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                   THE TORCH:  February 2003

THE BOTTOM LINE

     Hugh M. Spoljaric, President

              Kingston Teachers’ Federation

                           “The AmBush of Public Education”                            

     In the movies, when a character recognizes that it’s a set-up or an ambush, it’s always too late to avoid the inevitable. Only with early recognition could they have been saved. When inspecting the education budget presented by George W. Bush, the inevitable will occur if there is no recognition that we’re being set up for failure.

     On February 3, the President released his $2.2 trillion budget proposal for fiscal year 2004. The common themes in the education proposal are of flexibility, accountability, and choice. There are modest increases in non-defense spending, a move toward privatizing services, and the elimination or consolidation of services. Of specific concern is the direction of federal money for education.

     There is over $758 million in education voucher/choice proposals and tuition tax credits. Nearly half the fund ($301 million) can be directed to private school, with the remaining funds provided for public school choice, charter schools, and magnet school programs.         

Funds that can be used for private schools include:

     $226 million dedicated for refundable tax credits for parents transferring a child from a low-performing public school. The credit covers 50% of the first $5,000 in tuition, fees, and transportation costs. Eligible students would be those that did not make adequate yearly progress for the prior year. There is $75 million for a voucher plan, called a “Choice Incentive Fund” that would give funds to states, school districts, and community-based organizations to provide vouchers that allow students in lo-performing schools to attend higher-performing schools, charter schools, or private schools.

     The budget seems to provide a $2.8 billion (5.8%) increase for the Department of Education, but its misleading. 45 existing programs are eliminated, reducing the accounts by $1.5 billion. Most notable are the Comprehensive School Reform Program and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Another 30 programs are cut, including after-school initiatives, safe and drug free schools, and community technology programs. And, what appears to be good news--$1 billion increases for Title I and IDEA respectively, $75 million for reading programs, and $100 million for mentoring initiatives---really is not. When all programs under the No Child Left Behind Act are added together, the proposal provides $9 million less than Congress authorized for 2004 and is $199 million below the amount needed to maintain purchasing power at the 2002 level.

     The President’s budget does not include funding for a war with Iraq and is projected on an upturn in the economy. With a current deficit of $304 billion, a change in status of either situation will eliminate any possibility of restoring cuts or providing increases. Yet, with depleting funds, the ‘set-up for failure’ mandates continue for public schools. These unfounded mandates are the bait for the privatization and voucher programs to take advantage of the President’s budget agenda. The result may doom public education, as we know it. We must recognize an ambush to avoid the inevitable.

And that’s the Bottom Line.

 

        SAFETY FOCUS SHIFTS

     In 1993, a student shot a teacher at a Walton, NY school in the face. This incident prompted NYSUT to establish the Safety in the Classroom initiative. At the same time, the KTF formed a safety committee to address issues of increasing violence in the schools. Vince Voerg became the chairman and immediately began to address local issues of safety and violence. He has passionately pursued safety issues on behalf of KTF members for the past 10 years. Last week, he announced that he was stepping down. Voerg stated, “The KTF has always been ahead of the curve on safety issues. The programs and rules are now in place. It’s time for existing plans to be fully carried out, and its up to every KTF member to become an active participant and advocate for safety.”

     In 1994, a Superintendent’s Conference Day was dedicated to safety issues. The NY State Police instructed educators on the importance of assessing a situation and of avoiding the escalation of any incident. By 1998, following Columbine, the district stated that safety was a priority and that a task force would be put in place. Unfortunately, despite many hours of devoted time, the district failed to follow through. In fact, the district failed to meet state deadlines when safety committees were mandated. SAVE legislation was enacted in July 2000. In 2001, a district safety coordinator was appointed and a safety response system was instituted.

     Voerg stated, “The KTF has been pro-active in identifying areas of concern and of establishing criteria for a safe workplace for educators and students. With all of the work that has been done, it is now time for the district to fully implement and enforce the existing plans.”

     Every KTF member should use the universal Incident Form to report safety concerns. The completed form should be given to the Principal with a copy to the Building Rep and the member retaining a copy. If the member believes that the issue has not been addressed satisfactorily, they are to file the Incident Report again, this time with the District Safety Coordinator and a copy to the Building Rep.

     Valid concerns can be aligned with existing rules and laws, such as Board policy, Project SAVE legislation, and Codes of Conduct. As Voerg points out, “Members should feel empowered to work together in our schools to assure a safe workplace.”

         MIRIAM’S NEW ROLE

     New Federal regulations for providers of health care are now in effect. Issues pertaining to claim filing and privacy have been addressed by the Trust and by National Health Administrators. As a result, there are new guidelines to be followed by members.

     With electronic filing came Federal HIPAA laws addressing issues of privacy. Each department is required to designate, assign, and bond specific jobs for each administrator. As such, only those designated individuals have the right to access member information.

These new regulations affect the services that Miriam White is allowed to perform for members.

     If member’s contact Miriam relative to issues of privacy, such as procedures, claim’s, billing, compliance, etc., she has to, by law, refer you to the designated individual at National Health. She may assist with general information, such as enrollment and forms, but in all other cases she will transfer you to the designated individual.

     Members may access information on the NHAI website for Kingston at www.nhai.net or through www.nysut.org, Locals on Line, Kingston Teachers’ Federation, National Health.

    HEALTH TRUST INFO

ID CARDS: The new member numbers printed on the new cards apply to the medical coverage only. Members Social security numbers continue to apply to the Merck–Medco prescription drug coverage.

NEW MEDICARE MEMBERS: Any member turning 65 in 2003 should mail a copy of their MediCare card to the Kingston Trust Fund office as well as to Marcia Palladino at Central. Marcia can be also contacted regarding MediCare Part B premiums. 845-339-3000.

     Members are reminded to tell providers of the new claim’s office in Endicott, listed on the new ID Cards. Have your provider scan your new card. Members mailing claims directly to NHA are also reminded to use the new address. Call Miriam at the office for new claim forms or download them from the NHAI web site.

           ULSTER FEDERAL CREDIT UNION

Here are updates on activities at UFCU through May 31.

*January 17-May 3: Bigler-Cioni Scholarships for graduating high school seniors and students currently enrolled in college fulltime.

*January-April 15: Henry Gleich will be taking appointments for the UFCU tax filing service. Appointment times are at the Washington Ave. office on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

*February 1-March 31: Home Equity Loans on sale!

*March 1-April 15: Tax Loan Special—checks must be made payable to NY State or to the IRS.

*March 4, 11, 18: Passport to Retirement seminars with Kevin Ginty.

*March 25: Annual Meeting, Hillside Manor, 6 pm

*April 1-May 31: Auto Loan Special: Watch statement insetrts and lobby notices for Super low rates.

*DINO KIDS CLUB: Children 12 and younger. It teaches children about the banking process.

Please call Stacy at 845-339-5544, ext. 132 for rates and further information on any of these topics.

         A Special Thank You!

     The KALP Committee would like to thank Sue Rose and the staff at the Ulster Federal Credit Union for their cooperation and kindness. Their generous help and expertise made our recent project a tremendous success. We are proud and happy to include them in our educational family in Kingston.        

        NEWS and NOTES

     Retired KHS English Teacher and Fulbright scholar Mary Leonard will be performing a reading from her newly published book of poetry entitled 21st Century Flint on Sunday, February 23, from 4-5:30 pm at the Uptown Café on North Front Street in Kingston’s Stockade district. Joy Martin-Moore, a retired KHS foreign language teacher whose last teaching assignment was on the QE 2, will present her photographs, both framed and in card form, at the reading. Half of the $5 admission fee and all of the sale profits will be donated to the Oncology Support Center and Cancer Foundation at Benedictine Hospital.

     Congratulations to Miller Middle School teachers Bob Shaut and Rick Wixom on the creation of the Hudson Valley Youth Jazz Band. The 18-member group features student musicians from various high schools from Niskayuna to Newburgh (nearly half from Kingston) performing the music of the big bands. Most of their efforts are directed toward the music of Duke Ellington and an upcoming band competition of his music.

     A new law in New York State mandates that drivers yield to pedestrians in crosswalks regardless of the presence of walk lights.

     Former KHS law related education teacher Emil (Butch) Zullo was honored with the dedication of the Emil Zullo Courtroom at Kingston High School. Local judges, lawyers, and present and former colleagues, including former Social Studies Supervisor Bonnie McCaig attended the January 30 ceremony.            

KIDS’ CLASSIC

     Kids’ Classic VII will be held at Dietz Stadium on Saturday, April 12. The age-appropriate races for children, nursery school through Grade 8, will begin at 9:30 and end around 1 pm. Applications are available at the YMCA, at sponsor locations, and at area schools. In March, the KTF will distribute information for volunteer sign-ups. It’s a great way to serve your Federation, school, students, and community. Save the date!   

   KTF Sponsors 1000 Book Kid

     Congratulations to Kathy Werner and the Zena staff for their creation of the 1000 Book Kid Program. Through KTF sponsorship and that of local businesses, their PTA has collected over 1000 books aimed at promoting reading by parents in the homes of pre-schoolers. Parents borrow these books in 10 packs at no cost to the family.

     At the kickoff of the program at Zena, Kathy was presented with a KTF KEY AWARD for her work in creating the program. People like Kathy are the ‘Key to Education.’

WOODSTOCK WATERCOLORS

     A new gallery has opened in our area—Woodstock Watercolors. It is located above the Fletcher Gallery at 40 Mill Hill Rd., in the heart of Woodstock. Proprietor Sylvia Weinberg, retired Kingston Schools Remedial Reading teacher(1967-1995) is committed to offering beautiful, accessible and affordable images of Woodstock and the Universe at Large. There are original paintings, prints, and cards for sale at the gallery.

     Hours are Thursday through Sunday, noon to 5 pm, or by appointment. Telephone number is 845-679-0616.

     The inaugural show highlights Weinberg’s own work and the opening celebration will be February 22 from 4pm-7pm. Sylvia looks forward to greeting her old friends from the Kingston Schools. Contact Sylvia at 845-679-6195 or fax her at 845-679-3725. 

    Letter To The Editor

My Dear Friends,

     Words cannot express my appreciation and gratitude for your generosity and support. I am overwhelmed by all of the cards, email messages, Mass cards, prayers, and kind words of support. I wish that I were able to thank each of you personally and to give you a big hug.

     When I told my son, Eddie, of your kindness, he walked away sadly. Ten minutes later he came back, looked into my eyes and in a low voice said, “Mom, you are very lucky to have so many good friends.” How correct he was. You truly are good people and will always be a part of my life and my family. You have given me the courage to endure whatever comes along.

     Please know that I am well aware that each of you has health and financial problems of your own, and that I am no more special than you. This makes your kindness even more special and valued.

     Thank you, again, and may you always enjoy good health and happiness.

     With much love and affection,              Pat Gleason

 

CONDOLENCES 

    To Ellen Listort on the loss of her brother; to Bill Tubby on the passing of his grandmother; to Craig Michelewski on the death of his mother-in-law; to Pat Trodler on the loss of her mother-in-law; and to Sarah Young on the passing of her grandmother.

 

FREE/FOR SALE

     Electrically operated hospital bed and manually operated hoyer. If anyone knows an organization that has a lending closet and could use these articles, they will be donated. Also, for sale, 1990 Ford econoline van with raised roof, wheelchair lift, and tie downs. Asking $2000. Contact Sandra Rose at 845-687-0815.

     Also, for sale, a ‘gently used’ Nordic Track Ski Exerciser, Achiever model. Includes electric monitor, owner’s guide, and video. Original cost $800. Asking $400 or best offer. 845-658-9339.

KTF Retirees Join Firm

     Retirees Gloria Blackman and Marilyn DeAngelo have joined the firm Win Morrison Realty at 55 John St., Kingston, which provides residential, commercial, and investment properties and creative financing, Gloria and Marilyn can be contacted at 845-339-1144 or at 1-800-836-0588.