I’ve written previously about my unease at the change of leadership at the top of NYSUT. And while I have no bones about expressing the things that make me most uncomfortable, I also think that I’ve been clear in saying that I am willing to approach the change with a cautious optimism. I’m not going to be disappointed until there is reason for disappointment.
I think we are starting to see reasons. Let’s see if I can’t express what they are:
Lack of engagement between NYSUT central and Long Island: It’s no secret that the overwhelming majority of Long Island locals did not support the change in leadership (if you have three fingers, you can count the total number of local units who voted for the ReviveNYSUT slate). One might suggest that such a remarkable lack of support would encourage the new team to reach out quickly and forcefully to show that there are no hard feelings, and that the team is as sensitive as ever to the concerns of a major sector of the state teaching corps. That does not seem to be the case. I don’t see Karen Magee, or Andy Pallotta, or any of the rest of the team at local events. This includes the thousands-member strong protest in late April at the Cuomo fundraiser at Villa Lombardis, or the upcoming protest at the state Democratic convention in Melville. President Magee has apparently indicated that she is not attending the upcoming protest, opting to attend an AFT convention instead. I’m not really sure what this says about her priorities, but I don’t think it’s a good thing. Even the most recent issue of the NYSUT magazine(note: the link to the web version has a different ordering of items than the mailed physical magazine) provides a demonstration of the problem. The cover story was about a 500-member-strong protest at the Pines. The recent, thousands-member strong protest at Villa Lombardi’s was given half of one page, somewhere towards the middle. I’m not suggesting that the local protest was “better”, or deserved more coverage than that given to our upstate colleagues, but given that it was larger and resulted in the Governor meeting with local Presidents, perhaps it could have at least shared the front page.
Terrible digital/social media presence: This is not a new gripe for me. I had previously expressed how concerning it was that we were now being lead by a president who has a negligible presence in social media. I would have hoped that part of the transition team included an education for how NYSUT leadership could use tools like Twitter more effectively than has been the past practice. Sadly that doesn’t seem to be the case. President Magee’s twitter profile is just as vanilla as ever. She hasn’t even updated her bio to indicate who she is, or what she does. This is inappropriate, and frankly a bit scary. If NYSUT wants to encourage its dwindling membership to become more active, the leadership has a responsibility to engage with us in all areas, not just the ones it is most comfortable with. I mean, why should we expect better leadership from a person who seems to be less technologically hooked in than this guy? How can someone expect to be viewed as a 21st century leader while they pursue strategies that seem to come squarely from a generation ago?
I dearly wish I could say that my initial reservations about the change in our leadership were unfounded (and I’d like to think that I am fair-minded enough to be able to do so should there be cause). But to this point, the “changes” have not been promising. It seems like we’re getting the same old thing, only now with even less. As a very union-minded, young-ish teacher, I can’t say that I’m currently all that psyched about the prospect of this continuing for the next three years.