Monday, January 31, 2022

The Principal

This is a short story, actually a very short story. Let me know what you think.

The lockers were beautiful. They were brand new. Every one of them shined. It took him years of careful negotiations to procure them. Other principals said it was a waste, it was an old idea, it would never work. What did they know?

This was his signature achievement, one he’d be remembered for. They made his halls look so sharp. No city high school had lockers like these. Each with its own number, its own identity. Each with equal space inside, and anything could go in them.

But what if, now that you mention it, students put the wrong things in them? That could happen. But I mean, most kids would place their books inside. Maybe they’d store their winter coats instead of wearing them in the building all day. That would be excellent. Even the deaf, dumb and blind superintendent would have to notice him, for once in his overprivileged life.

Once that superintendent saw that his students were walking the halls without winter coats, he’d have it made in the shade. I mean, every other school had kids wearing Canadian Goose Parkas day in and day out, even as the custodians pumped the heat so high you’d think they were trying to simulate summer.  

It would be perfect. The superintendent would come for the quality review and see a different kind of school. His school wouldn’t be like anyplace else. Why, it was downright unhealthy, those kids walking around in hot buildings with those heavy winter coats. The would, you know, sweat. It can’t be good for them to sweat all day. How can they learn geometry like that? How can they conjugate verbs like that? How can they do anything?

With the new lockers, grades would skyrocket. SAT scores would be through the roof. And those Regents exams, the ones that kept kids from graduating, well, his kids would just breeze through them. Who knows? Maybe he could enroll all his newly comfortable students in AP courses, and the sky’s the limit. He could be in one of those best schools in America list in US News. Was US for us, as in we, or USA? It didn’t matter. Maybe he would be the next superintendent.  No more quality reviews for him.

He’d be giving the quality reviews. Those principals without lockers would be at his mercy. Why didn’t you put lockers in the halls? Look at all those sweaty teenagers. They can’t focus, that’s the problem. If only they weren’t walking around in those frigging parkas they’d be able to concentrate. This is your fault. You’re ineffective is what you are.

And his wife, she’d look at him differently once he was superintendent. His kids too, No more staying out who knows where, who knows when. No one does that to a superintendent. Sure, he’d have to start out as assistant superintendent, but that would be temporary. Surely he’d get another flash of inspiration. Surely he’d get an idea even better than mere lockers. It was a simple matter of time.

Maybe a year or two of sucking up to the supe, but how was that any different from what he was doing now? And it would be other people he’d be apologizing for. No more yes, sir, I’ve started remedial classes to make sure they pass the next English Regents. No more no, sir, we haven’t found out what happened to those brand new American Stratocasters in the boxes, but we’re working on it. We’ll surely get to the bottom of this. And no, of course we won’t be wasting any more precious funding on musical instruments.

On the other hand, what if the students didn’t leave their coats there? What if they put other stuff there? Damn. He could have a whole school full of kids hopped up on who knows what. They could get all excited. No one could control them like that. Not the teachers, that’s for sure. They couldn’t even control the kids now. How many times did he have to walk into classrooms and take the hats away from kids, four, five at a time sometimes. Imagine, wearing hats. In his building.

What if the superintendent came in and saw all those hats? What kind of quality review would that be?

And it wouldn’t stop there. There are worse things. Knives. Switchblades. Chef’s knives. Those chopper thingies. He could have kids chopping pieces of one another off, right there in those halls. In his halls. How was that going to make him look?

And it would get worse. They could place guns in those boxes. Handguns of all kinds. Jeez you could fit a sawed-off shotgun in there and have some kid bouncing all over the place like Omar from The Wire.

Maybe a bunch of kids could disassemble some kind of assault weapon and he’d have one of those school shootings that always happen in those other states. The president would send thoughts and prayers. Thoughts and prayers.

And worst of all, he’d never make superintendent. Just one incident like that, and your career was stalled. It would take years to make up for something like that. At that rate, he could be fifty before he made superintendent. But the time he was up for chancellor, he’d be in some damn wheelchair. Unacceptable, unacceptable, unacceptable.

That was it. No student would be allowed to use those damn lockers. Not while he was in charge.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Private Schools Charge Families $50,000 or More a Year, Get State Aid to Pay Teachers

So what if you're sitting on a gazillion dollar endowment? The state is giving away free money, and it doesn't matter how rich you are. You can always use a little more. After all, the bootless and unhorsed would just fritter than money away on rent or food or something equally frivolous. You, on the other hand, will take that money you don't need at all and invest it. It makes perfect sense. 

Yet the papers are whining, oh, that Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School has over 40 million dollars in the bank, and still wants more money. Well of course they do. The fact is there are some things you just can't have too much of. 

For example, you hear people complain they have too many problems. They have too much work. They have too many expenses. You never hear people complaining they have too much money because there simply is no such thing. Now sure, there are naysayers and whiners. 

“For the State of New York to subsidize these private schools charging $50,000 to $60,000 to go to school, I say no to that,” said state Sen. Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan), a longtime education advocate who’s fought to increase state funding to public schools. “That money could be used better at schools in our city and state where kids need it the most.” 

This notwithstanding, the fact is Donald Trump could send his kid anywhere, and he sent Barron to Columbia Grammar and Prep. Seriously, does anyone think he sent them there thinking they need less money? How on earth are places like that going to keep charging top dollar if they don't keep the place spruced up? You can't just keep the same old chandeliers forever. You have to change up the candelabras on the grand piano every now and then. 

Sure, you could fritter that money away on those public schools, where people go when they haven't got enough green to make it to Columbia prep. But would they appreciate it? When, for example, have you heard a public school kid appreciate that the food was catered by a five-star restaurant? When do they take field trips to Europe, or accompany Jeff Bezos on a lunar trip?

And once you start with giving public schools things like adequate ventilation, or actual deep cleaning, politicians like Jackson will start whining about how they want their schools to always be safe, or clean, or whatever, and then you're on a slippery slope. Next they'll be demanding they have the same things private schools have, or worse, demanding to unionize private school teachers. Once that happens, you'll actually have to reach into the endowment to pay their frigging salaries, and if that isn't an unnecessary expense, what is?

It's good to know that Kathy Hochul is prioritizing things like granting aid to schools that least need it and extending mayoral control for a guy who's held office less than a month. Who knows what else she's capable of? Stay tuned and we'll soon find out. 

HT/ Leo Genn

Monday, January 24, 2022

UFT Executive Board January 24, 2021--Queens UFT Chapter Scores Victory Against Abusive Principal

UFT Secretary LeRoy Barr--Welcomes us. 


Reports from Districts--Rashad Brown--Every Thursday coming up is Black History film series. Slavery and Suffering this Thursday at 4 PM on Zoom. HS students may attend.

Mike Schirtzer--PS 186 UFT members won arbitration, cease and desist against principal for targeting union, very appreciative of Queens office and Amy Arundell. 

Wendy W. Wilson--African Heritage Committee Awards Dinner Dance February 4th. Tickets available.

 UFT President Michael Mulgrew--Thanks Karen Alford, Alison Gendar and others for vax clinic in Corona last Saturday. 

Covid continuing downward, will see where it goes. Monday always low. Tuesday and Wed. goes up a little bit. So far appears half of early January.

Remote learning--having conversations with DOE. Attendance going up as wave goes down. If people want to volunteer to do this work as an activity, we may have something done on that basis. Would be posting, not mandated. We want our students in school. Members doing phenomenal work, targeting deficiencies. First and second graders, writing, literacy, math deficiencies, but members are facing challenge.

Albany--We can't go in person, though they insist on school being in person. We have many meetings set up, coordinating with NYSUT. Some things we don't like, and some opportunities to move things. Will move quickly, and primary still scheduled for June. Will not have last month of legislative session, so lots of things in budget. Case in Queens was phenomenal work. 

Had first consultation with new chancellor today. Queens case came up. We understand what cease and desist means, and DOE seems to take it seriously. Was decent consultation, but lots of work to be done.

Negotiating committee--Will be open for some time, but we will shut it down soon. Lots of things on table.

Wishes us good evening and rest of week. 6:14

Barr--You heard about all the people who testified in Queens. 

David Campbell--Was some case. Went back long way. 9 hearings, and many testified. Very rare to have big union animus class like this. In past was about one person, but in this case was about entire chapter. Not much evidence of direct retaliation as of Step Two, everything after was not allowed to be brought up. Were not many LIF, or people claiming evaluations affected. Principal actions and directions to staff tried to discourage union involvement.

Queens office showed reactions from principal directly after people went to union. Showed her disdain, and it made people question union. She said union info was wrong. One incident was when there was union meeting. Someone from central came and said one sign of going after union was when principal collected lesson plans. Principal did so directly after that, which was a direct action that persuaded arbitrator. Don't have a whole lot of union animus decision. Great job by Michael Heron. 

NYC Teacher Retirement re-election--Tom Brown--Supports resolution to nominate Deborah Penny to retirement board. Respected trustee, fiduciary, advocate for our pensions. Chair of TRS Board, serves on multiple committees, presented on panels. Liason to RTC. Impressed by dedication and compassion. Pensions stronger and safer with her. Ask you to pass resolution and nominate her. 

Resolution passes. We are adjourned 6:21

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

UFT Delegate Assembly January 19, 2021--Spring Break, Contract, Elections and Other Stuff

UFT President Michael Mulgrew-- Welcomes us to first DA of 2022. Asks moment of silence for families who lost members in Bronx fire. Thanks school community for support, disaster relief fund. 

Despite covid wave, many things going on with state. We have new mayor and chancellor. Opening during wave significant challenge. Many bumps in communication.

Federal--Everything is stuck. Glad we got what we did. Not sure other bill will pass. During Christmas week state asked waiver for accountability on tests for NY State. Not sure how last two years determine anything. Happy that it was submitted, sad it was denied. Not sure how they read document and denied it quickly at Christmas time. We don't want schools treated unfairly, by standardized tests during pandemic. Will pursue appeal.  

State--budget proposal from governor--will be negotiated Beginning of process. Moneyblevel good, but there are problems. 7% increase in funding. NYC foundation aid funded. But charters also got increased funding, including our area. Facilities money raised for NYC as we're required to give space to charters. Sounds and is unfair. 

Mayoral control--We have not supported mayoral control since I have been President. We don't want to go back to school boards, but don't believe this has done right by children of NYC. Best example is gifted and talented. Bloomberg thought it was just handed out to make parents happy. They decided to use standardized tests for every student in kindergarten, which violated research, but suited their policy. We now have most segregated system in country. Thousands with tutoring got in, tens of thousands had no chance. 

De Blasio wanted to get rid of it. I think many students deserve this program, yet close to 16 years later, and this has been political football for two mayors. That's enough to reject mayoral control. We see policies changed for political needs and children suffering as a result. It's in budget now, and we will deal with it in lobbying. Albany now wants all lobbying remotely. 

Teacher centers, for first time since George Pataki, being funded by a governor. Money for covid recovery there too. Thousands of pages long tied to programs and initiatives. Working with NYSUT to set priorities. Our goal is to make sure we get best policy for our and parent voices, and to send money to classroom.

NYC--Covid--Some first two weeks. Had to be two roughest weeks to be CL or delegate, very proud of what you do, you are all heroes. Rates very high when we got back. Closed schools, closed one this week. Mayor wants to keep them open, we agree if lack of staff school must be closed. Dr. predicted it would go up rapidly, plateau, and quickly come down. We believe and hope that's where we are, with 57% drop from last week to this week. 

Schools may be safer than other places but numbers made it tough to believe. And then there was the snow. I said we should go remote to mayor. Mayor said they had it under control. I was concerned much staff couldn't get in. Mayor wanted to target high need schools, but there are NOT 24,000 substitutes. Attendance on Friday was high for teachers but low for students. We can't have snow days because no room in calendar and we don't want to work breaks. Didn't get remote day, but we are seeing drops in positivity. 

Let us know about safety issues and they will be fixed. We knew more than the principals. We knew all should get test kits and masks. Took two days to clarify. PreK and 3K sites now have rapid tests. 

Does anyone know official attendance policy? At one time it was if you see child you can mark present. Right now, admin trying to iron out communication process where they put out misinformation and lies. They told people there was an MOA, but we never signed it. Have had some conversations trying to fix it. They put out contradictory info, left it all up, and admin would pick documents they liked. We ask that when new guidance goes up, old guidance goes down. 

If a child tested positive, or are put into isolation for covid, that child is subject to pivot to remote agreement. Asynchronous work and office hours. Child fails health screening--We treat them as if they're absent. We know some schools treat them the same, but there is no agreed upon posting. We need one if children don't qualify. You can't just have a wink with principal, because central can deny per session. You can make agreement with principal, or we can have citywide agreement.

If a child is absent, and goes into digital classroom, just does asynchronous, child should not be marked present. As per MOA, but there is none. We hope to clarify. If principal orders absent students marked present, is violation of state attendance law.

Remote education--Very surprised chancellor said he always wanted it and UFT was holding it up. Parents called us. They meet with us and have heard us for months saying we need option. We don't want 60% of kids staying home. With all issues, we want children in front of us. Mayor walked back chancellor's comments. They'd said they didn't want it. We are having conversations. 

Before December 1 we had high attendance in elem. and middle schools, low in high schools. They're approaching adulthood and want to do things their way. We don't need a complete disruption now, complete reprogramming. We do and have always supported real remote option. Want to do high schools first, as we're missing so many. February 1 they start new classes. We will then look at other grades. 

DOE having communication issues. Seems like on Friday each department sends out whatever. Will be a parent survey on remote. Will not guarantee current teachers. Will not offer all HS courses. We don't believe in just dropping in a camera. That's bad instruction. 

I will say we need kids back in school, and enrollment up. If we get through covid with low attendance, we have even more challenges. 

Very upset with Skedula. Could it have gone down at a worse time? Fascinating to see evolution. First started by three teachers who rejected DOE system and designed better one. Many schools now rely on it. On spring break, was a lot of pressure,

David Campbell--City ordered us to work. There were religious observances. We were given 4 CAR days for that, but we retained right to grieve for full compensation. We filed very first day grievance was available. Went to arbitration in December. DOE said we gave four CAR days, should be enough, said it wasn't real work.

We argued for cash, and had two precedents. Arbitrator made clear he would not order city to write big check, knowing four other unions were coming. We know CAR day not equal to value of day of work, only if you're sick or personal, and cashed out at only half pay. We said if they took away a vacation, equal value would be they give us one. We worked out this plan, and arbitrator bought it. DOE offered CAR days, but we needed equal value. You get one vacation day for each day you work. Four CAR days converted, plus three.

Vacation days can be used for whatever you want. Have to request at least ten days early, should ask earlier. Can be denied if too many ask for same day, but only in first 48 hours. Effectively first come, first served, and then by seniority if necessary. If they deny, we can take it to expedited arbitration, likely well before vacation day. 

You have them for your whole career. If you still have them when you leave, you cash them out one for one at your current salary. Will be in bank in February. Go to vacation, opening day, or just hold onto them and take the money. 

Retirees will get it, hopefully right away. No other public school teachers ever got this.

Mulgrew thanks arbitration team. Sent out queries for anyone interested in negotiation committee. Want 400 or more, largest ever, by grade level, geography, etc. Want full representation on functional side. If attendance is still issue, will have to work out solution. Contract up in September. Do they have a big program they want to do? Are there other unions in negotiation now? Yes, for last round, but doesn't mean a union might not settle and push it farther. Financial pattern could already be set. Inflation very high now. 

Will require time allotment. Don't want other side to know what we're doing. If you want to be part of this, it's chapters helping other chapters. When was initial contract signed, and how did you build on it? We're about to rep new people in DOE seeking first contract. Will likely be more complicated than just money.

Secretary LeRoy Barr--Election petitions out today, with guidelines and statements, also on, borough offices, CL updates. Due back February 18. Shanker scholarship applications extended, please make available in HS. Join citywide HS meeting Thursday Feb 3. African heritage scholarship dinner dance Feb 1 Anton's. Sterling Roberson receiving award. Black History film series--Join us for films and conversations. CL training Feb. 12. Early childhood conf. March 9. Para chapter luncheon March 5.

Peter Lamphere--Asks for rules of non-credentialed staff in room. Some people couldn't get in.

Mulgrew--People here are working. Hopefully we can have more people after wave. Cap based on what we're being told. People here because they're working, or if they need to be here to answer questions. Some people have not registered. Last thing we want is for people not to be able to get in. We have this process for same reason we wear masks. If you want to come in person, please register, and we will send confirmation. There is abundant communication. 


Q--Something about health screening--believes most parents are honest, but hearing of situations where they are not doing test. How do we manage this, keep selves and students safe in this case?

A--That covers us too. Can this happen? Absolutely. Statement is legal attestation. Can be used to discipline us, and are legalities for parents. We are letting people know we are in this together, and need to do best we can. Hope we aren't in position where people are challenged for lying. 

Q--Attendance policy--We were told if student absent but engaging that we could mark them excused.

A--Something like that went out Friday, but is now accurate. We have no waivers from NYSED. Against state ed. law. This info went out to superintendents and principals. SED says you can't do this. You can talk to principal tomorrow, and hopefully DOE clears it up. Communication has been frustrating. 

Q--Will we have live streaming?

A--Not something we want to do. I would say no. Some members are okay with it, but educational research should matter. Teaching online one thing, when you're teaching to camera. We got criticized for remote learning. We knew it wouldn't be great. Imagine I'm teaching to 22 children, with 6 online. Imagine I teach to room, which I would. That is not remote instruction, not quality. Our position is no, but we want to protect our profession.

Q--Thanks Mulgrew for work he's done. Our school is tired, afraid, confused. We voted on ideas and sent them in. Biggest one is people wonder about rapid test. Some done in school immediately, Why can't we?

A--Never enough. we want test before every time we come in for all. DOH doesn't believe schools should give tests. Argued other systems did it. If this wave goes where we think, great. But is it last one? I agree. DOH is not with us on this. 

Q-- Per session. With pivot to remote, 2 hours, this is great. Principals not happy, as though money coming out of their pockets. Is there a limit or cap on this?

A--Tell admin it's not their money, we're performing additional work, and the majority of this, if DOE does job and calls it covid related, it will come from federal dollars. We need to make sure schools get the money they need. Common issue with special education services. There can be no more mandating. It has to be voluntary. There was no way around pivot to remote. Next thing should be per session or pro rata. Budgets very rich for principals. If they say they don't have money, I'd be curious to see how they spent it. Used to be cap on admin per session. Now wiped out. I look at that when principals say they have no money. 

Mulgrew explains use of clicker to in person delegates. 


?--This month. Moves resolution number 5 to position one because it's timely. On member engagement on contract negotiation.

769 yes 128 online no  passes 

John Shevalati--Motivates for February--Resolved--We regardless of caucus, commit to respectful open debate without attacking individuals, to maintain solidarity. Seen a lot, deals with anger, extremely disturbing this past year. Never seen things so contentious. Would like to rededicate to working together. Building and taking road at same time. 

Melissa Williams--against--Quotes tweets--Kindness matters, but doesn't equal justice. Civility counts, but is not justice. (not all recorded).

716 yes 148 no  can't hear internal again, passes.

Motion to extend motion period by ten minutes, meeting by 30. 

312 yes 556 online no does not pass


Greg Monte--Wants to expand member engagement for contract negotiation. Will be many questions about combating pandemic. Must put process that dedicates us to hearing all voices. 

Suzanne Becile--Feels committees really helpful. Excellent opportunity to express demands and give feedback. Supports.

?--Amendment--Adds resolved--that results of surveys sent to members will be released to members of each bargaining unit. Last time survey was comprehensive, but members never saw results of how successful we were. 

Elizabeth Perez--Opposes--Thinks putting out survey results in advance risks public negotiation. We're strongest union in country if not world, didn't get there negotiating in public. 

?--Rises in favor, as new to DA and UFT. Amazed at how DOE not transparent. We should increase transparency and fairness. Like hearing about how things work and what members are for or against. 

Mike Sill--Who could argue we don't want democratic conversations? Not what this is about. We will not have this conversation with like minded individuals, but rather with our enemies. We will shift balance of power. We already commit to representative committee that will have results. 

Edward Calamia--Supports. Amendment doesn't have timeline. Maybe we could hear afterward.

Mulgrew--He did say before. 

Motion--Question called on all matters.

Vote to close debate:

673 yes 152 online no debate closed.


314 yes 529 no online  amendment fails


 534 yes 199 no online passes

Support of NYS Senate Bill 728

?--Resolution to allow pharmacists to dispense pre exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV. Must be proactive to prevent transmission. Needs to be taken within 72 hours of exposure.  Difficult for people to get this care. Asks us to urge passage. Will make available without prescription. 

Motion to suspend rules--Ryan Brookenthal--to do remainder of resolutions jointly. 

349 yes 369 no  online does not pass

?--No one wants to debate. Calls question. 

Calls for vote on resolution.

614 yes 85 no online 

Passes overwhelmingly.

Mulgrew--Remember, work is getting us through wave, appreciates participation, be safe, and God bless you all. 

Another Message from the Chancellor

Dear Colleagues,

I am excited to announce additional members of the DOE senior leadership team who will advance the critical work of educating and supporting our students. Please join me in welcoming many of my cronies, creditors, relatives, ex and current paramours, all of whom will be richly compensated, and accountable to no one, as am I. (Just kidding, Eric!)

I am confident that under their leadership, we will continue to give the impression we are actually doing something about this pandemic, leading to bright starts and bold futures for all our students. (Of course, we will continue to offer smoke and mirrors, and blame you, the UFT, for failing to cooperate.)

With decades of experience in education, these leaders will enact our robust priorities and vision for New York City schools, whatever the hell they may turn out to be. We hope to have them up and preaching about how important it is to allow students to stay home and yet somehow appear to be attending school, or even learning.

We hope this will mollify the parents and teachers who continually carp about learning and working under plague-laden conditions, with woefully insufficient COVID testing, ventilation, and what have you. Each Deputy Chancellor will be reaching out to set up time to meet with teams directly (over Zoom of course, as these are perilous times).

As I have said previously, our system and its leadership should reflect the diversity of our great city and its public school students. We sincerely hope you will reflect on our diversity (as opposed to our effectiveness or utter lack thereof).

In addition to these key appointments, we have updated the DOE Organizational Chart to provide clarity on how we are organizing our system to serve students, families, and staff. We hope that, as you see fewer people doing little or nothing, as we hide the majority in offices and cubicles, and under big tables at Tweed, you will conclude that we are lean and mean, as opposed to a bunch of people sitting around Tweed drinking coffee and eating donuts. As the year progresses, we will continue to adjust and revise our approach to best appear to be actually doing something.

Soaring high,


Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Blogger's Day Off...

...but you can see me on Fox 5 News discussing the so-called remote option.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Banks "Remote" Plan--Do Nothing, Blame Individual Schools and UFT Teachers

I was wondering what DOE Chancellor David Banks would do about offering remote, since he found negotiating with us, his actual job, to be so inconvenient. Last night, Susan Edelman wrote up the chancellor's plan

Here's what it is--you know how you get a few office hours to help out the kids who are home recuperating from COVID? If your principal chooses, and if you choose, you will now be able to meet with not only those students, but also the ones who are home for whatever reason. So it won't be just ten days. Evidently, this will last as long as the students, or their families, feel like it. 

Not only that, but if students look at your Google Classroom, and perhaps meet with you on your ever-more-crowded "office hour," they will be marked present, just like those students who actually show up. So what is the motivation for a kid to show up? Banks hasn't considered that, or more likely chooses not to as he scrambles for ways to prop up the miserable attendance stats facing him, as a result of the de Blasio intransigence and Banks' utter failure to do anything about it.

What I will say about remote learning is that it is better than nothing, Beyond that, I can't really endorse it. If the choice is be safe or not, unlike Banks, I'd opt to be safe. However, in my school, I'm not at all sure that's a thing these days:


I'm told there is an "investigation" going on, as hundreds of people in our building continue to get sick. I picture a bunch of Tweedies siting around a desk drinking coffee, and talking about how their mothers scored them these great gigs sitting around with coffee. In six months, maybe, we'll get a report. Meanwhile, last I heard, there are no actual closures in Fun City.

I gotta say, I'm not feeling the love from our esteemed chancellor. It's nice that he offers an option for students to stay home, but we don't have one. Is the chancellor saying that "Children First, Always, means their safety is important, but ours is not? Is he saying that school, which Mayor Eric Adams repeatedly claims to be the safest place to be, is not the safest place to be after all? Clearly a good number of families have arrived at that conclusion, and given that 775 kids in our building brought home COVID, it's hard to dispute that. 

This notwithstanding, there are other issues inherent in this move that are really disturbing. It's one thing to help out kids who must be absent for a week or two with a makeshift solution. It's quite another to take a makeshift solution and make it virtually permanent. In our school, for example, administration has asked us to put a moratorium on testing for now. This is reasonable, given the huge volume of students stuck home by COVID. It's inconvenient, though. And making it permanent would be even more inconvenient. Or should we just test the students in our classrooms and let the ones who choose to stay home slide?

That's just one more thing the chancellor hasn't bothered to consider. However, this plan is deliberate. For example, if my school chooses to enact this "plan" and yours does not, you'd better believe your principal will be besieged with calls from angry parents asking why the hell their kids can't stay home all year, have their smart girlfriends do their homework for them, and get full credit for attendance.

That's not even the worst aspect. The worst is that Banks is pitting teacher against teacher. If this is optional, I am absolutely not going to offer makeshift nonsense for some students and full instruction for others. My colleague may see things differently. Therefore, I must be terrible teacher who hates children. A parent with kids at home could call my principal and ask why I am so mean and awful.

A parent could call your principal with the same complaint. Should your principal be one of those many who lack character or judgment, you could be subject to pressure or harassment. Make no mistake, that is precisely what David Banks wants.  The buck does not stop at the desk of this chancellor. David Banks will sit in his office with HEPA filters, eat lunch at his desk while you eat it in your car, if at all, and continue to tell parents to bother UFT chapter leaders if they don't like the way things are going. 

Banks is not a leader. He's a finger-pointer in the proud tradition of ex-President Donald J. Trump. Alas, these days, it's fast becoming the American Way.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Banks to Parents: Nag UFT Chapter Leaders to Livestream

It's one thing to send happy-go-lucky letters to terrified teachers working a pandemic, while offering them no support whatsoever. It's one thing to make us come to work in a raging snowstorm without even noting that it's a beautiful day and Macy's is open. But Chancellor David Banks has just demonstrated, pretty conclusively, that he hasn't got a clue what actually goes on in a classroom.

Banks has said he's open to a virtual option, which he and his predecessors should have been planning before Carranza left his wife and ran off with an overpaid staffer he'd hired. But now he's getting serious about it, and looking to do this in the very worst way I can imagine. I take Banks to be anti-union, and the first clue is right here:

“If I could figure out a way to do a remote option starting tomorrow I would … It’s not quite as simple as that because you have to negotiate this stuff with the unions.”

Gee, how inconvenient it must be to not be Master of the Universe, despite the fact that your boss has "swagger," and you are "soaring high." This, to me, suggests that it's inconvenient for this chancellor to actually talk to us, the people who do the actual work in this city. When Adams talks about "my" city, and "my" schoolchildren, and "my" low skill workers, then blabbers about swagger, I get the feeling he doesn't give a damn about anyone but himself. I get that impression about Banks too, particularly when I read this:

Banks also encouraged parents to talk with their school’s union chapter leaders to press for a remote option.

This sounds to me like a violation of the collective bargaining agreement. Banks does not represent working teachers, not matter what the voices in his head may announce. Banks' job entails negotiating with us, not trying to get parents to nag us to do what he wants. A chapter leader's job is tremendously demanding, and Banks has no right to mess with them like that.

I wrote that half in jest, but it's really not at all far from the truth. Here, in fact, is what Adams wants parents to come to school and scream at our overburdened chapter leaders about:

Banks hinted that one way to resolve that dilemma would be for teachers to livestream their classrooms, a model that educators have said is challenging to pull off — challenges that Banks acknowledged. The city’s current agreement with the teachers union prohibits schools from requiring teachers to livestream their classrooms. Banks said officials are meeting with the teachers union this afternoon.

“That’s my first goal was to say, ‘Can we turn that agreement around and just do a livestream and let kids just participate in the class?’” he said.

I'm always amazed at the reporting in Chalkbeat. If someone is reformy enough, they'll attribute subtlety where none exists. Banks "hinted," they write. He did NOT hint. He said out loud that he wants us to not only deal with COVID, with our own stress and that of the live students we are serving, but also with people on the computer. Of course these live students won't be required to show their faces, so we'll all be back to asking questions of cat pictures and anime figures.

When we ask the live kids to raise their hands, we should ask the ones online to, I don't know, send an annoying beeping sound through the school computers, assuming they even work.

That's a rather large assumption. I could not use tech one period today because the monitor didn't recognize my computer. Are we going to get letters in file for computers breaking down? Does Banks actually believe NYC has an internet system that will permit every teacher to livestream every class? The man is laboring under an enormous misconception.

Here is what Banks wants, plain and simple. First, he wants to negotiate a union agreement in public, because that precludes his having to do his actual job. He also shows he has no respect for us by announcing to the press and public what he wants rather than negotiating. He evidently hopes gullible parents will nag us enough so we just do Whatever He Wants. More importantly, with an evident total lack of imagination, he wants to expend little or no energy in planning this option. After all, he hasn't planned a thing since November, so why start now? Let's just stick a laptop in every classroom and hope for the best. 

Banks should've been working on this for months. It was pretty common knowledge he was pegged for chancellor. Someone should inform the chancellor that the pandemic did not, in fact, magically appear on January 1st, right after Adams took the oath of office. 

If Banks wants a remote option, he needs to actually negotiate it with us. We are the UFT, and we don't jump when you click your fingers, no matter how high you think you're soaring.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Spring 2020--Arbitration and Its Discontents

There are a lot of things to complain about these days. I'm pretty good at complaining, as anyone who knows me can attest. And there are a lot of genuine issues we face every day. 

For one, we're going to work in a pandemic, and we have a mayor and chancellor who collectively lack the sensitivity of a number two pencil. They share the philosophy of the de Blasio chancellor, what's her name, who told us, "Macy's is open. It's a beautiful day." In other words, you're on your own as far as your safety is concerned.

I was chapter leader of the largest school in Queens for 12 years. We always got complaints about when grades were due. When they were due on a Friday, people asked why they didn't have the weekend to grade. When they were due on a Monday, people asked why they were being forced to grade on the weekend. When they were due midweek, people asked what was up with that. Why didn't we get the whole week?

For myself, I kind of disregarded the due dates and determined when I had enough to decide on a report card grade. At that point there were no more assessments until after the next marking period began. I was prepared to give grades pretty quickly, and I always did. In this job, people are always setting down edicts. You must do this thing! It's serious but not impossible. When people say that, I think to myself, "It's impossible but not serious."

To survive in a system like this, you need to improvise. You need to find ways of dealing with odd situations. As I write this, I'm masked and sharing a room with two masked colleagues. This is the oddest time I've ever faced in 37 years. But I'm here, doing my best to teach the kids who end up in front of me. Even as far back as Up the Down Staircase, when teachers were faced with ridiculous demands, they said something like, "Make it your challenge." In a large bureaucracy like ours, there are many curious demands. That's one thing that keeps me blogging.

When we had to go back Spring week, they asked us to try to be creative. I called Congresswoman Grace Meng, who's from our district. She agreed to do a Q and A with our students. I called Jillian Jorgenson, the great education reporter from NY 1. She met with our journalism students. I called a group of successful Asian women who'd offered to come to our school to meet with our students and act as role models. They ended up doing this via Zoom. I made the best of this, and our students benefited. I try to make the best I can out of whatever cards I'm dealt, even if I'm supremely pissed about losing a week I pretty much needed.

That brings me to the arbitration. For a long time, people have been asking, "When are they going to deal with that extra week we worked?" Often people would predict never, that's when we'll be compensated. A lot of people asked me personally, as though I had input, which I did not. Leadership always said as soon as the grievance process is back in place, we'll take it to arbitration. 

And that they did. 

Once we got the decision, some people said it was a loss, that the UFT had no power at all, and we may as well give up. That's kind of ridiculous. I've been at arbitrations where we got bad decisions. One year, I filed a grievance that the principal failed to give us programs with rooms the day before the year ended. The principal sustained that grievance. The next year we still did not get the programs. When I complained, the principal cut up current programs and stuck them in everyone's mailboxes. However, he had no intention of giving everyone the same programs and classrooms.

At arbitration, we lost. Though it was a blatant violation of black letter contract, the arbitrator said it was good enough to just hand everyone their current program and hope for the best. How on earth that helps people to plan their schedules I have no idea. I was able to place stronger language in an SBO we used and avert the situation in the future. But I'll tell you something--when you lose an arbitration, it''s screw you, you get nothing. That did not happen here.

People said we should have gotten money. Now I like money as much as the next person, and I'd have gratefully accepted it without hesitation. (I'd have been particularly happy if they'd given us pro rata.)

Nonetheless, had that occurred, some people would still complain. They'd say we gave up time, and ask why on earth we weren't getting time back. I know some people will disagree, but it's plain to me that no matter what you do, you can't make everyone happy. (If you could  make everyone happy, we'd be like the Borg on Star Trek, or those Cybermen in Dr. Who. However, we're all different, we all value different things, and we all complain about different things as well.)

David Campbell, who runs the grievance department, told the Executive Board Monday night that the arbitrator announced point blank he was not going to ask the city to write a large check. Right or wrong, the arbitrator decided. There are ways to deal with that. You could open by arguing with the arbitrator. Perhaps you can be persuasive enough to sway him or her. Perhaps you will make the arbitrator angry enough that you'll pay dearly for it. Perhaps you'll get nothing.

UFT decided to go a different route. We lost seven days, so we should therefore be awarded seven days. In fact, that's just what happened. We did not lose money during that break. We lost time and were awarded it back. While there are circumstances under which you may be denied your preferred vacation dates, the arbitration gave parameters for what they are. If your imperial principal arbitrarily sees fit to deny you, UFT can go to the arbitrator and cite failure to follow regulations.

Now this is not perfect. But nothing is perfect. When we won parental leave, it was criticized. You can't use it for family leave. It's not pensionable. There were a million reasons it could have been better. And that's true. Still, it beat the hell out of the nothing it replaced. I wish I'd had it when I adopted my daughter in Colombia. I could've saved twenty or thirty car days. (Hell, I wish they'd have given it to me when I adopted my dog. Why does UFT discriminate against canines?)

People asked why the DOE had to take back the four CAR days they originally awarded us. I'd love to have kept them too. But the DOE wanted to give us as little as possible for our time, ideally nothing. They'd surely have asked why the UFT couldn't just take the four CAR days, sit down, and shut the hell up. I'm sure that's what they wanted. UFT did not do that, and I'm thankful. That would have been a dire loss. CAR days are actually half days if we donate them to sick colleagues, or get paid for them when we retire. The holiday days are full value.

It's really easy to tear things down. When the chancellor writes us one of his outlandish emails, I delight in filling in the blanks. He richly deserves it.

This arbitration agreement, however, does not. We lost seven days. Then we gained seven days. This is a win, and we should regard it as such. I don't agree with everything leadership does or every position they take. But young teachers I know can visit the countries they came from and avoid paying the high travel fees we see during the holidays. They can get married and take honeymoons when their spouses can. Older teachers can retire and get the equivalent of 14 CAR days. 

Anyone who tells you they would have fared better in arbitration has either little experience with arbitration or has not thought things through. This was not perfect, but again, this was a win.

Monday, January 10, 2022

UFT Executive Board January 10, 2021--Vacation Days

Secretary LeRoy Barr welcomes us. 


Barr--African Heritage Committee, 19 Annual Awards Dance Anton's in Queens. UFT Black History Film Series, Jan 27 Slavery and Suffering, Feb 3. Haitian Rev. Pt. 1 Feb 10 Pt. 2 Feb 17 Marcus Garvey--Will be discussions. 

Reports from Districts--

Karen Alford--Horrific fire in Bronx, will do disaster relief effort on UFT website.

Shelvy Abrams--1900 paras got certification letters. UFT will reach out to them. Brooklyn had SRP celebration Thursday, was very moving. 

Tom Murphy--RTC had benefits meeting today in lieu of travel, 3200 signed on, was successful. 

Special Order of Business--Arbitration Update--David Campbell--Much anticipated Spring Break. In 2020 all school based employees ordered to work 7 vacation days. Grievance system was down. When it went up it moved rapidly. Received new kind of day, vacation day. We wanted money, was first demand. We submitted precedents for pro rata. Arbitrator said he would not write massive check for city, demanded remedy. Was moving toward CAR days, but was not equivalent. Only for sick or few personal days. We came up with the idea that you take away a vacation, then you give a vacation. We came up with vacation days. Arbitrator was convinced. We had received four CAR days during break to deal with holidays. If those CAR days were not used during that break, they were converted to vacation days. Four CAR days converted to vacation days, and then three more for everyone who worked those days.

We did not want it subject to approval. May be used in succession, or individually. Good for whole career, and if you keep till retirement, are cashed out one for one. 

DOE pushed back, so there are limited ways admin can deny. Staff member must apply at least ten school days in advance. Admin can deny within first 48 hours. Reasons are in arbitration, must be compelling, and can be challenged. Cannot be denied because it's adjacent to holiday.  However, if too many people request those days and it's hardship for school, could be compelling. Decision made in seniority order, but only 48 hours to deny. Effectively first come first served. Another non- compelling reason is if only one person in particular title--but if there's only one teacher, and that teacher asks for before Regents week, it's possible. Admin must present compelling reason to member, UFT, and DOE. If union disagrees, goes straight to arbitration. 

Q--Members want to know if 683 can be considered for those days.

A--We think so, not explicit, but in past we've won arbitrations that 683 is extension of work year. We believe yes, but you'll here more.

Q--Our school under tremendous strain. Feb. 1 can apply. Could principal deny for short staffing? Could principal reject sub lesson plans?

A--If too many people are out, could be. Hopefully this passes soon. Lesson plan interesting question. We have arbitration that no one can be disciplined for these day. Teacher responsibility to prep, but we shall see.

Q--Likes idea of vacation days--Read if you left service you'd be paid one to one. When?

A--We know they take their time doing these things. If you worked and retired you will be paid, but not sure when. 

UFT President Michael Mulgrew--Thanks everyone who worked on plan. Idea is interesting. Trying to think how it could be used in future.

At this time, thanks people dealing with horrendous situation in Bronx. Thanks those who've helped families, Jeff Povalitus and team. AFT and NYSUT reached out. Waiting to see what schools need. Horrible tragedy.

We got through last week. Our safety people meet every morning with DOE, number of cases, what schools may close. DOE may redeploy staff and subs when needed. Last Sunday, no in school testing because of break. We were looking at 13,500 covid cases by Monday. Last night down to 4100. Everyone who goes to testing center who identifies as DOE goes to situation room. Tested 78,000 in schools last week. See numbers going down. Big drop this week is some positive news. 

In all schools I went to last week heard if kids are here we want to be here. We have many superintendents and principals making own rules, but there was clear info in principal hub that ended improvisation. Many kits went to teachers and HS students last week. Received 2.5 million more tests between yesterday and today. If there's a problem with supplies we need to know about it. 

We've found places where supplies have been in buildings, but not distributed. One principal wanted everyone to test in front of her. Had meetings with testing teams. If team has done 10%, we want them to test more people if they're there. Our real tool now is rapid test, because of how variant works. PCR tests are about identifying problem areas and trends. Mayor says he will try not to close schools but understands he may have to.

People keep asking about our testing plan. Across country, people ask about it. Every school district received money to do this. 

Two hours per session still in place for teachers with students having covid.

DOE now saying if you aren't in a seat or school, you aren't here anymore.

Chicago has no testing. She has a lot of money to do it. She outsourced it this year, and they're finding test kits in dumpsters. Schools will be open if city does its job. Mayor is incompetent. Vacation days available December 1. 

Q--A member asked to be tested. Principal requesting signup sheet. Forced someone to be tested, and denied another.

A--Hard to answer stupidity. Send someone in to talk to this principal. Testing teams want schools to get kids ready quickly. 

Q--Concerned because last week coaches gave consent to be tested. Were on school list, but we were considered central and denied testing. 

A--I will check on this. 

Q--Many people are out. Situation Room late, and people are exposed for days by the time we know results. We are mixing pods, and many students are exposed. This creates more cases. Refused to see staff before kids, even though they weren't busy.

A--Turnaround time must be rectified. Teams were trained to do kids first. We are talking to DOE about this.

Q--Superintendent says health screener being revised to tell people to report to work even if they test positive, whether or not they have symptoms.

A--This must be clarified. There are people with other medical issues, and there should be accommodations. You can test positive for some time, and not be infectious. There can be specialty tests, or letters from doctors stating when you first tested positive. We hope this is clarified. We have spoken to them about that. 

Q--Nurses being denied testing because names not on list. May be because we are not on Galaxy. Used to let us fill out a piece of paper and then they'd test you, they used to check on system. Now they insist we be on list.

A--Will address it.

Q--On testing thing, folks come with rules. If there are zero kids, and staff is there, they refuse to test until they see kids first. Would like some flexibility.

A--We have been talking to them about it. When we think they are just sitting there, they may be doing other work. Main thing, they say, is rapid tests, but everyone has been trained that PCR tests are the way to validate. They seem to understand I will bring this up.

Q--Anything we as a union want from city that they are not doing?

A--In terms of what our doctors have said, rapid tests, K95 masks, ventilation, cleaning, we have it. Everyone wants to talk about what is not working, but we see high levels of instruction and people doing difficult work under adverse conditions.

Q--Please speak of per session and clarify at Town Hall. 

A--I agree. 

Q---How was student attendance last week?

A--70% before Friday, teacher attendance a little higher. We will reach out to parents. They have same apprehension and anxiety. We are looking at trends. Things may move in better direction as we quickly address problems. We can support students who are missing because of COVID. Wishes all a happy new year. Hopes numbers continue to fall and we have lower anxiety.

Supervisor school security passed. Asks for moment of silence.

6:52 We are adjourned. 

Sunday, January 09, 2022

Blogger's Day Off...

 ...but I was on NY1 on Friday, and you can view the segment right here.

Saturday, January 08, 2022

A Snow Day Letter from the Chancellor

Dear Colleagues,

I can’t tell you how proud and grateful I am for your extraordinary efforts to successfully reopen our schools after winter break! The primary reason I can’t tell you is that I'm neither proud nor grateful. In fact, I frankly could not care less about any of you! Otherwise, why would I have made you commute to work over streets overridden with black ice?

Your dedication helping Mayor Adams and I pretend our schools were not riddled with COVID was evident to me as I visited schools across all five boroughs and saw our incredible educators, school leaders, staff, sitting around monitoring children in the “safe” learning environments where they all belong. I’m happy to say that I was physically assaulted by only a very small number of teachers.

Let’s face it, even though you are low skill workers who aren’t academically qualified to sit in a corner office, you managed to corral 60 or 70% of kids daily, except on Friday, when you only managed to attract 44.5%. This is sorely disappointing, and the mayor attributes it to your lack of swagger.

Accordingly, we will be creating a four hour webinar on swagger which you all must attend. It will be strictly voluntary, but also mandatory. We shall be introducing several voluntary mandatory programs in the coming school year. I shall shepherd you through exciting new programs until you are all sore, high, or perhaps both.

Our preparations during the break to develop Stay Safe and Stay Open safety measures in the face of the latest surge in COVID-19 cases clearly paid off. Almost no one in the press has pointed out that we test far fewer than 20% of our students. In many cases we test only a small fraction of students. This is a good thing because it makes our schools appear safer, and I thank you from my heartmost felt bottom for participating in our great charade. You are all heroes!

We also successfully launched the COVID Command Center to, you know, take care of COVID-related stuff. We are aware that our Situation Room was unable to respond to anyone or anything in a timely fashion. However, we’ve now changed the name and added more cronies, (like my brother, who's had an issue or two) and other relatives to sit in that room and elsewhere. It will be just like Common Core! We get rid of the name, and even though everything is exactly the same, it's still different!  Our District and Borough colleagues working in the Command Center are gathering information, drinking soy latte, and ordering lunches from a wide variety of multi-ethnic vendors, thus supporting our diverse community.

We are also grateful to our thousands of qualified substitute teachers and paraprofessionals who have stepped up to assist with staffing gaps that arise. We’re perfectly content to run a school system where students are regularly taught, if taught at all, by people who met them only moments earlier. That’s what I mean by being nimble. Of course there are not nearly enough of them, and kids are thus warehoused in large spaces, but hey, we appreciate them nonetheless, even though they're low skill.

Despite an overnight snowstorm to finish the week, our doors remained open and students sat in auditoriums, gymnasiums, and whatever other spaces we could dump them. We could have delayed the opening so you didn’t crash your cars going to work, and so that students wouldn’t have to risk their lives navigating slippery streets. We could have gone remote, since we set that up with every teacher in the city.

In the end, we determined to have in person learning and endanger everyone traveling to and from our schools. After all, plenty of students work in Dunkin Donuts, so they’re just low-skill anyway, and therefore just as expendable as you.

Sure, the neighboring districts all closed, but they don’t have our swagger, and they aren’t soaring high. You wish you had whatever it is I take to soar as high as me all the time, don’t you? Well forget it, not on your salaries. I'm the one with the corner office, loser. And you’d better learn to love those salaries, because if you think Eric Adams is going to negotiate a fair contract any time soon,  I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

The pandemic isn’t going away any time soon, winter is only beginning, and you ain’t seen nothing yet. We will keep the schools open no matter what, and if anyone is hurt, or maimed, or killed, it’s no skin off my Big Apple. (Actually it’s the mayor’s Big Apple, but he promised to let me grab a bite every now and again.)

Congratulations and thank you!

Soaring high,


Friday, January 07, 2022

Chancellor David Banks Doesn't Care About Our Safety

At 5:42 AM I was driving on Mill Road in Freeport, where I live. I was approaching BJs when I lost control of my Rav4, which has 4 wheel drive. I skidded into a lamppost. Fortunately, I was not hurt. I could not see any damage to my car other than the cracked license plate holder, but time will tell about that. I turned around and came back home. I'm not risking my life to go into my school building and likely as not teach no one.

Conditions are dangerous out there. Clearly roads are covered with black ice. If this happened to me, worse happened to someone else. Meanwhile, David "Soaring High" Banks, in one of his very first decisions as chancellor, chose to open the schools rather than go remote for one lousy day. Eric Adams wants schools open no matter what, and Banks serves at his pleasure. 

Meanwhile, Adams is holding Zoom meetings, because perish forbid HE should be out in the snow with us. He's doing business remotely, and that makes sense. Why on earth does it NOT make sense to hold remote classes for over a million people? Are we his "low skill workers?" Are we the ones who can't handle a corner office like he can? Is that why our lives are not as important as his own?

Clearly Adams and  Banks did not consider that we're already missing 30-40% of our students, and close to that of our staff. After all, why should they worry about things like that? They've got gala luncheons to attend. They've got Important Things to consider. For example, how are they going to rationalize not bothering to do PCR tests for every person in every building? What are they going to say when COVID explodes? Tough to say, since it already has and they're mum on the topic.

It's obvious to me, a lowly teacher, that the COVID absences plus the weather absences will result in a wasted school day. If I had made it in, I certainly wouldn't have done anything that didn't need to be repeated. Anything else would be wasteful, since it would have been a loss to most of my students. In fact, it would be unfair to present them with new material at the expense of the majority, who would surely not be there. 

I'll leave it to Banks and the Great Minds he employed, at great cost to the city, despite his very public complaints about how much money is wasted in education. While Banks is "soaring high," (and that's how he closed his letter to us, in case you didn't know) people on the ground are having a very hard time. If Banks really cared about saving money, he wouldn't have opened and heated all those buildings for so few people to come in. Of course, that's not accounting for the risks they take. Why should Banks worry about that? He's surely got people to transport him. He's surely too important to drive himself.

I have come in on every snowy day we've been open, since I started teaching back in 1984. For the record, I am never going to do it again. Put a letter in my file, Mr. Banks. I'll post it on the blog and frame it.

This morning, Banks and his boss Adams, Eva Moskowitz's Six Million Dollar Man, put over a million people in mortal peril. If anything happens to a single one of these people, it's on their heads. 

Update: This was picked up by Queens Chronicle, which you can read right here. They rightly point out that Adams was seen outdoors later on, but it was he who posted this Zoom meeting, along with Deputy Chancellor Dan Weisberg. Add them both to my list of people who don't care about the safety of the million-plus people who attend NYC schools daily.

Wednesday, January 05, 2022


It's 6:35 AM as I begin this. I'm in a department office by myself, having written lesson plans, made copies, checked whether or not my room was freezing, and one of my colleagues just arrived. She said, "I just got emails from ten more of my students who tested positive. They said, Miss, take care of yourself. If you can, stay home. Meanwhile, the mayor and chancellor are saying school is the safest place to be. They can both go to hell."

I certainly understand how she feels. Mayor Eric Adams parades around damning Bill de Blasio with passive-aggressive barbs, suggeting things are different because he has "swagger." When I hit Google with that word, the first definition I see is "walk or behave in a very confident and typically arrogant or aggressive way." That jibes with what I thought it was. Now I don't know about you, but I don't trust people who act like that. 

Of course, I didn't trust ex-Republican Eric Adams from the moment I learned he took suitcases of cash from Eva Moskowitz's BFFs. I have no expectation he will support us or our students. This was reinforced by his abject failure to establish and enforce a vibrant testing program, and I go into chapter and verse on that right here. He's up there with his swagger, saying we are absolutely going to keep the schools open. I have news for Eric Adams. Bill de Blasio had that very same swagger, saying that very same thing, right up to the point he no longer could. 

And if you think that swagger statement means Eric Adams has some sort of common touch or something, you have another thing coming:

I'm not sure just how out of touch a mayor has to be to disrespect working people like that, but that's who our mayor is today. I guess my students working at Dunkin Donuts aren't qualified to sit in a corner office. I guess I'm not either. I've been a teacher for 37 years, and I've never had an office I didn't share with others.

In my school, yesterday, the magic number was 300. (Today it was 450 and counting, as of early this AM.) There were 300 staff and students we knew of who carried the virus. There were 300 who actually bothered to get tested and were recorded as having the virus. If there are ten more in my colleague's class, and that is average, there are 2400 more today in my building. But Eric Adams says schools are the safest place to be, so there you are.

The new chancellor, David "Soaring High" Banks, introduced himself with a turgid, stilted, cloying and manifestly insincere letter that drove me back to parodying it. (I haven't written chancellor parodies since Carranza.The last chancellor, Meisha Porter, while I didn't agree with her all the time, was fairly direct and to the point, IMHO.) Banks clearly has not a clue nor a care what is actually going on. He briefly acknowledges the crisis, but says nothing about addressing it in any adequate fashion. 

In fact, I don't advocate for school closure. I advocate for sufficient testing to keep everyone safe. While NYC has made self-testing more available, and while it no longer makes you do a frigging boogaloo through the Situation Room to be considered positive, it still doesn't test everyone, and it still makes people opt in rather that out of testing. That, in fact, is beyond swagger. That's an act of self-serving fraud, and both Adams and Banks are complicit.

I want to see my students every day. I want to come in and do my job. I cannot stand remote instruction. I honestly wish Adams would do all in his power to preclude it. This notwithstanding, I'm sick to death of the New York Post and various and sundry demagogues publicly suggesting than those of us concerned for our safety and that of our students must hate kids. That's ridiculous.

The kids are the very best thing about this job, and those of us who choose to stay with them face to face, as opposed to, say, David Banks, know that firsthand. It's gratifying that the kids are the ones concerned with my colleague's safety. It's criminal that Banks, despite his purple prose, and Adams, despite his "swagger," clearly could not care less.

In fact Adams, boasting of swagger while belittling working people and supporting outlandishly ineffective programs, reminds me of no one more than Donald Trump. We could do a whole lot better than that in New York City.

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

A Letter from the Chancellor

Dear Colleagues,

I hope you enjoyed a restful and safe winter break with your loved ones. As we enter this new year, I am honored and thrilled to be working alongside you as your next Chancellor.

Of course, I’m technically not working alongside you. I’m your boss, make no mistake, and heads will roll, yours included, if you don’t do what I say. But hey, think of me as a pal.

First, let me begin by saying that nothing matters more to me than the health and well-being of our community: our students, families, and each and every one of you. Except money, of course, and that’s just one of many reasons I’m not bothering to have everyone PCR tested. It’ll just be people who opt in, and most will not 😀.

There are several good reasons for this. One is that the fewer tests we give, the less COVID shows up, and the better I look. Eric Adams, my boss, can keep saying that schools are the safest places to be. Another is we’re both fraidy-scared of pushback if we actually compel testing. Those anti-vaxxers can protest all they want, but hey, I don’t want them outside of my office.

Today we start on a journey together. By way of introduction, I went to school and stuff. Then I got some jobs, and did some other stuff, you know, important stuff.  It was at P.S. 167 that I fell in love with teaching and realized that education would be my life’s work. So I got my administrative credentials and hightailed it out of there at the first opportunity. In all of these roles, I aspired to support, listen to, and empower our city’s youth and families. How long did I actually teach? Who the hell are you to ask me questions? Sit down, shut up, and do that working alongside me thing before I 3020a your scrawny ass!

This new role will be no different. I am ready to get started in partnership with all of you. And by that, I mean it will be you getting disciplinary letters for petty nonsense, not me. Count on me to rule against you at Step Two no matter how nonsensical your offense is. You looked at the principal funny? Guilty. Declined to wash his car? Guilty. That's what Bloomberg did, de Blasio didn't change it, and if you think Eric Adams, Bloomberg's BFF is gonna change that, you must have a geranium in your cranium.

I believe with every fiber of my being that each student in New York City is capable of academic and lifelong success, especially when they experience the power of phenomenal teachers and supportive school communities. I don't care if they're homeless, or lacking formal education, if they speak no discernible human language, or unwilling to come to school at all. Any time any student does not have academic success, I will blame you. I expect you to compensate for absolutely everything. And hey, don’t give me any crap about how schools I led did not meet the standards I’ll be laying on you. As we leap forth into this marvelous adventure together, I don’t frigging want to hear about it.

To that end, it is essential to begin our work together by sharing the vision that will drive us toward a stronger, more equitable school system: that you will do what I say and like it. That way, each and every one of our students graduates with a plan and a pathway to a rewarding career, long-term economic security, and equipped to be a positive force for change in our communities and our city. If not, again, it will be entirely your fault. I don’t want to hear about your frigging hazardous working conditions. I have gala luncheons to attend.

To help achieve this vision, I am excited to bring along a number of new team members who will serve in key roles within our organization. An immense amount of thought and deliberation has gone into assembling this team, who will work in close collaboration to bring about fundamental change for our students and families. I am pleased to introduce key incoming leaders. You’ve never heard of any of them, but they all have higher salaries than you will ever get, and wouldn't set foot in a classroom on a bet. Count on all of them to make my job easier, no matter what the cost, even as I publicly bellyache about expenses. Meanwhile, I want you all to get off your lazy asses and start making me look good. Make that priority number one. 

I look forward to announcing more key leaders in the coming weeks. In this time of transition, we will continue to work hard to provide clarity on implications for offices and individuals. You sit in your classroom with the air purifiers that don’t work, with no heat, and keep the window open, while I shuffle papers in my grand new office. Maybe I’ll let you use teachers choice to buy an arctic parka, but don't count on it.

Over the coming months, you will all need to work hard, think creatively, work as a team, support me, and leverage the many assets available to us in this city, from the expertise of school-based and Central Office staff to the resources of both the public and private sectors. Most importantly, stop carping about COVID and our utter failure to take it seriously. We've never supported you before, so why change now?

I ask that you join me in creating a world-class educational system here in New York City, and to hold yourselves accountable for performing miracles under adverse conditions in the middle of a pandemic the mayor and I are working doubletime to ignore. Get your act together, stop griping, or get a frigging job at Kinko’s.

Soaring high,


Monday, January 03, 2022

Blogger's Day Off...

...but you may read my column on the failure to enact a reasonable COVID testing policy in Gotham Gazette right here