Because the weather is 25 below zero with the wind chill factor, Olean schools recently closed for two days for most students, according to math teacher and Olean Teachers Association President David Lasky. All teachers and any students taking the Regents exam had to report to school in this Cattaragaus County community, but other students stayed home.
“It’s cold up around here,” said Lasky, who is greatly relieved that the chilly blast did not descend last week, when the OTA hosted a walk and an outdoor public assembly in the community park. They put on hats and boots and visited several local state lawmakers to speak out and urge them to support a three-year moratorium on the consequences of high-stakes testing for teachers and students. Lasky said they also voiced their support for legislation to reduce excessive testing in the schools and protested the “poor implementation of Common Core standards by the state of New York.”
Like other teachers and local unions around the state, OTA members are once again clamoring to stop the frigid, downhill slide of state funding and increase it to pre-2008 levels to “adequately provide the programs, services and support that our students need to become college- and career-ready,” Lasky said.
The OTA was joined on the walk by students, families and union members from the United Boces TA of Cattaraugus County, Salamanca TA, Bolivar-Richburg Faculty Association and Cuba-Rushford TA, hailing from Cattaraugus, Allegany and Chautauqua counties. The unionists visited Sen.Cathy Young, R-Olean, and Assemblyman Joseph Giglio, R-Olean, in their district offices.
“It lets our representatives know how we feel in personal and direct conversation,” Lasky said. The walk was held on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day for the second year in a row to honor King’s dual legacies of peaceful protest and activism.
Speakers at the local park included Olean school board members and NYSUT board member Joe Sweeney.
The Olean TA will also be active at regional lobby days held around the state this spring, and will send a representative to NYSUT’s Committee of 100 Lobby Day on March 4 in Albany at the Capitol.