Sunday, December 30, 2018

I'm Here

That was the response, by one of my colleagues, when I asked, "How are you?" That makes me sad. She's not the only one, though. Sometimes, I get responses like, "Living the dream." This is even more depressing, because you're not only saying things suck, but you're ridiculing the possibility they may not. A few weeks ago, someone handed me a pamphlet when I was entering the DA. I asked, "How are you?" and the guy said, "I'm alive." "That's a low bar," I said.

We really have to take a look at that. I don't know exactly what's wrong with me, but I'm generally unable to see things like that. I mean, Donald Trump is the frigging President of the United States, and it's hard for me to think of anything more depressing than that. The day I found out, I dressed in black head to toe and forgot to go to the Delegate Assembly. I couldn't focus at all.

Now I'm excited about dumping him, sending him home, to prison,or whatever. I'm glad to see people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez alive and speaking truth to mealy-mouthed moderation. I'm thrilled the GOP hacks hate her so much, and go out of their way to ridicule her for her radical ideas, like health care for all, a living wage for Americans, and affordable college.

Things are tougher here in NYC. Sometimes I know exactly why people give me answers like those. Something happened, something didn't happen, something may or may not happen, and people take things to heart. Other times it's more disturbing. For me, there are few things so upsetting as having a teacher 30 years younger than I am tell me how lucky I am because I can retire. I think how lucky they are to be 30 years younger than I am. I wonder, though, whether I felt the same way 30 years ago.

It's hard to bring good news to working teachers. It's hard to inspire or rekindle hope. My building is generally okay, since two of the worst administrators I've ever encountered have moved on to torture people elsewhere. Yet all over the city there are lunatics in charge of working people, frequently because they've moved up. This teaching job is so hard that they couldn't wait to get out of the classroom, and now their subordinates hate them just as much as their students ever did. You can't win. You go to another place, but if your problem is yourself, it just tags along for the ride.

We have a new feature in the contract designed to target abusive and insane administrators, but it hasn't been tested yet. I certainly hope it proves effective. I think that would lessen the unsatisfactory responses to, "How are you?" But only time will tell. A lot of us are frightened to act, and that's an issue too.  I used to be like that. I used to worry that people would find out who wrote this blog. Now I don't care.

Maybe it's because I have enough time in that if someone were to come after me, the very worst thing to happen would be getting forced into retirement. I don't know. I just don't ever remember being so down that I'd say, "I'm here," when asked how I was.

I'm cheered by fewer observations. I know that isn't enough. In a country where teachers are perpetual scapegoats, nothing will ever be enough. It's kind of on us to stand up to this. I'm up for it, but I understand a lot of people are not. Some teachers feel this is a profession where you get to keep your head down and be quiet. I don't understand exactly how you interact with large groups of kids like that. I can't do it.

But I want us to be better than here. We need to tell our students we are more than here. We need to tell our country we are more than here. We need to not only be here. We need to be vocal and active. We need to stand up and defend our profession, and work to make it better. It's on us to make a better world for our children and students.

We start by getting our own house in order. That's not remotely easy. But it's essential.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Arne Duncan--Yet Another Disaster for Puerto Rico

I'm friends with several people born in Puerto Rico, and the stories they tell will break your heart. Despite Donald Trump gamely tossing paper towels at people, the island has still not fully recovered from Hurricane Maria. Even before the hurricane, Puerto Rico was afflicted with vulture capitalists intent on draining its last drop of blood, enriching themselves while leaving the island barren of a middle class.

Then I see on Twitter that Arne Duncan is visiting. This could not bode well for the people of Puerto Rico, I thought.

It's true. Arne Duncan, the very person who said, in front of God and everybody that Hurricane Katrina was the best thing to happen to NOLA education, is working his magic in Puerto Rico. I don't think New Orleans, having experienced it,  is much amused. First of all, aside from the deaths, the injuries, and the massive loss of population, the schools do not seem to have improved. The only benefit has been for Arne's BFFs in the charter industry, people who see fit to monetize our children.

Puerto Rico, in fact, is facing the very same pressures New Orleans was. Charter schools were illegal in Puerto Rico until the hurricane presented an opportunity to privatize. Arne hasn't specifically tweeted on that, as far as I know, but he's still pushing his book, as well as the outlandish notion that he knows something about education. People are speaking out.

Peter Greene has a great piece in Forbes about how Arne keeps peddling his nonsense. Duncan is completely out of touch with what those of us who serve America's children see each and every day.

Duncan is also fond of the notion that class size doesn't matter as much as teacher quality, as if teacher quality isn't affected by class size. A paragraph later Duncan reasserts the importance of the "building meaningful relationships" with students, but he has never seemed to consider how much harder that is to do in a classroom full of thirty or forty or fifty students.

If you're a teacher, you're likely judged and rated by one form or another of junk science. Despite the fact that there's no scientific evidence to establish student test scores as a criteria for how well teachers do their jobs, his "Race to the Top" pushed not only that nonsense, but also non-unionized charter schools all over the country.  Now Puerto Rico, in addition to its other very real woes, has to contend with this nonsense as well.

Arne Duncan can tour the country blabbering about his book, but the fact is that the charter school movement is inherently an anti-union movement, and therefore of very dubious benefit to working people. This includes not only adults, but also our children. They will need to grow up to a world with fewer union jobs and fewer pathways to middle class.

If you're in Puerto Rico, and some tall white guy approaches you, even if he offers to play basketball, be very wary. Ask him if he's Arne Duncan. If he is, run, walk, drive or swim away as fast as you can. Though he may smile, though appear otherwise, he's no friend of yours. Also, if you should inadvertenly touch him, be sure to wash your whole body with Brillo pad. You don't know where he's been.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

A Modest Proposal--Wall for All--Trump Gives Universal Healthcare and We Give Him Wall Money

Poor Donald Trump. He sits in the White House, all alone, bitching about how those awful Democrats won't give him his precious wall. And he's magnanimous about it. He says they can call it a wall, a fence, or whatever he wants. Still, that awful Nancy Pelosi not only musters the unmitigated gall to be a woman, one of those people who bleeds from their eyes, from their whatevers, but also to tell him he's not getting the wall. How dare she?

As if that's not enough, he finally mustered the courage to go overseas and visit the troops, and what happens? Instead of writing about how brave and wonderful he is, the Fake News is pointing out that the military did not, in fact, get a 10% raise, and it wasn't the first raise in ten years either. Not only that, but they're saying he also revealed covert Navy Seal deployment. That's the thanks you get for finally giving in to all the haters saying Presidents do these things on Christmas.

Anyway, I've figured out a solution for not only the President, but also the country. It's time to put these times behind us. Sure, the President says the shutdown is okay because it's mostly Democrats not getting paid, Still, don't Democrats vote? I mean, what if the Democrats wake up and run someone who advocates universal health care, a living wage, and affordable college, things most Americans support? Everyone knows that Trump and the Republicans were full of crap when they said they had something better than Obamacare. So let's work together.

You take your 5 billion, build whatever wall that builds, and then you, Ann Coulter, and Fox and Friends can go and party like it's 1500 AD, or ancient China, or whenever and wherever walls were last effective. All we want in exchange is Medicare for All. And hey, if Medicare is so crappy, people will flock to buy private insurance instead. You see how that works? It's a WIN-WIN.

After all, everyone knows Trump prides himself on being a great deal maker. In fact, he even had someone ghost write a book called The Art of the Deal, which makes him pretty much a self-declared authority on the subject.  So instead of having a bunch of snotty bloggers and Fake News reporters call you a liar, simply because you lie all the time, why not solve a real problem for once?

All we want is Medicare for every American. And look, you can make it voluntary. If you don't want it, you don't have to take it. After all, there's that letter saying you're the healthiest individual ever to take the presidency. Now you can prove it by declining insurance, and you can eat all the KFC you like.

You see how everyone makes out here? You get your wall. No more Americans need to go bankrupt because of catastrophic medical emergency. No more Americans die needlessly for lack of health care. And of course, since you don't support that, you can let Democrats take credit. You will have yourself a wall. You can call it beautiful. You can please Ann Coulter and Fox and Friends, and since their opinions appear to be the only ones you care about, you can sit in front of your big screen all day and have them praise you endlessly.

No charge for this solution, Mr. President. We teachers solve problems all the time.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas to All

I wish you a joyous holiday. I'm in between various family visits. More inclined to go to ones that allow me to bring my dog, but don't tell anyone. Leaving you with my favorite Christmas song. Well, it's not really a Christmas song, but it's one of my favorites, and it should be a Christmas song. That's Rhonda Vincent singing, and that's the best band she ever had, particularly the fiddler, a very young Michael Cleveland.

Monday, December 24, 2018

On Walls and Seating Charts

On this Christmas Eve I'm thinking about my students and wondering if they're a microcosm of society. I'm focused particularly on my beginning class, and seeing them as reflective of much larger problems. My job, ostensibly, is to either inspire, persuade, or force kids to learn English. Of course I hope for the first or second options, and they work a whole lot better than the third, but whatever port in a storm.

In the half classroom I have this year, there are tables of four. These tables kind of force the kids into groups whether they like it or not. I'm not really sure whether or not that makes me Danielson-ready, because who really understands the factors that go into that? First there's that complicated rubric, which you may or may not understand, and then there's the supervisor, who also may or may not understand the rubric. In addition, the supervisor may or may not be delusional, overtly hostile, or be in need of proving something. So many factors to consider.

If I leave my kids to their own devices, they'll all speak their native languages all the time, and ignore me altogether. So the seating chart becomes kind of an art form. You start by letting the students sit wherever they want and proceed from there. This kid is too close to the door, and tries to escape every time you turn your back, so he has to be moved closer to the window. Fortunately, the window doesn't open enough for him to crawl out, because you know the two-story drop will not, in itself, be enough to deter him.

Then you get to the more common issue, that of the students electing to sit with absolutely no one who doesn't speak their first language. Sure, you may get a smattering of kids who don't speak the dominant language (or languages), and have no choice. Those kids, in many ways, are the luckiest. They have to either pursue speaking English or talk to themselves. There's an intrinsic motivation there you don't see elsewhere.

Then there are the tables of four in which they turn inward, have private conversations, and tune out the class completely. These become my first targets. They cannot stand. So I separate them. This is a tough process, and much protest and whining ensues. You change their seats and find them changed back the following day.

Sometimes you get lucky. You may move one kid who is intrinsically social. After a few days, that kid will make the supreme sacrifice and start speaking English with kids who are not in her language group. The kid will come and ask to move, but you leave her there and she benefits. Sometimes, though, the kid sits there like a bag of potatoes and refuses to utter word one to anyone. You watch the kid grow sadder by the day, and you're sorely tempted to dump that kid back with friends who speak the same language.

It's really very hard to watch a student suffer like that. It's especially frustrating if they student is also tuned out to the class. The choices then become watching this student miserable and failing or watching this student relatively content and failing. Sometimes there are back stories these kids bring that seem to preclude happiness, and that makes the problem even worse.

So your seating chart becomes a year-long, ever-evolving work of art, and no matter what you do it's never finished. It's natural to hang with people you find familiar. I'm pretty sure if I were in China I'd make fast friends with fellow Americans. It might make me feel safer or more secure. On the other hand, if I want to feel safe and secure, if I'm resistant to change, if I don't want to grow or learn anything new, what the hell am I doing in China?

It's quite different if I'm a teenager and my parents dragged me there (or here) kicking and screaming. Until the kicks and screams die down, I'm not making the slightest attempt toward assimilating, let alone getting to know people from other cultures. So I put up walls, and it's very hard for teachers to break through.

My job is looking for cracks in those walls, getting through as much as possible, and shooting them down completely at the earliest opportunity. It's challenging work.

Friday, December 21, 2018

If Santa Used a DOE Computer, There Would Be Many Unhappy Children

This may have been the slowest week of the year, but take heart, because next week will be the fastest. Before you can say, "Wow, I have a week off," you'll be moving your time card and saying, "Where did that week go?" People will ask how your vacation was and you'll have to tell them,"I woke up this morning and it was over."

How do these things happen? Greater minds than mine have puzzled these things out, and there are simply no good answers. But take heart, because somewhere around three today, you'll be off. I'd say off and running, but it's Friday, it's the last day before a vacation, and it's supposed to rain. So unless you live across the street from where you work, there's gonna be a slight delay between work and vacation.

I used to make fun of teachers who'd say the tech in their rooms didn't work. Yesterday I learned that I've become inseparable from technology. I should've known this would happen when I started bringing a Macbook Air with me to school every day. I was further corrupted when my supervisor placed me in a room with working tech, assuming I'd feel obliged to use it. (Alas, she was completely right about that.) But yesterday I forgot to bring it, and I felt like I'd shown up to work in my pajamas.

Yesterday I didn't need to show any presentations. We've thankfully dumped the crappy online attendance system. What I did yesterday was give a couple of tests. After doing so I needed to record the grades and had no laptop. I logged into a school computer and waited. And waited, And waited. When it finally showed me a screen, I waited some more until a few icons showed up.

I signed on to Skedula on Safari, something I do every day on my laptop. But the screen I saw showed no option to "continue login" and I was stuck. A helpful colleague said try another browser. I tried Firefox. Same thing.. Finally I used Chrome and it worked. I don't love the mouse on the school computers, and everything took a whole lot longer than I expected. Seriously, I have no idea how any teacher survives without carrying a laptop.

I guess if you just have a marking book it can be simpler than using school computers. I think, though, that with an online gradebook and decent hardware you don't really lose any time. But we're on break beginning tomorrow and there's no time to lose.

I wish you a week absent of computer problems, perhaps absent of computers. I hope you get to go somewhere wonderful, see someone wonderful, and do something wonderful.

I wish you a happy and healthy break. Don't let anyone make you feel guilty about it because you earned every single second of it. People who don't know what we do think we're on vacation all the time. While one week goes fast, I think I'd be bored by perpetual vacation. You can't just hang with social media all day.

If you're looking for me, absent flooding or storm, I'll be walking my dog along the Woodcleft Canal. What are you doing this holiday week?

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Richer Than Soil and Dumber Than Dirt

That's how I'd describe US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Oddly, in her zeal to prevent gun atrocity, she doesn't even consider that guns are a factor. She doesn't consider that these episodes are endemic here, and barely occur in countries where guns are carefully regulated.

Now in her defense, she bought that position fair and square. She's paid off every tinhorn GOP hack this side of the Panama Canal. Also, she's never held a real job before, so how can she be expected to know how to do this one? A lot of people don't take that into account when writing about her. However, incompetence is not always the best defense for doing a terrible job. Let's take a look at Betsy's new initiative:

The Department of Education is poised to rescind Obama-era policies that sought to ensure minority students are not unfairly disciplined in schools, an effort the Trump administration believes will alleviate school-related violence.

Now, what exactly is the alternative to ensuring "minority students are not unfairly disciplined?" To my mind, that suggests we need to start disciplining minority students unfairly. That will get right to the heart of the issue of school shootings, won't it? But, wait a minute...aren't all or most of the school shooters white? Should we perhaps discipline them unfairly? Let's look a little closer at the Trumpies' explanation:

Senior White House administration officials said that the commission heard a "recurring narrative" that teachers and students were afraid because individuals who had a history of antisocial, or sometimes violent, behavior were left unpunished or unchecked. They said rescinding this policy would address that issue.

Okay. Let's say that's true. How will unfairly disciplining minority students address that? I don't know about you, but when I get treated unfairly, it kind of pisses me off. Now sure, I don't go around shooting people when I'm angry, but as far as I know, neither do minority students. Every one of those school shooters seems to be a white guy. Perhaps their theory is that by being unfair to minority students, the white guys won't be so mad anymore. Oddly, though, in Trump's America, I see a lot more empowered white guys feeling entitled to say or do anything.

In fact, this report inspired a rebuke from the reformiest of the reformies:

In a joint statement provided to CNN on Tuesday, former Education Secretaries John King Jr. and Arne Duncan said that by rescinding the Obama-era policies, the Trump administration was "(turning) its back on our most vulnerable students." 

These two guys know quite a bit about treating minorities unfairly. Reformy John taught three whole years, and famously disregarded entire crowds of people who spoke against his hurtful and idiotic policies. Doing that catapulted him to the reformiest position in the country, the one now held by Betsy DeVos. And Arne, who never taught at allmfamously praised the horrendous disaster. Sure people died, Sure people left their homes and never came back. Sure it cost taxpayers a hundred billion dollars. But Arne said it was the best thing to ever happen to New Orleans education, because the privatized the whole city, and Arne's rich pals got even richer.

Sure, Betsy DeVos is even worse than Arne or Reformy John, but they set the stage to allow her to take reforminess to a new level. If Arne and Reformy John were great for having little or no teaching experience, Betsy is better because she has no experience whatsoever.

You know what I would do if I were Education Secretary? I would lobby to make the assault weapons used in school shootings illegal. I would buy back AR-15s and their ilk from Americans and establish strict penalties for any non-military who owned them. On the other hand, I haven't taken millions from the NRA. Now don't get me wrong. I'd be happy to take millions from them. A world where I have more millions and they have fewer would look fine to me. I'd donate the millions to anti-NRA groups, and try to send NRA back to the primordial sludge where it belongs.

If we ever want to stop the gun violence, we're gonna have to stop the guns, and we're also gonna have to stop each and every NRA-owned politician. We're also gonna have to send Betsy back to Michigan. From there they can equip one of her homes with rocket fuel and send her to the moon.

Apologies in advance to the moon.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Student Perception Survey 2018

About a week ago I got the results of our last "Student Perception Survey," the one we gave a year ago. I'm not exactly sure how that was supposed to help us. given the results came from students we don't even see anymore. We did, however, go through the steps of this absurd exercise once again this year, so once again I'm sharing my impression of what it looked like.

1. How much do you hate this class?

a. I hate it.   b. I really hate it   c. I hate it to the moon and back.

2. How much does this teacher care whether you learn the material?

a. just teaches it   b. stays an hour after class to explain   c. comes to my home to explain

3. How bored are you in this class?

a. normal   b. abnormal   c. Oh my gosh, get me out of here!

4. How much time does the teacher spend decorating the classroom?

a only a few hours a week   b. 50 hours a week   c. 200 hours a week

5. How often does this teacher make you explain your answers?

a. all the time, the bastard  b. all the time, the SOB  c. all the time, the reptilian crud face

6. How unfair are the rules for this class?

a. fairly unfair   b. very unfair  c. extremely unfair

7. How much does this teacher give a crap how well you do?

a. one crap   b. two craps  c. not even a crap

8. How much does the teacher's failure to control the class bother you?

a. a little   b. a lot  c. The teacher is a snowflake.

9. How often do you stare at the clock and pray it will move?

a. ten times a period   b. a hundred times a period  c. all period

10. How little does this teacher care how you do?

a. very little  b. not at all  c. Teacher actively works to make me fail.

11. How much does your teacher hate teaching?

a. a lot   b. as much as I hate the class   c. even more than I hate the class

12. When class finally ends, how much time do you spend regretting every minute you wasted?

a. an hour   b. endless hours   c. all the time

13. When you give up because the class is hopelessly incomprehensible, how much time does the teacher spend ridiculing you?

a. the whole period   b. Teacher stays after class to ridicule me more  c. Teacher follows me home.

14. How much does this teacher know about the topic of the class?

a. nothing   b. less than nothing  c. Class has no particular topic.

15.How many times per period does this class make you wish to commit an unnatural act?

a. many times  b. a lot  c. all the time

16. Does this teacher come over your house and cook Thanksgiving Dinner?

a. Never, the bastard   b. Sometimes, the bastard   c. Always, the bastard

17. How often does this teacher make cruel remarks for no reason?

a. sometimes   b. usually   c. always

18. How disrespectful is this teacher?

a. pretty much so   b. very much so   c. burning this teacher in effigy later today

19. How much does this teacher fail to control the class?

a. as much as other teachers  b. more than other teachers  c. It's psychedelic pandemonium.

20. How much of your time does this teacher waste?

a. the entire period   b. I waste time thinking about it after class as well. c. my entire life

21. How insincere is this teacher when asking how you are?

a. very   b. totally   c. 100%

22. How out of touch is this teacher?

a. very   b. totally   c. 100%

23. You know by now we want you to say the teacher sucks. Does the teacher suck?

a. Yes.   b. certainly   c. Of course.

24. If you walked into class upset, how little would the teacher care?

a. very little   b. not at all   c. Teacher would make it worse on purpose.

25. How poorly does the teacher answer your questions?

a. very poorly   b. just looks into space and says nothing   c. shoots me into space and says nothing

26. How alienated are you from this teacher?

a. very   b. totally   c. 100%

27. Overall, how much do you hate this class and this teacher?

a. I hate it.   b. I really hate it   c. I hate it to the moon and back.

Monday, December 17, 2018

UFT Executive Board December 17th, 2018 OT/ PT Chapter Wants an Improved Contract

6 PM—Secretary Howard Schoor welcomes us.

Four speakers—

Dave Jensen—Per-diem subs—speaking on part of colleague. Many per-diem have had deductions for union, expecting representation or due process. Subs have few or none due process rights. Paraprofessionals have been given that right. Article 42 says the union and DOE will develop best practices, but they feel that is not enough. They shoulder responsibility, teach 4 in a row, have no lesson plans and are subject to being placed on DNU lists that preclude working. Several colleagues have suffered this treatment. Sub-central disinterested, with too much authority. One person, not collaborative, not promoting best practices. Demand more transparent referee. Asks why as due-paying members subs did not participate in negotiation.

Judith Lowell—Physical Therapist, Delegate to OT/ PT chapter. OT/ PT for fair contract member. Glad DA passed resolution in support. Still negotiating, appreciate DA’s support. Resolution puzzling because it had something about education OT/ PT to stay with union. Some have been critical out of frustration. Our group supports unionism and UFT. We are strong union members, believe in UFT, want to work with leadership and membership.

Melissa Willams—OT in district 6. Door-knocker for UFT. Working on last non-member. Concerned that union doesn’t have capacity to tolerate grassroots organizing. We got email from our Exec. Board, saying, “Our contract has not been ratified so this has left us vulnerable to outside forces.” We are concerned with issues that affect other chapters as well. We think they mean the socialist party by outside forces. We don’t want divisive rhetoric or red-baiting. We will not tolerate it. We aim for unity, staying with UFT. Anytime we hear negativity we say we’re sticking with union. We would like pay parity. Would like to use model of paid parental leave. We need a big tent, socialists, libertarians, and democrats, GOP and everyone. Hands out buttons and asks we pledge to wear them.

Rachel Fineson
—Thanks DA for passing resolution. Loves job but has to work two others. 35 of 50 in room I was in also worked multiple jobs. What is UFT plan for renegotiating contract?


President’s Report—Michael Mulgrew—Governor outlined plans for legislative session. Thinks we have to fix inequity in school funding, specifically on capital plans, funding based on need, happy to see that. rest of agenda progressive, women’s rights, cash bail, overall quite positive. Rumors Cathy Nolan will no longer chair ed. committee. Hearing diBenedetto, from Bronx, UFT member. We’ll wait and see. Nolan may be deputy speaker. Pay raise issue sucking up all the oxygen, but we need to get budget done.

Thanks Karen Alford and all who worked on homeless coalition event. Best event we do all year.

Wishes us happy holiday and happy new year. Thanks us for our time, for going above and beyond. We are moving forward—will be state legislative breakfast here tomorrow. Lots of them don’t know what we do, think it’s “standard union stuff.”

Enemies of union are gearing up. Take time and relax. It gives me comfort to know this leadership is in place.

LeRoy Barr—Public Advocate forums, first last Thursday in Queens. Great turnout. Members can question all candidates. Tomorrow meeting here. Next EB January 7, DA 16th, happy holidays.

Mike Schirtzer—Where are we on OT/ PT contract? Any progress? And we’re still hearing that principals and admin are mandating lesson plans. Can we reiterate to reinforce idea that plans are not to benefit admin.

Schoor—We have reached out to labor relations on OT/ PT. Not yet responded. Meeting with chapter on demands and changes. We will be ready when they are. No guarantee when they will come to table. We will work on it.

Lesson plans—That was in principal’s weekly. Thanks Debbie Poulos. We wanted prep periods and lesson planning explained and they did so.

Arthur Goldstein—It looks like the Senate will vote to uncouple test scores from teacher ratings. This will be different for high school teachers because we were not affected by the Regents moratorium. If the Senate does vote to uncouple test scores, what will happen in high schools? What will take the place of our current MOSL?

Schoor—Doesn’t know.

Evelyn de Jesus—Meeting now. Have an assessment committee looking at how they will move agenda. We’re working on it.

Paul Egan—Legislation would decouple teacher evaluation from student test scores. Hopeful that can be done earlier rather than later. Not sure if it includes Regents.

Janella Hinds—Goal is to ensure all divisions are covered. We expect it will be all test scores decoupled from MOSL.

Melody Cooper—non-board member--Schoor allows her to speak--Midwood elementary teacher—Asks about adverse ratings for untenured teachers. Concerned with background check and due process regarding that.

Schoor—Untenured teachers don’t have same rights. Can be discontinued. Try to get them through probationary period. City has right to do pre-employment testing. We negotiated that when they are hired, they can test them later, in case they are hired mid-year.

Reports from districts

Eliu Lara—Last Monday Bronx HS district had superintendents forum. Members were told what they needed for tenure.

Mike Schirtzer—A longtime Murrow music teacher and conductor from HS passed. Asks moment of silence.

Shout out to Infotech HS in Queens. Had Thanksgiving lunch. UFT raised 1K and hosted lunch for underprivileged kids. Doing holiday toy drive for homeless.

Priscilla Castro—Dec. 6, Meet DR in Brooklyn. Will be one in Manhattan for D75.

Legislative report—Paul Egan—Chelsea—great win. Eagles had great win and terrible loss. Blames referees. DOE legal calling plays.
Forum Thursday in Queens. Race getting ridiculous. 16 candidates now running. Actual number may be up to 23. Not difficult to get on ballot. If 23 people make it on, I would hate to see what ballot looks like. How will Board of Elections get this right?

Jumaane Williams, Michael Blake did well. Everyone was late. Tomorrow here on 19th floor. Feel free to come. 4 to 7 PM. Final will be January 10th in Brooklyn. Will be all candidates on stage. Mulgrew will MC. Leticia James resigns January 1st. Expect election 2/26

Tom Murphy
—wants Medicare to negotiate drug prices. When Obamacare was passed was bundle of compromises. VA negotiates prices but Medicare forbidden. NY Dems were in thrall of pharma and voted for this. Hope to place this before new Congress, though Senate and President may not support it. Maybe bipartisan bill can pass, but if not, still has intrinsic value.


Motion to adjourn

Passes 6:39

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Working in the Land of Mickey

I met a friend who now lives in Florida yesterday. I hadn't seen her in 25 years, at least. We used to work together at John Adams High School where she taught Spanish and I taught English to newcomers. I lost touch with her when I moved to Francis Lewis, but we reconnected on Facebook a few years back.

You read horror stories about teachers in Florida, but you don't really feel them until they're right in front of your face. My friend lives somewhere near Orlando and has been in various businesses, but has mostly worked as a teacher in one capacity or another. In Florida there is no such thing as tenure. Given how Campbell Brown and the reformies rail against tenure, you'd think Florida would have the best education system in the country. You can imagine how surprised I must be when it consistently turns out to be one of the worst. But I digress.

My friend worked in a public high school. You don't get appointed down in Florida. What you get is a contract for a year, which may or may not be renewed the next year. She worked three one-year contracts in a row, and in the fourth year expected to get a permanent contract. That sounds better, doesn't it? It turns out, though, that once you get a permanent contract, it only lasts for five years. After that, you have to go take whatever the licensing test is again, and then sign up for another five years, assuming they offer them to you.

After my friend's third year, she asked for a permanent contract. Her boss said no, she could have another one-year extension. She asked him why, and he told her he didn't like the way she looked at him. He could tell she thought she was smarter than he was. That's pretty remarkable, to have a boss who can read minds but is still insecure about his intelligence. He said she was not ready for a permanent certificate.

She pointed to her passing rates for some test or other, which were double that of the district or the state. He didn't care. The important thing was he didn't like the way she looked at him. She told him she declined to sign for another single year. He told her if she did that, he would mark her as unhireable, and she would not be able to get a job anywhere. This is one of the disadvantages of working for someone who's stupid and insecure, someone who has more power than a person like that should ever have.

She told him go ahead, but she wasn't signing another one year contract. Good as his word, the supervisor place the Mark of Cain on her, and sent her on her way. She appealed to her union. They told her they could appeal and get rid of the mark, but it would take a long time, Meanwhile, they advised her, she should seek a job in the private sector.

After a year, the union made good on its promise. She then got a job at some Catholic school that was thrilled with her passing rate. She also had a part-time job at Disney that somehow entailed teaching kids from other countries about America. I'm not clear on exactly why Disney is doing that, but after two years at the Catholic school my friend grew tired of working so much, and is down to the part-time Disney job.

And bad as things are here sometimes, they're a lot worse elsewhere. This is the sort of future the people who push Janus have in mind for us. Anyone who thinks these people are around to save us 1400 bucks a year is too stupid to be a teacher. You will lose that 1400 and considerably more as they push us further down into Walmart conditions (and it's no coincidence the Walmart family bankrolls so many attacks on us). That's okay with them. They're happy with ignorant teachers raising ignorant kids who will vote for machine politicians. That way they can keep screwing working people and directing even more money to people who least need it (like the Walmart family).

It's our job to turn this tide. We need to improve working conditions for ourselves, and we need to spread union power all over these United States. We have to weaponize the targets our enemies have placed on our backs and turn them outward. That's a pretty big job. But if our enemies have gotten this far with money and lies, imagine how far we can go with an activated membership, superior numbers and the truth.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Michael Bloomberg Is Donald Trump With a Realistic Haircut

Michael Bloomberg has decided he wants to be President. However, he doesn't want to be bothered with all that freedom of the press nonsense, and has therefore instructed his news organization not to write about the presidential race.

“Quite honestly, I don’t want the reporters I’m paying to write a bad story about me,” Bloomberg said in a radio interview last week in Iowa, where he was paying an exploratory visit ahead of a possible 2020 bid for the White House. “I don’t want them to be independent.”

After all, that's not what he's paying them for. He's paying them to say what he wants, when he wants, how he wants, and screw the public's right to be informed. The US Constitution is for the little people, he says otherwise, and should he say otherwise, it isn't for them either. Forget about "fake news." Mike Bloomberg says there will be no news whatsoever, and if that's not good enough for you, go buy your own damn country.

This one, after all, is pretty pricey, and that's why Mike Bloomberg has his eyes on it. He deems himself a whole lot classier than Donald Trump, and figures if Trump can buy his way in, he can too. Laws are just a minor inconvenience for Michael Bloomberg. When city voters twice affirmed term limits, Michael Bloomberg went out and bought himself a one-time exception. De Blasio gets two terms, but Bloomberg got three. In Bloomberg World, that's what you call equitable.

Bloomberg likes to put down Donald Trump, because he fancies himself superior. He's not alone in that. A lot of people see Donald Trump as an amoral sociopath who wants what he wants when he wants. The difference between Donald Trump and Michael Bloomberg is basically the same as the difference between Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg. That ought to be scary indeed to Americans, and I'll tell you why.

Mayoral control eluded Rudy Giuliani. After all, he spent most of his term suing everyone over, oh, portraits of Jesus composed of excrement, the right to bring his mistress into the home he shared with his wife and young children, and who remembers what else? Rudy also stood up in front of God and everybody and said he ought not to abide by term limits, because he needed to keep up the morale of NYPD and FDNY. Never mind that he'd been denying them a contract for years, and that they pretty much hated his guts by then.

Bloomberg was able to accomplish what Giuliani had not, largely because he doesn't appear to be a drooling lunatic. I'd argue he may also be able to accomplish what Trump hasn't, and his open suppression of the press is well more than a clue. Trump attacks the press as fake news. Bloomberg just quietly declares there will be no news. He's Citizen Kane come to life, and imagine Citizen Kane in charge of the United States rather than Xanadu.

Another thing Bloomberg and Trump have in common is the utter lack of core beliefs. Of course, there is the Self, which they both worship, but beyond that nothing matters. If Trump or Bloomberg can run as Republicans and be successful, they don't give a golly gosh darn about why they spent most of their lives as Democrats. And if Bloomberg needs to portray himself as the anti-Trump, he'll swap his registration before you can say, "Who the hell is that guy anyway?" 

If you believe in freedom and liberty, be assured Michael Bloomberg does not. He will quietly assert himself over the country, buying everyone and everything he can that gets in his way. He won't be making juvenile assertions on Twitter. He'll hire someone to spell check. He'll do everything better and slicker than Trump

He's smarter than Trump, more devious than Trump, and therefore more dangerous than Trump. Think of all the nonsense Trump merely blathers about, and then imagine it all put into practice. That's what you're asking for if you vote for Michael Bloomberg.

So don't.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

UFT Delegate Assembly December 12, 2018--We Resolve to Support OT/ PT Chapter, Oppose Toxic Politics

Michael Mulgrew—Welcomes us to last DA of 2018.

National—Speaks of craziness yesterday, says DeVos asked for same things she wanted last year, and they are horrendous. May be government shutdown. DeVos wants to cut money out of all we think is important and push privatization, anti-homeless, anti-Title 1.

Economy looks to be taking downturn in 2019. Education funding big issue for us. States that went on strike did so over funding. Proud NY State put more percentage wise into ed. than any other state.

We will have to monitor economy carefully. Shut down or not, there will sooner or later be a deal. We have to look at the profession, educators, and funding. We laugh at national situation, but it’s sad. No one wants this from government.

Interesting dynamic in Chicago charters. NY charters have tons of money. They don’t care if they have 8 kids in a class, or if they only graduate 17. Chicago different. CTU organized charters, and will not try to get their class sizes under 30. Teachers won right to 30-minute lunch. Their lunch was 20 minutes and included taking kids to and from school.

NY State—Proposal that elected officials get pay raise is all they talk about in Albany. For us, it’s education funding. We are happy Regents want 2.1 billion additional. Will see where it goes. We will have legislative breakfast this year. We want teacher evaluation bill passed. Regents discussed moratorium, which will sunset. Test scores become 50% of evaluation. Plan to vote on it in April. May be indicating they expect legislative activity around evaluation. If not done by April, likely they will extend it. People in office stated they would pass 8301, and we expect it. Want to concentrate on getting law changed, deal with lack of DOE plan to support instruction.

No NYC school has been put into receivership for last three years. Happy about that.

Implementation of Contract—Have started implementing pieces. Operational issues—curriculum, PD, paperwork for all, space and workload for functional live since December 5th. If there is a violation, you can file complaint, If not rectified in 5 days goes to DR and Superintendent.

Great tool for CLs and delegates. Don’t have to argue. Just state you’re making a complaint. After ten days it’s automatically escalated. Please sit down with consultation committee and come up with strategy on how to use this. You can empower your professional voice with this. Admin can no longer reinterpret contract. If PD not in alignment, don’t have basic instructional supplies, following too-long unit plans, file a complaint.

Before you file, there are trainings being rolled out in districts. There was never anything like this part of contract before. Figure how you want to use it. Don’t use it to harass. Integrity of program is making them comply with contract. Asks how many complaint people won’t get involved—says this problem is dealt with here. You can use it in committee, via email, via conversation.

You can say PD needs to be in alignment with educational needs of community. These must be rolled out and used as envisioned—to empower professional voice at workplace and organize the workplace. Don’t let it be open season. Make sure complaints are real. If people wish to file grievances, they decide. This is to enforce contract.

Use it in positive way. Harassment and retaliation hopefully will be done last week. Paraprofessionals are being brought back if they were unjustly taken off payroll.

Safety—Before we can roll out safety complaints we need to agree on standards. Will perhaps be finished by January or February.

Observation and evaluation—We’re frustrated and angry about them. Majority is meaningless, done for compliance late in year. There are new superintendents. They look at schools with low scores and determine instruction is no good, that it has to be moved. Then teachers get bad observations because they think that moves instruction. Then they push lesson plans. This indicates they don’t know how to move instruction.

A lesson plan template will not improve instruction. People sit in rooms making decisions and think this will work. Ridiculous. Teaching is ability to engage, make students ready to learn—not in lesson plan.

We have TAP—a teacher action plan, for teachers who don't qualify for TIP. Instead they say TAP. Teachers were overall effective, but MOTP developing. More evidence they have no clue how to move instruction.

Few negative ratings for teachers. We believe if you are in system, and system is moving, it’s because we did work, not because of TAPs or bad ratings. Contract says we have to develop program on how to train school system what observation system will be. Instead we have nonsense. They don’t know how to allow people to have constructive conversations. Of course we’re not at our best each and every day.

When they talk lesson plans it means they don’t know how to deal with educators. This will be a big push. We don’t get opportunity of other side agreeing we need significant change often. Are we willing to engage in this process? It can’t just be us objecting to people in classrooms. We can’t do that, state law says we can’t, old law said the same, so we have to engage.

We have an opportunity. This DA can change the horrendous paradigm of observation in city schools. it can’t be, “I’m effective. Leave me alone.” Says we should fight for intervisitations. Fear needs to be removed. Should be ashamed they’ve put us in meaningless system.

Remember first observation? We should have a session on that. I remember mine. Said I saw you in the hallway, so you did good.

Public Advocate race—In January, Tish James will become first African American female AG of NY. Many people want her current job. When there’s a seat open, everyone loves the UFT. We have decided to invite candidates to borough based forums. First is tomorrow in Queens. Manhattan 18th. Brooklyn January 10th. When it’s time we will choose who to support.

This is the official start of next mayor’s race.

Chancellor and I agree some people don’t know difference between prep and prof periods are and what they are used for. Put it out in principal’s weekly. Prep is unassigned, determined by the teacher. Professional period—teachers may only be assigned to one professional activity. Will be in writing. You can bring to principal. You can say chancellor sent it.

Next principal’s weekly we will try to do consultation. Some principals will only go with entire administrative team. We need to clear that up.

We have more challenges and fights ahead of us, but from beginning to end, we made it where we were due to union activity. Says we are an amazing group and not to forget it. You are this union’s leadership.

LeRoy Barr—Saturday coalition for homeless holiday party. 200 kids in temp housing will be in this room. Please participate at 11 AM. Will make sure each one gets toy. Kwanzaa celebration next week. UFT podcast flier available. On the record with Michael Mulgrew. Jewish Heritage Foundation having happy hour after this. At next DA petitions to run will be available. Jan 16. Happy holidays, happy new year.

Mulgrew—Podcast idea came from members. Fun to have conversations. Please send suggestions.


Q—With holidays comes snow. With only one snow day, what if we need more?

A—This is an issue every year. School districts around state eliminate breaks, extend year. We’re not used to that. Rest of state has done for years. Our position is it has to be added to end of school year. We have to meet state minimum, which is 180. This year we have 181. DOE will want to take from Feb. break. We need notice. Was same in Sandy. Then they will suggest Easter break. We will go back and forth. Was proposal in contract negotiations to end Feb break and end school year earlier. Day connected to eight weeks not as valuable as one in Feb.

Q—Will rollout of contract, concerned if union planning to train CLs on retaliation and harassment, and operational issues.

A—Yes. There is calendar date for training. We will roll it out. We may us DA time. It’s a lot.

Q—Last school year we focused on Janus. Post Janus how will we use membership teams?

A—CL’s decision. Now that operational issues are rolling out, would use them to help. CLs should not be on their own. Maybe they can vet complaints.

Q—Gratified we did so well in keeping membership. However, people want to know consequence of members withdrawing.

A—Number is very low. School based, number is 2. There are new things, like debt clinic. Members only. With law last year, anything paid for through collective bargaining process, anyone has right. If union dues, or outside of collective bargaining, they have no right. Lots of programs and PD that are not collective bargaining issues.

Q—School underenrolled, all newcomers, have to give back 150K, and we only get 90% of funding. Stuyvesant funded, but we’re facing excesses. DOE owes us money. What can I do to pressure DOE to fully fund us, and what can we do as union to make sure schools are fully funded.

A—Funding majority of union’s work. Hope because of State Senate that we get more foundational aid driven by need. Line aid not driven by need. We want 90% going into formula. Foundational funding not only NYC’s issue. Poor kids all over state would benefit. Working with state union to push this agenda, want 100% formula funding. Problem with DOE budgeting system. Was part of negotiations though we don’t negotiate school funding. We want to be sure basic needs are automatic for each school.

You can do an appeal process or help us advocate to shift system. Should be basic economic formula for each school Why does school with 300 kids have 4 APs? How much budget is for administrative per session?

We can pull your school’s budget and look at it with you. Principals often don’t want how they spend money revealed. Current system doesn’t work.


Dermot Myrie—Supports BLM week of action for this month’s agenda.

Mulgrew—no debate, needs two third vote.

Myrie—Resolves we will join with other organizations.


Rashad Brown—Already a resolution to deal with umbrella of organizations. Is this appropriate?

Mulgrew—Absolutely in order.

Brian Finnegan—For next month—

Mulgrew—majority vote

Finnegan—Wheras UFT moving back to grassroots organizing, resolved UFT will offer DA training in Robert’s Rules of Order

Finnegan—CL needs to organize chapter, important we train members they have voice. Important skill for future.



Karen Alford, VP—Resolution to unite with orgs against toxic political atmosphere. Supports. News stories horrible, frequent, don’t want it to become norm. Sacred spaces, of religion, and schools under attack. Don’t even want to talk about 45’s role. Let us stand against all kinds of discrimination and with orgs that speak out against it.

Mark Weller—Proposes amendment—Adds Anti-Defamation League to list of orgs. Given that of three cited incidents, 11 of 13 murdered were Jewish, other major religions repped.

Pete Lamphere—Supports resolution, opposes amendment. Doesn’t think union should support Anti Defamation League. Has worked against black lives orgs, and against Palestinian organizations. We should support all BLM orgs and stay out of Palestine-Israel debate. ADL sponsors police cooperation between US and Israel. Hurts communities of color.

Marjorie Stamberg—supports Lamphere. Says labeling people who support Palestine anti-Semitic is slander.

Michael Friedman—Strongly disagrees. About helping people in need. ADL deals with anti-Semitism , rights of gay people and black lives. All orgs have issues we may or may not support. We may disagree on some areas but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the good work they do. Supports.

Jonathan Halabi—May I add second amendment? Would like UFT to include Trump’s speech as hate speech. Supports resolution. Important to say what’s going on, and that environment has to do with President’s speech, which has emboldened those who take these actions. Closely associated with what he says and inspires.

Antonio Jacobs—Standing in support of resolution. Supports adding ADL to resolution. We’re a union and we need to work together with other orgs. Excluding ADL feels like opposite of that. Not everyone believes exactly same things. We need to include orgs for solidarity.

As to amendment two, we don’t need to speak specifically to 45th president. Feels very ad hominem.

Mulgrew—Wants to be very careful. This union is first and foremost about this profession. We have right to own political beliefs. Urge all of you to not be like those outside this room when we debate politics. I don’t want issues that will hurt union. Want respectful, open and transparent discussion.

Pat Crispino
—calls all matters before house.

Mulgrew—addition of toxic 45.


Adding ADL—


resolution passes as amended.

Mulgrew—Our enemies will do anything to divide us. They are nefarious. We are the leadership and we have to be careful how we deal with political issues.

LeRoy Barr—Resolution in support of racial and economic justice—Purpose is to highlight great work UFT has been doing for decades, that we continue to do. Umbrella resolution saying we appreciate all who help children and parents to appreciate racial and economic issues.

Educators in unique position to teach of intolerance, bullying, discrimination. We want kids to start from even playing field. We want positive learning collaboratives to reduce suspensions and incidents. We have been involved in specialized HS task force. We were involved before it became issue for mayor. We fight for equity.

NYC men teach involves us. We want to hire men of color. We aimed for 1K by September and have doubled it. We work with today’s students, tomorrow’s teachers. Want to increase numbers by working with them.

Young men’s Initiative also works toward this.

We work with groups, and ADL and BLM. We support any group coming into schools working with kids to improve education. We don’t believe everything any group believes, but we support any group working with positive change. When you ask we support BLM week, we do in this umbrella.

Akeel Williams—This is a no-brainer. We want to produce caring individuals, global citizens, and we need to emphasize this on a daily basis. UFT has been strong in the past, it’s time to stop, think, renew and revisit. Let’s keep moving forward.

Amendment—Resolved, UFT will encourage other unions to also use culturally responsive practices. This refers to institutional racism affecting students on neurological level affecting ability to learn. Other unions should use these practices too. Urges support.

Rashad Brown—supports amendment—UFT has been champion in social and economic justice. We are raising future citizens. We are diverse and we deal with diverse students.

Pat Crispino—calls all matters before house.

Question called.




passes unanimously

Motion to extend—

extended for one resolution

Jeff Andrusen
—author of resolution 3—What happens when resolution doesn’t go through?

Mulgrew—It moves to top next time, usually.

Andrusen—People are still trying to get contract settled, OT-PT. We have to protect everyone at all times. Supports their chapter and fight for fair contract.

VP OT-PT chapter—Poses substitute resolution. Resolution to stand in solidarity through renegotiation process.  Sub resolution speaks to 3 and 4. Brought by exec. board of functional chapter. Reso. 3 was not brought to our exec. board. We have a structure in place, a board and delegates in place, elected by chapter.

This is our fight. OT and PT are often quiet and unheard professionals who work under prescription of physicians. Work with fragile and vulnerable children. 19.7% of students have disabilities. We make sure they can go back to your class for instruction.

OT/PT voted no because NYC repeatedly said no to parity with everyone in room. Therapists now are behind everyone else when it comes to salary, retirement, top levels and more. Some of us have doctorates and get no additional compensation. Right now we are vulnerable, alone, doing service, and leaving. This is why we voted no.

We need support of everyone in this room. Will stand in solidarity with you. Work, fight, march with us.

Katherine Spunt—OT at large, exec. board—reads resolved that we unequivocally support OT/ PT, and educate on value of union in shadow of Janus.

Mulgrew—We are debating whether to substitute motion for 3 and 4.

Point of Information—Great resolution. What tangibles do you expect? What are you looking for?

Mulgrew—Resolved is what they are asking for.

Andrusen—We should go with sub resolution and work as union.

Debra Halt—Fully support resolution. Witnessed that staff has been valuable asset in helping students. Please support.[

Nina Tribbel—calls question on all matters

Sub resolution passes. 6:14 Mulgrew wishes us happy holidays.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Poor Epifanito

It's hard for me to learn Chinese names, and I have to learn a lot of them. They're the largest group in our school's ELL population, and by far. It doesn't matter how long I do this. I'm totally unfamiliar with a whole lot of them and it isn't getting much easier.

As if that weren't enough, the spellings my students use in English often mislead me to mispronounce them. I didn't find out until this year that I was mispronouncing a girl's name all last year. I should've been tipped off by students laughing at me every time I spoke her name.

This year, in my beginning class, I have a lot more Spanish speakers. Almost half the class speaks Spanish. One of my Spanish-speaking girls is upset that the Chinese names are so hard to say, so she named all the Chinese boys. I'm not exactly sure why she didn't name the girls. Every day, for a while, she would rattle off the names as she pointed to each boy.

I told her she didn't have the right to just assign people names. That was the job of their parents, I said, and they had done this years ago when her classmates were born. My student didn't care. Why was I wasting her time with this when the matter was already settled? Another teacher who covers this class told her the same thing. The student had already made her decision, though, it was final, and our words were just a wasteful diversion. She knew who these boys were, and just to make sure she didn't forget, she continued to announce their names at every opportunity.

She'd named one of the boys Julio. I told her Julio wasn't his name and she shouldn't call him that. The boy objected. He said his name was indeed Julio, and that was his English name. I told him Julio wasn't an English name. It was a Spanish name. He didn't care. That was his English name and he was going with it. He told me his teacher in China had given him that name.

This was a little hard for me to take, primarily because I knew it wasn't true. I know that English teachers in China don't always really know English, because I've had hundreds of students who studied English in China for ten years and came here knowing nothing. In China, they don't seem to teach conversational English. In my experience, they're more focused on discrete point tests and long essays that may or may not have meaning. Nonetheless, Chinese teachers from China do not issue Spanish names. This was my very first Chinese Julio.

So here I am defending this guy's identity and he gave it up to the first girl who decided he was someone else. I understand fifteen-year-old boys going with the decisions of fifteen-year-old girls. I once asked a fifteen-year-old boy, "If she jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you jump off the Brooklyn Bridge too?" The boy said, "If she jump, I jump." At that age, I may have jumped too. Fortunately, when I was that age, I was never forced into that particular decision.

Last week, I had one of my students transferred to another level. These things happen in my line of work. This was a pretty quiet boy. If you weren't paying attention, you might not have even known he was there. Now I did, because I have to take attendance. But I was pretty surprised when my young name-giver asked me, "Where's Epifanito?"

"Who's Epifanito?" I asked.

"You know Epifanito," she said. "He's the boy who sits right there."

"His name's not Epifanito," I said.

"Yes it is," she told me. "And where is he?"

"The boy who sat there has transferred to another class," I said.

"Poor Epifanito," she said, shaking her head in sympathy.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Job Creators

I hear a lot about how Amazon will create jobs. This, evidently, is why we need to give Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, another 3 billion dollars. You see, money makes money. For example, if you happen to be the richest man in the world, New York City will give you 3 billion dollars. You see how that works?

If Amazon comes to town, they say there will be a lot of jobs. Someone has to work there, of course. We don't know, though, whether the people will be local. Bezos might have his own people. After all, we're building him a helipad, and you can't have just anyone manage one of those things. Personally, I don't know jack squat about helipads. What color should I paint it? What do you clean it with? Should I have some guy standing around with fancy flashlights guiding the helicopters? Who knows?

Surely Bezos has someone to do that work. And if there are high paying jobs, he might have people to take them too. Maybe they'll come from Seattle. Maybe from the moon. Who knows where guys like Jeff Bezos hang out? If you want jobs created in New York, for New Yorkers, Bezos may not be your number one go to.

As it happens, I have a solution. The other day I was having a conversation with a couple of English teachers in the cafeteria. One of them suggested that Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio ought to give us the three billion instead of giving it to Bezos. This made sense to me, and on multiple levels. For one thing, I'd like to have a billion dollars. My dog goes through a lot of treats, and they don't grow on trees. Wedding gifts are getting more and more expensive, and don't even get me started about taxes.

As for taxes, you really pay a lot less when you're a billionaire. For all I know, Jeff Bezos doesn't pay anything. As we split the money three ways, each of us would have only one billion, so we might still have to pay something in taxes. We all decided, though, that we'd be willing to make sacrifices for the money. That's just the kind of people we turned out to be.

As for job creation, we all agreed that if we got a billion dollars each, we'd be willing to leave our jobs. That's three jobs right here in New York City, for locals to have. Not only that, but they'd be union jobs. Would you get that with Amazon? Almost certainly not.

Of course the governor and the mayor can fool around with a questionable company like Amazon and hope for the best. They can give the money to someone like Bezos and hope he'll do the right thing. But there is an alternative. My colleagues and I are willing to guarantee, in writing if necessary, that we'd create jobs.

Honestly I don't understand why the politicians don't come directly to us. We teachers are honest people. When we say we'd be willing to do the right thing and step aside for a billion dollars each, we mean it. All that's left is persuading the politicians.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Do That Thing? Or Don't?

I had an experience the other day that I may or may not blog here one of these days, but it reminded  me of something that happened a few years back. The thing that happened the other day was not my fault at all, but this thing was kind of in the middle.

An assistant principal I knew handed me a copy of a letter written to a French teacher. It criticized the teacher for omitting an "s" somewhere or other. I'm not at all good in French, so I neither understood why it was wrong nor recall exactly what it was.

As it happened, the AP handed me the letter as I was returning from a funeral service for the parent of a member. I was not in the best of moods. I read the letter and found it kind of petty. I make mistakes on the board all the time. I misspell words that I know how to spell because I write very quickly. Students correct me sometimes.

Whenever I write tests I'm in kind of a mad rush. Oh my gosh I have to finish, because the test is tomorrow and I need to make copies. Will the copy machine work? Will I have to sneak into another department and surreptitiously use their copy machine? Will the other copy machines work? You really have to juggle a lot of thoughts to get your work done as a teacher. Anyway, I make mistakes on tests too. When students catch them, I give them extra credit.

Oddly, the letter the AP wrote must've been written a whole lot faster than most of the stuff I write. It was full of errors. I was a little tired of this teacher getting letters over nitpicking nonsense, and the funeral service had not improved my mood even a little bit. I got myself a red pen and began correcting the AP's letter.

There were subject-verb agreement errors. That really bothers me. I don't recall what else there was, but I decided to be a total jerk about it and correct absolutely everything. I even corrected a cc, taking the point it should just say c, as it was not a carbon copy. I ended up giving the letter a D.

The AP was very upset, asking what had ever been done to me from that office. In truth, nothing. The AP was always very kind to me. I guess, though, that I was responding to the barrage of petty nonsense befalling my colleague. In a way, it was appropriate. In another, it wasn't. It kind of fit the situation, but it was all too personal in the end.

I regretted it, but in retrospect I'm not sure making a speech about how one of my colleagues was being targeted would have been quite so effective. You can never really be sure whether APs are taking these actions on their own or as agents of the principal. In this case, I think it was the latter. I remember I apologized to the AP.

Also, I remember the barrage of letters slowed to a trickle.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

The Attendance System Is Dead. Long Live the Attendance System

For the last few months we've been grappling with an online attendance program called CAASS. It's been an interesting journey. Last year we started it, and found there were a lot of redundancies built in that wasted our time. CAASS told us not to worry. They were going to have a glitzy new fault-free program by October or thereabouts.

I can't recall when we started using it. I do recall the hours and days when it didn't work. Admin did not necessarily worry about that. You see, even if I had no record of a student being absent, or present, or whatever, the student could've been marked in other classes. Therefore our general attendance would not go down. That is important somehow, but I'm just a lowly teacher so don't ask me why.

The thing is, if you made a mistake yesterday you couldn't correct it today. It had gone in, it was etched in stone, and that was it. Also, there were no records. So when you call a parent to explain that the student had been frequently absent, you couldn't give the parent dates. More than one parent asked me to provide dates of absence at parent-teacher conferences and I was unable to do so. I felt like an idiot.

Also, I'm very dependent on my laptop when I'm working. I use it for just about everything. So if a kid walks in late and I need to record it, I have to take my computer off the display I'm showing to write it down. Alternatively, I could write it on a piece of paper somewhere and hope to find it again in time to record it.

Last week was pretty interesting. CAASS would work period one, but periods two and three would crap out entirely. Two nights last week I recorded absences while I was at my home. One day I was able to get back in period 5 and do it while I was on the clock. But it was so unreliable I had no idea whether what it showed was true. For example, I spoke to a dad who wanted to know if his kid was in class on a certain date. The kid swore he was. I pulled up CAASS and it said he wasn't. I had to tell dad this meant nothing because I had no idea whether or not the info was accurate.

A lot of teachers told me they were recording attendance on their own and then transferring it to CAASS. That sounded like double work to me, and single work is challenging enough for my taste. I was going to file a paperwork complaint, which looked like a slam dunk to me, at least. Admin seemed to agree, saying that they'd dump it if I complained.

Although almost everyone with whom I spoke hated the system, I wasn't certain everyone felt that way. I decided to put it up for a vote. I printed ballots and made a staff list so people could sign as they voted. At the end of the day, I got a call from the principal's office saying they were dumping it regardless.

Evidently I was not the only one receiving parental complaints. Some made their way from the teachers, to the assistant principal, to the principal. Evidently, some parents want to actually know for sure whether or not their kids are attending classes. I don't blame them.

I'm sure it's possible to take attendance online. I'm sure someone will think of a program that works. Here's the thing--whoever does that needs to thoroughly test it before making it public. Getting online with a buggy program and hoping for the best is just not the way to go about it.

Monday, December 03, 2018

UFT Exec. Board December 3rd, 2018--Elections and Health Care

6:02—Secretary Howard Schoor calls us to order.


LeRoy Barr, along with all officers, is not here—Schoor reports 300 CLs were trained at Rye Hilton, including operational clauses, hopefully live soon. Paras celebrating 50 years of UFT representation. Will be celebrated this year. 28,000 paras now in union.

Kate Martin Bridge—There was MLC meeting on single payer. What is happening with this legislation. Where do we stand?

Jeff Sorkin—Not much to report. Legislators presented they wanted to work with MLC—is being considered.

Schoor—Unions want to know what the effect is on us. 2% of whatever raise we’d have gotten goes to our health care. Very expensive program, we want to know state can afford it. Most probably should be federal program. No position on it yet because we don’t know what it’s going to say. We’ve already paid for our health coverage.

Reports from districts

Sean Rothkowitz—SRP event in SI.

Legislative Report

Schoor praises Paul for CL training.

Paul Egan—Sunday fire alarm went off and building was emptied over burning bagel. No one hospitalized. We need to finish early because Eagles playing Redskins.  Chelsea won.

Tish James will be AG, will resign as public advocate. Mayor must fill it, will be special election. Will declare on 3rd of January. At least 9 declared candidates. Will have ten days to fill petitions. 1500 signatures a day. No party will be helping, may shake out a few people. Election will be at end of February, and will be repeated in September.

We are going to try and have four town hall meetings with candidates. Have set Queens meeting 13 December, Manhattan 18. Will be two more in January. At DA in January we will debate and endorse. That is goal.

In 2009 many City Council seats will be term limited. We have analyzed districts. If every UFT member turned out and voted and rest of pop. turned out in regular numbers, we would win all 51 seats. We can influence things. More people stay at home than vote in this country. When de Blasio won primary, turnout was 18%. That means only 9% of Democratic vote was needed to win. We have great opportunities.

Would like UFT members to run. Looking for viable candidates who can raise money. City council has matching funds. We’re looking for people who want to run and will pair them up with advisors. In some case we may have multiple UFT members looking to run. Imagine if we had 26, who could decide on next speaker. Imagine what we could do.

Happy to have conversations and put people in touch with consultants. Would like 15, 20, 26 candidates.

Election Committee Report—Amy Arundell
—Have proposed election calendar. Formed committee at last meeting. Have met once. Have various reps. Put forth for your approval.

Plan to mail ballots March 25 and count April 17. Asks for approval of election notice.

—Will committee come to us later with other things?

Arundell—Correct. We will come back to you after future meetings.


Schoor—40 candidates minimum for slates.

Michael Mulgrew
—Fully expecting attack on union in May and June. Empire Center just released report on NYSUT. May and June there will be a campaign against us.

We averted a difficult situation with NY Presbyterian. Was not dropped from Blue Cross. Good for 43 months There are basically 5 hospitals in NYC. None of them deserve non-profit status. If they did not settle, they would’ve come looking to us, at worst in 43 months.

We are among handful of people who still have premium-free health care. It is endangered. What we did last spring was very smart. Number one issue in last election was health care. We work day in and day out to protect and fight for it, but we should not take it for granted.

There will be many more fights over the next year. We can use buying power of entire city health force. Few people running institutions worry about patients. They worry about bottom line. That needs to change.

300 CLs in Rye. Nice group of brand new CLs. Did presentation on operational issues, which go into effect December 5, in two days. DRs will be trained on Wednesday. Think these through, can be tool for empowering workshops. Asked CLs to strategize on how to use this to empower and organize. We want workforce to say there is better way to support children if we have right supplies, workspace, etc.

There will be many trainings over next month. Will be rally on Wednesday against Spectrum. Have decided they want to fight union as multinational corporation. Labor, governor, many elected officials demonstrating against Spectrum. Were UFT retirees marching today.

Single payer—We are in support of single payer for United States. If we enact this in NY State it will blow hole in budget public schools will not recover from. 100 billion dollar hole in state budget would be largest ticket item.

Was piece in NY Post saying they don’t and we don’t support it. Post doesn’t support it because they don’t support working people.

As for public funding, for elections. it’s 3-400 million budget item. Can we support it? No. These are my opinions, not union’s. My tax money going so political crap can come to my house?

Janella Hinds—Saturday third annual bowling event with students in temp. housing. Had phenomenal time. Gave them money for holiday shopping.

Karen Alford
—Saturday there were new members here. Classes in Zumba, yoga, mindfulness, diet. Helped to de-stress. Lego came and middle and high schools revolved around robotics.

Shelvy Abrams
—Thanks people for November 3rd, SRP recognition day. Many paras showed and were acknowledged. Great to see members celebrated. Expects everyone in room to buy table of ten at Hilton.

We are adjourned. 6:40

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Small Car Reviews, Volume 2

I'm still waiting to get my car back, and it looks like I won't see it until Tuesday. I had a Nissan Versa that I liked pretty well, but the tire inflation light came on the day after I got it. I drove it back to the rental joint where they put some air in it and said it was fine. The next day it went on again. They said not to worry about it, and that I should just fill it up with air every now and then. I wasn't happy with that, and took the car back.

Now I'm in a Ford Fiesta. This car is 30% plastic, 30% metal, and 40% road noise. The latter wouldn't be so bad if the stereo were able to play bluetooth music at a decent volume, or even an indecent volume. However, it does neither. If you're under five feet in height, though, you should find it comfortable to sit in.

The controls are in odd places. The headlights are controlled from the main console rather than the thing protruding from the steering wheel. Also the windshield wiper control doesn't pull down, but rather up. I had to sit in the car for a few minutes before I figured that out. The stereo controls are pretty extensive and I'm not used to them yet. I'm hoping to return the car before that changes.

On the positive side, it has a kind of thick steeering wheel. It's also got little corners in the rear view mirrors which actually show you what's in the blind spot. While the lights don't turn on and off automatically when the car does the same, it does have a tone that essentially says, "Turn the lights off, you idiot."

I haven't driven a Toyota Yaris yet, but I read somewhere that it was essentially a Mazda 2. I'll bet that's a cool little car. But I don't suppose I'll ever know. Fiesta is the Spanish word for party. If you're going to one, you might have more fun taking the bus than driving this car. Driving this car makes me yearn for a decent public transportation system that would allow me to forgo driving altogether. 

Saturday, December 01, 2018

On Health Care--MORE Is Hard of Reading

An issue dear to my heart is universal health care. I've been close to people who've died as a result of our unconscionable system. This has shaped much of my political thought, and has made it virtually impossible for me to support GOP candidates for just about anything. That's not to say all Democrats are good either. I can't recall many things quite so disappointing as Hillary saying single payer will never, ever happen.

For some reason I was sent a Politico Pro article put out by one of the people who conducted the great MORE purge. Some of my friends didn't make the cut of being extreme left enough to hang with the elitist MORE clique. It's kind of odd the fashionable leftists get Politico Pro. Last I heard, that cost like a million dollars a year. Maybe ISO subscribes. They make a lot of money selling those newspapers, I guess. Here's part of what the piece says:

Public-sector unions are gearing up to fight legislation that would establish New York State as the health insurance provider for all residents, worried the sweeping bill would curtail their benefits and negotiating power.
New York City labor leaders gathered in the Lower Manhattan offices of District Council 37 Monday to relay their concerns about the bill to its sponsors, Assemblyman Richard Gottfried and state Sen. Gustavo Rivera, several sources familiar with the meeting told POLITICO. The conflict puts unions at odds with an issue popular in the liberal wing of the Democratic party.

So one might come to this conclusion, as did the MORE person who sent it out:

Interesting that our union leadership is taking a position AGAINST single payer for NY State...

Of course if you actually read the piece, you would come to a different conclusion altogether. For one thing, nowhere does it say that union takes a position against single payer. Also, nowhere does it even mention UFT. It does say this:

Labor leaders also worry the bill would invalidate their collective bargaining leverage around health plans, thereby nixing the city's roughly $1,500-per-employee contribution to individual union funds. Those accounts cover a variety of expenses, including prescription drugs, hearing aids and glasses.

I have family in Canada, and my family in Canada is union. Not many people know that Canada does not have a national health care system. Rather, each province has its own system. I'm hopeful that we can emulate that, and that New York can lead the way. In fact, my brother-in-law's union plan, among other things, pays for his family's prescriptions. I don't suppose I have to tell you that prescriptions are prohibitively expensive in the United States. Until and unless that is corrected, and even if it is, it's the union's role to cover members somehow. I'm glad to see union fighting for various welfare funds.

I envision a role for union in health care similar to that of what it takes in Canada. Of course we would need a welfare fund. And as we don't know what universal health care would look like, there might be other roles for union to play. For example, there are all sorts of supplements to Medicare that people buy. Union could perhaps cover whatever shortfalls a new system might eventually show.

I certainly don't want to just dump the Welfare Fund. I think it's worth protecting. In fact, if you actually bother to read the entire piece, it looks like that's what the bill's sponsors want to do as well:

The lawmakers say they are now revising the legislation to address the unions' concerns, namely that the city's insurance options for its 380,000-employee workforce would not be reduced. City government offers some plans that cover virtually all employee costs, but the Albany bill has a provision that would charge workers a portion of the state tax used to pay for the $311 billion initiative.

I'm having trouble finding the part where any union whatsoever, let alone UFT, opposes single payer. It sounds like the bill's sponsors, in fact, want to accommodate union concerns and have everyone on board when this bill comes to a vote.

"Each union sets up its own welfare fund plan and it's funded through the contributions, and if you don't have the contributions, you don't have the welfare fund," Greg Floyd, president of Teamsters Local 237, said on Wednesday.
He was present at the meeting, which he estimated 150 people attended.
Gottfried said he and Rivera reached out to the Municipal Labor Committee, an umbrella group representing city unions, to collaborate on the bill.
"As Gustavo and I keep telling them, this is what our parents raised us to do. We were not raised to screw city workers. Or any workers," Gottfried said.
The new legislation would ensure employers continue their current rates of coverage, he said. The bill would also end up providing more than city workers currently receive, he added: "More services covered, more prescription drugs covered and when the bill is reintroduced in 2019, it will be broadened even more."
"There will be no deductibles or co-pays, there will be no restrictive network and no out-of-network charges," Gottfried added.
And any savings the city incurs — which he estimates would total $10 billion a year in reduced Medicaid expenses and payroll taxes — would replenish a fund partially controlled by unions under the proposal.
It sounds like sponsors will modify the bill to not only offer universal health care, but also to ensure that we retain our Welfare Fund benefits. In fact, it sounds like they want to go above and beyond. I see no reason any union would oppose such a bill, and indeed gaining union support appears to be a primary goal of the sponsors.

Like most Americans, I support universal health care. Acquiring health care for all Americans is a top priority, and that acquiring it for all New Yorkers will help us move the country in that direction.

For the record, UFT has endorsed universal health care. There's no reason we can't achieve it without weakening existing benefits for members. It's quite clear to me that's what the Teamsters president is looking for, and it sounds like that's the direction in which we're moving. That's something to be celebrated.

Reading is fundamental. Even the leaders of what's left of MORE, who've managed to take a small victory and craft it into a crushing defeat for opposition in general, ought to know that. Beyond that, they ought to put it into practice.