When PS 11 Chapter Leader Gloria Castillo began to think about retirement, she also began to plan for a seamless transition in union leadership at her Chelsea school.
So Castillo and delegate Holli Weiss, the member she identified as best qualified to succeed her, became a team, dealing with every problem and issue together during this challenging school year.
Given the complexities of on-site and remote schedules, Castillo has made sure the two women are in daily contact with each other and with colleagues who need support and information. They have worked together to settle operational issue complaints quickly. When thermometers used in the building entry protocol were not working in the fall, they took the problem to the principal and it was resolved immediately.
Although Castillo has only served as chapter leader at PS 11 for two years, she has long played leadership roles at the school where she has taught for 21 years. She has worked as a member of the racial equity team on school and district levels, the school hiring committee and the scholarship team. The labor relations courses she took in college have also served her well. “At first, when Gloria suggested we team up, I wasn’t sure I had what it takes to have such a presence in the building,” said Weiss, a veteran English as a new language teacher. “But with her leadership, I keep learning. There’s so much to learn, but I think I’m ready now.”
Castillo agrees. “At this point, our roles are interchangeable,” she said.
Weiss often takes the floor at meetings and has grown knowledgeable about the DOE-UFT contract through union training sessions.
Weiss spoke of the rewards of being able to help her colleagues deal with the emotional toll and stress of this year “like no other” when “routines and schedules were pulled right out from under us.”
Weiss will become the chapter leader of PS 11 on July 1 after running uncontested for election in May. She said she is eager to share with colleagues and others “how hard the UFT works for its members.”