Singer and songwriter Tom Chapin (pictured above), a 1966 graduate of the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, warmed up offstage before his energizing performance at the “One Voice United” rally. He was joined by his accompanists Michael Mark, a Nyack Board of Education member, and Mark’s wife, Mary Mark, a Nyack reading teacher.
Chapin proudly notes that he is a through-and-through product of public education in New York, starting with Public School 41 in Manhattan, and on to Public School 8 in Brooklyn, Brooklyn Technical High School and then SUNY.
“I’m a huge fan of teachers,” Chapin notes. “I was in the first liberal arts class at SUNY Plattsburgh, but all of my friends were future teachers. My kids went to public school; I’m a product of public school, and a huge believer in it.”
Other supporters of higher education turned out both in the crowd and on the stage. NYSUT board member Andy Sako, president of Faculty Federation of Erie Community College, was impressed by the turnout.
“We’re all one; we’re all standing together – administrators, parents and the higher education community,” Sako says. “We’re here to support our desire to eliminate this needless overuse of testing and to speak out against the privatization of higher education.”
Fred Kowal, newly elected president of United University Professions – which represents academic and professional faculty at the state-operated SUNY campuses, including the system’s three SUNY teaching hospitals – delivers a stirring message that speaks of the teaching and healing done by UUP members as “sacred work.”
“We in UUP believe affordable, accessible public education should be a civil right, a human right,” Kowal says. “We teach and we heal – we’re strong!”
Kowal (pictured above) also delivers a strong message of support for SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, which is fighting for its survival in theface of crippling budget cuts.
“If you come with me to Brooklyn, you will see thousands of people energized,” Kowal calls to the crowd, his voice picking up tempo. “The movement is picking up steam. It’s taking us to a place of promise where justice will exist for all!”
Rowena Blackman-Stroud (pictured above), SUNY Downstate Medical Center’s chapter president and a UUP statewide officer, adds: “The Downstate Medical chapter stands with you against the attacks on public education and attacks on public health care. Will you speak out?” The crowd roars back: “Yes!”
Bryan Meyers, acting deputy director for community colleges in the State University of New York Student Assembly, reminds the crowd that, “as residents of New York, you are stakeholders in public education.”
After he leaves the stage, Meyers (pictured below) adds: “It’s exhilarating to see people come from all over the state for the betterment of our education system.”