Volume XXXX, No.6 May 7, 2003


By PCT President Morty Rosenfeld

    In this monthís TeacherTalk column on the PCT Web Page, I explain in some detail what I believe the recent NEA/New York elections were about and what the results say for the future of our state organization. Realizing that many of our active and retired members are not internet surfers, Iíve arranged to reprint my article here, believing as I do that the results of the recent elections have profound implication for the PCT. Without further introduction, here it is. I would be very interested to have your responses. MR

    When I decided to run for the Presidency of NEA/New York, I had essentially two goals - to advocate an agenda for fundamentally changing the direction of that floundering organization and, if elected, to bring some sound management systems and procedures to a bureaucracy in which management and staff appear totally unconnected to any discernable mission. Along with Matt Jacobs and Larry Ruth, we set about trying to convince the leaders of NEA/New York of the need for profound change if its future is to be any other than dim.

    Any sober analysis of the election results yields the ineluctable conclusion that the delegates were uninterested in change. I can easily accept the delegates rejecting my candidacy. However, Matt Jacobs who was elected by a handful of votes, was almost defeated by a very nice person with absolutely no experience to even remotely qualify her to lead a union of the size of NEA/New York, especially a union facing the daunting problems that beset this one. Then, too, the rejection of Larry Ruth, a committed leader of our organization since its birth for a person who has never offered an idea on any issue is about as clear a message of a suicidal clinging to the status quo as can be imagined.

    As important as the officer election was a proposed constitutional amendment that would have permitted NEA/New York to organize workers in educationally related job titles like librarian, school bus driver and health care workers at teaching hospitals. For the fourth year in a row, the two thirds vote constitutionally necessary for passage could not be obtained, even though the only possible long range solution to the financial problems of the organization is to grow and even though we have been approached by workers in these job titles who wish to belong to our union. Once again, there were enough of those who tenaciously struggle to keep things the way they are, despite the fact we have been losing substantial numbers of members and in all likelihood will lose more to layoff in these very difficult economic times.

    While I have enormous respect and confidence in the intelligence and skill of Matt Jacobs, his addition to the leadership team as best will improve some things at the margins. The simple fact is that there is too much wrong with the organization for one person to fix, let alone one person who essentially derives his authority from the president of the organization. The problems grow bigger each day. Even before the new officers are installed, we learned that the Adirondack Faculty Association of over one hundred members voted to leave dissatisfied enough to pull out and not a single elected leader or staff member seems to have known about it.

    Why is there such a reluctance to change even in the face of such demonstrable need for it? Despite the charge against them that they are ultra-liberal radicals, the fact is that people in education are a rather conservative lot in the strict sense of that term. They just donít like change. It scares them. However to this explanation must be added what I believe to be an even more sad truth. Too many leaders of NEA/New York oppose change because they fear a loss of a place for themselves in a changed organization. If things start changing perhaps there will be fewer meetings for them to attend, fewer stays in posh hotels, fewer plane rides around the state, fewer meals at the membershipís expense. Change might bring with it not being considered as important as one currently is. The contemplation of change requires thinking about what would best serve the members in our schools and putting their interests above those of their leaders. Too many appear incapable of doing that. These same leaders are almost always the ones who lament the fact that too many of our members appear unconnected to either their local or state organization. With leaders like these, I canít blame them.


    As this was written, the New York State Legislature had created and passed its own budget substantially increasing state aid to education and health care, two budget categories decimated by Governor Patakiís budget. They also appear to have the votes to override a veto should the Governor choose to exercise this right.

    It was the intense political action work of union members in education and health care that moved the legislature, including many Republicans to defy a politically powerful Governor. PCT members wrote hundreds of letters and e-mails to the Governor, and the leaders of both the Assembly and Senate.

    The next job that PCT members need to gear up for is passing the POB school budget, a budget that preserves all of our programs and which keeps us all employed. SRC Reps will be contacting members to sign up for our PCT phone bank operation. Between Sunday, June 1 and Tuesday, June 3, PCT members will need to make approximately four thousand phone calls in the effort to pass the proposed budget. Because of reduced state aid, the budget carries with it a large tax increase, so passage of it in these difficult times is not assured.

    We will also be supporting Executive Board endorsed candidates for the Board of Education and Library Board of Trustees along with the library budget. Evy Rothman and Jon Mosenson are running for re-election and are deserving of our support. Both have worked very hard to change the atmosphere that has characterized labor management relations in POB with considerable success.

    PCT members in the POB Public Library proposed support for public library trustee candidates Arthur Cooper, a resident of POB for some twenty-eight years, who is a retired school librarian from the Mineola Public Schools and Mike Polansky, an incumbent trustee who has been of great help in working with the PCT to improve working conditions at the library. The PCT Executive Board concurred with their recommendation.

    Talking about the June 3rd election, PCT President Morty Rosenfeld said, "We have a big and very important job to do that will require the effort of every PCT member. PCT members need to respond to the call as though their jobs and programs depend on budget passage because they do."


    The Staff Development Committee has informed the PCT that beginning June 1, members can review the staff development offerings for the 2003-04 school year and make their selections on-line at MyLearningPlan.com


    A reminder to all members that SRC elections should be scheduled now for June. Any member in good standing is eligible to run for this position. Members of the SRC represent the membership of their building with building administration and once a month at the PCT Executive Board, the policy making body of our union. Members choosing to run for this very important job should ideally be committed to attending the ten Executive Board meetings during the school year. Only in this way can they stay on top of the issues and provide their members with the best information and service.


    Officers of the PCT and central administration have been discussing the possibility of a pilot mentor/intern program for next year to aid in the assimilation of five new teachers to be hired for September 2003. While some details must still be worked out and Board of Education approval obtained, given the lateness of the date, the PCT Officers are asking teacher members who might be interested in mentoring a new teacher to convey their interest to the PCT Office in writing.

    Candidates for mentoring positions need to be aware conferencing with interns will take place during a common prep period both teachers will have and at other times of mutual convenience. There will also be scheduling arrangements made to allow interns to observe the classes of mentors and mentors to watch interns. There will be a stipend to the mentors to compensate them for the loss of their prep and other time which will have to be made up outside of the school day.

    The exact details of the program will be made available as soon as the program is approved.


    Teacher members contemplating retirement this year are reminded of the contractual obligation to inform the district by May 15 to ensure receiving payment for unused sick leave in the first payroll in July. Members also need to be reminded that it is now clear that there will not be a retirement incentive this year.


    Each year the New York State Teachers Retirement System holds a convention where issues related to the retirement system are discussed. Under the rules of the system, POB is entitled to two representatives. For the past two years, we have been represented by Cathy Carman and Christina Visbal.

    We have been notified by the system that it is time to elect our delegates for the next two years. Members who are interested in retirement issues and would like to represent POB at next yearís convention in Albany on November 16 and 17 should notify the PCT Office by May 16. Delegates must have a willingness to share in writing what they learn at the convention with the POB staff.


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