North Country locals
Educators from seven North Country teacher unions are gathering for the third community-wide All-Together Fall Festival, coordinated by Saranac Teachers Association member Michele Bushey.
The late September event in West Plattsburgh strengthens relationships between educators and the community. Local union members volunteer time, talent, money and prizes and host booths. Cider and doughnuts are plentiful. The Northeast Central Labor Council also donates funds for the event.
Bushey, a biology teacher, organizes the festival with support from the Saranac TA, led by Ralph Cross. She said it is an opportunity for teachers to network, to show community members the good spirit of teachers and to improve morale in the face of cutbacks and losses. She started the festival to combat an anti-teacher group that formed in the area.
"It is a free, fun get-together for families," Bushey said.
Art and music performances showcase school programs that have been on the chopping block. The first year, a student string quartet played. Last year, Rod Driscoll, president of the Ausable Valley TA, played guitar and keyboard.
"So many positive comments were generated from this event," Bushey said.
Locals participating the past several years are Ausable Valley TA, Beekmantown TA, Champlain Valley Educational Services United Professionals, Malone Federation of Teachers and Peru Association of Teachers. More are expected this year. The Plattsburgh TA annually provides gift baskets for a free raffle — and pumpkins for painting.
"We supply paints, smocks and supervision while the kids paint," said Cindy O'Neil, a member of the 240-member Plattsburgh TA, which is participating in NYSUT's three-year Local Action Project to build community relations.
The festival is one of many ways the Plattsburgh TA spreads unionism through good deeds and widespread outreach with others.
"We do a lot of partnerships with other agencies, community groups, and other teachers associations," said Mary Lou LaRocque-Megarr, Plattsburgh TA president. The local union also works with its retirees to sponsor a hole at an annual charitable golf tournament. Retirees raise money for the event and play in it.
In March, the local puts up a team of its members who compete in a Literacy Challenge competition sponsored by Literacy Volunteers. The association also donates money to Journey to Reading, hosted by retired Peru AT member Alice Sample. Children who sign up for weekly readings at the mall are given a book to take home.
In another community outreach effort, the local donates money each September to the city-sponsored reenactment of the 1812 Battle of Plattsburgh and for events during the commemorative week.
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake TA
The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake TA raised $1,900 for local students and community members through its second annual garage sale. The local, led by Michael Mosall, donated $1,000 to its scholarship fund, $500 to Community Human Services and $400 to the middle school Odyssey of the Mind Team. The garage sale also netted eight large bags of women's and children's clothing and shoes donated to the Bethesda House of Schenectady and two full truck loads of items (including clothing, baby supplies, home goods, toys, and books) for the Schenectady City Mission.