For the first time in nearly four decades, the Valley Stream Teachers Association is under new leadership. Patrick Naglieri is serving as the new president of VSTA, following the retirement of Richard Herrmann.
Naglieri has served as the organization’s vice president since 2000. He is a guidance counselor at Memorial Junior High School, but had been on leave for the past three years to serve as a labor relations specialist for New York State United Teachers.
VSTA represents teachers from the four Valley Stream school districts, among other employees. Naglieri, who first joined the ranks as a special education teacher at the Robert W. Carbonaro School in 1981, said he is enjoying his new role so far and wants to put his background in labor to good use.
Naglieri said he is concerned by a lot of the changes taking place in education, specifically new mandates that have recently been implemented by the state. He is particularly worried that the tax cap, which limits the amount school districts can raise taxes, will have a negative impact.
People move to communities like Valley Stream for good schools, Naglieri noted, and they want good programs, small class sizes and an abundance of extra-curricular activities. “Ultimately a tax cap is going to impact all of that in a negative way,” he said.
Additionally, when school districts are forced to layoff teachers because of financial constraints, that impacts the quality of education, he explained.
The new teacher evaluation system, known as APPR — Annual Professional Performance Review — is also flawed, Naglieri explained. He said it is unfair for teachers to be judged on student test results, when the tests have not been proven to accurately measure teacher performance. “As a union, we certainly want high standards,” he said. “We certainly want accountability. APPR does nothing to ensure that. It’s based on junk science.”
Naglieri said that the four Valley Stream school districts already had good systems in place for hiring teachers and making sure that only the good ones were allowed to stay.
“Most people subscribe to the adage, ‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,’” he said, “but the current APPR system, at least as it applies to Valley Stream, is ‘if it’s not broke, let’s break it.’”
The new Common Core Learning Standards were hastily introduced, Naglieri said, with no supporting textbooks or materials. He noted that none of the four Valley Stream districts got enough money from the state (New York was allocated $700 million from the federal government) to hire even one additional teacher.
Naglieri says these changes equate to a usurping of control by the state, with local schools boards becoming less and less powerful. The union and the school districts actually have more in common than ever before, he said.
Over the next several months, Naglieri will be diving into negotiations for several of VSTA’s bargaining units. Contracts for the teachers, nurses, secretaries and high school teaching assistants expire at the end of this school year. Teaching aides in District 13 are already without a contract.
Naglieri said the objective in all negotiations will be to get raises for employees, improve working conditions, and ensure that positions and programs are being maintained.
Last year, teachers took a one-year salary freeze in an effort to help the school districts control costs. They also delayed their longevity-based Step increments twice during the current four-year contract.
“I would hope people would understand, and the community that we serve would understand, that we made those concessions in an effort to preserve programs,” Naglieri said. “Teachers were aware of the economic realities and responded appropriately to them.”
Naglieri said he hopes to get VSTA more involved in political action, as well as in activities in Valley Stream. He also wants to increase the use of technology in the organization, so more communication with the teachers is done electronically.
He spends his mornings at Memorial Junior High and his afternoons at the teachers union office on Merrick Road, but said being president of VSTA is an around-the-clock job. Naglieri said he wants VSTA leaders to maintain an open and productive dialogue with leaders of Valley Stream’s four districts. “Historically we’ve always enjoyed positive relationships,” he said. “That’s not to say there haven’t been bumps in the road, but we’ve always managed to work through them and move ahead.”