Letters to the Editor for Feb. 8
Keep state troopers in schools by letting retired ones volunteer
Re Feb. 4 editorial, “Yes, take state troopers our of schools”: The editors may call the state troopers who have been serving as school resource officers (SROs) “an extravagance,” but having had the privilege of having a trooper as a Dad, I call them a treasure to be shared with every kid.
Troopers and kids belong together. Budget woes notwithstanding, we must find a way to keep them together.
Going back to the 1980s, when the DARE program emerged in Los Angeles, programs that bring cops together with kids have been recognized as a powerful means of building lifelong trust and confidence in law enforcement. Our state police SROs have brought that benefit to upstate and rural school districts whose county and local police agencies lack the manpower or the budget to make this kind of commitment. The SROs are not an extravagance. They fill a critical need.
Eight years ago, I attended a retirement celebration for Col. Ed Culhane of the Rhode Island State Police. During the proceedings, a slide show was being projected, with pictures taken of the colonel over the course of the 11 years he served the people of Rhode Island. If you’ve ever seen a R.I. trooper in full regalia, you know that they have the most splendid and imposing police uniforms in America. One of the photos was of the colonel in full dress uniform sitting on the floor in a circle of little kids, reading them a story. I haven’t seen a more touching image of a state trooper since Norman Rockwell gave America “The Runaway” on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post in 1958.
Col. Culhane is happily a member of our Capital Region community in his retirement. So is Dick Clement, the Mass. state trooper who posed for “The Runaway.” And so is Tom Constantine — one of the most famous troopers of all time who is featured in my collection of children’s verses about cops called “Constantine’s Circus,” which was inspired by an event in Schenectady’s Hamilton Hill in November 1993. A grant from the state Office of Children and Family Services put that collection on the Internet specifically for the use by SROs. (www.constantinescircus.org) I’ll bet that if Superintendent Harry Corbitt, who has himself served as something of an SRO in the Albany school district, called these guys together, they could figure out a way to keep our troopers in the lives of schoolchildren where they belong. Recent history, in fact, suggests a way.
In the aftermath of 9/11, a special law authorized retired troopers to put their uniforms back on so they could pitch in to help with security. Why not reach out to our many state police retirees and ask them if they would be willing to do the same for kids today, at least until the budget crisis abates?
School districts’ hard-line approach unappreciated
Re Jan. 15 article, “School districts seek change to public employee laws”: It’s unfortunate that administrators and business officials from a number of school districts within the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES have chosen to make the labor rights of their employees the scapegoat in the current fiscal crisis.
Their attack on the rights of these dedicated educators is just plain wrong. We certainly understand that our districts are under considerable financial stress, but the Triborough Amendment is not a major cost driver for local school districts.
Here’s the reality: Nearly 80 percent of contract disputes involving New York State United Teachers locals across the state get resolved within a year of expiration. Those agreements are fairly negotiated and approved by both union locals and school boards.
Triborough does not discourage or prohibit employers from seeking changes to existing benefits or compensation. It does, however, encourage all parties to continue to work at the bargaining table to produce an agreeable result for the betterment of the public employer, the employees and the communities that they serve. While this process is taking place it also ensures that our students still receive their usual classes taught by their regular teachers, as the Taylor Law prohibits teachers from striking or taking any job action.
In these tough times, we need to work together to find creative solutions to the tough issues we all face. Local educators are a real asset to our communities. They have displayed great flexibility in trying to reach settlements we can all live with, while providing our students with the best possible education we can afford to give them. It’s time for administrators to stop posturing.
The writer is president of the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Teachers Union Cluster.
Help state’s wine industry with grocery store sales
This letter is in support of the governor’s proposal to include the sale of wine in food stores [Jan. 25 Gazette].
In the Finger Lakes region alone, we have 110 wineries. By state law, unlike 35 other states, they can sell their wines only to liquor stores for off-premises consumption. If these liquor stores choose not to buy these wines, they have no other way to reach New York consumers.
Of the 15 states that do not allow wine to be sold in food stores, New York is the only one with a serious wine sector.
With all the promotion these days to “buy local,” at the very least we should be helping our state wineries thrive and grow by allowing them the opportunity for much greater wine distribution.
There are 19,000 small, locally owned food stores that already sell beer and thus would be able to sell wine under the governor’s proposal. Let’s make that possible. Cheers!