July-August 2012 Issue
June 28, 2012

Locals in Action

Source: NYSUT United
Caption: From left: Renee Panetta, recycling coordinator for Guilderland schools, students Jazzy Armstrong, Mohime Iqbal, Joy Duff, Shitime Iqbal and Angus Cropley, and math and science teacher Tim Fry. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

Guilderland Central TA

Going green in Guilderland means not only saving space in fattened landfills, but saving money for taxpayers — all while teaching students about recycling and reusing.

Volunteer recycling crews that included members of the Guilderland Central Teachers Association generated $2,800 in revenue for the Albany County district by selling metals, electronics and plastics collected at community recycle days to recyclers. Last fall the take was $1,700.

Residents this spring dropped off unwanted electronics, lawn furniture, and even washing machines and refrigerators, generating more than 6,000 pounds of paper; 24,500 pounds of metals; 50 bikes; more than 1,400 pounds of textiles; nearly a ton of plastics, plastic bags and CDs; 600 fluorescent light bulbs; and 450 pounds of batteries. Two tractor trailer loads of electronics were collected.

Some items, such as unwanted or broken bicycles, were restored and given to charities. Clothing was donated to a not-for-profit.

Renee Panetta, a recycling and conservation coordinator who works one-quarter time for the district, said the collected metals alone saved 2.4 million BTUs (British Thermal Units, about the equivalent of heating one pound of water); 45,756 barrels of oil; and reduced 16,974 tons of carbon monoxide. The energy saved per ton of recycled electronics was a whopping 924 million BTUs.

Middle school teacher Deb Escobar, a GCTA member who volunteers on recycle day, runs a sneaker recycling project. She became more conscious about recycling after a student did a project on the history of non-biodegradable plastic, demonstrating how it harms the earth and ocean, fish and animals. Her sneaker project filled 16 boxes with 200 pairs of shoes. They were shipped to a center, www.nikereuseashoe.com/drives, that recycles them to make playground surfaces. One less load for the landfill.

Teacher and GCTA member Tim Fry boosts recycling by overseeing paper collection within the school, and by staging recycling competitions. He also works with students in the organic garden. Produce is donated to the Regional Food Bank.

Hicksville Congress of Teachers

Seven teachers from Hicksville performed a concert to support Embrace Global, an international charity that helps babies born prematurely. The event raised more than $1,000.

"Raising awareness and money for a worthwhile cause is always great to do but the way the money was raised will have lasting effects. Teachers, administrators and students coming together to put on a concert is the definition of community," said Hicksville Congress of Teachers member Artie Mediate, an English teacher and drummer and vocalist for his band, Rage and the Comets.

Other members of the band include guidance counselor and bassist Sanjay Paranandi; vocalist Andrew Lichtenthal, a science teacher; technology teacher John Walsh, on guitar and keyboard; and social studies teacher Roger Eisenhardt, on drums.

Another band playing the concert was MoBStrip, featuring social studies teacher Jason Stanton on bass and fine arts/music teacher Michael Caruso on drums.

The Hicksville CT, led by Joan Deem, donated the funds to secure a professional sound engineer for the concert.

Locals support First Tee

LPGA Tour pro Dottie Pepper, left, gives golf tips to Capital District students as part of the First Tee program.

Seven locals — Albany Public School Teachers Association, Guilderland Central TA, Newburgh TA, Saratoga Springs TA, Schenectady Federation of Teachers, Troy TA and Voorheesville TA — have launched First Tee programs in 10 schools.

First Tee engages students in a structured golf curriculum that promotes personal character development within a physical education setting.

Working through the Junior Golf Alliance, the locals are raising the money needed to buy golf equipment. NYSUT is also helping out by supporting the training needed for physical education teachers.

Almost 50 fourth- and fifth-graders at Voorheesville Elementary School started swinging plastic golf clubs in May after the local raised money through dress down days and received a donation from the Community School Foundation. The students had quite the instructor — former LPGA Tour pro and TV commentator Dottie Pepper.

"We want to integrate the program into the entire school curriculum next year so all the kids can participate," said Voorheesville TA President Kathy Fiero.

Troy TA President Mark Walsh, who serves as vice president of schools on the Junior Golf Alliance board, says the JGA will continue to get other locals involved and "help to make this a union-driven, community coalition program."

Canandaigua TA

The Canandaigua Teachers Association raised almost $10,000 for 18 different charities by hosting dress down days this year.

"Staff members look forward to the Friday dress down days and feel good about helping others at the same time," said local president Cheryl Birx.

TA members participated in a food drive for the local Gleaners Community kitchen, which serves a free lunch to anyone in the community in need. More than 75 boxes of food, coffee, beverages and paper products were donated to the cause.

The union was also politically active this spring, working with a community group and students to host a rally and a "show and tell" in a public park highlighting students' accomplishments in school programs such as technology, chorus and art. CTA members succeeded in their goal to get the school budget passed. Three previous years of budget cuts included losses in programs and teachers.

South Seneca TA

Students from the South Seneca school district raised more than $1,000 for low-income families.

The students braved the elements overnight to participate in the sixth annual Cardboard City event, organized by South Seneca TA members Breana Copp and Gertrude Shaffer. With help from their parents, more than 30 kids in grades 5-12 made structures out of cardboard, tarps and duct tape. During the overnight event, temperatures dropped to 27 degrees. All funds raised went to support the Seneca County Chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

"As part of the local and global service projects that our students participate in, each of these projects helps to create awareness and eradicate the issues of poverty and homelessness," said Copp, an elementary art teacher. Habitat has helped district families as well.

"We hope that this contribution will help to alleviate housing shortages in our local area and that it will work towards providing housing security for a local family," noted co-organizer Shaffer, an English language arts and distance learning teacher.

Since 2007, South Seneca students have raised more than $5,280 for Habitat for Humanity.