Chapter leader shoutout

Kudos to Jeanette Acevedo, Automotive HS, Brooklyn

For helping save her school

Woman with a orange blouse and glasses smiles for the camera When teacher Jeanette Acevedo arrived at Automotive HS in Brooklyn in September 2015, she was amazed to discover there was no UFT chapter leader and “everyone was afraid.”

“I wasn’t afraid,” she declared, “so I ran for chapter leader and won unanimously. What a year that was.”

During that school year, she worked tirelessly to restore staff morale by fighting for members’ contractual rights and to mobilize staff and community to keep the school open after the state declared it a failing school and threatened it with closure.

At her invitation, UFT President Michael Mulgrew visited the Greenpoint school as part of her effort to restore confidence in the union.

In a state-ordered shake-up of the low-performing school in 2015, the principal, Caterina Lafergola, kept her job while most of the teachers left or were not rehired. Fourteen brand-new teachers started in September.

Because Acevedo, a 16-year veteran, had previously been the chapter leader at the Academy for Environmental Leadership HS, she was ready for the challenges at her new high school, where she found Lafergola was waging a letter-in-the file campaign to intimidate UFT members.

“I know the contract and read up on the Chancellor’s Regulations and managed to keep 43 letters from going into teachers’ files,” she said. “I fought her at every step.”

When the principal refused to consider member-recommended school-based options, insisting on only her own, Acevedo filed a grievance.

The battle with the controversial principal ended when Lafergola resigned in June 2016, but the battle to keep the high school open continued. Acevedo made sure her members were represented at all meetings where the school’s future was discussed. She also organized informational picketing and a letter-writing campaign to the schools chancellor and the City Council.

That threat has now receded, too. “With a new principal, there is such a different environment here,” she said. “The new principal works with all of us and discusses everything.”

Acevedo has an active union consultation committee, and attendance is up at monthly membership meetings.

History teacher Deyate Hagood credits Acevedo with transforming a “terrified and weak” chapter into one where members do not roll over and are not afraid to speak up.

“She got us here,” he said.

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