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Chapter Leader Shoutout

Kudos to Sonja Hill at PS 41, Brooklyn

For motivating members to support COPE
New York Teacher
Sonja Hill
Erica Berger

Sonja Hill

The UFT’s COPE — Committee on Public Education — program is one of the benchmarks of Sonja Hill’s chapter leadership.

Hill, a 5th-grade teacher in her 31st year at PS 41 in Brownsville, Brooklyn — and the school’s chapter leader for more than half of those years — stresses the program’s importance to members.

“I always start with pension,” Hill said. “Our pension is guaranteed by law, and you can’t use union dues for legislation. If you want to make sure you have a secure pension, we need COPE funding.”

This school year Hill is encouraging members to voluntarily contribute to COPE to help with the UFT’s campaign to fix Tier 6 of the pension system.

“Most of our staff members are in Tier 4, but we have some newer staff in Tier 6,” Hill said. “At a recent chapter meeting, we discussed the problems with Tier 6, and why there needs to be changes.”

Douglas Forgione is one of those members in Tier 6. “Ms. Hill has been speaking of COPE a lot lately and of its importance in addressing Tier 6,” he said. “It is unfair to burden new teachers with a worse retirement plan than those who came before, especially given the current state of the educational system. By utilizing COPE, we will hopefully make much-needed changes to Tier 6 and hopefully not only attract talented new teachers, but keep the ones we have from leaving.”

Hill’s chapter has always been 100% UFT, and every UFT member contributed to COPE for several years. Recent staff changes brought the COPE contribution rate below 100%, but Hill is working hard to get it back up.

Hill’s members appreciate her. “Sonja is an amazing chapter leader and passionate about the role,” veteran teacher Amy Hemlock said. “We are fortunate to have someone who is very involved in the union and uses this knowledge to help and support us.”

UFT District 23 Representative Ualin Smith said Hill has shaped her chapter into a strong collective force. “Through her implementation of monthly consultations, she has created a platform for educators to voice their concerns, share insights and actively participate in decision-making processes,” Smith said.