September 2010 Issue
August 21, 2010

Carrying forward with our Principles of Excellence

Source: NYSUT United

How do you define excellence? Union members were asked that very question during NYSUT's annual convention. To watch videos of their responses, including some from students, check out the YouTube playlist.

To lead the way, it's essential to have a road map.

That's why your union has developed NYSUT's groundbreaking Principles for Taking the Lead in Defining Excellence in P-12 and in Higher Education.

The principles guide NYSUT's active education policy that calls for a quality education for every child. They offer you direction for leading the way in defining excellence in our professions.

"If you want to change the status quo, if you want to create career- and college-ready graduates, if you want to close the achievement gap, ask the best of the practitioners who, despite the greatest of challenges, have been succeeding for decades. Ask those who define excellence every day," says NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi.

That's the message Iannuzzi and his fellow officers - Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta, Vice Presidents Maria Neira and Kathleen Donahue, and Secretary-Treasurer Lee Cutler - carry to statewide meetings with members and to the Legislature and the Board of Regents. It's a message NYSUT leaders also bring to Washington to help shape the direction of increasingly influential federal initiatives on education.

It's a message that must be carried forth by every member - at PTA meetings, during campus conferences, at school board meetings and beyond. The urgency is real.

With public education increasingly scapegoated by press and pundits who push prescriptions for "reform" concocted far from classrooms, "our members are essential to defining excellence in education," Neira said.

The union's bold leadership in codifying principles for excellence has been acknowledged as visionary - even by anti-union critics- and makes it clear that we are at the table defining excellence in our professions.

That's grounded in NYSUT tradition. Legendary leader Al Shanker put it this way in 1997: " ... We'll show that a union really has two faces: One is for protection and security and economic well-being - and there is nothing wrong with those; they are part of the American way of life - but the other side represents standards and excellence and professionalism, which includes participation and self-governance."

The principles, adopted unanimously by the union's Representative Assembly, can be easily referenced in advancing the union's pro-active agenda to strengthen the institutions where we work.

The initiative is being expanded by a number of NYSUT constituent groups working to codify principles specific to diverse professions.

It's up to every member and local to advance excellence in our classrooms, our campuses and in our communities.

For NYSUT, it's a matter of principle.