Health teacher Lisa Weinwurm was selected at the end of last year by the Stuyvesant High School administration to hold a second four year term as the Student Union (SU)’s Coordinator of Student Affairs (COSA), after no other faculty member applied for the position. Now entering her fifth year in the position, Weinwurm has become the longest serving COSA in recent memory. Weinwurm has been COSA since 2006, when she replaced Social Studies teacher Matthew Polazzo in the role.
The practice of limiting the COSA position to four year terms was instituted by the administration in 2006, at the end of Polazzo’s tenure. Weinwurm’s first term ended in June of the 2009-2010 school year, and applications for the open position were distributed to faculty members by the administration. “We placed a copy [of the application] in every teacher’s mailbox,” Principal Stanley Teitel said.
However, Weinwurm was the only teacher to submit an application and received her second appointment by default. “It certainly made my job easier,” said Teitel, in reference to the selection process.
According to Teitel, if multiple teachers had applied for the job, the post would have been assigned based on a protocol for filling paid compensatory time positions outlined in the 2009 United Federation of Teachers (UFT) Contract with the Department of Education (DOE). “If we have multiple applicants, the first person to get the job would be the one who has spent the longest time here, and has never held a [compensatory time] position before,” Teitel said.
In broad terms, the COSA acts as the SU’s faculty advisor, although the position’s precise role within the organization is officially undefined. The COSA works several hours after school, and is only required to teach three instructional periods a day. According to senior and SU Chief of Staff Tammuz Huberman, “[The COSA]’s job is really making sure that the SU is doing our job, and helping us to do our job,” she said. “The COSA is in charge of running SING! with the SING! coordinators, stays at school until five every day to make sure clubs and pubs have their faculty advisor with them, and is in charge of budgetary matters.”
Huberman also noted the COSA’s role in the SU’s decision making process.
“She definitely gives us her input in meetings and helps us refine our ideas so they become realistic,” Huberman said. “Instead of us [The SU] ambiguously planning events or listing vague things the SU wants to accomplish, [The COSA] will help us set dates and get things approved by the administration.”
According to SU President Oren Bukspan, the COSA prevents the SU from making decisions that could potentially place the organization in legal jeopardy. “The COSA ensures that stuff gets done legally and correctly. We have pretty amazing bookkeeping,” Bukspan said. “At this point, [The COSA] is essentially a reviewal position.”
According to Polazzo, the COSA’s responsibilities largely consist of the duties described by Bukspan and Huberman. However, during his time as COSA, Polazzo also took several strong positions on student rights, and played a role in preventing the Student Union from being relocated to the site of the current college office. “I feel it’s your job as COSA to be an advocate for the students,” Polazzo said.
Polazzo, like the rest of the faculty, did not apply for the COSA position at the end of Weinwurm’s term. “Being an effective COSA is an incredibly time-consuming, draining job,” Polazzo said. “As a PHD student, and a father, it was not feasible for me to apply for the position at this time.”