Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The Famous Ten Foot Poll

Someone on Facebook pointed out something to me the other day. Every single poll he'd ever answered had been on a home phone. That struck me, because I respond to political polls when I get them, and they are also always on my home phone. For a while I wanted to disconnect my home phone because spam calls were so frequent. Then I called Verizon, and they told me my bill would go up if I did that. I found some software thing to block spam and kept it.

But I don't use my home phone all that much. First of all, I'm not home that much. When I am, I tend to use my cell, and everyone who calls me uses it too. So I'm wary of polls. How can we find out what America thinks if we're calling home phones? How many of our students use home phones? How many of you use home phones? My dog Toby doesn't even use a home phone.

Another thing I notice when I'm polled is that they are most definitely pushing one side or another. Would you vote for Senator Smith if you knew he voted two hundred times to raise your taxes? What if I were to tell you he was sleeping with underage prostitutes in a Family Inn on the bad side of town? What if I were to tell you he opposed safety, and was a communist?

I don't always recall what I was asked, and perhaps I wasn't actually asked about underage prostitutes. Once it seemed they were trying to say that one candidate proposed great jobs for my community, while another one was blocking them. Later on in the questioner started talking about gambling boats in our neighborhood and I told him to go back and say I was opposed to the high-paying jobs. I'm not sure gambling is the best thing to have in this quiet neighborhood. After all, Toby is only four and I don't need any bad influences.

Here's the pont--I wonder whether we're going to be very surprised in the primaries. Any system based on calling home phones is seriously flawed. There must be a better way.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

What If New York Had Not Been Enough for Boss Tweed?

I'm watching a Mike Bloomberg commercial. Bloomberg runs them all day, on all channels, in English and Spanish. Michael Bloomberg doesn't need any stinking debates. He doesn't qualify for them because no one contributes to his campaign. He is literally out there trying to buy the presidency of the United States.

Right now he doesn't seem to figure in many polls. He says he isn't running in the first few states. You may recall that strategy did not pan out for Rudy Giuliani as he capitalized on presiding over one of the worst disasters in the history of New York City. However, Rudy Giuliani did not have virtually unlimited personal capital at his disposal

You may also recall that Michael Bloomberg did get a lot of things done. He closed scores of schools. He turned a whole lot of teachers into ATRs, a problem that still lingers now. He achieved mayoral control, effectively shutting the public out of decision making over their own communities. I don't even remember how many meetings I went to in which parents, teachers, students, politicians and clergy went to plead for schools, only to see them closed anyway, even if data was entirely wrong.

Those were the good old days at the Panel for Educational Policy. Michael Bloomberg had the majority of appointees, and fired anyone who contemplated voting his or her conscience. Michael Bloomberg had to have absolute control and could not tolerate any dissension. Does this remind anyone of an orange-skinned, orange-haired figure we read about in the news every now and then?

As for getting it done, Bloomberg was adept at that. Loathsome and reptilian though he is, he was a lot smarter than Rudy Giuliani, who was always suing everyone over, oh, the right to have his mistress come to the home he was sharing with his wife and young children, or excrement-splattered paintings, or other things that did not much affect the community at large. Though he had the same view of education as Michael Bloomberg, he did not really get things done.

After Giuliani presided over 9/11, having cleverly placed his emergency center in a high floor of a proven terror target, he commandeered an elementary school in its place, because who gives a crap about public schoolchildren. Though term-limited, Giuliani thought he needed to stay to keep up the morale of NYPD and FDNY. Once his staunch supporters, they by then hated his guts for depriving them of a union contract for years. Giuliani was unable to extend his term.

Mike Bloomberg, though, got it done. Though the voters of NYC had twice affirmed term limits, Bloomberg didn't feel like leaving. He then manipulated a one-time exception for himself. It wasn't hard to get city officials to approve it. After all, they were term-limited too. Self-interest goes a long, long way. Howard Wolfson, Bloomberg's personal propagandist, was all over Twitter saying voters repudiated term limits. However, the ostensible purpose of term limits is to keep people like Bloomberg from continually buying elected office.

Who else speaks of defying term limits? That would be our buddy with the orange hair, the one who's thoroughly amused by the title "President for Life." Of course, President Trump is a racist, displaying blatant disregard for minorities, and vilifying "the other," to wit, immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans, and anyone not in his exclusive play group.

I haven't heard Bloomberg say much about Muslims or Mexicans, but his stop and frisk policy was so blatantly racist that he's had a change of heart, conveniently concurrent with his Presidential campaign, and now says he's sorry, he made a mistake. And now, instead of condemning the Central Park Five, as he did for years, he says he can't remember what his opinion is. It's a balancing act running for President. Back when he was a Republican, it wasn't really detrimental to support racist policies. As a Democrat, that's tough.

Isn't there some other politician who has been both Democrat and Republican? Why yes, as a matter of fact, that would be President Trump. It's a lot easier to get yourself elected when you have few to no core values. Whatever it takes to get elected. Bloomberg, in fact, has been a Republican, a Democrat, and an independent. Whatever it takes to get what he wants.

And hey, just for the regular readers of this blog, let's not forget it was Mayor Mike Bloomberg who appointed Joel Klein, a man with virtually no education experience who jumped when Eva Moskowitz whistled. He appointed Cathie Black straight out of her penthouse. Anyone who attends the cocktail parties he does must be okay, so you'd best believe he'll appoint the "best people" just like, you guessed it, Donald Trump.

Last but not least, don't forget that Michael Bloomberg treated the United Federation of Teachers like something he'd just wiped off his Florsheims. A lot of people turn their heads and say, "Well, at least he isn't Trump."

But being "not Trump" was what Hillary ran on, and it's exactly what got us Trump. Actually, the whole self-important, self-serving, megalomaniacal despot thing is not working particularly well for us right now. I will say that Michael Bloomberg has a marginally better verbal filter than Donald Trump.

However, that's just not good enough. We need someone better in every way. That's most certainly not Michael Bloomberg. I'm agnostic on term limits, but Bloomberg is the best living argument for them. Giuliani didn't like them and tried to get around them. Trump doesn't like them and wants to get around them. Mike Bloomberg, true to his campaign slogan, got it done. He got around term limits, twice affirmed by his constituents.

That tells me he has little use for democracy. In 2020, such a person is what we need least.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Bernie Sanders for President

I'm tired of all the squabbling over electabily. Four years ago, I was lectured endlessly on it by all sorts of people. We have to get behind Hillary because she's electable. I voted for her against Donald Trump, but as far as I'm concerned, she wasn't quite electable enough. If she were, she'd be President. And I still hear from the same people that we need to select someone "centrist." This means, essentially, someone who hasn't got radical ideas about giving all Americans health care, a living wage, accessibility to free higher education, and the ability to unionize.

Four years ago, millions of people decided Hillary was just more of the same and stayed home. While Obama didn't fully champion any of the above "radical" ideas, he at least pretended to and ran on hope and change. Hillary said we'd never, ever get single payer health care, and that free college would mean Trump's kids wouldn't pay. In fact, "centrist" Mayor Pete is out making the same Trump's kids argument.

I voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary four years ago and I will vote for him in the next primary too. Bernie has been consistent in his ideology and ideas for the most part, and has improved dramatically in his notions about K-12. I understand that, to get things done, we need to dump the GOP Senate as well, but I think that can be done too.

When Obama had a blue Senate, he failed to accomplish several things he'd promised. For one thing there is no public option in Obamacare. Were there one, it might leave private insurers unable to compete. I'd be good with that. Lots of people ask what about the jobs lost. I'm not precisely broken-hearted over losing jobs devoted to finding ways to deny Americans the health care they need. Maybe we could retrain them to do jobs that serve people, as opposed to denying them. Maybe they could be teachers. Lord knows we need more of them.

One huge disappointment from Barack Obama was his failure to enact card check. This would've enabled Americans to unionize more easily. He promised he'd back and pass a bill enabling it. He not only failed to pass it, but also failed to push for it. I didn't vote for him in 2012. Of course, I'm in a deep blue state and my vote doesn't mean much. Had I thought he and Romney were competitive here, I'd have held my nose and voted for Obama anyway.

Speaking of Romney, he's viewed as a moderate Republican. I don't really know why. As far as I can tell, despite his tepid ,opportunistic semi-opposition to Trump, he supports all the nonsense the other Republicans do. Even though he backed something quite similar to Obamacare when he was governor of blue Massachusetts, he backed way off from it when running nationally. As for "moderates" running for office, look at Romney. Look at Hillary. Look at Kerry and Gore. Last I looked, they lost, so please stop frigging lecturing me about 1972. By the way, McGovern was right about Vietnam. Who knows how many lives would've been saved if we'd picked him over Nixon, and look how Nixon worked out.

Bernie stands for something, and doesn't waver. I've seen him applauded by a Fox News crowd. Bernie Sanders stands for what America wants and needs. Let them come out, like Trump does, and call him, "Crazy Bernie," or "socialist," or whatever. It's about time American learned what the word actually meant, what exactly democratic socialism is, and more to the point, that government can work for all people rather than simply Donald Trump's BFFs.

I like Elizabeth Warren, despite all the nonsense between her and Bernie. She's my second choice. I'm getting the feeling that AFT is tacitly supporting her, which is a huge improvement over Joe Biden. I see Biden as the second coming of Hillary, and a second term for Donald Trump. While both Biden and Trump spout nonsense, I think Trump's bluster will overcome Biden's more pure form of nonsense. I also do not believe Biden stands for real improvement for American working people, having assured billionaires nothing would change.

I didn't like Biden's treatment of Anita Hill, I didn't like his plagiarism, and I didn't much like his attempts to cut social security. I was pretty gobsmacked in Pittsburgh when Biden told the crowd, as for our opposition to standardized testing, we were "preaching to the choir." I had a question for Biden, and though it didn't pass muster with the MSNBC censors, I'm going to repost it here:

I recall Arne Duncan, who famously said Hurricane Katrina was the best thing to happen to education in New Orleans. This resulted, of course, in the charterization of the entire city, the loss of many union jobs, and the displacement of a large number of teachers. Fifteen years after Katrina, most New Orleans charters are graded D or F. Duncan also pushed test-centric initiatives, such as Race to the Top and Common Core; even so, NAEP scores remain flat. What was your position on Duncan's education initiatives? Has it changed? Why or why not?

I don't trust Biden as far as I can throw him. That said, I'd vote for him against Donald Trump if it came to it. I'd do the same for Mayor Pete, though I find him disingenuous and smarmy. I'd much rather he go back to his wine cave and leave us alone.

My third choice is Amy Klobuchar. Though her programs are "moderate" for my taste, she impressed me in Pittsburgh. A lot of the candidates spoke of having teachers in their families, but she's the only one who had a meaningful story of why that was important, or how teachers touched lives. She's also super smart. I saw her at the AFT convention in Minneapolis, where she held her own next to quick-witted Al Franken. I don't like her as much as Bernie or Warren, but I'd trust her a whole lot more than Mayor Pete, Joe Biden, or Donald Trump.

So yes, I'm blue no matter who. Unless it's Mike Bloomberg. I've had enough of him for one lifetime. Screw him and the room-air-conditioned SUV he rode in on.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Please Affirm You Will NOT Be Drunk and on Drugs During the Field Trip

 The ghost of Michael Bloomberg is a heavy presence in the hallowed halls of Tweed. He lives on in DOE Legal, often as not the bane of my very existence. Wanna give some teacher five preps? Go ahead, says legal. Wanna tie your chapter leader up for years in grievances over black letter regulations? No problem. Legal okays it on the spot.
This week, a lot of members have come up to me and asked about a new brand spanking new field trip form, one in which you are required to say you've read Chancellor's Regulation A-670, which is right here, and that you agree not to be drunk and on drugs during said field trip. At first I thought it was something the principal had invented, but it turns out this is yet another innovation of DOE Legal. Since DOE Legal is essentially a clown car, its most recent creation is absurd on multiple levels.
Personally, I'd assume you'd simply know not to be drunk and on drugs when on a field trip and supervising children. It's common sense. In Spanish, though, they say common sense is the least common of all the senses. It's certainly not something I expect from Bloomberg's remaining minions.
Predictably, DOE Legal, in its infinite wisdom, has determined you are such a hopeless galoot you need to be specifically reminded and sign an agreement. Now here's the thing--whether or not you sign this form, you are always responsible to follow Chancellor/s Regulations, and you are always liable for your behavior when supervising children.
By the logic of this signed form, a teacher could do violence to a child and say, "I'm sorry. I didn't read Chancellor's Regulation A-420 so I didn't know we weren't allowed to do violence to children."  Another teacher could call a student by the most vile epithets and say, "Gee, I didn't know verbal abuse was prohibited, because I never read Chancellor's Regulation A-421."
Few principals will ask you whether or not you read the Chancellor's Regs before placing letters in your file, or bringing you up on charges for having violated them. The form is entirely redundant and I have brought it to the attention of UFT. However, I'm taking a bunch of kids to see The Lion King on March 4th, and I will sign the stupid paper rather than deprive my students of their first and perhaps only experience with Broadway theater. I will not be any more or less liable for having done so, and neither will you. It's just another waste of time, an exercise of power by idiots to show just how little they respect you. Perhaps they feel you are innately as vindictive and unreasonable as they are. (Of course if you were, why would you be a teacher?)
Ask yourself this--if you were the sort of person inclined to be drunk and on drugs on a field trip, would signing that form dissuade you? Will that kind of person perhaps think, "Well, I've signed something that says I can't be drunk and on drugs on the field trip, but no one's asked me to sign any such thing or make any such promise when I'm teaching."
Maybe that will be the person who comes to class drunk and on drugs. And if anyone is indeed that stupid, their stupidity pales in comparison with that of DOE Legal, which created this utterly superfluous nonsense in the first place. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

UFT Delegate Assembly January 15, 2020--The Census, the UFT Legal Plan, and the Chapter Leader Network

UFT President Michael Mulgrew welcomes us. 4:34

Speaks of support for chapter leaders and delegates. Says chapter leader most important union position, as members identify with CL. Says work from focus group will go live February 3rd to several districts. Will roll out over week. There will be a chapter leader community on internet and CLs can ask questions. There is a knowledge base that UFT phone support uses, and from February on CLs will have access to it. This knowledge base evolves as new questions are asked.

There are issues with incorrect answers to questions and knowledge base can help cut down on that. Will be a CL chat room. There will be rules, and legalities, not for political use inside and outside of the union. Urges against bad language.

There will be a my school section with basic info. There will be a repository of school info so new CLs can see it, including SBOs and grievances. Union looking for other ways to use it, new applications, and urges constant back and forth. CL handbooks may be put online.

Looking to have a high percentage of registration for this. Tying this to a project. Everyone will get a letter signed my Mulgrew, Carranza and president of CSA saying that math and ELA must have a plan tied to new standards. Test scores aren’t everything, but we don’t want a dramatic drop either. UFT will do inventory, and CLs will have to log on and provide info on what materials school uses. Union will provide support.

Majority of existing materials are not aligned to new standards. Materials can be modified to do so. Will have to be evaluated by committees, which will approve or not.

Phase two will be lists of approved materials. Schools can choose from these materials and curriculum and programs will be provided by DOE. Each school district in NYC, and each school district in NY must have a PD team, the majority of which is chosen by the bargaining unit.

Student debt program—First program officially started as members only. We are about to start our second, with housing.

This union is part of two national lawsuits against student debt companies. Anyone in a 30 year repayment program is in wrong program. City teachers can qualify for forgiveness in ten years.

We’re paying for a service, most is free, but there can be a nominal fee for complex situations. Between December and June, average monthly payment went down $143. We’ve saved 43.7 million dollars for teachers. Average savings 80K per person. Companies deterred people by not answering.
This year we’re moving them to webinars.

There will be a new UFT legal services plan. This may address landlord-tenant disputes and letter writing. Every member of union will have access to law firm, majority free, but for complicated things there will be copays. Wills, trusts, elder law, bankruptcy, leases can be included. Will be soft launch next week. Will replace NYSUT program for us.

Florida—Mulgrew was in Tallahassee yesterday and Monday. To be a teacher in Florida is not a good thing. Has been working closely with teachers. 46th of 50 states in ed. funding. Retiree chapter has worked with FL ed. association. Was huge rally of teachers at State House, first time ever.

Florida teachers appreciated support of UFT and CTU. This battle is now our battle. NY funding much better than Florida. Top salary 45K in some FL districts.They have year to year contracts. National press now in Florida. Governor put out plan to give raises only to new teachers.

Right now our legislative session faces a 6 billion dollar deficit. All of it is tied to health care, largely Medicaid. We will have to deal with this. We want to maintain ed. funding. Governor wants us to teach kids tolerance. National discussion fueling this.

We have a homeless crisis in this city. We need to talk about it in a way that corrects people. It can’t be as portrayed in Post, a male yelling at people, 70% is women and children. We have 120-140K children who are “shelter-challenged.” How many districts have this many students living in shelters.

We now have political action teams. UFT now has political teams not just by borough, but also by district. Will bring about 200 people to train on grassroots level action. Political work is about relationships. We want candidates for council seats.

Census—Should count every person, not citizen who resides here. This will determine funding and representation. State funding is at risk. Last year we had 34.5 billion. NYC and NY State performed worst on census. If we get 10% higher, we will still be worst. But that means 3.45 billions a year, for ten years. That would’ve more than erased deficit.

We need to educate public. Education funding is at risk. 10% more would’ve brought 9 billion dollars to NYC education. Ten years ago, no one bothered with census. National average is 74%, but NYC is 61.6. Federal money should be coming back here, but is now sent somewhere else. We are building highways in Mississippi.

Mulgrew gives examples of communities that failed to turn out people for census.

City council put 40 million into census count, up from 180K last time, due to UFT lobbying. Will split city into ten areas. We have allies. There will be marketing. Chancellor will support schools being used for this.

Right wingers will lie and suggest census data will throw people out of country, or eject them from dwellings. This is a federal crime. Even this Supreme Court agrees.

Number one undercounted group in last census was children. Parents fail to include children. Trying to get chancellor to work on educating people at parent-teacher conferences.

We will encourage this online. Asks that CLs talk to members about this. We were only school district to get through recession without layoffs. 179 teachers laid off in Rochester this New Year.

This is our money in the first place. The feds and people who hate us have done everything in their power to screw us. They pushed a citizenship question. Needs everyone to get this out. Will give Powerpoint to every elected union official.

We are one week away from term in which everyone should have been evaluated. Mulgrew asks how many schools have not had eval, Many hands raised.

Mulgrew wants eval changed from what it is to a supportive tool. We have to engage to change dynamic. When members get low ratings, it looks as though there was not enough engagement. Evidence of growth for principals could be higher ratings. We have to engage in process.

Teachers choice receipts due. If you don’t file, they will take back the money.

Women’s march Saturday Central Park.

Shanker scholarships—1 million to children of NYC. Applications due Jan. 31.

Negotiating for nurses very nasty. There may be multiple picket lines.

LeRoy Barr
—African Heritage scholarship dinner dance, Anton’s, Black History film series. Feb 27, College Behind Bars. Para luncheon March 14 NY Hilton. Lobby day March 16. Also anniversary of UFT founding, 60th anniversary. Next Da Feb 12.


Q—Disciplinary meetings—You sit down with admin, they should do investigation, and substantiate or not. Seems like “legal” is in control. What are we doing about “legal” controlling things as opposed to admin?

A—CSA doesn’t have a contract. They aren’t happy. They don’t have parental leave. One pushback is investigations are not their responsibility by contract. Also DOE writing them up for doing it improperly. Once legal is involved, common sense is gone. Will bring it up and consultation w chancellor. All cases now are centralized. We see trends now. Issue is CSA acting out more and more.

Q—Can UFT assist us with sexual harassment training workshop. Difficult to log on. Get warning that site will steal personal info.

A—Send it to me. I will help.

Member suggests this will not happen on school desktop PC, but member says she was using one.

Q—Can we get superintendents to college data about how teachers are rated. We are rated between I and D.  Is this normal?

A—This is in Advance. We can ask, and if they say no we can FOIL.  Superintendent should see, by school, what ratings are. Would like conversation with borough rep. Maybe they want to do better next time to show “growth.”

Q—When teachers request medical or personal days we are getting probing questions from admin. A member was going for a colonoscopy, and principal said member only needed one day as opposed to two. How much information do they need?

A—They aren’t allowed to ask for this. Mike Sill will send circular. Members request it be sent to all CLs, and Mulgrew agrees.

Q—My principal gives counseling memos to people with documented absences before or after holidays.

A—That’s called bridging, There has to be a pattern. Will have grievance dept. follow up. Principal being a bully.

Q—Our school was selected to apply for Bronx plan. Principal stopped it. This year we are invited again. Can we work with CSA to get this going.

A—There is issue of contract, and they weren’t happy with Bronx Plan in beginning. Make sure school community and parents are aware. It will benefit school. I understand another union has right to own opinion, but this is part of our contract. Principal and CL must both agree. That is a condition. We want to build collaboration.

Q—If E or H, you can still request formal. Any follow up?

A—Haven’t yet been to consultation on that. We are trying to move observation. Principals and many teacher prefer not to. We cannot mandate it.

Q—Investigations—Principal slow walks investigations and letters. Is there a time line?

A—Grievance dept. will address that. Depends on circumstance.

Q—Personal days—Principal will say it’s a travel day, so you can have it unpaid. Put in for Friday, and he said since you’re traveling you won’t get paid.

A—Speak w grievance dept.

Dave Pecoraro—Motion to move item 3, endorsement, to first item.


Motion to be placed on this month’s agenda to support earthquake victims.


Motion for next month’s agenda
—NY public schools have large Haitian population, UFT will lobby for French translations. Says Haitian student speaks no English. Many speak Creole but read and write in French. Haitian Creole translations don’t help some students.

Against—Majority of Haitians only speak Creole, not French. Majority are not getting public education. Is a problem. Education in big cities is done in French. Large movement to have teaching in Creole. There are, however, few books in Creole. Best would be to offer both languages and keep Creole.

Point of information—Is it possible to modify motion to request both languages?

Mulgrew—Possible but not on floor at the moment.

Speaker says he wants French as other option.


Motion to extend time by 5 minutes.


Point of order
—Motion period was only 7 minutes long. Can we extend?

No extension.

Amy Arundell—Moves we endorse Donovan Richards for Queensborough President. Has repped SE Queens since 2013, fought for school resources, tech, stood in opposition of school closings in Rockaway. They remain open. First community learning school and supports UFT initiatives. Will fight for tenant rights.

John Nolan
—Favors Richards, helped in Sandy, strong vision.

Rashad Brown—calls question.

Resolution carries

We are adjourned. 6:10 PM.

Monday, January 13, 2020

UFT Executive Board January 13, 2020 Things Are Happening All Over

6 PM—Secretary LeRoy Barr welcomes us

Robert Halkitis, speaker, is not here.


President is in Florida.

Wednesday, Jan. 15, new delegates meeting following DA. Feb. 7—African heritage scholarship dinner, Anton’s in Queens. Black history month film series begins Feb. 13. Feb 27 is second film. March 16, Lobby Day, also 60th anniversary of UFT. Please let members know. Next Exec. Board Jan. 27.


Mike Schirtzer
—Proud to have worked defending union rights with so many members. Many have been asking me about an email they received from PERB about a member. What should we tell them about this email?

Barr—Sometimes you have a situation where DOE needs to be held responsible. We try to do that every day. In this case, this member was found to have been harassed and targeted after identifying financial irregularities. DOE lost case, In settlement, DOE was supposed to notify people in 2017. PERB sued DOE and won. Went to Supreme Court. Because they were resistant, court said it had to be sent to 120,000 people. Kudos to PERB. Tell members what happened.

Schirtzer—New contract has protection against harassment and retaliation. What should members do?

Barr—First, contact CL, who can work with DR. Must keep those responsible involved and informed. It’s case by case.

Arthur Goldstein
—I teach in a trailer. It has a great heating system. In September I recorded the temperature at 99 degrees, but the thermostat doesn’t go higher, so who knows? Now the temperature is between 85 and 89. We leave leave the outside door open so we don’t pass out. Still, one side of the room is too hot. The other is too cold.

The custodians have told me since September DOE is coming to fix the climate system. My friends teach in another trailer where there is no heat at all. The school has placed four space heaters in that trailer, but since no one turns them on in advance, period one is very, very cold.

A former student of mine teaches bilingual math in the trailers. Her students, sitting in the miserable September heat, ask her, “Are they doing this because we’re Chinese?” Maybe my students, from China, Colombia, Mexico, Vietnam, Pakistan and the Dominican Republic feel the same. I don’t blame them.

This is exacerbated by the ongoing construction noise outside, which the DOE promised would take place after school hours.

I’ve spoken with everyone I could. I’m told this isn’t a simple  grievance. What it is, as far as I’m concerned, is institutional racism. If the DOE wants to come into our schools and teach us about racism, they ought to set a better example.

It’s clear to me that since they’re building an annex outside the trailers, they don’t give a golly gosh darn about anyone still in them. We should all just suck it up.

I’m hoping someone from the union might have a word with someone from DOE.

Barr—With respect to construction, there needs to be a protocol meeting. We have lots of options, article 10, many things to bring force to bear. We will make that call tomorrow to make sure central is aware.

We had the passing of one of our chapter leaders, Beth Wolf, from PS 82, District 8. We  rise for moment of silence.

Reports from Districts

Serbia Silva
—Monday was Three Kings Day. Glad EB was switched. We celebrated. CLs collected toys to give out. Tried to bring them to Cayuga Center. Were told that kids could not receive toys in detention centers, but found other places to bring toys. We did bring a lot of joy to many kids.

Eliu Lara—We organized a tenure workshop. Well attended. We will also have a tenure celebration for those granted it.

Doreen Berrios Castillo—Annual school secretary seminar. Great program on parental leave. Amazing workshop by Janella on unionism, empowerment, and organizing.

Sterling Roberson—Last week Jan. 7, hosted Perkins public comment hearing. Opinions voiced on federal and state changes that lost many schools funding. NYSED heard from all constituency groups and folks had passionate remarks. Trying to help get programs approved and proper funding. We need to lobby for more approval. Was in today’s DN. Thanks all who helped with turnout.

Mike Schirtzer—Commends UFT Jewish Heritage Committee for last week’s march. Critical and important to have UFT banner at that march against anti-Semitism. Stepdaughter was focused in DN for teaching about the Holocaust. We all fight hate in our own way, not something we take lightly. Thanks everyone for going.

Karen Alford—United Community Schools got federal grant of 2.3 million dollars. Several Bronx schools will benefit from this. Very happy about what we’ll be able to do. Today I addressed 500 DOE teacher residents. We have 500 teachers who will be interning for city jobs. Great we can get teachers into hard to staff neighborhoods. We always need to be mindful of teacher retention.

Anthony Harmon—Jan. 7th hundreds of people and Nick Cruz highlighted census.

Seung Lee—Karaoke Social, PS 125 census teach in this Wed.

Shelvy Abrams. March 14 para election.

Duane Clark—100 young men of color got training in this building on leadership. Showed we, as an org, can partner with DOE. Next year, we want 200. Guiding one to be an NYC HS teacher. We can be the best we can be, the next doctors and lawyers. Powerful to watch young men engage. Starting with early HS students. You may start a leadership program within your schools.

Tenisha Frank—2020 Women’s March Saturday Jan. 18. Broadway between 61 and 61 we will meet participants.

Legislative Report—Elizabeth Perez—Cuomo relived state of state address. Education minimal part. Wanted to direct funding to neediest students, but provided little detail. Expect budget within two weeks. Will host UFT legislative reception to share our priorities. NYSUT will be doing Lobby Day too. Hearing tomorrow on NYC universal after school program. Want slots available for any who want them. Council wants more transparency and detailed info.

We will discuss special election to fill Queensborough President vacated by Melinda Katz March 24. Will have UFT retreat to plan getting out the vote. Feb 1, 2 weekend, or Feb. 8. CLs should place census at top of January agenda. Mulgrew will deliver powerpoint presentation on Wednesday. CLs should share this.

Barr—NYSUT RA resolution—environmentally responsible schools

Janella Hinds
—When we think about climate change, we can stand up for environmentally sound schools and retrofitting. We want sustainable school projects to enable conservation and recycling.


—Resolution against hate attacks.

Dave Kazansky—Attacks are well-documented in December and further beyond that. Jews walking down the street celebrating holidays are being attacked. Piece of larger puzzle in this time period, with this leadership, and people are emboldened to express hate. Symptomatic of immigrant and LGBTQ treatment. Hope this is approved and we can show UFT doesn’t tolerate this.
Ezike Devaus—Could we include immigration status in this? Once in whereas and once in resolved. UFT opposes bigotry on these grounds and others.


Resolution as amended passes

Anthony Harmon
—Endorsement for Queensborough President of Donovan Richards. Knows him personally. Was out helping to rebuild Rockaway after Sandy. Queens UFT supports him.


6:40—We are adjourned.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Dear Patron Saint of Institutional Racism,

I don't know if you get a whole lot of correspondence on this topic, but I'm a New York City teacher and I work in a trailer. It's always been a pretty crappy place to work. This year, in a moment of extraordinarily bad judgment, I did a favor for an assistant principal and swapped one of my classes into one. I won't make that mistake again. But even if my classes weren't there, someone else's would be.

Now here's the deal--New York City knows that these trailers will not be there more than another year or two, so they've given up on them utterly and won't make repairs on them. For example, back in September, the AC didn't work. I have photos of the temperature being 99 degrees. Every single day the custodians told me someone from the city was coming to fix them, but no one ever did. Eventually the temperature went down outside, and the problem was solved. Except it wasn't.

I'll get back to that. But imagine you're teaching a class of kids, and the one by the door is wearing a hijab and a robe that goes from neck to floor. I don't know what it's made of, and I'm not going to ask. That's not to mention all the other kids, or me, and we were only marginally less uncomfortable. Many days I brought this class to the auditorium, where the sound is not optimized for running a class and where keeping student attention is like a game of chance.

In another trailer, a former student of mine teaches math. She's from China, and so are all her students. She's pretty driven to teach, and I'd bet dimes to dollars she bailed from the trailer fewer days than I did, if at all. Her students, though, were pretty vocal in their complaints about this miserable trailer. One day they asked her, "Is it because we're Chinese?"

It's not because they're Chinese in particular, though, It's because they're New York City public school students and no one at Tweed or anywhere else gives a good goddamn about their learning conditions. 

Let's get back to why a change of seasons won't change the conditions in the trailers. For one thing, the temperature will go up again later this year. Those pesky spring conditions tend to show up around April or May. For another, even though the temperature is down in the outside world, it's a balmy 85-88 degrees in my trailer. It's odd, because the temperature is set to 68. Why does it get so hot? I have no idea. So I complain every few days to various people, everyone I can think of, and nothing happens, ever.

Now it's ironic when it's absolutely freezing outside and I'm sitting in a trailer with the door propped open with a fire extinguisher and both of the functioning windows open. (Did I mention that several of the windows don't open? This really sucks on those 99 degree days.) I have a girl from the Dominican Republic sitting with her winter coat on, as far from the door as possible, and she tells me she's freezing to death. Meanwhile, my student with the hijab, sitting right by the door, begs me not to close it. The kids by the windows physically block my way when I go to close them.

As if that's not enough, there's construction going on in the field. They're building a new annex, so they can get rid of the trailers in a few years. And they hammer, and they drill, and they make loud construction noises they promised would not happen during school hours. It gets worse every day. Who cares? No one, They're only bothering a bunch of kids from other countries. It's not like their parents are gonna call and complain. Is it discrimination?

You better believe it is.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

But You Like Me

I just came from my third period beginning English class. We were discussing prepositions.

"Why is it in the morning but at night?"

"I don't know, actually. Prepositions are very difficult and there aren't any rules. My second language is Spanish. In Spanish they have two words for for. They say por and para. I always mix them up."

"Oh, Mr. Goldstein. You spoke Spanish in English class. How could you?"

"You are a troublemaker."

"Yes, but you like me."

"It's true. I do."

It's really unfair when the students read your mind. There should be a chancellor's regulation or something.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

On Teacher Morale

Our school is generally a good place to work. Sure, there are things to complain about, and I spend a good portion of my time complaining about them and/ or trying to fix them. Nonetheless, I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that, having gotten rid of two really insane supervisors recently, we haven't got any more of them. Of course, that could change at any moment, but for now I'd say we're beating the odds.

What are the odds? I'd say maybe one in three you get some lunatic telling you what to do. Of course it's not completely their fault. There's a whole lot of trickle-down crap from the geniuses in Albany, and it's all you can do these days to get in there and teach anything that students actually need to know. Making a jump from one school to another, though, is risky business.

I've long maintained that "getting out of the classroom" is just not a worthy goal. Anyone harboring such a goal doesn't love teaching and likely as not doesn't know how to do it well. The most efficacious way to get out of the classroom is to go into supervision. Sure, you have to go through the C30 process, but there's no guarantee the person the C30 board likes will get the gig. You know, if you happen to be spending Wednesday afternoons with the superintendent over at the Comfort Inn you might have the inside track. If your mommy works at Tweed that wouldn't hurt either.

Yesterday I was discussing so-called emergency sixth classes with a supervisor. The supervisor said, "I used to get a hundred applications for every opening, but now it's really tough to find people." That kind of amazed me. The supervisor theorized that perhaps people, comfortable with whoever is Danielsoning them, don't want to take a chance with anyone else.

That makes sense to me. Ever since Danielson came along, the fear and loathing among staff has been palpable. For several years, I heard we got observed too frequently. Other districts got observed only twice a year. People told me it was a priority to reduce the number of observations. I heard it at work, I heard it in the comments here, and I read it elsewhere.

Several of us pushed for this in the last contract, However, as soon as we won it, I started to hear, "What if my observations suck? I'll have less chance to compensate for it." I started to see that message everywhere. Now reasonable supervisors will say okay, I'll come back next week, or okay, I'll give you another shot. You will likely not be shocked to learn that not all supervisors are reasonable.

So what's the problem? I'd say it's twofold. One part, of course, is the epidemic of terrible supervision in NYC. This is, in part, a result of the lack of oversight in the hiring process, not to mention the fact that Bloomberg actually ran a Leadership Academy in which Vindictive Supervision 101 was the core course. Thus, a frothing-at-the-mouth mad dog had a great advantage over a sensitive, thinking human. You know, sensitive, thinking humans are inconvenient, what with their natural tendency to question stupidity, poor judgment, bad programs, and other inconveniences that mar our system.

The other thing is that this evaluation process was conceived specifically to fire teachers. No matter how well or poorly it does the job, everyone senses that. If you're in the trenches, you see the feeling, know the feeling, have the feeling. How do you fight that? I have no idea. It's helpful if you have a chapter leader who does the job regardless of potential consequence. If not, you may or may not know to go up the UFT ladder.

Between terrible supervision and a system that inspires fear more than anything else, teachers are in a tough spot. We can do better. An evaluation system ought to be one of support, not the Sword of Damocles. Rendering it as such is a big ask. It's quite complicated to get from point A to point B.

Monday, January 06, 2020

The Surreal McCoy

I've now tried dozens of times to take the sexual harassment survey mandated by my employer, the NYC Department of Education. To the left is the message I invariably get, if indeed I get any at all.

I happen to have copied it, because on my third or fourth complaint to DOE, they asked for a screenshot. I was lucky when I obliged them, as this popped up. Sometimes nothing pops up.

Here's what I want to know--how many times can you try in good faith to fulfill their requirement before you give up? How much time do I have to waste trying to log on to the same thing I did last year before I can get back to, you know, preparing to teach? I'm also chapter leader, and with 300 members that job keeps me hopping too. Why should I spend one more moment wasting my time with the incompetent boobs who fail to make their mandates possible to follow?

I'm home today with a medical appointment. On the positive side, that means I don't have to waste time with this nonsense. You can only access it when on DOE wifi. Except I can't do that either.

Last year, an AP gave me another link, one that worked. I have no idea where he found it, but the DOE has yet to provide me with an alternate link. I have people in my building asking me what will happen if they don't do it. Given I've got a little over a month to complete this task, I suppose I'll be able to let them know.

However, I'm making this public declaration today. When they come to put a letter in my file, I'll show it. Honestly, isn't there some point at which you just give up and call it a day?

I'll keep trying, maybe once a week. Maybe during Regents week I'll give an extra few efforts. However, the ineptitude on the part of the DOE is simply staggering. It's surreal that the people who designed and enabled this nonsense supervise teachers. It's more than that.

It's the surreal McCoy.