Poets and songwriters often evoke spring as the time of new beginnings. But for many of us - and not just those in education - it's autumn that marks a new start. Putting summer behind us, we're settling in at our desks and at our worksites, prepared for a quicker, more serious pace in the months ahead.
Yes, autumn is a time to start anew.
So it's appropriate - and exciting - that our new publication, NYSUT United, makes its debut with this September issue.
NYSUT United is designed, written and edited to be relevant to each of our members and to fit easily into our busy professional lives. At the same time, the union's award-winning website - www.nysut.org - has added new features this fall to help keep us up to date with breaking news and important information impacting our professions. Your feedback and insights as to how to make NYSUT United, our website and our electronic communications best serve your needs is important. Let us know what you think by sending an e-mail to the editor or by commenting on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/NYSUTUnited) - also new - or to Twitter (http://twitter.com/nysut).
This fall also provides an opportunity to embrace and implement anew NYSUT's "Principles for Taking the Lead in Defining Excellence" in our professions. Our Board of Directors and all the NYSUT officers worked over the course of many months to develop principles we believe create the foundation for defining excellence in pre-K-12 and higher education (with principles for health care and other professions we represent coming shortly). Representatives to our annual convention enthusiastically approved these principles, and local leaders are being provided with the tools needed to ensure that these principles play a meaningful role in guiding the work of our local and state unions in the coming years.
During these times when working families and their unions, especially in education, are under vicious attack, it is especially critical that we set out for all to see who we are and what we stand for. These principles demonstrate to both allies and naysayers that through our expertise, strength and unity, we are in a position to lead, and we intend to do just that.
Our mettle will be tested immediately with the challenges our members and our union face this fall. As schools and colleges reopen, thousands of our sisters and brothers will not be returning, victims of an economy that has led to layoffs in every part of our state. Early-retirement plans and a federal jobs bill passed last month have helped ease the pain somewhat, but too many of our members and their families are still suffering. These same economic woes are causing havoc in the lives of our sisters and brothers in health care, not-for-profits and the private sector as well.
All of this is taking place in the midst of another political campaign season - one where the rhetoric is disturbing. Support for tax caps, a constitutional convention, concentrating power in the office of governor and a spending freeze fill the airwaves - with not a word addressing the unequal way we fund education and raise revenues. These gimmicks may appeal to the Tea Party crowd and the radical right, but none address the real societal challenges we face.
As we launch this new communications model, we hope with your help it will become one more tool in defending our professions and advancing excellence.
Note: Your comments on this column or any issue you wish to share directly with me are welcomed. E-mail your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.