Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Letter to Staff

In case you did not receive the email from Michael Mulgrew, you may now apply for an accommodation to work from home right here. You may do this if you are over the age of 65, or if you have underlying medical conditions as set out by the CDC. You may need documentation from your doctor.

I encourage you to apply for whatever reason you can think of. One high risk activity, for example, is smoking. Maybe, whenever you are in the comfort of your own home, you like to spend your time chain smoking. People do stranger things.

Here’s what I do know—it would be highly inconvenient for me, at this point in time, to get sick or die from COVID. It would be further inconvenient for me to sicken my wife, my child, or even my little dog. Mayor de Blasio understands that students and their families might find it inconvenient to get sick and die, and has offered them all a chance to opt out.

The mayor, however, does not appear to similarly value our lives or those of our family members. I find this curious, since he wishes us to risk our lives to perform “hybrid learning.” This is when you go to work each and every day to teach a small portion of your class. What happens to your other 25 students? Who knows? It’s all part of life’s rich pageant, I suppose.

Mayor de Blasio is not going to hire tens of thousands of additional  teachers to serve students who aren’t in school that day. I suppose we could cut our curriculum by 60-80% and repeat lessons. Alternatively, we could hope that students not in the building just feel the vibes, or read their magic 8 balls, or ask their friends to recreate lessons.

Some will say that students need to make social and emotional connections, and that’s not even debatable. How exactly they are supposed to make them while socially distanced, masked, and prohibited from approaching even you, the teacher, is a mystery to me.

Furthermore, the chancellor has said that he doesn’t want to treat failure to wear a mask as a disciplinary issue. I don’t know about you, but I’d absolutely enforce mask wearing. I’ll risk a letter to file over COVID any day of the week and I won’t hesitate to deny entry to a student who is unmasked. It’s my primary duty to protect the health and safety of my students.

In any case, to support you even further in these tough times, Mayor de Blasio has killed Teacher’s Choice. So if you were planning to use it to buy the fast internet access you needed to use Zoom properly, forget it. Here is my feeling—screw Mayor de Blasio, screw Chancellor Carranza, and screw a system that thinks it’s worth risking our lives to give our students awkward, incomplete, poorly thought out slapdash nonsense posturing as education. I see no way that the mayor’s “hybrid” can serve our kids, and we could certainly improve upon remote learning until such time as we can safely come in and do our real jobs.

I urge you to apply for an accommodation, no matter how remotely your condition affects you. I applied. In fact, I would apply if I had a hangnail, and contend the hangnail makes it inconvenient for me to get sick and die. No one should get sick or die, and shame on City Hall for waiting until someone does before making up their minds on a safe way to proceed.

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with questions or concerns.

Best regards,


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Do We Need to Open for Student Emotional and Social Well-being?

I hear we need to open the buildings from a lot of people. Some of them, in fact, are people I respect. Alas, most are not. But the argument, that kids are missing something really important, is not even debatable. The flaw with that argument is this--even if we open the buildings, kids aren't going to get what they were missing.

Let's look at the de Blasio-Carranza plan, such as it is. From what I've seen, it entails kids sitting social distanced from one another. This is not how I wanted to be with my friends as a child or teenager, and I doubt much has changed since then. In our school, in fact, we can't even remove the desks from rooms. We have no place to put them, so there will be a pile of unused desks in every classroom. (You can see me interviewed on this topic on NY 1 right here.) Maybe we can use them for climbable sculptures in PE classes.

This is going to be uncomfortable for all of us, but I think our youngest students will be hurt most. Imagine coming out of quarantine, coming out of being shut off from the very social contact that makes you a kid. From there, you're placed in a corner somewhere and told not to move. If you're getting your hair done these days, you'll notice there are plastic curtains between customers to avoid the spread of COVID. Let's say that de Blasio gets embarrassed enough to provide this protection.

So there you are, six years old, in a corner surrounded by the kind of plastic you'd usually have to visit a garage to see. You're wearing a mask and so are all your friends. Or maybe they aren't your friends and maybe they never will be. After all, there's no recess. There's no play time. Just sit in your corner and do the work the teacher can't come over and help you with. The teacher needs to let the papers sit for 24 hours so as to preclude contamination, so you won't be getting them back for a while.

Once you do, you'll have more work to do, since the teacher was unable to help you in class yesterday, and can't do so now either. Hopefully you don't need too much extra help in this class or others, because you ain't getting it. There will be some variation with older students. Maybe they'll be a little less depressed. Maybe they'll be a little more depressed. In fact, maybe they'll be a lot more depressed. Bill de Blasio's prescription is not going to help children of any age who feel alienated. In fact, it's more than likely to exacerbate the situation.

Let's take the focus off the kids for a moment. You , the teacher, are the one who's going to have to tell the kids to sit in that corner and not move. Do you think that will inspire the kids as much as it would it you helped them read and write, or taught them skills that could improve their lives? I don't.

Who's gonna tell kids to put their masks on and keep them there? Well, that will be you too. Do you think kids of any age are going to love or respect you for making them wear uncomfortable masks that may, in the case of some students, inhibit their breathing? I don't know. I've been binge-watching ER for the past few weeks, and I've noticed that breathing seems a really important thing.

Could you get a letter in your file for forcing some kid to wear a mask? In fact, before you get the letter, will you be able to force a kid to wear a mask. That's hard to say. Mulgrew says it's non-negotiable, but I read somewhere the chancellor doesn't want to make a big deal our of it. It won't be a discliplinary issue, says he. I don't know about you, but I'm not going to allow any student to put my life and those of my other students at risk. I don't really want a letter in my file, but I'll risk a hundred of them before I'll risk the lives of humans in my classroom.

No one is going to be happy in the bizarre classroom with little or no natural interaction. No one is going to learn anything worthwhile in this unnatural gathering. It's like a particularly depressing chapter of The Twilight Zone. But hey, maybe parents will hate politicians just a little less for a few weeks.

Until, of course, people start getting sick and dying. Then they'll close the buildings right down again, just as they should've done in the first place.

Monday, July 13, 2020

De Blasio to UFT, CSA, DC37, and 1.1 Million Schoolchildren: Drop Dead

It's really hard to outdo the outrageous lack of planning that went into the DOE's hybrid instruction plan. Nonetheless, Bill de Blasio and Richard Carranza have once again outdone themselves. I was interviewed for this piece in NY 1, suggesting that equity and excellence is yet another carefully orchestrated DOE mirage. I'm in one of the so-called outlier schools, and we'd need five cohorts rather than two or three to meet their recommendations.

That's pretty goshdarn inconvenient for City Hall. How can they defend a system that ignores the largest school in Queens? How can they face up to the fact that they've neglected us for so many years? Can they go any lower than meeting minimum standards, already so porous you can drive a Mac truck through them? Of course they can.

Our school has been fighting overcrowding for over a decade. In fact, we had an agreement with Tweed to lower enrollment. When I became chapter leader, I ran around like a madman making sure our outrageous overcrowding got press coverage. I wrote in the Daily News, and we were covered multiple times in the NY Post. We even got a feature in the NY Times. By the time we were covered on television, Joel Klein and Michael Bloomberg had to acknowledge us.

UFT arranged a meeting at Tweed along with CSA and our School Leadership Team. We agreed to multiple measures to lower enrollment. We went down from 4600 to 4000, and were on our way to go below 200% capacity for the first time in years. Bill de Blasio failed to observe our agreement, and we're now somewhere around 4500, back to square one. Thanks a lot.

How does the DOE deal with an issue like that now that they're hyping a hybrid plan? Evidently, they want to make minimum social distancing guidelines recommended rather than enforced. I'm told that CDC recommends 65 square feet per student, but DOE wants to reduce it.Evidently if students can't be six square apart, that's just one of those things. It's pretty remarkable to see someone like Bill de Blasio so closely in sync with Donald Trump.

This is unacceptable by any standard. The official UFT position is that this hybrid system can work only if there are guaranteed safeguards. We're not saying recommended safeguards and let's hope for the best. We're saying that we want everyone to be safe, and yes, we want that even for administrators. I'd go as far to argue that the CSA President, Mark Cannizzarro, is not insane. He wrote a beautiful letter about stepping into the unknown. I'd be happy to work for someone who thought like that.

I'm not at all happy, though, about working for someone who jukes the stats and bends the rules to make his poorly conceived plan look a little better. I am not a compulsive rule follower. I understand the need to be flexible. I'd argue that differentiated instruction largely entails treating different people differently, and being able to adjust to their particular personalities. I might give more leeway to one kid than another. Sue me.

However, as regarding human safety, there's absolutely no basis for compromise. We're already on a slippery slope. I've actually read arguments for us returning to buildings suggest we'd probably have to close them again anyway. This means those people fully expect those of us who work and study to get sick and likely die. I don't see how even that is acceptable.

To suggest that we go back without observing minimum safety standards is not only unacceptable, but blatantly unconscionable. I have no idea how Bill de Blasio sleeps at night, but that's not my problem. My problem is keeping everyone who works and studies in schools safe.

Wake up, Bill de Blasio, We need a mayor who shares that concern, and we need that mayor right now.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

King Solomon Meets Bill de Blasio

You may have heard the biblical story about King Solomon. Two women claim a baby is theirs. King Solomon the wise says cut the baby in half and let them share it. One woman says sure, go ahead. The other says no, give it to the other woman. King Solomon then gives the baby to the second woman, since she is the only one concerned with the baby's welfare.

Of course, the notion of cutting a human in pieces is barbaric and unthinkable. Perhaps in those days it wasn't such a big thing. Who knows?

Here's one thing I know--Were Bill de Blasio sitting in that chair he'd have cut the baby into 2, 3, 4 or even 5 pieces. That way it could multitask, and the mayor seems to highly value that ability.

Otherwise, why would he be pushing a program that has teachers breaking their classes into multiple cohorts but teaching only one at a time? Let's not get extreme here, and point to outliers. Let's be conservative and point only to schools the mayor acknowledged, with up to three cohorts.

Let's say I have a class of 34. Let's say my classroom is 680 square feet. At 65 square feet per human, I can fit ten in that room, with 30 feet left over to frolic and romp in between periods. That would mean, actually, that I would need to break my class into four groups. Of course, there is always the possibility that some of those students would choose to utilize remote learning. If 20% of my students choose to do that, I've got 26 or 27 left, and I can see them once every three days.

Let's say I teach 5 classes of 45 minutes every day. That means I will see about 8 students per class, leaving one spot for a paraprofessional. What are the other 18 students doing during that time? If I am to give them the same instruction, it means they receive instruction only once every three days, and I will deliver only one-third of the curriculum.

On the other hand, perhaps the mayor thinks that I will be delivering the other classes online, working twice as much, and that will solve the problem. Maybe the mayor thinks some other teacher will be delivering that instruction. Actually, though, when you consider the students on all-remote, it would take two other teachers to do that. I don't know about you, but I haven't heard the city say anything about reducing class sizes during this emergency.

And let's look at the students who've actually shown up. They will be socially distanced and masked. They will not be able to interact normally. I will also be socially distanced and masked. I won't be able to approach them or check their work. I won't be able to see what they're doing. For all I know, they could be sitting writing their lovers' names over and over, and drawing little hearts. And when they get on the bus with said lovers, will they be socially distancing?

Personally, I'm absolutely mystified as to how this system improves upon a well-thought-out remote learning system (as opposed to the slapdash, improvised one we've been using). Before we even look at what that entails, a remote learning system allows us to continue the downward spiral of COVID we've managed to achieve. I'm very happy that, at Executive Board meetings, Mulgrew no longer has to read us names of UFT members who've passed.

We jumped into this with no preparation whatsoever. The DOE has shown us no leadership whatsoever over the last few months, making decisions at the last minute. The plan they put forth last week is so shallow and poorly thought out I'm amazed they mustered the audacity to make it public. They think opening the buildings, no matter how poorly they do it, represents a victory.

We now know ways to improve remote learning. The most obvious fix is to insist students show their faces. Every teacher knows students who hide behind their avatars. Every teacher has called on those students to get no response. Sometimes their friends text them and they return. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes you get responses in the chat that say they've lost their sound.

It's on the city to provide not only technology, but also safe and quite places for students to do remote learning. That's a good use of school buildings and libraries. In fact, one of the reasons some teachers give for not wanting to do synchronous learning is they don't want people to see their homes. Another is their homes are too noisy. The city could provide those teachers space in the school buildings as well.

Another thing we could use is real training. Google Classroom has a lot of capability I haven't explored because I don't know how. So does Zoom, and so does every other platform every other teacher has used. I learned Zoom and Google Classroom from a first-year teacher, and if I go remote in September I'll press him to teach me more before I get on. However, that's one more job that the city has failed to do. Sending us back for three days to be trained by administrators who'd never done this work was a ridiculous exercise.

I'm not seeing any King Solomons in the DOE or City Hall. I'm seeing an outright pathetic attempt at trying to rehabilitate the public perception of their blithering incompetence, and they trip all over themselves every moment. I'm a lowly teacher, and I could run the school system better than those currently doing it.

That's not much to brag about, though. It's hard to imagine anyone running it worse.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

UFT Executive Board July 9, 2020--Riding a Hybrid Safely

 Roll Call 2:50

UFT Secretary LeRoy Barr welcomes us.


UFT President Michael Mulgrew--You all saw mayor's "blended plan." In April, after multiple models, there were two options to open safely. Either we triple classrooms and teachers, or have one third of students present. We are okay with the model as the way to go. The type of schedule is problematic. We would like to limit the number of models to those most schools could use, but offer flexibility.

Doing something else, though, does not mean you ignore safety rules. That comes first. Next phase is safety and developing protocols. We will enforce masks, not just talk to children about it. Everyone in school will have to wear a mask.

Medical accommodation process will be going out on July 15, along with ability for parents to opt their children out of live instruction. We believe 20-25% will opt out, if we stay on current trajectory of virus. We expect results by August 7th. We are not sitting around and waiting. Almost 1300 schools did walkthrough. We are engaged in this.

Blended plan yesterday is step one. We're looking at health and safety, and working conditions. We will need a temporary agreement for these conditions. We will have remote and live teachers, and some who do both. All of these things have to be negotiated. There are many outstanding safety issues, including physical proof that shields, masks, cleaners and protocols are in place, with personnel to make sure it's done.

This can't be like March. We will have to walk to each school and make sure this is all in place. Talking to infectious disease doctors, will talk to DOE and CSA about testing regimen. We will recommend that everyone, especially living in NYC, get an antibody test. Will be very important if you come into contact with virus. Thinking about a program to offer this to UFT members. Talking with hospitals and health care providers about this.

You should keep these results.

We will discuss process for children who won't wear masks. In our rec centers, kids wore masks. Different challenge for special ed. students. What kind of PPE will various positions need? We have to work this out by August 7th.

We are on the attack against mayor about child care issue. If children aren't in school every day, what will parents do? We had a parent town hall last week, and hopefully by next week we will be demanding a program.

APPR--This year no one is getting a rating. We need to make sure there is no harm. We don't want it to hurt anyone's tenure, and we don't want first or second year teachers to have it held against them.

Investigations--trying to get those started, want to get rid of false allegations. We are negotiating with DOE, who doesn't get back to us.

What will APPR look like for remote and hybrid teachers next year? How does this and PPE fit in with Danielson?

Leaves--What's a medical accommodation vs. a family leave? We are trying to clarify for people.

We are working on these things right now. As I told you, fear and the virus are our twin challenges. We're moving ahead, and despite all protests, there's been no bump in NYC. We are more disciplined than people in other parts of the country.

Some people think there will be another bump here, as we see them everywhere. We are concurrently planning remote instruction. Assuming state will come out and say something in August, but it may not be definitive. If virus bites we know what will happen. We've learned a lot and will need more of a framework.

Summer school has been a fiasco, and that's tied to their new platform. Chancellor was clear there is no mandate for any school to move into new platform. People have to be comfortable and ready. Anyone teaching summer school can tell you about all the problems they've been having.

Mike Sill--What will remote instruction look like this year? It will have to be different. We will have to have more of a schedule so as to preclude conflict. There are issues with ratings, people with TIPs or people frozen at salary steps. What will PD look like? Will it be remote? Probably. What about SBO? Parent teacher conferences? Each decision ripples throughout the contract. Focus groups have been helpful. Best info comes from membership.

Mulgrew--These are new situations, and we'll have to have a temporary agreement along with a process to figure out things that aren't covered. On health and safety we have a team working.

Elly Engler--We have a team working with UFT and DOE and we have a team with parameters for HVAC system. Working with HVA to make sure they're operational. Without good ventilation rooms will not be used. We need operational windows, which can dilute ability of virus. Electrostatic cleaning will be done, will be machines. If they're using this it means dust won't be cleaned, but virus will be destroyed. Will not look as pristine as proper deep cleaning. There will be a list of things available to all schools, PPE and cleaning supplies. If all guidelines are followed we will be okay.

Mulgrew--We also need procedures for medical issues. We no longer trust this administration anymore. Working on something so we can have checks and balances. Not good enough to take people's word when we already know it's no good.

Questions--(or answers)

Students can opt out. Teachers can ask for accommodations or take a leave.

Equity of schools split into five as opposed to two or three--Will do best we can. Will be discrepancies, but we can't have a cookie cutter approach in this system.

Concern for paras, AP decided to put one with two or three students, not safe for anyone--We will work on a regimen about paras.

There will be different patterns, and that's why they moved to these general models. D75 students will suffer more with lack of continuity. If school wants to use different model they can advocate.

Where is school calendar--DOE scared to pull it out. Wants to start September 10th, but not sure. Will be a lot of training on how schools run differently. Has to be real training, not just a PowerPoint. We will need a scope and sequence in place for each subject in each school for this year. This can't work otherwise. Remote and in person teachers have to be in sync.

We will be involved in safety discussions. Still not sure safety officers will be in DOE, and not this year anyway.

Districts may have remote learning teams. Some schools may have more accommodations than others. We have not figured out how observations will work.

Many things will be addressed at SED level. Blended learning has to be compliant.

Will there be teletherapy in the fall? Probably. Will be combination. What's right PPE for people doing speech and OT/PT? Will coordinate with hospitals to find out.

We are short teachers already. Even with federal package, which would put safety measures in place. We will never have enough teachers. We now need three teachers for thirty students. Chancellor wants to redeploy every DOE person as a teacher this school year. There are some contractual issues with some of these things, but we will discuss it.

Is there any discussion about mandating live synchronous instruction? Will be some sort of expectation for everyone of live synchronous instruction. We are not recreating the school day.

President Trump wants all schools open, no guidelines, says CDC is crazy. We heard that. If CVC changes anything based on politics rather than medicine we won't abide by it. This is ridiculous. Betsy DeVos, who lives in an ivory tower, says everyone takes risks.

Masks are non-negotiable for us.

We don't believe cameras in classrooms will work. Perhaps we can experiment, but we think separate teachers will do remote.

We are moving toward a blended learning model. Not sure why we didn't talk about it in April.

Mulgrew--Do we do a Town Hall, and should I pursue antibody testing for UFT members? 

Member suggests Town Hall would be a good idea, and that testing would be helpful to UFT members.

Ellen Driesen--Agrees.

Mulgrew--City can mandate us to have Covid test, but not antibody test. Professionals are recommending it. Last week a new Covid test came on market, a less invasive nasal swab. There will be something in place, but not sure what it will be yet.

Member suggests there are more questions than answers now, and that we should delay Town Hall. 

Member suggests general Covid tests for UFT members as well. Says some testing sites are screening for who is more at risk, and insurance companies are requiring doctor to tell you to get tested. We should make it easier for members to get both tests and get through red tape.

Mulgrew--Many national labs are now swamped. Once we start school, Covid tests and contact tracing will need to be available. Will need to be immediate.

Will think through Town Hall. We will have these meetings periodically through the summer. We will have to check deeply and carefully in every single school.

Thanks us for coming, and wishes us all down time. 3:53

The Chancellor Writes Us Again

Dear Colleagues, 

I hope you and your families are staying healthy and safe as we transition to the 2020-2021 school year. Earlier today, Mayor de Blasio and I announced our latest planning for bringing students back to school buildings in September—a plan that was informed by an internet survey with no controls whatsoever. I want to make sure you hear my rationale, however feeble it may be—understanding that it is very possible that pieces of this will change, given that COVID is exploding all over the country, and that it's likely to happen here too once we rashly open buildings. 

With all the ups and downs, one thing has remained constant: our utter indifference to your health and safety. It’s why we put off the closure of school buildings earlier this year — which was essential to the explosion of COVID-19 infection across New York City. Of course, we also closed our office buildings and work sites, meaning our gala luncheons are now largely take-out, but still from restaurants you could never afford on a teacher salary.

Now, as we look ahead to September, we see the big picture: the continuing rise in cases across the country; which we have ignored utterly in our premature opening plans; and the knowledge that as the trajectory of the coronavirus continues to evolve, we must focus on ways to resurrect Mayor de Blasio's political career, which alas, appears deader than a doornail.

In addition to rejecting guidance from health authorities, we have also ignored the input and perspectives of thousands of our colleagues, and hundreds of thousands more from our parents, families, and students. Please know that the reason we surveyed parents and not you is because we well know you have a concern for your safety and health, as well as that of your loved ones.

It is clear that ignoring the safety of all of you, our staff, along with our students and families will demand new health protocols, physical distancing, and more changes for the 2020-21 school year. Our Health Department failed to close schools in March, and is ready to fail to close them once again in September. Make no mistake: New York City students will still be appearing to learn 5 days a week. A major difference is that for the coming school year we are preparing an untested model, never established to work anywhere, and hoping for the best.

Blended learning means students will be taught on-site in school for part of the week, and will attend school remotely on the other days of the week. Fewer students in each classroom means it's your job to figure out what the hell the rest of your students are doing during that time. We will need to be creative. For example, we may need to split some of you in half so that half of you can teach in the classroom, while the other half teaches remotely. We have our finest DOE doctors exploring this issue, and we will provide more information on this soon. 

While we are preparing for multiple blended learning models to meet the diverse needs of our families and students across the city, any family can choose all-remote learning, for any reason. Based on our totally unscientific internet survey, which had every employee at Tweed as well as all our friends and relatives furtively filling forms for forever, we believe everyone wants to go back, even though no one told real parents it was only for a day or two a week. We must not look away from how this virus has further magnified the effects of systemic racism in our communities. Certainly, our communities of color who depend on schools to care for their children during the day when they work, will be totally screwed by our plan. But we are fully aware of this, so we are not looking away.

Our plans must be nimble because teachers will be doing one heckuva tap dance as students, deciding not to risk their lives after all, move away from showing up and opt for remote learning. We are also awaiting guidance from the bastards at State of New York, and the mayor will be eagerly pursuing his sandbox battle with the governor once it is released. Because we are so gosh darn nimble, we will be changing our mind at the drop of a hat over such important issues as:  

·         Shifting Principles 
·         Our Planning Process (LOL!)
·         Health, Safety, and Lack Thereof
·         Student Schedules 
·         Maintaining Equity & Excellence Via Ignoring All Equally
·         Family & Community Engagement Via Ignoring UFT
I always say that New York City has the best staff, students, and families in the world—so it's a wonder they put up with the likes of us. A safe return to schools in the fall, and the broader safety of our whole city, will be totally impossible for all of us — DOE staff, families, and students. Together we can ignore that, hope things work out, and work toward rehabilitating the mayor's miserable reputation. After all, we left the school buildings open after Broadway closed, and we're about to open the school buildings even though Broadway is still closed.

In unity, 


Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Reopening Plans Translated

CONTACT:, (212) 788-2958


Health and safety will lead all planning, even though health and safety are concepts rather than leaders. This, however, takes us off the hook, since we’ve publicly committed ourselves to open schools with no regard to the state of the virus in September. This approach didn’t work in Israel, South Korea, Australia or Beijing, but we’re hoping for the best.

—Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza today announced last-minute improvised plans for school reopening in September, assuming, for no reasons whatsoever, the city continues to meet all necessary COVID-19 public health thresholds.

While giving valuable lip service to the health and safety of school communities, schools will be provided with specific models to develop schedules for students that include in-person and remote instruction every week. Teachers will be expected to do both simultaneously so that we don’t have to pay them extra money.

“Getting our kids back to school no matter what inconvenient realities we need to disregard is the biggest part of restarting our city. Parents with no idea what our actual plans entail have spoken clearly – they want their children back in school buildings to the greatest extent possible. We will shovel them in any way we possibly can,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

 “As we continue to plan for September, we’re steadfastly pretending to prioritize the health and safety of our communities while hoping schools will come up with workable schedules,” said Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza. “We can’t be bothered working out any practical or workable programs because we have to do Very Important Stuff”

“Re-opening our schools will be a complex and difficult process, but we are not going to be careless with our students, their families, and our educators,” said Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers.

"The first priority of school leaders is always the health, safety and well-being of the communities they lead," said Mark Cannizzaro, President of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators. "Though there is still tremendous uncertainty and incredible challenges ahead, we look forward to our continuing collaboration with the Department of Education as we determine when and how school buildings will open.”

Reopening plans will cover four main areas: health and safety, building programming and scheduling, blended learning, and family engagement. We are not at all concerned with social and emotional well-being, because that’s not a thing. Even as teachers teach both online and in person at the same time, all students will have an option to be all-remote in the fall.

The City will continue to disregard the State because Cuomo speaks ill of the mayor, so screw him.

Health and Safety

School buildings will promote healthy behaviors and environments by requiring physical distancing, face coverings, and increasing access to hand washing and sanitizer. However, if students can’t manage to follow the rules they will be given a stern talking-to.

Each building will be deep cleaned on a nightly basis with electrostatic sprayers which dispense disinfectant so that it adheres to surfaces without the need to physically touch them, but when students pass from one class to another, too bad for you. Try not to touch places they did. Also, we’re leaving the gum under the desks.

Building Programming and Scheduling

Students will sit six feet away from each other, except when they don’t, in which case they will not. Also they’ll be eating lunch in their classrooms. Students will be expected to place their masks on in between bites of their food. DOE masks will have special holes to pass straws through.

The DOE has developed three baseline scheduling models for all schools to use. We have utilized a number of models, both the AB model, and the ABC model. We will break schools into two groups when they are AB, and three when they are ABC.

All families will also have an option to pursue an all-remote schedule next fall. Teachers will not only teach the nine students in the classroom, the 25 students at home, but also all the students who are at home. Students will not need a medical reason to register for this option. Teachers will, though, because screw them. Families who opt for fully-remote learning will be able to change their minds anytime they wish and jump from one program to another. It will make no difference, what with teachers all teaching three programs at once.

Model One

We will split students in half.  However, teachers will teach all groups at the same time.

Model Two

We will split students into three groups. Of course teachers will teach all students at the same time.

Model Three

We will alternate even more, because why not? Teachers will teach all students at the same time.

This model is available to middle and high schools.

Model Four:

We will establish weeks of up to fifteen days each so as to accommodate hugely overcrowded schools. That way, we can break into four, five or six cohorts. Teachers will be required to teach up to fifteen days each and every week. We will not compensate teachers for this because we canceled Teacher’s Choice, and you’re lucky to have jobs at all.

Based on building capacity and student enrollment, principals will choose from these models, and if the people who actually do the work don’t like the principal’s decision they can all go to hell. Any school that doesn’t like our models can make up their own, but let me tell you, we worked for weeks on our models and they’re all crap, so good luck coming up with anything better.

To reflect, the unique needs of their student population, District 75 schools will have an additional two model options that may have students in school every other week for five days straight, and we’ll cram those kids in any gosh darn way we can.

Except in schools with fifteen day weeks, students will be learning five days a week. Blended learning is designed to make people think we’re doing something effectively via placing nine kids at a time in a room in which they may have no interaction with the teacher or each other, and by having other kids sit on computers somewhere. We figure by doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that, maybe someone will pick up something somewhere.

We gave away a whole lot of technology—distributing over 300,000 iPads to students who need them—and we are working with teachers to be more effective online instructors. Of course we will continue to blame them for anything that goes wrong, because we ourselves are Very Important People, and if we weren’t, why would our salaries be double those of the people out there doing the actual work?

Teachers, staff, and students will have the time and support they need to adapt to these necessary changes. Social-emotional learning and trauma-informed care will be integrated throughout the year, and all schools will offer mental health support. We have no clue whatsoever as to how we will do that, since there is no space whatsoever to do anything more, but the mayor believes for every drop of rain a flower grows. That’s why he ran for President. While that didn’t work out, he hopes this will, or his career is finished.

Family Engagement

We will have a whole bunch of meetings in which we try to explain this stuff. We don’t really understand it ourselves, but we have a whole lot of employees who make over 200K a year, so we figure it’s the least they could do. They will nod their heads with great respect and pretend they care about your words, and faithfully answer, “I'll get back to you on that.” More information is available at

The Best Equity Money Can Buy

I taught Zoom lessons for three months. I have ideas on how they can be better, but no one asks me what they are. They will never substitute for the face to face teaching I signed up for. That’s the very toughest work I do, but like the overwhelming majority of my colleagues, I love doing it. It doesn’t look like that’s what I’ll be doing in September, though.
This school year, the mayor says he's going to open the buildings. Depending upon whom you ask, that's his prerogative. Let's ignore the sandbox fight between Bill de Blasio and Governor Cuomo for now, and focus on what they're saying. They both say they have authority over city schools, and both are willing to argue it in public. It's undeniable, though, that this announcement is premature. If there’s one thing we know about Covid, it’s that we have no idea what its impact will be in September.
We do know some things, though. We know that the mayor’s preferred model of instruction is a hybrid. I'll have nine masked students sitting socially distanced from one another in my classroom. Where the other 25 will be, or what they'll be doing while I stand masked in front of the other nine and approach none of them, I have no idea. That's for principals and UFT chapters to negotiate, should they happen to be on speaking terms, over the summer. (To me, this sounds like something out of Black Mirror.)
However, not everyone has to utilize hybrid learning. The mayor has specifically stated that anyone who didn't wish their children to travel to school buildings would receive remote instruction at home. After all, which parents want their children to travel on public transportation, thus risking a potentially deadly infection? Which parents want to depend on children to respect masking and social distancing? Which parents want to depend on NYC school cleanliness? (And why didn’t the mayor ask those questions on his parent survey, which I’ll get to in a moment.)
The question, then, becomes this—Who will even be able to take the mayor up on his generous offer? Let's first look at who will not. Clearly, households that don't have access to daycare are out. While it's true that some families may qualify for aid, many of those who don't can't afford to pay. Those people will not be able to take the mayor up on his thoughtful offer. I’m not sure how this represents the equity the mayor’s DOE claims to champion.
Of course, if you've got money, your kids need not travel anywhere. You can pay someone to take care of them. Your kids can stay home and attend classes remotely. No risky bus rides for them. No contact with children or adults who’ve been infected. No depending on sorely overworked school custodians to do so-called deep cleaning in selected areas of the school from time to time. 
Let’s take a look at those parents who send their kids to school. That will solve the child care problem. Except it won’t. Most schools will see students in cohorts. If you’re extremely lucky, your kids will attend every other day. More likely they’ll attend every third day. However, if you’re in a school as popular as Francis Lewis High School, your kid will only attend once every five days. That means, if you need child care, you’ll need it 80% of the time. Despite the mayor’s intentions, that’s not particularly helpful to working families.
The mayor says three out of four who filled out his survey wanted buildings to open. There are a few issues with that. One is that the mayor was not clear what opening entailed. Would people have said yes to, “Do you think it’s a good idea we let your kids come to school one or two days a week, and hope for the best the rest of the time?”
Another is that it was an internet survey, not precisely the gold standard, with no controls whatsoever. Absolutely anyone could’ve taken it as many times as they wished. Were there people at Tweed furiously filling out surveys? Who knows? We should be planning for each scenario. Instead we plan for nothing and hope for the best.
We have no idea what the state of Covid will be in September, but City Hall has some ideas, at least. The chancellor sent a PowerPoint to principals with an entire section entitled, “Preparing for when someone gets sick.” Not if but when. It also suggests staff members and students should stay home when sick. Not must but should. That’s about as definite as it gets with this mayor.
In one way, there is certainly equity. This mayor is failing all of us.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Chalkbeat Gets It Wrong Again, Finds Out, an̶d̶ ̶C̶a̶n̶t̶ ̶B̶e̶ ̶B̶o̶t̶h̶e̶r̶e̶d̶ ̶M̶a̶k̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶a̶ ̶C̶o̶r̶r̶e̶c̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ and Finally Corrects It (See update below)

Chalkbeat wrote a long piece about the education budget. I was planning to read the whole thing, but had to stop. actually sent a message to a Chalkbeat reporter over this passage:

There is a freeze on new hires within the education department, but schools will be able to hire from the Absent Teacher Reserve, a controversial pool of educators who remain on the city payroll but do not have permanent positions because they face disciplinary action, or because their schools closed or lost enrollment

Here's the message I sent the reporter:

Shouldn't "face" be in past tense? Anyone facing disciplinary action is usually reassigned, but never to the ATR.

I heard back that, no, some teachers are in the ATR while facing charges. That's not at all true. Evidently Chalkbeat has no issue trashing working teachers who don't belong to E4E or work in Moskowitz Academies. They are "a controversial pool of educators." What the hell does that mean? It doesn't sound particularly good to me. Would you want to invite a controversial pool of educators over to your house for spaghetti? I wouldn't.

There are several ways to get into the ATR. One is to have your school closed. The staff is scattered to the four winds until and unless they find jobs. It's hard for them to do that, because publications like Chalkbeat stereotype them, and have been doing so for years. I recall an article there where some teacher or other said she and her principal were horrified at their quality. And that, my friends, is a stereotype. It may or may not have been true what the young teacher and her principal saw, but it in no way represents the group as a whole.

Another way to get in, a particularly popular way in the fun old days of Bloomberg, was to go up on charges and be vindicated, or pay a few thousand bucks for some minor charges that never ought to have been brought up in the first place. I had friends who that happened to. If a principal didn't like you, he'd just bring you up on charges, make up piles of nonsense to accompany it, and hope that one or two things would stick. That happened to a former supervisor of mine who was in a perpetual sandbox fight with my then-principal. He was a good supervisor, but the principal, like many others, had a very fragile ego.

Chalkbeat sets itself up as an authority on education but has no issue making fundamental errors. It doesn't know things that every UFT chapter leader does, and has no problem issuing misinformation as a matter of course. If you want to know the last time Eva Moskowitz sneezed, or what the two-year teachers who lead E4E are doing when they aren't getting fat off the Gates gravy train, Chalkbeat is a great resourse. If you want to see exactly what Mike Bloomberg "got done" in terms of journalistic bias, or what Walton, Broad and Gates bucks buy in journalism, Chalkbeat is your go-to.

I don't always have flattering words for the New York Post, but I will tell you that its education reporters are always interested in fine detail. Chalkbeat doesn't give a golly gosh darn. Publish whatever. Take the Gates money. If it's wrong, who cares? Chalkbeat is certainly something.

But whatever it is, it's certainly not journalism.

Update: Chalkbeat has corrected the paragraph above. It now reads as follows:

There is a freeze on new hires within the education department, but schools will be able to hire from the Absent Teacher Reserve, a controversial pool of educators who remain on the city payroll but do not have permanent positions.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Hamilton and Me

I love theater. I see it whenever I can. There's absolutely nothing like it. I haven't seen Hamilton, though. I've entered the lotteries a few times, but haven't won. I know people who have, but they just enter it every day until they win. Now, of course, it's closed along with every other show on Broadway.

If you're a teacher, like me, you can't just ante up 800 bucks every time a hot show comes up on Broadway. I see a lot of shows via TDF, which you can join right here, if you like. They're a great cause, and your membership won't become effective until the theaters reopen. You can see Broadway shows for 40 or 50 bucks a seat, and off-Broadway for considerably less.

Now you're not going to find Hamilton on TDF any time soon, even after Broadway opens. However, you can now watch a filmed version of the play on Disney Plus. You have to pay $6.99 for the month, but you can quit after the first month. I guess you can watch Dumbo too, if that's your thing. Still, I'd rather pay $6.99 than 1600 bucks to see it with someone. Much as I love live theater, I just can't imagine a show that's better than a new Macbook Pro. Anyway, even if I had an extra 1600 bucks lying around, the theater's closed.

So there you are. I heard a story about a guy who went to see Hamilton. He waited months and months, and finally got his chance to see the show. He went into the theater, and sat down next to a young woman. She was sitting next to an empty seat. He was shocked.

"Excuse me," he said. "I can't help but notice that you're sitting by yourself. I'm a little surprised. It took me months to get this seat."

"Yes," she said. "I was going to come with my husband, but he passed away very suddenly."

"Oh, excuse me," said the man. "Forgive me for even bringing it up. I'm very sorry for your loss."

"That's okay," she said. "You're very kind to say that."

"I just wonder why you didn't ask someone else to come with you," he said. "You could've asked a friend or another family member."

"Yes," she said. "I wanted to do that, but they're all at the funeral."

Sunday, July 05, 2020

The School Safety Shuffle

There's a recent Post article that suggests it's a bad idea to take school security from the police and assign it to the DOE. They trudge out Mona David and her mysterious parent organization, and offer two examples of bad behavior before the officers were under the supervision of NYPD. David, of course, is the woman who thinks teacher tenure will lead us to Armageddon. I'm sure she's good for a quote here and there.

The two examples are the kind of argument frequently used against us. This teacher is awful, and that teacher is awful, and therefore all teachers are awful. It's exactly the sort of argument people like Campbell Brown and Mona David like to use. Take away teacher tenure, and have them depend on the tender mercies of Joel Klein and Mike Bloomberg, or every single teacher will be terrible. They take a few sensational examples, a quote here or there from one questionable source or other, and the case is closed.

I don't know about you, but I could tell stories about rogue police officers and write a similar story. I could cite examples of rogue reporters and write a similar story. We have a President who tells stories about reporters who tell the truth and condemns them for it. If you want to make an argument against a group, you don't do it effectively via a few sensational arguments about outliers. Arguments of that sort are called stereotypes. I'm offended by them, and you should be too. They can be used against any and all of us.

Will the DOE do a terrible job supervising school safety officers? Of course they will. The DOE does a terrible job at everything. It's a monument to blithering incompetence, a master of bureaucracy for bureaucracy's sake. I don't know how much time I've wasted over the last decade fighting with idiots employed by Tweed. Any chapter leader who actually does the job will agree with me.

Was NYPD successful in transforming school safety into a force that made a great difference? Here's something I'd argue is notable:

The city made “school safety agent” a civil service job requiring an exam, full background investigation, and 17 weeks of training. Physical agility was required for emergency response and rescues.

I guess that's a huge improvement over, "Here's your uniform and good luck." I'm not particularly sure what it has to do with NYPD control, though. Anyone could improve standards, or at least establish them.

Are we to believe, based on this article, there are no individuals in school safety who've acted inappropriately since NYPD took over? That's simply impossible. It's easy to find people who don't do the job in any group. There are always outliers.

DOE control will not improve anything about school safety. It's a bone de Blasio is throwing to pay lip service to New Yorkers upset about police misconduct. He's not defunding the police. He's taking money that used to flow through NYPD and channeling it to a different agency. I'm not sure why the mayor takes us for such rubes.

I recall a time when safety officers did a better job. I recall a group of safety officers who were deployed to our school. This particular group of officers worked very closely with our deans. They got to know our students. A lot of us knew them by name. That's not to say we don't know some like that now, but for me it's no longer the rule. I'm not sure that had anything to do with who was in charge centrally.

Will DOE try to make safety officers a part of our school community? It's hard for me to imagine how they'd do that. As far as I can tell they're hugely indifferent to what actually goes on with those of us who do actual work. I waste a great deal of my time due to their grotesque ineptitude, and I don't imagine that changing any time soon.

This reminds me of nothing more than Bloomberg's school closings. Too many kids failed, so he closed the school. He sent the same kids to another school, they failed again, and he closed that school as well. While he helped no one, and accomplished nothing, he was successful in blaming teachers for systemic failure. It made him look good to people who read lazy reporting and failed to question it. That was good enough for Mike Bloomberg. He "got it done."

Ultimately, what he got done was nothing. That's exactly what de Blasio is getting done with this superficial shuffle.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

De Blasio Says He'll Open School Buildings. What Could Go Wrong?

Mayor de Blasio has had an interesting couple of days. First, he determined it was too dangerous to open restaurants for indoor dining. Then, he decided to just open all the school buildings. After all, three of four people who took his open online survey, the one you could fill out anonymously as many times as you wished, said they want schools to open.

Mind you, I read the survey, and it didn't precisely ask under what conditions they'd be willong to open. It didn't cite an acceptable sickness or death rate for UFT members, school children, or our loved ones. Broadway, of course, is closed until January because people who pay hundreds of dollars for orchestra seats are so fragile that if anyone touched them, they would probably break.

It turns out, though, that schools will be only sort of open. You know, like when you were in junior high school and that girl liked you, but she didn't like like you? You could talk about that math teacher and how he gave to much homework, but you couldn't run off into the school yard together.

This means students will come in on alternate days, something I discussed here and here already. I've heard from the UFT chapter leader survey that says, if this actually manages to spring full blown from the mayor's opium pipe, that schools will have to alternate between seeing students physically and remotely. If I recall correctly, most schools will have three cohorts, but there are outliers that will see five.

I'm in one of those outliers, and I really wonder what the hell 80% of my students will be doing while I meet whoever among the rest shows up on their day. Will they remember to come in on the right day? Will their math classes meet the same day as their science classes? Will our custodians show up between classes and clean hundreds of rooms before anyone else arrives?

These are just a few of the questions to which Mayor de Blasio has given no thought whatsoever. How exactly am I supposed to get in touch with my other students 80% of the time? Should I give one lesson five times? Should I give five lessons once and hope the other 80% of my students just feel the vibe? I'm a great believer in vibes. Will they now teach vibes in teacher programs? (I'd go back to learn that.)

Meanwhile, on this astral plane, all that remains are questions. And they remain in abundance. All over the country, we are backsliding on Corona. We've managed to control it here in New York, after once being the epicenter. Who thinks we can continue after we open the schools? I mean, if they weren't able to pull it off in South Korea, which initially handled the virus much better than we did, how can we pull it off here. Israel was not very successful either. Beijing also reversed itself on school openings.

I have one overarching question here. Does anyone reading this believe Bill de Blasio will do a better job than the governments of South Korea, Israel, or Beijing? I've been pretty close to things as they've developed here, and it's my considered opinion that if Bill de Blasio had a good idea, it would likely die of loneliness. He's the guy who kept schools open after Broadway closed, and he was dead wrong. He's also the guy who wants to re-open school buildings before Broadways does, even as he says it's too risky to open indoor restaurants.

People I know, both in UFT and DOE, tell me one story in common. There is no planning coming from central. They make decisions on what they hope for, throw up their hands, and ask those of us who actually do the work to figure out how to make it happen. Any actual decisions are put off until the last possible moment, just one more reason why this premature announcement is remarkable. I wonder whether de Blasio watched to much Captain Picard back in the day, and fancies himself the guy standing there saying, "Make it so."

I think what Picard was suggesting was, "Make it so it works well," while de Blasio just says, "Make it so it happens any gosh darn way  it happens, and hope for the best."

I don't know about you, but I'm not precisely feeling the love for this "plan."

Update: Cuomo, of course, says the mayor's decision is premature and that the governor will decide on safety. I'm not an expert on whose authority it really is, but the decision is ridiculously premature, and perhaps a last-ditch attempt on de Blasio's part to remain relevant.