Friday, February 17, 2017

The Best Catch There Is

I'm a big fan of Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. I don't know how many times I've read it, but it really sticks with me. Catch 22 says that you have to be crazy to fly army missions when people are shooting at you. You can't fly when you're crazy, of course, but no one knows you're crazy until you report it. But once you go and report that you're crazy, you're showing reasonable concern for your life, and you therefore can't be crazy. So you have to fly.

I see absurdity in a lot of places no one else does, and it's sometimes problematic for me. I might start laughing out loud in a meeting where no one else sees anything funny. It can be embarrassing. Heller, I think, saw what I see, and he saw it in everything. He presented his view in the setting of WWII, but human behavior is consistent in many settings, including NYC schools.

A memorable character was Colonel Cathcart. I see this character in a lot of people. He was obsessed with his image, and reduced pretty much everything to "black eyes" and "feathers in my cap." What made him look good or bad to his superiors? There were simply no other considerations for Colonel Cathcart. To me, he's a metaphor for the NYC DOE, forever focusing on how it can look good. (Ironically, just like Colonel Cathcart, it usually doesn't.)

In September, the DOE sent out a grading manifesto, stating that grades had to be largely mastery-based, and that participation grades had to be more closely regulated. In fact, my practice of giving a participation grade based on my memory each semester was specifically prohibited (though in retrospect, I gave one every marking period, which was not). Also, my practice of giving full credit for completion of homework was out. I felt they balanced one another out. A student could easily earn credit for completion of homework, but said student needed to actually do something in class to do well in participation.

But hey, the DOE, in its infinite wisdom, thinks it will look better if I drop these nefarious practices, so I did. My department now gives a higher percentage for graded homework than for homework that requires completion. Actually I'd already been doing that by assigning more weight to homework I sat and graded, but rules are rules so I'm doing it the other way.

An issue in my school, though, has been with participation. We've been instructed to come up with rubrics that clarify what participation is. I guess that's fair. I can't just say I'm giving you a zero in participation because you stink. I'm a language teacher, and whether or not you stink is not necessarily the best indication of how well you use the language. So I made a pretty simple list of what is positive and what is negative, and that's what I use.

Not everyone I know did that. Some people have really complex rubrics. Now here's the thing with a rubric--it's a measurement tool, but if you ever want to get anything done you can't specifically refer to each and every factor. For example, when I graded essays for the Regents, I tended to be in sync with most of my colleagues. But I recall one former colleague who used to agonize over every step. When I was completing my second stack of papers, she'd be looking at paper number two or three, meticulously matching each category to each paper, and doing ponderous calculations to reach her conclusions. She'd also criticize my grading every step of the way. Now maybe she was a better grader than me, but since she never actually finished grading a class we'll never know.

I spoke to a young teacher who'd just spent 90 minutes inputting his participation grades for the day. I told him he'd set an impossible standard for himself. He just shrugged, and said he'd consider revising his rubric. Several departments in my school are demanding weekly participation grades. I suppose parents could call and complain about participation grades or their frequency if they wished, though it's never happened to me once. I also suppose this whole process is the brainchild of some bureaucrat obsessed with black eyes and feathers in his cap.

Another thing Colonel Cathcart liked to do was raise the number of dangerous flying missions. Every time his men reached 20 and were ready to stop, he'd raise it to 30. When they hit 30, he'd raise it to 40. I feel like that's what's being done to teachers. Now that you've done this thing, do this other thing. Follow the Danielson rubric. Go to a teacher team meeting, without which Western Civilization will grind to a halt. Take PD, but not this kind, that kind, and by the way, screw you because we're not offering it. Go to some school to grade Regents exams that aren't yours, and stand outside in 20 degree weather until we're good and ready to let you in. And no, you can't drink water while you grade, and you need permission to go to the bathroom. Sorry, the pass is out.

It's just that somewhere there's a line. Not everyone is as crazy as I am, and sometimes leaders go over it. In fact, it happens often, which is why we lose so many teachers. In my school, I've filed an excessive paperwork complaint about the participation requirements. I think teachers are the best judges of when grades need to be issued and why. I do not believe this barrage of regulations and requirements is improving education for anyone.

I don't want to be Colonel Cathcart, and I don't want my kids to have leaders like him. I understand such leaders are around, and I also understand that people with this mentality might be drawn to administration. But those of us who love kids and wish to support them, especially when they become working people, need to leave them a better world. To do that, we're gonna have to work to keep nonsense to a minimum.

That is one tough job.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Stronger Together Minus Jia Lee=Neither Stronger nor Together

Stronger Together is a caucus of NYSUT that began when former President Richard Iannuzzi was unceremoniously overthrown by Mulgrew three years ago. A lot of locals didn't much like being told by UFT leadership who could and could not run NYSUT. The officers being overthrown ran against the Mulgrew-selected ticket, and PJSTA President Beth Dimino recruited MORE to represent UFT in the run against NY State Unity.

I thought it was kind of cool that Hillary used their name in her campaign. It was pretty cool to see Stronger Together written in big letters on her campaign jet. Back when she was a sure thing, I thought maybe they'd follow in their footsteps. Now that I know exactly what she was a sure thing for, I'm afraid I was right.

As of now, Stronger Together is running a new ticket, once again with only four candidates. My caucus, MORE, was affiliated with Stronger Together for the last few years. The MORE rep for ST reports being treated very poorly by them, being told that they were union presidents and he wasn't, and was somehow not on par with them. I have a little experience with union presidents acting superior to mere members, so I don't find that too hard to believe.

When I realized that Stronger Together was running four people against five, I saw an instant solution to my problem, which is that they have no UFT representation whatsoever. They could run Jia Lee, who bravely faced an uphill battle against Michael Mulgrew last year. They could run James Eterno, who got the majority of high school votes for High School Vice President, but who isn't VP because UFT Unity rigged elections precisely so he couldn't win. They could have run a hundred different UFT members. But they didn't ask any of us.

That's because their election process entailed sending an email, putting a post on Facebook, and then having 12 people decide who would run. I discussed it with Eterno a month later, but we evidently made the assumption that someone would contact us. We were wrong. So then the question becomes this--Why didn't Stronger Together solicit a UFT candidate for their ticket?

The answer could be they assumed there was no interest, which is what they told me. However, I know Michael Lillis, the Presidential candidate, to be very smart. I don't believe for a New York minute that it didn't cross his mind to call Jia, or James, or me, or anyone at all in UFT. What I believe is that his caucus thought being affiliated with us would hurt their chances of the fusion ticket they so much wanted to create with Unity. I have no idea why Unity would not have noticed our previous affiliation, or indeed why the hell they'd be motivated to do any sort of fusion ticket. Of course they did not.

Once that happened, Stronger Together decided to run their four-person ticket. They could have easily added a fifth, but chose not to. So in the virtually unimaginable scenario that they win, it will be four of them and one of Mulgrew's. Of course it wouldn't be Andy Pallotta, who seems to be the only UFT member running. Now that would be kind of cool, as UFT leadership would be frozen out of NYSUT in at least some small way. Their enormous voting bloc would mean nothing whatsoever, and they'd actually have to listen to someone for a change. In the era of Brexit, and Donald Trump, you'd think such a miracle could take place.  Now I often love miracles, but the ones taking place lately have not been the sort that I get excited about. So I'm not precisely holding my breath for this one.

So the question remains why ST didn't reach out for UFT representation.  Could their negative relationship with a single MORE member have led them to stereotype us? I don't think so. Lillis is smarter than that. Could it be that it did not occur to Michael Lillis to pick up a telephone and look for UFT representation? I doubt it. Could it have been that they were so giddy over the possibility of getting a few cool gigs via that fusion thing with Unity? Maybe.

But whatever it was, the egregious error of ignoring the largest teacher local in the country, with 28% of the total members of NYSUT was a very bad idea. It shows a fatal lack of forethought and consideration and fails to sufficiently differentiate them from the machine they're facing. Maybe they'll come to their senses after they lose, and maybe they won't, but their lack of vision right now is nothing short of appalling.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The New Student

In our school, we've looked at the new Commandment from the DOE directing us to work out a grading policy. This has been problematic for a lot of us. Some departments are saying students must get a participation grade every week, and are demanding rubrics for how we do it. This is because, as we all know, the pigs that built their homes of straw and twigs had their homes blown down by a big bad wolf, but the one whose home was built out of rubrics managed to save his bacon.

I've walked around the building, and I've looked at a lot of rubrics. I've actually seen a lot of teachers who have systems in which they are grading students each and every day to decide on a weekly grade. To me, that is excessive paperwork. And furthermore, it's idiotic to judge each and every student in the same way. For example, my new student did not say a word all period, but meticulously researched the questions I'd asked online. I tried to get him to participate, but he wasn't having it.

Now here's the thing. There are a lot of ways to rate participation.  I love when students jump up and
down to answer questions. But not everyone does this. My new student, for example, was pretty much glued to the computer. Now I did try and talk to him. I explained that every week or two I was going to give a participation grade, and that he couldn't just sit around waiting. He didn't really respond, but he looked a little sad about it. I hope I didn't traumatize him.

Aside from him, there are a lot of other issues. Now you can certainly ask teachers to judge each and every one of their 170 students each and every day. And perhaps because there's a rubric, some people may believe that makes things fair somehow. I don't. One reason is because I see things differently than some of my colleagues. I do not believe for one moment that I would give the same grade they would, even using the same rubric. People do not look at the same thing and see it exactly the same way. Otherwise we wouldn't need elections, for example.

If they really want students to get identical grades for identical behavior, they should realize Bill Gates' wet dream and assign computers to teach classes. There are several tangible benefits to that, other than Gates potentially dying from a massive-orgasm-based coronary and thereby instantly improving American education.

Once we have actual computers teaching classes, no one will be able to blame them when affluent students excel on tests and less affluent students do not. We'll finally have absolute proof that test scores demonstrate zip code more than anything else. Maybe when boredom becomes as pervasive as it can be people will even begin to appreciate teachers.

Meanwhile, though, there is that bunch of teachers are dealing with the odd requirements by rating performance absolutely each and every day. I have no idea how you do that and teach. For example, I try not to rate more than one thing a day. If I give a homework assignment I have to grade, I don't give a quiz, and vice-versa. On days I give tests, I don't give homework. It's going to be very, very hard to do this job if we have to grade participation each and every day and then do everything else we have to do.

Sometimes I think they wait until we're just on the edge, and then they dream up some new thing for us to do. I wonder how teachers not as crazy as I am will survive, and indeed a whole lot of them disappear rapidly, even in a relatively good school like mine. Personally, I think my new student could plan equally well as some of the great minds at Tweed.

Of course they don't actually do this job, so this stuff is all fine and dandy with them.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

They're Reading the Blog

After I posted this, UFT put up this tweet, pretending that Mulgrew does social media. That's progress!

What's in an Aim? (Revisited)

I've heard from various and sundry administrators that there must be an aim for each and every lesson. I do write one, as supervisors are always fiitting in, out, and about, but I've never agreed that it was necessary. For one thing, I don't like to brag, but I'm a high school graduate. The fact is I never saw a single one when I was in school. When I taught college, where such things are not mandated, I never gave a second thought to bothering with one.

I've written before that an aim, if I didn't know what I was doing, would not clear it up for me. And if I do know what I'm doing, reducing it to an aim is unlikely to make it any clearer. I now have a co-teacher, and we have dueling approaches to what constitutes an aim. I'd say that neither of us is wrong, but of course, being me, I tend to favor my approach. I suppose I wouldn't have been using it otherwise.

I actually have multiple goals when I design a lesson. One goal, to be quite honest, is to trick the students into achieving said goal without having them realize what they're doing. That sounds a little complicated, but it really isn't. I'm a language teacher, and if you observe the best language learners, they happen to be babies and small children. They don't have any aim written on any board. They just soak up language like sponges, and they do it automatically without any prodding whatsoever.

I can't mirror that exactly, of course, and my students are teenagers. They haven't got the language learning capacity of small children, but they're still a lot closer to it than we plodding, miserable adults. I can speak Spanish fluently, having spent a few summers in Mexico, among other things, but I learned almost nothing in high school Spanish. I remember an entire year memorizing the preterite, and being completely unaware that it was past tense. The teacher never saw fit to mention that. Who says preterite for past tense?

I try to teach via usage. I ask questions. I make students question one another. I write and steal little stories. I have a picture story that teaches past progressive, e.g. I was driving to work yesterday. There's a story about a student who was thinking about difficult final exams and got into an accident because he wasn't focusing. So the aim I came up with was, "What were you doing?" As a DO NOW, another requirement for which I see little need, I ask, "This morning at 6 AM, I was driving to work. What about you?" This forces my students to use the structure, and also relates it to their lives.

My co-teacher, on the other hand, writes the aim, "How do we analyze a story?" Her argument is that this is the sort of language they might need to use in college. I suppose you might see things like these in Common Core Standards, tantamount to the Ten Commandments. You see, in the unit plans, another exercise without which I could teach just as well, you have to reference standards. Using her aim, we could reference high school standards. Using my actual goal, which happens to be correct language usage, we have to go all the way back to second grade standards.

There are a number of factors that make us think differently. I can see the validity in both arguments, but I also very much favor simplicity whenever it's possible. Just because my professional life is mucked up with frivolous and redundant complications, that's no reason to pass them down to my students. When rules are tossed in front of me, it's my inclination to find ways I can work with them, and that's what I do. I can freak out and jump up and down about some things, but not all of them.

I do not believe in concepts like rigor. I believe in joy, and finding what makes you happy. I have nothing against hard work, and I do plenty of it. But making things complicated or difficult for the sake of making things complicated or difficult, well, that's just stupid. As a rule, I oppose stupid. I don't think it's my job to prepare kids for lives of tedium and drudgery. I think it's my job to help them learn English, of course, make them love English, and also to try and awaken some spark that makes them love being who they are. I want them to do something that they love. What makes me a good role model, in my estimation, is that I've found something I love to do and so can they.

Now I'm sure I'd have no place in a Moskowitz Academy, where they test prep until they pee their pants. But hey, until Charlotte Danielson's insane rubric and the crazy tests on which I'm rated get me bounced from this job, I'm gonna keep doing it the best I can. I hope I help some kids along the way, because whatever we end up writing on the board, that's my real aim.

Monday, February 13, 2017

UFT Message in Times of Right to Work--Do As I Say, Not As I Do

I was struck at last Wednesday's DA by Michael Mulgrew's multiple references to the AFT Executive Board. Evidently this is an important meeting for some reason. Maybe it's because so few of us are privy to it and we need to know Mulgrew is. Or maybe it's because, as he says, Michael Mulgrew manages to make contact with various local union presidents, and is thus able to share the Union Loud and Proud, or Public School Proud and Loud, or whatever he's calling the most recent iteration of his feel good about union campaign.

Why do I find this interesting? Well, I've been on the UFT Executive Board for a little over five months, and I can't help but notice how relatively unimportant his own union business is. Unlike Mulgrew, I've actually attended every meeting. And unlike Mulgrew, I try to come in the beginning and leave at the end. I have been late a few times, but not by design. On the other hand, Michael Mulgrew shows up when he feels like it, if he feels like it, with no regard whatsoever for the agenda. He interrupts whatever is happening, no concern of his, gives a short talk, and then walks out. He participates and interacts with the board not at all.

Why should the President of the United Federation of Teachers concern himself when members have issues? Why should he worry when we are under attack? Clearly he has more important things to do. Why should he have to listen to opposition voices democratically elected by the high school teachers? That's not a priority of his, and that's why he's never emailed us, spoken to us, or perish forbid, met with us. The high schools didn't support his caucus so screw them, he's taking his ball and going up to the 14th floor, where they do whatever it is they do up there, and that should be good enough for anyone.

It's odd that the Executive Board meetings are run by the Secretary. The equivalent meetings in my school, with our consultation committee, are run by yours truly. Can you imagine a chapter leader calling meetings, saying a few words, and then being so disinterested he just walks out and leaves it to the members to work out whatever it is they're there to work out? Can you imagine a teacher coming into a classroom, saying a few words to the kids, and then walking out to do whatever? Can you imagine the consequences of such behavior? I see rubber room.

Of course, you and I are lowly teachers. We are not union presidents. But if we were, in any union but the UFT, we'd have to run our own Executive Board meetings. Members would not put up with our saying we're too important to participate. But in the notoriously top-down UFT model, no one even knew what the hell went on at Executive Board meetings until upstart bloggers went and got elected. Now we write about it, and if I recall correctly, Michael Mulgrew has not spent more than thirteen minutes at any particular meeting. That won't change, because UFT leadership already does everything right and their being wrong is not within the realm of possibility, even when they contradict themselves. I don't know about you, but that reminds me of Donald Trump. 

Let's pivot for a moment and discuss social media. Mulgrew loves to talk about social media and how fabulous we are at it. He loves to point to what's-his-name, whoever it is who runs it for the UFT. He loves to tell us about the power of hashtags, and how we should use this one or that. In fact, I sometimes get email notices to please tweet this or that, and I usually comply. On several occasions the tweets suggested went beyond 140 characters and I had to edit them to make them fit. Of course, that wasn't leadership's fault, because nothing ever is. It certainly wasn't Michael Mulgrew's fault. How do I know this?

I know this because Michael Mulgrew has no presence whatsoever on social media. I'm on Twitter and Facebook, but he isn't. Don't we lead by example? Isn't that fundamental? Not in the United Federation of Teachers. Of course, just like I can't read the tweets or posts of Michael Mulgrew, I can't read his mind. But I certainly know that he doesn't wish to interact with lowly members like me. If he did, he'd be on social media. If he did, he'd answer my email. This he does not do, and that's why, on the extremely rare occasions I email him in my capacity as chapter leader of the largest school in Queens, I copy them here. That way, I know someone reads them.

The Mount Olympus style of running the UFT is problematic. It is certain to become much more so when dues become voluntary, an inevitablity that Mulgrew acknowledged at last week's DA. It's disgraceful that the President of the United Federation of Teachers sleepwalks through his fundamental responsibilities, conveying the unmistakable message that he's too important for us. That's something he could easily change.

But you know what? Micheal Mulgrew is never wrong, UFT leadership is never wrong, and they will thus hang tough. Too bad, because that never works, not for him, not for them, and not for us either. And let's not forget what directly brought us to this point--the blind and unquestioning support of a candidate who couldn't be bothered to do more than pay lip service to the needs of working teachers and working Americans. Hillary was too cool for school, Mulgrew is too cool for school, and for those of us in schools every day of our lives, teachers and students alike, that model is an abject failure.

If you're not learning you're dying, and I've seen precisely zero evidence of learning on the part of ever-autocratic UFT leadership.

Friday, February 10, 2017

DA Takeaway--I'll Sit While I Wait

This was one of the more colorful DAs I've attended. Of course the surprise appearance of Bill de Blasio was largely what made it that way. But there were a number of other noteworthy occurrences.

There were Michael Mulgrew's claims of victory over Betsy DeVos, though with her sitting as Secretary of Education this victory was not easy to understand. I'd also argue that there were a lot of parent groups involved in this fight, and a lot of voices that we are sadly not quite in sync with. If there were any victory, moral, pyrrhic, or otherwise, it was not solely ours.

There were several references to us getting every dime of retro pay, and much praise of Bill de Blasio for coming to agreements with 98% of city unions. If Bill de Blasio is reelected, I believe we will get every dime of retro pay, but that's not a done deal just yet. I think the winds of change will allow de Blasio to essentially run against Donald Trump, and that works overwhelmingly in his favor. UFT endorsement is a dicey thing, because we've been so wrong so often against such incredible odds that I'm afraid to even think about it.

The most notable reference to retro came from LeRoy Barr, who said we have to wait two or three years for retro, and seemed to shrug it off as a minor inconvenience. Now that's true if you ignore the fact that we've been waiting for seven or eight years already. For those of us who support entire families on teacher salaries, for those of us who have college tuitions and exploding medical copays (which may not yet have exploded to full potential), it's hard to ignore those seven or eight years. It's hard to ignore tens of thousands of dollars owed me, for example. I'm guessing I'm not the only teacher who feels that way. This is based on frequent questions about when we're getting raises, and what on earth the various charts really mean.

Then there's a pet resolution of mine that hasn't been voted on for the last two months--the one that tries to place Regents marking back in school buildings. This has been problematic in my school, where my committee was approached with a threat--either proctor midterm exams during Regents week or we will make you teach! Gasp!!! Go ahead, we said. The following year they did indeed impose class midterms and proctoring during Regents week. This year they held classes during Regents exams. I got tons of complaints both years from teachers with no time to do end-of-term work.  Returning the grading to school would resolve this issue.

Of course high school priorities are not the priorities of leadership, which can't be bothered consulting the elected high school Executive Board about anything whatsoever. After all, we're just a bunch of teachers. We haven't got union jobs, we haven't signed loyalty oaths, and we often say what we think rather than what we're told. So rather than find time for something that might help us, and our union brothers and sisters, we spent ten minutes watching a tape from Saturday Night Live that was so widely distributed on Facebook I'd be surprised anyone on social media hadn't seen it. (Of course Mulgrew, despite his talk about hashtags and such, isn't on social media.)

As for high school teachers, you can't have upstarts like James Eterno voicing their opinions in "debates." Better to call for a single opposition POV from another person with views that will alienate most of the people listening. You let that person talk for a long time, and then claim there is no more need for differing views. That way you shut out people who've actually got experience with specific issues that may cast doubt on candidate de Blasio. James explains here why he disagrees with the endorsement, but no one at the Delegate Assembly, ostensibly governed by Robert's Rules, got to hear word one about it.

It was also interesting to hear Mulgrew casually admit that we were on the precipice of becoming a "Right to Work" country. I haven't got the remotest notion of what we do when that happens. As a chapter leader, will I be expected to represent people who shirk dues? Will UFT expect me to go out and try to sell the insular top-down leadership that shuts up James Eterno, the person a majority of high school teachers selected as Vice-President? I don't know.

I like de Blasio a little better than some people do. Of course I haven't seen the sea change over at Tweed I'd like to have seen. I was not particularly ecstatic about the contract that gets me paid two years after it expires, if I'm lucky. I don't blame de Blasio for the contract, though. It is, in fact, his job to try and get favorable terms for management. It's labor's job to get favorable terms for us. It seems to me de Blasio, despite being portrayed as a hippie commie weirdo, managed to negotiate the lowest pattern bargain in history. Mulgrew vehemently denied that at the contract-centered DA, and turned off Eterno's mike when he brought it up. But I've seen no evidence Eterno was wrong, and leadership hasn't offered any.

There was de Blasio's claim that tests don't matter that much, followed moments later by a boast that we're doing better with tests. I'm not sure he saw the irony there, but I won't fault him for it. I think de Blasio tried to face up to charters when he came in, but got very little support, including from UFT. When Eva got that ruling that the city had to pay charter rent if it didn't give them space, a very highly-placed source at NYSUT told me that my union President supported that move. While I haven't got evidence to support that notion, I've also seen absolutely none that UFT opposed it at the time. I didn't hear boo about it from leadership at the time.

I don't think we have a better alternative than de Blasio, especially now. I hope our early endorsement pays dividends. But the same people who speak of how wise this early endorsement is told me how wise the early Hillary endorsement was. We all know how that turned out. I certainly hope the UFT endorsement isn't the kiss of death it's been looking like in various mayoral races, and most spectacularly in the ascendancy of Trump and his gang of high-powered, not-so-smooth-talking thugs.

I'm also not persuaded that the support public school campaign is what's gonna help, even if they do it in Cleveland. It sounds very much the same as previous campaigns that went exactly nowhere. Nonetheless, I'd be happy to be proven wrong. In Spanish, they don't say, "I won't hold my breath," but rather, "Espero sentado."

I'll sit while I wait.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Today's Question

Where's that snowstorm? I usually wake up on days like today and blog about having to wonder whether the schools are open. However, I don't regret not having to spend four hours driving twenty miles to get home later today.

5:02--My dog just made me take him out and the snow is indeed around. It's very slippery and windy out there. I'm glad de Blasio didn't make us all wait and then turn back home, like Klein used to do.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

UFT Delegate Assembly--We Are Visited by the Mayor

Mulgrew calls us to order. 4:20

Mulgrew mentions we have one snow day this year. Says it’s a likely school day. If we have more than one snow day we will extend the year.

Mulgrew says let’s have some fun, plays Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer on video.

4:31 President’s Report

National

We now have most unqualified ever Sec. of Ed. Goal was to make sure everyone knew who DeVos was. Thinks we’ve accomplished that. Thanks two Senators from NY. Says they want to be strategic and have a long few years, but will try to let people know who DeVos is. Says she’s helped us by showing who she is.

We laugh, but it’s sad and terrifying. That we got two GOP to switch….says colleagues pushed. Senator from Alaska took 300K from DeVos and voted no. Says parents are beginning to think this is not good. Says she’s given word not to go after neighborhood schools, but President Numb Nuts and VP something won’t abide by it.

We need to use this process to portray her as unqualified. We did that, and state two is Public School Proud. Mulgrew asks who attended Women’s March, many hands. Shows photos of placards at march.

Shows photos of schools with Public School Proud, says hashtag popping up all over US. Shows tweets.

Says we are working with locals all over US. Says they want to move forward with this. Says no matter what your political POV is that you want to protect public schools. Says we wanted to give people a positive message to run with.

Asks for input on insignia. Black or white? Asks if we like pencil in insignia. One lined, one unlined. Shows designs for various groups. social workers, paraprofessionals.

Says schools have contacted him about making videos, will send videographers if there are large enough groups. Speaks of showing love for public schools on Valentine’s Day. Says it is not one-day event, but rather long, tough campaign.

Speaks of immigration, craziness, talk of safety from Trump. Likes that press is asking whether or not craziness is intended to distract. Says it isn’t fake news, but that’s he’s lying. Have not yet heard him say Trump’s name.

For us, DeVos has paid dividends in NY. Only Flanagan supported her, but he also came out against constitutional convention.

Mulgrew says one thing that would stop DeVos plans is anything about transparency. Says we will try to protect our state and city first, and focus on education. Says everything we believe in is on the line.
Why are GOP against transparency for charters? Because of funders.

State

Assembly has come out very strongly for complete funding of CFE, major expansion of millionaire tax. Says extension of millionaire tax will be tough, but we will need more revenue as we wait to see what feds do. If they mess with health care—he finally says President Trump—whether he likes it or not he is President. He says they aren’t repealing Obamacare so fast because they have no replacement. Says it’s done a lot of good to get people health care.

Lobby day March 14th.

Contract for Excellence—governor’s proposal wants to call it foundation aid, which has never been fully funded. Some ideas from Cuomo are good but we need other formula. Mulgrew will testify in Albany on Valentine’s Day. Says it’s not true NYC doesn’t fund schools and state is doing funding. Says this mayor has funded schools well.

Constitutional Convention—we cannot lose this issue. Cites commercials favoring it, appealing to cleaner environment, ethics, women’s rights. New talking point is we are going to change constitution without convention, and that it’s faster. Legislature will vote on pension forfeiture for elected officials. It will pass and go to general vote in NY.

Did we need convention for this? No. Do we need one for any of these issues? No. That is our strongest argument. Estimates 400 million cost for convention.

City

Mayor giving state of city address on Monday. Says he’s been positive on education. We still continue to struggle? Who likes their principal? More than normal, and that’s positive. Surveys for lukewarm and negative. Says we are seeing changes. From now on when principals says they’ll call legal, ask if it’s Karen Salamondo, who is now in labor relations. We have three grievances about paperwork and OPW we expect to win. Please let us know if it’s happening in your school. One school makes teachers teach during C6 assignment.

We have to make sure we’re doing right thing at local school level. Use paperwork grievance as tool if it’s problem in your building. We like paperwork process. Over 150 schools resolved unreasonable mandates. We cannot stop being vigilant on this. C6 not teaching period. Even Bloomberg didn’t do it.

Asks if anyone ever did cafe or hall duty. Says it used to be required. Says in 1995 it said we no longer had to clean up cafe or monitor halls. In return, we got C6. Is this happening elsewhere.

Last but not least, Mulgrew was very proud at AFT Executive Committee last week. Says he presented Public School Proud, and that other locals adopted it. He said they lit up with things to go back to in their states. Says they didn’t want to ask for another petition against DeVos, but rather something else. Says he wishes he could film it so we could see what’s happening outside the city.

Says we aren’t just fighting a governor or mayor, that these are really bad people, but we are nimble and move quickly. Says we will produce a storm of parents and teachers across country. Says this is the work that will make a difference. Says mayor is champion of public education, and to imagine Bloomberg and Klein under this scenario. Says Arne Duncan wasn’t that bad, and he’s surprised to be saying it.

Says what you’ve done already is important, we’ve reached goal number one, we now have friends picketing Senators saying you are responsible for DeVos. Goal two is to spread this energy and bring it across US. Ends report 5:05.

Staff Director Report  Leroy Barr—UFT Black History film series, two more films, 13th on Monday, Rising from the Rails coming. Says discussion has been great. NYS Black and Puerto Rican Caucus on 18th. Paraprofessional awards March 18, deadline March 3rd. High schools future and focus March 9th for 10 and 11 grade students. Early childhood conference March 11th. Labor seder, March 28. School secretary luncheon May 6. Next DA March 22.

Questions

CL—How can we involve members in endorsements?

UFT controls city endorsements, NYSUT state, AFT national. Uses politically active teachers. Let political action department know. Exec. Board recommends to DA, DA decides.

Delegate—Can we get buses to DC to welcome Betsy?

I think we will wait to see what she does. Is she as good as Cathie Black? I wouldn’t let her speak publicly. If there is a need, we will go.

Exec Board member—What happens when principals don’t want to deal with CL?

You need intervention. If it rises up in DOE, they cannot sustain it’s a good idea. Contractual obligation to confer. If supe won’t stop action, will go from borough rep to central. Some CLs don’t want to deal with principal, feels that’s a disservice, lapse of responsibility. Says we have fun with that.

CL—After many notifications about paras not doing lunch duty, principals still scheduling it. What are we doing to ensure that IEPs, notifications are kept.

Principals were notified recently that principals have to arrange for paras to have duty free lunch. We sent it out again after supes reinterpreted it from last year. Said obligated didn’t mean we couldn’t do it. Paras may not be in lunchroom unless IEP calls for it.

CL—Our acting president proposed national right to work law. How do we protect pensions, collective bargaining, dues checkoff?

Unless there is a big shift…things can change…we will all be right to work sooner or later. Will it leave states to decide when 1975 decision is overturned? We have legal people and strategists thinking about it. 27 RTW states. NY and CA, MA union strongholds. Believes it will happen, and we have to organize. At AFT exec. committee, we help RTW states organize. Says elections matter.

CL—Charters use space as leverage to get into buildings. Is there anything union is doing that’s similar? My school utilized at 186% and we aren’t co-located. We have portables. Is there an arbitration, and if not, how can we get more construction for schools that need it?

Schools do not fall under OSHA regulations. Otherwise, would kick in, Mayor has upped school seats by 35k. We are winning argument as more people move to NY. Populations go up and down in neighborhoods. Will they build seats in right places? We will be part of process. We propose that if you aren’t transparent and accountable you can’t get free space—OR if you have assets of over one million—you should not have access. This is where DeVos is important. She did this in Michigan. Overcrowding destabilizes schools.

Q—We do a lot of advertising. We have great art and music teachers and should have a marketing department to have jingles or commercials people will talk about, like Super Bowl commercials. Let’s market aggressively. Any progress on ESL teachers scoring? We've seen fake news under Reagan, was called misinformation.

We want to move with public school proud. I would be good with jingle.

Motions 5:26

For this month, not enough copies, on Chancellor’s letter on immigration. We need to take action now to protect our students and their families. Seconded.

Voted down, after people on dais indicated they were against it.

Mulgrew says we’ve passed more resolutions on this topic than anything but education.

Dave Pecoraro—one line reso—resolved that UFT oppose Judge Gorsich and that senators filibuster against. Says seat was stolen, vacated during Obama admin, says he founded fascist club, ruled on Hobby Lobby.

Carmen Alvarez—supports energy but says we must be judicious. We shouldn’t react, but we should build and keep momentum building our unity.

Voted down. Mulgrew says he will reach out to AFT and Senators to see how they want to handle it.

Resolutions 5:33

Mulgrew moves to do 2 and 3 first. So moved.

City council endorsement—Paul Egan—special election Valentine’s Day. Recommend Bill Perkins, has been great for UFT.

Passes overwhelmingly.

Mel Aaronson—recommends we endorse Tom Brown. We will vote on Constitutional Convention that could jeopardize retirement benefits. Wants someone to lead fight. Mulgrew forgets to hold vote, is called.

Endorsed unanimously.

Moves to go to number 4. Passes.

Howard Schoor—Children we teach in danger of being deported. We want to make sure students safe from outside forces. Urges support. Hopes no speakers against. Mulgrew forgets to have us vote on resolution, is reminded.

Passes

LeRoy Barr—speaks of mayoral endorsement. Says we decided to endorse Democrat, that GOP was largely against us, based on past 20 years. Said we needed to endorse now, as other unions have endorsed. Wanted UFT endorsement to mean something. Voted unanimously to endorse de Blasio. Said we remember where we came from, 20 years prior to his being mayor. Mentions years without contract. Said if you have to wait two or three years for retro you’re getting every dime.

Mulgrew moves to allow committee members to speak. Passes.

Antoinette Offucio—Says they looked at positives, all he did, preK, economy, 98% of all unionized contracts done fairly—ours ends in 2018. We looked at affordable housing. Standing against Trump in sanctuary city status, even if we lose money. Says de Blasio is a friend of unions, good for us.

Grier Hanson Velasquez—After surviving Bloomberg and Giuliani, to be recognized and respected, valued—didn’t happen until de Blasio. Says he’s stood against charters with us. Feel it’s in our best interest to endorse now.

Marjorie Stamberg—Says we absolutely do not need a Democrat, particularly de Blasio, Dems and GOP twin parties of capitalism. Trump is misogynist racist, pig. Democrats brought every imperialist war. Record of dems on deportation is 3 million. De Blasio has not supported us against charters, fell apart against Eva Presided over police acquittal in Eric Garner. We need our own worker’s party.

LeRoy Barr takes chair—calls Mulgrew.

Mulgrew— disagrees with speaker. Appreciates committee. Says it was bipartisan. Says it’s easy to forget what happened for two decades. This is someone whose soul and spirit is with us. We had horrendous battles. Mayor tried to do everything in venal way, and Giuliani crazier even than we thought, Bloomberg though education should be privatized. We fought him in streets. Big story was how de Blasio would settle contracts—settled with us first. PreK for all, literacy push, sound educational policies based on research.

We survived, battled governor, our new friend. Have never had battle like this. Blessed to have this mayor who will stand with every single public school teacher. So many people don’t have that. He will get bad press from Post for this endorsement. Bill de Blasio has always said public education is key, and we must respect those who’ve dedicated lives to it. That’s why UFT should do this today, right now. He’s going to war, standing with us, as we go to war in United States.

Point of order—James Eterno—says there should be speaker against.

LeRoy Barr says Robert’s Rules say body may call and end debate. Says chair would be out of order if I called to end debate, but body may call. We want to be judicious and hear speaker against, there was a speaker for quite some time against. Body doesn’t choose who goes next, calls on Gregg Lundahl.

Lundahl calls question.

Note: UFT leadership didn't follow Robert's Rules and allow Eterno to present his opinion, but you can see it right here.

Mulgrew asks applause for Barr.

Endorsement passes. 6:01 PM.

Mulgrew says we are not adjourned. Bill de Blasio is here. Crowd chants four more years. De Blasio says he and his families have been to public schools. Talks about what it means to have teachers who help kids reach potential. Disgusted by political sport of denigrating teachers and unions. Says we saw it for years. Remembers tuning into conventions where denigrating teachers was part of program. Tolerated for years. No more. We’ve proved over last three years it’s morally right to respect teachers.

We’re going to fight for soul of public education. You saw what happened in DC. We were teetering on brink until VP intervened. Will we commit to public education as a nation? Or are we going to slowly slice it apart, degrade and undermine it? That’s what’s at stake.

Education matters more than ever. It determines destiny more than at any point in human history. If you want a middle class life, you’d better be educated. Public schools hold the key. How can we denigrate people who uplift our children. Public schools core of democratic society.

I want to thank you for work that you do. 1% trying to destroy rights of working people. This union will fight that.

Very proud of what’s happened, but proud to have joined you in creating pre-K for all. You had to do work to raise grad rate. Proud it’s highest ever, and we’re moving away from obsession with high stakes testing. We believe in multiple measures. But test scores go up as result of people in this room.

We can innovate, we do teacher training because people deserve support. We need to support those who do this essential work. We achieved this together in contract. Those who’ve done work well should run the schools.

We are proving how powerful this is, and how dangerous to our opponents that we keep achieving together. Opponents were sure it would go wrong. What did we do together? We’ve moved forward in ways they couldn’t even imagine.

Now when you look to Washington, we will fight and look at NYC as proof positive. We are held accountable by public and parents. We keep performing and holding up. Some don’t want to be accountable. Some charters have been hoisted on own petard. But we all have one standard here. This debate in this country will be about that if we prove what traditional public schools can do for all. Everyone has to be inclusive. We don’t turn away handicapped or ELLs. No one here would kick a student out for not testing well. We believe in reaching those students We prove privatizers, anti-unionists wrong every day. Why don’t we keep succeeding together?

Thanks us.

Adjourned 6:16

We Designed Evaluation This Way, Says UFT

I was pretty surprised at the answer I got to my question on MOSL the other night at UFT Executive Board. When I have questions, I write them down in advance because I cannot take notes while I myself am speaking. I prefaced my question by saying I would understand if UFT tried but could not negotiate a reasonable settlement with the DOE. Yet that's not the answer I got.

I had been to a MOSL committee meeting that day, and I was pretty surprised that we were expected to make an irrevocable decision about how teachers were rated without having all the relevant information handy. Here's most of my question:

Why are we supposed to make the course level irrevocable MOSL decision independent of the teacher level with no current knowledge of what choices or mandates will be available for teacher level decisions? Wouldn’t if make more sense if we knew what both factors were at the time of the first choice? Wouldn’t that help us to make the best possible decisions for our members? 

I had expected to hear that we did the best we could, but that the DOE was intractable and unreasonable. Yet I heard that it was designed this way deliberately, perhaps so as to give more time to make decisions. Yet we don't have a whole lot of time to make decisions. In fact, we have just a couple of weeks.

Maybe my notes aren't so good, but I also recall hearing a defense of the single measure on which we're now judged for the course level. For the last few years there have been the much ballyhooed multiple measures, state and local, but now they're gone and our sole course level measure is the state test. I heard how this was somehow an improvement, and how this was simpler and somehow tied into the matrix.

I don't see that, though. The junk science measure could just as easily have been an amalgam of state and local measures, and could just as easily have translated into the miraculous matrix. In my school, last year, we tied everyone to group measures wherever possible. We tied as few people as possible to groups of their own students. We did this for several reasons.

One reason, of course, is that there is no validity to tying teachers to test scores. This theory is supported by thinkers like Diane Ravitch, Carol Burris, and Leonie Haimson. In case that's not enough for you, it's also supported by the American Statistical Association, which says teachers affect student test grades by a factor of 1-14%. And for my Unity friends, it's also supported by AFT President Randi Weingarten, who famously declared, "VAM is a sham."

You never know about groupings. Some teachers may be particularly good at teaching repeater classes, but students who've already proven capable of failure are not necessarily a fair measure of how good any teacher is. And as many of us know, there may be a supervisor or two out there who will assign classes out of sheer malice and vindictiveness. None of this, evidently, influenced leadership when it negotiated this system.

So now, if you teach a course that terminates in a Regents exam, there will be nothing to mitigate your course-level junk science measurement. This is a significant change. In my school, for example, we tried to balance the junk science with large group measurements. We were successful in that there was minimal teacher-to-teacher variation in the junk science portion of our ratings. While many of us went from highly effective to effective, some of us went from ineffective to developing. I may have bitched about moving down from HE, but I came to see the benefits of being drawn to the middle.

Me, I'm an ESL teacher. I will therefore be judged on the NYSESLAT exam, a mishmosh of nonsense that changes each and every year. While I have learned a lot about Hammurabbi's code by asking a whole lot of students a whole lot of questions about it, I question whether this test measures the language acquisition it's my job to promote. And I certainly do not teach to this test. First of all, I generally have no idea what will be on it. More importantly, I know it was revised to be more Common Corey, for reasons that baffle me utterly. The fact is my kids have distinctly different English needs than those of kids born here. That NY State willfully chooses to ignore this does not mean I will neglect teaching kids the nuts and bolts of American English.

Last year, along with the rest of my department, I was rated well on the NYSESLAT, but I have no earthly notion as to why. It's ridiculous that we are expected to simply sit around and hope for the best on measures that are pivotal in whether or not we get to keep our careers.

There is a fundamental unfairness in this system. That is, everyone who does NOT teach a course attached to a state exam may be rated on group measures. Now we could make it "fair" by, say, tying an art teacher to the results of some random Regents math class, but just because the system sucks for me is no reason to make it suck for everyone. In my building, it's likely we will continue to attach teachers to group measures wherever possible. At worst, we'll perhaps attach teachers to their own departments where it's appropriate. That way, maybe, science teachers have a stake in whether or not they choose to tutor science students.

Me, I find multiple errors in the UFT negotiation process. I rate leadership ineffective. Thankfully for them, they don't spend one single solitary moment fretting over member opinion, as everyone with whom they speak has signed a loyalty oath and reaffirms the notion that everything is wonderful no matter what.

Ironically, for the future of our union, therein lies the fundamental problem.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Mike Pence Casts Tie-Breaking Vote for Billionaire BFF Betsy DeVos

Monday, February 06, 2017

UFT Executive Board, February 6, 2017



Secretary Howard Schoor welcomes us

Open Mike:

Jerry Fronhoffer, retired from Aviation—reports or organization, with teachers, students and professors—on homeless crisis. 105K children in shelters or doubled up with friends or neighbors. Many are enrolled in public schools. Effects both immediate and longterm. 40K foreclosures in NYC right now. Many 2-3 grade levels behind. Absenteeism, lateness common. Evaluation is useless.

But can be solved—all we need is political will. We have the money to build. The money is there. 1.2 billion a year given to condo owners and developers. We’re spending 1.6 billion a year on homeless shelters. With that money we can build at no additional cost, 57K new housing units to cover 90% of our homeless. Public housing has bad name, but many living there work every day.

Let’s pass a resolution at the DA that states what is needed. Let’s
send a message.

Schoor—email us and we will send you a copy of a resolution we’ve already passed.

Approval of minutes—approved.

President’s Report—6:10 Mulgrew is not here.

Staff Director’s report—LeRoy Barr—

Was resolution regarding immigration—proposed we collect lesson plans—we looked up AFT lessons on that which already exist. We have included that in your folders.

Middle school conference was held, thanks to Rich Mantel. We have an event 2/11 with 4 hours of CTLE. Black history film series started, was great discussion. Will be more, 13, and Rising from the Rails. African Heritage Dinner Dance last Friday. Evelyn de Jesus honored. Lobby day March 14th. Ex Board the 27th DA this Wednesday.

Questions

Carmen Alvarez answers ICT question from weeks ago—Discusses various percentages of special ed. complaints.

Mulgrew arrives—-6:20, interrupts report from Alvarez

Says he’s happy about energy with DeVos, thinks VP will have deciding vote, but glad country knows who she is. Now we have credibility, will see where it goes, will keep pressure on, NY Senators fantastic.

Now are locals countrywide who have adopted Public School Pride campaign.  We have to show people we can use this. It’s in Houston, Cleveland, St. Louis. Lot of energy toward Valentine’s Day to show love for public schools. Bumper stickers soon.

Wants to thank people who worked on mayoral endorsement.

Mulgrew leaves6:25

Alvarez continues—tells us which districts had most violations.

Mike SchirtzerMORE—Last week JHS 145 spoke—Can we have an update?

Rich Mantel—going to school to meet with staff and help organize. Will do all we can to support.

Ellie Engler—Story he told was compelling. We knew this was kind of a setup. Brought to highest level at DOE, supposed to give us an answer. We have found some shady stuff going on at Success Academy, we are checking, and we are prepared to bring it up at Tweed. We are buying sweatshirts for schools supporting them

Tricia Filomena—March 20th replacing which date?

Schoor—13th.


Arthur GoldsteinMORE  We had our MOSL committee meeting today and I was pretty surprised at how it went. As an ESL teacher, my score is linked to a test that changes each year and does not appear to test the language acquisition it’s my job to promote. Why are we supposed to make the course level irrevocable MOSL decision independent of the teacher level with no current knowledge of what choices or mandates will be available for teacher level decisions? Wouldn’t if make more sense if we knew what both factors were at the time of the first choice? Wouldn’t that help us to make the best possible decisions for our members? Won’t this system cause conflict among members who may prefer not to teach courses that terminate in state exams, and who may find it advantageous to be judged by broader measures?

Schoor—Regents are tied to eval, we can’t change.

Jackie Bennett—Teacher level and school level have always been made separately. We want schools to clearly make those choices. We want teachers to pay more attention. We are doing this midyear. If we absolutely wanted to we could release all rules at same time. But if we want to address questions, they would take more time and discussion. We would prefer to thoroughly discuss those rather than just do it. Discussions ongoing for your sake and for whole system. We advocate for best we can.

Group and single measures have always been case. We want lower stakes. If we wanted to continue that it would continue. Across state common decision is to go for matrix that takes away higher stake.

Reports from districts

Dave Kazansky—Labor seder March 28th.

Rich Mantel—4th annual middle school conference—260 people, workshops, 3 ctle hours.
May 6 UFT 5K Coney Island.

Anthony Harmon—Thanks for African Heritage event, over 300. Feb. 18 Black and Puerto Rican legislative weekend. March 16, 7th annual faith based breakfast.

Pat Crispino—principal removed from Harlem Ren—can’t hurt people anymore


Arthur GoldsteinMORE--I report that UFT came to our school and Christine Rowland offered PD, that it was very well received, and that our members are all very happy to get two hours of CTLE credit.

Janella Hinds—Thursday, hosting a college and career fair for HS students around city. Fliers available at DA.

Wendy Walker Wilson—Thanks to everyone who contributed to Helen Dowdy Scholarship. Raised over 5K.

Legislative report—Paul Egan—Finished YTD at COPE, cards coming in, 71 from Lewis. Constitutional Convention is serious. We will have 250K increase in COPE from last year. First preference on Lobby Day buses to COPE contributors.

Jonathan HalabiNew Action—IDC big in NYC. Are we looking at how we relate to 6 state senators asking for our endorsement>

Egan—IDC is breakaway, yet all run on Democratic line. Some are well-accepted members of Democratic committees. 32 elected Democrats but GOP in charge. This was answer to dysfunction. They will claim results for constituencies. May be buffer. We at least have dialogue. Will we run people against them? No one will run against Jefff Klein or Diane Savino. May be some places people step up, but not because of IDC. Depends on what they do over next 2 years.

Endorsement—Manhattan committee endorsed 7 candidates for seat vacated by Inez Dickens in city council. Recommends Bill Perkins to that seat.
Speaker says Perkins spoke against colocations, is active in district. Staunch supporter of UFT.

Passes.

Janella Hinds—Moves resolution in support of juvenile justice reform. NY treats all youth offenders as adults after 16. HS students get caught in this. We have young people in justice system with hardened adult criminals. NYS should do better. We know this costs them opportunities.

Ashraya GuptaMORE—moves to amend—Whereas, police presence in our schools as well as punitive zero tolerance discipline policies have contributed to the disproportionate, criminalization of students of color,

Resolved, UFT will support the work of community partners like Dignity in Schools Campaign to encourage DOE to increase staffing for and provision of restorative practices in our schools.

Dignity in Schools is national coalition of parents students, educators, working against school push out. Want increase in counselors and fewer police in schools.

Kuljit AhluwaliaNew Action—first whereas could be misconstrued—there is youthful offender status in NY.

Schoor—How would you change that.

Kuljit Ahluwalia—Not all teenagers are treated as adults. Should say some, not all, because that’s legally correct.

Hinds—Youthful offender is after arrest, but initially they are treated as adults. Will take out all.

LeRoy Barr—Against amendments.  Safety agents are NYPD. If we don’t want police presence is problem, but we work closely with police dept. in training. We don’t want to live in an armed camp, but we aren’t saying we don’t want any safety agent presence. We need to use options, as in metal detectors. Sometimes they are needed, sometimes not. We want safety agents to have different relations with our students.

Second point—We’ve worked with this group, and they don’t necessarily believe in suspensions or classroom removals. We think the power should be in hands of teacher. We think there should be suspensions where necessary. Should be last resort, but a resort nonethelesss.

Not in favor of armed camps or police disrespect. Want presence, training.

Jonathan HalabiNew Action—Heartened by main motion. Glad Cuomo was pushed. Likely this will happen. Intrigued by questions about restorative justice. Discipline code changed, good to reduce suspensions, but we shouldn’t say no you can’t do it anymore. Would like to continue discussion and come up with something to increase training.

Gregg Lundahl—Has problem anytime program brought up I don’t know about, but would like to look at it. DOE did major number on our school, were no consequences for any infraction. Got to point where we were no longer in control. School erupted in violence. We did need police. We tried and did get that school back. I don’t want to say we believe all police are not productive for students.

Carmen Alvarez—Supports initial resolution. We have to understand behavioral literacy. Not about one program over other. How do you create school that understands all behavior. We have used things that worked. Supports Jonathan’s idea that we provide framework of how to move forward.

Marcus McArthurMORE—Supports amendments. Supports debate. It’s OK for us to acknowledge complexity of issues. More guns than citizens in USA and we know about violence. We understand it can spill over. Remember that often times progress we want to see requires imagination and different way to deal. I support restorative justice because it’s a solution. Shows promise in moving away from punitive discipline. OK if we challenge our members on issues. We understand we want authority, or may need it. Sometimes we can be wrong, though, and we need to be brought along.

Sterling Roberson—Speaking for resolution. Cannot say there is magic bullet. Union has history of holding DOE accountable. We have lobbied for expansion of counselors. We have provided training in prevention. Conversation must be broader. We have discussed discipline, and intervention, mediation. We appreciate amendments but our scope has to be wider. We need more services.

Stuart Kaplan—calls question.

Amendments fail.

Main resolution—passes

Mayoral committee report—LeRoy Barr—recommends endorsement, discusses committee process, recommends endorsement of Bill de Blasio.

Things are not perfect, but remember what it used to be like. As bad as things seem, we know it’s not as bad as it used to be. We have a lot of work to do. Is the mayor someone we can work with, or is someone out there who wants to move the other way? I say we need to stick with someone who’s made a commitment to improve things.

Dolores ?—very much in favor. There are things he’s already done to show he is the choice. Personally, universal pre-K important. Voiced concern against charters. Stopped school closings. Also we know political climate. Must know that here someone can support UFT positions. Asks you endorse.

Antoinette Offucio—Many same points, but when Bloomberg left we had no contracts. De Blasio made contracts with 98% of unions. Made fair contracts. Helped with evaluation system. Now we need pro-union Democrat. Refuses to drop city as sanctuary.

Marcus McArthurMORE—Also in favor. Echoes points made. De Blasio campaigned as progressive, tried to deliver. Taxing rich, affordable housing, reforming stop and frisk. City needs this right now. Ally of public ed. against charters. We need to hold him to fire to continue that fight. He’s the person who can help with things like family leave. This is opportunity to organize and engage members. Going forward we need to engage members in discussion of these issues and involve more people, raise awareness of what members think and what our priorities are. We need to organize and rally people. We need to make sure these people speak to our issues. We didn’t hear much about ed. in last presidential campaign. Now we can have that discussion.

Resolution in favor of endorsing de Blasio—passes unanimously.

We are adjourned.

Calling a Trump a Trump

We are facing an existential threat right now. It's not really anything new. Last year we dodged a bullet when Scalia died before he could rule against us. But it looks likely that the next Friedrichs case will be more successful, and if that's not enough, Congress is introducing so-called right to work legislation.

I look at the Public School Proud campaign, and I see echoes of two past campaigns. The first is the one with Mulgrew running around with some UFT bus showing how wonderful some school or other is. The second is the "Union Loud and Proud" campaign that produced many buttons no one wears anymore and a signature line on UFT email.

Sadly, neither will really do the job for us. What we need is a different kind of organization, an organization that makes people stand up from the bottom up. I have seen zero effort from UFT to inspire members to rise up, and a large number of people I see at the rare street events we sponsor are on the UFT payroll in one form or another.

We have an entire generation of leadership that's never been active in organizing anything or anyone beyond dispensing patronage. We have an entire layer of patronage employees who mistake marching orders for activism, and for whom independent thought places their patronage gigs at risk. We have people who feel empowered to babble any nonsense that enters their heads as long as they are pushing the UFT leadership program.

So this campaign is just the most recent iteration of the same thing they trot out at times like these. Hey, I'm proud of my public school. We do incredible things under challenging circumstances. And of course we aren't alone in that. I'm sure there's something or other happening in most public schools that we could put up and be proud of. I'm not sure, though, that UFT will be able to do much with such stories. Placing them in NY Teacher is not going to reverse the druthers of those who hate us and everything we stand for.

Maybe UFT can find one or two stories and get them placed in local papers. I'm not sure. I do know that when I've worked to get things in the papers all I got from UFT were cautions on how things may not work out. I always thought things would've been a lot easier with the support of such a large organization, but what do I know? Still, even with positive stories about schools dotted through local papers, something I've yet to see any hint of, the publicity issue is not local.

There's a national movement against Donald Trump and his thugs and the United Federation of Teachers remains, at leadership's behest, fraidy-scared to even utter his name. We may alienate the Trump voters, they say. Are the Trump voters so ignorant they don't know their hero is virulently anti-union? Or are they themselves anti-union?

Either way it's hard to see how failing to mention the Trump name helps. Leadership needs some new tricks. Leadership needs to start organizing as though it's the nineteenth century, because that's exactly where Trump and the most unqualified and incompetent Cabinet in our history want to push working people. I don't guess Michael Mulgrew will be driving a taxi anytime soon, but we're gonna have to raise our standard higher than that if we want to thrive and represent vibrant unionism in the Trump era.

A bunch of photographs in the union paper, while we may feel good about them for a spell, just ain't gonna cut it.