On Wednesday, 4/15, the GNTA Executive Board--as well as the leadership from several of our affiliates--met with Great Neck's new Superintendent, Dr. Teresa Prendergast. In the hour-long meet and greet, Dr. Prendergast reaffirmed her belief in the value of public education and vowed to work collaboratively with GNTA and the community as a whole to continue the tradition of excellence that we have all come to expect from the Great Neck Public Schools. Learn more about Dr. Prendergast from the GNPS website.
Because the real Andrew Cuomo won't visit a successful public school (and Great Neck has invited him on numerous occasions), the best we could do is get "Flat Andy" to come and see what a great public school education looks like. Check out GNTA President Sheila Scimone's EdRuminations blog for all the action!
Dr. Sheri Lederman, a fourth grade teacher at E. M. Baker Elementary School and member of the Great Neck Teachers Association, is suing New York State for its flawed implementation of APPR. Get the latest from Albany's Times Union:
Tests above average, but teacher fails
There was a time when I believed that the strength of teachers’ unions was so great that we could withstand every attack. Then along came Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who stripped the teachers’ unions in his state of their collective bargaining rights. And along came Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu, who ruled that tenure protections for California teachers are unconstitutional, because they deprive disadvantaged, mostly minority students of an education equal to that afforded schools with higher-income students.
While I would love to believe that these things couldn’t happen in New York, we’re seeing alarming evidence that they can. Two cases in point:
What is NYSUT doing about these assaults? Your VOTE-COPE money is used by NYSUT for political action: to identify and support candidates for state office who agree with NYSUT positions on these two issues (among others) as well as to support lobbying efforts by NYSUT, particularly in the legislature. As for the lawsuits, State Supreme Court Justice Philip Minardo recently granted a motion by NYSUT to intervene in the defense of current teacher tenure rules. Many people feel that the suits will not be successful here in New York...but should they fail, the next step will surely be to seek legislation to weaken or abolish teacher tenure protection, which brings us back to lobbying.
What is GNTA doing? For many years, we’ve actively participated in lobbying: Vice President Jennifer Snyder has been our representative to Albany on the “Committee of 100." Political Action Chairs Michelle Sorise and Patti Crisafulli have organized a number of initiatives for GNTA members in the last couple of years; they also work to create partnerships with other locals as well as community members. Finally, as your President, I’ve met several times with our local legislators to discuss matters of concern to us as educators.
But NYSUT and GNTA are nothing without our members. Our strength is in direct proportion to your visibility when it comes to issues affecting teachers. And so, this year, we ask you to do at least one thing to make your voice heard politically. Details about our Do One Thing campaign can be found on gnteachers.net. The stakes for our profession—in fact, for public education—have never been higher, and we are all responsible for our future.
The following is the first in a series of articles intended to keep our members informed about New York State's education laws, Great Neck Board of Education and UPTC meetings, and GNTA's political action initiatives.
By Luci Legotti
Once again Long Island teachers’ voices were heard as we came together in solidarity to protect what we have worked hard to establish and advocate for what is right for students on Long Island. Jeff Bernstein, Michelle Sorice, and Luci Legotti attended a public forum sponsored by Long Islanders for Educational Reform (LIFER) on May 8th.The event was organized in support of the passage of a proposed “Taxpayer and Mandate Relief Bill” (A8603), which would, among other things, eliminate Triborough protections.
Steve Levy, former Suffolk County Executive, moderated the discussion. He introduced a very one-sided panel of invited guests to an audience of approximately 400 (about 75% unionists). E.J. McMahon, Empire Center for Public Policy Inc., began with a very academic overview of the establishment of the Taylor Law and Triborough Amendment, which led into a summary and justification of their proposed bill. Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick, sponsor of the bill, asserted that the passage of this bill would make it easier for employers to change union contracts as a way to provide governmental fiscal relief in New York State. The panel spoke to reports, which were disputed once the floor was open for comments. The majority of the audience spoke against the proposed bill, questioning and dispelling the assertions presented by the panel and exposing the misrepresentations in the reports. NYSUT representative Matt Jacobs was invited from the audience to join the panel; he spoke eloquently, provided facts to dispute misinformation presented by the panel, and responded to audience members who spoke in support of the bill. As the night went on, the panel often could not respond with valid reasons as to how this bill would quantitatively improve New York State’s fiscal situation.
It is clear that the goal of the bill is to erode collective bargaining and workers’ rights. The meeting was very well attended by teachers and other union members who continually encouraged Assemblyman Fitzpatrick to steer his efforts away from this bill and towards reducing unfunded state mandates. In addition, he was challenged to find ways to get more of Long Island’s taxpayer money returned to the Island as a way of reducing taxes in Nassau and Suffolk County. What started out as a very one-sided forum in support of a bill proposing the elimination of workers’ rights shifted as speaker after speaker educated the panel by offering viable solutions to improve New York State’s fiscal situation that do not impinge on collective bargaining rights. This outcome speaks to the strength of union solidarity and the need for teachers to continue to make their voices heard.
For further reading: Why We Defend Triborough - NYSUT
Congratulations to John Motchkavitz (a.k.a. "Motch"),
South High School Business/Technology Department Head,
who has been selected as one of the five finalists for the
'Live with Kelly and Michael' Teacher of the Year Contest.
Motch, a graduate of South High, will appear live on the
program on Tuesday, May 13. Tune in beginning at 9:30 a.m.
Voting will take place online between Friday, May 16 - Monday,
May 19. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, May 20.
See Congressman Steve Israel honor Motch on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Read more at www.greatneck.k12.ny.us
The Executive Board of the Great Neck Teachers Association unanimously supports the re-election of all current members of the Great Neck Board of Education.
This Board adheres to all the tenets of fiscal responsibility while maintaining their goal of meeting the needs of all students. While we teachers have not always benefitted financially from the Board’s budgeting, we respect their measured judgment and work with them in good faith as partners because we understand that the long-term educational and financial health of the district is their primary focus and serves the best interests of the entire educational community of Great Neck.
This Board is not afraid of change; in fact, they stay ahead of it. The Board enacted a tax cap one year before it became law; approached technology not as a panacea but as one tool for instructional effectiveness; made critical capital improvements to the district’s aging infrastructure before it became dangerous or cost-prohibitive; and unanimously passed a resolution opposing the State’s overreliance on standardized testing.
This Board has served the interests of students and taxpayers in equal measure, maintaining an equilibrium that sets it apart from other districts. With one eye on Great Neck’s rich history and the other on charting its promising future, they have done more than react to the current financial and educational crises: they have proactively and successfully led the district through them.
No Board is more accessible, more deliberative, or better informed. We strongly recommend the re-election of the members of this Board of Education on May 20.
Sheila Scimone, President
Great Neck Teachers Association
GNPS Superintendent Tom Dolan and Assistant Superintendent for Business John Powell addressed our Delegate Assembly on 2/27 to discuss next year's school budget and the impact of the tax cap on our district. They were invited by the DA in our ongoing effort to keep GNTA members informed about economic and education issues affecting Great Neck. DA meetings are open to all GNTA members. Check the schedule, and we hope to see you at the next meeting!
On November 21, our Delegate Assembly voted unanimously to join the New York State Allies for Public Education in calling for the resignation of John King, New York State's Commissioner of Education. It has become increasingly clear that Dr. King remains deaf to the strong and legitimate concerns of parents, teachers, students and administrators regarding testing, APPR, and privacy issues in New York State.
Dick Ianuzzi addresses the crowd
In Albany on June 8, GNTA joined thousands of educators, administrators, parents, and students from across New York State to rally for public education. As NYSUT President Dick Ianuzzi said, the day is not "against anyone - today is FOR children. It is a day for re-examining how we look at testing and the achievement gap; poverty and the wealth gap; and equity and fairness."
The One Voice United rally included music and rousing speeches from AFT President Randi Weingarten, education analyst John Nichols, and many others who denounced the state's obsession with standardized testing and APPR. As Ianuzzi said, "We don't have any concerns about accountability if you do it right and it's fair!"
Visit NYSUT.org for more news from the rally.
Diane Ravitch, a noted author and professor, has publicly applauded the Great Neck Board of Education for unanimously passing a resolution denouncing the state's over reliance on standardized testing.
Visit Diane Ravitch's Blog for the whole story!