School-Related Professional leaders from around the state converged at the Saratoga Springs Hilton over the weekend for the 37th Annual SRP Leadership Conference This year boasted 70 first-time attendees.
In his address to SRP leaders, NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta said, “Schools work because of the work each and every one of you do every day.” He went on to thank participants for their continued support of VOTE-COPE, the union’s voluntary political action fund. “It really makes a difference. Each and every day, we use this financial package to make a difference in public education,” said Pallotta before encouraging them to vote “no” on a statewide Constitutional Convention.
The weekend was packed with information and events, such as the role groups roundtable discussions, where participants met in groups by work role and discussed challenges and successes in common. In the cafeteria workers discussion, for instance, Frewsburg United School Employees Vice President Debbie Stearns and Syracuse Teachers Association SRP Chapter Leader Bernard Washington lamented as they contemplated some of the problems they face, which include raising food costs, staffing cuts and complying with nutritional guidelines.
“The waste is awful,” added Washington, of the way some students dump the fresh fruits and vegetables served. Participants offered tips on acclimating students to whole grains and other strategies to prevent students discarding healthy food offerings.
Workshops included several new offerings, such as contract exchange, stress management and health and safety. In SRP/NYSUT 101, participants were immersed in the many benefits NYSUT provides its members. Many seemed surprised at the scope of what the union offers it members, as NYSUT staffer Ken DeStefano described what NYSUT Social Services can provide and how many classes NYSUT members can take through the union’s Education Learning Trust.
“That’s union value,” said NYSUT SRP Advisory Committee member Margie Brumfield, with a smile.
Gloria Boseman electrified the crowd with her dynamic keynote address. “I’m here to talk about culture,” she said as she eschewed the dais in order to glide among the participants as spoke. “This is a multicultural environment — a cultural continuum. We were never melted,” she said of the melting pot metaphor. “We’re a stew. It’s OK to be different.” Boseman — a Ph.D and an RN — is a professor of Nursing at New Jersey City University.
“It’s important to understand the culture that the parent comes from” prior to a school meeting taking place, she said. Boseman explained that this helps keep mutual respect and lines of communication open. Some cultures are time oriented and some are human interaction action oriented.
“That’s important. In the school system we are very time oriented. But we make appointments for people who are human-interaction oriented. Culture is an important variable. Maybe one day not so much. One day, ethnicity, race and gender will not make a difference; it’s just not today. One day, it will be about values and when it is then we can say ‘one size fits all,’” Boseman said
Conference participants honored NYSUT 2015 NYSUT SRP of the Year Annie McClintock, president of the United Teaching Assistants of Harborfields. In her emotional address to SRP leaders, McClintock said for her, “the ‘u’ in union is for ‘us.’ And we must reach out to each and every member. We must educate those members on the importance of being a part of the union. This education must include what salaries and benefits would be like if there were no union. We must educated those members on what we stand to lose,” said McClintock.
“We are not a commodity, like pork bellies. We’re the critical link that ensures schools are able to provide safety and support our students and teachers need. We enhance the learning environment and are constant role models to our students as well as our colleagues.”
McClintock called for SRPs to be recognized as full partners in education, to be paid salaries commensurate with experience or, at the very least, a living wage.
SRPs once again gave generously and donated more than 600 books to the Frewsburg United Employees Association, which President Beth Moss accepted. “Since so many of the children don’t get something special on their birthday, we decided each child in the district will receive a book.” SRPs also raised $2,500 for the NYSUT Disaster Relief fund, which SRP Advisory Committee Chairperson and Buffalo Education Support Team President JoAnn Sweat presented to the SRP At-Large Directors on the NYSUT Board.