Monday, April 30, 2018

Yawn of the Year

When you read this, you have to really think about whether or not it was a good idea to give carte blanche to imperial principals. I mean, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, so when you read one story after another about principals doing crazy things, you have to find a reason somewhere. This week's story is about a principal who suspended a school aide for five days for the offense of yawning loudly.

Exactly at which point is your yawn too loud? Did you yawn because your body asked you to or because the school environment was becoming tedious? Was it voluntary or involuntary? In practice, it makes no difference, because the principal has determined it was too loud and that's all there is. Therefore you are suspended for five days from your $12 and hour job as a school aide. Can't make the rent this month? Too bad. You yawned and there must be consequences.

Naturally the principal documented this occurrence. She heard it and she's the principal, so that ought to be good enough for anyone. It kind of sucks to have a contract that allows a five-day suspension for the offense of yawning. That wouldn't happen to a teacher. But a teacher could get a letter in file for yawning, if the principal felt like issuing one. A teacher could face 3020a charges for the offense of yawning repeatedly, though I'm not persuaded a sane arbitrator would sustain a firing for it. On the other hand, having faced many arbitrators, neither am I persuaded that all of them are sane.

I guess it must be nice to be able to do any damn thing you feel like. I have to be careful how I speak to children. Chancellor's Regulation A-421 says anything that tends to make them feel uncomfortable is a violation. So if I look at them the wrong way, or say, "Good morning," in a tone that's not quite proper, I could find myself sitting in the principal's office facing a letter to file. Maybe I'd even find myself in some office in Manhattan, answering questions from DOE Big Shots. Who knows?

But it's not just about what you say. In fact, it's not just about how your students hear it. There's more to it than that. Charlotte Danielson, who clearly knows everything, has decreed it's all about engagement. As GW Bush asked, "Is our children learning?" The evidence, according to Danielson, is that they're busy and engaged. When they're jumping up and down, posing questions of their own, and barely have need of you at all, you are highly effective.

A friend pointed out that, if the principal had been more engaging, the aide would probably not have needed to yawn. I think that's a point well-taken. After all, the principal is the instructional leader. The principal ought to be setting the standard for all. Does your principal give interactive PD sessions, or does she just drone on explaining things everyone already understands in excruciating detail? Either way, she's setting the tone for the entire school.

So when people commit outrageous acts, like yawning, it's entirely the fault of the principal. Any self-respecting principal would observe the yawn, make a mental note that she hadn't sufficiently engaged the staff, and immediately write a letter to be placed in her own file. To do anything less is the height of irresponsibility.

So next time you see an article about the perfidy of teachers, or about how all we care about is ourselves, or about how we need to do more work for less pay, do the only logical thing. Blame the principal. The buck stops there.

And maybe, just maybe, someone will get the message that administrators must take responsibility for what goes on in schools, rather than pointing fingers at teachers and $12-an-hour school aides. If I treated my students the way this principal treated that aide, I'd be up on charges, and rightly so.

What a disgrace that people get a certificate, and a job, and suddenly think they are wiser and better than everyone else, fit to pass judgment on the entire world over trivial nonsense.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

On Michael Bloomberg, Champion of Teachers

In one of the most bizarre op-eds I've ever seen, AFT President Randi Weingarten partners up with former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg to argue that we can expect more from teachers when we "pay them like pros." They evoke much-maligned Common Core test grades as evidence of their success in having done this.They then go on to praise the 2005 UFT Contract, probably the worst I've ever seen, as a model of cooperation. 

That contract was what turned me into a union activist. It was full of goodies for the mayor, and the entire concept of more work for more pay does not remotely resemble the concept of paying people like pros. It's more like paying people like they worked extra hours at Burger King, which also translates into more money.

Worse, Weingarten seems to have forgotten that Michael Bloomberg was the most anti-public-school mayor in the history of New York City. They both seem to have forgotten how many schools Bloomberg closed, in a failed Gates-inspired experiment to create "small schools" Even as Gates himself admitted it was a bad idea, NYC continued. Our foray into small schools left in its wake a whole lot of tiny islands of newbies with little or no union representation. Bloomberg and Weingarten further seem to have forgotten the incredible rise of privatization in the form of largely non-union charter schools, a phenomenon that continues even as we speak.

Another thing that appears to have slipped their minds is the miserable relationship between the UFT and DOE he engendered, a relationship that continues to this very day. Even as Michael Mulgrew and Carmen Fariña got along with one another, even as we elected a mayor who appeared to repudiate his anti-teacher positions, Bloomberg's people sat around in Tweed and practiced the same nonsense they had for years. De Blasio didn't clean house when he came in and has yet to do so.

I have at least seven outstanding Step Two grievances in the system right now. Most are for blatant violations like letters in file after 90 days, refusing to pull a letter over three years old, or failing to meet with member, let alone allow representation, before placing a letter in file. Since Bloomberg, we almost always lose at Step Two, regardless of the merit of our arguments. UFT reps have told me that was not the case before Bloomberg. DOE has the ridiculous option of having 48 school days to make a Step Two decision, and delay is one of the things they do best. In fact I believe I now have cases that have gone over that limit, and I'm not yet sure there's even a consequence for that.

I don't know how they select people at DOE "legal," but I can tell you for sure they haven't got the remotest notion of what reading English entails. Even as Common Core (or whatever they're calling it this week) pushes joyless close reading for excruciating and minute detail, they sit around in Tweed in cowboy hats, riding stick horses, shooting cap guns, and advising principals to do any damn thing they feel like with no regard whatsoever for working teachers. They're right in a way, as blatantly abusive administrators are reassigned to sit around Tweed or run Townsend Harris High School.

Mike Bloomberg, who now fancies himself a champion of teachers, dismantled our seniority system in 2005. Teachers at a loose end, rather than being reassigned to another school, are now placed in the Absent Teacher Reserve, a sort of purgatory for working teachers. Though UFT leadership claims it's just a temporary thing, it's gone on for 13 years with no end in sight. In fact, Mike Bloomberg refused to grant us the raise and contract he gave NYPD and FDNY unless we allowed ATR teachers to be fired. That's why all of us are still waiting to get back 75% of the money NYPD and FDNY earned back in 2009.

As if that's not enough, Mike "Pay like a pro" Bloomberg wanted to fire half of us and leave those still standing with classes of 70. I've just scratched the surface on what Bloomberg did when he was mayor, but just about any teacher who lived through his regime will tell you he treated us like something he wiped off his Florsheims. I have no idea why Randi Weingarten thinks his argument adds credibility to hers, but I haven't had the opportunity to ask.

Michael Bloomberg, for my money, is every bit as hypocritical and delusional as Donald Trump. Maybe all that money does something to your mind. I don't suppose I'll ever have enough to verify one way or the other. Still, I always remember the line from If I Were a Rich Man, in which Tevye the milkman sings, "When you're rich, they think you really know."

Michael Bloomberg didn't know what our job was on his best day. I'm not sure exactly when that was, but I'm certain it's way in the past. Given the outlandish nature of this article, I'm quite sure it's never coming back.

Related: Here's another critique of this op-ed by Mitchell Robinson.

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Jacket

The entire social studies department in my school is walking around with these jackets that say. "Francis Lewis High School Social Studies Department." Naturally, I'm insanely jealous, but on the other hand, I'm not a member of the social studies department, so what good would it do me even if I were to get my hands on one? I'd be a fraud.

I'm an ESL teacher. That means English as a second language. Of course, for the last year or two we've been called ENL teachers, or teachers of English as a new language. What difference that may make to a student learning English is negligible at best, Of course, many students come to us already knowing multiple languages, and English could be a third, fourth, or tenth language. So it makes sense. But if you're like me, and you've been saying ESL since, oh, 1986, it's tough to make the adjustment.

So I approached my supervisor. I told her the social studies teachers had these jackets and that we needed them too. I explained to her that it was important to let the ESL teachers know they were ENL teachers. A whole lot of ESL teachers are calling themselves ESL teachers, and for goodness sake, they ought to know better. What if every ESL teacher says that instead of ENL? How will anyone know that ESL teachers are really ENL teachers?

My supervisor looked at me as though I had just fallen from the sky, but she does that frequently so I ignored it. (Maybe it's just some thing they teach at supervisor school. Who am I to comment on things I don't understand?)

But as soon as I stepped out of the office, one of the foreign language teachers started giving me a hard time. Why shouldn't we get jackets too, she wanted to know. So unreasonable. I explained how ESL teachers didn't know they were ENL teachers, and also that the only way to conclusively resolve this important issue was to give us all jackets.

She was totally mad. She said what about us? We foreign language teachers are now world language teachers, and how are we supposed to remember that if we don't get a bunch of free jackets? Wow. I thought, how petty. Just because we have something, she needs to have it too. As if that weren't reason enough, the foreign language teachers outnumber us. There are maybe ten of us and thirty of them.

I mean, here I am, with this great idea, and one of my colleagues has to go and ruin everything. What, she can't remember the difference between foreign language and world language? I mean, it's just one little word. What kind of logic is that anyway?

It's time we got over these petty squabbles and worked out our differences, First thing this morning, I'm going back to the supervisor and make my case, before the foreign language teacher gets there first and makes her case.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Cynthia Nixon Urges Repeal of APPR

I'm a UFT chapter leader, and as such I get an awful lot of complaints. Almost all of them are about the oppressive rating system. Every teacher I know has supervisors marching in and out, checking boxes over just how badly we suck. And every teacher I know, even the ones who've been consistently rated highly effective, hates this system.

Some people have good supervisors who are reasonable. Some people have crazy supervisors who are not. But everyone feels like supervisors are lurking about, ready to pounce at the first opportunity. If you teach math, the English AP can walk in and rate you any time. If you teach a foreign language, people who don't understand it can rate your lesson.

This system is the brainchild of Andrew Cuomo, and sadly, our union leadership went along for this ride. The assumption behind it, as Cuomo repeatedly announced, was that not enough teachers were being fired. While I'm certainly glad that the system's failed to fire teachers in droves, any system conceived like that is felt and interpreted precisely as intended. Here are a few paragraphs from a press release I just received.

“A couple years ago Andrew Cuomo described teacher evaluation based on high stakes testing as one of his greatest legacies, now he is hoping that parents and teachers have forgotten all about it,” Cynthia Nixon said. “Enough of the delays and excuses Governor Cuomo, it is time to repeal the APPR now.”

“Cynthia Nixon has a vision that will put education on the right track by refocusing New York schools on the dignity of teaching and the joy of learning,” said Diane Ravitch, education historian. “She will provide the resources our children need to succeed. Andrew Cuomo's policies have disrespected teachers as a profession and undermined the education of our children."

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine a system based on dignity as opposed to you all suck and deserve to be fired? How long has it been since you felt supported or encouraged by this system? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say never. When I first began, I felt indifference. I learned to compensate for it. I learned that if I expected nothing I'd never be disappointed.

Ever since Danielson I feel like it's us against them. I'm speaking as someone whose direct supervisor is decidedly Not Insane. Nonetheless, I sit at UFT Executive Board and am regaled with tales of principals who use observation as a weapon, who rate anyone who questions them ineffective, who 3020a chapter leaders for the unpardonable offense of standing up for children. I knew an AP who one year had a member suffer a-fib episodes each time they met. The following year one of his teachers had a heart attack in the hall. The year after that, a teacher who he threatened with ineffective ratings died one night, quite prematurely. During the last conversation I had with that teacher, he was terribly upset over that ineffective rating possibility.

We need a system that will encourage teachers. We need a system that will encourage young people to be teachers. Lord knows we haven't remotely got such a system in place. Diane Ravitch knows too, and that's why she's endorsed a group called Educators for Cynthia.

I've signed on, and if you'd like to join me you may do so right here. Let's take our education system out of the hands of Eva Moskowitz and her merry band of hedge funders, and return it to educators, along with the families and children we serve.

Read the full press release at Diane Ravitch's Blog.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Cynthia Nixon for Governor

She has that unfortunate last name, and she made a remark about union concessions. This notwithstanding, what's in a name, the remark was a one-off, and I see her as the best person to unseat the amoral creature who now governs our state. Cuomo is a horror who's publicly vilified us in order to gratify the caprices of Eva Moskowitz and her hedge-fund buddies. He jumped up and down over the prospect of judging us via junk science, and then called the system he pushed "baloney" because not enough teachers were fired.

I'm a lifelong Democrat. For decades I voted for every Democrat that came down the pike. It took me a long time before I realized what Bill Clinton did to get himself reelected after his health care debacle. He essentially rebranded himself as a moderate Republican. This became the wave for New Democrats, and Cuomo rode in on that wave, vowing to go after unions in his first term.

That was too much for me. I voted for Green Howie Hawkins twice in protest. But I don't believe in protest votes as a go to. I believe Nixon has a chance to actually win, something Hawkins won't do in a million years. I also believe Working Families Party, now that it's finally come on its own, is worth supporting.

Nixon has continually spoken out on the right side of education, and that means a lot to me. Her celebrity doesn't hurt either. She already appears to be pushing Cuomo to the left. This is a direct result of her celebrity, and this is an advantage she holds over not only Hawkins, but also brilliant Zephyr Teachout. In fact, with Nixon out there, maybe this will open the door to getting Teachout in government where she belongs.

I'm not alone in thinking that Nixon could topple Andy. It would be great to see celebrity work positively in politics. We all know too well that the President of the United States used it, along with his incredible bluster, to overcome his opponents. Maybe we can use it to elect someone sensible, articulate, and intelligent.

Think of what it would mean to have a truly progressive governor. Maybe we could achieve statewide universal health care. Maybe progressive Democrats could take the Senate for real this time, without Simcha Felder or the IDC or any such nonsense standing in our way. Maybe we could be a beacon, leading the country toward a long overdue moral imperative.

Cynthia Nixon pays attention to someone I consider the foremost authority on American education:

That's more than you can say for Andrew Cuomo, who wouldn't know Diane Ravitch from Diane Sawyer. Andy remembers only his contributors. Can you imagine having a governor who paid attention to Diane Ravitch instead of Eva Moskowitz? What would it be like if the person in charge of governing our state knew the difference between junk science and research? Could it spark a national trend? I'm thrilled at the possibility of thoughtful, intelligent people looking to do the right thing in government.

There's a new group called Labor for Nixon. I love the idea of a group that represents Labor, and I see my friend Mindy Rosier's name on it. I told her she could add mine. I'm thrilled to be part of something that could topple the execrable Andrew Cuomo and bring us closer to the state we need to be, and perhaps even move us toward the country we need to be.

I'd love to see a viable Labor Party. Maybe this is a new beginning. That's why Cynthia Nixon wins the much-coveted NYC Educator endorsement for Governor of NY State.

Monday, April 23, 2018

UFT Executive Board April 23, 2018--Discontinuance Not So Bad After All

6 PM Secretary Howard Schoor welcomes us


Andrew Savage—School of Art and Design—UFT Delegate—Thanks Mike Schirtzer and MORE Caucus, and his chapter. UFT chapter has been working under state of oppression. Principal has produced record turnover, 30 exited or forced out. Contract violations, violations of labor law, retaliation, unhealthy work environment. 

CL asserted right to vote on SBO, Principal disagreed, rated CL ineffective. Various letters placed in file. Member spoke at faculty meeting over bathroom policy and also gets lowest observation letters of career. Won APPR complaint, was observed on half day for one hour. got worse ratings.

Other consultation committee member developed own plans, was forced to teach ICT without co-teacher. Was observed, immediately when he got new co teacher, got adverse ratings.

Teacher was asked to take AP class, declined, observed 5 times, got adverse ratings.

I joined SLT, asked questions was rated ineffective. First bad rating in 8 years. Endless examples of reprisal from principal and admin. Principal tries to recruit spies at chapter meetings. Police state-like atmosphere.

UFT leadership has taken action. We don’t have time for grievances. Filed three article 23. 3 denied and one in limbo. Traditional remedies have not produced change. Ask meeting with Mulgrew. Don’t want retaliation and bullying.

Schoor—Alison Gendar wants contact info, school came up at last meeting. We haven’t been able to get in touch. We need correct info to make issue. Thank you for coming.

Gladys Sotomayor
—Same issues reoccur. Principal not educational leader. Same patterns of abuses principals are OK with because DOE lawyers support fiction.

Being ATR is stressful. Struggle to become part of teaching profession. Not possible either as union member or professional.

Majority of principals not part of educating teachers. Concerned about contract and ATRs. We shouldn’t be subject to abuse of two-tier observation system. As ATR I’m under old system, considered as sub.

Cannot move from one license to another. Keeps me from finding full-time position. Consequence of closing school or poor educational leader.

CSA allows abuses to continue. We ought not be in solidarity with them. We need people who understand true pedagogy to review us.


Jonathan Halabi—What’s the teacher table lunch?

—Evelyn de Jesus not here. Will answer next time.

President’s report—Michael Mulgrew 6:16

Chancellor will be here on May 21st.

Safety—Sent out to CLs with no incidents—we want every school to have functioning safety committee. System broken. If you report, you get in trouble. If you don’t you get in trouble. We have to push ourselves because we own whether things are reported. They can be reported to us or DOE. Current system will never work.

Principal said he got in trouble for 400 incidents. Did not allow them to go to zero. Engaged in process, asked UFT for help. Trained entire staff, and it worked. Still has 40-60 incidents. Any school could have that. Not big deal. Post complained of schools that reported, but many didn’t.

May 4th, someone from nurse chapter available. When people OD, sad, critical, but many people when they come out tend to be violent. Nurses bear the brunt. We had a nurse horrendously assaulted. We want presence for sentencing on Staten Island May 4th. Not our first—have had many in every borough. Keep telling us we can’t restrain, patients’ rights, but we need common sense. Restraints would help prevent this.

Thanks tech team for app. 2K uploads. Seems to be working well, good reviews, and great suggestions. Tomorrow will send out app to activists. Not finished loading app. Will load more and more. Appreciate you telling us suggestions, have had great ones.

Next phase rollout of new UFT platform. We will track everyone who interacts with member. Will be kiosks here and in Brooklyn. Next is Queens. One at a time so as not to be SESIS. We want our techs there. We want enough people to support each office. Next is Bronx. Then, Staten Island because we save best for last.

Big change for us as organization, as we do membership teams. Trained 50 new doorknockers. One on one conversations will make a difference. We must beat back Janus. We will finish before Memorial Day, our goal.

6:25 Mulgrew leaves.

LeRoy Barr—resolution to attend Mayday rally at Washington Square. 5:30. %K run that weekend. Will receive election packages, put them in hands of people who run election. Want them done early in May. EB May 7, DA May 16.

Schoor—Press conference tomorrow for paid parental leave 9 30 City Hall steps. Come to city council hearing, will put out date.


Jonathan Halabi
—On membership teams, I’m fortunate in that team is half my school. If we do our job can we help neighbors? I have retired friend who never joined. Can we know how many potentially not members?

Schoor—1 or 2%. Good question about assistance. Paul Egan not here. Will ask at next EB.

Mike Schirtzer—With folks that presented, their superintendent, is this an active problem with her?

Schoor—Manhattan Village Academy also, answer is yes.

Dwayne ?—She’s a commonality. Have had conversations about this.
Schirtzer—Maybe she’s a superintendent in need of assistance? Could we walk over and say hello?

Dwayne—Sounds good, We are thinking about this. This is strategic planning

Arthur Goldstein--Living in the United States with no job and no health insurance is no fun at all.

In New York City, though, even that’s not quite enough for the DOE. Instead of just firing a non-tenured teacher, the city brands the teacher with a scarlet letter of discontinuance, warning every potential employer that this person is to be avoided like the plague. Now it’s true that this can be overcome sometimes, if a principal is particularly determined, or if the teacher gets certified in another subject area.

All too often, though, this has the effect of taking not only the teacher’s position, but also her livelihood. It’s gratuitous and draconian, and I can only assume it’s a by-product of the rampant anti-teacher policy of Joel Klein, who had a disturbing habit of poking his beak where it need not go.

I understand that tenure is not a divine right, and that we have to earn it. I don’t understand why principals and superintendents, who may or may not be insane, are granted the power not only to strip UFT members of jobs, but also livelihoods. I’ve seen people discontinued for the offense of reporting malfeasance on tests. I’ve seen teachers get adverse ratings during classes when they were administering tests because admin wanted to discontinue and couldn’t be bothered coming back on teaching days.

Surely the new chancellor isn’t Joel Klein, and the current mayor isn’t Michael Bloomberg. I certainly hope they are not out to ruin people’s lives. Can we work to roll this back?

—Under Bloomberg few got second chance. Process was opened up under last chancellor. We hope that will continue. They said look from their perspective. Just fired a person and don’t want to rehire. They have safeguards to not rush to hire these people. Is ability to be rehired. Some will not be rehired.

Sun Lee
— Went to training in Manhattan for membership team, but there is someone on my roster I never see. Can we add that to training?

Schoor—Will report back. Shoutout to Ahluwalia, Dinner tonight was outstanding.

Report from districts

Mike Schirtzer—Attended social studies conference. One of best I’ve attended, Proves teachers teaching teachers are the best. Great award recipients. Got selfies with Mary Beth Tinker. Leticia James, tireless advocate, is amazing. Spoke beautifully, complimented union and educators. John Giambalvo won award because he ran immigration workshops for newcomer population. Janella Hinds and Anthony Klug were there as charter teachers said they wanted to be in UFT. Lets you know everything you have to know about this union.

Jonathan Halabi and Michael Friedman—Second year Bronx District, run by Eliu Lara, gave donations to students who were grads or passed equivalency. Great event, worth supporting. You can send donations.

Amy Arundell—reports on Queens prom boutique—wonderful event. About the heart of our union, students. We had about 200 brought by teachers and chapter leaders. Shares letter from teacher—Thanks UFT, kids excited about outfits. Thanks UFT who helped find perfect outfits. Wonderful when system works to help students. Thanks Adriana O Hagen, for driving all over, finding things and having vision.

?—Bronx borough rep—took dresses to Staten Island, used gym as warehouse for outfits. Many people so needy and impressed. Thanks volunteers and community. Loved watching men show boys how to tie a tie or put on a suit jacket—experience many students never had before. Gave dress to woman for quinceñera.

Sterling Roberson—UFT participated in ACT regional conference in Baltimore, Mulgrew keynote speaker. Moving CTE forward across country. Celebrated accomplishments and laid out challenges. Thanks city educators for fine job.

George Altomare—Said by many people already, uplifting to be at meeting with emphasis on giving and teaching. Not new. Every year social studies does this, but there is much other business. Leticia James very good, pro-labor. Reached out for history of UFT. Union of professionals goes back to John Dewey, progressive who believed teachers should form curriculum. Mary Beth Tinker, great speaker, contributed to Supreme Court and taught students to fight for rights. Wish more people came.

Rashad Brown—June 2 floor 3 scholarship brunch honoring Danny Drumm.

Schoor—reads email, thanks from Jerry Goldstein, decades later. Got UFT scholarship 1988. Used it on books, food rent, Made very real difference. Got degree in physics, PhD Dartmouth, worked for NASA. Was critical help.

We give 1 million every year.

PROSE report—Jackie Bennett—we  have good news, and a school that doesn’t work like PROSE school. We select schools for how well they work together, and innovation. When press looks at it, they call it wild. Teachers ask for things like time, small group instruction. About full school community.

Bar very high. We take small fraction, 170 now. We’re learning about collaborative schools and how to sustain them. 4 day work weeks in some schools, longer days. Special ed. model with small group instruction with content teachers. Schools are all in, everyone working together. Some schools collaborative by default. Nice principal. If principal leaves, things fall apart.

If you listen to press, we focus on kids that struggle the most, and shining examples of success. What we are evolving in is focusing on middle and how you bring it up.

Report on SBOs Mike Sill—SBO season. SBO process is opportunity for chapter to change elements of contract. No chapter has any responsibility to do SBO. Opportunity to have leverage in schools. What has principal done for us lately? Could be a situation in which you improve conditions. Why don’t you show me and we can revisit SBO next year?

Changing extended time very popular. Contact DR, make sure we don’t end up with people giving away their own agency, OPW or lunch.

We are adjourned. 7:05

Friday, April 20, 2018

UFT and Janus--Can We Be Proactive Beyond Collecting Dues?

I couldn't make it to the DA Wednesday night, though I wanted to go. I understand this was the big release for the UFT app. I know that because I just got an email from Michael Mulgrew, asking me to install the app. I did and now can see Frankenstein, the Musical at a discount. I can get discounts at Heavenly Crumbs and Chatime Bubble Tea. You've got a whole lot of phone numbers at your fingertips. The possibilities are endless, and I'm sure it will be improved upon. Still, I kind of wish it hadn't taken a gun to the union's head to produce it.

Evidently, this isn't the same app I'll be using to sign up members in my building, but there is an app for that. I actually have to give UFT numbers of thirty or so of us who will be trying to sign up our 300 members. It's a big job, and I didn't love it a lot. Someone had to assign about ten members to each of the thirty plus, and despite my best intentions otherwise, it turned out to be me.

We will each get a list, and we will be able to sign up people as union via our phones. It's a good idea, I think. This is the first time I've actually collected phone numbers for the union, though I've been asked on multiple previous occasions. I don't mind the face to face, but the prep work was no fun.

For me union is a moral imperative. Though I've skipped a few nights this week, and though I've gotten more sleep than I'd had any right to hope for, I don't spend my free time running to 52 Broadway just for laughs. I don't do it for money either (though as an Exec. Board member they now reimburse my parking and tolls). So it's hard for me to respect people's decisions to say, "Screw it. I'm not paying." When these people don't pay, it will be my work and money (and yours) carrying them.

There is a new law in NY, though, and I wasn't sure it was going to be successful until Chaz said so. I don't always agree with Chaz, but when he makes a wholly unexpected statement like this I have to. A lot of people will kick and scream, but I'm not sure how many will be hiring lawyers to rep them when the principal says they threw that cheeseburger at a student. Also, I'm not sure how effective a lawyer would be, even if his tie turned out to be considerably nicer than mine.

I'm glad, though, not to have to provide services for people who reject the work that we do. It really makes me sad when I meet members who decide the entire UFT sucks because one decision didn't go their way. I negotiate a lot, and I go to a lot of hearings, and decisions don't always go my way either. I can't manually insert brains into arbitrators, and much as I wish they came pre-installed, they blather any way they choose and make ridiculous decisions. (Of course, sometimes they're right, and those are the times we hope for.)

So I have to say, even though I don't always approve of leadership, they made a good deal here. Of course, the timing was great, with Andrew Cuomo intent on convincing America he's the Second Coming of Bernie Sanders. Andrew Cuomo reminds me of a character called Mr. Haney on Green Acres. Mr Haney will sell anything to anyone at any time. Two years ago, Cuomo was calling us a self-serving industry that cared nothing for children. Now he's our best bud, but that too will change with any way the wind blows.

Here's my problem with this program, successful though it is. The upside of Janus, and another reason I'm willing to run around and organize, is that we finally have leadership reaching out to us. This is a great organizing activity, involving a whole lot of us. Alas, if this is as successful as I think it will be, they may decide to sit atop 52 Broadway and continue to look down indifferently on rank and file issues, same as it ever was. That would be sad for a number of reasons.

First, leadership only noticed we were a union in anything more than name when Janus reared its ugly head. That's when they started to get people to knock on our doors, though they're a long way from reaching all of us. I'm not holding my breath for a UFT doorknocker here in Freeport NY. I'd argue that leadership was perfectly content with a membership in which three out of four of us can't be bothered voting in union elections. That way, it's Unity now, Unity tomorrow, and Unity forever.

Leadership is still tone deaf to working teachers. Yesterday I spoke with one who's been rated Highly Effective three years in a row. She's much-loved by her supervisor, and likely by everyone else. Yet she hates Danielson and she hates APPR. She is terrified by the observation process even though it's deemed her universally excellent. Not a single UFT official has been through Danielson, and not a single one knows what teachers feel.

When we go to Executive Board and say we should have the state minimum of two a year for teachers who do well that way, we're told teachers do better with more. I'll bet you, though, that when teachers are rated effective, almost all will say good enough for me and hang it up until the following year. When we say we need lower class sizes, we're told we made sacrifices fifty years ago and we're forming a group you aren't in, so sit down and shut up.

I'm very happy that UFT can continue being UFT. Leadership moved quickly and decisively to assure that dues money would continue coming in. Now I'd like to see that sort of alacrity applied to the issues working teachers grapple with each and every day.

Monday night I will certainly bring another one to their attention. And if they say, "We'll get back to you." I won't need a psychic to tell me just how seriously they take it.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

UFT Delegate Assembly April 18, 2014--We Have an App, and President May Talk as Long as He Wishes

by special guest Jonathan Halabi

We are welcomed by Mulgrew, who starts immediately talking about The App. Do not download the app during the DA, the WiFi would probably crash. (I did. It did not). There will be an instruction sheet handed out after the DA with exact instructions. Try it then.

The White House out of control, but Mulgrew won’t discuss today.

Because of states with strikes and walkouts, the “story” is now where we want it to be. In many of these states there were no teacher raises in the last ten years.

Mulgrew says to stop talking about education as an expense; it is an investment. We are glad this is happening. We are working with our colleagues in these states.  

In some of these states unions are barred from the political process. We see the results. This is the plot we are about to face with Janus.

The percentage of teachers in those states who file for bankruptcy is astounding. 

There is money flowing into NY to destabilize teachers’ unions here. People have been sneaking into UFT offices posing as members. There have been several fake Michael Mulgrew twitter feeds. Let them try!

New York
There is close to $1B in NYS for education funding. Mulgrew credits Lobby Day. We got Community Learning Schools funded. We go the Teachers Centers funded.

There are changes we wanted to the tax code (to undo the federal code removing the local tax deduction). We are waiting for a federal challenge.

The Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC) is now back with the Democrats, but the Democrats still do not have a majority. (Mulgrew seemed to purposefully not name Simcha Felder, the Democrat from Brooklyn who gives the Republicans control). There is a tight special election coming up in Westchester.

The state tests have started. “Untimed testing” has meant some kids are sitting forever. We are going to the Board of Regents with this one. Outside of the City there have been huge problems with computerized testing. We are having conversations with NYSUT – the State is doing it all wrong. We will ask for a statewide committee for guidelines before we start computerized testing (and the UFT delegation will propose this at the NYSUT Representative Assembly in Buffalo next week).

May 19 is the Spring Conference. 

Who’s met the Chancellor? (very few hands go up). Mulgrew told him that if he visits one school per day, he would get to 10% in a school year. Carranza has this mindset….  We are getting reports that Department of Education people want to convince the new Chancellor that they support teachers in schools and that they have a good relationship with the union. 

What would you do if you were appointed with three months left in the year? Go around. Meet people. Wait for the summer…

Tuesday at 7:30AM there will be a City Council press conference in support of paid parental leave and paid family leave.  The only city workers with paid parental leave are the city managers, and they got ripped off. The City can allow us to join the State plan (parental and family).

We are not officially negotiating yet. The last 400+ Negotiating Committee meeting was Monday. We are having discussions, not negotiations. 

Chapter Leader elections – please hold them early this year – May. The Election Chair must certify the election. And you cannot be the Election Chair if you are running.

Safety. Who got an e-mail saying their school has had zero safety incidents? (a good number of hands go up, maybe 5-10% of the room) You must have the safest schools! (with sarcasm). There are principals who don’t know what they are doing. Members must report. You are a school in NYC. We cannot fix the problem if we do not know there is a problem. And by the way, there is no such thing as “you may not suspend a special education child.” They just don’t want you filing the incident reports. 

Door knocking – there will be another class, the biggest yet, this weekend. We were ahead, now we are slightly behind [he didn’t say what we were ahead of or behind – UFT Central must have some target for how many members they reach each month].

Membership teams – “Who has them?” (about 40% of hands go up). Who doesn’t have them? (About 5% of hands go up). Should I believe this? (not much response, a little nervous laughter). Membership teams are not just a team of one. You can’t do it by yourself. 

We are not Oklahoma, in desperate straits, where everyone was ready to walk out.

We have 9000 members of our membership teams. We need to make sure the conversations are happening at all of our schools.

The App
Brian and Keith show off The App. Really Mulgrew spent the next few minutes clicking through it, with special attention devoted to the discounts page.

Editorial note:  It became clear through the responses, and by looking around, that the DA was full of people who don’t normally sit through this meeting, but were there for a meeting of RA Delegates after (with food in between). The level of interest in the discounts was not the first sign of this.

After showing off The App, Mulgrew returned to Albany. He briefly discussed the new state law. Apparently the DoE has to give us the names of new hires more quickly (within 30 days) – so we can talk to them.

And then Mulgrew summarized. We have 9000 membership team members. We need to have 100,000 conversations. Mulgrew thanks all of us for our hard work. Report ends at 5:18.

Staff Director, LeRoy Barr
The High School Awards Ceremony was last Friday. The Association of Teachers of Social Studies luncheon is this Saturday at 52 Broadway – we need a full house – Letitia James is being honored, and you get CTLE credit. He mentioned the prom boutique, and the 5K run/walk (and please participate). The next DA is May 16. And go Yankees. (And Mets).

5:20, back to Mulgrew
I stopped going to Yankees games.
We are having major fights with the DoE – he praises school communities for fighting closures, and reiterates that DoE officials don’t’ “get it.”

May 1 is coming up.  It is May Day. There is something coming up on the agenda. 

Question Period
Giraldo Maldonado, Chapter Leader Manhattan Comprehensive Day and Night
Caranza’s visiting schools. Our AP says he wants to extend the school day. 
MM: Extended Day usually refers to after-school activities. There will be no extra work without extra pay. I believe that’s what the new chancellor is talking about. (then a long tangent on snow days)

Yonah Dika, OT/PT functional chapter
Letters are being written that sound disciplinary, but are not, and are being filed somewhere. What can we do?
MM: gotta be more specific (then quick back and forth). You mean letters that look official but do not say “for file”?  Crumple them and throw them in the garbage. It’s just meant to intimidate. Please share any letters like those with Mulgrew or LeRoy Barr.

Spencer One, Pathways to Graduation D79
Have not seen additional funding in our schools. Where is the money? Will we get it? With interest?
MM: There was a funding transparency bill (to see where ed dollars were going) but it was for NYC only, which makes us nervous. We explained that. Then they proposed the same bill, but for all of NY State, and it passed easily. Funding is not getting to the schools. When Bloomberg left, they lost 5 deputy superintendents, but added a new layer of bureaucracy. We think there should be a 50% cut in all out-of-school funding, and that money should be sent into the schools.

Peter Burkeheart, Queens Vocational
Any update on Janus?
MM: We think it has no merit, and trying to get it dismissed. Try to appeal, or go forward.

Thomas, International HS at Union Square
What are the specifics of the new state law? Even my membership team members may not want to pay dues.
MM: We are currently reviewing the services, to see what will the effect will be. We are not ready yet. (Pension consult – no. Representation inside of the contract – yes. Representation beyond the contract – no.) Every local around the state is reviewing it. By the way, Cuomo signed the law here (motioning to the stage). 

Sean Ahern, East River Academy (D79)
Trump and DeVos did not get the cuts they wanted. And we have a supposedly progressive mayor. Do we need a blue state revolt? We went through years with Bloomberg and Giuliani. What do we have to do?
MM: NYS is still bleeding money, but does that mean we should never negotiate because something bad might happen? No, but if something bad does happen, we will help. (I wrote down words, but they don’t make much sense. The flow was sort of – the state might be in financial trouble down the road, but that’s not a reason for us not to push for the money we need now. Later, if we need to pitch in, we will)

Barry Smith – Retired Teachers Chapter
The App seems wonderful – but what about hacking? Concerned.
MM: No private personal info is on the system (that stuff is kept on the old system, with a ridiculously good firewall). This was our biggest concern as well.

As Mulgrew called on the next questioner, time was called. Motion to extend (Jonathan Halabi). I should have said “five minutes” but I didn’t, and the chair interpreted that as “motion to extend for the last speaker”. Passes. Tellingly, there were scattered hands against. Were the RA delegates getting hungry?

Alicia Morel? – missed the school – District 25
Our custodial budget is being cut. We have one custodian for 1100 students.
MM: We are trying to convince the city council

Motion Period
Anthony Harmon asked to put motion on supporting 2018 May Day Rally for workers’ and immigrants’ rights. Approved.

Specials orders of business.
Brian Cohen, Brooklyn Collaborative HS motivates resolution to reserve 50% of the meeting time for questions, discussion, and resolutions. (I’m sending his notes as a separate file – you can quote his motivation at length if you want to).

Geena Bozman, PS239 D24 opposes. I come here for two reasons 1) learn stuff for members, and 2) business of the union. We do not have to hear every voice. If you have questions, you can e-mail.

Marty Plotkin, Retired Teachers Chapter. Calls the question.

Mulgrew made some comments about the body getting to decide what they listen to, and the question was called, and the sea of Unity members and RA delegates called the questions, and then defeated the motion (by I’d guess 75% - 25%)

Anthony Harmon motivated support for the May Day rally. Approved. 

Adjourned. Time was 5:40.