F.U.S.E. News & Updates May 19, 2014

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The F.U.S.E. News & Updates newsletter is typically sent via email but this past week it was sent in hard copy via U.S. mail.

Three events mentioned in the newsletter have already taken place but this newsletter still has some useful news in it including information on the status of the F.U.S.E. contract negotiations which are set to resume on May 28th.

The school board election and budget vote already happened, as most readers know. Less well-known is that there was an election Thursday for Vice President for School Related Professionals which was one by Mike Tozzo.

Newsletter follows...

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This is a Very Important Week . ...

• The School Board Election and School Budget Vote is Tuesday.

Please remember to get out an vote.

• The Election for the FUSE Vice President/ School Related Professionals (SRP) is Thursday.

FUSE Elections- Thursday

The election for the Vice-President/School Related Professionals will be held this Thursday, May 22. SRP
members only will vote by secret ballot in their buildings/worksites.

The two candidates are incumbent Vice President Billy Coleman from IEYMS, and Mike Tozzo from Barnard School.

The successful candidate will serve a three year term beginning June 1, 2014 and ending on May 31, 2017.

All SRP members will vote by secret ballot. Building Reps in each of the schools or worksites will inform members of the procedures for voting. Ballots will be delivered to the schools and worksites on Wednesday, May 21.

Statements from both candidates can be found at the end of this newsletter.

FUSE Buildings Representatives Selected in May

Each year, members in every building are given the opportunity to select colleagues who will serve as the building's FUSE representatives for the upcoming year.

Members who are currently building representatives will be communicating in the next week or so with members in their buildings, soliciting volunteers to serve as the 2014-2015 representatives. The new representatives will begin their term on June 1, 2013. Building committees which have a mix of long time members and newer additions to the committee are often the most effective teams.

According to the FUSE Constitution, the maximum allotment of representatives is one representative for every 17 members assigned to a building. If there are more interested members than allotted positions, the current building committee will hold an election to determine the building representatives for the next year.

All FUSE members are eligible to serve as building representatives. Every effort should be made, when selecting a building committee, to insure that it is representative of both pedagogic and SRP members.

The building representatives have and important and multi-faceted role to play in their buildings and in the union. They work with building administrators to resolve disputes or potential grievances. They act as a liaison between members in their buildings and the building's administration and may be called on to provide union representation for members at meetings with administration.

Building representatives are in frequent communication with the union's leadership, to solve problems to seek information or support and to communicate union news to their colleagues. Every month the building representatives from every building meet together with the union's leadership to make decisions about union policy and to learn of events and issues affecting staff throughout the district.

Contract Negotiations

Contract talks between the school district and the FUSE will resume on Wednesday, May 28. Both sides are aware that there needs to be significant progress and several additional meeting scheduled rather quickly if we are to have an agreement to present to our members before the end of the school year.

The agenda for the meeting will be decided later this week when FUSE negotiations chairperson Michael Chwick speaks with the district's counsel and lead negotiator Jeff Kehl.

School Budget Vote

The community will vote on Tuesday on the proposed budget for the 2014-2015 school year. Our union strongly encourages its members to support the spending plan put forward by the district.

There are many reasons why our members should give this budget their enthusiastic support - for the first time in several years, there are no positions being eliminated and there are even a few new positions being added to respond to increasing enrollments. Moreover, a "yes" vote for the budget sends a clear message that this community supports its schools and the educational program it offers our city's children. It is a vote of confidence in all that we try to do everyday in each building or worksite. This budget complies with the requirements of the Governor's "tax levy cap" and calls for a tax rate increase of 2.16%, the lowest tax rate increase since 1999.

From the school's website, here are a few more reasons members can feel confident in supporting this budget:

First, this budget maintains a full range of educational programs. Families should be assured that the rich and challenging course of study they envision for t heir children will be in place during the upcoming year for all students K-12.

Second, as confirmed by individual school principals, expected class sizes will be as follows: Pre-K: 18 students per class; Grades K-5: anticipated class sizes in the low twenties, with a threshold of 25 students per class. At the middle and high school levels, classes will enroll about 25 students, with the expectation of not exceeding 30 students.

Third, this budget maintains all current staff positions and, with five undesignated teacher positions included, affords the District the capacity to quickly respond to unanticipated enrollment increases.

Specifically, this budget allows principals the ability to redeploy personnel resources to respond as needed to any enrollment shifts.

Finally, this budget dedicates funds to provide for the safety and security of our students and staff. In particular, this budget includes financial resources to expand keyless entry systems and strengthen camera and buzzer visitor identification networks. It also allows for the replacement of ground-floor shades on all exterior windows and comprehensive and continuing training of our District's security staff.

Much more detailed information is available on the district's website.

School Board Election

On Tuesday, in addition to voting on the proposed school budget, citizens in New Rochelle will be asked to elect two candidates to the Board of Education.

Incumbent Board member Jeffrey Hastie is running for a second term on the Board and Salvador Fernandez and Ricardo Monzon are running for the chance to serve on the Board as well. The two candidates receiving the most votes will serve a five year term beginning on July 1, 2014 and ending June 30, 2019.

Incumbent candidate Jeffrey Hastie has had a tumultuous term on the Board since being elected in 2009. In recent months, his colleagues on the Board have expressed their unhappiness with his conduct as a Board member. At the most recent Board meeting, Mrs. Polow characterized Mr. Hastie's conduct on the Board as "antagonistic" and asserted that "he has shown a disregard for 'Executive Session' and has certainly breached confidentiality."

Particularly upsetting to his colleagues on the Board have been his decisions to publically (sic) share emails between Board members, including emails that have been deemed to be outside of the scope of the "Freedom of Information Law" (FOIL) by the district's counsel.

Sadly, the concerns voiced by other Board members, and the climate of mistrust that they believe he has created, have overshadowed the many gifts Mr. Hastie brings to his role. He is clearly an intelligent and well informed Board member, who has frequently voiced support and pride in the accomplishments of the school district and the work of the staff. Prior to serving on the Board, he was an active member of the Ward PTA and the PTA Council. As a Board member, he has been an advocate for stricter financial
oversight and better communication between the Board and the community.

The two challengers in the race, Dr. Salvador Fernandez and Mr. Ricardo Monzon, have waged campaigns stressing their involvement in the schools, their commitment to collegiality and their goal to be positive, independent voices on the Board.

Sal Fernandez has one child in Ward School, with another one set to enroll there next year. His wife, Sarah, is an English teacher (and FUSE member) at IEYMS, who is also a graduate of the New Rochelle School District. In his professional life, he has served as teacher and principal for the New York City Department of Education. He has repeatedly stressed his commitment to equity and opportunity for students throughout the district. He has extensive experience in raising student performance and is a strong supporter, and nationally known speaker, on the importance of STEM education, (Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

Dr. Fernandez has frequently spoken about his support for the Common Core Learning Standards which he believes will help improve students' education and level the achievement gap. However, his support for the CCLS is paired with criticism with its over- reliance on testing and its hasty roll out which left teachers scrambling for appropriate curriculum and materials. Of course many of our teachers would go further and argue that the CCLS is inherently flawed as a ,once size fits all, approach to education which is rooted in corporate ,reform" not sound educational practice. Dr. Fernandez' position on the CCLS seems to align with the positions taken by both our state and national affiliates. (NYSUT and the AFT)

Ricardo Monzon is an active member of the Trinity PTA, the PTA Council and SEPTA. He is also the president of the Miracle League, a baseball league for special needs children, in Westchester county. He is a long time New Rochelle resident, and has four children in the school district. His reason for running for the Board is to bring his experience of involvement and commitment to make a positive difference on the Board of Education. He has repeatedly stated that he is proud and grateful for the education that his children are receiving in the New Rochelle schools, and he would like to serve on the Board to help insure that all of our city's children will have the same opportunities to succeed in school.

Mr. Monzon has addressed the need for improved communication between the Board and the community and has stressed the importance of outreach to parents and the larger community that can help our students thrive in our schools. At the candidate's forums, Mr. Monzon seems to be a down-to-earth, direct and knowledgeable. He offers thoughtful responses to questions and freely admitted when
asked a question that he felt he did not have enough necessary information to give an informed answer.

He made clear that he would ask tough questions and seek solutions to some of the more difficult problems facing our district, yet he also made clear that he felt he could work in a positive and collaborative way with his Board colleagues, even when they may disagree.

Statements from the Candidates for FUSE Vice President/School Related Professionals

Billy Coleman

I am a proud life-long resident of New Rochelle, and have been an employee of the City School District for 13 years, working in both elementary and secondary school settings.

I got my start with the union as a Building Representative from 2005- 2010, and have since been twice elected as the Vice- President for School Related Professionals. As Vice President, I bring the voice and the concerns of all of our SRPs to our union's Leadership Council and Building Representatives' meetings.

I regularly attend the Board of Education meetings, often speaking out on matters related to SRPs. I have been privileged to address the Board on behalf of the hard work and important roles that our nurses, food-service workers, teachers' aides, clerical, security, maintenance and buildings & grounds staff play in our schools and our district everyday.

In addition, I attend meetings with our members who are call ed in by an administrator to insure their due process rights are respected, and I am active in our state union, NYSUT, attending its annual convention and monthly regional meetings. I organized our Annual Food Drive (three years running!) to provide a way for our union to give back to the New Rochelle community.

When I began my work as the Vice President, our district, like every other public school district in New York State, suffered from the state's budget crisis and the national recession. Despite my efforts to maintain our work force, the School District made the decision to eliminate the jobs of many valued employees. In the recent past, through diligence and persistence, I have successfully been able to convince the district to bring back almost every SRP back from the layoff list.

In my years as a Vice President, I have built a professional working relationship with the School District administration. I have shown that I am able to work in a constructive way with the school district on behalf of our members and their best interests. As our financial climate improves, untested and unproven leaders could slow our progress toward restoring ALL of the positions that have been lost.

Now is not the time to change our SRP leadership!

I strongly believe in our members, and appreciate their many contributions that make our School District a successful one. All of us, no matter what our job title or our building assignment are an integral part of our union and of our school district. If re -elected I will continue to fight for the rights and the interests of all of our School Related Professionals.

Michael Tozzo

I have worked in the City School District for 29 years. I am currently the Head Custodian at the Barnard Magnet School where I have worked for the past 11 years. I began as a part-time cleaner and worked my way up the ranks, first as a laborer, then as an Assistant Custodian until reaching my current position.

In addition to Barnard, I have worked at Isaac Young Middle School, Albert Leonard Middle School and New Rochelle High School. I have also worked with the Buildings & Grounds crew at Davis, Trinity and Columbus Schools. I have worked both day and night shifts.

With this extensive experience, different assignments and roles at a variety of our schools, I have a good understanding of the perspectives of our SRP members.

I have been a member of the Health & Safety Committee at Barnard School for five years. In that capacity, I work with the PTA Health & Safety Committee and with school security staff.

This experience has given me a good understanding of how to advocate for a better and safer school environment, and in particular SRP members. I believe firmly that my 29 years of experience in the school district, along with my willingness and capacity to work and get along with others, will be a valuable asset as we work together to make a positive difference for our members.

School Related Professionals are the backbone of this School District. We make sure the schools are safe, clean and secure. I am concerned that we do not always get the credit or respect that we rightfully deserve. We have all notices that the budget cuts of the past few years have fallen disproportionately on SRPs.

Our job security benefits and working conditions are precious. They cannot be compromised or bargained away. If you favor me with your support and elect me Vice-President, rest assured that I will work diligently on your behalf so that we are treated fairly and our rights as union members are protected.

While willing and able to work within the existing structure, I bring a degree of independence to the role that is necessary. I will make it my priority to place the interests of SRP members first to insure that the needs of SRP members are adequately represented.

As your Vice-President, I make this commitment: to be readily available to you, to respond to you promptly, to answer every question, and to address any issue or concern you may have. I will work with you 100% to reach a resolution on matters that you raise to me. Each of you will have my email address and mobile phone number so you can reach me through phone calls or text message at any time.

It would be my honor to represent you as Vice- President, and I thank you for your consideration. I ask for your vote.

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