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ESP of the Year has ‘higher’ calling

The NEARI Education Support Professional (ESP) of the Year award broke new ground this time around – winner Lou Rainone is both the first higher education employee and the first male to receive the honor in Rhode Island.

In an office cluttered with work files, clothing donated for a local group home, and gift bags dropped off for the NEARI Gingerbread Express, Rainone presides over the CCRI receiving department. As property control and supply officer for the last 16 years, Rainone accepts shipments at his loading dock for two campuses, then re-routes them to their final destination. Computer equipment needed system-wide arrives at his door, and he is responsible for storing it until needed.

But that is a dry description of what fills his day. Rainone makes a point of becoming involved in student activities, and forms connections along the way.

A 19-year-old student wrote, “…he helped me adjust to the overwhelming facility of CCRI and he took the time to make sure that I understood how things work…he broke things down for me in a way that made everything a lot easier to manage. Thanks to Mr. Rainone, my experience at CCRI has been a lot better and comforting, which is how a student should feel.”

Indeed, he earns this respect because he in turn respects the students. “This is one of the best state facilities to work in,” Rainone says. “CCRI is very important to the economy of Rhode island – for people who are just out of high school, or those who have lost jobs. They get a start here.”

His presence does not go unnoticed. Calling him “one of our best employees,” CCRI President Ray DiPasquale wrote in a recommendation letter, “Lou does an outstanding job as he serves each and every area of the college within the scope of his job responsibilities…Lou has continually shown strong character, caring, and a hard-working attitude.”

Rainone has put that hard-working attitude to good use in his role as a union leader. At NEARI he is the first ESP member to hold statewide office, completing his fourth term as association secretary, following two terms as assistant. He’s active on several committees, including NEARI PACE, budget, personnel, member rights, and the legislative commission.

His activism extends beyond just showing up, however. Rainone takes on labor issues for ESP, state employees, and teachers alike, often as one of the most vocal on the scene. He has attended bargaining sessions all over the state, mediation at the state Department of Labor and Training, school committee meetings, and picket lines. He is active in the state AFL-CIO, the Institute for labor Studies and Research, the RI Labor History Society, and Jobs for Justice.

Rainone has been president of CCRI ESPA from 2007-present, and from 2002-2004, as well as vice president from 1998-2002. Some of his achievements as local leader include negotiating a sick bank, working on health and safety issues, and developing a program to provide all new hires with union information and benefit counseling.

Donna Scattone, fellow CCRI ESPA officer, praised Rainone as “dedicated, focused and motivated to help our members any way he can.” Rainone says, “The support staff plays an integral role in the day-to-day operations of the college. My job is to make sure they get the respect they deserve. I take this role very seriously and will do everything within my power to make it happen.

“This accomplishment means everything to me as a union award,” he commented. “This is the pinnacle of my union career. It is about what I enjoy the most – representing members. I hope this inspires others in higher education to get involved – in their institutions as well as their communities and their unions.”

Education Support Professionals (ESPs) are school secretaries, clerks, para-professionals, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, and maintenance workers.
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