May/June 2022 Issue
April 17, 2022

5 Questions for Joe Alati, BOCES United Professionals

Source: NYSUT United
Caption: Joe Alati, BOCES United Professionals

1. You’re a longtime local union leader and collision repair technology teacher at Monroe 1 BOCES. Somehow you’ve found the time to serve on your local school board, too. What made you want to run for the Honeoye Falls-Lima School Board?

After I served several years on the district’s budget advisory board, some board members suggested I should run for the school board.

I’ve always believed we need to give back to our communities. I also believe if you don’t like something, get involved. We have no license to complain without trying to improve things we don’t like.

2. What was it like when you first joined?

I was already familiar with the other board members from being on the advisory board. The school board was a bigger commitment of time than I expected, but I didn’t mind because I was happy to be operating and influencing at this level. The school board meets twice per month, with reading before meetings.

Some may think they will be able to influence what is happening in their child’s specific classroom.

It’s not like that. The board members don’t run the schools but certainly influence the direction the district goes in, as well as how and where money is allocated within the district.

It is more of a 30,000-foot view, which can have a lot of value to the district, the students and certainly teachers.

3. How has your background as an educator helped you serve as a board member?

Often, I felt like I was a translator.

Board members come from many walks of life. Most are from the business world. I was the only educator on my board for nine years. Other board members often thanked me for offering the teacher’s perspective on a policy decision because otherwise all they heard was the administrator’s or parent’s point of view.

4. What advice would you have for other educators who are thinking about running for the school board?

Be the teacher’s perspective.

On occasion you may have to be their voice even though that is not “officially” your role. I’ve sat in board meetings where the teachers were speaking out about a policy and they were being dismissed by the administration that kept trying to move the meeting along; trying to silence the teachers. As a board member, I was able to put a stop to that and let the teachers be heard.

As educators, we are there for the kids. However, a teacher’s voice is way too often dismissed or ignored.

To me, if administrations listened to teachers more, schools would be far more evolved than they are.

5. Voter turnout is historically very low for school board races and budget votes. What would you tell fellow NYSUT members about the importance of voting in their local school board elections?

Get more involved in the district you live in. It’s your community and if you have children, they either go there or went there. School boards desperately need to hear the teacher’s voice, whether they know it or not.

And by all means, vote in these elections! Get to know who is running and ask questions about their knowledge and opinions of the district and education. This decides who will be making important policy decisions like drafting a proposed budget — the one that pays your salary. It’s very important to vote, if nothing else. With all the divisive influences we all hear about at board meetings these days, your vote really matters.