Hundreds of AFT PSRPs gathered in Baltimore this spring for the 45th annual conference. The theme – “This Is How We Do It” – was fitting. Paras and school-related personnel kept lessons flowing and children fed throughout the Covid pandemic.

PSRP co-chairs and AFT Vice-Presidents Shelvy Young Abrams and Carl Williams opened the first general session. Abrams chaired the Paras Chapter of New York City’s United Federation of Teachers, and Williams leads the Lawndale Federation of Classified Employees.

“During the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Abrams said, “the nation’s support staff proved that schools and colleges could keep going. You held it down, and you did a fantastic job with the students.”

“We had a lot of new people, which was very exciting,” said Tina Solórzano Fletcher, Southern California Vice President of the Council of Classified Employees.

California was well represented, with 26 CFT members from seven locals across the state.

“Young people want to be more active with their locals, and that’s good for us. They bring new ideas and enthusiasm into the union,” Solórzano Fletcher said. “We’ll give them the tools to take the wheel and feel good when it’s time to pass the baton.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten addressed the PSRPs by video, thanking staff for maintaining their professionalism during the unprecedented crisis.

“You may be too short-staffed to take a sick day when you need to,” Weingarten said, “But here’s the truth: You are the infrastructure. You are the glue. And without you, communities lose out big time. You make our schools better.”

The attendees also received a video shout-out from Montell Jordan, the R&B singer who wrote the hit single that inspired the conference theme.

“Listen,” Jordan said. “Our public institutions don’t run without y’all. And it’s not just what you do. It’s who you are that makes all the difference.”

The entertainer made the message personal by name-checking everyone from bus drivers and office staff, to maintenance crews and food service workers.

— By Steve Weingarten, CFT Reporter