On Wednesday, May 21, GNTA joined parents, children, and fellow educators at the State Democratic Convention in Melville to send the message that we'll remember in November. It's part of our ongoing fight to reclaim public education, reclaim local control, reclaim New York State, and let Cuomo know that enough is enough!
School Budget Passes; BoE Incumbents Win
On May 21, Great Neck residents overwhelmingly approved the 2014-15 school budget by a vote of 1,679 to 444, a 79% approval rate. Members of both GNTA and our Retired Educators Chapter reached out to active (and former) educators living in the district to ask for their support in passing the budget.
It was also a big night for the Board of Education's incumbent trustees. Both Lawrence R. Gross and Susan Healy were reelected to 3-year terms with vote totals of 1,494 and 1,490, respectively. GNTA's Executive Board unanimously supported the incumbents over challenger Chien Huang who garnered just 864 votes. Both Mr. Gross and Ms. Healy have demonstrated that they are strong advocates for public education in Great Neck, and we look forward to our continued collaboration to provide the children of this community with an outstanding public education.
LIFERs Seek to Eliminate Triborough
The following is the first in a series of articles intended to keep our members informed about New York State's education laws, Great Neck Board of Education and UPTC meetings, and GNTA's political action initiatives.
By Luci Legotti
Once again Long Island teachers’ voices were heard as we came together in solidarity to protect what we have worked hard to establish and advocate for what is right for students on Long Island. Jeff Bernstein, Michelle Sorice, and Luci Legotti attended a public forum sponsored by Long Islanders for Educational Reform (LIFER) on May 8th.The event was organized in support of the passage of a proposed “Taxpayer and Mandate Relief Bill” (A8603), which would, among other things, eliminate Triborough protections.
Steve Levy, former Suffolk County Executive, moderated the discussion. He introduced a very one-sided panel of invited guests to an audience of approximately 400 (about 75% unionists). E.J. McMahon, Empire Center for Public Policy Inc., began with a very academic overview of the establishment of the Taylor Law and Triborough Amendment, which led into a summary and justification of their proposed bill. Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick, sponsor of the bill, asserted that the passage of this bill would make it easier for employers to change union contracts as a way to provide governmental fiscal relief in New York State. The panel spoke to reports, which were disputed once the floor was open for comments. The majority of the audience spoke against the proposed bill, questioning and dispelling the assertions presented by the panel and exposing the misrepresentations in the reports. NYSUT representative Matt Jacobs was invited from the audience to join the panel; he spoke eloquently, provided facts to dispute misinformation presented by the panel, and responded to audience members who spoke in support of the bill. As the night went on, the panel often could not respond with valid reasons as to how this bill would quantitatively improve New York State’s fiscal situation.
It is clear that the goal of the bill is to erode collective bargaining and workers’ rights. The meeting was very well attended by teachers and other union members who continually encouraged Assemblyman Fitzpatrick to steer his efforts away from this bill and towards reducing unfunded state mandates. In addition, he was challenged to find ways to get more of Long Island’s taxpayer money returned to the Island as a way of reducing taxes in Nassau and Suffolk County. What started out as a very one-sided forum in support of a bill proposing the elimination of workers’ rights shifted as speaker after speaker educated the panel by offering viable solutions to improve New York State’s fiscal situation that do not impinge on collective bargaining rights. This outcome speaks to the strength of union solidarity and the need for teachers to continue to make their voices heard.
For further reading: Why We Defend Triborough - NYSUT
Congratulations to John Motchkavitz (a.k.a. "Motch"),
South High School Business/Technology Department Head,
who has been selected as one of the five finalists for the
'Live with Kelly and Michael' Teacher of the Year Contest.
Motch, a graduate of South High, will appear live on the
program on Tuesday, May 13. Tune in beginning at 9:30 a.m.
Voting will take place online between Friday, May 16 - Monday,
May 19. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, May 20.
See Congressman Steve Israel honor Motch on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Read more at www.greatneck.k12.ny.us
Contract Negotiations UPDATE
From President Sheila Scimone:
For at least the past year, the Budget Committee of the UPTC has asked for a multi-year budget projection from the Board of Education and implied a lack of transparency on the Board’s part because of its reluctance to provide one. I’ve attended all but one Board meeting this year, and the subject has come up at nearly every one.
As a result, at the April 24 meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Business John Powell made a presentation of the district’s six-year forecast. This included a projection of the tax cap as well as the revenue and expenditure projections. The most disturbing feature of the expenditures projection, to me, was the line for personnel services:
The first two years, of course, reflect collectively bargained salaries. The percentage figures include all increments: step and class. However, the last four years of the projection-which ALSO include all increments-have not yet been bargained: it is a public statement of the district’s goal for all bargaining units, including GNTA.
I understand that the district is under a great deal of pressure from a segment of the community that believes that expenditures can and should be cut further than they already have. After Mr. Powell’s presentation, the Board was pressed by several people to identify cuts that would be made if the projected revenues did not materialize: for example, what if fewer people than projected retire next year? or if required pension contributions go up instead of down as expected? The questioners made it clear that they do not want jobs cut or class sizes to go up. The only inference, then, is that they believe salaries should be cut.
So yes, with the rest of the Executive Board, I understand that the district is under a great deal of pressure. But we are deeply disturbed that, in effect, making public a target number of 2% for total salaries for the four years following the expiration of this contract in 2015 does, in effect, begin negotiations now rather than next February. We also believe that it puts GNTA (and all other bargaining groups) at a disadvantage by placing specifics of negotiations squarely in the public eye. Both of these circumstances, we believe, have established a negative climate for negotiations before they’ve even begun.
Four members of the Executive Board-Jim Daszenski (Vice President for Administration), Jennifer Snyder (Vice President for Professional Rights and Responsibilities), Kim Semder (Vice President for Contract Improvement), and I-will be meeting with the Board of Education and the Superintendent on Friday, May 30 at 4:00 for a frank discussion of this situation. It is important that we make clear how very disturbed we are.
Which brings me to an important related topic. Clearly, this round of negotiations will be like none we’ve experienced previously. By mutual agreement with the district, we have always kept negotiations behind closed doors, believing that it’s counterproductive to have the entire community weighing in on the merit of various proposals. This time, however, we may need to share more information with you, particularly if negotiations are protracted. School email is obviously not the best means of doing so; nor is this website, since it’s difficult to password protect it and yet keep it accessible to all. SO...if you want to receive whatever information the Negotiations Team believes should be shared, we are asking that you provide us with a private email address that we can use for that purpose.
To sign-up, fill out the Contact Form on this site and you’re all set!
The Executive Board of the Great Neck Teachers Association unanimously supports the re-election of all current members of the Great Neck Board of Education.
This Board adheres to all the tenets of fiscal responsibility while maintaining their goal of meeting the needs of all students. While we teachers have not always benefitted financially from the Board’s budgeting, we respect their measured judgment and work with them in good faith as partners because we understand that the long-term educational and financial health of the district is their primary focus and serves the best interests of the entire educational community of Great Neck.
This Board is not afraid of change; in fact, they stay ahead of it. The Board enacted a tax cap one year before it became law; approached technology not as a panacea but as one tool for instructional effectiveness; made critical capital improvements to the district’s aging infrastructure before it became dangerous or cost-prohibitive; and unanimously passed a resolution opposing the State’s overreliance on standardized testing.
This Board has served the interests of students and taxpayers in equal measure, maintaining an equilibrium that sets it apart from other districts. With one eye on Great Neck’s rich history and the other on charting its promising future, they have done more than react to the current financial and educational crises: they have proactively and successfully led the district through them.
No Board is more accessible, more deliberative, or better informed. We strongly recommend the re-election of the members of this Board of Education on May 20.
Sheila Scimone, President
Great Neck Teachers Association
The Glen Cove Teachers Association has just signed a new contract with their district covering July 1, 2011-June 30, 2016. Here are the essentials:
Staff development requirement reduced by 5 hours. Tenured teachers will no longer be required to submit lesson plan books. Sub pay reduced from 1/200 MA Step 4 to $283 per day. Health insurance contribution: 20%.