Monday, October 30, 2017

Exec. Board Oct. 30--Observations Now, Observations Forever, the More the Merrier. If You Have a Question for Leadership, Look Up the Answer in Chalkbeat.

Thanks to Mike Schirtzer for taking notes during debate. Apologies to speakers I missed while waiting to speak.

6:00 Howard Schoor welcomes us.


Penny Tuzio, retired, Tottenville HS—intolerable situation by principal. Have written multiple letters. Principal is vindictive. Used to be desirable school. Many teachers left, bullied persecuted. AP SS took mysterious leave for nervous breakdown. At least 5 lawsuits against him. People hired as personal favors do nothing. AP science out of building three days a week, has fake class as do others. Forces new teachers to email him messages of support. Forbids AP s to be friends with teachers. Most senior AP forbidden to observe without henchman of principal. Gives orders to teachers via email at all times. Abuses students. Parents afraid but can’t complain for vindictive nature. Impossible to fail students because test scores count only 25%. Said he admires Hitler for organization. Everyone scared to death. Made staff cry. I implore you investigate.

John McCabe, Tottenville HS—SS teacher, 19 years, never had to deal with principal so abusive. Wanted to change Tottenville. Has five year plan. Now year 4. Goes after teachers w 15 years or more. Observations done in pairs, w discussion. Discrepancies resolved by principal, even if not in class. Colleague observed, three days later went on Advance, all Effective. Four days later, official copy was completely different, replaced by Developing. Principal asked AP to do it. Teacher well respected. Many of us are outspoken and we are targeted. We are hit with trumped up 3020a charges. Numerous individuals retire or transfer, we think targeted at behest of principal. No HE ratings, even if teachers are. Recently in paper for plagiarism. He has to go, one way or another. How can union help us? Some of us have taken major brunt.

Jessica Peterson, Chapter Leader, Tottenville HS—Reassigned. Quotes Shakespeare about retaliation. Says prior to principal, few grievances were filed. Now, principal steadily declines in reviews. DOE refuses to hold him accountable. He slut shamed females, was in paper. Now targets seasoned vets over 40, mostly women. Has targeted other delegates and CL. I have been targeted and abused. I am wrongfully reassigned Paying for multiple lawyers. Filed PERB complaint. Waiting for right to sue letter.

Our school has been reported multiple times for failure to follow, have complained to various agencies, have not received assistance. My offense is being excellent CL and winning often. Principal was removed from last school and was rewarded. Plagiarism is academic dishonesty, a misdemeanor. Improper LIFs. Many arbitrations and settlements. Paperwork complaints, improper evaluations, many TIPS. Over 60 people have left. Teachers usually don’t leave. School used to be mirthful, now us v them, a war zone. Asks UFT helps get rid of disease.

Gladys Sotomayer, five year ATR—has bad and good days and years. Best year was assigned where she taught within license she held, but was not tenured. Regs of NYC don’t allow you to go from middle to high school. Someone took a chance on me and taught middle and high school Spanish with common branch license. Leadership let me teach ESL. One of best years in my experience. Bad news was I was tossed back into ATR.

UFT needs to work on allowing people to use other licenses without going back to probation. My tenure would not allow be to teach high school without going back on probation. Rest of state would allow it.

I was a delegate and ghost writer for my CL. Principal targeted my CL. At his retirement party was served with 3020a. Field supervisors—we need people to understand people are targeted for salary scale. Advantage for principals to hire youngest. This is why many of us are in ATR.


Ellen Procida—Took Tottenville, used IS 72 to say enough was enough for action plans. Arbitrator said habitual class size overages must cease. Gave till end of term for solution. This is how we fixed IS 72. We have been to Tottenville. Arbitrators

Michael Mulgrew

Thanks Jeff Povalitus and Anthony Harmon for testifying. New initiatives from city, but city has done nothing. Initiatives will not make difference. Paul Egan and officers went to CL training, thanks them. Says politics in no. 1 issue now.

Was in Chicago for AFT training. Dealing with deficits here in NY. Mayor talking about other deficits at state and fed. level. We laugh because we don’t know what else to do, but feds look like they will massively cut states. Huge problem. People at table are being told there are no raises, only cuts, based on feds. Craziness at fed level directly impacts all we do. We are no. 1 in ed. funding, would like to sustain.

In other states, there are further cuts, from enemies of public ed. As this rolls out, this will be more and more important. If state already looking at 4 billion deficit, and medicare will be cut, money can come from education to mitigate. This will become more and more our focus. We are only large union who got through recession without layoff.

Met with DOE on CTLE issues. They now understand why it is important. Wants consultations up to date, including principal discussed tonight, and superintendents. We need documentation to prove offenses. This Sunday Teacher Union Day. Asks we have some fun on Sunday. Major award for Artie Pepper. Thanks us and leaves, 6:31.

Schoor—Asks Jessica to speak with him after meeting. Welcomes new members. Offers condolences for them.

LeRoy Barr—Saturday, Brooklyn Parent Conference, Sunday Teacher Union Day, Nov. 7, election day. Turn ballot over vote NO. Resolution on anniversary of first strike, Phone banks open all borough offices from now through Election Day. Next week EB and DA.

Jonathan HalabiNew Action—One of adult ed. terminated, lost lump sum payment, hope we are fighting to help her. Agreement says she wasn’t entitled, but she was victim of abuse.

Barr—We are aware and if case is overturned she will get it.

Halabi—Are the union and the DOE looking into this apparent increase in violent incidents in and around Bronx schools this year (in addition to the incident at Wildlife)? Is a connection seen between schools that have suffered high teacher turnover and upticks in violent incidents?

Schoor—Jeff Povalitus will report.

Mike SchirtzerMORE—What will our union’s public response be to Tottenville.

Schoor—Not public, we will bring issue to DOE. Need info. Will use some of what Jessica gave us. We will tell them of numbers. This is what we have to give to them.

Schirtzer—Why don’t we hear these things in Reports from Districts. Why aren’t they hearing about this. There needs to be communication.

Barr—You presuppose that DRs are not aware or doing work because it doesn’t come to this body. DRs are on top of many or all of these situations. It’s a heavy lift every day. Not all satisfied. They are engaged. Goes to borough rep. Issue resides with DR and borough. May come to us. Many up here have been to Tottenville. Work is being done.

Schirtzer—I never said DRs aren’t doing jobs. We elected members have spoken to members. They don’t hear about it or read it in the union paper. We should hear in district reports that people go to schools.

Donna Pola—DR for HS in SI—in every district consultation. Have visited 25 times. Brought Janella, Mulgrew, borough rep. Had special reps in, C. Alvarez in. Mike Sill, others, long list. (Schirtzer whispers, “What’s the outcome?”) Says has communicated and addressed it all, has won grievances. Supe notified.

Arthur GoldsteinMORE—In our last meeting, you repeatedly cited a figure of 3,000 teachers receiving U ratings. We would like to know exactly what year that was. We would also like to know how many of those teachers were tenured, and how many were dismissed. Finally, we would like to know exactly how many of these teachers had the burden of proof on them during 3020a.  I’d also like to point out that so far, none of my questions have received an answer. Thank you.

Schoor—We’re not entitled to that info. Check Chalkbeat.

Ashraya GuptaMORE—Asks about immigrant liaison, now asks what is UFT doing to support immigrants. I know of ELL conference, but what else are we doing?

Schoor—We had meetings in Bronx and other boroughs, met with lawyers.

Evelyn de Jesus—We are working w AFT and NEA on DACA. We have a workshop here December 7th. If you’re interested please let me know. Trained CTLE ELL trainers, looking to work with parents, looking at Part 154. Looking at ELL focus group. Anything you would like addressed come and see me.

Serbia Silva—In District 4 we work with DOE, AFT in DACA. We had a DACA forum in our district. We’ve given AFT documents. Every principal, teacher, supe is aware.

Reports from districts

Mike Schirtzer—Great event at Murrow HS.

Janella Hinds—We are hosting student poster contest to commemorate World Aids Day. Deadline Nov. 6.

Paul Egan—legislative report—talks football—no idea what he’s talking about—doing phone banks, walks, all boroughs doing great jobs with phone banks. 10K calls in Queens. We need no vote out, and everybody out to vote.

Donna Capola—PAC SI—so many unions, we met together and had collaborative event. Over 30 people, 700 calls. This week doing it again. Did door knocking event w 70 people. Join another.

Special order of business—

Resolution on 57 Anniversary of 1960 strike.

Vince Gaglione—comes before us every year. Every generation of organized workers faces issues. 57 years ago there was no collective bargaining. There was collective begging. You took what boss gave you, and that’s what you lived with. You could whine, but it got you nowhere. 5,000 teachers in NYC decided we weren’t having collective begging anymore.

In District 6, Washington Heights, elementary school teacher, Helen Thompson—when everyone else walked into work, she stood outside the door by herself, picketing for right of teachers to have collective bargaining. I said her eulogy and made note of that. She was very special, not only as person. but also as union activist. I would ask you to not just say yay and forget it, but to give it some meaning by thinking about people like ourselves who did it. Asks for unanimous support. Asks we continue their struggle, for our rights.

Mel Aaronson—1960 was before manmade climate warming. Nov. 7 was one of the coldest days of the year. 5,000 NYC school teachers, under threat of being fired, went out on strike and brought us UFT, as opposed to hundreds of little groups that got us nowhere. This United Fed. of Teachers, defeated call for Con Con in past years. Was these people who turned out with families and got no vote. Still some of us around. Person responsible for this resolution, Abe Levine, still at every DA, one of our greatest leaders. Proud to participate in this event. I’ve continued to make sure UFT remains strong. Those of us that were there will be there fighting to get as many of our members to continue when we are faced with Janus. Wants all here involved to keep members as members. Urges unanimous yes.

Schoor—many founders on Sunday.

Pat Filomina—Worked with George Altomare—He would say they were crazy to go out. Only regret I have is I was in college. Remembers talk about it. Hoped I would do that, and I did.

Passes unanimously

Resolution for reasonable number of observations (text below)

Jonathan HalabiNew Action—NYS law calls for minimum of two observations. System we have allows for 6, 4, or sometimes 3. Amount of work in many schools is tough to come up with. Teachers wonder why they come in so often. Quality of life issue. There is no timeline, indefinite goal, speaks to what members want.

LeRoy Barr—Against. Correctly stated law hasn’t changed. What we negotiate will happen at next contract negotiation. People may speak both sides. We can’t hamstring negotiating committee. 300 member group will be formed. Suggest you vote this down and anything else that goes to negotiating committee. Are people on both sides. Should not happen in absence of people who negotiate.

Mike SchirtzerMORE—Incumbent upon us that negotiating committee knows what teachers want. We know teachers want this. We know long tenured teachers are good at their jobs.

Evelyn de Jesus—300 member committee has met.

Arthur GoldsteinMORE—Advance was negotiated without 300 member committee. Original APPR for NYC was decided by John King. And since you are so interested in Chalkbeat, I remember reading that neither UFT nor DOE wanted this many observations, and that King decided it unilaterally. 

Amy Arundell- couple of things-when we negotiated this with bloomberg and klein, teachers were being observed for 10 minutes and being U rated then intimidated-this is something we called the “drive-by ohs” no feed-back, U rated with no feedback, we already heard about these stories. We went to negotiations in this anti-teacher sphere, every principal was king of the building it was that context that we negotiated this. Research says more observations equal better ratings, thats research. we had to argue this with bloomberg, we wanted this, more observations. People got S and were happy, no one needed evidence, S/U system, there was no evidence. Resolution asks to unburden principals from their job, get in the classroom and tell us what to do better. new rules on evidence, feedback, time limits. these rules protect vulnerable teachers. Strong teachers are not under threat in this system. we win 13% of appeals, we win APPR complaints, I understand there are many people in the system who went from zero to one now have four observations thats a change. When I go into schools talking about practice. This system protects teachers.

Goldstein- Our reso is being misrepresented. Mulgrew said at the DA he tried for this and there is nothing about removing evidence. We advocate only for two observations for those that need no more. Drive-by’s happen more often now. i watched an observation that was videotaped, I saw lies by the observer. We did get it over-turned because he failed to observe something observable. We were not allowed to dispute simply because the observer was a liar.

Fails on party lines.

Resolution for reasonable number of observations

Whereas, NY State calls for a minimum of two observations; and

Whereas, in New York City teachers are observed 4 or 6 times per year, with certain limited exceptions; and

Whereas, the endless evaluation cycle can have a negative effect on teacher morale; and

Whereas, many administrators are overwhelmed by the number of observations they have to perform; and

Whereas, there are many teachers for whom two observations should be sufficient; and

Whereas, unnecessary observations cause our members stress, eat up administrators’ time, cause both teachers and administrators to spend time in unnecessary meetings, and force administrators to file unnecessary paperwork;

Therefore be it resolved, that UFT will endeavor to negotiate a minimum of two annual observations for teachers; and be it further,

Resolved, that UFT will encourage further observation only for teachers in need of additional support; and be it further,

Resolved, that UFT will work to make classroom observations a tool that supports both teacher and student performance.

My takeaway from this meeting is posted here.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Emergency

The day after my classes went to see Wicked on Broadway, one of my morning students showed me something on her phone. She evidently didn't have the words to express what she wanted, so she used a translator. She handed me the phone. it said, "I lost my hearing aids here yesterday."

I was pretty surprised. I'd noticed nothing unusual about her. I had no idea she needed hearing aids. I knew there were some young people who used them, but I'd never noticed her doing so. And I'd been watching her every day for over a month. I looked around the room but didn't notice anything.

"What do they look like?" I asked.

"They're white," she said.

That wasn't much help. I have no idea what hearing aids even look like. I guess they go inside a person's ear. But a colleague who needs them for her daughter recently told me they cost thousands of dollars. She was trying to arrange to get them via insurance.

Anyway, I ran to a nearby office and asked if anyone had found anything. Negative. I asked whether the other teacher who used that classroom was around. Negative again. She was absent that day. This was problematic. I usually would see her two or three times a day, pulling things out of a closet she uses. If she had them, I wouldn't get them until tomorrow.

A secretary offered to help, and was going to run down to the dean's office, where they had a lost and found.

Then I started wondering--did she really lose them in that room? The last time we were here was the previous day, where we had a class before we left to see Wicked. Did she sit through the entire trip without pointing out that she couldn't hear? Did she watch a whole musical without being able to hear? Why hadn't she gone back to the room before we left?

I asked her if she was sure she'd lost the hearing aids in that classroom. She was. I then took another look at her phone. I saw her original message. She'd lost her audifonos. If you aren't relying on whatever her translation tool was, that doesn't necessarily mean hearing aid. It translates to earphones.

I asked her if she used them to listen to music on her phone. She said yes, she did. I ran to tell the secretary not to bother running downstairs. She wasn't missing hearing aids. She was looking for a pair of eight-dollar earphones.

This gave me the opportunity to try and explain to the class what a wild goose chase was. I don't think I succeeded, but I was very glad that my student hadn't really lost her hearing aids.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Unity Fiddles While High Schools Unrepresented

It's kind of frustrating being a high school teacher in New York City. Some people will tell you that the kids we teach are difficult, but I always think as long as we can be crazier than they are, we'll be OK. I've got a difficult class this year, with widely varying levels of ability, but all of them are kids, and all of them are learning one way or another. The frustration I don't really get is that of being in a union with leadership that treats us like garbage.

I mean, we pay the same dues as everyone else. We pay UFT leadership. We pay NYSUT. We pay AFT. But we have absolutely no representation in any of it. We have more members than the entire Philadelphia teacher union, and just about no say in the decision making. Leadership has engineered it that way. Around the time I first started teaching, Mike Shulman of New Action was elected high school vice president. I knew nothing of union politics, but from the crap that showed up in my mailbox, he appeared the underdog. That was good enough for me.

UFT Unity contested his election. They kept him from office for a while. Then they ran another vote, and Shulman won by a larger margin. I voted for him again. I vote every chance I get. Unity was not happy, so as soon as they won the seat again, they changed the rules. Now high schools are not allowed to choose their own vice president. All VPs are chosen "at large," which works for monopolistic Unity. After all, it was only the high schools who challenged them.

This is like Donald Trump saying New York is too liberal when they choose governors. Maybe Trump will decide to have Oklahoma and Texas help us choose, thereby preventing our own choice. It would be an outrage, and what Unity does is an outrage. In the last election, high school teachers chose James Eterno as their Vice President. And yet, Eterno has no voice at AdCom. Thus we don't either.

Yesterday, a Unity rep who went behind my back to arrange an event in my school told me he was sorry that I "felt" high school teachers have no representation in NYSUT and AFT. Here's the thing--it's not something I "feel." It's something, period. And when UFT Unity ignores elected chapter leaders to do any damn thing they feel like, it's counterproductive and stupid on multiple levels.

For one thing, there's no need to run around backstabbing people and doing things surreptitiously. We can get things done that benefit all of us by communicating directly. I can't speak for everyone, but I'm not really big on dirty tricks. I don't see the point in cooperating with people who deliberately deceive me. I'm busy, I have priorities, and I'm not wasting time playing juvenile games.

I hear some suggestions that high schools can go another way, and I usually reject them. I've been trying pretty hard to see what we can do hand in hand with leadership. I've taken flack from a lot of my friends for supporting COPE in the face of the Constitutional Convention. Sometimes people in leadership say things that make sense to me. Sometimes they persuade me.

Other times I wonder just what in the hell we need some of these people for.

Friday, October 27, 2017

If APPR Is So Great, Why Do People Want Out?

Last week at Executive Board, UFT leadership told us that the APPR system was the best thing since sliced bread and that everyone loved it. The proof, they said, was that there were so few ineffective ratings this year.

This is kind of like the argument that the Open Market system is better than the UFT Transfer system, the one that got me out of John Adams before all the Adams teachers had to reapply for their jobs. (If I recall correctly, most didn't bother.) Because more people transfer, it's better. Too bad you're an ATR with no chance of ever getting a job again, but those are the breaks.

At my school, when we opened, a few teachers were a little upset. They each taught one class and then accompanied their students to various worksites. For the last few years they'd been rated via S and U, but this year they were told they were under Advance, Danielson, and all the wonderful baggage that accompanies it. Despite what leadership told us, they did not get up and do the happy dance.

In fact, they asked me if I could get them back on the old system. Now why would anyone do such a thing if the new one is so cool and fantastic? But they did. Last I heard, their request was sitting on a Very Important Desk at 52 Broadway, and they haven't gotten an answer back. So I don't know. Maybe they're right.

There have also been several people with .6 comp-time jobs asking me about this. My understanding is if 40% of your teaching day is spent, you know, teaching, that you fall under Advance. So if you teach 2 or more periods, there you are. This is what people at UFT tell me too. Of course, I can't blame people for trying.

There are some things that District Reps and UFT employees don't get. The first thing they don't get is that leadership can be wrong. There's a famous quote from Upton Sinclair:

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!

That applies here. The best way to get ahead in the UFT, as far as I can see, is to sign a loyalty oath and swear utter fealty to leadership. Various UFT employees have explained to me that the loyalty oath is not a loyalty oath, but if it barks like a loyalty oath, and quacks like a loyalty oath, it's a loyalty oath. Every time I go to the Executive Board or the DA and watch them vote as a bloc I'm reminded. They all love the observation system, each and every one of them, even if they hate it.

They do hate it, of course, if they actually teach. All teachers hate it. The administrators, unless they are frothing at the mouth vindictive psychopaths who get off on making teachers' lives miserable, all hate it too. It's pretty well worth hating. Imagine you have 40 teachers in your department and you have to observe each one 4 times. Then you have to write them all up and hold meetings for each one. I can't figure out how you do anything else.

We hate it because it's hanging over our heads each and every moment. When are they coming in? Will it be on a day when I'm actually talking with the students instead of doing some rubric heavy piece of incomprehensible degrees of knowledge stuff? Will the kid who never pays attention not pay attention? Will I look bad because it's 95 degrees outside and 105 degrees inside? 

Those questions sound ridiculous, but teachers know they're not. The problem is that people in leadership are not really teachers anymore. Some of them teach one class, but they aren't rated as we are. They're rated by--get this--S and U, the thing they say is so awful that no one could tolerate it. No one in leadership has ever been rated by Advance. None of them understand the stress that causes people to go to great lengths to get out of it. In fact, a member once told me that his supervisor threatened him--if he didn't get a .8 position instead of his .6 position, he was going to rate him ineffective. That member died weeks after having told me that. 

I think of him every time someone comes to me with one of these questions. Leadership doesn't. It's funny that, on a state level, they supported the end of APPR but won't do so for us. They say it doesn't work for the rest of the state. Here's a news flash--it doesn't work here either. Having a demoralized and terrorized teaching staff helps neither us nor our students. 

And doing nothing about it won't help UFT a whole hell of a lot come Janus either.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Dinner and a Show

OK, lunch and a show, but you get the idea.

Yesterday some colleagues and I took 55 English Language Learners to see Wicked on Broadway, courtesy of Theater Development Fund (TDF). It was kind of an all-engrossing trip, and when I got home I just collapsed and didn't even remember to write the blog.

We took the students to a nearby Colombian restaurant called Tienda Vieja before the show, where a lot of our Asian students ate plantains for the first time ever. They got mixed reactions. Nonetheless, it was important. You can't take hungry teenagers anywhere. They get restless. It was very nice to take them to eat someplace with real plates and utensils. The school cafeteria, with the rolling folding tables and styrofoam trays, seems like a prison mess.

I'm a fan of theater and I go frequently, mostly via TDF. But there's a distinct difference when you go to a show full of students. When there's a kiss, you hear a resounding, "Oooooooh" That's with a U sound, by the way. You also get "Oh" with an O sound, from time to time, like when the witches slap one another. You can sort of feel the students saying, "Yeah, she deserved that," or, "Yeah, I've wanted to slap people like that too." A lot of theatergoers are more reserved than that.

The last time I saw Wicked with students, I had the worst seat in the house. No, really. I was in the highest row, all the way at the left end of the theater. It really wasn't easy to see. TDF sent me to a preview that year in the orchestra, so I really noticed the difference. This year I went prepared. I bought a small pair of binoculars from Amazon. I actually looked up "opera glasses" and was thinking about them, but they look so fancy I felt like you need to be wearing a tuxedo, a top hat, and a monocle before qualifying. (I've now learned they work better than binoculars because they have a lower magnification with which you can see the whole stage.)

This year some of my students got great seats. They were in the mezzanine, but in the first row. Actually they were in front of the first row, in rows AA, BB, etc. They could look right onto the stage. I think these seats were better than many in the orchestra. I gave out the seats randomly, but somehow ended up, once again, in the last row. This time, though, we were in the center, and while you couldn't see the whites of their eyes, the action was easy to follow anyway.

Some of the student reactions were priceless. There's a song in which the witches sing, "I hope you're happy." I was asking a shy girl from China how she liked the show and she was having trouble responding. After a while, I said, "I hope you're happy." Instantly, she responded like the song, "I hope you're happy now." So while I wasn't communicating all that well with her, the show was.

Another student, one who was reluctant to go, looked around the theater upon arrival and declared it was wonderful. In fact, there's a song called Wonderful in the show. When I asked several students how they liked it, they actually sang the song back to me.  A girl who also came last year reported to me that she cried a lot during the show.

It is really great to be able to give kids an experience they'd never have otherwise. I hope they remember it and choose to go again.

And again.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

Those were words spoken in the film The Fly, in which Jeff Goldblum transforms into a monster before our eyes. Of course, no one had ever seen anything like that before, not even in the movies.

It was pretty good advice. You don't want to face a human-sized fly. They aren't very sociable and haven't got the best of manners. They tend to destroy all creatures in their path without much regard for their welfare.

Thus, when Bill Gates bobbles up his head and talks about spending money, it seems like good advice. After all, who can forget Gates' initiative to create small schools, which he determined would be a panacea for education everywhere. Bloomberg and Klein embraced the initiative, and closed high schools all over the city. They replaced them with little academies, often staffed with newbies, and frequently lacking any union presence whatsoever. Thus a whole lot of "empowered" principals were able to do Any Damn Thing, contracts and welfare of students be damned.

Of course, Bill gave up on that, but Bloomberg didn't, and we were left with the consequences of just one of his baseless notions. Of course it wasn't only us, and after effects were felt everywhere he'd seeded a few bucks and traipsed out. That's what Bill does.

Who can forget going to the Delegate Assembly and hearing how wonderful it was that Bill was bringing Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) to the city and that we were lucky enough to participate? They came to my school, set up their cameras, and were unable to really tell us just what they were using them for. Soon thereafter, we saw Race to the Top, and a huge push to use junk science to rate and fire teachers. While Mulgrew and leadership sing the praises of this system, I get nothing but complaints about it. Of course, when you're sitting around an office all day, you don't necessarily see what's going on. Which brings us to this:

This really leaves me wondering just how stupid we are. I use the word we with certain reservations. After all, I'm a UFT high school teacher. There are more of us than there are teachers in Philadelphia. Yet we have no democratically elected representation in AFT. That's a shame, because I know many, many high school teachers who'd have serious issues with trusting Gates. In fact, I'd wager that well-informed teachers at every level would have issues with him.

Here is how many teachers I know clamoring for professional development to meet the standards--zero. Here is how many teachers I know who want Gates to have a voice in such things--less than zero. That is, of course, until you start to count the patronage employees and loyalty oath signers in my union.  They believe whatever they're told to believe, whether or not it advances the interests of those they ostensibly represent, so long as they get to keep their $30 an hour gigs dispensing flawed advice at pension consultations. Or whatever.

Getting in bed with Bill Gates again? I don't know. After all the blithering nonsense he spouted, AFT foolishly allowed him to keynote their convention. They ridiculed the teachers who booed him. He thanked us a week later by going out and attacking teacher pensions. What the hell are they thinking over at AFT?

I can't answer that question. The only thing I know for sure is they aren't consulting working teachers before broadcasting such absolute balderdash.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


At the Delegate Assembly last Wednesday, a UFT employee asked me how many people fit into our school auditorium. First question that came to me was why, so I asked, "Why?" I mean, it seemed like a logical question. But the person was very mysterious and wouldn't tell me. I asked my principal, who told me it was about 975. That's a lot of people.

I emailed the person who asked me. I said if there was gonna be a party, I wanted to be invited. I figured that had to be a heck of a party. The person was very accommodating and said, "Of course." I was pretty happy about that. It seemed like there was a momentous occasion in my future somewhere. I'd save the date, if only I had any idea what the date was gonna be. But hey, I'm flexible.

The next day I got wind that there was talk of some big meet and greet with Michael Mulgrew and Carmen Fariña possibly happening in my school. It seemed a huge coincidence that there should be talk of that right when people from the union were measuring our auditorium. Do we have the biggest auditorium in the borough? Well it's hard to say. We have the most students in the borough, but our auditorium was constructed for a school half our size. It's entirely possible some school with fewer students has the largest auditorium.

For all I know, Flushing High School could have a bigger auditorium. After all, they're located downtown, where all the businesses are. But do Fariña and Mulgrew want to visit over there? I mean, it's not the best week for that, what with all the teachers being required to reapply for their jobs and all. I have to think that would be a particularly awkward meet and greet. If I were Mulgrew and Fariña, I wouldn't want to go there.

Of course I'm neither Mulgrew nor Fariña. Maybe they think they'll get a ticker tape parade over there. Who knows? Me, I'd opt for a school like mine. But if I were UFT setting up something in a chapter leader's school, I'd notify the chapter leader rather than being coy about it. That's protocol. Theoretically, the chapter leader is UFT in the school. Of course, in practice, the chapter leader may have failed to sign the loyalty oath, so may therefore not merit that courtesy. Plus, the ones who did sign the loyalty oath are required to go along with whatever, whether or not it meets the interests of the school.

This wouldn't be the first time that happened to me, actually. I'm not really sure why. While I've had issues with both Mulgrew and the chancellor in the past, it's not like I've built a crocodile infested moat around the school to prevent their entrance or something. In fact, not even Bloomberg did that. He just renamed buildings, shut them into five small schools, and dumped all the teachers into the ATR. Even if I'd built the moat I'd probably lower the door for them. (For Bloomberg I probably wouldn't. You just don't know where the man's been.)

I don't really understand the need to be so cute about everything. It shows a fundamental mistrust. Personally, I don't mistrust people until or unless they give me a reason for it. Of course, withholding basic information you're obliged to share in an attempt to conceal your intentions is a pretty strong reason. Sometimes people who aren't forthright with others tend to expect that others aren't forthright with them either. For better or worse, I'm forthright with almost everyone.

Little things like that are not how I'd go about building trust in the time of Janus. Of course little things happen all the time. When I add them up I'm not altogether encouraged monopolistic dogs can learn new tricks. That's too bad, because the time is genuinely now.

Monday, October 23, 2017

UFT Says Low Standards Good Only for ESL Teachers

Like everyone who has the slightest regard or respect for education, I'm happy to see UFT and NYSUT file suit to stop the SUNY Charter Authority from producing teachers like Pop Tarts. I mean, what is it, a few dozen hours in a classroom, a few dozen hours of training, and voila! You're a teacher.

In some ways, though, I understand. After all, in Moskowitz Academies, teachers don't write their own plans. They get them pre-written, and all they have to do is follow instructions. You don't have all of that human stuff interfering with Whatever Eva Says. So maybe they don't need training. I'm not familiar with what they do in Moskowitz Academies. But I have seen scripted lessons.

You know, that's when you read from a script, like an actor. Except you probably don't have to audition so intensely. After all, getting a charter gig is not quite as challenging as getting a public school position. In fact, people I know who've been discontinued and suspended pick up charter gigs to get by. I'm not saying that those people are necessarily bad teachers. I know some who were simply railroaded by the DOE and/ or crazy supervisors. But if they were bad teachers, well, they'd be looking for those charter gigs anyway. Few people who could get a union job in a public school would opt to work for Eva.

The thing is, though, in NY State, that low standards are fine for people who teach my subject. If you want to put me or my brother and sister ESL teachers out of work, all you need to do is take 12 credits, become dually licensed, and make us redundant. After all, who needs an ESL teacher like me when you could use an ESL/ math teacher? Instead of learning nonsense like how are you, or how to order in a restaurant, you could build your vocabulary with words like hypotenuse. Of course this has everyday uses. For example, if you should ever meet a beautiful girl named Potenuse, you could greet her with Hi, Potenuse!

You see how practical that is? And if that's not enough, you could be dual licensed in ESL and Spanish. That way, while you're teaching Spanish to Spanish speakers, your principal could pretend you were concurrently teaching English. While it's highly unlikely the students would actually learn English in a native Spanish class, it's good enough for the geniuses in Albany, so why worry?

It's disconcerting, though, when I look at the UFT paper and find ads for people to take 12 credits and make me unnecessary. I mean, I have a Master's in Applied Linguistics and I didn't get it by enrolling in a few discount courses I found in a paper. I also actually teach the English language to newcomers. I don't give lessons in the Magna Carta and hope that, in the same time American kids learn about Magna Carta, the newcomers will learn not only that but also the English language.

Of course I'm just a lowly teacher, and I don't breathe that rarified air they have up in Albany. Over there they have higher standards than we do. I couldn't possibly comprehend how students could learn English by studying math, science, music, Chinese, or French. Of course, I've actually studied language acquisition. In fairness, that hinders my ability to understand how ignoring everything we know about it helps language learners.

So I have no doubt, when UFT and NYSUT sponsor cheap courses, effectively enabling NYSED to twist knives in the backs of working ESL teachers, they must have a very good idea what they're doing. Or maybe they don't, and haven't even given it a thought. Either way, you can imagine the gratitude I must feel.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Hidden Value of Doing Nothing

Someone I used to be friendly with recently did something I considered really outrageous. I was going to do something about it.

I gave it a great deal of thought. In fact, the night after it happened, I had trouble sleeping. I woke up and went over various scenarios. If I did this? Maybe that would happen. What if I did this other thing? Then this would happen. I didn't really envision a good result no matter which way I turned it over in my mind.

The next day, I was a little tired from lack of sleep. But that evening, I had a moment of utter clarity. What could I do about this outrage? After having gone through all the possible things I could do, and all the possible results I could imagine, I arrived at the perfect solution. I would do nothing whatsoever. There. The problem had gone. The anger had disappeared.

I mean, if people other than I do stupid things, how am I responsible? I can't stop other people from doing stupid things. It's difficult enough to keep myself from doing stupid things. Let me focus on that, and drop this.

The following night I slept like a baby. The problem was gone. It had passed into the ether. There was no consequence, no result--there was nothing. It was perfect. And that was a good thing because I had a whole lot of other things to deal with. I could wake up in the morning and, as soon as I finished doing nothing about this other thing, tackle them directly. And whenever this person contacted me again, I'd get right to work doing even more nothing.

Good things started to happen. I've sent out a bunch of feelers trying to adopt a rescued dog, and someone finally called me back. She had a puppy, she said, half Maltese and half Pekingese. I'm sorry, I told her, but my daughter has allergies and if the puppy were to shed she wouldn't be able to visit us. It's cute, she said. I'm sure it is, I said, but I have to stick with my daughter. She then offered me a bonded pair of Maltese, but I had to turn that down as well since my wife would probably kill me and stuff were I to accept two at a time.

The woman said she was glad to know this. She said she wanted to match the right dog with the right person, that this was good to know and that she'd note it on my file. Did I want a purebred Maltese? I didn't care as long as my daughter didn't have an allergy attack. Once, she did. I took her to an urgent care, where they gave her epinephrine, and then to the ER where we sat around for five hours until they determined she was OK. Hardly my first choice in family visits.

Anyway, I turned down a puppy and still felt good. This doing nothing was working out well. Now I understand it doesn't work in every situation. A friend of mine told me the story of how his principal told him to network. He thought he said to not work, and by February he had a heckuva letter in his file. Now he makes sure to get stuff in writing.

I'll have to make exceptions here and there. But this whole doing nothing thing has endless possibilities. I can see so many situations in which it will be the very best option. And I'd never even considered it before. But this strategy offered me a whole lot of momentous opportunities.

From now on, I plan to take advantage of each and every one.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

UFT Delegate Assembly October 18, 1017

Mulgrew asks for moment of silence for former Francis Lewis High School Chapter Leader Mark Shaffer.

Calls DA governing body of UFT.

Praises commercial that’s running. Says it shows what we do well. Runs it. Says many people are upset about it and brings up people from commercial, all teachers.

Says we are part of statewide coalition fighting Constitutional Convention. Says Conservative Party head is his new ally.


Tough to keep up with craziness. Heading toward budget sessions. At state and city levels there’s no sense of what Feds are about. Cuts in insurance, for example, influence governors. Feds want to get rid of CHIP, children’s health program. States may replace funds but it will come out of state budget. NY State already looking at 4 billion dollar hole. Could affect city. Feds can make it worse. If state has to fill double this hole, we won’t do well with the city.

Mayor and Governor unable to do budget with this uncertainly.

Education cut to the bone in other states. Working conditions awful for teachers in states without sufficient budgets. Having all this instability at national level will affect us.

Thanks us for disaster relief work. We were there in Houston, FL, and PR. Now looking toward California and affected islands. Says Puerto Rican teacher building used for delivering supplies. Remembers many people helped us during Sandy, and we return favor.


SUNY charter institute can certify teachers with no experience. UFT is suing. Says this makes negative statement about teaching. Charters at fault for not being able to keep teachers. 40% overall, Moskowitz Academies over 50%. Says we are professionals, not people who walk off the street. We don’t need scripted lessons and teachers treated like dirt.

Board of Regents considering new accountability for charters. Thinks they should be accountable for students they lose. NYC has 76% grad rate. Charters can say 100%. But there are 18 kids in class now. Were 78 when they began.

Our system is at 76%. That’s all the kids. What if we didn’t have to count 20%? We’d be at 96%. Wrote editorial that charters can’t do math. We’ve been saying this for years. We don’t lose kids—they go to other schools.

Charters set targets for ELL, special ed., etc. If they try, place an ad, whatever, that’s good enough. They don’t actually have to take the kids. We are at all time high. We passed 76%, you lost that much. Happy with Regents right now.

Talks election. Have you reached out? Are we talking to colleagues? Do you have magnets? Says we have magnets, asks to bring them up. They are passed out.

Cites 57th anniversary of first UFT strike, Nov. 7th. That’s why we need to get word out.

Talks mayor’s race. Says even our enemies say school  system is doing better. Says would be better if we had better local management.

Says he spent time where student was murdered last month. Very young staff, very difficult. Says he’s never faced anything like that. Gives them credit for keeping school going. DOE ignored warning signs. Surveys noted bullying. Says Tweed could do better. There are ten schools with similar scenarios. DOE claims to have plan, but we don’t know what it is.

No con con magnets are passed out. Mulgrew says magnet is not for the refrigerator. It’s for the car. He promises they will stick, and hopefully not take off paint. Says UFT not legally liable should that occur.

Main focus is to pass info for all consultations as required by contract. Thanks those who have uploaded them. Getting to know when things aren’t being solved and bringing to superintendents. We have to build pressure that we are looking at everything. If principals aren’t nice, things now go out of building. Every consultation Mulgrew holds will be brought to superintendents.

Asks that class sizes are brought up until they are solved. Says superintendents have instructed that they be solved. Says class size grievances aren’t being resolved. The need to know people are watching.

Paperwork, OPW, Conciliation

Good results with paperwork complaints. They go directly to district and then central. Already we hear about five page unit plans, curriculum maps, and we have the power to stop it. Principals cannot order teachers to do same thing all the time, must be an exception. If you don’t agree with programs or changes, you can file for conciliation online.


Most payments went out last week. They paid money at first arbitration but didn’t fix system. Based on frustration we won another. Seems to work much better, are hoping to fix last few things. If teachers have issues, there is SESIS inquiry on website.

Lump sum payments out this week. There are different payroll banks, but everyone should get it by next week. Subject to tax, social security and union dues.


MOSLs picked for next year. Hope you picked multiple measures. First year we got to use matrix. We used to get 300 U ratings, got 214 I ratings this year. Says some people want to go back to old way. Says principals and superintendents say we are usurping from them.

Thanks people for emails urging us to end early for Yankee game.

Speaks of what teachers did this weekend. Raised over a million dollars for Strides. Thanks Serbia Silva. Asks that organizers come inside. DA applauds.

CTLE—We are working and have asked DOE to partner with us. They want to do it themselves, and don’t do it correctly. Principals incorrect if they say PD is CTLE. Must be certified. Needs record of attendance and certificate. Asking since last September. Can’t get it done. Hoping that what happened this weekend will help because they now say they will work with us.
We have PD in the contract. We should be using that time. We have schools that have worked with us and their PD does count. Absurd that union has to build data system to track this. We keep records of everything.

Saturday, second annual ELL conference. Closed registration because 740 people registered. 1200 people showed up. Handled well by Evelyn de Jesus and her team. Chancellor, Board of Regents were here, praised how it was done. May cause breakthrough. Pushing to do this. Some superintendents asking UFT for help.

Teacher union day November 5th. City calls us 1% for not paying premiums on health care. Mulgrew says we paid not to pay. We did 1.4 million prescriptions with Welfare Fund. Praises Artie Pepper for steering us, says we’ve never denied anyone a pill no matter how much it cost. Will award Artie Pepper at union day.

UFT Welcome Center open downstairs. Water, coffee, reduced price movie tickets available.

Janus—Will be ugly, brutal, and we will be “Right to Work” country. Small number of folks financed this. They have a plan. Built ALEC, came up with cases that go to Supreme Court and are changing laws how they wish. Janus not even top 5 of really horrible things. Want to pass a law to weaken unions, under guise of freedom of speech.

They will say not paying union dues will be a raise, but longterm will hurt people for lack of union. We are largest local in country, will be targeted. We have to educate people. Welfare fund alone worth more than dues. If unions weakened, they will take your rights and benefits.

People getting there is something wrong with this case but people not sure members will pay. After constitutional convention we want to visit members at home and talk about this. Some visits will be tough. Some won’t. Because of what we’ve committed our lives to, we have to try to do this. We will need people trained in how to do this work. We know where everyone lives.

We are planning. This weekend we will train people and roll this out a little bit. We have to try this. I believe best way is face to face. Everyone thinks you can just send out emails and texts, but there is too much at risk. I ask people in this room because you are the leaders of this union.

We did this upstate earlier this year. NYC is a little different. We want to give two days of training. Then there will be knocking in geographic areas. We need only a few for this weekend. We will do social media, but in the end, this union was built on people talking face to face. We have to return to that, keep it simple and have honest conversation.

LeRoy Barr

At NYSUT they knocked on 35K doors, spoke with 9K people, used 50 people. We believe we can knock on 110-120K doors. We will engage them and hear from them. We will update database. This is the most difficult we’ve had, probably since the formation of the union. We need you to step up.

First training this weekend. Once you’re trained, we need three sessions per week for 18 sessions. Raise your hand if you might want to do this. Barr happy with number of hands, asks people to sign up today. It’s not just for this weekend—there will be three sessions. Thanks people before they sign up.

Reminds us of phone banks. When you cast ballot, turn it over and check no on proposition 1. Anniversary of 1960 strike. Same day people want to take rights we won away. Phone banks in every borough. Asks for people to commit.

Thanksgiving winter clothing drive. Also for next DA. CL weekend October 28-29. CL job evolving. CL with 5 years or more can come again. Next DA Nov. 8.


Negotiating session passed—moving in right direction but they haven’t seen it yet. Hopefully they will see the light.

5600 new members hired this year. Mid October will be meetings.


Q—Admin strongly suggesting teachers upload lesson plans on Google Docs? What to we do?

M—File paperwork complaint. Is routinized collection. Principal playing game. Tech is better now, and many schools embrace it. This is crossing a line. Unless school does SBO you can’t let that happen.

Q—With governor looking to be president, we should march on Albany and say it’s a disgrace what he’s doing to quality of ed. in NYS. If we allow charters to do training, how will that affect colleges?

M—A lot. SUNY charter institute did this, not the governor. I agree he should step in. People unhappy we filed lawsuit next day. I said I would do this. I did what I said I would. Governor trying to establish he’s voice of Democratic Party standing for working people. He’s been speaking against feds. Wants to take back GOP seats from Congress. GOP screwed NY State with horrendous deal. We will go after them. We’re looking for common ground.

Class size—many unions would not sacrifice raises for class size numbers. With recession, many districts saw class sizes explode. Thank God people did that or think of what Bloomberg would’ve done.

Q—Been said our pension fund would be used for affordable housing. True? How are we protected?

M—True. We make investments, our trustees vote, and we get return required so pension is safe. We invest in many things. Thankful that we have independent trustees who vote on our needs.

Q—Advisory ratings distributed for ELA and math scores. How can we guarantee they not be used against teachers

M—We monitor it, always. We are in good shape.

Q—We know responsibilities as mandated reporters. What if colleagues harassed.

M—Not mandated, but you have OEO.

Q—Our school has to write teacher goals each year. Some teachers chose to abstain. Teachers who wrote goals have been directed to revise. Can teachers be held accountable? Can I see answer in writing?

M—No to all. Did you bring it up in consultation? Did you post notes (yes)? Asks Debbie Poulos to flag this.

Q—Other city agencies get Veteran’s Day. Why don’t we?

M—Policy is if it falls on Saturday, they don’t give it on Friday. Not our idea. We only have two snow days this year.


No motions.


Evelyn de Jesus
—Fight Trump admin in eliminating DACA. Must fight threat of deportation. Dreamers in classrooms, schools, hospitals. For five years they lived out of shadows. Could drive and pay in state tuition. Feds have their personal info and that of their families. Repeal is betrayal of trust. Asks for support.

Michael Freeman, CL—School has so many immigrants, they come to my school. I know they will be wonderful citizens. Students are happy to be better treated here. This is future of America. We’re betraying these people, I stand in support.

Dave Pecoraro—proposes amendment—UFT opposes the efforts of assembly member Nichole Maliotakis to reveal info on DACA members. Could reveal NYCID info.

Resolution as amended passes unanimously

Karen Allford—Supports resolution to aid hurricane and wildfire victims. Praises nurses.

Passes unanimously.

Janella Hinds—Motivates resolution to support NYC march for climate justice. We need to speak out against Trump’s terrible policies.

Passes unanimously

We are adjourned.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Executive Board Takeaway October 16, 2017---To Junk Science, or Not to Junk Science

There was much to digest at our last Executive Board meeting. I'm going to focus first on the resolution we proposed to oppose the current junk science APPR.

There were arguments presented against it. The primary argument, advanced by Jackie Bennett, was a blatant strawman. A strawman is when you argue against a point your adversary did not make. Bennett argued that we couldn't go back to giving principals 100% control over observations. There are issues with that, the primary being that we urged no such thing. I don't know whether or not Bennett actually read the resolution, but here's what it says verbatim:

Resolved, that UFT will form an evaluation committee that will endeavor to create and propose a rating system that is based on research and practice, as opposed to the system mandated by the current law. 

I'm trying to find the part that says we will give 100% authority to principals. Do you see it? Neither do I. It's pretty easy to win an argument when you mischaracterize what your opponent says. That's avoiding the argument, that's logical fallacy, and we have every right to expect better from those who represent us.

A better argument, made by Leroy Barr, was that there were around 3,000 unsatisfactory ratings, and fewer than 300 ineffectives. Let's look at that. Of course I'd rather see fewer negative ratings for teachers. On the other hand, New York State famously raises and lowers thresholds for tests, and tests are still a big part of teacher evaluation for many of us. Depending on the magnanimous nature of NYSED, for my money, is not a good bet. Will they alter thresholds so as to fire more teachers? Who knows?

Barr's argument works better if we ignore a few things. One is that developing ratings are generally perceived as negative by those who receive them. They come with Teacher Improvement Plans, which no one wants, and which can be extremely demoralizing no matter how many happy faces we paint on it. There's also the fact that two ineffective ratings place teachers on a path to 3020a, with burden of proof on them to prove they are not incompetent. Ask a lawyer how hard it is to prove a negative.

What Unity ignores is the elephant in the room. Granted, it's not in the room in which the Executive Board meets. But I work in a school every day, and I talk to teachers every day. Everyone hates the evaluation system, and it's not only teachers. Administrators, even reasonable ones, are burdened by it as well, and can barely keep up. Morale is as low as I've ever seen it, and the happy stats of few ineffectives have not bounced it back. Members who have comp-time jobs or work offsite plead with me to be placed back on the S and U system. Jackie Bennett knows this, because at least two requests from my building have crossed her desk.

A good argument, made by Bennett, is that there are many schools with vindictive and crazy administrators. I've seen this sort up close and personal, and I couldn't agree more. Bennett mentioned the adult ed. teachers who came to our committee, and their treatment has been abysmal. In cases like these, the matrix is likely to help teacher ratings. Likely it did for many teachers last year.

I think it was Michael Lillis, an upstate union president, who posted a comment here that sticks with me. Lillis said something like, "If your administrators are so bad that random junk science is an improvement on their judgment, your issue is not the evaluation system." I agree with that. Even in generally excellent schools like mine, crazy administrators can make peoples' lives a misery.

Here's the issue--crazy administrators are unacceptable. Unfortunately, they run rampant here in Fun City. And whether or not teachers end up rated ineffective, these administrators make their lives a misery. I've watched people have physical reactions to this, ranging from nervousness, to a-fib episodes, to death. This is not being addressed under the current APPR system. Abuse is rampant, and the fact that we need a junk science system to mitigate is outrageous. It would be far better to address the root cause of our ills.

Howard Schoor, for the third time in a row, had no answer for my question. In fact, the resolution they hated so much was at least an indirect result of his failure to answer my first question. I was pretty surprised when Michael Mulgrew, who had arrived pretty early, gave a direct answer. I was very glad to hear that we would not have to rely on lunch forms to get Title One this year, because that would be a disaster. Now I just need to find out how exactly we do get Title One.

No one on the dais responded to the ATRs who spoke, but KJ from New Action was pretty persistent when Schoor ducked his questions. He didn't really get an answer, but edged ever closer. Maybe I can learn something from KJ, but really, when no answer is forthcoming, elaboration on non-answers does not much help.

There was an impassioned plea from a theater teacher set adrift in an ocean of reforminess. What a shame that no one seems to need this sort of enrichment. This is what happens after decades of test scores posing as the Ten Commandments.

Monday, October 16, 2017

UFT Executive Board October 16, 2017--We Were Against APPR Before We Were For It

6 PM—Secretary Howard School welcomes us.

We have four speakers—all ATRs.

Aixa Rodriguez—ESL teacher and ATR, rated HE—No vacancies for ESL in Bronx HS—CR Part 154 makes courses double counted so there are no vacancies. Asks that stereotyping FSF, be challenged by UFT. Leads to rampant ageism.

August Leppelmeier—NYT maligned character of ATRs. Very unfair. Most ATRs excessed for downsizing. Somehow city isn’t placing ESL teachers. Those charged have been cleared. If not, they’d be fired. UFT needs to stand by concept that people are exonerated. Expects union to fight in press with ads, speak publicly, use social media. Has been going on since June. We expect more.

Gina Trent—English teacher for 17 years, mostly as ATR. Grateful UFT preserved salary and benefits. However, you should fight for more quality of life issues. Most of my colleagues envy ATR position. Disturbing. Many young people leave with health issues and stress. We need to try to get principals accountable where all teachers have no trust. We need to place pressure. We need to defend ATRs and senior teachers. Research suggests we are the most effective.

Karen Sklaire—ATR—15 year teacher of theater—excessed. HE until excess. No theater positions available. Say UFT said there was no union representation for ATRs. Second excess in 15 years. First time alone in a room for three years. Left and came back when recruited. Won RFK award in teaching, excessed two years later. Had opportunity to sub for six months—rejected by DOE. Have been assistant in 1st grade, making copies. Told by DOE can’t be placed. Told by union lucky to have job. Am pro union, has been nothing but a heartbreak. I just want to say it’s heartbreaking and I’m ready to leave. Condescending to say I’m lucky to have a job.  I don’t feel lucky. ATR system is failing. Better to not have a job than stay and feel humiliated. Schools won’t see me because I’m ATR with 15 years. Only people fighting for me are DOE theater program people.


President’s report—Mulgrew not here 6:13

LeRoy Barr—speaks of ELL conference—over 1200 members. Did leafleting at culinary ICE institute. Sunday, Making Strides walk. Good participation.

Friday—Pride committee’s first meeting. DA Wednesday. Wear pink. Sat Oct 21 Manhattan and SI parent conf. EB October 30th.


Kuljit S. Ahluwalia (KJ)New Action—Many people at mike mentioned constant maligning. How do we counter it?

Schoor—DOE wanted ATRs off payroll. We decided not to give up ATRs. Have supported them. Came up with buyout, accepted by 120 plus. Some will be assigned beginning this week, at least 200 for rest of year. We support them, will not give them up.

KJ—I didn’t hear an answer. What about the maligning?

Schoor—problem w press. Agenda to malign. Times article was terrible. Agenda of ed. board. We think shouting match in press will not resolve it. People in public do not support ATRs. That’s the conundrum. We support ATRs.

KJ—Seems to be a problem code for ATRs, even when exonerated.

Mike Sill—Director of Personnel—Difference between problem code, which no one working has. There is a flag. Difference may be immaterial. Flag says if principal wants to hire someone, may have 3020a, may have been discontinued. Will ask principal do you still want to hire this person. If principal says yes, the person can be hired. We tell people to be upfront about these things. If it doesn’t come up in interview, principal finds out later and may stop hiring.

KJ—How close to retirement were 120 plus people?

Sill—Almost everyone who took it retired. Don’t have exact number. Those retiring anyway were happy.

KJ—Not much of buyout if they were retiring anyway. Principals hiring ATRs with limited years, or those who are qualified?

Schoor—Court cases say anyone disciplined at all may be an ATR. People not innocent just because they weren’t fired. Language needs to be clarified.

Mike SchirtzerMORE—Emily James and Susan spoke on family leave. Update? UFT and NYSUT joint lawsuit against lowering of standards. Update?

Arthur GoldsteinMORE—Title One is vital to my school and many others. Without it, not only students will suffer, but we will likely see draconian cuts in staff. I know that no one here wants that. This is personal for me, because I teach ESL. Because of the insane regulation known as CR Part 154, it’s likely my brother and sister ESL teachers will be cut, and hapless students will sit in social studies classes, be expected to magically acquire English in them, and all we’ll be left to do is hope for the best.

I applaud the mayor’s initiative to offer free lunch in school, but it’s created another problem. Why should parents bother to fill in lunch forms when their kids will get free lunch anyway? Francis Lewis High School makes Title One, or sometimes not, by the skin of our teeth. If ten or twenty parents choose not to fill in the forms, all of our students and a good part of our staff will suffer. We cannot be the only school in that position.

I’m sure no one here wants that, and I’m sure the mayor doesn’t want that either. There are a few ways we could avoid that. One would be to require the lunch form as a precondition for participation in the free lunch program. I understand that may hurt kids if done too strictly, so we’d have to tread carefully.

Another would be to simply distribute the funds to all city schools rather than make us jump through hoops. The rules are bizarre. It’s very hard for me to understand why a Staten Island school needs 45% of students to qualify for Title One while Queens schools need 60. All due respect to Staten Islanders, that’s inequitable.

I’m certainly open to other suggestions.

I ask that we meet and work together to resolve this issue in a way that benefits both our students and our members.

Schoor—Thank you. Will get back to you.

Ashraya GuptaMORE—Immigrant liaison discussions?

Schoor—They haven’t gotten back to us. No hard answer

Gupta—In Nov. 2015, ask Teacher Retirement Board to divest from fossil fuels. What happened with that”

Dave Kazansky—What happened with that was after it was passed we went to TRS, crafted resolution. Consultant firms bid. We settled on company called Mercer. When process finished, work began, looked at portfolio, determined what we can do. They have presented twice with stages of analysis. Long process, dealing with billions, don’t want to move before we have research and science behind it. We will get a final report and make a decision. We are serious, and we were months ahead of other retirement systems. We will give info when we have it.

Schoor—please share final decision.

Jonathan HalabiNew Action—People got stubs, were very happy. I have gotten questions about dues. I paid them in 2011. Why are there more dues. What is answer for members?

Schoor—This board passed resolutions. Treated these payments as others such as TDA. Set dues to .85%. If they multiply gross by this, they’ll see it. Average $23 per person.

Halabi—Small schools when they started had money to buy equipment. We don’t have much space. Process for discarding functional obsolete equipment requires bids and takes forever. Was problem in past with throwing things out. Can anyone talk to chancellor about ridiculous regulations?

Schoor—We will ask DOE.

Marcus McArthurMORE—Works at transfer school. Had student come, was getting evicted from home. Has been press about homeless students. At all time high. We deal with this issue a lot. DOE is aware and is offering resources. Has UFT been in dialogue with DOE? Are there resources for us?

Schoor—Not sure if anyone has answer.

President's Report

Michael MulgrewTitle One--We would not support free lunch program until they said it was not based on lunch forms. Not based on lunch forms now. State has agreed NYC doesn’t have to do Title One through lunch forms.

Homelessness—Amazing that answer is always it’s up to school. Ridiculous answer. We have offered to work with DOE. Schools need after school HW programs. We work with non profits, but not DOE. DOE says they’ll check and get back to us. Doesn’t matter who admin is. DOE still has this mentality that it’s up to principal. It’s our system. If we have 100K homeless, we need plan. I will continue to advocate and push these issues

Saw school where principal didn’t know, and had no capability to help with these stresses. How can they achieve? I will push them. Constantly discussed.

SUNY Charter—We said we’d sue. Main issue—legally sets precedent, but NYSED should issue certificates. We are outraged at stupidity. Bad precedent that private entities do state licensing. It says they believe anyone can teach. They’re saying you don’t need to go to school, understand classroom management or anything. That is what they believe about education. They believe in scripted learning. We know they use it in Africa, and they want to bring it here. Union is problem for them. We use our lawyers with NYSUT lawyers to jointly file. We are confident. We expect to win.

Spoke with Emily James. Updated her. We’ve had two meetings, staff had two more with DOE. Another tomorrow. We will find out if they’re serious. There will be a cost, if we get there. We will decide. I don’t want this to be about I didn’t have it when I had children. This is about when time is right, we go and get it right. People gave us things they didn’t have. Each generation’s responsibility to add more rights. Hope we are at right time. It would say a lot to go from you’re fired if you’re pregnant to family leave.

Asks Serbia Silva to stand. We have 30 nurses in Puerto Rico. Leaving Wednesday. May go to Texas. Florida progressing. Huge burden on all of those members. In PR teacher building is hub for distribution. Spoke with governor and mayor. I would like to not have holiday party and make major contribution to those places. Right thing to do. So many people hurting. When we hurt from Sandy people came from all over to help us. This would say a lot. Asking them in lieu of coming to contribute to our disaster relief fund.

Mulgrew leaves 6:50

Report from districts.

Serbia Silva—Stands on behalf of Evelyn de Jesus. ELL event amazing. Evelyn thanks volunteers and staff. Second—same goes for Making Strides. Walked in five boroughs and LI. Thanks all volunteers.

Howard Sandel—Nurses—Rescue work—9/18, Maria made landfall on Dominica. We had nurses there up all night organizing. Set up 53 medical volunteers. Were there 7 days. Visited villages, cared for 818 patients, conducted home visits, distributed items across island. With help of this union we provided rescue workers with backpacks. She expresses gratitude to union. Will be stories in NY Teacher.

Nurses gave up two weeks vacation in PR, were not allowed to distribute supplies. Stuck in San Juan. Started Gofundme page. Finally moved. Showed people how to purify water.Thanks everyone.

Paul Egan—Says polls moving in right direction on Con Con, but still losing. We need everyone to have conversations. 14% turned out in September. That’s a disgrace. Talk to everyone November 7th. Fake news that no vote counts as yes. If you don’t vote, it doesn’t count. We’re not pushing on other ballot proposals.

Schoor—borough offices have signs?

Egan—In all borough offices. Put signs in windows of cars. Lawn signs available. Magnets are for cars, not refrigerators.

Special order of business—Nominations

Gregg Lundahl—Nominates Shamika Hunter Tisdale—CL, tenure advocate, part of APPR appeals, knows Danielson, trained arbitrator. She is a teacher and a teacher advocate. Has open mind. Recommend her for elementary.

Dolores Lozuponi—recommends Mary Atkinson. Worked in Manhattan as liaison for grievance dept.

Michelle Ferraro—Nominates Joanne Bolero. Advocates for members on daily basis.

Rashad Brown—nominates chapter advocate (missed name) very active. Would be strong voice.

Antonella Fuccio—Nominates Amy Arundell. Now Queensborough rep. Did many things. Would be asset because she has so much to offer.

Schoor—Any other nominations? Seeing none, if res. passes, I will give them the bad news that they have to be here. 


Resolution in support of aiding hurricane victims.

Karen Alford—feels like no motivation needed. I’d like us to add fires in CA to resolution. Funding will be used to help Napa, blue collar community that needs help. Asks for support.

Passes unanimously

Resolution to support climate justice, issues affect us all, affect unequally disadvantaged. Urges support.

Jonathan Halabi—New Action—By this vote we will be supporting march for climate justice on 28th.

Passes unanimously

Arthur GoldsteinMORE—Those of us in the schools every day hear one complaint above all others—the evaluation process. It’s like the Sword of Damocles, hanging over our heads each and every moment. Even those of us who have supervisors who aren’t insane feel the pressure.

High schools don’t have a voice in NYSUT, but we’re always happy when the rest of you go to conventions and do what we would’ve done. And in the case of the NYSUT resolution opposing APPR, we couldn’t agree more.

With Janus looming, it’s important that we send members the message that their concerns are our concerns. By voting to reaffirm the NYSUT resolution for which all of you voted, you will be sending that message.

I urge you to vote for this resolution, just as you did at NYSUT.

Note--entire resolution is posted here below notes.

Jackie Bennet—opposes—understands impetus. To return us to a world of principal supervisor judgment 100% would be mind bogglingly irresponsible. Lots of us get good ratings and think it’s great. For those teachers under high pressure, with high needs students. w principals who don’t like them, where we know principals are highly biased, we’d be irresponsible.

Half to go back to this EB. We had series of teachers who didn’t have other measure. Was distressing to hear how pressure of adult ed. world there was no way to counter, Now we have this thing, I know we want improvements. Everybody wants more choices. Have ability to create measures for teachers, like for art. To return to that system no way.

LeRoy Barr—rises to oppose—passed at NYSUT. We try to support POV and not dominate NYSUT. To that end, this passed. Question is what is best for UFT. Only 217 got ineffective, lowest ever. Were 3000 U ratings. Matrix based upon student performance. We want to do away with state tests. We want members to have opportunity to have credit for what took place from September to June. Student performance can be lots of things. Having it embedded helped us move from 3000 to 217. Do we want to prevent supervisors using it as punitive measure? I say we vote against.

Stuart Kaplan—moves to close debate.


Fails on party lines.

We are adjourned.

Follow this with Executive Board Takeaway.

Resolution reaffirming the UFT’s opposition to mandatory student performance measures in APPR
Whereas, UFT’s delegation to NYSUT unanimously approved a resolution to remove student performance from teacher evaluation; and, 
Whereas, New York law mandates that local districts negotiate into their collective bargaining agreements for a teacher evaluation regimen that mandates the use of student performance measures in a matrix to create a final evaluation score of a teacher; and:
Whereas, The previous law, 3012c, proved to be an evaluative tool that did not effectively or accurately evaluate teachers, and, in many cases, proved to produce invalid results.  Moreover, there is no evidence that the evaluation regimen improves student performance or teacher effectiveness;  and
Whereas, The current law, 3012d, continues to mandate the use of student performance measures as an evaluative tool to assess teacher quality in New York State,  with no evidence that it will improve student performance or teacher effectiveness; and
Whereas,  The American Statistical Association has found that “VAMs [Value-added measures] should be viewed within the context of quality improvement, which distinguishes aspects of quality that can be attributed to the system from those that can be attributed to individual teachers, teacher preparation programs, or schools. Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the system-level conditions. Ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences that reduce quality.”;  and
Whereas, test scores and passing rates are subject to routine manipulation by the state; and 
Whereas,  The National Academy of Education Researchers has concluded that, “With respect to value-added measures of student achievement tied to individual teachers, current research suggests that high-stakes, individual-level decisions, or comparisons across highly dissimilar schools or student populations, should be avoided. Valid interpretations require aggregate-level data and should ensure that background factors – including overall classroom composition – are as similar as possible across groups being compared. In general, such measures should be used only in a low-stakes fashion when they are part of an integrated analysis of what the teacher is doing and who is being taught”; and
Whereas, 3012d requires that many UFT teachers be judged by test scores; and
Whereas, UFT teachers may see their evaluations suffer as a result of said evaluation; and,
Whereas, non-ESL teachers who teach groups of ELLs may see their ratings suffer as a result, thus discouraging them from serving this important part of our school population; and
Whereas, some teachers’ baseline results are tied to tests that are to be used neither for student nor teacher evaluation; and
Whereas, a teacher could be evaluated on a small portion of student tests, unreflective of the actual group taught by said teacher; and
Whereas, many UFT teachers are rated on results that have nothing to do with subjects they teach; and
Whereas, The report that is widely being used to promote the use of various methods of student performance in teacher evaluation, A Practical Guide to Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness, has found that using alternative student assessment measures, such as portfolios, “for summative or high-stakes assessment has not been validated,”; and
Whereas, The same report warns that classroom artifacts, for purposes of evaluation, requires that “more research is needed to verify the reliability and stability of rating, explore links to student achievement and validate the instruments in different contexts, before analysis of classroom artifacts should be considered a primary means for teacher evaluation”; and
Whereas, AFT President Randi Weingarten famously declared, “VAM is a sham; therefore be it
Resolved, that UFT in conjunction and in parallel with NYSUT will lobby local politicians to change law 3012-d to make student performance measures non-mandatory; and be it further
Resolved, that UFT will publish a cover article in NY Teacher explaining our opposition to mandatory student performance measures; and be it further
Resolved, that the UFT, in cooperation with NYSUT, will challenge in court the results of each UFT teacher whose ineffective rating is contingent upon flawed performance measures, and be it further
Resolved, that UFT will form an evaluation committee that will endeavor to create and propose a rating system that is based on research and practice, as opposed to the system mandated by the current law.