NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino hailed NYSUT members who work with students as "dream makers and dream keepers," as she announced three major initiatives to advance public education in the state.
"When I was a young girl in Argentina, living in another language, I grew up learning about 'los maestros' — the teachers — and how they were always fighting in the streets to call out injustice," Fortino said.
"'Los maestros' inspired my life's work. Brothers and sisters, as you connect with your colleagues at this RA, I urge you to look beyond the name and affiliate on the badge. I urge you to strike up a conversation about your personal story, your experiences that have brought you here today."
Fortino told delegates that NYSUT's three new projects "will strengthen the power of our collective voice."
• P-20 Think Tanks: From Research to Practice" will bring together members in regional areas with expertise at all levels of learning, from pre-kindergarten through college, to strengthen teaching and learning, including teacher preparation and certification.
• The "Support Our Schools for Success" initiative will organize a statewide gathering of leading practitioners, policymakers, researchers, representatives of business and industry, and community-based groups to develop multiple ways to enhance public education.
"It is time to reject the repudiated agenda of test-and-label, test-and-punish, test-and-close-our-schools," Fortino said.
• Finally, as Congress and the White House debate the best way to revamp the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, popularly known as No Child Left Behind, NYSUT plans to bring state officials to the table to develop an alternative accountability system for public schools that will include authentic multiple measures and will advance professional growth for quality teaching and learning.
NCLB, a creation of the George W. Bush administration, has been roundly criticized for its punitive approach to schools and teachers without addressing severe poverty and underfunding of public education.
"In the harsh reality of deep-pocketed attacks on unions, we are harnessing a power that the critics don't have — the power of our collective voice," Fortino said.