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Former Teacher Expresses Frustration with Board

Demands more long-range planning and teacher involvement from BOE and Superintendent.

Resident and former teacher Frances La Duca drew applause from union members several times during the Monday Northport-East Northport Board of Ed meeting when she expressed frustration with what she perceives to be the district’s lack of long-term planning and .

In a Dec. 6 email to the Board, La Duca bemoaned the "lack of long range planning to implement the Superintendent's vision; not listening to the needs of classroom teachers in the reading program; problematic implementation of an eighth grade science course without proper preparation in previous grades; announcing elimination of ninth grade honors English without prior warning; forcing all eleventh grade students into the IB program; and purchasing laptops for the staff that cannot be used because the infrastructure was not in place prior to purchase."

"...The most fatal lack of communications is illustrated by the fact that the Central Office and the Board were unaware of the low morale and discontent of the teaching staff until a letter with ," she wrote.

La Duca asked the Board on Monday how many negotiations meetings had taken place since May, and if any Board members had attended. Superintendent Marylou McDermott confirmed that the last meeting was on Dec. 21 and that another meeting would take place on Tuesday.

Union President Antoinette Blanck confirmed that only four meetings have taken place in the past eight months: one in July, one in August, and two in December. Other meetings that had been planned were cancelled.

Board President Stephen Waldenburg said Board involvement doesn’t usually occur until a settlement is near, but said he often gets calls during the meeting. ”I categorically deny the allegation that the Board is clueless in negotiations,” he said.

When McDermott pointed out that no teachers have been laid off, Blanck reminded her that the elementary school health program has been disbanded, and that some positions in music electives have also been eliminated. La Duca added that only one librarian position has been filled after two high school librarians retired.

McDermott acknowledged that some tough decisions were made with regard to programs, and that some positions would be lost due to attrition.

carole January 12, 2012 at 12:41 AM
Many valid points raised in that letter. Are there joint committees in place that review possible instructional changes and/or board policy in the Northport-East Northport School District? Where does the collaboration between teachers, administration, community leaders, parents, and/or BOE take place? The netbook purchase is ridiculous! Why give one to each teacher? In this day and age shouldn't they have one of their own already? Here's a suggestion...collect them back and create multiple laptop carts in each of the elementary and middle schools - give them back to the teachers to use WITH the children, seems more educationally and instructionally sound.
enghrl January 12, 2012 at 01:34 AM
More smoke and mirrors from the militant, self serving United Teachers of Northport! Frances Deluca is obviously a pawn of the teachers union! Do the teachers really think that the residents of Northport are that stupid? Her allegations are baseless and indicative of a group that is resistant to change! Most surrounding districts have already implemented major technological advances to enhance learning and instruction! The dinosaurs in the UTN need to get with the times! It seems that all that they care about is maintaining the status quo and extracting as much as they can financially from the Board and the taxpayers! With the impending loss of tax revenue from LIPA, it is imperative that this board do what is necessary to cut costs, re-engineer and reduce the instructional staff into a leaner, more efficient cohort that can maintain a quality educational program at a markedly reduced cost to the community!
carole January 12, 2012 at 01:56 AM
Please explain, all knowing one...how is the district purchasing netbooks for the TEACHERS reaching the CHILDREN?
Jerry Hannon January 12, 2012 at 06:36 PM
For any teachers union, in any school district, the days of "same old same old" are necessarily over. Creativity and flexibility, in terms of both compensation and "work rules," are long overdue and it is time for the teachers unions to actually -- rather than nominally -- put the students first. The fact that most teachers unions would rather retain the best financial package for the most senior teachers, and allow junior teachers to be thrown under the metaphorical bus when State financial constraints hit districts and their taxpayers, demonstrates a fair amount of teachers union hypocrisy. It is also absurd to challenge any BOE because they aren't physically at the negotiating table; when I serve on any NFP board, as I have in the past, I have been informed of actions taken by management and consulted as to satisfaction, or dissatisfaction, at the progress and results of such actions. I don't nned to be there, and Northport's BOE trustees don't need to be sitting alongside their Superintendent. This dinosaur-like approach to district management and technological change, on the part of Northport's and other districts teachers unions, must end now for the sake of the quality and affordability of NY's educational system.
East N'ptr January 12, 2012 at 08:09 PM
As a parent who has followed the BOE's, Administration's and the UTN's actions for many years, there's plenty of blame to go around! The Administration keeps coming up with these "visions" which may be wonderful in theory, but they are executed poorly and without proper planning or more importantly, feedback from our educators. What's worse is the Board and Central Office doesn't seem to want to listen to anyone who might have alternative ideas or suggestions. They just plow ahead without compromise and wonder why teachers and taxpayers are so frustrated! Only four negotiation meetings in eight months? That is a pretty clear signal that the BOE are in no rush to compromise, regardless of whether the trustees are attending these meetings. As far as the UTN, they should be more thankful that there have been NO LAYOFFS in our district. How many school districts on Long Island can say that? To suggest that we should replace every position lost through attrition or be reminded of programs that have been reduced (with little or no impact to students) is a pretty good indication that the UTN has no appreciation for the tough fiscal position the district faces. And then again, this union was willing to let 40+ colleagues get pink slips after refusing a pay freeze that happened anyway when their contract expired! As a parent and taxpayer, what I would really like to see more communication and compromise...and less whining and defensiveness!
clearvision January 12, 2012 at 11:52 PM
It seems that meaningful feedback from teachers in this district is sorely lacking. The union seems resistant to any changes that would clearly benefit the students and propel the district forward. In addition, if they really cared about the students, they would agree to a pay freeze and other concessions which will enable the district to maintain existing staff levels and programs until this economy improves!
carole January 13, 2012 at 03:14 AM
Havent the teachers been in a hard freeze since the last contact ended? How many years have they been without a contract? How much has that saved the district?
ellen January 14, 2012 at 04:53 AM
The district purchased hundreds of notebook laptops for teachers without the proper wireless inferstructure in place. The teachers have not been ale to use them in school due to the lack of planning on the districts part and are not allowed to use wireless outside of the district...ie...cant use them at home either...so this means hundreds of laptops paid for by taxpayers are sitting in black storage bags unused. The teachers wiuld use them if they were allowed and able. It is utterly ridiculous!
Jerry Hannon January 14, 2012 at 06:06 AM
Wow. If that is correct, then it sounds like very poor planning on the part of both the Northport Administration and BOE. Elwood's own advances in technology over the past several years have been accomplished through a combination of hiring a superior head of technology (whose job has been expanded more than once to incorporate other service areas, helping the district save money in administrative positions) plus several BOE members with personal and/or professional experience in this field, particularly BOE VP Dan Ciccone. Somehow I find it hard to believe that Northport, whose BOE and Administration I respect, would have put the proverbial cart before the horse. As to Ellen's comments that "teachers would use them if they were allowed and able" however, I find that hard to accept as a blanket statement. If that is intended to mean that some teachers would, OK; but, in Elwood we had a lot of early resistance from a number of the teachers with nonmalleable and "what-we-do-is-good-enough" views. I guess I intuitively don't believe that ALL of Northport's teachers, or even a super-majority of them, are really that cooperative. Unless, of course, this is really a negotiating tactic.

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