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THE TORCH: March 2006


     Hugh M. Spoljaric, President

              Kingston Teachers’ Federation 


     Students who are having difficulty in school seem to have become the measures by which we evaluate our schools. It’s a narrow focus on negative behaviors and an avoidance of the positives that dominate our schools and community. Education takes place every day with few incidents or interruptions among the 8,000 students that are housed on a daily basis.

     The new curriculums, mandated tests, and assessments doom some students to failure and the new accountability rules set up districts for failure. If there is a social contract between the government and the people, it’s failing these citizens. Some students are not academically oriented and find no meaningful connection between school and their life. More than education, they need training in specialized vocations where they will succeed and be productive. The ill-conceived NCLBA, founded through arrogance and ignorance, and based on manipulated data, does little to address these student’s needs. We are forced to ‘stay the course’ and we will be charged with their failures. It’s a national problem.

     Who are these students? Some are in dysfunctional family units.  Some are transients and are passing through. Some are victims of economic hardship. Almost all arrive with at-risk designations.

     How are they evaluated? One would think that the number of graduating seniors versus the number eligible to graduate would determine the success rate. It was that way until the reauthorization of the NCLBA this past fall. Now, the percentage of successful graduates is determined by comparing the freshmen population to the number of graduates four years later. In suburban upper middle class and upper class districts, there is stability to the population with the same students in attendance for four years. In urban and poor districts, there is much more mobility and transience. At KHS, the weekly add/drop list is about 20 students. Last year, the KHS verified graduation rate was 84%. Since last June, NCLB has changed the measurement rubric and, because we lose students, our graduation rate appears to be 64%. Liars figure and figures lie! Obviously, the federal agenda is to destroy public schools and with these manipulated measurements, it’s another step in charging the schools with failure.

     Every day is, socially and economically, an educational challenge, but we are forced to operate within politically driven agendas that ignore educational realities. The President expects every student in America to achieve at the highest Level 4 by 2014. In Houston, where NCLB began, the dropout rate is now at 45% and climbing. So much for the “Miracle of Texas” that is now leaving almost half the students behind! And, it will get worse for all of us in urban areas. This year, the President’s proposed budget has eliminated 42 programs including all vocational and technical programs. These are the programs needed to save the non-academically oriented student. Overall, educational funding is reduced $2.1 billion, the largest cut in the history of the U.S. Education Department, but vouchers have seen great increases.

     Sometimes, there are unintended consequences to our actions and reactions, but we are all striving for the same results. We want young people to become productive in their lives, individual in their liberties, and united in their society. We need to change the federal educational agenda that promotes a “one size fits all” mentality and ignores the needs of many. Ludicrous political motives are driving public educational programs and are separating us.  The mission has as much to do with education as the ports deal had to do with security. It’s all about power. It’s all about ‘hegemony’! (Look it up)

     And, that’s the Bottom Line.

                                      STROKE SCREENING

     Stroke is America’s third leading killer and many have no warning signs beforehand. There are ultra sound tests available that can quickly detect arterial abnormalities that can cause disrupted blood flow. A physician typically will not order an ultrasound evaluation for someone who has no symptoms of vascular disease or osteoporosis and most health insurance plans will not cover tests that are not medically necessary.

     As a member of the Kingston Trust Fund NHAI Plan, four non-invasive and painless screening will be available. They include screenings of the carotid artery (plaque), the abdominal aortic aneurysm, peripheral arterial disease (plaque, lower extremities), and osteoporosis (abnormal bone density). All four tests take about 10 minutes.

     NHAI is in negotiations to provide the tests at the lowest cost and the Trust will underwrite most of the cost. There is a minimum of 91 NHAI Trust members who must sign up for the tests for each day that it is presented. The April Torch will have specifics about the offer.


                                  KIDS’ CLASSIC X

     Since the year of its birth in 1997, the KTF has been a major supporter of the Kids’ Classic. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the age-appropriate races for Pre-K through 8th grade.

     This year, the races are scheduled for Dietz Stadium on the morning of Saturday, April 22. KTF teachers, teacher assistants, secretaries, monitors, substitutes, and retirees are encouraged to sign up for one of the two-hour blocks of time. This year, KTF member and runner Carol Kennedy (JWB) will coordinated the KTF effort. One contact volunteer is needed for each building to sign-up KTF members and to forward the info to Carol. Already volunteering are Kim Garmire (GW), Mary Lockette (Crosby), Nancy DeWitt (Myer), Rhea Checksfield (Meagher), Vicki Sellers (Devine), and Claire Van Valkenburgh (Edson).

     Complete info will be coming from the race chair, former teacher and principal Dann Bigelow. Carol will forward it to each building.

This is an opportunity of goodwill for KTF members to get involved in KTF events and to build bridges with their community, students, and parents. Remember, being an educator is more than a classroom job!


     If you are one of the 33 retiring teachers and you have more than 205 sick days, Moore Days Sick Bank Chair Glenn Gallagher is looking for you! The new contract allows for the donation of no more than 25 days to the bank for members hired before January 1, 1997. All he needs is a letter from you indicating that you are donating up to 25 days in excess of the 205 when you retire on July 1. If you have more than 230 days, consider donating the excess directly to a member who needs family assistance that the bank cannot provide. Contact Glenn at GW for more information.


     The Kingston Retired Teachers’ Federation emerged from the winter season with a St. Patrick’s celebration at The Anchorage in Eddyville.

     A good time was had by all! They are now looking forward to their first event of the official springtime. If you’re interested in attending one of the luncheons, contact Don Sweeney at 845-679-8697.                                    

                            KNOWING YOUR CONTRACT

     All of the teacher contracts have been personally distributed by the Building Reps. Every members should read the contract, but many don’t look it over until a need is presented. To facilitate the reading, there is a new INDEX in the book. Here is some research for each of you to do to better understand the agreement that binds both sides to the promise. Know your rights; know your responsibilities.

1.     What is the minimum and maximum salary compensation?

2.     How many sick days are provided?

3.     How does the Moore Days Sick Bank work?

4.     What is a ‘Long Term Substitute’?

5.     Is there a retirement incentive? What is it?

6.     Does the contract have a provision regarding length of work day? Work year?

7.     Is there a provision for extra work days?

8.     Who is an ‘immediate family’?

9.     How do transfers work?

10. What is the provision for longevity?


SCORING TRAINING: Training in the scoring of the 6th grade Math tests will be held at BOCES on Friday, March 31. In Kingston, it’s a half-day comp day for elementary teachers who have met with parents in an extended school day. Therefore, the district will compensate those who volunteer to be trained. Training is open to 5th and 6th grade teachers. Contact the office of Greer Fischer to volunteer.

BOARD/BUDGET VOTE: The annual vote on the Kingston Schools budget and the election of members of the Board of Education is scheduled for the third Tuesday in May (May 16). Budget presentations will be made during April. Remember, last years budget passed on the second vote by double digits. There are three (3) Board members seats up for election this year. They include Chris Farrell, David Fletcher, and the seat of the late Zelma Harrison, presently held by B.A. Feeney. 

ART of LIVING: The next Art of Living course, a discipline of breathing techniques, will be held on the evenings of March 27-April1, 6-9 pm at Kingston High School. Thus far, 23 teachers have received training and some are using the program with their students in class.

     A component of the program for teens will be held during the same time, 2:30-6 pm at KHS. There is 18 hours of in-service available for completing the course.

     For applications, fees, and additional info, contact M.J. Reiss at KHS.

DEFENSIVE DRIVING COURSE: KTF Professional Development Chair Pat Neher has announced a Defensive Driving course will be presented at Miller School, April 4-5. The cost is $45 and is open to KTF members and their families.

READING FIRST: This is a competitive federal grant for which the Kingston Schools are eligible and will apply. If the application is successful, the program will be introduced at Finn and Meagher.