May 5, 2014

Hundreds protest outside education retreat in Lake Placid

LAKE PLACID — Hundreds of teachers and parents from across the state gathered on a cold, rainy Sunday for a protest called Picket in the Pines.

The protest was in reaction to a retreat that Governor Andrew Cuomo was attending at the Whiteface Lodge called Camp Philos.

Camp Philos was billed as “a philosopher’s camp on education reform,” with high-profile guests, including Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Attendance reportedly costs $1,000 per person, or $2,500 for a VIP ticket. 

The schedule included sessions entitled “Up, Down, and Sideways: Building an Effective School Reform Coalition” and “Adequacy, Fairness and Equity: School Finance in an Age of Austerity.” 

Camp Philos was seen by protesters as “a private meeting of hedge fund investors brought together by the governor to talk about education reform,” said Fred Monaco, regional staff director for New York State United Teachers. The picket was intended both to respond to Camp Philos and “to promote public education.”

“We were outside in the rain and cold and wet; they were inside in a comfy lodge,” Monaco said.

Despite the weather conditions, however, Picket in the Pines was attended by hundreds of teachers and parents who were bused in from across the state.

“The turnout was remarkable given the weather conditions,” said Monaco, noting that one event at the picket was attended by approximately 350 people.

Attendees also included students from SUNY Plattsburgh’s education program. 

“They came down to learn more about the industry they’ve decided to join.”

The crowd participated in a walk from the picket’s staging area to the grounds of Whiteface Lodge. 

Speakers included Karen Magee, president of NYSUT; Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers; Frederick Kowal, state president of United University Professions; and Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education.

Megan O’Brien of Plattsburgh is a NYSUT member who worked with picket line captains. 

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