I’m not going to lie. We are definitely facing challenging times. A pandemic, an economic crisis, civil unrest, and racial injustice, and now our district is facing a $5 million deficit from our state aid that could destroy our programs as we know them. Parents and other community members are struggling to make ends meet, and our members are trying to figure out how to educate their own children at home while they are at work themselves. Some of our members are trying to get medical accommodations and finding that red tape is in their way. The Marbletown construction project is not going as planned. And the internet is already crashing in small department and grade-level meetings. These are certainly trying times.
Last year on opening day, I discussed my vision for our future and my commitment to our union’s mission of creating a closer relationship and better understanding between ourselves, the community, and the administration. While the COVID-19 virus tried to stand in our way and prevent this, we came together anyway. While our political leaders tried to make us pawns in their experiment, we persevered. When our US President said we must return to in-person learning, the RVF followed the science and worked diligently to prevent this from happening. And we won a small victory when the district agreed to start with remote education. In fact, the RVF led the way to a remote start in the entire county by partnering with other local unions to all pass the same resolution and present it to our respective Board of Educations.
While the pandemic halted some of our plans such as the RVF picnic and retirement dinner, it couldn’t stand in the way of our mission. Countless RVF members worked at the local food pantry to help deliver food to the less fortunate of our community. RVF members created face shields and masks for our members as well as local first responders and hospitals. We delivered presents to our retirees and found creative ways to honor them and their service. We worked with the District on numerous SMOA’s and we partnered with the district with a drive to get the budget passed by our community. We sponsored the surprise signs for last year’s seniors and started a website for our members with updated COVID-19 information. We started a Remind app chain with almost every single RVF member to disseminate important information quickly. And we increased transparency by putting each month’s Executive Committee Meeting minutes in each building’s faculty room. We worked with the district to finalize our CTLE plan and submitted it to the state to become a CTLE sponsored school. We settled the secretarial contract and we held the first-ever retirement workshop for our members. We even met with each other in the July heat on Rt 209, and cleaned the RVF’s section of the highway to keep our community beautiful. Through all of this, we were still together. Members from all three of our units. We came together in unprecedented times and in unprecedented ways. Despite six feet of space between us, we have never been closer.
Although these are trying times, I know we will get through it together. We must lean on each other like never before. Don’t be afraid to help others and don’t be afraid to ask for help yourself. This year will be more important than ever to keep in touch with your building reps and attend your RVF building meetings. If you see something unsafe, contact your RVF representative right away.
While these are trying times, you all give me hope that we will get through this. The way you all showed poise and grace in the darkness of last spring motivates me. You all worked miracles out of your classrooms with no notice. You are true professionals. Like so many Americans before, every generation has had their challenge to overcome and it is our duty to take on COVID the way our grandparents took on the great depression. We will win this battle and we will do it by looking out for each other. COVID can’t stop us from uniting. Our politicians can’t stop us. The more they try to tear us apart, the more we have come together. I am happy to again report that 100% of us, including every new hire, have signed their union cards. Even the disastrous Janus decision can’t stop us.
Try to relax and take it one day at a time this year. Take some chances and have some fun with your students. Don’t be too hard on yourselves when things don’t go right. Tomorrow is another day. I wish you all a successful and rewarding year. Let’s all commit to being there for each other and caring for one another. If we do, I promise we will get through this together. Thank you and have a great year.