Sunday, September 30, 2018

Janus Was the Opening Salvo

Now that people may opt out of union dues if they feel like it, the attacks continue. There's a new case for the ultra-right-wing illegitimate SCOTUS that will mean unions may no longer represent workers exclusively. Therefore some Koch-based group could negotiate a separate deal for those who choose not to join union.

The goal here, in case it isn't clear to you, is destruction of union. I don't know exactly what the plan is. I suppose, in states that hate union, they could let the union-busters negotiate something favorable, pull a whole lot of people from the real union, and then allow the real union to die on the street like a discarded animal. Since Trump and his thugs regard all of us as animals who can die on the street, I don't suppose that's so extraordinary.

Here's another possibility--those employees who have their lips puckered firmly into the ample posteriors of administrators could finally be rewarded. They could perhaps join exclusive groups that have exclusive perks. Right now, they make the same money as you do if they do the same job. But why not negotiate a special ass-kissers union under which members get a 50% surplus over the regular people who just do their jobs?

And once the union is not the exclusive representative of working people, there could be all sorts of conflicts in the workplace. We'll be at one another's throats fighting over who gets to wash the principal's car. Who gets to spend Wednesdays at the Comfort Inn with the person who dispenses membership to the union with the 50% surplus? Anything is possible under these scenarios.

And let's look at the endgame, if that's not too much trouble. The fact is, in the red states, where there's no union and no collective bargaining, they regularly cut teacher pay, raise health premiums and paint them into pretty tight corners. The wave of wildcat teacher strikes around the country was not inspired because they made too much money and suffered from excessively excellent working conditions. In fact, Time, which vilified us as bad apples a few short years ago, just ran a feature on how tough it can be to make ends meet as a teacher in America.

The times they are a changing, and not for the better. Even as the circus of Judge Biff rules the airwaves, the House voted for $3.8 trillion more in tax cuts. This entire country is becoming about saving money for those who least need it. Those of us who need to work for a living are dead last priority.

So bitch about the union as much as you like, but we are facing an existential threat. I shudder to think what the Koch brothers will dream up next. Maybe they'll make unions illegal and we'll each have to represent ourselves. Principals can become CEOs who pay each individual whatever they hell they damn please. They can hire their dogs as secretaries and pay them more than they pay teachers.

There are no rules or parameters in a country whose motto appears to be "ethics-shmethics." There's an apocryphal Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times."

Make no mistake, we are there right this very second. While you still can, don't forget to vote.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Sexual Harassment and the Working Teacher

I've now wasted a great deal of time trying to log in to the sexual harassment training thing mandated by the geniuses at Tweed. Yesterday I tried again to log on, and you can see the result. This is on a school computer, and not the first time I've tried a school computer.

I decided to try again after another member, who actually got on, told me she did manage to log in. However, the bell rang before she could finish, she logged off, and when she logged in again she had to start from the beginning.

This was a contradiction of something an administrator told me. On the other hand, administrators have their own computers and don't need to log in and out. They also have longer periods of time to do this thing. So perhaps they find it easier. I find it impossible.

I wrote UFT, and I was told they're asking the chancellor for an extension. Evidently I'm not the only person with these issues.  I wrote an email to the trouble line the DOE provided, and they robo-sent me an email. It provided me with the following information:

1.       On the “Safari can’t verify the identity of the website “”
2.       Click “Continue”

They also provided info for other browsers. As you can see, that was not my issue. I wrote them back. They sent me the same email, again. I realized that their help line was simply sending the same email out, and wrote once more as a test. Same thing. Some help. However, there was another email address at the end, in case you had other issues. So I wrote to them.

I got almost exactly the same email I had received three times, except it was headed by a big warning that I had to use a DOE computer. But I was using a school computer. It is incredible that they muster the audacity to make this mandatory, give a cutoff date, and make it so incredibly difficult. I've wasted well over an hour of my time trying to take this thing. The only thing I've learned so far is how to restrain myself from doing violence to a city computer.

In our school. there are other problems. There seems to be the assumption that everyone in the city does Meandering Mondays and Torture Tuesdays. In our school, though, we've spread things over class periods. There are a whole lot of teachers in our building who haven't got an hour to take a webinar designed by the geniuses at the DOE.

I don't really know what the problem is, and it's getting a whole lot harder to care. My job is nuts, and I am very, very busy. I don't have time to plod through poorly designed websites that never work. I don't have time to write four emails to robots I thought would be people. I'm not remotely inclined to sexually harass anyone at all and I very seriously doubt that the idiots who designed this inept exercise in nothing have anything whatsoever to teach me, or anyone.

Update: I finally got a non-robot reply from them. It suggested I speak with an administrator. Actually I tried that weeks ago. The administrator had the same list that was on the email. Some days I feel like it would be great to have a job at Tweed, where total ineptitude doesn't matter at all.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Guns in School for Violence Prevention

Betsy DeVos is good with that.  And she must be correct because she's the United States Secretary of Education. And we're absolutely certain because she's held that job for her entire professional career.

Now sure, a lot of you cynics will say, "Yeah but she's 82 years old and she's never had a job until last year." Of course that's true, but it doesn't negate the contention that 100% of her job experience is as Secretary of Education.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's look at the issue itself. Should teachers have guns in school? I think they'd be helpful, for example, during grievance hearings. When teachers are called into the principal's office for things that happened two years ago, you can always tell the principal that the contract says letters in file have to be about things that happened less than three months ago. But then he'll call legal and they'll say do any damn thing you feel like.

At times like those, a gun might buttress your already righteous argument. Also, at outside grievance hearings, when you look into the soulless dead eyes of the DOE hacks who are going to deny you no matter what, it might be a good idea to have something to wake them. I think if you pulled your sawed off shotgun from your London Fog it would make them think twice. Maybe it would stir them into actually listening to what you were saying. You never know. And then there are contract negotiations. But I digress.

The classroom is a funny place already. Just yesterday I told a boy to move his seat. He was already mad at me for the last time I did that. He was sitting with two others, both Spanish speakers like him, and they were having a grand old time. When I prevailed on him to move, he announced, "Quiero un abogado." He wanted a lawyer. Today, after changing a few other seats, I tried to move him to a place where he'd have more interaction again. He was having none of it and sat at a table by himself.

That wasn't a really terrible thing, but you bring guns into the equation, and if either he or I were crazy enough, it might have become a truly notable situation. Sometimes you want things to be as simple as you can possibly make them. In fact, I frequently want things as simple as I can make them. Guns, as far as I can see, don't make things simple at all.

All that crap about how a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun is nonsense. There have been armed officers on the premises of school shootings, and the shootings went on anyway. Unless said good guy is in exact proximity and gets his gun out first, there's little possibility that will work well at all. And unless he has perfect aim, who knows who he's gonna shoot? Realistically, I don't want to carry a gun in school. I trust a whole lot of my colleagues, many absolutely, but I wouldn't want them carrying around guns either.

I'm sure the octogenarians in the Senate think we just sit around with big wooden pointers and expound our wisdom to wholly cooperative students. Then they put apples on our desks and tell us what a great job we do. Actually there's tremendous stress in this job and I frequently see people at their last nerve. I'm fond of a whole lot of these people, but nonetheless I'd be just as happy if they didn't have guns either.

Here's what this is really about--the NRA and the politicians crawling out of its pockets wish to make it appear they're doing something about the atrocities they condone time after time. Perish forbid we should create laws that would effectively halt the sale and spread of assault rifles used to kill our children. That would supposedly violate their second amendment rights and worse, it would cut into the profits of the gun industry. That's who the NRA really represents and cares about.

Despite their protestations about being broke, the NRA is poised to spend one million dollars on ads to support Trump's SCOTUS pick, Rapey Judge Biff. Clearly Biff is in the bag for not only keeping Trump out of the pokey, but also the slugs who shill for the gun industry.

Don't forget to vote.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A Crisis

We've become entirely dependent on technology. Not even dinosaurs like me are immune. I'm actually very tech-oriented. If I can find some way to use my computer, I'm up for it. If the display in my half-room worked, I would have used it yesterday. But these are minor things. I can always write words on the board and describe what they mean, rather than showing pictures or videos.

But really, that's small potatoes compared to a copying machine. Every teacher on God's green earth makes copies these days. Without copies, we'd have to go back to the dark ages of using whatever is in the bookroom. In our building, the bookrooms are filled with students. We've finally got air-conditioning in these windowless classrooms, and from time to time it works.

We do have an abundance of copying machines in our building. I mostly hang around the language department, because I have a drawer there. We have a copying machine, and a Risograph for high volume jobs. Regrettably, the riso has dropped dead. This is not such a terrible crisis for me at least, because I can always go to my actual department, ESL, and use their Risograph.  Except that one doesn't work either.

Lately I've been sneaking into the English department and asking whether they mind. They say go ahead, but it doesn't make good copies. It misses letters here and there, but I've been pretty satisfied. I mean, it's a hell of a lot better than nothing, which is my next choice. Now math teachers are coming into the language department asking to use our machine. I wonder where their next stop is when I tell them it's dead. Maybe I'll follow the next one who comes in, just in case English proves a dead end next time.

In our school, we don't need to use department machines all the time. We have a central copying center. It's great. You just drop off whatever it is you want copied, and in two days, you get it back, all stapled and collated and neatly banded by rubber, or whatever those things are made of nowadays. The rubber band is so big you can go home and equip your slingshot with it, if you are so inclined.

I left something there last Friday, and I was going to pick it up today. But I had a rude awakening around 10:30 AM, when people started approaching me and saying the copy center wasn't accepting copies until October 1st. That's a disaster. There's just about no way someone depending on a booklet or something could produce it in an office. It's particularly tough when the office machines are mostly dead anyway.

I went to the copy center to investigate. Evidently, both machines dropped dead last week. I'm amazed I only heard about it yesterday. The woman in the office told me we no longer had our machines serviced by Xerox, which was evidently very good. Instead, there's some company I never heard of that the city has contracted to do all the machines. They took a week to get to us.

The guy from the company I never heard of fixed both machines, but the stapler in one doesn't work. So evidently they're processing only single pages in that machine. I'm surprised anyone even brings single pages to the copying center, and maybe they don't. If it were me, I'd just run everything and tell teachers to staple it themselves. I'd much rather have stuff to staple than nothing to work with.

But hey, I'm just a lowly teacher. What do I know about copying machines? I did find someone to do copies for me, but people here and there are inclined to do me favors. I know it's not fair, but I don't know what I'd do today without them.

Monday, September 24, 2018

UFT Exec. Board September 24--Norm Scott Holds Court and New Officers

6:01 Howard Schoor welcomes us.


Norm Scott—Thanks God he’s retired. Was first speaker when Randi instituted process. Always about school conditions. Likes reports from districts, which are always positive. Good to know people are doing great stuff. Also things not going right. Please tell us, seems that’s avoided.

Facebook—para on chat list married to teacher, current environment teachers treated poorly, micromanagement, ludicrous demands, spiteful admin, teachers in fear. Not all schools this way. In Detroit they said UFT was strongest in country. Is it not that way anymore?

I feel these comments, coming from many places, are danger to union. You have to make show of force that you are there for teachers. You have to go into the schools and principals need to know someone is opposing them. Principals call lawyers, teachers don’t have that kind of support. Must inundate and counter this.

Schoor—Agree reports from districts have gotten better since 2016.


LeRoy Barr—CL training Oct 13-14. Making Strides walk that weekend, Sunday Central Park, Oct. 21 in rest of boroughs. ELL conference, Oct. 20, at UFT. Teacher Union Day Nov. 4. NY Hilton. EB Oct 15.

Schoor—in response to Jonathan Halabi, discontinuances not increased from previous year—more in minority districts, where more probationary teachers are. Looked at churn rate, haven’t completed, have brought up to DOE, who say number not meaningful, some may be retirement.  Schools with lack of good leadership puts teachers at risk,


Arthur Goldstein—We now have a chancellor who appears not to be insane. Therefore I wonder whether we might propose to him that we get rid of lawyers who sit around and tell principals to ignore the collective bargaining agreement. They really serve no purpose other than wasting our time and lowering morale.

Can we just tell him that he’s not Joel Klein, that Mayor de Blasio isn’t Mike Bloomberg, and that we don’t actually need to be perpetually at war for no reason whatsoever?

Schoor—We’re in negotiations, have brought up issue. Managerial issue, not something we bargain about, but that money can be better spent elsewhere.

Jonathan Halabi—My understanding is that any change in health care comes from the MLC agreement, and isn’t a direct part of our negotiations

First, can we get a report at this Executive Board about what health care changes the MLC agreed to? And a copy of that agreement?

And secondly, I have heard that the agreement includes a provision that new employees must join HIP for their first year. Is that a done deal, or is the precise shape of the health care changes for UFT members negotiable?

—Agreement is public, is online, has been agreed to.

Joe Eusatch
—Was press release about all changes. Is available online.

—Will check and get it. New employees will be in HIP for one year, and then they will have right to switch over. There are other pieces to it. Will be part of our contract. Starts July 2019 for three years.

Ashraya Gupta
—Is this a done deal for new employees or can we negotiate?

Schoor—All health is negotiated by all city unions as one. This was before DC37 agreement. City spends 7 billion out of 90 billion on health care. Was necessary before contracts. We are part of it.

KJ Ahluwalia
—Thanks for Caribean food. Asks for Indian.

Schoor—Can’t guarantee.

KJ—What’s current ATR number? What are we doing about it?

Mike Sill—have requested number. Using computer systems, put in information request. Hoping to have it next time. No reason for significant increase. As soon as we have it I’ll share it. In each of years when there were “out of time” schools we negotiated agreements that people who found themselves in excess got one year placements.

Marcus McArthur
—Hot schools—Can you update us?

Schoor—City Council getting involved. Goal is end of 2022, but City Council would like it done by end of summer.

Sam White
—speaker—Teacher and school psychologist, still in system, is not quite retired. She is also not working. DOE claims she owes them money. Spoke to you, indicated she taught part time in 1953. Her daughter will update.

Daughter—Mom at point where she needs to sit down. Is confused about benefits. I need to be put in touch with someone so I can help her. She would like to volunteer. Quite a lot she is owed but has not touched. Please help me help her.

Schoor—Tom Brown is trustee on TRS, will help.

Tom Brown
—Mom eligible to retire, and we will accommodate her, set up appointment with consultation. We will help her with process.

—We will need your info. Lots of respect for someone who started in 1953.

Michael Mulgrew—At this point, we’ll get all numbers, but the one we have to watch is new members. Should be part of a standard report. We need to reach all our new hires. So far everything seems to be going well. Little bogged down in negotiations. Going back upstairs to continue.

First two DOE firings. People who handle buses are gone. Have strong feelings on other set of workers mentioned here. Will see where things shake out. Chancellor now has most of people he wants in place. Waiting on parent outreach person, in SF now.

Glad we’re doing hot schools program. Wed. will be 82 degrees. Most of our work now about contract, Biggest issues are ones we’re getting to now. Thanks people who worked weekend to prepare.

Next EB October 15, will need political report. Thanks retiree chapter for stepping up. Very enthusiastic. Also working in NJ. State Senate important to change APPR.

Schoor—Know the word “deep state?” That’s what negotiating with DOE is like.
Reports from Districts:

Patricia Phillomena
—Thanks for bocci tournament Saturday, raised $1100. Flip flops won. Tom Murphy was in finals, put up tremendous fight.

George Altamari—Didn’t win bocci tournament, but won Italian Americans for month of October, shows poster. Poster is salute to Italian women in America, Ellis Island to present.

—gives Jonathan H. copy of agreement.

Paul Egan—Chelsea drew and Eagles won. Will have more details next time.

Congressional races in NJ we are working on. Retirees will do phone banks. Andrew Lanza in part of NYC where GOP always gets elected. In 22nd, Marty Golden is sitting Senator, against speed cameras, we are targeting him. We removed Padavan. We can win this if everyone gets out and does a little bit. Please put effort into race. That would be a massive pickup. Let’s take out Marty Golden.

Schoor—slogan should be Marty Golden—unsafe at any speed.

Ellen Driesen
—Was at event yesterday, and Andrew Gounardes used your line.

Nominations for Officers

Mel Aaronson—nominates Debby Penny. Has been long term activist. Was CL. Worked in ed. area as liaison. Was pension consultant. Rose to become borough rep. for SI. Always thought of her for trustee in NYC retirement system. Was nominated, has served admirably. Great pleasure and confidence that job I’ve held over 20 years will be in good hands.

No other nominations.

Schoor—secretary therefore makes one vote, and she is elected.

Debby Penny
—Been teacher for many years, consultant over 15, never thought I’d be in this position. Thanks Mel for his commitment to secure retirement.

Carmen Alvarez—VP Special Ed—Not easy for me, but an honor to nominate Mary Jo Janisi. Been in DOE over 20 years as occupational therapist. Worked in hard to staff areas like Bronx. Advocated for students, made partnerships with parents, trained staff, supported physical and occupational therapists. Has done great work making people understand power of union. Trouble shot problems for members. Been on many committees Has been my assistant for past year. Met with DOE, supes, deputy chancellor, advocacy groups. Has integrity, keeps word. I nominate her for VP for Special Ed.

Schoor—reads election rules. no other nominations, he elects Mary Jo Janisi new VP.

Mary Jo Janisis—Honored to follow Carmen Alvarez. Incredible to work alongside you. Thanks Carmen, EB, and President. I don’t have your experience, but I share your passion for serving others. Will carry on your legacy.

Schoor—You will now have to sit in front.

We are adjourned 6:49

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Boy Wonder in Song

I've written a lot about the exciting adventures of Boy Wonder, 30-year-old supervisor who knows everything. I've also had quite a bit written to me about him, because as far as I can tell, he works in almost every New York City school. Sometimes he's a girl, but his behavior is entirely predictable and entirely frustrating to those of us who have to see it up close and personal.

I've argued to union officials that insane supervisors are the proverbial elephant in the room, the thing everyone knows about but no one mentions. Some have agreed with me. The question then becomes what to do about them. It's hard to say. We have this bizarre evaluation system, which theoretically treats everyone equally. That's great in theory, but Boy Wonder is not about theory:

He doesn't see what happens, he doesn't hear what's said,
And every word he writes comes from the voices in his head.

I've sat and watched video of lessons. I've measured what supervisors wrote against what I saw, and they simply did not match. This is a tough thing to see, because it forces you to ask just how often that happens. I'm not terribly fond of Danielson for a number of reasons, but this particular quirk is not entirely her fault. I don't suppose, when designing her rubric, she envisioned or allowed for supervisors who were dishonest or delusional. She should have, if she were the expert she portrays herself as.

I love this column by Arwen, who used to blog here. It compares the old observations to the new ones. I can't help but conclude that free-form observation reports are far superior and more helpful than the checklist crap we have today. If you have an intelligent, experienced, and insightful leader you can really get support from something like this. A good supervisor ought not to need a dumbed down checklist to evaluate a field as infinite as teaching. A good supervisor will notice things Danielson did not imagine.

Danielson, despite all that money she's made off of our sweat and toil, does not know everything. I agree with a lot of what she suggests, though. I love to see a lively classroom with student engagement. I love it when a brilliant student takes the class over from me, and that's actually happened a few times. Alas, it doesn't happen when I click my fingers.

Worse, brilliance is the very opposite of what I see in some supervisors. Some supervisors will go to a lecture or something and decide they have found The Answer.

Boy Wonder likes it when the kids have little cards,
The green one when it's easy, the red one if it's hard.
He says highly effective when the little cards are showed,
But really he's just happy that you're doing as you're told.
Will kids just tell their classmates that they don't understand?
Not Boy Wonder's problem so don't ask him that again.

I've had several supervisors tell me this is the Way to Go. In fact, I read one observation report which actually criticized a teacher for going around the room looking at student work. That was ineffective, contended this supervisor. Instead, there should've been green and red cards. That was one of the most idiotic contentions I've ever seen, and I guess I'm ineffective too. I am constantly walking around looking at student work. That's how I know exactly what students do and don't understand.

Boy Wonder thinks you should take students' word whether they understand or not. The fact is students who don't understand may not know they don't understand. This is a quality, if not corrected, that they can grow up with. It's our job to show students a path to understanding. If we don't, they'll grow up just as Boy Wonder did, thinking he's the smartest person in the room. What happens to a person like that when he has to face an entire department of people smarter than he is?

Generally, it seems to end up with him asserting himself against questions he can't understand, let alone answer. YOU are INEFFECTIVE. It's just a little check in a box, but it's pretty degrading, particulaly when he likely as not just made the thing up. This is what a whole lot of city teachers have to face each and every day. The DOE wonders why teacher turnover is so high, but I don't.

Listen to Boy Wonder right here, and let me know whether you've worked for him before. Hope you're not working for him now.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

UFT Chapter Leader Meeting September 20th, 2018

4:35 Michael Mulgrew greets us, thanks us for coming. No contract yet, will continue negotiating.

Welcomes new chapter leaders to much applause. “Welcome to the nuthouse.” Says CL job is backbone of union and is so hard. Do not forget how much good you are going to do. You will touch and help the majority of people in your school.

Says you cannot do job alone, must have team. Look for people and bring in others. Be inclusive. Bring in folks who may have been quiet for years, Give them a chance. You will be able to help and we will give support. This is why unions are important. We’re there for people when they have a tough time. Thank you. It will be tough but you will do great things.

Last year was Janus. Says we did good job. There is no longer an agency fee payer. Last year we had over 2K AFP. By August were 410. Lowest number by far. Will update at DA, because we’ve been working on new hires. We put together aggressive plan, including two weeks of training. Before day one, 2600 of 4K had signed up.

Some small locals had their contact lists used by anti-unionists, Westchester, near Rochester. Right now there are fewer than five people who’ve dropped UFT. Says we did a great job. No one has had results like these in other states. Has faith in UFT.

At first DA will review Roberts Rules.

Class size reports tomorrow. Reporting important.

Upstairs negotiating is going on right now.

Membership teams were successful, involved people. We must move that forward. Have set up communication network. Not just UFT sending emails and texts. Would like contact list from every worksite. Name, phone and non-DOE email. No union business, ever, on DOE email.

Parental leave—seems we’re having a spike in pregnancies. If members have questions, please call borough offices. 750 applications, 446 already approved, first checks will go out next week. People are in every borough office who can explain. Asks we refer them to borough office.

New members: asks who has them—report that there are now 4400 new teachers. Says we must speak to all, and they should be referred to borough office programs. Wants CLs to help them stay in profession. So far we haven’t been affected by teacher shortage like other places in the country. One Southern district needed 241, opened 110 short. States have defunded education, denied raises for a decade. In NY we have bucked trend and spend more.

New teachers may be still smiling now, but next week is first full week. Remember where you were first year. You were going to change the world. They are the same. Don’t squash their dreams. Help them through. Let us know if you form new teacher group in school.

Work focus of union has been shifting. We need to move it faster. Every school site should be an organizing site. We are good at solving people’s problems. Schoolwide issues should be addressed in consultation committee. You need to work with whole school rather than individual issues.

We have contractual rights. Not all are implemented. We have to focus on this and enforce rules. Problems that you cannot solve should be sent to us.

Lawyers are controlling disciplinary system and central staff thinks their job is to support principal no matter what. We want to help children. We didn’t do this to be rich of famous. If leaders believe that, there will be better results. Big restructuring at DOE, and some decisions give us hope.

Asks new CLs to go to training.

Politics—NY—Last year we had a bill passed by Assembly, supported by Cuomo, said NYS would no longer mandate test scores. Senate blocked it. Primaries over. Goal not primaries. Goal to take Senate back to people who will pas that bill, fund education. We also need to call US Congress. DeVos was outsmarted last year when she tried to gut ed. programs. Wanted to kill wraparound services, funding for children in poverty, special ed., teacher training. Were actually increased.

Will not happen again. Was able to say non-public schools don’t need certified teachers or licensed clinicians. Not about person, about best interest of profession, members, caring for families. DC wants to privatize all.

With larger turnouts, more seats will be won. UFT largest union in New Jersey. We need to work with members, many in retiree chapter. UFT also largest union in Florida. Goal is APPR law we want passed in NYS legislature. Moratorium sunsets, and test scores will become 50% of teacher ratings. We will go after state and federal officials who do not support us.

This meeting last year we had Constitutional Convention. Once we got through that, we would prepare for Janus. We destroyed CC in every county in state, and came through Janus in a way that was unheard of, due to work of CLs. This year there is not as much apprehension, but we never know what will happen. We will plan and deal.

Do the same thing at school. Plan, don’t panic. Have your own friends at school level. Come up with plans and move school.

Thanks experienced CLs for staying. There are times when you ask yourself if you really want to keep doing this. But like teaching, it helps people and makes a difference. Help, organize, and show people they can make a difference.

CL backbone of UFT, thank you very much.


Some teachers are assigned to teach out of license. One has entire program out of license, Principal not talking, How will they be evaluated?

A—We will try. There will be changes. Frequent changes lately. We have to change culture of evaluation in order to move ahead. New teachers will leave because system isn’t working. Were principals trained on observations? No. They norm and that’s it. In any other system, first thing they do is train in how observations are conducted. No one here has had that training. How can you have a good discussion if people weren’t trained?

Principal’s have PPO and quality reviews. They will say instructional programs are weak. Then principals mandate and collect plans. How does that help? What’s important is not plan, but what happens. Must address this to move forward. I have seen great practices, with real discussions.

Q—We had new school built. We now have no parking. Very tough to pay $13 180 days a year. Can union help? Nearby school has many spots.

A—There is a process to create parking. I’m game to try. People don’t like having parking removed. You get bad reactions. Start at community board, not city council. We have a  lot of churn at some schools. Those schools have vested interest in helping.

Q—Contract negotiations—What can I say to members?

A—You are member of committee, and you can’t answer.

Q—If some districts can hold over K and special needs students, and others can’t, what will first grade teachers do?

A—No one held over in your district? This could lead to a lawsuit. System wants everyone literate by grade 3. We need proper supports for the child. Teacher protected because they need only growth, not grade level. I get upset because school could be labeled, could be stigma. Will be state list next month. Third year of Renewal. Decisions will be made at third year. practice could be issue.

Q—What’s going on with custodians and union. Our school in disrepair, hiring freeze/

A—DOE and city seem to be trying to figure where money is. Still looking for 4 billion from Albany. 300 lawyers at central may be issue. We say if we’re getting all this funding, why don’t schools appear well-treated? Hearing more and more of that. Some schools have improved with people working together. If we want children to do well, city should make schools look great.

Q—Principal has instituted online grading. Has been fine. This year new system, teachers are unhappy. Took away discretion. Very easy for students to pass.

A—We can question policy via contract. If principal changes to show more people passing, means they are trying to make their own evaluation better. This is not online grading. This is making all kids get 55 no matter what.

Q—We had charters pushing into our building. What is UFT stance on charters?

A—Courts say charters want to be considered public. This is how they privatize. With transparency or serving all students, they are private. Want money, want space, don’t want to be held accountable for serving students or what they do with money. We sue them. Four chains doing this. Mom and pop ones seem to be trying to survive. Don’t have millions Constant fight, and we will continue.

12 years ago charters thought they would have half of city schools. They lost. Fight still continues. Five years ago was horrendous. Now we run localized campaigns. Law is problem because charter has right to city space. We have to prove school doesn’t have space, and then they get other facility or we pay rent. Problem is schools have space. Others are at 2-300%.

What about teacher teams? PPO asks for them but we have no agreement, or time set aside.

A—Schools that want to do the work have worked it out. Others have no plan. We have to get to the point of having it not be a waste of time. This is part of what’s wrong with entire culture. We have two districts that now have master and model teachers training others. To be eligible, they have to do two years of inter visitations. These schools have moved instructional practice. DOE hasn’t done any of this. This was initiated by teachers. This may be a model of how to deal with observation. This was professional and collaborative.

Q—We often get students counseled out by charters. Funding doesn’t come with them. They often have IEPs. If we have Democratic majority in Senate, maybe we can keep charter cap down. Will we try to decrease it or work for moratorium?

A—We will have major discussions not just about cap, but about their serving all children. They never want anyone to look at their practices. Moskowitz claimed 100% grad rate. Was really 17 of 76. Wall St. Journal wrote it was ridiculous. They got away with it because there is no transparency. We think, with Democratic majority we can get more done.

Q—Grateful to be part of union. What is your take on teachers agreeing to have observations recorded?

A—I was also a mentor for new teachers. Feel very strongly about helping them. Asked permission to record. Was safe. There is benefit, but should be teacher’s idea. If principal pressures for it, it’s a bad idea. I was recorded and realized why kids sat in back right, because I asked questions from front left. You need to have a conversation about what they’re trying to do. They cannot impose. Maybe you could make this about entire observation process. Make this an opportunity.

Q—MOTP—In district 75 attendance part of algorithm, which I’ve never seen. Principal says we should get them to school because we have an attendance teacher. Can we get attendance out?

A—We will try to work this out with DOE. Adverse rating issues at all time low. We had bad anomaly of bilingual teachers who taught bilingual special needs kids, which we had removed. We will check into this.

Q—Thanks union for support in tough times this year. Had chance to max out TDA. What would be best date to roll it back?

A—Not answering. I don’t give financial advice. Mel Aaronson will help. We have two prominent officers retiring—Mel Aaronson and Carmen Alvarez. Cannot thank them enough for their service. Were selfless non-stop workers.

Q—Our admin has been focusing on NPPR, (Note--I think this teacher was referring to PPO, the principal evaluation system.) principal’s rating, because it will affect our rating and school’s rating. First time I’ve heard of it. They want PD on it.

A—Clearly they don’t have enough instructional people. Can look at it. Will send Jackie Bennett to observe PD.

Q—What’s your relationship with Carranza? Good, fair positive, combative?

A—Fariña was not good to have public fights with. We’d had Klein, Black, Walcott and Bloomberg all together. We were looked at as people who just wanted to fight with everyone. For Carmen, we tried to restore respect for profession. We had issues with her management. Policies moved back into right direction.

Many members don’t remember bad times. Personally, chancellor is really good guy. But I do my job. What are we looking for him to do? We want DOE to support and help schools, not just control workforce via principals. Is it about control or education? If you harass and bully kids so they do worksheets, they don’t learn. We make decisions based on what union needs at that moment. We need to embrace and support working people at the schools. Bar was low when Fariña came in. Was comparison with Bloomberg’s last term. We need new chancellor to work with us to help. I’m optimistic.

Just because you get along, for example, with principal, doesn’t mean you don’t have responsibility to staff.

Glad we spoke, loved questions, if anything happens in negotiations you will be called quickly.

5:53 We are adjourned.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Crapification Factor in CAASS

I stole that word, "crapification," from my friend Michael Fiorillo, but I'm fairly certain he stole it from someone else. In any case, I think it applies to our new online attendance system.

We started using this system last year. It really didn't seem so bad. First of all, it was late in the year, so I knew all the names of all my students. I'd just look at it and I'd know who I was looking for. Admin said they thought it would be better to start immediately rather than wait until September, and they were absolutely right about that. In September, it's nightmarish.

There are several reasons for that. One is that, as I said, I don't know student names yet. That makes it difficult. Usually, I'd start out with the students in rows. I'd use a Delaney book for a few weeks. That way, I could see who students were and learn their names fairly quickly. This year, I'm in a half-classroom with a full class. I can't put students in rows.

My students are at tables, four to a table. I can't make that work in a Delaney book. Instead, I've drawn pictures of tables on a piece of paper, and I've written student names where they sit at each table. This was not nearly as good as the Delaney book for me, but it was better than nothing. That was, of course, until they started the Dance of Equalization, or whatever is going on.

Another issue is that this attendance system is not quite keeping up. I get kids in my class, and they don't appear for days on the system. On the grading program, Skedula, they show, but I can't mark them absent or present. I have one student who cut two days and I couldn't record it. Now he's on, so I guess I'm supposed to go back and change it. That's fine, of course, because  like all city teachers, I have nothing else to do.

Another thing is you need to save the attendance. It isn't enough to just mark it. That's problematic for two reasons. One is that if you forget to save, you have to go back and do it again. Perish forbid the program should assume that you meant to do what you went and did and record it automatically. Why not add another step just for fun? Also, you never know how long saving will take, It could be instant, it could be in a minute, and it could be forever. A colleague of mine waited a whole period without having it save. Her computer power died as she waitied.

In case that's not enough, when you click the period of your class, that's not enough. If you teach only one section it doesn't go to that section. Rather, it makes you select the name of your course. Actually I have two classes that contain two sections each, so I have to do a lot of extra clicking. Now if you have two sections, a seating chart won't help unless you choose to group the students by these sections. I don't do that. I let students sit where they like as long as they don't cause problems.

Of course, I've saved the best for last. I use my computer for a lot of things in the classroom. I show presentations in Keynote or Powerpoint almost every day. I also record homework for completion in Skedula if I'm not collecting it. When students are absent, if they speak Spanish, I will call homes in front of the class just to let them know I do stuff like that. All the phone numbers come from my computer.

Now I've got my computer tied up with doing attendance, which takes a lot longer than it ought to. I liked this attendance program when we started it. Now, I kind of hate it, and I realize that each September, and who knows how long with program changes, it will waste an awful lot of teacher time.

And all that, I attribute to crapification. As far as I'm concerned, that's the only thing the people who designed this system are good at. It's their job to make the system as simple as possible for working teachers constantly pressed for time. At that they have failed miserably.

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Mysterious Case of the Missing District Reps-- UFT Exec Board Sept. 17, 2018

We are late because there was a contract negotiation meeting. Howard Schoor welcomes us at 6:13.

Minutes— approved

Staff director—LeRoy Barr
—-Welcomes us back, thanks negotiating committee. Thanks for good turnout Labor Day Parade. After parade event was successful. CL meeting Thursday 20th. Announcement of vacancies, for EB, today. CL training 10/13-14. Making Strides walk 10/14, Central Park. Next EB Sept. 24. DA 10/17.

Howard Schoor thanks Norm Scott for coming to Labor Day parade. Norm says he came for barbecue.

Jeff Sorkin, Welfare Fund,
on paid parental leave. 776 people have applied as of Friday, 446 approved. Wants to process checks as of Wednesday.

Q—Why weren’t some accepted?
A—not rejected yet. Just waiting on process.

Arthur Goldstein—There was a story in the Post the other day about a failed administrator accused of grade-fixing here. She moved to Baldwin, where she harassed young women about their clothes and posted names and allegations against suspended students, in violation of federal regulations. She was just hired back by the city as an assistant principal.

I’ve seen teachers have a-fib attacks after meeting with supervisors. I saw one teacher have a heart attack outside an administrative office. A friend of mine complained his supervisor promised him a bad rating, and died ten days later.

Sometimes people really want to “get out of the classroom.” One way to do that is to go into supervision. Sometimes people who don’t like classrooms tend not to respect teachers that much. This is a huge issue, and people write me about it all the time.

Perhaps the mayor is okay with hiring failed administrators who change grades, humiliate students, and violate federal regulations that managed to survive Betsy DeVos. Maybe the chancellor’s on board with that too. We should ask them.

Meanwhile, what can we do to cast a spotlight on abusive administrators? How can we make it as inconvenient as possible for them to behave like this? Maybe you'd like to think about this for a while. I don't need an answer right now.

Schoor—We have reached out to schools who came here. Would they speak to reporters? They did not want to. We’re always available, but aggrieved members have to come forward. We met with teachers who went public with a lawsuit but wouldn’t take other actions. We are always available and looking for best way forward.

Jonathan Halabi—How many discontinuances over summer? Which schools have highest turnover rates?

—Mike Sill not here. Will get info.

KJ Ahluwalia—Summers are getting warmer. Kids were fainting while taking Regents exams in summer school. What are we doing? We hear excuses.

Schoor—President will speak to that.

President’s Report—Mike Mulgrew
—Hot schools—don’t think they’ll be done by 2020. We have to incentivize. Principal and custodian always have AC. SCA has process where they can move electrical jobs up earlier. We need to turn up pressure on them.

Negotiating committee proceeding. Proud of work done over summer.

Not sure number of agency fee payers, from 2000 down to around 400. Next challenge is process for new members, who are no longer members until we speak with them. We did new member engagement over summer. We had names and phone numbers. By first week we signed 2500 of 4000 members. Will probably be another 900 new teachers in next few weeks.

Chancellor having bus issues. Some change in DOE central. Trying to inform them job is to help school system, not just grant employment.

Two UFT officers are retiring. Stayed through Janus. Thanks for the guidance, courage, and diligence—Carmen Alvarez and Mel Aaronson going to work with retiree chapter. We will need names of people who wish to run by Monday.

Alvarez—loves union, thanks for opportunity to support members and young people they serve. UFT allowed me to make a difference. Believes new contract will be game changer. Opportunity for you to create magic in schools. Thanks us.

—Thanks us.

—Knows officers for a long time. Thanks Mel and Carmen for years of service. We know a lot about the school system, we will have continuity and institutional memory they don’t at DOE.

Reports from Districts

Karen Alford—Labor Day Parade—first time we did BBQ. Great attendance. Was great to have members socializing, was great to see all those connections, people having such a good time. Nice contrast to Janus. Good to start on a high note.

D. Brown—June 24th, pride march, over 300 members, Thanks LeRoy Barr and others.

Pat Crispino—20 year old student passed away in school. Thanks those who stayed at school to help members. Mark Divet was teacher of class where it happened. Tried to revive student but could not. Mom was very thankful to those who tried to save him. Schools are family and community. Will be GoFundMe page for family.

Michael Friedman—Lost a member, Maria Romano, payroll secretary who was very helpful. Worked through cancer, came in daily until she couldn’t, passed on June 16th. Moment of silence.

Retiree chapter news—forming new section in Mid-Hudson. Has 1000 members in area. Recruiting in NJ, PA, and FL.

Shelvy Abrams—organized para chapter in 68. Needs support in 50th year as member of UFT. Reach out to paras that we are reaching a milestone. Proud to organize and represent 29,000 members.

Schoor—We ran against DC37 for bargaining rights, and won.

Serbia Silva—Annual welcome back to district, over 50 reps. Chancellor came, students played amazing song and chancellor sang with them. CLs wore Labor Day Parade shirts. Chancellor thanked union, was great event. Thanks UFT.

District 20, welcoming new members. Had meet and greet. Had over 50 people, newest hires. Had pension people, certification, and will do maternity and parental leave workshops.

Legislative Report—Paul Egan—Giants and Jets lost, Eagles at top of division. Chelsea 5 and 0.

Elections last week. Tish James won, will likely win election. IDC got annihilated. We didn’t endorse any by Marisol A., who was good on Janus. Robert Jackson has always been friend of union and he will win. Changes nothing unless GOP loses control. Simka Felder will likely win. We may overturn Marty Golden. Will be our main focus. Only other is Andrew Lanza, and he will likely win. We will ask Brooklyn to help us get vote out. There are enough UFT members to win all these races if we get out to vote, but we don’t. Primary turned out only 25%. If we get good turnout, we will win. Let’s make it happen.

Retirees don’t have to be union members or COPE contributors, but retirees will have contributed over 1 million this year. If they can do that, we can get another million.

Schoor—Marty Golden voted to do away with layoff clause, and we assembled 400 people in front of his office. Says he’s a charter school guy.

Jonathan Halabi I have a question as to process. This summer the HS representatives urged that NYSUT endorse the challengers to the IDC in the NY State Senate. We know that the UFT does not make statewide endorsements, but makes suggestions in Albany. So we asked to speak to the UFT RECOMMENDATIONS, and since we did not get a response until the Friday before the conference, we asked to at least know what the UFT recommendations would be – but the response was: “the starting point for the races you mention is open, meaning the discussion will not start with the incumbent but will result in a neutral start to the conversation.”

And then I heard from Albany, and I could have been misinformed, but this is what I heard: that the UFTers in Albany worked lock-step to block an endorsement of Alessandra Biaggi. Who, by the way, I saw plenty of UFTers working for, and, who also by the way, won, and we are now thankfully free of Jeff Klein.

But my question is not to argue who was right and who was wrong. I want to ask about process. The UFT makes recommendations to NYSUT, and at least sometimes those recommendations carry the day. Shouldn’t these recommendations be subject to membership, DA, or Exec Board approval?

Schoor—We don’t carry the day. We have about one third of NYSUT. Locals and area also discuss every single candidate. We make a recommendation that goes to NYSUT board that makes final recommendation.

Paul Egan—84 Board of Directors and we have about 20. These are state ones. Congressional go through AFT and NEA. We’ve interviewed all candidates. Starts at borough level. If people want to be part of process they can contact PAC.

It isn’t always black and white. We have to be careful as to what other things are in play. Politics is not simply one thing. If Klein got in and we were with Biaggi all things he was good with us on could blow up. Statewide feeling that we were going to not endorse IDC. Some people have great relationships with local senators. We have many others in NYC we can go to. Everyone in state has a vote. Not just us.

Schoor—NYSUT endorsed no GOP senators, and only one in IDC.

Egan—She had hopped back and forth but was lead sponsor in helping us with Janus.

Schoor—Special order of business—

Vanessa Preston—Selection process on selection of UFT District Reps—urges flexibility that DRs may be interviewed or appointed from out of district if they’ve been CLs, DRs, on Exec Board, or UFT officers.

In response to requests from CLs. Would allow committee to consider CLs from other districts. Not enough qualified candidates have stepped up over last few years.

Marie Callo—Supports. What better way to have more choice? Says CLs have requested this.

?—Also in support because we didn’t have a lot of qualified candidates. We need more people to step up. Committee can hear them out.

Jonathan HalabiI rise in opposition to this resolution. 
District Reps should be responsible to the Chapter Leaders they serve. In the past Chapter Leaders elected their District Reps – now that’s real accountability. 
Not only does this resolution not restore this basic piece of control to the chapter leaders – it allows DRs from outside the district, it allows a retiree to become DR.

DRs should be accountable to all the CLs in their district, not just those on the committee. That’s fundamental, you should be accountable to those you serve. 

If we wanted to increase the pool, why require chapter leaders to come from the school they serve? If we wanted to increase the pool, why require executive board members to come from the UFT?

Motion passes.

We are adjourned.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Bad Leaders and What We Should Fear

I get a lot of complaints from all over. Sometimes I forward them to people I think can help. Sometimes these people get help. Other times, they ask me not to tell anyone. It's hard to help someone when they don't want anyone but me to know their issue. If it were in my building, maybe I could do something. Maybe not.

A lot of chapter leaders will tell you this is the number one issue--"I have this problem. It's the worst problem on earth. But I don't want to file a grievance. And when YOU complain about it, make sure MY name doesn't come up." Sometimes I can pull that off. Sometimes I can't. It depends a lot on the situation.

I once had a discussion with such a member. I can't file a grievance, he said. I asked him why he thought, then, that I could. Why is it I can do this but you can't? Because you're you, he told me. I can't argue with that. I'm me. I'm not sure, though, how that makes me special or unique. I'm not sure what any administrator could have done to that teacher that couldn't be done to me.

I know several teachers from several schools that complain endlessly to me about the awful things their principals do. I don't doubt what they say at all. Their principals are vindictive. They go after anyone who contradicts them. They impose things that violate the contract.

There are remedies for at least some of these things. Blatant violations in observations result in APPR complaints. You need to make them within five days of knowledge. Here's a list of things that have been successful. There have been successful APPR complaints in my building. Sometimes supervisors will think twice before doing things twice if they don't work once.

If principals won't honor the contract, you can file grievances. Grievances are a huge pain in the ass, because the process seems to go on forever. The first place they go is the principal, who likely as not made the violation personally. Some principals will read the contract, understand it, and honor it. Some will reject everything out of hand, and go right to step two. Others will call the clown car that is Bloomberg's DOE legal department. I recently met someone who used to work for that department. This person told me few if any of the lawyers there have even read the contract.

Legal tells principals they can do anything they like. Then you go to step two, where the DOE hacks reject absolutely everything no matter what. I've listened to some of them who knew the principal was wrong, but ruled with the principal anyway. That's their job, evidently, and after they do it these things are literally rubber stamped with the chancellor's name. I understand member frustration at this, particularly because last year I went to maybe ten step two hearings.

The next step is arbitration, and this year I'll go to ten or more arbitration hearings. Of course if contractual violations mount up the way they did last year, that will also be another ten step two hearings. That's not to mention the class size hearings I go to twice a year. I'm up for whatever. Not everyone is.

People sometimes tell me their chapter leaders say, "I can't take sides." That's absurd. I always take sides. I side with the member, and I side with the Collective Bargaining Agreement. If your chapter leader doesn't take sides, you need a new chapter leader. You could say, though, that it's risky to be chapter leader with a vindictive principal. It certainly is. But someone needs to step up.

Here's the thing--if you say it's too dangerous to be chapter leader, if you say it's too dangerous to file a grievance, if you say it's too dangerous to enforce the contract, you are right. You have given up and there is no contract. The contract exists only as far as it can be enforced. If you don't enforce it, for whatever reason, it's meaningless.

The first semester I taught I had four preps. I had no idea that was a violation. My UFT chapter leader approached me in the bathroom. " wanna join the union?" Why not, I thought, and filled out the card. One day my AP asked me if I wanted to teach ESL. "What's ESL?" I asked. The next day I had five preps, and one was ESL.

We all need help. We all need people to look after us. Sometimes, though, we need to get up on our hind legs and speak. The more of us who do it, the better. The principal can go after me if I stand up, that's true. It's true for you too. If all of us stand up, it'll likely take a lot of the principal's time to go after everyone.

You can also come to Executive Board and be heard. Sometimes that helps. Sometimes it doesn't. You don't really have guarantees of what will happen. You can blame me for that if you like. You can blame Mulgrew if you like. I always try to help. I do not always win.

Here's one thing I can guarantee, though. If you have an abusive principal who routinely violates the contract, and you do nothing about it, tomorrow you will have that very same abusive principal. And the days, weeks, months and years after that, you'll have the same. In fact, things can get worse. Why shouldn't an abusive principal be emboldened after seeing no one will stand against her?

Sometimes people wait until they're painted into a corner to act. This is what's happening in several red states where the teachers have risen up. I don't think it's a good idea to wait until we're backed into a corner with nowhere else to go. But, as a colleague told me, I'm me. Not everyone is.

It's my job to be me, so I do it. It's your job to be you, and it might be your job to organize your colleagues to help fight that terrible principal. Alternatively, you could wait for someone else to do it. If that's your choice, I have to advise you to sit while you wait. It could happen tomorrow. It could happen next year, or it could never happen.

The only person you can really control is yourself.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Another Day, Another Scandal-Plagued Principal in Fun City

One of the great things about being a principal is that no matter what you do, NYC wants you. You read about these principals who do awful things, harass staff, and nothing happens to them until the city's on the hook for almost a million bucks in payoffs. Can you imagine what Campbell Brown, or whoever the reformies are using this week, would be ranting about if this were a teacher?

Nonetheless, principals can do pretty much whatever. Evidently, the only consequence is being sent to twiddle your thumbs over at Tweed. Nice work if you can get it, I suppose. Of course, not every principal is reassigned. I regularly hear tales of abuse, incompetence, cruelty and various mixtures up to all of the above.

The former principal of Automotive High School did not fare so well at that particular gig. Evidently, she had failing Regents scores changed to passing. She drove teachers from their jobs, and most didn't return anyway when they did the big rehiring thing they do in those "renewal" schools. It's funny how the city will determine a school is failing, blame the teachers, and let the principal stay on. Maybe they figure principals have nothing to do with progress or lack thereof. Maybe they don't want to pay them to shuffle papers in Tweed. Or maybe they have rabbis who look after them and make sure nothing bad happens.

This particular principal moved on to greener pastures. She scored a gig in Baldwin, Long Island, making 169K a year. While there, she zeroed in on crucial issues, like girls wearing short skirts or visible bra straps. She contended such clothing was "distracting to male staff members." I'm reminded of those religious guys who won't sit next to women on planes because it's evidently too much for them to restrain their animal urges.

Perhaps short skirts are distracting. On the other hand, this year I'm sitting in half a classroom, and that's even more distracting. I'd be perfectly happy to have every one of my female students wear short skirts if I could get a real classroom. Maybe there's something wrong with me, but it would be a lot easier for me to ignore their clothing than the fact that I can't give a test without having everyone and anyone cheat as much as they want. I have other colleagues working in trailers with no AC. I'll bet you they'd be OK with girls dressing how they wish if they could have it. In fact, you could argue that the students wearing the scantiest clothing are the brightest, given those conditions.

This principal also saw fit to name suspended students, along with their alleged infractions, in a newsletter she sent out. I find that remarkable. Full disclosure--I am not the most diplomatic person around. Nonetheless, I've been writing this blog since 2005 and the most I've ever revealed the names of my students, good, bad or indifferent, has been never. I'd argue that's common sense, and that even if it's the least common of all the senses, you have to follow it. In case that's not enough, it's also in violation of federal regulations.

The Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, strictly prohibits the disclosure of student records, including disciplinary decisions, except to those directly involved with the student’s education, said Joel Reidenberg, director of the Center on Law and Information Policy at Fordham University.

So what do you do with a principal like that? If you're Mayor Bill de Blasio, or Chancellor Richard Carranza, or whichever of their operatives makes such decisions, you hire her back, but this time as an assistant principal. I don't actually know who made this decision. I can tell you with 100% certainty that neither of the principals I've worked with as chapter leader would have hired a person with a record like this.

The only bright spot here is that she makes less money than teachers at the top of the salary scale. I'm gonna go ahead and say that will be cold comfort to the poor souls who will have to work for her. Maybe she'll be on her best behavior, but who even wants to find out what that's like?

I'm sure if I did half of what this principal did I'd be sitting at a 3020a hearing, wondering whether or not I'd have a job next month.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Geniuses in Albany 1--ELLs 0

Yesterday I was sitting in an office trying to catch up. I was doing pretty well for a while. In fact, I planned to go ahead and expand my planning a few days into the future. Then a guidance counselor walked in with a young newcomer. She was looking for a translator since the newcomer could not hold a conversation in English.

We learned that this young woman had aced the test designed to measure her English. No ESL classes for her. The fact that she could not hold a conversation in English was neither here nor there. Go to that English class with a bunch of American-born native English speakers and do whatever they're doing. After all, speaking is not that important. We only do it maybe 20 or 30 times more frequently than we write. In the hallowed halls where the geniuses from Albany work they do much more writing. After all, it takes a lot to sit on your ass all day shooting memos to your subordinates.

My AP was not around. I had no idea where she was. I decided to take her to the principal. I wanted him to see the sort of kid Albany thought needed no help with English. Unfortunately his door was closed and he was doing Important Principal Stuff. You can never talk with principals when they're doing that, of course, so I turned elsewhere. Then I remembered the Top Secret place where I find my AP when she doesn't wish to be found. It's good to be the chapter leader. You learn everyone's deep dark secrets.

Once again I dragged the kid and her guidance counselor up the stairs. I have to give the counselor credit for allowing me to drag her all over the building. Not everyone is as patient as she is. I know I'm not. But she also knew there was something seriously wrong with this placement, and wanted to fix it. I was dispatched to find the girl's composition.

We looked at it, and evidently it used advanced constructions. I did not much like it myself, but what do I know? If the geniuses in Albany say writing one semi-coherent paragraph means you no longer need help with a language you've been trying to master for only a week, that should be good enough for anyone. "Where are we gonna place her?" asked my boss. She rattled off a bunch of course codes. I had no idea what they meant.

"I'll take her," I said.

So today, this newcomer will be in my advanced class. One of the questions I asked her, through a translator, was whether she had ever read a book in English. The answer was no. This further confounded me. How the hell can the geniuses from Albany think someone who's never read a book in English would feel at home in a high school English class?

We will remedy that in my class. While I was interrupted, I was warming up to write a lesson on chapter one of The Number One Ladies Detective Agency, a beautiful book about a young woman coming into herself in Botswana. The thing I really love about this book is that it conveys a lot of complex ideas in relatively simple language. I think this young woman may hate me for a while, like all the students in that class, but will end up very proud she was able to get through an entire novel in English. At least I hope so.

I asked her why she didn't like her English class.

"Accountable talk," she said. "What is accountable talk?"

I'm not really sure. I see signs up saying, "I agree/ disagree with this because..." and other conversation prompts. Evidently it has something to do with giving reasons for things you say. I'm not at all sure that's trending in the United States these days, what with President Trump saying any goshdarn thing that comes into his brain, whether it makes sense or not.

"Don't worry," I told her. "In my class, we will never talk about accountable talk."

I figure if I need to know why a student says something, I can just ask. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

When Will We Have a President Who Doesn't Hate Us?

It's kind of remarkable, in this day and age, to read that we're actually spending less to support those of our students most in need. NYC alone is receiving 140 million less. How on earth do your rationalize that? I guess you could say that throwing money at schools is a mistake. Better to throw it at wars, I suppose, or on bombs. Those bombs don't grow on trees.

In 2006, when the decline began, GW Bush was President. GW was a terrible education president, president over a whole lot of nonsense based on test scores. The factor of poverty was ignored, because after all, Bill Gates decided to ignore it, and he has all that money. Instead, we allowed Gates to throw a little of his money into seed projects, and then a whole lot of communities, including NYC, were left to throw a ton of good money after bad. You know, we had all those school closings and the small schools that later closed themselves.

This was so trendy that our new best friend Andrew Cuomo came out demanding the death penalty for schools. This was remarkable in that his father, who from all indications was not insane, was famous for his opposition to the death penalty. (If you're a registered Democrat, you can register your dissatisfaction with our reptile governor by voting for Cynthia Nixon today. First thing, before I go to work, that's what I'm gonna do. NYC Educator further endorses Jumaane Williams and Zephyr Teachout.)

Of course, after GW Bush took up his new career of not being President, Barack Obama came in and continued GW's awful policies. Who can forget his execrable education secretary, Arne Duncan, telling the world that Hurricane Katrina was the best thing to happen to education in New Orleans? Imagine that. A natural disaster. Almost two thousand dead. Over half the residents of New Orleans left. Unions were broken, public schools were closed, and the entire city was given to privatizers. That was good enough for Arne Duncan.

Now we've got Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos. If you can even imagine this, DeVos is less qualified than Duncan. Why? Because Duncan actually held a few jobs before getting this one. DeVos believes in everything Duncan does, plus vouchers. Vouchers have been rejected by voters all over the country. That is why reformies are going with charters. They are, however, just another means to break public schools. That's why Betsy loves them.

In other news, Betsy hates union. She's shocked that she was unable to unilaterally impose a collective bargaining agreement. Of course, as someone who's never held a job before, perhaps she doesn't even know what a union is. After all, she was born rich, married richer, and has never had to bother with working, let alone working people. Who the hell do they think they are saying no to her, after she's bought some of the finest GOP politicians she could pay for?

DeVos is upset because she lost a suit to protect predatory student lenders. In fact, she's so angry, she's ignoring a judge's order to negotiate before making agreements, and is doing any goshdarn thing she feels like.  Because hey, what's the point of being rich if you can't do any goshdarn thing you feel like? She's unilaterally telling working people they can no longer telecommute. Hey, if Betsy DeVos has to show up to the office every now and again, you lowlifes who do this for salary rather than power can show up every last goshdarn minute.

And doing union business when you're actually at the workplace? Forget it. Let's make that as inconvenient as possible. DeVos would just as soon see us making minimum wage with no benefits whatsoever. Duncan was no better. He did more to actively break union than Betsy ever did. Now Arne's all over Twitter expressing outrage about Trump and the NRA. Just because he may have crawled out of someone else's pocket doesn't make him any less of a crook.

We are in crisis. We need to elect people who will help us. Cuomo wants to help us this week, but that's only because he's running against Donald Trump rather than his actual opponents. If corporate Democrats take over, expect him to become his lovable old self and trash us as an education monopoly.

It's very hard for me to understand how working people can vote for people, Democrat or Republican, who doesn't support them. I guess the easy thing would be to blame the teachers.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

How Do We Recruit Teachers of Color?

That's the question posed in this NY Times piece. There is a whole lot about how students respond better when their teachers look like them. Where are all those teachers of color, and why are so many teachers women? It won't do for me to just go to work tomorrow and ask my colleagues why they're women. Doubtless it has something to do with biology.

Actually teaching is traditionally a profession dominated by women, as is nursing. There really are not a whole lot of professions like that. There's no really easy way to say this, but we live in a sexist society, have done for years, and with Donald Trump President, I don't see that changing any time soon. There's a reason why our pay lags behind other professions, and there's a reason why a whole lot of states can't be bothered to pay us.

I used to go to MORE meetings, usually with a bunch of white people, and someone would get up and ask why there aren't any teachers of color. I don't know what to say to that. My work entails representing working teachers, not recruiting new ones. I'm not going door to door and asking people why they don't go into teaching. I hear quite a bit from teachers who say they don't want their children to go into it and be observed by Boy Wonder until they are sick to their stomachs. I understand that. I can imagine some arbitrator at Gold Street sentencing a teacher to Death by Danielson.

Honestly, who needs that? Who needs to be vilified in the press on a daily basis? Who needs to hear that the job we do is terrible, that we're failing the students, and that the only solution is to leave our public schools in the hands of white billionaires like Betsy DeVos, Bill Gates, and the Walton family, none of whom would send their kids to public schools on a bet? I have an idea. Maybe we should put the school systems in the hands of people of color, you know, people whose kids attend our schools. Or maybe we should make the gazillionaires, if they care so much, send their kids to public schools.

The Times does place this little tidbit way at the end of the article:

More qualified people would stay in the profession if the jobs had better pay, benefits and support. Nonwhite teachers in schools with poor resources are at particular risk of burning out.

Like most of the piece,  this seems to apply to everyone, not just people of color. I question why white teachers with poor resources would be inclined to hang around. I can tell you plenty do not. I fail to see why only teachers of color want better pay, benefits and support. I want better pay, benefits and support, and I'd very much like to meet the person who doesn't.

Non-teachers think this job is a walk in the park, you just get up in front of the class, make the kids do some homework and take tests, and go home.  Here's a fact the Times writer may not know--New York City has the highest class sizes in the state. The more kids you face, the less time you have to address their issues. If you can't or don't address their issues, your chances of being a successful teacher plummet. There are few things more soul-crushing than losing control of a class. I'd argue that would be awful for just about anyone.

Here's another thing the Times may not know. We have a society that provides crap jobs and little opportunity for a lot of our people. This places families in crisis. If you need money, you can't always put work off four years so you can go to college. In fact, you often can't handle the tuition, despite Andrew Cuomo's brilliant plan to cover 3.5% of those who attend state or city colleges., Maybe if we created more real opportunities, as opposed to talking points for our relentlessly ambitious governor, more people of color would take advantage. In fact, maybe if our governor funded our schools to the tune of the C4E law, there could be better pay, benefits and support for teachers.

Maybe that would do it. I haven't got a magic bullet, but I respectfully suggest that people who want a better or more diverse teaching force might refrain from treating us like crap. Let me further suggest that this begin at the Times Editorial Board, most of whom wouldn't know a good teacher if one were beating them over the head. In many respects, I couldn't blame that teacher at all.