Monday, March 06, 2017

Hell Freezes Over

Photo notwithstanding, this isn't about the Eagles. I'm just sitting here pretty much in shock that anyone from UFT would recruit me to do anything whatsoever. But it just happened nonetheless.

It's been a very interesting but bumpy ride for me on this blog. I started in 2005, with a view toward defending the UFT against the slings and arrows of the press, which seemed to hate us and everything we ever did. I had written a few times for New York Teacher, and they were the first people who ever paid me to write.  That said, I had personally taken exception to the 2002 Contract for adding time. Given that we had recently taken zero percent increases, I saw further such increases as a way to wipe out any gains and effectively leave us working extra time for free.

Shortly thereafter the 2005 Contract showed up. I had been in negotiations to write for Edwize, the gone but not-much-lamented UFT blog. I found the 2005 Contract to be a virtual abomination, and stating that publicly marked the end of my Edwize career before it even began. So I stayed here, and developed a voice that may have criticized union leadership once or twice, here and there.

I've run for office a few times, and last year, with the support of the MORE Caucus and the high school voters, managed to win a seat on the UFT Executive Board. We go there twice a month and support almost everything Unity brings up. Unity, which outnumbers us by over ten to one, opposes almost everything we bring up. It's a pretty funny position to be in, but you never know when they'll come to their senses.

I've been on an up and down quest to help reform the awful ELL policy called Part 154, and have not had a whole lot of success getting the kind of attention it deserves. I had a journalist all set to write about it, but for whatever reason, we had a lot of back and forth and it never happened. My friend Aixa and I made it all the way to being on TV, but haven't been able to get sustained attention thus far. I was able to help initiate and push a resolution with UFT to reform it, but nothing much has happened since then.

While I was pretty happy about it, I also almost fell off my chair when UFT VP of Education Evelyn de Jesus invited me to the NY State Association for Bilingual Education Conference in White Plains last weekend. I had signed up to do work with a UFT ESL committee, but didn't expect anything to come of it. I spent three days with people who were passionate about the kids I see every day. It was pretty amazing. Evelyn also spoke to me about presenting on future occasions, which surprised me even more. In fact, Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa, who I've been trying in vain to reach out to, actually walked up to me after she spoke and said told me was working on Part 154.

I'm more than happy to work with my union to promote our shared values and help the kids we serve. Fun though it may be fight all the time, this might be a better way to go. It's something I've been urging on this space for some time. We are fighting the worst dangers I've ever seen. Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump would be happy to close every public school in the country, make a few bucks on privatization, and maybe bring back child labor It appears inevitable that the United States will move backward to become a so-called right to work country. And if that isn't enough, my students, from every corner of the globe, are facing fears and dangers worse than I ever thought they'd have to encounter.

So I want to thank Evelyn de Jesus for thinking of me for this. I'm ready to work with UFT to preserve and protect the rights of my students. I'll do whatever I can. If we can give them a better and/ or safer education, I'm up for it. UFT President Michael Mulgrew said, at the conference, that if they came to our schools we're ready to be arrested. I know I am. These kids are like my own children and they've been one of the best parts of my life.

I'm ready to stand for them, to defend them, and to fight for them. I'm thrilled to see UFT leadership feeling the same way, and they have my unqualified support in this.
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