Monday is final day of voting to select president of Rochester Teachers Association

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Monday is the final day for teachers to vote on the union president for the Rochester Teachers Association. The voting takes place online.

A group of RTA members called ROC Teachers in Action is running for election against current officers, including longtime RTA President Adam Urbanski. 

News10NBC spoke to Urbanski about his four-decade record and the teacher who is running against him about what she plans to bring to the table for teachers and students. 

For 42 years, Urbanski has been president of the Rochester Teachers Association. It’s been five years since he’s last been challenged.

His opponent Audrey Sowell believes it’s time for a change. However, Urbanski believes he has a strong record that speaks for itself. 

“Every two years we have free elections, and I am confident that teachers will decide to keep their current leadership,” Urbanski said.

Sowell, who attended Franklin Upper School and East High School before becoming a teacher 21 years ago, is challenging Urbanski in this year’s election in April, giving him a run for his money. 

“I think I was nine years old when he came to office, so he’s had a nice run,” Sowell said.

Teachers have been facing many challenges in the classroom and since COVID, those challenges have been magnified. Sowell says teachers need someone who is going to advocate for them. She believes not enough is being done. That’s why she’s decided to throw her hat in this election.

 “I felt like it was time for change, for fresh ideas, for innovative ideas to support our teachers,” Sowell said. “Right now, we are sitting at over 250 substitute teachers who are uncertified in front of our children.”

 That’s a problem for her. She’s looking for it to change. Sowell said she’s worked with substitute teachers who have the skills to become full-time teachers but not all of them do, she believes.

 “We need to be attracting teachers who have experience, who are invested in our community, in our children and we need to be taking care of those teachers because this job is not easy,” Sowell said. “Our kids deserve the best we can offer them. This last contract did not make us competitive enough.”

 She is taking action and is confident she has the skills to fight for better for teachers and students. Urbanski is a former teacher with the district also and says his job as president is not done.

 “There’s still a lot of work to be done,” Urbanski said. “Our schools need to be made much safer than they are right now. We are working with the mayor, the superintendent, and the police department.”

Although he has been doing this for generations, he explains there’s something to be said for experience. 

 “Experience means increased expertise and continuity is important because the situations that we are confronting we’ve confronted in the past and we know what to do and what not to do,” he said.