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THE TORCH:  November 2003

THE BOTTOM LINE

     Hugh M. Spoljaric, President

              Kingston Teachers’ Federation

                      FOOTPRINTS

   Over the past five years, over half of the teachers and staff in the Kingston schools have opted for retirement. Indeed, over the past two years alone, 140 teachers have gained tenure. The “Passing of the Torch” has been a KTF agenda item for the past ten years. We tried to prepare for it with our New Teacher Orientation programs and with the Mentoring program. It seems to have been a good fit, as new teachers are inquiring with Federation representatives to address items of contractual concern. It’s a credit to the veteran teachers that they have assisted so well in this transition.

     It is if the essence that, whether we like it or not, we are role models. Children watch us, ask questions, and inquire. Teachers and staff look at their colleagues for guidance. We are there to help each other. That’s what a Federation is!  It’s difficult to go it alone and there is strength in numbers. As the French scholar Tocqueville observed, “self-interest, properly understood” but the bottom line is the common good. So, who do you look up to? Who do we follow?

     A person who believes that we should not teach what we do not believe is a purist. They approach life from an ideal viewpoint, succumbing to reality on when, on balance, it is the right thing to do to make things work. They understand that life is a compromise. They establish personal standards and goals that are, at first, conceptual, but workable, and, in the end, realistic and successful. And, it’s OK to alter the focus of thinking to and be flexible, to change course, as events and circumstances change. And, they do everything with energy, confidence, belief, and a zest for living. As Ralph Waldo Emerson stated, “Nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm.” These people walk a pathway in life that is imprinted with deep and meaningful footprints. The pathway is the direction, but the footprints are the conviction and the success. It is important to leave deep and significant footprints on our life’s pathway.

     As the Fish philosophy of the Seattle Fish Market illustrates, each day should begin with each of us setting our own attitude for the day. Each day is another step, personally and professionally, and another footprint. The colleagues whom we work are special and life and careers are too short to dabble on a daily basis on the treadmill of bad attitudes. As parents, teachers, and neighbors, we are a thread in the fabric of our domain. Montesquieu, the French philosopher, pointed out that small communities were the breeding ground of civic virtues and that is where democracy flourishes best. We should not only teach democracy, we should practice it.

     There will be times in life when, as we take another step, the light in front becomes blinding and we don’t know if we are heading toward the sunrise or the sunset. It is at that time that we cast the longest shadow over our footprints. It is OK to stop, to wait for our vision to clear, our shadows to fade, to retrace our steps, and to find our direction. We look for past footprints that we can trust to lead us. And, it is those footprints that become even deeper and more significant.

     So, try to leave deep footprints for your family, your children, and your students. Create idealistically, implement realistically, and support each other. As Woodrow Wilson stated, “Provision for others is the fundamental responsibility of human life.” As pernets and teachers, that is what we ought to do.

     I’m proud to be a parent and I’m proud to be a teacher. I have the opportunity to leave deep and significant footprints.

     And, that’s the Bottom Line.

 

           KTF TEACHERS’ NEGOTIATIONS

     The KTF Teachers’ Negotiating Team has met three times to date, on September 23, October 21, and November 4, to review the existing contract.

     Future meetings are planned for every two weeks to the end of January.

     At the meetings, the team will review the existing contract and solicit input from all KTF committees. There will be ample opportunity for all members to offer suggestions and input before proposals are presented.

     The members of the KTF Teachers’ Negotiating Team are: Fred Ott (NYSUT), Lead Negotiator; Dianne Fried, Suzanne Jordan, Lauri Naccarato, Lindsay Orr, Hugh Spoljaric, Kathy Werner, Vince Voerg, and Daniele Yannucci.

 

           CAPITAL PROJECT BOND VOTE     

     On December 9, the Kingston Schools will be holding a Capital Projects Bond vote. Community informational meetings will be held throughout November and early December at Miller, G.W., KHS, and Cioni. Check the Kingston Schools website for details.

    This bond vote is a result of the findings of the recent Collins and Scoville architectural study (2003) of the 20 buildings currently owned by the district.

     Some of the findings include:

     *The average age of our buildings is 57 years.

     *16 of the 20 buildings (80%) are at least 40 years old.

     *In ten years, 19 of the 20 buildings (95%) will be at least 40 years old.

     *Since 1971, there have been 13 additions or renovations completed. 10 of these 13 additions or renovations (77%) are presently 30 or more years old.

     *10 of our 14 schools (71%) exceed the SED’s recommended operating and enrollment capacity, including KHS, which has an SED operating capacity of 1,827 students, but enrollment of 2,365.

     *Several studies completed during the previous decade suggest that there are significant structural issues found through the district that need to be addressed as well, including, but not limited to roofs, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, health and safety, and inadequate infrastructure to meet technology and communication needs.

HERE ARE SOME QUESTIONS TO PONDER AND SEEK ANSWERS TO FROM THE BOARD OF EDUCATION AT THESE COMMUNITY INFORMATIONAL MEETINGS:

1.     WHAT ARE RESCUE FUNDS?? (Rebuilding Schools to Uphold Education)—(NYSED monies for projects for the design, planning, construction, acquisition, reconstruction, rehabilitation, or improvement of a public school building used primarily for instruction. These projects include accessibility projects, technology projects, health and safety projects, physical capacity expansion projects and/or construction emergency projects.)

2.     HOW MUCH MONEY DID THE STATE HAVE TO OFFER DISTRICTS? ($195 million according to a letter sent to district superintendents dated May 30, 2000.)

3.     WHEN WERE THEY AVAILABLE TO KINGSTON CITY SCHOOLS? (On or after July 1, 1998 or before July 1, 2003).

4.     WERE THEY APPLIED FOR?

5.     WERE THEY APPROVED?

6.     WERE THEY COLLECTED?

7.     HOW MUCH DID KCS EXPECT TO RECEIVE?

8.     WHY WERE THESE MONIES NOT RECEIVED?

9.     WHOSE RESPONSIBILITY WAS IT TO SECURE THESE FUNDS?

10.WAS IT REPORTED AT A BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING BY A FORMER BOARD MEMBER THAT MR. SINAGRA HAD ‘SECURED’ SUCH FUNDS?

11.HOW IS IT POSSIBLE THAT $500,000-800,000 IN RESCUE MONEY DUE TO KCS WAS NEVER SECURED?

     It appears that the RESCUE funds really would have addressed all of the issues brought out by the recent study (and obvious to anyone who has worked in Kingston for the past 30 years) and requiring immediate consideration through the Bond Vote.

Oh, one more question.

12. If the Bond proposal is approved, is it true that the majority of the work will not begin until 2005…7 years after the RESCUE Funds were available?

           STATE MIDDLE LEVEL EDUCATION

     According to The NYSUT Leader, NYSUT is closely watching the Board of Regents and State Education Department’s attempts to revise the state middle level education policy. SED has directed regional BOCES to organize public hearings this month and next to gather input from parents, teachers, students, and others, but the formats may vary. SED has agreed to hold one public hearing, in Albany, on November 12. Another meeting, in New York City, is under consideration.

 

                 GENERAL MEMBERSHIP NOV. 20

     The General Membership Meeting of the KTF will be held at the KHS Cafeteria on Thursday, Nov. 20. The primary purpose of the meeting is to elect delegates and alternated to the NYSUT/AFT RA’s and to vote on two (2) changes in the KTF By-Laws. Specific information was published in the October Torch.

 

                   PROPOSITION 2 FAILS

     The statewide referendum to allow small city school district, like Kingston, to increase their debt limit from 5% to 10% failed at the polls on Tuesday, November 5. Presently, all districts smaller than a small city have the ability to retain 10% and this referendum would have put small cities on an equal basis with those districts.

     KTF President Hugh Spoljaric remarked that “the public saw the vote as a vote against small cities to increase their debt limit and, ultimately, to control any potential tax increases. I believe there is a constitutional equity issue that may transcend any referendum and we’ll have to see if that is addressed. Spoljaric added, “If the ability to provide educational services to the students in a small city district are compromised by funding issues, then there are equity issues.”

 

                     VOTE/COPE DEDUCTION BILL

     Gov. Pataki signed a new law that allows members of the state and city Teachers’ Retirement Systems to make automatic contributions to VOTE/COPE through pension check deductions. Although the KTF is now completing the 2003 VOTE/COPE Drive, the 2004 drive will make it easier for our retirees to contribute. When procedural information becomes available, it will be communicated to members.

     Don Sweeney, the Kingston Retired Teachers’ Federation VOTE/COPE Chair, reports that early returns show an increase of over 30% in the retiree contributions from last year.

     KTF VOTE/COPE Chair Vince Voerg indicates that complete VOTE/COPE donation numbers will be available in the December Torch. VOTE/COPE is NYSUT’s non-partisan political action arm funded entirely by voluntary contributions from members.

      

              TO ALL KTF and ESP RETIREES

                     It’s Not Too Late!

     Thanks to each of you for your super response to the 2003 Vote/Cope Drive. As of 11/03/03, the contributions are the best ever at $4,273.

     Don’t feel guilty. It’s not too late! Put your check in an envelope today(made out to Vote/Cope) and mail it, along with your Vote/Cope card and Social Security number to: Don Sweeney, 96 West Hurley Road, Woodstock, NY 12498.

                      ULSTER FEDERAL CREDIT UNION

                               Look how far we’ve come!

     Ulster Federal Credit Union has been serving school districts in Ulster County for over 60 years. Two teachers, who conducted banking transactions out of the trunk of a car, started the credit union. Over time, the credit union has grown into a fully operational, innovative financial institution.

     We have recently added new, time saving, convenient products to our already lengthy list of products and services. CAR BUYERS HELPLINE, RISK BASED LENDING and ROAD AMERICA AUTO ASSIST are products and services we have added to our lending department. Many of you have requested the ability to choose your own PIN for your ATM and debit cards. We now have the capacity to make the change for you.

     We have also added two electronic services, Quick click, our online banking service and Bill Payer. Applications for electronic services are available on our web site at www.ulsfedcu.org or in each of our three office lobbies. Questions? (845) 339-5544.

                                    CONDOLENCES

     To: Joy and Bruce Gross on the passing of Joy’s father; to Linda Jastings, on the passing of her father-in-law; to Fran Kuzman, on the passing of her mother-in-law; and the KRTF reports the passing of Getrude Dittus, Louis DiPietro, Gladys Haines, Parley Rogers, Margaret Schwartz, and Jeanne Ryan.