By PCT President Morty Rosenfeld

     For several years, the PCT has been trying to get our district to examine our academic standards - to grapple with difficult questions about what we are teaching and what we expect of our students and ourselves. We have begun to do that through the recently established Academic Standards Committee composed of Kennedy Social Studies Teacher Marty Buchman, Central office staff Marty Brooks, Pat Kriss and PTA officers Lori Weinstein and Fran Wandy and me.

    While itís not my purpose here to report on the details of our committeeís deliberations, I would be remiss if I didnít note the very open and honest atmosphere of our meetings and my rather clear perception that there are broad facets of the issue of academic standards on which significant consensus can be reached. But thatís to come.

    Our committee has reached a point in its work where the complexity of what we are seeking to accomplish obligates us to form sub-committees to bring in the ideas of others. Here are the areas we have decided to investigate in sub-committees composed of PCT members, administrators and parents.

    A 7-12 sub-committee will be recruited to work with the staff to devise a process for developing accurate, informative course syllabi that will delineate what a student will be required to do. The PCT will be represented by 5 classroom teachers and 1 guidance counselor.

    A K-12 sub-committee will delve into the issue of student placement in classes. While they will begin and perhaps end as one sub-committee, much of their work will be done by dividing in two, with a K-6 group looking how students are recommended for accelerated middle school classes and placement options that would reduce the disruption of pullouts and a 7-12 group examining how tracking decisions are made and student self-selection. We will be represented by 1 teacher from each elementary and middle school and 5 secondary school teachers drawn from the core academic areas. We will additionally have a person from the PPS department.

    Another sub-committee will be asked to look at the impact of the stateís tests on our academic standards. Have they become the de facto and have we "dumbed down" our curricula and instruction to teach to these tests. Central to the charge of this sub-committee will be recommendation for how we might teach to high standards while achieving outstanding state test results. This will at least begin as a totally professional committee. The PCT will be represented by 8 teachers.

    Finally, we will form a sub-committee to work with the Data Warehouse to investigate how well we are serving our special education, ELL, low socio-economic and minority students. The PCT will be recruiting 7 classroom teachers and 2 PPS people to represent us on this group.

    We have so much to do, but I donít recall any committee work more important to us. At the PCT Executive Board next week, I will be talking to your SRC Reps and asking them to help me recruit you to serve on one of these sub-committees. How great it would be if you would volunteer first. We have gotten every constituency in our district to say they are willing to think about academic standards. We donít dare miss this opportunity to embrace their willingness.


    At their November meeting, the Board of Directors of NEA/New York voted to approve the Principles of Merger negotiated with New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and to recommend adoption of the document by the Delegate Assembly in April. Although passage by the Board was expected, what was unanticipated was the overwhelming pro-merger vote. Fifty-one (51) of the fifty-seven (57) members of the Board cast their votes to move the merger forward. While the Board has favored merger over the years, support for it has never been this broad. The very positive vote by the Board should be helpful in getting the convention to adopt the Principles of Merger by the necessary two- thirds vote.


    As part of its effort to bring about the merger of the stateís two education unions, the PCT has recruited ten of the members of our Retiree Chapter to run for Retired Delegate to the convention. Should they be elected as we believe they will, the PCT Executive Board has authorized an amount of up to $4000 to cover their expenses on the trip to Albany. Together with the officers, this will give the PCT approximately 20 pro-merger votes in April.


    For those interested in the details of the merger agreement, the PCT has obtained a copy of the PowerPoint presentation made to the NEA/New York Board of Directors by Vice-President Matt Jacobs. It is available online at pobct.org. It is in a question and answer format and answers most of the questions members are likely to have.


    Acting on a motion by the Kennedy SRC, the PCT Executive Board adopted policy calling for the banning of student cell phone use. In the debate on the motion, Executive Board members expressed their concerns for the disruptions caused by students whose phones often go off in class, who take candid pictures with them of teachers and students and who use the devices to share information during testing and quiet study sessions.

    Following the adoption of the policy in student cell phones, the PCT raised the issues with Superintendent Brooks at the November PCT/Superintendent meeting. The Superintendent indicated he would look into the issue. The officers will raise it again at the next monthly meeting.


    All of the PCTís contracts with the school district expire at the end of June, 2005. The officers of the PCT have been exploring the possibilities of another rollover contract in the belief that everyoneís interests would be best served in these difficult economic times for public school districts.

    While the efforts to explore a rollover will continue, the PCT will begin our regular negotiations process after the New Year when we will distribute Demand Questionnaires to all of our bargaining units and set a date for a General Membership meeting to put together our formal package of demands to be presented to the Board of Education.

    Members should begin thinking about what they would like to see in a fully negotiated contract.



    The following report was submitted by Lina Seaton and Nikki Guerin, POBís delegates to the annual convention of the New York State Teachers Retirement System

    Our responsibilities as your representatives involve attending the Annual Delegate Conference which offers a variety of seminars regarding retirement benefits and new and upcoming state legislation for Tiers 1 through 4. For example, the following legislation was passed in 2004 by the New York State Legislature:

    Earnings in Retirement Limit: Increases the earnings limit for New York State public employment under Section 212 of the Retirement and Social Security Law to $27,500 for calendar year 2004. Effective date: January 1, 2004.

    Elimination of Pension Reserve Transfers: Eliminates the requirement that pension reserves be included in membership transfers between NYSTRS and other public retirement systems in New York State. Effective date: October 26, 2004.

    Some other pending legislation that would affect retirement benefits includes:

    Eligibility for Lump Sum Benefit: Extends to June 30, 2005, Chapter 167 of the laws of 2003, authorizing NYSTRS to pay an actuarially determined lump sum in lieu of an annual retirement benefit of $2,400 or less.

    Service Credit for Members on Medical Leave: Would enable members to receive service credit, up to maximum of 12 months if they are on leave without pay due to an injury or disease deemed compensable by the Workerís Compensation Board.

    We realize that many of you have questions concerning your tier membership benefits or the retirement process, and we will be more than happy to provide you with literature we have gathered from these workshops, as well as other contact information to assist you. One very valuable resource is the NYSTRS web site (www.nystrs.org). This is your best source of up-to-date information about your retirement benefits. It is also a convenient way to calculate your benefits, view schedules, and print forms and publications. In addition, you can reach an NYSTRS representative that is willing to work with you on an individual basis at 800-348-7298 ext. 6250.


    Would you like to help a needy child this holiday season? The students of P4K in Brooklyn are special needs children who face the challenges of disabilities, under funded city schools, unstable family situations and poverty. Their social worker, Beth Levine, organizes donors every year to help these children who have so little have a happier holiday season. Typically, the things Beth requests for them include items such as coats and shoes; she says the children get really excited over new underwear--- usually, the ultimate reject gift to a more privileged middle class child. If you would like to purchase clothing or a toy for one of the P4K kids, contact Jane Weinkrantz in the high school English department at janegw@optonline.net.


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