The Biblical story says that Moses parted the Red Sea so he could lead his people to safety. In a Mohonasen middle school yesterday, a crowd of teachers formed its own Red Sea in striking red attire to support a Day of Action, and they parted with plans to keep on being active to protect public schools.
“These are really important times for public education,” said eighth-grade English teacher Danielle Grainer. She joined others to push back against the push to privatize more public schools.
“We will shield against the extortion of public schools,” wrote Brenda Stahl, science and math teacher, on a poster “shield.” The declarative shields were used in schools across the state for yesterday’s campaign to reclaim our schools, supported by NYSUT, the American Federation of Teachers, Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, local unions and community groups.
“Education is about students, not profit,” Stahl said as she walked to join her fellow educators and members of the Mohonasen Teachers Association in a solidarity gathering in the lobby. “Our union is pretty involved. They asked us to stand behind our convictions.”
“I’m here in support of the union, the school and my colleagues,” added Jennifer Fritz-Walbroehl, family and consumer science teacher, as she hustled down the hall just after the dismissal bell rang and students flooded the exit doors.
MTA President Maria Pacheco introduced NYSUT President Karen E. Magee, who kept the red theme all the way to her toes with bright red shoes.
“We always knew schools were a safe place for our kids, but the world has changed,” said Magee. “We all need to be together as one voice to beat back attempts to privatize, to segregate.”
Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos has a poor track public ed record. She’s a supporter of privatizing schools and creating for-profit charter schools in Michigan; they rank extremely low.
“She’s not about accountability, she’s about profits,” Magee said. Creating charter schools siphons money off of public schools.
When corporations pluck schools for profit, it endangers access for all children, including those with special needs; funding for public schools; and accountability.
“Public education is the great equalizer,” Magee said. “It is what preserves democracy.”
As a classroom teacher for nearly 30 years, Magee encouraged the circle of teachers that surrounded her to keep their spirits up and “keep in mind those ‘A-ha’ moments,” and “the families whose lives you touch.”
The work of educators, she said, is what ensures that every day school is a safe, welcoming place. Magee urged the group to stay “loud and proud,” and to “raise the tide for all boats.”
Social studies teacher Mark Dicocco, political action chair for the MTA, said it is important to get the message out to the public and to “put pressure on politicians to advocate for change.”
Thursday’s actions in the two-story brick building, which houses 660 students, were an extension of the duties of teaching that these educators carry with them day and night.
As physical education and health teacher Doug Hallberg told his students before the dismissal bell rang: “We can’t always choose what happens to us, but we can choose how to respond.”