Syracuse rally redux (updated with photos)

Still energized from Friday’s rally in Syracuse. Click here for Channel 9’s news coverage. Perfect weather, 65 degrees, sunny with just enough of a breeze to cool things off as speakers got heated.

There are a few issues getting the photos up. (The first starts with my laptop dying en route to the convention. My replacement doesn’t have the software yet for me to download. But I will update with photos as they come in.) So, I’ll try to paint you a word picture of what happened.

About 50 or so Syracuse Teachers Association members made signs before the rally. I got there to catch up with friends like school nurse Ann O’Hara, teaching assistants Sue Webb, Nancy Juliano and Mark Wagner, and to make some new ones, like Spanish teachers James Nieves and Cari Egerbrecht. Those two were lettering signs by hand with Raymond Stazzone, who teaches English Language Arts and Chris Blitman, who teachers social studies. It’s beautiful outside, it’s a Friday at 4 p.m. but instead of hurrying home to start their weekend, they’re hurrying to go to a rally.

“With all the pressure our kids have been under, and our schools are under attack, it’s important for me to be there, to stand up and tell people that funding education matters,” Egerbrecht said.

Stazzone agreed. “Not only do I teach in the city, but we live in the city and we care about our students, our schools and our whole community. It’s so important that we continue supporting schools but I don’t see our state budget doing that.”

Then we all carpool downtown, to hunt for parking. No surprise to me that one of the first people I see is Phil Cleary of the North Syracuse EA. He’s smiling as bright as the sun because up the street behind me are some of the cutest kids you can imagine, carrying bright signs; most are pro-education and then a few have pineapples with slashes through them.

Solvay TA member and second-grade teacher Melissa Midgley is also a morning drive-time deejay. While she waits for the equipment to be set up to provide some music as the crowds gather, she tells me about the negative atmosphere all the testing has wrought.

“The third-graders were wrecks. I had one of my little babies just come and collapse in my arms when he saw me in the hall. There is just too much focus on testing,” she said.

The crowd keeps growing and growing by the time Paul Farfaglia, (of Jordan-Elbridge TA and a NYSUT Board member) kicks it off.

Speaker after speaker are pitch perfect, talking up public schools in central New York, and why schools are the heart of the community.

Helen Hudson of the Syracuse City Council says schools change lives. She names her Nottingham High School teachers who kept her from dropping out of school and talks about the impact public schools have. Jeff Peneston, the 41st state Teacher of the Year, gives an interesting perspective having been privy to the nation’s and world’s best teachers to fulfill his duties. One thing he found?

“All the best schools in all the best countries in the world have unionized teachers,” Peneston said. (Here’s backup to that claim.)

Al Stirpe and Dan Maffee are both running for office. Their speeches decry that teachers have been scapegoated.

By the time NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi climbs atop the pickup truck, there are at least 500 people in front of the state office building. I shoot video instead of taking notes.
Below are photos by Steve Jacobs and me.

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