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THE TORCH: January 2006

THE BOTTOM LINE

     Hugh M. Spoljaric, President

              Kingston Teachers’ Federation 

                              “Selfless Good”

     We’re all working hard with students every day on matters that transcend the myopic importance of standardized tests. We try to instill in students a sense of citizenship and the responsibilities that come with being a citizen of the community. Many of us have incorporated character education into our daily presentations, teaching inductively from the general lessons to the specific virtue. Yet, character has to be learned and internalized and this is where teachers, as role models, play an important role.

     As divided as our country has become by a leadership and a media that continually divide people into labeled camps, we all should be able to recognize when someone ‘just does the right thing’.                           

And, maybe due to propaganda or allegiance or loyalty or blind devotions, people all seem to not want to believe that their beliefs have been betrayed. People stand by their positions long past the time that reality has left no doubts. The learning curve is slow and inversely related to the ignorance of their convictions. Although it occurs on a regular basis, it is exemplified when it involves those in positions of control and responsibility.

     On March 16, 1968, an American army helicopter pilot, Hugh Thompson, flying with a bubble-shaped windshield and attempting to draw enemy fire in support of larger choppers flying above him, saw piles of Vietnamese bodies. These appeared to be the wounded civilians that they earlier marked for medical aid. Irrigation ditches piled with bodies and American soldiers lining up more women and children and old men to shoot.

     Thompson and his two crewmates landed their helicopter down near the irrigation ditch. Thompson, with only an undrawn side arm, told Lieut. William Calley that they were going to help the injured and if Calley ordered the execution of any more civilians, he would order his crew to fire on them. The massacre at My Lai ended.

     When the execution of 500 unarmed Vietnamese civilians by U.S. soldiers became public, it was a year later. The Pentagon investigation indicated that 80 soldiers had participated in the carnage, many under orders from Calley. Yet, Calley was portrayed as a scapegoat for inevitable collateral damage, an unjustly accused hero. “Rallies For Calley” were held around the country and in his home state of Georgia, Governor Jimmy Carter, the symbol of 2000 human rights, urged citizens to leave their car headlights on to show support for Calley. And what about Hugh Thompson and his crew? They were vilified. They received hate mail, nasty phone calls, and death threats. Their government and their country deserted them.

     Calley faced courts-martial, was convicted, and sentenced. President Nixon would eventually pardon him. Thompson was shunned by other soldiers and lived quietly until 1989 when his story was told to a new generation.  In 1998, with some reluctance, the Pentagon awarded Thompson and his one surviving crew member the Soldier’s Medal at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In 2001, Thompson was inducted into the military Aviator’s Hall of Fame.

     Hugh Thompson died of cancer last week at the age of 62.

     The term hero is used much these days, but Hugh Thompson was not only an American hero, but also a hero for humanity. Yet, his actions shook the core values of Americans such that they perversely chose evil over good. Americans wanted to believe in their government, thinking that support for their government and their country were one and the same. Personal convictions fueled by government propaganda pervaded the truth. Yet, Thompson did what we try to teach students to do; to respect rules and the law and to stand up for what’s right. The same could not be said of our leaders who used their positions to create good and evil. Over time, we know that truth triumphs, but it’s a struggle to overcome public opinion.  Once people rid themselves of imposed or self-imposed labels, to reject dictated media, and to think independently, they can accept the truth.  Unlike political creations, Hugh Thompson taught me through his actions that selfless good was a virtue. He was a hero for humanity for he  ‘just did the right thing’.

And, that’s the Bottom Line.

 

                                  125 FLEX PLAN

     Ryan Insurance of the Valley Group has been selected by the district to administer the 125 Flexible Spending Account as per the teachers’ collective bargaining agreement. The vendor has been visiting schools to explain the plan that will begin on February 1, 2006 and will end on June 30, 2006. The next years plan will begin on July 1 and all account will be based on the school calendar year.

     The 125 plan allows members to select a specific amount of pre-tax dollars to set aside in an account from which withdrawals may be made for certain health care and dependent child care expenses. The earmarked money must be spent or it will be forfeited back to the district.

     Some potentially eligible health care services may require a letter of medical necessity while other over the counter expenses do not need a statement. Childcare is for a dependent under the age of 13 or incapable of self care and it’s necessary for you (and your spouse) to work, look for work, or to attend school. For specifics, please check with the vendor.

     For this half year, the maximum allocation will be $1500. Enrollment must be completed by January 31. The next enrollment, for 2006-07, will be in June and Debit Cards should be available.

 

                               MEDICATION  INFORMATION

     The Trustees of the Kingston Trust Fund asked our prescription provider, Medco, to perform an analysis of the ever-increasing costs to the plan for prescription drugs. In looking at two time periods, January-November 2002 and January-November 2005, the results illustrate that while the cost of drugs may have increased, the overall increase in use has had the most dramatic effect on Trust expenses. Also notable is the fact that most of the new drug expenses are for those drugs most commonly advertised through the media. In previous times, the physician prescribed the drugs. With media advertising, the indication is that many patients are asking their physician to prescribe a specific drug. It must also be remembered that drug manufacturers attach bonuses and rewards to physicians to market specific drugs to their patients.

     Here are the two charts targeting the top 20 medications for each of the years.

Net RX     2002                      Net RX       2005

  205    Lipitor 10mg               624   Lipitor10mg              

103           Lipitor 20mg               239   Nexium

118           Fosamax                     317   Lipitor20mg

46          Prilosec                      423   Fosamax  

74          Vioxx                           139   Plavix

4          Avonex                          95   Zocor

26        Zocor                           203   Zoloft

62        Nexium                        164   Zetia 

56        Celebrex                      115   Lipitor40mg

42        Prevacid                      128   Singulair

40        Lipitor 40mg                   7   Enbrel 

57        Celexa                          177   Actonel

53        Zoloft                            291   Ambien

2          Procrit                          128   Protonix

41        Paxil                              250   Zyrtec

1        Remicade                       10   Lovenox

2        Valyte                              81   Advair Diskus250

34        Claritin                            99   Tricor

    47  Zyrtec                            106   Advair Diskus100

48  Ambien                           78   Prevacid

  1,064- Copay: ($11,804)      3,674- Copay:($81,340)

    Total Paid: $124,093.           Total Paid: $698,859.

 

                                       RETIRING?

     Are you one of the 182 teachers eligible for the Retirement Incentive this year? If so, your binding letter of intent to retire at the end of the 2005-06 school year is due to the Superintendent by January 31, 2006. The foregoing information is all that is needed in the letter.         

                                             KRTF

     Retired Teachers Vote/Cope Chair Don Sweeney reports that the Kingston Retirees donated a total of $6,500 to the political action arm of NYSUT. Each year, the retiree donation has increased and Don notes that they are to be congratulated.

     Additionally, the retirees announce that they will sponsor not one, but two (2) scholarships for graduating seniors this year. They have available a Senior Discount List for businesses in the Kingston area.

     The next luncheon for the KRTF will be for St. Patrick’s Day on the Ides of March, the 15th, at the Anchorage in Eddyville.

                                   

                                               KESP

     The Educational Support Professionals, representing Teaching Assistants, monitors, and secretaries in the Kingston Schools is still without a contract 19 months after the end of the previous agreement. The mediator has asked the two sides to work out common issues and he will return at a yet to be defined time.

     The Civil Service employees and the members of the administrative unit (ASPA) are also without a new agreement.