THE PLEDGE IS THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE PLAINVIEW -OLD BETHPAGE CONGRESS OF TEACHERS
Volume XXV No. 14 April 1, 1997
THE DIRECTION OF CHANGE
By Morty Rosenfeld
The arrival of a new superintendent in a school district always signals change. There is a political need for new superintendents to distinguish themselves from their predecessors and to confirm for their boards of education that they, in fact, have been correctly selected for their positions. There is, too, usually an objective need for change. There is always something that can be improved upon. No institution as complicated as a school district can ever be said to be running at its optimum.
Thus, it was in no way surprising that Dr. Cavanna's arrival in our district meant that there was going to be a fresh look at the way we go about educating the children of our community. In fact, owing to the outstanding efforts of interim Superintendent Ebetino, the district was poised to do just that. In the few months that he spent with us, he managed to bring the PCT and the Board of Education to a high point in the history of our labor/management relations so that issues could be addressed in ways that accommodated the needs of all parties. We even managed to negotiate a new contract prior to the expiration of the old one, the first time this had happened in the history of collective bargaining in Plainview-Old Bethpage. We were ready to meet the challenges facing our district in a legitimate spirit of cooperation born of mutual respect and appreciation of each other's needs. There was a climate of negotiation, not confrontation.
The challenge to the new superintendent was to grasp the historical significance of this change in the relationship between labor and management and to martial the creative energies it liberated to the task of building an even better district than we have. This isn't happening, and it should be a source of deep concern to us all.
We began the year, new contract in hand, on a high, optimistic and daring to think that our work was appreciated, our thoughts were valued and our cooperation was sought. The past few months have called this spirit of optimism into question. Today, anxiety has replaced optimism as many of us sense that the mission of the new administration of our district is to command and control, to somehow see the staff as the district's major problem and to take administrative steps to curb our militant insistence that we have a significant say in the work that we do.
Suddenly, everything we do is written up for our personnel files, newer staff perceive new, undefined standards for tenure, committees are formed but their reports are written before their work is completed, building administrators confirm their existences by generating self-justifying reams of paper, and no one is more than a parent phone call away from being in need of union representation.
No school district was ever bludgeoned to greatness. No institution ever produced great and lasting things in a climate of fear. Progress is built on mistakes. We need to build a climate in which staff are encouraged to take risks, knowing that their efforts will be supported. Such a climate would allow us to achieve our potential.
LOBBY DAY 97
LEGISLATIVE COCKTAIL PARTY PLANNED
On Tuesday, March 11, 1997, PCT members Morty Rosenfeld, Judi Alexanderson, Helen Cohn, Joe Marcal, Ellen and Irv Smyle and Jackie Pekar went to Albany for NEA/New York's annual Lobby Day. Lobby Day is one of our organization's important opportunities to meet with members of the New York State Legislature on issues facing education in the state.
Among the issues raised with the Long Island delegation this year was the need to increase state aid beyond that called for in the Governor's budget. GovernorPataki's Star Plan touted to bring property tax relief to the citizens of New York will actually reduce state aid to districts like Plainview in that it does not provide for increases in cost from last year. Our meetings with the our leaders in Albany were encouraging in that there seemed to be a clear understanding that more state aid would have to be forthcoming.
Our representatives also lobbied strongly for the establishment of a permanent cost of living increase for members of the Teachers and Employees Retirement Systems. Additionally, our lobbyists registered our opposition to renewable tenure and certification legislation that is now pending.
On April 3, 1997, the Long Island Regional Council (made up of the NEA local on Long Island) will meet with state and federal legislators at a cocktail party to be held at the Maine Maid Inn in Jericho. The PCT will be represented by some of the officers and members of the Executive Board. Here, too, our agenda will be to seek improvements in the funding for education and improvements in our pension systems.
DUBIOUS DIRECTION FOR NEA
If you have been reading the public relations materials of the NEA or the editorial comments of NEA President Bob Chase in NEA Today, you have no doubt been struck by the call for a new direction for our national union. In fact, the call may be to a completely new type of organization, a Heaven's Gate of the labor movement, if you will.
Fresh from his electoral victory at the 96 NEA Representative Assembly, Chase is clearly determined to transform the NEA from a militant defender of labor and civil rights to more of a professional organization of teachers. How else are we to understand his call to go beyond collective bargaining as we have known it - to accept that we have accomplished our mission to improve the economic lives of our members - to find ways to "collaborate with management" (Do you suppose this a Freudian slip?) - to counsel "the problem teacher out of the profession" - in short, to "accept responsibility for the professionalism and competence of [our] members."
Why are we to follow Chase and his new NEA? "How else are will we satisfy the public's impatience for higher quality schools..."
Sounds very much like, "We have met the enemy, and they are us."
WHOLE LANGUAGE ORTHODOXY
A recently released study conducted by Professor Barbara Foorman at the University of Houston concludes that many beginning readers need phonics training if they are to become competent readers. Inner-city Houston first graders were studied, with one group receiving the whole language approach and the other significant phonics instruction. The students who received phonics instruction scored significantly better on standardized reading tests. The author of the study concludes, "Our research shows that many children - a majority of children in the inner cities for sure and many in the suburbs - need explicit instruction about how the alphabet works."
This study is but the latest to challenge whole language orthodoxy. The California Department of Education recently announced the abandonment of whole language instruction in favor of techniques based on phonics. Many of Plainview's teachers have recognized the inadequacies of a totally whole language approach. Perhaps it's time for our teachers to stop smuggling phonics materials into their classrooms and to openly embrace the need to connect the written word to the sound system of our language for our students.
COMPUTERS ARE GREAT
BUT DON'T FORGET PIANO LESSONS
Researchers from the University of California, Irvine and the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh report the results of a recent experiment to measure the relative impact on student reasoning ability of music instruction and computer training.
The pre-school subjects of the experiment were divided into four groups, one receiving 12 to 15 minute individual piano lessons per week plus singing instruction, one receiving 30 minute singing lessons every day and a third group trained on computers. The fourth group received no special instruction.
After six months, tests of reasoning ability were administered. The piano- trained children out-scored the other groups by a surprising 34%.
DEFENSIVE DRIVING COURSE ANNOUNCED
Flyers announcing the PCT's spring offering of a defensive driving course should have reached all buildings by now. Taking this course can remove up to 4 points from an individual's driver's license in addition to a 10% savings on liability insurance.
The defensive driving course will be held on Monday, April 28, 1997 and Thursday, May 1, 1997 from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM in the POB Middle School Choral Room. The cost of the course is $30.00. Members interested in the defensive driving course such send a check made payable to the PCT to our office.
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