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Sausage sandwiches & agreeing to disagree -- Hochul's day at the fair

Ellen Abbott
Baldwinsville teacher Beth Chetney speaking with Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul at the New York State Fair about education issues.

It may have been the most momentous sausage sandwich moment at the New York State Fair since Senate candidate Rick Lazio refused to eat the state fair staple the year he ran against Hillary Clinton. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul bought a sandwich for one of the protesting teachers trailing her on the fairgrounds opening day Thursday.

Dozens of educators dogged Hochul around the fairgrounds yesterday chanting and repeating many of the concerns they’ve had about the Cuomo administration’s education policy for years now. And communication seems to be a big part of the dispute.

“We want the governor to come in and see the hard work children and teachers are doing before he decides how he wants education policy in New York state to be,” said one protestor.

“Gov. Cuomo seems to have a problem with teachers and parents who are speaking their mind about education,” said another.

Credit Ellen Abbott
Ellen Abbott
Lt. Gov. Hochul ordering the fair's traditional sausage sandwiches.

So when Hochul offered to have the ubiquitous sandwich with Baldwinsille teacher Beth Chetney, “Anyone want to sit down and have some food with me?” asked the lieutenant governor.  

The chants turned into cheers and a “yes please.”

And then the discussion began.

“He has not visited a classroom in his administration, to my knowledge,” said Chetney. “And yet we hear a lot of how much it’s important to him to go to his fundraising events with his billionaire friends. And we feel he’s breaking public education.”  

“First of all I want to thank you and everybody for taking the time to come out here today,” said Hochul.

“Thank you for engaging me today,” replied Chetney.

“It’s important. And the governor wanted me to be here and he wanted me to sit down with you today,” said Hochul.

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News
Kevin Ahern, president of Syracuse Teachers Association speaking with Hochul at the fair.

In the end, there were no agreements, but the teachers got issues off their chest, ranging from concerns about test scores and the connection of tests to teacher evaluations.  

And Baldwinsville teacher Vincent Foriero offered up some props to the state’s second-in-command.

"You know, the governor seems to dodge the opportunity to have those discussions. And she showed some real guts to sit down in this atmosphere and do that,” said Foriero.

Hochul promised that the governor will listen to concerns of educators. The lieutenant governor also told the protestors that many of the issues the state faces stem from federal policies that link funding to school performance.  She agreed that teachers and the administration need to work together to improve the prospects of failing schools.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.