School-Related Professionals leaders from across the state greeted NYSUT President Andy Pallotta with a standing ovation as he took to the dais to welcome them to the conference to discuss NYSUT’s member engagement programs, especially as they relate to the proposed Constitutional Convention proposal on the Nov. 7 ballot.
“We’re focusing on making one-to-one connections with our members, “ said Pallotta. “Each time we do this, we make a connection with someone that lasts a lifetime.”
Pallotta underscored the importance of these one-to-one conversations with members in these difficult times.
“We have the Constitutional Convention referendum coming up in just a few weeks,” said Pallotta, who stressed the importance of voting “No” to preserve things such as free public education and the forever-wild Adirondacks, among other issues that could be considered at a convention. “You have to remember to flip the ballot over,” Pallotta cautioned, since the referendum questions will be on the back of the ballot; the Constitutional Convention question is Proposition 1.
All five NYSUT officers attended the 39th annual SRP Leadership Conference at the Desmond Hotel in Albany this weekend, which was attended by 220 participants from 65 locals, and included 82 first-timers.
In the plenary session, NYSUT legislative staffer Pete Savage outlined three key points against holding a convention:
- The convention could cost New York taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
- Convention delegates would most likely be career politicians. In fact, in 1967 — the last time New Yorkers voted to hold a constitutional convention — 154 of the 186 elected delegates were elected officials. That’s more than 82 percent of delegates who were political insiders.
- There is already a procedure to change the New York State constitution that continues to work well — the amendment process in the state Legislature.
You may download Pete Savage's Power Point presentation as a PDF file; member login is required.
Dan Pepe of Somers School-Related Personnel summed up his thoughts about the proposed convention at the microphone during floor comments: “Stay strong. Stay strong. Stay strong. Vote no.”
“We plan to have another union meeting. We need to get that information out to our members ” before the Nov. 7 vote, said Denise Palmietto, treasurer of the Aides of Croton United, who said she hadn’t realized the referendum could impact SRPs. Palmietto and her local’s vice president, Peggy Kniser, began to brainstorm the best way to get the message out to their members with their NYSUT labor relations specialist, Sarah Abitrio.
“The union makes us strong and there is no better place to be in a fight than with fighters,” said Kim McEvoy, SRP Advisory Committee chair and member of the Rondout Valley Teachers and SRPs. She encouraged her colleagues to “share strategies to build locals” by taking advantage of the more than two dozen workshops available at the conference. There were several first-time offerings, such as “First Aid for Pupil Transportation Staff,” “Civic Engagement,” and “Our World, Our Students,” where participants explored best practices in educating students from diverse cultures.
In her keynote address, NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango thanked the advisory committee for their tireless work in putting together the conference. She told attendees how she began her career as an SRP after graduating with an associate degree in secretarial science. The experience of working in an educational setting and working as a substitute teacher at her school inspired DiBrango to go back to school and get her teaching degree. “My mother was an SRP, my mother-in-law an SRP, and my beloved grandfather was an SRP,” said DiBrango of the unionism that runs deep in her veins.
Highlighting the importance of continuing professional development, DiBrango encouraged attendees to visit the NYSUT Education Learning Trust website —www.nysut.org/elt — to view and sign up for any of the many course offerings geared toward SRPs.
NYSUT members and their locals were lauded for their good works throughout the past year.
President Pallotta recognized 18 locals for their outstanding contributions to VOTE-COPE, the union’s voluntary political action fund. The Dan Sanders Award honoring locals that contributed the equivalent of at least $25 per member was presented to: Brocton Teachers Association SRPs; Half Hollow Hills Teachers Association SRPs; Hempstead Teaching Assistants Association; Lockport Education Association SRPs; and Plattsburgh Teachers Association SRPs.
The Abel Blattman Award honoring locals which contributed the equivalent of at least $25 per member was presented to: Alden Central School Employees Association; BOCES Educators of Eastern Suffolk; Herricks Teachers Association SRPs; Lewiston-Porter Administrative Professionals; New Rochelle Federation of United School Employees; Newburgh Teachers Association SRPs; Rondout Valley Federation of Teachers & School Related Personnel; Sachem Central Teachers Association SRPs; Saratoga Adirondack BOCES Employees Association; Schroon Lake Central Teachers Association SRPs; Ulster County BOCES Teachers Organization SRPs; United Federation of Teachers SRPs; and Western Sullivan United Teachers and School-Related Personnel.
SRPs viewed the video honoring the 2017 SRP of the Year, Nancy Sullivan, a member of the West Hempstead Education Association, In addition, NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer Martin Messner congratulated two NYSUT locals for winning American Federation of Teachers PSRP awards: the Monroe #1 BOCES Paraprofessional Association won the Children’s Literacy Award and the Brushton-Moria Support Staff Association won the Defender of the Public Service Award.
“SRPs are not only the backbone of our schools, you are the backbone of NYSUT. We thank you,” said Messner.
SRPs gave generously again this year, donating more than 300 books to the Albany Public School United Employees, led by Sonya Flowers. The SRPs also raised $2,583 for the NYSUT Disaster Relief Fund.