PCT PLEDGE

THE PCT PLEDGE IS THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE PLAINVIEW-OLD BETHPAGE

CONGRESS OF TEACHERS

Volume XXXVI, No. 5 December 11, 1998

 

 

A WORD OF WARNING

by Morty Rosenfeld

A thousand years ago when I began to teach, I would occasionally get a phone call from a student innocently asking about a missed assignment or seeking some guidance with an assignment or personal problem. Like most teachers of my generation, I was discomforted by such calls, both for their intrusion into my private life and for the possibility that they were motivated by thoughts and emotions other than those stated. Thus, I dealt with them in a guarded manner, careful to discourage them and mindful of the need to keep them focused on business.

The advent of the Internet and e-mail, in a society that appears to see the spectre of child abuse everywhere, is posing some new potential problems for teachers and their relationship to their students. Where most students would never think of calling their teachers on the telephone, they are often quite willing to send e-mail or instant messages to their instructors, sometimes inviting them to a private chat session.

These contacts are a mine-field for teachers, potentially putting them in the gravest jeopardy. An ambiguous remark, a statement made without a clearly written context, the absence of a tone to clarify meaning - all of these pose the danger of being misinterpreted, either by the student or a parent monitoring a child=s saved e-mails or logged chat sessions. Both in POB and elsewhere, there is an alarming increase in parental allegations against teachers growing out of parentally intercepted electronic communication.

While it is sad to think that we must protect ourselves from these allegations, I believe the simple truth is that we must. I would urge every PCT member to carefully consider the extent to which we put ourselves in a position of vulnerability when we communicate with our students in this way. While I am aware of the potential for enormous good that could come from e-mail exchanges between teachers and students, elementary prudence suggests that we avoid the dangers and refuse to communicate in this way.

GOV=S BID FOR CHARTER SCHOOLS TEMPORARILY DEFEATED

The beginning of December saw the New York State Legislature called into special session to consider a bill to increase the pay of legislators by some 38%. Always searching for a way to deliver on his campaign pledge to authorize charter schools in New York, Governor Pataki linked his willingness to sign the pay increase for the legislature to their inclination to legalize charter schools in the state.

By December 2nd, the Republican majority in the Senate, on a straight party line vote passed a so-called education reform bill including authorization for the formation of charter schools. Among the provisions of the charter school legislation are permitting 30% of the staff to be uncertified, loss of collective bargaining rights for charter school employees and allowing for-profit corporations to operate charter schools. Charter schools would be overseen in New York by a Governor appointed ACharter Schools Commission,@ an agency apparently apart from the State Education Department.

In the face of this latest threat to the well-being of schools in New York, NEA/New York and NYSUT mounted an intense lobbying effort in the New York State Assembly. By the end of the week, the Democratic Assembly refused to consider the bill passed by the Senate.

While this latest battle was won, the issue is unlikely to go away, especially if the Governor continues to tie his willingness to support a pay increase for the legislature to his getting charter school legislation.

Of additional interest in the so-called education reform bill, was a section ending tenure for principals, substituting three year renewable contracts instead. The anti-tenure crowd has apparently adopted a new strategy of attempting to dismantle the tenure system piece by piece. In an attempt to entice teacher support for this legislation, there was also a piece that would have permitted teachers to remove disruptive students from their classrooms for up to ten days.

Stay tuned to the Pledge for what is sure to be a continuing story in the next session of the legislature.

FEIGENBAUM ELECTED

CUPCT VP

Parkway School=s Lillian Feigenbaum has been elected Vice-President of the Clerical Unit of the PCT. As she was the only candidate for the position, CUPCT Secretary Joanne Catanese , in accordance with the CUPCT Constitution, cast one ballot for Lillian at the December 8, 1998 meeting of the PCT Executive Board. Lillian assumes the position vacated by MaryAnn Bruder who resigned.

EXPANSION TASK FORCE REPORTS

The Expansion Task Force, composed of representatives of various school constituencies, has completed its deliberations and made its final report to the Board of Education. Chaired by former Board of Education member Ginger Lieberman, the Task Force was charged with making recommendations on how best to deal with the projected increase in the district=s enrollment of some 1000 students over the next five years.

At the elementary level, the Task Force report calls for the opening of the Pasadena School and a balancing of the student populations of each to create 4 elementary schools of roughly equal enrollment.

The report also recommends the construction of new library/media centers in each of the elementary schools. These projects would create additional classroom space in each of the existing schools. Also suggested are a new faculty bathroom for Old Bethpage and the possibility that yet 2 more rooms be added on to that school.

The Task Force report recommends that the middle schools be rewired to accommodate all of the new technology being introduced.

At the high school, the report calls for the construction of 2 new wings to be added, thereby creating some 20 or so new classrooms, depending upon how this additional space is ultimately divided.

Members wishing to read the Task Force Report in its entirety, will find it on the PCT Web Page shortly. The URL is: http://members.aol.com/pobct/index.html

The Board of Education is scheduled to take a final decision on the expansion issue at the meeting of December 14, 1998.

GETTING SUBSTITUTE TEACHERS

The staff at every school building in our district is acutely aware of the increasing problem of getting the required number of substitute teachers we need on a given day. There are several major reasons for this growing problem.

Even on Long Island, there is a shrinking pool of licensed teachers desiring substitute teaching work. Many who formerly provided this service have been able to obtain full-time teaching jobs as districts expand and as retirements create openings. Additionally, the advent of staff development programs, many taking place during the school day, has created a greater demand for substitute teachers than ever before. Thus we have a situation where demand is increasing while the supply diminishes.

Because of the unionization of substitutes in POB, we are better situated to deal with this problem than similar districts. Because POB pays substantially more than surrounding districts, we have been and should continue to be the most desirable place for substitute teachers to work. For that to happen, however, the district must periodically advertise its need for substitutes and the wages that we pay. The list of available people must be continually updated in a more expeditious process than currently exists. And, above all, substitute teachers must receive a bit kinder treatment and recognition that they are performing a service of increasing importance.

We have raised these issues with the district and have been assured that immediate steps will be taken to remediate the problem. No matter what we do, however, there will still be days on which we cannot provide all of the necessary coverages. These problems are particularly difficult at the elementary level where there is an obvious need to provide greater supervision to smaller children. Where regular teachers are obliged to sacrifice prep-time to provide coverage for an absent teacher, Building Reps have been instructed to work out a mechanism with building principals for the return of this time.

Finally, if members have some better ideas of how we might deal with the problems of providing the substitute coverage we need, the Officers of the PCT would like to hear from them.

NEGOTIATIONS PROCESS BEGINS

By the time this edition of the Pledge reaches the buildings, members of the Teacher and Clerical Units of the union should have received a demand questionnaire. For those who have joined our ranks since the last round of negotiations, the completion of this form is your opportunity to suggest ideas for the upcoming round of negotiations for a new contract which will begin shortly after the new year.

Members are asked to carefully complete these forms, returning them to their building representatives or directly to the PCT Office by December 21, 1998. Information from the demand questionnaires will be put together in a draft package of demands which will be presented at general membership meetings for approval.

The Teacher Unit General Membership Meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, January 19, 1999 at 3:45 PM in the LGI of Kennedy High School. Clerical Unit members will hold their meeting on Wednesday, January 20, 1999, at 4:15 PM in the Band Room of the High School. Members are asked to calendar these important dates now.

SICK LEAVE BANK DEDUCTIONS

Both the teacher and clerical units of the PCT have contractual sick leave banks from which members can draw additional sick days after they have exhausted their own accrued sick days and extended leave. These days come from donations made according to a formula set out in our contract with the district.

Since its inception in the late 70's, there has not been a need to replenish the number of days.

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