THE PCT PLEDGE IS THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF
THE PLAINVIEW-OLD BETHPAGE CONGRESS OF TEACHERS
VOL. XXXXIII, NO. 9 APRIL 25, 2006
By PCT President Morty Rosenfeld
While I try to focus my column in the Pledge on a single issue, to do so in the current environment is to slight important issues before us.
To begin, as I write the PCT is making its final preparations to attend the NEA/New York Delegate Assembly to be held in Rochester from April 28-30. It is at this meeting that we will hopefully take the final step in the process of merging our state organization with the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) by ratifying a constitution for the new state union. At long last, education workers will speak with one loud voice in Albany.
While the PCT was the earliest advocate of merger, and while this union of unions carries enormous potential benefit for the people in education in New York, like any positive change, it brings with it some problems that will have to be managed. The merger agreement calls for NEA/New York members to pay somewhat higher dues during the initial years to offset the so-call "legacy costs" - the money necessary to secure the pensions and medical benefits obligations to NEA/New York staff and retirees. These legacy costs will strain the PCT budget for five to six years and will probably necessitate reimposing the one tenth of one percent we were able to cut from our dues structure two years ago.
While it appears that the proposed constitution will pass, we have also had to plan for the possibility of its failure. Should the merger fail, the Officers of the PCT will recommend that we immediately join NYSUT. Ironically, such an eventuality while a political disaster would be financially helpful in that we would be unburdened of the legacy costs of merger.
Regardless of what happens in Rochester, the PCT will be fine.
Would that good ends to our issues in Plainview-Old Bethpage were in as clear sight. The Superintendent, both of whose feet are just about out the door, has resumed his "cracker-barrel" sessions where he attempts to portray the cut of some sixteen PCT positions as almost a positive development, in that other districts have had to cut staff in recent years. After all, he points out, almost all of the people whose positions have been abolished will have jobs as leave replacements for next year, as though that secured their futures in some meaningful way.
Absent from his discussion is any recognition of the responsibility of administration for the financial mismanagement that prompted talk of layoffs in the first place or the infuriating reality that in a year in which the district will receive one and one-half million dollars more in state aid, our district is laying people off at all. Also absent is how the PCT was willing to do a multi-year contract that would have obviated the need for layoffs even if there were no additional state aid. But to our Superintendent, none of this is a big deal. In fact, itís probably good because we will have more fund balance at the end of next year.
At the May 9 meeting of the PCT Executive Board, we will be taking a position on the POB budget and on candidates for the Board of Education. The incumbents Jon Mosenson and Evy Rothman are running as is a newcomer Angel Cepeda, an Old Bethpage resident with two children in our schools. We will be watching the development of this campaign very carefully.
After the NEA/New York Convention we will also have to resume negotiations for successor agreements to our contract that expire at the end of June. Here, too, while we hope the Board of Education will come to understand that a fair settlement that brings predictability to the district over several years, we must plan for a struggle should one prove necessary. That work goes forward as well. Within a week or two, we will be announcing a General Membership Meeting before the end of the school year to vote our customary No Contract - No Work motion to prepare for the possibility that we will not have a contract for the scheduled start of school in September.
I apologize for a column thatís abouttwice as long as it usually is. These are interesting and difficult times, but with the spirit our membership showed at our recent demonstration at the Board of Education, we will manage all that is before us.
WANT A SABBATICAL?
If you were thinking you could use a sabbatical, you might want to consider going to work for McDonalds, Nike, Boston Consulting, Goldman Sachs or Silicon Graphics.
While most public school systems in the United States have done away with them, believing them to be a frivolous luxury taxpayers should not be required to finance, the world of big business is discovering their value to the bottom line according to an article in the April 22 Business Section of the New York Times.
The motivation of these corporations for granting sabbaticals is perhaps best summed up by the executive vice president for human resources for McDonaldís who is quoted as saying, "A lot of times, people think itís [a sabbatical] just for the employee, but itís a tremendous advantage for the company. Itís re-energizing that lasts more than a day. Depending on what they do while they are gone, they come back more skilled and talented than when they left."
Could it be that school systems knew this before the business community but forgot?
POLITICAL ACTION TIME
Tuesday May 16 is the date set for voting on all of the school budgets in New York State as well as all school board elections.
PCT members are asked to plan on spending some time beginning Saturday May 13 through May 16 should the PCT decide to take an active position on the POB school budget or the election to fill two vacancies on the Board of Education.
Incumbents Evy Rothman and Jon Mosenson are being challenged by newcomer Angel Cepeda.
The PCT Executive Board will receive a recommendation from the officers of our union at their meeting on May 9.
Teacher members of the PCT contemplating retirement at the end of this school year are reminded of the May 15th contractual deadline for ensuring payment by the District of the one dayís pay for every three days of accumulated leave up to a maximum of half of a yearís salary.
Clerical Unit members do not have a contractual notification deadline. They are therefore free to submit their letters of resignation to the District at any time during the year and still qualify for payment for any unused sick leave to which they may be entitled.
Letters of resignation for both Teacher and Clerical Units should be sent to the Superintendent of Schools and should contain the following:
I hereby resign my position as a ______ for purposes of retirement effective June 30, 2006. (CUPCT members should substitute for the date.)
WELFARE FUND REMINDERS
PCT members are aware that the Welfare Fund employs Fitzharris & Company to process membersí dental claims. The Fund does so as a money saving matter in that through Fitzharris we get access to the "reasonable and customary" information we need which would otherwise be beyond the resources of a small fund like ours. But, while Fitzharris & Company do most of the processing of our dental claims, those claims must come to the Welfare Fund Office first.
Sending dental claims directly to Fitzharris only delays the processing of a claim. Fitzharris sends claims sent to them back to the Welfare Fund Office. This can delay settlement of a claim by a week or two. The fastest way to get a dental claim settled is to send it to the Welfare Fund Office.
On another note, recent federal legislation covering the confidentiality of medical information makes it unlawful for the staff in the Welfare Fund Office to answer questions about Fund benefits from a spouse or domestic partner of a member unless the member has specifically authorized the office staff to talk with them.
Should you wish to authorize the office to talk about your claims and benefits with the Welfare Fund office, contact the Fund to receive the necessary form.