Lydia Howrilka teaches Social Studies in a transfer high school within the New York City Department of Education where she has served as a UFT Chapter Delegate. Lydia earned her Bachelor’s in History and Secondary Education from CUNY Hunter College. At CUNY Queens College, Lydia earned her Masters in History after writing a thesis on the history of the UFT and the grievance procedure.
In 2012, Lydia was hired to teach at a high school in the Morris Heights section of the Bronx. Like most teachers, Lydia dedicated countless hours before and after school working to provide an equitable and culturally relevant education for her students. It was only when Lydia asked her principal for a mentor and resources for her classroom that she began to be the victim of workplace bullying and gas lighting. The UFT did little to protect her from a vindictive administrator sending her to the rubber room in June 2013.
Because she was untenured, Lydia was discontinued from probationary service and blocked from accepting another teaching position because of a false OSI investigation. She only discovered the trumped-up charges that led to her reassignment through the use of the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) months later. Lydia successfully sued the NYC Department of Education in New York State Court via an Article 78 and through the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB). While fighting her cases in the courts, Lydia worked in community based organizations within schools and interacted with other UFT members. She worked in both functional, healthy school environments and in toxic environments; the one thing all these schools had in common was that UFT members had either ambivalent or negative views that the UFT leadership understood their daily struggles. In July 2013, Lydia met fellow advocate Francesco Portelos, who along with other educator activists and bloggers, taught her how to fight back and gave her the courage to support other educators in distress. Angered by the systematic attacks on public schools and educators, Lydia became a co-founder of Don’t Tread on Educators (DTOE), which in 2014 became UFT Solidarity.
During this time, Lydia’s former principal was placed under investigation for financial improprieties. In March 2014, Lydia was falsely accused of aggregated harassment by her former principal and spent 14 hours in police custody and central booking before being released, no charges filed. Lydia was the subject of five frivolous investigations from 2014 to 2016. These attempts to silence and scare her led Lydia to become more emboldened and advocate for educators at Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) meetings, school rallies, protests at Tweed Courthouse, and educational forums. In front of Chancellor Farina, top lawyers, and countless Deputy Chancellors Lydia testified about mandates that hurt children and the DOE’s Office of Personnel Investigation’s problem code which effectively blocks all discontinued DOE personnel from accepting positions in other schools or DOE central offices. Lydia marched in support of ATRs and discontinued teachers in front of 52 Chambers Street and across from the offices where DOE attorneys worked hard at destroying the careers of educators. Lydia and the UFT Solidarity team have protested abusive administrators at schools that include PS 89X, WC Bryant High School, and Richmond Hill High School. Lydia has educated teachers one-on-one and at meetings how to file Freedom of Information Law requests both at the city level and State level against agencies like the NYPD, NYC DOE, NYSED, and SCI. Finally, after 3 years of being “blacklisted” and problem-coded by the DOE, Lydia was hired to work at a transfer school in August 2016. She is still happily teaching there and understands what the profession has become. The Morris Heights principal, who originally hired Lydia in 2012, is no longer working in the NYC Department of Education.
Working as a founding member of both Don’t Tread on Educators and UFT Solidarity has enabled Lydia to reach and educate over 500 educators (and counting!) on reclaiming their careers using the Educator Toolkit she co-authored (http://www.uftsolidarity.org/toolbox/). Since 2013, Lydia has been dedicated to educating teachers of their rights to defend their careers against aggressive attacks against tenure and mandates that hurt the learning environments for their students. She is honored to serve the membership as UFT Solidarity’s Presidential Candidate.