Wednesday, January 13, 2021

UFT Delegate Assembly January 13, 2021--Waiting for Vaccines

 4:19 UFT President Michael Mulgrew welcomes us. 

National--Has been difficult week. Tough for teachers to explain. We've never had students seeing everything happening in real time all the time. This is on top of all the other issues. We have to guide students through this craziness. We get no support at all from DOE. Hopefully things will turn around. From feds we need vaccine and funding. DeVos quit, tried to remove equity, to privatize, to help vulture lenders, to help all we're against. Probably worst Ed. Sec. of all time. We should see a strong contrast with a lifelong educator in this position.

Stimulus--Last one passed. NY State should get 4.5 billion, Much should go to NYC. First was one billion, but was completely supplanted by governor, as he took another billion out. We know students will be hurt by this situation. People will look to us to deal with various crises. Social and emotional stress, isolation--this is deeper than just learning loss. If state continues to supplant federal money will be huge problem. State is taking away money to help children in crisis. 2.4 billion coming our way, and children need to be prioritized. Will also effect city budget. We have no layoff clause until June.

Biden wants to do an infrastructure project. We've had resolutions throughout the year. We would like an aggressive program that makes every school carbon free. We want to utilize solar. It goes further. We're talking about ventilation and lighting aggressively. There could be an opportunity here to retrofit school buildings. 

Vaccine--Federal govt. has expanded the pool of people who should be eligible. State will likely follow. Add ons mean people with certain medical conditions and people 65 rather than 75 means 16.4 million will be eligible. Feds say they will release all reserve vaccines. Only way through is to get 65-70% vaccinated. They will release reserves, but not for two weeks, so it's not useful. They expanded pool, tripled it, while we have very limited supply. NY State gets 300K doses. In NYC, this is a major challenge. Governor asked unions to set up own apparatus, and we did. From now until Biden is in office, we will see a lot of people and institutions trying to get vaccine. Large orgs have run out or are close to it. This was very bad, will cause more frustration and anger across nation. Like final middle finger to everyone walking out door.

New Pres. will at least double Title One. We put between us and others over 1.2 million in GA, with many volunteers. In terms of our education agenda, the two Dems winning benefits us. We focus on protecting public schools and our livelihood. Lots of damage being done to our country nationally and internationally. 

We've had two stimulus payments for education, should get a third. 

State--Budget at state level. Gov. claims 63 billion deficit over three years. I believe closer to 30, but scary. 2007-8 we had 700 million deficit. We were very lucky, worked hard, but we were only large local that didn't see a deficit. 33K laid off in NYS in 08 and 09. We're looking at 9-10 billion dollars deficit a year for next three years. Protecting livelihood will be great challenge. If we want to help children, we need to fund programs. We can't have funds supplanted. I do believe next stimulus will have state and city funding, but won't cover deficit. We are going to push a revenue package. Senate and Assembly can now override vetoes.

Governor has said nothing about education. but this is what we're dealing with. We support taxing wealthy and ultra-wealthy, we support pied-a-tere taxes. We shouldn't give breaks to part time residents. We want state electeds to send clear message about supplanting of money.

We have new Regents Chancellor, Lester Young, NYC teacher, and Betty Rosa is Commissioner. We no longer have people who don't understand education running education. Has been long time since that happened, along with US Ed. Sec. being former educator. Others look at vulture charters and privatization.

State having hard time with vaccine, but is distributing them to local DOH. Except city has been stockpiling and not effective getting it out. Rest of state got out 74% of what they've been given. We want 100. NYC has only distributed 52%. We'll see where this goes, but now we know there will be a major vaccine shortage. I will be very upset and will get very loud with city if they continue to leave vaccine in storage. That's not how we get past pandemic. 

If we have people ready to go we want to get them through. Over 20,000 members responded to our program, but I now am not sure how fast vaccine supply will last. Biden will produce more vaccine as emergency. We are ready to work with providers, but can't do much until we see how this turns out. Happy we were able to help as many as we could. 

Two weeks ago they said teachers would have to wait until February. Mayor had 200K doses sitting on shelves. We said give them to us. I tell people try every avenue. Was really happy to see UFT nurses getting vaccines on Saturday. Last March 15, buildings closed, but school nurses were in centers, nursing homes, worked through entire summer. Grateful they were safe, glad they were first to get vaccine. Will be massive shortage over next few weeks. Happy for all who got them but we have long way to go.

I get questions about positivity rates. When state came out with reg, said every school district needed a plan signed off on and submitted. In September, state put out change that said school district could change its plan without collective bargaining as long as it met state minimum standard. State can do that under health emergency. When we get through this our first negotiation will be about spring break they unilaterally took from us. 

When city closed in November, it decided to change plan again. We were able to get state to agree that city would have to abide by new agreement for more aggressive tests.  City formula is irrelevant, has its own number. We felt it was being used for political purposes. State's plan said 9% caused county lockdown. Governor reversed that. Said district can remain open as long as they have school testing program in place and school positivity didn't go above community rate. That will never happen because sick people don't attend.

We disagree with this. Shifting policy undermines public confidence, causes fear, anxiety frustration. Our schools are very safe, but if NY state number hits 9% we will go to war. May be parents against us in places. You can't keep shifting policy. Psychological toll becomes physical toll. City numbers get higher when mayor wants to pressure governor. We have to go by state numbers. Both state and city numbers are going down. City number never counted. 

When you hear we're closing many schools. that's positive. 271 schools, 100 classes closed today. This means our program is working. Social distancing, masks, ventilation important, but we need to know if COVID is in building. Not good enough for us to probably stop it. We need to shut them down and our testing program was designed to do that. Doctors have said if you do everything else you can keep them open but I said no. 

This should be set up in entire country. It isn't but we have it here. Christmas Eve was a disaster, but schools were closed. 

Random lists for each school should be generated by DOE. Of course, that's not good, but we have made progress. Now testing more children than adults. Wasn't random when 2/3 were adults. We are getting better nonetheless. 

Some people upset about how we prioritized vaccines. People in schools were able to get vaccines. We will get through people in schools first. City made same decision but put nothing in place. I understand some may disagree. But we need to get it to elementary and D75 members. 

Evaluation--We have to have one but are getting nowhere with DOE. I have consultation Friday with chancellor. DOE people have no clue. Have never taught remotely and want to work out evaluation. We have issues with Danielson, but may have worked. DOE turned it into attack tool.  We have to have a MOSL. State has told us this. 

Operational issues--Thank you CLs. We've had 1693 filed. 1036 settled. 176 closer in progress. We're working in ICT and class size issues. We're not closing them until CL approves. 

Mayor's race--We have many offices coming up. Mayor, city council, and we'll have great budget challenges. Thanks volunteers. Have groups at all City Council districts. We have 21 planned endorsements, will have more. Starting Feb. 1 we will have Town Halls for mayoral race. We will interview 4 or 5 at a time. We will select 4 finalists and do open Town Hall for all members. We may not make an endorsement, but likely will. 

We have a lot of people in background who were near and dear to our previous mayor. Thanks to all people volunteering on this. 

471 people at last CL training. Thanks to all who help teachers by being union activists. We have one more training to go. This is hardest time ever to be CL. 

We had issues with CTLE course. Thousands registered for one course. We will make sure every person gets into one shortly. 

Elementary Town Hall will go back out. 3,000 wanted to attend. We will fix it with Zoom. 

WeFeedNYC program was going to begin in February, but started earlier. We see huge lines everywhere for food. Anyone distributing food now is facing major shortages. We've raised some money and will raise more. We've delivered over 20,000 meals to many orgs. Restaurant owner called to thank us for allowing him to help.

Optical form for UFT--No more. Beginning Feb. 1st can be done online. Will be email on how it's done. 

LeRoy Barr--Good afternoon and happy new year. We have over 2000 delegates on the call today.

1. 1/21 - Black History Film Series - From Chisholm to Harris. Breaking the glass ceiling in government. We’ll be watching “Chisholm ‘72, Unbought and unbossed. We’ll send the link in the CL update.
2. 1/23 is the last CL training for this semester. Please sign up.
3. 2/1 - 2/5 BLM week of action in schools. Links are on UFT website. We will send it out in the CL update as well.
4. School safety and scanning committee has started meeting. If you want to join them send an email to teamhighschool@uft.org.
5. Congratulations to Lester Young Jr. on being named chancellor of the NYS board of regents. He’s the first African American to hold the post. We’ve done a lot of work with him over the years with my brothers keeper.
6. Enjoy Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Do something in his name and his spirit.
7. Happy new year.

 Questions--

Q--Happy about UFT efforts for vaccine, also concerned. Members want to know if UFT is trying to rush vaccine so schools will fully open.

A--Safety is important. Our goal from March has been to get schools closed, then get through pandemic. Teachers need quick access to schools. We, along with Chicago, are only large school district that opened. Members were on board with closing in March. Since then more disagreement. Some think we're trying to mandate vaccine. Some saying no one should be allowed back without it. Some were upset when schools closed in November, Others wanted them closed. We will always have differences. We will continue to make decisions, and rarely will all agree. We will say why we're doing it, I'm setting up program because I want people vaccinated. Having no conversations about opening schools. We're using schools for vaccines. They will have to be hubs. Hospitals not designed for this. Since there are people who hate us, they use this as way to oppose public education. People try to create wedge issues. We're smarter than that. 

Q--Student participation low at school despite reaching out. Admin pressuring us to pass students when not warranted.

A--There is a law that says our professional judgment cannot be changed. In our numerous conversations with DOE we said remote instruction requires much more work. Why don't they plan to help people? In the end they'll want to deal with low passing percentage. UFT asked DOE to put together a district and citywide administrative program to help disengaged students. They refused. 

Q--Any update on retirement incentive? Would it help those with 20 years?

A--Depends how it is negotiated. This is a city, not state priority, for all except uniform workers. State said not for people with 20 year plans. This is one of our biggest priorities in Albany. Until we work it out, it's all rumor. My goal is to get as many as possible included. We have a lot of subs looking for full time jobs now. Will save money for the city. Working on it for this and many other unions.

MOSL--City polices nothing. Puts out things and refuses to fix them--previous observations cannot be used against you.

Q--Update on improved communication to schools on infection rates?

A--If there is specific issue, contact DR. We are improving but still not where we want to be. We will make sure DOE knows. They are getting better. They want to keep rates low, shut down problem schools quickly. These are not DOE folks, actually, doing shutdowns. Not there yet, but in better place. If you need a result, go to DR and we will get it.

Q--Do you know when middle and HS may return?

A. No. We don't know yet. We're using large HS for vaccine distribution. City doesn't have capacity for testing so they can't open them up. If you're vaccinated you still have to wear mask. You may not feel symptoms but you can still spread it. We have to see how this plays out. If I hear anything, I will communicate it. I expect next September we will open.

Q--What will union do to protect G and T programs?

A--Our position is there should be such programs in all schools. We believe they're in every school I don't think we should be testing pre 3rd grade kids for this. For specialized HS, they didn't give us a heads up, a deputy chancellor did it on his own. There will be new guidance for this exam given in two weeks. Will enforce social distancing. 

Q--What if people can't get second vaccine on time?

A--They'd have to start all over again. We want to avoid that. We know you need shot three weeks later. You should be scheduled in same place. MLC went hard to negotiate release time if you need it, as well as additional time for adverse reactions. We negotiated for all city unions, and DOE tried to reinterpret it, giving authority to principal. 

Q--Teachers complaining that building not clean, things been on floor for week...

A. Tell us and we will take care of it. Send it to DR.

Motions--

Charlaine Williams--Proposes resolution in honor of Stacy Abrams for leadership in elections, for next month. Was Democratic nominee for governor of GA, lost and created massive constituency, turned GA blue and won US Senate for Dems.

Passes 89%

 Nichole Puglio--Next month--Crime to incite a riot, Trump did, urged people to fight like hell, we know attack is worse than we'd thought. Was act of domestic terrorism. We need to condemn these actions. 

Katherine Martin Bridge--Concerned with last resolve. Trump will be out of office. Seems silly to put in something that will have already happened.

Mulgrew--Motion is motion, but we assume it could be amended next month.

Passes 75%

Resolution--

Endorsements--Liz Perez--Encourages body to endorse 21 canditates--51 open seats in city council, want to endorse incumbents who've supported our agenda and newcomers we support. We also endorse incumbent Queens Borough President, will expand economic and education opportunities. 

Mulgrew--Does anyone object to any individual candidates?

Jonathan Halabi--Objects to Gjonaj

Mulgrew--We will take a motion, taking Gjonaj out, and we will vote on rest as group. All those in favor, please vote yes.  

Yes 41% No 59% Motion fails

Vote to endorse all candidates--

Passes 83%

Mulgrew--Thanks us, apologizes for long report. Will keep you updated. Thanks for all you do. Hope I can continue to do what needs to be done to help you.

Note--I missed at least one question due to excessive barking in my living room.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The Post, with Little Evidence, Creates a Teacher Issue

The Post has a piece suggesting teachers are at war with one another over who gets the vaccine. That's absurd, and there are several large hints in the story. The biggest hint is who they quote--one anonymous DOE employee, one anonymous administrator, and one anonymous teacher. (Let's disregard the fact that none of those quoted feel comfortable using their names.)

Everyone, perhaps excepting the person who wrote this piece knows the DOE does not represent teachers. The fact is, more often than not, they are our largest adversary. Those guys with suits who come in and try to fire us? That chancellor saying he wants 108,000 signatures before closing buildings in a pandemic, that Boy Wonder supervisor who sees fit to observe you the day before a break when only eight students are in your class? All those folks are the DOE. 

And the ones who work at Tweed? Forget about it. They haven't got a clue what goes on in buildings. They're too busy sitting in offices doing Whatever It Is that goes on there. 

Their last example is an administrator working remotely who took the vaccine but was upset his elderly mom couldn't get it. How that supported the notion that teachers are upset with one another I have no idea. They also cite emails, but they appear to be the generic emails we got from the chancellor, you know, the guy who told 108,000 signatures, who just tried to steal a billion dollars from us, who sends us saccharine, blatantly insincere emails every week or so.

Now as for the teacher, I don't doubt there's a teacher somewhere pissed off that she didn't get an appointment. In fact, I don't doubt there are thousands of teachers pissed off about not getting appointments. I know because I'm one of them. Before I even heard about differentiating between teachers with or without accommodations I hit the city site. Sunday morning I had an appointment for 5:40 at Hillcrest High School, after having failed many times. But when I clicked "next," it bounced me right back to square one.

The city system is slammed. They haven't got enough vaccines anyway, because no one does. I rep 300 teachers, I'm all over social media, and the complaints I hear are along the lines of, "Why can't I get in?" I gave up on Sunday and signed up when I got the email from UFT.  In fact, UFT did prioritize. UFT is going to make those currently working in buildings priority one. It will make middle and high school teachers who teach live (though not currently) priority two. Teachers with accommodations, like me, are third priority. 

I can live with that. Nonetheless, I wouldn't blame anyone who can get the vaccine for doing so. We're talking about a life-threatening disease, and I know people who've died from it. I wouldn't wish this on anyone. 

However, we have enough problems without the Post trying to build mountains out of molehills. In fact it was Andrew Cuomo who set priorities and failed to differentiate, and Donald Trump who chose to use emergency powers to build walls rather than ramp up vaccine production. Biden says he will, in fact, ramp up vaccine production.

Related: Here's another piece about teachers who feel lucky to get the vaccine, (They are.)

Monday, January 11, 2021

UFT Executive Board January 11, 2021--The Elusive Vaccine

Joined in progress 6:05--Mulgrew--Will have more .possibilities for funding with new Senate.

Very sad week for US this week, lost clout internationally

Positivitity rate inside schools very low. There is usually a small bump after holiday. We are still closing schools under emergency provision. Today 190 schools closed. Monday always worst day because that's when we get results, but this is how we keep people safe. We will continue to do that. 

1B has officially opened up. Vaccine had been being wasted, not going where it needed. We have been working with providers and will get doses. Getting calls all day, and many orgs already running out of vaccine. This will happen for next two weeks. Biden will release all reserve vaccine day one, will use defense act to ramp up production. 

Whether or not you want to take it, we need 70% of population to take vaccine. Some people don't want to take it, and it's not mandated. This is a state issue. 1B pool is over 4 million people. This means you need 8 million doses and state only gets 300K a month. We matched 6,000 members today. 

Recommend you take either vaccine. Doctors say no difference in terms of quality or side effects. Governor said union could set up own process, and we are now the only ones who've done it. Scarcity will be an issue. City seems to have issue getting out what they have. Of 400K they got, they still have 90K sitting in refrigerators.

We've prioritized people working in buildings. Those who would be, middle and high schools, are priority two, and then the rest. 

Our school nurses were the first to get vaccines. They have been on front lines.

We negotiated two hours release time. Document says if you can give three days notice, show you have appointment, you can get two hours release time. You may have to show you got vaccine. No database at city level. Members going Wednesday won't be able to give notice. Principal may not say no. 

If you have adverse reaction, and this will be very low %, you have ten days of COVID leave. If you have cough, shortness of breath, etc., you may use this. If you have fever less than a day they will add two days. Fever over 24 hours can add 8 days. Depending on symptoms. DOE tried to reinterpret, but we fixed it.

If state rate goes to 9% in NYC we will have to go to war with mayor. Legally they have right to change rules, but they're still wrong.  Hopefully it won't get to that. We will see moving forward. 

We still have politics to take care of. Normally news cycle would be city elections. Primaries in June. We have six endorsements for City Council, will be more. We are doing interviews and thank all doing work.

City putting together budget, and they may talk layoffs. We will have challenges for minimum 2-4 years. We will have 3 or 4 mayoral panels. We will build out what our educational platform is during these panels. We will probably do panels in Feb. and March via Zoom, and open to membership. 

We will then come up with list of finalists and do a panel.

Comptroller, borough presidents, will be borough wide. DA Manhattan is one of most powerful law enforcement official in country. 

We need people who will work with us. Financial issues will be tough.

Post COVID plans are good, but we have no way to finance them. Eval. and special ed. issues are in process.  Special ed. and legal people at DOE want compliance from us, and don't want to admit when they are. Their hypocrisy knows no bounds.

Lester Young first African American Regents Chancellor. We have good relationship with him.

If you want vaccine, use every area you can find. We are getting members set up, but there is a lot of stuff going on.

Question

Can there be UFT event around inauguration day?

That will be tough. We're working very hard to match people up for vaccines. That's been our main focus. Still this is tough time. Students are watching things happen in real time. Every teacher's got to answer student questions. We need to focus on getting people over 75 vaccines.

We will have updates at DA Wednesday. We will set up sites for teachers to be vaccinated.

Do you expect an evaluation agreement?

We have no choice. We're required to have a MOSL. Lots of elementary schools use running records. Do we want to develop a MOSL for five months? Of course not. But we have to. DOE is pushing Danielson, but how can that work? DOE wants to focus on student engagement. How can you do this when you're an in person teacher of 5 students, or you're on Zoom? They have no idea what they're talking about. They're saying parents want to know why we're not engaging kids. They make us grade kids who never show. 

Thank you all for coming.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

White Supremacy Is Everywhere--Even in UFT

Like everyone I know, I'm totally freaked out by what happened in DC last week. I guess no one should be surprised, as it was telegraphed by the President, a whole bunch of House and Senate members, and Trump media outlets and devotees around the country. What was really shocking was the response, or lack thereof, of the police and/ or military. (Worse, the rioters absolutely expected the police to support them.)

We saw a much different approach to BLM demonstrations. There were a few of those in my town, Freeport NY, and the neighboring town, Merrick. I'm constantly walking my dog on the canal here and I was pretty shocked to see a contingent of police, mounted and otherwise, near a local bar. The cops told me they were there to prevent violence. There wasn't any, so they mostly sat in a parking lot talking to one another. But they were prepared. 

In Merrick, a much whiter town, there wasn't any violence either, but there were a whole lot of stupid white people shooting off their mouths about how BLM didn't have the right to assemble, and how the demonstrators should all go to Freeport. There was a video up on Facebook that I'm not gonna search for. There wasn't any violence beyond the verbal sort. It was shocking, though, to see those people publicly announcing their essentially white supremacist positions. This openness is a by-product of the Trump presidency. I guess cancel culture is when you tell these folks to keep their filthy ideas to themselves.

Of course other parts of the country were worse. There was violence against BLM protestors all around these United States, despite the fact that most such demonstrations were peaceful. The contrast in the way BLM was treated in the Capitol with the way the Trump riot was handled is stark indeed. Anyone who doesn't believe in white privilege today has got his head buried in the sand. 

The Trump rioters came in with the expectation of overturning a democratic election. Now, sure, they don't believe it was a democratic election. That's because, in these United States, we've dumped the Fairness Doctrine that required both sides of issues be presented. This enabled Fox News, without which Donald Trump would still be a TV show host. Now, because even Fox doesn't satisfy Trump or the most virulent of his supporters, there are two more news channels. There's OAN and Newsmax, catering to the hardcore Trumpies. 

I was pretty horrified to learn days ago they were both on my cable package. I watched OAN for a few minutes, and they were having a conversation asserting that there were Democrats rioting along with all those lunatics. I follow an ex-teacher friend of mine on Twitter, and her feed is full of tweets saying Antifa was taking part. 

The riot was a step too far somehow, and a lot of rats are deserting the sinking ship, not the least of whom is our good friend Betsy DeVos. You see Senators like Lindsey Graham finally admitting that Biden will be President. Graham is the guy who was humiliated by Trump in the primaries, yet managed to spend a good four years kissing his ample posterior. Graham took a principled stand not to give Merrick Garland a hearing for SCOTUS, but shoved in Amy Coney Island five days before the election. People like Graham are more reprehensible than their followers, because they know better and just don't care.

Now we sit in a country where the white supremacists feel they own it and we don't. I passed a store in Merrick yesterday with an Impeach Cuomo sign. I'm not a huge fan of Cuomo either, so I took a closer look. The next sign said Trump got over 400 electoral votes. This guy hangs this sign on his business and people still come and do business with him. 

So it's not surprising that hundreds of white supremacists felt emboldened enough to go to DC, storm the Capitol, and have no fear of meeting violent resistance. Far worse is the fact that they were absolutely correct. Trump, on Twitter, told them he loved them before finally being forced, likely as not kicking and screaming, to release a video denouncing violence. This is the guy who chants law and order all the time, and we now know the shouts of law and order apply only to certain skin tones. 

Trump himself is a racist and a bigot, having refused to apologize to the wrongly convicted Central Park 5, for whom he demanded the death penalty. There's his assertion there were very fine people on both sides of the nazi rally. It's sickening that so many Americans could overlook that and support him, egged on by Fox and their even lower common denominator spin offs. While not every Trump supporter may be a bigot, their support certainly enables and encourages bigotry. 

And alas, here in New York, we aren't immune to it. PBA endorsed Trump. Can you imagine being police of color and seeing that happen? (Police of color in the Capital spoke of "racist ass terrorists" in DC. The National Guard took its time showing up to help.) 

Of course, there are Trump supporters in UFT as well. It's hard for me to fathom that, as Trump is virulently anti-union, supporting "right to work" and enabling a court that allowed public employees who who felt like it to shirk on union dues. Let me tell you something--as bad as things are, however you feel about UFT leadership, we are very fortunate to weather the apocalypse as well as we have. If Trump had his way we'd all be teaching full classes in buildings or fired. Or dead of COVID. Take your pick.

Even in UFT, this is nothing new. I will never forget what happened to Eric Garner and reading the UFT Facebook page. UFT decided to support the march protesting Garner's death. The borderline racist, not to mention overtly racist, comments on that UFT Facebook post were humiliating to me as a union member and teacher. I'd had no plans to go to that march, but called a friend I knew who was going, and made it a point to be there myself. 

Of course a bunch of those teachers decided to wear NYPD shirts to school after Garner's murder. Here's how it was covered in the NY Post

Angry city teachers who refused to be bullied by their union posted Facebook photos on Thursday of themselves in NYPD T-shirts — after the UFT warned them not to wear the “inappropriate apparel” on the first day of classes.

You see? It's right here. It walks among us. Let's forget about the NY Post characterizing the UFT's suggestion (in a news story no less) that we not openly endorse murder as being "bullied." Can you imagine being a student of color, having just heard Eric Garner was murdered for the offense of selling loosies, and then having your teacher come in supporting the police in this case?

There are times to support the police. I generally support the police. I do not support police who commit gratuitous violence against citizens. I specifically oppose police who capriciously kill people who look like my students. I don't know what all those white teachers were thinking, or even if they were thinking, but I would hate for my kid to see that sort of thinking paraded as that of a role model.

Now that the treachery of the DC mob has been lain bare for all to see, those who encouraged it are taking another tack altogether:

 

 

Of course, Ivanka's not alone here. All the House and Senate members who wanted to thwart democracy, who openly tried to reverse the votes of citizens of color, who got caught and failed, now say they want to work together, as though they won't obstruct absolutely everything designed to help working people and promote everything designed to enrich those who least need it. Never mind the hundreds of bills that sat dormant on the desk of Mitch McConnell all these long years. Never mind the suppression of votes that's been going on for years here, or those who still pursue it.

White supremacy was and is everywhere. It's a great sin that Donald Trump, Fox News, GOP reps and others, even some of us, have now normalized and encouraged it. I don't envy Joe Biden the task that lies ahead of him, but I wish him luck.

Thursday, January 07, 2021

The Chancellor Responds to Current Events

 Dear Colleagues,
 
Like so many other days in the past ten months, yesterday we experienced an alarming and frightening moment that was unprecedented in our lifetimes. And l have to tell you, I was relieved to see the breach of the U.S Capitol, I was absolutely certain that something like this would make you think about something other than my forcing you to work in the worst epidemic any of us have ever seen.  I am hopeful that such incidents redirect your sadness and anger. I’m tired of reading nasty crap you guys say and write about me. I’m just doing my job, man. 


I was equally disturbed by what I saw as the response of law enforcement, who apparently allowed the entry and later the peaceful dispersing of these violent rioters. If I drive you guys to strike, it won’t look like that at all. I’ll ask the police to drive vans right through the lot of you. There will be rockets red glare and carnage ahoy. The city cops endorsed Trump, you know.


My heart breaks to know that our young people have witnessed this violent assault on people, property, the rule of law, and on our democracy itself—If we do it here in New York, we’ll endeavor to cover it up much better than they did in DC. The best response at this time, as I see it, is to open all the school buildings, give a lot of homework, and make sure no one has time to think about this stuff.  


Today, tomorrow, and beyond, you will have the opportunity, and responsibility, to acknowledge and discuss these events. However, make sure to do so in such a way that you stir no controversy at all. Don’t upset any of the students or I’ll nail your asses for verbal abuse, as per CR A-421. Remember, it’s not what you say, it’s what they hear. If you say, “Good morning,” and some kid objects, too bad for you. That’s a letter to file.


We have a lot of to resources for you, including ways to facilitate discussion in class about these events. Be advised, though, that if you actually tell students what you think you will be subject to discipline. Just listen to whatever they say and pretend you have no feelings about it whatsoever. That’s the kind of role model our kids need. You don’t see me standing up for what I actually believe in.


Seriously, do you think I want to open the frigging buildings? Of course I don’t. But Blaz does, and he’s the boss. Where am I gonna score another gig with a free house, an outrageous expense account, and at least triple your salary? 


You are essential to the functioning of a healthy democracy: educating and supporting our children, preparing them to contribute to their communities and country. We stand together with you, for our students, today and every day.


Just don’t actually say anything, or we’ll come down on you with the wrath of Bloomberg, whose pungent stench still lingers here in Tweed. Not in my office, of course, I’ve got the kind of ventilation you can only dream about, as I sit here by myself, when I even bother coming in.


Please do not hesitate to reach out with any other needs, concerns, or questions. You can count on us for valuable lip service, or a visit from some guy in a suit who will bring you up on 3020A charges faster than you can say, “What the hell did I ever do to deserve this?”
 
In unity,
 
Richard

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Desperation, Thy Name Is De Blasio

In the face of an exploding epidemic, not to mention a new more virulent COVID strain, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has decided that quarantine needs to be cut rather than extended. The mayor just decided that rather than quarantine for 14 days, as recommended by CDC, he will cut it to ten, because they said it was allowable. It's remarkable in this day and age to find a politician who can unite both left and right, but we've got one in our current mayor.

The fact is that, no matter where on the political spectrum you may fall, you almost certainly hate Bill de Blasio. People on the right contend he's the second coming of Fidel Castro, while those of us on the left wonder how we ever counted him as one of us. And whether left or right, if you haven't drunk deeply of the Trump Kool Aid you know that deadly disease is a bad thing, and its spread ought to be avoided by any means possible. 

We're learning that the new strain tends to affect younger people more, but that doesn't bother Bill de Blasio. After all, his kids aren't in school anymore. And why should he worry about UFT? After all we didn't support him in the primary, opting for some guy who told the NY Daily News the city couldn't afford the raise NYPD and FDNY got. Is he still mad at us for that? Does he think by making us go out and risk our lives,  along with those of the kids we serve, we'll somehow become even?

De Blasio took a principled stand, saying he'd close the schools as soon as the city hit 3%. He, like others who pushed for school openings, simply assumed that would never happen. It's funny how Very Important People fail to understand exactly how epidemics work. But he ridiculed those of us who said it was a bad idea, and pretty soon it turned out we were right. Who would've thunk it?

But then a small but vocal minority started screaming it was time to open the schools. Ethics shmethics, decided Bill de Blasio, and flushed his principled stand down the tubes, thinking his lost reputation would somehow hop back out of the toilet. New Yorkers would suddenly forget that he shows up late for absolutely everything, that he spent months out of state in a preposterous and wasteful campaign for the presidency, or that he kept schools open way too long back in March.

But this is Bill de Blasio's hill, and he's ready to die on it. Personally, I think de Blasio has the absolute right to die, at least figuratively, on any hill of his choosing. What I object to is his dragging the rest of us down with him. I also object because it's likely that deaths caused by his delusional obstinacy will not, in fact be figurative. 

If one more person dies due to the pigheadedness of Bill de Blasio, the blood will be on his hands. Over 75% of New Yorkers don't deem schools safe enough to send their children in. The city's capacity for testing is sorely limited and thus far they've failed to keep up. While it's amusing to watch clowns wallow in their ineptitude, Bill de Blasio is playing with live children, not seltzer bottles.

And let's not leave out our esteemed chancellor, who goes along with every caprice of his boss, no matter who it hurts, who claims to respect us but sneers when 108,000 of us demand he close the schoools. Richard Carranza demanded 108,000 signatures for epidemiologists. I'm glad he finds our concern for our lives and those of the children we serve so hilarious, but this blatant indifference renders him as unfit as his boss. I have no idea how he musters the gall to write us all those flowery, insincere emails.

The bright side is that Bill de Blasio is term-limited and can't afford to buy a third term, as billionaire Bloomberg did. This will save him the indignity of a crushing loss and save us the trouble of voting him out. If he really wanted to help the city, though, he'd step down immediately and get a real job. Not as a teacher, though. I rate him ineffective plus plus.

Monday, January 04, 2021

UFT Executive Board January 4, 2021--Vaccines, Openings, Closings and Food Banks

UFT Secretary LeRoy Barr--Welcomes us. DA Next week, Jan. 13th. 

Karen Alford--Thanks members for toy drive donations. Says many children got toys, and over 20K in monetary donations, not to mention toys.

Al Shanker scholarship deadline extended to February 1.  

Anthony Harmon--Food drive to help communities--partnered with restaurants to get 1K meals per week per borough, over 20K done so far.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew--Moment of silence for Jerry Rainer, teacher at MS 216, who passed last week. 

We will continue helping communities with food.

City and state have different numbers. Currently state numbers take precedence. Discrepancy is large, but COVID definitely rising. Number for state is 6.2 while city number is over 9, yet mayor says he's following the state. Testing is continuing to work. Since 12/7 closed 390 schools, over 45%. Just today, we had 121 schools shut down due to pre-break tests. 

We need everyone to continue to report testing issues. They have made changes, but we need quick turnaround and real random testing. In order to get it all done, they can't just test a whole school. They will test 20% and leave, and they can't test only adults. Governor said if school district reaches 9% it's up to them to close. UFT says we have to close at 9%. This could be a fight if we get there. 

My focus has been moving teachers up in terms of vaccine access. There are tens of thousands of doses sitting in freezers, and worst offender is NYC, having distributed only 31%. I want us to have access now. We will support right to choose, but we want access to choose. 

We don't have spread in the building because we act quickly. It's not the end when we get vaccine. Will take a while to reach herd immunity, but individual will have a bit of safety. We need to move up vaccination access for school employees. We are at 6.2%. When we get to 9 we will fight to close schools. 

APPR--Conversations on teacher evaluation has started. There is an agreement that there must be a MOSL. We will simplify as much as possible and move forward. 

Thanks people who helped distribute food and toys. Things like these are important. Will be bumpy over next few weeks and we hear it is trending up. Nationally, people want to keep schools open, so this will be tough. If we hit 9, we will fight. 

Vaccine is important now. We can't get to the end of this unless large % get vaccine.

Questions/ answers

City level is 6.2. Mayor uses own numbers. we don't know why. Two sets of facts don't build confidence. We need a plan to get to end.

Vaccine availability is something I'm in conversation with hospitals and health providers. Want to make it available and easily accessible. 

Hopefully there will be more clarity by Monday. We will push very hard. Once feds allot doses they're shipped to state, which determines where it goes. We're working to build sites, possibly high schools. There is a local group to set up plan for NYC. We've told city we want to be part of that process. 

Even if all UFT is vaccinated I don't believe we can open yet. We still have children coming in and out and all have to be vaccinated before herd immunity happens. I will go to doctors for advice, and perhaps bring them to one of these meetings. I want vaccines now, not Feb or March.

Why are we going with state number, not city?

There should've never been two different numbers. We have a dynamic in which NYC wants to do things differently and by itself. Sometimes I understand and sometimes I don't. City number has no legal authority and serves to cause confusion. Doctors tell us they are comfortable with state number.  I think extra number is for political purposes and doesn't help.

Can vaccines be done in schools?

There is a chance. 

Many people working remotely--will they be included in prioritized vaccine?

I think they should be. People in buildings may go first but then it's entire title. We can't get through this thing until we get to general public after all. 

How concerned are we about new variant, now in NY?

We're concerned, but it seems to react to the vaccine. Do protocols, wear mask. 

I thought Cuomo set ceiling at 9%. Has he moderated policy?

Trying to get clarity. Upstate school districts are over and he said it was up to them. We though 9 was it. We don't have collective bargaining on this. Did not appreciate change in policy. It's confusing. We talk to doctors all the time and found if we could increase testing we'd be safer. Looking for clarity--Exec. order said 9 would shut down, but now it's up to school. Looking for clarification. 

What is time frame for return to middle school?

I don't believe you can open up anything else. You didn't read my op-ed. I made it clear we have no ability to do more testing right now. Has to be a window of time before schools open. This is why we hate mayoral control. We've had no official conversations since testing capacity maxed out. 

It will be a rocky few weeks. It's up to everyone to keep virus at bay, not just school. All numbers will now be posted daily. Happy New Year to all.

Sunday, January 03, 2021

What Is De Blasio Waiting For?

School buildings open tomorrow, despite an explosion of COVID in Fun City. You look at this and you have to ask yourself why exactly it's so important. There are a number of possibilities.

The most obvious is that the upper middle class white community has leaned on him to keep schools open. I am, frankly, shocked at some of the people who have clamored for building openings. A few months ago, they were indignant about it. Positivity is below 1%, they bellowed. Those of us who opposed opening buildings were ridiculous. We were hysterical. 

What are the open building advocates saying now? Who knows? Have they got a shiny new rationale? Are they just hoping none of us recall what they were saying back in September? It doesn't much matter, because the mayor is still persuaded. Why is that?

My pet theory is that he thinks, by keeping schools open, he makes himself a hero. No other city has done what NYC has done. Mayor de Blasio believes, perhaps, that this will resuscitate his tarnished reputation. Maybe people will forget that last year he walked off his job for months in a self-indulgent run for President, an effort in which he garnered no more votes than my dog

Maybe teachers, by being forced to teach masked children six feet apart, will fail to notice it's something straight out of Black Mirror.  Maybe we'll forget that just weeks ago de Blasio tried to steal a billion dollars from us. Maybe we won't even recall that he left the Bloomberg machine to fester within Tweed, and that the chronic ineptitude in testing for ventilation and COVID is thus his fault .

Someone messaged me that perhaps he was waiting for Cuomo to close schools. That way no one can blame de Blasio, and he can say, "Hey, it wasn't my decision." Then those uptight white parents can find something different to complain about. Will they end up supporting de Blasio in his next quixotic campaign for whatever? I'd refer you to this modern riddle:

What's the difference between Elvis and Bill de Blasio?

Elvis is alive.

Does the mayor even know the positivity rate has crossed 9%? Actually, the tweet below says it's crystal clear he does:

Avoid large gatherings, but hop on those trains and buses to come to school. And it's the mayor himself announcing we've crossed that particular 9% Rubicon, with not a hint of irony. Given we're just past the holiday season, replete with entirely predictable surprises, it doesn't look like figures are going the other way either.  We know that the mayor is late for everything. He shows up late to talks, to meetings, to pressers. I'm glad he's not in one of my classes. He waited weeks, back in March, to close schools. People died, and no one is going to forget that, ever.

What will bring Mayor Bill de Blasio to actually close schools? As previously mentioned, he could be ordered by the governor. Maybe Joe Biden will take hold of this on a national level, but I'm not holding my breath. This thing has been so politicized that we still have Trump supporters who still think it's a hoax. 

The other thing that will move the mayor is a catastrophe. While de Blasio sits around in his office marking off black eyes and feathers in his cap, he needs to wake up and realize that the first casualty in this idiotic adventure will be blood on his hands. The press and public at large will pounce, and the open building advocates will head for the hills with their crappy arguments.

This will be the worst of all possible black eyes for the mayor. While I no longer respect de Blasio, and while the chancellor has proven to be nothing more than one of his handy pocket tools,  I'd urge them both to reverse this march into the Big Muddy

It's idiotic and destructive. If either of these men wishes to leave office with any integrity or reputation intact, it's time for them to close the buildings, at the very least until this trend is reversed.

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Today in PTA (Pass Them All)

Yesterday, I got a prescient comment from SC Math Teacher, and I'll repost it here. The first part is a quote from me, but he comes to an inescapable conclusion directly afterward:

“The last I heard, the DOE was holding individual teachers responsible this year for NX students. That means that next semester we could be burdened with not only our regular caseload, but also following up on students who didn't pass.”

This sounds like an incentive — an awful one, but an incentive nonetheless— for teachers to just pass everyone so the DOE can boast about fantastic graduation rates.

It's true. There are two possible interpretations here, and that's one of them. The other is that de Blasio and Carranza have decided to cut down on expenses, via not paying people to examine their "NX" grades. After all, why pay people to work when you can get them to do it for free? This is exactly the sort of thing we'd have expected from Bloomberg.

Currently, in my building, there are all sorts of per session gigs looking after previous NX grades. So teachers looking for extra hours can sift through work these kids may or may not do, make calls to which they may or may not respond, and try to get as many kids as possible pass these courses. I'm happy for the teachers who make extra money this way, and even happier that I don't have to bother with it.

Of course if any of us figure that it will be our task to drag the kids we couldn't get to do the work now to do it later, it's an enormous incentive to pass everyone. Who wants to be stuck with a full caseload plus all the students who didn't make it through last time? Not me, and likely not anyone. The teachers who take money for this surely don't want to do all that extra work for no compensation.

So there is a clear solution for all--you can fix it all for yourself. All you need to do is set your standard at absolute zero. If a student has never done a lick of work, never shown up, and none of your home contacts have been successful, you give the student a 65 and it's over and done with. There's no supervisor in your face or Zoom asking why you didn't pass this kid or that.

Otherwise, well, you have to justify your cruel grade,  make all those calls, beg the kids to do the work whether or not you make contact, and hope something happens. Of course, if nothing does, and you lacked the foresight to pass them for no reason whatsoever, you might be starting from square one the following semester.

This is a great system for the city. It expends not one cent, does no work, and puts the entire responsibility upon the working teacher. And, As SC Math Teacher says, if kids end up passing in larger numbers, de Blasio and Carranza get to take credit for passing those kids via their brilliant and innovative policies. We know, after all, that when kids do well the mayor is a genius and when they don't the unionized teachers suck.

I don't know about you, but I'm entirely disinclined to lift a finger for de Blasio. As far as I'm concerned, he's the worst mayor in my living memory. Now sure, you'll say, Giuliani and Bloomberg were awful, worse in many ways, and you're absolutely right. However, it was their job as anti-labor demagogues to be as awful as they possibly could. We had no reason to expect better from them. 

De Blasio was supposed to be the answer, the remedy to 20 years of mayors who hated us and everything we stood for. I contributed to him. I worked for him. I froze in an outdoor seat at his inauguration. (Back then I wasn't constantly walking a dog and had no idea how important it was to have wool socks.) Despite our hopes for him, he left all of Bloomberg's people in Tweed. The DOE is as hostile to us as it was with his predecessors, and is essentially a Bloomberg operation. (In Rudy's defense, he never had the management skills to go after us all that well, and was no more successful at that than he's been in overturning the 2020 election. He was always busy suing people who displayed paintings made with elephant dung and such.)

De Blasio is very much like other modern politicians in that he has no discernible moral center. We'll close schools at 3%, he said, believing the positivity rate would never get that high. Then, after a few nasty comments in the press, he went back on that. Cuomo, whose level went from 5 to 9%, for reasons that elude me, was no longer a Blaz benchmark. Now, if it goes to 9%, he'll look at it some other way. He believes he's some sort of hero for keeping schools open for a slim minority of city students during a pandemic. I believe he's beyond washed up.

Be that as it may, this is an awful policy. There is no moral justification for it. It's something I'd expect from Bloomberg. At least Bloomberg, being a cynical anti-labor billionaire, could align it with his "ethics-shmethics" public persona. De Blasio has no such excuse. This is a particular disgrace for Carranza, who absolutely knows better. 

It's on us to preclude this. We have duties, they are laid out in our collective bargaining agreement and decades of precedent, and this is not the year in which teachers need extra responsibilities. Right now, we need to hope the vaccine will be utilized widely enough that we can go back to simply doing what we do in September. That's the best we can hope for right now. 

I'd say shame on the DOE, but I've seen no evidence they have the remotest concept what shame actually is.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Teacher Evaluation Will Show Whether Biden Is Friend or Foe

For a while, I was wondering why we would even bother negotiating an observation system with the city. I mean, here we are, all of us, doing a job none of us had trained for or even conceived. How can our supervisors come in and determine exactly how much we suck at these jobs? For one thing, they've never attempted them themselves. I mean, sure, they have a lot of experience telling teachers they suck and exactly why, but supposedly they themselves were teachers at some point. 

In my school, supervisors don't teach at all anymore. That's too bad, You'd hope they'd be out there setting an example of best practices for us, rather than simply talking about it. 

However, even if they were doing that, I don't know a single supervisor with experience teaching online. I don't know a supervisor with experience teaching masked students who are socially distanced either. Maybe in other schools supervisors teach, and maybe some of them have as much experience as we do, i.e, very little.

Who on earth is qualified to design a system to rate those of us doing these new things? I'd argue not even we are, let alone our non-teaching supervisors. If you've been doing this work for less than a year, unless your soul is frozen colder than Mitch McConnell's heart, you're still on a steep learning curve.

Of course, that was no impediment to Charlotte Danielson, who's actually conjured up a Framework for Remote Teaching. You may recall Danielson saying that her framework ought not to be used as a checklist. Well, that hasn't stopped her from collecting a bajillion dollars from districts that used her work just that way. Obviously, it hasn't stopped her from expanding upon their use either. Who exactly designed this new framework? Was it teachers with years of experience in it?  As online charters are awful, and real teachers have precious little experience, I'm gonna have to go ahead and doubt it. 

And yet here I am talking about rating teachers, along with a whole lot of people across the country. Why? Well, that's a by-product of the Obama administration's education policies. You may recall that Joe Biden was Vice-President back then, as we all Raced to the Top. And the policy borne of that era says that teacher must be rated, and said ratings must be based somewhat on student performance, like standardized test scores. 

Yet there aren't any standardized test scores right now, and haven't been any for almost a year. And if there were, it would be really hard to assess this year as we did normal years. That, of course, doesn't even take into account that the standardized tests are total crap anyway. So how, in a year like this, are we supposed to fairly rate teacher performance?

Honestly, I don't think it's possible. Yet federal law requires it. Federal law requires that UFT and DOE work something out. Now there could be an exception, but it would have to come from the feds. (That's not to mention the need for approval by the geniuses in Albany, but that's step two.) Given that Joe Biden needed all the help he could get, and given that he certainly got support from the AFT and NEA, one would think he'd be inclined to show gratitude. Of course, one would've thought the same of Obama, and what we got from him was Arne Duncan, just a whisper less nuts than Betsy DeVos. 

Can we count on Biden? Honestly, I have no idea, but our national unions ought to at least ask him for an exception. This could be the first test of whether or not he's any different on education from Obama. I was at an AFT candidate's forum in Pittsburgh, and he told us that he didn't believe in depending so much on standardized testing. Here's a good chance for him to put his money where his mouth is.

Biden says he wants to see schools reopen within his first 100 days. If he does, he'll make sure the vaccine becomes more widely available, and moves at a much quicker pace than it's been doing so far. However, even if he's successful, that will mean this school years is a veritable slush of online learning, socially distanced classes, and maybe ordinary classes. That's a huge maybe.

I usually pass around 80% of my students. I'm not sure whether that's good, bad, or indifferent, but that's the way I roll. I'm around 70% right now. Theoretically, of course, no one is failing. Those not passing get NX. The last I heard, the DOE was holding individual teachers responsible this year for NX students. That means that next semester we could be burdened with not only our regular caseload, but also following up on students who didn't pass. Mulgrew objected to that, and I followed up with a question for last week's Executive Board, but I forgot to go, and I thus have no idea where we are on that. 

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that I'm typical. That would mean that a teacher with 150 students in February would also have an extra 45 to follow up with, thus diverting her attention from the task at hand, whatever it may be by then. How the hell is this teacher supposed to deal with the already bizarre conditions on the ground with that excess workload? As a matter of fact, how are any of us dealing with anything? I don't actually believe the DOE will be able to force us to do this extra work, as we have no agreement about it. Nonetheless, just the thought of it raises my blood pressure.

Given the shitshow that this school year has been, it's not reasonable for us to swallow one more drop of Danielson, no matter how thoroughly she's polished it. We all know how much time she's spent teaching during the apocalypse, and that's none whatsoever. We all know how much her lip service to not using her rubric for ratings means, and it's clear her bank balance is more important to her than integrity.

It's time for Biden to put up or shut up. And if he fails us, we need to negotiate a system that does as little harm as possible. Given the relatively high percentage of insane supervisors here in Fun City, that will be an uphill battle. We've adopted a policy of do no harm, or at least as little as possible, for New York's schoolchildren. We ought to expect no less for New York's teachers.