RA Blog 2023

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NYSUT Communications |
NYSUT Officers
Delegates elected NYSUT officers (L-R) Ron Gross, Second Vice President; Jaime L. Ciffone, Executive Vice President; Melinda Person, President; and Philippe Abraham, Secretary-Treasurer. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

The 2023 NYSUT Representative Assembly is one for the books.

RA delegates elected NYSUT Officers and members of the NYSUT Board. Former NYSUT Executive Director and Political Director Melinda Person was elected president, and Jaime L. Ciffone, an educator of 21 years, was elected executive vice president. NYSUT Second Vice President Ron Gross and Secretary-Treasurer J. Philippe Abraham were both re-elected for three-year terms.

In convention action on Friday and Saturday, RA delegates considered 33 resolutions; six were approved on the floor and the remainder were referred to the NYSUT Board for consideration. Speaking in support of the resolution on Universal Transgender Rights and Protections, Jonathan Hansonbrook, Edgemont TA, urged fellow delegates to stand together for students and educators. “We live in a dark time, our brightest ideas are being darkened by those promoting hatred and bigotry,” he said. “We can’t allow this. If we as a union believe in equality, we must demonstrate these beliefs in our words and our actions. We must stand for all, or we stand for none.” The measure was overwhelmingly passed.

Delegates passed a special order of business calling for an end to over-testing; they also approved a constitutional amendment raising dues. “We’ve gone a long time without raising dues and now it’s time,” said Florence McCue, at-large ED 51-53 director. She noted that NYSUT avoided a dues increase for seven years, taking cost-cutting measures and raising revenues from sources such as renting out office space. “But for NYSUT to remain strong, now it’s time.”

The RA honored winners of several NYSUT awards including “Not For Ourselves Alone”: The Sandy Feldman Outstanding Leadership Award, the Ken Kurzweil Social Justice Recognition Award and the NYSUT Lifeline Honor Roll. Winners of the union’s constituency awards and honors for members’ and locals’ community service were also recognized.

It’s fitting that the RA this year fell on Workers Memorial Day. Delegates on Friday observed a moment of silence for workers who have fallen on the job.

Beth Chetney, Baldwinsville Teachers Association, was endorsed to serve another term as a teacher-member on the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System Board of Directors. Her endorsement was boosted by fellow TRS teacher-member representatives Eric Iberger, Bayport-Blue Point Teachers Association, and Juliet Benaquisto, Schenectady Federation of Teachers.

Delegates heard from a host of labor and legislative heavyweights including AFT President Randi Weingarten, NEA President Becky Pringle, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and NYS Assemblymember Pat Fahy.

For full RA coverage visit nysut.org/RA.

NYSUT Communications |

Liz Shuler, the first female leader of the AFL-CIO and nation’s top union official, celebrated the nationwide labor movement and NYSUT’s role in leading the way.

Shuler said she wanted to be here for three reasons: to see the historic moment of Melinda Person being elected president, to see Andy Pallotta and to thank him for his lifetime of leadership at NYSUT, and to be in community with all the delegates to express the labor movement’s gratitude to NYSUT.

The AFL-CIO president highlighted the rising popularity of labor unions nationwide, saying that the labor movement has the momentum and wind at our backs. She praised NYSUT’s nearly 700,000 members for setting a standard for the country and showing everyone what the future could look like.

“If you come after educators, you are coming after the entire labor movement! And you will not win! You will fail, because that is the power of this labor movement,” said Shuler.

NYSUT Communications |

In a rousing Saturday address, National Education Association President Becky Pringle saluted the lifelong work of retiring president Andy Pallotta and welcomed NYSUT’s newest slate of officers, which includes incoming president Melinda Person, and Executive Vice President Jaime Ciffone.

“It brings such a smile to my face to see this hand over in power,” said Pringle. “NYSUT can’t be in better hands than in the hands of Melinda Person.”

Pringle also praised the statewide union for its steadfast work to protect the rights of educators. “Educators are dealing with attacks and threats to their professional integrity and … ensuring that students have access and resources to learn the true and complete history of our nation,” said Pringle who quipped that NYSUT is getting sh*t done. “NYSUT has taken on the role of defending freedom and is doing it from a place of hope and power.”

“We will reclaim public education as a public good and transform it into a racially and socially just educational system that prepares every student to succeed,” said Pringle who pledged NEA’s support alongside NYSUT in those battles. “Ours is a struggle of a lifetime — thank you for what you do for our students, educators, this union and this country.”

NYSUT Communications |

A chance encounter years ago in her native Jamaica started Elvie Smith on what would become a lifetime of making a difference.

“I’m the first of four children, and I was afraid that if I went to medical school, my parents wouldn’t be able to afford to send my siblings to high school.” Smith’s local postmistress encouraged her to apply to nursing school and covered the postage for her application. “She helped me find my way to nursing. She made the difference.”

Now, looking back on a more than 30-year nursing career at NYU Langone Health–Brooklyn, Smith has provided high quality, compassionate care to countless patients. For nearly two-thirds of that time, she has also served as a dedicated union leader. A representative and delegate for the Federation of Nurses/United Federation of

Teachers, Smith is a nurse educator, providing mentorship and training in the field, teaching the importance of union membership, and reminding too often overworked health care professionals about the importance of compassion.

“Nursing is not just handing out medications or giving an injection or documenting in the computer. It’s all about compassion, and compassion cannot be taught from a textbook.”

NYSUT Communications |

Coming from a large union family, Mindy Heath always knew the value of being a member. And with her no-nonsense approach, she’s an ideal advocate for those who may be afraid to speak truth to power.

“I grew up knowing I wanted to work in a place that had good benefits and security, for myself and my kids,” Heath said. When she began her career as a physical therapist at SUNY Upstate Medical University, Heath quickly rose through the ranks from serving as a United University Professions delegate to being elected vice president of her chapter. Her knowledge of issues affecting SUNY hospital employees earned her a position on the UUP Negotiations Team.

Through an unprecedented global pandemic; a personal battle with breast cancer; and raising three children, Heath has continually proved her steadfast support for her union and unwavering dedication to providing high-quality care for her patients.

NYSUT Communications |

Activism and advocacy are not just buzz words for Dante Morelli. President of the Faculty Association of Suffolk Community College since 2019, he is a tireless advocate for higher ed members, his students and his community.

Growing up in Pittsburgh, arguably a blue-collar stronghold with a long labor history, Morelli did not come from a union family. That all changed when he moved to Long Island and started working at Suffolk CC.

“I learned about the union through my job. I started to realize in talking to colleagues across the country, who are not part of unions, how much more they suffer and the lack of resources and benefits,” Morelli said. He started out as a building rep then moved on to FASCC grievance officer and executive vice president.

Morelli is a member of the Brookhaven Town Democratic Labor Committee, and he serves on NYSUT’s Human and Civil Rights Committee and the LGBTQ Committee. Morelli is a member of the NYSUT Community College Planning Committee and is the architect behind “Union Speed Dating,” the plenary session that ends the conference and has leaders and members exchanging best practices.

NYSUT Communications |

One half of the two-person Pupil Personnel Services department for Rhinebeck Central Schools, Stacy Stoliker wears many hats. She provides districtwide administrative services for families of students receiving special education, English language learners, and those students receiving support under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

“I also do all of the Medicaid rebilling for the district,” Stoliker added. Service to others is just part of her DNA — that includes helping parents navigate the system to better serve their children.

With everything else on her plate, Stoliker still finds the time to support her colleagues. She has held several roles in the union,

with the last seven years serving as president of the Rhinebeck Association of Non-Instructional Employees, a unit representing a wide range of SRP job titles. A passionate union advocate, she works hard to get, and keep, members active and involved in their union.

“The ANIE unit is a team. Our main premise of everything we do is that we are the core of the district, and we operate that way: You may be an aide. You may be a custodial staff member. I may be a clerical staff. But we all work together.”

NYSUT Communications |

Few things excite Renee Freeman more than talking about her job as a paraprofessional.

“I love my job and being able to help children reach their full potential. You could be the difference for them between a good day and a bad day.”

For the past few years, Freeman has worked one-to-one with the same student. “When I arrived, his notebook was empty. I came to the school in November. I read his IEP, and then I spoke with the teachers.” Freeman met with the student’s mom and worked out a plan to catch him up. “We worked every day and when we finished sixth grade, he didn’t need summer school.” Now, as a ninth-grader, her student helps another child study. “That’s what it’s all about.”

She applies the same level of dedication and perseverence to her union work. Freeman is the interim acting first vice chairperson for the paraprofessional chapter of the United Federation of Teachers. She advocates for more professional development opportunities and helps train new paras, stressing the importance of connecting with others in the field, union organizing and self-care. “It’s so important that those of us who are older help those who are just joining this profession.”

NYSUT Communications |

For the bulk of her 32 years of service in public education, Tribble taught physical education and health at Forest Hills High School in Queens. It was a fitting career choice for Tribble, a member of the United Federation of Teachers. Even now in retirement she stays on the move.

In September 2022, Tribble was in Washington, D.C., to hear President Joe Biden talk about the progress his administration has made to bring down health care costs and strengthen Medicare. The next month she was in Albany completing NYSUT’s Implicit Bias training before heading off to North Carolina to support get out the vote efforts.

Tribble broke barriers as the first Black woman elected UFT chapter leader in her district. She regularly attends the UFT’s monthly Delegate Assembly. As their front-line representative, she leads get out the vote efforts and educates retirees on the valuable services that are available to them through the union.

“Retirees need to belong to something,” Tribble said. “They need to know there is strength in num- bers and that they are not alone. For me, the union has always been a place where I made friends and important relationships. My union is my family.”

NYSUT Communications |

With a career dating back to NYSUT’s founding year, Howard Kasen has seen a lot. He was on the front lines with the Nyack Teachers Association during a 28-day strike in 1975. When he learned he was going to be served with papers ordering him to return to work or face contempt of court charges, he had to get creative.

“If they can’t find you, they can’t get you. I wanted to walk with my union brothers and sisters. When I heard that the process server was coming over to the high school, I went to one of the elementary schools. I just kept moving.“

In the years following that job action, Kasen rose through the ranks of his local, serving the union in numerous positions, including as president, and laying the foundation for an improved teacher-district relationship.

Kasen has continued his service to the union in retirement. He currently serves as president of Retiree Council 14 where he works to support NYSUT retirees in Rockland and Orange counties and keep them involved and informed.

NYSUT Communications |

NYSUT delegates elected Melinda Person to a three-year term as president at the union’s 51st Representative Assembly.

Person ascends to the presidency after serving as NYSUT executive director and political director.

In these roles, she worked alongside outgoing president Andy Pallotta to spearhead NYSUT political and legislative activism. President-elect Person developed the Pipeline Project to help our members get elected to the halls of power; launched the Member Organizing Institute and Member Action Center; and saw NYSUT active in local, state and national elections to push pro-education, pro-public-school candidates.

As NYSUT president, Person vows to create learning environments where students and educators can thrive; ensure our members’ professions are enticing, sustainable career choices; and grow the strength, size and power of our union.

The Guilderland native and mother of four is a career advocate for high-quality, equitable public education and respect for the education profession. As she takes the reigns, she promises to continue to deliver for NYSUT members, our students and those we serve.

NYSUT Communications |

“Your union is strong, both financially and operationally!” said J. Philippe Abraham, NYSUT secretary-treasurer, in a Saturday RA address. “Your union’s continued financial strength means you can count on us to be here for you whenever you need us.”

Noting the statewide union’s many initiatives to celebrate diversity, and be a champion for change, equity and inclusion, he saluted the work of the union’s LGBTQ and Civil and Human Rights Committees and NYSUT’s ongoing Many Threads, One Fabric program series.

Abraham also discussed the ongoing implicit bias trainings being conducted statewide by a cohort of activists. “I urge all of us to continue to work toward social justice in our classrooms, our schools and our communities,” he said. “Let’s unite in our commitment to equity and fairness for all.”

Through the NYSUT Disaster Relief Fund, our sponsorship of the American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, and participation in First Book and NYSUT Member Benefits programs, the statewide union has continued to strengthen communities and improve members’ lives, added Abraham.

“To date NYSUT’s Disaster Relief Fund has received over $3.2 million dollars in contributions and they have supported direct grants to more than 4,500 NYSUT members,” he said noting that members have also collected almost $17 million through breast cancer walk events. “Thank you NYSUT delegates for your partnership in the labor movement … and thank you for putting your trust and confidence in me as your NYSUT secretary-treasurer!”

NYSUT Communications |

William “Billy Green, a master chemistry teacher at A. Philip Randolph Campus High School in New York City, is the 2023 New York State Teacher of the Year. Green, a member of the United Federation of Teachers, was recognized by the State Education Department for his work putting student success at the core of everything he does — from his thoughtful and engaging lessons to helping meet the diverse needs of students and families beyond the classroom.

Green approaches teaching with what peers, administrators and mentors have described as an “intensely passionate” love for education, a “desire to empower a community” and a “belief that all students can succeed.”

He sums up his philosophy on education as “the opportunities I can create through great teaching and learning experiences I

understand personally have the power to change individuals, families and communities.”

In the classroom, Green brings an imaginative approach to teaching chemistry to connect with students, intertwining the arts with science and mathematics. In addition to core STEM courses, he has created elective courses like Hip Hop and Science Education and Sociocultural Perspectives of Science Education through Arts Practices. What’s more, Green is committed to giving students a voice in the way they learn, empowering them as collaborators and co-teachers.

Beyond his classroom, Green, a proud Harlemite, leaves an indelible mark. He is co-facilitator of his school’s LGBTQ affinity group and established an LGBTQ youth support center in East Harlem and works with the nonprofit

Opus Dance Theatre, Inc. both in New York City and abroad, establishing six-week arts intensive summer camps for children in Ghana and South Africa.

“This award is for my community,” Green said. “I want to be an example of how when you work hard and give back to your community, the acolytes and empowerment that goes with that come back to your community.”

NYSUT Communications |

A tenacious fighter with a heart of gold, Rowena Blackman-Stroud protected workers, preserved careers and literally saved lives. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she was the driving force in securing thousands of surgical gloves, gowns and face masks that were desperately needed by members at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University.

She joined UUP in 1982 and served as Downstate chapter president from 1991 to 2022. She served for 23 years as statewide treasurer and under her guidance, UUP remained a stable, financially strong organization. Blackman-Stroud also held leadership roles on NYSUT’s Board of Directors and the New York AFL-CIO’s Executive Council. She was heavily involved in the fight to save SUNY Downstate, bringing busloads of members to advocate in Albany, orchestrating rallies and putting in countless hours so that the institution would not be lost.

“Rowena was one of the kindest, most caring people you’d ever be lucky enough to meet, but when she felt that action needed to be taken, she was bold, determined and tenacious,” said UUP President Fred Kowal.

Blackman-Stroud died Dec. 3 after a brief illness.

NYSUT Communications |

Marilyn Manley has worn many hats. She started her education career as a paraprofessional in Queens District 28. After obtaining her degree in elementary education, she went on to teach sixth grade in neighboring District 27. The United Federation of Teachers member taught for 13 years before becoming a librarian.

Never one to back down from a challenge, Manley started her edu- cation career with students who faced their own difficulties. As a para, she worked with students classified as NIEH, neurologically impaired, emotionally handicapped.

“It took patience. It took guidance. I was being a mom, a dad, a doctor — all of those things to children that really needed it,” Manley recalled. The lessons she learned aided her throughout her career in the class- room — and in the union.

Manley climbed the union ranks from rank and file to chapter leader. In 2002, she was the first person of color to be elected district representative for Queens District 27. That position, like much of her union work, came with its own challenges. As a union leader for more than two decades, Manley helped navi- gate her fellow members through turbulent times including the aftermath of the terror attacks on 9/11; the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012; and the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.

“Life has totally changed since I began my career in public education, but one thing remains the same: The union is here for you. We are all in this together.”

NYSUT Communications |

New York state Assemblymember Patricia Fahy (D-Albany), who serves as the chair of the Higher Education Committee, touted the full funding of Foundation Aid in this year’s executive budget proposal as a remarkable achievement to be proud of.

She emphasized the critical need for greater state investment to keep our public higher education campuses competitive; increased opportunities for mental health support for students; and funding for pre-k transportation.

NYSUT Communications |

NYSUT Second Vice President Ron Gross saluted the work of outgoing officers Andy Pallotta and Jolene DiBrango and encouraged delegates to embrace hope, positivity and change in a Saturday address at the NYSUT RA. “We can easily fall down a slippery slope if we focus strictly on the negative energy that at times consumes our profession,” said Gross. “We must have hope if we want to see public education, unions and our civilization thrive.”

As inspiration for his union work, Gross cited his grandfather Ronzo who immigrated from Italy at the turn of the 20th century with little money, no language skills and few connections. Despite these difficulties, his decision to come to America never wavered. “What we do now will be the inspiration for those who will be in this hall 50 years from now … when they wonder how they can take on challenges we can’t even dream of today,” said Gross. “I’m confident that our future leaders will take on every foe that wishes us harm with the same guts, tenacity, spirit and drive … because we are a union built by labor whose foundation will not crack.”

NYSUT Communications |

New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli spoke before a raucous crowd at NYSUT’s 51st Representative Assembly, delivering the message that the state retirement system, teacher retirement system, and New York City pension plans are the strongest and best run in the nation.

DiNapoli highlighted the hard work of NYSUT members throughout the pandemic, saying that those gathered in the hall are the lifeblood of our education system and that NYSUT is the strongest and best union of education professionals in the country.

The state comptroller also stated that charter schools must have the same level of accountability as any other school receiving public funding.

In closing, DiNapoli thanked outgoing NYSUT president Andy Pallotta for his service, calling him a tireless advocate for teachers, students and public education.

NYSUT Communications |

New York State AFL-CIO president Mario Cilento praised outgoing president Andy Pallotta for being a leader in the truest sense of the word and commended his intellect, passion, skill, humility and ability to inspire.

Cilento highlighted that 24 percent of the workforce in this state is organized – twice the national average – and stressed the importance of working from the same playbook from Buffalo to Brooklyn, public sector to private sector and everything in-between.

And as the largest affiliate of the state AFL-CIO, Cilento thanked NYSUT for everything its members are doing for the next generation. He expressed that it is really educators who have the unique ability to unite us as a society because they bring to all of us lessons that we keep for the rest of our lives.

NYSUT Communications |
retiree leaders
Florence McCue, at-large ED 51-53 director, and outgoing NYSUT President Andy Pallotta.

Outgoing president Andy Pallotta was welcomed to retiree ranks with a serenade at the RA retiree breakfast on Saturday. Set to the tune of “That’s Amore,” the lyrics of “Andy’s Song” detailed his many accomplishments as a union leader.

“That was so beautiful,” said Pallotta who thanked attendees for their many years of hard work as NYSUT’s daytime army. “I’m joining you, but I will never leave the union.”

Retirees also gave outgoing NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango a compass charm to celebrate her six years of service. “Thank you for this … the union will remain strong because of your work,” she said.

“Retiree Council presidents, I see what you do and thank you for all of your efforts,” said Florence McCue, at-large ED 51-53 director, who led the meeting and welcomed attendees. Also on hand were NYSUT Board members and retiree directors Loretta Donlon, ED 51; Tom Murphy, ED 52; and Joan Perrini, ED 53.

Said NYSUT Second Vice President Ron Gross, whose office handles retiree issues, “I’m so proud to represent the union’s retirees and of the hard work you do.”

J. Phillipe Abraham, NYSUT secretary-treasurer, encouraged retirees to sign up to become implicit bias trainers. NYSUT executive director Melinda Person, the union’s incoming president, pledged to keep NYSUT moving forward. “The country is divided, but our union brings people together,” she said.

NYSUT Communications |

After 30 years as an SRP, teacher, and elected union leader, NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango announced Saturday that she will be embarking on a new chapter of her life. During a moving speech, DiBrango bid farewell to the team of educators who nurtured her and inspired her for so many years.

“The lessons I have learned from all of you, our NYSUT educators, I will carry with me for the rest of my life. These are the same lessons that you continue to teach one another as you support our members, your fellow leaders, and NYSUT leadership,” DiBrango told the packed hall at the Albany Capital Center. DiBrango, a longtime middle school teacher and union leader from the Rochester area, was elected to statewide office in 2017, after serving three terms as president of the Pittsford District Teachers Association.

In her speech, she also paid homage to the educators who imparted valuable lessons to her over the years, from her grandfather, who was an SRP, to her professors at Mohawk Valley Community College. She also talked glowingly of her high school business teacher, the late Jan Barile, who nominated her for several student awards. “Never in my short life as a student had I been recognized by any teacher so publicly or so genuinely,” said DiBrango. She said Barile taught her to stay true to herself and let her work speak for itself.

During her tenure with NYSUT, DiBrango spearheaded NYSUT’s “Take a Look at Teaching” initiative, a union-led effort to elevate teaching, increase the number of individuals entering the profession, and improve diversity in the education workforce. She also reenergized NYSUT’s Women’s Committee, demanding it be more engaged in the most pressing issues facing women. As executive vice president, DiBrango oversaw Research and Educational Services and the Education Learning & Trust, NYSUT’s professional development arm.

During her time with NYSUT, DiBrango was instrumental in getting rid of edTPA and successfully fought to put APPR on hold during the pandemic. She has also been an outspoken opponent of standardized testing and charter schools. Under her leadership, ELT expanded their offerings and advanced more courses to promote equitable and responsive teaching. In the wake of the pandemic, ELT also released a slate of courses devoted to “Getting Back on Track” — helping students and teachers alike come back from COVID-19.

During her speech Saturday, she also praised the work of her fellow educators, who have withstood challenge after challenge in service to their students.

“You continuously reminded me that the power of the collective is always stronger than one voice alone. You showed me how to turn a spark of advocacy into a flame. You taught me to never give up and never give in — even when the cards are stacked against us,” said DiBrango. “You strengthen NYSUT, you challenge NYSUT, and you will remain the heart and soul of NYSUT going forward, and you, my NYSUT family, will stay in my heart forever.”

NYSUT Communications |

During the first day of the 2023 RA, union leaders paid homage to their outgoing leaders and celebrated their wins.

NYSUT President Andy Pallotta delivered his farewell speech, and his impact was praised by New York State Education Commissioner Betty Rosa, UFT President Michael Mulgrew, and AFT President Randi Weingarten. Weingarten extolled Pallotta’s work expanding the tent while preserving unity and said that he has made NYSUT “the most important union in the United States.”

Union leaders also scrutinized the current issues facing educators, including APPR, Tier 6, and standardized tests.

During the General Session, NYSUT executive director Melinda Person introduced a special order of business to end over-testing. The resolution calls for educators to mobilize in support of this initiative and back legislation like Congressman Jamaal Bowman’s More Teaching, Less Testing Act.

“In the words of Congressman Bowman, ‘We need a revolution in our public schools that unlocks the brilliance of all our kids and cultivates a generation equipped to take on 21st century challenges,’” said Person.

NYSUT also announced its plans to add 10 new organizers to its roster and delegates learned about one of NYSUT’s recent organizing victories at the Robert C. Parker School in Troy, NY.

At the end of the day, delegates cast their ballots to elect NYSUT officers, members of the NYSUT Board and state delegates to the AFT convention.

Many thanks to all our delegates.

General Session #2 starts promptly at 9am.

NYSUT Communications |

Imploring lawmakers to allow children the space to learn, and educators the freedom to teach all students, delegates overwhelmingly supported a special order of business calling for an end to over-testing.

“In the words of Congressman Bowman, ‘We need a revolution in our public schools that unlocks the brilliance of all our kids and cultivates a generation equipped to take on 21st century challenges,’” said NYSUT Executive Director and Political Director Melinda Person in introducing the special order of business.

The “More Teaching, Less Testing” resolution decries an education system so focused on “accountability” that children are losing out on the “rich, meaningful public education that prepares them for the opportunities, responsibilities and challenges that await them as contributing members of a democratic society and a global economy.”

Delegates from across the state and representing different age groups and subjects shared stories of what has been lost in a misguided “accountability” effort.

AFT President Randi Weingarten, speaking in favor of the special order, told delegates the presence of teachers in Washington is helping to spread the word about how over-testing has harmed students and is turning the tide on what has now become a civil rights issue. “By electing people who are teachers to Congress we start educating about what is really needed,” Weingarten said. “The NAACP, NAN and other legacy civil rights groups are with us in supporting more teaching and less testing.”

Longtime English as a New Language teacher Jaime Ciffone, United Federation of Teachers, lamented how ENL students fair when all of the supports given to help them thrive are then taken away during testing time. “Instead of rich discussioan about content we spend countless days preparing for assessments, taking assessments and scoring assessments,” Ciffone said. “A score on an assessment is just one measure, one glimpse, of a whole child.”

“Why are we still having this conversation 10 years later?” asked Leslie Rose, Hewlett Woodmere Faculty Association. “All of our students think, learn and process differently. Standardized test results don’t reflect any of that.”

It comes down to an equity issue for high school history teacher Greg Perles, North Shore Schools Federated Employees, who supported the resolution’s goals of enacting meaningful alternative pathways to graduation.

The special order called for NYSUT to:

  • Urge lawmakers to commit to a public education system that reflects the diversity of children’s experiences and abilities and allows them to demonstrate what they know and are able to do beyond filling in bubbles.
  • Work with the AFT and NEA to mobilize members and support legislators who stand for an education system that fosters joy, collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving and creativity in every classroom;
  • Advocate with the state Board of Regents to ensure any modifications to the graduation requirements include multiple pathways to graduation.
  • Support policies that limit the use of high-stakes tests for retention, program placement, high school graduation decisions, teacher evaluations or school rating systems.


NYSUT Communications |

NYSUT’s future lies in organizing. And after adding 10 new organizers to its roster, the union plans to reach out to even more workers in the future, said NYSUT Executive Director Melinda Person in a Friday RA address. Person noted that younger generations are increasingly seeking union representation, making organizing a critical part of the growing labor market. “Organizing is a simple goal, but a difficult task and it’s one of NYSUT’s primary goals going forward,” she said, noting that the new organizer hires are the result of an American Federation of Teachers grant. “This is an exciting time for labor, and we believe that all workers need unions — everyone deserves NYSUT support.”

Delegates learned about one of NYSUT’s recent organizing victories at the Robert C. Parker School in Troy, NY. The Robert C. Parker School Professional Association represents 21 teachers and is led by Darcy Demaria. After initially encountering administrative pushback, the group later received widespread support from parents; in its first contract, the local negotiated a 5 percent pay raise and saw student enrollment rise.

“We did all of this when we couldn’t even be in the same room together during COVID,” said Demaria who thanked organizer Jim MacFawn and NYSUT for their help and RCPSPA Vice President Jennifer Baker for her support. “It’s an amazing thing that we’ve been through.”

NYSUT Communications |

AFT President Randi Weingarten hailed the accomplishments of retiring NYSUT President Andrew Pallotta and said his impact will be long-lasting. She also lauded his humility and heart.

“You heard him today, talking about gratitude and purpose and legacy. What is Andy's legacy? Andy understood. He understood he had to bring us together, from UFT to Buffalo, and everybody in between,” Weingarten said.

Pallotta “walked the walk” she said, crisscrossing the state to knit members from every corner together and find commonality across professions.

Addressing Pallotta directly, she said, “My dear friend, you have done an extraordinary job. Not only taking the values of who we are as human beings, but the values of who we are as a union to make NYSUT the most important union in the United States of America.”

Weingarten underlined the importance of expanding the labor tent while still preserving unity and praised NYSUT’s ongoing commitment to inclusion. Quoting scripture, she said NYSUT must continue to make sure “that the stone that has been rejected by others, gets embraced by us.”

Weingarten also commended outgoing executive vice president Jolene DiBrango and retiring president of the Buffalo Teachers Federation Phil Rumore.

NYSUT Communications |

NYSUT President Andy Pallotta reflected on his six-year presidential legacy and spoke on the gratitude he feels to those who walked this journey with him and the purpose for NYSUT moving forward.

With his family in attendance, Andy looked back on his career as an educator, from his days making handmade basketball backboards out of plywood as a physical education teacher to NYSUT officer and all the challenges we have seen and persevered through in the past 14 years.

Andy endorsed NYSUT Executive Director Melinda Person to succeed him as president, saying, “her leadership has been forged in fire and she is ready to meet this moment.”

NYSUT Communications |

This video welcoming delegates to Representative Assembly 2023 recaps how NYSUT members have risen to the occasion in unprecedented times for our students, our families and our communities.

With one voice we proudly proclaimed: "Public Schools Unite Us!"

NYSUT Communications |

The wait is officially over — the 2023 NYSUT Representative Assembly is here!

As delegates arrive and get settled in, the weekend promises to be chock full of policy making, activism, solidarity and tearful goodbyes as we bid farewell to two beloved NYSUT officers and welcome in the next generation of union leadership.

This year the statewide union will host the inaugural NYSUT Runs New York Family 5K. We hope delegates and members will join us for a beautiful walk/run course along the Hudson River to benefit the Albany Fund for Education.

Other highlights include an expanded Local and Retiree Council Presidents Conference, April 27–28, and debate on more than 30 resolutions ranging from pre-K through postgraduate education, to legislation, health care, organizing and retirement. Delegates will also consider an amendment to the NYSUT Constitution.

The statewide union will also recognize the work of outstanding activists with several awards, including the “Not For Ourselves Alone”: The Sandy Feldman Outstanding Leadership Award, the Ken Kurzweil Social Justice Recognition Award and the NYSUT Life Line Honor Roll. Union constituency award winners and community service and outreach award winners will also be recognized.

So, get excited — the 2023 NYSUT RA has arrived! For more information, visit nysut.org/RA.

NYSUT Communications |
fix tier six campaign
Greenburgh North Castle United Teachers President Anthony Nicodemo sees NYSUT's "Fix Tier 6!" campaign as an opportunity to engage with and support his newer members. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

“We’re a fighting union and I know we can get this done,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta of union efforts to improve pension benefits for Tier 6 members, who receive substantially reduced pensions as compared to earlier tiers.

Fixing Tier 6 was the focus of the opening plenary session of the NYSUT Local and Retiree Council Presidents Conference. Speakers detailed disparities between earlier tiers, and participants brainstormed and shared best practices on how to activate members to become Fix Tier 6 activists. All agreed that the campaign is a great opportunity to engage new members and highlight union value.

fix tier 6

“Fixing Tier 6 is about solidarity, fairness and dignity,” said NYSUT Executive Director Melinda Person. “Thirty years is a career; it doesn’t make sense that some members have to work longer.”

Citing the union’s effort in 2000 to reform Tier 4 by capping member contributions at 10 years and ending early retirement penalties, Person was confident the union can achieve similar reforms for Tier 6 — but it won’t be a quick fix. She estimates at least a decade of work before winning parity with Tier 4.

“Last year we got vesting fixed, next we’re going after age penalties, final average salaries and contribution increases,” Person continued. “We’ve done this before, and we can do this again.”

NYSUT Communications |
RA 2023

We're so pleased to gather again in Albany to celebrate our members and chart a course for the union for the next year!

Please check back to this website (nysut.org/RA) for continuous news and updates leading up to and during the convention.

A few things our delegates should know:

Login to our Delegate Resources page for a full RA preview, venue maps, schedules and other vital resources. (Need a short link? It's nysut.org/delegates.)

Be sure to follow NYSUT on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

Be sure to tag your RA-related social media posts with #nysutRA.

Thank you, and we look forward to seeing you in Albany!

 •Related article: 2023 RA promises to be chock full. NYSUT United. March 2023.

NYSUT Communications |
RA 2023 Honorees

Many NYSUT members have achieved special recognition for their work, both professionally and in their communities.

The RA will recognize the following members with awards:

  • “Not for Ourselves Alone:” The Sandy Feldman Outstanding Leadership Award, recognizing lifetime achievement, will be presented to Rowena Blackman-Stroud (posthumously), United University Professions, and Marilyn Manley, United Federation of Teachers.
  • The 2023 New York State Teacher of the Year is Billy Green, United Federation of Teachers.
  • School-Related Professionals Members of the Year are Renee Freeman, United Federation of Teachers, and Stacy Stoliker, Rhinebeck Association of Non-Instructional Employees.
  • Retiree Members of the Year are Howard Kasen, Retiree Council 14, and Nina Tribble, United Federation of Teachers.
  • Health Care Professionals Members of the Year are Mindy Heath, United University Professions, and Elvie Smith, United Federation of Teachers.
  • Higher Education Member of the Year is Dante Morelli, Faculty Association of Suffolk Community College.

Look for more information on our honorees - including bios and videos - on Friday and Saturday here at nysut.org/ra.

NYSUT Communications |
RA 2023

NYSUT delegates from across New York are gearing up for the statewide union’s annual convention.

And they’ll be met with a packed schedule of elections, resolutions and events both before and after the conference.

The 2023 Representative Assembly will be held April 28–29 in Albany. Delegates will elect NYSUT officers, members of the NYSUT Board of Directors, an NEA Director and Alternate NEA Director, and state delegates to the AFT Convention. (See nysut.org/elections2023. Member login required.)

The convention will kick off with an expanded Local and Retiree Council Presidents Conference, held April 27–28. RA delegates will help set the union agenda for the next year as they debate more than 30 resolutions on pre-K through postgraduate education, legislation, health care, organizing and retirement. Delegates will also consider one amendment to the NYSUT Constitution..

The annual RA is also a time to recognize the hard work and dedication of NYSUT members. RA delegates will honor the winners of several NYSUT awards including “Not For Ourselves Alone”: The Sandy Feldman Outstanding Leadership Award, the Ken Kurzweil Social Justice Recognition Award and the NYSUT Life Line Honor Roll. Winners of the union’s constituency awards and honors for members’ and locals’ community service and other outreach will also be recognized.

New this year, Sunday after the RA the union will host a special community event, the inaugural NYSUT Runs New York Family 5K. Delegates and members around the region are invited to join NYSUT families on a beautiful walk/run course along the Hudson River. Proceeds will benefit the Albany Fund for Education.

For more information on the 2023 RA and the Local and Retiree Council Presidents Conference, visit nysut.org/RA.