Talk about an overflow crowd. After the 900-seat auditorium at Patchogue-Medford's Saxton Middle School quickly filled up with educators, parents, students and other community activists protesting the governor's education agenda, organizers set up an overflow area in the gymnasium - where people sat in the bleachers and squeezed together on the floor.
Even that wasn't enough, as the crowd spilled out into two cafeterias, several classrooms and, finally, the hallways. The crowd just kept coming, with traffic virtually shutting down Route 112 and backed up at least a mile on Sunrise Highway.
"Gov. Cuomo, Do you hear our roar?" a number of activists tweeted. "Do you hear our #1voice now?"
Many wore "Stand Up for Public Education" red T-shirts, carried signs saying "More teaching, less testing" and posed irreverently with a cardboard cut-out of the man who has refused thousands of invitations from educators to visit their schools.
Audience members scooped up 4,000 postcards to send to their local state lawmakers, urging them to stand firm against Cuomo's so-called reform agenda.
"Well, he's certainly motivated a lot of people," said East Islip TA President Tom Barry. "The energy, it's enormous."
Speakers included impassioned area superintendents, teacher leaders, parent activists and a fifth-grade student who poignantly explained how excessive testing is hurtful to kids.
NYSUT Vice President Paul Pecorale was especially moved by the words of Allison Noonan, president of the Northport-East Northport Special Education Parent-Teacher Association. "This is our Rosa Parks moment," she said. "Don't stop until this governor upholds the promises of public education."
Consewogue Superintendent Joe Rella railed against the governor's test-and-punish agenda. "Why are we testing what the kids don't know instead of what they DO know?"
Patchogue-Medford Superintendent Michael Hynes estimated the crowd topped 4,000 people. Not bad given that organizers scrambled to get the word out about the rescheduled event that was postponed from the week before due to bad weather.
It's a big week on Long Island for pro-public education community events. On Monday night, more than 1,500 parents, teachers and others turned out at Long Island University for a New York State Allies for Public Education forum featuring writer and education advocate Diane Ravitch. In Nassau County Thursday night, a community forum is slated for 7 p.m. at Westbury.
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