A BETTER UNION EXECUTIVE BOARD, HIGH SCHOOL CANDIDATES.
For Executive Board, High School - MORE-UFT
Ronnie AlmonteFor Executive Board, High School - MORE-UFT
Ronnie is a biology teacher in Manhattan.
I believe my experience in building workplace power, and leveraging it to confront a range of issues from admin abuse to school segregation, has prepared me well to help lead and rebuild our union. I am a science teacher and have been active in my union since I started teaching eight years ago.
I was inspired to become an education unionist in 2012 when I lived in Chicago and did strike solidarity work for the Chicago Teachers Union. In my organizing, my starting point is that we have the most power in the workplace, and thus the most leverage as a union when we have organized chapters.
In the five schools I’ve worked in, I have organized my chapter in various ways. This is my third time campaigning among my co-workers against the incumbent UFT leadership, and my second time running for Executive Board. In addition to elections, I have also participated in campaigns against racist school screening criteria.
In 2019, by organizing my co-workers and students, my chapter was able to help force our reluctant admin to end district priority admissions. Later that year I transferred to Edward R. Murrow High School and was elected delegate; I got to work right away by leading a campaign against an abusive AP. In 2020 I helped organize the MORE-led sick out of March 2020 that played a crucial role in shutting down the NYC public school buildings early in the pandemic. Throughout the spring and summer I helped organize against an unsafe reopening of schools, ranging from protesting in front of UFT Headquarters and Tweed to supporting my coworkers in filing for medical accommodations. This year at my fifth school, I currently serve on the Consultation Committee and I plan to run for Chapter Leader in the next elections.
If elected to the UFT Executive Board, I will continue to work tirelessly to transform our union from one where out-of-touch bureaucrats collaborate with our employer to make water-downed deals on our behalf, to one where rank-and-file members collectively confront anyone who gets in our way of improving our working conditions substantially.
For Executive Board, High School - New Action
Nick BaconFor Executive Board, High School - New Action
Nick Bacon is Chapter Leader at the High School for Law and Public Service in Washington Heights, where he works as a special education teacher. A tireless advocate for his members, Bacon has championed dozens of union causes - representing teachers, paraprofessionals, and related service providers. Best known for his local chapter activism, Bacon has also been a part of city-wide and national union activities since early in his career. Elected as a NYSUT delegate (and Chapter Leader) before he even had tenure, Bacon left Unity Caucus and joined the opposition in response to Michael Mulgrew’s disastrous leadership of the union during the pandemic. Since joining United for Change (and his new home caucus, New Action), Bacon has additionally made waves at the Delegate Assembly (DA), where he co-wrote and motivated a resolution to foster more democracy over decisions affecting healthcare for retirees and in-service members.
Nick shares, “Currently, our executive board functions as a rubber stamp for an out-of-touch union leadership. That needs to end. If elected, I’ll serve our membership, by working thoughtfully on the issues our chapters actually care about - like health care, class sizes, safety, and the working conditions and resources that we need to best educate our students.”
For Executive Board, High School - New Action
Edward CalamiaFor Executive Board, High School - New Action
I am Chapter Delegate at Passages Academy in District 79, where I have been working for the past 15 years as an English and sometimes History teacher. I have chosen to run with the United For Change coalition in this election because:
UFC has brought together the diverse criticisms of the Unity Caucus by uniting the dissident voices in the union around a shared platform approved by all and dominated by none.
UFC has brought together experienced union activists and youthful energy to form an intergenerational alliance that cares about probationary people, tenured people, and retirees.
UFC has people from the diverse divisions within the UFT membership and seeks to incorporate all of their concerns.
UFC foregrounds transparency in decision making, and union democracy.
To me, the final point is the most important. A union that encourages members to be active by supporting them and amplifying their voices, by training every member in leadership and initiative, is a union that can adapt to meet any challenge. Every time a member formulates a problem and brings it to a deliberative and executive body of their colleagues that joins with them to solve it, the union grows stronger. Every time our union grows stronger, a little benefit accrues to every worker in society, we each stand up a little bit taller and the people on the other side of the table grow a bit shorter.
Ever since I was a child I have been aware of the impact that union membership can have on working families. I grew up in a union household, my father was a member of the Teamsters, and I saw how the union ensured my father’s job security, how the union ensured that he was paid enough for us to live, how the union allowed us to go to the doctor for free, how the union structure brought together people of all races, genders, and nationalities into bonds of solidarity and good will. In addition, outside of official union affairs, when a worker at the job needed to move house, the other union members would come over and help pack and move the boxes. Seeing the power of cooperation, organization and solidarity at a young age shaped my heart and mind, providing the paradigm for me to think about larger social issues as I grew older.
When I became a teacher, I was proud to join the UFT. I jumped at the chance to meet my Chapter Leader and become active. Having worked union jobs and open-shop jobs, I knew what the union meant and wanted to do everything I could. Having known teachers on Long Island, I knew how strong and disciplined teachers unions could be, how teachers would look out for one another and stand together in solidarity.
Unfortunately, when I met with abusive and unfair treatment on the job, the union seemed to confine itself to explaining to me what I couldn’t do, instead of empowering me to fight back. When I asked about this situation, it was explained to me that my complaints had no legal standing, or that the contract had ‘loopholes.’ When I read and studied the contract, I was shocked to see the concessions and givebacks, I was shocked to see such injustices codified in legal boilerplate—I was shocked to see that my union had accepted silently what other unions would have gone on strike over. In discussions with colleagues, it became clear to me that my feelings of frustration were shared by many and people just felt there was nothing they could do. It was at that moment that it became clear to me that I had to be more active in the union in order to stop these disastrous negotiation tactics before they culminated in the dissolution of the union itself.
For Executive Board, High School - Solidarity UFT
Lydia HowrilkaFor Executive Board, High School - Solidarity UFT
Lydia Howrilka is a Social Studies teacher at Clara Barton High School in Brooklyn, NY. Lydia earned her Bachelor’s in History and Secondary Education from CUNY Hunter College. At CUNY Queens College, Lydia earned her Masters in History after writing a thesis on the history of the UFT and the grievance procedure.
Working as a founding member of both Don’t Tread on Educators and UFT Solidarity has enabled Lydia to reach and educate over 1000 educators (and counting!) on reclaiming their careers using the Educator Toolkit she co-authored.
Since 2013, Lydia has been dedicated to educating teachers on their rights to defend their careers against aggressive attacks against tenure and mandates that hurt the learning environments for their students. Lydia has served on the council of UFT Solidarity for multiple terms. Last year, she successfully organized a class-action lawsuit on behalf of UFT members unable to get medical accommodation or childcare accommodations. She has participated in several forums hosted by Educators of NYC representing her caucus and she has been pivotal to the consensus-building of the United for Change coalition.
In the 2019 UFT Election, she ran with UFT Solidarity as the UFT Presidential candidate; she came in second place. She is also a former high school UFT delegate.
In her own words, “I am running for a High School Executive Board position because I know that our union leadership can be better. The pandemic has made us all realize how especially problematic Unity’s over sixty-year tenure has been to our profession and our schools. We deserve a union that is willing to fight for our members and communities. We deserve a union that will take a strong stand about municipal government and not allow give-backs. We deserve a union that values us and ensures that our health, safety, and working conditions become the gold standard.”
For Executive Board, High School - MORE-UFT
Alex JallotFor Executive Board, High School - MORE-UFT
Chapter Leader and Special Education Teacher in Manhattan
I am the son of Haitian immigrants, a father to a beautiful four-year old girl, a proud born and raised New Yorker as well as a graduate of New York City’s public schools. I currently am the Chapter Leader of Pace High School and I am running for a seat on our union’s High School Executive Board because I want to help to organize and build a better union for all. I always wanted to serve and give back to the school system that afforded me quality education. As such, I have entered my 9th year in my role as a Special Education Teacher. In that time I’ve worked with students in middle school and high school, from the Bronx to the Lower East Side. I’ve served in different roles in my tenure as a teacher from Special Education Liaison, Equity Team Leader, Consultation Committee member, teacher mentor, SLT member, as well as numerous other committees. Aside from teaching in the classroom, my greatest role in my time in public schools has been Chapter Delegate, and my current role, Chapter Leader.
I was honored to be elected by my peers four years ago as Delegate. In that time I helped to organize a walk-in/rally at my chapter for paid parental leave, helped to organize my colleagues at the beginning of the pandemic to keep us safe, participated in protests/rallies for safe schools, joined in protest in support of nurses protesting for better PPE at Harlem Hospital, and was featured and interviewed by NBC for school safety during the pandemic. I did all of this understanding the power that lies in our union and the importance of building relationships with my colleagues to better our working conditions and the conditions of our students. I have continued on with my union organizing by becoming elected Chapter Leader at Pace High School. My priority as Chapter Leader is to help to build a strong chapter based on trust, solidarity, and a mutual understanding that we are all members of the working class. In the four months I’ve been Chapter Leader I helped to organize CAR day donations for a member who is out on sick leave, regularly consult with my members to represent our demands to our principal, held consultation committee meetings and fought for change within our school culture to make a better environment for all, and continue to ensure that UFT chapter members at my school are treated fairly by the administration and with respect.
I believe in a union that is democratic and values the input of its members. I believe in a union that recognizes and utilizes the strength of collective organizing and power. I am committed to building a union that is rooted in relationships, solidarity, and the willingness to stand up to and confront our adversaries to ensure that we obtain the best working conditions for our staff and the best school conditions for our students.
For Executive Board, High School - MORE-UFT
Ilona NanayFor Executive Board, High School - MORE-UFT
History Teacher at Mott Hall V in Bronx
Ilona Nanay has taught history for over 11 years at a 6 - 12 school in the soundview neighborhood of the Bronx. She was elected to serve as her school’s chapter leader for two terms, during which time she worked hard to develop a culture of trust and collaboration between all members of the school community. She recently stepped down to serve as delegate to ensure that others had an opportunity to lead too. Over the course of her tenure as chapter leader, and recently as delegate, she mobilized her chapter to counter the corporatist agenda to public education, including organizing her chapter to support families in opting out of standardized exams, engaging in restorative and transformative practices, supporting abolitionist curriculum, and cultivating pathways for rank and file leadership in her chapter. Throughout the pandemic, Ilona has worked tirelessly to fight for safe working conditions for teachers and learning conditions for students, from helping over 55% of staff obtain medical accommodations to having over 70% of students choose remote learning to leading a public health campaign to encourage community members to get vaccinated against Covid-19. Outside of her school, Ilona continues to be a strong advocate on behalf of public education and social movement unionism. As a member of MORE-UFT’s Health Justice Group, Ilona worked tirelessly in coalition with families, students, and community organizations to advance a Health Justice Agenda that would transform schools into healing-centered spaces. As part of this effort, she participated in the Healing-Centered Schools Task Force which published community-driven demands over the summer to bring trauma-informed, culturally-responsive, and non-punitive practice to NYC’s schools. Ilona is also currently working on completing her doctorate at Teachers College, Columbia University where she is focused on how the UFT can build strong coalitions with families as co-conspirators to advance equity and social justice in public education. Inspired by Chicago Teachers Union, Ilona seeks to serve on the HS Executive Board to push the UFT to move beyond a passive service model of unionism to embrace thoroughgoing rank and file engagement. Disasters like the current pandemic reveal and worsen the glaring disparities in students’ learning conditions and school staff’s working conditions, disparities that are undeniably distributed by race, class, and gender. The pandemic however also presents a critical opportunity to take firm steps toward reconstructing our union. Rank and file educators of the UFT United for Change!
For Executive Board, High School - Solidarity UFT/ICE
Ibeth MejiaFor Executive Board, High School - Solidarity UFT/ICE
I am a Special Education Teacher, serving the New York City Department of Education, for 22 years and the Chapter Leader at Aviation High School. Presently, I am an active Council Member with UFT Solidarity and UFT ICE (Independent Community of Educators), where I am a strong advocate for children with special needs and will take action to comply with their mandates. I have successfully filed a Special Education complaint, at the New York State Education Department, to provide the proper support for the parents of children with special needs who were being denied their services and for the Special Education Teachers whose programs were improperly scheduled.
I have won the case presented at the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB) against an abusive principal. In the year of 2020, along with fifty other UFT members, I have successfully sued and won the case presented to the New York State Supreme Court to secure remote and child care accommodations; after UFT told many UFT members they were ineligible to work remotely.
If elected, I plan on being a strong advocate for all UFT members at district and central UFT forums. My records indicate that I am someone who will not be silenced and have the determination to comply with any obstacles that may arise.