THE PCT PLEDGE IS THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE PLAINVIEW-OLD BETHPAGE
CONGRESS OF TEACHERS
Volume XXXVII, No. 3 October 28, 1999
By Morty Rosenfeld
In accordance with New York State Education Department regulations, POB has formed a new staff development committee that is charged with the responsibility of creating a staff development plan for the teachers in our district which must be submitted to the state in June. The committee is made up of a majority of teachers selected by the PCT, administrators and parents.
Last month for my column on the PCT Web Page, I talked about staff development and what I thought a meaningful plan would include. Nothing that took place on our recent half day has caused me to change my view. In view of the fact that not all of the membership has access to our web page, I offer my thoughts here in the hope of stimulating discussion and helping to formulate a position for our members on the committee which will write the districts plan. The PCT representatives on this committee are:
Vicki Ahlsen - PMS
Judi Alexanderson - HBM-D
Eric Brooks - HBM-A
Cathy Carman - JFK
Cindy Feldman - JFK
Meg Fessel - PKY
Amy Isaacson - KG
Maria Lakkas - JFK
Debbie Mangio - STRAT
Charles Marfoglio - JFK
Diane Panetta - KG
The recently concluded negotiations between the Plainview-Old Bethpage Congress of Teachers and our Board of Education focused heavily on the employer's demand that teachers participate in staff development activities beyond their normal school day. In making this demand, they were following many districts throughout the nation in attempting to improve the quality of education. Like their counterparts in the more enlightened sectors of the business world, education leaders increasingly talk about investing in the improvement of their staffs with on the job training. I suppose that is a laudable goal. But what will that training entail?
Beyond question, our district did not have a plan. In our discussions, they were never able to provide any answer to what they envisioned for staff development beyond various groups of teachers coming together and presenters from outside the district providing programs. A scramble will now begin to determine what to do with the eighteen hours per year that teachers are now obligated to provide for staff development activities. If we look to what is happening elsewhere, we can probably glimpse what we may expect.
Unless we begin to think seriously about how we might contribute to the intellectual growth of our teaching staff, we will like too many other school districts waste huge sums of money on the educationist idea or program du jour. The education world is literally crawling with entrepreneurial types selling the latest snake oil remedies for the ills of our schools to superintendents and boards of education who are pressured by an anxiety laden public demanding immediate action for some statistically insignificant drop in some test score.
What if we thought about staff development differently. What if we resisted the temptation to buy the latest program to boost social studies scores or the latest reading scam to defy common sense and instead thought about staff development from the perspective of providing time, place and resources for cultivating the continuing intellectual growth of the staff throughout their careers. While that would rule out most contemporary education programs, such an approach to staff development would include, for the first time in my experience, programs in music and fine art, speakers with something important to say about world affairs, stimulating books or the latest scientific advances. What if we began to believe that teachers who are always learning more about their world are more interesting and better teachers who are less prone to "burn out" from the mindless tedium of the way schools operate today. Maybe we will, but I don't blame anyone with doubts.
The dates for spring staff development sessions are as follows:
March 14 & 29
June 5 (Make-up session)
BIG SURPRISE ON CHARTERS
Opponents of charter schools have argued tenaciously that money would be drained from the public schools by these new entities. A recent University of Michigan study suggests that may well be so.
In Michigan, three percent of the school age population participate in the states school choice program with some 34,000 attending one of the 138 charter schools.
The results of the University of Michigan study should surprise no one. Charter schools tend to take the students who are cheaper to educate, leaving behind those who require expensive services. They also tend to center on attracting elementary school students in that secondary education is much more expensive.
A BALANCED DISCUSSION OF BALANCED LITERACY
At the October 13th meeting of the Board of Education, those in attendance heard a report on the districts Balanced Literacy reading program. This was done in the format of a discussion of the characteristics of what was called a Balanced Literacy Classroom.
How it came to be that we have this reading program or exactly what the program entails could not be discerned from the report. And herein lies the problem. In a mad and maddening attempt to regularize reading instruction in all of our elementary classrooms, someone has decreed that the unifying idea is balanced literacy. But how, you may ask, can a unifying idea be one which no one having anything to do with the program - from administrator to teacher- can explain. Thats what we need to find out.
At the last meeting of the PCT Executive Board, PCT President Morty Rosenfeld asked the SRC Reps to canvass their buildings for members who would like to work on a union committee to undertake to bring some sanity to the districts reading program. Said Rosenfeld, "Were looking for a group of members to work with the officers of our union as they engage the superintendent and the Board of Education in finding a consensus on how we do reading instructing in this district."
Members interested in working on this important committee should submit their name to their SRC Representatives.
The 3,200-member New York State Psychological Association has reached an affiliation agreement with AFT. The mostly private practice psychologists will become associate members of the union. AFT President Sandra Feldman said, "This is a new frontier--bringing the benefits of labor movement affiliation to a group of professionals who cannot bargain collectively. As more professionals work as independent agents, we must find creative ways to help them act collectively on behalf of their profession and those they serve."AFT will lobby for the NYSPA in Albany and Washington, D.C., and also will offer a variety of benefits to the psychologists.
PCT leaders were not surprised at the AFT move. Our leaders have for some time been attempting to get our state organization, NEA/New York, into organizing other professional workers, especially health care professionals. NEA, however, has been slow to recognize the benefit to our organization that would come from expanding the job titles we organize.
ED UNIONS BEGIN TO ORGANIZE FOR 2000 ELECTION
Both the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association have launched their election campaigns for the 2000 presidential and congressional elections. The goal is to get members energized to work in the election for candidates who support public education.
Its not too soon for PCT members to begin to think about the election. One need only remember what the power of the education unions did to former Senator Alfonse DAmato to realize that when we are organized, we can be a potent force in a election.
At a time when class sizes need to be reduced, when our nations schools are in desperate need of expansion and repair, when there is a growing shortage of qualified teachers and when the public schools are under attack by voucher mongers and charter school zealots, we need to follow the political scene very closely.
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