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  Main >  Member Communications > PAnorama > September 2003

PAnorama: September 2003

County Executive, legislators endorsed for election

The Executive Board of the Professional Association voted this week to endorse candidates for Oneida County offices in the November election. Endorsed were County Executive Joseph A. Griffo (R) and legislators representing seven Oneida County districts: William B. Croll (R, District 2), Robert D. Kelly (R, District 19), Edward P. Welsh (R, District 21), Harry A. Hertline (D, District 22), Rose Ann Convertino (D, District 23), Emil R. Paparella (R, District 24), and David J. Wood (R, District 28).

The result of a process begun in mid-July, these endorsements are another example of the union’s commitment to political action. Although the PA has endorsed candidates in the past--County Executive Ralph Eannace for re-election to his second term and County Clerk Rick Allen for election to his current term--this is the first time endorsements interviews were offered to those running for election or re-election to the Oneida County Board of Legislators. In keeping with this expanded effort, the PA Executive Board adopted policies and guidelines to govern endorsements.

Interviews, attended by members of the Political Action Committee--Chair Mike Sewall, Beverly Quist, Lorie Phillips, and Bill Perrotti--and PA President Ellis Gage Searles, were held during the weeks of August 4th and 18th and September 15th. The meetings focused on issues of mutual concern, including MVCC’s role in the economic development of the region and the PA’s central place in the life of the College. Each candidate received an information packet con-taining charts related to MVCC’s funding and comparative salary data.

Letters have been sent to the presidents of all NYSUT locals in Oneida County to inform them of the PA endorsements and to request their support for these candidates. In addition, an ad will appear in the October 22nd issue of New York Teacher. PA Political Action Chair Mike Sewall will be coordinating members’ efforts during the campaign.

Editor’s Note: The PA’s newly adopted Endorsements Policies and Guidelines can be found below.

LAP energized for second year

A special PA personality graced the stage during MVCC’s 2003 Commencement. President Searles was on stage to congratulate each graduate and to present a keepsake keyring on behalf of the PA membership. With the help of funding from our Local Action Project (LAP) grant, the PA has begun what is intended to be an annual event.

As shown on our LAP pages, the bronze tone metal keyrings show the PA logo and motto on one side and the words “MVCC Graduate” encircled by “The Faculty and Professional Staff Congratulate You” on the other. In addition, the Commencement program featured a full-page letter from the PA, explaining the keyrings and offering our collective congratulations and good wishes to this year’s graduates. The LAP team developed the idea while brainstorming ways to conclude the first year of our LAP grant from NYSUT with a strong nod to our priorities: congratulating and celebrating the students whom we’ve helped to succeed in their academic careers here at MVCC.

Our first year in LAP offered other highlights, from last October’s Halloween-themed Monster Mash party to a membership survey and related distribution of new blue PA polo shirts. Several of our LAP efforts were noted in a March New York Teacher article, such as our reinvigorated community outreach offerings and political action efforts.

We have developed several other ways to promote the PA’s identity, too, both with our students and in the community. For example, Gene Militello and George Zook created several sets of magnetic PA signs to affix to our vehicles when traveling on PA business. We used them when we attended the Rally for Public Education in March, and they were a big hit at this year’s LAP Conference. We also supplied several hundred blue PA pens during the summer student registration periods.

In year two of LAP, major initiatives will include a community survey conducted by the NYSUT Polling Center. Furthermore, Beverly Quist notes, “We will be looking to clarify the ways in which we honor our commitment to our students, to our colleagues, and to our community.” To help us achieve our goals, we have added three new LAP team leaders: Carolyn D’Argenio, who has served several terms on the Grievance Committee; Steve Getchell, a longtime PA activist; and George Zook, designer of our PA identity package.

PAnorama's Editorial Policy

PAnorama is the voice of our local. In addition to the PA website (, email, and bulletin boards, PAnorama is a principal vehicle for bringing you, on a regular basis, information on the views and activities of our members.

We welcome articles by, for, and about PA members on union-related issues and concerns as reflected in NYSUT and AFT activities as well as in the purpose and functions of the PA’s standing committees: Community Outreach, Education & Training, Grievance, Internal Communications, Member Services, Negotiations, Political Action, and Research and Records.

All submissions are subject to the review and acceptance of the Editor and/or Internal Communications Committee. We do not accept articles that make personal attacks and we reserve the right to edit articles for length. We look forward to hearing from you.

The PA’s in action: Productively, politically
by Ellis Gage Searles

Lazy, they were definitely not. The summer days just past were in fact filled with PA activity that is now spilling into fall, gathering even more momentum from the renewed vitality that always seems to accompany the start of the academic year.

Just look at these pages. Members are at work on benefits, communications, negotiations, and grievances--protecting our rights and strengthening us as an organization. At the same time, others are helping the Professional Association to develop ties with our community, here on campus and throughout our region and our state.

Some of this the Association has always done. But some are new developments, the product of greater involvement by more of the membership as well as a growing awareness among us that improving our professional life means having a greater voice in everything that affects it.

One of these newer initiatives has been our political action. Over the last few years, the Professional Association has been working to communicate more effectively with legislators and policymakers. As an organization, we want to gain a better understanding of the political process and become more active within it. In line with that, most recently, the PA began a series of endorsement interviews in anticipation of this fall’s election.

Every two years, the seats on the Oneida County Board of Legislators are up for election. This year there is also a race for Oneida County Executive. The individuals who serve in those positions regularly make decisions that have a very direct impact on MVCC and on us. Supporting candidates who support public education in general--and our college in particular--is in the best interests of our membership and our community. MVCC is not only the institution to which we are devoting our careers; it is also key to the economic revival of the region in which we live.

Through the electoral process, we declare our beliefs and our values. Our responsibility as a constituency, then, is to communicate our concerns, endorse those who express support for our issues, and not only vote for but work to elect candidates who will make good things happen. I hope you will join in this effort.

Elsewhere in PAnorama, the candidates we’re endorsing are highlighted. In the coming weeks there will be campaigning. PA members will be at work--making phone calls, sending letters, and getting the message out.

As Tip O’Neil so famously said, “All politics is local.” It is here that we can make a real difference. We can elect representatives who believe as we do that MVCC is a vital asset to our region and who recognize our central role in its ongoing success. If you have ever followed local politics, you know that a very small number of ballots often decides who wins an election.

Let’s seize this opportunity. Do our part. Voice support. Inform others. And then, most importantly, vote.

PA welcomes new members, sponsors breakfast

A PA-sponsored New Member Breakfast was held on the morning of September 17th. New and longtime PA members enjoyed bagels, coffee, and juice, courtesy of the Member Services Committee. New members who weren’t able to attend the breakfast should contact Gene Militello or Ellis Gage Searles for important membership information.

Grievance Committee offers updates on discipline and other matters
by Dennis Rahn

The Grievance Committee has been very busy since my last report in PAnorama. Two related cases have important--perhaps critical--implications for the employees represented by the Association.

In the first case, an accusation was made by a student (or students) about the conduct of an employee. The College chose to invoke the disciplinary process in Article 7.3 of the contract, seeking termination of the individual. At the meeting to clarify the charges, the College was asked to provide the names of the students making the accusations and to give specifics on events, places, dates, and so on. The College refused to do so, instead offering only some general examples.

Imagine being accused of something and not knowing who is making the charge. It brought back shades of McCarthyism. What is more fundamental to our concepts of innocent until proven guilty than knowing your accuser? How would it be possible for the Association to validate or invalidate the conclusions reached by the inquisitors without knowing who, what, when, where, and witnesses? For those with career or continuing appointment, this denies the principle of termination only for “just cause” found in Article 4.2.

In the second case, the College did terminate the employee without following its own policies for such matters. As employees we are held to many standards: some are contractual, some are moral or ethical, and others are found in Board of Trustees policy and made known to us in the Faculty/Staff Handbook. The protection afforded to us in those policies insures a fair process of determination in each case.

The College, however, in its rush to judgment, did not follow those policies. The guaranties of fairness and appeal were not adhered to. Due process and just cause were tossed aside in an effort to “protect the students.” While this might have been a noble purpose in the old days of in loco parentis, it is without merit when one considers that today college students are assumed to be adults responsible for their actions and that the career of someone is at stake. Perhaps the stake the College wants to use from now on has roots in Salem, Massachusetts, 300+ years ago. The Association will fight to maintain due process and just cause protections for all employees.


With new Grievance team members elected in the Spring, our team currently includes Carolyn D’Argenio, Paul Halko, Dawson McDermott, Tom Schink, and Dennis Rahn as Chair. Jim Henck, our NYSUT Labor Relations Specialist, conducted a training session with the committee, briefing us on the elements of a grievance, how we should handle such matters, and the role of individual committee members.

Grievances with Extensions

Several pending grievances center on the College assigning courses and not paying the instructor to teach them. Some of these may be resolved through negotiations that are currently taking place.

Grievances Withdrawn

A faculty member in her third year did not have her appointment renewed. A grievance was filed, which went to Step 2. After a careful review of the College’s response at Step 1 and a similar response from the appeal to the President, the Committee voted to not submit the grievance to arbitration.

An excluded administrator seemed to interfere with the prosecution of a grievance. A second grievance on the interference was filed and a response was received. After President Searles discussed the matter with President Schafer, the grievance was allowed to expire.

Discipline Representation & Pending Action

Two members of the faculty were involved in discipline at the end of Spring 2003. The penalty the College sought for both was termination.

Members of the committee were present for the Notice of Charge and for the subsequent meeting to explain the charges. Jim Henck and one of our Grievance Committee members represented the Association and the member at the second meeting. The committee advised the members in their response to the charges. The Board of Trustees on August 14, 2003, dismissed both individuals.

Currently Jim and the committee are working on Step 1 grievances. These will be passed to NYSUT Legal in Albany, which will most likely represent the two individuals at arbitration.

Grievances at Step 1

In the course of a disciplinary action seeking termination of one of the faculty members above, the College refused to disclose the names of accusers, dates, times, and other specifics of the charge. A grievance has been filed demanding such information, claiming that withholding such information is a violation of just cause protections in Article 4.

New BOT Policy

The committee has informed the College that it cannot enter into individual negotiations with members or create extra-contractual pay rates as a result of a new policy passed at the August Board of Trustees meeting.

Ongoing negotiations
by Sam Drogo

The Negotiations team has been busy throughout the summer, addressing issues that were put into committee at the conclusion of last year’s negotiations. These negotiations have continued into the current Fall term.

Two of the issues receiving our attention in these ongoing negotiations are in the areas of advisement and dual credit, for which Article 6.7 and Article 5.15.D call for continuing negotiations, respectively. In addition, grievance activity made clear the need to negotiate what are being called “extra-contractual courses,” which the College and PA have decided to negotiate to a mutually acceptable agreement. Online course issues as well as the pay rate for participants in the Millennium Project have been on the table for discussion too.

Finally, PA salary increases--currently pending approval in the Oneida County Board of Legislators budget process--also received our attention this summer.

One Member's Voice: Left Hook, Right Cross
by Jim Myers

Editor’s Note: This editorial comes in response to “Wal-Mart intransigence toward unions part of a bigger picture” by Rich Lamasney in the May 2003 PAnorama. Before submitting articles, stories, and letters to the editor, please review the PAnorama editorial policy.

Rich Lamasney’s Wal-Mart article sparked my interest, and I wasn’t surprised by its tenor, given the forum in which it was published. As with all editorials, there are two points of view, and the truth most likely lies somewhere in between.

My wife worked for a competitor (a union shop) for over twenty years. Four years ago she accepted a similar position with Wal-Mart and has happily told everyone she knows (literally) how much happier she is. Not only does she make considerably more money, she is treated respectfully and made to feel like a valuable employee.

No rational person can discount the benefit unions provide, both now and in the past. Make no mistake, I am eternally grateful for the several unions I have been associated with, including the PA. But too often union shops are characterized by an us-against-them relationship (yes, I see that right here at MVCC). Wal-Mart and its employees do not suffer that ignominy, and that’s the way it ought to be. My wife believes, and so do I, that she has little to gain and much to lose by any union organization.

I may be a skeptic, but my feeling is that any attempt to organize Wal-Mart employees is more about dues than worker rights and benefits.

NYSUT ETP and MVCC, Ro Rosen and Me
by Carmelita Lomeo

The NYSUT Effective Teaching Program (ETP) will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2004. For twenty-five years, this program has developed graduate and undergraduate courses that bear credit from several colleges and universities in New York.

The beauty of the program is that K-12 grade teachers become ETP instructors and teach other teachers. Every August the ETP instructors attend an intensive 45-hour train-the-trainer session. Each year we are trained in a class within our area of expertise, and then bring the course back to our region to offer the course to interested participants as a 3-credit graduate course or as an in-service training.

ETP is a self-sufficient learning trust, a branch of NYSUT, with over 100 instructors statewide. ETP has evolved since its humble beginnings. There are now over 50 courses which bear college graduate credit, as well as programs for training school support staff as well as offering a joint Master’s program in two sites, upstate and downstate.

MVCC, specifically the Psychology, Human Services and Education Department, has a joint venture with the school support staff component. We have developed an 18-credit hour certificate designed to meet the new regulations for Teacher Assistant established by the New York State Education Department.

I have served as an ETP instructor for three years and have attended three summer training sessions on topics including Brain Compatible Classrooms, Brain Based Teaching, and most recently Best Practices and Key Concepts in English Language Arts (ELA) K-8 Grade. I also have been busy teaching Child Development; the Study of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders in Children and Adolescents; Brain Compatible Classroom; and this semester Teaching Math, Science and Technology in the Elementary Grades--all part of the Master’s programs offered jointly through ETP and Touro College.

This year’s training was held at Roaring Brook Ranch in Lake George. In the Best Practices and Key Concepts in English Language Arts (ELA) K-8 session, the 12 class participants, myself included, created a daily newspaper for all instructors attending the eight-day training. All of the course teachers, ETP personnel, and personnel at Roaring Brook were interviewed by various participants in the ELA course.

One of my articles included an interview with the new ETP Program Manager, Ro Rosen. The following is a reprint of the article.

Seeing It Through “Ro”se Colored Glasses

I had the opportunity to interview Ro, the new Program Manager of the NYSUT Learning Trust. We sat for quite a long time and discussed philosophies, ideas, visions, and issues. I use the word interview loosely, as most of the time spent was in a discussion that I found fascinating, invigorating, and exciting.

Ro spent thirty years in government, including education, budgeting, and human resources. She felt like the job of Program Manager of the NYSUT Learning Trust would be an enjoyable job, merging her interests in education and management in a fun, exciting, and meaningful manner. She felt it was the right next move for her professionally and believes this to be a great program of which she wanted to be a part.

The highlight of her first Roaring Brook experience was the singing activity she participated in when she visited the STAR class. She, along with the other members of her group, made up a song about students who don’t have the personal power model.

Ro discussed her philosophy of education and learning. The teacher is the most important factor in education and learning, and effective teacers result in excellent student outcomes. However, it’s not as simple as cause and effect; there are numerous mediating variables. These variables make the task very difficult.

That’s where ETP becomes so important. Its job is to equip teachers at a conceptual, practical, and pedagogical level. The understanding and intellectual renewing that comes from participating in an ETP class help teachers to complete the difficult task and reduce the effects of the mediating variables on student outcomes. The ETP classes provide participants with hope, refreshing them, and providing them with thought-provoking and intellectually-stimulating critical thinking and scholarship opportunities.

Our job as instructors becomes two-fold: to fill the gaps in teacher preparation and to build on the teacher preparation required in New York State. One of the strengths of ETP classes is that they are take into consideration the reality of the classroom and are research-based. Teachers of all experience levels can benefit from an ETP class, bringing something to the class they take as participants and implementing it back into their own classroom.

Ro’s vision for ETP involves many facets. Beginning with the endeavor in new and exciting partnerships with research-based institutions, including higher education institutions, publishing companies and training organizations, she hopes to continue the development and revision of a strategic plan for the organization--especially with teachers involved in classroom research, supported by relationships with higher education and publishing companies. Ro also would like to see the continued improvement of the rigor of the classes offered, the creation of more classes (specifically in the content areas) as research-based and pedagogically grounded, as well as to seek grants to fund research and program development.

As a result of this, we would have more of presence in the research world, be on the frontier of education in New York State and beyond, and serve as a source of information for more teachers. This creates opportunities for the whole program as well as for each teacher by way of publishing materials, articles, texts, etc. In turn, this would create an opportunity for teachers to test out best practices in the classroom in a research-based manner that supports the ETP course content. All of this makes the program have an increased presence in New York State, in higher education institutions, and in publishing companies--creating a beneficial snowball effect for all involved.

Seeing the benefits of PA membership
by Paul Halko

MVCCPA Benefits Fund Trustees met on September 25th to review the vision benefit already in place and to begin discussions of possible additional benefits.

Many PA members have been reporting how satisfied they are with the services of participating providers and with the new glasses or contacts that they and their family members have received through the Davis Vision Plan. Registration in the plan has gone smoothly.

Benefit Fund Trustee Ron Miller reported that he found Empire Vision “well prepared” for PA members and that the process was “as painless as it possibly could be.” Ron and his wife, daughter, and son all have new contacts or glasses thanks to the PA’s first benefit. Ron indicated that he could not be happier with the care provided to his daughter, who has complications with her eyesight. “Overall,” Ron estimated, “including the exams and eyewear, I probably saved well over $600.”

Other members who have expressed gratitude for this vision benefit include Doreen Nicholls, who described the transaction as easy and smooth; Bruce Kurtz, who said this is the best benefit he has ever received; Greg Sydoriw, who’s happy to have new eyewear for himself and his wife and son; and Sam Drogo, who reported that he saw a sign welcoming MVCC PA members at his local Empire Vision. Many others have expressed thanks as well.

Database management for the Benefits Fund is being handled by PA Web Manager Norma Chrisman, who also has a new pair of glasses. Norma said, “We decided to use an online enrollment form using the PA website to make this process as convenient for members as possible. I use an Access database to maintain our files, which has proven much more efficient for the PA too.”

As provided in Article 10.11.G of the contract, the College’s next payment to the Benefits Fund, equal to 50% of the total sum for this year, will be made on October 1st. Fund Trustees will meet with NYSUT Benefits Representative Laura Calhoun during October to get information about other NYSUT-endorsed benefits. They will also attend a NYSUT-sponsored workshop about HIPAA regulations.

Members who have questions about the MVCCPA Benefits Fund should contact me or any of the other Fund Trustees: Julie Dewan, Sam Drogo, Ron Miller, and Ellis Searles.

Looking back at spring and summer strides, lacing up for new Strides

The Community Outreach Committee reports several activities from the spring and summer, while drawing our attention to this year’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event.

The PA contributed to the annual MVCC Foundation Golf Tournament by sponsoring a PA team, which included the following fairway fans:

    • Paul Halko
    • Doug Hyldelund
    • Ron Labuz
    • Mike Sewall

Fritz Barns, Director of the Foundation, said that he’s “extremely pleased” with the PA’s participation, adding, “I hope to see PA members at our future events as well.” The PA also supported the Hospice Golf Tournament by donating $100.00 to sponsor a putting contest.

Our next major Community Outreach event is the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk. PA team captain Wendy Palczynski invites you to join your PA, College, and community friends by participating in this year’s Making Strides--either by walking, sponsoring a fellow PA member, or donating to the American Cancer Society to help make a difference in breast cancer research, education, advocacy, and services.

Making Strides will take place at the SUNY Institute of Technology campus on Sunday, October 19th. Registration begins at 9:00 a.m., and we start making strides at 11:00 a.m. Contact Wendy in the Admissions Office (792.5350) if you have any questions or if you plan to participate in this year’s event.

Finally, this month’s Community Outreach column would not be complete without acknowledging and thanking Sam and Janice Russo for their $100.00 donation to the PA scholarship. The PA greatly appreciates this support of our very important annual scholarship to benefit our students.

Endorsements policies and guidelines

The MVCC Professional Association is “a vehicle to address issues and forces affecting the professional lives of the employees it represents.” Central to this mission must be an awareness of the fact that, as public community college faculty and professional staff, we cannot stand apart from the political process. Essential elements of our professional lives, such as compensation, working conditions, and retirement benefits, are affected by what happens in the legislature.

To have a positive impact on our future, therefore, we must be active in politics locally, statewide, and nationally. We must alert policymakers to issues that are important to us, and we must support those who vote in favor of legislation that has an impact on the PA and on Mohawk Valley Community College.

On the state and federal level, political action on our behalf is coordinated by our affiliates, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT). At the same time, with their support and guidance, the MVCC Professional Association participates independently in the political process on the local level. Accordingly, endorsements of candidates seeking office are handled by each of these organizations respectively, with local races--those in Oneida County--the responsibility of the Professional Association.

The PA will make endorsements according to the following guidelines:

  • The endorsement process will consider candidates running for office in Oneida County.
  • The endorsement process is non-partisan. A candidate’s political party affiliation will not be a consideration.
  • Candidates will be invited to meet with members of the PA Political Action Committee and/or Executive Board. Those who do not attend such a meeting will not be considered for endorsement. These meetings will provide opportunities for discussion of issues important to the PA and to the College. Candidates’ views on these issues will be sought. No other issues will enter the deliberations.
  • In open races, the PA will remain neutral unless there is a compelling reason to make an endorsement.
  • Recommendations for political endorsement will be based upon
    1. Consideration foremost of endorsement of those incumbents whose records have been substantially in support of the legislative issues affecting the Professional Association and the College, such as the MVCC budget, the PA contract, and MVCC capital projects.
    2. Consideration of endorsement of candidates whose statements reflect knowledge of the value of MVCC to Oneida County and the College’s role in economic development.
    3. Consideration of endorsement of candidates who demonstrate awareness of the need to recruit and retain highly qualified faculty and staff and the impact that has on the College’s reputation and its competitiveness in the education marketplace.
    4. Consideration of making an endorsement or remaining neutral in open races when both candidates support the College’s and the PA’s interests.
  • After such consideration, the PA Political Action Committee will present recommendations regarding endorsements to the Executive Board for a vote. This will be done in time for action in either a primary campaign or in the November election.
  • Once the PA Executive Board has endorsed a candidate, an announcement will be made to the entire membership of the Professional Association through e-mail, PAnorama, and
  • Letters of support for endorsed candidates will be sent to all our NYSUT colleagues in Oneida County through the presidents of K-12 locals. Flyers will be provided for posting and duplicating.
  • PA endorsements will also be published in New York Teacher prior to Election Day.
  • Other support--phone banks, assistance with campaigns, etc.--will be offered when possible.
  • Costs associated with candidate screenings, postage, and duplication will be reimbursed through VOTE/COPE funds.
  • No changes in endorsement will be undertaken except for the most serious reasons.
  • There shall be an automatic review of the endorsement of any candidate who loses a major political party primary.

MVCCPA Executive Board
August 20, 2003

PA takes seven AFTCA Journalism awards, website wins 1st place

In addition to five awards garnered by PAnorama in the NYSUT Journalism Competition this year, the PA is proud to have won seven in the AFTCA Journalism Competition:

    • 1st place: Best Feature Story
    • 1st place: Unique Performance
    • 1st place: Best Web Site
    • 2nd place: Best News Story
    • 3rd place: Best Editorial
    • 3rd place: Best Art or Photo
    • 3rd place: Best Layout/Graphics

We’re most proud of our website’s first-place award for our local size/category. The judges’ review is encouraging and, as always, we seek member feedback on how to our union website more informative and easy to use. Judges wrote, “An interesting and engaging site. Well done!” and “I enjoyed visiting this site. Keep up the great work!” among other praise:

    • Navigation: “I am a big fan of ‘breadcrumb’ navigation. It is great to see it used here. The navigation...of the site is consistent and easy to use.”
    • Content: “I like the information on the home page highlighting the activities of the local from the past two years. ...The member communications area appears to be the heart of the site, as it should be. I like...the newsletter posted online.”
    • Features: “The site is… maintained using ColdFusion, creating a database driven website rather than static web pages...quite an advanced feature for a small local. Congratulations! I like the different images of members in the page headers. is important to have pictures of members throughout the site. The events and photos section is a nice touch and well-organized.”

Direct your ideas and feedback to our PA web manager, Norma Chrisman.

PA members serving on statewide NYSUT committees

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