Hugh M. Spoljaric, President
“The Ignored and The Ignorant”
(to disregard willfully) (unaware, lack of knowledge)
“From ignorance our comfort flows, the only wretched are the wise.”
Over the winter break, I was going over my notes from one year ago and looking for some information that I needed to address a current concern that a member had presented to me. One year ago, there were environmental concerns at Bailey, telephone and communication problems at George Washington, air quality issues at Chambers, safety problems at KHS, technology and computer concerns district-wide, the issue of the status of the budget and jobs for 2002-03 following 9/11, and the unsettled (resurrected) teacher and ESP contracts. They all had two things in common. One; they had been addressed for months with no progress, and, two; they were all concerns brought to us by our members. Some of these items were settled that April.
The KTF leadership did not create the issues. Our members presented them to us and, as the responsible party under the Taylor Law, we have the duty of fair representation. If it’s a violation of contract language, past practice, education, or penal law, our obligation is to investigate and evaluate the concern and to represent the member.
Lately, there is a perception, being promoted by district leadership, that all of these problems have been generated by the KTF officers, and that everything within the district is perceived by the membership as wonderful. This is an obvious attempt to persuade the ignorant that all concerns are idle creations and that ‘life is good’ in the kingdom.
When member concerns are not addressed, basically ignored, it is a statement of disrespect for all of us. A wrong to one of us is a wrong to all of us. Is that the way we treat people in Kingston?
Last year’s member concerns are now added to this year’s concerns and they are treated with the same lip service and posturing. Health insurance, safety, technology, the budget, and special education issues linger and are substantially ignored. In good faith, we have participated on committees and participated in meetings. Most are a charade. Last year, the knowledgeable were not persuaded. So far this year, the ignorant are in the comfort zone of professional bliss.
So, fellow member, I have your issue in hand. I will present it on your behalf. Don’t expect any timely action or positive response. History shows us that no one cares. They just want it to go away.
Member issues are addressed for months with no progress. Blame is placed on the messenger. And an attitude of procrastination and avoidance that passes for professionalism prevails. Ignorance is bliss. As Yogi Berra would say, “It sounds like déjà vu all over, again.”
And, that’s the Bottom Line.
At the December monthly meeting between the KTF and the District, Superintendent of Schools Peter Litchka, rather than answer a question, declared that the meeting was over and walked out. Besides leaving the KTF representatives behind, Assistant Superintendents Jerry Gretzinger, Greer Fischer, and Lois Riter were also left at the table.
After only ten minutes into the monthly meeting, a venue that Litchka had created under the guise of better communication, he was asked about the status of Safety Director Ira Bell and Bell’s rumored resignation. When asked, Litchka reportedly replied that anyone had the right to resign. When asked whether or not he had talked to Bell, Litchka responded that who he talked to was none of anyone’s business. When the question was clarified that no one wanted to know what was discussed, only if there had been any dialogue, Litchka declared that if voices were raised, the meeting was over. As the question was again clarified, he walked out. KTF President Hugh Spoljaric said, “This reaction from a person who told us on day one that communication was his priority. It doesn’t appear that he follows his own A+ Plan.”
Bell did, indeed offer his resignation at the next Board meeting. After a preliminary tabling, it was accepted by a vote of 6-3, with Board members George Farrell, Ian Horowitz, and James Leahy voting against the resolution.
Bell is the only Safety Director that the district has ever had. He is a retired Kingston police officer who knows the district well. KTF Safety Chair and Vice President Vince Voerg stated that, “After years, we now have a safety plan in place at each building. Now, we have an unexpected and unexplained resignation that jeopardizes everything that has been worked for.” Board President B.A. Feeney stated that a transition would be in place prior to Bell’s departure at the end of February. Inquiries of the Safety committee members and of Bell do not support that statement. No transition plan has been presented. Voerg indicated that for the Board not to inquire into the circumstances of the resignation was to place safety on a non-priority list. “They (the Board) are rubber stamping issues that need to be investigated and discussed,” said Voerg. He added that the message being sent is that “student and employee safety are not important in Kingston’s schools.”
Home and Careers teacher Beverly (Betsy) Hasenflue of the Miller Middle School has become the fourth Kingston teacher to attain National Board Certification. Additionally, she is the only teacher in New York State to be Board certified in the area of Home and Careers.
Betsy joins Paula Childs (Central), Jane Franklin KHS), and Joyce Luby (Zena), as Board certified teachers in the Kingston district.
In 1997, the KTF negotiated to have the district assume the $2,000 - $3,000 needed to apply and to complete the program. Since that time, NYSUT has instituted a program to provide funds for the application/completion process, and the KTF, in the year 2000, negotiated a $3,000 salary increase for teachers attaining Board certification.
The KTF congratulates Betsy on her career accomplishment and encourages other teachers to consider the program. Although the rigors of regular teacher certification are greatest in New York State and, while many new teachers are burdened with attaining permanent certification, the national program should be a natural next step. There are many more new areas that have been introduced for certification. Additional information is available at www.nysut.org and from Board certified teachers.
Retired KHS English teacher Mary Leonard has published 21st Century Flint, a book of poetry. She will be doing a poetry reading on Sunday, February 23, from 4:00-5:30 at the Uptown Café in the Stockade section of Kingston. Half of the admission fee of $5 and all of the profits from the sale of the book will be donated to the Oncology Support Center and Cancer Foundation at Benedictine Hospital. An added attraction at the reading will be the photographs of Joy Martin-Moore, both framed and in card form, with all profits going to the Cancer Foundation.
National Health Administrators, the third party administrator for the Kingston Trust Fund, has mailed new ID cards to all members. The new cards should be checked for correctness and any discrepancies should be reported to NHAI. A new electronic ID number is on the card as well as new group and Rx numbers.
Members are asked to have their providers make a copy of the new cards for their records and to note the new claim’s address. Federal law now demands that, as of April 1, all claims be capable of electronic filing. All claims should be sent to the new electronic filing center at: NHAI, PO Box 5000, Endicott, NY 13761-5000.
NHAI members will receive additional information in a separate correspondence by the end of January. Retirees have already received the information.
Thanks to KTF rep and Crosby Nurse Jeanne Roper for a note indicating the correct spelling of the new devices. The KTF’s Demand to Bargain on the issue of the impact defibrillator operation has on our members has not been answered by the district.
To Kathy Owitz on the passing of her mother; to Pam Gaffney on the passing of her mother-in-law; and to retiree Sandra Rose on the passing of her daughter.
NEW SALARY SCHEDULE C
Year two of the teachers’ contract provided for an infusion of $40,000 to Salary Schedule C. Under the new schedule, SRT and KALP Chairs are now compensated positions at $300 each. There is SEED (Student Educator-Education Development) money for Principal approved teacher activities: $200/elementary, $550/middle school, and $1000 KHS.