The Edge - Orange-Ulster BOCES Teachers' Association

Tarrytown Regional Office
520 White Plains Road
Tarrytown, NY 10591
Phone: (914) 592-4411
Fax: (914) 345-3302
Like us on Facebook: and follow us on Twitter: @NYSUTTRO!
Marc Laffer, Regional Staff Director
December 2014
Calendar of Events
First Annual RCTA
Billiards Bonanza!!
Supporting Students with Autism Seminar
(NYSUT Tarrytown Regional Office)
Dec 1
Managing Local Union Finances Workshop
(NYSUT Tarrytown Regional Office)
Dec 2
TIME: 4-7 PM
Rockland County Central Labor Council
(IBEW, New City)
Dec 4
LOCATION: Diamond Jim’s Billiards & Pub
Nanuet, NY
21st Century Skills for Teachers Seminar
(NYSUT Tarrytown Regional Office)
Dec 9
ED 14 Meeting
(The Thayer Hotel, West Point)
Dec 9
COST: $150 per team
Westchester/Putnam Central Labor Council
(WPCLB Office, White Plains)
Dec 10
SRP Leadership Council
(NYSUT Tarrytown Regional Office)
Dec 15
Dec 17
Engaging the Disruptive Student Seminar
(NYSUT Tarrytown Regional Office)
Dec 18
Hudson-Catskill Central Labor Council
(CSEA Local 836 Hall, Middletown)
Dec 23
Rockland County TA Meeting
(North Rockland TA Office)
Orange County TA Meeting
(Cosimos Brick Oven, Middletown)
Put together a team (3-5 people per team) and come out
to play billiards, eat and socialize! The RCTA Billiards
Bonanza will surely be the social event of the year.
Don’t miss it!!
$20 suggested donation at the door to support United
Hospice of Rockland County.
All proceeds will be donated to
United Hospice of Rockland County
Educator Academy Module 3: The Observation and
Evaluation System Seminar
(NYSUT Tarrytown Regional Office)
NYSUT Offices Closed
DATE: January 22, 2015
Dec 24 – Jan 2
Jan 7
Jan 12
Understanding Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders
(NYSUT Tarrytown Regional Office)
Jan 14
Westchester/Putnam Central Labor Council
(WPCLB Office, White Plains)
Jan 14
ED 14/15/16 Billiards Bonanza
(Diamond Jim’s Billiards & Pub, Nanuet)
Jan 22
ED 15/16 Meeting
(NYSUT Tarrytown Regional Office)
Jan 29
Accurate Member Records
When phone banks are in full swing, it often becomes apparent
how out-of-date our member records can be. NYSUT depends
on our locals to keep us informed about changes. With regular
monitoring, keeping your member records accurate should take
just a few minutes each month. Left undone, this chore can
become a Herculean task. Not sure where to start? Find
detailed help online:
NYSUT Membership & Dues Handbook
NYSUT Electronic Membership Reporting (EMR)
ED 14/15/16 Bowling Extravaganza
government. What the Governor must remember – and we
must remember, as well – is that the Governor received the
vote of 9.07% of New York’s 19.65 million residents. Even if
you limit that number to registered voters, he only had the vote
of 15.52% of New York’s 11.47 million registered voters.
Only in Albany would that be considered a mandate.
Let this be another reminder in May, when low-voter turnout
elections decide the fate of school budgets and boards of
education. To tweak an old axiom, failing to participate is
participating in failure.
Labor in the News
(Members from the Mt. Vernon Federation of Teachers
participate in the 3rd annual Bowling Extravaganza.)
More than 500 NYSUT members from the region
participated in the 3rd annual Bowling Extravaganza on
November 13th. More than $7,000 was raised for Project
Midterm Elections: When Our
Vote Matters More
The abysmally low turnout in last month’s
midterm elections – the lowest in more than
seven decades – was bad for democracy. In
43 states, less than half the eligible
population bothered to vote, and no state
broke 60 percent.
New York’s turnout was a shameful 28.8 percent, the fourthlowest in the country despite three statewide races (including
the governor) and 27 House races. In the three largest states –
California, Texas and New York – less than a third of the
eligible population voted.
Although some local candidates that we supported fared well,
the low turnout allowed a rain shower to seem like a hurricane.
The election pundits are now championing a new era of
politics, led by politicians like Scott Walker of Wisconsin. As
we move forward, candidates will move further to the
extremes, thinking that the voters issued a mandate. This
could not be further from the truth, but we have to continue to
remember that, in the minds of elected officials, perception
becomes reality.
Here in New York, Andrew Cuomo has been re-elected and
appears ready to try to bully his agenda through the
A group of Walmart employees pushing for higher wages
were planning protests at 1,600 Walmart stores nationwide
on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year in
the United States.
Nov. 13, 2014: Volkswagen announces new policy that is
likely to allow several labor groups, including United
Automobile Workers, to represent employees at the
company’s Chattanooga, Tenn. Plant; policy stops short of
UAWs ultimate goal of being exclusive union and
bargaining agent for plant’s workers.
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra says it will end its twomonth lockout after reaching a deal that will give its
musicians small raises but requires them to pay more for
their health insurance, while also allowing the orchestra to
leave positions vacant longer.
DeBlasio administration says it will require entire staff at
Boys and Girls High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant and
Automotive High School in Greenpoint to reapply for their
jobs in 2015; move is result of deal with teachers’ and
principals’ unions that came just before state deadline;
schools are two of New York City’s lowest performing
schools, and require extensive changes.
National Labor Relations Board charges James L. Dolan,
Cablevision chief executive, with illegally threatening to
deny company technicians in Brooklyn a pay increase
unless they voted to quit union Communications Workers
of America; also asserts Cablevision illegally undermined
the union’s representation of those workers by sponsoring
a nonbinding poll to determine whether they wanted to
leave the union.
But what do we say to our members that will get them to
participate? We talk with them about how we win when we
are united, because when we are united we are powerful and
that if we don’t do something as a group, we’re not going to
get from our employer what we want or what we need, or even
deserve. We confront our members with the consequences of
their inactivity. Does that make sense? More to follow. As
always, your LRS can be a great resource for any information
dealing with organizing.
Class Size…
How Many is too Much?
(photo by J.R. Wilson)
As school budgets continue to shrink, it is
no surprise that class sizes are increasing.
Some collective bargaining agreements are
fortunate to have language restricting class
size, but many do not. If there is no contract
language, does the district face any restrictions on class size?
The New York Commissioner of Education has promulgated
Regulation §100.2(i) which provides in part that a daily
teaching load of more than 150 pupils must be justified by the
district. The limitation restricts the number of pupils to 150
per day. It does not proscribe more than 150 pupils per
teacher, but only demands that the district be able to justify the
deviation above 150.
(photo by Lillian Franceschina)
SRP leaders from throughout the region celebrate SRP
Recognition Day at receptions in the Tarrytown Regional
Office and Characters Restaurant in Sloatsburg.
Internal Organizing – Getting
Members Involved
Internal organizing aims to get members to participate in the
activities of the union. These activities are meant to impress
the employer with the level of commitment to, and passion for,
the issues confronting the local union, so that he’ll fear the
power of the union. He may then be more likely to give in on
the union’s demands than he would if there was not collective
activity. When we say activities of the union we are referring
to petition signing, informational picketing, or attending a
board meeting, as a few examples.
Even though the Regulation is a useful tool to challenge class
size, it does have its limits. A challenge to a teacher’s yearly
work assignment must be submitted to the Commissioner of
Education within 30 days after the teacher knew or should
have known of such assignment. If more than 30 days pass,
the Commissioner will not consider the challenge. In
considering the deviation, the Commissioner will employ a two
part test: 1) Can the district demonstrate circumstances to
justify the deviation; and, 2) Does the deviation preclude
effective teaching?
When considering justification for the deviation, the
Commissioner has found that budget cuts alone are not
sufficient justification for excessive teaching loads. In making
this decision, the courts have held that the 150 limit is not
“aspirational,” but a “standard that should not lightly be
disregarded.” The Commissioner will then closely examine
whether effective teaching will be limited. In making this
determination, the Commissioner will look at the number of
minutes taught each day, how many total classes there are per
day, how many classes require homework or the submission of
grades, the percentage of student’s grades that are allocated to
participation and skills versus homework and tests, how much
prep time the teacher gets, whether the teacher has duties,
whether the assignment is disproportionate, and the students’
academic success.
Although we can often make strong arguments towards the two
part test, we still face another uphill battle – the remedy.
Often, by the time the Commissioner has rendered a decision,
the school year is over. The Commissioner has refused to
impose retroactive penalties, and has often dismissed the
challenges as moot. However, in one case, the Commissioner
did order the district to submit annual reports detailing the
district’s efforts in eliminating excessive teaching loads.
Commissioner Regulation 100.2(i) is not the perfect challenge
to excessive class size. However, local leaders should work
with their LRS to use it as a tool to challenge large classes.
While a legal challenge might not be sufficient, the Regulation
can often be part of the useful public relations challenge.
Your Workplace is a Petri Dish:
Wash Your Hands
The cold weather has arrived, and with it
seasonal illnesses. Being indoors for more
hours each day, we come into greater
contract with others. Heated indoor air dries
out the mucus membranes making us more
susceptible to viruses and bacteria. Others
come to school sick and leave germs on handles and
doorknobs, desks and tables, keyboards and writing tools. We
all know some strategies for staying healthy but reminders
can’t hurt. Here are some you know and maybe a few you
Wash your hands
Get a flu shot
Wipe down shared surfaces with a green cleaner
(remember, the products you use at home may cause
respiratory problems for others in your classroom)
Use hand sanitizer
Take vitamins and supplements
Keep tissues handy and encourage their use
Get out in the sun for at least 15 minutes each day
Moisturize your skin (you won’t want to wash your hands
if they are chapped)
Dress in layers so as to stay warm, but not overheat
Drink plenty of water
Replace your toothbrush
Wash your hands again
Eat right (a diet low in processed sugars and high in fiber
supports your immune system)
Don’t borrow or share pens and pencils
Open the windows for a few minutes
Wash your hands once more
And if all else fails, stay home when you are sick
Don’t wait for the germs to find you. Be proactive and stay
healthy this winter!
Teacher Retirement News
Based on a New York State Teacher Retirement System
(NYSTRS) bulletin, it is anticipated that the Employer
Contribution Rate (ECR) for the 2015-16 fiscal year will be
between 13% and 13.5%. A more precise estimate will be
provided in February 2015. The rate for the 2014-15 fiscal
year is 17.53%.
Congratulations to Jolene DiBrango, newly elected teacher
representative on the NYSTRS Board. Ms. DiBrango replaces
NYSUT President Karen Magee. Any questions for the teacher
representatives should be directed to:
Jolene DiBrango: (585) 267-3420
Paul Farfaglio: (315) 431-4040 or
Tim Southerton: (631) 273-8822
Current retirees should call: David Keefe: (516) 741-1241.
Home for the Holidays
December is the season to be jolly – and take time off. Or not
take time off. Or be ordered to take time off, or be ordered to
not take time off. Although typically not an issue for teachers,
our SRPs often face restrictions or mandates on using time
during the break.
Contracts determine when somebody can – or must – take
vacation, or when they must take vacation. In the absence of
contract language, past practice may be relevant. Too often,
our clerical or maintenance colleagues are told that they must
use vacation during the holiday break – or that they can’t take
vacation during a holiday break – and simply comply with the
directive instead of checking with their union. Because every
contract is different, and almost every situation is different, the
local leader must ensure that the members know that any
questions must be directed to the union, not the supervisor.
Districts may have justifiable reasons for denying or
mandating work during the holiday period. Some work is best
done while school is in session; some, while school is not in
session. In some cases, there are minimum or maximum
staffing levels. Principals might be concerned about leaving a
building completely unstaffed, but, unless the contract provides
otherwise, they may not have the right to deny somebody
vacation to ensure continuous staffing. Similarly, they might
try to demand that vacation be used during this time, because it
may have lesser impact on the students.
Valid though these concerns may be, they cannot trump
employee rights. If such directives are issued, members should
know to immediately contact their union to determine if the
directive is appropriate. As a local leader, close interaction
with your members and LRS will limit current problems and
prevent future problems.
Shop Like a Unionist!
For better or for worse, the holiday shopping season
is in full swing. If only we could fulfill all of our
holiday shopping needs with products that are made
in the USA by unionized workers. We would buy
them from retailers whose employees are union members and
who are not forced to work on Thanksgiving Day. We would
know they had been transported by unionized truckers and
shippers whose health and safety were not jeopardized by
unrealistic deadlines.
Even though we don’t live in that world, NYSUT members can
still choose to shop with a conscience. We can support
companies and organizations that believe high-quality items
can be made without sacrificing workers’ health and safety, job
security or the environment.
Check the labels. We don’t often see “the union label”
anymore but most products sold in the U.S. are labeled with
their country of origin. Be alert to packaging or claims
designed to fool you.
Think about the products you will purchase. Although there
are few electronics made in America these days, many other
common holiday gifts are. Clothing, footwear, leather goods,
jewelry, chocolates, cosmetics, perfume and cookware are just
a few categories.
Do a little research before you shop. Then take your unionmade shopping list with you. Here are two good places to start
Stay safe and proudly pro-union when you join the holiday
rush this season. Buy union! Buy local! Buy made in the
Tarrytown Learning Center:
Upcoming Seminars!
The Tarrytown Learning Center (TLC)
offers seminars to enhance our members’
work experience and provide them with the
tools to be the best they can be at their profession. The
seminars, set up in partnership with the NYSUT Education and
Learning Trust (ELT), will provide the latest and most relevant
research-based strategies and resources. These seminars are
taught by certified ELT instructors and are convenient and
inexpensive. All seminars will begin at 4:30 PM and will be
held at the NYSUT Tarrytown Regional Office. Registration
is only $10 per seminar. For more information, go to:
Upcoming courses include:
Supporting Students with Autism – December 1st
Ending the achievement gap between students with disabilities
and their non-disabled peers requires addressing the essential
factors that can influence their success. This three-hour
training provides up-to-date information on the clinical and
associated features of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
Attention will be given to how these features manifest
themselves and present unique instructional and learning
challenges within educational settings. The seminar goes
beyond the core features of the disorders and covers evidencebased, pro-active strategies for helping children and
adolescents with ASDs succeed in schools today. (3 hours)
21st Century Skills for Teachers – December 9th
This seminar is designed to address one of the NYS Teaching
Standards priorities by helping teachers understand that
knowledge is expanding at a more rapid rate than ever
anticipated. Information and communication is changing how
we teach and how students learn. Routine skills are no longer
the basis for the workplace or the classroom. The seminar will
emphasize that today’s students and teachers must be able to
communicate, share, and use information in a number of
diverse ways. We will discover together that using
information and solving complex problems as we adapt and
innovate to a changing work environment is critical to student
success in our world. Technology and problem solving skills
will be defined as successful learning and the participants will
develop strategies to share those skills with their students. (2
Educator Academy Module 3: The Observation and
Evaluation System – December 17th
Learn about observation protocols, the collection of observable
evidence for various teaching standards and how to make
observations more meaningful. (3 hours)
Engaging the Disruptive Student – December 18th
This seminar will offer strategies for dealing with students who
exhibit chronic and extreme misbehavior, including violence
and then focus on the strategies to enhance personal
effectiveness with disruptive students and get student learning
back on track. (3 hours)
The Edge is a news service for NYSUT members and may be
copied or duplicated as needed. For more information contact the
NYSUT Tarrytown Regional Office at (914) 592-4411, visit our
Facebook page:, or follow us on
Twitter: @NYSUTTRO.
The Edge Editorial Board
Marc Laffer – Editor
Sarah Arbitrio, Courtney Corey,
Ken DeStefano, Eric Marshall,
Jackie Morrissey, Amanda Velázquez