Monday, November 29, 2021

Those Zany DOE Investigators and Their Wacky Antics

One great benefit of tenure is you are not compelled to answer the people DOE sends to talk to you. While you can refuse them outright, they just go on without you. You can, however, demand representation before speaking with them.

There are a whole lot of people in suits who come from the DOE, or claim to be independent. They seem to be very knowledgeable about the perfidy of teachers, and are expert on all the awful things your colleagues appear to have perpetrated. Hey, they could be telling the truth, but who really knows?

For me, the problem with SCI, or OEO, or any of the groups that are either affiliated or semi-affiliated with the DOE is they don't have much to show in the way of integrity. There are rules they're supposed to follow. For example, they have time limits in which to bring charges. I have never seen OEO bring charges in a timely fashion. This is ridiculous, because when the principal needs to investigate for a letter in file, he can do so within days. OEO can't do it in six months, and often takes years. Because they can no longer issue file letters, they issue "non-file letters" and go after people anyway, because regulations, shmegulations.

And then there are those cases brought up because the principal has a personal vendetta against someone. For example, my late friend Chaz was in the rubber room for years over something that likely merited nothing beyond a verbal caution. Over at CPE1, the principal placed both the chapter leader and delegate on charges for the offense of doing their jobs, but both were restored after a few very uncomfortable months. That abusive principal, I'm happy to say, was ultimately less fortunate.

I know other teachers who were sent to the rubber room over what amounted to nothing, and sat there agonizing for months waiting to be released. I've spent hours on the telephone with them, telling them to be patient, but people simply can't be patient with the Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. In fairness, I've also known teachers who've done all sorts of things I'd much rather not have known about. In fact, one of the most egregious cases I've ever heard in my life was released from a 3020a hearing with no penalty, no anything, So that can happen too.

Nonetheless for me, when OEO or SCI claims this or that happened, my attitude is maybe it did and maybe it did not. I don't trust them at all.  I would not believe them for a moment if they told me they weren't after me, and just wanted to talk about someone else. I know a paraprofessional who believed that particular line He spoke to them after having been personally warned otherwise from me. This para was fired days later. (Of course, it's a little more complicated to fire a teacher than a paraprofessional.)

Regardless, it's very important to avail yourself of the right to representation when the suits come to your school. I tell members to say, "Please give me your card. I'd be happy to speak with you as soon as I have representation." I also tell them to call me, even in my classroom, if they want me to say it for them. I'm amazed at some responses agency people give us.

Once, a guy from SCI came in. A member, unwilling to speak to him, had called me down. When I told him to give us his card and the member would be happy to speak as soon as she had representation, he challenged me.

"Do you even know what this is about?"


"Do you care what it's about?"

"Protocol is the same regardless."

At this point, the SCI guy started screaming bloody murder. As he did so, the member asked me to step out so she could tell me what it was about. Turned out it was something very disturbing. It didn't involve the member, except for her having knowledge of it. Still, I don't trust these guys any farther than I can throw them. Who's to say they wouldn't blame her for things that were out of her control, or for not coming forward at the precisely correct moment? I told her to wait until we arranged representation.

I went back. I told the guy I now understood what the issue was. He nodded, expecting full compliance, and heatedly asked if she was ready to talk. He was a creep and I decided to make him angry.

I calmly answered, "Please give us your card, and she'll be happy to speak with you as soon as she has representation."

The guy started screaming again, a little louder this time. I didn't care about kids! All I cared about was protecting teachers! In fact, I care a lot about protecting teachers. It's a big part of being a chapter leader. There are rules, and even bellicose ex-cops in SCI have to follow them. I knew this guy didn't give a damn about my colleague, and his intent was bullying us into giving up her rights. Too bad for him. She didn't.

I sent a letter to a bunch of people, and Michael Mulgrew ended up writing to SCI to complain about their abuse of working UFT members.

As for the person who was really in trouble, having evidently, or at least allegedly done something very unsavory--this person resigned. Apparently by doing so, this person evaded judgment. Last I heard, the person got a job as a teacher in Long Island. So much for the efficiency and ultimate reach of SCI justice.  

Don't let these bullies intimidate you. Your voice is all you have. If you give it up, you may as well get used to being nobody. As unionists, part of our job is to set an example. We can't afford to be nobodies at work. Our goal is to make other people more like us, as opposed to following in the footsteps of Walmart associates.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Today, I'm Thankful

This year, I'm thankful for family and friends, as always. I'm thankful for my handsome buddy, at left, who brings me unexpected joy by making himself at home in my fiddle case, and hanging with me no matter what tedious activity I choose for myself. (For the record, that crate has sat there for years, but we only enclosed him in it a few hours the first week we had him.) 

I'm thankful for great colleagues who stood with me during 12 years as chapter leader, an impossible job. I'm thankful for my bold colleague Samia Wattoo who took over the position, and from everything I see, will do very well in it. I'm thankful for an AP who is super-smart, and who actually has great teaching ideas when my colleagues and I are at a loose end.

I'm thankful for the fiddle you can't see, which kept me occupied during the endless period of Zoom teaching. I'm extremely thankful to be teaching in person this year, and reaching a whole lot more kids than I did back when they could hide behind cat pictures and go back to sleep. (They're kids, and I don't much blame them. I'd likely have done the same at that age. Still, I hated it.)

For all its flaws, I'm very thankful to be union. I've said it before and I'll say it again--We are moving very much against the tide in the USA by hanging together. Union numbers in our country have plummeted since Ronald Reagan became President. He may be a hero to some, but not to me. 

I've been teaching almost 37 years. I almost retired last year, and I may actually do so this year. These days, very few Americans have the luxury of a fixed pension, an important option for working people, and an option that's been falling off a veritable cliff for decades. If I retire, and if you do, we're unlikely to be taking jobs at Burger King in order to make ends meet. Be very thankful for that.

I'm also grateful for the voice we have at our work. If your school leader decides to violate our Collective Bargaining Agreement, or any of a multitude of regulations contained elsewhere, we have options. We can file grievances, which generally take forever, but chapter leaders now have the option of operational complaints. I'm thankful for people in the press who will report the excesses of insane school leaders, and who act as a check against their abuses, many of which they seem to have studied in Bloomberg's Leadership Academy.

Happily, there are some people in DOE who are not insane, and who will curb the dictatorial tendencies of school leaders run amuck. The system isn't perfect, but none is, and it's much improved over the last few years. I'm thankful for Debbie Poulos and James Cochran, who largely made this possible. I'm thankful for Queens UFT Rep. Amy Arundell, who will not like that I mention her, but who is always around to help me and my colleagues.

I'm thankful for the pushback against the racist, anti-labor, anti-American MAGA movement. I'm thankful that many Americans are immune to the brainwashing efforts of Fox News. I'm thankful we tossed out the lunatic who won the Presidential election in 2016. 

This will not be an easy year. We have a new mayor who has been bought and paid for by charter interests. While he ostensibly supports union, he seems to support non-union options for education. Make no mistake, with very rare exceptions, charter teachers do not work under the same conditions we do. I have friends who work in charters, or who have done so, and job security is not a thing for them. They don't think twice about leaving one place in a few years and moving on to another. We have powerful enemies, and we will need to be ready for them. 

But we survived Bloomberg, and I'm thankful for that. We will survive Adams too. Mayors come and go, but we've stood strong through all of them. Even as de Blasio proved a huge disappointment, we moved forward with parental leave. Perhaps we'll even make progress on class size this year. I'll be very thankful for that. After years of nonsensical reforminess, even from our ostensible allies, it would be fantastic to do something real for our students, as opposed to tests that waste their time and target their teachers. 

We will move forward, and we will make our union stronger and better, one way or another. I'm thankful for possibilities. I wish you and yours a joyous holiday. 

I'm thankful and happy we get a few days to reflect and relax, and I very much hope you are too!

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

DOE--High Standards for Teachers, None for Themselves

It's tough to estimate the stupidity of the DOE. Every time you think they've hit a new low, they do something new and unexpected. You may have thought the Trump administration was the most inept and inane bunch of lunatics you've ever seen, but they were finished after four years. The DOE just keeps barreling ahead, with no end in sight.

I'm now embarrassed to admit that I supported de Blasio from the beginning during his first run. UFT originally supported some guy who had told the NY Daily News that we shouldn't get the raises NYPD and FDNY had gotten under Bloomberg. The city couldn't afford them for us. This was they guy who ran against Bloomberg term 3, and we didn't take sides during that election. (Too bad, because we may have been able to avoid not only four more years of Bloomberg, but also antagonizing that guy, though he seemed to be lacking a moral compass. Of course, so did we.)

De Blasio, much to my chagrin, left Bloomberg's DOE entirely intact. For years I went to step 2 grievance hearings that we lost no matter how ridiculous administration's case was. And now, in their infinite wisdom, they've introduced a 42 question checklist for each student. There is no "cannot comment" option on any of these questions. You have to give detailed answers for each student. Now if I were an elementary teacher, seeing these students all day, I may have been able to give accurate answers. As it is, I gave it my best guesses and called it a day (a long one, after answering all those questions).

If the DOE thinks they will glean useful information from these surveys, I've overestimated their intelligence, not an easy thing to do. Personally, I doubt these surveys will even be looked at, let alone acted upon. But we shall see.

Meanwhile, here on earth, the DOE has decided it is no longer going to offer COVID tests to vaccinated staff members. Evidently the DOE has determined breakthrough infections do not exist in New York City, or more likely has simply chosen to ignore them. And why not? Learning about actual infections would screw up Mayor de Blasio's all-important COVID stats. Our ostensibly liberal mayor has taken a page from Donald Trump and determined it's not the COVID that's the issue, but rather the testing. If there is less testing, there will be less COVID, full stop.

The fact is the city's COVID testing was already ridiculous. The goal was to test 10% of the population. However, the tested population was entirely self-selected and no one was compelled to actually take the test. So any student who didn't have permission to be tested, was not. And any student or staff who had symptoms, but didn't want to know about that bad old COVID, could simply ignore it, go to school, and infect everyone else. 

Now, in another stroke of genius, de Blasio has decided he doesn't want to hear about infected adults, so he's stopped allowing them to be tested. It's perfect for him. Even with infections on the rise, they aren't on the rise as much, because adults are not tested. Let's ignore the recent surge in infections, pretend we don't need to check carefully, and screw erring on the side of caution! Bill de Blasio wants to be governor, and if people need to get sick and die to make that more likely, well, so be it. 

Our job is to be role models. You'd think the people who run the DOE should lead by example. Think again. Those of us familiar with the DOE know exactly what to expect. Like Donald Trump, they blame everyone else, mostly UFT, and take no personal responsibility. That's the way it's always been, and incoming Eric Adams, bought and paid for by Eva Moskowitz's BFFs, is highly unlikely to change that. For my money, he'll make it worse.

But I'd be more than pleased to see him prove me wrong.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

PS 333 Votes No Confidence in Principal Claire Lowenstein

I'm happy to report that the parents, guardians, faculty and staff at PS 333 has had it with their abusive principal and is telling the world about it. I've posted about them before and this was just sent to me. You may see all of my PS 333 stories via this link. From all I've heard, this principal has chutzpah not generally seem this side of Mike Bloomberg.

There are some stories I've reported from there and others I've been unable to report as per the requests of those affected, or more accurately afflicted by this school leader.

 I'm told Principal Claire (Only first names are used in her school, as per her edict.) had a rabbi protecting her, but said rabbi has gone the way of the dodo.  Here's the staff's announcement. I wish them the best of luck even as the rats in de Blasio's rapidly sinking DOE ship decide exactly where best to jump.

Dear P.S. 333 - Manhattan School for Children Parents, Guardians, Faculty and Staff:

Here is the 'Final P.S. 333 "No Confidence Vote" Tally'. These results are current as of 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, on Friday, November 12, 2021, whereas all voting has now officially closed:
  • A total of forty-seven (47) current P.S. 333 staff-members expressed a clear vote of "No Confidence" in Principal Claire Lowenstein's continued leadership of P.S. 333 - Manhattan School for Children.
  • A total of twenty-two (22) current P.S. 333 staff-members declined to participate in the "No Confidence Vote" and did not submit a ballot.
  • Zero (0) current P.S. 333 staff-members explicitly expressed their continued support for Principal Claire Lowenstein. Four (4) P.S. 333 staff-members submitted blank ballots, eight (8) staff-members expressed one or more serious concerns and/or doubts about Principal Claire Lowenstein's leadership on their ballots (but they did not go the full-length of actually casting a vote of "No Confidence"), and one (1) staff-member did not explicitly express his/her/their continued support for Principal Claire Lowenstein, and he/she/they wrote-in on the ballot: "[Principal] Claire [Lowenstein] is not perfect, but I don't think that the students are unsafe."
  • A total of eighty-five (85) "No Confidence Vote" ballots were cast by current P.S. 333 parents & legal guardians (one ballot per child), in which the parent(s) & legal guardian(s) expressed a clear vote of "No Confidence" in Principal Claire Lowenstein's continued leadership of P.S. 333 - Manhattan School for Children.
  • A total of six (6) ballots were cast by current P.S. 333 parents & legal guardians (one ballot per child), in which these six (6) parent(s) & legal guardian(s) did not express a clear "Vote of No Confidence" in Principal Claire Lowenstein's continued leadership of P.S. 333 - Manhattan School for Children, and to the contrary, these same six (6) P.S. 333 parent(s)' & legal guardian(s)' ballots actually expressed their positive affirmation and/or their ongoing support for Principal Claire Lowenstein's continued leadership as the principal of P.S. 333 - Manhattan School for Children.
  • Three (3) ballots were cast by current P.S. 333 parents & legal guardians (one ballot per child), in which these three (3) parent(s) & legal guardian(s) did not express a clear "Vote of No Confidence" in Principal Claire Lowenstein's continued leadership of P.S. 333 - Manhattan School for Children, but these same three (3) parent(s) & legal guardian(s) also did not explicitly express their continued support for Principal Claire Lowenstein.
  • GRAND TOTAL: Out of the combined one hundred fifty-four (154) "No Confidence Vote" total ballots that were cast by current P.S. 333 staff-members, as well as by current P.S. 333 parents & legal guardians (one ballot per child), one hundred thirty-two (132) of these ballots expressed a clear vote of "No Confidence" in Principal Claire Lowenstein's continued leadership of P.S. 333 - Manhattan School for Children, which is approximately 86% of all the "No Confidence Vote" ballots that have been cast on November 10, November 11, and on November 12 by the P.S. 333 school community.

The Concerned Parents, Guardians, Faculty and Staff of P.S. 333 - Manhattan School for Children

Related: This is also covered in the NY Post today. Here's an excerpt:

Principal Claire Lowenstein has lost the support and respect of parents, staff and the larger PS 333 community. She has failed to put the needs of the children first, and her divisive leadership has hurt students and faculty alike,” said teacher Raphael Tomkin, the school’s chapter leader for the United Federation of Teachers. 

Friday, November 19, 2021

Remote Parent Teacher Conferences

In COVID times, so much is new, and so much is odd. It's not actually a bad idea to do parent conferences remotely. There's nothing I can tell parents face to face that I can't tell them on a Zoom conference. For me at least, as I come in ridiculously early, it saves me the trouble of driving home much later than I'd like. It was  a plus that we were off on Veteran's Day after a night of conferences.

I teach the same group of students in various different classes this year, so I had very few actual conferences. When you teach newcomers, parents are reluctant to come in. If my students have issues with English, their parents almost certainly have even more. The older you are, the longer it takes to learn a language, and the more difficult it is. We're programmed to learn language as children, and the older we get, the more that program deteriorates.

Last year, I was utterly demoralized by teaching remotely. I'm not saying it was a bad idea. Safety and health trump absolutely everything. Without the vaccine, the risk of coming into school was absolutely unacceptable. Before the vaccine, no one at all should have come in. 

But you have to get used to online instruction. The thing I never got used to was seeing the cat icons in lieu of my students. That's because, for many of them, I'd call their names and get no response, ever. It's not hard to imagine a teenager turning on a computer to simulate attendance, then turning the sound down and going back to sleep, or playing a video game, or going to the park or doing any number of things.

One advantage you have when you're in person is you can say, hey, wake up. Or hey, you can't sit and text during class. Taking it a step further, you can actually view student work and make specific suggestions to improve it. I always figure that's what they pay me for. 

So when you're online, it's frustrating. You're relegated to be the teacher who sits at the desk, reads the paper, or muses about the vagaries of existence. All you can do is sit there. I did do a few other things. My faithful dog sat with me every moment I taught, and I petted him a lot. Sometimes I picked him up, especially when he was barking. That sometimes stimulated conversation, always good in a language class.

Anyway, I was pretty shocked to have a parent come for a conference and not turn on the camera. I spoke to some colleagues who saw the same thing. I find that extremely rude. It's one thing for a kid who just woke up to not want to show herself, but quite another for an adult to sit behind an icon. I found it bizarre, as did others. 

A colleague told me when that happened to her, she said, "I can't see you," and the parents instantly turned on their cameras. I wish I had thought of that. Of course, the parents who came to see me were likely timid because of their lack of English ability, and that may have hindered their willingness to participate.

In the case of people who can handle English, IMHO, it's outright rude not to show your face. I couldn't imagine not showing mine. Were that the case, we could simply conduct conferences via email. A lot of my colleagues who were slammed would be happy with that. You wouldn't have to worry about the parents who insist on staying longer than their allotted time.

I thought students, except in extreme cases, should have been required to show themselves on camera last year. I think parents, if they expect you to speak with them, should at least reciprocate in showing their faces. It's common courtesy, alas, the least common of all.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

UFT Delegate Assembly November 17, 2021--Class Size Resolution Passed, and Amended to Include Contract Negotiations.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew--Welcomes us. We're through 25% of school year. Will try to keep report short to get through resolutions. Applauds SRPs. Schools fall apart without you. Thanks those who brought in coats for kids. 

Class size--6 weeks left of admin, including city council, which will be key now or in next year. We need to change health code. Have been trying to reduce class size for 30 years. Last time we did, people took them in lieu of raise. We don't think people should pay out of pockets. We've been stopped when we dd ballot initiatives, but because of pandemic we need to amend health code. Argument about classroom occupancy.

Will not cost city 30 billion in new construction, as city claims. We literally have room by room analysis of every school in the city. Blue book does not match our information about instructional space. 84% of schools can already meet the new standard. New 38,000 seats. Tough fight. Thanks everyone who helped with this. Big lift for us. We have a team working on this. Will send out something today. Please sign petition. This is a different but valid approach, Number of kids made it tough for us to open. 

Why don't city students have same class sizes as rest of state? When we get back from break we want day of action, Dec. 1 or 2. Then says you choose, but let us know. We want photos for social media. Next week is Thanksgiving break--will send reminder on Sunday night.

National--Infrastructure passed, NYC getting a lot of money. Gives economy uptick. Good thing for unions in need of contracts. If other bill passes, feds pay for 3K and pre-K, will free up 1.5 billion.

State--Gov. Phil Murphy thanks RTC for his win. Heading into our state budget cycle. Second year we are fully funded for CFE. Cathy Hochul will give first state of the state, interested in her vision. Have spoken to her. Governor huge fan of CTE, thinks that's the way of the future. State Democratic Party Convention in February. Primary was supposed to be in June, but they have to finish redistricting, and then local boards need to set up systems. May be pushed back. July may have less participation.

Digital classrooms--Everyone should have gotten a check. If you have an issue, let us know. Only 9 with extenuating circumstances haven't gotten paid. All of the screenings social emotional, etc., are messed up. Shouldn't have happened in weeks, never multiple screenings at same time. Mayor control sunsets this session. Someone wanted it done quickly for bragging rights. There is time or compensation tied to this. If this is a problem, make it a paperwork complaint. Big concern with special ed. recovery, and many will ask for unnecessary things.

Paraprofessionals--All paras now automatically enrolled in pension system.  We always have issues with paras retiring, or passing away, and suddenly finding they were not enrolled. We have 1800-3000 current unenrolled paras. They will be enrolled, and pension dept. will reach out to help them buy back time. We had a huge shortage, 1800 coming in, and lost 900 to mandate. We finally got list of people who wanted job, and hired 4000 paras. 

Next month we have to start--We have a new contract, new mayor, and I want a bigger negotiating committee, members from each chapter negotiating provisions. We have to form a team early, train and educate people. Last time I saw DOE didn't know what to do. Couldn't argue with people who knew what really went on at worksites. That's why we got so many changes for so many chapters.

Health care for all city workers--done through MLC, gives us a lot of leverage. Except for feds, we are the only union with premium free health care. Retiree chapter has committee, and they will have all they had but add more. We now have to look at all in-service city workers. As we continue down this road, we need to educate ourselves and members. Otherwise this won't make sense to them. When papers say we have free health care, not true. We pay a lot for it, but get better deal than probably anyone else. I now see bills and know which hospitals rip us off. Important people understand this.

We can't have the same people on both committees. 

Stands to wish LeRoy Barr happy birthday. Sings. 

Barr--Class size campaign. Share petition in school. Need everyone we can to sign. Will be informational picketing. Once in a generation opportunity. Thanks middle school coat drive and Thanksgiving meal Nov. 20. Virtual World AIDS day dec. 1 4-6. Elementary toy drive, bring unwrapped for newborn to 16 to UFT office. Happy Thanksgiving to all. Next DA Dec. 15.


Q--SEL--should be priority--Where are the counselors and people mayor promised would help?

A--Was supposed to be rolled out over six months. This is why mayoral control is failing. We know things aren't being done properly.  They threaten to outsource work if we don't provide service so we go to impact bargaining. Union's job is to protect our work. Not good how it's happened. If we had done first literacy, then numeracy and then SEL, and then screening, it would have been more manageable. Shortage of social workers but money is there.

Q--Literacy, numberacy, SEL--if it's done at same time, can I use operational?

A--Mayor announced deadline for SEL, but moved it two weeks. Use operational if necessary.

Q--Can you, rather than do paperwork complaint, do a survey?

A--We already know. Screening is horrendous. Do operational complaint We have some places where principals stick to original schedules and don't care if they get in trouble. 

Q--Non-negotiables with lesson plan--Can principal say standards and objectives must be in plan?

A--No. Move it to DR. Bring it to consultation at district level.

Q--Occupational Therapist chapter--Can't visit chapter leader at UFT. What is visitation policy?

A--It can be done by appointment. I will take care of it.

Q--D75 students are not keeping faces covered. Every day we hear about more COVID. School cleaner last year than this. Ticking up in SI. What can we do?

A--Let me or LeRoy Barr know. Cleanliness issues will be taken care of. D75 has many challenges. We will work with admin to get people to wear masks. Many had to wear gowns, masks, shields. Some D75 students cannot wear masks. We had to fight last week to close 2 Queens schools. NYC, for first time in months, had slight uptick. We work with city to try and get children vaccinated. Adams said there should be mandate. Says we already mandate 7. 

Q--Health care--Doesn't work in US, doctors paid by what services they provide. Market broken. There is New York Health Act that will reduce costs. Last month someone said UFT passed resolution to support it. Are we going to let this bargaining process happen in small meetings or collective decision?

A--We bargain all health care with MLC. That is why we're forming a committee. I want people to understand this. NYHA needs to be passed at federal level. Would cost state 4.5 billion annually. Where is pot of money at state level? Education. No willingness to tax rich, so ed. money will be reduced. Personally, I believe our health care should have been designed nationally for all. We have to protect member interests now. People have their own agendas, but if there is negative consequence for our livelihood everyone needs to know. I understand what you're saying, and I'm very frustrated. We need to tell insurance companies and hospitals we will only take so much or go elsewhere. Knee replacement in one facility cost 76K and another 36K. Cheaper one rated best. 

We need to protect our rights and livelihood. There are ramifications to these decisions and they can be very severe. 


?--Moves reso, for this month, in recognition of SRPs. play integral role, have worked harder than ever, most vulnerable students depend on them, SRP recognition day this week. 

94% yes online. 100 in building.

Nick Bacon--next month--Health care plan changes--Because UFT has high weighted vote in MLC, would like more democracy in decision making. Before decisions about retirees and new members, would like debate in DA, and rank and file vote before reps on MLC make votes. 

Janella Hinds--Opposes--Creation for health care committee will allow us to do in depth discussion and debate. Will allow us to engage in convo so we can do work with informed membership. We have never had votes on this, have never engaged in that kind of debate in past, asks for no vote. 

Point of information--Anything proposed that would stop committee being formed?


49% yes. more than that, motion goes down.

Point of order--Asks for numbers. Mulgrew asks for cards raised. Will produce in minutes.  

Hands off health care chant begins.


Karen Alford--Supports reso to strengthen commitment to lower class size and hold DOE responsible. Can't wait. Thinks about days in overcrowded schools and classrooms, and how impossible it was to teach. We need to recognize public health challenge and look through this lens. We will make children safer. 84% could do this now. We know there are infrastructure and covid relief dollars. We don't want to trade pay for class size and we must seize this opportunity. 


Ryan Bockenthal--Very much in favor, Moves to amend. Adds resolved--We wll follow up with actions, support related state legislation, prioritize in collective bargaining, go to court if necessary. We have power and showed it by mobilizing toward strike. 

Loretta Tamborello--Rises in opposition. As we said, negotiation for contract not right place. Trying to make difference using health code. We are forming committee. Will drive us. Class size action now as we're doing. Should not be contract negotiaton.

Farah Alexander--Teachers overworked, overextended, at capacity. We want this now, before contract, don't want it mandatory item. 

Ali ?--In favor of amendment. Empowers CLs to enforce this. Can make it school issue. Policies meaningless until enforced. 

Shane McAndrew--Opposes. We have health crisis, must lower class sizes, social-emotional crisis too. Smaller class sizes will help teachers support students better. Legislative process removes pressure at bargaining table. We have our voice if it's immortalized in law. Pols will have to raise them.

Matt Driscoll--In favor of amendment. Not in conflict with reso. Just adds to it. 

Jennifer Brown--Important to fight for reduction at all levels, contractually and beforehand.

Bill Woodruff--Calls question.

Point of order--Important issue. Is delegate that just asked that on union payroll?

Mulgrew--He is elected delegate.  

Woodruff?--Audibly angry, argues you'd deny members their right to be represented.

Mulgrew--We are teacher union in largest district with greatest challenges. Please bear that in mind and be respectful toward one another. Question called. Seconded.

Vote to end debate. 

82% yes online. Debate closed.


61% yes online. Amendment passes, but.... 

Mulgrew calls people to stand who are for amendment. They are counted. Audible debate as sections are measured. Has no votes stand, section by section.  Mulgrew says we try to avoid this because we get through fewer resolutions. 

Amendment passes.

Point of information--You are looking at raw votes, Rashid %. Can we have that each time.

Mulgrew--When it is required. If clear and unambiguous, we move agenda. Online holds more weight. We report number of participants, Room always below 300.

We now vote on amended resolution. 

82% yes. Passes as amended.

...Daniel Alicea--Mayoral control not a single issue, affects all we do, and controls our schools. Some say we need to approach it as single issue. We've learned last 20 years not just another sickening dish, but rather segregated and undemocratic restaurant. Lists bad effects, including racism. Always mayor saying this will be different. Overwhelming majority wants this undemocratic system be limited or abolished. We aren't just speaking about one or two elected officials, but system that has stripped engagement from stakeholders, system telling residents they can't be trusted. 

Mulgrew stops, says someone is broadcasting DA. This must stop or DA will stop. People who hate this union will do anything to divide and weaken us. Must confirm this is stopped. People who found feed will do so. 

We have one of the best health care programs in the city. Many people want to figure how we got it. Goal is workers, benefits. 

Feed has stopped, Mulgrew asks for continued monitoring. 

Alicea--During primary were told Yang and Adams existential threats to union. We kind of play ball and comply. Not grappling with mayoral control brings sense of dire emergency. Many in this room believe resolution is moot because it places condition of endorsement in 2021 mayoral race. Asks we get together and start pushing against mayoral control.  Asks we withdraw resolution to do so. 

Resolution withdrawn. 

Alexandra ?--Amendment to resolution. (I don't know what resolution she's discussing.) Resolved, UFT urges not transfer authority, something about SSAs, hiring more teachers, holistic recovery from criminal practices, support arts...

Rich Mantel--Confused--Entire bill speaks to removing SSAs from NYPD, changing duties, if you do that incident reporting will go down, but incidents will not. Opposes. 

Travis Malacor--In favor of amendment.  We shouldn't be part of money discussions for SSAs.

Margaret Joyce--Moves to extend.

Mulgrew--Will not be popular, and must finish debate on this first.

Rory Rosewood--Point of information. What language did amendment change?

Mulgrew--We vote no to transferring agents to DOE authority, hire more teachers, counselors librarians and other titles. Thinks this was already voted on. In that case it will come back next month. We are against SSAs being under DOE. When they had control, there were no incidents.

Janet Zissburg--Opposes. Education policies belong to DOE. Police are experts on safety, should be in charge of safety agents. Principals have more than enough control.  

Alona ?--Speaks in favor of amendment. DOE should not be overlooking school safety. Amendment says we still need reform. Role of SSA needs to be reformed. 

Shashana Brown-- Speaking in favor of amendment. As social worker, understand what many students have to deal with during random scanning. An SSA tackled one of my students for doing nothing. SSAs aren't well-trained or experts. We need to pass this. Mental health on the line. 

Motion to extend debate--

45% yes. 55% no. Debate closed. Question called. 

83% yes. 


68% yes. Passes after extended canvassing by Mulgrew.


75% yes. Passes.

Mulgrew wishes everyone a great Thanksgiving. Through first 25%, God bless you all. 6:16

Monday, November 15, 2021

UFT Executive Board October 15, 2021--Class Size Resolution Passes

UFT Secretary LeRoy Barr--Welcomes us. 


Reports from Districts--Rashad Brown--Works with student loan forgiveness program. New info for limited waiver and AFT lawsuit against DOE. Tomorrow will be webinar on this, over 721 registered. Pride committee hosts World AIDS Day event Dec. 1 4:15--virtual--speaker from Northwell will speak. 

Karen Alford--Nov. 30 4:30-6 Elementary Town Hall. Please come.

Shelvi Abrams--Reaching out to sub paras 23rd webinar. Please join us. 

Rich Mantel--Saturday Thanksgiving event for students who live in temporary housing. Will provide Thanksgiving meal. Will give them winter coat, gloves and scarf. Remaining coats will go to shelter. Delivered over 1K last year. 

Servia Silva--Invites people to children and vaccine awareness Town Hall Distict 4r Mon. Nov 22 through Zoom. Students who had vaccine will encourage others. 

Tom Murphy--RTC had last general membership meeting, 2900 stayed on, devoted to health care. 

Seung Lee--Asian American Heritage committee 6:30 tomorrow. 

Mary Vaccarro--20 new teacher center sites as of Dec. 23. Will continue to meet with ELL focus group monthly. Meeting regularly with librarians. Partnership with Monroe College special ed. and bilingual special ed. licenses will offer reduced tuition. 30 above programs available. CTLE workshops running. Apple workshops continuing shortly.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew-- Thanks political action dept. and RTC, says Gov Murphy thanks them and wouldn't have won without them. Working on city council legislation about class size. Has been amended to be about occupancy, not class size. Unrelated to class size limits in contract, which will remain. Had forum with 600 activists, Mark Treyger explained. Always people in City Hall against this. Bloomberg preferred 50 in a classroom. 

When city decided three feet was 18 inches, measured nose to nose, opened up argument about health code. This led to this. Our school system unsafe because too many people in classroom. When DOE revised capacity to 50 people, that opened this up. Not contractual negotiation, but city council legislation. Many stakeholders. We've now amended legislation, would drop to classroom occupancy. K could be 21. Admin could place people in larger spaces, but can't do oversized classes because of contract.

Won't be easy. Bill is aging tonight. D75 is important. We need task force to deal with that. Must do that in responsible way. We have enforcement mechanism. Could go to court. Probably up for vote next Tuesday. If it passes, then rollout and implementation is 5-year process. Will be reports and hard targets. Right now 86% of schools have footage. Will require more staff, but not dramatic amount. 

This polls highly with both parents and members. Will place supporting council members on our website as heroes. People will try and kill this bill. Will say it's UFT trying to increase membership. We tried to put it on ballot, but mayor killed it. Wanted to charge us for it in contract. Looking at health codes to combat certain situations, we came upon this. Still a lot of work to do. 

When people say they won't support this, we will ask why. We don't understand why this would happen after what we've all been through. This is about safety. This could be the one good thing to come out of pandemic. Thanks everyone who worked on this. Wishes everyone great Thanksgiving.

Barr--Resolution to support this bill is placed on screen. Gives history of UFT work on class size. Was first point in pandemic five-point plan. Asks for motion.

Moved, seconded. 

George Altomari--This issue older than UFT. Teacher's Guild looked at this. We had no contract, did best we could. Class size was 55, 60. People sat on things. We had no collective bargaining or numbers. Charlie Cogen did everything possible. He analyzed laws on books, found you needed so much space for fire hazard, wasn't successful, but we had a terrific run. Won through collective bargaining. 

Anthony Harmon--Time is right, this is our opportunity, thanks union.  

?--Read article in medical journal, said up to 5% of students have non-verbal learning disabilities. Could be millions of undiagnosed students. Smaller class sizes will help teachers identify these children. Rises in strong support. 

Passes unanimously.

Paid medical leave--Michael Sill--no conversations now. Will be considered in contractual negotiations. 

We are adjourned 6:37

Friday, November 12, 2021

COVID Testing in City Schools Is a Sham

In our school, people come in once a week to test for COVID. That's a good idea. Of course, for students, it's completely optional. If they don't feel like being tested, well, they aren't. This in itself precludes stats from being reliable, and it doesn't take the Oracle of Delphi to know that this is the intent of Mayor Bill de Blasio. He never wanted to close schools, he still doesn't, and what he doesn't find out will close as few schools as possible. 

So what we know, actually, is only the percentage of volunteers who have contracted the virus. If your parents don't grant permission for testing, if you don't want to find out, or even if you're too lazy to walk to the testing center, you will simply never know. Given the fact that a whole lot of COVID cases are wholly asymptomatic, this places the school population at large at wholly unnecessary risk. 

In our school, there is an announcement made when testing is available. It's always at the same time, in the morning. Our school, to ease overcrowding and make social distancing possible, at least sometimes, is on a 14 period day. This means that our testing pool includes only those who come in the morning. A full half of our students are not tested, ever, So on top of the issues that already make stats unreliable, our stats, in the largest school in Queens, the most overcrowded in the city, are only half as reliable as those of other schools. 

In my brief deaning career, I could get away from my post and get tested, and I did so at every available opportunity. If I contract COVID, I ought not to come to work. That's not just about my health, but also about the health of my students, many unvaccinated, and their families. My AP offered me a deal to get out of deaning, but it entailed my teaching consecutively periods 1-4. I was fine with that, actually. I'm happy to do most of my work in the beginning of the day.

The problem, though, is that this means I, like half the students and teachers in our building, will simply never be tested. Of course I take every precaution. At work, I wear KF94 masks from Korea, which are supposed to be more reliable than their Chinese counterparts, often counterfeited. So I'm hopeful my risk factor is low. But who really knows? Every week there's some new story, some new development. 

I went to an administrative AP and asked if they could have testing at different times during the day. She told me that admin was aware of the problem and asked them to do so. This notwithstanding, the people who do the testing show up when they show up, always at the same time. 

So the issue is somewhere higher than the people who do the actual testing. Is this a deliberate act to try and minimize positive results? Maybe. More likely it's just administrative indifference. It's somehow convenient to do it now, so screw common sense, which is largely overrated, and probably the least common of all the senses anyway. 

This is another de Blasio failure, whether deliberate or not. The stats we get are borderline meaningless. We really have no idea what's going on, and it's in the mayor's interest to keep things that way. After all, he's unlikely to get anywhere in his quest to become governor, but if people know what's really going on his chances go from zero to less than zero.

It kind of makes you wonder why New York City is so absolutely determined to never, ever have a good mayor.

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

If Adams Wants to End Mask Mandates, He Must First Mandate Vaccines for Students

Every time Eric Adams opens his mouth, I'm more persuaded what this city needs most is, well, not Eric Adams. The other day he said he wanted to get rid of the mask mandate, but would "follow the science." I'm not sure which science he's talking about, or where it will lead him, but there happens to be a very effective vaccine available for anyone 5 years or older.

The very first step I'd take as mayor would be to mandate vaccines for absolutely everyone attending public schools. We've already done that for staff. I think, though, that both the current mayor and Adams are fraidy-scared to say students need to get vaccinated. After all, there's a big kerfuffle on the internet about Big Bird, who tweeted that he was vaccinated.

Immediately Texas Troglodyte Ted Cruz got very vocal about how Big Bird was a socialist, or antifa, or CRT, or whatever it is Ted is calling people who don't support him this week. There is a big anti-vax movement out there, stoked largely by people like Tucker Carlson, who's surely vaccinated himself. After all he's surely vaccinated. To work at Fox, you have to either be vaccinated or get tested daily

But honestly, there are a whole lot of people angry about vaccinations. Now that is remarkable. We can argue about taxes. We can argue about which candidates are better. We can argue about whether programs are beneficial, and over whom is worthy of benefit. In the United States today, though, we're arguing about health. And make no mistake, while you'll hear arguments about personal freedom, one more outlandish than the next, what we're actually debating is health. One side is for it, and the other is against.

The state of politics in the United States is beyond abysmal. You might think, living in New York City, that we're somehow above it all. But we aren't. If you don't believe it, consider this: We elected Rudolph Giuliani mayor twice, Michael Bloomberg three times (although, in fairness, he bought the third one), and now we've elected Eric Adams once.

Adams was a police captain, but he's afraid to take on the anti-science, anti-health crowd that will rise up against him if he demands children be vaccinated. Instead, he's making noise about how he wants to unmask students. Honestly, if he takes that step before mandating vaccinations, he's a fool. 

That's not to say masking is perfect. Every day I see students walking around my building with masks pulled down below their noses and mouths. There are no consequences for these students. I know, because I wrote a few up, and days and weeks later I still see them walking around unmasked like they own the world. This notwithstanding, most of our students follow the mandate, and we're all safer for it.  

Does former police captain Eric Adams have the intestinal fortitude to do what's needed to back up his words? I very much doubt it. 

But I'll be more than happy if he proves me wrong.

Monday, November 08, 2021

UFT Executive Board November 8, 2021--Legislative Victory for Paraprofessionals, Class Size Possibilities

UFT Secretary LeRoy Barr
--Welcomes us. 

Minutes approved.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew--Thanks everyone for Teacher Union Day. Good to recognize work through pandemic. Finally have a piece of legislation--paras will now be automatically enrolled in pension system. Will no longer have retirees who have not enrolled. Went into effect in October. We will be in contact with all paras newly enrolled. 

We run a student debt program. Many of our teachers were part of lawsuit against Betsy DeVos. Our program will reach out to all members who qualify for relief. Some members have had debt completely wiped out.

Monitoring school board elections. People who hate us put a lot of money into this. Privatizers will do nationwide campaign. 

Working very closely with City Council. Want to work on class size. Courts ruled against us in past. What we have, and what council can do, is change health code. We had a hearing a few weeks ago. DOE said it was impossible at hearing, though they admitted it could be done in 50-60% of schools. Mark Trayger put in bill. It is time to push very hard for this. Real possibility this could be done by November 23. For the amount of money spent in NYC, I'd rather have lower class sizes than DOE bureaucracy. Why can't we even get close to class sizes of surrounding school districts? Not a priority for city. They understand this will cause less money for bureaucracy. Biggest reopening challenge was number of students. Other systems had lower class sizes. Ventilation was issue because we have bad bureaucracy and more students than anyone else. If it takes a pandemic to do this, that's fine. Let's see who comes out publicly against lowering class sizes. If city needs to do this, they can get it done. We will do it based on student need, not political desire. 

Meeting a lot with mayor-elect. Haven't discussed contract, but in service health contract is up. We do not have free health care. We pay for it. We need to use same strategies we use. Need to have members understand. We want our people to have what they need, but we do not want to be taken advantage of. 

?--Thanks Mulgrew for the para bill. Paras have respect. They are equal with their colleagues. For the first time, I feel that we have done what we've always wanted to do. Our lobbying has paid off. Thank you all. 

Legislative Report--Angel Vasquez-- Two UFT members who ran for City Council won general election November 2. Important to have UFT voices in council, especially with others term limited. There were 43 UFT-endorsed candidates who won. 60% will be women. This is historic, with women making majority. Last month we pushed for speaker to be woman. At SOMOS conference we put together an event with many female council members. 3 UFT citywide, and 3 boroughwide won, and two of our endorsed DAs won. Two special elections endorsed via NYSUT won. 

Motion to adjourn--6:21

Thursday, November 04, 2021

CRT Is Only the Most Recent Boogeyman

I just read a book called The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee. I highly recommend it. I took out the audiobook using the Libby App, and listened to it while coming back and forth to work. It answered all the questions What's the Matter With Kansas did not. 

For years I've wondered why, as McGhee asks, we can't have nice things. Why can every other non-third world country provide health care for its citizens? Why do only Americans go broke via catastrophic medical emergency? Why is the deck so heavily stacked against union in this country? Why is no one able to afford end-of-life care?

It boils down to exclusion. McGhee, as one example, writes extensively about public pools, which pretty much represent why we can't have nice things. What's better than a pool on a hot day? Of course, for many Americans, a pool is good for us, but not them. What happens when civil rights appear, and all of a sudden you have to share your beautiful pool with people of color?

In some cases, communities privatized the pools so that membership could be whoever they chose. That's still going on today. In my home county, Nassau, I once took my kid and her cousins to a pool in Wantagh. They told me I'd have to buy a "Leisure Pass," and only then would I have the privilege to pay for all of us to go in. Evidently, the thousands I pay in taxes is not enough. It would be another 36 bucks, which hardly seemed worth it for one day in a pool. You'd better believe I'm not the only riffraff it effectively keeps out. (We went to our community pool in Freeport, which has no extra fee.)

Of course, a privatized pool means even if you want to pay the 36 bucks you can't get in. Some municipalities didn't bother with that. They just drained all the pools. Here's a particularly egregious example showing that everyone, regardless of color, suffers from racism.

When Donald Trump comes down an escalator blabbering about how Mexicans are rapists and murderers, he's sending a not-at-all subtle message that he won't tolerate all those foreigners, the ones who are preventing you from getting your dream low-wage gig washing dishes or cutting lawns, the one with no vacation, no sick days, no health insurance and all the other great benefits freedom bestows. In fact, the freedom to pay a sub-living wage is one of the few freedoms GOP will fight for. Of course, while we're busy scapegoating Mexicans, or African-Americans, or whoever we're hating on, we tend not to focus on that.

It's all misdirection, sleight-of-hand. Look at this. Not at that. Sure, we're cutting women's rights, but we're also making sure Willie Horton doesn't come to your neighborhood. Willie Horton was one of the most egregious uses of racism to elect a Republican in my living memory. If you don't vote for George Bush this scary Black man will come to your house and kill you and stuff.  Lee Atwater, on his death bed, apologized for that, but by then George had already started to pack the Supreme Court that, along with his other son Jeb's state, would make his ridiculous son W. President. 

Along with preventing or disallowing votes wherever possible (not to mention calling any votes that aren't for GOP fake), CRT is the new Willie Horton. If you don't make Youngkin governor of Virginia, they're gonna teach your kids CRT. The fact that no K-12 school actually teaches CRT is neither here nor there. CRT is the boogeyman of the hour, fast supplanting Black Lives Matter as the thing you can hate on while pretending not to be a racist. It worked for Youngkin, although having a bumbling opponent certainly helped too.

McGhee says we need policies that work for the sum of us, not just some of us. That's why I am so very upset that UFT has declined to support the New York Health Act. It's really awkward for unionists to stand around and say, "We have these benefits and if everyone gets health insurance, we will lose money, or have fewer benefits, or whatever the rationale is.

Instead of demanding fair benefits for everyone, we're privatizing the pool. As if that's not enough, we have an incoming mayor (one we endorsed for reasons that elude me utterly), and, while the city is awash in federal money,  Eric Adams wants to cut city worker salary by 3-5%. Of course that won't happen, because no one will agree to such a contract. Adams will, instead, scapegoat the greedy city workers who don't want to help out. You see, Adams is not concerned with the sum of us either. That's why he took six million from the charters, yet another way education, one of our few remaining public goods, is debased.

It won't take a whole lot for Adams to publicly bemoan the benefits we have, the ones he enjoyed as a cop and likely still has. Demagogues don't really have to worry about how hypocritical they are as long as they can rile up a crowd. 

It's on us to spread union, spread health care, and spread economic wellness to our community and beyond. Right now I'm very sad to rate us ineffective. We cannot, must not, endorse the very same zero-sum game that has long prevented our country from becoming what it could be.