2001-03-17 / Columnists

Short Takes

I think of Leon Locke every time I sit down to write one of my columns. One of the thoughts that came to me as I delivered one of his eulogies at his funeral was that he would not have been happy with the choice of site because the funeral home we stood in was not one of The Wave’s advertisers. Leon, you see, was always very careful to patronage only those restaurants and businesses that advertised in his paper. He believed that his loyalty was owed to those who gave the paper their loyalty. It was just another of those quirks that make you remember those who have passed on too early.

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The front-page story in last week’s paper (ably written by John McLoughlin) brought home the fact that dozens of experienced teachers will be leaving this June for retirement. In one Rockaway middle school, for example, 20 teachers will be leaving. Nearly 70 teachers in Rockaway’s 11 schools have put in their papers. That is not the end of the story, however. Many teachers have sufficient days to go on "terminal leave" in September. Those teachers can stay home when the new semester begins yet earn their regular salary as they use their sick days on a 2 for 1 basis. Teachers are allowed to accumulate up to 200 days over their career. When they retire, they can get paid a lump sum for one-half of the days they have accumulated or they can use them for terminal leave. A teacher who, for example, wants to take terminal leave from September to the end of January (a period of 93 school days) has to have accumulated 186 sick days. Many teachers have accumulated up to 100 days and can take terminal leave for the first 50 school days of the new term. The point is, those teachers have not yet filed their papers. They do not have to do so until the beginning of next month. I would be willing to bet that once those papers are filed, we will have 125 teachers leaving Rockaway schools rather than 70. The mayor continues to say that there is no teacher shortage, that it is all a ploy by the UFT to get higher salaries. He has his head in the sand. MS 198, for example, has four vacancies right now. By all reports, 20 teachers in that troubled school have filed for retirement. There will be another half-dozen who will go on terminal leave. That leaves 30 vacancies in a school that now has trouble filling four. I do not see how the system will cope with that. We are in a crisis and it will not be resolved until the city fathers wake up and smell the coffee and realize that the coffee is bitter indeed.

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I have been remiss not to mention a local athlete who is having a career year with Adelphi University. Those of you who follow the sports section regularly know that Adelphi is 30-0 this year in its Division II Basketball League. It has that record largely because of Ryan McCormick of Breezy Point. Ryan is another of those sterling b-ball players who began their career at the St. Francis de Sales playground, playing in the summer league. The list of those boys and girls who started at SFDS and went on to become high school and college starts would take up much of this paper. I did not know that Ryan came from Rockaway until I got e-mail from Richard Anderson to tell me so. A few minutes later, in the car, I heard Ryan called "one of the best players in the nation, and that includes the Division I teams" on WFAN. In the game against Philadelphia in the NCAA Division II Regional Semifinals, a game that Adelphi won 87-66 to notch their 30th win, Ryan scored 18 points, had seven rebounds and a like number of assists. The next night, he scored 20 in a 78-64 win over St. Michael’s to win the Division II Northeast Division and to earn a trip to the division’s "Elite Eight" championship in Bakersfield, California.

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Chris Jorge, a candidate for City Council, took me to task this morning for dismissing her out of hand. She believes that she can win despite the fact that she has no union or party backing. Chris loudly pointed out that it is time for us to stop choosing politicians and to pick somebody from the community who has fought politicians for year. Perhaps she is right. I have taken her to task on numerous occasions for killing the Beacon program at MS 180, thereby killing a myriad of programs that could have been accessed by Rockaway youth and adults alike. She told me that she was opposed to the program because she thought that it would keep the school from getting a magnet grant from the feds. She told me (and, I have no reason to doubt her) that the commissioner in charge of the program told her that he would keep the program at 180 in abeyance until the magnet grants were announced. The promise was that the school would get the Beacon program if it did not get the magnet. That promise, she says, was never kept because Al Stabile intervened and put the program in MS 210, a mainland school in this district. (It is interesting to note that 210 was Bromme’s school before he became superintendent with Stabile’s support). To be fair to Jorge, she did start a highly successful after school program of her own with the RAA at MS 180 and she did fight the villainous RDRC for the money. Having said all of that, I am still not sure that she can win the election. There are rumors that one more local political hack will soon enter the race, but I will not use that name until I hear something official. Without party support, without union support, without lots of money, it is difficult to win any election. Politicians win almost every time. It will be a hard race to predict, but a fun race to watch.

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Endorsements are important to any politician, but a pol that asks his entire staff to join an organization in which they have little interest just so they can vote in the endorsement process is definitely beyond the pale. Mark Green did just that, asking his staff to join a gay Democratic club a week before the endorsement vote. There is no doubt in my mind that the 22 staff members and spouses who joined the group will swing the vote. Alan Hevesi, who is running against Green for mayor, calls it a "dirty trick." I would call it something stronger and perhaps it is time for Green to go the way of old soldiers and just fade away.

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There is little interest in the coming Mayoral campaign because none of the Democratic candidates interest the voters in the least. They are all old-line political hacks and to elect any of them would be to elect a clone of Ed Koch or David Dinkins. I am not sure that anybody wants to go back to those bad old days with the exception, or so it seems, of the Democratic Party.

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Bushim of the Week: "You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test."

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That’s it for this week. Remember to send comments, complaints and story tips to newsie42@aol.com. Have a good week, and safe home.


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