Community college leaders praised for inspiring students
Three hundred current and future union leaders gathered in November to share ideas, strategy and solidarity at NYSUT's 36th annual Community College Conference.
NYSUT President Karen E. Magee, in her keynote address, had special words of praise for NYSUT's community college members, describing their work as a source of inspiration for students of all ages, and their campuses as incubators of creativity and economic development.
Invoking the words of U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-MD, Magee said community colleges have been one of the country's greatest and most successful social adventures. Magee is herself a graduate of Westchester Community College, where she earned a degree in recreation leadership.
"Some of the toughest classes I took were there, and it took me to a degree in behavioral science," Magee said.
Community colleges saw a $75-per-student increase in their base aid for the current budget, but with a long history of inadequate funding, the upcoming state budget remains a priority. The SUNY community colleges have not received their mandated share of state funding or aid from sponsoring counties in years; student tuition and fees have been used to plug the operating budget gap.
United University Professions Secretary Eileen Landy, below, criticizes inadequate community college funding. For more on the conference, visit www.nysut.org.
NYSUT receives AFT Innovation Fund grant
NYSUT has won an AFT Innovation Fund grant so teachers can offer solutions to problems with New York's rollout of the Common Core State Standards.
The grant helps the union fulfill mandates of a resolution adopted at the 2014 NYSUT Representative Assembly that called for a task force to review the State Education Department's Common Core materials and seek feedback from teachers who are using SED's lesson plans.
NYSUT will use the six-month, $30,000 grant for a task force that will review and critique the state's math and English language arts curriculum materials, developed by outside vendors, which have received criticism from many educators.
The task force also will scrutinize the state's process for developing standardized tests; probe whether practitioners were involved in the local implementation of the state Common Core Learning Standards and development of curriculum; and consider whether the state's professional development afforded teachers enough support.
The task force's work will be shared with state policymakers, the state Legislature, parent organizations, student advocates and education professionals.
BOCES leaders call for better state funding
NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino, above, addresses leaders at the BOCES conference in October. Leaders talked about a number of legislative initiatives that would help BOCES remain economically viable and even expand offerings, including:
- a bill that would provide BOCES building aid for school safety expenses like metal detectors and security devices;
a bill that would provide preschool special education programs with a desperately needed cost-of-living adjustment; and
a bill that would allow BOCES to establish reserve funds to cover long-term costs.
Nassau BOCES Central Council of Teachers President Bob Dreaper urged NYSUT to support legislation that would lift the cap on BOCES district superintendent salaries, saying the revolving door of superintendents has hurt the stability of many BOCES when they lose superintendents for better-paying jobs with component districts.
At a roundtable meeting with NYSUT's Fortino, several union leaders voiced concern that their BOCES are not providing services required by a student's Individualized Education Program (IEP).
"I'm concerned about legal ramifications, when you have a student whose IEP says they need to be in a 6:1:1 class and those supports and test modifications don't follow them," said Bill Baker of United BOCES TA in southwestern New York. "I teach culinary arts, where kids are working with knives and I have no aide or assistant. Of my 28 kids, almost half the class has IEPs."
Fortino said NYSUT staff would follow up with the State Education Department on the IEP issue. For more about the conference, visit www.nysut.org.
SRP leaders bring strength, unity to statewide union
Professional learning, political action and social justice defined the 2014 School-Related Professionals Leadership Conference Oct. 24-26 in Albany.
The conference was attended by 255 SRP leaders from 55 locals. "This is my 10th SRP Leadership Conference," said Laura Haas, SRP Advisory Committee member and Frontier Central Employees Association president. "And I learn something new every time."
All five NYSUT officers — President Karen E. Magee, Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta, Vice Presidents Catalina Fortino and Paul Pecorale and Secretary-Treasurer Martin Messner — attended.
"Each and every day, within your disciplines, you bring great value to your professions and you bring great value to your union," Pecorale said in his keynote speech. "The stronger you are as a local, the stronger we are as a statewide union."
The SRP leaders collected toiletries to donate to a local women's shelter; a raffle raised $2,500 for the NYSUT Disaster Relief Fund (see photo below). SRPs also donated 600 books to Hempstead schools.
For more about the conference and to view photos, visit www.nysut.org. Photo by Marty Kerins Jr.
TC3, Cayuga CC adjuncts seek recognition for new unions
An effort to unionize by more than 250 adjuncts at Tompkins Cortland Community College has been stalled by the school's administration, which has refused to recognize the fledgling unit. College officials claim the bid by the upstart TC3 Adjunct Association does not represent the wishes of the majority of adjuncts at the school — despite the fact the majority of adjuncts signed authorization cards in support of affiliating with NYSUT.
The refusal forces the union to file a petition with the state Public Employment Relations Board — a possibly extensive and costly proceeding that organizers said is a popular tactic used by colleges looking to derail unionizing efforts.
Robert Earle, an adjunct instructor in philosophy, sociology and English at TC3 and SUNY Cortland, said despite teaching 18 credits this semester — more than what's required of full-time faculty — he still earns significantly less than the lowest paid, full-time faculty member.
"I refuse to be ashamed about asserting my need to have reasonable and regular guaranteed pay increases," he said. "Every other employee at TC3 has those and that's because they have union representation. As the employees responsible for the majority of the instruction that happens at TC3, we deserve nothing less."
An estimated 56 percent of the classes at TC3 are taught by adjuncts, according to a report by the organizing committee for the TC3 Adjunct Association. Given that adjuncts account for the bulk of instruction, Diane Williams, an adjunct instructor in biology, said a union would benefit TC3 by enabling it to continue to attract and retain top-notch adjuncts for years to come.
Unit organizers had urged the Tompkins County Legislature, which earlier this year approved $2.9 million for TC3, to persuade the college to recognize the union and to not waste taxpayer money on a lengthy PERB hearing.
"The adjuncts at TC3 are dedicated professionals whose work is indispensable," said NYSUT President Karen E. Magee. "All they are asking for is respect and dignity, which a union would ensure. It is time for the college to recognize the TC3 Adjuncts Association. Day in and day out, the adjuncts prove their worth to TC3 and now it's time the college shows them the respect they deserve."
Some 220 adjunct instructors at Cayuga Community College in Auburn and Fulton — who are now without benefits, seniority protection or a voice on the job — are also looking to affiliate with NYSUT.
But the fledgling Cayuga Community College Part-Time Association is being resisted by the CCC administration, which maintains its adjuncts should become part of the unit representing 68 full-time faculty members at the college.
Greg Sevik, an English adjunct at Cayuga, told the college's Board of Trustees that merging adjuncts into the faculty unit would "create a conflict of negotiating interests."
"Adjuncts and full-time faculty members by no means work under the same conditions," Sevik said. "Unlike full-time faculty, adjuncts have no health benefits, few opportunities for professional
advancement, no required office hours or membership on college committees, and little assurance they will have a job after the end of each semester."
Adjuncts have collected some 850 petition signatures demanding the college end the delays and recognize the adjunct union.
— Matt Smith
Lansing school counselor wins statewide honor
A school counselor who has served students at every grade level in a career spanning nearly a quarter of a century has been named New York State School Counselor of the Year.
Carol Miller, a member of the Lansing Faculty Association who works at Lansing Middle School in Lansing, Tompkins County, was honored by the New York State School Counselor Association at its recent annual conference in Albany.
The state award puts her on the list of candidates for the American School Counselor Association's next Counselor of the Year award.
Miller said she believes no profession compares with counseling for its compassion and dedication to students and to their work. "Every day I see and hear so many counselors doing such amazing things," she told conference-goers in accepting the award.
She brings a deep interest in technology to school counseling, often presenting workshops and seminars on how to use technology to be more effective on the job. In addition to maintaining a professional counseling presence on social media sites, she keeps followers informed about counseling issues on her blog, The Middle School Counselor at www.themiddleschoolcounselor.com.