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Chapter Leader Shoutout

Kudos to Catrina Como, PS 376, Brooklyn

For showing members how to empower themselves
New York Teacher
Catrina Como
Jonathan Fickies

When Catrina Como became chapter leader at PS 376, a K–5 school in Bushwick, Brooklyn, in November 2022, she faced a tricky situation: The principal was demanding, and staff did not know their rights and were reluctant to speak up for themselves.

“I work with a lot of amazing teachers who just want to do their jobs,” she said. “I needed to make sure that they were in an environment where that could be accomplished.”

Her first step was building trust. “You can’t do anything without trust,” Como said.

Como, who is now in her fifth year as a full-time teacher, began to meet regularly with colleagues and listen to their concerns. Then, she raised those concerns, without naming names, with the principal. She also conducted an anonymous survey of members. With that documentation of the issues, she and her district representative had a consultation meeting about the school with the District 32 superintendent in May 2023.

“I made sure the staff’s voices were heard, and I made sure that things were addressed so we could do our jobs,” Como said.

In addition to monthly chapter meetings, which are now well-attended, Como invites members out for drinks after school so staff who don’t have regular contact with one another at school have the chance to have open conversations.

“When you have the support of one another, you feel empowered,” she said.

So far this school year, Como has filed three operational issues complaints — two on excessive paperwork and the third on data issues. Two have already been resolved.

“She fought for us to be allowed to use our Smart Notebook slides as our lesson plans,” teacher Brenda Durandisse said. “I can’t believe that I used to write up full-blown lesson plans in addition to creating these slides that literally had all the components.”

Como has also invested time in educating members about their union rights “so they can learn to speak up for themselves and take some of the heavy lifting off me.”

“There’s an increased sense of empowerment since she has become chapter leader,” said special education teacher Jennifer Auclair.

Como believes she has set a good example for others.

“Don’t let fear make your job harder,” she said. “Our job is difficult enough.”

Related Topics: Chapter Leaders