We have all just completed a most unprecedented school year. This year has presented new challenges at every turn and has pushed many of us to our breaking point, but as of today, we have nearly reached the finish line. Some of us feel ready to have a restful and relaxing summer and some of us feel like Rocky Balboa in the fifteenth round against Apollo Creed. Regardless, we have reached the point many of us normally refer to as the most wonderful time of the year. Forgive me for saying this, but this June has not been so wonderful for me.
Over the last two weeks, along with the usual challenges faced at the end of the school year, our staff has been faced with the unforeseen and unimaginable loss of a beautiful and vibrant young elementary school teacher and her unborn child. Though I did not know Rachel personally, the sentiments from her friends and colleagues speak volumes about her love for her family, friends and students. Rachel was one of our own and I am quite certain that Hauppauge Schools will find a way to honor and respect her short but very meaningful legacy. As a membership, we must find a way to provide the support necessary to help our colleagues hit hardest by this tragedy. Grieving is a process and we all move through it at our own pace. I hope that anyone who is suffering will not be afraid to reach out for a helping hand. We are all here for you.
Along with this unthinkable loss, our union has also been faced with the blowback from a unilateral decision made by our HTA President to collaborate with the Board of Education on a confrontational letter sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo on our behalf. This letter caught many of us by surprise and drove a wedge into the heart of our union. There were many who were incensed by how this decision was carried out and were anxious to be provided with an explanation. This explanation was given at a series of meetings over the last two weeks. Many of us voiced our passionate dissent regarding this letter, while still others voiced opinions in support.
The primary outcome of these meetings was an apology by our President for this poorly timed decision, as well as an explanation regarding the thought process behind the letter. Members were allowed to express their opinions freely, and their voices were heard. Some members were satisfied with the explanation while others found the explanation convoluted and/or illogical. Regardless of our feelings about how this was carried out, this milk has been spilled. This decision has fractured our union in a way that I have never seen in my twenty-one years teaching here in Hauppauge. We are now at a point where we must find a way to move forward and heal this fracture.
After speaking with several members of the Executive Board, it was explained that this unilateral action was an unprecedented move and one that they were taking very seriously. It was expressed that this is something that cannot and will not happen again. I think this is an important premise and it was even suggested by a member that we might possibly add an amendment to our constitution which would limit the President's ability to carry out a move like this in the future.
After these discussions, I found a way to compartmentalize my emotions and look at the bigger picture. Right now we are a deeply divided group of professionals with passionate members on each side of this debate. We need to look past this division and remember that we are a part of something larger.
We are all members of a Union, and that is a sacred membership to many of us. Whether we agree or disagree with one decision or another is irrelevant. We must find a way to get through this together. We must not allow the toxic political climate in our country, our state and our community to permeate our membership. We are all members of the same group and we should all be looking out for our colleagues and friends. 'Remember, in the end, nobody wins unless everybody wins'. ~Bruce Springsteen
Was this a very public and very avoidable situation? Of course. Was this a violation of the trust which we have extended to the HTA leadership? I believe so. Will it take time to rebuild this trust and confidence? Yes. Are there things we may need to do in order to prevent something like this from happening again? Perhaps. Do we have a right to have our voices heard by the union membership on this matter? Absolutely. Will these past two weeks make our Union stronger in the long run? I believe that they will.
We have just survived a once in a century pandemic while caring for family, friends and students and while successfully completing a year of in-school/distance learning. In my unvarnished opinion, our teachers knocked it out of the damn park! We are all tired, we are all spent, we have all lost a beloved colleague and friend, we are all ready for a vacation and soon, we will all be back in September ready to show our mettle and answer the bell once again. I cannot speak for anyone else, but I am so damn proud to be a member of this group of professional teachers. We dealt with unimaginable adversity this year and we did everything that was asked of us and more. We may have had disagreements and some disarray, but we are a family and that is par for the course. The important thing for us to do right now is to heal our hearts and our minds and always remember that in the grand scheme of things we are all in this together. We rise and fall together.
Please have a safe and restful summer break. Take care of yourselves and never hesitate to reach out for help. This is going to be a rough stretch for many and as I mentioned earlier, we are all here for you.
With Sincere Thanks For Your Time.