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THE TORCH:  FEBRUARY 2004

THE BOTTOM LINE

     Hugh M. Spoljaric, President

              Kingston Teachers’ Federation

                     The Curves In The Road”

     In education, as in many things, the more things change, the more they remain the same. Several years ago, it was whole language and creative spelling that was the rage while phonics took a back seat. Eventually, phonics made its way back. Now, we have pedagogical gurus in math who believe that it’s more important to explain the process of the solution rather than having the correct answer. It seems to be the whole language/creative ‘magic’ spelling techniques applied to math. Problem is, we’re working with different sides of the brain, yet attempting to apply the same learning process to each. Math, unlike language skills, is a discipline where everyone uses his or her own methods, procedures, and pathways to reach the correct answer. One process size does not fit all. As we all know, the statewide results have been abysmal scores on the state mandated math tests. It’s not just Kingston. It’s everywhere!

     At Kingston High School, 56% of the entering freshmen (Fall 2002) have scored at Level 1 and 2 of the state assessment test in 8th grade Math in May 2002.  While at KHS, many continue to fail the Math A test year after year. In January 2002, only 53% of those taking the Math A test scored at 65% or better. Since that time, Math classes had the highest average class size of all of the courses that have state assessment tests. Additionally, and probably most importantly, there is no scheduled academic intervention program. What’s the solution? For this district, when you don’t know the answer, it’s to hire a consultant. In this case, a consultant is hired under the premise of aligning the curriculum, but is really there to observe the teachers. Forget that the test is flawed, that students come unprepared for the course, and that there is no academic intervention program, and apply the bandage to the teachers. No consultation with the teachers on the front line! It seems that the cure all panacea of leadership is to hire a ‘magic bullet’ that will dispense a remedy. We’ll have to wait a year for any results. All it does is buy administrative time. Is no one in touch with reality?

     In a district that talks about communication as a priority, the teachers were blindsided on this one. They should be the consultants. Inexperienced leaders seem to panic, meaningful communication ceases, and they react in a way that separates them from the issue. They hire outside consultants. “CYA” and escape the blame. Experienced teachers anticipate curves in the road and plan ahead for them. If the essential materials and resources were devoted to the problem, the scores would improve. Check every school in the state with improving scores and you’ll see that’s how it was accomplished.

     Consultants are an administrator’s firewall. Teachers know the community and know the students. They anticipate the curves in the road, but they need the resources to do the job. It’s the most basic of understandings, yet it is taking a backseat to management consultancies. Like the state math test, the process seems more important that the correct answer.  We know how those results are turning out. Teachers know the problems, but no one is listening.

     And, that’s the Bottom Line.

 

        ACADEMIC INTERVENTION QUESTIONED

           The State Education Department, in response to an inquiry from KHS Math teacher Kevin Hilbert, issued a statement concerning Academic Intervention Services that must be provided by districts to be in compliance with state standards. At KHS, as is the case at most high schools throughout the state, the Math A test has poor results. The reasons are many, with academic intervention at all levels being a major concern.

     SED representative Jeanne Post stated that “AIS must be provided in a manner so that ALL students attend on a regular basis. We, therefore, encourage schools to build it into their school schedule.  It cannot be only an afterschool program or any other sort of ‘voluntary’ program.” They added that “AIS is a PLANNED teaching time. It is not a drop-by help time. It must be focused in an organized way on the results of diagnostic analysis that indicates what each student needs, and must be provided as soon as possible after a problem is identified—no later than the next semester, but as soon as possible.” SED closed by stating that “AIS requires careful record keeping, including diagnostic work, attendance, progress records, notes to parents, etc.”

     At KHS, students who qualify for AIS are able to go for extra help on a voluntary basis at the end of the school day during the activity period (9th). There is no other scheduled AIS service. No attendance is taken and, therefore, no attendance records are kept.  Parents of students who qualify for AIS are notified by letter that ninth period help is available. SED responded to the AIS offered at KHS by stating that “This sounds like the district is not even trying to provide AIS.” The parent of a KHS junior told The Torch that her son has failed math at every level since 8th grade and has never been given any formal AIS classes.

     Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Greer Fischer was on vacation and not available for comment.

     See The Bottom Line for more on this issue.    

  ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS AT KHS

     The roof of the Whiston building at KHS has had major problems with a leaking roof for years. From 1999-2002, the district had an opportunity to access RESCUE funds to repair the leaks, but the available state money was never applied for. In December, district voters approved a bond issue that included the roof repairs, but the process has to go through state ‘red tape’ and will not be available until fall. Since last September, various teachers and staff have become ill while working in Whiston. An air quality test was performed at the end of October in Rooms 408 and 410 and showed an elevated level of Aspergillus/Penicillium-like spores in room 408 and basidiospores, Cladosporium, and myxomycetes in room 410. Given the wide parameters of standards in air quality testing, the results are inconclusive of the reasons for people becoming ill. On January 6, the Superintendent assured the KTF that further substantive tests would be performed. To date, the KHS Principal reports that no further tests have been performed.

     KTF Health Schools rep Nick Avossa has contacted NYSUT and the Occupational Health Center of Eastern New York and has encouraged the district to fully investigate the Whiston situation.

 

       REMEMBERING KAREN DINGMAN

     Karen Dingman, a teacher’s assistant at the Tobin Center at Kingston High School, passed away as the result of injuries suffered in an auto accident in mid-January. She was a passenger in a car operated by her husband that was sideswiped by a hit and run truck in a no-passing lane on Route 32, north of the Kingston-Rhinecliff bridge. The collision caused the Dingman vehicle to cross into the oncoming lane where it was struck by another pick-up truck. Karen was airlifted to Westchester Medical Center where she succumbed to her injuries two days later. The driver of the truck that sideswiped them was arrested on the day of Karen’s funeral.

     Karen and her sister, Jeannie Steuding, were both longtime employees of the district. Karen worked on the elementary level before coming to KHS. She enjoyed working with the self-contained classes at the Tobin Center and her students remembered her with touching pictures and notes. Her wake was attended by a large number of school and community members, both past and present, who stood in freezing temperatures in a long line outside of the funeral home to pay their respects to Karen’s family.

 

              SEN. BONACIC A NO-SHOW

     The Hillside Manor was the scene of NYSUT’s annual meeting with elected state representatives on Saturday, January 25. KTF was represented by President Hugh Spoljaric, Vice-President Lauri Naccarato, and Grievance Chair Suzanne Jordan. Sen. William Larkin was unable to attend due to illness, but Sen. John Bonacic failed to respond or to attend. Here is an opportunity for all KTF members to send Sen. Bonacic an email.

     Go the www.nysut.org and click on ‘contact your legislator.’ Type in 42nd senatorial district and send a message. Your comments should simply say that we are all disappointed in his failure to attend the NYSUT Legislative meeting on January 25 and you hope that we can count on his support of education in the state budget.

     Please do it now and see how simple it is to contact your government representatives.

 

       PAYROLL DEDUCTION FOR RETIREES

     Retirees will be gaining the same option as active employees when NYSUT institutes a payroll deduction plan for VOTE/COPE through the Teachers’ Retirement System.

     All retirees in the TRS will soon receive the necessary forms to allow them to make a contribution monthly from their retirement check. More information will be forthcoming.

     The statewide total of VOTE/COPE donations this year missed by just $46 of reaching $5 million. Locally, the KTF Retirees achieved a level of $12 per member and will receive the Abel Blattman Award ($10+) from NYSUT. The KTF ESP unit ranked in the top 5 in ED 13 and the KTF Teachers surpassed an average of $25 per member and will receive special recognition with the Dan Sanders Award from NYSUT. Overall, our region showed the greatest increase in donations.

     Congratulations to everyone! Remember, it’s the vote for education that counts!

 

    

 

      NEW TEACHER CERTIFICATION TITLES

     All candidates who apply for teacher certification now (post Feb. 2) will be subject to new certification requirements as found in Part 80-3 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. These new certification requirements also reflect new and/or revised certificate titles. It is important to note that teacher certification candidates who:

have been issued a provisional certificate with an effective date that begins on or before Feb. 1, 2004; have not allowed their provisional certificate to lapse; and will seek permanent certification in the same title, will not be affected by the new certification requirements or new certificate titles.

·        KATE NAUGHTER NAMED: JWB English teacher Kate Naughter has been named the KTF New Teacher Coordinator, succeeding Jen O’Brien who became a building rep at KHS. She is busy organizing a spring meeting with all new teachers.

 

                      ARBITRATION

          In the words of KTF Grievance Chair Suzanne Jordan, “This Superintendent doesn’t want to settle any issues and it looks like everything will go to arbitration.” This year, the KTF has filed 7 grievances, more than all in the past 7 years, against the district this year. One denial of tenure has already been heard and another is now slated for arbitration. Additionally, the district has refused to compensate members for the scoring of state mandated tests at KHS, something that was done in every single year since the first assessments began, and that will go to arbitration. Arbitration is the last step in a grievance after both the Superintendent and the Board of Education have rejected any attempt to settle.

    

           SO, WHERE ARE ALL THE COMPUTERS?

     The district was going to place 500 new computers in school classrooms during the Thanksgiving break. It never happened! Then, they were scheduled for installation over the Winter Break. It never happened! Then, we were informed that it would take place during Regents Week. Guess what? That’s right, it didn’t happen.

     The latest scheduled installation was to have begun with KHS where the Guidance department is promised the new SASI System for scheduling. Secretaries have attended two training sessions on the SASI System sponsored by BOCES, another consultant agency serving the district. One secretary reported that the second session was held two weeks after the first session and produced no new information. In fact, the BOCES instructor had to leave to go to another school system to provide instruction.

     A KTF inquiry has produced responses that cast some doubts about the SASI System. One response indicates that the system is inappropriate for the Kingston district given the large number of schools that have to be serviced. “It’ll never work” was an anonymous comment. There is a Technology Committee in place and the consultants who have been retained by the district to provide technology services chair it. The question of conflict of interest has arisen and was dismissed by the district.

 

            THINGS TO DO TO BE SAFER

1.     The next time you order checks have only your initials (instead of your full name) put on them. If someone takes your checkbook, they will not know how you sign your name, but your bank will.

2.     When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card account, Do NOT put the complete credit card number on the memo. Instead, put only the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of your number and anyone handling your check will not see the complete number.

3.     Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine and copy both sides. You have an instant record of its contents.

Also, make a photocopy of your passport.

4.     Copy down your credit card numbers and toll free numbers in  

     case you have to cancel a stolen card.

          Immediately notify the police in the jurisdiction where the card was stolen;

          Call the THREE national credit reporting organizations and place a fraud alert on your card and Social Security number. The alert means that any company that seeks card approval will know that the card was stolen and will have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit. The THREE credit reporting companies are:

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; Experian(formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742; and Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289. The Social Security Fraud Line is: 1-800-269-0271.

 

 

DID YOU KNOW? That if everyone in the Health Trust’s NHAI Plan who is on a maintenance drug* would have used mail order last year, the Trust would have saved $250,000. It’s so easy and applications are available from the Trust and in the schools.

Members who receive a new medication should always start with a 30-day supply to see if the medication works for them. If a mail order 90-day supply were ordered for a new medication and, after limited use, it was dispensed with, the trust would lose all of the money spent for the unused portion.

*Maintenance=taken on a regular basis for a continuing condition over a period of at least three months.

 

                 KINGSTON KIDS’ CLASSIC VIII

    The eighth edition of the Kingston Kids’ Classic will be held on Saturday, April 24, at Dietz Stadium. The mile race for grades 1-4 will be entitled THE KINGSTON TEACHERS’ FEDERATION 1-4 MILE RACE. Members can volunteer by sending a copy of the form below to : Kim Tegeler at the Edson School.

      NAME______________________________________

      SCHOOL____________________________________

      Availability on Race Day_______________________

      (Volunteers are needed between 8 am and 1:30 pm)

   Preferred Assignment_________________________________

(registration, on the Mile Course, finish line, results, “staging”, track races, or anything else.

        There will be refreshments and T-Shirts for all volunteers

 

CONDOLENCES to:

Kathy Owitz, on the passing of her father; Jeanne Steuding and Joseph Dingman, on the loss of her sister and his mother; Bev Elliott, on the passing of her father; Vicki Darwak, on the passing of her mother, Linda Hoffman, on the loss of her mother; Nancy Schuerzinger, Graves, on the passing of her brother; and Celeste Metsopolous, on the passing of her mother.