Union Victories
October 19, 2023

PPSTA can finally party

Author: Anna Gronewold
Source:  NYSUT Communications
poughkeepsie rally
Caption: NYSUT President Melinda Person (third from left) rallies with Poughkeepsie Public School Teachers Association members at an Oct. 4 rally for a new contract. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

After working under the terms of an expired contract for more than six years, Poughkeepsie Public School Teachers Association ratified a new MOA with the district on Monday.

And that means the special operations team that had kicked into high gear about a year ago – PPSTA’s Crisis Committee – gets to do something fun.

“The crisis is over, so now instead of planning the action, we get to plan a celebration,” said Crisis Committee Chairperson Samantha Rosario. “Every single time we’ve had to gather as a membership over the past couple years, it’s been these really tense situations, under really nerve-racking circumstances. Now we get to hang out as colleagues and teachers, doing and discussing the things we’re actually supposed to focus on.”

There’s more than one cause to celebrate.

Not only did PPSTA come away with a new contract after six arduous years, the final terms were in line with their asks from the very start, according to President Kim Popken. That includes a long overdue salary schedule increase that PPSTA hopes will help to attract and retain teachers in the district. PPSTA also won health insurance concessions that are consistent with other offerings within Dutchess County, she said.

“None of this agreement would have been possible without the solidarity and engagement that our members have demonstrated for the past 12 months,” Popken said. “Their hard work, commitment and dedication has made this settlement happen.”

“I could not be more proud than I am at this moment to get the opportunity to lead the members of PPSTA,” she continued. “The support from our community and union family all around the state certainly carried us over the final threshold.”

Rosario credits the final tipping point partially to increases in membership participation over the past several months – specifically in community engagement. The pressure became palpable when the board started getting emails and news outlets began posting pictures of PPSTA picketing, she said.

The district proposal Rosario saw at the general membership meeting for the beginning of the school year in 2022 was “scary.” The prospect of working under those terms is what prompted her to sign up for the Crisis Committee in the first place. The final agreement PPSTA is now walking away with is nothing like that, she said.

poughkeepsie crisis team
PPSTA Crisis Committee members (left to right): Jillian Rotsky, Crisis Picket Captain; Samantha Rosario, Crisis Chair; Danielle Omondi, Crisis Treasurer; Kristen Hendrickson, Crisis Center Chair; Krista Sloan, Crisis Communication Chair. Photo provided.

Rosario has some advice for other bargaining units facing daunting standstills.

“Don’t accept mediocrity as appropriate from the district — they will try to get away with what they can, but that doesn’t mean it’s right,” she said.

“Trust the process, trust your NYSUT LRS. Trust the support that is around you, and when people offer help, take it. And never give up no matter how many times you want to.”