January 2012 Issue
December 22, 2011

Locals in Action

Source: NYSUT United
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Caption: Members of the Gloversville School Transportation Association are waging a door-to-door campaign to gain parents' support in demanding the school board restore some bus services. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

Gloversville School Transportation Association

Outraged by sudden cuts to bus services, Gloversville School Transportation Association members created an outreach program to show area parents just how much the cuts will cost them.

The program also asks parents to advocate for restoration.

According to GSTA President Cathy Wellman, when the Gloversville school board cut school bus services, transportation for the pre-kindergarten half-day program was eliminated.

"Many of these children go to registered day care after school," said Wellman, "and now the parents have to leave work to pick their children up from school and drive them to day care."

Transportation for field trips and to the federally funded Head Start program also was cut.
The cuts reduced 13 full-time bus drivers to part-time status, dramatically raising their health care premiums while reducing their salaries.

Each Saturday morning since October, GSTA members — who have been working without a contract since June 2009 — go door to door to educate residents. Members are armed with an informative flier and "Penny Wise, Pound Foolish" postcards that ask the eight board members to restore bus service, citing, among other things, the increased economic burden on parents who are picking up the slack in transportation.

"The door-to-door campaign takes time because community members want to talk about the issues," said Wellman. It's slow, yet effective, she said, because it gives the community an understanding of what has been lost.

Wellman called the community reaction to the campaign, "extremely supportive and extremely positive." To date the 25-member GSTA has sent more than 400 postcards to Gloversville school board members on behalf of residents. "I don't think they knew their voices could be heard," Wellman said.

Springville TA, Kenmore TA

The Springville Teachers Association and the Kenmore TA organized a social justice workshop in western New York to train teachers about how to develop classroom-ready lesson plans on issues ranging from fair trade, to advocacy, to human rights.

More than 70 K-12 educators learned about NYSUT's Speak Truth to Power curriculum, which provides lesson plans for teachers on how to introduce human rights issues by using the stories of real-life activists such as the Dalai Lama, civil rights pioneer and congressman John Lewis and Czechoslovakian writer, politician and dissident Vaclav Havel.

"This presentation was, hands-down, the best in-service I have ever attended in my 27-year teaching career," said Kenmore TA member Joe Allen.

Other highlights included a conversation with The Dark Side of Chocolate filmmaker Robin Romano, whose movie takes an in-depth look at the use of child labor in the cocoa industry.

Canton Central School TA

With a lot of creative action, the Canton Central School Teachers' Association raised more than $4,740 for the Jules of Life Foundation to help children battling pediatric cancer in St. Lawrence County.

Teachers chose the organization in honor of Ridge Thorbahn, a former student at Canton who recently died, and to provide support for student Zachary Hamilton, a stomach cancer survivor. Fundraiser organizer Paula Jones, a CCSTA member, said the foundation provided tremendous support to Thorbahn throughout his battle with cancer,
"All of the money will be used to help individuals," said Jones, a fifth-grade teacher.

The TA used some energizing ideas to raise money. They held a Caps for Cancer Day, T-shirt sale, dress down Fridays, a Princess House party and a Mother's Day carnation sale.
Sixth-grade teacher Wayne Willette, who retired in June, dressed up as "Mrs. Claus for a Cause" and students walked with him in a Jog for Jules event. The local donated $500 for the jog ($1 for every mile), which was held in PE classes.

The CCSTA, led by Tony Fiacco, has been nominated as St. Lawrence County HEROES by the Jules of Life Foundation, which noted that in addition to raising money, "You taught all your students at Canton Central the importance of fundraising for a good cause."

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