THE PCT PLEDGE IS THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF
THE PLAINVIEW-OLD BETHPAGE CONGRESS OF TEACHERS
VOL. XXXXII, NO. 10 APRIL 20, 2005
VICTORY AT LAST
President Morty Rosenfeld
For longer than I care to remember, the merger of NEA/New York and NYSUT (New York State United Teachers) has been on the agenda of the PCT. From the first NEA/New York Delegate Assembly I attended in 1982 when we introduced a resolution to work more closely with pro-education organizations and unions, PCT delegates had one aim in mind - to end the fratricidal struggles between the rival education unions and put their combined brains and muscles to work to the advantage of the members they were created to serve. Weíve waited all these years for both organizations to recognize that there is much more that unites us than has kept us apart. On Saturday, April 16, 2005 over five hundred delegates to the NEA/New York Delegate Assembly, the best attended convention in the history of the organization, came to that realization and voted 78% to 22% to merge with NYSUT and form one great education union in New York. Twenty-five PCT delegates, both active and retired members, traveled to Albany to participate in the making of history for the education labor movement.
The next task is to overcome an impediment placed in the way of our merger by the NEA, our national union, that believes our merger agreement violates one of their by-laws. At the NEA convention in July, a vote will be taken to carve out an exception for New York to this by-law. A campaign is underway to insure passage of this exception.
Assuming the NEA blesses our merger, (It would be profoundly stupid of them not to in that they will lose thousands of members if they do not.) the creation of a committee of NYSUT and NEA/New York members would write a constitution and by-laws for the new organization to be voted on next spring. Upon the ratification of a constitution, the new union would be born in September, 2006. The long struggle to have one great union speaking for education in New York will have been achieved at last.
The PCT and Board of Education continue to seek a settlement on a one year extension of our existing contracts with the district. All but one issue appear to be resolved, but finding a resolution on how to compensate middle school teachers for the additional teaching time they will have when the district implements 26 minute advisory periods next year has proven unexpectedly difficult.
Central to this problem appears to be managementís lack of appreciation for the additional work involved in the preparation and delivery of these extended advisories. To people who donít teach, providing young adolescents with an organized, comfortable environment in which to discuss personal issues and values appears not to require anything more than willingness and empathy. Teachers know, however, that to make a 26 minute period count for something, to make it worth the academic time sacrificed to provide it, requires skilled preparation and professional delivery - the work we provide to earn our living.
Management would like us to give our work away, but PCT members know thatís a slope they canít afford to slip down. We know our work is valuable and insist that it be compensated.
As this is written, the Board of Education has before it a proposal from the PCT that we believe is eminently fair, has an almost insignificant budgetary impact and which if agreed to would allow us to focus our attention on passing the school budget and planning for the implementation of the advisory program next year.
HIGHLY QUALIFIED &N C L B
Many members of the PCT have expressed concerns and anxiety about the requirement of the so-called No Child Left Behind Act that mandates that each of a childís teachers be "highly qualified" or the school district is obliged to inform the parents that their child is being taught by someone who is not highly qualified. This aspect of an altogether pernicious law is of particular concern to special education teachers working in secondary school settings where they are called upon to teach academic subjects that they are not certified to teach.
The good news is that the District is working on modifying a rubric circulated by the New York State Education Department that allows individuals to evaluate their academic background and work experience to determine if they are highly qualified as the law seems to define that term.
The Officers of the PCT have seen a working draft of the rubric. When it is finalized and published, it should calm the waters considerably in that it appears all of our members either are highly qualified already or can easily meet the requirements to be judged so. There is no expectation that NCLB is going to be a significant problem in this regard.
PEKAR MEMORIAL PLANNED
On May 12, at 4:00 PM, the PCT will host a ceremony dedicating the library of the Parkway School to Jackie Pekar, a legendary kindergarten teacher and long-time PCT activist. Active PCT members wishing to attend the ceremony should drop a note or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to the PCT Office expressing their intention to attend. This is necessary so that the PCT can order refreshments for the reception.
DISTRICT BUDGET SET
VOTE ON MAY 17
The Board of Education has adopted a budget that compared to last years reflects an increase of 5.8%. The budget preserves the existing academic programs and provides for an expansion of collaborative education.
Two incumbent members of the Board are running for re-election, Board President Ginger Lieberman and Debbie Bernstein who is running for her own term having run last year to fill the unexpired term of Sharon Dinkes who resigned from the Board to relocate.
Also on the ballot will be a referendum to end the universal transportation policy for grades K-8. This referendum was submitted by a petition of citizens and calls for students to receive transportation if they live the following distances from their school:
K-4 one half mile
5-8 one mile
9-12 one and one-half miles
PCT members are asked to reserve some time on May 15,16 and 17 to do political action work should the Executive Board decide to do so.
ELEMENTARY REPORT CARD TO BE REVISED
Responding to the requests of our members, the PCT has arranged with the District to begin a review and revision of the elementary report card which appears to be no longer closely aligned to curriculum changes that have occurred since it was last revised. The process will begin with a canvass by the District soliciting elementary teachers who wish to work during the summer (at the curriculum writing rate of pay) to produce a draft of a new report card to be presented to teachers when they return in the fall.
Given the fact that the first marking period report card to parents is more "impressionistic" given our limited experience with the children, there will be time for changes to be made to the draft report card prior to the second marking period by which time it must be ready.
PCT members interested in this project should be alert for the canvass.
Members are reminded that if they have not completed their 18 hours of staff development, there are only two opportunities left, May 2 & 5. After that, those missing hours will have to attend make up sessions with their building principals, referred to by some members as serving detention.
PCT members are reminded that not completing their 18 hour contractual obligation exposes them to disciplinary action by the District.
DISTRICT LOOKS AT AUTOMATED SUBSTITUTE CALLING SERVICE
The District has begun to look carefully at an automated substitute teacher calling service provided by BOCES. This computerized service basically does what the current service does, but this service promises greater efficiency and convenience. At a demonstration of the service, PCT and CUPCT Officers and members raised many questions to ensure that it would not be more difficult for our clerical, substitute teacher or teacher members to engage the system and get the service they require.
Among the conveniences offered by the system is the ability of teachers who are going to be absent to notify the district online, even leaving a message for the substitute teacher, perhaps where a lesson plan can be found or some instruction. This can even be done months in advance if one knows he/she is attending a conference or some other meeting. This option can be done by telephone as well.
For substitutes, they can log in, either by computer or phone, and indicate the days they are available to work. They can also go online in the morning and claim any opening that has not been filled. The machine calls them from priority lists established by the district just as happens now, except that it happens instantaneously during prescribed hours.
As of this date, the District appears to want to try the service next year. They need not make any long term commitment. If the service proves problematical, we can easily go back to the old way.