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THE TORCH:  APRIL 2004

THE BOTTOM LINE

     Hugh M. Spoljaric, President

              Kingston Teachers’ Federation

                The Posse Rides Again      

     It’s that time of year again. 60 days before the last day of school. That’s the deadline for administration to inform a third year teacher that they have been denied tenure. If it’s the third year and they don’t tell you, then it’s tenure by estoppel (you automatically get it). So, just before the Spring Break, the Crown Street posse was out and about rounding up any suspects that needed to be informed, be they three year members, or two, or four.

     In some select cases, teachers who had attained sparkling reviews over the years were observed by one of the posse for 40 minutes, where upon the deputized observer subjectively declared that the teacher was inept and would be released from service. Whoa! Partner! Ever hear of an APPR? You know, identify the problem, construct a remedy, and then reevaluate using an objective rubric.

     Now, one would think that anyone who was deputized to observe would have passed all of their assessments to perform observations. After all, we just don’t deputize anyone anymore. It’s not the lawless wild west! Gosh! It’s not even Mayberry! And, imagine, after a 40 minute look, they are convicted and hanged without having any priors. Obviously, something is very wrong in river city.

     It was about two years ago that I remember the powers that be declaring that, “We don’t treat people like this in Kingston.” Well, it doesn’t seem to work both ways. These teachers are the latest victims. We have outstanding grievances for exactly the same actions over the past two years. We have teachers at the high school who have not been compensated for additional work since January of 2003. We have teachers who have been charged and suspended or denied tenure for offenses that lack any fact or evidence. It’s the subjective high road and we do treat people like this in Kingston.

     In the last year, there seem to be and more people being deputized. We’re even getting letters from the Board President. If you’ve been put on any committees, you’ve been deputized and the posse will be using you to carry out their plans. Just remember who your friends are and who we are and where you’re allegiance lies.

     With more deputies, the posse grows larger and the rules more diluted and the effect more manipulated. Be vigilant. Stay united!

     And, that’s the Bottom Line.

    DISTRICT DELAYS CONTRACT PROPOSALS

     After declaring that they were prepared to begin contract negotiations and had been ready since January 19, the district has now postponed the exchange of packages. The district notified the KTF that they cannot meet on April 20 and need to move the date to April 27.

     You’ll remember that the board President, with the urging of another Board member, bypassed the duly appointed (Taylor Law) representatives of the members (KTF), and issued a letter. In it, the KTF leadership was chastised for not meeting the contractual deadline for the exchanging of contractual packages. Two months earlier, the KTF and the district’s lead negotiator had agreed on the extension due to the large amount of revisions that were needed to the existing document.

     Unlike the Board, the KTF will not be sending out any letters regarding their latest miscalculation.

    

    

 MIDDLE LEVEL EDUCATION CRISIS

     In the 1970’s, NYSED tried to eliminate Home Economics and Industrial Arts. In 1989, the Regents adopted a policy on Middle Level education. What is middle level education? The federal guidelines state that it is grades 5-8 regardless of where they are housed.                    Since that time, educators have questioned middle level mandates. Now, there is a renewed focus prompted by low scores on assessments, the lack of time for academic intervention services, and the flexibility for “exploratory” courses. Those “exploratory” courses are The Arts, Health Education, Home and Career Skills, and Technology Education. “Exploratory” would refer to the option of ‘flexing portions of those course through grades 5-8. (In other words, only a portion of the course is taught in any one year.)

     The question is: What will improve student performance on the 8th grade tests? The problem is not specific to any state or region, but is a concern of national proportions.

     The options in New York include low performing schools completing specific self-study and peer reviews of their school improvement plan; high performing schools completing specific self study and peer review for new programs; self study for additional flexibility; and any schools not performing self study would have no additional flexibility beyond current regulations.

     The NYSED Strategy for Implementing the Regents Policy Statement on Middle Level Education includes the following.

                                       

     Positive highlights include continued “experimental middle schools” with certification flexibility, continued instruction in all 28 Learning Standards, Reinstatement of Technology Education assessment as mandatory, and Grades 7 & 8 exploratory subjects taught in grades 5 & 6 by certified teachers. Caution is indicated in that gaps could occur in the continuum of study and students must have exposure to more than one of the arts disciplines (visual arts, music, dance, and theater.

      Lowlights (non-positives) include the additional flexibility for high performing schools allows districts to design and implement programs that may not conform to units of study and time requirements and external peer review will be costly, time consuming, and have no state standards. Additionally, NYSUT calls for grade-by-grade curriculum and not aligned, articulated, and integrated grades 5-8.

     The existing flexibility in CR 100.4 says that units of study requirements in grades 7 & 8 may be reduced but not eliminated, for students determined to need academic intervention services. Additionally, the half unit of study in music can be met by participation in band, chorus, or orchestra.. The requirement for Technology Education, Home and Careers Skills, and Library Information Skills can be met by integrating their state learning standards into other courses.

     The concerns are many. They include the impact of changes on Grades 5 & 6 and on the Exploratory courses (the arts; visual arts, music, theater, and dance), Technology Education, Home and Career Skills, and Health Education. The impact on teaching assignments is confusing, especially where new certification areas are now taking place.

     The KTF believes that courses must be taught by teachers certified in those areas and that students must meet prerequisites as defined in CR 100.4 for acceleration (grade 8).

    

                              

 

                                      CRUISE

     Hudson River Cruises dayliner Rip Van Winkle will host a celebration party for all newly tenured teachers in the Kingston Schools on Thursday, May 27, from 4-7 pm. The 3 hour catered cruise will feature entertainment by the Big Smoothies.

     First invitations have gone out to all who have attained tenure since September 2001 (2001-02 and 2002-03). Any members who attained tenure during this time period and did not receive an invitation should contact their Building Rep. ASAP.

     There are 200 teachers who have received tenure during these two years and the KTF will honor their accomplishment.

     May 27 is the last day of school before the Memorial Day week-end as Friday, May 28 will be used as the last unused snow day.

                            KIDS’ CLASSIC

     Everyone is gearing up for Kids’ Classic VII to be held at Dietz Stadium on Saturday, April 24. The KTF has been a major sponsor and participant in the event which features age appropriate races for nursery school through 8th graders. This year, the mile run will be the Kingston Teachers’ Federation Mile Run.

     Race organizer Dann Bigelow stated “The event would never be as successful as it has been without the participation of the KTF. The members should be very proud.”

     Volunteers will receive their race day assignments soon.

                    APPLE GALA/SCHOLARSHIPS

     Information on the Apple Gala and on the Apple Gala and National Health scholarships will be forthcoming in the May issue of The Torch. Also, coming next month will be a ‘simplified’ chart that will assist everyone in understanding key factors in the determination of state aid.

          TURN OFF TV/VISIT THE LIBRARY

     The week of April 19-25 is “Turn Off TV Week.” You may want to join millions of adults and children who will be participating in the event. The week is designed to show families that there are alternatives to the tube.

     The time period coincides with “Visit Your Public Library Week.” Area public libraries are welcoming students and their families to the local library during the week as it provides a viable alternative to the elimination of TV for the week.

 

                     $80 Million Tax Dollars To Sell Us

     According to news reports, the Bush administration is at work spending $80 million of our tax dollars to spin the truth or “educate” us about the Medicare bill. The plan includes $12.6 million for advertising, $37 million to publicize drug discount cards, and $30 million for “beneficiary education.”