History

Teachers Unite opened a space where I could grapple with my vision and the reality of working in NYC public schools.

Sally LeeFounder

THE PREAMBLE
In 2002, Sally Lee found out about a group of teachers meeting to act on political issues (motivated by Iraq War protests) and went to their first open meeting. She joined the group and after some initial work, the group named itself NYCoRE (New York Collective of Radical Educators). Sally and fellow NYCoRE member Herm Jerome eventually initiated a study group and workgroup around issues of criminalization of youth.

 

EARLY YEARS
After leaving teaching in 2003, Sally continued to work with NYCoRE and started planning Teachers Unite to bring together the world of teachers for social justice to the world of union rank-and-file activists, and to build a center for social justice teacher organizing. Herm Jerome was a founding board member. After getting involved with the Student Safety Act Campaign, Teachers Unite partnered with NESRI and in 2008 published Teachers Talk: School Culture, Safety and Human Rights.

 

COALITION BUILDING
In 2011, through collaboration with NESRI and Dignity in Schools Campaign-New York member organizations, TU received enough funding to hire a community organizer. TU’s work building Restorative Practices and contributing to the Dignity in Schools Campaign was able to deepen and expand.

The next year, Teachers Unite embarked on the Growing Fairness documentary and toolkit project, which led to the formation of a cadre of lead members building transformative justice resources with an eye toward leadership development, school organizing, and movement building.

Over the next decade, responding to collective pressure, the City of New York adopted dozens of reforms to school climate and discipline, including the shifting of millions of dollars in public funds to school communities. In 2016, TU initiated the cohort model of organizing, bringing together school communities in four borough-based cohorts which continue today.

 

NEW LEADERSHIP
At the end of 2021, TU’s Founder departed the role of Executive Director after fifteen years of leadership. In response, TU transitioned to a horizontal Co-Director model and endeavored on a new strategic plan to build on the long legacy of winning education justice campaigns at the school, community, and city levels.

 

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