THE PCT PLEDGE IS THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE PLAINVIEW-OLD BETHPAGE
CONGRESS OF TEACHERS
Volume XXXIX, No. 4 November 28, 2001
THE WORKPLACE AND THE INTERNET
By PCT President Morty Rosenfeld
With the management of our district clearly promoting the expanded use of e-mail in our work, we need to give some thought to the possible ramifications of using this relatively new tool in the workplace.
In December of 1998, I wrote a piece on the dangers of exchanging e-mail with students. This piece grew out of an actual experience where a tenured teacher was fired on the evidence of e-mails he had written to a student which the student had logged and which were later discovered by the students parents. As many of our members have been hired since then, I though it would be useful to repeat it.
A WORD OF WARNINGA thousand years ago when I began to teach, I would occasionally get a phone call at home 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 specter 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 childs 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.
PUBLIC LIBRARY REFERENDUM
On December 12, 2001, the Plainview-Old Bethpage Public Library will hold a referendum on a proposed bond issue which if passed would permit the library to expand its facilities. The proposed expansion would include a lecture/program facility and a doubling of the space devoted to the family center.
The Plainview-Old Bethpage Library Association, a functional unit of the PCT, and the PCT Executive Board have voted to support the referendum and to actively work for its passage. The need for additional space at the library has been apparent for some time. A very significant factor in the growth of that need has been the expansion of the school district and increasing demands of the districts students for research materials. The POB Public Library is one of the most utilized public libraries in Nassau County.
The PCTs support of the public library referendum will take the form of a phone bank operation to turn out the vote. SRC Reps have been recruiting members to make calls on December 10, 11 and 12. Each school has been assigned a particular day for calling. All PCT members are urged to sign up for this important political action work today.
Once again, Newsday has published state test scores, and once again these scores probably receive much more attention than they deserve.
For Plainview-Old Bethpage the news is almost all good, with outstanding results in English and mathematics at the fourth grade and high school levels. Middle school results fell significantly and are appropriately of some concern. In fact, the Board of Education spent portions of two meetings reacting to the drop in middle school scores. Being political people, they know that the taxpaying public doesnt want esoteric discussions of the validity of the tests. They want as good results as their neighbors in Syosset and Jericho.
The Officers of the PCT have taken the poorer than expected middle school scores very seriously and have begun to meet with the teachers of these children to determine the cause of this problem. While there are probably many factors that contributed to these results, and while some may be difficult to pin down, there are several areas that are reasonably apparent and which require immediate attention.
High class sizes in too many of our middle school classes does not contribute to the classroom environment necessary to raise the scores of our weaker students. The district is rightly proud of the results of our high school lab students. Surely a significant factor in their success is that they attend classes of approximately fifteen students or less from 9th grade through 11th..
Teachers complain of severe shortage of materials specifically designed to practice the skills measured by the eighth grade assessments. They also point out that their students do not take the tests seriously as there are no discernable consequences to them for doing poorly. We have had honor roll students who scored twos on a scale of one to four. Scoring the exams in-house also requires careful consideration. Most other districts send the tests out to be scored where they probably read more leniently.
The Officers of the PCT have already met with central administration to begin a discussion of how to respond to these scores. They have proposed setting aside some staff development time, preferably a half day or two to grapple with getting the scores up when the current eighth graders take the exams this spring.
BOARD SETS GOALS FOR YEARAt their meeting of November 19, 2001, the Board of Education adopted their goals for the 2001-02 school year. They are as follows:
1 - The Board of Education will establish a process and procedure for effective communication between the board and community and the board and elected officials.
2 - The Board of Education will explore all possible sources of income and contributions to maximize the districts resources.
3 - The Board of Education will promote within itself a clear understanding of the middle school concept.
4 - The Board of Education will develop and maintain a "Board of Education Member" Handbook.
Earlier in the year, the PCT submitted its suggestions for district goals. They were:
1 - Promote an appropriate role for parents in our schools distinct from that of the professional staff.
2 - Review current reading programs with the view of building a cohesive reading program.
3 - Explore the possibility of creating an in-district childcare program for the members of the staff.
4 - Create a sensible, staff-supported professional development program.
5 - Develop a strategy to promote innovation in the classrooms of the district.
6 - Develop and promulgate local academic standards distinct from those of the state.
7 - Explore strategies to improve student attendance and punctuality.
8 - Study the administrative structure of the district to determine the extent to which it may be streamlined.
9 - Monitor and review the districts implementation of the Save Schools Legislation.
10 - Develop a multi-year plan to air-condition the districts classrooms.
Whose goals are more appropriate to the needs of the district?
PCT POLICY BOOK
At the November 13, 2001 meeting of the PCT Executive Board, SRC Reps were presented with a copy of the new PCT Policy Book. Several months in the making, the policy book is an effort by the officers and PCT staff to put together in one available place all of the motions passed at the Executive Board and at general membership meetings since the inception of our union over forty years ago.
Additionally, the book contains copies of all our contracts and other documents that form the legal basis of our working conditions in the district. The policy book is the latest step in the ongoing process of training SRC members to be effective advocates in their workplaces.
RUBIN SCHOLARSHIP ANNOUNCEMENT
On November 26, 2001, the PCT mailed to the parents of all 12th graders announcements of the 2002 PCT Paul Rubin Memorial Scholarship, a $2000 award given each year to a graduating senior of Kennedy High School who has demonstrated promise for leading a life of social conscience and service to others. The award is named for a former President of the PCT and a pioneer in the education/labor movement.
The mailing will be followed up with a distribution of brochures in senior English classes after the New Year. It is hoped that this increased publicity will contribute to a larger pool of applicants. PCT members who come in contact with students who might qualify are asked to encourage them to apply. The award is given in June.
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