timothy Harrison Raab.

Buffalo Teachers Federation

Concerned about students with disabilities not receiving appropriate services, the Buffalo Teachers Federation took action. Now thousands of the city's neediest students will have access to the support they need and deserve.

The 4,000-member local, led by Phil Rumore, wrestles continuously with issues endemic to a high-needs district; among them, appropriate levels of assistance for students with disabilities.

With those concerns in mind, the local filed a series of complaints with the state Education Department. The union alleged the school district:

  • Failed to provide students with disabilities the programs and services recommended in their individualized education programs (IEPs);
  • Limited the availability of special education programs and services to students with disabilities; and
  • Did not provide instruction by appropriately certified individuals to students with disabilities at PS 197.

SED's investigation found each of the allegations was upheld. "Due to the systematic nature of these sustained allegations, the district must take the corrective actions in the enclosed compliance plan to ensure future appropriate provision of services for all students with disabilities," a letter from SED to Superintendent James Williams states.

As a result, the district must institute a number of corrective actions, including:

  • Creating new procedures so students with disabilities are provided services when schools are short on substitute teachers.
  • Disseminating the new procedures and signed assurances to district and school level staff.
  • Providing written proof that the district is in compliance with the new orders from the state.

"We look forward to working with the district to correct the problems so that our most disadvantaged students are provided with all the services they need," Rumore said.

Saratoga-Adirondack BOCES EA

GED and middle school students in the Washington, Saratoga, Warren, Hamilton and Essex BOCES special education program learned about child labor practices in the cocoa industry during a special event supported by the Saratoga-Adirdonack BOCES Education Association, led by Bert Weber. Other supporters included NYSUT and the New York State Labor-Religion Coalition.

Several days before the program, students watched the documentary, "The Dark Side of Chocolate." Later, NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer Lee Cutler, and Anne Kelly, Fair Trade coordinator with the labor-religion coalition, spoke to the students about the importance of Fair Trade and NYSUT's goal to promote an end to child labor.

SABEA member and teaching assistant Sandy Carner-Shafran, a member of NYSUT's Board of Directors who serves on the Fair Trade Committee, initiated the event that shed light on the epidemic of child and forced labor, and trafficking in the cocoa industry.

Students concluded the program by dipping strawberries into melted Fair Trade chocolate and, of course, enjoying them.

Union-Endicott Office Personnel Association

When local unions want to raise scholarship funds, they do whatever it takes to send their students to the next level.

For the fourth consecutive year, the Union-Endicott Office Personnel Association from Broome County, near Binghamton, held a semi-annual craft show in April, with another slated for the fall. "The OPA has used the proceeds from the events to provide scholarships to graduating seniors the past two years," said local president Lisa Wahila. "In addition, we've donated money to several needy families, as well as to the Special Olympics."

More than 60 vendors selling products from holiday cards to handcrafted jewelry and fresh maple syrup filled a district elementary school. "We intend to build our community outreach and increase the scholarship money we have available," Wahila said, encouraging other locals to think about sponsoring this type of event. "It's fun and provides a chance to renew contacts with former students, their parents and our neighbors."

Capital Region BOCES FA

Members of the Teaching Assistants and Aides unit of the Capital Region BOCES Faculty Association are eager to share ideas that can be used to help students and other School-Related Professionals.

The union held a showcase at the end of the school year highlighting the professional development work that teaching assistants have completed in the past year. The projects were created in collaboration with school principals as part of the Annual Professional Performance Review requirements, and used to help career and technical students and special education students achieve their goals.

Colleen Condolora, union vice president overseeing the TAs and Aides unit, put together five presentations showcasing the projects so they could be used as resources for other educators. One teaching assistant designed a photography course for cognitively delayed high school students. Another created portfolios for culinary students to use as they look for jobs upon leaving high school.

Another showcase was an adult perspective on raising a child with disabilities.

Parents, teachers, administrators, social workers and speech therapists are all invited to the annual showcase. "It was important to get the word out to administrators and other teaching assistants of what everyone does," said Condolora.

"Teaching assistants here have taken it up a notch working to develop new, innovative ideas to help engage kids when traditional methods don't," said Doug Harple, FA president.