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THE TORCH:  January 2005

THE BOTTOM LINE

     Hugh M. Spoljaric, President

              Kingston Teachers’ Federation

                    “Of Geese and Federations”

                               (adapted from aftca Catalyst)

     I spent most of the Winter Break in bed with the flu. I’d like to recognize the former Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, for his inability to succeed at a job that most high school service organizations could have performed (flu vaccines). While I was resting, I saw some geese flying overhead in their familiar V-formation. It reminded me of how their unity is not unlike the unity that we have in our Federation.

     FACT: As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in a V-formation, the whole flock adds at least 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own. The TRUTH is that people who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the trust of one another.

     FACT: Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front. The TRUTH is there is strength, power and safety in numbers when traveling in the same direction as those with whom we share a common goal.

     FACT: When the lead goose gets tired, he rotates back in the wing and another goose flies to the point. The TRUTH is it pays to take turns doing hard jobs.

     FACT: The geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. The TRUTH is we all need to be remembered with active support and praise.

     FACT: When a goose gets sick or is wounded and falls out, two geese fall out of formation and follow him down to help and protect him. They stay with him until the crisis resolves, and then they launch out on their own or with another formation to catch up with the group. The TRUTH is we must stand by each other in times of need. We must also remember to give each other a big ‘honk’ more often.

     As KTF members, Teachers and ESP, Subs and Retirees, let’s dedicate ourselves to flapping our wings. If we get tired, let’s remember to rotate back in the wing. Most especially, during this time of no contracts, whether at the point or in the back, keep on honking!

     And, that’s the Bottom Line.

 

                        BUSH, CONGRESS DENY BENEFITS

     In the December issue of The Torch, the Trust Fund announced that the trust health plan was being amended to permit extended coverage of non-student dependents to age 23. Unfortunately, the Congress and the President were making their own late year modifications. The Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2004 amended the definition of a ‘dependent’ under Code &152 and required that this definition apply to all welfare plans effective with the tax year ending December 31, 2004. The law requires that all dependents meet certain residency, relationship, and age rules.

     Presently, the Trust plan covers all fulltime students to age 25 and, as amended in November, would have covered non-students to age 23. The federal legislation denies these progressive benefits and reduces the non-student age to 19 and the student age to 23.

      NHAI notified all members of the Trust plan affected by the law on December 23, 2004. Members who have other health insurance coverage should contact the provider.    

Generally, the Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2004 only permits one to claim a ‘dependent’ that meets the following tests for purposes of welfare benefits: (Otherwise, all benefits are subject to taxation).

1.     The dependent must meet the ‘Relationship Test’ and be a ‘qualifying child’ or a ‘qualifying relative’ defined as follows:

a)     The taxpayer’s child or a dependent of the child (grandchild); or,

b)    The brother, sister, stepbrother, or stepsister of the taxpayer or a descendent of any such relative.

2.     The dependent must meet the “Age Test” and be under the age   

     of 19 as of the close of the calendar year.

3.     After the calendar year in which the dependent attains the age of 19, if the dependent qualifies as a fulltime student for at least 5 months out of the calendar year, coverage may be continued through the calendar year in which the dependent attains age 23, so long as the dependent remains unmarried and continues to be listed as a legal dependent on the parent’s tax return. Otherwise, if a fulltime student fails to meet the definition of a fulltime student as defined in &152 and any rulings or regulations thereunder; coverage shall be terminated as of the last day of the month in which the fulltime student status is met.

4.     Any dependent who is determined to be totally and permanently disabled by reason of physical or mental disability or impairment and who is incapable of self support prior to attainment of age 19 or who becomes disabled while enrolled as a fulltime student prior to attainment of age 23, may be covered as a disabled dependent so long as such disability continues.

5.     Special rules apply when two or more claim a qualifying child as a dependent and for divorced parents. These rules as set out in the Working Families Tax Relief Act and Code &152 of 2004 shall be incorporated by reference.

Members with further concerns should contact the Compliance Office at 888-679-2400.

 

                               NOTICE: VOTE/COPE

     Over the past ten years, active KTF members have asked the KTF to negotiate a payroll deduction plan with the district that would provide for VOTE/COPE payroll deductions over a series of paychecks. The district was unable to accommodate the request due to the lack of space on their business machines. Payroll deduction was taken once from a paycheck in November. Now, with the new computer system in the district, VOTE/COPE payroll deduction over a series of paychecks is a reality.

Please take NOTICE of the following:

The only 10 week paycheck period during a calendar year and within a school year is in the second half of the school year. Active members will NOT be asked to donate in the Fall of 2005.

     Therefore, deductions for active members for the 2005 VOTE/COPE campaign will be taken beginning with the first paycheck in February 2005 and continuing through the next nine paychecks and ending in June.

      ALL CONTRIBUTIONS MUST BE MADE ELECTRONICALLY THROUGH PAYROLL DEDUCTION. NO CHECKS OR CASH WILL BE ACCEPTED.

     If you are an active member teacher or ESP who donated by cash or check, you need to obtain a payroll deduction form from your Building Rep and submit it to the Rep by January 25.

     If you are presently on payroll deduction, the same amount that you donated in the fall will be taken in ten equal installments. Members who wish to change their payroll deduction should notify their Building Rep and obtain the necessary forms and submit them to the Rep by January 25.

     We are aware that there will be two VOTE/COPE drives during this school year as the transition to ten payroll deductions takes place. Still, there is only one drive per calendar year. ACTIVE MEMBERS WILL NOT BE ASKED TO DONATE IN THE FALL OF 2005. The next VOTE/COPE campaign will be in January 2006.

     A bonus to the changeover is that members have the opportunity to double their Key To Fun VOTE/COPE points for the school year.

     Retirees will have their own drive and now have the opportunity to have payroll deduction through the NYS Teachers’ Retirement System.

 

                    TSUNAMI RELIEF

     As the Indian Ocean tsunami occurred during the Winter Break while schools were in recess, AFT and NYSUT are encouraging locals to hold their own relief efforts.

     The KTF will have a DRESS DOWN DAY on Friday, January 14. Members are encouraged to donate $5 to the relief effort. Cash or checks made out to KTF will be accepted by the Building Rep. The KTF Board of Directors will choose an officially recognized relief agency to accept the donations.

    Although many members may have already given through other organizations, your support of the KTF effort is most appreciated.

 

                                 UPAC MEMBERSHIP

     As with most non-profit organizations, cash flow is always a concern. The business still has to operate during ‘down’ times and it is fool-hearty to depend on day of event walk-up business to sustain the organization. A solid foundation of dependable support creates a sustainable organization.

     RoseMarie Maresca, a UPAC Board member and former Treasurer of the KTF, addressed these concerns to the Board of Directors at their January meeting. Although UPAC has the image of success, rarely do any of the shows earn enough to support the theater. The Broadway Theater at the Ulster Performing Arts Center needs memberships to support the theater. Memberships come in five categories beginning at $75 (with one free ticket to a show and one reduced price ticket). They benefit the member and they benefit the theater. Additional, as a benefit of membership, members receive advance notice of all shows, security ticket replacement, and preferred seating to all ten UPAC sponsored shows.

     Coming in March are the FOUR TOPS, the CHARLIE DANIELS BAND, and FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. Among the other seven shows is BARRAGE (youth fiddlers and stompers from Chicago) and Holiday On Ice.

     Membership means a lot to the theater. It is a vital source of revenue in the operation of the Broadway Theater. And, as RoseMarie points out, ticket also make great gifts!

     Building Reps have applications. Do it now!

 

                                  TORCHLIGHT

Special Education Variances

     Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Personnel Sandy Miller has presented the KTF with variance requests made to the state education department by the district. Prior to 1999, the self-contained grouping of 12:1:1 was capped at that number. Then, the state allowed a variance to increase the size to 15:1:1. Now, the state allows the class to increase during the year to 18:1:1. Requests for variances are granted without response.

     Elementary teachers should be aware that the number of classified student in each grade level should be dispersed somewhat evenly throughout all grade level classrooms. Please notify your Principal if you discover a wide disparity.

     Additionally, Consultant Teachers are capped at 20 students and Resource Room teachers have maximum counts of 20 in K-5 and 25 in 7-12.

     As the state continues to revamp Part 200 Special Education regulations, as of July 1, IEP will not contain any short-term goals. Additional changes, especially in the area of Learning Disabled classifications are expected in the spring.

Myer School Safety

     Teachers and staff at Myer School in Hurley have petitioned the district on two occasions relative to safety issues at the building. Unlocked doors and access/egress from the building are concerns. Of great concern also is the dismissal procedure at Myer. Parents arrive in a long caravan of vehicles to pick up their children. Teachers are serving as valets, servicing one car at a time. Teachers have been on duty until 3:20-3:30. The KTF has presented the concerns to the district.

     Teachers are on dismissal duty until 3 pm and should then be in their rooms until 3:15 preparing for the next day. Any duty beyond these times must become a subject of negotiations.

Middle Level Scheduling

     Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Greer Fischer presented the KTF with three recommendations for middle level scheduling changes for 2005-06. All three were designed to extend the curriculum day through 9th period, eliminating an early bus run, and making all activities after school events with a late bus.

     The issues were discussed with the KTF Board of Directors. There was no support for the proposals. Reps expressed concerns that, with no contract in place, there were many unresolved issues that needed to be addressed before any new issues were brought to the table.

     The district has expressed concerns that more time is needed during the curriculum day to accommodate Academic Intervention Services. Middle School teachers can expect to be presented with a resurrected ten period day schedule for 2005-06.

Conference Sub Monies Depleted

     Assistant Superintendent Greer Fischer has informed the KTF that all monies for subs as they relate to conference requests have been exhausted. The 2004-05 budget cut $180,000 from these items.

 

MEDIATION

     The KTF Teachers’ Negotiating Team, now working in their 16th month of efforts to present and negotiate a new contract, and having declared impasse on November 30, have three mediation sessions scheduled. Mediator David Stein will meet with both side on January 14, February 4, and February 11.

     The impasse followed an expression by the Board of Education that they didn’t fully understand some issues. The KTF asked for a meeting with the Board and there was no positive response and the impasse resulted.