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THE TORCH:  February 2005


     Hugh M. Spoljaric, President

              Kingston Teachers’ Federation

     As my life, like yours, continues to grow, I find myself taking what seem like very complex issues and trying to dissect and reduce them to a basic and understandable common denominator. After all, as a student of history, I know that events repeat themselves, as there are only so many options ever available. Proverbs are those basic understandings of humans and nature. They can create the encompassing umbrella that bypasses all of the micro events and produces a basic understandable truth. The beauty is that they exist in every culture and illustrates the similarity of all humans on this common planet. In some cases, it is complex and involves several beliefs, but, in the end, we all have to make choices. And, so it is with standards, goals, testing, mission statements, and No Child Left Behind. Pick your proverb. It’ll explain the idiocy that has become us.

     “We can’t see the forest for the trees.” If the culture of education changes your surroundings, you forget what it was like before. Veteran teachers can remember, but newer teachers have little teaching past to remember. The present is everything.

     “What goes ‘round, comes ‘round.” It’s yin and yang,… turn, turn, turn…every dog has its day. “There’s nothing new under the sun.” Many new approaches are nothing more than repackaged ideas with new catchy terms and definitions. I guess if you change the definition, you can alter the outcome. “A rose by any other name still smells sweet.”

     “A sucker is born every day” and “Don’t give a sucker an even break.” American wisdom, but right out of Machiavelli’s management book. It allows the masses to be treated as one, united, but for the cause of others.

     “A rolling stone gathers no moss.” It’s more difficult to hit a moving target. Keep the rhetoric spinning and praise false hopes.

     “When you are lost in the forest, every path is the right one out.” Again, people follow because they know of nothing else.    

     Our educational and political leaders fear taxes. The political rationalization for education monies was to create a system of accountability through measurements. To do so, change the landscape and definitions and outcomes, measure with self-fulfilling yardsticks, and create hope for all.  Sometimes, the human majority is united in stupidity. They have followed the butterfly without noticing where they were going.

      As a veteran teacher, I believe that we have lost our creativity in teaching. Everything is ‘The Test.” More educational money is the reward. Not better and more educated students. There is a difference between ‘training’ and ‘educating’ humans. In some areas, training, repetitious behavior with little thought is beneficial. People are dictated to and respond uniformly and consistently. Educating people honors the value of a democracy where each person develops to their greatest extent. The one size fits all and every student is an academic philosophy is really ‘training’ and leaves little room for ‘educating’.  I’ve seen how much some students hate school. I’d hate it, too, if it weren’t addressing my needs as a human being. As testing trainers, we have little time to be educators for our students daily needs. Students see that there is no connection between school and their life. A democratic education and the human connection are being lost in the zeal to conform to standards that measure training. Look at the atmosphere in your buildings. It’s becoming tense and strained between student and staff and staff and staff. We are so deep in the forest that, many times, we don’t recognize it

“The greatest fault is to be conscious of none.” Those who follow are as guilty as those who mislead. “We will reap what we sow.” It’s time to take a stand for “silence gives consent.” The greatest journey begins with one small step. Let’s begin. We’ll lead and we’ll follow your lead. We have to make a change and it can begin in your building in Kingston.

And, that’s the Bottom Line.



     The KTF Teacher negotiators met in full day sessions with a state mediator once in January and again on February 4 and February 11. Significant progress was made on most of the outstanding issues that are not a part of the financial considerations. The next meeting with the mediator is scheduled for the first week in March after a penultimate meeting with the district on February 24. It is anticipated that all issues related to finances will be on the table at the March meeting.

THINKING OF RETIRING? The KTF will hold a special meeting for all teachers who are eligible for and are contemplating retirement this year. Information regarding the status of contract negotiations and the effect on potential retirees will be addressed.

     The meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 14, 3:30 pm in the Library at the J. Watson Bailey Middle School. A head count is needed. Interested eligible members who will attend should forward their names to KTF Secretary Nancy Chando at JFK by March 7.


                               STATE ISSUES

NYSUT win: Intensive lobbying of the Board of Regents by NYSUT has resulted in the Board of Regents approving a measure that once again gives new teachers five years to obtain a Master’s degree that is needed for permanent certification. The hardships of giving new teachers only three years to obtain a Master’s coupled with the demands of a full time teaching position, participation in mentoring programs, and obtaining 175 hours of professional development were discouraging to potential teachers. It’s a big win for new teachers.

MIDDLE LEVEL EDUCATION: On February 8, the Board of Regents approved a State Education Department proposal to allow school districts to make changes in middle-level programs. These changes will take effect in September of this year. The current requirements continue to be in effect for all schools and districts until an application from the district is appropriately developed and approved by state ed. The proposal gives districts three options, labeled A, B, and C.

     In A, course offerings remain the same. In B, if the school is in need of improvement, the district may concentrate on students passing the core courses at the expense of eliminating courses in music, art, technology, and home and careers. In C, if the students are performing at the highest levels, additional elective courses may be added to the curriculum.

     No school or district can make changes to the middle level requirements unless and until state ed. approves an application for Model-B and C. School districts are required to use shared decision making procedures in developing the application. This ensures Federation involvement in the process.

 3-8 Math and ELA Assessment Forums: State Ed. Has designed regional one-day forums to disseminate information on the Grade 3-8 Testing Program and the ELA and Mathematics Grade-by-Grade Curricula.

     The local forum is scheduled for New Paltz BOCES on Wednesday, March 16, 1-4 pm. The Kingston district will be sending some teachers. Interested educators should notify their Principal, in writing, of their desire to attend the forum.



   The KTF has received a favorable response to its challenge of the interpretation of ‘dependent’ in the Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2004. As a result, students are eligible for health insurance coverage under their parents until the end of the year in which they turn 25 and non-students can be covered to age 23.

     NHAI contacted the individual who drafted IRS Notice 2004-79 for the clarification. As a result, all members of the Trust who were notified in December of the rule change are now eligible for reinstatement. Any member with concerns should contact the Compliance Office at 1-888-679-2400.


                    65th Anniversary UFCU

     Congratulations to our member owned credit union on their 65th anniversary. Of course, the credit union has evolved over the past 65 years and it is important to note that teachers had a major impact in that evolution. The Ulster County Teachers’ Federal Credit Union produced financial services for teachers when it began around 1970. Today, teachers are still active in the credit union with Second VP Don Sweeney, Dick Moore, and First VP Mary Bishop (Saugerties) on the Board of Directors.

    The UFCU will hold its Annual Meeting on March 29 with a complimentary cocktail hour and hor d’oeuvres. Contact the UFCU at 339-5544, ext. 132 by March 20 to RSVP.

    The UFCU reminds all educators that the Tax Relief Act of 2004 allows for up to $250 of qualified out-of-pocket expenses when figuring adjusted gross income. Contact UFCU or your tax advisor for more information.



                                  TSUNAMI RELIEF 

     The one-day KTF Tsunami Relief Dress Down Day, held on Friday, January 14, resulted in donations totaling $3,129. All donations were forwarded to NYSUT President Tom Hobart’s office and will be donated to Educators’ International. Both NYSUT and AFT are affiliated with the international organization and all proceeds will go directly to teachers and schools in the disaster area.

     President Hobart was in the disaster area from January 16 to January 23 and made daily journal entries and reports for NYSUT and AFT.

     KTF President Hugh Spoljaric noted the success of the KTF effort. “At a time when there were many tsunami relief efforts in the community, KTF members are to be congratulated for their participation and generosity to the KTF Tsunami Relief Drive.”

Here is a list of donations by building: Anna Devine $120; Chambers $155; Crosby $230; Edson $200; Finn $100; Graves $163; JFK $155; Meagher $65; Myer $691; GW $75; Zena $90; Cioni $80; JWB $320; MCM $120; and KHS $540.



                                   DANGER ALERT! 

     President Bush’s plan for private Social Security accounts for younger workers who will benefit from returns of the stock market needs more scrutiny, according to American Progress Action.

     If price indexing is adopted, a 20-year old just entering the work force would lose 34% of their expected benefits. That’s about $134,000 over a lifetime of retirement. The private accounts would give the 20-year old an opportunity to gain back, on average, about $47,000. That is assuming the stock market does not go south. The choice is whether younger workers want a huge cut in guaranteed benefits in exchange for an opportunity to gain back a fraction in the stock market. And, remember, in the market, when one person wins, someone else loses.     



To the family of retired KHS teacher and Coach Fred McCoy on his passing; to the family of retired teacher and coach Mike Rienzo, Sr. on his death; to ESP member Ann Miriello on the passing of her father; to the family of Board of Education member Zelma Harrison on her passing.  


                          SCUBA DIVING

     Any KTF member interested in learning to scuba dive can contact KTF members Nick Avossa and Ken Brett at KHS. They promise full lungs, no bends, buoyancy, and a great instructional time for all.