Matthew Powell, a Kentucky public school custodian chosen as the country’s 2019 Education Support Professional of the Year by the National Education Association, knows first-hand why school staff are “the backbone” of schools and the communities where they are located.
“We often hear that ESPs are the first person students see when they get out of the car or off of the bus in the morning. But we also engage with students all throughout the day and are usually the last person to see them when school ends,” Powell said in accepting the award at the NEA RA this year. “As educators, we do all we can to transform ordinary moments into extraordinary opportunities to make a difference in a student’s life.”
Powell, a custodial supervisor, bus driver and night watchman at the Graves County Central Elementary School in Mayfield, KY, is the keynote speaker at the NYSUT 2019 SRP Leadership Conference this weekend in Saratoga Springs.
School-Related Professionals “have valuable experience and expertise that should inform our school about decisions made inside our schools. We know our students well and many of us live in the community where we work,” Powell said. “We deserve a seat at every table where policies and decisions are made that impact our work, our students and our communities that we serve.”
SRPs have to be more prepared than ever as student needs grow and change: many different cultures are now represented in most schools; there is more awareness of the effects of trauma on children; teachers and professionals need to be prepared in first-aid and active shooter action plans. The SRP conference will address those needs and many others in three days of workshops and meetings.
Participants will also have a chance to hear from all four of NYSUT’s officers at a cracker barrel session. “This has been a productive year for our SRP members with so much advocacy,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. “I can’t wait to meet with them.”
“We are proud to provide SRPs with a full weekend of professional development for the many different types of disciplines they represent, whether they are security personnel, food service workers, bus drivers, aides, clerical, or custodial workers,” said Paul Pecorale, NYSUT second vice president who oversees SRPs.
Union members will have the opportunity for education in a bounty of workshops including first aid certification, compassion fatigue, negotiating contracts, political action, tapping into resources from the NEA, understanding emotional and behavioral emergencies, cultural needs of students, and organizing the workplace.
Staying abreast of changes in environment and new information, the conference will provide first-time workshops that include dealing with difficult students on the bus, creating unity in a diversified local, proactively confronting trauma in the classroom, and cleaning for health and infection control.
NYSUT has 100,000 SRPs among its 600,000 members. A history trail of SRP activism, created by NYSUT’s statewide SRP Advisory Committee, will also be available for viewing at the conference on Friday night.