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  Main >  Member Communications > PAnorama > February 2004

PAnorama: September 2004

PA LAP team graduates




PA LAP team graduates


The PA’s Local Action Project (LAP) team graduated this summer from NYSUT’s three-year grant program. The LAP Conference was held at Fort William Henry in Lake George during the third week of July. 


At the LAP Conference, each graduating local offers a presentation before the entire group of LAP conference attendees. The PA graduation presentation reviewed some of the following successes during the course of our LAP participation.


For the past three summers, the LAP team members have attended a week-long conference at which they learned strategies for becoming more effective on the local and state levels, such as strengthening member participation and welcoming new members, developing community and political outreach initiatives, and improving internal and external communications.


The PA team has accomplished a great deal thanks to LAP; for example, the team has


  • conducted and analyzed a PA membership survey
  • developed an annual program by which to distribute a gift keychain to MVCC students during Commencement ceremonies
  • improved external recognition with a new PA banner, magnetic vehicle signs, and pens for students
  • improved internal communications with three LAP Communication Centers (bulletin boards), more PA shirts (both white tee shirts and blue PA polo shirts), and a mouse pad for each member
  • enhanced recognition at political outreach events with lapel pins, picket signs, and stationery
  • furthered political outreach by expanding our award-winning Educators Meet Legislators program with the publication of the Legisletter.


The LAP team spent a good deal of this summer’s LAP Conference by assessing their work and discussing plans for the future. Some of those projects are as follows:


  • continue current LAP activities by funding them locally.
  • finalize and conduct a community survey with the help of NYSUT’s polling center.
  • implement a new Member Initiated Community Out-reach Sponsorship program to increase participation in community outreach.
  • improve new member initiatives and involvement.
  • expand our political outreach activities, such as with candidate screenings, lobbying efforts, and work-ing with the Oneida County Board of Legislators.
  • improve the PA’s internal and external communica-tion efforts, such as by submitting articles to the Utica Observer-Dispatch and other area papers.


Another major goal of ongoing LAP efforts is to continue in-creasing member involvement through the extensive PA com-mittee structure.


The PA team presented a skit that compared their LAP exper-iences with that of the typical community college student.

Titled “The Little Community College Local That Could,” the presentation compared their application for the LAP grant to applying for financial aid and demonstrated how their first year of LAP was similar to the experiences of a first-semester community college student (e.g., feeling overwhelmed and uncertain yet excited).


They acted out scenes from their years in LAP that paralleled how community college students often grow more confident and eager to learn as the semesters pass, learning to manage their time while working hard and playing hard, and understanding that education is truly a lifelong project.


Likewise, while we realize that our LAP participation has of-ficially ended, the PA will apply the lessons of the program and continue to grow stronger and more effective.




Representative assembly: Speakers, solidarity,

celebration, and…

by Bill Perrotti



This spring, three of us from the PA attended and participated in the activities of the NYSUT Representative Assembly (the RA) in New York City. The RA is the governance body of NYSUT, and it is convened once each year in either March or April.  Attending this year were President Ellis Searles, an automatic delegate, I as an elected delegate, and Mike Sewall as an elected alternate.  I have been a delegate to the RA many times and so I am pretty familiar with its routine.  That is not likely the case with most members of the PA. So what happens at the RA?  Actually, lots and lots and lots.  Let me explain (with occasional digressions)…


This year more than 3000 delegates from across the state convened in New York City to develop a comprehensive legislative agenda;  recognize the special achievements of members and locals (the MVCCPA prominently among them); march in support of three major New York City locals; listen to reports and remarks from NYSUT officers, educators, labor leaders, politicians, and honored dignitaries; and generally network with members from throughout New York.  While some of these speeches were perfunctory, many were noteworthy, even inspiring.  



Bill Cosby mixed humor and substance in his keynote and captivated the convention audience with insights about education in very poor urban centers and a challenge to educators everywhere to stand up for quality at all levels and for all students.


Carl McCall, the Democratic candidate for governor in the last election, was given the Albert Shanker Award for Distinguish-ed Service and  greeted with more enthusiasm than any speaker over the three-day event.  In fact, NYSUT President Tom Hobart's introduction of Mr. McCall was interrupted several times by shouts of "We should have endorsed him" from the audience.  Mr. McCall has long been a true friend of NYSUT and a dedicated champion of public education.  Carl spoke passionately of the need to adequately fund public education and of the need to improve compensation for teachers.  And his comments were not mere lip service.  Public education for Mr. McCall is the key to his personal success story and his commitment is real and deep.  Surely there has been (and is) no stronger ally of public education in New York.


Other noteworthy speakers included U. S. Senator Chuck

Schumer, U.  S. Representative Charles Rangel, New York Assemblyman and Speaker of the House Sheldon Silver, and Dennis Hughes, President of the New York AFL-CIO.  All their comments included the common theme of the need for better and consistent funding for public education, recognition of the essential work public school educators and support personnel perform at all levels of education, and a focus on improving the lot of working Americans in general.  Schumer and Rangel also spoke about the upcoming national election and the critical importance of unseating George W. Bush as president and electing Massachusetts Senator John Kerry who has been endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers (of which NYSUT is an affiliate) and the AFL-CIO. 


Tom Hobart, in his presidential "State of the Union" remarks, recounted the abysmal record of the Bush administration on issues of substance and import to working families: The assault on overtime pay, curtailing the rights of government workers to organize and bargain collectively, the underfunded "No Child Left Behind" Act, support of trade and tax policies which encourage or reward the outsourcing of American jobs overseas, tax policies which favor the wealthy at the expense of middle-income and poor Americans, and repeated attempts to privatize the safety net of Medicare and Social Security that is so critically important to average Americans, to name but a few.  President Hobart also introduced a brief documentary film, "Wal-Mart: Not As Advertised", on the impact of the opening of a new Wal-Mart Superstore on the economy of a small town in Texas where almost all small local businesses were forced to close.  The promise of new jobs and a vigorous local economy never materialized.  Some time after that, however, the Wal-Mart closed its doors and moved on, leaving in its wake the decimated remains of a once healthy small Texas town.  It was quite an unnerving and powerful video, and it made me think about the disconnect between all of us as workers who want wages to be maximized and all of us as consumers who want prices to be ever lower and lower.  We would do well to keep in mind that companies that charge slightly higher prices may also be ones that happen to be unionized, pay decent wages, and provide their employees with more job security and better benefit packages than many big non-unionized firms do.  Or they may simply be small local businesses that have a true allegiance to the local community but lack the buying power of a big company like Wal-Mart and must charge a bit more simply to survive.  As unionists and as working people ourselves, I think that we must be mindful of this and that we would be wise to support these companies whenever we can.  A race to the bottom from a price perspective virtually insures that more and more American jobs will leave for low-cost foreign venues, leaving behind more and more unemployed or underemployed American workers. 




Another significant event at this year's RA was a roughly ten-block mass march in support of the contract negotiation efforts of the three most prominent educational unions in NYC: The United Federation of Teachers which represents all K-12 public school teachers in the city, the Professional Staff Congress which represents all the CUNY two- and four-year units, and the United College Employees of Fashion Institute of Technology.  NYSUT members from all over New York state came together to support our downstate brothers and sisters whose contracts, almost in their entirety, are under assault by the current Bloomberg administration.  The PA, in the person of Ellis, Mike, and I, was there, and proudly so.  


Speaking for myself, every time I have the opportunity, whether on a picket line or in a march, to lend support to other workers in their fight for fair and equitable treatment, I am filled with pride in the labor movement and a deeper understanding of how interdependent we as workers all are.  The essence of unionism is all (the members) for one (the union).  The march in New York City was my most recent reminder of that.





The RA also offers us one of our two annual opportunities (the other being the Community

College Conference in the fall) to network with other community college delegates from across the state.  This of course happens informally throughout the three days but also occurs in some scheduled events.  

NYSUT locals are arranged into what are called election districts.  For all the K-12 locals within the state, these districts are geographical entities, linking neighboring districts into groups for purposes of lobbying and cooperating.  The election district for community colleges (ED39) is an exception to this practice.  It is more a functional designation than a geographical one.  All NYSUT community college locals (upstate and downstate) are a part of ED39 and meet each year to consider issues of common interest.  In addition to sharing common successes and problems and setting our specific priorities, community college RA delegates elect/select a representative with community college interests at heart to sit on the NYSUT Board of Directors.  Our representative is Ellen Schuler Mauk from the Faculty Association of Suffolk Community College, and she is a very active and effective spokesperson for our interests.


While at the RA, we are also able to enjoy seeing the PA recognized for excellence.  This year, the PA was for the first time cited for its annual Vote-Cope contributions as a recipient of the Abel Blattman Award which recognizes those locals whose contributions average over $10 per member per year.  The PA is the only NYSUT community college local outside of New York City and Long Island to be so honored.  Thanks to all contributing PA members who made this possible.  PAnorama and the PA web page were also the recipients of numerous awards for excellence, something that is becoming an annual event.  Tops on the awards barometer this year was the Solidarity Award for the article about Wal-Mart authored by Rich Lamasney of the Humanities Department.  It is one of the top two awards given each year and it is truly a statewide award.  In the competition are all K-12, community college, and 4-year NYSUT locals (some with thousands of members).  Wow!  But as good as that was and as excited and surprised as I was when the winner was announced, that moment didn't provide me with my most special memories from the award luncheon or the RA for that matter.  That was provided by Edie Shanker, the wife of the late Al Shanker, co-founder of NYSUT.  Purely by chance I happened to sit next to Edie at lunch, and we chatted through the whole event.  She is articulate, engaged,  engaging, energetic and still has the fire of unionism in her blood.  It was a real privilege for me to meet Edie and that lunchtime provided me with a most enjoyable and inspiring hour that I will long remember.




See Bill Perrotti’s article in the October issue of PAnorama for details on the decisions made about NYSUT’s legislative agnda for the coming year.




From the President’s Desk


The Year Ahead, Day by Day

by Ellis Gage Searles


No studies have yet confirmed it, but I have a theory. 


I believe there may be a direct correlation between the delight a child experiences in the new bookbag, notepaper, and pencils that signal the start of a school year and his or her future choice of profession.  Informal (admittedly very unscientific) polling and my own experience suggest that those young students who so happily pick out and pack up fresh, clean school supplies every September are highly likely to become educators. 


At least, that would be true for me.


The neatly lined paper and soon-to-be eraserless pencils, I realize now, were not themselves the point.  Their appeal lay in the potential they represented, the uncharted year ahead.


As might be expected, the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about the upcoming semesters, about what I want to accomplish with my students and, naturally, about what the year holds for the Professional Association. 


Like me, when you received your beautiful new PA calendar, you may have looked through it with some of the old familiar feelings of anticipation and renewal.  Offering a month-by-month list of important dates and events, its pages absolutely shine with possibility.


The concept of a comprehen-sive PA calendar has long been attractive to several of us in the Association leadership, but making it a reality required time and resources that seemed to elude us.  Then, this summer, the last of our LAP “camps” provided both, so PA teamwork finally made it happen. 


Eight LAP leaders—Norma Chrisman, Mike Donaruma, Alison Doughtie, Steve Getchell, Gene Militello, Cynthia Villanti, George Zook, and I—brainstormed, listed, and planned our year, laid it out on huge pieces of paper, and began the job of designing and producing two calendars:  the paper one now (I hope) hanging on your office wall and the colorful online version at that can be updated as more detailed infor-mation becomes available.


Later, other PA members made suggestions and additions, gave dates for their own College and union commitments.  As the drafts gradually evolved into finished products, even the team started to marvel at how much was there. 


Every category—exclusively PA initiatives; meetings and conferences the Association does jointly with others; politi-cal and community outreach; and, of course, College events—involves the energy and efforts of our membership.


What a fine testimony this calendar bears to what is being done individually and collectively by PA members.  By us, for us—and for the commun-ities in which we live and work.


And what options!


The coming months offer more choices and Professional Association opportunities than ever before.  Negotiations will be starting, national and local elections will have  their impact on our professional lives,  our regional and statewide commitments will grow, and our solidarity as an organization will enable us to meet the challenges they will present.


Indeed, among literary types, this calendar might be seen as a metaphor, symbolizing our dynamic organization working to improve the things we care about, day by day. 


For me, looking back, it provides perspective, too.  It reinforces my theory that my childhood self must have appre-ciated the metaphor of those long-ago school supplies.  Even more, I’m sure it provides at least one explanation for the many years I’ve spent so con-tentedly teaching English in college classrooms.


This year, I hope your class-rooms and offices bring you the new opportunities and challenges you’re hoping for.  And, when you look at your PA calendar, that you’ll see your day to get involved.   


Member’s Voice

Alice in America:

Why the AFT is endorsing John Kerry     

by Cynthia Villanti


Azar Nafisi began her speech with a reference to Alice in Wonderland, and John Kerry concluded his with a reference to Langston Hughes. After a week of speeches, presentations, and discussions at this year’s AFT Convention in D.C., these two images—from Nafisi’s speech in the morning and Kerry’s speech that same afternoon—have lingered long in my mind.

In her best-selling memoir, Reading Lolita in Tehran, Nafisi describes how, after leaving her university teaching position in 1995 due to regressive policies, she held secret weekly meetings with seven young female students to discuss classic works of Western literature.


In referencing Lewis Carroll’s Alice during her speech, Nafisi showed how the individuals who typically suffer most under totalitarian regimes are also the most creative, innovative, imaginative, and curious. Dictators fear such individuals, Nafisi noted, because imagination and curiosity “are at the core of insubordination.” 


Like Alice down the rabbit hole—that’s a pretty good de-scription of how I’ve felt during these four years of George W. Bush’s presidency. Ask my former officemate, Bill Hysell, for how long I was in denial after that fiasco known as Election 2000. And in the time since, like Alice, I have often felt perplexed, confused, scared, and lost in amazement and wonderment at the policies and practices of the Bush administration.

Thus, having Nafisi’s image of Alice in mind, and knowing Bush’s attitudes towards education all too well, I eagerly anticipated Kerry’s remarks. “We need a new conversation” about education, Kerry declared. I listened to his 45-minute contribution to that conversation, and I’d like to share why AFT is endorsing his candidacy for president.

Kerry’s wide-ranging speech touched on many issues that affect us not only as American citizens but also as the faculty and staff of MVCC. Kerry simply gets educational issues in a way that Bush has never demonstrated. When discussing the need for higher pay for teachers, for example, Kerry explained:


Today, one of the biggest obstacles to higher pay for teachers is the rising cost

of health care. You’ve seen it during negotiations. The money that should be going into your pockets is going to pay for the rising cost of health care….


I doubt such words would ever come out of the mouth of George W. Bush.


Here are some others that we’ll never hear from Bush. In his speech, Kerry addressed the fol-lowing “three great challenges” currently facing our educational system—from K12 to college:


  1. First, Kerry declared the need for a national effort to put a good teacher in every classroom. “Pay for teachers in America,” he continued, “is a national disgrace.” We need to not only raise pay, Kerry asserted, but also provide teachers with “more support, mentoring, and continuing education” as well as “career devel-opments teachers get the added responsibilities and respect they deserve.”


  1. Second, Kerry offered a plan for “a national movement to raise graduation rates,” by investing more in students who are falling behind, such as with tutoring, mentoring, and after-school programs.


  1. Third, Kerry noted that we “need to send more young people to college and help them graduate.” His plan will provide new incentives to halt ever-rising tuition rates and will offer a col-lege opportunity tax credit on up to $4,000.00 for four years of college tuition. The education section of his campaign website,, cites other initiatives such as simplify-ing the tuition- and college-application processes, and offers statistics such as “…because the price of college has risen by 35 percent over the last three years, 220,000 qualified young people were priced out of college last year.”


AFT also is endorsing Kerry because the Kerry agenda vows to do the following:


ü      Fully fund No Child Left Behind and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

ü      Double the resources for recruiting and retaining 500,000 teachers within the next four years.


ü      Increase support for men-toring and induction pro-grams as well as for professional development.

ü      Expand federal grant, tax credit, and loan forgiveness programs to make quality higher education more accessible.

ü      Fight against vouchers and against privatizing the public jobs that strengthen our communities.

ü      Kerry praised the 1.3-million members of the AFT—which includes teachers and profes-sors, paraprofessionals and other staff, healthcare workers, and others—for being leaders in promoting education reform because “you know that we owe our children the best we have to offer.”


Finally, after noting that “empty rhetoric and empty promises lead to empty dreams,” Kerry concluded with a quotation from a poem by Langston Hughes, the celebrated Harlem Renaissance poet: “Let America be America again” (available here: poems.cfm?prmID=1473). 

“Let America be America again.” Maybe when Kerry is elected President, I’ll recognize
America as America again. Maybe when Kerry is elected President, I’ll wake up and see that the mad topsy-turvy world of the past four years was just a dream.


When Kerry is elected President, I know that I will feel a lot more like a truly valued educator.


Political Action

Vote this fall

by Mike Sewall


This fall, as all of you are aware, is a very important time in the history of our country. We are in the process of selecting our political leaders for the next few years. It is through this political process that we have a chance to voice our opinions. It is our opportunity to affirm or reject the work of those in their respective offices. As chair of the PA’s Political Outreach Committee, I urge each of you to vote in the upcoming election. It is not only our right but our duty to be informed, educated voters. 


An impressive list of new members!


In the past eighteen months the following people have been members of the PA.  If you know someone on the list, please offer a warm PA welcome!


§                     Michael Alsheimer

§                     Catherine Glod

§                     Louise Charbonneau

§                     Jed Kimball

§                     Sandra Davis

§                     James Maio

§                     Melissa Femia

§                     Fizuli Mamedov

§                     Teresa Lisi

§                     David Morrill

§                     Terry Ann Kipers

§                     Robert Musante

§                     Diana Ayers-Darling

§                     Shawn Ortis

§                     Joseph Basi

§                     Dan Patten

§                     Scot Connor

§                     Wesley Sweeney

§                     Sandra Davis

§                     Haroon Tawreen

§                     Mike Diederich

§                     Julie Wells-Tsiastos

§                     Jeff Gauer

§                     John Wittenmyer

§                     Steve Getchell



Community Outreach

Strides past and future


In June, Jackie Womack, Mary Ellen Hart and Rose Patterson represented the PA in the Relay for Life.


In November, the PA will also contribute to Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.  In addition to sending walkers, the PA would like to donate prize items for a silent auction to be held during the NYSUT Leadership Conference in Alexandria Bay. If you have any items that you would like to donate, please contact Steve Getchell (731-5717).


Drogo 1st PA Outstanding Service Award recipient

by Marie Czarnecki



Sam Drogo recently received a NYSUT Outstanding Service Award. Sam is the first PA member to be so honored.


The awards were presented at a recognition banquet sponsored by NYSUT at Valentino’s in Washington Mills on June 5. NYSUT President Tom Hobart was on hand to deliver the keynote address and personally congratulate and commend the honorees.


For this annual award, each local selects a member who has made an outstanding contribution to the organization. Sam was chosen hands-down by the Executive Board to be the PA’s first recipient. In making its decision, the E Board agreed unanimously: No one else has done more for the PA.


Sam’s award reads:


In recognition of exemplary service to the MVCC Professional Association and NYSUT members throughout the Utica Region, be it known that Sam Drogo has served selflessly for the betterment of our members, our students and our community.              


The following tribute to Sam was written by President Ellis Searles and Past President Bill Perrotti to appear in the recognition booklet:


Sam Drogo joined Mohawk Valley Community College and the Professional Association in 1974.  In the intervening 30 years, he has consistently embodied the spirit of unionism on the MVCC campus. And through it all, while serving as an advocate for his union brothers and sisters in countless ways, he has managed to avoid the limelight that his work has so often deserved. But it remains true that Sam is the heart, brains, and soul of the PA's contract negotiation and enforcement efforts.  Because of his vision and determination, the careers of many members have forever been impacted for the better.  Simply put, in all matters contractual, Sam is the PA's "go-to guy."


Sam said that his involvement with the PA had given him the opportunity to work with so many wonderful people. With his typical modesty, Sam was taken completely by surprise to discover that he was to be the PA honoree. 


In attendance at the awards banquet were representatives of locals from across the Central New York region, including PA members Bill Perrotti, Mike Donaruma, Gene Militello, Cynthia Villanti, and Marie Czarnecki.


U.A.W. V-Cap Fundraiser          

Golf Tournament


When:  Sunday, September 19 Sign in:  8:00-8:30 a.m.

Where:  Sulpher Springs Golf Club       Tee off: 9:00 a.m. sharp

 Sulpher Spring Rd., Sauquoit, NY       Cost: $45

                        Contact: Union office @338-2268

          John Ingraham @ 841-8409 or Tom Slocum @ 245-1716


Executive Board


Officer and Committee Appointments Made


During the past few weeks, the Executive Board has fil-led five vacant PA positions.


Alison Doughtie has been named Second Vice-Presi-dent to complete Cynthia Villanti’s term. (Since Cynthia is now on leave from the College, she has stepped down temporarily from her PA positions.)  Having been a member of the Internal Communications Committee and having worked with Cynthia as the Assistant Editor of PAnorama last year, Alison will also be-come the PA’s newsletter editor. 


To restore the Internal Communications Committee to full membership, Cathy Glod was also appointed.  This semester, Cathy will edit Legisletter, the special PA newsletter for Oneida County legislators and leaders.


Further smoothing the transition, individual members of the Internal Communications Committee have stepped forward to take responsibility for some of the many duties of this important committee.  Anne Ichihana will keep PA bulletin boards up to date, and George Searles will coordinate the PA scholar-ship.  Norma Chrisman will continue as Web Manager.


Negotiations Committee openings were filled as well.  To complete the team of five the by-laws call for, two appointments were made.  Julie Lewis and Rose Patterson have joined the team, which already included Marie Czarnecki, Sam Drogo, and Paul Halko.


To fill a vacancy caused by a member who had left the bargaining unit, Jed Kimball was appointed to Member Services.


PA by-laws call for Execu-tive Board action to fill vacancies when they occur.  Upon the recommendation of PA President Ellis Gage Searles, Board members voted unanimously in favor of these appointments.

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