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THE TORCH: February 2007


     Hugh M. Spoljaric, President

                          Kingston Teachers’ Federation

                         DO NOT PASS ‘GO’!

     It’s the mid-year…a time for reflection on the promises of September past. The sudden onset on cold weather (for snow birds, we mean below freezing ‘0’c degree temperatures for several consecutive days) and the lack of sufficient vitamin D seem to produce a mood that encourages debate. And, for a couple of pilots that were September’s promises, zero’s and D’s have another application, and ones that need no further debate.

     The ‘new’ elementary report cards that were questionable at first glance are generally unacceptable. Gone are grades based on 100 and letter grades. Present is an unequally proportioned ‘1-4’grading system that is meant to reflect the state scoring standards. There are numerous evaluative comments, some seemingly in unrelated categories which are rated. In the end, it fails to realistically communicate quarterly achievement levels; and isn’t that the purpose of the report card? It adds a significant amount of work for classroom teachers who have to manually transcribe all special area scores. The cards lack visual focus, are difficult to read and to understand, and do not reflect actual classroom evaluations.

     The ‘new’ attendance policy, like many government programs,, may look good on paper, but fails in practice. Teachers are mandated by district policy to report each illegal absence (1-4) by calling the parent. Imagine, one student illegally absent for a day and the parent receives 7-8 phone calls. Usually, teacher get phone answering machines or the number is disconnected, wrong, out of service, etc. No surprise, as these are the families that have put these children at risk. Teachers have always made calls on academic issues, but this ‘new’ pilot makes them clerks for an area where sufficient assistance may already be in place. Guidance counselors track their ‘at-risk’ students and the attendance office gathers and preserves the data. There is a technology system that was promised to computerize attendance and to eliminate redundancy that impacted learning time. Teams were created to address individual student issues, but, as with years past, there are no evaluations and measurements to substantiate any results and to see if any parts of the program are working. Liassez-faire approaches work only for the enthused and motivated who provide the straight stretches of very curvy roads.

     Many times, we are to be congratulated for not procrastinating

and, with sincerely good intentions, putting into place a remedy. Although the remedy may not succeed, the purpose must remain consistent. We have the resources. It’s time for redress of these ‘pilots’ and they should not proceed past ‘Go’.

     And, that’s the Bottom Line. 


    The Kingston Schools are eligible for over $6 million in state capital aid, an amount that will pay 100% of costs for renovation and construction projects slated for school buildings. The vote is March 20, 7am-9pm. It’s ‘no-brainer’, but you have to vote for it. Be There!


           (The answer is: 61 or 10%). Look in The Torch for the question.            



     Once you are eligible to enroll in Medicare, you must enroll for BOTH Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B.  You do not need to enroll in Medicare Part D for your prescription drugs as your prescription drugs will continue to be provided by your NHAI plan.  Once Medicare is your primary medical coverage, the following rules will apply to coverage of your diabetic supplies.

     MEDICARE PARTICIPANTS: If you have diabetes, DO NOT USE YOUR NHAI PRESCRIPTION DRUG CARD TO PURCHASE DIABETIC SUPPLIES.  Diabetic supplies are covered under Medicare Part B and should be purchased using your Medicare Card. You can purchase these at any local pharmacy:

¨   Diabetic supplies include test strips, glucose testing monitors, blood glucose test strips, lancet devices and lancets, glucose control solutions, and therapeutic shoes (in some cases). 

¨   Syringes and insulin are only covered by Medicare if used with an insulin pump. Otherwise, these will continue to be covered under your NHAI Prescription Drug coverage if you are not on an insulin pump.

     Failure to use Medicare for diabetic supplies will result in the

plan requesting payment in full from the member and the member will be responsible for filing for reimbursement with Medicare for any diabetic supplies purchased with your NHAI Rx card after January 2007.

     Medicare participants should continue to use your NHAI ID card to purchase all other eligible prescription medications.                           

                       FILE ELA CONCERNS

     NYSUT has designed a unique approach to gather information about the
impact of the grades 3-8 ELA assessments on students. They want to know
more about the real impact on students and teachers. NYSUT members
now have an opportunity to provide feedback on these assessments by
going to NYSUT's Web site - Member feedback
is essential to improve the testing process for all students. Please
encourage your fellow members who teach in grades 3 through 8 to go online and share their experiences and the experiences of the students they teach. This is a new opportunity for NYSUT to hear the voices of our members.
                             THE BUSH BUDGET

     Under the Bush administration proposal, funding for the U.S. Department of Education would be 2.6 percent less than the budget passed Jan. 31 by the House. No Child Left Behind is one of the few programs slated for an increase; however, part of the additional funds will be targeted at expanding the program into high schools instead of improving it in the schools it currently covers. Bush proposes to spend about $300 million dollars on programs like school vouchers. The administration's budget also proposes substantial cuts to both special education (about $300 million) and Head Start (almost $100 million). Bush’s healthcare proposals would slash $100 billion from Medicare and Medicaid, weaken the State Children's Health Insurance program and undermine employer-provided healthcare.

     Additionally, the U.S. Labor Department is considering new rules for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that would substantially restrict the ability to take time off from work to care for yourself or a family members during an illness. KTF President Hugh Spoljaric filed a three page letter of concern with the U.S. Department of Labor.

     FMLA rules protect people from losing job protections when illness requires time away from the job. It is important for policymakers to know that these rights are important to us all.

The AFL-CIO has launched a national advertising campaign to spotlight the plight of thousands of U.S. workers who face overwhelming obstacles when they try to form unions. The campaign coincides with the introduction in Congress of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would restore workers' freedom to form or join unions so they can bargain for better wages and working conditions. The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives on Feb. 6 by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.); the 230 co-sponsors (including Congressman Maurice Hinchey, D-NY-22) include a number of Republicans. "Every year, millions of American workers want to form a union but are denied this fundamental right due to employer harassment and intimidation," says AFT president Edward J. McElroy. "The Employee Free Choice Act would remedy this injustice and restore to workers the basic freedom to join a union without fear of retaliation." The act would strengthen penalties for companies that break the law by coercing or intimidating employers; establish a third-party mediation and arbitration process when employers and employees can't agree on a first contract; and enable employees to form a union when a majority chooses to do so in writing. McElroy says the AFT is looking forward to the introduction of the Employee Free Choice Act in the Senate by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). "The sooner the legislation is passed," he says, "the sooner American workers currently denied union representation can have a meaningful voice in the workplace."

                     LETTER OF UNDERSTANDING                             Last month, as noted in The Torch, a LOU was signed that presented a schedule for the timely crediting and payment of Graduate and in-service work. On January 16, a LOU was reached to clarify the benefit status of KTF teacher members on semester leave. It was agreed that there is a Fall (July1-Jan.31) semester and a Spring (Feb. 1-June 30) semester and that the District shall not be obligated to provide any health or dental premiums for the member after the last day of the month prior to the leave and will restore those benefits from the first day of the month following the return from leave.

                      HOW TIMES HAVE CHANGED                    Humor from Retired Teacher Julian Weiner                             *Scenario: Jack pulls into school parking lot with rifle in gun rack. 1953: Vice Principal comes over, takes a look at Jack’s rifle, goes to his car and gets his to show Jack.                                                     2007: School goes into lockdown, FBI called, Jack hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers.                                            *Scenario: Mark gets a headache and takes some headache medicine to school.                                                                                              1953: Mark shares headache medicine with Principal out on the smoking dock.                                                                            2007:Police called, Mark expelled from school for drug violations. Car searched for drugs and weapons.                                               *Scenario: Billy breaks a window in his father’s car and his Dad gives him a whipping.                                                                                    1953: Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman.                          2007: Billy’s dad arrested for child abuse. Billy removed to foster care and joins a gang. Billy’s sister is told by state psychologist that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison. Billy’s mom has affair with psychologist.                                               *Scenario: Jeffrey won’t sit still in class, disrupts other students. 1953: Jeffrey sent to office and given a paddling by the Principal. 2007: Jeffrey given huge doses of Ritalin, becomes a zombie. School gets extra money from state because Jeffrey has a disability.                       *Scenario: Pedro fails high school English.                                      1953: Pedro goes to summer school, passes English, goes to college. 2007: Pedro’s cause is taken up by a do-good group. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that teaching English as a  requirement for graduation is racist. Class action suit filed against school district and Pedro’s English teacher. English banned from required core curriculum. Pedro given diploma anyway, but winds up mowing lawns for a living because he can’t speak English.     *Scenario: Johnny falls while running during an after school activity and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Mary. She comforts him with a hug and drives him home.                               1953: Johnny’s mother calls and thanks the teacher and sends a gift to school for her.                                                                                  2007: Mary is accused by Johnny of inappropriate touch and of sexual advances. His mother accuses her of being a sexual predator. Mary loses her job and faces 5-8 years in prison.                                           ***In 2007, you would never put a student in your car, would you?






The Question is: How many active KTF members failed to follow application directions on the LTCI form they submitted to the KTF?