After 43 years with the Pittsburgh Public School District, Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers President John Tarka has decided to step down from the post. The move will be official August 31.
“He’s a hard act to follow,” said Union Vice President Nina Esposito-Visgitis. Esposito-Visgitis should know what she is talking about, she will be taking over the presidency when Tarka leaves.
“If it was up to me, John Tarka would never leave,” said Esposito-Visgitis, “He is a valuable leader, he is my role model and he has done so much for he teachers and students of the Pittsburgh Public Schools.”
Tarka began his career as a teacher at Westinghouse High School. He served on the PFT Executive Board for more than thirty years, and he was selected to head the union when longtime PFT President Al Fondy passed away in 2005. He serves as a national AFT Vice President, Executive Vice President of the statewide AFT Pennsylvania, and a Vice President on the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Executive Council.
Esposito-Visgitis was a Speech-Language Pathologist in the district before moving up in the union. She says she looks forward to continuing her push for more support for those with special needs and will also continue to move the “Empowering Effective Teachers” program forward. At the same time she says she will have to deal with the possibility of furloughs as the district’s enrolment shrinks and budgets are cut.
However Esposito-Visgitis is not just looking to be a carbon copy of John Tarka. “I love member involvement so that will be a big continued push for me,” said Esposito-Visgitis, “I also want to focus more on educating our members about the union movement.” Esposito-Visgitis said many of the younger members have never experienced a strike and have lost sight of what the union movement is all about.