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  Main >  Member Communications > PAnorama > April 2003

PAnorama: April 2003

Make your voice heard: The March for Public Education and 2003 PA election

2003 PA Election

It's Spring, which means election season in the PA. To make your voice heard at the local level, nominate yourself for one of dozen plus PA leadership and committee positions available. Nominations will be accepted from the floor at the General Membership Meeting in IT225 on Thursday, April 24, at 4 p.m. Finalized election ballots will be mailed the week of April 28, and voting takes place on May 8 and 9. Don't miss this chance to get involved in the continued success of the PA.

Massive May 3rd Rally

Tens of thousands of New Yorkers will descend upon the Empire State Plaza in Albany on Saturday, May 3rd. Organizers want Governor Pataki to see just how many people are opposed to his planned $1.24 billion in education cuts. Facing an $11.5 billion state budget deficit, the Governor has said that everyone must feel the funding cuts, but marchers will protest that education is one of the largest. Dozens of education groups from pre-K to post-grad--along with teachers, students, parents, taxpayers, school employees, and other supporters of public education in New York--will rally together to make their voices heard on May 3rd.

Public Higher Education Con-ference Board Chair H. Carl McCall urged New Yorkers to step up and be heard. "This is about the future," McCall said. "New York needs to invest in education. How can we build a solid future without a solid foundation? How can we build a strong economy without strong public schools, colleges and universities? If New Yorkers care, they'll be there."

"We fully expect to make history," said Blaise Salerno, chairman of the ECB. "We will send a clear message to the Governor and Legislature: cutting funding to public education is the wrong choice. Join us in Albany. We need help to send that message." And help we will! The PA is organizing carpools for faculty, staff, students, family, and friends. See Ellis for details.

Another PA retiree fan letter

PA retirees--people who devoted entire careers to this institution and who helped build the PA--often get in touch to let us how they're doing and to update their address on our mailing list. Most recently, we heard from Julius Grossman, formerly of the Business/Management Systems Department, who writes,

"I miss the Professional Association greatly. I now have learned how much the PA did for us at MVCC. We have a very weak NEA in this area (Labette Community College, Kansas). It does not have the support and assertiveness of our PA at MVCC."

Julius sends his greetings to all. If you know how to get in touch with a PA retiree who hasn't been receiving their PAnorama, please contact PA secretary Marie Czarnecki.

The PA is now a major sponsor of the Annual Ted Moore Run/Walk
by Bill Perrotti (Professor, Life Science Department) and Don Willner (Chair, Mathematics Department)

Editor's Note: The following letter to the editor was recently submitted to the Observer-Dispatch by the authors.

On Sunday, April 27th, we will once again celebrate a life and sadly remember a tragedy.

The life was Ted Moore's, our colleague and friend; the tragedy was his senseless death at the hands of a drunk driver while jogging on a sunny morning in December in 1996; the event is the Sixth Annual Ted Moore Run/Walk.

Although several years have passed, the stark memory of that awful day remains. At the time of his death, Ted was truly one of our finest teachers and acknowledged by all to be one of the College's most influential spokespersons and leaders. Not before or since has the institution suffered as it did in the days following his death.

Because of Ted's devotion to family and many connections to the community, the sense of loss was felt by a population that extended well beyond campus boundaries. Now as the date for the event approaches we hope that many runners in the Mohawk Valley will decide to participate and join us in commemorating a very special life while at the same time help to raise public awareness of this very serious societal problem.

The 9 a.m. event is sponsored by Oneida County STOP DWI, Regent Broadcasting, WUTR Channel 20, and the MVCC Professional Association--the NYSUT local of which Ted was President at the time of his death.

A number of area agencies whose mission centers on prevention and treatment of substance abuse will be exhibiting. The proceeds from the Run/Walk will be shared among one of these agencies, the Save Our Switchbacks Fund, and the Ted Moore Scholarship Fund, which continues to benefit a growing list of qualified MVCC students.

Although this run can not change what has passed, it can keep alive the spirit of a dear friend who epitomized so much of what is special about the Mohawk Valley. We hope to see you there.

THIS JUST IN... More PA Support for the Ted Moore...

The PA has donated $500 to the Ted Moore Scholarship Fund. Our local NYSUT Regional Office added $100, bringing this year's total contribution to $600--and this in addition to the perennially strong PA participation in the Run/Walk.

From the President's Desk ~ Our Union: What, Why, and How
by Ellis Gage Searles

"Thank you for all you do on our behalf."

"Creative solutions to problems often emanate from the Professional Association..."

"Great newsletter!"

"This contract is one of the best we've ever had."

Scarcely a day goes by that words like these don't come my way. As PA President, I have the good fortune to receive such compliments on a regular basis from active members and retirees alike.

But they aren't really for me. These expressions of support and gratitude are directed to all those in the Association leadership who work on our collective behalf throughout the year.

At the same time, through hall-way discussions, e-mails, and survey responses, colleagues may offer advice, suggestions, or "what if" scenarios--welcome stimuli for the kind of discourse that leads to positive change.

In the recently published MVCC Employee Survey, though, two respondents expressed sharp criticism of the Association, its leadership, and its work.

While it would be pointless to respond to the name-calling that unfortunately characterizes these anonymous critiques, they nevertheless serve as reminders of the need for the leadership to continue to articulate the broader vision that undergirds the day-to-day operation of the union. Indeed, the day-to-day often occupies us so fully that our long-term goals may go unsaid.

If there are members who don't fully understand the union's philosophy and direction, they may question why, for example, there are parties for the membership or lapel pins or shirts--and how they are paid for. Thinking such things frivolous, they may then choose not to participate in union decision-making. And they may feel disenfranchised. None of this should happen in our union.

In an effort to provide a better perspective on where the PA has been and where it would like to go, I offer, first, some history.

Since 1970, the Professional Association has been an effective advocate for our rights, crafting strong contract language--much of which has served as a model for other locals around the state and across the country--and then protecting that language through vigilant grievance action.

In recent years, however, there has been a growing awareness among the Association leadership that continued improvements to that contract--and, by extension, to everything that is important to our professional lives--would come about only when we began to address the forces both on campus and off that have an impact upon us. Furthermore, there was the realization that this could happen only through the increased involvement of more of the membership in the life of the union.

Our collective future would depend on it. What's more, the vitality of the institution that we care so deeply about would depend on it, too.

The question thus became, "How can we make this happen?"

In the fall of 1998, a group of twelve PA leaders began meeting to try to answer this question. After a marathon weekend followed by hours more of discussion, a proposal for reorganizing the Association was hammered out. It was based on one fundamental principle: the broader the participation of the membership, the more we could accomplish.

Ambitious in its hopes, the new constitution's success would depend on members' willingness to become involved.

Well, become involved we did. Names appeared on ballots. Committees set to work. Little by little, new ideas were put into action.

The union's essential work went on unabated; contract negotiations and grievance processing remained top priorities. But with more member involvement, we could begin to focus more effectively on the larger picture too--reaching out to policy makers, legislators, and community members about our needs, the needs of our students, and the needs of our institution. We began to articulate the long-term negative consequences of low pay and low morale on us--and on the future of MVCC. Many in our state and local communities could now hear our message.

It was a good start, but there was still more to be done. Out of each new idea another grew. Finding time to implement these ideas was one problem, but another one was finding resources. Some require only energy, but others require cash.

Through our affiliation with NYSUT, we became aware of funding that would support Local Action Projects--grants that enable local unions to jumpstart member involvement and strengthen the union's ties with the larger community. Seeing this as a way to further the Association's goals, PA leaders met again in marathon sessions to formulate a grant proposal and budget with a three-year timeline. In the first year alone, this grant has yielded more than $10,000 in NYSUT funding.

What's envisioned? A better, more effective union, one that benefits fully from the strengths and talents of its members. Of course, obtaining improved contracts, compensation pack-ages, and working conditions are a primary focus of any union. Achieving the greatest good for the membership as a whole, now and in the years to come, has to be our goal. Accomplishing that comes first of all from tough, smart, skillful negotiations.

But negotiations don't happen in a vacuum. Before the team goes to the table and while it is there, every member plays a part. Solidarity. Information. Outreach. Coalitions. Political Action. We have work to do.

How can you contribute? How can you ensure that your voice helps to shape the discussion?

There's a ballot in your mailbox. Choose a line and sign your name.

President Searles provides testimony on 2003-04 Executive budget proposal

Editor's Note: The following is the testimony given by Ellis at the Assembly Ways and Means Committee meeting in Utica on March 13. In response to President Searles' testimony, Assembly Member RoAnn Destito wrote the following in a letter of appreciation: "Thank you very much for participating.... I will do my best to enact a state budget which is fair, balanced, and in the best interests of all New Yorkers, especially for the working families of the Mohawk Valley."

I'm Ellis Gage Searles, President of the Mohawk Valley Community College Professional Association, which is made up of the more than 200 faculty and professional staff at MVCC and is affiliated on the state level with our 480,000 colleagues in New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and nationally with more than one million in the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

Throughout our region and through much of New York State, MVCC has developed a well-deserved reputation for the high quality of its programs and services, and I'm proud to say that I represent the dedicated professionals who have made that happen. It is on their behalf and on behalf of the institution we all care so deeply about that I address you now.

What I have to say will come as no surprise: that is, the 2003-2004 budget proposed by Governor Pataki would be nothing short of devastating to all of higher education in New York State, including the SUNY community colleges.

Supportive as you have been of education and knowledgeable as you are about the costs intrinsic to providing quality programs in New York State's schools and colleges, of course you realize this already. But, as legislators, you are also facing fiscal problems perhaps unprecedented in our lifetime. Many worthy programs and services are vying for funding in a year when the deficit is enormous.

But education is the only long-term solution to our state's economic problems. It prepares our region's future workforce and nurtures the thinkers and policymakers of tomorrow. It is a wise--indeed, vital--investment, one fully supported by the people of New York State, the very families who depend on its public colleges for them-selves and their children. It is noteworthy that community colleges are among their top choices; more students begin their higher education at community colleges than anywhere else. So, a disproportionately high number of students and families would be hard hit should this budget go through.

Hard hit, to put it mildly.

Cuts to community colleges of 15%--which includes a reduction of $345 in base aid per student--are among the very deepest in this budget proposal. This follows several years of minimal or no increases that have already forced community colleges to cut back again and again, leaving little that is not essential. Open faculty lines have been going unfilled; needed new ones are not being created.

Under the Governor's proposed budget, first, entire programs would be in jeopardy, the loss of which would pose a real threat to our mission as a comprehensive community college. Second, enrollments might need to be capped even as more students seek admission, a development that would fly in the face of our commitment to open access. Third, graduation time-tables may be disrupted as courses become unavailable, putting more pressure on student financial aid and, naturally, on students themselves, who would grow impatient for the day when they can put their completed degrees to work. At the same time that our students would be paying more, they would be getting less.

And the pressure would extend well beyond individuals to the counties that provide local sponsorship for community colleges, as Oneida County does for MVCC. Like New York State, Oneida County faces huge shortfalls and, like the community colleges, it does so against a backdrop of years of low revenue and high costs. Cuts at the state level pass the burden not only to students but to the local governments and finally to the taxpayers in each city, town, and village. Rather than making cuts, the state should resolve to work over the long term toward full funding--the 40% called for in the formula established for community colleges. This would lighten the burden on overtaxed counties as well as on students struggling to pay their tuition bills. And it would make good economic sense.

As you well know, our region is poorly positioned to withstand any more economic distress. But it has unlimited potential. What Central New York needs is the fully developed gifts of our young people. Moreover, it needs an up-to-date workforce. It needs the energy generated by MVCC graduates of all ages and the economic activity that results from a strong institution of higher education. It needs our nurses, our respiratory therapists, our accountants, and our technicians. The arts, the businesses, and the social agencies of our area need talented, well-prepared professionals. And we are here to ready them.

MVCC provides education to the citizens of Oneida County; at the same time, along with its students, faculty, and staff, it contributes to the local community in a variety of ways. Money spent to support our community colleges multiplies. Accessible, low-cost, high-quality education adds untold value. Fully supporting it--even in these tough economic times--is a crucial investment in our common future.

So I urge you to do whatever you can to restore funding for our community college. If we are to continue to fulfill our mission, not only must the cuts be restored, but additional funding must be found to ensure that continually spiraling costs do not result in more reductions to an already bare bones budget.

Students are arriving on our campus in increasing numbers, full of hope and with high expectations. We have much to offer them. But we'll need re-sources. So, on behalf of the faculty and professional staff of the MVCC PA, I ask you to help us by working with your colleagues in Albany to provide the funding we need to educate the students who will ensure the economic future of our region and our state.

Thank you.

Get students involved to help save "A State at Risk"

A website has been set up so students can fax their legislators to express concern about the state budget's impact on public higher education in New York State--with a section specifically for community college students. is a simple, free way for students to send a fax to state lawmakers in Albany to tell them just how important it is to support funding for public education.

Teach your students that public schools are threatened by massive budget cuts for school year 2003-2004. NYSUT has published a report titled "Don't Fail Us Now. New York: A State at Risk," which explains how the Governor's proposed budget--slashing $1.24 billion from public schools, and hundreds of millions of dollars more from higher education--would have a devastating impact on campuses and school programs.

Then show students how to take action. At NYSEducation, they can click the "Community College" link and enter their zip code to locate their legislators. Next, by entering their name and address, a quick click of the "fax" button sends a letter to all legislators selected. Have students review the letter, and get them involved today!

The PA springs into activity

educating members...

General Membership Meeting
Thurs. April 24
4:00 p.m. in IT225

    • budget approval
    • video premiere of our award-winning Educators Meet Legislators project
    • finalizing of election nominations ballot
    • distribution of contracts
    • update on benefit fund
    • refreshments served

saving members money...

Defensive Driving Course
Wed. April 30 and Thurs. May 1
3:30 to 6:30 p.m. in IT225

    • reduce cost of insurance by 10% or by 4 points from a driving record
    • send $25.00 check payable to NYSUT Benefit Trust to Jim Smrtic in PH352
    • open to first 40 members who register, then to family if seats are available
    • refreshments served

answering members' questions...

3 PA Workshops at this year's Summer Institute (dates & times tba)

  • How Contract Savvy Are You? Test your knowledge of your contract. What are your rights and responsibilities? What's new in the 2002-2005 collective bargaining agreement, including provisions for travel, retirement, tuition waivers, evaluation, and more? Ask questions and get answers from Sam Drogo (Negotiations Chair) and Dennis Rahn (Grievance Chair).
  • New PA Benefits are Coming! Find out about your new benefit fund. What is it? What will it offer you? A panel discussion of PA Benefit Fund Trustees led by Paul Halko (Benefit Fund Chair ) and Laura Calhoun (NYSUT Member Benefits Representative).
  • Classroom and Campus Safety What things should we be aware of when it comes to keeping safe in our classrooms and offices, labs and athletic fields--in fact, everywhere on campus? The PA has invited members of the College community to participate in this panel discussion, including Dr. Daniel Larson (VP Instruction), Denise DiGiorgio (VP Student Services), Joe Palmer (Director, Campus Safety and Security), Steve Rosati (Coordinator, Administrative Services/Rome Campus), and Carolyn D'Argenio (Asst. Professor, Social Science/Criminal Justice). Moderated by Dennis Rahn.

News from the National

The AFT has a new "News from the National" electronic newsletter to help members stay in touch with AFT Higher Education activities, get news about other AFT state federations and higher education locals, and get information about upcoming events. To subscribe, go to

Two-year PA audit complete

Audit Committee members Julie Dewan, Gideon Donato, Gary Kulis, and John Snyder have completed an audit of the PA accounts for the years 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 and have presented their report to the PA Executive Board. Thanks to everyone on the committee for their work on this important process.

The PA's fiscal year ends on April 30. Once the books have been closed on the current fiscal year, an audit of the last two years can begin, perhaps by late May or early June. Members wishing more information about past audits may contact PA Treasurer Mike Donaruma.

May 1 is deadline for reduced load

Teaching faculty members may elect a reduced load for 2003-04 by notifying their department chair by May 1 of this year. The election to do so is for 3 credit hours or 3 contact hours per term and can be for one or both terms. The economic impact of this can be found in Article 5.6.A.3 (the new contract is on the web at

Also on the PA Website: Complete results of the LAP-sponsored PA Member Survey are on the PA website as a Microsoft Excel file.

PA garners statewide recognition

  • The PA's Local Action Project grant was profiled in the March 26th New York Teacherin an article titled "Faculty union steps up community activism."
  • The PA's First Gentleman George Searles recently was chosen to share the honor of being the first-ever Higher Education Person of the Year, a new award from NYSUT. He was honored on stage and in a video montage at the Representative Assembly in Washington, D.C. "It's refreshing to be in a room of people who know the score," George told delegates, lauding "all the good work you do every day." George will be featured in the April 23rd edition of the New York Teacher, which highlights that he's proud to be teaching at a community college--an institution, he says, that is an important and beneficial social construct, particularly since it has open admission. "There's no suggestion it's a closed club," Searles said. "It's affordable, it's local and it's democratic. Higher ed is not available to a lot of people otherwise."
  • PAnorama has done it again! This year, the PA newsletter received five awards in the NYSUT Journalism Competition. This year's awards are as follows:
  • First Award, Best Feature Story: Cynthia Villanti
  • First Award, New Members' Issues: Cynthia Villanti
  • Award of Merit, Best News Story: Luther Riedel
  • Award of Merit, Best Article on Health Issues: Jim Fiore
  • Honorable Mention, Best Column: Luther Riedel

The solidarity page

PA solidarity efforts...

  • Ellis Searles and Cynthia Villanti attended a rally on April 16th for the striking workers of UNITE Local 653T at Divine Brothers. The PA has donated $500.00 in aid to the workers.
  • Past PA President Bill Perrotti has been elected a Vice President of the AFL-CIO Central New York Labor Council for 2003-2004. Congratulations, Bill!
  • Look for the union label. Are you planning a summer vacation? Check out the following websites for union-affiliated vacations and hotels:

  • Participation in PA political action and community outreach events requires healthy feet. Contact Ellis for a list of union-affiliated podiatrists in the Central New York region.
  • Are you interested in reading the amicus brief from the University of Michigan Law School Affirmative Action case that's now at the Supreme Court? If so, contact Ellis for a copy.
  • The PA will be represented at a local recognition of Workers Memorial Day (see below) that aims to remember workers killed or injured on the job and renew the fight for strong safety and health protections. The Workers Memorial Day Commemorative Dinner and Installation of Officers will include a celebration of the start of construction on the Mohawk Valley's Worker Monument at the Ilion Memorial Park, followed by a dinner at the Crystal Chandelier in Herkimer. The guest speaker is Linda Angello, New York State Labor Commissioner.

Workers Memorial Day, April 28...
source: The NYSUT Leader

Decades of struggle by workers and their unions have resulted in significant improvements in working conditions. But the toll of workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths remains enormous. Each year, more than 60,000 workers die from job injuries and illnesses and another 6 million are injured. The unions of the AFL-CIO remember these workers on April 28, Workers Memorial Day.

The first Workers Memorial Day was observed in 1989. April 28 was chosen because it is the anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the day of a similar remembrance in Canada. Every year, people in hundreds of communities and at work-sites recognize workers who have been killed or injured on the job. Trade unionists around the world now mark April 28 as an International Day of Mourning.

This year's theme is Safe Jobs, Keep on Fighting. Mourn for the Dead. Fight for the Living. You can get materials and information to help you participate in Workers Memorial Day through the Web site at

New Members Feature ~ Dan's back, and Norma's ready to teach you some new technology tricks
by Cynthia Villanti

Dan Ianno: Admissions

Dan's back, and he's quite happy about it.

Dan Ianno worked at MVCC from 1998 to 2001. After learning of a recent opening in the Admissions Office, he was happy to return to the world of education and to MVCC.

In many ways, Dan never left. He continued to serve as Assistant Coach of the MV Hawks soccer team and kept close ties with his family and friends here. Having grown up in New Hartford, Dan always has thought of this as home.

Dan beams when he talks about the soccer team, which has experienced success in recent years, with 4 years of being nationally ranked, 3 years making the regional finals, and a 12-2-2 record for the 2002 season. He especially loves to work with students. When he sees his players at practice, he asks, "How's school going?" and stresses the importance of education. "That's what will make your career," he advises.

Dan rejoined the PA upon his return because--ever a team player--he enjoys the collegial support and is proud of the PA involvement in many community outreach activities.

Norma Chrisman: Faculty/Staff Resource Center

When Norma Chrisman talks to you about technology, you may not guess that she bakes the tastiest cheesecakes and grows the best rosebushes. But she does.

The multi-talented Norma has been making a name for herself in the Faculty Staff Resource Center as the techno-savvy source of your training and technical support needs relating to software, database management, desktop publishing, and more. She also provides support for all of the MV Online courses.

Having spent 17 years at Herkimer County Trust, Norma was ready to meet the challenge of working in a college setting. The biggest difference, she reports, is the far more collegial atmosphere.

Norma lives in Little Falls with her husband, Keith, and four children. Since Keith is President of his union at Beech Nut in Canajoharie, Norma had no questions about joining the PA. She believes in collective representation by a union and already has contributed by designing the PA website membership database. We look forward making use of that... and to taste-testing that cheesecake!

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