Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Fwd: The Eagle takes a look at the Union Contract Talks with School Teachers

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: The Eagle 

The Eagle

A Look at the PFT-School Board Contract Dispute

Posted: 21 Nov 2017 05:49 PM PST

In July of 2016, Pittsburgh Public Schools welcomed Anthony Hamlet to serve as superintendent of schools for the city of Pittsburgh. Since July of 2017, the Pittsburgh Board of Directors and Dr. Hamlet have been negotiating with the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers (PFT 400), the local teachers' union, concerning the terms of the new teacher contract, which was extended instead of being renegotiated two years ago. Mr. Denlinger, the 12th grade English teacher at Obama, says, "Two years ago, all we got was another extension on our current contract, so I think we're feeling like there has not been a new contract in over eight years. There's been nothing added to the contract to address increased cost of living or anything else for over eight years." Tension has been building on both sides over the course of the negotiations, especially as fall has arrived. There are several reasons for this.

Prior to the start of contract negotiations, teachers are asked by their union to answer questions about what they would like to see altered in their current contract and to offer suggestions about the new incarnation. After this feedback is acknowledged, the Board and the teachers' union enter into closed negotiations until an agreement is reached, meaning teachers can hear nothing more about the progress of the contract nor offer additional ideas for the new accord. This is an accepted process, and it is eased along by the fact that the school board and the union will usually agree to preserve agreements under the old contract during negotiations. However, as Obama's Mr. Collinger explains,

"Last year, we still used the old contract even though it was expired, and they moved us up the pay scale even though we didn't have a new contract. Now we're in still in status quo but they're no longer moving us up the ladder. We won't be able to move up the ladder until we get a new contract. This affects really new teachers even more than me, teachers who should be getting five or six thousand dollars more a month, whereas I'm losing, say, a thousand per month that I would be getting if they were still moving us up the steps. The hope is that once we settle a new contract, they'll pay us retroactively. Teachers that have only been here for a year or two are the most upset, since they're the ones losing the most."

Some students may have observed their teachers wearing blue PFT t-shirts on Fridays in support of the cause, and there has even been talk of a potential walk-out. As negotiations continue to drag on, an air of disgruntlement has begun t0 spread throughout the school. We decided to investigate the matter.

Our first move was to reach out to Regina Holley, the President of the Board of Directors, for a statement, but she said she was "not permitted to talk about the contract" at that time. We do know that, for its part, the Board is attempting to increase its authority over teacher schedules and limit the length of this contract to only three years. A major bone of contention between the Board and the PFT has been how salaries will be decided and the structure of raises that will be implemented for the duration of this new contract. The Board is proposing lower increases to a teacher's salary each year than the union, and it is also continuing to advocate for a single pay scale for all teachers hired after 2010 as well as a change in the number of steps in the pay scale, so that teachers take longer to reach the maximum salary for their position. The Board is also resisting any efforts to pay early-age teachers on the same plane as their grade-level counterparts due to the expense of such a move.

Recently, Lewis Amis, a state arbitrator, was invited by the Board to develop a fact-finding report—an analysis of the claims of both sides and a proposed resolution to their disagreements. Amis found mostly in favor of the Board on issues of dispute between the district and the union. This was most important in regards to the salary issue, where he largely agreed with the district's position, aims, and arguments for its actions.

We also contacted Nina Esposito-Visgitis, the president of the PFT 400. While echoing the evaluation of the situation that many of the teachers we spoke to had expressed, she further stressed that the affair was not limited to concerns regarding compensation, but that grievances were far more widespread, encompassing scheduling preference, term length, and class size. As she put it, "If everything went right teacher voice would be upheld and celebrated, as it should be."

Moreover, she pointed out that the conflict does not only affect high school teachers like those we interviewed, but truly is district-wide: "Our early childhood teachers…are paid far below what school-age teachers are paid. We find this offensive, we find this to be unfair treatment because they're doing the same job and it's just as important, and we think this a practice that should be discontinued, and they should be paid comparable payment with the school-age teachers."

"But what was really cool was, our teachers stood together to say we stand. I mean, [the fact-finding report] was voted down 97.5% from teachers….Even people that it didn't have much of an effect on or was a pretty good deal for voted no because they saw it was not equitable to their union brothers and sisters, and that was a really strong message they sent that I'm extraordinarily proud of."

Ms. Esposito-Visgitis also voiced a positive outlook on the state of negotiations moving forward, telling us that she was "very excited to be working now with Dr. Hamlet and the deputy superintendent and educators who know a lot about teaching" and to have "reached an agreement on some items", and that there was "absolutely an end in sight". That being said, when asked about the possibility of a walk-out or other form of public demonstration on the part of the teachers, she had this to say: "We are working on escalation techniques. We have been testifying at Board hearings. Teachers have been going in, going to visit school board members. So we are talking about things including rallies and petitions. We have not gotten there yet, but that may be a piece to bring recognition of what we're fighting for. We truly are fighting for our schools."

Finally, we asked Ms. Esposito-Visgitis to send one message to the students of PPS. Her response: "The PFT is always on the forefront of innovation and fighting for teacher and students rights. We want our school district to be the best urban school district in Pennsylvania and the country, and I think we've demonstrated repeatedly through our work with teacher evaluation, our work on career and technical education, our work in early childhood. I certainly hope we have. For example, the 75,000 free books we've given away in the last three years to our kids. I hope we have demonstrated our commitment and love for the students of Pittsburgh."

Now that the union has resoundingly rejected the state arbitrator's report, it seems that negotiations are in many ways back to square one, a fact that will undoubtedly exacerbate teacher dissatisfaction and may lead to the escalation tactics Ms. Esposito-Visgitis mentioned. For now, discussions will continue and teachers will have to live under the terms of the current contract indefinitely.

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Mark Rauterkus
Swimming and Water Polo Coach, Schenley High School, Pittsburgh, PA
412 298 3432 = cell

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Fwd: The end of capitalism . . . when it comes

From: John H

Attached is a particularly interesting article by Jayati Ghosh reviewing a book, How will capitalism end?, by German thinker Wolfgang Streeck.  As Ghosh describes it, the end of capitalism will not be particularly pretty, but not in the way most of us envision.  The disturbing prospect is that he may well be correct and that we are now seeing the tangible signs of that end playing out.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Fwd: TeenBloc is in full swing

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: A+ Schools
TeenBloc: Elevating Student Voice

TeenBloc is A+ Schools' youth leadership program that works directly with students on issues that affect their school experiences. The program is a coalition of student leaders and organizers in Pittsburgh-area high schools whose purpose is to raise the student voice and create positive change in education. TeenBloc advocates for students and at the same time teaches students to advocate for themselves. 

This past summer, TeenBloc held a Youth Organizing Academy that engaged close to 20 students in advocacy and leadership development. The students learned goal-setting, communication skills, organizing techniques and how to analyze and address issues that affect them and their peers.

Since the summer, students have met on a regular basis in both citywide and chapter meetings to continue to develop their issue campaign around effective teaching and to plan a major youth conference that will be held in January. 

Directly below you'll find more information on the citywide meeting, the conference and how to get involved in TeenBloc.  

Inform and Take Action

Calling all students to attend the next TeenBloc Citywide Meeting on Tuesday, November 21, 2017 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at 1901 Centre Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15219 in the Hill District. 
Click here to RSVP.

Click here to listen to some of our TeenBloc students talk about their experiences on "The Youth Block" podcast as part of Youth Express radio service. 

Watch our latest episode of "Education Update" on PCTV, which focuses on the TeenBloc program. 

To join a TeenBloc chapter meeting or to learn more about media training and podcast opportunities, contact Brandon Ahmauri, PULSE Fellow and TeenBloc Coordinator at: or 412-697-1298 ext. 104. 

MLK Dreaming Radically Youth Conference

TeenBloc will host its inaugural MLK Dreaming Radically Youth Conference on Monday, January 15, 2018 from 1:00 to 7:00 p.m. 

The conference will be held at 1901 Centre Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15219 in the Hill District. 

The purpose of the conference is to help students recognize and celebrate their individual and shared power. Participants will brainstorm sustainable solutions regarding their educational experiences, develop action plans and network with other student leaders and activists. 

The event is free and open to high school students throughout the Pittsburgh area. 

Contact Brandon Ahmauri at: or 412-697-1298 ext. 104 for more information. 
Click here to register for the conference.

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A+ Schools, 1901 Centre Avenue, Suite 302A, Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Learning Links

The Origin of Everything YouTube Channel from PBS investigates the “why” behind many aspects of everyday life. The fun videos are perfect for your most curious students, or for getting students excited about learning on their own. Video topics range from history (Why is there a South and North Korea?) to pop culture (Where does the #Hashtag come from?).
Quizlet Diagrams help students see what they're learning in a whole new way. Whether you're studying human anatomy or national geography, this new feature makes studying a lot more fun. Create custom diagrams, or choose from Quizlet's premade sets.

Sadly, Quizlet is not free. Get a free period of 14-days, then pay for the year. I won't be paying. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Aquatics and Pittsburgh Public Schools

Tip: You might want to view this on the SlideShare site so it can easily go to full screen.

Ask for the PDF or Keynote if you want parts or all of it.

Fwd: Call for Action re Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Valerie Smith, Swarthmore College

Dear Members of the Swarthmore Community,
Late last week I joined Haverford President Kim Benston and Bryn Mawr President Kim Cassidy '85 in sending a slightly modified version of the following letter to our elected officials in Washington. It expresses why the recently proposed House version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will directly harm higher education in this country. The Act includes a number of changes to the tax code that will significantly increase the cost both of college and of student debt. While the Senate version of the bill is not quite as onerous, it also imposes new excise taxes on private college and universities, and it does not appear to provide the long-promised middle class tax "relief." I write now to urge you to familiarize yourself with this quickly unfolding legislation, which will almost certainly change again, and to ask you to consider texting, emailing, and/or calling your representatives in the House and Senate to stand with us in opposition to the bill, in whole or in part.
Valerie Smith

At a time when lawmakers and the public should be keenly focused on lowering college cost and student debt burdens, this bill makes higher education in America more costly and less accessible. It harms higher education in the following ways:
 New excise taxes on approximately 70 private college endowments will take millions of dollars away from needy students and vital college operations. Endowment income plays a major role in maintaining financial aid and covering educational costs. The taxation of this income will weaken access to college, academic programs, and physical plants. It will directly cause job losses at many colleges and universities (thereby hurting local economies). Simply put, taxing our endowment will seriously harm our ability to support our academic mission, our commitment to public engagement, and our determination to make a liberal arts education accessible and affordable to all qualified students. It will almost certainly divert resources away from helping students.
• The elimination of colleges' access to tax free funding (via the municipal bond market) will hurt their ability to build and maintain educational facilities at a reasonable cost. Here at Swarthmore, we have issued our debt through the Swarthmore Borough Authority, thereby benefitting our broader community. While this provision was excluded from the Senate bill, it remains in the House proposal.
• The elimination of itemized deductions among 95% of taxpayers will greatly reduce charitable giving, as will the elimination of the estate tax. The loss of this support will directly reduce giving to charitable organizations, including Swarthmore, and would affect both financial aid for students in need and educational programming that prepares students to be productive citizens.
• Three repeals that penalize students—the repeal of the deduction for interest on tuition loans; the repeal of the Hope Scholarships Tax Credit; and the repeal of the Lifelong Learning Credit will make it harder for Americans to afford college tuition and will significantly increase student debt. The result will be less educated and less solvent citizens. 

•  The House and Senate bills both propose taxing benefits that colleges and universities typically provide for their employees. Most significantly, the proposals would tax dependent tuition benefits as well as educational benefits for employees. Other benefits, such as access to our health facilities could be taxed as well. These proposals will add a burden on our employees and run counter to our deeply held belief in the value of education and wellness.
In addition to the negative practical consequences of this bill, it sets a dangerous precedent. Much of the money in our endowment is the result of charitable donations from individuals looking to provide scholarship and aid for students and to advance the pursuit of education and knowledge for the next generation. With this bill, the federal government is replacing the donor's intent for the use of their funds with the government's intent, setting a dangerous precedent for all charitable giving in America.
The cumulative result of these tax changes will be losses in jobs and national economic health; educational access and quality; innovation and discovery; and American global competitiveness. 

For over a century, the United States has offered higher education that is the envy of the world, enhancing our global standing and competitiveness. The proposed legislation will do lasting damage to our system of national education, hurting us at home and abroad for countless years to come. Although this bill is framed as a way to make colleges more affordable, we believe it will have the opposite effect, as colleges may be forced to move funding allocated for scholarship and aid. This will directly harm students and their families. We urge you to reject or significantly amend this harmful bill. 

Swarthmore College 500 College Avenue
Swarthmore, PA | 19081 US

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Fwd: It's Back! Applications Are Now Open For Chile 2018

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "ISLA Lifeguards" <>
Date: Nov 12, 2017 9:45 AM
Subject: It's Back! Applications Are Now Open For Chile 2018
To: "Mark Rauterkus" <>

We Are Lifeguards. We Are Globetrotters. We Are Activists. We Are ISLA.
Visit our website for more information on our humanitarian operations.
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JANUARY 10 - 21, 2018
Don't miss this opportunity of a lifetime! Share your skills abroad while boosting your professional knowledge of lifesaving by joining ISLA's fifth lifeguard exchange in Chile.

Our team of International lifeguards will spend the first few days preparing to provide water safety for the Pucon Ironman 70.3, then the ISLA team will head to the port city of Valparaiso to lifeguard the beach during the busy summer season.  Checkout pictures from some of our prior Chilean Lifeguard Exchanges HERE!

Applicants who are fluent in Spanish are not required, but highly desired. Applications close November 26th 2017, so don't delay your submission. 


ISLA is the world's leading surf lifesaving development organization. Since 2008 we have:
  • Conducted 47 Humanitarian Projects
  • Deployed Over 377 volunteers 
  • Operations in 6 continents 
  • Trained over 1,000 lifeguards
  • Donated over $100,000 in lifesaving equipment

Upcoming Projects

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