When the history of this pandemic is written, it will be a story about how a rather small number of powerful people, after failing to learn anything and without any incentive to do so, pretended they did all they could. -Philip Rocco
One of the hardest things to witness and endure is the impact of a long season of bad decision-making. In New Rochelle, we have watched these impacts play out year after year, in administration after administration. We are frustrated by how easy it has been for “a rather small number of powerful people” to enact policies that bring actual harm to a once-thriving working and learning community. It is no secret that this is where New Rochelle is today.
When the history of this district is written, we hope it will not be a story of how failure, lack of incentive, and pretense at the highest levels of leadership undermined it.
This is not to indict an entire board or every administrator because there are good people in every place, but people in positions of power impact everyone. We feel that it is incumbent upon us to speak to those impacts so that no one can ever say that they did not know or that they did all they could.
For years, public comment was available at every meeting so that stakeholders could speak about the impacts. Previous boards understood that it was part of their job whether they liked what was said or not. They were elected to serve; they needed to hear it. This elected Board does not want to hear it, and therefore, they have limited public comment to the legal minimum of once a month.
But we have not been silenced. We continue to speak to the impacts upon us and the community. We applaud and recognize our members for their eloquence and their passion, sharing powerful personal stories and standing up for people who can no longer stand up for themselves. Together, we shine a light and continue to seek restoration for the schools and community we serve.
The Board may want silence, but, together, we are ensuring they and the community hear it. They hear it at board meetings. They see it on our shirts, at our weekly actions, in the parking lots, and on our lawns. The message is clear and growing! We are holding this district accountable and sending them their evaluation.
New Rochelle FUSE is listed in the Washington Post editorial as one 74 signatories on the letter urging the Biden administration to cancel spring standardized testing. New Rochelle FUSE continues to assert its leadership locally, in New York State and nationally.
Dear Dr. Cardona:
On December 14, 2019, President Joe Biden participated in the 2020 Public Education Forum held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Early childhood expert, Dr. Denisha Jones, explained the damage done by standardized testing and then asked, “If you are elected President, will you commit to the ending of standardized testing in public schools?”
Joe Biden’s response was immediate, direct, and clear. “Yes.” He continued, passionately declaring that “teaching to a test underestimates and discounts the things that are most important for students to know.” As you listen to his full remarks regarding why he is opposed to standardized testing, you will hear the authentic response of someone who is not only married to a teacher but who, growing up with a disability, may have felt the brunt of standardized testing himself.
We, the undersigned understand that the pandemic has inflicted enormous social, emotional, physical, and academic harm on America’s children. We also know that the consequences of the pandemic have not fallen equally on some children’s shoulders. Those who were disadvantaged prior to Covid-19 are bearing a disproportionate weight from experiencing more loss, more hunger, and more stress than their more affluent peers.
It does not take a standardized assessment to know that for millions of America’s children, the burden of learning remotely, either full- or part-time, expands academic learning gaps between haves and have nots. Whenever children are able to return fully to their classrooms, every instructional moment should be dedicated to teaching, not to teasing out test score gaps that we already know exist. If the tests are given this spring, the scores will not be released until the fall of 2021 when students have different teachers and may even be enrolled in a different school. Scores will have little to no diagnostic value when they finally arrive. Simply put, a test is a measure, not a remedy.
To believe that it is impossible for teachers to identify and address learning gaps without a standardized test is to have a breathtaking lack of faith in our nation’s teachers. The President made it clear in his remarks that he believes in the ability of teachers to identify what students do and do not know; we hope that you do, too.
Like the President, some of us who sign this letter reject the need for the standardized testing regimes that exploded over the past quarter-century. Others conclude that such testing has a limited role. However, we all maintain that at this moment in time, it is in the best interest of children that the U.S. Department of Education lift the mandate for annual testing this spring.
We hope that you agree with the sentiments of President Biden and with us, and upon your confirmation immediately cancel the 2021 testing mandate.
NYSUT Opt-Out: Know Your Rights
Parents and teachers continue to raise questions about students opting out of standardized tests. To help answer these questions, we have updated our fact sheets for parents and teachers on test refusals. NYSUT fully supports parents and their right to choose what is best for their children - including NYSUT members who decide as parents to opt their child out of state tests.
NYSUT fully supports parents' rights to choose what is best for their children - including NYSUT members who decide as parents to opt their child out of state tests.
This NYSUT fact sheet attempts to clear up any misinformation teachers may hear by reviewing the federal requirements for participation in the state assessments and potential consequences of opting-out for districts, students and teachers.
This Fact Sheet provides an overview of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and its impact on schools in New York State.
NYSUT : Student Debt Webinars
NYSUT has just released a schedule of free student loan webinars for March/April, 2021.
If you have questions or need help with student loans, our union is here to help.
Over the past year, the NYSUT Student Loan Debt program has provided guidance and support to thousands of NYSUT members trying to understand and manage their student loans. We have partnered with the non-profit group Cambridge Credit Counseling to offer student debt workshops to NYSUT members free of charge. These workshops are now available entirely online as live webinars and offer our members:
- A presentation from a student loan counselor to help you better understand the various student loan repayment options with a focus on Teacher Loan Cancellation and Public Student Loan Forgiveness programs.
- The opportunity to schedule a free counseling session with a certified student loan counselor.
- Free access to a student loan portal to quickly identify all of your options and provide a detailed action plan that you can then discuss with a certified student loan counselor.
View the webinar schedule and register here: studentloans.nysut.org/webinars
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Regional Staff Director
Tarrytown Regional Office
520 White Plains Rd. Suite 400
Tarrytown, NY 10591
NYSTRS is a valuable source of information whether you are retiring today or years down the road. NYSTRS has implemented a variety of measures related to the coronavirus (COVID-19). To ensure members have the information needed to make informed decisions, please click on the link below or call (800) 348-7298 to find out more.
COVID 19 Update and FAQs
Technology Teacher, ALMS
Steve has been married to his wife, Marguerite ,for 42 years. He has two grown daughters, Nicole and Stephanie, and a three year old grandson, Justin.
Where are you from?
I was born in New Rochelle and lived here until the age of 2. Then I moved to Mamaroneck where I grew up. Currently I have lived in Mahopac for the past 33 years.
How long have you been working in the district?
I have taught here in the CSDNR for 42 years. All at ALMS.
What are some of the responsibilities in the position you hold?
My time here has been spent as a technology education teacher, however, I have had many other roles over the years as well. Some of my other positions were the following: I directed and supervised the ALMS after-school learning academy for over 20 years. I started the YES program (young engineers school) which I have been able to expand district-wide. While I started here at ALMS, it is now at ISAAC and the elementary schools as well. Another program I started is the Lego Robotics club here at ALMS. I even coached the ALMS baseball team for 4 years earlier in my career here.
What do you think is the most difficult and/or most rewarding part of your job?
I find the most difficult part of my job is witnessing the personal hardships so many of my students go through. I'm not only invested in them on an academic level, but I am also very invested in their well-being. Caring so deeply about them makes it very difficult to know that they are struggling. I try to help them in many ways. I like to think of myself as a support to them and if I can add a little joy to their lives by buying a turkey for their family or purchasing a yearbook for them, I am happy to do so.
There are tons of rewarding parts to the job. Being able to impact a student's life in a positive way is number one for sure. But, I love seeing their faces when that light bulb goes off during one of those Aha moments. It really is a wonderful feeling to be able to help them have those moments.
What is a serious issue facing someone in your position today?
An issue I have faced recently, like many teachers have, would be the adaptation to remote and hybrid instruction. I have had to learn more new techniques and teaching styles in the last year than I have had to learn over all the previous years I have taught combined.
Do you have a story of some interesting or memorable or important moment in your career or in your life that we could share?
I am thrilled to hear from so many former students of mine who have gone on to engineering careers. It feels great knowing that they got their start in engineering in my YES program. I have invited them back to speak with current students. I have tremendous pride and find it an extremely rewarding experience each time.
What motivates or inspires you personally?
I am motivated simply by everyday life. My wife, my family, downtime, and work time are all things I enjoy very much. I get up every morning wanting to come to school. I don’t call it work, I call it “school.” A loved one once told me this quote, “If you find something you love to do, then you’ll never work a day in your life.” Truer words were never spoken.
What is something that you’d like to share that not everyone knows about you?
My tough exterior presents differently than the hallmark movie type of guy I actually am.
Why is being part of FUSE important to you? Why are you a member?
I strongly believe in unions. I remember as a kid while working at many jobs I always liked the camaraderie of working together as a unit. And it was clear to me that as a united group, we were able to accomplish so much.
FUSE is our protection, support, and security that we all can lean on in uncertain times. FUSE is so key to creating a better working environment for us all which enables us to give the very best possible to our students. By FUSE supporting each other, in turn, it is supporting the children we are working with.
I’m sure that there are many things I haven’t asked you…. Is there anything that you would want to share
I am so proud of being a part of the CSDNR. All the kids who attend the New Rochelle schools are studying, living, and learning real life due to the diversity of the district. This district truly represents real life and what the real world looks like. I believe it prepares them to succeed in any aspect of life they choose to go toward. I continue to love my time here at ALMS, and am hopeful to make a difference in the many lives I have had the privilege of impacting.
Teaching Assistant, NRHS
How long have you worked in the district? What are some of the responsibilities in the position you hold?
I've worked here for 14 years. I am a New York State Cert teaching assistant. The reason I say that is that I came in when the state required testing and certification and college credits. I had to jump through the hoops. I still have to pay for my certification. I’m required to do CTE courses, but it keeps you fresh. So I’m proud to be an NYSCTA.
I have a bachelors in Computer Science. I got my Masters in 2004 in education technology. I worked as a teaching technology assistant. I had my own computer lab.. K-5 under facilitator, Dan Coccardi. Dan knew I knew my thing. I ran a whole computer lab myself. It was the best job in the whole world. I loved it. And then in 2011 there was a massive budget cut. So they laid us off… And, we came into SpEd at New Rochelle High School. I thought I hated it… that this is not what I signed up for, but 11 years later, I have to say, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Why is that?
Because the special needs children are my joy. They have a way of making you feel great. I have this one kid who sings to me every morning. How dare I come in with baggage on my shoulder? He’s the best.. Those kids are just the sweetest … and some of them are just the cutest. They are 19 years old… but they are so cute… And they have taught me so much patience. They are my joy. That’s all I can say.
You said what is the most rewarding part of your job just now. What’s been the most difficult part of your job?
I have worked hard for what I have… my degrees which I don’t use…. And what New York State has said is that teaching assistants are instruction first. We want that distinction. We fought to have our own classes… we can instruct… they were sending in subs, but the teaching assistants had to help the subs out. Now, we can cover a class. Teaching assistants are instruction first, and we can instruct.. It’s fixed now… at least at the high school.
Out of that challenge.. I was always taught if you come with a problem come with a solution.. When we got together.. as a support staff, we decided we needed to do something to bring TAs together. So we decided 4 years ago... let's just have a day. So, said, "Let me look and see if there’s a Teaching Assistant Day." There wasn’t one in the United States... But, there was one in the UK... A UK United Teachers Assistants Day. I tried to call them to see if we could be sisters across the Atlantic, but no one got back to me. So, I decided we’d have a U.S. United Teaching Assistant Day on the same day… September 16. We had our first kick off in 2019. Out of 28 TAs at the high school, we got 26 responses. We want to make our mark, make our distinction. Now we’re expanding to the district. Next thing we’ll go county, then state, then United States..
Bringing the TAs together is an important mission for you?
That’s my goal is to get the TAs to say, "Hey we matter.. We’re not just glorified babysitters. " That’s what I love about Mary Breslin. She’s a big mouth like me.. Like she says… Read that contract. You all need to come in and read your contract. It’s important to empower my colleagues to keep everyone informed. I am also a building rep. My job as far as I'm concerned is to keep everybody informed. People walk around in a cloud and they are not informed. I’ve been empowering these people for two years.
How long have you been a member of the building committee?
On and off since 2016. In 2017, I ran for secretary for FUSE. It stressed me out so bad. I didn’t make it, but I did good.
Have you ever thought you’d run again for leadership?
No. I can see why Obama is grey..uh uh. no. I don’t like a lot of stress.. You see how happy and jovial I am? I don’t do stress.
I know my lane. I want to be with the people. I don’t want to be in the office answering phones and sending out emails.
FUSE Merch is Available Again!