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27th annual School Secretaries of the Year Awards Luncheon

‘You go to work and make it happen’

Miller Photography

Holding their plaques are award winners (from left) Aracelia Cook, Marlene Delgado, Doreen Schafer, Cathy Eberle, Althea Hunter, Patricia Lettiere and Pauline Ruggiero. With them are (back, from left) Chapter Chair Mona Gonzalez and New York State Sen. Diane Savino, the keynote speaker. More photos >>

Miller Photography

The audience of more than 200 school secretaries and their supporters listens to the speakers at the luncheon.

Miller Photography

Brooklyn Secretary of the Year Cathy Eberle, of PS 100, shares a laugh with her borough president, Marty Markowitz.

“The schools don’t work without you there,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said as he welcomed some 200 school secretaries — and the co-workers and family members who came to support them — to the 27th annual School Secretaries of the Year Awards Luncheon on April 27 at union headquarters.

“If a child is lost and doesn’t know where to go, you help out. A bewildered teacher doesn’t understand the pay stub, you lead them through it. You go to work and you make it happen,” Mulgrew added.

To which a voice from the crowd loudly responded, “Exactly!” — a comment followed by knowing applause.

Mona Gonzalez, the School Secretaries Chapter leader, praised her members and emphasized the importance of increasing their involvement in the union when the workday is done, asking her audience not to let their children and grandchildren lose the right to collective bargaining.

“Remember, everyone’s voice counts — we need to stand in solidarity to elect the next mayor of New York City,” Gonzalez said.

In fact, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, City Comptroller John Liu and New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio — all of whom are seeking to become the city’s next mayor — were there.

Also on hand were Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Council Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson.

State Sen. Diane Savino was the keynote speaker.

Doreen Schafer, the winner of the Goldie Colodny Award for unionism, felt particularly honored “because I come from a union family,” she said.

Like so many members of her family, Schafer, of PS 48 on Staten Island, has taken on a multitude of union responsibilities because she believes in what unions offer to their members and to the city.

Aracelia Cook, who was awarded the Annette Carlucci Celebration of Life Award, said the honor was very meaningful because she had the privilege to know and work with the award’s namesake while they both served on the chapter’s executive board.

Carlucci, who died in the summer of 2011, was the first school secretary to become a UFT district representative for Bronx high schools, “someone near and dear to us who passed away too soon,” Gonzalez said.

Cook’s activism has taken her as far as Texas, where she worked with the AFT to help organize teachers there.

One secretary from each borough was recognized as Secretary of the Year for their work both professionally and as unionists. The award winners were Althea Hunter of Fordham Leadership Academy for Business and Technology in the Bronx, Cathy Eberle of PS 100 in Brooklyn, Marlene Delgado of Murry Bergtraum HS in Manhattan, Pauline Ruggiero of IS 5 in Queens and Patricia Lettiere of PS 31 on Staten Island.

Before the luncheon and awards presentations, secretaries attended nuts-and-bolts workshops on payroll, pupil accounting and procurement.

Vilmarie Diaz, a school secretary at Information Technology HS in Queens, said she found the payroll workshop very useful. “There are so many things that need clarification, like per session and leaves. This was very informative,” she said.

Bronx honoree Hunter agreed. “We don’t walk in knowing everything, but we do get to master what we do,” she said. “I hope to be a link to new secretaries and show them how it’s done. If I don’t know something, I’ll get back to them with an answer.”

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