Friday, May 28, 2021

The Yang Gang and Me

I've made no secret of my distaste for mayoral candidate Andrew Yang. At first, I had little or no opinion about him. As a presidential candidate, he appeared a long shot, but didn't appear insane or anything. He was not on my list of Democrats I would absolutely not support, like Mike Bloomberg and Corey Booker, both famous for anti-public education stances.  Things changed for me when Yang started running for mayor, and made the egregious error of opening his mouth

“I think it’s ridiculous that we’re tenuring teachers at like the two-year mark or something, and make it so you can’t be paid or you can’t be disciplined or fired.”

That is so off the wall. This man doesn't know the first thing about the topic he's discussing, in public, in front of every UFT member. The fact is that tenure takes four years, and it's been that way for a good decade or so. Before that, it took three years. Isn't it due diligence, when you're running for office, to speak about things you know and not simply make stuff up?

In any case, these comments display an adversarial stance to those of us who teach NYC's students. I'm chapter leader of a very large school, and I can give you chapter and verse on teachers being disciplined. I know teachers who've been fired. As for not getting paid, well, you'd have to ask Yang himself what the hell that's about. 

Yang also blamed us for schools not being open. That's ridiculous. The United Federation of Teachers, to the absolute disappointment of some members, has bent over backward to accommodate school opening. We have insisted on safeguards and abundant testing so as to preclude disaster, and it now appears we've achieved that for the most part. 

When confronted with this, in a one on one with Michael Mulgrew, Yang pulled out yet another old chestnut.

So let's unpack that, just a little.  Diane Ravitch says, "Merit pay is the idea that never works and never dies." It's been tried for over a hundred years, and every teacher knows it does not and will not work. A principal once told me that he expected 100% from teachers, and that any teacher hanging around waiting for merit pay ought to be fired. But alas, reformies, like wealthy lobbyist Bradley Tusk, who used to work for Bloomberg and now works for Yang, know what's best. Otherwise, why would they have all that money?

Now Yang says he won't be influenced by his wealthy benefactor, but there are some indications otherwise. For one, even Tusk refers to Yang as an "empty vessel." There's little doubt in my mind how Tusk intends to fill this vessel:

One of Mr. Yang’s very first proposals after announcing his run for mayor was that the city should put a casino on Governors Island.

Doubtless it's sheer coincidence that Tusk has a longstanding interest in casino investment. Me, I'm more interested in public school investment. Yang, though, as evidenced by the tweet above, favors charter schools. It's not a big secret that most charters are non-union. Nor is it a secret that charters, while graciously taking our money, are still privately run. And, as a Yang supporter reminded me, his support for privatization does NOT end at charters.

That brings him squarely into Betsy DeVos territory. I didn't much like Arne Duncan, but even he drew the line at school vouchers. Now sure, Yang calls them opportunity scholarships or something, but it's absolutely the same concept--public money going to private schools. Do you think a thousand bucks is gonna help some inner-city kid go to Dalton? Think again.

I am really disappointed to read that Grace Meng, who I really like, has chosen to back Yang. Another disappointment is Ron Kim, who's been outspoken on the miserable corruption of Andrew Cuomo. I've been asking Kim to defend Yang on the issues.

He hasn't mounted much of a defense. First he defended his actions against Cuomo. I've actually long admired his standing up to the bully Andrew Cuomo. Then he asked who I support for mayor, and I'm sticking with public education champion Scott Stringer, despite the single accusation against him. The fact is, though, who I support for mayor has absolutely nothing to do with the shortcomings of Andrew Yang. 

What's in a name? Perhaps considering Andrew Cuomo, Yang represents one too many Andrews. Who knows? After failing to defend any of Yang's positions, Kim came back with a snide reference to Stringer:



In fact, rather than address my issues about Yang, Kim took to criticizing me further. This strongly suggests that he has no defense whatsoever for the anti-public education stance of his chosen candidate.

So here's the thing--the Yang Gang had quite a bit to say about my tweets. One wrote, "Shitlib alert." Another suggested, "When you throw out buzzwords and hope that they land. Nice try Arthur." Several referred to mayoral hopeful Kathryn Garcia and her support of lifting the charter cap, blissfully unaware that Yang too supports charters. What I have yet to see, though, is a defense of Yang. While Kim is more eloquent than some Yang proponents, he too has failed to address any of the candidate's stated positions.

So let me be clear--privatization of education is not a progressive position. Yang's educational position is more extreme than that of Mike Bloomberg, more extreme than that of John King, and resembles nothing more than that of Donald Trump and his chosen education gazillionaire, Betsy DeVos. (And of course I know I ought not to criticize Betsy without first sailing a mile in her yacht.)

But it's heartbreaking to see progressive, generally well-intentioned politicians backing a corporate hack like Andrew Yang. I sincerely hope they reconsider.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Sit While You Wait for an Early Retirement Incentive.

The city agreed to negotiate an Early Retirement Incentive with us. I understand that was something Bill de Blasio's goons did when we allowed them to delay the retro they've owed us for over ten years now. It would've likely been a good thing for the city, considering they were so broke they were trying to weasel out of giving us money we'd been owed for so long. They were so broke, they said, they couldn't keep their obligations, so screw the teachers and everyone who worked to educate the city's children. 

That's the sort of thing we get from Bill de Blasio, who the New York Post would have you believe is the next Che Guevara or something. Ironically , that sounds pretty Bloombergian to me, at least. But alas, now we have a Democratic administration in DC, and they've managed to push through the aid package we should've had months ago. So de Blasio's goons are no longer turning over seat cushions and searching for spare change. Yet here they are with an obligation to negotiate an incentive. 

But things have changed. They're no longer so broke they need to find cost-saving measures. And yet, there is this obligation. So what do you do if you're a lying weasel, like Bill de Blasio, but you want to look like a legendary statesman? It's a conundrum. 

I guess what you do is what he did. You toss out a poison pill you know to be unacceptable. You say to the UFT, well these people can have the ERI, but those people can't. Now I'm an ESL teacher, and we're always in short supply. (That's why the geniuses in Albany have abdicated responsibility, and basically declared newcomers don't need no stinking English. You see that? Problem solved.) I assume, if the UFT were to agree to these demands, I'd be ineligible.

I don't know about you, but that would really piss me off. I spent years trying to get a job as an English teacher, but I didn't have much success at first. While I was waiting to find a permanent appointment, I started teaching ESL and decided I wanted to keep doing it. By the time the city got around to offering me a permanent English position, I didn't want it anymore. I took half a year off, played in the worst Irish wedding band on earth, and got the credits I needed for ESL certification. 

I was appointed instantly when I was finally certified. To be penalized, decades later, for meeting a need the city had and still has, would be outrageous. I'm glad UFT leadership has declined this demand.

Nonetheless, it's not difficult to see that the city simply put that demand out so it could weasel out of its obligations. See, we offered you a deal but you turned it down. 

I'm disappointed, but I'm not surprised. De Blasio has been a disappointment from day one. He left all of Bloomberg's people in place and the DOE is just as hostile as it was before he came in. I don't know how many times I've brought slam dunk cases to step two grievances only to be shot down by the goons who rep the city. 

Goons they are, and the head goon is Bill de Blasio. If he cared remotely about working people, he'd keep his commitment to us.

Go ahead and prove me wrong, Mr. Mayor. I'm waiting. And I'm seated.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

What Do Large Schools Need to Reopen?

UFT President Michael Mulgrew has a column in the NY Daily News laying out a program for reopening. Mulgrew correctly points to the safeguards we insisted on as a reason schools were relatively safe this year. He asks that schools reach out to parents and enact a remote option for those who still aren't comfortable. These are all good ideas, and I think they apply to most city schools.

My school, however, is a little different. We routinely operate at somewhere around 240% capacity and the city doesn't give a hoot how uncomfortable or unhealthy that is. One of the first things I did as chapter leader was to get our school in the media, and we've been covered in not only all three major newspapers, but also on TV. We even had Bloomberg and Klein make cheery, misleading statements about us, because what were they gonna do? Fix the problem?

Surprisingly, though, their DOE did take a shot at it. UFT arranged a meeting at Tweed in which our then principal gave up a group of selected students, and for that they agreed to give us smaller incoming cohorts. They also agreed to more carefully screen incoming students, so that they couldn't simply say they lived where they did not. I personally had students who officially lived in Fresh Meadows who could never make it in on time, because their actual journey from the Bronx took them so long. 

Uncharacteristically, the Bloomberg people kept their word. Somehow when de Blasio came in, every aspect of our deal was left swirling the bowl. The selected students came back, and so did the veritable swarms of incoming freshmen, no longer facing scrutiny as to where they actually lived. So much for the neighborhood school concept. 

I don't want to begrudge students the opportunity to come to our school. Hey, if you're dedicated enough to spend hours on the trains to come here, we're probably lucky to have you. This notwithstanding, you can only fit so many people in a building before things become dangerous. Honestly, how can you offer the same quality under severe overcrowding? We've been very lucky in not simply falling apart at the seams, but no one can maintain that indefinitely. 

There is now an annex behind our building, It was set to open this year, but due to COVID, will now be delayed for another year. When it opens, it will provide some relief, but honestly not that much. This is because almost half of it will replace the miserable crumbling trailers we've been forced to use for the last few decades. 

Now, though, it isn't just the overcrowding we need to think about. It's health. Sure, there is a vaccine. Sure, we all have access to it. We could just say, hey, if you didn't bother to get the vaccine, too bad for you. Your problem. 

Alas, it's not that simple. Scientists have known for years that a pandemic could occur. The Obama administration actually prepped for it. If one could happen, couldn't another?

The fact is we will likely not have social distancing next year. That may mean one thing in most city schools. In ours, though, it will be a disaster in wait. Personally, I'm amazed I didn't acquire and bring home COVID before I knew better. Now all of my colleagues were so lucky. 

I've spoken to colleagues who lost their parents. Can you imagine having to wonder, for the rest of your life, whether or not you brought home the virus that caused you to lose family members? Now I know it wasn't their fault, and I can tell them that. But that doesn't change the minds of people racked with guilt. 

There certainly is fault, though. It's Bill de Blasio's fault. It's Richard Carranza's fault. 

And if Bill de Blasio doesn't do anything about the rampant overcrowding in my school and others, any disaster happening in the future will be his everlasting legacy.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Billionaires Love Yang and Adams---Stringer? Not So Much

First, candidates Yang and Adams ought not to be ranked at all on your ballot. They're funded by super PACS that hate us and everything we stand for. They're huge supporters of charter schools. In case you aren't clear about what they represent, the fact is charters became a big thing after vouchers failed in public elections nationwide. They became the next best thing in the march to weaken and/ or obliterate public education.

Those who support charters shed crocodile tears for the poor children who attend public schools. However, when you read about where their kids go, it's usually to elite private schools that would be unaffordable to regular folk even with vouchers. Our problem is a system in which the uber-rich can self-segregate and then ignore public schools. Does anyone seriously believe public schools would look the way they do if Mike Bloomberg's kid had to attend?

Let's take a look at the sort of people who back Yang and Adams:

Kenneth Griffin, a hedge fund manager mostly based in Chicago, stunned the city with his 2019 purchase of a $240 million Manhattan penthouse — still the most expensive home ever bought in the five boroughs.

He’s joined in backing the Adams and Yang independent expenditure groups by investor and charter school backer Daniel Loeb, who gave half a million dollars to each. Loeb has gained local notoriety for racially charged public statements.

Just regular folk, huh? Regular folk who live in places you or I can barely imagine, regular folk who make "racially charged public statements" and still continue to buy politicians who support their pet causes. And hey, maybe you think charter schools are okay, and you think the uber-wealthy aren't buying elections to encourage their proliferation and undermine public schools and union. You're wrong, of course, but if that ain't enough for you, the fact is candidate Yang actively supports vouchers

Sure, he's got a different and more trendy name for them. But hey, he'll give out cards, and people will be able to buy their way into schools Rudy Giuliani's kids wouldn't attend on a bet. Where will that money come from? Of course it will come from money that could go into public schools. New private schools will spring up, a product of the eternal quest to Make More Money. And public schools, already overcrowded and neglected, will suffer. 

Not only that, but the teachers in these private schools will be non-union and work under inferior conditions, just as charter school teachers do now. They will not get tenure, they will not last, and will become gig workers, just as intended. 

Make no mistake, despite all the nonsense about being "for the children," our children will grow up with fewer opportunities to get middle class jobs. I say that as a teacher who's watched students become teachers, who's watched them be the first in their family to go to college, and the first in their family to not need to work 200 hours a week to support themselves.

I support Scott Stringer. Yes, I know. He's been accused by one person of inappropriate behavior, at precisely the time when the billionaires were trying to take back City Hall. Oddly, the most viable candidate standing against them is tarred by a scandal. What a coincidence. And who would've thunk it,he's accused by a Yang supporter. (Now I understand, just because Yang himself goes out in public and tells outrageous lies about us doesn't mean all his supporters do too.)

I'd also consider the fact that there is one single, solitary unsubstantiated accusation against Stringer. These accusations usually follow a pattern, as does the pathological behavior that causes them. It wasn't a single accusation against Trump or Cuomo. I don't trust the gazillionaires who bankroll Yang and Adams as far as I can throw them. There's also contradictory evidence against Stringer's accuser. 

I remember, when Bloomberg controlled the PEP, our fake school board totally manipulated by the mayor, that Stringer put up Patrick J. Sullivan to rep Manhattan. I went to multiple meetings and watched Patrick speak truth to Bloomberg, even though he was invariably outvoted by Bloomberg's goons. Stringer has been our friend through thick and thin. We ought not to toss him away and throw him to the dogs. 

We lost Al Franken for no good reason. Until and unless there's good reason, let's not lose Stringer too. There are great reasons why the billionaires conspire against him, and many of them have to do with the health and welfare of ordinary people and public education, both of which, despite their words, they oppose absolutely. 

Ted Cruz and Stephen Miller are backing Yang too, and what they stand for is pretty clear. Let's stand firmly against them, and elect someone who will stand with us and fight for us. History, and a long career, says that's Scott Stringer, and we need to take positive lessons from history.

Monday, May 17, 2021

UFT Executive Board May 17, 2021--On Openings, Planning, and Lack Thereof

UFT Secretary LeRoy Barr--Welcomes us. Minutes passed. 

UFT President Michael Mulgrew--Thanks everyone for Spring Conference. Just finished City Council reception. Five point plan well received. It's what kids need. Will be interesting doing city budget with primary in between. Many people will look at it to see how it affects the race, and will probably be done afterward.

Trying to get straight answer from DOE in terms of TDA contribution model. Hope to have definitive answer next week. 

City doesn't understand we cannot agree to saying next year everyone has six hours and fifty minutes. Hopefully they will see SBOs as way to resolve. Headed to city hall to figure out. NYT says mayor has to decide now and not wait until August.

Two days in June--DOE says only if it's necessary for someone to be in the building, clerical or PD day, should they have to come in. DOE will put out something in writing. 

We're pushing on reduction of class size. Working on 100 schools right now and there will be a campaign starting Monday. We are at over 99% with new members joining union. Sent them info and majority signed up just through that. 

Told DOE we fully expect system open. Will probably have to make modifications based on what CDC says. Want full grievance and arbitration.

Health care--assurances all hospitals are covered under any new plan, but I need it in writing. Until we get that, we have nothing to talk about.

CL elections--Information has gone out. We hope it's done correctly at school level. Have trained teams. Should be an election committee in each school. We want things done fairly so we can move forward.

Next week we'll get college and career counselors trained to help graduating seniors. Everyone is starting to recognize people have had problems over pandemic. We knew that already.

School Construction Authority hearing--We will use this to push seats in certain areas. 

Questions/ answers

Anything in contract cannot be reconfigured,. We can't change it, but individual school can change it via SBO.

Updates on 683?  Postings are out. Only area we agree upon some remote. Waiting to see about process and which teachers do what.  

Anthony Harmon--CL weekend session this saturday 11-12:30. 

Mulgrew wishes us a good week. 6:29

Thursday, May 13, 2021

On Vaccines--In Case of Emergency, You Have a Choice

Is that a catchy slogan? I'm not persuaded. What if we're hanging around in a building somewhere, and there's a fire? There's a clearly marked fire exit. Me, I'm going to make a beeline for that exit and get the hell out. I mean, I won't trample anyone, and I'll try not to get trampled, but no way am I hanging out in a burning building to find out what happens next. 

It's hard for me to understand how getting a COVID vaccination is different. I understand that it was approved on an emergency basis, but holy crap, with hundreds of thousands of Americans dying from the virus, it seemed like an emergency. I knew some of those people. I know others, colleagues of mine, who lost parents. Some of them wonder whether or not they brought it home from school. That's tough to live with. 

Tougher to live with would be knowing I could have done something to stop infection, and I didn't do it. My friends who lost parents did what they could, which in the beginning was nothing. None of us knew exactly what to do. Sometimes we'd hear we should wear masks. Other times we'd hear we shouldn't. And with the idiot in the White House pushing ridiculous non-solutions, and millions heeding them, it was tough for us to get a leg up.

Well, the idiot is gone, and we now know these vaccines are quite effective. We know that we can protect ourselves and others by getting them. I'm not altogether sure what more we need to know. I was recently interviewed by a reporter, who told me that Eva Moskowitz had decided all Moskowitz Academy employees would be required to get vaccines

I was pretty surprised. I'm far from the biggest Moskowitz fan out there, but she's gotten this one right. What is more fundamental than safety? Even if you're in some awful charter school doing 200 hours of homework every week, you ought to protect your life. After all, Moskowitz Academies, like prisons, usually have a release date, and after you've done your 3 to 5, if you've retained your life, you can pursue liberty and happiness.

As far as I'm concerned, public school students deserve the same protections. Therefore, it behooves us to set examples and get vaccinated. While we're always free to run off cliffs like lemmings, be we anti-vaxxers, MAGA lunatics or whatever, the fact is we really should not be entitled to place our students and colleagues at risk. (That's not to mention our families.)

I followed the best advice I could, and stayed away from gatherings of any sort for many months. Unlike Donald Trump, who felt he knew better, I never got COVID. Once a vaccination was available, I sat on my laptop and searched until I could find one. When they became available for my wife and kid, I did the same for them. It wasn't easy. Despite being a UFT chapter leader, I even tried hard to persuade a reluctant AP to get vaccinated. (She did!) That's how much I believe in this. 

Hey, Mulgrew says vaccination is voluntary. You don't have to do it. And I guess the law says since it's an emergency, you don't have to do it. But if that's you, not only are you the guy standing around in the burning building we're all trying to escape, but you also show no consideration for your colleagues, your students, your friends, or even your family. 

There are a lot of things worth fighting for. The right to hang around a burning building and spread the fire to others, well, that's simply not one of them.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

UFT Delegate Assembly, May 12, 2021--Politics, Progress on ERI, Many Endorsements

UFT President Michael Mulgrew-- Welcomes us. Will try to change DA to a hybrid form for October. Now missing functionality.

Federal--Nurse and teacher appreciation, day care provider appreciation this week. Nurses had an insane year, toll taken, but they got through it.

Infrastructure packaged very contentious. We want to make sure it's done now, and that it includes schools. We pushed schools into CARES act. 

Voting rights playing out in each state. Whatever your political affiliation, vote is a precious thing. Shameful people act otherwise.

State--Legislation called Big Ugly coming up, which may include diverse things to get people to support it. Single payer is on this, we are against it, supporting all around health care. This removes out collective bargaining on this and we don't know how it will affect our health care. There's nothing out there dealing with homelessness. No matter how de Blasio counts them, we know the number of homeless children has gone up and continues to grow. We need this included. 

We did well at state level. City level most things we call priorities are there. But there is a complete abdication of responsibility by city officials on homelessness. We understand what this does to a child. The city blames Albany, and Albany blames the city. We've had enough. We need to get kids in permanent housing.

Summer school--City continues to say there will be massive increase. Can we find enough members who wish to work it? Will be mostly in person. Will be few exceptions, including 683. 683 postings up, over 10K applications. No other postings and no outreach. Better than it was at this time last year, but everything seems to stop before hitting City Hall. 

All medical accommodations sunset June 30. Regular accommodations will continue. Vaccination status is not a medical condition, but a personal choice. It will not be part of process. If we don't have enough teachers, we will have to go to the city and work out a package to incentivize people.

PD days--2 PD days at year's end. Unless they can prove there's a need for people to come in, they will remain remote. Waiting on central decision. We don't want people showing up to school and zooming to meeting. People working remotely without accommodation can be asked to come in, but we have agreement about when they can do it. Is there a need on PD day?

Next school year--If we continue on current path, it's very possible school system will be fully open in September. There's a template to remain at three feet, but it's possible it won't stay that way. If vaccination hits 70%, we could hit herd immunity. Then it will be a good assumption CDC will change regulations. That means we would revert to CBA. That's why it's important we get agreements on SBOs, preference sheets, etc. 

Calendar says we have exactly 180 days. That's why we're going in on a Monday. That's the only way we make 180. We will soon open up some SBOs. For reconfiguration of day, we'd like to come up with a menu of pre-approved SBOs. 

We recommend to city that school system is told now to program as though all children are coming in. We can adjust afterward if necessary. We hope mayor will push this forward, and are pushing for this. 

We want to start a campaign based on what our children need. DOE already far behind on summer school. They talk a lot. 

Debbie Poulos--Preparing to do SBOs via election buddy. Will be assisting CLs, and will have support in next two weeks. No votes just yet. 

Mulgrew--We want an aggressive summer school to get a lot of kids back. A lot of our classes advising teachers on social emotional issues are sold out. Thousands of members trained. Will continue. Training college and career counselors. Want to make sure students get good advice. CUNY and SUNY are partners.

We also have an intervention team and an aggressive push to reduce class sizes. Tough school year at the end of an administration, DOE not working well right now. We have to push. A friendly public education administration coming in will help a lot. There's a real possibility that won't be the case. 

Health care--MCU was able to work with with NY Presbyterian to work out appropriate price for 1.3 million people. Want to get best bang for buck. RFP on senior care is stalled. We want something no one has. We want every Medicare eligible doctor covered, and an increase in benefits. Believe we should do similar in in-service chapter. 20% of retiree health care covered by city. Important we have standing health care committee reporting.  Want committee up and running for next school year. 

3% raise May 14th. Will see it no next check. Last raise from this round of bargaining. We need a new negotiation team. Would be negotiated next year and summer, hopefully finalized September 22. We want same large team with reps from every chapter. We want DOE to hear from people doing day to day work. Was highly successful last time. Want it up and ready by October. If there's an opportunity, we will have to move quickly. 

Final retro check mid July. Asked retirement people to check on TDA questions so they can advise members. 

We will do Spring Conference Saturday. Will be digital with small group at union. CTLE available, still open.

Politics--At this moment, subject to change, three front candidates, Yang, Stringer, and Adams. Now polling includes second choices. Results can take a long time. Remember Bloomberg's anti-public school agenda, closed schools, kept all challenging students in those open so they would struggle. Accused teachers of failing kids. Their accountability system was a setup, a shell game, a disaster. Also pushed charters. Made sure they had better provisions, more money every year, colocations. No transparency about students with IEPs. 

Person leading this charge was Bradley Tusk, now running Andrew Yang's campaign. Worked hand in hand with Jenny Sedalis and Students First, closely associated with Moskowitz and now close to Eric Adams. We have two viable candidates who will be anti public ed. They won't admit it, but that's what it looks like. UFT people who vetted them examined their associations. 

We look at relationships and donations. We look at past and where they seem to be going. Stringer has a sexual harassment complaint. We support individuals who wish to make allegations, but we also support a fair process that examines what happened. We have not yet seen that process. There is a group of unions who have funded an independent expenditure for Singer. We see three viable candidates, but that can change. 

We have a lot of engaged volunteers. We are not guessing these people are our enemies. We have experience. They want to make money, not help children. Last of endorsements will be today. Bundle is now split. 

Hope our optimism about regular school year is not dashed. Would like to get past pandemic, and keep all safe. 

LeRoy Barr--Last week was teacher, nurse and provider appreciation. Especially appreciate last 15 months. CL elections underway. Spring conference this Sat. 5K family walk June 13 at Flushing Meadows Park. Tax the rich resolution last month, motion maker agreed it was done and is removed. Next DA June 16. Happy Mother's Day, Eid. 


Q--Faculty and staff conferences--Wondering if we will go back to extended days and four PT conferences--

A--We are working from agreed upon CDA. Whatever your school category is, that's what we expect. DOE expects digital classrooms, but that's additional work. For now, we're under CBA, and planning for that. 

Q--Google classroom, clerical PD days...

A--Primary day schools are open. Moved many ballot locations out of public schools. Digital classrooms--people have been using them for years. That's okay if teacher wants it. DOE thinks we agree everyone has to do it and we cannot. That has to be part of collective bargaining process. We told DOE over a month ago. We see money went to schools to set up asynchronous learning for election day. We will keep you updated. There may be a temporary agreement, but must eventually be in CBA. Not hiring requirement. 

Q--ERI--Anything you can share?

A--Yesterday was not in good mood about it. We now have had dialogue with city. Will continue tomorrow and Friday. We are having a dialogue, but were not before. There was movement in the right direction from yesterday to today, but will be tough. 

Q--Do we have two fewer days because there are no snow days to teach remotely?

A--No agreement yet on remote, but because of holidays there are fewer days. Next school year, without creativity, will be 179 days. More holidays than any system in country. 

Q--In September, will there be testing? Only tested 8 in my school today.

A--Depends on school. Doing 70K a day. Assuming there will be some, but if we continue as now it could be lower. Below .3 last and this week. PPE, testing, ventilation was very important. We have more testing than any system in country. Every morning I check testing report. More confident we are headed in right direction. 

Q--Confused about 683. Admin telling parents different things. Will we have to be in building on different computers? Concerned about maintaining distance, unvaccinated students. 

A--Problem with your building being overcrowded. Will put on Mary Vaccaro's agenda with DOE. Happy you got new building but not ready yet. Problematic for our most challenging students. 

Q--Privatizing retiree med. plan--Why aren't we supporting NY Health Act to provide single payer for all.

A--Disaster for union. Right now, our senior care plan is managed by private provider. Our union plans managed by private providers. Not for profit, in both cases. No 5 million dollar bonuses. Bill current in Albany does not work for us, and will not supply equitable health care for all. We want to help those who are uninsured. We will sit with anyone to work out a program to achieve universal health care. There is something absolutely wrong in our country's health care system. We will not give away tens of millions of dollars we've negotiated for a plan that doesn't work for our members. We are all in a private system, in service and retirees. This bill will cause our members heartache and difficulty in getting health care you already pay for.

Q--Guidelines for graduation?

A--Looking for answer. Last year were no graduations, but many happened anyway. If they offered school spaces to do it safely, would have helped, but they didn't. We should get city council involved. 

Q--CBA--Google classroom--Our MOA will be up June 30. Will there be another?

A--When we're out of our health emergency, it sunsets. Don't know if there will be another temporary one. There may be one, especially for snow days. 

Q--Vaccines--If person has been exposed, are they mandated to quarantine if fully vaccinated.

A--That is personal choice. Principals have no right to ask vaccination status. Medical info is no one's business, except for person with issues. You may share if you wish. Up to you.


Tammy Miller--Asks resolution to celebrate provider appreciation day be added to this month's agenda. 

Mulgrew--You may present. Need 2/3 vote. 

Miller--Reads reso. Stresses work during pandemic.

Mulgrew--Know how important that is. Day care providers did great job. 

94% yes--passes

Cynthia Bennett-- School nurse CL--this month--In support of school nurse appreciation day. Reads reso. Also stresses work during pandemic. 

94% yes--passes 

David Pecoraro--for next month--UFT demands qualified candidates. Supports David Weprin for Comptroller as most qualified. Stands up for members. 

Karen Alford--Rises against. Opposes this endorsement. Weprin not most qualified, and certainly one more qualified. Fiscal management and fiduciary experience suggests Corey Johnson, oversees 82 billion budget. Corey has been our friend. Has worked with Dromm and Traeger, former teachers. I think about our friends. Corey made sure all members retained jobs when facing layoffs. Has been supportive of all UFT-initiated programs. Asks body to oppose this reso, as Weprin not best candidate.

75% no--fails

LeRoy Barr--Asks for motion to extend for first four resolutions. 

Mulgrew--Resolutions are timely. Asks for 2/3 vote to allow endorsements so union can do work for these candidates.

77% yes--passes

NYC Comptroller Endorsement--Karen Alford--As you heard, when I previously opposed, I stand for Corey Johnson. We had UFT virtual Town Hall, Candidates were grilled, and membership wanted Corey Johnson. Responsible for us to look at what members said. Has proven track record. Has been friend, partner, supporter of UFT teacher center, has negotiated budgets. As we return and think about trauma, social emotional and trauma support he's enabled will help. 

Tom Brown--Supports. Johnson understand it's important to protect our pension, especially in anti-pension climate. Johnson understands, and understands how important our TDA is. Understands good relationship with UFT members. Friend of UFT, and understands what we need. Will keep pensions safe and well funded.

Mavis--Supports. Most viable. Proven friend of educators. Leader and fighter. Has vision. Remembers his humble beginnings. 

Ariela--Opposes. Credible sexual assault allegations. Punitive funding. Hopes membership supports survivors, defunds police. 

Camille Eady--Supports resolution to support. Need to keep friends close. Can't afford to lose ground we've gained.  Vetted thoroughly by union. Championed public schools. Has needed experience. 

82% yes, passes

Liz Perez--Brooklyn Borough President--Interviewed forty candidates. JoAnne Simon, assembly, fighter, advocate for gun control, supported full funding of foundation aid. Voted for our state budget to increase taxes for wealthy. Voted to limit charter expansion, for better health care, for woment's rights. Always consulted with us. Cannot as for better.

Also supports Dweynie Esther Paul-Dorsainvil for Surrogate Judge--Understands issues. 

?--in support of JoAnne Simon---(I missed this due to dogs barking loudly) as well as Dewynie Paul. 

Dermot Myrie--Urges UFT to put CV on website. 

Jay Reprobnik--In favor of both. Reasons already stated. Deweynie would be great addition to team. Supports education young people need. 

87% yes--passes

Mulgrew--processes open to all members. Was on website, sent emails.  

Dwayne Clark--Supports Alvin Bryant Manhattan DA, supports civil and human rights, social justice. Would be our strongest and best ally for unknown future. Asks for support.

Carmen--Was member of committee. Bryant received overwhelming support. Will make unjust practices exception rather than norm. Believes in investing in our children. 

Peter--Opposes. Against rules adopted last May to extend DA. Was extended in February and today. In March delegate was ruled out of order when asked to extend. 

Mulgrew--Body makes decisions.

Seung Lee--Were 8 candidates, 7 vetted. Urgent that we endorse Bryant. Don't want someone who supports charters as Manhattan DA. Please support and vote. 

85% yes--passes

Rich Mantel--NYC Council--Tight mayoral primary--we need allies. Carmen de la Rosa, NY Senate, our friend, lead sponsor of millionaire tax, wants to expand community schools. Julia Foreman, Bill Perkins, Selvina Brooks Powers deserve support.

Allie Fisher--Supports. Uncertain political times, need as many friends as possible, who support public schools and believe in our initiatives. 

Matt Driscoll--Opposes. Manhattan resident. Other very strong candidates. One is Joanna Garcia. Strong supporter of public ed. Carmen de la Rosa has been largely absent. Haven't seen her anywhere. 

George Geist--Supports resolution. 

87% yes--passes

Mulgrew thanks us for staying on and that business needs to get done. Wishes us great day off, good Eid to those who are celebrating, and says stay safe. 6:31

Monday, May 10, 2021

UFT Executive Board May 10, 2021--City Not Cooperating on ERI, and Two Junior Bloombergs Want to Be Mayor

UFT Secretary LeRoy Barr--Resolutions on nominations passed. Amended to add an endorsement for Bill Perkins. 

Rich Mantel--Supports resolution amendment. Perkins stood with us against charters, during Bloomberg, for funding, has been great friend. Speaks in support of other candidates as well. 

Elizabeth Perez--Speaks in favor, says we need friends, that Perkins has always stood for us, as have other candidates. 

Joseph Surpris--Also supports. Says candidates share our priorities.

Ali Fisher--Supports. Candidates align with our opinions and interests. Support better public schools, billionaire tax, smaller class sizes. 

Rashad Brown--Calls question.

Resolution as amended carries. 

Tammie Miller--Thanks all who attended event for essential workers. Great ceremony.

Howard Sandau--Nurse recognition event. Was emotional after COVID pandemic and working in ICU. Things are much better now, but brought us back. Was great to be with everyone. Recognized nurses all over city. 

Rashad Brown-Pride Committee, movie for students, Moonlight, 18-20th of May.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew-- Busy time of year, teacher and nurse appreciation. 

DOE--When you're near the end of an administration things get weird. Primary in June has made it weirder. Admin wants to remain relevant, so city budget is a fight for us. Have not engaged in Early Retirement Incentive. 

We are offering graduating seniors one hour with counselor. Partnered with CUNY and SUNY. City council helping. 

Training for social emotional health ongoing, sessions are full. 

Since we can't get meaningful engagement, we will have to help schools ourselves with 520 plan, especially with class size reduction. After years, we were able to get staffing ratio for nurses. If governor doesn't sign can be overridden. 

Will be NYT story about how UFT and AFT have opened up support for Stringer and others. Mayor's race will really get hot and heavy now. Something we thought was happening seems to have come to fruition. Agency run by Bradley Tusk, who campaigned against UFT running Yang campaign, and Students First giving 6 million to Eric Adams. These groups have worked to get city hall back. They are now major players with two candidates. Will get ugly. All the colocation fights can be tied to these agencies. Every time something bad happens, you'll see them involved when it comes to us. 

We know who these people are, and we thought Adams would work with Students First. Thanks groups who did vetting, dug into finances, and checked who they supported and donated to. Will discuss in detail at Town Hall and DA. 

Mayor's race shaping into three person race. Stringer has allegations against him, but most unions who've endorsed have stuck. Allegations are allegations. Our group that first endorsed says we should continue.

Never thought we'd go back to Bloomberg days. Yang isn't billionaire, but is tied with this group. Adams is tied with Students First. We will get word out.

Questions/ Answers

September looks like fully open. Three foot rule may be rescinded. Numbers are going down even as we test 70K people a day. Will see about masks and ventilation. 

Some candidates say reason school isn't open is UFT. Reason school IS open is UFT. Parents reluctant to come back.

Snow days--Have we agreed that every teacher in NYC will have a remote classroom set up? We have not. This is a collective bargaining issue. Understand need to cover snow days, but we need to work on this negotiation. Will not just say every teacher responsible for live and remote.

We will be flexible to get enough people to teach summer school, but only for this year. Vaccination status will be protected, but don't believe there will be accommodations based on vaccination choice. No one mandated to take vaccine.

When state opens on May 19, we will see rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated. Will be more seating for vaccinated in restaurants, perhaps. There are reasons to be vaccinated. 58% with at least one shot, have to get to 70.

What is right date to increase TDA for retro check? We will come up with correct answer and allow people to choose.

Health care updates? 

Mulgrew--Mediator at MLC cannot go forward because our questions haven't been answered. 

Class size funding?

Work very closely with city council, and it's important that most of our friends are leaving. Need new friends.

Moskowitz mandating vaccines, will we take a position?

Doctors who advise us say integrity of these vaccines is unprecedented. I get emails on both sides. People need to think this through. If we don't hit 70%, this will be around for years. Will be no medical accommodation based on people not wanting to be vaccinated. Not medical condition. 

Any update on learning environment surveys?

Looked through it, should be coming out soon.

Laptop retrieval from grads?

Have not discussed it. This is their issue. 

Snow days, outside boroughs, when teachers' kids have snow days?

No word, but if school's open, it's open.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Does It Pay to Do Nothing?

I was in a meeting the other day in which we were discussing NX grades. That's what we have in lieu of failure these days. A lot of teachers are upset about this, for various reasons. 

I understand that it's better to err on the side of not hurting kids for things that aren't their fault, so I can't complain about it that much. I have one student, for example, who was excellent in my class. Once we went remote, he tuned out completely. Without human contact, forget it. In fact, the NX won't help him, but I'd be happy if it did. 

One teacher said the NX grades were advantageous to students who do nothing. When students hand in things late, we grade them. Maybe we take off something for lateness, but we look at them. In fact, they have an advantage over students who did work poorly and got bad grades. (I don't know about you, but I haven't got the time or inclination to look at work over and over until every students gets 100 on everything.)

So this teacher was arguing a kid would be smart to just do nothing all semester, wait until the end, and then do everything. I wasn't persuaded. For one thing, people who are inclined to do little or nothing are highly unlikely, at the last minute, to find the energy to do five months worth of homework in a day, a week, a month, or perhaps ever. Of course, there are exceptions. 

I myself once spent a year in a biology class, failed everything, learned nothing, but spent the last week with my nose in a red Barron's review book. Back then, if you passed the Regents exam, you passed the course. (In fairness, I now realize I had an awful teacher. All we did in that class was copy notes. The teacher had a big binder from which he pulled transparencies, had us copy, and stood there stroking his beard until everyone was finished. I knew nothing about science, but could've taught as well as he did back then.) But that's not the case anymore, at least not where I work.

I don't expect to have a single student who's done nothing all year do everything in June. I'll go after students who are close and push them over the edge if I can, but I'm not calling students who've done nothing all year and asking them to do everything in a week. If any student hands me five months worth of work in a day I'll check very carefully to see who it's copied from. Miracles happen, I guess, but not all that frequently. 

In January, I had one student who'd done nothing all semester hand in a flurry of assignments. I was pretty surprised to get email stating that he'd made up over a dozen assignments in a night. However, when I checked the first two, they were blank. I didn't waste time checking the rest. 

There are students who have real issues with mental health or depression. I understand the apocalypse could easily exacerbate such conditions and I have sympathy. It's actually better we show flexibility to all than deny it to them. Truth be told, I wouldn't deny it to them regardless. This year in particular, though, it's a lot less likely we'll even know who they are. Troubled kids, I'd suppose, are even more likely to hide behind avatars, never show their faces, and absolutely never reveal what's going on behind their faces. 

Maybe some kids will get away with more than they should. That's a small price to pay for helping even a small number of students who really need support. What's really said is I doubt many will even bother to take advantage. I know people who teach NX classes who tell me it's like pulling teeth to get these students to even show up, let alone do anything. 

I used to love teaching, but in front of a computer it feels like just a job. If my enthusiasm is this down, I have to imagine student enthusiasm is even lower. On the bright side, It appears vaccines will soon be available for students aged 12 to 15, and studies are being conducted for young children. Hopefully we can get a lot closer to normal education come September. Now that I've lived the alternative, I appreciate my regular job a lot more.

Maybe students will too.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

The School Calendar and Losing 15 Minutes of Fame

During the apocalypse I've gotten repeated calls to appear on the news and give opinions about various situations. It was easy to talk about the botched and delayed school openings, as well as the tone-deaf responses of de Blasio and the Mariachi Chancellor. Lick their fingers, place them in the air, and hope their responses would prove popular. Given their actions were more or less the opposite of leadership, that tended not to work out very well. 

Mostly I've been interviewed speaking of the ridiculous nature of these decisions, along with the fact that they tended not to make sense. I'd been an early admirer of Chancellor Carranza. His calls to end the racism inherent and obvious in the SHSAT were long overdue. He seemed to stand with teachers, coming to meet and speak with us, and literally marching with us during a Puerto Rican Day Parade.

Then, of course, blithering de Blasio demanded all hands on deck for his meandering and inconsistent school plans, and Carranza rejected a petition signed by over 100,000 of us demanding buildings be closed during a raging pandemic. Carranza declared we needed 100,000 epidemilogists' signatures in order to receive his consideration. 


Yesterday I got a call from a journalist to interview me for television. We had a Zoom meeting. The school calendar, she said, contained some remarkable changes. First of all,  on days like Election Day we'd be expected to teach remotely instead of getting the day off. Second, snow days would no longer be days off, but would also be remote teaching days.

In fact, I barely recall the last time we had Election Day off. That's too bad. The entire country ought to have Election Day off. It should be a national holiday to encourage maximum participation. For the last ten years or so, we've been coming into school buildings to have meetings. I don't know about you, but I'd argue that 98% of the meetings I've attended have been a total waste of time. Topic A: Students should not be late to class. Tell them they should not be late to class. In fact, fail them for not coming to class. Topic B: How can we pass absolutely everyone without exception?

Given Election Day is not a national holiday, and given it's not likely to become one anytime soon, I'd personally much rather be teaching than sitting through meetings. Even though I'm not overly fond of online instruction, it beats the hell out of going to a meeting, or PD, or whatever you want to call it. Given the choice between doing something or nothing, I'll opt for the former. I've taken exactly one day off this year, and that was a meeting day. In fact, the meeting was a disaster that cost me a ton of work as chapter leader, and I remain delighted that I was at least not there to participate. 

I understand that some of my colleagues will feel differently. I know people who gush over PD. Some of them provide it. Some of them are ambitious and hoping to become administrators. I know there are probably newer teachers who take it more seriously than I do, but I've got 36 years in, and the value of PD, with rare exceptions, has eluded me utterly. On a handful of occasions, I've approached PD providers and praised them effusively, shocked and happy that their presentations might contribute to my daily practice. 

More frequently, it's people stating the obvious, often being paid to do so. I always remember some company that came to our school to train us on how students should write college essays. They presented us with one written by some underprivileged twit complaining about a trip to Europe paid for by her parents, and another by a guy who grilled burgers as a summer job. The first was crap and the second was charming, and we were challenged with the question--Which is better--crap or charming? 

My day would've been better spent doing just about anything else. 

The second question the reporter asked me was about snow days. I told her that I was glad we were going online during these days. If we were fortunate enough to have a mayor who isn't insane, like Mike Bloomberg, we could have more snow days, rather than fewer. This would keep a hundred thousand UFT members and a million kids from traveling on hazardous days.

I remember one day, driving into work on the LIE, cars crashing to my left and right, and Rudy Giuliani saying oh my gosh, don't go to work unless you have to. I think I wrote that on the board as my quote of the day, as I met two or three students in each class. I remember other days driving halfway in, only to hear on the radio that the genius mayor had finally decided to close the schools.

When I turned into the broadcast last night, I only heard people saying how terrible it was that we were going to lose snow days. My interview didn't run at all. Given the angle of the story, I could see why. Kids were sad. They needed a break. Of course they're right. Over my career, however, I can't even count the number of days when suburban schools closed and we went in. Not only that, but next year there will be only 180 school days. If we miss even one, we'll have to make it up during a vacation week, or perhaps even in July. 

All in all, I'm glad for this calendar. I may be in the minority, but we're better off. Teaching online sucks, but it beats the hell out of tens of thousands traveling hours in a blizzard.

Monday, May 03, 2021

UFT Executive Board May 3, 2021--Mulgrew Says Joe's Medicare Not Coming to UFT

UFT Secretary LeRoy Barr--Minutes approved. Friday National Provider Appreciation Day. 

Academic HS VP Janella Hinds--HS Awards--Last week celebrated community champions, union activists and Team HS winners. Was great even to connect with members and celebrate a few shining stars. Thanks to all who attended. 

Rashad Brown--Pride committee showing films 18, 19 and 20. Announcement will go out soon.

Barr--Thanks all who attended NYSUT RA last week.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew-- Thanks everyone for NYSUT RA. 

Safety--Two straight weeks under .4 positivity. Over 100 schools testing at 40%. Vaccines working. For summer school and September we will have to make decisions. Some districts want everyone back in person. We could accommodate about 92% on daily basis right now. Mayor still says he will offer a remote option. Trying to work out with city. 

We don't want to constantly wait for City Hall to weigh in. We have to program schools ahead of time. Calendar coming out, perhaps tomorrow. Then we have to look at SBOs. We hear in person summer school, except for 683, but city wants all in person. If we go to 700 schools, 200K children, not sure if there will be enough staff. Glad they want a robust program, but we'll see.

We need to get a large number back in. Important for profession. Will see where it goes. 

Mike Sill--Postings for summer school hopefully by end of week. 683 postings close to being done. 

Mulgrew--Medical accommodation process will be open, but doubt there will be any blanket accommodations for September. Final determination not made, but that's how it appears.

Ellie Engler--Given vaccines, only accommodations may be for people who can't walk to third floor and things like that. 

Mulgrew--We will maintain privacy as to people's medical choices. Questioning them about vaccine is out. There will need to be a date set for parents to decide whether children will be remote or in person. If we achieve our goal of large number in school, we'll have to see how remote goes. Don't think it should be burden on school. May perhaps be academies who deal with that. Maybe also about giving access to certain courses they wouldn't otherwise have.

Moving forward advocating infrastructure package in DC for green schools. Want audit on every building to make them healthy as possible.

Politics--Thanks to all of our PAC coordinators in boroughs. Still races we have to endorse in. Our mayoral candidate has not had a great week. Our political team now wants to continue moving that forward but we will see where that goes.

Council candidates--Thanks volunteers, door knockers. Very important. Budget means mayor and city council must agree. We need city council who understands importance of public schools. 

Questions/ Answers

Waiting for clarification on PD days as to whether remote or not. If no students, we don't think staff needs to be present.

Possibility we will get back in September. Quite a bit of concern about spread of virus in other countries as well as mutations. Have to hope vaccine holds.  

Medicare Advantage--The next five years will have huge fights over health care and every aspect of it. NYC Public Employee retires and workers are only ones left not paying health care premiums. I will constantly update. It's important we form our own health care committee so people understand what we're doing. We want savings for our stabilization fund, which all city workers use. We are making changes in service, have made serious RFP on PICA and saved hundreds of millions of dollars. We put that right back ont fund. Our retirees have senior care, and city has gap plan for other costs. They keep going up and we have to figure it out. Sad that it's called medicare advantage. There are individual plans we'd never go near, and then there is a group plan, a PPO plan, in which you can go to all doctors you currently see. We need assurances of that to do this. If we don't have them, we won't go in that direction. 

We had a huge fight with NY Presbyterian, but we will hopefully resolve it this week. I almost had to send a note saying it would be unavailable in 30 days. If one hospital charges 1500 for x ray and another charges 400, something has to give.

We will fight to keep what we have and at the same time use our buying power to enhance it more. If we simply let them do what they do, we could be screwed. 

C6 and admin duties left out of preference sheet--

Debbie Poulos--Actually it is mentioned. They may be together or separate.

Retiree town hall--Please take questions on Medicare.

Not making any decisions yet. If we have to blow it up, we will.  Lots of bad information out there. There are always factions. UFT offices get same health care. Of course it's very inportant. People are bored when I talk about hospitals, but when we're negotiating, those costs are on the table. The most expensive doctor is usually not the best one. It's an insane industry. They wouldn't allow us to question costs, just pay bills. That's what we're dealing with. We need to avoid high premiums. Retiree chapter has already given me lots of questions.

We endorsed Bravo. Are we changing this?

Will be whatever volunteers recommend. Will check.

First day of teacher appreciation week, nurse appreciation coming up. From me to all of you, I appreciate all you've done. Happy Mother's Day to all.