Thursday, February 28, 2019

How To Fix a Trailer in 17 Easy Steps

 I just spoke to a colleague who's working in the trailers. She was telling me how awful they are. I was reminded of this column, which tells me that no matter how many times you repair these things, they're just gonna keep falling apart anyway. It originally appeared in Chalkbeat, then Gotham Schools, in December 2009.

If you work for the NYC Department of Education, getting small things done can often be a large task. But I’ve been doing it since its inception, and I have some advice for those who are bewildered, or simply discouraged. Even if you’ve been exiled to the most filthy, decrepit, and crumbling trailer in Mayor Bloomberg’s New York, you can do it. Just follow these simple steps.

First, try all the normal channels. Go to the custodian and explain how cold, how wet, how malodorous and revolting the trailer is. When that fails, go to administration. Fill out the forms, make the requests, and do whatever official policy dictates. Go in every now and then to remind them when nothing gets done. Demand luxury items, like soap.
Repeat every year, as necessary.

Don’t give up when you discover bar soap instead of liquid soap, even if it grows a curious oozing black crust the kids refuse to touch. Just pick it up with a piece of paper and interrupt a Very Important Meeting to show the assistant principal. The soap bars will soon disappear. While no new soap will replace it, you can make yourself feel important by boasting to the kids about how you got rid of those grungy soap bars.

After the fifth year or so, you may find your trailer’s desk filled with fast-food garbage.  Throw it out yourself. If you wait, you’ll only learn the hard way that no one else will. Stop dumping the trash when someone finally pours soft drinks into the drawers, as your hands will get sticky and there’s no running water in the trailer bathroom.

The day you find the desk covered with ice cream, with paper plates stuck to it, it’s time to throw in the towel. At this point, you can’t leave anything inside the desk, and you can’t leave anything on top of it either. Have someone help you carry it outside. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the custodians locate and remove it. When they ask whether you want a replacement, say yes, no, or whatever comes to mind. You won’t get one anyway.

Next, run for UFT chapter leader. This can hasten the negotiating process. While assistant principals throw teachers out of their offices within a minute or two, they tend to wait five, sometimes even 10 minutes before evicting the chapter leader. Of course, your opponents will viciously battle you for those extra minutes, but don’t give up. In my experience, the best way to win is to get the Daily News to call your home and ask you to write a column opposing mayoral control. When it comes out, make copies, drop them in staff mailboxes, and many of your colleagues will vote for you.

After you win, unfortunately, the trailer will look the same. Don’t hesitate to take further action. First, call Sandra Dunn-Yules from the UFT to do a health and safety inspection. Spend hours exploring the entire school, and then show her the trailers. “I’ve seen worse,” she may say, even as she agrees they are abysmal. When she returns with people carrying fancy-looking equipment, be sure to express gratitude rather than disappointment they aren’t wearing Hazmat suits.

The next thing you have to do is get UFT Vice President Leo Casey to visit your school. Show him the overcrowding, and the trailers. Have him set up a meeting with Elizabeth Sciabarra, the director of the Department of Education’s office of enrollment. Whatever you do, don’t forget to have him tell you to file a grievance. Make sure he emails you to specify the grievance be under Article 10, E, 1 of the UFT Contract — that the DOE is failing to meet its responsibility “to provide the appropriate recognized standards of workplace sanitation, cleanliness, light, and noise control, adequate heating and ventilation.”

That’s pretty much it. Your trailer should be fixed by the following day. The faucets will be repaired, the heat and AC will work (at least for a while), the floors will be cleaned (as best they can), and you’ll have more frequent toilet paper, paper towels, and filled soap dispensers. In a few days, you’ll even get a new used desk.

It takes a little doing, but it’s worth it. Once you’ve done this, you can focus on how to get a real classroom (I’ll submit a follow-up just as soon as I work out the details).

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Zombie Plague of Bad Teachers in Press--Real Ones Just Go to Work

Someone put the bat signal on my Cory Booker post and I've gotten a few status quo questions. I've responded to them, but I really hate answering questions like that.

What would you do about all the teachers who suck? We'd respect the union more if it didn't defend all those bad teachers. Why are all city schools so terrible?

These questions are not new to me. For years I've read newspaper editorials and op-eds that sprang from these assumptions. I've been writing this blog for almost 14 years, and I don't really love moving back to square one. Nonetheless I've responded to a few of them.

As I write this, I'm finished teaching for the day, waiting on a School Leadership Team meeting. I'm in the teacher cafe with a bunch of people who are prepping lessons. I've already done most of what I've got to do, and the rest will wait until morning. I've set this blog to pop up at 4 AM, and that's around the time I'll be popping up too. I have a little quiet time in the morning, then I walk my dog and come in.

I'm in an hour early every morning. Because my job as chapter leader is basically insane (I'm not complaining--I love this job), it's the only way I can make sure I have time to do actual schoolwork.  There is a group of us here early, and I'm the only one who's chapter leader. Everyone else is doing extra, off schedule unpaid work too. They're prepping lessons, writing PowerPoints, making copies, stapling papers, and doing 500 other things. But that's not where the real work is.

The real work is on the classroom when you're with 34 teenagers, some of whom may be smarter, or even crazier than you are. I can't really guarantee I'll always be the smartest. You never know when some kid will get all arrogant and have a better argument than you do. But you can always work on being crazier than they are. However, no matter how unpredictable you fancy yourself, there's always some kid even more so, and that kid might be in front of your face at this very moment.

In that case, you'd better be smart, because that's a very delicate situation. What can you do or say that might make the odd behavior before you cease, improve, or better yet, become productive? For me, the answer is conversation first, and if there's a later, home contact more often than not. A lot of teachers don't like to call. I don't blame them because I don't like to call either. The question then becomes just exactly what, and how much of it, are you willing to tolerate before you do something?

It's tough because I'd like to see my kids right on the edge, on the line somewhere, but not over it. I'm thinking now of a girl who's very smart, very quick, but also very loud. Almost every day I consider calling her dad, but I've only done it twice. The first time I really blew it. I spoke of how smart she was, a lot, and dad took it as a compliment. He ended up thanking me.

But it's a tight rope. You have to be very careful how you respond to kids. They all have different things they like, different things they don't, and it's very tough discerning. There are some kids I can be very loud with. These kids will give it right back to me, too. There are others who I'd never raise my voice too. They strike me as very delicate.

Teachers who fall off the tight rope can get in trouble. Kids become unresponsive. Sometimes they become very responsive and report teachers. Depending on what happens, it could be a counseling memo, or a letter to file. Repeat that same behavior enough times, and you're looking at 3020a, when the state tries to take your license.

On the other hand, I know teachers who've done little or nothing, and ended up facing 3020a because the principal didn't like them. Bloomberg was all about giving power to principals, no matter how lazy, crazy, cruel or incompetent they happened to be. He set up DOE legal. This is a service in which principals call, ask whether or not it's okay to violate the collective bargaining agreement, and friendly lawyers say, "Sure, go ahead. No skin off my apple."

There was a whole Leadership Academy to churn out vindictive, intolerant principals who didn't want to be bothered with no stinking rules. Forest Hills High School is having big fun with one of those principals even as we speak.

Of course, there will always be people like Betsy DeVos, Bill Gates, and Cory Booker to carry out inane baseless policies that do little but send our tax dollars into the pockets of people who least need them. They can tell incredible stories, usually false, get themselves on TV, and present themselves as the second coming of Mother Theresa. But they're all full of crap.

We teachers are doing all the work, and shouldering most of the blame for things that are way out of our control. A whole lot of tests are crap. The English Regents exam in no way measures how well students write, because it barely involves writing. It's all about close reading crap and spitting out information on demand. The NYSESLAT, which my students all take, declares students no longer need English instruction simply because New York State doesn't feel like serving them.

We teachers come in every day and do the best we can. Our classes are overcrowded, our buildings are falling apart and cannot accommodate the students already here, many of our supervisors are the polar opposite of supportive, and we get blamed for everything. Everything.

But we're the ones who come in each and every day and do our level best to help every kid who comes to our classes. For that, we deserve better than to be vilified by the press and the ignorant politicians, and by ignorant politicians, I mean the overwhelming majority, even some I kind of like,

We can do better.

Monday, February 25, 2019

UFT Executive Board February 25, 2019--Election Rules

6 PM Secretary Howard Schoor welcomes us.


President is not here.

Staff Director’s Report—LeRoy Barr—CL training this weekend. Following  weekend is counselor conference. EB march 11 DA March 20.

Answer period for past questions.

Schoor—AFT endorsement—Mulgrew said AFT Exec. Council allowing locals to do as they wish, After Super Tuesday may be AFT endorsement.

Bronx plan—Rich Mantel—Schools chosen based on survey results, about trust, collaboration, looked at test results, school retention. Spoke to DRs and determined which schools were good fit. We selected hard to staff areas, schools struggling with high teacher turnovers, mostly Bronx and Brooklyn.


Arthur Goldstein—Every week I read about another charter school that shed 60-80% of its students and boasts of a 100% college acceptance rates. All the students the charters give up come to us. Coming from the most overcrowded school in the city, this grieves me deeply. Even worse, charter schools have a form to request more space. My school will not have an annex for years, and even when it does, after we blow up those awful trailers, it’s unlikely we’ll net enough space to preclude the use of half classrooms, like the one I’m in, or windowless classrooms with inferior air quality, like the ones my colleagues are in.

When is the chancellor going to arrange that kids in public schools, the ones that follow his regulations and stuff, will have the same expectation of and right to sufficient space as kids in Moskowitz Academies?

Schoor—Haven’t answered that question because we have consultation with chancellor on Friday. Chancellor has been attacking some of the charters. Was angry about attacks on public schools. Hopefully will have answer for next answer period.

Jonathan Halabi—School diversity advisory group had recommendations. Hoping we could hear about report and UFT reaction, and lack of proposals for high schools.

Janella Hinds
—UFT participated in this committee. I was rep. Was an agenda set aside—over next few weeks UFT members will pick it apart and give a member reaction. Some of us may say report doesn’t go far enough—tough to come to consensus that pleases everyone. Work informed and led by students. Want to see how DOE reacts.

Mike Schirtzer—You said AFT allows locals to work on own. What does that mean for UFT?

Schoor—Don’t know—will be on next answer period. When we have a process we will let everyone know.

—Does it mean we will endorse?

Schoor—We don’t have authority—will recommend.

Schirtzer—Forest Hills High School—As UFT members how can we support them?

—They came last year. We were involved. LeRoy was there last year and is going again tomorrow. We will put out press statement today or tomorrow. We have 90% vote of no confidence. We will have a plan of action.

Reports from districts—

Janella Hinds—Asks that everyone save March 31—Second Herstory celebration. Invites all to 52 Broadway to honor women who built labor movement.

Legislative report—Schoor
—March 18 Lobby Day—Must register by March 4. If they don’t show up they have to let us know. Tomorrow is vote. We have not endorsed.

Election report—Amy Arundell—Several documents with recommendations. We need to find new ways to encourage turnout, like robocalls. No collection of ballots or exchange of bagels for ballots.

Schoor—We have to err on side of caution. Were 22 complaints from one caucus, and two instances of CL collection ballots. Unacceptable.

—Complaints didn’t have merit. Went to AFT and DOL. I understand about pizza and dollars for ballots. Bundling seems like good idea. Lawyers say no to everything. Risk averse. I think we can stand on we won this. Maybe CL shouldn’t handle them, but bundling was effective. We shouldn’t listen to lawyers. We survived this claim

Mary McCarrol
—Why couldn’t we stand in front of a mailbox and have members cast in front. Bagel at mailbox.

Eliu Lara—When we educate people they respond.

LeRoy Barr—Next meeting people can think of creative ways to get members to vote. We need to protect the process. Just because you’ve always done it doesn’t mean we’re protecting the process as best we can. Maybe there are things we haven’t thought of yet. Bring these back to our next meeting.

Schirtzer—Since documents are dos and don’ts why don’t we expand it. Add document based on suggestions. You can feed people at chapter meeting and inform people.

Question called.

—We will vote. Election committee will vote on which petitions are acceptable and we will vote on that.


Resolution honoring UFT founder Ray Frankel

George Altomari—There are a lot of things you see in people. Some people do that and more. You hardly even see them. But Ray Frankel was a person who did as much as anyone in the union. When you devote a lifetime to a cause, you have something special. Lots of people saw her in different roles. Ran elections for years. Without her work, you wonder where we would be. She was meticulous about her work. Everyone believed in her honesty. She was there at the very beginning. She always gave more than she received. You could always rely on her. Represented the best of us.

Schoor—She was CL of Art and Design. My mom was secretary. Always asked after her. Always concerned about people after they left, every union member.

LeRoy Barr—I had opportunity to work with her closely. One of first on our wall downstairs. Was always there behind scenes making sure things were running. Dedicated her entire life. Working up until last 2 or three months. Was voice that said you can’t do it this way, you have to do it that way. She added to me, making sure we didn’t just get it done, but got it done right. We are the beneficiaries of her life. Bur for her, we probably wouldn’t be sitting here today.

Approved unanimously.

We are adjourned 6:47

Mayor Not Happy About Forest Hills Party

The Post today reported that Mayor Bill de Blasio, to his credit, took a completely different approach than the DOE spokesperson who replied to Sue Edelman's story. The spokesperson seemed to think everything was fine and the principal, who evidently looked the other way, was doing a fabulous job.

De Blasio clearly saw things differently:

“If something like that is happening there will be serious consequences for anyone involved,” Hizzoner said from Iowa.
“It is not legal and it’s not acceptable.”

That's an appropriate response. Instead of pretending that nothing is happening, you stand up and face the situation.

Kudos to the Mayor for taking a stand. It's always easier to stick your head in the sand and hope for the best, but that's not leadership. I sincerely hope my brothers and sisters and Forest Hills High School will reap the benefits of a stand-up politician willing to face a situation and deal with it.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

It's PARTY TIME at Forest Hills High School!

At least, that's the clear implication I see here:

Principal Ben Sherman, who joined Forest Hills in 2017, shrugs off the pot-puffing — saying “it’s going to be legal” anyway, teachers complain.

So what else is okay in Forest Hills High School? Alcohol is already legal, so why not let kids just get drunk? That's not a problem, is it? Maybe, instead of making them sneak around the halls they should just do it right in the classroom. After all, then they'll be under the supervision of teachers, and whatever goes wrong you can just blame them for it.

Personally, I favor legalization of marijuana. However, I'd want to see an age limit on purchases. Also, unlike what the principal of Forest Hills seems to think, I wouldn't want high school students coming in high. To me, it wouldn't matter much if it were legal. I simply don't think teenagers being high contributes to the optimal school environment. (Of course, I'm just a lowly teacher, and I haven't been to the Leadership Academy, where they teach all that Important Stuff for principals.)

Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I'm not particularly fond of students coming in drunk either. It seems that must be okay with administration at Forest Hills High School, because if we're supposed to tolerate drugs that are not yet legal, doesn't it follow that we should tolerate those that already are? I wouldn't want my kid (or yours) drunk, let alone going to school drunk. In fact, I don't think I've ever worked for a principal who said, "Well, it's legal, so just let them do it."

There are a whole lot of legal things I don't want my students to do. Driving is legal, but if they don't know how I'd just as soon not see them on the road. Flying is legal. Giving tattoos is legal. Performing heart surgery is perfectly legal. Being a teacher, I see education as a prerequisite to many things. I also see maturity as a similar prerequisite.

So personally, I'm horrified to imagine that a school principal would suggest that teenagers smoking weed in a high school ought to be tolerated because it's going to be legal one day. I wonder what the superintendent would say if he were to find out about something like this. Intrepid reporter Sue Edelman tried asking the principal first, but he wasn't talking. Anyway, here's what she found:

Sherman referred questions to DOE spokesman Doug Cohen, who said in a statement: “Principal Sherman has been an effective leader for Forest Hills High School, and the superintendent is continuing to support the school. We take these complaints seriously and will continue to ensure a supportive environment for all students and staff.”

I wonder if the DOE spokesperson has also been to the Leadership Academy. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that place must change the way a person sees things. For example, I've never been there, so it's hard for me to square that with the implication that it's okay for teenagers to smoke weed in school, and not because it's still illegal either. It's also hard for me to square that with the chaotic mess I see described.

Call me madcap, but the environment I see described in the story strikes me as something distinctly less than a model for us all. Furthermore, I know a bunch of people who work at Forest Hills. What they describe to me is the polar opposite of a "supportive environment" for staff. Does an "effective leader" have staff in open revolt? If your class were in open revolt, do you think you'd be rated effective when observed?

As a teacher of students from different places and cultures, I'm acutely aware that it's our job to teach respect for one another. Not only that, but it's our job to model it as well. This starts at the top. It's hard for me to understand how a staff under siege can be at their best. I mean, if you're constantly worried about what fresh crap the principal is going to rain upon you, it's got to affect your job performance.

Maybe the DOE spokesperson is taking misdirection lessons from Sarah Huckabee Sanders. From his words, you'd think everything was peaches and cream over there. It clearly is not, or you wouldn't have 90% of staff declaring no confidence in the principal. No one does things like this for fun. The staff is obviously demoralized and fighting for the decent environment they knew for many years before this Leadership Academy principal arrived.

This is a mess. Mayor Bill de Blasio failed the teachers and students in this city when he failed to purge Tweed of the fanatical ideologues planted by Michael Bloomberg. Forest Hills High School is but a symptom of the poison tree Bloomberg left in his wake.

Let's see if this mayor has the guts to do just a little pruning, at least. Then, he should chop down the whole frigging thing.

Amazon Takes Ball, Goes Home, Cuomo Blames Unions

I teach in half a classroom. If I get out of it next year, someone else will teach in it. Elsewhere in our building, teachers work in classrooms with no windows. The principal spent a bunch of money to place genuine air conditioning in these rooms, yet the air quality is still substandard according to UFT health analysis. We're set to get an annex in a few years, but with the destruction of our miserable trailers we won't net a whole lot of extra classrooms.

It's my understanding there were two school buildings planned for Long Island City, plans that were quickly set aside once Amazon came in. Where would Queens students go to school? De Blasio's capital plan doesn't even begin to make provision for that until after he leaves office. Who knows who comes next, or whether his successor will give a fiddler's fart about public schools?

Yet there were three billion dollars available somehow to give Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world. Andrew Cuomo is apoplectic that the deal's gone down the tubes, and reverting to form, blames unions. Yet is was Amazon's decision not to remain neutral on union, which clearly indicated they would avidly oppose it. There was evidently some agreement with unions and Amazon, but shortly thereafter, Bezos decided to take his ball and go home. Neither the agreement nor the three billion proved sufficient for him.

Now there is a lot of talk about 25,000 jobs at 150K each. That sounds pretty good. I myself haven't even got one job a 150K. But if you divide three billion by 25,000, it turns out that each of those jobs costs 120K. Now you may assume that Amazon is staying forever, and that might influence your thinking. I'm not so sure. The pizza place across the street from our school closed one day, and it opened under a new name a few months later. People told me that they were reopening to get some sort of tax credit for new businesses.

On a grander scale, who knows what's going to happen with the on-again, off-again Foxconn factory that received $4 billion in tax breaks and incentives? Was it brought back again with promises of more money? Who knows how many companies take the tax breaks and then pack up when they expire? Would Jeff Bezos have hung out in NYC if some municipality offered him a bigger bonanza elsewhere? No one really knows.

It's important, though. Because even though NY was giving Bezos the three billion dollars upfront, the actual jobs were being phased in over ten years. So what if Amazon picked up and left an empty factory? Could they profit up front while we were left with the empty hulk of the most expensive ghost in New York City?

And what exactly is a 150K job? Does it include health benefits? If not, a big chunk of that is gone. If so, a smaller chunk disappears, but it's still no longer a 150K job. Furthermore, the possibility of huge salaries for some leaves the possibility of smaller salaries for many. Would that lead New Yorkers to experience the same miserable substandard working conditions Amazon is known for elsewhere? Would it manage to contribute nothing in taxes as it does nationally?

These are all things that Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio ought to have discussed with the public before presenting this deal as the greatest thing since sliced bread, and a fait accompli. But they couldn't be bothered. And it seems once unionization was even discussed, Amazon had no interest in pursuing this deal, even for three billion dollars.

Andrew Cuomo gets up and says this cost NY 27 billion dollars, and that the 3 billion doesn't actually exist. Well, Governor Cuomo, neither does the 27. Maybe it was there, and maybe it wasn't. Still, with the rampant overcrowding my kids live with every day, it's disgraceful that both Cuomo and de Blasio were ready to throw Queens children to the dogs just for a chance to build a union-unfriendly billionaire a helipad.

For years, New York City has claimed to place children first. It's pretty clear that even this supposedly progressive mayor thought that the needs of the richest man in the world took precedence over those of New York City's children.

I wonder what three billion dollars could buy New York City schools.

Friday, February 22, 2019

That Scary Socialism

The pic to the left is a preview of the upcoming GOP presidential campaign, though it's already underway. If they have their way, we won't be discussing whether Americans need the health care most of the world enjoys. Instead, we'll be discussing whether or not it's socialism.

The word has been largely a loser of a label in American culture, and that's what GOP counts on. I was educated in public schools during the Cold War era, and I was taught to loathe those awful Russians, because they were communists. Never mind my grandfather was born there, and was one of the best people I ever met.

I don't call myself a socialist, though some of my friends on the right have labeled me that (and less complimentary things). I do have friends who are varying degrees of socialists. I've been to meetings where one socialist group was criticizing another, and they got right down into the weeds on what was wrong with one or the other. I generally had no idea what they were even talking about.

What I do know is I strongly support health care for all. I don't really care what you call it. Obama promised a public option that never saw the light of day. Medicare for All is the phrase I keep hearing from politicians I like. The GOP response, invariably, is that's socialism and you'll lose your private insurance. It's odd, because I have private insurance and I'll be glad to lose it. I'm tired of the copays and confusion. Once, when I had cancer, I got a hospital bill for thousands of dollars. I was feeling so weak that I just paid rather than question it.

I'm lucky. I've known people I don't know anymore because they're deceased for lack of medical coverage. Americans go bankrupt over catastrophic medical emergency, and last I looked it was the number one cause of bankruptcy here. But we can't have national health coverage because that would be socialism. Donald Trump says we'll never have socialism here and thousands of MAGA hat-wearers cheer.

My father fought in World War Two. He was in the Battle of the Bulge. Toward the end of his life he required care. He had what he thought was insurance in case he had to have at home or nursing home care. His wife soon learned that the insurance covered very few of her expenses. And so, when my father was 92 years old he had to divest himself of most of what he owned, what he'd worked for all his life, so he could receive Medicaid coverage and his wife wouldn't go broke. My brother-in-law's grandmother, in Canada, received better end-of-life care than my dad did, and didn't have to lay out a dime for it.

In case that doesn't sound like much, they also get paid parental leave, which my sister in law took for a year once. Oh, and she also got free child care, though I think that varies by province. Still, it's a lot better than here, where all you're guaranteed is diddly squat.

They say the Green New Deal is socialism, and make ridiculous claims about it. Is it controversial that we need to protect the environment for our children and grandchildren? Evidently it is, with leaders who don't even believe in science anymore. 

Is that socialism too? Does it really matter what on earth we call it? I guess it only matters if you want to continue with the status quo and frighten working Americans into submission. Are we going to allow the next election cycle to pivot over whether or not taking care of one another, as well as the world we inhabit, is socialism? Or are we going to work to give Americans what we overwhelmingly want and need?

Only time will tell, unfortunately.

Meanwhile, the same people who cry socialism put a billboard up in Times Square, vilifying Alexandria Ocasio Cortez for opposing the Amazon deal, you know, the one in which we were to give the richest man in the world 3 billion dollars so he can create jobs that pay 150K each. Actually, we'd be subsidizing them to the tune of 120K each, so it's a bargain for Bezos. Remember when Obama got elected and we bailed out the car companies, along with the banks that caused the crisis?

We've always had what they call socialism in the United States. Whatever you call it, it's obscene when it only benefits rich people, as opposed to those of us going to work every day and trying to get by. If we're gonna put our money somewhere, it ought to be in a vibrant middle class. The policies of the last few decades are making us an endangered species.

I want to hear Democrats tell us why we should vote for them. If their selling point is they aren't socialist, for my money they're playing right into the hands of Donald Trump. We need to do way better than that. 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

It's Not Easy to Stand Up---BUT...

 I remembers a Shakespeare teacher I had in college. He told us, "Once someone says but, you may ignore everything that preceded it." When your boyfriend or girlfriend says, "I really love you, but..." it's time to look for a new relationship.

We're at a turning point in the United States, and we can build one in New York City too. With Forest Hills High School making a little splash, we see a model. (They're in Queens Chronicle today, and I happen to know you'll be reading more about FH very shortly.) They're not the first to move with a vote of no confidence in a troublesome principal. CPE1 did the same last year. It's not easy to stand against principals. Principals have too much power, and can be vindictive on multiple levels.

At CPE1 this played out in different ways. The principal seemed totally paranoid of losing control, and as a result placed both the UFT chapter leader and a delegate under 3020a charges. It ought not to be an option for principals to bring people up on charges for the offense of doing their jobs as union reps. Nonetheless, the still-Bloomberg DOE policy is to let principals do Any Damn Thing They Please, no matter what. This, surprisingly, has not been questioned by allegedly progressive Bill de Blasio. It was ignored by Carmen FariƱa, and the current chancellor hasn't lifted a finger to change it either.

Nonetheless, the entire CPE1 community stood with the besieged union members, regularly attended the chapter leader's hearings, and eventually both UFT members were restored as teachers. Typically, the principal was removed but not disciplined. Principals get the message that they can do whatever, disregard the staff and community, get slapped on the wrist, and go on to shuffle papers at Tweed or whatever it is they make them do.

A friend of mine said there were two problems in the UFT--the membership and the leadership. It's said in jest, but it's true. Janus, I believe, has been a wake up call for them. I know it's been one for me. I'm unusual, though, and I'm not glad or proud of it. I'm out here every day saying pretty much whatever I want. While that's not typical, I'd like it to be.

The Forest Hills teachers, I'm sure, would rather not be doing this. No teacher wants to spend time battling administration. Our jobs are already incredibly stressful and time-consuming. Plus, a lot of us have lives outside the classroom. We have families, interests, passions, hobbies, dreams and aspirations. We want those things not only for ourselves, but also for our students. That's one of the reasons many of us went into this.

Make no mistake, our option of having lives is under attack. It's no coincidence that charters are mostly non-union, or that working in them can be unsustainable for people who wish to have lives outside of work. The only thing that matters in some of these places is test scores and how to manipulate them. If that's not the central goal of your existence, you're unlikely to last.

Alas, when you're under assault, fighting back becomes not only a necessity for survival, but also a moral imperative. That's why the members at Forest Hills are speaking and acting right now. Yet in other places this isn't happening. It's certainly not happening in schools where harassment and abuse by administration is not a way of life. It's also not happening in some schools where it is.

I kind of understand. Knowing that the principal is a vindictive lunatic, there's a lot of personal risk in being the first to take a stand. Once, years ago, I told Michael Winerip, then-NY Times education columnist, that I had two students in my beginning ESL classes who were fluent in English but illiterate. The students were misplaced and the school was doing nothing to address their core issue. Winerip asked me if I was tenured, and I told him I was.

Winerip didn't even write about me, but merely sent quotes from me in a fax to the DOE. My then-principal was apoplectic, and told me in great detail how ungrateful I was. I wasn't exactly sure what I was ungrateful for, as this principal had never reached out to help me at all, ever. It didn't matter, though. The principal started calling me into his office, usually at the end of the day, and making me wait so he could tell me how awful I was, and how the appropriate people had covered their asses. (The fact that no one had reached out to help either of these kids was never mentioned. Both helpfully dropped out of school shortly thereafter, resolving the problem.)

This went on for a while, until he denied me new textbooks I needed for my class. I found that the contract said he needed to provide them  The principal not only stopped bothering me, but also bought us books me when I threatened a grievance. Now that was a pain in the ass, but in the scheme of things was relatively nothing. I know many  people who've been through way worse. Not the least of them is the chapter leader of Forest Hills, who evidently gets letters in his file for the egregious offense of being chapter leader of Forest Hills.

This chapter leader, though, has the support of his community, who voted overwhelmingly that they had no confidence in the principal. By ourselves, we are just that--by ourselves. Union means we stand together and support one another. It sucks being the first to stand up, and a whole lot of people don't want to do it. I don't blame them.

Janus is an attempt to destroy union and leave us standing all alone. No one who brought the suit gives a crap how much money we make, and they'd be more than delighted to have us work for minimum wage as at-will employees. If you believe the people who come to your house saying they want to give you a raise, well, you are a fool, a dupe. It's changed leadership and it's changed me. It needs to change all of us.

If we can collectively wake up we can turn a negative into a positive. This is not an easy jump to make, and it won't happen overnight. But it's one of the things I'm going to encourage this year, both publicly and privately. We are stronger than we know. It's time we started not only knowing it, but also acting on it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

On Bernie Bros and Textbook Insanity

Over the last few days I'm seeing a resurgence of the old stereotype about Bernie Bros. I'm always disappointed when people roll out stereotypes. I learned about them when I was very young. I was the only Jewish kid in my elementary classes and my fellow students were more than happy to demonstrate what they were. I went home and asked my father why we weren't Catholic like everyone else. That question cost me ten years of religious instruction that didn't really take.

Bernie Bros, when I first heard it, suggested thuggishness and intolerance, particularly intolerance of the decidedly mediocre Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton. I was pretty surprised by that. I was besieged with messages that I hadn't learned anything from the 1972 loss of George McGovern to Richard Nixon. This was a remarkable argument, since we now know that everything McGovern believed about the Vietnam War was correct, and we would've saved many American lives if we'd chosen him.

I'm critical of Democratic candidates, and as a result people have told me how risky that is. I don't want to see Trump elected again, do I? In fact I don't. Maybe it's time we stopped tossing out 1972 as a cautionary tale and updated our collective barometer. It's ironic, because despite being called a Bernie Bro, whatever that means, I voted for Hillary in the general. It didn't much matter that I wasn't fond of her policies. Trump is delusional, racist, and juvenile. He's the worst President I've ever seen, and he makes GW Bush look like Albert Einstein in comparison. (The quote in the photo is often attributed to Einstein, by the way, but there's no evidence he actually said it.)

The takeaway for some of my Hillary-supporting friends is we must not question any Democratic candidate. That's an odd conclusion. The fact is that Hillary managed to lose the election to one of the most unpopular politicians on the planet. And no, it doesn't much matter that she garnered more votes than her opponent. Donald Trump is President of the United States anyway. Why is that?

Quite simply, it's because a whole lot of people didn't deem it worth getting off their asses and voting for her. So what can we conclude from that? Does it mean that we should keep our mouths shut when Democratic hopefuls are unsuitable?

For me, that's already impossible. Cory Booker is no different from Betsy DeVos in educational philosophy. I will not vote for him, ever. The fact is, of the other Democrats, none are great on education. All should be. I'm being turned off by several candidates eager to distance themselves from Sanders. His ideas are widely supported by Americans, and polling shows that.

2016 gave us a "safe" candidate, a candidate who didn't stand for universal health care, reasonable wages, taxes on those who can afford to pay them, and college for all. In case nobody noticed, she failed. Setting us up for another so-so candidate who stands for status quo and not much else will be a catastrophe. So go ahead, call us Bernie Bros. Show your ignorance.

But let's leave it at that. It's important we get a candidate who can pull Americans off their couches to vote. I voted for Hillary last time, and woke up the next day to find Donald Trump was President. I don't intend to do that again, so let's look carefully at the candidates, and nominate someone worth voting for this time.

Forget 1972. Let's make sure we don't repeat 2016.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Forest Hills High School UFT Votes No Confidence in Principal Ben Sherman, 195-21

It's tough being in a leadership position. You have to really gauge what you should and should not do. My position is chapter leader, and I'm acutely aware I have to act in the interests of members. For one thing, it's an elected position. If I'm asleep at the switch, I deserve to be dumped.

It's different if you're a school leader, like a principal. Of course you aren't elected, but it's important to take the temperature of the place rather than zoom in like a Tasmanian Devil cartoon character. I watched my last two principals pretty carefully as I was chapter leader for all or most of their tenure. I know that both were slow to implement significant changes, getting the feel of the place first. I've had significant differences with both, but we manage to get along somehow anyway.

My source tells me the chapter leader at Forest Hills got called into the principal's office for a disciplinary hearing right around the time the no confidence vote took place, and not for the first time either. It appears being chapter leader in itself is an offense at Forest Hills. That's certainly one approach you can take. Go after the CL and hope everyone else falls into place like so many Stepford Teachers. (Of course, they probably have very few no confidence votes in Stepford.)

It seems like the previous Forest Hills principal did things like hire deans and place aides at student bathrooms and exits, and that evidently added a little order to things. The current principal has other ideas, according to a memo I was sent:

The Principal removed aides outside student bathrooms.  At the May 8, 2018 UFT Consultative Council meeting, the Principal stated, that rather than sit aides by the bathrooms, the “money could be better allocated in other things.” (coaches for tenured AP’s?)  Gangs of students congregated in the bathrooms.  Fights broke out.  Urine was thrown into a classroom.  A toilet was violently smashed from the wall. Students got stuck inside a bathroom.  Through all this, the Principal left the bathrooms unattended.

But the no confidence vote seems to have rattled him a bit: 

 Only now, on the verge of a Vote of No Confidence, does the Principal start returning aides to positions from which they had been removed.

Better late than never, I suppose. Deans are pretty key to running a large school. Our principal has not only appointed more deans, but, with UFT cooperation, also changed them from .4 to .6 so that they all serve more periods than they used to. The Forest Hills principal has a different philosophy, evidently:

“Mr. Sherman asked why the hallways were good at the beginning of the year.  A teacher answered that students knew there were consequences and also there were more deans around.  The number of deans has decreased by 29%.  Students are realizing that there are not adults patrolling the hallways.  Mr. Sherman stated that we have enough deans and SSA’s and that our school is also a training site“ (March 27, 2018, UFT Consultative Council minutes)

I'd argue that it's good for students to know there are adults with radios, capable of communicating with one another, in the hallways, but of course I'm just a lowly teacher. My sources tell me that student conflicts are spilling out into the neighborhood and the neighbors find them to be no fun at all. One might conclude a principal who doesn't get along with staff might have issues with the community at large.

I don't know the principal of FHHS. What I know is that there is a philosophy that pervades Tweed and dates from Bloomberg, and it is toxic. The philosophy is this--we are in charge, we will do whatever we like, and you can all go to hell if you don't like it. In fact, Bloomberg had an entire Leadership Academy in which he pushed this philosophy. Bill de Blasio did nothing to change this. The current chancellor, who I think is super smart and capable, has yet to make a dent in it either.

A better philosophy is to get to know one another and find ways to work things out. Calling the chapter leader for a disciplinary meeting because there's a vote of no confidence reminds me of this guy:


That's not a leader, and that's not leadership. Real leaders are thoughtful and careful, anticipating issues. They know that not everyone is going to like them, and they live with it. They know that when they make decisions there will be critics. Trying to intimidate teachers, especially by trying to shut down union, is a terrible move. For one thing, it only exacerbates the problem, as demonstrated by this very vote.

For another, if you were to be successful, you'd have a bunch of terrorized Stepford Teachers just going through the motions. Unless your goal is to create an entire school full of Stepford Teenagers, that's a pretty silly way to go. It's our job to bring out the voices of our students. It's our job to make them open up and speak. Maybe we can even make them sing.

Either way, shutting down the voices of their teachers is precisely the wrong way to go. There are ways to get along, and just in case principals failed to master them in kindergarten, someone ought to offer a refresher course in principal school.

On the other hand, if the principal is overwhelmingly disliked and distrusted, dangerous to the school body, and reviled by the community, maybe he just needs to go. 

Is Your Arbitrator Fair and Impartial?

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say no, not necessarily. Unless there's something vital this story failed to catch, its subject, a now-fired young teacher  playing online Xbox games with students harbored no ill intent and caused no harm. It's bad judgment, I think, as off hours social involvement with students ought to be off the table. Still, I'd argue that this should be a cease and desist, a counseling memo, or a letter to file at the very worst.

Of course, I am not an arbitrator. Arbitrators are our last go to for theoretically unbiased decisions in matters between administration and UFT. I'm sure I've written many times about the grievance process, but I'll do a quick recap--Step one is with the principal, who likely as not is the person who violated the contract. Pretty much everyone thinks what they do is right, and there's an entire department they call "legal" whose job it is to tell principals to do whatever the hell they feel like. At step one, your chances are slim.

You then move on to step two, where you meet a representative of the chancellor and one of the superintendent. Alas, the reps there are all Bloomberg leftovers trained to believe the principal is always right. In one case I brought to them last year, when a letter in file was issued over three months after the incident occurred, we got a response back stating the incident was not an occurrence, and that the three month rule therefore did not apply. I wondered what drugs you'd need to take to think of this stuff. I've been waiting almost a year for this, along with a half-dozen other cases, to hit an arbitrator, but the wheels of UFT grievance grind exceedingly slowly.

The problem is that once you hit an arbitrator there are no guarantees you will get a sensible decision. Exhibit A, I suppose, is the young teacher being fired for playing online video games with a few kids. Hopefully that will be reversed on appeal. But I've got stories of my own.

The first will be the arbitrators on class size. I wrote in the Daily News about how they approved "action plans" that served no one but those who favored classes that exceeded contractual limits, already too high. Arbitrators thought it was a good idea to leave 37 kids in the class and give teachers one day off a week from tutoring. I told DOE reps at contract negotiations that the only possible way that could be helpful would be if I used that time for therapy to deal with the stress and frustration of dealing with the oversized classes.

Another time, I grieved that teachers didn't receive full schedules with rooms the day before they left for summer break. I did this because we'd received strips of paper giving us new schedules that were identical to our old ones. The rooms, times, co-teachers, and comp-time jobs turned out to be identical too, even for people whose comp-time jobs were expiring. I argued that this was a farce and a blatant violation. The DOE said it was fine, and the arbitrator agreed.

Our school uses an SBO to enable PD, teacher teams, OPW, tutoring and other things. It's pretty popular, and drew 100% support last year. It drew close to that in previous years. After I lost to the arbitrator, I added language to the SBO stating that teachers would get new programs rather than recycled ones, and that there would be good faith effort to anticipate what would happen. Of course they'd be subject to change, and of course the contract anticipated that.

Here's the thing--the arbitrator failed to understand unequivocal contract language. Maybe he was stupid. Maybe he was on drugs. Maybe he didn't like me. Who knows? In the end, all that matters is he was dead wrong. And this guy could be the guy who decides whether or not you get to keep your job. That's chilling.

I'm not sure what the solution is here. I know that arbitrators are jointly picked by UFT and DOE. I also know that DOE stacks the deck by sending wasteful crap cases to arbitrators on black letter violations. I have a bunch of them waiting, as the DOE, which has no respect whatsoever for educators, hopes that arbitrators don't understand or enforce unequivocal language. I'm hopeful that some new contractual regulations will redirect a portion of the obvious cases from the paws of arbitrators.

Meanwhile, I don't have a whole lot of faith in their judgment. Hopefully they'll do something to change my mind, and soon.

Friday, February 15, 2019

MORE Dumps Everyone in Entire Caucus

Breaking--The MORE Caucus, after having dumped its elected UFT Executive Board members (though only the ones who still regularly attend), has decided it was time to make this policy universal. After a meeting with the new Steering Committee, the one it self-appointed after unilaterally dumping the old Steering Committee, it was determined that the only way to effectively ensure a loss in the upcoming election was to have no membership whatsoever.

The caucus, which had already decided not to run for any office it could possibly win, deemed it too risky to actually have any members. After all, people might vote for you by mistake. And you never know when one some troublemaker may decide having an actual voice in union matters might be something worth pursuing. Next thing you know, they're speaking to people and expressing ideas. Who knows what sort of ideas these might be?

A MORE leader, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the following: "The thing about the Executive Board is that, if we organize, it's possible we will win. I myself am too busy to actually spend two Monday nights a month at 52 Broadway. After all, there are my rumba lessons, there's hot yoga, and then there are the political groups I actually care about. Anyway, I don't have time to go and if I can't do it, I don't trust anyone else to do it either."

Another leader, also speaking under conditions of anonymity, told NYC Educator, "Here's the thing. It was a lot of work to get rid of the troublemakers. We had to violate all of our rules and bylaws to do that, and then we found there still weren't enough troublemakers out. So we bounced Norm Scott, because he kept talking about the stuff we did. That made us look pretty bad, because we actually did all that stuff, and it's unacceptable to have people know about it. By getting rid of him, we were able to stop him knowing what we were doing. Now we can do whatever we want and no one will know."

It's ironic, because we at NYC Educator spent years slamming Unity for a loyalty oath, only to be invited to run on their slate with no preconditions whatsoever, with a specific request that we keep challenging them. So we asked why, if MORE was an open caucus, it kept tossing people out. How can this caucus possibly represent a union if it only accepts members who represent a very narrow political ideology?

"We've thought about that, actually," answered our source. "Though we've tossed the current troublemakers, we really have no way of knowing whether new people will cause more trouble. In fact, even I might get an idea and cause trouble. So I also have to go. That's why we've decided to toss out absolutely everyone. This is really the only way we can assure absolute ideological purity and no variation whatsoever from our purposes. For example, if we continued to have members, some of them would eventually want to not only run in union elections, but also win them. We can't have that."

"Furthermore, it's not really social justicey if we just toss out some people and don't toss out others. So in fairness to all, we're going to throw absolutely everyone out. And we want everyone to know that we aren't doing this on basis of race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation or any standard whatsoever. If you are human, you are out."

We brought forth the possibility of animals and/ or artificial life forms, but our source had no comment.

MORE is planning to place an ad in NY Teacher, in which it will focus on the necessity of striking. Strike is the only way, our source said, for MORE to get what it wants. Winning a UFT election is absolutely off the table, said our source, since that would mean the members who won could be corrupted. After all, power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and no power whatsoever corrupts not at all.

When NYC Educator asked what would happen if they did win, our source replied, "Well, that would be highly inconvenient. I, for example, haven't got time to go to any more meetings than I already attend. What we would probably do with the union is the same thing we are doing with the caucus. We would throw everyone out. Then, there would be no more union meetings and I could get back to doing stuff that was more important."

What exactly is it that's more important than working to make a better union, to improve working conditions for us and learning conditions for our students?

"No comment," said our source.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

UFT Delegate Assembly February 13, 2019--Show Us the Money

4:24—Michael Mulgrew asks for moment of silence for departed staffer Denise Costa.

Candy distributed for Valentine’s Day, but Mulgrew says there will be no beer in March.

Strike in Denver over merit pay. Problem is percentage. We don’t work as heavily with Denver as other places.

Donald Trump Jr. calls us loser teachers who are indoctrinating the youth of America as socialists. Upset students support strikes and fighting for public education.

You can go on NYSUT website to see new state deductions for teachers. It seems like ten states targeted by tax program pay about 9% more, which will affect us. Sadly, this money goes to other 40 states to pay for their services. Will affect state and city budgets.

AFT Exec. Board was last week. Passed resolution about next presidential race. Allowing all state and locals to work with anyone running for President now. When deemed strategic they will call all leaders together to come up with a final determination over what’s in best interest for public ed., health care, and working people. Not about who we like the best, but rather our basic focus on worker and union rights. This may be one of the ugliest political years in our history.

State—Shortfall in budget right now. When Tom de Napoli says it we know it’s real. Billion dollar increase for ed. but we want more. Going up on March 18th. Please no drinking on bus because we have to lobby.

APPR will get done, and if there is a problem we will rise up across the state. Decoupling, no more mandating use of state test scores. Students will no longer have scarlet letter if they don’t do well on tests.

Governor says he wants all ed. funding at local level based on need. We agree. Ran numbers with his method. We agree with intent, but not methodology. Says only local districts have to fund by need, not state. If we did it right now, 80% would be cut and only 20 would increase. We don’t want to hurt student A to benefit student B. There would be shares, blocks of money sent to school districts. We don’t think this will work and we don’t want this issue. No one at hearing thought it would work

Governor says CFE is dead, but we don’t think so. When we are lobbying on 18th, we will try to get that piece done.

We want teacher choice to continue. We know it’s a direct payment for supplies we need. Want to solidify so we don’t have to fight for it every year. Our collaborative programs, like Dial a Teacher, are very successful. They reach students and community.

NY put more money than any state into schools. Do you see it? Where does it go? Lawyers, consultants, management, executives… becoming more of a problem.

Met with CEC presidents. They’ve learned because they are acitivists—upset about special ed. non compliance and budget. Why are we not getting what we need? Why doesn’t special ed. money go to children? We file special ed. complaints every year, have many schools repeatedly out of compliance.

We understand there is overhead and fees, but we don’t understand why we don’t see money in schools. They’ll say it’s teacher salary, but that’s just a piece. It goes way past the chancellor. Tweed is the land of Tweed, with a lot of little castles. There isn’t a single school there, and we don’t need the castles either.

Want to focus on percentage of funding that gets to schools. Mayor’s office announced a cut, exactly same number as outside consultants. Do you think they will cut them? Many previously worked for DOE, were administrators. Believe this will not be just consultants. Hopes he’s wrong, but probably cuts will be felt at school level.

Enough is enough. Tired of parents having no special ed. services and principals saying they have no money. Not true. 13 years ago, Bloomberg gave principals control of budgets, and that’s when this started. How can you have a phase out plan for special ed. classes?

Hoping at city and state level we can fix this. Worthy endeavor to push for this. We met with city council, which agrees that when we give UFT money it gets to schools. We need our own APPR committee for our new contract. Mulgrew reminds us raise will cover only one or two days of pay period because it begins tomorrow.

DOE has to design, with us, a training which lays out the purpose and objective of evaluation for a year as well as the cycle. What are responsibilities for admin and staff? Training must be done in beginning of next school year. First we have to design it. We’ve never had this before. It’s ours. We build it from scratch.

Will be two observation cycles, beginning and end of year. We will start committee, asking VP of education to send out info, need reps from each level. Has to be manageable. We are not there to fight. I will do that if need be. Committee will design training. Law dictates purpose, and they cannot reinterpret. Will send out on Friday.

Announced 50 schools in first cohort of Bronx Plan. It’s what we say it was about. We know school communities have been neglected for decades. Principals’ union quite upset and filed with PERB to stop it. Sad they weren’t trying to stop it but their paper says otherwise. This is how people are when they’re always in charge.

Clear to me that principal union not happy about contract, Don’t like empowerment, voice or options. Might not be your principal, but union thinks they’re in charge and they make all decisions. Thinks DOE shouldn’t talk to them unless they aren’t in good standing. We will hold our ground. There will be a small segment that push back to silence us and not allow us to implement. Happy about rollout, and quick speed of it. Schools will be visited this week.

We’re trying to show that when it comes to this student population, no one has reacted to the challenge. Professionals in building need to be supported, not have outside people walk in and tell them how to do their job. It is your plan, what you plan, that will be supported and the responsibility of the DOE to make it happen. Support coming from UFT and DOE.

Student debt clinic—
This is a members only benefit. Not just enough to support them when they come into profession. Many members face economic hardship. Even city now has dropped revenue projections, but our contract is done. When committee said we should move forward now, you were all right. Technically, we’d have started on Friday. We don’t have to wait now.

More than half of membership has student debt loans. Started looking into this, working with AFT, and decided we needed to support members. Because we are in public ed. or health care, we can enter into different programs. From last June we looked for law firm and student debt service business, brought them together. We designed this service. Members can do initial analysis, and then you can work with business. Can restructure yourself or they can do it for a fee, reimbursable if they can’t help.

Started off slow, have never advertised, but they fill up in a day when we put it on calendar. All five boroughs have one in March, already full. We will change times union is open and focus on it in summer. Only had one person come because it can be on phone, but not while driving.

We had a member paying $700 a month for 30 years. That’s common now for student loans. Got it down to 288, still for 30, but now, after debt clinic, 220 for ten years. (gives other example). These are real dollars in member pockets. You will have to be patient with us as we’re just beginning. Thanks advocates.

Last, implementing contract. Main piece of voice and empowerment is consultation and operational. Consultation is good. As of two Friday’s ago, you can put notes online to us. We want all, good and bad. DOE will say it doesn’t work, but it does in majority of schools. This is not an operational complaint. Just because you discuss something doesn’t make it a complaint. You have to say you have a problem and you want it rectified. We need it online to show what is working. This is professionals working together. When leadership doesn’t work together, it doesn’t work.

CL may file complain on paperwork, curriculum, PD, supplies, workload, space or safety. They call this an anonymous grievance process. But it doesn’t matter who brings it up. We now have agreed upon safety standards. Principals just got them recently.
Detail situations, upload documentation and request specific resolution. Strategize with team at school. CL needs to have a team. You can’t do this alone. You must attempt to resolve issue. If you cannot, you tell principal. Principal has five days after it is put online, at UFT website (gives instructions on how to file complaints).

Will be joint training for safety for CLs and DOE shortly.

Knowledge is power. You need to use contract or it won’t be worth anything. We need system to know it must be responsive all the time. This is about day to day operations. Don’t confuse consultation form with operational complaint. Be sure to file right form. Use it to organize and engage members. Is PD aligned to curriculum?

Q—Do you file complaint of first day or on fifth when they don’t resolve it?

A—First day, but tell principal it must be resolved in five days. Tell them UFT legal says we have no choice.

We have our week off coming up. We got here without use of snow day. Getting worried that it’s been so nice. More than halfway through, raises come in tomorrow, contract was early, state and city are getting cuts, we are set for 42 months, and it’s our job to implement this contract.

Thanks us for what we do each and every day. We will make our school system stronger and get support we need.

LeRoy Barr—March—2.3, CL 3 weekend. March 9 counselors conference. Early childhood March 16. March 23 Para luncheon. Asks for push for paras to sign up for 50th anniversary. March 30 middle school conference. March 31, Herstory brunch. UFT election ballots go out March 25. Have to turn out vote. Pride committee having raffle for Bway tickets following DA, Happy Valentine’s Day to all.


Q—Members upset about a plus credit, concerned it was mandatory.

A—Not mandatory. Option instead of college credits. Doesn’t start until September. Not all college courses, but will be CTLE. Must adhere to need of student population or program taught in NYC. Developing courses now. Trying to make it less costly to get MA plus 30 while giving relevant courses. Can still go old way.

Q—Before last consultation, principal said we had to have AP at consultation. I said they were only there if we invited. Said CSA was urging him, and he backed off. Do other CLs have this problem?

A—Yes. If you have agenda item that needs AP, then submit to principal, but it’s at your option. You can settle in different venue. CSA wants all APs in. They’re acting out. Will keep doing stupid things. If adults are forced to say what is or isn’t working, it’s a good thing. They don’t want to do it. They want to discourage consultation. Don’t let them do it.

We have schools that beat the odds. They have real support and collaboration. There is teamwork approach at these schools. Also they have the arts. Not only principal. Some just want to be in control even if research says it won’t work. They seem okay with that, judging by actions.

Q—Where is community learning school money going? We have managers in building not under same management structure, who seem to get more money. Seems DOE does this to hire people who aren’t repped by union, do same work for half the money, at-will employees. This affect students and community.

A—This causes them to be unsuccessful. Not our biggest budget issue, but we need to look at it. We’ve taken legal action against DOE on this.

Q—Option PROSE with observation system. How does 2 observations impact?

A—Up to you what you want to recommend. Required waiver at time. Have a conversation and come up with something.

Q—Can you update us on election for public advocate?

A—Many candidates, seems that forums were helpful. We’ve had groups inside UFT complain about many of the candidates. Recommendation to see what happens and then get involved for actual race after special election. We have more people pushing against than for candidates. Best we do no endorsement now.



Resolutions—Mel Aaronson—Retired Teacher Chapter—to honor those who founded UFT—remembers collective begging. There were several organizations. HS teachers thought they deserved higher salaries for have MA degree. Leaders on both sides came up with compromise, that HS teachers would be getting salary based on degree, and elementary teachers could get same if they got degree. Seems simple now, but wasn’t then. Came together and on March 16, 1960 UFT formed. There was election, between UFT, NEA, and Teacher’s Union, and UFT won right to collectively bargain. Urges vote to honor founders, some of whom are in room.

Question called

Passes unanimously

Tom Brown
—teacher member TRS—supports resolution to elect Debra Penney to TRS board. Is smart, competent asks lots of questions and understands responsibility. Dedicated to ensure benefits remain strong. Defends defined benefit pensions. Attends conferences. Has complete confidence. Urges support.

Dave Kazansky
—Rises in support. In three years, has made mark, presented on panels, impressed with knowledge, diligence, communication and compassion. No question our pensions stronger with her. Asks for unanimous passage.

Question called.

Passes unanimously.

Paul Egan—To Increase NY Participation in Census—Every ten years there is census. Apportions congressional seats. In danger of losing two. Census designed to count number of people not citizens. Trump admin wants to scare people off and hurt blue states. 700 billion in federal funds determined by census figures. Involves, public ed, bridges, snap, emergency preparedness. We have to get everyone counted but we have 61% return while national is 76. We have 38% immigrant population. Felony to share census info with anyone in federal admin, including ICE. We need to educate members and school community to fill in census.

?—OT PT, rises in support. Says they just voted up contract. Turning up is everything. Largest turnout in history of chapter. Turning up and being counted is everything, Urges support.

Peter Goodman
—Also affects representation in congress, and money from fed affected too.

Gloria Wingrad
—calls question.


Passes unanimously. 5:55.

Mulgrew does raffle. We are adjourned.

Monday, February 11, 2019

UFT Executive Board February 11, 2019--Principals Don't Like Contract, Prefer to Do Whatever They Want

Howard Schoor welcomes us. 6 PM

Speakers—Bob Mc Cue—35 year teacher—CTE celebration Friday, more than 600 people. While applauding participants mind drifted toward Walter Morris, CTE teacher. Had been in Lithographers Union. 1989 determined to get teaching license. Taught offset press work. Track coach 12 years, brought millions of dollars to school. Changed to teach law and forensic science. Became teacher of year. Even after tragic loss of son, channeled energy into serving students. Asks for moment of silence.

Patty ?—Walter bought a student a suit for interview, then bought him shoes. Loved every one of his students. We rise for moment of silence.

Yvonne Riesen—reps 10X213—BETA—dress in blue in solidarity for right of basic instructional supplies, no microscope, scales, money allocated not committed, no paper. Must dig through garbage for paper—principal verbally abusive, spreads fear, probationaries in tears, ATRs demoralized, take 4 in row or two C6 per day. Furniture falling apart, fights break out, fires, and we’re told not to use alarms. Teacher passed out and they debated who to call.

Tyrannical nature of principal. Oppressive, incompetent admin goes unchecked. We need to move forward, and we can’t under this principal.

Schoor—Send me what you wrote. We will bring it up with DOE. Debbie Poulos will look at your complaint. Basic instructional supply issues have been being resolved quickly. We will send people to your school.


We approve resolutions for NYSUT convention.

President’s Report—Michael Mulgrew

All trips tomorrow with yellow buses canceled tomorrow, but school is open. Along with Walter Morris, we had another major loss, Denise Costa, who helped with parent and school groups. Loved by many. Passed. Moment of silence.

Albany—little pushback—we just had 12 hour ed. hearing. APPR should get done before April. We still have work in NYC.

We need to implement new contract. Union that reps principals hates our contract. They went to PERB against Bronx plan. We know schools run better with partnership and collaboration. CSA hates it. Says they don’t mean harm, but they want it stopped. When I hear of principals who don’t give instructional supplies, there is a procedure. He has five days, or it goes to superintendent, and then to me. Union that reps admin doesn’t like our agreement. Too bad. They don’t get to interpret what’s in our contract.

Moving forward we shouldn’t have to file grievances. We should be able to work things out. Won’t group all principals together. Things going well in many places. Not about who’s in charge, but about helping one another to move forward. We will play this game and if we have to run a specific campaign, we will. They say we run school system but we don’t. Lots of people would be in other places if we did.

Any CL can put consultation notes online or file complaint. Some principals work with us because DOE doesn’t support them. We like to work with these principals. Small minded people worrying about who’s in charge will not produce results. We will stand strong and deal with this. It’s our job to make sure this contract becomes real at every school. Adcom will focus on consultation notes and work complaints.

We have a week off coming up. So far, weather’s been okay. When we get back, push will be evaluation. Starting official meetings on design. Wednesday at DA we will announce and form committee on joint training. Contract live on Valentine’s Day.

Basic tenet of unionism is contract words only good as people using them. No good if not being utilized. That’s why we want to empower people at worksites and have anti-retaliation language.

Wishes nice Valentine’s Day and vacation.

LeRoy Barr—Last Thursday Feb. 7 showed story of Eagle Academy for Black History Month. This Thursday life of Reginald Lewis, please join us. CTE awards, congratulates them, were 4-500 people. Congratulates all.  DA Wed 15th, EB 25th.

Schoor—CSA Bronx plan statement on line Google it. Raises on 14th. UFT website explains which bank gets which date.


Jonathan Halabi—Supported contract—things I liked best mentioned by President. There are principals afraid of these things, but I’m afraid we have people who don’t belong in schools, refuse to consult, problematic work experience as speaker said. How can we separate them from us and students?

Schoor—Chancellor tends to give us lip service without fixing anything. This chancellor is different, has moved people out, and we are hopeful he will do something. We had two issues they should’ve fixed and didn’t. We are working on schools and will continue.

Halabi—What was criteria for Bronx plan schools? Surprised by few that didn’t have collaborative principals.

Schoor—Wasn’t on that committee. Will report next time.

Arthur Goldstein—I have two things today. First, I understand that AFT does national endorsements. Nonetheless, we’re the largest local in the country and we have a big voice. For my money, no democratic candidate at all is great on education, and it falls on us to educate them, at the very least. However, Cory Booker in particular is abysmal. His positions are indistinguishable from those of Betsy DeVos and I’d argue he’s Betsy DeVos with a tie. I’d like to see us ahead of the curve here. What are we going to do to make sure our endorsement doesn’t go to a  Democrat who hates us and everything we stand for, and how are we going to advocate for presidential candidates to adopt positions that are not insane?

Also, I have an article here from New York Teacher. It suggests that UFT thinks 115 million dollar penthouses ought not to pay less in taxes than a six million dollar brownstone in Brooklyn. I couldn’t agree more. It also suggests that if we get people who can afford 115 million dollar penthouses to pay their fair share, we could fund reductions in class sizes. We now have a blue Senate so this bill is no longer DOA. Also, the NY Times surprised me quite a bit by stating Cuomo’s people have not opposed it. What are we going to do to push this forward and help a million kids and tens of thousands of working teachers?

Also, following up on question of space requests for charters but not for public schools. Have you met with chancellor?

Schoor—We have not.

Four of our members are on AFT Exec Council and carry our recommendations and thoughts. Will get you more info. That about the penthouses just came out again, and there is a move for some people to tax apartments they don’t use Will ask Paul to talk about it. No bill yet, so nothing to support.

Reports from Districts

George Altomari—April 13th social studies conference. Has been success for decades. Offers CTLE credits. Honors Maril Celenti.

Sterling Roberson—Wants to add about CTE awards—individuals we honored are those recommended by their schools. Some ranked first, second, third in automotive around globe. Teachers and students are exceptional, and we have a day to celebrate individuals who facilitate learning. Thanks all who made ceremony a success. Thanks individuals who printed materials, set tables, and did everything.

Schoor—OT/PT contract approved 52-48%. Wanted to make sure their salary increases went into effect same time as other members. Released employees for 90 minutes to vote. Had 72% turnout on one day. Mail ballot had 50% turnout. Almost half came to Queens.

Amy Arundell—1000 people came into our office. Great show of union activism.

Schoor—Saw many members we don’t usually see. We are moving forward. We are not finished with this chapter.

Tom Murphy—Retired teacher chapter has annual meetings. We speak to people in NY area and around country. Mood of retirees very good. In touch with issues and people in schools. Thinks people are not happy. Not upset about our politics. Will approach 4K members before we’re done.

Legislative Report—Paul Egan
—Moment of silence for Chelsea’s career. Tremendous game for first 30 seconds, but lost 6-0. My job here is complete because everyone knows about Chelsea. Norm Scott had article in his hand from NYT.

Election by time we come back for Public Advocate. Asking everyone to sign for Lobby Day March 18.

Special order of business
—endorsing Debbie Penny for retirement board.

Tom Brown—Delighted to support resolution to re-elect Debbie for TRS board member. Smart, strong, competent, fast learner, asks lots of questions, and understands role as trustee. Oversees policies and funding of retirement system. Wants benefits to remain strong. Advocate for us and defined benefit pensions. Attends multiple conferences on retirement systems. We have complete confidence in her. Look forward to working together for all members. Please support her and resolution.


Resolution to increase New York participation in 2020 census

Paul Egan—People don’t pay much attention but has massive impact. Court case over President putting citizenship question in to frighten people. Was kicked off by district judge but will go to SCOTUS. Not to count citizens or voters, but rather all people in country. They determine a whole host of things—roads, funding, education, Medicare, 700 billion dollars to be split up by census. If our numbers are underreported, we will lose. Red states don’t worry. NY underreports. Average is 76%, NY is 61%. 38% of population in NY State is immigrant. Imperative we increase numbers. Under title 13 is felony that census share this data with anyone including ICE. Hard to convince people but they need to know.

We want everyone to participate and encourage participation. Also way seats in House are decided, gets us electoral votes.

Schoor—also affect state legislature.


We are adjourned 6:54