THE PLEDGE IS THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE PLAINVIEW-OLD BETHPAGE CONGRESS OF TEACHERS
Volume XXXVI, No. 2 Sept. 9, 1997
COPING WITH GROWTH
By Morty Rosenfeld
There will be an increasing amount of talk over the next few years about how to cope with the growth of our district. To those of us who came here during the last growth cycle in the sixties and who spent careers coping with the downsizing of the district almost immediately thereafter (We once had over 13,000 students.), it seems somewhat ironic that here we are again talking about how to provide space for four to five hundred students who are expected to be in our schools in the immediate future. That may not sound like much, but it represents approximately ten percent of our current population.
While we don't as yet know with any precision how these students will distribute themselves across the grades, it is clear that the Parkway, Old Bethpage and Kennedy schools will require additional space. That is, of course unless we open another elementary school and redistrict the elementary students. Clear as well is the need to balance the student populations of the middle schools, shifting some students from Mattlin to POB Middle.
The original growth spurt of our district occurred in heady times. Motivated in large measure to move to the rapidly developing suburbs for quality education for their children, the pioneers of our district were of an age that believed in government's ability to better the lives of people and were willing to pay whatever was necessary to build the best possible school district. While it was clear that they were building schools that would be unnecessary after not too many years, they built them anyway out of a belief that to do less meant that their children would not have the best.
These are different times. All government leaders from the President and Congress to local school board members are under constant public pressure to manage scarce resources carefully. Where in the sixties packed school board meetings would be punctuated by public cries of, "We want the best," today, to the extent that the public attends these meetings, one is much more likely to hear, "We want the best we can afford." Often, there are even public expressions of hostility against high taxes and a perception of school employees as greedy pigs feeding at the public trough.
These times demand thoughtful planning to accommodate growth. We must remember that even after we have absorbed four to five hundred new students, the overwhelming number of residents of this community will not have children in the schools and will, at best, accept a financially sound plan for expanding the district's classroom space. Better economic times have calmed these residents. It makes no sense to stir them up.
It has always seemed to me that the heart and soul of any organization is its people. If they are well treated and given the basic tools they need to accomplish their work, they will rise to the occasion even though they work in less than ideal surroundings. Thus, as we begin to address the problem of providing additional classroom space, I believe that we must find the most cost efficient way to provide the necessary classrooms, making sure that any plan provides for the staff necessary to accomplish our mission of providing each of our students with a high quality education. Some members of the school community will undoubtedly politic for ideal and expensive expansion of our facilities. Should they win, you can be sure that when the public absorbs the economic impact of that decision, there will be a further erosion of public support for our academic program.
LET'S HAVE A PARTY
With so many new staff members in our district this year, the officers of the PCT thought it would be nice to have Thank God It's Friday celebration to welcome new staff and honor those who took the retirement incentive in June. Details will follow as soon as arrangements have been made.
THE UPS STRIKE
After some very dismal years following the breaking of the air traffic controllers strike, the labor movement has a big victory to crow about. While a new leadership at the AFL/CIO has revived labor's political clout and begun an enormous commitment to organizing, a new Teamster leadership led their membership at UPS in one of the first strikes in memory to have overwhelming public support, due at least in part to carefully framing issues that resonated with a public that is being increasingly victimized by corporate downsizing and a squeezing of those who remain employed.
One of the central issues in the UPS strike was the demand of the workers that the company commit itself to the creation of full-time jobs and cease relying on part-time workers who received second tier salaries and benefits. The issue of employers' growing reliance on part-time employment should certainly have resonated with those in education. For some time, our most prestigious colleges and universities have resorted to part-time professors who work at less than scale, receive no benefits and are not eligible for tenure. Public schools, too, have not been innocent. Increasingly, they have hired teachers by fractions of positions, ignoring the fact that part-time teachers cannot be completely integrated into the staff of a school. For some years now, the PCT has been hard at work to convince our district of the inefficiency of having numbers of part-time employees. At the middle schools we met with success this year when the district agreed that members of interdisciplinary teams must be full-time employees.
With a solidarity that had been carefully built for over a year prior to negotiations, with carefully framed issues that united the membership and were supported by the public, the Teamsters out maneuvered a giant corporation that seriously miscalculated their resolve. In waging a highly visible and popular struggle, the UPS workers have done much to build the credibility of new labor and revitalized its efforts to rebuild its ranks.
LEAVE POLICY REVIEW
The PCT often receives calls from members concerning the leave policy of the District. From time to time, we publish this summary of the most frequently referenced sections. Members may wish to cut it out and save it for future reference.
There are many reasons for being absent from work, but before you are absent, it is important to be aware of the district's absence and leave policies.
Each teacher accrues 14 days per year according to a schedule agreed to in our contact. If you are absent due to illness for more than 5 consecutive days, you will be asked for a doctor's note. Days not used each year accumulate to a maximum of 400. If you have used all your accumulate days and are still ill, you may borrow up to 28 days from the district. These days are paid back at the end of each subsequent year except that no one should begin a year with less than 3 days accumulated. Furthermore, tenured teachers who are still ill may be granted days from the PCT Sick-Leave Bank. These days are not paid back.
You are entitled to use your accumulated days for other reasons beside illness such as for moving, house closing, religious holiday when school is open, graduation of spouse or child, or court appearance.
You are entitled to use your accumulated days for illness in your immediate family. Certain restrictions apply.
You are entitled to use 2 days per year for personal reasons, If these days are Monday or Friday or before or after vacation, you must give a reason and be approved by the Superintendent of Schools.
There are provisions for being absent due to death in your family. You may be absent 5 consecutive days WITHOUT CHARGE for death of a spouse, child, parent or sibling. THESE DAYS MUST BE USED CONTIGUOUS TO THE DEATH. You may also be absent for 3 UNCHARGED days for death of grandparents or in-laws, also contiguous.
For many of the above absences, it is necessary to notify your immediate supervisor in writing. If you have any question, call the PCT before a problem arises.
TAX SHELTERED ANNUITIES (403B)
A reminder to members that September 15th is the deadline for starting or changing tax sheltered annuities. Changes made by the 15th will take effect October 1st. The next opportunity to start or change will be January 15th.
PRINTING OUR CONTRACTS
The PCT Office is pleased to report that it has received the final draft of the contract negotiated last year. There are a few errors to be worked out, after which it will be sent to the printer. We are hopeful to have copies for distribution shortly.
A contract is only as good as the ability of a union to police it to make sure management is following all of its terms and conditions. Within a few days members of all units will be receiving a Contract Survey on which members are asked to provide specific information about their assignments and workplaces. It is essential that members complete and return these forms as soon as possible. PCT Grievance Chairperson Judi Alexanderson will review each returned form to make sure that our contracts are being followed.
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