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  Main >  Member Communications > PAnorama > April 2009

PAnorama: April 2009

Members Urged to "Speak Up, Speak Out" at NYSUT RA
by Lew Kahler and Bill Perrotti

We had the pleasure of representing the MVCC PA at this year's NYSUT Representative Assembly (RA) in Buffalo, NY. Though this year's event was more sparsely attended than in past years and the list of speakers lacked some of the star quality of recent RAs, the resolutions, workshops, and ideas presented were as informative and important as ever.

MVCC's representatives this year were President Ellis Gage Searles, First Vice President Lew Kahler, Second Vice President Alison Doughtie, and Past President Bill Perrotti.

As always, a significant portion of the RA is devoted to passage of resolutions proposed by locals from throughout the state. Delegates are assigned to specific committees to consider resolutions in specific issue areas and recommend action by the full body of delegates. The proposals are grouped into the following categories: Educational Issues I and II, College and University, Pension/Retirement, Organization, Legislative/Political Action I and II, Healthcare and Workplace Safety, and Civil and Human Rights.

Ellis Searles and Bill Perrotti served as members of the College and University Committee that recommended two resolutions to the full body of delegates, both of which were passed.

The first resolution, titled “A New Deal for New York Begins with Public Higher Education,” directs NYSUT to commit to mobilizing its leaders and members and members of the organized labor movement within the state in support of “transformative investment in CUNY and SUNY.”

The second, titled “Maintain the Integrity of the Institution of Higher Education,” constituted what might be considered an omnibus agenda for higher education. It called on NYSUT and its affiliates to affirm the necessity of academic freedom and economic security for faculty and professional staff and that no cost-cutting measures in any way abrogate existing collective bargaining agreements. It further commits NYSUT to oppose workforce reductions within SUNY and CUNY for purely budgetary reasons and to argue for institutional financial disclosure and improved, meaningful dialogues between faculty and trustees through established governance institutions. Last, this resolution commits NYSUT to fight against a reduction in earned benefits for retirees as a consequence of the current financial crisis and to argue further that students not bear the brunt of the economic downturn through increased tuition and reduced resources needed to support learning.

Even a quick browse through the resolution titles conveys the scope of NYSUT's commitment to public education, economic justice, and workers' rights.

Resolutions supporting initiatives as diverse as lower class sizes for English language learners, cost of living adjustments for New York State pensions, improving the starting salaries of professional employees, alternative energy alternatives for public school districts, “green” schools curricular initiatives, healthcare for part-time employees, and the inclusion of an accurate portrayal of the contributions of unions in the economic and social history of the U. S.

The range of issues addressed in these resolutions provides a meaningful glimpse into the scope and complexity of the many issues facing an organization as multidimensional as NYSUT.

Beyond action on over fifty different resolutions, there is always the requisite parade of dignitaries to the podium to address the delegates.

Headlining this RA was Senator Chuck Schumer, the senior senator from New York. As at every RA, Senator Schumer reinforced his strong and consistent commitment to teachers, educational staff, and public education and in return was cheered warmly and enthusiastically by the assembled delegates. Senator Schumer expressed his desire that the current increased level of federal education spending be more than just a two-year quick fix.

NYSUT delegates were also introduced to New York's newest senator, Kirsten Gillibrand. Senator Gillibrand said it simply and directly—either fully fund No Child Left Behind or “get rid of it.” During her address to the delegates, many of the assembled throng were especially pleased that she demonstrated a comfortable command of a range of issues. She was also very enthusiastically applauded when she expressed her commitment to the Employee Free Choice Act, passage of which promises to be an epic battle between supporters of human and labor rights and very strong and entrenched corporate interests.

One of the highlights of this year's RA for MVCC was the number of awards that our local won. Kudos go out to our editor extraordinaire Alison Doughtie for another banner year of local journalism. Once again this year PAnorama took home several journalism awards including Award of Merit for General Excellence, Honorable Mention for Best News Story, Honorable Mention for Best Editorial or Column, Award of Merit for Best Front Page/Cover ), and a First Award for Best New Members' Issues .

Once again the PA received the Abel Blattman Award for VOTE COPE contributions averaging more than $10 per year per member. In all of the state, only five community college locals were recognized for support of VOTE COPE, the other four being considerably larger than the PA and from large urban centers (New York City/Long Island and Buffalo).

The PA stands out as a small community college local in upstate New York whose annual contributions have been steadily increasing every year, inching us ever closer to the next award category requiring an average contribution of $25 per year per member.

Last, the PA was recognized again for our community outreach efforts with a NYSUT Community Service Award. Only one other community college local in all the state was so honored.

During the weekend, the session was interrupted by the news of the tragedy that was unfolding in Binghamton. In NYSUT's usual fashion of being dedicated to social justice, a collection was taken and over $5,000 was raised for the families affected by this tragedy. NYSUT also donated $5,000 to the local food bank to help families of the Buffalo area who have been hit so hard by the current economic crises.

As is the case every year, social justice occupies a special place at the RA. Social justice was the focus of remarks made by Secretary Treasurer Lee Cutler. NYSUT initiatives in this area have been moved under the office of the Secretary-Treasurer, emphasizing the central place such issues will occupy as our union moves forward in coming years.

The NYS Labor-Religion Coalition as well as NYSUT's involvement with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) represent just two of many examples of NYSUT's established and increasing commitment to social justice in the broadest sense.

GLSEN founder Kevin Jennings provided delegates with a moving and highly informative lesson on the importance of respect in the educational setting and of the impact that any form of discrimination, notably regarding sexual orientation and identity, has on educational success and personal development. His PowerPoint presentation is available for viewing on the NYSUT website.

Mr. Jennings's message is one that should be heard on every college campus and in every public school district. The statistics he presented and the cases he recounted to document the negative impact of discrimination related to sexual orientation on academic performance are compelling.

As mentioned briefly above, a very important undercurrent of this year's RA was the struggle of the labor movement to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. This is a bill that will make it easier for labor to organize, and it will finally be a real step toward creating equity in the workplace by putting an end to the threats and bullying that currently take place in many of our nation's workplaces.

Misrepresentations of the “card check” legislation already abound. Googling “Employee Free Choice Act” calls up as one of the first websites,, a vehemently anti-union private organization committed to the defeat of this critical legislation. Don't be fooled by the name. For a true representation of what this legislation contains and its importance to working America, go to the NYSUT, AFT, or AFL-CIO websites.

In truth, the free choice bill simply allows workers to support unionizing by simply signing a card, thereby eliminating the likelihood that such workers will be threatened or otherwise coerced by their employer to vote no. Without question, this is the coming fight and passage of “card check” will require every resource and body that organized labor can muster. At its core, it's a simple issue of human rights and social justice.

This year's RA was at once a celebration of solidarity and a time of solemnity. A resolution was passed in memory of Janine Walker, a Poland teacher who was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident before she was to attend her first RA. The shocked delegates also observed a moment of silence for the victims of the Binghamton shootings, and a celebration ensued in honor of Georgia farmers belonging to the Southern Alternatives Agricultural Cooperative, whom NYSUT has helped with its new fair trade project. Over 105 pounds of the Cooperative's pecans were purchased by delegates during the two-day RA.

From the President's Desk - Then and Now
by Ellis Gage Searles

If you were to ask me what I was doing at this time last week, I doubt I'd be able to tell you. But if you asked the same question about this time eight years ago, I could probably talk for an hour.

In early 2001, I had made the decision to run for president of the Professional Association. So, what I was doing eight years ago was thinking and thinking, trying to imagine what lay ahead. I was sure about just two things: First, I could depend on my PA colleagues to help and support me and, second, I had a lot to learn.

The challenge was welcome, exciting, energizing. At the same time, it was a little scary. There were so many questions.

Looking back now, I see that I needn't have worried. Those questions eventually found answers, as did quite a few others that came up along the way.

As it turned out, though, having the answers to questions was not the most important aspect of the job. Far more important than learning what I didn't know was something I did know—and had known from the very beginning: I wouldn't be alone.

It's a fundamental principle of unionism that we stand together for a common good. And as PA president I've experienced it in an immediate and personal way. Every single day, I've been a grateful, mindful beneficiary of the solidarity that lives in our union.

And this spring I've found myself thinking about all these things perhaps more than usual because my term of office as president ends this May, and I won't be running for re-election. As most of you know, I faced some health challenges last year, but I'm feeling fine now and that has not played any part in my decision. I just think it's time.

The Association is as strong as ever, with the kind of membership and leadership who can do absolutely anything. We're at a good moment in our history. So, it's a good moment for me to step back and for others to step up. I leave the position with countless wonderful memories, with confident optimism, and with profound appreciation—for those who came before me, those who have served with me, and those who will lead us into the future.

Now I'll add “Past” in front of “President.” I'll change my seat at the Executive Board table. Still, in the long PA tradition of solidarity, I'll be there.

Political Outreach: MVCC PA Lobbying as a Three Act Play!
by David Katz


Ah, let's see, where to start. How about if we start with a disclaimer to cover the “bull factor” in this little saga? There may be a bit of (what is the polite term for exaggeration?) “poetic license” taken on a few tiny details. The main points in the tale are solid and you can “take that to the bank” (preferably one with some bailout money)!

Act One

OK, so the MVCC PA pres. Ellis Searles and I are sitting around one day when we get a call on the “bat phone” that we are needed in Albany for an emergency one-day lobbying effort to forestall the governor's proposed mid-year cuts to community colleges that would amount to about a $500,000 hit to MVCC! So on Feb. 3 rd , we took off for Albany. I wanted to use our secret MVCC PA helicopter, but our fiscally conservative president insisted we drive in my not even slightly pimped out Camry. Anyway, we get to the NY State Plaza and get briefed on the fact that, as we prepared to make our case to our representatives, NYSUT officials were testifying before legislative committees involved in the budget process. Armed with data from our Admissions Office (spring 2009 enrollment up almost 9%) and CCED Office (a 31% increase in training volume over last year), we made our case to our reps along with other NYSUT members representing K-12.

Here is the really cool thing! After meeting with Sen. Joe Griffo, Rep. RoAnn Destito, and Rep. Dave Townsend, we grabbed a box lunch and headed back to campus. By the time we got back by around 4 pm, we heard on the news that the Governor had decided to cancel the proposed cuts! Given such fortuitous timing, I will now make the claim that the Gov. must have known that the MVCC PA was in town, and he decided not to mess with that “big dog”! Hey, remember “poetic license”?

Act Two

No sooner had we gotten back to our daily activities of spreading enlightenment (in my case the more appropriate metaphor might be closer to fertilizer) when the bat phone rang again. A new crisis was looming as the 2009-2010 NY State budget proposal by Governor Paterson was revealed. It contained a base aid cut of $270 per FTE which totaled $34.7 million dollars across the state system. MVCC's share of that hurt would be a reduction of over $1 million dollars in next year's budget.

The call we received was from our college's own President Randall (my friends call me Randy) VanWagoner. He was putting together a team (how is that for a cool concept when talking collaboration between the PA and the administrative leadership?) to go to Albany to fight against these cuts on “SUNY Higher Ed Lobby Day.”

So off we went on Feb. 24th, one team, two cars (again no helicopter!) two presidents, Mr. William Calli, chairman of the MVCC Board of Trustees; Mr. John Bullis, Executive Director of Organizational Development; Mr. Frank DuRoss, Executive Director of Institutional Advancement; MVCC PA Vice President and Prof., Lew Kahler; and MVCC PA

Again, we made the rounds to all our reps, adding Rep. Bill Magee and Sen. David Valesky to our previous visit list from Feb. 3 rd . How is this for a juicy tidbit which we shared with all five legislators: Right now, our applications for the fall of 2009 are running about 28% ahead of last year's figures! Now I don't claim to be a big numbers guy, but combining a million dollar decrease on top of potentially record setting increases in enrollment does not add up. It seems as though many New Yorkers are seeing MVCC as the place to retrain, start out, or return to when the living-away- from-home bills are too much. We gently suggested to the reps that you cannot cut the lifeboat of accessible community college education as people are trying to save themselves from drowning in a sinking economy. Together, this college really does represent hope for a lot of people.

The final piece to the day was a luncheon with Governor Paterson sharing his rather dire circumstance as the person responsible for closing a projected $14 billion dollar projected deficit in the state's operating budget. While “preaching to the choir” about the importance of the SUNY system as a tool for helping NY State dig out of this hole, he did leave open the possibility of restoring at least some of the cuts with “federal stimulus money.” We all left feeling like we may have done some good. It's like, time will tell!

Act Three

Now you might think “we” (you, me and our 600,000 strong NYSUT brethren) could take a break, but we had not yet “sealed the deal.” The budget process in Albany continued and NYSUT had scheduled Tues. Mar. 3 rd as “NYSUT Higher Ed Lobby Day.” So off went the MVCC PA Political Outreach Dream Team. There were six of us (Ellis this feels like déjà vu all over again Searles, Lew I used to be a bouncer, so don't mess with me Kahler, Bill the cannoli king Perrotti, Dan the man Ianno, Lorie what the hell am I doing with this group Phillips, and Dave I'll bet you wish I could write better Katz). Clearly we were too many for the PA helicopter, but why we couldn't take the PA plane is beyond me! I think PA treasurer Donaruma is getting carried away with this fiscal restraint stuff.

Anyway, the team went to visit all of our aforementioned state legislators. In case you lost count this was our third visit in the past month! They looked very happy to see us...again. We pitched a concept which felt very appropriate in these “hard times.” We talked about “right sizing” MVCC for our formidable task ahead. More high school grads are choosing us. More four-year students are coming back to us. More displaced workers are choosing us. More businesses are looking to us to help them retool. For us to do what we need to do to serve our increasing student population, we need to actually expand our capacity. We stressed that tax reform that creates fairness and progressivity in the NY tax code plus the “federal stimulus money” would go a long way toward closing that budget gap and keeping us working at full tilt!

After all the visits, we took in a symposium sponsored by NYSUT, the United University Professors, SUNY, CUNY and the Professional Staff Congress. The title was a hopeful “From Recession to Resurgence: Public Higher Education—The Key to Revitalizing New York.”

Nuff said.

Member Services: My Union Moment

by Jed Kimball

I believe that the support of unions is often questioned during times of economic uncertainty.In our country's current situation, it may be especially difficult for those who do not belong to a union, and perhaps even for those who do, to find ways to support these unions.As of late, I have found myself discussing what it is that I consider the benefits of the PA, in terms of our collegiate community and the Mohawk Valley.

Generally speaking, I would suggest that the PA serves as a tool to connect us and bring awareness to important issues on campus and in the Oneida county area.By locating the PA website, one can find a diagram that displays the PA committee structure, which offers many opportunities for us to serve each other and protect the benefits afforded to us by working here at the College.

The Political Outreach Committee shares our views and support with local and regional political leaders, helping them put a face to budgets and funding for the college and students. I think this is a very valuable key to helping keep MVCC a thriving component of our community.

Member Services is always there to welcome new members and to tell them about the PA. The committee also does a great job of planning the end-of-semester socials and

The Grievance Committee allows us each to have a voice in the college community in situations that require union support.

Community Outreach Committee is a great way to get involved with community charities and showcase our diverse compassion for others.

My personal PA committee involvement started with Community Outreach and Member Services. On the Member Services committee I remember quickly transitioning from new recruit to the college, to planning to welcome new members and helping to ease their transition into the college community. Community Outreach has been a steady post for me; I've participated in walks, bowl-a-thons, and food drives. It definitely is a rewarding committee.

The Political Action committee has brought me some memorable occasions. I specifically enjoyed lobbying events in Albany and interviewing candidates for endorsement. It is great to see the connections the PA has with community leaders.

My specific union moment would be meeting with other union members at the New York Community College conference. It was insightful and interesting to discuss policies on how to express our PA interests to the College and the community.

Making these connections with others and gaining insight through fellow members' experiences is a priceless asset to our union. In short, I believe unions like our MVCC PA set a standard of excellence for our entire community and should make each of us proud.

Community Outreach: Ted Moore Run / Walk Gets Underway and Gets a New Look
by Deanna Ferro

Mark your calendars, the 12 th Annual Theodore “Ted” Moore 5K Run/Walk has been scheduled for Saturday, May 2, 2009, beginning at 9:00 am on the MVCC Utica Campus.

The Ted Moore Run/Walk Committee hosts this event each year to pay tribute to the significant contributions Associate Professor Ted Moore made to the college, union/management relations, and the community before he was tragically taken from his family, friends, students, and colleagues through the actions of a drunk driver in December, 1996. Proceeds from the event benefit the Theodore “Ted” Moore Memorial Scholarship, along with a portion that is awarded to area agencies who work to educate our community about the dangers of drinking and driving and substance abuse.

This year, the Ted Moore Run/Walk Committee was looking for a new look, and sought the help of MVCC's talented Graphic Design students. With help from Professor Bob Clarke, his Publication Design Classes designed a new logo and brochure for the 12 th Annual Theodore “Ted” Moore Run/Walk.

The creativity and quality of the student projects were amazing and made the Ted Moore Committee's job of choosing a winner a difficult one. After reviewing over 20 student designs, the Committee awarded second-year student Jenna Nicholson with a $100 Scholarship for her new Run/Walk logo and brochure design. The committee was not only thrilled with Jenna's designs, but also with the fact that she joined the committee to help with the event's promotion. Jenna went above and beyond all expectations and designed all of the posters and t-shirts for the 2009 event!

The Ted Moore Committee is looking forward to another successful event. Last year was a record breaker with 208 participants; and this year, the committee hopes to surpass that number. To accomplish this goal, the committee needs the help of MVCC PA members. Please consider participating in the event this year. If you are unable to participate, please consider sponsoring an MVCC student or simply make a donation to the 12 th Annual Ted Moore Run/Walk.

For additional information about the 12 th Annual Theodore “Ted” Moore 5K Run/Walk, please contact Deanna L. Ferro at x5797 /

Member Services- New Member Profile: Brandon Shaw

Brandon Shaw recently added PA membership to his already impressive resume.

Brandon is Head Mentor/Tutor in the Upward Bound office, and previously served as a Learning Center tutor, a community outreach worker for the CCED program, a CSTEP technical assistant, and an ESL adjunct instructor.

A graduate of Whitesboro and MVCC, he earned his bachelor's degree in English at SUNY-Oneonta and his ESL certificate in Thailand.

He enjoys travelling and has also lived in Australia and in several southern states.

Brandon is a practicing poet whose first chapbook, Upstream , was published by Portrait Press last year. In addition, he's an accomplished jazz/blues musician and teaches guitar and piano.

He told PAnorama , "I'm glad to be a part of such a supportive community of people. I know this will help me assist the students I work with on a daily basis."

Being at the Cutting Edge
by Bob Decker

NYSUT sees the future, and it is technology. Recently, NYSUT held a conference at their Technology Institute in the Albany office that brought together high-tech educators and those working in the field to discuss the ways in which we are preparing students.

Ed Zak, a colleague of mine from Sauquoit Valley Central High school, provided a presentation entitled "Introduction to Nanotechnology—A High School Technology Education Course." This is really his work, and my role in this is to support his efforts as part of the NAMCATE project (Nanoscale Advanced Manufacturing Curriculum for Advanced Technological Education) NSF-ATE project and answer questions from the participants related to the project and its outreach activities for teachers.

The overall goal of the NAMCATE project is to develop educational curriculum in nanomanufacturing for community colleges. I am a co-principal investigator in this project, which was awarded to SUNY Buffalo. (Dr. David Shaw is the Principal Investigator.) Fulton Montgomery Community College is also a partner in this project, and Rich Prestopnik is the CO-PI at FMCC.

The project also seeks to collaborate with high school science, math, and technology teachers to develop materials for the high school classroom.

In addition to the NYSUT workshop, Ed and I have offered professional development workshops on the MVCC campus for secondary school science and technology teachers. These workshops present the materials that Ed has developed for his classroom and also present some activities that we are adapting from the community college materials that are being created here at MVCC, at FMCC, and at SUNY Buffalo. We provide support, materials, and supplies to participants who agree to conduct these activities in their classrooms.

We are planning to offer another two single-day workshops for technology teachers before the end of this academic year.

Ed and I have collaborated on a number of projects over the past several years, including Project Lead the Way and the New York State Professional Development Collaborative, another NSF-ATE project.

Community Outreach: PA, College Give Heart to Run/Walk
by Jed Kimball

PA members joined other members of the MVCC community for America's Great Heart Run/Walk on March 7th.

This year, there was a 51% increase in run/walk participation. Acting as the faculty representative for the AGHRW Committee, it was great to team up with more PA members this year and see how our combined involvement helped raise awareness of and support for the American Heart Association. It was also very impressive to see so many college employees step up in this trying economic time and contribute to what was a 23% increase in donations from the college.

A definite highlight for me was relaxing with fellow Team MVCC members at the AGHRW after party, and enjoying a conversation in a non-work environment.

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