It’s Tenure Tuesday in White Plains

white plains respect shirts

Photo by Maria R. Bastone.

If you are in White Plains on a Tuesday, chances are you are seeing red. Educators from the White Plains Teachers Association are wearing their new, red T-shirts to school for a growing campaign called Tenure Tuesdays.

Like educators all across the state, they are fuming about yet another round of teacher demoralization, inadequate funding, proposed changes that would let student test scores count for half of their assessment and threats to tenure.

The back of the shirts have been imprinted with the “Respect Public Education. It Works!” logo from a NYSUT button that has become so popular across the state.

“I just thought it would be great to wear the graphic that was not allowed to be in the governor’s mansion,” said Kerry Broderick, president of the White Plains TA in Westchester County. At a New Year’s open house at the Executive Mansion in Albany, East Greenbush teacher Sean Crall was instructed to remove his Respect button before meeting the governor.

“Members LOVE the new shirts – they really appreciated having them and seemed to enjoy taking pictures with them. I got a sense that solidarity is building and we are focusing our message,” said Broderick.

The message these teachers are backing is a strong one.

“We all need to know that tenure was a due process right that our state Legislature thought was important and took the time to craft and pass in 1917… a time when public employee unions were not legal and the AFT was barely one-year old. It is a disgrace that the governor and others around the nation fail to be honest with the public and themselves about tenure,” Broderick explained. “It is unfortunate that our governor is under the influence of people who may not have the same moral core as those in 1917.  Tenure is not a right that came from collective bargaining … it’s not just about teachers, it is about what it allows teachers to do — advocate for what is best for students, whether it is in the building or district, the state or nationally.”

In these troubling times for public education, an example of the advocacy that tenure allows is right at hand.

“ I do not think we would have having any of the conversations about this over-reliance on testing as a measure of teacher effectiveness if teachers did not have tenure,” she said.

White Plains TA member Lonnette Tuck is a plaintiff in NYSUT’s lawsuit to defend tenure, and Broderick wanted to ensure Tuck was recognized by her members “for representing all of us in this case.”

Broderick says her colleagues are seeing the value of joining social media sites that blast out information.

The White Plains TA held meetings over the summer to chart the course of the union.  In November it held a forum about the over-testing, and more than 100 people attended.

This event, Broderick said, “began to rally some members who were usually quiet.”

The TA has 611 members, including teachers, guidance counselors, speech pathologists, social workers and psychologists. For Valentine’s Day, they mailed 750 postcards to Gov. Cuomo and another 750 to Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the Board of Regents. More members are attending district lobby days, and some spoke at regional hearings about the state budget.