Two NYSUT locals chalked up big school budget and school board wins in Suffolk County on Long Island this May.
After two years of hard work, the Brentwood Teachers Association, led by Kevin Coyne, flipped two school board seats to secure a roster of pro-education, pro-union board members. “Our candidates won by over 300 votes, landslide victories in Brentwood,” said Coyne, noting that both candidates have strong Brentwood school ties.
Eileen Harman is a Brentwood TA retiree and Brandon Garcia is a 2016 Brentwood graduate — and Harman’s former 4th grade student. “These two candidates have unique perspectives … they both have the vision and mindset of doing what’s best for kids,” said Coyne. He thanked NYSUT for helping the local develop a campaign of phone calls, canvassing and community newsletters that motivated voters to support union-backed candidates at the polls. Over 700 Brentwood TA volunteers made nearly 4,500 phone calls and knocked on nearly 2,000 doors.
Over the last few years, Brentwood’s board of education has cut reading and math support staff, and eliminated coach and school dean positions, which threaten student safety by reducing the number of staffers available to handle student discipline and intra-building concerns, Coyne explained. “The board was destroying programs, not using money to enhance programs for students,” he said. “It was beyond devasting for district morale — we had to take a stand.”
The Brentwood school board now includes three former Brentwood TA union reps, one Brentwood TA executive board member and three Brentwood TA-backed representatives. In 2022, the group successfully activated members to help Brentwood TA retiree Maria Malave and former Brentwood student Hassan Ahmed win board seats.
Babylon budget successfully pierces tax cap
With the Babylon Union Free School District facing devastating cuts to curricular programs, sports, and arts and music programs, the Babylon Teachers Association, led by Robert Richardelli, knew it was time to act. The district sought a 4.84 percent budget increase to avoid the worst of the cuts, well above the state mandated tax cap; that meant voters would need a 60 percent supermajority for the proposal to pass. “We usually don’t need to do a lot to get the budget passed, but this year we knew we would have to work,” said Alex Marange, Babylon TA’s political action and public relations chair.
After reaching out to NYSUT for help, Marange used a group chat to mobilize Babylon members. Community outreach included mailers and a concurrent social media campaign. Ten days before the vote, members phone banked, canvassed and reached out to other local union presidents to drum up voter support. A team of 60 remote phone bank volunteers contacted over 2,000 voters and a dedicated group of nearly a dozen members used the NYSUT MiniVAN app to conduct weekend canvassing. The efforts paid off. Roughly 1,700 voters approved the proposal by 61.9 percent. “It was really cool to see people join in that I wouldn’t have expected,” said Marange. “It definitely makes me think about what we can do next year.”