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                       THE TORCH:  APRIL 2005


     Hugh M. Spoljaric, President

              Kingston Teachers’ Federation

                               The End Is Near

     The latest movement for accountability in education is an ever-increasing sand dune that is now about 15 years old. This year, add in the new SAT featuring a 25-minute essay, written in the unique handwriting of each student. Who is going to decipher and correct these papers? It’s worth 800 points on a 2400-point test. What will it tell us? Isn’t it just more of the same thing? It’s one more grain of sand on the dune.

     Doesn’t it seem like it’s just a pacifier for those who demand more and more testing? In the end, someone will declare, “See, I told you so!” The problem is that all of us in education are a part of this lab experiment that has more to do with politics than it does with education. Standards and goals, No Child Left Behind, and NYS mandated-for-graduation tests may serve a purpose in school systems where there is no accountability, but do we all have to compromise our educational methods and creativity for the sake of survival? Sadly, the answer seems to be “Yes, more than ever!”

     Those who want us to jump through hoops have gotten their wish. They can say that they’ve won. The adjustable rubrics allow scores to increase and the fundamentalists can puff their chests and pound their fists in righteousness. More than likely, the reality is that the educational community, by ultimately accepting the immediate dictates and controlling some agendas, will survive the debacle. While outwardly compromising some values and positions, our educational leaders have always believed that it’s necessary to ‘fight the good fight’ for those things that are important to us. Yet, discretion is important and we must pick and choose the right battles to fight. Let them add another grain of sand and it will collapse the dune. We all knew the Math A test was the problem, but politics allowed it to continue for way too long. Some testing will stay, but much of it will become part of the cultural history of education. The controlling group will have their way, declare victory, never admit defeat, and move on to another agenda. Survival is only compulsory when one desires to survive. We are educational survivors.

     And, in the end, what does it all mean? It means that the foundation of the dune is intact.  We have weathered their storm. As their political creditability wanes and their hypocrisy is exposed, we can begin to take larger and firmer steps and to stand strong on more of our ideals. We can reconstruct the dune. The good news is that it’s started to happen. The end of the 15 years of reactionary leadership is near. Our time is near and we can seize it. 

     And, that’s the Bottom Line.

                               KIDS’ CLASSIC IX

     Dietz Stadium will be filled with enthusiastic kids on the morning of Saturday, April 30, as KIDS’ CLASSIC IX takes center stage.

      The age-appropriate races for Nursery school through 8th graders awards every participant with an award recognition. The classic mile event for 8th graders is the KINGSTON TEACHERS’ FEDERATION MILE. The success of the race is due to the expert organization by Race Director Dann Bigelow, the staff at the YMCA of Ulster County, and the large number of wonderful volunteers from the KINGSTON TEACHERS’ FEDERATION.

     Soon, all KTF members will receive an invitation to volunteer for a two-hour slot at the Kids’ Classic. Not only is it worth 50 Key To Fun points, but it provides an opportunity for teachers, ESP members, substitutes, and retirees to network with the community on behalf of the KTF. Newer hires are especially encouraged to volunteer and to network with the other community volunteers and parents. It’s an opportunity to work with kids outside of the school setting. So, when the opportunity presents itself, think about grabbing a buddy, picking a two-hour slot, and having a great day?


    The KTF Teachers’ Negotiating Team now has 112 hours of time dedicated to the negotiating of a new collective bargaining agreement. There are a handful of items that remain outstanding. Almost all of them are of an economic nature. As you have directed us, we will work for the charge that you have given us. There are two sessions scheduled with the district during the first three weeks of April.

                   BOARD OF EDUCATION PROPOSALS    

     District initiatives relating to the adoption of a new middle school schedule and a new elementary school report card will be on the agenda for the Board of Education meeting on April 6. The Board may vote to adopt both proposals at the meeting.

     KTF members are requested to attend the meeting if they have reservations about the proposals. It will be an opportunity for teachers and teaching assistants to be heard. There has been much discussion about the issues and the Board will consider all concerns before voting.

                          MEMORIES FOR TOM HOBART

     NYSUT President Tom Hobart will not seek reelection to the office that he has held for 33 years as the only President that NYSUT has known. He will officially retire as of June 30. His office asked each local to respond with some union history for his ‘Memory Book’. KESP President Joan White offered the following from the KTF archives. It has been edited for brevity.

Dear Tom,

     Thirty plus years ago, the ESP in Kingston were known as ESKA and they were in bargaining with the district. NYSUT was a new organization and ESKA was not yet officially affiliated with them. The Superintendent and his staff referred to them as “the girls.’ As negotiations dragged on, “the girls” began to talk about the ‘S’ word, as in strike! They mapped out a strategy, made signs, coordinated workers, and, finally, walked!

     Department heads became lunchroom monitors, phones went unanswered, and college applications sat on the shelf. Principals scrambled to cover classrooms that needed teacher aides.

     Then, along came help in the person of NYSUT Field Rep Fred Ott. He assumed the bargaining for ‘the girls’ of ESKA as they became a chapter of the KTF. By Friday of that week, there was a settlement. Why?

     Kingston High School was the regional site of one of the largest SAT exams in the state. The SAT’s were to be delivered to Kingston High School by United Parcel Service. The Kingston district told UPS that they would pick them up and deliver them to KHS. UPS refused and stated that the exams had to be delivered to KHS. When the UPS union drivers arrived at KHS, they refused to cross the picket lines of ‘the girls’ and the tests would not be delivered. Therefore, a settlement was reached.

     For many members, both ESP and teachers, it was their first union involvement. Today, we are a proud chapter of the Kingston Teachers’ Federation and we are now called the Educational Support PROFESSIONALS, a title well deserved.

     We thank you, Tom Hobart, for your leadership over all these years. You have brought us the status we now enjoy.

     We wish you Good Luck, Good Health, and Good Times.

                                             In Unity,

                                            Joan White, President, the ESP of Local 781




                                 REGENTS PROPOSAL

     There is a recent proposal made by the Board of Regents that will phase-in 65 as the passing grade for Regents exams.  The proposed schedule is as follows.
Students entering grade 9 in:
* 2005-06 would be required to pass 3 exams at 65, while achieving a 65   average on all 5 required exams.
* 2006-07 would be required to pass 4 exams at 65, while achieving a 65 average on all 5 required exams.
* 2007-08 would be required to pass all 5 required exams with a grade of at least 65.
     NYSUT has serious concerns about this proposal.  Under the current requirements, a student can graduate with a 55 average score on all Regents exams. This proposal increases the passing average required to graduate from 55 to 65 in one year, and in many instances, would require some students to score significantly higher than 65 in the remaining subjects to maintain a 65 average for all of the Regents exams.
     NYSUT supports an appropriate phase-in of the 65 passing score. While more and more students are passing at 65, those scoring between 55-64 require substantial additional support.  Implementing the 65 passing score on this accelerated schedule will create additional pressures on this group of students, particularly on English Language Learners and students with special needs.  Currently, almost 40% of students in Urban districts score below 65 on the Regents exam.  Moving to 65 as the minimum pass score too quickly could result in many students giving up and leaving school.
     NYSUT proposes a measured phase-in of the 65 passing score that would allow schools and students time to make necessary adjustments.  We are suggesting that students entering 9th grade would have to pass:
* One exam at 65 in 2005-06;* Two exams at 65 in 2006-07;
* Three exams at 65 in 2007-08;* Four exams at 65 in 2008-09; and
* Five exams at 65 in 2009-10.
     A minimum average would not be required in any year. 

                              KTF ELECTIONS

     The biennial election of KTF Officers, Building Reps, and At-Large Reps will be held on Tuesday, May 24, 2005, from 2:30-4:00 pm in the KHS Cafeteria.

     Any eligible members may declare his/her candidacy for a position by submitting his/her name, position desired, school, grade level, subject taught, other school district non-teaching work experience and/or community service, and a resume of previous teacher organization responsibilities. All submissions should be sent to the Chairperson, Linda Still at KHS before May 4, 2005.

     KTF positions to be filled include: President, First Vice-President, Second Vice-President, Chairpersons of standing committees, Building Representatives from each building, and five (5) At-Large representatives. Building Representatives shall number one (10 from each elementary school; two (2) from each middle school: and four (4) from Kingston High School. There shall be no nominations from the floor.

    All resumes will be published in the May edition of The Torch.