Thursday, November 30, 2017

Eva Gets a Small Whiff of New York City

I'm really flabbergasted to read Eva Moskowitz crying and moaning that she hasn't got enough space. She holds galas that earn her millions of dollars, and spent years with the Chancellor of NYC Schools in her hip pocket. Now she trashes Bill de Blasio because he won't give her what she wants. And make no mistake, she wants it all and she wants it now.

Eva is more important than you, and more important than me. She cannot wait. She has to have everything right away. And her students are more important than my students. Otherwise, why would my students be in a building at 200% capacity? Why do they have to struggle through the hallways to get to their classes? Why would they need to go through a 10-period day simply because there isn't enough space to accommodate them in a more reasonable fashion?

Moskowitz makes it a point to call her business a "public charter school," but all that means is she takes our money. takes our space, and demands more of it. She can call her school high-achieving, but that only refers to test scores. It fails to take into account Charter 101--you take a hundred kids, end up with forty, and all your kids are excellent. The other 60, the ones in those awful public schools, are not doing well at all. Clearly it's the fault of those pernicious unionized teachers.

Her "public charter schools" can't be bothered with any stinking rules. When de Blasio had an agreement that every pre-school signed, Eva decided she wasn't gonna make any agreement and her hedge fund backers fought the city in court. Now Eva can open any damn grade any damn way anyhow she feels like. "Public charter schools" don't need no public accountability, thank you very much.

My school has been overcrowded for well over the nine years I've been chapter leader. For a while we were able to control it but it's once again burgeoned out of control. Here's the thing--when you are really a public school, you take the public as they come in. When you are really a public school you take everyone. It doesn't matter if they just arrived from El Salvador yesterday and don't speak a word of English. It doesn't matter if they have disabilities so severe you know they will never graduate from high school.

How many of those students does Moskowitz take? Zero. Maybe she takes some ELLs that are advanced enough to sit around and test prep until they pee their pants. And maybe she takes students with IEPs, but there are IEPs and there are IEPs. Some students have IEPs simply because they need more time on tests. Some have a period of resource room for extra support. Others need to be in self-contained small classrooms. Some are labeled alternate assessment. At our school we bring them to worksites to learn trades.

It's nice that Eva can write editorials about how awfully victimized she is. What I'd like to see is Bill de Blasio, or Carmen Fariña, or someone in charge write about what it's like for the real public school children of New York City. Alas, the papers are all full of trashing the ATRs and there's no space for that.

Eva's line is ridiculous. Her students aren't more important than my students. They don't deserve better space than my students. Shame on the public servants who bow down to her preposterous demands and ignore the overwhelming majority of city children.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Alice in Reformyland

I don't link to the 74, but the reformy Gates-funded make-believe teachers over at Educators 4 Excellence are making a stink over the ATR. It seems they and their reformies care a great deal about students in so-called failing schools, the ones full of poverty, health issues, and homelessness. Since their Dear Leader, Bill Gates, has already decided to ignore those problems, the former untenured teacher who runs E4E has decided to go a different way. the same way StudentsFirstNY went.

They're asking all sorts of questions about the ATR, like which ones were removed for disciplinary charges. You see, in Reformyland, charges are the same as convictions. It doesn't matter if said charges led nowhere, and by the way, all of them did. Otherwise these teachers they want to know about would've been fired rather than retained. This is mentioned nowhere in the 74, which is just one more reason there's no link.

Why are the former teachers who run E4E all in a tizzy over the ATR? I can't read their minds or look into their souls (which have likely as not been sold for Gatesbucks anyway). They're probably all excited for the same reason Klein was--this is a key to breaking union and putting us out on our own. One thing UFT leadership did right was hanging tough on giving ATRs a time limit so they'd face dismissal. That happened in Chicago, if I'm not mistaken, and has been a disaster.

We are all ATRs, whether or not you know it. It's just a matter of being in the wrong place at the right time. I work just a few miles south of Flushing High School, and just a few north of what was Jamaica High School. Am I a better teacher because I happen to work at Lewis? Of course not. In fact, I came to Lewis from John Adams High School in 1993. Back then there was a UFT transfer plan and we could pick a new place. Had I stayed at Adams, I'd have had to reapply for my job and quite likely would've become an ATR. It can happen anywhere. You never know. The only thing you can be sure of is that the teachers will be blamed.

There's a reason why reformies are harping on ATRs, and that reason is they want working conditions for union teachers as tenuous as possible. That way they can build more non-union charters and make more teachers work 200 hours a week with no rights. You don't want to teach the extra class? Screw you. You don't want to take parent phone calls until 10 PM? Screw you. You don't want to take a bus trip to Albany in which you teach a lesson on the bus? Screw you. You have no tenure and you're fired. We can always open up another can of teachers, especially now that we don't have to bother with that pesky school certification.

Getting rid of the ATR means fire at will, folks, and it's likely as not that you and I will be the ones fired. Don't buy into the stereotypical nonsense about ATR teachers. It's not their fault their schools were closed. It's not their fault there are cute little academy schools full of newbie teachers where no one wants to take on a veteran salary. It's not their fault that whatever nonsensical charges, likely as not pressed by Bloomberg and his flunkies, failed to stick.

It's certainly not their fault that publications, up to and including the NY Times, choose to baselessly stereotype them. I'm not sure what's happening over at the Times. They just did a feature on a lovable, pasta-cooking Nazi next door type. I do know this, though. We need to protect the ATR with everything we got, because whither they go, so go us all.

That's exactly what the reformies are counting on.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Compare and Contrast

I may have mentioned somewhere on this space that I am a member of the UF of T. That's the NYC city teacher union. From time to time, I may have a question or two about leadership, and I occasionally post said questions on this space. The other day I pointed to a union that actually made demands, and went on to point out how different that was from the UFT approach.

A fellow UFT member sent me a letter from PSC President Barbara Bowen, and it appears that she, right here in New York City, has taken a similar approach. This is an excerpt:

Dear Members,

Earlier today I sent a formal request to Bill Thompson, Chairperson of the CUNY Board of Trustees, to begin negotiations for a new contract. 

The letter calls on the CUNY Board to settle a contract with a 5% raise in each year; additional salary increases for those who are lowest-paid; an increase to $7,000 per course for adjuncts; improved job security; material support for department chairs; and improved working conditions for all. The letter also reminds the Board that we will not tolerate excessive delays in this round of bargaining.

Now it’s up to you to show how serious you are about winning these demands. Make a commitment right now to be part of the PSC demonstration outside the next Board of Trustees meeting, on Monday, December 4 (download a flier). We need to start strong\

The letter goes on, but I'm sure it's evident to you that Ms. Bowen is asking for something--to wit, annual raises of 5%, and additional raises for lower paid workers. This is a stark contrast to the UFT policy of not asking for anything, at least as far as we know. It kind of makes me wonder whether the UFT policy of making no public demands whatsoever is the best we can do.

Let's look back a little. In 2014, we publicly asked for nothing. While we did ultimately get more than nothing, we managed to establish the lowest pattern bargain ever--10% over 7 years. You can argue that we got retro payment, though Howard Schoor at Executive Board insists it isn't. He calls it "lump sum payment." The reason, I suppose, is because a retro payment would be payable to everyone. This particular payment is unavailable to members who resign, are fired, or die. In fact this was a great bargain to the city.

While it's great that we get the money, a lot of people get left out. I'm thinking of all of the above, plus an adult ed. teacher I spent some time with. She was recently fired by a superintendent who appears to be less than reasonable. How is it fair that she worked all those years and will now be left out of money she seems to have earned? That's why, I guess, it's a lump sum payment, and not retro, even though it's based on salary and time worked.

In any case, there appear to be two ways of bargaining. You make demands, like the city does, like PSC does, or like the communication workers do. Alternatively, you create a 300-member committee, discuss things only within that committee, tell absolutely no one outside of it what you asked for, and hope for the best. That's the tried and true approach. And hey, maybe a year or two after the contract is signed, you'll learn that UFT asked for something you didn't know about. For example, Mulgrew told the DA, last year I think, that UFT had asked for a minimum of 2 observations as per NY state law. I was pretty surprised by that. After all, it was already two years after the contract was signed.

Oddly, despite Mulgrew's claim, which I happen to believe, and despite the fact that UFT originally asked for fewer observations when we allowed Reformy John King to arbitrate for us (one of the worst decisions in my living memory), many Unity supporters passionately defended excessive observation. Fortunately for them, UFT members won't find out our demands, if at all, until and unless Mulgrew blurts them out at some future DA.

Will UFT demand anything you or I want? Who knows? It's an open question. PSC knows what their leadership is asking for. If they don't get it, at least they'll know leadership tried. Generally, negotiation is one side asking for more, the other offering less, and meeting somewhere in the middle. It boggles my mind that UFT leadership finds it unacceptable to let membership know its demands. It boggles my mind that said demands are supposed to come from a 300-member committee dominated by people who've signed loyalty oaths to do whatever Unity Caucus instructs them to.

This is not remotely democratic, and when Janus comes down the road it's gonna be a tough sell. "We will decide what's best for you, we won't tell you what it is, and we will negotiate a Contract based on information we didn't and won't share with you." Maybe leadership thinks people will jump all over themselves to pay $1400 a year for that service.

I don't share that particular optimism. There's still time to correct it.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Blame the Teachers

So goes the rallying cry for the US of A. Students are failing tests, and the only possible value a human could have is measured on said tests. Whose fault? Well, it can't be the fault of the tests. After all, they're composed by experts, and we paid a lot of money for them. They must be the very best tests money can buy.

It can't possibly be poverty. Bill Gates has already decided that poverty is too complex to address, and if Bill's given up on it, we have to show him respect and give up on it too. It must be coincidence that students in Roslyn all do well on the tests and students in the Bronx don't. Sure, there is a correlation with high income and high test scores, and sure, this is true all over the country. But if Bill Gates says poverty is impossible to fix, he should know. After all, Bill has tried to fix many things in education and has succeeded in none whatsoever. So if there's a person who knows about not fixing things, it's Bill Gates.

It couldn't be homelessness. After all, only ten percent of NYC's students are homeless. We've already decided we aren't dealing with poverty. The fact is, these people likely wouldn't be homeless if they had the money to rent or buy a home. Obviously, poverty involves a similar lack of funds. Once we start to get these people homes we'll be addressing poverty. Bill Gates has already declared that off limits, and he must know something. Otherwise, why would he have all that money? So let's cross homelessness off our list.

It couldn't be lack of health care. After all, poor people in the United States should be used to not having health care by now. In fact, if Trump has his way, there'll be tens of millions more without it. So health care must not have anything to do with it. After all, it's all about grit. If you have grit you won't miss school. You'll hitch or crawl and do whatever's necessary to get to school and take that test. When Donald Trump was a kid, his chauffeur had to drive him 20 miles to school every day, and it didn't matter if there were two inches of snow on the ground.

In fact I'm sure it isn't health care. Otherwise, why would a children's health care program be in imminent danger? The important thing, according to the honorable members of Congress, is to reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20%. Also, gazillionaires really need a substantive tax break. So what if the children have to medicate themselves with Robitussion and there are massive cuts to Medicare and Medicaid? Because priorities.

It must be those lazy shiftless teachers and their unions working once again to subvert the test scores of our most vulnerable children. All they care about is themselves. Surely that's why Congress wants to kill the tax deduction for supplies. If they really cared about the children, they'd pay for supplies out of their pockets. After all, golf vacations at Trump properties don't grow on trees, and we have to save a whole lot of money to pay for them every single weekend.

No we have to place the blame where it's due. Thank goodness the GOP blocked the Democratic nomination for Supreme Court and changed the rules to push their guy through. Soon we can Right to Work the whole country, deprive unions of funds, and pay teachers the same as McDonald's fry cooks. They can have the same benefits too.

Because in the US of A, that's how we put children first.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Trust in Allah, but Tie Your Camel

That's an Arabian proverb. It may be easy for many to trust in Allah, but here in the United States we're expected to trust in President Donald Trump. This is the guy who, for years, criticized President Barack Obama for playing golf. I just read that Trump has spent his hundredth day on vacation, playing gold at his own property at our expense. That's a pretty sweet deal. Not only do you bill the American public for your vacation, but you also profit from it.

Tying your camel, these days, is not enough. And a union has decided much the same. President Donald Trump has told us that if the corporate tax break goes down, working stiffs like them would see a $4,000 raise. After all, their tax rate would go from 35% to 20%, cutting their liabilities almost in half. Surely companies like AT&T and Verizon would be more than happy to share the joy.

Here's the thing--Since 1980, when Saint Ronald Reagan was President, corporate tax rates have gone steadily downward. You'd think the middle class would be swimming in cash by now. After all, it's supposed to trickle down. The rich people get more money, they spread it around, and voila! All of a sudden union workers have tons of extra cash.

The only drawback, really, is that this never happened. Since the Times of Saint Reagan, middle class wages, adjusted for inflation, have remained stagnant. Things get better and better for the people on the top, but those of us in the middle haven't moved anywhere. In fact, it's kind of remarkable, given history, that anyone would muster the audacity to propose this trickle down nonsense at all. There's a quote attributed to H.L. Mencken, "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."

I never felt particularly comfortable with that quote, but as you read this, Donald Trump is the President of the United States. And those very companies, AT&T and Verizon, appear to be on the verge of a sweetheart deal in which they can pretty much control an internet from which they're already profiting handsomely.

I love the audacity of this union. Put your money where your mouth is, they say. In good times, we demand to share in the prosperity. This is a stark contrast with NYC. In our last contract, if you discount the double 4% raises given most city workers, UFT accepted 10% over 7 years. As James Eterno announced at the DA, that is the lowest pattern bargain in history. Not only did we end up imposing that on NYPD, FDNY, and everyone else, but this was what we negotiated from the friendliest mayor we'd had in 20 years. This man, Bill de Blasio, who regularly gets painted as the Red Menace, managed to win a pattern bargain Giuliani and Bloomberg could only have wet dreams about.

This other union is in the New York Times, making demands. When I go to the UFT Executive Board and ask for fewer observations for well-rated teachers, I'm told we can't possibly make any demands whatsoever. That, after all, would impose on the sanctity of the sacred Committee of 300, whose delicate and precise machinations are the stuff of legend. Also, because it's so top secret, no one on the committee can tell UFT members what the hell is even going on.

During a year when members will have the option to stop paying dues, UFT leadership tells beleaguered teachers it's no time to be making demands. Evidently, the only time demands can be made is during a top secret process about which the overwhelming majority of UFT members know absolutely nothing. Is it me, or can you too see how that might be a drawback in the quest to inspire members to voluntarily pay dues?

Oddly, the de Blasio administration, like Bloomberg's, has no qualms about making public demands. Last I heard, they were offering NYPD a 4.25% raise over four years, to be funded entirely by givebacks. In essence, they were offering nothing. I don't know what NYPD has to give back, but UFT has already given until it hurts. Primary in my mind is the ATR, which causes all sorts of maladies in working teachers.

UFT leadership wants a blank check for negotiation. We aren't allowed to know what they demand. We're supposed to trust them, and we aren't even allowed to see the camel, let alone tie it. I'm not privy to the high-level discussions that take place in AdCom, and being a high school teacher, we have no elected representation there. I could be part of the Committee of 300, where I'd likely be outvoted 99 to 1, but I'd still be prohibited from telling you what we did there (if anything).

I'm not sure that's how I'd present our future to the members if I were fighting for survival. And make no mistake, that's what all of us are doing. You'd think our captain would at least let us in on which direction we were steering the ship.

But you'd be wrong.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Danielson's Guide to a Highly Effective Thanksgiving

Full disclosure--found on the internet, unattributed. 

Ineffective: You don't know how to cook a turkey. You serve a chicken instead. Half your family doesn't show because they are unmotivated by your invitation, which was issued at the last minute via facebook. The other half turn on the football game and fall asleep. Your aunt tells your uncle where to stick the drumstick and a brawl erupts. Food is served on paper plates in front of the TV. You watch the game, and root for the Redskins.

Developing: You set the alarm, but don't get up and the turkey is undercooked. 3 children are laughing while you say grace. 4 of your nephews refuse to watch the game with the rest of the family because you have failed to offer differentiated game choices. Conversation during dinner is marked by family members mumbling under their breath at your Aunt Rose, who confuses the Mayflower with the Titanic after her third Martini. Only the drunk guests thank you on the way out. Your team loses the game.

Effective: The turkey is heated to the right temperature. All the guests, whom you have invited by formal written correspondence, arrive on time with their assigned dish to pass. Your nephew sneaks near the desert dish, but quickly walks away when you mention that it is being saved until after dinner. You share a meal in which all family members speak respectfully in turn as they share their thoughts on the meaning of Thanksgiving. All foods served at the table can be traced historically to the time of the Pilgrims. You watch the game as a family, cheer in unison for your team. They win.

Highly Effective
: The turkey, which has been growing free range in your back yard, comes in your house and jumps in the oven. The guests, who wrote to ask you please be invited to your house, show early with foods to fit all dietary and cultural needs. You watch the game on tape, but only as an video prompt for your family discussion of man's inhumanity to man. Your family plays six degrees of Sir Francis Bacon and is thus able to resolve, once and for all, the issue of whether Oswald acted alone.

Originally posted November 28, 2013

Wishing a Joyous Holiday to All

Wishing you a great four-day weekend, free from all the nonsense that we're always hearing and reading about, sometimes on this very site.

Enjoy a well-deserved holiday!

~From the entire staff here at NYC Educator.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Nov. 20th Executive Board Takeaway--Happy Talk from Unity and Recycled Class Size Issues

The other night several Unity members told some happy stories about people getting together and standing tall against administration. It's good to hear, but the song remains the same. Everything is good news and sunshine. I sat before the meeting with a distraught adult ed. teacher who was fired because a Principal Felt Like It. Alas, she had spoken to the board once so she can't do so again until next year.

I was not clear why they did this during the speakers portion. In the past, when they had good news, they would invite people to speak during the meeting. I kind of thought this space was reserved for members as opposed to union employees, but what do I know? I guess it's important to get the word out. However, I later received an email stating the following:

Frederick Douglas Academy occupies the 3rd floor of my building. Their principal, as far as I know, is still abusive and the staff has turned over each year. It has an abysmal record with safety and their school report card shows they are academically far behind. Sanchez has spent some time their but the turnaround, if true, is the best kept secret in our building. 

That's a horse of a different color. Of course, I'm not there so I can only report what I hear.

Jonathan Halabi had a delicate approach to a disturbing issue, asking exactly what teachers at DeWitt Clinton and Flushing had done wrong to be placed in the disturbing position of having to reapply for their jobs. Janella Hinds gave probably the best answer that could be given, under the circumstances, but Jonathan isn't happy. Yesterday, he commented:

Our leaders agreed to remove teachers from a school without cause. They did it at other places, and now Clinton and Flushing.

Once upon a time this union would have struck to stop that. This time our leaders negotiated the process - and our leaders will sit on the committee deciding who stays and who goes into the ATR pool.

These are vastly different times. I'd say for better or worse, but it's tough to identify the "better" part. I'm thankful not to be expert on this topic. I think they've closed or reorganized every comprehensive high school in the Bronx. I don't have anything to add to Jonathan's comment. I kind of wish I did.

I know a little more about class sizes, and I addressed the board directly on it. At my last class size hearing, another genius arbitrator ruled, as a "plan of action," that each teacher who had an oversized class would receive one day off a week from their C6 assignments. This is a blatant cop-out, a giveaway to any principal who feels like leaving classes oversized rather than following the contract. A contract is a two-way thing, but sometimes I feel like ours applies only to teachers.

I told the board I've taught oversized classes, and an extra prep is absolutely no help to a teacher. You don't need 40 minutes a week to plan for what can ensue when you face 45 teenagers. You need help, right there in the classroom, to deal. Furthermore, giving the teacher one additional weekly prep has absolutely no value for the students in the classroom, haplessly vying for the teacher's attention, or tuned out due to the chaos of an oversized class. It's nothing short of disgraceful that an organization which claims to place, "Children First, Always," would even ask for such a thing.

I also requested that leadership meet with us to try to come up with an actual plan to deal with this. I know they have some top-secret committee that contains no elected representation from high schools. At some point, Schoor asked who was here from the high schools. A bunch of people raised their hands. However, there are only six of us who actually represent the high schools. The others were rejected by high school voters and elected "at large." And every single one of them votes lockstep as told or they wouldn't be there. I have no idea what any of them contribute to our group beyond calling the question so Unity can vote us down.

In any case, when trying to solve a problem, consulting with the Stepford Reps is of no value I can discern. Since their opinions are restricted by loyalty oath, and therefore whatever leadership dictates them to be, they carry no particular importance, let alone any independent voice. I watched them sit in Minnesota and be told how to vote. I've watched them sit at 52, over and over, and wait until they are cued to support whatever.

I can understand how leadership might feel more at home by adding a few rubber stamps to the table, to say yes to whatever. Why should they listen to uncomfortable realities when they can simply recruit a dozen people to tell them everything is wonderful and this is the Best of All Possible Worlds?

I will try to set up a meeting, and we'll see where it goes. It would be best if we could agree on a substantive improvement. We have a considerable standing impediment in that we're told anything related to contract negotiations must go to the sacred and top secret Committee of 300. I cannot imagine a more unwieldy way to do anything, even if 98% of the committee members had not signed loyalty oaths. If I recall correctly, the last committee of 300 voted up the MOA without having ever seen it.

But if things go south, we can always let them vote down another resolution about class size. There's no doubt in my mind that the class size guarantees, as practiced, are virtually worthless. Why we and NYSUT haven't mobilized a march on Albany to enforce the C4E ruling is beyond my imagination. One thing I regularly tell this board is that we are the true advocates for the children of New York State.

Like everything else that does not originate from the Unity Spin Machine, it seems to fall on deaf ears.

Monday, November 20, 2017

UFT Executive Board November 20, 2017--Class Size Matters (to us at least)

Secretary Howard Schoor welcomes us.


Washington Sanchez—Rockaway school Douglas Academy 6—Very resourceful students—many challenges. CL often overwhelmed by challenges of admin. Staff suffered. This year, staff decided they’d had enough. Organized as a group. Three members took on tasks. Asked to meet with superintendent. Met after school at supe office. Went through safety, lack of materials, and AP named Katz, whose job entailed punishing rather than supporting. Teachers unprepared to help ELLs. Supe took action and things began to change. Still challenges. AP no longer abusive. Huge for staff. Books ordered. ELL specialist brought in. Happened because group came together.

Fred Cole
—Bronx CL—Spring 2017, because of a grievance, principal decided teachers didn’t need additional prep time. Had taught 22 periods because principal saw language in contract. On behalf of staff, thanks union. DR helped. Was arbitration. Many students coming out of day treatment and would be in school next day. Thanks again.


Presidential report—Mulgrew not here 6:10

Grievance update—Ellen Procida—Had they not been successful, hundreds would have lost rights. Other chapters came and testified. D75 came together. Arbitrator ordered pay for extra preps they lost and immediate return to schedule. Victory for chapter and union.

ATR report—Mike Sil
l—This year, sept, about 110 ATRs, 20% reduction from last year. Incentive helped. Hopes to update number next time. Most ATRs will be in buildings until end of January,

Mulgrew arrives—6:15—

Philadelphia reform commission done, board gets control.

Thanks for support in PR, water filters.

Wisconsin has suffered since union has declined, lost 3% of pay 19% of benefits.

Janus—spoke to president of Wisconsin TU, may bring her here in February.

Paid family leave—moving forward—asks CLs to arrange baby showers in schools, has 5100 volunteers. Keeping pressure on city. City not pleased, too bad. Group organizing says some people not nice to them—Mulgrew urges them to relax—we will get this done.

Officers and borough reps went to NYSUT last weekend, applauds Queens and Bronx for conferences. Functional chapter, AFT leadership team, Rich Mantel did Thanksgiving, very proud day for UFT. Many events.

DOE got upset because we sent out paperwork standards. We have a paperwork committee to decide what is redundant. Debbie Poulos sent out what was being decided. Is the issue that if we catch someone, you’ll fix it, but not let anyone know, or should we tell people about mistakes? A little nastiness over this, but we will make info available. If there is a decision, it’s not just for school. Everyone should look. We don’t need people wasting our time. People need to read what happens at this committee. This issue will never stop. Thanks committee.
Carmen Fariña may be replaced, it’s reported. We will wait. We want to be part of process. Will plan either way.

Thanks everyone for election day, Con Con, we have big challenges, wishes a great holiday.

Mulgrew leaves 6:24

Staff Director Report—LeRoy Barr—Member of exec board, Jay Futterman, has passed. Moment of silence.

CL training 12 2-3. Encourages attendance. Doorknocking training 12 9-10. 300 names and we want more.

Coalition for Homeless gathering. DA 12/6 EB 12 4, Happy Thanksgiving.

Shelby Abrams—Not easy. Jay was great union person. Was UFT. Was Unity. Any time you asked him to do something, he did it. Happy and proud he was among us. Sad we lost him. Sounded good, and then we got notice he was gone. Makes you wonder. If we don’t stand together, anything can happen.

Raquel Webb Geddes—Annual professional issues conference last weekend. Over 200 attendees. Workshops took place, were vendors. Thanks Anne Goldman, NYSUT, Mulgrew.


Arthur Goldstein—MORE—A year ago I came to this committee with a class size resolution. This was inspired largely by an arbitrator who felt the way to address class sizes was to relieve teachers from one C6 assignment a week, which I found idiotic. I was told the arbitrator had previously made more lucid decisions, so It wasn’t so bad.

Members of this board told me that we had made sacrifices to have class size written into the contract. They neglected to note that said sacrifices took place half a century ago, when many of us were either toddlers or not even born. I placed a piece in the Daily News about this.

I’ve taught oversized classes, and I can tell you that one additional planning period is not the support we need. Teachers need help right there in the classroom. That’s why, the following semester, that I proposed adding an extra teacher certified in the subject matter to each oversized class. That way, students could get more attention from both teachers. In the event schools were not as overcrowded as mine, teachers could send small groups with the other teacher to get caught up.

The following semester, the next arbitrator ruled for exactly that. Unfortunately, by the time it was enforced there were only days remaining in the school year. I was told there was now a new committee, and that we could use it before going to arbitration. I read enthusiastic reports from chapter leaders saying if the committee didn’t work out, that we could go to arbitrators.

This year I went for another class size hearing. This year, a new arbitrator ruled again that my people would get one day off from C6 assignments if they had oversized classes. Hey, it’s great that you have a committee. Maybe it’s great that you meet and do whatever you do. Certainly people like me, chapter leader of a school with chronic overcrowding and oversized classes, haven’t got the remotest notion. You regularly report neither to chapter leaders nor to this committee.

If we are in the same place as we were last year, maybe we should rethink this committee.
I have a few questions about this:

What are we going to do about rampant class size violations and ridiculous so-called plans of action? 
What are we doing to enforce the C4E ruling?
Will this body work with the high school reps to craft a resolution and/ or strategy?

Ellen Procida—says fewer than last year, can get number. Committee aware of request, but there may be people assigned to your school to help. It is my understanding ATRs may push into classes.

Schoor—We are open to meet with you.

Jonathan HalabiNew Action—Teacher in Bronx for 20 years. At DeWitt Clinton people ask what they’ve done wrong that they have to apply for jobs again.

Janella Hinds—Always difficult when we face these situations. I experienced school closure. We take responsibility even though it’s not necessarily our fault. UFT had to decide next step. Closure was possible. Idea of restaffing was then proposed. UFT negotiated terms of process. Both proposals disruptive, but we believe keeping schools intact was best alternative. Similar to “out of time.” Schools were not named thus, but were in similar situation.

Mike Schirtzer
MORE—we have 25 periods, 5 preps, 5 C6, with all new mandates, HS teachers have ICT classes, ELLs with co teachers, and we need more time to plan. In my school and others we have teachers doing lunchroom assignment. When I went to school was done by aides. These are non-pedagogical assignments.  Looking at great school systems, prep time is what we need. We need duty free lunch and two preps a day. Can we move toward getting rid of C6.

—Any Exec. Board member can be on 300 member committee.

Report from Districts—

Rich Mantel—Saturday was Thanksgiving event. Very successful, great day. Gives children Thanksgiving meal, games, activities. Everyone who attended got new winter coat. At day’s end, clothing is everywhere. Greatest feeling in world. I sent out hundreds of letters. No one responded. MCU, Land’s End, and NY Jets contributed. Most came from members. Billionaires didn’t give a nickel. Still have 250 coats for students in temporary housing.

Mike SchirtzerMORE—-School diversity committee will issue report, looking to hear from us, December 7th, City Hall.

Info Tech in Queens gives tickets to students who show up They get things. We hope it translates into better academic performance.

Sterling Roberson
—Brooklyn Nets recognized Tim Evans. One of the players who suffered from a condition hosted teacher appreciation event at Dave and Busters. Two events that celebrated teachers.

Anthony Harmon—Liasions from Queens and Bronx did great job. Parent conferences bring out hundreds of parents throughout city. Hundreds come to UFT for guidance. Parents in Bronx all brought in items for hurricane relief. Collected many things. Thanks them for wonderful work.

Janella Hinds—1, 2 and 3rd place winners for national AIDS day will be reproduced. Hopes they are posted.

Tabio da Cruz—Thanks MS 210 for organizing. 112 members came to vote no confidence for principal. Thanks people who came to school. Staff demands have been met, consultation is back, staff ready to fight.

Legislative report— Paul Egan
—sports talk—hearings on diversity, CTLE, school safety, we will testify. AFT sending everyone email to oppose GOP budget. They call it tax reform, but it’s bill for middle class and reward for 1%.

Resolution against House and Senate tax reform bills.

LeRoy Barr
—Motivates—reminded of movie where Denzel said he was hoodwinked, bamboozled. Bill not for working people. Taxes going up for many. Cap real estate deductions. Bad for average union families, who need it. Want to eliminate state and local tax deductions, school supply deductions, eliminate tuition waver. Taking from poor, giving to rich, reverse Robin Hood.

Mel Aaronson
—Well hidden part, pension related orgs uncovered. House bill—provision that for first time in history would be tax on gains made in public employee retirement systems. Not in Senate bill. AFT, NEA, all working so that piece will not make conference bill.

Passed unanimously.

We are adjourned..

The Audacity of Eva

I'm sitting in my packed-to-the-gills high school right now, with 4700 students attending school in a building designed for about half that. We have rooms that are converted closets, rooms in which there are portable AC units that are so loud you can barely teach when they're on. A whole lot of teachers turn them off rather than utilize them.

Meanwhile, Eva Moskowitz, funded by hedge fund zillionaires running an expensive ad campaign for her, is crying that the city is discriminating against her students. Naturally I'm broken hearted that her private hot line to the chancellor no longer operates as previously, but that is chutzpah. For those unfamiliar with this term, it's when you murder your parents and plead mercy in court because you're an orphan.

In fact, Bill de Blasio ran on a platfrom opposing charters and supporting public schools. He's been elected overwhelmingly not once, but twice. While I don't support mayoral control, it's been doled out to him in dribs and drabs rather than for years at a time as it was to Bloomberg. That's specifically because he doesn't give charters a blank check, and it saddens me when he makes concessions to Moskowitz Academies so as to retain it.

Eva's just off of winning the right to not sign any stinking agreements when opening pre-Ks. That's nothing. In 2014 she got Governor Cuomo to pass a law saying that NYC had to provide rent to the likes of Eva when he denied her schools. That's not only outrageous, but also against the will of NYC voters.

I teach ELLs. I teach them when they've just arrived here. How many newcomers does Eva serve? I'd wager none. You can't just take a newcomer and set him up in a test prep factory. You have to teach him English first. In my building, we serve a whole lot of alternate assessment kids who will never graduate. They will never take the tests Eva has kids peeing their pants over. We sent them to local businesses and they are trained for work they can actually do. How many of those kids does Eva take?

We take everyone, and in exchange are packed to double capacity. We serve all children. If the city is discriminating against Eva, they're most certainly discriminating against us. My kids need and deserve more space. They need and deserve every advantage denied them by selective institutions like the Moskowitz Academies. Real public schools, the ones who follow rules, the ones who follow chancellor's regulations, the ones run by elected officials deserve first attention.

I say put Eva last in line.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Walking Around With a Gun to Your Head

That's how I'd feel if I were working in one of the so-called renewal schools. You have to graduate this many more students by such and such a date. Failure is not an option. Okay, it is an option, but if you exercise it, it's not because the students are impoverished. It's not because they lack homes. It's not because they haven't got health care or food. It's not because they have special needs. It's not because they don't actually speak English. It's not because of the lack of vision of the DOE, which is ready and willing to dump the entire staff.

After all, that proves they are willing to step up. It isn't like they are unwilling to blame the people who go to work every day in these beleaguered institutions. No, they stand right up and say, "You all suck and we aren't afraid to admit it." Then they close the schools and make everyone reapply for their jobs before they sit their asses right back in ergonomic chairs in their air-conditioned offices. Doubtless they discuss their boldness in dealing with the issues at gala luncheons all over the city.

No, the only reason that the school could possibly have a low graduation rate is because, as the mayor and chancellor boldly proclaim, that the UFT members all suck. And again, the DOE, right up to the tippety top are not afraid to stand up and say, "This situation is because you all suck." Otherwise, why would the remedy be having them all reapply for their jobs? That's the underlying logic behind this. Certainly none of the factors I mentioned are addressed in the reshuffling of staff. The only genuine mitigating factor I see in this preposterous exercise is that UFT members have the option of not reapplying, and stepping off of the blame game train.

I applaud this bold approach. It's fantastic that the city is unafraid to step up and blame someone else for everything that goes wrong. There's nothing more American than standing up and declaring, "This is your fault." I have to say, though, that it kind of clashes with the vision Mayor de Blasio laid out when he first ran. I remember the tale of two cities, one inhabited by wealthy demagogues like Michael Bloomberg, and another for, you know, regular people struggling to get by.

This was evident nowhere more than in the wholesale closure of public schools undertaken by the Bloomberg administration. Every high school in the Bronx was terrible, evidently, and needed to be renamed and restaffed. The issue was not that test scores predicted nothing but zip code, even though they did. No, the only reason that a Bronx high school didn't perform as well as Great Neck was not affluence or lack thereof. It was that the teachers sucked and all needed to be made ATRs.

Interestingly, one of the schools in the article is called Automotive High School. I wonder whether they still teach about autos in that school. They used to teach about them in my school, and in the last school I was in. They don't anymore. You see, the goal of high school is to place every student without exception into college. That's because there is no value in trades that don't require college. There's no value in auto repair, or plumbing, or construction, or being an electrician.

The fact that we offer none of our students preparation for trades that don't require higher education is another non-factor in why students don't graduate. It doesn't matter that a whole lot of people in these trades make excellent livings, and it doesn't matter that people attracted to such professions may not excel in the classes the geniuses in Albany have decided everyone has to take.

No, the mayor, the chancellor, and every single apparatchik at the DOE has determined that the only factor that needs addressing is the relative suckiness of UFT members. By shuffling us around like cogs, they will solve each and every outside factor without addressing a single one. Clearly I lack this overarching vision.

That's why I'll never make it as a DOE administrator.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The UFT Committee of 300

Someone told me yesterday that, as a member of the Executive Board, I am automatically on the Committee of 300, tasked with the negotiation of the UFT Contract. I'm torn between being honored, confused, or confounded.

It's nice to earn a place in such an important decision-making body. But then, I've been observing UFT leadership for around 12 years, and democracy is not their particular strong suit. It's great that they include opposition voices in something as fundamental as contract negotiations, but will they really listen? Do they even have to?

On the Executive Board I watch them vote in lockstep. The voice comes from on high, or more accurately from one of the microphones, and they instantly oppose dumping the evaluation system. It doesn't matter if they all supported dumping it at NYSUT. They instantly oppose reducing the minimum number of observations to 2, as per state law. They instantly oppose placing teeth in the class size regulations. After all, there's a committee, so all these violations must not even be happening.

It's nice to form committees, but it's no substitute for, you know, doing stuff. I'm not personally persuaded that the 300-member committee makes the decisions. Let's say, for example, that 200 of the 300 members are from Unity, and have all signed loyalty oaths. What are the chances the other 100 of us could persuade them? Let's say there are 250 of them and 50 of us. Let's give a more accurate estimate of 290 to 10. How do you think the vote's gonna go?

Let's say I'm on that committee with my fellow high school Exec. Board members, and leadership proposes More Work for Less Pay. The upside is we will win public support. People are sick of seeing prosperous schoolteachers riding around in their 89 Hondas, and once they see us working extra time for less money they will rally to our cause. Here's the thing--the media hates us and everything we stand for. They'll call it a cynical publicity stunt. Best case scenario--the Post will praise it for a week, then go back to vilifying us. That's what happened in 05.

And we'll argue precedent. But what difference will that make? The call will go out to support the More Work for Less Pay contract. If we don't sign it we'll have to get behind 160 other unions and wait. The cupboard is bare. There is no God-given right to More Work for Less Pay. If we don't accept this it could be terrible.

Meanwhile, we're sitting on the committee. We aren't allowed to reveal that we're discussing More Work for Less Pay. Then, when it comes out, they say, "We discussed this with the Committee of 300. We voted on it. The Committee contained members of the opposition and overwhelmingly favored More Work for Less Pay. After all, it's the best we could do. The mayor demanded even More Work for even Less Pay, but we stood firm. That's the kind of guys we turned out to be."

I'm not sure about the whole Committee thing. If I can't reveal what happened, and if I could be characterized as having supported the More Work for Less Pay Contract, it seems kind of pointless.  On the other hand, turning it down would be rejecting a chance to vote. I tend to vote every chance I get.

What would you do if you were me?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Class Size Conundrum

Last year I brought a class size resolution to the UFT Executive Board. Of course they voted it down, because it's overkill. Of course the contract says there are 34 students per high school class, and 50 years ago they gave up something or other to have it enshrined in writing. That ought to be good enough for anyone.

The only issue, as far as I can see, is that the DOE has no respect whatsoever for the contract. There are oversized classes all over the city. UFT leadership seems not to perceive that as a flaw. After all, it says, right there in black and white, that we have limits. So what's the big deal?

Of course, there are exceptions. If you teach PE or music, you could have up to 50. And if you work in a school like mine you might have not five, but ten classes. You see, the geniuses in Albany have decreed that it's OK to give PE every other day. So there you are, with 500 students, and some AP demanding you differentiate instruction even though it's largely impossible for a standard human to even learn the students' names.

That's OK, isn't it? No? Well, it isn't really fair of me to imply that leadership is doing nothing about it. When I complained about it, they pointed out that they had started a committee, with the DOE, where they, you know, talk about stuff. And they made it a point to let me know that my school, which has been in violation of class size rules forever, was one of the schools they talk about.

What exactly they say I don't know. After all, I'm just a lowly chapter leader and member of the Executive Board representing city high schools. Why would they include me in discussions involving my high school? They're talking about it with someone, somewhere, and that should be good enough for me. But it isn't. Last year I placed an article in the Daily News about how some genius arbitrator had decided that relieving teachers of their C6 assignment one day a week was sufficient to compensate for class size issues.

Of course, now that there was a UFT committee sitting around talking about something, somewhere, with someone, everything would be completely different. In fact, for the second half of last year, the "action plan" entailed placing a licensed teacher in each oversized class to help the teacher and students out. This was not perfect, but made a lot of sense to me.

However, last month I went back, and what do you think the learned arbitrator suggested? He suggested that any teacher in our school with an oversized class would be relieved from the C6 assignment one day a week. That's absurd. Oversized classes are very tough to deal with. In fact, 34 is already the highest class size in the state. Going beyond that is unconscionable. We're moving backward rather than forward, and there are no viable consequences for violating the contract.

It's nice that a bunch of people from UFT and DOE are sitting around somewhere drinking coffee. But from the perspective of a chapter leader and class size advocate, it's clear to me that the committee has had no effect whatsoever on class size issues.

It's kind of remarkable that a city that claims to place children first, always, thinks that providing children with less tutoring will somehow make up for their utter disrespect for one thing we know to be effective--reasonable class sizes.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

UFT Executive Board Takeaway November 6th

The last Executive Board meeting went by pretty quickly. Since we didn't have a resolution for Unity to vilify and vote down, we ended relatively early. There are just a few things of note.

One was Norm Scott's improvised speech, largely suggesting that nothing has changed in 15 years vis a vis abusive administrators. I'd agree with that. It's problematic that week after week teachers come to explain how they're being reassigned and harassed. The only time that the Unity faithful acknowledge these things is when they show up.

They say we've visited this or that school a hundred times. The problem is that the teachers are still standing there telling the same old tales. When we try to pass resolutions to at least publicize these things, we're told they're too extreme. After all, CSA is a union, so we're all union. This notwithstanding, it's hard to rationalize staying silent while our people are being abused.

I've been asking questions every week but the last one, and getting no answers whatsoever. Clearly, though they know better than we do about everything, they still don't know everything. Howard Schoor, however, took a stab at answering my question from two weeks ago. Here it is:

Arthur Goldstein—MORE—In our last meeting, you repeatedly cited a figure of 3,000 teachers receiving U ratings. We would like to know exactly what year that was. We would also like to know how many of those teachers were tenured, and how many were dismissed. Finally, we would like to know exactly how many of these teachers had the burden of proof on them during 3020a.  I’d also like to point out that so far, none of my questions have received an answer. Thank you.

Schoor—We’re not entitled to that info. Check Chalkbeat.

I have to say I was astonished at this answer.  Check Chalkbeat. As a matter of fact, I did, and I didn't find that information. Schoor, a week after this preposterous suggestion, had this to say:

Schoor—(in response to part of my question last week as to which year there were 3,000 U-ratings, among other things) offers these figures 2010—11 2017 U ratings   2011-12—2006   2005-6—981 ratings.

In fairness, I have to say he answered my question about when there were 3,000 U ratings. Evidently it was never. As for how many were tenured, and how many were dismissed, I guess we're back to checking Chalkbeat. In any case, he's not talking. As for how many had the burden of proof on them at 3020a, that would be zero. That's a new feature of this evaluation system. You try getting up in front of some arbitrator and proving you are not incompetent.

If we don't know the consequences of the U ratings, we can't simply say there were fewer ineffective ratings and thus determine the new system is better. As a matter of fact, the comparison between U and I ratings is incomplete. After all, we now have the "Developing" rating. While this is not necessarily going to get you fired (though it can), it's certainly demoralizing to have an improvement plan imposed. I know teachers who got rated developing solely due to test scores, you know, the things that make the new system so groovy and cool.

It's a little disturbing that you need only scratch the surface to see the tenuous nature of leadership's claims. How do you round off 2017 to 3000? How do you ignore the consequences of the ratings? How do you expect no one to question your claims? I guess it's easy, if only everyone has signed a loyalty oath

The message of leadership is pretty clear. Everything is wonderful all the time, we know best, and we never, ever make a mistake. For example, the reports from districts seem to include only the wonderful events hosted around the city. Abysmal situations like those at Tottenville or CPE 1 would be wholly ignored if we weren't there, dragging people up to tell the world what's going on.

But, given Janus, it's not a good time to question leadership. Before that, given Cuomo, it wasn't a good time. Given Bloomberg, it wasn't a good time. Given Giuliani, it wasn't a good time. Actually it's never a good time. It's particularly egregious because they clearly haven't got answers, and as far as I can determine, never have.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Blogger's Day Off...

...but please check out my piece on how NY State is destroying ESL instruction live now at Gotham Gazette.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Questions for UFT Doorknockers

I understand there's a door-knocking campaign to encourage union membership. I believe in union, I will absolutely pay dues no matter what, but there are things I'm not sure about. This is one of the reasons why I'm not an active doorknocker. The other is that I'm altogether busy and haven't even got the time to do the things I already do. How I find time to write this blog, for example, I have no idea.

Question one is why high school teachers are not allowed to elect their own Vice President. We have different jobs and different needs than elementary teachers, nurses, paraprofessionals and everyone else in the union. You'd think that would allow us to select our own leader, but it's not. After Michael Shulman had the audacity to defeat them, once, thirty years ago, the changed the rules. I'd argue they rigged the election so that they couldn't lose. I've made that argument on this page many times, and I've never heard even a whiff of defense. Therefore we 20,000 NYC high school teachers have zero representation on AdCom, which makes decisions that are automatically voted up by the loyalty oath bound Unity faithful.

Question number two is why we pay dues to NYSUT and AFT when we have no representation there either. All NYSUT and AFT reps are selected "at large," just like the high school VP. A few years back I went to the AFT convention in Minnesota, on my own dime. I got in a long Twitter discussion with one of the Unity reps saying we had no voice. He said, "I'm a high school teacher." I said yes, you are, but a majority of your fellow high school teachers voted against you. I can't remember what he said back.

As if that isn't enough, there's a Unity equivalent, the Progressive Caucus or something, that meets at the AFT convention. I sat in the hall while every single UFT rep sat and was told how to vote. Vote yes on this, no on that, and this one we don't care about so you may vote as you wish. I'm trying to determine how exactly that represents the priorities of high school teachers, or indeed UFT rank and file.

If you haven't seen James Eterno's post on the ICE blog, you should check it out. He's very much in the same mindset. Yes, it's a moral imperative to pay union dues. We are part of a community, and we have to pay our fair share. But how do I knock on doors and ask people to support a system that treats us like second-class citizens?

I live in Long Island, so I don't anticipate the doorknockers coming anytime soon. Of course, I'm not part of the inner circle that plans these things, and no one elected by my brothers and sisters in city high schools is either. Leadership knows what's good for us, and they don't need to solicit our rogue opinions, thank you very much.

I think we deserve answers to these questions. This notwithstanding, high school teachers elected me to the UFT Executive Board, and I haven't gotten a single answer to a question all year.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Charter Schools: Rules Are for the Little People

I'm not surprised to read about charters that don't do well. There are a whole lot of them. In many states, it doesn't matter how they do. In this state, they're supposed to be somewhat accountable. NYC has closed almost every large high school it had, and the one I work in stands as an aberration. How did we survive Bloomberg? No one knows. He overloaded us to 200% capacity, and while we came down, we're back up again.

In any case, here's a story about a charter that failed to achieve those all-important test scores. The charter, though, seems to think that's no reason to shut them down. Why, you ask? Let me quote from the piece:

School officials and parents filed a lawsuit, claiming the education department’s decision was too focused on test scores and didn’t take into account that more than half its students have disabilities.

That's a pretty shocking explanation. I'm not saying it isn't a valid explanation, just that it's shocking. It's shocking because we've always known that schools targeted for closure had high numbers of students with disabilities, ELLs, and children of poverty. Arne Duncan did a happy dance at the chance to close a school full of ELLs in Rhode Island.

What happens when they close schools? Lots of times charters come in. Their job is to work their magic on these kids. Public school teachers are all self-serving incompetents. They only care about themselves and aren't about the children. Therefore we should close them and replace them with privately run charters, because they're run by business people who know better. Except in this case, when they don't.

I've been watching school closures all over the city for years, and they were generally done for test scores. The closing of Jamaica High School is particularly clear in my memory, since it was done based on demonstrably false statistics. An entire community rose up, repeatedly, and spoke to the DOE, which turned a deaf ear. A historic institution, a pillar of the community went down.

The charter school, instead of rousing the community, hired a PR firm that used to work for Ivanka Trump. I'm not sure whether the one with the "K" is the daughter or the ex-wife, but I'm certain her PR firm doesn't come cheap. Here's the thing--school closures are for the little people. Destruction of communities are for the little people.

Private charters can take private money and hire private PR firms. The people who run charters aren't subject to things like regulation, because that's also for the little people. We're on a mission to do better than those awful public schools, and we're willing to be judged by test scores. However, if we don't pull it off, we're also willing to fight to stay open.

There's a double standard in these United States. People like Michael Bloomberg, Joel Klein and Betsy DeVos seem to hate public schools. They're a monopoly, they're terrible, we can do better, blah, blah, blah. So let's close them, let's break them up into little schools, let's rename them, and let's shuffle the kids around like so many playing cards. Let's make the teachers reapply for their jobs. Let's make them wander the school system forever as permanent subs, and if that doesn't sufficiently demoralize them, let's mobilize the media to demonize them so we can fire them.

Make no mistake, charters can do any damn thing they want. When they get caught on the disingenuous nature of their very premise, that they do better on test scores than public schools, they just reach into their unnaturally deep pockets and say, "We don't need no stinking standards." That's why Eva doesn't have to make the agreement that all the other schools did to establish city pre-K.

Rules are for the little people. And the public schools.

Thanks to Harris.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

To CTLE or Not to CTLE?

That's the question, but if you need the hours you really have no choice. The DOE dropped the ball early on while Fariña was focusing on what a beautiful day it was. After all, if Macy's is open, who gives a crap whether or not teachers are getting the PD the state requires? Not the NYC Department of Education, evidently.

UFT picked up some of the slack when the UFT Teacher Center became a provider. I arranged to create one in my school. If yours hasn't got one, I'd suggest you have your chapter leader look into it. UFT also had a whole bunch of people trained to offer services, and I was one of them. I'm qualified to give CTLE training in ESL, which pretty much everyone needs.

The state has this thing about standards. I understand that having the principal scream for 90 minutes about how people shouldn't be late is not particularly helpful. Maybe the state understands that too. Nonetheless, they've unleashed a monster.

Yesterday we were allotted a block of time to do online instruction or video. This proved difficult, because we were given a list of websites that provided instruction. Some were CTLE and some were not. However, most of them utilized YouTube video, and that is blocked in our building. We were lucky in that we found one that was not.

A colleague picked out a CTLE course, and I sat and watched it with her. I recall very little about it. The only thing I really remember is a glowing intro, and breaking to some woman who had some idea that she was selling. It was all about, and how this particular crap was the key to student reading.

It was clearly a sales pitch for whatever crap she was selling, but if you sat through this particular infomercial and took some quiz, you could have the CTLE credit. All in all, I'd just as soon listen to the principal scream at me about how kids shouldn't be late. You know, she had a revolutionary idea, and it was gonna change everything, but it was a blatant sales pitch. If this is why the geniuses in Albany changed the way teachers got PD credit, I'd argue that maybe it's they who need to have principals scream at them for 90 minutes about why students shouldn't be late.

I volunteered at a UFT ELL event a few weeks ago. A friend of mine was going to come, but she discovered a whole bunch of crap on the internet she could use instead of, you know, going places and/ or doing stuff. Why not sit at home, watch whatever it is, get the credit, and be done with it? I don't blame her.

I'm not a big advocate of PD, as the overwhelming majority I've attended has been a waste of time. But if you're gonna bother with it, you might as well make it, you know, useful. I went to the UFT training because I thought I could help people get the credit. It turns out, though, that a whole lot of people are so jaded they don't even bother to pretend to pay attention. I understand. I've been guilty of that too. Having the tables turned on me was illuminating. One guy was looking at his phone and quickly placed a paper in front of it, pretending to pay attention. Most people didn't even bother pretending.

I haven't got a great answer. My colleague on the Executive Board, Marcus McArthur, suggested that teachers in his school had a good idea what they wanted, and could help each other. Sadly, that won't get them the credits they need to keep their licenses. But still, that beats the hell out of the nonsense I saw online.

Whether or not we ever get PD to be worthwhile, it would be fantastic if we could work it into school hours. I don't know anyone who wants to spend an extra 100 hours listening to anything. Sometimes people who work for UFT tell me they want to learn more to expand their practice. Sometimes, I listen to them say these things and wonder why they stopped practicing if that's what they really want.

I think teachers just want an easier way to deal. The way to do that is for DOE, UFT, or both to arrange this CTLE stuff during school hours. If there are gonna be Teacher Torture Tuesdays, they ought to carry the credit the state demands.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Getting Out of the Classroom

I've been giving a lot of thought to that concept of late. Norm Scott was on fire at the generally staid Executive Board meeting last night, and excoriated crazy administrators, of which there are many. How many times have you gotten bad advice from administrators? I sit in meetings with them all the time, and I get a very good picture of who's on the ball and who isn't.

Once I sat for forty minutes while an administrator lectured a teacher on the virtues of formative assessment. In short, this entailed equipping students with cards of red and green. When the students understood, they'd hold up green cards, When they didn't, they'd hold up red cards. I honestly couldn't see why this method was any better than asking, "Does everyone understand?" Kids nod, you move on and hope for the best, and who knows what's really happening? But hey, use the cards and you're highly effective. Don't, and you suck.

Anyone who harbors an ambition to get out of the classroom ought not to be a teacher. The best administrators I know love being in the classroom. They're thrilled to work with kids and want to do so more often. These are inspirational leaders, and these are people to whom you pay attention. Alas, they're not the only ones around here doing this job.

There are the others, the ones who don't want to do this job but have it anyway. They're the ones who hear about some outlandish thing like the cards and determine it's the only way to teach. And indeed, it may be the only way they know. After all, the classroom was such a terrible place they had to get out. How do you think people like that feel about skilled teachers who do the job? How do they feel about imaginative individuals who create classes they couldn't?

Norm spoke of communities rising up at CPE 1 and Townsend Harris. This was what removed two principals who never should have had the job. There are plenty of communities that don't rise up as well. I thought it was foolish when Howard Schoor gave all the credit to Michael Mulgrew for improvements at CPE 1. If I were Mulgrew, I wouldn't want that credit, because with it comes all the blame for all the vindictive and crazy principals still sitting at their jobs.

In fact, a whole lot of UFT employees have gotten out of the classroom. Eight days ago I listened to a bunch of people who never taught under this system tell us how wonderful it was. They say they're in schools, but who knows what that means? Do they visit the Unity chapter leaders to find that yes, this is still the best of all possible worlds? Do they ask the ones to whom they've given patronage gigs how good the system they negotiated is?

Whatever they hear is not remotely what I hear. At our UFT meeting today, teachers wondered why leadership didn't endorse our initiative to reduce minimum to two, as per state law. Further observation could be reserved for teachers needing more support, or better ratings. I don't buy the argument that it's difficult to fabricate multiple observations. Liars are fairly consistent. Once people break my trust, I expect them to lie all the time.

We had a chance to have a leader who was in the classroom under Danielson. In fact, the high school teachers chose James Eterno as Vice President. Because Unity cannot tolerate dissenting points of view, because they know what's good for us, and because they know everything, they rigged the system so as to disenfranchise high school teachers. And rather than work with us, they sneer and go on doing What They've Always Done, because it's the only thing they know how to do.

That's pathetic. If you can't figure out how to work with anyone who hasn't signed a loyalty oath to never question you, you have no business being a teacher, let alone a union leader.

With Janus on the horizon, that's where we stand. I hope some Unity leader knocks on my door, but I'm not holding my breath. It's for lowly teachers to do the work of perpetuating the Unity machine in the name of preserving the union.

I believe in union. I don't believe in leadership that sneaks around behind my back for no good reason. I don't believe in paying dues to NYSUT and AFT but having no representation. I'm particularly upset at my 20,000 high school brothers and sisters being shut out of the leadership of our own union.

What does leadership say to that? Who knows? The silence is deafening.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Executive Board November 6th--3,000 U Ratings Magically Become 2,000 U Ratings

Secretary Howard Schoor welcomes us.

Speaker—Norm Scott—Speaks about NY Knicks and NY Jets.

Says he was first speaker here 15 years ago, spoke of abusive principals. Asked to defend chapter leaders, they opposed it in 1999. Every week we come here, and there are still abusive principals.

Spoke against principal tenure, was voted down. Sandy Feldman loved it, but said politically it was untenable. At that time they were willing to put something in paper, and had regular features about them. Last week Tottenville High School was here. Principal sounded like the Mooch.

Last year we got rid of two principals, CPE1 and Harris, where parents and students rose up. That’s what got those people out. Union had nothing to do with 50 people who came up, when CL was pulled, and when delegate was pulled.

What about teachers who don’t have 50 parents coming? We could rouse the 50 parents if we wanted to. State of fear exists in many schools because you won’t go public. Maybe there’s an arrangement with CSA. Union won’t step on too many toes.

And now we hear, from union, that teachers have to be held accountable. We need same for principals. We have almost zero say, despite committee, on how administrators are chosen. We need to hold them really accountable to parents and teachers at schools. They used to have fear of union.

When are you, leadership, going to be accountable? You say the DR is wonderful, when teachers say otherwise. You don’t hold principals or yourselves accountable, yet you say teachers should be observed 4 times a year instead of two.

Let’s see everyone accountable.

Schoor responds they are accountable every three years.


Mulgrew Is not here.

LeRoy Barr—Tomorrow is election day. Let’s keep the tide going. We believe we will win tomorrow. See you at polls. DA Wednesday. Will be celebration for Bob Ostrowsky. Bronx parent conference Nov. 18. Next EB Nov. 20.

Jeff Povalitus—School Safety—Last Wed. turned corner with incident on W. Side Highway. If it weren’t for police in Stuyvesant it would have been a lot worse. Pay attention to protocols. Staff must be aware. Shelter in is important. Lockdowns are important.

Shelter in and grand larcenies are big problems. Can’t take things for granted. Secure your belongings. We had one today $1000.

Overall incidents are up. Biggest is reckless endangerment. When teachers, deans, school aides break up fights. Teachers get hit. Last time were 700 incidents, this year 852. Tells us members don’t report enough. Only ones that report are victims. Important for teachers to report, gives us a pulse. Report everything.

I’m in schools 3, 4 days a week. Lots of anger on streets and in schools.  Not like when we grew up. Kids are out 2-3 in the morning, go in with little or no sleep. Schools mirror communities. No one wants to talk about what takes place—gang involvement and recruitment. From lack of structure in home.

We try to address things every day, we put out fires. I am accessible, will visit schools. Kids need as much support as possible. They are not necessarily getting it.

Jonathan HalabiNew Action—What training do we hold for schools.

Povalitus—We have a training tomorrow. We also have one safety liaison per borough. We try to get members to report. People don’t, but if you see something, say something.


Schoor—(in response to part of my question last week as to which year there were 3,000 U-ratings, among other things) offers these figures 2010—11 2017 U ratings   2011-12—2006   2005-6—981 ratings.

Ashraya GuptaMORE—Excited about door knocking. What other avenues can we use to reach out?

Paul Egan—Trying to have conversations. One way is going to homes. We will develop a much more abridged workplace conversation with AFT. Will train people at workplace.

Marcus McArthurMORE—Any large demonstrations or coordinated acts leading up to Janus?  What will we do before that happens? How do we show that right to work is something we won’t tolerate?

Schoor— President sent email on paid parental leave. May do demonstration for that. Depends on decision

Adam ?—Opt in or opt out, or will all agency fee be revoked?

Schoor—Right now you have to opt out. Court may eliminate that, or more likely will eliminate right to deduct agency fee.

McArthur—Is anything proactive being planned from national labor movement?

Janella Hinds—AFL CIO resolved against Janus, for public ed and need for organizing. They say it’s important to show labor’s force. We expect national demonstrations—being planned, not just public sector. 50th anniversary of MLK’s assassination—we will talk about his role as labor leader.

Reports from Districts—

?—AFT Latino Caucus event. Proceeds will buy in home purifiers. We need help, will unite us.

Evelyn de Jesus—Sept 20 hurricane hit. 47 days later people don’t have water. We have 3 centers, feeding 700-1000 per day. We have a group looking at water filters. Goal to get them to villages. For $2000, they can bathe and drink water for a month. People dying. 900 unofficial burning bodies. People drinking bad water. We want to help children who have PTSD. We need to bring water to children and families.

Janella Hinds—You heard about impact of Oct. 31 attack. Solidarity shown among adults. Could have walked into horror. Many UFT members and others kept children safe and in building until 7 PM. Investigations being conducted there now. Important to acknowledge leaders in that building, including CL. Thanks to all who visited next day and provided support. Some of them experienced 9/11 and remembered.

Carmen Alvarez—2 aides in bus were injured. DR was in building, made sure all were taken care of.

Mindy Bordnemann—knows Stuyvesant was in news, but surrounding schools also had teachers and kids in school until 7. Kept kids calm, did great job.

George Altomare—Professional aspect of members’ lives continued while that happened. Had workshops two Saturdays. Has posters for 37 years of conferences.

Legislative report—Paul Egan—Football talk—100 years ago today women got right to vote. We haven’t come far, because less that 25% of our legislature is made of women, who are 51%. People don’t vote. People died for right to vote. Tomorrow, make sure you get out and get everyone else out.

There are other elections beside Con Con. City council, mayor public advocate up. I’m not confident of anything, given last year. Don’t take positive polls for granted.

We will be fighting on federal level, where President pays off friends on the backs of teachers. More concerned about taking away $250 tax deduction to give it to billionaire friends. This fight will be national.

Please vote.

Resolution to support DNA Info and Gothamist

Janella Hinds—All employees terminated, clear attack on NYC employees who chose to organize. Provided local news in cities, and lost jobs. Lost access to their writing, ability to share what is happening in cities. We went to city hall and protested today. Asks for support.

Passes unanimously

We are adjourned.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

A Conversation

Me, in hall with student: Are you OK?

Student: I don't feel good.

Me: Go to the nurse.

Student: No. I don't want to go to the nurse.

Me. Then you have to do the work.

Student: I don't want to do the work.

Me: Here are your choices: You can do the work or go to the nurse.

Student: No.

Me: OK. You can do the work, you can go to the nurse, or I can call your house.

Student: I'll do the work.