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          THE TORCH:  September 2003 ON-LINE

THE BOTTOM LINE

     Hugh M. Spoljaric, President

              Kingston Teachers’ Federation

            “As It Was In The Beginning,…”

     It was the summer of 2001. The KTF, teachers and ESP, had settled their contracts in June and the Board had hired a new Superintendent. There was the optimism of looking ahead to better days. Then, upon returning to school, the district, through their attorney, informed both groups that the collective bargaining agreements had to be reopened to clarify some issues. Untrusting of the district’s legal counsel, we appealed to the Superintendent to get involved. It never happened.

     During the summer, the district implemented a Code of Conduct and did so without using the mandated procedures as detailed in the Project SAVE legislation. Again, we asked intervention and support of district policy. It never happened.

     We had monthly meetings scheduled with the district in the fall of 2001. Among the agenda items, were the critical telephone problems at George Washington School. We asked for immediate assistance. Each month, we were promised that it was being worked on. Then, on March 4, 2002, we were informed that it wasn’t being addressed as promised. There was a long- range plan for a totally new communication system for the entire district. We asked about walkie-talkies. None were available. We made the point that it was crucial to fix the phones now! Nothing was done. A few days later, a student attacked a teacher on the second floor of GW causing serious injury. The teacher was a recent organ donor and the lack of working phones delayed assistance. Again, support never happened.

     In December of 2001, we were advised of a possible environmental problem at Bailey. The district retained their environmental company to investigate. After two months, they issued a basic ‘weather report’ that failed to address the concerns. It took the involvement of the Board to address our concerns. They fired the company.

     In the fall of 2001, following 9-11, we asked about budget concerns. We were told it would be ‘status quo’ for the coming year, yet everyone knew that there would not be the same monies available. Yet, the district proceeded ahead. Result: the budget failed and we spent a year on austerity.

     On March 27, 2002, the Board apparently had seen enough and dismissed the Superintendent. It must be assumed that they were advised and procedurally directed by counsel. There was outrage from the public. At the next Board meeting, the ousted Superintendent made a speech during public comment. In it, without mentioning names or groups, he stated that he was above “selling his soul” and making “backroom deals” for group leaders whose only goal was ‘to feather their own nest.’ The result was the indictment of the KTF. The Board members were ‘our people’ and we were responsible. In the storm of indecisive leadership and for being responsible, the Board was accused of micro-managing the district.

     During the one-month hiatus of the Superintendent, both contracts were settled, the Jefferson Committee was designated to develop the Code of Conduct for KHS, a thorough investigation of the Bailey concerns was completed, and the phones a GW were repaired.

     During the past calendar year, the district formed an A+committee to prepare a Mission Statement and a Budget Task Force. Politically, the reports have bought time and created a perception of importance, yet they are rarely followed. In fact, the recommendations of the Budget Task Force were largely, if not completely, ignored in the preparation of this year’s budget. Administrative illusions of stability pass for substance. A stable appearance has become the priority. All else is of secondary importance.

     This year, we have issues that have not been settled, or in some cases responded to, in months. Is that the way we treat people in Kingston? Compensation issues from January, unprepared IEP’s, leaky roofs and unventilated rooms, and arbitrary decision-making continue to be the legacy of the 21st century in Kingston.

     From where we stand, things have not changed since the beginning. It’s unfortunate that there is no equal application of standards. 

And that’s the Bottom Line.

 

        OPEN MEETING LAW VIOLATED

     When the budget was being prepared, all of the units were informed that if the budget failed, seven administrative positions would be eliminated. Additionally, the district stated that of the $2.1 million in restored aid (May 3 March in Albany), only $1.9 was guaranteed and included in the budget. When the remainder arrived, positions could be restored. When asked for the order of restorations, units were told that a list was developed with the Board, but they were not disclosing it.

     KTF President Hugh Spoljaric sent a letter to Robert Freeman, the State Chairman on Open Government. Spoljaric believed that the information was public and should not have been discussed in a private session. Mr. Freeman responded in a six-page letter dated August 6. He agreed with the KTF President that the information was discussed in violation of the Open Meetings Law. The district was also cited for not sharing the information with the public and with the employee units. Although Mr. Freeman provided copies of his letter to the Superintendent and Board of Education, as of September 4, Board members were unaware of its existence. Spoljaric stated, “There seems to be a lack of communication that pervades the process. There is no acknowledgement of any concerns.” Spoljaric cited a May Board meeting where he presented a six question letter on the budget to the Board. “I didn’t receive one reply and, when we questioned the administration for the answers, they stated that no Board member, not even the Board President, had shared the questions with them,” Spoljaric said. In August, after the Board extended the Superintendent’s contract (without an evaluation), a Board member informed Spoljaric that they had never received any of the KTF correspondence over the past year. An investigation discovered that all KTF correspondence with the Superintendent that had been “cf” to the Board members had simply been filed. Given that the Superintendent and the Board President make up the information packets for Board meetings, Spoljaric observed that it was “troublesome.”

     The KTF will be asking for the information cited in the District’s violation of the Open Meetings Law. Also, “We would like to be informed when the additional $1.2 million in aid arrives,” Spoljaric noted.

                            TRUST FUND INFO

     Health Trust info and updates, including clarifications on Massage Therapy and Chiropractic, are available by going to the Kingston Trust Fund on the KTF web site. The entire web site is at www.nysut.org and click on Kingston Teachers’ Federation and then click on the menu.

                    TRIBOROUGH LAW

     This is the expiration year for Teacher, ESP, and Substitute contracts. The Triborough Law states that if a new collective bargaining agreement has not been ratified by the time that the existing contract expires, then all provisions (except sunset clauses) of the old contract continue until there is a new agreement. Additionally, members who are performing any voluntary services must continue to provide the service. Members who are concerned should notify their principal as to the length of their volunteer service and when it will end. Notification must be early, otherwise it may be interpreted as a strike or work action.

     Members are reminded to report class overages to their Principal. The district has until September 30 to settle class numbers.

     Remember, a great resource for all members is www.nysut.org. Click on ‘Locals’ to access the KTF web site. It is especially useful for health information from the Trust and National Health Administrators.

               NYSUT NEW MEMBER WORKSHOP

          Ann Harrison, the Director of NYSUT’s Mid-Hudson Regional Office, has announced that a workshop for all members with three years or less experience, will be held at the Kingston Holiday Inn on Tuesday, October 7. The program begins at 3:30 and will end with dinner served at 7:15. The event is FREE but requires a $25 check to accompany the Registration Form. The Check will be returned when the new member signs in at the Holiday Inn.

     Registration Forms are available in every building and from KTF Building reps. The registration deadline is September 26.

                         NEW TEACHERS

     All teachers who are new to the district went through a district orientation at the end of August. They are reminded that the district owes them compensation for any days of required attendance over the one day that all members were obligated to perform. Additionally, the KTF will have a follow-up meeting with new teachers prior to the November General Membership meeting. A complete inventory of job benefits and career planning will be presented.

                 TENURED TEACHER RECEPTION

     The West Park Vineyard will be the site of a reception to honor all teachers in the Mid-Hudson region who have achieved tenure over the past two years. In Kingston, that’s a significant number! Newly tenured teachers will be contacted by the KTF will details soon. Kingston teachers who were honored two years ago (was it that long ago, already?) enjoyed a wonderful event. The KTF wants to honor you. It’s FREE, so mark the date: Thursday, October 23.

NEW BUILDING REP: with the election of Nancy Chando to the position of KTF Secretary, 3rd grade teacher Tara Horst will fill Nancy’s former Building Rep position at JFK.

INFO CHANGES: All members who are returning from a leave, have name or address changes, etc. should notify KTF Membership Secretary Mary McLaughlin at Miller.

                       VOTE/COPE

     The VOTE/COPE Drive, coordinated by KTF At-Large delegate Vince Voerg, will be held during October. The voluntary drive supports the political action arm of NYSUT. Last year, it was effective in supporting state senators and assemblymen in their override of the Governor’s veto of education funding in the state budget. We have had jobs restored with the help of your donations to VOTE/COPE.

     Since there are 26 pay periods, this year, the KTF is encouraging a donation of $25, or the equivalent of $1/check. The one-time deduction for active members will be taken from a November paycheck. Retirees will find a solicitation in this copy of The Torch. Substitutes will be informed at their Chapter meeting at NYSUT on October 1. 

                        FINANCIAL PLANNING SEMINAR

     A Financial Building Blocks seminar will be sponsored by the KTF at the Miller School on Wednesday, November 5, 4-7 pm. It includes all materials and food and it’s FREE! (A reservation fee is required to secure a spot and will be refunded upon attendance.) KTF Professional Development Chair Pat Neher has arranged the seminar that will cover many aspects of personal financial planning. Guests are welcome at a small fee ($10). Contact Pat at Miller for registration forms.

                    ULSTER FEDERAL CREDIT UNION

     The Ulster Federal Credit Union was started by teachers and is an outstanding value for KTF members. The UFCU branch at 500 Washington Ave. will present a seminar on IDENTITY THEFT  on Wednesday, September 17 at 6 pm. Contact Stacey at UFCU, 339-5544, ext. 132

                                RETIREES

    The Kingston Retired Teachers Federation will sponsor a bus trip to New York City on October 1. On October 16, they will gather at the Ship Lantern Inn in Milton for a luncheon. Contact Anna Tucker or Don Sweeney for reservations. Kingston Retirees are reminded that to be eligible for NYSUT benefits they must be a dues paying member of the KRTF.

TO ALL KTF RETIREES: a message from Don Sweeney

     September brings a very welcome COLA for many of us, and also for ALL of us the very necessary VOTE/COPE contribution. This year, your check is needed to PROTECT what we have fought so hard to gain during the past years. A contribution of $20 will be most appreciated. However, more (or less) will be acceptable.

     Your VOTE/COPE card is in the hard copy of The Torch that was mailed to you. Directions for completing the card is in the mailing. Completed cards should be mailed to: Don Sweeney, 96 West Hurley Road, Apt. 14, Woodstock, NY 12498.

                  

                 WINIFRED NASH O’NEIL—1905-2003

    The Kingston Teachers’ Federation and the Kingston Retired Teachers’ Federation sadly report the death of Winnie O’Neil on September 2, 2003.

     Winnie, who taught for 44 years in the Kingston School District (School No. 8), was a charter member of the Kingston Teachers’ Federation, Local 781, signing the charter in 1943. She was the last living member of the small group of original signers.

    Winnie was also a long time member of the Board of Directors of the Ulster County Teachers’ Federal Credit Union, now the Ulster Federal Credit Union.

                           JANICE MARKLE

     We regret to inform our members of the untimely and sudden passing of Central Administration Secretary Janice Markle on Monday, September 15, 2003. Calling hours at the Joseph Leahy Funeral Home are Thursday, September 18, 2-4 and 7-9.

                               EVENTS

     “THE BUTCH”, a first annual golf tournament in memory of Emil (Butch) Zullo, will be held at Wiltwyck on Monday, September 30. The full day event of lunch, refreshments, golf, and dinner (with open bar) will benefit the Emil Zullo Law Related Education Scholarship Fund. The cost is $150/golf participant and $75 for dinner only. Tee sponsorships, which will go directly to the Fund, are available at $150 each. Contact Stu Spoljaric at KHS for applications.

     The Delaware and Hudson Canal Museum in High Falls will host an Open House for Educators on Tuesday, September 30, 4-7 pm at the Museum, 23 Mohonk Road In High Falls. It’s FREE. Contact Leah at 687-9311 for information on their education programs.

       EAGLES GOLF LEAGUE: $35 plus greens fees, every Wednesday following school at Green Acres. Just Show Up! Info: Al Stein at KHS, 331-1970 or Home 336-5523.         

                              CONDOLENCES

To: Natalye Moss (KHS), on the passing of her mother; To Susan Hutcheon (Edson), on the passing of her father; To Dianne Fried (Edson), on the passing of her father; To Linda Lynch (Crosby), on the passing of her mother; To Dorothy Maglieri (Bailey), on the passing of her father; and To Bea Jordan (ESP retiree), on the passing of her son.

HOME FOR RENT: Pinehurst, North Carolina, January 31-February 14, 2004. 2 bdrm., 21/2 bth, one block from Pinehurst #2 Golf Course. (43 golf courses in county). NO smokers, children, or pets, please. Reasonably priced for retirees. Contact Gail or Vince Puleo at (910) 295-0069 or email: vpuleo@nc.rr.com