SRPs: Maria Portalatin is in the house

Ah, the Desmond in Albany. Site of many a NYSUT conference.

Have I said yet how much I love the union’s SRP members? School Related Professionals make schools work. They run the buses, the offices, the cafeterias, the hallways, the buildings and grounds, you name it! And this conference celebrates that. There are 24 workshops devoted to helping people on the job. Sessions like helping teacher aides and assistants use movement in the classroom to help motivate students to helping all support staffers prevent violence in the workplace.

I’m at the exhibit area looking over the amazing books members are bringing to donate and raffle baskets to raise funds. This has become an annual event at this conference.

Besides work, the conference takes time to celebrate their own. Maria Portalatin, NYSUT’s 2010 Not For Ourselves Alone award winner speaks tonight. One gutsy gal, I am looking forward to what she has to say.

I’ve known Maria for 17 years. She was hired as an educational assistant in New York City schools in 1967 and soon realized the need for a union. It was Portalatin who started the movement to organize those workers as paraprofessionals for the United Federation of Teachers in New York City. I am hoping she’ll tell the story about Al Shanker’s speech to bringing the benefits of union membership to a class of workers that were largely women, many of whom were African-American, Puerto Rican, and Dominican.

The benefits of union membership changed the lives of many paras. Especially once the UFT was able to bargain release time with pay for paras to pursue additional education to become teachers.

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