Chapter leader shoutout

Kudos to Michael Ferruso, Hillcrest HS, Queens

For bringing a UFT Teacher Center to his school

Headshot Michael Ferruso, Hillcrest HS, QueensJonathan Fickes

This year’s opening of a UFT Teacher Center at Hillcrest HS — where the school’s 240 educators now can earn CTLE hours at on-site workshops and gather for professional conversation and collaboration — may be the most celebrated achievement in Chapter Leader Michael Ferruso’s efforts to rebuild his chapter.

Three years ago, concerned that the staff at the crowded, multi-session Queens high school lacked professional voice and representation, Ferruso ran for the leadership post, won and immediately began “to push issues never pushed before.”meet with the chapter, discuss its needs and provide professional advice. Together with a new UFT consultation committee, Ferruso pitched the idea of a UFT Teacher Center and brought the administration on board.

“The teachers love it,” Ferruso said. “It provides the space and resources an educational community needs and, for the first time, we are getting really meaningful professional development, often from our own teachers who have special expertise.”

Tiffany Hubbard, the Teacher Center site coordinator, says the center has helped shift the school’s culture toward collaboration. “Teachers are working together on an informal basis, studying together and using the professional resources we provide,” she said.

During his time as chapter leader, Ferruso, an AP United States history teacher, has raised issues with his school’s administration about lesson plans, observations and class coverage beyond the contract. He is not afraid to file grievances when the consultation process fails to yield results.

His aggressive approach is paying off. In 2014, to name one chronic issue, Hillcrest HS reported 250 oversized classes on the 10th day of school; this past September, it had only 30. And Ferruso brought in the UFT to solve an air quality problem of windowless, interior classrooms that were overheating and registering high amounts of carbon dioxide. “Now the air vents have magically opened,” he said.

“The school is in a different place,” Ferruso said. “The chapter has energy now that it never had before and members are taking the initiative.”

It is no surprise Ferruso was re-elected to a second term as chapter leader in May.

“For the first time in my 14 years at Hillcrest, I feel more engaged on the school level thanks to Michael,” said guidance counselor Claude Ertel.

Regine Dejean, another guidance counselor and a member of the UFT consultation committee, said colleagues seek out Ferruso to bring up issues of concern. “Now we really understand the process and what the union does for us,” she said.

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