Hundreds attend rally to 'Call Out Cuomo' in Massena
Sunday, March 1, 2015 - 12:26 pm

MASSENA -- Hundreds of people attended a Saturday afternoon "Call Out Cuomo" educational rally at Massena High School.

About a dozen speakers, including American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, stood onstage next to a full-sized cardboard cutout of Cuomo and criticized his proposed education reforms and what they see as inadequate funding. He is proposing to give about half of the $2 billion increase recommended by the state Board of Regents.

The rally speakers supported a new state budget restoring millions in school aid that has been slashed as part of the so-called Gap Elimination Adjustment, which balanced Albany's books by taking cash away from schools.

Administrators, students, parents and educators attending the rally were reminded that decreases in state funding in recent years have forced major staffing cuts and elimination of courses at many North Country public schools.

Speakers included Massena Federation of Teachers President Erin Covell, New York State United Teachers President Karen Magee, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, NYSUT Secretary and Treasurer Martin Messner, United University Professions President Fred Kowal, Alliance for Quality Education Executive Director Billy Easton, Colton-Pierrepont Central Superintendent Joe Kardash, New York State School Boards Association Zone 6 representative Wayne Rogers, Massena Central student Sean Casey, Sen. Patty Ritchie's Director of Public Affairs Jim Reagan, Assembleywoman Addie Russell and Don Carlisto of the NYSUT board of directors.

Speakers also blasted Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his plan to make state and local testing results count as 50 percent of teacher evaluations, instead of the current 40 percent. His proposed teacher evaluation system would make it easier to fire teachers ranked as ineffective, based on an increased use of student test scores and outside evaluators, critics say. Local administrators' input on a teacher's evaluation would decrease from 60 to 15 percent, Kardash said.

Covell, who said in early February that she sent an invitation to Cuomo, has previously stated that the teacher evaluations reforms will jeopardize students' right to the sound, basic education that is promised in the state constitution.

The speakers were part of a NYSUT bus tour that also stopped in Plattsburgh and Watertown. Those at the rally came from schools across St. Lawrence County plus Malone, Harrisville, Tupper Lake and Chateaugay.

For photos from the event, see slideshow.