2002-05-25 / Columnists

Chatting With Chapey

By Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey

Let's Hear It For Our Teachers

  On Saturday, May 11, 2002, I attended the United Federation of Teachers Spring Education Conference at the New York Hilton Hotel.  The theme of this year's session is "Ensuring Every Child A Sound Basic Education".  The UFT is working to provide teachers and educational professionals with the tools that they need to successfully educate our children.

The UFT has been working without a contract since November 15, 2000.  The 1,700 members of the Delegate Assembly, the highest-level policymaking board in the union - voted overwhelmingly for a strike vote.  These delegates are aware of their responsibilities and the ramifications of their actions.  They are keenly cognizant of the sacrifices that teachers will be forced to endure.  However, these delegates also recognize that educational professionals must be treated with dignity and respect.  These pedagogues have been working under adverse conditions because they are without a contract for almost two years.

Randi Weingarten, the UFT President, in her annual address to the UFT members attending the luncheon shared some important statistics with her members.  Since November 15, 2000 when their contract expired over 4,000 teachers have fled to the suburbs.  One in fourteen teachers left teaching in the 1990's but we now have reached the alarming rate of one in four professionals leaving teaching last year.  This amounts to a 24% drop out rate among teachers last year alone.  Another alarming statistic given by Weingarten was that 42% of new teachers leave after five years.

Weingarten praised teachers for their outstanding contributions to our city.  She noted that teachers were among the silent heroes of 9/11.  On 9/11 because of the orderly procedures that teachers had in place, all children in our city were evacuated safely from their schools.  Many teachers stayed in the school until late at night until the parents could come to the school to pick up their children.  Teachers are truly professionals who are ready, willing and able to perform their duties with exceptional care and pride.

Weingarten noted that on Friday May 10, the city had called the UFT and they are going back to the bargaining table.  Weingarten hopes that we are on the road to a new contract.  However, if necessary, teachers are willing to endure the shared sacrifice of a strike.

Important elected officials were on the dais at the luncheon to show support for teachers.  They included Governor George Pataki; Congressman Charles Rangel, Dean of the New York Congressional Delegation; Denis Hughes, President of the New York State AFL-CIO; Betsy Gotbaum, Public Advocate; William Thompson, NYC Comptroller; Assemblyman Brian McLoughlin, the President of the New York City Central Labor Council; Gifford Miller, the Speaker of the New York City Council; and Helen Marshall, Borough President of Queens.

Everyone of us owes the teachers who have positively affected our lives a debt of gratitude.  They have helped us to grow and develop as individuals.

Last week, I met a neighbor who told me that his wife had served for six years on the school board.  Last September she obtained her teaching credentials and began to teach.  He told me that neither of them realized how many hours a week teachers spend at home developing lesson plans.  They had no idea that teaching professionals spend so many hours preparing for their class time.

Teachers need our support.  They need the proper resources to teach our children.  Teachers need a fair and equitable wage settlement and respect and dignity for their efforts on our behalf.

Please join us for our club meeting at the Regular Democratic Club of the Rockaway at 104-02 Rockaway Beach Boulevard to hear former NYC Comptroller and Assemblyman Alan Hevesi and Superintendent Matt Bromme.  It will be a very interesting meeting.  Please plan to attend and bring a friend.

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