November 11, 2015
By Cara Metz
New York, NY – “We are celebrating the amazing activism that speaks to the spirit of the 1960 strike, of groups of people who came together to fight for what we need,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew in announcing new School in Action awards at this year’s Teacher Union Day.
Seven school chapters that stood out in this spring’s #AllKidsNeed campaign to protect public education were honored. While each school took a different approach, they all made the point that educators are the solution, not the problem.“Our jobs speak for themselves, if given the chance to speak,” said Chapter Leader Trisha Arnold, who teaches at PS 204 in Bayside and made the powerful video that went viral on Facebook in March. “We don’t need to be defensive about anything. We really just need to show what we do, because it’s an extraordinary job.
”To make her four-minute video, which was viewed nearly 1.4 million times on Facebook, Arnold asked teachers to share stories that showed the array of things they do to help and support their students, whether they are learning to speak English or coping with homelessness or a death in the family.“Were you in shock about how many people watched it?” Mulgrew asked Arnold.“You could see it struck a universal chord,” she replied.At PS 88 in Ridgewood, Queens, among other actions, several hundred educators, parents and children wore yellow hardhats and chanted, “Show us the money!” at a 7 a.m.
Rally outside the school on the citywide day of action on March 12.“In this school, we feel like we are a family and we take care of each other,” said teacher Hope Fogarty.Educators at IS 2 on Staten Island held rallies, circulated petitions and created a special school T-shirt with the slogan, “Students and teachers are more than just a test score.”“We fought back and we prevailed,” said Chapter Leader Mark Zink. “If you go after our students, it’s war.”At Edward R. Murrow HS in Midwood, Brooklyn, the chapter made videos and fliers in all the languages spoken in this school of more than 4,000 students. On social media, members shared photos of themselves next to a cardboard cutout of the governor.“I think that’s a great example for our students, that you can really make change,” said teacher Allison Galker of the school’s protest activities.
At PS 168, a District 75 school in the Bronx, parents, UFT members, custodians and the administration all became involved in the school-based actions despite being spread over seven sites. Chapter Leader David Doorga said he and his members felt a moral imperative to represent their students with special needs, who can’t speak out on their own behalf. At PS 161 in the South Bronx, teacher Anna Wieland gathered members for a group photo with a big Respect for All banner. She posted the photo to her Facebook page, tagging everyone from the school so it reached deep into their communities. And at PS 51 of the far west side of Manhattan, the UFT members wrote letters to state lawmakers, decorated cakes with protest slogans and organized a large and spirited rally outside the school.“We serve the most brilliant inner-city children, and people need to see the work our teachers and students do,” said teacher Shani Perez. “Our staff was 110 percent in. We’re here to inspire, empower and ignite a love of learning.”
Tags: AFT, NYSUT, AFT, AFLCIO, NYS Schools