Skip to main content
Full Menu
News Stories
2014 UFT Spring Conference

A day of inspiration and hope

Mayor’s appearance a sign of collaboration between union and City Hall
New York Teacher

Image
UFT Michael Mulgrew asks educators to reflect on three questions: Why did you be
Jonathan Fickies

UFT Michael Mulgrew asks educators to reflect on three questions: Why did you become educators? Why did you stay in the profession when so many of your colleagues left? And why did you become active in your union?

A jubilant crowd of nearly 1,700 UFT members celebrated the dawn of a new era, with true education reform once again the focus of the city’s public school system, at the union’s annual Spring Education Conference on April 26.

The first New York City mayor to attend the conference in 20 years, Mayor Bill de Blasio hailed what he called the “natural partnership” between his administration and the UFT. “I am devoted to working with you to prove what public education can be,” he said.

Image
Mayor Bill de Blasio, a surprise guest, is the first mayor in two decades to spe
Jonathan Fickies

Mayor Bill de Blasio, a surprise guest, is the first mayor in two decades to speak at a UFT Spring Education Conference.

Image
UFT President Michael Mulgrew and New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña
Jonathan Fickies

UFT President Michael Mulgrew and New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña pose with students from Aviation HS in front of the plane they are restoring at their Long Island City school. Tenth-grade sheet metal teacher Udesh Persad, himself a graduate of Aviation, said that the lessons taught in his class carry over into academic math and science classes. “They can calculate to a thousandth of an inch,” he said of his students. “It’s all intertwined. Everything they do in our class goes right back to physics.” Persad still has the miniature model plane he built in Al Bongiorno’s beginning aviation class when he was a student at the school. Bongiorno, now Persad’s mentor, had nothing but praise for the young teacher. “He’s changing students’ opinions of school,” Bongiorno said. “They look up to him.”



Toi Ferguson of PS 686 in Brooklyn said she felt “inspired and hopeful” by all that she saw and heard at the daylong event at the Hilton Hotel, which kicked off with a 90-minute town hall forum featuring UFT President Michael Mulgrew and Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

Hillcrest HS Principal David Morrison, who was there with the school leadership team, staff, parents and students, observed that the conference and in particular the morning dialogue that put students and teachers first offered “an exciting preview of what’s ahead.”

Image
Dawn Watson (at right) has taught culinary arts at William E. Grady HS in Brookl
Jonathan Fickies

Dawn Watson (at right) has taught culinary arts at William E. Grady HS in Brooklyn for more than a decade and has been a fixture at the Spring Education Conference since 2007. This year she and the young aspiring chefs she teaches brought with them a delectable assortment of tea cakes, double chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies and tartlets filled with pastry cream and berries. But it’s not all sweets and treats in Watson’s classes. “Culinary arts on the whole is about life skills,” she says. “We prepare our students for the world of work and careers, and we also prepare them to go on to college.” In addition to teaching her students kitchen safety, knife skills and cooking methods, Watson instills in them the importance of punctuality, teamwork, communication and reliability, the “soft” skills she said they will need to succeed as the young chefs many of her students go on to become. While some work in corporate dining or for big-time restaurant and hospitality conglomerates like Restaurant Associates, others return to teach a new generation to cook. One of her students even began a successful cheesecake business — storefront and all — right out of high school. “It’s a recipe he learned at school,” Watson says with pride.

Image
HVAC teacher and Chapter Leader Alrick Crowe from the HS for Energy and Technolo
Jonathan Fickies

HVAC teacher and Chapter Leader Alrick Crowe from the HS for Energy and Technology in the Fordham section of the Bronx uses an electrical model to explain how oil heating systems work. In his classes, Crowe said, “When we do pipefitting and electrical in HVAC, we also teach algebra, trigonometry and the Pythagorean theorem.” Career and technical education courses “give students the opportunity to develop rare skills in this day and age,” he said. “They’re highly paid skills and it gives students an idea of what they can do after high school.”



Mulgrew spoke of the “amazing opportunity” that the new collaborative partnership provides. He said that New York City is now the one place in the country that has a mayor and a teachers’ union as partners in the fight to save public education.

He called on UFT members to move beyond the frustration and harassment of the past 12 years and embrace the challenge of “being part of making the New York City public school system the best in the country.”

The mayor made a similar appeal. “It may not have been easy when city leaders said you were part of the problem,” he said, “but, from the bottom of my heart, you are part of the solution.”

De Blasio cited teachers as the heroes of the day that astronauts once were. “You are the only ones who can take us to the places we have to go,” he said.

After the morning town hall, participants attended a range of workshops on critical issues facing educators today and visited a large exhibit hall whose most popular booths highlighted the work of career and technical education high schools.

In her luncheon greetings, Karen Magee, the newly elected president of NYSUT, stressed the importance of mobilizing and engaging the entire statewide membership in the battles ahead. “Be the union!” she urged the UFT members.

Among the other union leaders and elected officials to speak at the luncheon were AFT President Randi Weingarten, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel and Public Advocate Letitia James.

Related Topics: News Stories