Volume XXXXI, No.2 September 16, 2003


By PCT President Morty Rosenfeld

Dear Alfie,

    How fortunate for me and the children I teach that you were the keynote speaker on the first day of the new school year. After thirty-seven years of teaching, how lucky I am that you came to free me from the systematic abuse I have heaped on the students I was paid to teach. To show you just how far out of things Iíve clearly been, I actually thought I had done an outstanding job. God, I feel so guilty for all the wrongs Iíve done.

     Alfie, Iím profoundly sorry for thirty-seven years of making students read works of literature that most of them never wanted to read. Shakespeare, Chaucer, Hawthorne - why Iíve even forced students to read Whitmanís Leaves of Grass, forcing them also to study for exams and write critical papers on these and other classics. Whatever could I have been thinking ? I donít recall a single time I asked my students what they wanted to read. I am guilty.

    Iím guilty, too, of having loved what I was doing. How sadistically perverse to derive pleasure from making others meet standards that they did not set for themselves, demanding that they attempt intellectual tasks that they were unsure they could complete, demanding that they think logically and express their ideas in lucid, appealing prose. Iím mortified to admit that I have even taught English grammar to many of my students showing them, I thought, how this knowledge could be used to tighten up oneís writing and make it a more effective medium of communication. Imagine how guilty I feel now.

    Worst of all, I have pig-headedly believed that by knowing as much about my field as I could, by showing my love and appreciation of art and ideas, I naively and pridefully believed that I could inspire young people to be clearer thinking, more informed, better citizens. How terrible I feel now that I understand that my impulses were anti-democratic. Itís clear to me now that I and others like me are probably responsible for the waning sense of civic responsibility over the past few decades.

    I donít know if I can change, but Iím bound to try. I spent forty-two minutes in two classes this morning talking to my students about what they wanted to learn. Interestingly, a consensus has yet to emerge, but I am committed to as much time as it takes. Your talk has suggested other changes as well. In my new role as the facilitator of learning, Iíll not lecture any more. Neither will I spend all of those hours correcting the papers my students write, having become convinced that all those red marks donít teach anyone anything. Iíll stop telling students that they are wrong or ill-informed in favor of an approach that democratically views all thoughts, no matter how tortured and impacted, as of equal worth and deserving of praise for the effort that went into their construction. I will be able to make these changes because you have freed me from the ridiculously stupid notion that my job as a teacher is to pass on whatís best in our culture to succeeding generations.

    Thank you again for setting me free.


    Donít forget October 2!! At 4:00 PM on that day, the PCT will host its annual party to honor those of us who retired in June and welcome those who have replaced them. Attendance at this event has been growing and growing. This being a negotiating year, the party has even greater significance. In such years, its even more important to get all of our members together and remind ourselves of the bonds of solidarity that make us a very special union.

    Share some good food and drink. Lift your spirits and have an all-around good time at the Woodbury Country Club on October 2.


    At it September meeting, the PCT Executive Board appointed Jolynn Gabel of the Pasadena School as Interim Elementary Vice -President. This action was taken pursuant to the PCT Constitution and was initiated by the resignation of Lori Stitt who resigned at the conclusion of the last school year for personal reasons.

    A meeting of all elementary SRC reps has been called for Tuesday, September 30, 2003 to recruit a candidate to complete Stittís unexpired term which ends in June, 2004.

    Any elementary teacher interested in running for this position is eligible. To do so requires a call or note to the PCT Office to obtain a nominating petition.


    Often spouses, or people claiming to be spouses of members call the Welfare Fund Office requesting information concerning benefits belonging to a member. The staff of the Welfare Fund cannot answer their questions. They have no way to validate that the spouse is speaking with the memberís authority. To protect the members and the Fund, it is imperative that questions about benefits or claims for benefits be addressed directly to the office by the members only. That is the only way we can assure the privacy of member information.


    By the time members receive this edition of the Pledge, members of the Teacher and Clerical Units should have received a Contract Survey form. This is one of the vehicles used by our Grievance Officer Judi Alexanderson to determine if there are any violations of our contracts with the district.

    This year the Teacher Contract Survey asks teacher members to give the PCT Office an accurate copy of their schedule including prep periods and duty assignments. This information is needed not only to make sure that all schedules are contractually correct but the information is important for our unionís preparation for negotiations later in the school year.

    Members are asked to return their completed form to their SRC Reps by September 26.


    For the sixth straight year, the PCT in cooperation with TRACT, our teacher center, has distributed childrenís books to all of our beginning kindergartners. The books are sent home with the children with a letter asking parents to be sure to use them to build the habit of reading to children, an activity known to promote life-long reading.

    This program, among others, is one of the many things the PCT does to build positive relationships with the parents of our students. For many of the parents of kindergartners, receiving one of these books is their first awareness of the PCT. In this way we begin our relationship on a positive note.


    When we realize that weíve never done it before, our plan for getting in compliance with the federal law that mandates that all school personnel who interact with students who have IEPs must have those documents explained to them before they begin to work with the students was a success. While there were some glitches largely owing to the lack of preparation of necessary materials over the summer, by and large the implementation of the plan developed essentially by a committee of regular and special ed teachers worked better that most people expected. The extraordinary cooperation between teachers made a very difficult job bearable and productive. Congratulations to all who made it work.


    For many years, the PCT has sent a representative to all PTA Council meetings to inform the leaders of the PTA about the positions of our union on matters of mutual concern. Kennedy High School English Teacher and SRC Representative Lauren Harple has agreed to assume these duties for the 2003-04 school year. Harple replaces Kennedy High School Math Teacher and SRC Chair Michael Wyler who served in the position for several years.


    For the past few years, NEA/New York, our state organization, has been plagued by difficulties to the point that there has been a slow but steady stream of local unions leaving it for other affiliations, mostly with New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) the affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the state organization with whom NEA/New York supposedly has a "no-raid" agreement.

    The fiction of a "no-raid" agreement is apparently to be made clear here on Long Island when teachers in the Deer Park local vote on September 24 on whether to disaffiliate with NEA/New York. Given the fact that the Deer Park local leadership is supporting disaffiliation, it seems entirely likely that it will happen.

    The anticipated departure of Deer Park will aggravate the already severe problem of attempting to provide a full panoply of union services on the dues revenue raised from a shrinking membership base.

    The leaders of the other NEA/New York locals on Long Island will be meeting on October 8, 2003 to discuss the events in Deer Park and their ramification for the rest of us.



    Currently in its eighth year, the Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher Program (FMF) is a unique grant opportunity enabling U.S. primary and secondary school educators to travel to Japan. During their three-week stay, participants study and experience the Japanese culture and educational system first hand. To date, the FMF program, which is fully funded by the Government of Japan, has awarded 4,100 fellowships to U.S. teachers and administrators. The deadline for the 2004 FMF competition is December 10, 2003. Those interested may apply via the online application at or contact FMF at 1-888-527-2636.



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