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                   THE TORCH:  March 2003

THE BOTTOM LINE

     Hugh M. Spoljaric, President

              Kingston Teachers’ Federation

                                  Full Circle

     Last week, representatives from the League of Women Voters of Ulster County interviewed me on issues relating to public schools. They are gathering information for a study of the topic and wanted to hear my perspective. Most of the questions dealt with current concerns and the role that we, as teachers and as a federation, play in the process.

     There were questions about the role that we play in the planning process and in addressing concerns and problems. The state APPR, AIS, and CDEP committees already mandate our participation. Standardized tests already direct our teaching and influence our instruction. And, safety concerns already mandate certain state guidelines and participation. I began to realize, that in almost every case, the sate or federal government has created mandates but has not provided adequate funding. I think that most of us realize that state and federal mandates are less than adequately funded, but one must take regular inventory to see how it is affecting public education. As I said in last month’s column, we are being set up for failure.

     In the fall of the year, there was some debate between the state legislature and the Board of Regents regarding the necessary length of the public school obligation. At the time, state officials were spreading the idea that it should constitute only K-8. NYSUT took a position, as they should, that a high school education is a necessity. After reviewing President Bush’s education budget (Torch, 2/03), I believe that, if present government leaders have their way, secondary free public high school education may be on the way out.

     It would alleviate the space problems facing many districts. It would eliminate up to 25% of faculty and staff, thereby cutting salary and benefit costs. And it would become a new industry, supported by vouchers, student aid, and choice. A high school education would become a choice for which students and their parents would pay tuition. What would become of those students who didn’t choose to attend high school? In the fifties, those students (boys) would always be directed to join the armed forces. Basic training, skill development, and a spirit of patriotism were developed. Could a government sponsored American Service Corps be the equivalent for these students, addressing the needs of an aging population and the values of the American heritage?

     With the bottom of the class-structured pyramid continuing to grow and with the support costs becoming greater, will the government decide that the only appropriate and affordable free public education will be a primary education? Arbitrary unfunded mandates have created a climate for failure. The solution may be that a free public high school education should be a purchased choice.  

     A hundred years ago, public education consisted only of a primary education. Are we about to come full circle? Never say never!

And that’s the Bottom Line.

         HEALTH TRUST NEWS

     As reported in the February Torch, new federally mandated privacy laws of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) will impact everyone in the health industry. The Trust has passed all of the expressed concerns to their legal counsel for an interpretation of the law as it applies to the Trust. Members should continue to contact Merriam White at the Trust office for all of their concerns. She will address and advise all members on their concerns as she has in the past.

     School systems and municipalities that handle health insurance, physician’s secretaries and assistants, and anyone else who may come into contact with health information is impacted by the new law. Copies of the Material Modifications and Amendments to the Trust, as dictated by the new HIPAA regulations, have been distributed to every building and are available from the Trust. As soon as the Trust receives written a written from their attorney, it will be communicated in The Torch. Again, please continue to use Miriam as a point of reference for all concerns about your Trust health insurance.

                 PRESCRIPTIONS

     As everyone in America is aware, the cost of prescription drugs has exploded. Even as Americans began to understand that it was important to ask for generic drugs whenever possible, the cost of the generics has now risen faster than the name brands. The Trust is trying to contain the costs. Members can help!

     If you are on a maintenance prescription, such as medications for high blood pressure, asthma, or diabetes, ones that you will be taking for a minimum 3 month period, please use MAIL ORDER. It saves you money and it saves the Trust money.

     Your home delivery pharmacy benefit allows you to receive up to a 93-day supply, so you can reduce your co-payment costs and spend less time ordering refills. Your home delivery co-payment is only $8 for generic and $16 for brand names. Plus, standard shipping is always FREE! (Certain controlled substance and prescribed medications may be subject to restrictions).

     The Trust has Medco mail order applications, or go to www.medcohealth.com, or call 1-877-782-7862. Prescriptions are delivered in 7-11 days right to your home.

     If members who use maintenance prescriptions do not begin to use mail order, it will be necessary for the Trust to increase the co-payments for these prescriptions. Your cooperation is needed if the Trust is to maintain present costs.

     NOTICES: When a health plan member becomes eligible for Medicare Parts A and B, the information provides Medicare Part B as an option for enrollment. Members are expected to enroll in Mdeicare Part B regardless of the health plan with the Trust (NHA, MVP, CDPHP, GHI, etc.) Failure to enroll will result in the health plan estimating Medicare’s Part B payment and being subtracted from the provider’s charges.

     Members are requested to mail a copy of their new Medicare card to Marcia Palladino at the Kingston school District’s Central Office and to Miriam White at the Trust office.

     The Kingston school District will reimburse members for their Part B premium costs. Contact Marcia Palladino at Central for Information: 339-3000, ext. 218.

     National Health: Members should read the information on both sides of the ID cards. Also, remember to have your provider make a copy of your card.

Questions for the NHA Claim’s Office?1-888-679-2400:menu, press #1

     MAY 3 RALLY IN ALBANY

     NYSUT will stage a huge rally at the Empire State Plaza on May 3 to protest the education budget as presented by Governor Pataki. It is anticipated that buses will run from the Kingston area to Albany. More information will be forthcoming in the April Torch.                      

KIDS CLASSIC

     Volunteer applications are now available in all the schools for all members of the KTF, Teachers, ESP, Subs, and Retirees to volunteer their services on the morning of April 12 at Dietz Stadium. Any time that can be given will be appreciated. Applications should be returned to teachers Diane Backus, Kristin Brown, and Cheryl Bigelow at George Washington School. New teachers and ESP are especially encouraged to volunteer. It’s an excellent way to be involved with the KTF and to build a positive relationship with the community.

                       ART SCHOLARSHIP

     An art scholarship has been established in the name of Althea Odell to honor her memory and her life’s work in the KHS Art department and district.

     Supporters wishing to contribute in memory of an outstanding artist, art educator, and woman, should make checks payable to the Althea S. Odell Art Scholarship and remit to Office of the Treasurer, Kingston Schools, 61 Crown St., Kingston, NY 12401-3879.

             KUDOS

     To Ada Gil Wood (KHS), on her induction into the SUNY New Paltz Athletic Hall of Fame. A 1999 graduate, Ada was an outstanding volleyball player at New Paltz and will be inducted on May 3;

     To Ed Mills, longtime KHS coach on his induction into the Kingston Old Timer’s Baseball Hall of Fame;

     To Coach Steven Schuyler whose KHS We The People U. S. History and Government class was one of only nine teams to advance to the NYS Championships in Troy and Albany. The competition consists of Congressional Hearings on issue of the U. S. Constitution. The program is part of Project CAPABLE, the nationally recognized law-related education program;

     To Coach Ron Kelder (MCM) and his KHS Boys basketball team on their outstanding regular season (20-2) and their advancement to the NYS Boys basketball regional championships;

     To Coach Steve Garner (KHS) and the KHS Girls basketball team on the most successful season in girls basketball history at KHS. The team advanced to the state regional semi-finals;

     To Coach Yvonne Sill and the three members of the Indoor Track Team that advanced to the State Championships in Syracuse;

     To Coach Tony Yonta and the KHS Wrestling Team that had one of their strongest years and took one wrestler to states; To Joe Leirey and Chris Sammons for their success with the swimmers and divers, and to the students, parents, teachers, and Athletic Director Glen Maisch for their leadership and support of the NYS Girls Gymnastic Championships at the Kate Walton Field House;

      And to all of the teachers and parents who have worked hard to establish the largest number of Student Scholar-Athletes in KHS history and the largest number in the Hudson Valley.

 

         CONDOLENCES

     To KTF Treasurer RoseMarie Maresca on the passing of her father;

To Patricia Parker, KHS, on the loss of her mother; To Beborah Aho (AD) on the passing of her brother.

     The KRTF sadly reports the death of Mary Gillen on February 22. Sympathy is extended to Helen Berryann (ESP) on the death of her husband, Joseph.                         

GET WELL: To retired administrator Bob Corcoran (heart bypass).

                            FIRE ME!

 The Associated Press, in a story published on February 28, reported that Robert Barrette, the Superintendent of Schools in the Dollar Bay-Tamarack School District in Michigan, is facing a budget crunch. Like many schools, there is not a lot to cut. So, he’s recommending that his $100,000 a year job be eliminated. Barrette says its either him of fire some teachers. While firing teachers will hurt kids, Barrette says they won’t notice a missing administrator. He will make his own ‘pink slip’ recommendation at this month’s board meeting.

                    REMINDERS               

RETIRING? Teachers who plan to retire this school year and who are eligible for the Retirement Incentive Plan, must file a binding letter with the district by March 30. The letter should be sent to the Superintendent.

     Retirees: Please consider donating your unused sick days to the Moore days Sick Day Bank. Contact Glenn Gallagher at GW if you can donate. Days must be donated by June 26, 2003.

March 5th: This was scheduled as a half-day for students and a full day for teachers and staff. The Superintendent issued a disclaimer that stated if there was a 2-hour delay, STAFF should report for a full contractual workday beginning with the 2-hour delay schedule.

     There is a provision in the teachers’ contract, referred to as the “Stellar Amendment.” It states that on one snow day, teachers can be required to come in. It makes no provision for 2-hour delays. Additionally, the contract has a maximum number of teacher workdays, so they result of being brought in on March 5th is that it is actually a substitute day for one of the other (i.e.184th Day) days. The KTF will be asking for a definition of the day.

     Paras and monitors do not have any provision in their contract to be brought in, yet the memo referred to STAFF. ESP President Joan White and Rep Laura Sexton will be meeting with the district to reconcile that day.

FOR SALE: Brand new 2002 Skamper Camper, Model K 195. 19’ long, includes 13.5 BTU AC, CD Stereo, TV ant.,w/booster, awning, outside shower, 17”x1”gas oven, 1 queen size bed, 1 full size bed, monitor panel, bunk lights w.fan, spare tire, self-contained bathroom, exterior cook top 2 burner, plenty of storage space, Sleeps six. $17,500 or best offer. Call 336-4912.

SUMMER/FALL RENTAL: Cape Cod—South Yarmouth, 2 bedroom ranch in residential area, TV/VCR, Nantucket Sound beaches 2 mi., Bass River and Long Pond-2 blocks. Available: May 4-10, 10-17, Oct. 25- Nov. 1 for $420/week; Oct. 4-11, 11-18, for $740/week; Call Karen Aspromonte 845-331-9378 or Leslie Lomita 845-339-0417.

PIANO/ORGAN INSTRUCTION: Retiree Bob Moore, organ/piano instruction and organist/pianist for weddings, funerals, etc. 845-338-3877.