UFT Vice President for Special Education Carmen Alvarez was honored with a top award at the NYSUT Representative Assembly, but in her speech Alvarez chose to give the credit to others.
Alvarez received the Sandra Feldman “Not for Ourselves Alone” Award for her decades of work to improve education for disabled students. In accepting the honor before the approximately 1,800 delegates at the event, which was held in Buffalo on May 1–2, Alvarez paid tribute to people who have made her work possible.
That includes Feldman, who as UFT president sought “to change the complexion, gender and culture of the union leadership” by bringing in talented people from diverse backgrounds, including Alvarez, who is of Puerto Rican descent.
Later, UFT President Randi Weingarten helped Alvarez intervene on behalf of special education students in the city, and current President Michael Mulgrew has championed Alvarez’s work on a new initiative helping educators practice positive approaches to managing student behavior. Alvarez also acknowledged her close associate at the UFT, attorney Liz Truly.
“Connecting with your union is more than impact bargaining,” Alvarez told the delegates. “It’s about advancing education, it’s about strengthening communities and supporting families.”
Other UFT leaders and activists were also honored by NYSUT: Guidance Counselors Chapter Leader Rosemarie Thompson and Barbara Wisdom, a registered nurse and member of the Federation of Nurses/UFT, were named 2015 Health Care Professionals of the Year; and Donesa Jackson, the UFT Retired Teachers Chapter’s section coordinator for Orlando, Florida, was one of two NYSUT Retirees of the Year.
At the top of the agenda of this year’s NYSUT Assembly was the union’s response to Gov. Cuomo’s attack on public education and educators.
Mulgrew told the 670 delegates at the UFT breakfast that they have a lot to contribute to the statewide fight because of their experience in protecting public schools from the destructive agendas of former mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani.
Referring to the governor, Mulgrew said that if he wants to represent the interests of his millionaire hedge-fund contributors, then the union has to make sure that the public knows the true motives behind his toxic agenda for public schools. “And we have done that,” he said.
The NYSUT Assembly passed resolutions laying the groundwork for the continued fight against Cuomo’s anti-public education agenda.
One measure opposes standardized testing that is not being used to further instruction or support the educational needs of students. It calls on NYSUT to lobby the state Board of Regents to advocate that any federal mandates on assessments “clearly state that teacher evaluation will not require standardized testing.”