Volume XXXX, No. 4 December 4, 2002


By PCT President Morty Rosenfeld

    In the recent elections, it was hard to find a candidate for public office who wasnít for reforming the public schools and bringing modern technology to bear in solving our nationís educational ills. Similarly, there probably isnít a superintendent of schools anywhere who hasnít made a speech about the need to infuse technology in everything our schools do. Across our country, teacher lessons are often being judged by how well they incorporate the use of computer technology, particularly the Internet.

    Putting aside the legitimacy of the techdidactsíargument, it is astonishing to learn that some of these same politicians when they were writing the federal legislation that provided public schools with low cost Internet access, the so-called e-rate, obligated school and libraries with Internet access to "...enforce a policy of Internet safety for minors that includes monitoring the online activities of minors and the operation of a technology protection measure with respect to any of its computers with Internet access that protects access through such computers to visual depictions that are (I)obscene; (II) child pornography; or (III) harmful to minors." With the exception of the phrase "harmful to...," the same language applies to adults with the exception that the filtering software can be turned off in support of "legitimate research."

    If you want to see how this language is interpreted in enlightened school communities like Plainview-Old Bethpage, go to one of the districtís computers, call up a search engine, type the word "breast" and follow one of the links the engine turns up. Bang! Youíve run into BESS, the districtís censor that determines what you, an adult responsible for the learning of others, can read. So you may have wanted some information for your health class on breast cancer, but the district fearful that you might find a picture of a naked breast, says you canít go there from our schools.

    Try some other words. Try some combinations with "sex." See how much information has been shut off.

    The Officers of the PCT have raised this issue with the Superintendent. We have demanded that this intolerable violation of our right as intelligent human beings in a free society to read not be abridged. We have demanded, too that our studentsí rights to read be not so broadly curtailed as to cut them off from information educated people are expected to and need to know.


    The PCT has been forming two committees to address areas of interest and concern to our membership. At the suggestion of the officers of our union, an Electronic Communications Committee will commence its deliberations on December 11, 2002. This committee is charged with developing a policy recommendation to the PCT Executive Board on the use of electronic media to communicate with the parents of the students we teach. It being abundantly clear that more and more parent/school communication will be conducted electronically, our union needs to have a clear and strong voice on how this will be accomplished.

    The PCT has also formed the IEP Direct Committee to look at the changes in working conditions brought about by the advent of the use of new computer software to handle the development of special education individualized education plans. The new program appears to have brought some hardships to some of our members which need to be carefully explored and addressed.

    Any PCT members still interested in joining one of these committees should inform the PCT office of their interest.


    One of the items on the agenda for the December 10 meeting of the PCT Executive Board is a discussion of the new attendance policy adopted by the Board of Education at the start of the current academic year. The PCT was a strong advocate of the policy.

    If you have some ideas about how the policy is or is not working, this would be a good time for you to share them with your SRC Reps who are also your representatives on the Executive Board. The attendance policy changes were a significant part of the PCT agenda to meaningfully raise the academic standards of our district. It is essential, therefore, that we monitor the implementation of this policy to determine the extent to which we may need to advocate for changes in the substance of the policy or its implementation by administration.


    UNITED FOR SWEAT-FREE HOLIDAYS--A coalition of students, religious leaders and union members led by UNITE launched a national campaign to send a message to the apparel maker and retailer Gap Inc. that consumers will not continue to purchase clothing produced under sweatshop conditions. The "Don't Buy Me Gap this Holiday Season" campaign coincides with the release of a new UNITE study which details how Gap systematically drives down wages while exploiting the workers who produce its clothing. In the report, Gap's Global Sweatshop, workers relate experiences of physical and sexual harassment, unsafe and unhealthy working conditions, low and unfair wages and repression of workplace rights. Gap--which sells its casual wear and other apparel under the Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, GapKids and babyGap labels--had sales of nearly $14 billion last year, making it the largest name-brand retailer in the nation and the fifth-largest apparel retailer in the world. As a result of its size, Gap sets the standard for wages in the global apparel industry. For more information, visit www.behindthelabel.org .

    Another anti-sweatshop group, United Students Against Sweatshops, placed ads in newspapers at several leading universities urging shoppers to avoid Gap clothing stores this holiday season. To learn more, visit www.usasnet.org .


    PCT members wishing to make changes to their 403B accounts (tax sheltered annuities) or who wish to start an account need to be mindful of the January 15, 2003 deadline for filing the necessary papers with the Business Office.

    Members of the PCT who began their employment in September or thereafter will want to pay particular attention to this important date. There probably wasnít time for you to do the necessary investigation to open an account in the fall. You do have time now, however. You need to think about the power of pre-tax dollars compounding over the course of your career. Do the math; youíll start an account immediately, even if its with a few dollars per pay period. You could begin to save for retirement with very little impact on your take-home pay. Members owe it to themselves and their families to investigate this contractual benefit today.


    With the turnover in staff in recent years, from time to time the Pledge takes the opportunity to remind PCT members that we represent not only the teachers in our district but the clerical employees, nurses, substitute teachers and librarians at the Plainview-Old Bethpage Public Library. All of the people in these work categories are our members. All belong to the PCT family and must be treated by all members as the brothers and sisters they are.

    We must all support each other in our efforts in the workplace, even though from time to time, like in all families, frictions may develop between members. At such time, we are ethically obligated to remind ourselves of the bonds of solidarity connecting us and how our cooperation with each other is in our self-interest in that it is the source of all of our power to influence what happens in the workplace. Thus, one of the things we always avoid is involving administrators in our internal problems. Experience teaches us that to do so is to not resolve the problem while additionally weakening the bonds that connect us and keep us strong.


    Members beware! Beware of undertaking some extra-curricular assignment without checking to see if the assignment is being done in accordance with our contract with the district. Hereís the latest problem weíve had to unnecessarily fix.

    Several negotiations ago, the PCT made a concerted effort to improve the salaries of those members who do extra-curricular activities. Thatís right, poor as those stipends currently are, they were substantially worse. In addition to getting more money for this work, we convinced the district to develop a system for determining what a particular job should be paid based on the hours of work it required. We also convinced the district to end the practice of cajoling members to share jobs, in that sharing, the district is often getting two or more workers for the price of one. If a job required more than one person, more than one needed to be hired.

    Recently, it became clear that job sharing had resumed. PCT Grievance Chair Judi Alexanderson has been busy putting this situation right, but the simplest way to deal with it is for it never to occur in the first place. Members are asked not to volunteer to accept extra-curricular job sharing and to report attempts to get them to do so to Grievance Chair Alexanderson.


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