The Edge - BTA News

520 White Plains Road
Tarrytown, NY 10591
Tarrytown Regional Office
Phone: (914) 592-4411
Fax: (914) 345-3302
Like us on Facebook: and follow us on Twitter: @NYSUTTRO!
Marc Laffer, Regional Staff Director
Calendar of Events
Aim High: A Proactive, Positive Environment for Student
Achievement Seminar
(NYSUT Tarrytown R.O.)
Feb 4
Rockland County Central Labor Council
(IBEW, New City)
Feb 5
Rockland County TA Meeting
(North Rockland TA Office)
Feb 11
Westchester/Putnam Central Labor Council
(WPCLB Office, White Plains)
Feb 11
Videotaping Classroom Practices for Feedback, Evaluation &
Professional Growth Seminar
(NYSUT Tarrytown R.O.)
Feb 12
SRP Leadership Council
(NYSUT Tarrytown R.O.)
Feb 23
New Mentor Training
(NYSUT Tarrytown R.O.)
Feb 25
ED 15/16 Presidents’ Council
(Mt. Kisco Holiday Inn)
Feb 26
Cyber Bullying: The New Age of Harassment Seminar
(NYSUT Tarrytown R.O.)
Mar 2
Committee of 100
(Desmond, Albany)
Mar 2-3
Rockland County Central Labor Council
(IBEW, New City)
Mar 5
Orange County TA Meeting
(Cosimos Brick Oven, Middletown)
Mar 9
Formative and Summative Assessment: Practice that Works
(NYSUT Tarrytown R.O.)
Mar 10
TRO Peer-to-Peer Mediation:
A New Tool
Does this sound familiar: two of your members
just couldn’t get along. Or perhaps it was a
teacher and a teaching assistant who get on
each other’s nerves. Maybe it was a teacher
and a custodian. Invariably, at least one would
go to the principal and complain and then they
were both “problem employees.” If only they had come to the
union first. Through years of experience, we have observed
many situations in which NYSUT local members have had a
February 2015
significant dispute in the workplace with other NYSUT
members. Often these disputes go unresolved and fester, either
causing prolonged workplace hostility or worse, devolve into
conflicts that expose members to discipline by the employer.
In either case, leaving these disputes unresolved clearly is not a
good practice for our members. In an effort to help local
leaders and members enjoy a more harmonious workplace
environment, the Tarrytown Regional Office will soon be
offering all locals the service of formal mediation for
resolution of peer-peer disputes.
The NYSUT Tarrytown Regional Office is excited to be
introducing a project to develop a small group of retired local
leaders trained to mediate disputes between coworkers. We
have started the training process and in the very near future we
will have people available to come to your work location (or
wherever it’s convenient) and have the disputing parties
attempt to resolve the problem.
Mediation is a voluntary, cooperative process for resolving
disputes between two parties in which a neutral person, a
mediator, facilitates a discussion between the parties in an
effort to help them clarify the issues and resolve their conflict.
Formal mediation is when a trained, experienced mediator
facilitates the mediation process between parties by using a
structured approach. This approach has been developed
through countless mediation experiences and has become a
reliable and effective method for resolving disputes in the
workplace. Many times, co-workers can resolve an otherwise
irreconcilable dispute by using this process.
Mediation is appropriate and useful in a wide variety of
situations, but is especially effective at the point when
emotions have eased enough that the parties can begin to
communicate with one another. Mediation can work
particularly well in helping participants resolve problems, let
go of their grievances and mend broken relationships. Often
there is improved communication, less tension, increased
productivity and a better atmosphere for everyone to work in.
Mediation allows participants to find answers to their concerns
and walk away emotionally relieved, usually with an
agreement that each can uphold.
Once the training is done and the mediators are ready, all
presidents will be notified and procedures for accessing
mediation will be made available.
Bigger and Better…Summer
Training Turns Members Into
Members of the Clarkstown Teachers’ Association participate
in the inaugural RCTA Billiards Bonanza with Senator David
Carlucci on January 22. Over $4,000 was raised and donated
to United Hospice of Rockland.
Victory for Tenure
NYSUT counsel Rich Casagrande and Tony Brock brought
home another significant win in the constant battle for teacher
tenure. New York’s Court of Appeals upheld the right of a
tenured teacher brought up on disciplinary charges to elect the
statutory 3020-a process.
The case was Kilduff v. Rochester City School District. Ms.
Kildruff was a tenured school social worker in the Rochester
City School District. The district tried to discipline her, and
she demanded a hearing pursuant to Education Law section
3020-a. The district denied her demand, claiming that she was
not entitled to a 3020-a hearing because there was an alternate
disciplinary procedure in the contract.
In a 4-3 decision, the majority strongly reaffirmed the
importance of tenure, ruling that the purpose of Education Law
section 3020(1) is to ensure “that all tenured educators have
the non-negotiable right” to a 3020-a hearing. Locals are free
to negotiate alternative disciplinary procedures, but the
alternate procedure must allow the tenured educator the choice
between the alternate procedure and 3020-a. Particularly
pleasing was the Court’s reference to the 1981 Holt case:
We have, of course, previously recognized the
importance the Legislature has accorded the status of
tenure in the educational context as well as its attendant
purpose to preserve the process by which tenured
educators are to be disciplined and removed against the
vagaries of collective bargaining [citing Holt].
This may be important to our tenure defense in that Holt
strongly articulated the public policy rationale behind tenure.
All defendants in the tenure case rely on Holt. This recent
affirmation by the State’s highest court can only help our cause
in the lower courts.
With the return of the Summer Leadership
Conference in 2014 after a two year hiatus, we
were able to train more NYSUT leaders in the
region than at any time in the past. As a result
of holding the one night/two day conference in
August and coupling that with our successful Summer School
program in the regional office, more than 500 NYSUT leaders
received training last summer. While we consider that a great
success, we know there is more that we can do.
Last year you told us that even though you enjoyed the
leadership conference, you missed some of the solidarity that
you felt during previous conferences when there was time to
network with leaders from throughout the region. We heard
you! This year, we are bringing back the two night conference
in August. The 2015 Tarrytown Summer Leadership
Conference will take place August 11th through August 13th.
We will return to the Parsippany Hilton, which is in a great
location for us, far enough to feel like we’re out of town, but
close enough to make for convenient travel, and has wonderful
Conference workshops are being developed as you read this
and we will again work towards creating workshops that will
help you and the other leaders of your local become more
effective leaders. In addition, we will expand our Summer
School offerings to 9 days in July. Please let all of your
officers and building representatives know about this great
opportunity and keep an eye out in March for the conference
announcement and registration materials.
They Can’t Do That…
Without Bargaining
A recent decision issued by an Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ) at the NYS Public Employment Relations Board
(PERB) reiterated the well-established rule that public
employers are required to bargain before changing longstanding procedures (i.e., past practices) that relate to terms
and conditions of employment. Although the case involved
county employees, it is equally applicable to all public
employees as the specific issue was whether a public employer
breaches its duty to bargain in good faith when it unilaterally
“establishes a procedure by which employees must verify that
their dependents continue to be eligible for health insurance,
which can result in the loss of coverage for the dependent if the
employee does not comply and which could result in
disciplinary action against a non-compliant employee.”
In this case, the County Police Association of Cortland
(Association) initiated the case by filing an improper practice
charge when the County of Cortland and its Sheriff (County)
unilaterally began requiring Association members to
participate in an audit of the County Health Plan by providing
various documents to the County to verify eligibility.
Members were informed of the new procedure when the
County distributed a notice stating that it had contracted with
an outside company to audit dependent enrollment. Shortly
after notification, the company responsible for the audit mailed
a three-page letter to all Association members enrolled in the
health plan, which stated that failure to participate in the audit
could result in cancellation of dependent benefits and that
knowingly submitting false or misleading information could
result in disciplinary action. The letter also informed members
of the type of documents that could be used to verify eligibility
and contained a sample verification form. Prior to the audit,
members seeking coverage for dependents were responsible for
completing an enrollment form requesting information about
the dependent and were required to report changes that may
impact dependent eligibility (e.g., divorce) but they had no
obligation to submit documentation in support of the enrollee’s
The ALJ began her analysis by stating the well-settled rule that
health benefits and procedures that may impact an employee’s
receipt of those benefits must be negotiated before they are
adopted or implemented. The decision also noted that
language granting discretion to the Plan Administrator to
determine eligibility does not eliminate the County’s duty to
bargain procedures to be used to challenge that determination.
Finally, the ALJ found that there had previously been no
requirement to submit documentation nor had the County
preciously conducted any type of review of dependent
eligibility and therefore rejected the County’s assertion that
there had been no change.
According to Yahoo Celebrity, a Twitter user
revealed the name selected by celebrity couple
Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds for their new
baby when she tweeted: “Congrats
@blakelively #blakelively glad to have you
and baby girl violet in our care.”
Why are we reporting this in The Edge? Because the Twitter
user claimed to work for Westchester Medical Center and she
subsequently tweeted: “I think I’m in trouble.” Although we
can’t confirm the accuracy of this Twitter user’s story, we
know for certain that publicizing private information in a
public forum like social media can result in trouble for our
As employees, our members are often privy to very sensitive
information and frequently have a duty to keep such
information confidential. Thus, it is important to be aware that
social media activity is not private. Employees have been and
continue to be disciplined for postings on Facebook, Twitter,
and other social media forums.
Since communications on social media are a type of speech,
public employees do have (limited) protections under the First
Amendment. However, this protection arises only when the
employee is speaking as a citizen on a matter of public
concern. Even when speaking on such matters, the right is not
absolute since courts will weigh the employee’s right against
the employer’s duty to provide effective and efficient
governmental services. If the balancing does not weigh in the
employee’s favor, protection will be denied. Significantly, the
First Amendment does not apply to private companies so
private sector employees cannot rely on free speech protections
in challenging employer actions.
Relatedly, as local leaders you should be aware that while
many employers have already adopted computer/social media
use policies, new policies as well as changes to policy must be
negotiated if they impose limitations on off-duty conduct.
Finally, if a policy interferes with an employee’s right to
engage in protected union activity, the policy should be
challenged under the applicable collective bargaining law.
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. They 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:
Aim High: A Proactive, Positive Environment for Student
Achievement – February 4th
Ending the achievement gap requires addressing all factors that
influence the achievement and behavior of students including:
classroom learning, school climate, and motivation theory. In
this seminar, participants will learn that a positive educational
environment is a major ingredient of effective schools.
Participants will examine research-based techniques that
empower “at risk” students, decrease problem behavior, and
improve student achievement in general. When the climate is
comfortable, the likelihood for success is greatly increased. (2
Videotaping Classroom Practices for Feedback, Evaluation
& Professional Growth – February 12th
This three-hour seminar is designed to support educators in
examining the personal benefits of classroom self-videotaping.
By taking a critical look from an observer’s view, a teacher can
interpret and apply any teacher evaluation rubric to support the
distinction of rating levels and allow for documenting
improvement in practice over time. Through interactive
activities, participants consider the planning required to
capture evidence of one’s practice aligned to the NYS
Teaching Standards and identify what aspects of their teacher
practice they wish to capture on video along with how to best
showcase that in their classroom, including choosing artifacts.
(3 hours)
New Member Training – February 25th
This training helps to prepare mentor teachers to work
effectively with their mentees. The mentoring relationship is
often a new one for both parties. Interpersonal skills needed
for developing this relationship, especially those of
confidentiality and trust, will be emphasized. The seminar will
also discuss: the rationale and goals for mentoring; the roles of
the mentor, including the roles of coach and guide; and
effective strategies for helping the mentee develop the
reflective skills needed in order to learn and grow
professionally. (3 hours)
Stop Giving Tax Breaks to the
Richest: Sign the UNFI Petition
In 1969, legislation was enacted in New York
providing for the creation of Industrial
Development Agencies (IDAs) to facilitate
economic development in specific localities, and
delineate their powers and status as public benefit corporations.
IDA’s have always been controversial, if not in theory,
certainly in practice.
According to the authorizing statute, the purpose of an IDA is
to promote, develop, encourage and assist in acquiring,
constructing, improving, maintaining or equipping certain
facilities, thereby advancing the job opportunities, health,
general prosperity and the economic welfare of the people of
New York. Each IDA is an independent public benefit
corporation established by a special act of the State Legislature
at the request of a sponsoring municipality, and each is
expected to act in the interest of that particular local
government and its residents.
The theory has been that IDAs can lure businesses into a
community through short-term tax breaks. Even during the norevenue tax years, the community is benefited in the form of
jobs and ancillary business growth. The practice has been that
too often the decision about what companies should be entitled
to tax breaks is not based on business or economics, but on
political favors, patronage and public manipulation.
One of the more frustrating situations is when a company
would have brought its business to the community even
without the tax breaks. So in effect, the company gets a tax
break for something it would have done anyway. Right here in
our region, United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) is taking
advantage of this exact situation in the Valley Central School
District. Valley Central has faced countless cuts, including the
reduction of full-day kindergarten to half-day. At the same
time, UNFI found an ideal location for its distribution center in
the Town of Montgomery (and within the Valley Central
School District). New York State Comptroller Thomas
DiNapoli noted, “Taxpayers are not getting enough bang for
their buck when it comes to IDAs. Residents, particularly
those in high-cost regions such as…mid-Hudson Valley, have
every right to question whether the additional tax breaks are
producing promised economic benefits.”
UNFI is not a small business struggling for survival. In 2012,
it had $6 billion (BILLION, with a “B”!) in sales. At its
Montgomery location alone, UNFI expects $460 million in
sales. How much will UNFI pay in taxes on its property
improvements? The answer is simple: $0.
To get UNFI to pay its fair share, the Valley Central Teachers
Association has teamed up with the Teamsters union to form
the Fair Share Coalition Against Unsustainable Tax Subsidies.
This coalition has spoken at UNFI shareholder meetings, and
asks for your support by signing the petition urging UNFI to
pay its local taxes at
lic/?action_KEY=11944. For more information, visit the VCA
website at
Our Friends Can Help
Now more than ever, coalition building is a power in education
as unions, student groups and community groups unify with
increasing frequency to improve public education. A coalition
can both address a crisis and lay the groundwork for future
Enemies of public education have been using one of the oldest
strategies to try to defeat us – a strategy that has unfortunately
worked too often. That strategy: isolation and attack.
Governor Cuomo’s strategy relentlessly pushes to marginalize
our NYSUT unions because he knows he cannot win a debate
about education on the merits and cannot win a political war if
we stay strong. He hopes to divide our NYSUT unions from
other unions, and he strives to divide NYSUT unions from
each other.
Despite all his talk and manipulation, however, he will not
prevail as long as we remember that our similarities
exponentially outnumber our differences. And one of our keys
to success will be identifying those groups with similar
priorities, and work together. Each union must closely
examine their local partners, and work with them. Some
effective coalition partners are:
Labor in the News
Wisconsin Teachers Use Legal Loophole in Act 10 to Get
Their Union Back. By not applying for recertification in
2013, the Kenosha Education Association was able to
bypass the requirement that 51% of all eligible voters –
not only those who participate in the vote – approve the
In Surprise Announcement, Karen Lewis Says She Will
Return to Chicago Teachers Union Next Week. After
battling a brain tumor that took her out of the Chicago
mayoral race, Karen Lewis says she will be returning to
work as the president of the Chicago Teachers Union next
week. Lewis made the announcement at a CTU breakfast
celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday with Cook
County Commissioner Jesús “Chuy” García, who entered
the race after Lewis dropped out and progressive groups
around the city prodded him to run.
Virtual Teaching, Real Organizing. Turning the usual
rivalries upside down, “virtual teachers” in an online
charter school system in California are pushing to
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is inaugurated for
second term, but he has made it clear he does not want to
push the fight with labor unions that was hallmark of his
first term; visible members of Republican majority in state
legislature want to continue the battle with labor, now
facing off against private-sector unions.
other NYSUT unions within district;
non-NYSUT unions within the district;
parent groups in the area, like PTA groups and Special
Education PTA groups;
local churches, synagogues and mosques; and,
other unions in the area, like the IBEW, Teamsters, CSEA,
CWA, and Law Enforcement Unions.
The Governor, and others, would like us to forget our natural
partners. If we remember our past successes, and use the tools
that have worked in the past, he cannot be successful. The
only thing at stake is our future!
SRPs: Getting Involved…
Getting Strong
We are pleased to announce that the 2015 Tarrytown Regional
Office SRP Conference will take place on March 20 and 21 at
the Dolce Norwalk. Conference materials were recently sent
out. The conference is a great opportunity to acquire useful
information while sharing war stories with your colleagues
throughout the region. If you have any questions, contact your
In addition to the Tarrytown Regional Office SRP Conference,
please be advised that our two national affiliates, AFT and
NEA, will also be holding their conferences in the upcoming
2015 NEA ESP Conference – March 6-8, 2015
2015 AFT PSRP Conference – April 16-19, 2015
Attending these conferences will give you a chance to develop
a greater perspective of how people from across the country
deal with the same issues you may see in your workplace, and
to anticipate what’s coming down the road. As an added
incentive, NYSUT is willing to offer a financial incentive to
attend. NYSUT is again encouraging and supporting local
participation in these important conferences by offering to
subsidize the expenses of one participant for each one who
attends at the locals’ expense. Locals may use the NYSUT
incentive for either the AFT or the NEA national conference in
2015. NYSUT will be limiting this offer to the first 20 locals
state-wide who apply. We suggest that you notify us in
advance that your local plans on taking advantage of this offer,
to guarantee that your local is within the first 20 to receive the
subsidy reimbursement. To do so, contact Jennifer Stevens at
NYSUT at 800-342-9810 ext. 6356 or by email:
[email protected]
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, Tom Casey, Courtney Corey,
Ken DeStefano, Eric Marshall,
Jackie Morrissey, Amanda Velázquez