School-Related Professionals are often the unsung heroes in our schools and workplaces.
They are school bus drivers, attendants and mechanics, food service workers, teaching assistants, teacher aides, security staff, school nurses and health attendants, maintenance and grounds keepers, clerical and support staff.
In honor of their well-deserved recognition day in November, we asked people to share what makes an SRP they know or work with so special. Here are some of the responses:
"Debra Nodzo has been the ‘cafeteria lady' extraordinaire for 21 years at H.W. Smith Elementary School in Syracuse, where she is a member of the food service unit of the Syracuse Teachers Association.
"She's a cashier; she serves; she cleans; she cooks. She's a very dedicated worker. She knows most of the kids on a first-name basis.
"Each day Debra helps feed 700 children breakfast, 750 children lunch and 500 children snacks.
"She gets along well with children. She's a good influence. Many students call her ‘Miss D.' She's friendly and no-nonsense. She gets the kids smoothly through the line."
— Bernard Washington, food service unit president, Syracuse TA
"School nurse Noreen Beichert is outspoken in her quest to make sure she and her colleagues receive proper training, along with access to professional development and updates.
"Noreen also works during the summer to ensure that student records are in order, paperwork is up to date, and that all of our students — especially those with medical histories — are safe and comfortable to start the new year.
"She meets with parents and students before the school year begins to review procedures so everyone is on the same page when it comes to student health and safety."
"Noreen has been a school nurse at Mahopac since 1998. Some of the children in her care have serious medical needs. She has said of her students: ‘I have 500 lovelies all the time!'"
— Tom McMahon, president, Mahopac TA
"Kenneth Cantwell, a member of Smithtown Security Guards Association, has served as a security guard for the Smithtown School District for 16 years, and he was a founding member when the union first organized in 2005.
"In this day and age, due to numerous tragedies, the issue of security in schools has been at the forefront of the public consciousness. We are fortunate to have professionals like Kenneth who undertake this serious job, and does so in a way that he is respected and admired by the faculty, students and administration."
— Anthony Petrucci, president, Smithtown Security Guards Assn.
"Cyndy, a member of the Albany Public School United Employees, is much more than a secretary at New Scotland Elementary — she goes above and beyond to support us. She's a security guard, monitoring the doors to keep us safe. She's a banker, helping students with school banking. She's a graphic artist, designing, typing and printing awards and fliers for our fifth-grade moving up ceremony. She's an IT specialist, helping with staff computer needs. She's a human resource professional, answering payroll questions and helping with building staffing. Best of all, if Cyndy can't do the job herself, she always knows who can!"
— Kristen Clancy, Albany Public School TA member, National Board Certified Teacher
"With genuine gratitude, I'd like to take an opportunity to recognize the teaching assistant, Ms. Charmin Howard, who works with my daughter, Jasmine Glass. Jasmine is a nonverbal, mentally challenged student who attends Edward Smith School in Syracuse.
"There are so many things that I appreciate about the education Jasmine receives at Ed Smith. Most importantly, I value the manner in which Ms. Howard challenges and encourages her to do her best. For example, last year during a science unit, Ms. Howard took the time to find pictures of different plants and leaves for Jasmine to work with each day in addition to what was being taught in the classroom.
"Understanding that Jasmine's growth is not measured in the traditional sense, together we set daily and weekly goals for her to accomplish. Because Ms. Howard goes the extra mile, I have seen my daughter transform into a beautiful butterfly."
— Charisse Flanagan, parent
"Jasmin Smith joined the United, Clerical, Administrative and Technical Staff leadership team as a shop steward 21/2 years ago, representing our members in the Bobst Library at New York University. She was immediately thrust into a showdown between library management and UCATS over a poorly conceived job-sharing scheme that requires members to learn a second job and work in two departments with different responsibilities and skills without any additional compensation.
"To constructively communicate to management the many adverse effects workers were experiencing from the job-sharing, Jasmin set to work organizing the affected members, signing up some long-term nonmembers (grandfathered from the days when we were an open shop), organizing ribbon days and union button days and encouraging members to report problems with the new system.
"Even after a trial before the National Labor Relations Board, at which Jasmin was our star witness, NYU refused to abide by the NLRB order to bargain with UCATS. Jasmin continues her organizing efforts, the latest of which is an online petition asking NYU to abide by the law, respect their workers' rights and bargain with UCATS over the effects of the job-sharing scheme. (NYSUT United readers can help by going to our website and using the link in the Bulletin Board section to sign our petition, www. ucats3882.org.)"
— Stephen Rechner, UCATS president
"Rosa Buffolino, president of the Westbury SRPs, took a union that stayed with NYSUT nine years ago by just one vote and energized it. The local has set up a governing board, has local dues, and is involved politically by helping to get school board members elected and school budgets to pass. We just settled a contract but now have to start negotiations again. Rosa really works hard for her local."
— Steve Clements, labor relations specialist, NYSUT's Nassau Regional Office
"Dave is the automotive mechanic crew chief for Alden Central Schools in Erie County. He has been a phenomenal asset to our local and our school district. Dave had been a building rep, and served on the negotiations and grievance committees. There is excellence in everything he does.
"He takes safety very seriously. The New York State Department of Transportation inspects the district's 55 school buses twice a year. Our district has had a 100 percent rating from DOT for at least five years, which is almost unheard of. Dave also credits his good crew and a good preventive maintenance program. He wants to ensure the riders — our students — are safe."
— Deb Paulin, president, Alden Central School EA and SRP at-large director on the NYSUT Board
Denise Barton, Laura Bryant, Dominica Foss, Marilyn Gorman, Pascale Meckley
"My daughter, Anna-Liisa, has had a teacher's aide since she entered the world of education. With a laundry list of diagnoses, she is unable to speak, is motorically impaired, and often times, extremely self-directed.
"Alongside the classroom teacher, Anna-Liisa's SRPs have created adaptive ways for Anna-Liisa to learn academics, master the nuances of social experiences and develop life skills. Without the dedication, knowledge, and expertise of Mrs. Bryant, Mrs. Foss, Mrs. Gorman, Mrs. Meckley and Ms. Barton over the past six years, Anna-Liisa may not have succeeded in an 8:1:1 classroom in a public school.
"Anna-Liisa's SRPs have been life-savers, not only to our daughter, but to our family, the school community and to taxpayers. In our eyes, these professionals are invaluable. Extraordinary teacher aides are critical for maintaining rhythm, a calm and safe environment, and quality of learning for our most vulnerable student population.
"Thank God for the Mrs. Bryants, Mrs. Fosses, Mrs. Gormans, Mrs. Meckleys and Ms. Bartons of the world. For they leave an imprint on a child's life that has the most profound and meaningful effect."
— Karen Coppola, parent, Maine- Endwell School District
"Joe Dickinson works in the building maintenance area at the F. Donald Myers Education Center. Joe has been with Washington- Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES for about 10 years now. He has an awesome sense of humor. I love that Joe is able to stay calm and caring with our staff and students. Joe is always modeling patience and a dedication to his work. He is an important member of our staff at the Myers Center."
— Sandra Carner-Shafran, SABEA member, SRP at-large director on the NYSUT Board