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  Main >  Member Communications > PAnorama > December 2002

PAnorama: December 2002



Benefit fund planning underway

At its December 5th meeting, the PA’s Executive Board officially created the benefit fund called for in Article 10.11 of the new contract.

To be named “The MVCC Professional Association Benefits Trust Fund,” it will make use of semi-annual contributions by the College to provide benefits to the membership.

By definition, the fund is an autonomous entity governed by trustees and is authorized under Internal Revenue Code, Section 501(c)(9) to provide a plan of benefits to members of a bargaining unit and their dependents. According to the informational brochure prepared by NYSUT Member Benefits, “Typical benefits that such funds provide are dental plans, optical/vision insurance, life insurance, short or long term disability insurance, legal plans, and riders or enhancements to employer-provided health insurance benefits.”

The five trustees who will oversee the fund--all PA members--were appointed by the PA President and approved by the Executive Board:

  • Julie Dewan
  • Sam Drogo
  • Paul Halko
  • Ron Miller
  • Ellis Gage Searles

Paul Halko will serve as Chair. In addition, the fund has chosen two PA members to act as administrators: Mike Donaruma, Fund Treasurer, and Marie Czarnecki, Fund Secretary. Monthly reports will be made to the Executive Board.

The first meeting of the trustees and administrators was held on December 13th to begin work on setting up the fund, legally and financially. Benefits trust fund documents and certain IRS forms will be necessary for its operation, and the Member Benefits department of NYSUT will provide for whatever legal expertise and guidance the trustees and administrators may require as the fund is being established. Another meeting has been scheduled for December 18th.

The College’s first payment to the fund will be on January 15th. An annual payment equivalent to $385.00 per bargaining unit member (prorated this year to 2/3 of the total) will be made in two installments, one in January and one in March.

The fund intends to begin offering benefits to members on or before September 1, 2003.



PA Members attend Community College Conference: President Searles and Cynthia Villanti in key roles
by Marie Czarnecki

The 24th annual Community College Conference was held on November 15th through 17th at the Sagamore in Lake George, New York.

Nine PA members attended: Marie Czarnecki, Julie Dewan, Steve Getchell, Gene Militello, Ron Miller, Margaret Reilly, Ellis Searles, Rich Stempien, and Cynthia Villanti. President Searles says she is pleased that the PA contingent represented "a balanced roster of seasoned PA leaders as well as newly active members."

A major highlight of the conference was a cogent presentation of the NYSUT Community College Distance Education Committee (CCDEC) Report to the entire assemblage by the PA’s Cynthia Villanti. Our Cynthia was also a pivotal player in the Distance Education Committee Work Session, which included sharing of ideas by DE actives in NYSUT and non-NYSUT locals alike.

Involved in the planning of this year’s conference with presidents of other community college locals from across the state was our own PA President Ellis Searles. Ellis also served as a moderator for the session on Part-Time Issues.

This year’s conference provided an opportunity for PA members to participate in training sessions on various issues. One session strand on grievances dealt with grievance processing and included a grievance simulation. Griev-ance processing in relation to mutual gains bargaining was also addressed.

Another strand addressed recent rulings on issues affecting higher ed, such as academic freedom. Pauline Kinsella, NYSUT Director of Field Services and former Director of PERB, led a workshop on appropriate for-um selection for resolving legal issues (such as grievance and arbitration, Dept. of Labor, OSHA, courts, EEOC, PERB, etc.). Union responsibility in representation was also examined.

The Special Topics strand focused on contract and constitution issues for part-timers, the history of the labor movement, and understanding college financial documents. The conference offered contract exchanges and useful data prepared by NYSUT Research, such as the Community College profiles.

Keynote speakers included the Honorable Edward C. Sullivan, who received a standing ovation for his career-long support of education in New York State, as well as Alan Lubin, Executive Vice President of NYSUT. Both stressed the need for political action.

A new member breakfast was designed to welcome and provide greater orientation for first-time attendees, including Ron, Julie, Maggie, and Steve of the PA. When asked about his experience at his first NYSUT Community College Conference, Ron Miller had the following response:

"Never having experienced such an event, and considering the situation and location, I was very skeptical. However, sensing a lack of participation of the general membership, and realizing very few of us work extremely hard on all our behalf, I reluctantly agreed.

To my amazement and edification, I was exposed to a weekend of non-stop action, including intense, practical, and sometimes grueling workshops. The flow of information was overwhelming, and the dedication, concern and expertise of those who organized and attended the event was incredible.

Most of all, the camaraderie and sincerity in serving the rights and best interests of our membership was inspirational."

Another first-time attendee, Julie Dewan, concurred. She felt the conference was "very informative and worthwhile," as well as "a great chance to meet people from other community colleges and to discuss mutual concerns."

As a long-time PA activist, I have been attending the CC Conference off and on since I was Cynthia’s age, and I always come back with new ideas.



PA faces grace New York Teacher

Did you notice your PA President Ellis Gage Searles and your newsletter editor Cynthia Villanti smiling at you from the pages of the latest New York Teacher?

President Searles is featured in the article “Taking locals in new directions,” in which the gains in our recently settled 2002-2005 collective bargain-ing agreement are reviewed. In addition to the monetary gains achieved in this contract, Ellis added, “While money is important, our professional lives are affected by policies on a daily basis. It was important to our members for the faculty and staff to have a voice.”

Cynthia Villanti’s picture appears in the review of the Community College Conference, as she presented the annual report of the Community College Distance Education Committee, which she currently chairs.

You’ll notice another smart quote from President Searles in this article as well!



From the President's Desk
by Ellis Gage Searles

Holiday spirit. All around us once again, it’s a truly magical thing.

Year after year, I marvel at the way our spirits can be lifted up despite all the realities--the materialistic excess, the time pressures, each day’s news from around the globe--that seem to conspire against it.

Yet something there is, that still, somehow, lightens the loads and warms the hearts of so many families, friends, and communities, inviting us to reach out to each other in peace and good will.

One perfect example of this kind of fellowship is your generous giving that is making it possible for the PA to donate warm clothing, toys, and food to our less-fortunate neighbors. You can be sure it is very much appreciated.

I hope your spirit is light at this special time of year, and that you can share it with people you love.

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season.



Joy to Others: A Triptych
by Cynthia Villanti

The PA is sponsoring three major holiday charity fundraisers this year. Please contribute to at least one--if not all three--worthy causes.

Our "Divine" Union Brothers & Sisters

  • PA Contacts: Luther Riedel and Cynthia Villanti (Humanities Dept.)
  • Beneficiaries: Striking Divine Brothers workers and their families (approximately 38 families). Workers at Divine Brothers have been on strike for over six months, fighting for fair treatment. The CNY Labor Agency organized Thanksgiving donations; let us do our part to support the workers of UNITE Local 653 by donating $5 for each 50/50 raffle ticket.
  • Collections: Raffle tickets can be purchased from Luther (PH312) or Cynthia (PH316A) during the next two weeks and during the PA Holiday Social, where the winning ticket will be selected.

PA Holiday Social

Wednesday, December 18, from 5 to 7 p.m.
The Station Restaurant and Martini Bar
at Historic Union Station, Main Street, Utica

Greater Utica Community Food Bank

  • PA Contacts: Steve Getchell (Life Science Dept.)
  • Beneficiaries: Greater Utica Food Bank
  • Collections: Designated Boxes in Utica and Rome Campus Libraries
  • Wish List Items: rice, soup, pasta, canned vegetables, canned fruit, crackers, pretzels, cereal/oatmeal, granola bars, nuts, raisins... any non-perishable food items

Spring Farm CARES and Stevens-Swan Humane Society

  • PA Contacts: Jessica Basi (Ready, Set, College!)
  • Beneficiaries: Spring Farm CARES and Stevens-Swan Humane Society
  • Collections: AB152 ~ Jessica's Office
  • Wish List Items: pet beds, pet toys, litter boxes, animal carriers, rabbit and guinea pig pellets, wood chips, clean newspaper, towels, blankets, sheets, area rugs, paper towels, bleach, laundry soap



George Searles named 2002 Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Professor of the Year for New York State

Dr. George J. Searles, First Gentleman of the Professional Association and Professor in the Humanities Department, has been named 2002 Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Professor of the Year for New York State.

George is one of 50 professors, one from each state, to be honored at an awards luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The awards program is presented by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and is directed by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

MVCC President Michael I. Schafer commented on the award:

“Mohawk Valley Community College is pleased and proud of the selection of Dr. George Searles for this extremely prestigious national teaching award. Those of us who have spent our careers in community colleges have long known that the quality of teaching in our institutions is the best. We are open-door colleges but when our students transfer they compete successfully with students at the most selective of colleges and universities.

Dr. Searles is a classic example of a great community college teacher, and we take great pride in his recognition.

And while our emphasis is always on strong teaching for a diverse student body, Dr. Searles’ scholarly research is also significant. Dr. Searles’ books, articles and other work add valuable depth and richness to his classroom presentations.”

Professor Searles, a Clinton resident, has been a member of the faculty and a member of the Professional Association at Mohawk Valley Community College since 1976. He has taught a wide range of courses in the Humanities Department, including English Composition, Ideas & Values in Literature, Contemporary Poetry, Effective Speech, Business/Technical Communications, Journalism, English as a Second Language, Spanish, Latin, and Developmental Writing.

Dr. Searles describes his philosophy of teaching this way: “I want my students to develop the habit of inquiry; I want them to function effectively in collaborative situations; I want them to write with some measure of concision and clarity, and also be able to stand before an audience and present their ideas coherently; most importantly, I want them to think!”

His approach to instruction and classroom management is a blend of the traditional and the non-traditional, incorporating blackboard illustration, juggling, and unusual props such as electronic games. Dr. Searles feels that “successful teaching requires not only mastery of subject matter but also a touch of theater.”

A former student wrote in support of his nomination:

“One quality that makes Dr. Searles stand out is his passion for learning and inquiry. Before taking his English 102 course, I dreaded studying language and literature. But Dr. Searles’ lively lectures and meaningful course assignments turned me on to reading, writing, and most importantly, learning. Further, his enthusiasm for language and literature was contagious. As a result of his course, my views on English completely changed. In fact, I went on to complete three additional courses with Dr. Searles, and I majored in English.”

Dr. Searles received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1985. He served as a member of the Modern Language Association (MLA) Delegate Assembly from 1985 to 1987, and was a member of the Northeast Modern Language Association (NEMLA) Executive Council from 1988 to 1992.

He also has published five scholarly books: A Casebook on Ken Kesey's One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Conversations With Philip Roth, The Fiction of Philip Roth and John Updike, and two editions of Workplace Communications: The Basics.

Dr. Searles has also authored more than 150 articles, poems, and reviews in daily newspapers, popular magazines, and respected scholarly journals. He has been listed in the Directory of American Poets and Fiction Writers since 1997.

Active as a communications consultant, he has served in that capacity for a number of local companies, organizations, and social service agencies. In addition, he has served as a curriculum development consultant to BOCES and for the National Science Foundation.

Dr. Searles holds a B.A. degree in English from Marist College, an M.A. degree in English from the State University of New York at New Paltz, and a Ph.D. in English from Binghamton University. He has also completed additional graduate and post-doctoral studies at Trinity College (Oxford), Rensselaer Poly-technic Institute, Hartwick College, Southampton College of Long Island University, and at Bard College.



Annual Spring Luncheon: Friday, January 17, 11 to 1, in Alumni Campus Center 116

Friday, January 17, 11 to 1
Alumni Campus Center 116

  • enjoy good food & drink
  • congratulate this year’s PA scholarship winner
  • celebrate our recent retirees
  • survey respondents pick up your new PA polo shirt
  • learn about VOTE/COPE
  • ring in the new year right!


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