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New NY Teachers Union Head Hopes to Heal Ties With Cuomo

PHOTO: Karen Magee, elected new president of New York State United Teachers this week, hopes to heal "fractured" relationships and pursue a pro-active agenda. Courtesy NYSUT
PHOTO: Karen Magee, elected new president of New York State United Teachers this week, hopes to heal "fractured" relationships and pursue a pro-active agenda. Courtesy NYSUT
April 8, 2014

ALBANY, N.Y. - New York's teachers union elected a new president this week in a sign that union members, teachers and professionals in the state's public schools want to take a stronger stance on a number of issues. Karen Magee is a 30-year veteran teacher and union leader from Harrison. She replaces nine-year incumbent Dick Iannuzzi with a firm mandate from New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) members.

"They were looking for what I'd like to believe is a more proactive agenda that brings their voice and brings their message forward," Magee said. "A grass-roots effort, if you will."

Magee looks to press aggressively on issues such as teacher evaluation using Common Core testing, while healing what she called a "fractured" relationship between the union and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Her new presidency offers a chance to "reset" relationships between the governor and State Education Commissioner John King, the target of an NYSUT vote of "no confidence" this past weekend, Magee said.

"A vote of no confidence means that at this point in time, the organization has no confidence in the commissioner and feels that he hasn't engaged our membership, he hasn't engaged the professionals," Magee explained.

Magee will be dealing with a governor who has presided over several years of decreased funding for public school systems and a cap on property taxes.

"I will be reaching out to the governor in the immediate future," she said. "I actually hope that the governor will reach out to me, as an overture to start to rebuild a fractured relationship."

Magee becomes the first woman to head NYSUT. She noted that the union membership is 70 percent female.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY