Friday, May 9, 2014

Rallies Scare Cuomo into Meeting with Stronger Together

As momentum built toward’s the April 28th rally at Villa Lombardi’s to protest Governor Cuomo, one of the governor’s top aides, Joseph Percoco, reached out, through an intermediary, to the President of the Connetquot Teachers Association Tony Felicio.  Percoco offered Felicio, one of the rally’s organizers, a meeting with the governor to air his grievances in exchange for canceling the rally.  Felicio rejected the governor’s offer, telling him that the rally would go on and that if the governor wanted to meet they could do so after the rally. ...PJSTA
Here is a followup to my earlier post: A Parent Exposes New NYSUT (Revive) Pro-Cuomo Leadership Phony Militancy at Lake Placid - check it out before reading this.


How interesting that Stronger Together, the losing slate in the recent NYSUT election, gets a meeting with Cuomo on THEIR terms. They refused the meeting and held the rally and are doing another rally, which Cuomo "suggested" they cancel. They won't. NYSUT's new leaders didn't attend the first rally for fear of offending Mr. Charter.

Funny when you consider that Revive which won the election attacked ST for not being willing to talk to Cuomo. What they really meant - they, unlike Revive, would only talk to Cuomo standing up and looking him in the eyes, not on their knees.

Stronger Together is not going away - we'll have details on what is going on in a few weeks.

First a report from PJSTA President Beth Dimino that she sent to her members followed by the PJSTA report.
Yesterday, Tony Felicio, President Connetquot TA, Kevin Coyne, President Brentwood TA, Laura Spencer, President Smithtown TA, Tim Southerton, President Sayville TA and I met with Governor Cuomo in his office in NYC. I believe that the one and a half hour meeting was productive. I explained to the Governor that the reason I agreed to
attend the meeting was because I did not believe he fully understands the impact of his agenda on working classroom teachers and students. Each President had a topic to present. I'm sure it comes as no surprise to any of you that I spoke about the testing. I told the Governor that he needed to decouple the testing from the APPR. I clearly articulated what I believe are the problems with Pearson's unfettered stranglehold on NY State's children and I encouraged the Governor to decouple unfunded mandates from the tax cap by either fully funding those mandates or by making those mandates exclusionary under the cap. Both Kevin and Tim fully fleshed out the negative impacts of the cap on LI districts.  Laura spoke eloquently about the APPR and Tony clearly explained that the Governor's anti-teacher rhetoric was not helpful to anyone. Cuomo shared his points of view and the meeting was truly an exchange of ideas. We all spoke and everyone listened and now we wait to see what happens.

Cuomo said he wants to meet with eight teachers from around the State to discuss yesterday's meeting points further. Both Tony and I volunteered to be part of that cadre of teachers and we recommended that Cuomo contact NYSUT President Magee to make the decision about the teachers who would participate. Cuomo said there are twenty more session days for the legislature and he will work with members of both parties to make changes to CCSS and APPR. And now we wait to see what happens.

But while we wait, we must recognize that the reason that we were allowed an audience with the Governor is because we had more than 2,000 voters attend a rally at CHS in August, we helped organize and joined more than 1,000 voters in the fall at a rally in front of Flanagan's office, and we helped organize and joined more than 2,000 other LIers in front of Momma Lombardis on April 28th. I told the
Governor that we are helping to organize and will be at The Save Our Schools Rally in NYC on May 17th and we will help organize and will be at the rally in front of the Melville Hilton on May 21st.

The Governor and ALL of the LI elected officials that are up for election this November are paying attention Folks! We must capitalize on this momentum and keep this movement going!

We do that by showing up for rallies and most importantly by VOTING! School Board elections are May 20th. It's imperative that you vote in your home districts and that you vote yes to the budget and for the candidates that each local is endorsing. That will send a clear message to every politician that we mean business and that we will
VOTE TO SUPPORT PUBLIC EDUCATION!

The PJSTA asks that every Comsewogue tax payer vote yes for the budget and vote for Gordon, Sanchez and Rennard for the open BOE seats.
This report from our pals at Port Jeff Station TA has the delicious details --

Stronger Together’s Meeting with Governor Cuomo

As momentum built toward’s the April 28th rally at Villa Lombardi’s to protest Governor Cuomo, one of the governor’s top aides, Joseph Percoco, reached out, through an intermediary, to the President of the Connetquot Teachers Association Tony Felicio.  Percoco offered Felicio, one of the rally’s organizers, a meeting with the governor to air his grievances in exchange for canceling the rally.  Felicio rejected the governor’s offer, telling him that the rally would go on and that if the governor wanted to meet they could do so after the rally.

You will recall the rally did in fact go on.  Despite the fact that it was not supported by NYSUT, an estimated crowd of 2,500 gathered outside Villa Lombardi’s to protest Cuomo’s education reform agenda.  The rally clearly sent a very powerful message to the governor that the parents and teachers of New York State will “remember in November” the havoc that his policies have wreaked on the children of our communities.  Unless he displays a startling and dramatic change of course regarding his education policies in the very near future he can count on no support in November’s election from the people in New York State who value public education, whether NYSUT endorses him or not.

Following the rally, Percoco once again reached out to Felicio to request a meeting with the governor.  Cuomo’s re-election campaign clearly is rattled by the tidal wave of support for public education that stands in clear opposition to the reform agenda he has helped to force upon our community schools throughout his term in office.  Felicio agreed to the meeting and arranged to bring a few trusted friends in the fight for public education.  Yesterday five Stronger Together local presidents, including Felicio, Tim Southerton (President of the Sayville Teachers Association), Laura Spencer (President of the Smithtown Teachers Association), Kevin Coyne (Brentwood Teachers Association), and our very own Beth Dimino were joined by Brad Lindell (Vice-President of the Connetquot Teachers Association)  at a meeting with the governor.

At the meeting the team raised concerns about high stakes testing, APPR’s, the tax cap, charter schools, Pearson, and RttT, among other things.  Dimino told the governor that given his actions up to this point she could only assume that he didn’t know the truth about the harmful agenda he had been pushing.  After the group gave him the perspective of real classroom teachers they suggested potential solutions to the disastrous situation his policies have created.   Dimino then warned him that he now knew the truth and that there is no excuse for the continuation of such policies.  She stated that there would be a price to pay if swift action is not taken to undo much of what has been done up to this point.  Dimino explained to the Governor that there were two things he could do immediately to mitigate the devastating impact his agenda has had on NYS students, first decouple the testing from teacher evaluations and then decouple all of the unfunded mandates from the tax cap, either by funding those mandates or by making them exclusionary under the cap.

Cuomo, who was polite, respectful, and attentive during the meeting that lasted nearly two hours, responded with a lot of “I didn’t know” or “It’s not my fault” types of answers.  He also told them, “I thought everybody loved charter schools?!”  Additionally he warned that we may want to cancel the rally scheduled for the New York Democratic Convention on May 22nd in Melville so that we don’t upset other Democratic politicians.  Let me be very clear here: The rally will go on!  As Felicio warned on April 28th, the Lombardi’s rally was just a warm up for a bigger, louder, more intense one on May 22nd.

Finally Cuomo pledged to create a task force of classroom teachers to more deeply investigate the issues discussed.  He said he would be in touch with NYSUT President Karen Magee to create that task force.  Unfortunately Magee is no fan of the PJSTA, so don’t expect Dimino or many other NYSUT members critical of the Mulgrew/Pallotta/Revive NYSUT coup to make the cut for the task force.  Of course we have been down the task force road with Cuomo before.  Typically what happens is that any voices of truth who speak for teachers and students are ignored so that Cuomo can stock his war chest with big money from Wall Street, Pearson, and Eva Moskowitz.  In the end the losers are usually public schools and the communities they serve.  Color me skeptical when it comes to any meaningful changes being made.  Still, for a change, it was nice to know that our message was sent to the governor yesterday, loud and clear.

Dimino at the April 28th rally.

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