How long have you been working in the district?
I have been working in the district since 1998.
What do you do in the district?
I am currently the reading specialist in Davis Elementary School.
Are you from New Rochelle?
I am not from New Rochelle but I grew up close by in the Mamaroneck Rye Neck area. But I currently reside in Stamford. I’ve been in Stamford since 2005.
How long have you been active in the union?
I have been active for approximately 20 years.. I have been in the district 25 and I became ab building rep after I received tenure?
What encouraged you to become a building rep and become involved in the union?
At my building, I had a teacher who was actually the VP of the union at the time and she was my mentor because I taught 4th grade there originally and then became a reading specialist for last 5 years. And she was the one who encouraged me to become a building rep and she saw that I had a tremendous amount of passion and good intent in wanting to support my members. And she said that it was something that I would be good at and that I should absolutely try it.
I was going to ask this question before.. Can you tell us a time that you feel proud of that you were able to help a member.. Without getting into disclosure?
I don’t think it’s an invaluable question but I do have to think about a time that I can speak to. Because a lot of it becomes confidential. You can go very deep with that question. What is something that I’m proud of that I helped… My head goes directly to helping people keep their jobs… I have to think about which ones I can speak to.
Even if it’s not something like keeping a job.. other things come up… Can you tell us about a time when as a building rep you felt that you’ve had a positive influence?
Yes, I can tell you about a time when I think I had a positive influence and that would be when I was able to get my members who were working outside of contractual hours compensated for their time.
Also… building camaraderie. I organize, and I think this is huge... a lot of the buildings don’t do this and I think it is something we should be doing. I organize breakfasts (pre-pandemic) and it is a big deal because it brings the staff together. It’s important. And it is something you can do as a building rep. It’s a great time to be with your members. We do breakfasts; we do them once a month. The grade levels rotate who brings the stuff. It’s a great time for everyone to come in and see each other and build relationships. That is also something that I think is important. I do luncheons. I used to set up outside events for us. I think it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that we need to build relationships outside of the work relationships that we have with one another. And that is what helps us to become strong and that is something that I like about my role.
That’s important. That’s definitely important.
What do you think is the most serious issue facing our union today?
I do believe there are numerous serious issues facing our union today because as we know are under attack and many out there do not respect our profession in the way it deserves to respected. In New Rochelle, the turn over in administration and instability has led to a lot of broken relationships and lack of trust on both sides. As the superintendent has said, we will advance our commitment to the whole child by listening to and learning from our community. So for me, relationships are crucial. In this regard, we need to work positively with FUSE so we can establish the trust that has been broken. The only way that is going to be done is to working together which is always for the best for our children. And that is everyone’s goal.
Can you tell us a little bit about the position you hold in leadership, what you do in it and why it’s an important position for our members?
I currently hold two positions. I am the vice president of pedagogy and I’m also the grievance chairperson. As Vice President, I am responsible for day to day support of the union president communication and support of the members and know their issues and concerns. As . Grievance Chair, I am readily available to discuss member contract issues, and pursue member concerns and violations, misinterpretations or inequitable application of any provision of our contract with the district. This was a particularly important year as we were working without a contract.. There was a great deal of work involved in supporting union actions and negotiations with the goal of obviously settling our contract.
Yes. Aren’t you the head of the Action Committee also?
So, yes, I am. I would like to say that this was one of my most rewarding times this year. I was able to work on behalf of my fellow members and I was the co-chair of the Action Committee where we put together cohesive actions in support of our contract negotiations.This involved 14 members in all capacities from across the district. We would meet regularly and learn and listen to one other. We had to respect everyone’s one another’s opinions and figure out how to best work together because the power of union comes all of us coming together and working together. We were able to disseminate information uniformly across all buildings which is approx 1300+ members. It was our strength in numbers and our visibility at the Spring rally on top of all the other actions that we did throughout the year that solidified our reaching a contract. And this exemplified the power we have when we all join together as a union.
Yes. This is a follow up question. Do you feel that because of this that we are a stronger union today and that who comes into positions is coming into a strong union?
I have been here a very long time and I have been able to witness our union when it was super powerful and when it was not at its peak. However, I absolutely feel that we are at the peak that we need to be at and that we are very powerful and that we will continue to be powerful because we are strong in numbers..
What is the most difficult and / or most rewarding part of your work for the district and your work in leadership?
As I mentioned, this past year was the most difficult without a contract and we were in unprecedented times and it was a pandemic and our members were under a tremendous amount of stress. There were constant changes in the safety protocols. Our members were learning as they were going, often without the necessary training, technology, and at time effective communications in order to do their jobs. That along with the emotional toll because of lost members of their family, because they endured their own personal hardships, because our members were getting sick. For me, the most challenging part of all of that was at time no matter how many hours I was here in the office or working alongside Mary or Cheryl and everybody else, I couldn’t ease the pain or relieve that stress for the members.
What advice do you give to members, especially newer members, who are thinking about becoming more involved in union leadership activities?
My advice to them is to encourage them.. I encourage anyone who is thinking about getting involved to get involved. I start by saying them, get to know your fellow members, have the conversations. I encourage them to speak to their building reps. Have them understand that this is a very amazing position and that we become the liaisons between our union and our admin. I encourage them to take part in whatever they can that is offered by the union. Be proud to stand up for themselves. And be proud to recognize that our contract is very powerful. It’s important to read the contract. To know the contract. Go there and take the time to read the contrac because it protects you. You need to take advantage of the knowledge that the other senior colleagues have to offer.
What or who motivates and/or inspires you personally?
My personal motivation comes from my family. They recognize the passion and the commitment that I have to do this work to support my members in any way shape or form that I can. I don't’ rest easy when I know that my members are not at ease or that I have not been able to provide them with the result that they wanted. My family supports me because it does take time away from being at home with them. They continue to root me on and they continue to say, “Mom you are doing a great job.”
Do you have a story of something that has happened in your work or in your life that we could share?
I’m sure I have a lot of stories... being that I’ve been around for 25 years. I will share one work wise… Just last year, I received a letter from one of my past students sharing their accomplishments and their appreciation for me, so much so that this particular student is pursuing a teaching career as a direct result of having me as their fourth grade teacher. That was gratifying to hear that and to see it in black and white. And it’s actually posted on my bulletin board back at school and it is those things that continue to push forward and get through the next thing. We know as teachers and educators, we have a tremendous impact on our students and it’s all worthwhile.
Tell us something (emphasis on fun) that you’d like to share that not everyone knows about you?
Well… I do travel to Europe all the time, and I’m a big beach girl. I go to Europe a lot. Calabria Italy. Food is my pastime.
But, something fun that not everyone knows about me is that I coached my daughter to an undefeated basketball championship. And I coached my son’s CYO Basketball team right up to HS. And, at my short height of 5’1” and wearing heels all day, I don’t think too many people would think that I would be out there on the basketball court, but I was.
Were you a basketball player yourself?
I did play ball. Yes, but only up through HS. And then I went to Iona College.
Do you still play at all?
I do play. Yes, and I love it.
Thank you so much.