September 30, 2013

SRP union activism imperative for success in challenging times

Author: Leslie Duncan Fottrell
Source: NYSUT Communications
SRP Conference

Calling School-Related Professionals an “important thread in the fabric that is NYSUT," NYSUT Vice President Kathleen Donahue praised SRP leaders for their commitment to their professions and their continued activism in these challenging political and economic times. 

Speaking during the 2013 SRP Leadership Conference, Donahue said SRPs have been shouldering a disproportionate share of staff cuts over the last few years. “It is only thanks to your leadership and to the commitment of your members that our schools continue to operate as well as they do and that our students continue to learn and succeed,” she said. 

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Donahue also urged SRP leaders to engage and help inform parents and caregivers about the importance of getting student assessment right, and to share “A Parents’ Guide to Student  Assessment,” which was created in partnership with the New York state PTA. 

NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta  praised SRPs for their contributions as he presented awards for VOTE-COPE, the union's voluntary political action fund. 

“We had a 90 percent success rate of NYSUT-endorsed candidates last year,” said Pallotta to loud applause. “That is thanks to you. Change is possible by giving to VOTE-COPE,” Pallotta said. 

Leaders also honored 2013 SRP of the Year Hilda Monfredo, a member of the Western Sullivan United Teachers and SRPs.  She was introduced by NYSUT SRP Advisory Committee Chairperson Karen Arthmann. 

The keynote speaker, Alex Blair, a labor historian and adjunct professor at University at Buffalo, echoed NYSUT leaders as he spoke of the necessity to protect our unions. “Unions promote citizenship. They are democratic organizations. They encourage citizenship inside the organization ... They promote us to be politically active. They educate, they organize. And that’s why we’re under attack,” said Blair. 

“Where unions are strong, citizenship is strong ... True citizenship means not just having a union, but being a union. And citizenship in our union is an activist and active state of being,” said Blair. “We have citizenship. We must protect it. We must enhance it.” 

The 35th annual conference was attended by 210 SRP leaders from 62 locals around the state. They participated in workshops and meetings on diverse topics, such as Working with Autistic Students, Workplace Bullying, SRPs role in the Common Core and Emergency Preparedness and Evacuation. 

Schenectady Federation of Teachers Paraprofessionals Unit Chairperson, Patti Zentko, attended the "SRPs Make a Difference" workshop, which focused on creating and disseminating effective messaging to community stakeholders about the vital contributions SRPs make to children’s educational experience. 

“We loved the workshop,” said Zentko. “People don’t  fully understand what we do. This will give us a great way to show them.” Zentko said she and her building director members, Sue Proctor, Rosemary Panetta and Bobbi Teta, have already begun planning how to begin implementing what they learned. 

At the local presidents' and chapter chairs' roundtable, Donahue led the conversation about pressing concerns. Among them: health care, job duties, the threat of privatization for some job titles and member engagement. 

Once again, the generosity of SRPs abounded: The leaders donated 1,125 books to the Liverpool Central School District and raised an impressive $3,240 for the NYSUT Disaster Relief Fund.

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