Unions front and center

NYSUT got national recognition yesterday when our own Maria Neira was sworn in to the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. Here’s the link to NYSUT’s press release. Truly an impressive list of people were tapped.

Still deeply concerned from last night’s rally in Oneonta. First, how fantastic is it that more than 300 people braved tornado warnings to come to Oneonta to support each other and advocate against state budget cuts and a property tax cap?

But that enthusiasm comes down a couple of notches because of the pain and sacrifice I heard from people. I heard about how the area workforce keeps shrinking as retirements are not filled. I heard about unions sacrificing pay raises to help keep programs intact for students. Then I me two Otsego-Northern Catskills BOCES teachers who will be out of jobs next month.

With all the job cuts across the state, they have little chance of finding work.

Debbie Lindon has 25 years in education, much of it downstate. She’s worked for four years now in upstate schools. A widow, she is the sole breadwinner for her family. And she is three years away from retirement. “I am ‘it’ for my family. I am devastatated,” she said. Betsy Holland is just as devastated. “I have done my job to the best of my ability every year with the toughest, most aggressive kids from districts.” (Other colleagues told me she has received Teacher of Year awards in the special education field.) She works with eight kids and an aide, and she is worried about how the students will fare without specialized programs.

New York’s 37 Boards of Cooperative Educational Services were created more than 60 years ago to provide school districts with programs and services they could not otherwise afford to provide. Besides special education and alternative educational programs, BOCES offer more than 835 state-approved career and tech programs. These programs are part of the solution for increasing the graduation rate and preparing students for work and college.

So even though this state budget might not appear to cut BOCES, because it cut schools so deeply, BOCES ends up cutting.

The two, like many, are deeply angry that Gov. Cuomo continues to criticize the education system as overpaid, and continues to misrepresent educational achievement in our state.

More about the rally soon. Here’s something else to share. Last night the Fox 44 news for upstate New York aired a report about teacher evaluation. Rod Sherman of the Plattsburgh TA and NYSUT’s Board, noted the interview took over an hour and “there was a lot of positive discussion on how teacher evaluation, using standards, can be used for targeted professional development.” The reporter “noticed quite quickly how both the superintendent and union were working together to make a fair system that focuses on helping and sharing within our profession.”

Airtime is short, so all of that was reduced to a sound bite. He hoped to see more of the interview at some point.

Airtime is limited, so the report overstates at one point, saying Plattsburgh is forced to adopt the state system. We’re not limited on the blog. So here’s the real deal.

The Regents approved new regulations that, among other changes, would: Allow districts and locals to negotiate as an option the use of student results on a single test for up to 40 percent of a teacher’s annual evaluation. In fact, the law enacted last year limits the use of a single state test to 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation and specifies that the remaining student achievement component (another 20 percent of the total evaluation) must be measured by other locally developed and selected assessments.

NYSUT contends the Regents’ action is contrary to the language and intent of the law, which was designed to strengthen instruction, support local autonomy, and model best practice by using multiple measures to assess student learning and teacher effectiveness.

The above is taken from the recent issue of NYSUT United, which Rod notes “tells the story very well. This issue is a must read for every one of our members.”

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