Sunday, April 18, 2021

What's With Kids Who Hand Us Nothing?

I honestly don't understand why anyone would take the time to submit a blank page, or nothing whatsoever, on Google Classroom. I have to say, while I (relatively, at least) don't much like teaching online, I have made my classes easier than they have ever been. 

Because I've heard so many complaints about students being overburdened with homework, I've taken to doing it in class every second or third day. All my students have to do is write down the answers we've agreed upon in class, and that's 100%. I'm not sure what's more convenient than that.

I haven't given a test in over a year. I give writing assignments instead. Anyone who actually writes four paragraphs, if that's what I ask for, pretty much passes and usually does better. I've taken ten points off for late work. In the past, I probably wouldn't have accepted it at all. Despite this, students hand me nothing, and expect credit for it. Now this would probably be fine if I didn't, you know, read the stuff students give me. But they pay me to do that, so I do, even on a Sunday afternoon. 

Today I got three blank papers. One is from a student who usually does all the work. This student took the trouble of writing "Exercise One," "Exercise Two," and "Exercise Three" in big green letters. Maybe he thought that would be good enough. After all, I had said to do exercise one, two, and three, and who's really to say that this wasn't it? We all have different interpretations of what exercise means. I might take long walks, and you might go to some macho gym and lift weights and stuff. It's all exercise, right?

Another was from a students who doesn't usually do homework. Maybe, by saying it's blank and giving a zero, I'm discouraging that kid. Perhaps if I gave 100 for that, the students would hand me another blank paper for the next assignment. After all, isn't something better than nothing? Well, in this case I'm just not seeing it. Wasn't it Billy Preston who said, "Nothing from nothing leaves nothing"? Personally, I better understand students who just don't do homework and make no qualms about it.

I once had a student I'll call John. John was from China. He told a long story once about how rugged it was going to school in China. He said, "In China, homework is a mountain." All my other Chinese students nodded solemnly in agreement. Evidently, this was a saying. It really hit home to me somehow, I asked him, "How did you deal with that?' He said, "I just didn't do it." This provoked a lot of questions from the other Chinese students. "Didn't your parents kill you and stuff?" But there he was, proof positive you could survive that educational system without doing homework.

Now in my class, John never missed homework. Granted, my homework was not a mountain. Still, I had hoped I'd somehow found the secret sauce to touch kids who were otherwise untouchable. This year, I learned different. 

I have another student, now, who is failing every class, and has been doing so all year. A few weeks back, he started attending the class. He even started handing me homework, albeit blank. I told him he could possibly pass, but he needed to start actually doing the work. The next time he handed me a blank paper, I called his parents. Sadly for him, I spoke their language. He handed in one homework assignment that contained work. Since then, it's back to submitting nothing on Google Classroom.

I don't understand it. What do you achieve by handing in nothing? There must be some sort of thing that motivates students to do it. But what keeps them doing it after you've made clear there's no point?

Thursday, April 15, 2021

A Portrait of My Student

This is one of my students. She's lovely, isn't she? Or he? Or them? I don't have the proper pronouns. All I have is this avatar. 

What do I know about this student? Well, I know he, she or they likes cute kittens. Or perhaps Pokemon monsters, or whatever this thing is. I know that this student is likely a fan of bubble tea, which is what appears to be in the cup. 

That's enough for any teacher to build a productive relationship, I guess. Or I'm supposed to guess. I'm told I'm not allowed to demand that students show their faces online. It's a privacy issue. 

That's hard for me to understand. I do understand I ought not to be able to see my students' homes if they choose to keep them private. However, there's an easy fix for that. On Zoom, you can be in PeeWee's Playhouse, or the Batcave, or on the moon, or anywhere. If I can set up a background, every student can set up a better one. 

In fact, I have a bunch of students who only show their foreheads. Maybe they're shy. I don't give them a hard time about it. I appreciate that they show themselves at all. At least I know they're there. When I call on them, they answer. The bubble-tea-drinking creature pictured here? Who knows? I will call on bubble tea, and I may or may not get a response.

In fact, I call on quite a few icons, quite frequently, just to ascertain whether or not they are a. there, b. paying attention, or c. none of the above. It is quite an outrageous waste of my time, and that of the students actually in attendance. But that's what happens when the gutless DOE decides to protect the rights of students to pretend to attend. Honestly, they may as well allow sleeping in class. There's little or no actual distinction. Whether the student is asleep, playing a video game, watching a movie, or doing things of a more questionable nature, the result is identical. 

Personally, I've bent over  backward to accommodate my students in these times. I've abandoned actual tests. Honestly, I could not blame students tempted to look up the answers on their phones, and it would be quite unfair to those who don't. My tests are now writing projects. My homework is now done entirely in class as a group. All you have to do is hand it in. Remarkably, or not, many students do not. They tend to be the same students who float icons and never, ever participate. I check their grades and they are failing absolutely every class, not just mine. 

It's hard to see why my time is well-spent calling the homes of students who have single-digit averages in every single class. It's particularly frustrating because I am requiring less outside time than I ever have. I'm not a big fan of homework. I will give only 10-15 minutes of it daily during normal times. During these times, we complete it in class. I'm not sure what else to do.

I'm sure of this, though. We don't allow students in live classes to show up with paper bags over their heads. There are very good reasons for that. There are also very good reasons, absent truly extenuating circumstances, to require cameras be on during online classes. Anyone who argues otherwise has never been an online teacher.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

UFT Delegate Assembly April 2021--Retirement Incentive, Planning for Future

UFT President Michael Mulgrew welcomes us 4:17 PM. Thanks us for coming.

Federal--infrastructure package important--There is agreement that a good % of it will support energy efficient, carbon free schools. This is a good opportunity to improve buildings.  Solar panels, ventialation, retrofitting, etc. We need this support for our schools. We argued for dedicated funding for education in last bill and won that argument. 

Last April we focused on safety first, fighting for it on basis of medical guidance. Secondly, we had to protect our livelihood. Last April we were looking at massive layoffs for 2-3 years. Economy was wrecked. One year later, we aren't looking at any such thing. 

State--Elections matter. Our endorsements are in the interests of our profession and livelihood, and then people make own decisions. We are looking at best state budget in 20 years, though it's not yet official. Not yet signed by governor. There is an early retirement incentive in NYC. Nothing changed about it. Legislature approved in for non-uniformed employees. We now have to negotiate with this administration on terms and conditions. Will likely not be easy, but it's been over 20 years since NYC had this. State had one nixed by Bloomberg for NYC. As soon as it's signed we will get it out to all members who could qualify, basically people over 50.

We have been fighting for years for CFE. This year, we finally have it and state is finally meeting its obligation. This is a big deal, although overshadowed by pandemic. Incredible achievement to get state to recognize this. This is why elections matter. Finally, governor had no choice but to deal with these issues, and we finally had veto-proof majority. We've raised revenue by taxing ultra rich. We have two CARES Acts, American Recovery Act, and we will have new revenue for quite some time. Tough because it took so long. Thanks those who worked on it.Teacher Center, and other of our projects were funded. Thanks all those who were politically active. It made a difference.

We have a five point plan,  mental health issues, academic challenges, need for robust summer program, smaller class sizes, and making sure we support our graduating seniors with college and career. We're funding this for our members, and we need to recognize social emotional issues in both ourselves and our students. This has been a traumatic experience and we've expanded MAP program. 

Summer program should include socialization as well as academic support. We will push our plan in both state and city budgets as we try to get school system up and running as more students come back, especially in September. These are our advocacy/ lobbying issues beyond regular bread and butter issues.

City--Reinstating meetings between UFT, CSA and city. We are having issues with DOE. CDC put out guidelines changing 6 to 3 feet distancing. This was tested in rural areas. We are discussing this with state and city. Lawsuit filed outside of Buffalo demanding schools be fully open, and in preliminary part of case judge ordered districts had to submit plans to fully open safely. Told state it needed to put out new CDC guidelines. Came out Friday. 

Some provisions say all stakeholders must engage in process. We understood that. Under state guidelines only schools that could go to three feet would be elementary. Later HS and MS may qualify. Mayor told DOE to come up with plans. Now they will have to work with us, as per state. Not collective bargaining, but procedural rights. 

Opt-in--51K opted in, 10K out. Net gain of 41K. Schools have to reprogram by next week. Let us know about operational issues. We have stopped many schools from going to three feet on their own. Tell us right away. No one's doing that until there is a process on how to get there. You have to get them at six feet outside classroom. Eating requires six feet, Signage must be changed and many things must be worked out. We told DOE no one could move yet, and we will meet again tomorrow. DOE has told us they don't believe there are a lot of schools where this will happen, because citywide, we're under 35%.

We are looking at goals--safety, livelihood and profession. Five point plan helps with profession, but we will have a problem if not a lot of students return. If only 35% opt-in, it won't work. For our five point plan, we need kids back in. We know that children are now getting covid and variants. We are still at .6 or below. We know a large majority of membership is vaccinated. We know that's a personal decision and we respect that.

The work we have to do will be more effective if we have kids back in school. City won't get back to normal if schools don't. We have to be out there and make parents understand we're doing the right thing and putting safety first. Students not coming back this year. Better to have children back in classroom in September. We will keep children safe and have a plan. We have to campaign to get that done before September.

On getting rid of non-linked issue, we kept telling mayor same thing. We need linked to school system. With testing and contract tracing capacity we have, we now know a lot about inside of schools. Adult positivity rate going down, children up, but schools are still safe. We have to prevent spreading events. We will shut schools if that possibility exists. If it's spreading inside the school, we will shut the school. 

Vaccination program still open. We will get appointments right away. 

APPR--State did not waive APPR this year. Thankfully, we have an agreement. Very small number, fewer than five ineffective observations from before agreement. They do not count. Cannot be used. Working on MOSL Citywide measure better. 

Standardized testing--What if school is closed? State gave a range of days for standardized tests. School can use different days. If parents want kids to take tests, they have to tell school and students will have to report. We need to know who wants their children to take tests so we can set up safety plan. 

Politics--Not including mayoral, 440 members volunteered and have done interviews of 173 separate candidates. We thank them for this work. We need people to vet these candidates. We owe them a great debt. Of course members will have issues. Every committee's recommendation has been accepted by DA and Executive Board. We can disagree without casting aspersions on candidates. That's what makes this an invigorating but tough process. 

As of two days ago, our political website had over a million views, on mayoral forum over 12K participants. Not yet ready to make mayoral endorsement. Still vetting, Ranked choice voting tough for people to model. We'll know more after this cycle. When it comes time for mayoral endorsement there will be special DA and we will vote. We will look at surveys and viability. We don't have a magic wand, and not all we endorse will win. Would be easier, but not so. 

You're all getting a pay raise May 3. Hope covid and CL updates are helpful. Congratulations, you all earned 3% raise. 

Health care--We've been having issues with hospitals. MLC has been working on this. We negotiate with insurance companies, and they with medical providors. Majority of members use GHI. We're passive consumers, because others are negotiating for us. We think because we negotiate so much, we should be active consumers. We will get involved with hospitals and medical providers. Annual double digit increases do not work. MLC reps 1.3 million lives. This is buying power. 

If we find out you give better rate to someone with 1K participants, we will be upset. We will use our buying power as leverage. For retiree health care, we've told folks we're done with you saying we want a 12% increase but will make it 9. Health care only industry where you aren't allowed to see what you charge or why. We've changed that via legislation, Why should one hospital charge 50 to take temp while another gets 400? We don't want to fund multi-million dollar exec bonuses. You may see this in press, but we want to use buying power to get best prices. 

Hope you all had a good week off, unlike last year. We have a very tight calendar next year. 180 days probably most we will get. We just keep moving along, taking care of safety, livelihood and profession in every aspect. Thanks UFT leaders, and will get support you need. 

Staff Director LeRoy Barr--Thursday met with CLs, sent powerpoint out. Workshops on ranked choice voting April 21, May 6. HS Awards, April 29. Nurse recognition day May 6. Next DA May 12


Q--Told by principal to prep classrooms for 27, three feet apart...

A--Not happening. Contact us.  Principal would be legally liable for all medical issues. Doesn't even know what process is. Get to DR, borough rep and we will take care of this. Principals not medical experts. Doubt 27 kids will fit in room. Come September 3 feet may be rule. Maybe only masks will be recommended. We don't know yet. We rely on guidance from our doctors. We will handle this.

Q--Retirement incentive--Will we know by June?

A--ERI traditionally would be done by middle of June. We want it ASAP. Will be opt-in period. Will probably occur in summer, end in mid August. Will still negotiate this after bill is signed. Pension dept. on alert. Hopefully done in July. We have legislation. When it's signed, anyone 50 or above will be notified.

Q--September--Are students able to choose remote, and how will we teach, remote, in person, will we need more teachers?

A--City has made clear it will offer remote option. To do our work most effectively, we need our children in. If we get 85-90% back, there will also be some people advised not to take vaccine for medical reasons. These children and adults may not come back to buildings. We may look at remote academies by district. This year was highly complicated. You now see teachers teaching remotely from school and students in buildings learning from teachers at home. We understand we have to change as medical advice changes. This blended stuff is problematic. If you want to be remote, be remote, and we have to figure most efficient way to teach in person. No schools will be in red next year. We can't do what we did last year. We have to get ahead of things.

Q--What do you mean by tight calendar?

A--180 days, not 181. Will have all holidays. All are during school week. We can't cancel holidays. We're trying to figure 2 prep days at beginning of year. Not final until calendar comes out.

Q--683--Mayor mentioned remote options for students. How will that work with staffing?

A--683 are most medically fragile. We will need remote option there. We will have massive expansion of summer school. We will figure this out. All medical accommodations approved through June 30. Not sure about blanket accommodations after that. We've had initial meeting about 683. Majority of summer school will be in person. If city wants to use this to help re acclimate, they can. 

Q--Lump-sum payment?

A--Due this summer. We had no layoff clause as part of that. Should be July, second pay period.

Q--Class sizes--heard a lot about ventilation and buildings--CFE called for class size cpats to be achieved gradually over five years. Could be negotiated in contract with enforcement mechanisms. Could get rid of DOE consultants and move ATRs to classrooms. What is union plan or position?

A--You are also UFT. WE are UFT. Five point plan, one major component was class size reduction. All mayoral candidates believe in smaller class sizes, but when they get job, they say they don't have the space. I remember being able to teach more effectively with smaller classes. We need to start at a local level first. This could be done. Michael Bloomberg always said he wanted it, then said we didn't have space. We have academic loss, social emotional crisis, but we now have money and CFE. Teachers and parents want this. 

Q--Clerical and chancellor's day for elementary--Virtual or in person?

A--Not decided yet, will bring up in consultation. DOE has been flexible. 

Q--Organization, preference sheet on hold, Why?

A--We asked for this until programming is determined. Meeting with DOE weekly to determine these. Once we finalize calendar we can work on SBOs. We want preference sheets to go out once and not have to be reconsidered. However, if we can't preliminarily program we will have to get sheets out. 

Q--Tenure decisions. Were three up for tenure, one got it, two extended under crazy circumstances.

A--We haven't had a lot of that under covid, but some admin comfortable with being nasty even this year. Will bring this to borough rep and my own consultation. 

Q--Capacity for rooms--If we go to three feet, will we have new capacity numbers?

A--Since we now have all square footage in database, DOE should be able to do it. With 3 feet, we can accommodate 92%, using non-traditional space. If I were principal, I would want DOE to tell me what number was. I don't believe anything until I see it. If I were principal, I would be asking them. 


Nat Hookway--Motion for next month--Resolution Senate bill allowing pharmacists to dispense PREP and ?. We need to fight transmission of HIV. Not available to many in marginalized communities, higher risk of HIV. We need DOE to help us eradicate HIV. 

Mulgrew--UFT covers these medications.

Helen Leshinsky--speaks in favor.

96% yes. Passes.

52nd Anniversary Stonewall Riots--Margaret Joyce--next month--52 years ago, Stonewall raided by police, Patrons finally took stand against NYPD, began movement for equality. Work far from done. Please put on next month's agenda. 

Roy Whitford--Rises in favor. We have seen targeting of young trans youth recently. This can help our students. Should know that we see their history, and by extension, them, that they are safe with us.

Diana Gonzalez--Speaks against. For respect, but against commemorating events that make students feel everyone thinks behaviors are okay. If others have right to express views, I should have right to express my point of view, not give others a monopoly. 

81% yes. Passes


Political endorsements--Elizabeth Perez--Great honor and pleasure to present this reso. Political teams worked diligently to select best candidates. Can't say enough of hard work political teams have put in. Asking this body to join me in endorsing these people. 

Carmen Romero--Would like to endorse Alvin Bragg for Manhattan DA. Got overwhelming support of UFT for accountability and transparency. 

Mulgrew--Thank you. Not just about him.

David Pecoraro--Wants to divide Comptroller endorsement from remainer.

Mulgrew--Can't do that.

Pecoraro--Then speaking against resolution. Cannot support speaker Johnson. Favors David Weprin.

Thomas McDonough--Also speaking against motion. Endorsing seven at a time is rushing things,. Should vote individually.  Disagree with several endorsements.

55% no. Fails.

Rashad Brown--40th anniversary of HIV AIDS. Last 13 months, unlike any we've ever seen. Reminded many of us of AIDS epidemic. Has gone unnoticed for some. We've come very far from 1980s. Now people can take a daily pill to reduce presence of virus. Injection treatment being tested. Resolution to remind us HIV AIDS is still a reality. Reminder of HIV positive members, you are not alone. We can provide support. Let's lift those currently living with HIV, remember those who've passed, and make sure that we support HIV AIDS community, support funding, oppose violence. Urges you to unanimously support this. 

Peter Lamphere--Point of order--Resolution from last month on taxing rich removed from this month's agenda.

Mulgrew--Will check. Thought there was conversation with maker, and since we achieved this goal, thought debate was over.

90% yes. Passes.

Friday, April 09, 2021

What Do We Really Need to Open Buildings Successfully?

Online teaching is so bizarre. I have a bunch of students I've never seen. Do they even have faces? Are they extra-terrestial? It's all a big mystery. How do I know they don't have ringers? Maybe one of my best students is really one of my worst students. There's really no way on earth I could tell. On the other hand, going back in is nuts. Even if we're all vaccinated, students won't be. Every week there is a new strain of COVID, and it looks like some new ones are affecting kids more than older ones. I see people moving to reopen buildings without any modifications whatsoever, screaming on Twitter, quoted in the Times, and the Times doesn't even pretend to be objective anymore. 

I'm fully vaccinated. I don't think I'd be at great personal risk in a classroom in September. That said, I couldn't say the same for my students, most of whom are under 16 and thus ineligible for vaccination. Will their parents jump up and down and demand they go to school full time? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say no, they will not. 

Now don't get me wrong, here, I'm not up on my soapbox demanding we stay online next year. I am not a big fan of teaching online. It's better than nothing, but I can't defend it much further than that. I would much rather be in a classroom. However, when I say that, I don't mean in a classroom with a small group of students who are socially distanced and prohibited from interacting. 

So what does that make me? A chronic malcontent? Perhaps. 

Now I can do all these things. I can teach online. I can teach to a small group, bizarrely separated from one another. It's just not the same, and Andrew Yang can lie about us and what we do from now until Doomsday. It will make no difference. There will always be self-important tinhorn politicians out there spinning nonsense about us so as to have someone to blame. 

But this is a health emergency. Pointing fingers is wasted energy. We just all have to, somehow, get through it. 

We are enormously lucky to have kept our jobs consistently through this disaster. I was watching Top Chef last night and a clearly talented young man was speaking of how he had to close both his restaurants. He was grateful for the chance to compete, since he had nothing else to do. That's an entire industry of people falling by the wayside. We managed to keep the schools open, and we did the best we could. If Andrew Yang thinks he could've done better, he's delusional. Money doesn't make you omniscient. 

So I posed a question here, but I don't have an answer. Sure, having a machine like the one pictured at the workplace would make things better. I wouldn't mind having one in my home some days. Sadly, I don't think the new chancellor's mind is open to such bold improvements. 

Meanwhile, we'll just have to take one step at a time, hope that kids can soon be vaccinated, and that we can get back to something remotely resembling normal. 

If you have better ideas, I'm all ears.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

The DOE Office of Equal Opportunity at Work

The DOE has an Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management, commonly called OEO. It's supposed to protect people from discrimination. 

That's a worthy goal. I spend my career dealing with students from other countries. I see them discriminated against, and I find it sickening. Sometimes I can't stand to watch the news. My wife does. I hone in on the weather and tune out the rest quite frequently.

Here's the thing--OEO vies to be the most inept group in the DOE, and that's saying something. If I do something stupid, they have six months to conduct an investigation and come after me. I've been chapter leader of a very large school for twelve years now, and I have not seen them complete an investigation in six months, ever. Not one single time. 

Let's say I do some outrageous thing, make some racist statement, actively discriminate against someone for nationality, gender, or whatever. If OEO can't make a case in six months, I'm theoretically off the hook. I had a member in trouble for something years ago, and a year after the thing occurred, they came around and asked him to sign a "non-file letter." What the hell is a non-file letter?

Your administration has three months after an occurrence to give you a file letter. While they do all sorts of slimy things to get around that, and I've seen them do it, OEO has six months. And what needs to be done here? You interview everyone who witnessed whatever it is. How is it that reporters manage to interview people and get stories out within days but OEO can't do it, ever, within six months? And how valid are interviews that occur years after whatever the incidents may be?

Anyway, if we are out there doing outrageous things, we're likely getting away with it. That, in itself, makes OEO incompetent, an abject failure at its mission. However, that's not the only thing they're bad at.

I know people who've been hounded by them for years about incidents that occurred, of course, years ago. They bring these people in, make them miserable, and place them in whatever it is the defunct rubber rooms are called today. 

Some people think purgatory is worse than hell. Friends of mine in purgatory lived on pins and needles. nervous, anxious, utterly freaked out. The people I have in mind did nothing that warranted anything but a conversation with the principal. They hurt no one.

If I were principal, I'd call someone like that in and say, "Hey, that was stupid. Please stop doing stupid things." I might add or remove words based on the individual case, but that would be my message to someone who harbored no ill intentions and did no lasting harm.

OEO, though, goes after these people. Sometimes members come back from purgatory, are restored to their jobs, and OEO calls them in again. They question them on things that are ridiculous. Why did you look at this person like this? What did you really mean when you said good morning? Why did you come to work ten minutes early? 

It's like they're sitting around with nothing to do, and someone says, "Hey, why don't we take a random crack at this person on Tuesday morning?" "Yes, sure, I have nothing else to do that day."

Their ineptitude is staggering. If you're guilty, you have little or nothing to worry about. If you aren't, though, they can harass you to the point of madness.

And that is incredibly cruel. These people are guilty of precisely what they're tasked to protect us against.

Monday, April 05, 2021

UFT Executive Board April 5, 2021--We Are Back

Academic HS VP Janella Hinds--Herstory event last day before break. Sherry Chan, actuary, new chancellor, Jolene from NYSUT--Women spoke of shattering glass ceiling. Recalled being disciplined for wearing pants to work, and what it was like becoming chapter leaders. April 7, one hour event about women in labor movement will be broadcast live on Facebook.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew-State budget still not done. Every day we heard they needed to finish it. We think all we need is there. Could be best budget in some time. We hope to finish tonight, but we've been saying that since last Sunday. 

Mayor wants to come to an agreement on changing policy. We need approval from Albany. Positivity rate overall has dropped, but in schools it has not. It's about safety first, and we also have a responsibility to keep kids safe. Now more than two thirds of cases are children. Variant from England causing that.

City--Trying to plan robust summer school. Lots of money for it this year. Goal to have 800 buildings open. 683 will run, but we don't know about remote actions. We are discussing it, 

We don't want to move forward with programming until we know what we're going to do next year. 

Final mayoral forum Wednesday afternoon. Zoom will allow up to 10K. Forum will be with small number at UFT HQ. Candidates will be there. We know how many candidates are. We want specific info from them. They all have canned answers so we want to make it interesting. 

Don't believe APPR waiver will happen in Albany. We already have an agreement so it won't affect us as much as other places.

Students can only take tests in person. There are no stakes and it is time limited. SED is only doing it because feds forcing their hand.Majority of folks not opting in. 

Few parents are opting into live school. 26K gain is about 2%. We think opt ins will follow pattern of schools who already have high %.

We have a super aggressive vaccination program. Some states have really screwed this up, so it's impressive we have so many fully vaccinated. Curious how many UFT members have been vaccinated. Wouldn't want names attached. We know over 46K have been vaccinated, but number is much higher. We know vaccines work. They are more effective than anticipated. 

Q--Mayoral candidates--How did we arrive at Yang, who seems anti-union. Eric Adams also pro charter.

A-To not have Yang would be crazy because he's frontrunner in every poll. Would be irresponsible not to have him answer. Not just about policy, but viability. 

Q--Testing--If NYSESLAT not given, ss can't get out?

A--We have a resolution, but the idea that ss can't get out of L classes is something that must be addressed

Q--Students who don't appear?

A--Attendance teachers are now doing home visits. Teachers should report to admin. 

We are back. We have to continue to go forward. Sorry about budget, but there are a lot of things going on. Quite sure we will be happy when all is said and done. Mayor seems to need a press conference every day. Maybe that's the only way people will watch him. Let's work together to get to the end of this school year.

Saturday, April 03, 2021

Putting Children First, Always, by Selling them Vapes and Third-Rate Education

Our friend Joel Klein has a new gig. He's working for Juul, selling marshmallow flavored vapes to our children,  This is, at the very least, ironic, I spent years listening to him rail about how evil we were, and how dare we ask for tenure and seniority? Were we righteous, we'd do whatever he decided, and happily be fired by arbitrary and capricious measures. Alas, we failed to jump at this opportunity, as we didn't trust the beneficent intentions of our chancellor. 

On the positive side, Klein has paid valuable lip service to the ridiculous notion that he doesn't want to give our kids cancer:

"I believe the company must continue to play a critical role in reducing the devastating harm caused by smoking," Klein said in a statement emailed to Insider. "To accomplish that paramount goal, Juul Labs must, first and foremost, continue preventing underage use of its products."

So if you take him at his word (I do not), he's merely interested in poisoning adults. There's a role model for us all. I will give no one cancer until they're 18 years of age. What a prince. The problem with this line of thinking is consistent with the rest of reformy thinking. What actually happens to kids if we take good care of them and have a modicum of reasonable luck? Give up? Well, they become adults, and thus subject to people like Joel Klein, who are in the business of selling them cancer. 

I don't smoke, and I don't vape. However, I've had cancer. I can tell you it's not precisely a walk in the park, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone, even Joel Klein. However, given his birdlike features, I'm not entirely sure he's human. So there's that. Nonetheless, how this man musters the audacity to lecture anyone on right and wrong is beyond me. 

Klein was a terrible chancellor, beholden to billionaire Mike Bloomberg. Despite his constant righteous lectures, he was clearly in the pocket of Eva Moskowitz, at her beck and call even as he ignored all those of us who bothered to speak to him at PEP. He sat on his Blackberry doing Very Important Stuff. Screw the public, and figure out how to please the gazillionaires who fund the Moskowitz Academies. It seems to have paid off for Klein as he collects big bucks for his loathsome activities, 

Elsewhere, former chancellor Richard Carranza is also trading on his reputation, such as it is, to score a cool corporate give. Carranza is moving to Silicon Valley and jumping on the e-learning bandwagon. Now that there's finally a fair chance our children might be able to come to some reasonable facsimile of learning, perhaps even with smaller classes, Carranza wants to cash in on the clearly inferior practice of having kids learn on line. 

After all, who can forget the support Carranza gave us when we turned to online learning last year? That was, of course, after he and de Blasio resisted closing the schools during the most frightening period of the most frightening event of our lifetimes. What did they do? They asked all staff to come back a few extra days for training in online education. Who trained us? That was a bunch of administrators, none of whom had any experience whatsoever with it at all. 

But I guess if you're Carranza, you can sit there like Jean-Luc Picard, wave your hand, say, "Make it so," and hope for the best. And even though the system is a mess and you've lost the faith of people who once believed in you, you can score a cushy gig lending your name to some dubious product. 

Jeff Bezos isn't the only dude getting rich on the pandemic.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

As 25% of UFT Disapprove of Carranza, 75% Must Be Asleep

That's about the only conclusion I can reach when I read that 25% of us disapprove of former Chancellor Carranza. It's sad, really, because he had a lot of potential. He came in talking racism in the DOE, and I'm sure he was absolutely right. In fact, he was sued for so-called reverse racism after firing just a few people. Maybe that's why, in one of his greatest failures, he failed to rid Tweed of all of Bloomberg's leftovers.

This particular disappointment was not just a sign that Carranza wasn't doing his job, but also a sign that the mayor was not doing what he elected to do. And as Bill de Blasio bumbled through eight years as mayor, we had abundant notice that he was not the alternative to Bloomberg we'd all hoped for. Sure, he wasn't outright hostile to us for even existing, as was Bloomie. Sure, he didn't try to wow us with his 9th grade Spanish. But he didn't work to make the DOE something that helped rather than impeded us.

In lots of ways, Carranza failed us even more. If you saw him speak early in his tenure, he was impressive. He was super smart, clearly in control when he spoke. He had a great memory for figures, and he could defend his ideas well. Of course, he didn't always do so. But when he came to UFT, he showed great empathy for those of us who did the work. He spoke glowingly of teachers, and said he wanted to end his career as one.

He seemed to have something none of his recent predecessors did--a vision. He seemed to care greatly for our kids, and there was nothing about him trying to pit teachers against children. This is the despicable tactic of Bloomberg, Giuliani, Cuomo, and Spawn of Trump. It was great to see that gone.

The pandemic, unfortunately, changed everything. With de Blasio's rep swirling the bowl, the mayor saw opening the buildings as his chance to be the hero he envisioned himself as. He would keep them open no matter what. The buildings would close over his dead body. Alas, the dead bodies that did result were not his. He stubbornly kept schools open longer than he should have, even as Broadway closed.

Where was Carranza? Evidently he was told to stay on message, and complied. I will never forget, when we handed him 108,000 signatures asking that he close the buildings, he asked for 108,000 signatures of epidemiologists. That's a ridiculous and insulting ask. It revealed, however, that all his happy talk about us meant little or nothing. Rather than represent the interests of NYC's 1.1 million children (let alone the teachers), Richard Carranza was going to spout whatever his boss told him to.

I now think the position of chancellor is not all that important. When push comes to shove, the chancellor is not an advocate, but rather a lackey. I'd be happy fpr the new chancellor to prove me wrong.

However, I shall sit while waiting for that to happen.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

State of a Nation Dying of Racism

How do we spend hundreds of years as a country and not manage to progress beyond Racism 101? It's everywhere, and just months ago 75 million Americans voted for it. When they lost, and not by very much, a whole lot of them were ready to overturn democracy so that racism could remain in the forefront, rather than a few inches in the background. 

But still it rears its head everywhere. What's the real agenda of Fox News? Now, in fact, there's OAN and Newsmax, because Fox News is just not racist and authoritarian enough for some. Tell people their racism is okay, and they'll support all sorts of programs that benefit them not at all. Huge tax cuts for the rich? Great. I'll be rich at any moment as long as we can keep children in cages and socialism at bay. No way do I want decent health care because next thing you know, those people at the border will have it too, and that will be the end of Western Civilization. 

A Republican Senator can get up in front of God and everybody and say he wasn't afraid of the mob trying to overthrow a democratic election. They were okay somehow because they weren't from Black Lives Matter. For this guy, as long as Black lives don't matter, democracy doesn't matter either. It's ironic, because the first reaction of the talking heads on the neo-fascist news networks, when the Trumpies attempted a coup, was to say the insurrectionists were Antifa, whatever that is, or BLM carrying Trump flags as camouflage. Yeah, that's the ticket.

That's what happens when your role model is a malignant narcissist who can never admit fault. Trump was a Great President. Never mind that half a million Americans are dead because he not only failed to plan for the epidemic, but also dismantled Obama's pandemic prep. Never mind that he failed to enact a national plan because Jared thought mostly blue states would be affected. Evidently, if enough Democrats would drop dead, it would aid in his re-election. 

And despite that, 75 million Americans went to the polls and demanded their racism. In the states controlled by those racists, we now see a rollback of voting rights. In Georgia, you can go to jail for bringing voters water while they stand on line. Of course, the only reason they need to stand on line is because their polling places are intentionally inadequate. A Georgia state representative was charged with a felony for knocking on the governor's door while he signed the bill. 

It's ridiculous and inexcusable. And now we see that Trump's vitriol has further real-world consequences as anti-Asian violence surges across our sick country. In Atlanta, there was a murder spree, and a sheriff's spokesman said they guy killed 8 people because he had a bad day. Frankly, I've had some very bad days. I might take an Advil. I might write a nasty blog. I don't go out and kill eight people. We later learned that this "bad day" genius promoted anti-Asian shirts on Facebook. He should be fired.  He should've been fired before.

Two weeks ago we did parent teacher conferences. Most of my students are Chinese, and I don't speak Chinese. A Chinese-American paraprofessional helped me. Between parents we talked. She told me she was now afraid to go out at night because of anti-Asian violence. I was horrified by this. Not only that, but she lives in Flushing, which is a largely Asian community. She said that her family didn't want to travel around America because it was too dangerous. 

How can we make people live like that? How can we tolerate it? How can we put up with politicians willing to change laws so they can pick voters rather than have voters pick them? I'm reminded of a line from Pearl Buck's The Good Earth. "There is a way when the rich are too rich."

We can't sustain a country in which the rich are too rich, especially one that maintains that greed by bamboozling half of the public, promoting and tolerating their awful racism. We need a change in direction, and we need it immediately.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

UFT Delegate Assembly March 24, 2021--UFT Opposes Adminstration of NYSESLAT, Retirement Incentive Has Passed Both Houses, Cross Your Fingers

UFT President Michael Mulgrew--Welcomes us. Asks for moment of silence for son of UFT member who passed.

Two more days of work before break we didn't get last year. Last year's Easter week will be our first arbitration when arbitration opens.  

COVID--We asked DOE for clarification--CDC puts out guidlelines. State has to adopt them. If you arrive in NYC April 1 or after you don't need to quarantine. Whether individual is vaccinated or not is their own personal info that they do not have to share. . Some schools have asked people if they are vaccinated. They should not do that. If this happens, contact If you have positive test results in your class, they will tell you to quarantine, What they should be saying is that IF you have been vaccinated, you don't need to quarantine. It is your choice whether to come up with that info or not. 

We have a mayor who thinks he's a doctor. Newscasters think they're doctors. We will follow actual doctors and the law. DOE should sent out guidance to all by Friday. If violations continue, we will take legal action.

CDC guidelines--They are not mandated. States decide what to do with them. CDC was politicized last year. AFT and NEA don't understand how CDC has come to new conclusions. All studies were done in rural areas. We need to know whether schools can or cannot do it, and if it's safe. Mayor spoke quickly. We have spoken with a lot of other people who agreed we will look at it and work on it. Only mayor said we will just go out and do it.

We don't look like rural areas do. If students are supposed to be 3 feet apart in classrooms, we can't keep them six feet apart at other times. We will have to have more conversations with the city. As more people are vaccinated, conditions will change. We've been good at getting vaccine out. We've seen positivity rate drop. Still low in schools, but still same rate, .5 to .6. Fewer adults, but uptick in student population, likely due to variants. We still need PPE, distancing, and ventilation. 

Mayoral opt-in period--In our original plan, there were three. There would have been one right now. In NYC right now, 30% of parents are comfortable with children going in in person. 70% not. We don't know what it will look like this summer. Don't like remote or hybrid but we will have to figure it out.

City said this morning they will share numbers with us on a daily basis. No quarantine if you return to NY April 1 or later. No one may ask you whether you've been vaccinated. UFT program for giving members access to vaccine was highly successful, 35K matched. No big waiting list anymore. Thanks medical partners who helped. 

Contract tracing going well. Two positive non-linked cases lead to remote. Doctors will get back to us on these policies.

National--Elections matter. We were looking at 2-3 years of fighting layoffs, but American Recovery Act averts that. Infrastructure bill could be important to us. Coalition forming around green initiative for school buildings, retrofitting existing buildings and in new buildings. Ventilation has proven very important. Spanish flu changed schools, and that's why there are big windows in old buildings. Want to make sure NYC gets in there. 

In MLK building, ventilation was nonexistent, but we were able to get things fixed. Custodians said they never had this kind of support. Things moved quickly. This is what we need to do for every school building. American Recovery Act has given NYS almost 9 billion dollars, perhaps 5 for NYC. City receiving 5.4 billion for other expenses. Has changed entire budget landscape. This can stabilize parts of damaged economy. We need to make sure we stabilize and build things that will benefit us for years to come. 

Does mayor have right to just spend this or does this need to go through budget process? We don't want it all spent in next 9 months of his admin. We have to think long-term. 

State--Budget moving along. We don't like governor budget. House placed taxation on rich. Rich people upset, but ed. has been cut for three years straight. There is a majority of dems in both houses saying this is time to raise revenue. First time in years we aren't looking at cuts. We are fortunate to be in this position. 

Process may move faster because of other political things happening. As soon as this is done we will get it out to all here.

City--45 elections happening, mayor making proclamations, Andrew Yang as second coming of Mike Bloomberg. We are mostly through city council, now looking at citywide races. One person running for comptroller not invited to final forum because we took top three people. Primaries in June are making some candidates crazy. We have a lot of friends, and it's very tough when three or four friends are running in same race. Some will act out and scream. 

Big vote tomorrow--Mayor trying to get policing plan done. If not, state can withhold money. Lots of horse trading between city and city council. School safety big issue. We want school safety to stay intact. We don't think DOE will do good job. They squashed all incidents and said everything was fine. Many advocates disagree. 

DOE--New chancellor--We've met to talk planning for this summer and next year. We don't want people filling out preference sheets right now, because many programs, preferences and SBOs didn't happen. We're not sure now how we will program our schools or what we'll be able to do. Calendar coming out soon. We have a very tight calendar for next year. 

We will meet again, and try to tell people what decisions will be made and when. If science and medical guidance changes, our plans may change too. Waiting for recommendations. Trial on vaccines for 10-15 year olds finished now. Let's not forget what we've been through and what we're still doing. People complain teachers want this and that, but teachers are doing everything they can to get instruction to children. We don't like hybrid, remote, or any of this, but we do what we have to. 

Without our work and what we've been doing, all of these things would've been much worse. Concerning because it's been a year now. We've done this, kept people safe, and will do it the right way. If we can decide on dates, we can give you period of time to do programming, SBOs, etc. 

Chancellor doing well with us, No longer 39 people coming to meetings. 

Operational issues--Over 2059 filed. 1727 rectified. Lots of compensation. Key here was to have a plan and process. We're all in this together, in person, at home--None of this has been fair, but we have system so people are compensated when mistreated.

Reorganization grievances--Only 38 have reached central level, 24 rectified and 14 pending. 142 reached district level, most resolved. 399 at school level most resolved. 

PSAL--Guidelines coming out with calendar. Don't want people coming up with their own rules. Some people don't want to bother thinking things through. We will get rules out shortly.

Thanks HS for reopenings. All have made it work, elementary, D75, MS. We're handling it. Two openings for every division of this union. You did great work--no drama, no problems. Two days from break--relax, stay safe after long, difficult year. 

LeRoy Barr-- Happy birthday UFT, 61 years old. Power rooted in early actions. CL elections starting. Make sure you have election team in place, that chair is selected. Saturday training for CLs. Mayoral town hall April 7, DA April 14.


Q--In person opt in--For students already stable, kids can be shifted back into blended learning. How can we do this with so many teachers out?

A--We always said there should be three opt in periods. Mayor said only one more and things would be locked, Now he decided there would be new period. He really wants to see interest of parents. Once we have number, we can see what it means. If he says three feet, there may be issues, If our doctors say it's okay, it's one thing, But he just makes announcement without planning. Hybrid's the worst. Horrible in terms of programming and bounces everyone back and forth. Let's see what real ask is for parents and students. We have schools with only 20% opt in and teachers w/o accommodations teaching remotely. If 100% have to opt in, what do we do? Most schools have people eating in classroom, and has to be six feet apart. How do we do that if kids are six feet apart? They suggest we skip every other child. That's ridiculous, and not what CDC said, Much to be done.

Q--Opt in questions changed. Why? If you click your vaccinated, no more options. Can't I still spread covid vaccinated?

A--They were trying to be responsible to complaints, clear up things. If you're vaccinated you are clear to enter. That's CDC and local guidance. I didn't answer it, and it doesn't stop you. Form may change again. None of this info is saved anywhere.

Q--With so many changes, can mayor change mind about accommodations?

A--Yes. They just have to accommodate so you can do job safely. Previously, biggest accommodations were working on first floor or getting elevator key. We won those arguments because of underlying COVID conditions. Was nothing about caregiver, but we were able to get it. They will change sooner or later. When they change is the question. Goal is to get back to school. Nothing decided for this school year. With vaccine, and closer to herd immunity, idea is to get everyone back. There is a small percentage of population that cannot take vaccine. Some members may have this issue. As long as we don't have some crazy variant immune to vaccine, then all bets are off.

Q--AP calling parents of remote students asking them to come back face to face. Is that allowed? Is there financial incentive?

A-- No rule says they can't call. They won't come because AP calls. We have access to vaccine. Large number of our members have been vaccinated. There are activist parents being used, but parents don't want kids to get COVID. Children and families don't have access to vaccine. Should be much bigger part of conversation. Child and families have no guarantees. Does AP have those answers? If so, it's not truthful. No financial incentive whatsoever. Schools held harmless in terms of roster. Debts will be wiped off. 

Q--Elections--functional chapters--Can we have list of number of members, how much paid UFT time they get, and when elections will be?

A--We will let it out. It's nothing we hide. Each functional chapter has made decisions at different times. People need to have all the info. Not an issue.

Q--Early retirement incentive?

A--In both of one house bills. Trying to get in into final budget. Will be huge piece, and then it comes to city. When we pushed retro payment we got city to say it supported incentive. City has to abide by it. Keeping fingers crossed. 

Q--Do new CDC guidelines change classroom capacity?

A--If we adopt them, yes. We have to see what state says. If we go to three feet from six, you will get double number of students, more or less. Problem is everywhere else they have to be six feet apart, and eating issue. With cohorts and pods, purity is questionable. Pure pod means they have no interaction outside of pod. Not happening in many places.

Q--Will there be true open market this year?

A--Working on that. Have meetings about it. Budgets at school level should be good. We expect full foundation aid and full FSF. No one could have imagined we'd have our busiest transfer year. 

Q--Observations--Admin doesn't want to count any from the fall. Do I have to persuade them or are they overstepping?

A--You have to persuade them--wording is they may use it. But they can only use favorable ones. We couldn't get governor to do waiver, but we are pursuing suspension via legislative process as many districts are having trouble figuring this out. Possibility there may be another waiver. We will see where that goes between now and April.

Q--Positive testing--If classroom has to shut down and teacher is vaccinated, can teacher say she wants to come in?

A--Situation room will say you have to quarantine. Admin crosses line if they ask whether you've been vaccinated. Depends on level. If you're coming in to teach child remotely, it's different than if you're with students. If you have had a close contact but have been fully vaccinated you don't have to quarantine. Completely up to you and reveal of info also up to you.


Alexandra Papadopolous--For this month--Resolution to urge NYC council vote no to transfer safety agents to DOE, but instead hire counselors, nurses. 

85% yes

Marie Peltzer--this month--Supports union organizing for Amazon workers in Alabama.

92% yes

Geraldo Maldonado--this month--Supporting Columbia U. Graduate Working Union, on strike after two years of failed negotiations. 

91% yes


Endorsements--Marie ?--Participated in selection process, all candidates have been interviewed, will advocate for us. 

?--Candidate interviews done by colleagues, reflect views of membership. Did survey where they were ranked. Then political experts decide viability, rate history. Rises in support. 

Victor Jimenez--agrees with last speaker.

Daniel Alicea--against, disconnected.

85% yes.

Tom Brown--Nominates David Kazansky as TRS Trustee--resepected pension advocate, serves on multiple committees, has presented on panels, knowledgeable, diligent, and passionate. Pensions stronger and safer. Asks delegates to pass resolution and nominate for re-election.  

Lina Constantino--supports resolution.

Diana Gonzalez--in favor of resolution. 

97% yes.

Janella Hinds--Cancel NYSESLAT this year. Very challenging in that it takes lots of time, little connection with what they are able to do. In light of COVID we'd like this cancelled as many other exams have been. Only students attending in person are taking this.

(I miss name, as I'm in queue.) Everyone's under way to much stress. Really support this, hopes all will vote yes. 

I speak of absurdity of this exam. (I co-wrote resolution with Janella H.)

Edward Burke--Agrees with everything everyone said, but needs to be some way to evaluate students who've never been tested. Says students are wrongly placed as beginners. 

87% yes 

6:01 We are adjourned. Mulgrew urges us to be safe and wishes we spend some quality time with loved ones. Thanks us, wishes us happy Easter and Passover.