SRP OF THE YEAR STEPS UP Margie Brumfield, president of the Rochester Association of Paraprofessionals, has been named School-Related Professionals Member of the Year by the New York State United Teachers. Twelve years ago, she rescued RAP, re-establishing her local’s connection with members, then elevating teacher aides by creating a professional development program that led to certification as teaching assistants. The result: more respect for the profession. One-third of RAP members are certified now, and Brumfield also persuaded the school district to reimburse college expenses for members who want to become teachers. Salaries have risen steadily as well.
Brumfield began as a classroom volunteer but “fell in love with the kids” and became an employee. She was recruited as a building representative for RAP and became a delegate for NYSUT, the AFT, the NEA and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, among other union positions. She retires as RAP president in January, but recently joined the AFT’s PSRP program and policy council and will remain active in the union.
“I always spoke my conscience, always supported [my members], and always encouraged them to use their voice,” she says of her time as president. “With a small group behind me, that made me feel very empowered.” She calls herself “the encourager.”
“If you don’t do it, who’s going to do it?” she says. “We need to do it. We need to be united together.”
TRUTH TO POWER Members of the AFT PSRP division visited Capitol Hill in September to urge legislators to support school nutrition programs and summer meals for low-income children. It was all part of the American Association of Classified School Employees’ 12th annual legislative conference in Washington, D.C.
Free and reduced-price lunches make a big difference for the 14.7 million children living below the poverty line, and the Summer Meals Act that members were advocating extends the helping hand beyond the school year, providing meals at summer schools, parks, recreation centers and other services located in low-income areas.
Members reached more than two dozen congressional offices during the two-day conference.
SPEAKING UP FOR RESULTS When Hillsborough (Fla.) School Employees Federation members heard the school board was considering privatizing school bus services, they packed the board meeting to protest. The school board listened, and kept bus drivers in-house. Soon after, a conversation about how deteriorating buses increase maintenance costs and cause delays on the routes convinced the board to order 100 new buses a year, for the next 15 years.
“The purchase of these new buses will help drivers perform their job 100 times better than they were before,” says Stephanie MacNeel, a bus driver and business agent for the local.