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

Sally LeeFounder

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.


After leaving teaching in 2003, Sally continued to work with NYCoRE and started planning Teachers Unite (TU) 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, TU partnered with NESRI (National Economic & Social Rights Initiative, now Partners for Dignity & Rights) and in 2008 published Teachers Talk: School Culture, Safety and Human Rights.


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, TU 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.


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.



Sally Lee

December 2021

Dear Friends,

As you probably know, this is my last week at Teachers Unite!

When people ask me, “How does it feel?” My answer is invariably, “It feels great!” Our new Co-Directors are brilliant and energetic, our Board is thoughtful and principled, our members are driven and passionate, our three-year strategic plan is moments away from being finalized, and our supporters are cheering us on every step of the way. I’m thrilled for the work, and eager for my next chapter as well.

Everyone has gone through enormous upheaval these past two years. I am lucky to be able to make a professional change at this time. If you are a teacher or know one, you know that our school system is up against overwhelming challenges and it takes extraordinary people to educate, inspire, and lead change. I speak with teachers every day – these frontline workers need our help, especially as they prioritize caring for students in turmoil. For years I have learned from our exceptional members who work with students to create safe school communities that emphasize justice, transformation, and inclusion.

TU’s sights are set on showing NYC it’s possible to end school policing and create a pipeline to school-based careers for Black and Brown graduating students – jobs that build safe schools without policing. I’m counting on everyone taking the time to read this to help them do it.

Thank you so much for joining me on this journey!

Sally Signature

Sally Lee
Founding Director

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