Saturday, March 17, 2018

Co-teaching, Part 154, This World, and the World of Theory

I'm still at NYSABE. There is a lot of good stuff going on. Everyone here supports ELLs. UFT VP Evelyn de Jesus, speaking this morning, quoted a Czech proverb, You live a new life for every language you speak, and expressed support for tweaking Part 154 so that we could give ELLs the language instruction they need.

Alas, until that happens, we have to deal with what's in front of our faces. That's why I chose to attend a presentation about co-teaching. The presentation was certainly thoughtful. In an ideal world, everyone would follow the practices the presenter espoused. The problem is we're not quite in an ideal world. I made the egregious error of answering two questions before I realized I was thinking about a universe that was not precisely relevant to the topic at hand.

The first question was, "What is co-teaching?" My answer was co-teaching is when the principal says, "You, and you, go teach together." This was not well-received by my group. They said co-teaching is a relationship. It's a marriage. It's a negotiation. They weren't wrong. But I wasn't wrong either.

The presenters weren't totally out of the loop on what goes on. For example, the presenter acknowledged that the ESL teacher often appears to be an educational assistant. The young woman next to me said she often felt that way. In fact, she said, two of the teachers with whom she co-teaches don't even acknowledge her presence in the room.

So think about that. If co-teaching is a marriage, this young woman is conducting at least three marriages concurrently. I don't know about you, but that's a high bar for me. If we really wish these things to work, why are we setting such impossible standards? The presenter said when you have issues with your co-teacher, the best thing to do is go out for a drink or something. Don't go to the principal and complain. As the person who's often in the room with the principal and the co-teachers who've complained, I couldn't agree more. Alas, it's always too late.

The second time I opened my mouth I made yet another faux pas. What's the main issue with co-teaching? The main issue, I said, was that the English language was not regarded as sufficiently important under Part 154 to be regarded as a subject. Another attendee took exception to that. "Did you try telling your co-teacher about specific English errors, as opposed to simply labeling them "awkward?"

Now she isn't wrong about that. Were I paired up with the science teacher I might be able to offer specific suggestions on how to more effectively improve composition skills. She thought I was expressing some sort of feeling of inferiority or envy, as though I weren't being appreciated. That's not the case at all. I have multiple certifications, and I don't actually need to co-teach.

What I'm talking about is the fact that these co-taught ESL classes come at the expense of direct English instruction, something my kids direly need. There is simply no substitute for it. How would you like to go to China and be placed in a Chinese history class taught entirely in Chinese? Would it help you if I gave you five vocabulary words every day? Would it help you if I had a Chinese as a second language teacher wandering around the room to give you tips on what the hell the other teacher was talking about? Maybe a little, but probably not remotely enough for you to learn Chinese history.

Under CR Part 154, what really happens when you plant the ESL teacher in the science class? As someone who struggled with science in my native language, I don't really see how I could be expected to learn not only science, but also a new language, especially in the same time native speakers learned only science. No matter how many good ideas you have about co-teaching, that's an insurmountable obstacle right there. Furthermore, it's made worse by the fact that the ESL teacher likely has several other co-teachers and little or no time to consult with any of them.

The presenter said two heads are better than one. That's potentially true. Last year I was in a great co-teaching situation. After having mediated between bitter pairs of teachers for years, I told my boss I never wanted to co-teach. Unfortunately, I'd also told her how quick-witted and smart I found one of our new teachers. My AP, to prove me wrong yet again, paired me up with her and we got along very well. Our only issue was how fast we did things. I make decisions very quickly, and she always wanted to think about things. "We have no time for that!" I'd tell her, but she persisted. Nonetheless, whenever I got called out to some stupid meeting somewhere, I had absolute confidence my students were well-cared for.

Co-teaching would be great if we were actually adding something. Under Part 154, we add a co-teacher, but we take away a fundamental element of language learning, to wit, time. You don't acquire a language simply by wishful thinking and good intentions. Adding a co-teacher to one period does not mitigate the fact that you've subtracted another period of direct English instruction. Not only have you failed to compensate for that, but you've also taken time away from the core subject by adding language instruction to it.

Hey, it's great for co-teachers to get along. And it's great to add extra classroom support. But in New York State, they're attacking the problem backwards. If you couldn't climb a mountain in one day, I'd suggest you take two or three days to do it. New York State says do it in half a day, but here, bring someone with you.

How stupid is that?

Friday, March 16, 2018

Speak American

I'm at the NY State Association for Bilingual Education Conference, a guest of UFT Education VP Evelyn de Jesus. For some reason Evelyn thinks it's a good idea to send me to conferences that center around the kids I serve, and this is the second year she's sent me here.

I'm not at all sure how this story got past me, but a teacher saw fit to tell a Spanish-speaking student that she needed to "speak American" and actually got caught on video.

“Men and women are fighting. They are not fighting for your right to speak Spanish,” the teacher said in the Oct. 12 video. “They are fighting for your right to speak American.”

Well, I'm glad I didn't have to represent that teacher. There's not a whole lot you can say or do to mitigate that kind of speech. I won't mention the name of the young woman who was the recipient of those comments, but today we saw and heard her. It's horrifying that anyone would speak to a student like that. I'm a little upset it was an English teacher, because in a galaxy long ago and far away I was one too.

In New York City hate speech like that would be a violation of Chancellor's Regulation A-421, verbal abuse. A-421 is pretty broadly written, perhaps too much so. Anything that would make a student feel belittled or abused is a violation. If you say, "Good morning," and the student doesn't like it, and the principal doesn't like you, you're likely up on charges.

You kind of expect an English teacher to be well read. To me, at least, that would imply a rudimentary understanding of culture. If you are telling people to speak American, culture's not the first thing I'd be accusing you of. I have little to no tolerance for racism, bigotry, or even garden-variety stupidity. These are especially egregious in adults. To my mind, none of these qualities are desirable in teachers.

It's different with kids. They often don't know better, and one of the things about this job is you get chances to be proactive. You can help kids to grow up and never say things like, "speak American." I'm pretty shocked when I see bigotry in my ELLs, but I do. Sadly, I'm less shocked by homophobia, which many of them deem acceptable. They're pretty surprised when I don't wink and nod with them. I let them know that it's no different from making fun of their country, religion, color, sex, or any number of things.

The students today gave me the impression this speech was not that unusual. The only thing that really changed was that this time it was captured on video. I don't think this teacher would have fared as well in NYC. I know someone who did something I'd consider less egregious, got caught on video, and got fired. Of course you never know on any given day what some zany madcap arbitrator might decide.

Again, I am so glad I didn't have to represent the teacher who said this odious thing.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Exec. Board Takeaway March 12th--The Good, the Bad, and the Worse

I was walking to the meeting with KJ from New Action, and the first thing he said to me was, "I can smell the food." I told him that had never happened before and it seemed like a good sign. Maybe they had finally abandoned those awful sandwiches. We got there and there was all sorts of food. I tried a piece of the eggplant and it was pretty good. We hoped maybe a better fed meeting would be a more productive meeting but alas, that was not to be the case.

Eric Mears started the meeting with a great analysis of Danielson. He picked out parts that suggest teachers should essentially work without compensation if they wished to have good ratings and asked how that was even legal. He pinpointed lines that said we should, if we were truly effective, rat out our brothers and sisters. Thank you, Charlotte Danielson. You're an example for us all.

It was great that Eric was able to plod through all that nonsense to find this stuff. It's kind of remarkable that no one else did before. I often lack the patience to go through tedious crap with a fine tooth comb but I really appreciate that he was able to do it. Let's see what leadership has to say about this. Maybe they'll actually look at whatever he gave them. Stranger things have happened.

We got to hear further about the massive abuse in Adult Ed. I'm really surprised that a sitting cesspool like that has yet to be drained. It seems to be affecting some of the most vulnerable people in the city, and I'm not talking about the teachers. This superintendent appears to be getting away with murder.

ATRs are given an opportunity to vote in UFT elections for a chapter leader who will almost certainly not be their chapter leader come September. It hardly seems worth it, if you ask me. Why should I be worried about a leader who won't be my leader? This distinction, alas, appears to escape leadership, who didn't even wish to discuss it. My understanding is that they contend the ATR to be a temporary aberration. The fact that they enabled it via the 2005 contract, as well as the fact that it's endured for twelve years appears not to register.

When I asked whether we could reach out to help ATRs I was told that this wasn't a question. Howard Schoor said I knew how to write a resolution and indeed I do. I can certainly provide one for the next meeting, but given the dismissiveness of that remark I'm not confident we'll prevail. It's kind of disturbing to think that, at the same time we're urging people to remain in the union, we're telling a whole group of people stuck in a purgatory created by leadership that they don't get a meaningful vote. It wouldn't be my preferred approach.

Amy Arundell spoke about saving two Queens schools, which was a very positive achievement. It is sorely disappointing to see Bill de Blasio, for whom I worked, to whom I contributed, whose first inauguration I attended, closing schools a la Mike Bloomberg.Worse, it appears he fired the PEP member who enabled it, in direct violation of a campaign promise.

Now I rejoice as much as anyone when we avert closings. Sadly, I'm not sure I can agree that this is the result of union power. Union power is certainly desirable, and I'm sure it didn't hurt. But you also have to factor in the dumb luck of getting someone on the fake school board to vote with you. The likelihood of it happening again after this firing hovers around nil. I remember going to many raucous and passionate hearings for Jamaica, and the PEP shut it anyway.

Then we come to a class size resolution. I've been trying to negotiate with Unity for months. I don't recall offhand when Howard Schoor said they'd be happy to meet about this, but the fact is I reached out immediately after that meeting. I got one response saying it was a good idea to do things this way rather than just hitting them with resolutions, but no one answered my repeated requesta for a meeting. I followed up, but by last Monday I'd had it.

I sent our resolution in during the school day. Unity, months ago, passed a resolution demanding they get to see any resolution at least an hour before the meeting. Ironically, they themselves need not show us anything and can bring whatever they feel like with no notice whatsoever. In any case, on Monday I learned exactly why they need to do this stuff.

In response to our resolution, Unity put up two guys to respond. The first guy got up and read from a piece of paper about what he wanted stricken from the resolution. I stood up and was going to ask why he wanted to do that. As it happened, Unity put up a second guy with an explanation for their rationale. He explained that asking for any particular number in class size reduction would cost us money in the contract negotiations.

Now it was odd that he said that, because the resolution specifically said that this was unrelated to contract negotiations. Yet he and at least one other speaker said that any specific request for class size reduction would come with a price in negotiations. The Unity Caucus therefore voted to remove all references to specific class size from the class size resolution.

Evidently, since our resolution now made no specific class size demands, there would be no specific price paid during negotiations. In case the implication of that is not obvious. I'll point out that this means we specifically demand nothing whatsoever in the way of lowering class size. Certainly the city won't be charging us for that, and the clause saying we ought not to pay during contract negotiations remains.

I was really struck by what the guy who appeared not to understand why he was asking what he was asking when he added
Resolved that UFT will continue to fight to get C4E monies dispersed to NYC.

Note the implication here. UFT is already doing something, evidently, and will continue doing  whatever that may be. As someone who grieves class sizes twice a year, I'm thoroughly unimpressed with our fight. Thus far, for over half a century and counting, it's yielded precisely nothing that's reduced class sizes. The notion of continuing whatever it is we're doing appeals to me not at all. The notion that UFT has been carrying the torch for lower class sizes is preposterous beyond belief.

That's why I voted against my own resolution, and that's why I'll vote against it again if it comes up in the DA. I know a meaningless, toothless nothing when I see one.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Your Door Knockers at Work

There's an interesting piece in The Chief ($) about reaching out "in building unity," and judging from this photo, it's pretty easy to see why. Note that the young woman in the photo is wearing a Unity Caucus t-shirt and appears to be in a UFT hall.

Now I'm not a fashion consultant, but I have to say that it's pretty inappropriate for anyone to knock on doors wearing a shirt like that. I'm not remotely sure that was the case, but she is clearly sending a message to Chief readers.

It is, however, a pretty good representation of union leadership, whether she intended it or not. The UFT is run by the Unity Caucus and has been since its inception. It's actually not something they widely broadcast. I barely knew it existed until 2005, when I started taking a much closer look at UFT politics. Until then they existed only as a name on a ballot that turned up every two or three years.

Unity Caucus is an elite, invitation-only caucus, a veritable gravy train of perks and gigs for those who sign up. As I write frequently, it requires its members to sign a loyalty oath. It basically says you may disagree within the caucus, but in public you must fall in line with all caucus positions. This can be frustrating, especially if you sit on the Executive Board every two weeks determined to speak what you see, as opposed to what you're told. There are seven of us in the opposition. You can recognize us because we're the ones asking questions. We're the ones bringing resolutions demanding things like, oh, following the C4E law to reduce class sizes, or giving ATR members a meaningful vote.

At the Executive Board, I watch dozens of people sit around, saying and doing nothing until and unless they're instructed otherwise. These are the people, hand-picked by leadership to represent your interests. The only problem is they aren't actually permitted to do that. In fact, they've signed a specific document pretty much promising to tow the line whether or not it serves your interests. Make no mistake, this holds us back.

Sometimes I feel the only thing I really own is my voice. I can't and won't sign an oath to give it up. That this is the price of what they call activism speaks volumes as to what our problem is. I'd actually love to work with and support the union. Sometimes I get called to do that, but not all that frequently. It's too bad we can't work that out. It kind of breaks my heart to see people whose only redeeming quality to the union is the ability to sit down and shut up. This is about the least useful quality an activist can have. But if you want to entertain working for UFT, it's the only one that matters.

We're now facing an existential threat. The reaction of leadership is the same as it ever was. Pay flunkies to work around the office, doing something or other, and continue to erect brick walls to keep the activists the hell out. That's an ass-backward approach. You are either a leader or a follower. UFT policy is to actively discourage leadership. That's bad organization, and it's also bad teaching.

I go to work each and every day and try to draw out the voices of my students. Given that they don't speak much or any English, that's not precisely a walk in the park. Sometimes I have to pry it out of them. Sometimes I feel like I'm a dentist with a pair of pliers trying to extract a recalcitrant tooth. Sometimes I feel like I'm holding them by their knees and shaking them up and down until something falls out. I never stop trying though.

UFT Unity seems to go about things differently. It's like they are emulating Michelle Rhee and taping their student's mouths shut. After all, if they're open, who knows what could come out of those things? Sadly, come Janus, listening to rank and file will become essential if we are to survive. Sadder still, leadership has almost no experience doing this, and as far as I can tell, little to no inclination to start.

It's gonna be a long and interesting year.

Monday, March 12, 2018

UFT Executive Board--We Pass a Class Size Resolution but Remove All Mention of Class Sizes

6:00 Secretary Howard Schoor welcomes us.

Speakers—Eric Mears—Health Opportunities High School—(delivered me his speech, which I present verbatim)

Ladies and gentlemen,

I speak today to address the shocking sample comments of the Charlotte Danielson rubric; particularly the “Professional Responsibilities” section.

One can infer from these comments that teachers who are unwilling to do free labor or commit treachery against their colleagues may be rated Developing or worse.  Teachers' opinions may also be used as reasons for low ratings under Danielson.

Here are four egregious examples of sample comments:

1. "The teacher listens to his principal's feedback after a lesson, but isn't sure that the recommendations really apply in his situation." (Developing; Component 4.E. - Growing and Developing Professionally)

- Here, the teacher is to be penalized for being skeptical about his principal’s feedback; in other words, for his opinion.  Indeed, even if the teacher carries out all of his principal’s suggestions conscientiously, he shall be punished for his lack of faith in them.  The Developing rating is to be assigned, in short, because a teacher has committed a thought crime.

2. "The teacher says, 'I have always known my grade partner to be truthful.  If she called in sick, then I believe her.' "  (Developing; Component 4.f. – Showing Professionalism)

- Here again, the teacher is to be evaluated based on his opinion of his colleague.  This is already absurd.  But worse, a teacher can only show that he distrusts his grade partner by investigating her, quarreling with her, gossiping about her, or performing some other treacherous act.  And the Danielson rubric would reward him for doing so.

3. "The teacher considers staying late to help some of her students in after-school daycare but then realizes it would conflict with her health club class and so decides against it.” (Developing; Component 4.f. Showing Professionalism.).

- Here, a teacher is to be punished for failing to provide extra and perhaps free labor in her school.  This fact alone would seem to make the Danielson rubric illegal and inadmissible as a document through which to evaluate teachers.  At minimum, it is contemptuous of teachers’ dignity and time.

4. "The principal says, 'I wish I didn't have to ask the teacher to 'volunteer' every time we need someone to chaperone the dance." (Developing; Component 4.d. – Participating in the Professional Community)

- Here, a teacher spends his free time chaperoning every school dance that occurs in a given school year.  But because his principal asked him to volunteer, he is perversely punished with a Developing rating.  This comment is not only anti-labor (and probably illegal) like the others.  It is also poorly written and not thought through.

Nothing can ameliorate a rubric that is tainted by these sample comments that encourage the violation of labor law.  It is immoral, illegal, and unacceptable to evaluate teachers in the way that Danielson prescribes.

So, what should be done?  I recommend two actions and a contingency:

Action #1: Demand that the DOE rescind all Developing or Ineffective ratings that were given during the Danielson era - - - or at least rescind those ratings in categories where Danielson encourages labor law violations. 

Action #2: Demand that the DOE replace Danielson with an alternative that is devised and agreed upon by NYC teachers and principals.   The consultant class does not deserve a say in any new system; not after five years of crudely encouraging labor violations under Danielson.

Contingency: If the DOE does not agree to these two demands, file a class action lawsuit on behalf of all teachers who have been harmed by Danielson.  This should be a winnable lawsuit – since the document blatantly encourages administrators to violate labor law.

A school system that uses Danielson does not respect its educators, or basic labor law, for that matter.  And a union that allows Danielson is not serving its members.  Please act, now, UFT leaders, to repair the harm that Danielson has done, and would continue to do, to UFT teachers.

Thank you.

Schoor—Are these examples?

Mear—They’re sample comments.

Schoor—Send them to me.

Roberta Pixar—fired from Adult Ed.—Asks union to help with budget. All other teachers have access to school budgets. As public agency budget is public, but Rosemary Mills has denied access as we watch program eliminated.

Told we could no longer teach low level students due to funding. Program being dismembered. We want to see budget.

One third classes closed despite over 50 million budget. Career and tech training disappearing.
Mills bought kindergarten and college books with no levels in between. They are useless, no money left to buy appropriate ones. Mills hired managers rather than buy books. More and more of our teachers and support staff are fired and handed out. Strictly per session program with no benefits lately.

Barr has budget but has not released to chapter. What is the secret? We are now being denied access by our own union.

We need to see where money has gone year by year, we need income sources and detailed expenditures. We suspect mismanagement, at least. We want our program back, alive, not moribund.
Asks that UFT stops withholding budget from members. Want to see it and five previous budgets. Will you do that?

Schoor—We have it, we are analyzing it. Parts of it are public, but not all of it. CLs entitled to part of it. There are different views of budget. We will give it to CL with our analysis.


Mulgrew not here—says if you haven’t seen DeVos interview you should get it. This is what you get for 200 million in donations.

LeRoy Barr—middle school conference, great event, thanks Richard Mantel, guidance conference and para luncheon, went well. Letter from DOE about 17 minute walkout, March 14, encourage schools to have plans. Make sure students are safe, volunteer. UFT Anniversary March 16. Saturday elementary conference. March 21 DA, EB March 26. March against gun violence March 24.

Janella Hinds—UFT will support March for Our Lives in Central Park. March 24th

Schoor—As we get info on marches we share

Vince G—praises menu change. Thanks LeRoy Barr.


Arthur GoldsteinMORE—It appears our brothers and sisters in the Absent Teacher Reserve will be eligible to vote in chapter leader and delegate elections. That’s positive. Less positive is the fact that many or most of them will not be in the same schools come September. I speak to a lot of ATRs, and they feel about this just as many of us felt about the Electoral College when Trump won.
I understand leadership’s position that the ATR is temporary, and like everyone here, I’d like it as temporary as possible. I understand that as an objection to a permanent chapter. I’d therefore propose we establish a temporary chapter, to be dissolved as soon as the ATR is. Like all of you I’m concerned about Janus, and I think our brothers and sisters in the ATR require and deserve a unique voice to express their unique interests.

Can we work together to make that happen this year?

Schoor—You can make a proposal. Question period not proper time. Made this decision three years ago. This board voted. Some people filed a complaint at US Labor Dept.

Goldstein—With all due respect, I’m speaking for teachers here, I'm trying to help them regardless of what US Labor Dept may have said.

KJ Ahluwalia--New Action--I deal with ATRs as well, was in phased out school. What about security? Often have no keys. Have to scramble for someone to lock door. How do we protect them and make them feel like citizens instead of pariahs?

Schoor—We should ask DOE to come up with plan. Thank you for question.

Mike Sill—Appreciate that question. Wrote to Randy Asher about this issue. DOE sometimes lacks uniform policies. Some schools have universal keys, some are individual. DOE agrees. It’s something our safety division is taking up as well. Need to work to make it happen.

Ashraya GuptaMORE—We have folks here who are labor lawyers. Could we get a response on that? Is it in violation of labor law?

Schoor—Agree. That’s why I asked for questions.

Marcus McArthurMORE—People concerned about Janus. In my school we’ve assembled committee. Members want to know what’s next. What can we do now?

Schoor—Have a program, door knockers. We don’t know yet what decision will say. Could say you don’t need new cards. Might say we have to have different language and have to resign everyone. May have to do it each year. Many possible variations. We are reaching out. Soon there will be a new UFT app. Will introduce at DA on 21st. We think we do a great job now but we have to do more.

?—Professional conciliation—What if DOE gives us curriculum but it isn’t good? How can we address it?

Schoor—Article 24.

Debbie Poulos—Anyone interested in this, we created a form for assistance. Sometimes it can also be paperwork. Fill out form or email me.

Shelvy Abrams—Want to respond to Marcus—Talk to members. Those of you who heard about Wisconsin, it can happen here. This is what we can lose, bargaining, health. This is do or die situation.

Schoor—Our contract controls many things in your life. That’s what we’ve fought for since March 16, 1960. Everything is in the book and everything is at stake.

Reports from Districts

Tom Murphy RTC—We are on the road, visit 4K retirees. Janus concerns us. Trying to make PR like NOLA. Evelyn de Jesus asked us to help. We are coordinating 146 people.

Anne Goldman—Thanks from nurses who ratified a contract. We don’t assume that we will successfully bargain without power in political arena and bargaining table. Striking issue for us is they often want our pension. We’re part of a giant ruthless system, but they invested 80 million in it, result of our fight. We work with staffing similar to class size. Quite pricey to achieve. Have struck twice, but achieved our success because of all of you. We’re in it together, part of attack on each of us. Overwhelmingly ratified. Thank you.

Shelvy Abrams—Para luncheon Saturday, 1000 members. Thanks all who came, Ellie Engler and Teacher Center, did great job. Hardest working people in schools, so next time I want more than 1000 and want to see members.

Janella Hinds—March 1, we held Future in Focus, hosted 36 colleges, 30 labor unions who presented to 600 HS students, exposed to college and career, especially unionized.

Events—Triangle Shirtwaist Fire commemoration—sweatshop fire, women 16-20 died horribly, every year they remember them, March 23rd at noon.

Herstory—brunch and celebration to honor women in labor movement March 25th.
Academic HS Awards, Friday April 13th, fourth annual.

Amy Arundell—PEP meeting last week—Several schools were voted on, two of which in Queens, 42 and 53, HS in Manhattan, and others. Raucous meeting, reminiscent of Bloomberg era, ended 2:30 AM. 42, 53 and Health Careers were kept open. Denied mayor these closings. Left at 12:30 feeling sad, and someone texted me to say they didn’t pass. Isn’t that amazing?

Happened because 3 school communities fought tooth and nail for schools. Packed meetings.

Members expressed feelings with help of our reps. Much political work going on, provided financial support. Bused communities in. Testament to work not just of union but also to community partners. Great day and lesson. All of us will save all of us.

Thanks union and all resources, school communities, parents and activists. Unionism looks bright to me now.

Paul Egan—Big week for Chelsea playing Barcelona. Won on weekend. Next week is Lobby Day. Over 1100 people. Packed. Opportunity to make our presence felt. Please attend. Door knocking is ongoing. Four trainings, fifth going on in April. Asks if you know or can recommend someone please reach out.


2018 chapter election guide—

LeRoy Barr—Rises to motivate—same as what we did in 2015. Made sure that everyone repped by UFT could nominate, vote and run. Asks you adopt this guide and by laws.

Seconded. Passed.

Gender Neutral Restroom Resolution

Rashad Brown—Requests UFT provide gender neutral restrooms in offices. UFT has been in center of many fights to help LGBT and other communities. Good also for children. AFT does it at assemblies, so does NEA. DOE has it in place for students. Urges yes vote.


Class sizes

Arthur GoldsteinMORE—Since our last class size resolution, we’ve given a lot of thought to the idea that all contractual negotiation was the province of the 300 member committee. We acknowledge and understand that position, which is why this resolution makes no mention of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and proposes nothing related to it.

Instead, we’re focusing on an existing mandate. This gives us a golden opportunity to support our students and members without touching upon confidential negotiations. It’s been a long time since we’ve taken concrete steps to help the class size situation. In actual fact, it’s been over half a century.
Here’s a way for us to address not only class size, but also the problematic nature of enforcement. Instead of giving teachers a day off from tutoring, let’s offer those who violate the law consequences worthy of lawbreakers. Let’s make recalcitrant principals and DOE lawyers subject to actual law and its consequences. Let’s decisively end the practice of making teachers and students pay when administrators and lawyers who claim to place, “Children First, Always” practice contempt for the law. We can do that right here and right now.

Let’s take this opportunity to show communities and members that we will zealously press for the enforcement of regulations designed to help and support them. Let’s show our colleagues, at this crucial juncture, that union is there to support them. Let’s show city parents that we, the people who wake up every day to work with their children, are the people who really put children first.
And let’s tell politicians who cavalierly ignore the law that we won’t allow them to do it anymore.

Stuart Kaplan—amendment—Strike second to last “Whereas” and first Resolved. Adds Resolved that UFT will continue to fight to get C4E monies dispersed to NYC.

Gregg Lundahl—Asks to strike second to last Whereas (same one) Says there is a difference between C4E and CFE, C4E doesn’t have specific numbers, but there is a great deal of money withheld since 2015. Don’t wish to pay for it in contract negotiations. These are specific numbers. Much more comfortable with our substitute resolution. If we fight to do this for the contract money will have to come from somewhere. Let’s get money from state.

Kiera—Point person for class sizes. Speaks in support of the amendment. Looks at it from negotiation standpoint. Doesn’t want to make class size negotiation public policy.

First strike next to last whereas—Vote.

Passes on party lines.

First resolved—dropped

Passes on party lines.

Additional resolved.

Passes on party lines.

Resolution as amended passes on party lines.

We are adjourned.

RESOLUTION TO REDUCE CLASS SIZES TO C4E LAW LEVELS (actual class size language now stricken)

Whereas, reducing class size has proven to be one of the best ways to improve student learning, lower teacher attrition rates and disciplinary problems, and narrow achievement and opportunity gaps between racial and economic groups; and

Whereas, NYC schools continue to have the largest average class sizes in the state, and NY’s highest court said that our class sizes were too large in our schools to provide students with their constitutional right to a sound basic education; and

Whereas, UFT contractual class size limits continue to be ignored by the DOE; and

Whereas, the DOE uses outlandish “action plans” to address these limits; and

Whereas, the NYC DOE recently reported class sizes have continued to increase this year; and

Whereas, Article 8L in the 2005 Contract called in part for a labor-management committee to discuss lowering class size if Campaign for Fiscal Equity Settlement funding was available; and

Whereas, the 2007 Contracts for Excellence (C4E) law, which settled the CFE case, required NYC to reduce class size in all grades; and

Whereas, the goals for class size in the city’s original C4E plan, approved by the state in the fall of 2007, are for an average of no more than 20 students per class in K-3, 23 in grades 4-8 and 25 in high school core classes; and

Whereas, the Department of Education has flouted this law flagrantly since 2007; and
Whereas, the DOE gets C4E funding that is often not used to reduce class size; be it therefore

Resolved, that the UFT will make lowering class sizes to the C4E limits of 20 students in a class K-3, 23 in Grades 4-8 and 25 in high school core classes a major goal; and be it further

Resolved, that funding for this class size reduction should not in any way affect monies for contractual raises for UFT members as the DOE is already receiving C4E money to reduce class sizes from the state.

Added: Resolved that UFT will continue to fight to get C4E monies dispersed to NYC.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

17 Minutes on Wednesday

For the record, I support the walkout. I'm not teaching at ten o'clock and I will join the students at my school. I'll try to help if I can. That said, there's a lot about this walkout that's curious, if not necessarily bad.

First, of course, there's the mayor's open support. You don't always get a mayor coming out and saying he's okay with a mass protest, but there you go. It's a good cause, and I'm glad he supports it. Then you get the convoluted directions from DOE, which is not really good at anything except violating the UFT Contract for no reason. Cooperate with people? That's not what they do.

Last week an administrator told me that Carmen FariƱa directed that the seventeen minutes were excused, but anything beyond that would be considered cutting. I can see it now:

How dare you stay out for eighteen minutes, you little hooligan!

On the other hand, if you're gonna stay out for seventeen minutes, you need passing time. At our school, kids get four minutes to go from class to class. I'd argue they need five, but I already argue about enough things, so I won't do that right now. If they need four minutes, then they need to walk out at 9:56 and return at 10:21.

But kids will be kids, and one thing kids do when they're being kids is talk with other kids. So when you have, in my school at least, literally thousands of kids walking, can you expect them to return on time? Will they say, "Oh my gosh, I've gotta get back to Miss Wormwood's class by 10:17 so let me start walking at 10:13 to beat the rush." And if they all say that, won't the rush begin at 10:13? Or will the rush begin at 10:17, thus rendering tens of thousands of city kids to break Carmen's rule? Will that mean it's no longer a beautiful day, even if Macy's is open?

Who's to say?

More importantly, who will be moved by this protest? Clearly not the NRA, which is already trying to block the modest and far from sufficient measures the governor of Florida is taking to reduce gun availability. Did he clear those changes with them before offering them? Did they conspire to put them up only to challenge them in court? You never know, in the good old USA these days.

In our school, I was asked by one-on-one paraprofessionals what they were to do in case of the walkout. It's a pretty fair question. First, if you don't go with the kids to whom you're assigned, are you shirking your duty? And if you do go, and something happens to the kid, are you responsible? It seems like a no-win situation. Last I heard, they were allowed to go or not as their conscience dictates, but to let someone know if they were not planning to go so the kids could be covered.

For teachers it was a little simpler. Teachers would be permitted to go if all their students left. They would also be permitted to stay as conscience dictated.

In our school, the student government seems to have organized the march out onto our athletic field. They're actually making announcements about it. We've got a pretty cooperative student body. I'm impressed. When I was 15, if I walked out there was no way I was gonna return. I have to suppose we'll have 15-year-olds with similar leanings, and it will be a good day for Arby's and the nearby grease truck.

All this is small potatoes, though, compared to what will surely be a national story. Will we bring our useless politicians to the point where they represent We, the People instead of the gun industry? Time will tell, and Wednesday will have to be one in a series of many events to get us the answer we need.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Mariachi Chancellor, El Rey

I honestly don't know a whole lot about Richard Carranza. I see good and bad things. On the plus side, he's a former English Language Learner, or ELL. This gives me hope that he might see through the miserable Part 154 that robs ELLs of both direct English instruction and also core content instruction. In 2017, we ought to offer our most needy kids something better than sink or swim.

Also, he seems to be an advocate for public schools. The last guy the mayor picked, Tom Carvel or somebody, looked like an advocate for school choice in the Jeb Bush mode. Florida's not where I would go to model public schools, though the weather seems pretty nice. Alas, Carvel not only failed to bring the weather over, but also failed to show himself.

On the other hand, there are the stories about Carranza, largely in the Daily News, from his failure to perform miracles, to creepy treatment of female subordinates, resulting in a 75K payoff. I'm not personally too put off by the miracle thing, because miracle stories, like accomplishments of Texas and Michelle Rhee, usually turn out to be outright fabrications. Carranza seems to have a thing for TFA, while I think he'd be better off finding local talent. In fact, I wonder why the mayor couldn't find anyone in NY. The mayor said mayoral control was all about him doing what he wanted to do, but that's not really true.

When de Blasio was elected, he not only stated opposition to charters, but also blocked a Moskowitz Academy or two. Cuomo and his Heavy Hearted Assembly rapidly passed a law that NYC would have to pay rent for charters of which it didn't approve. This said to me that mayoral control was valid only if the mayor was a reformy. They never passed laws against Bloomberg. Evidently, de Blasio hasn't put that together just yet.

Carranza says there's no daylight between his vision and that of the mayor, but I have no idea what the mayor's vision is anymore. When he first ran, he seemed great. He opposed charters and reforminess. He was the anti-Bloomberg. I supported him even as the UFT was pushing that guy, what's his name, who told the Daily News that teachers didn't deserve the raise cops and firefighters got.

These days I have no idea what the mayor stands for. He left a whole bunch of Bloomberg's people in place, so we still lose at step two hearings even when we're 100% correct. He left a bunch of scumbag lawyers in "legal" who believe in doing whatever the hell they feel like and think screwing UFT members is the national pastime. He picks an outright reformy to be chancellor and then immediate turns around and picks a guy who appears to support public schools. Though the NY Post thinks de Blasio's Che Guevara, he negotiated the lowest pattern bargain in my living memory for city workers.

A few days ago, I was speaking to a music teacher I respect a lot who said the new chancellor was a great singer. I later found a video over at Leonie Haimson's site, which I've posted below. He is a very good singer, and he also plays the violin. You have to respect that. Maybe I'm culturally biased or something, but his choice of song is pretty unusual as far as I'm concerned. It's called El Rey, or the king, and it seems like a tribute to machismo or something:

Con dinero
Y sin dinero
Yo hago siempre
Lo que quiero
Y mi palabra
Es la ley 
That says, roughly, if I'm rich or if I'm broke, I do any damn thing I feel like, and my word is the law. It's the kind of song Donald Trump might tweet if he had any music in his miserable, barren soul. El Rey is about a man whose "queen" appears to have dumped him for his miserable attitude, a man who's learned nothing whatsoever from it. While it's tongue in cheek, I'm not at all sure I'd teach it in a class. Given Chancellor's Regulation A-421 about verbal abuse, I'd be very nervous about it. You know, it might make some student feel uneasy. 

I might be sitting in the principal's office being accused of sexism and getting a letter in my file for sharing that song, but there's our chancellor, with an orchestra full of students, performing it. Putting the potential sexism aside, the notion of being the king is the kind of thing I'd expect from Bloomberg or Trump, not an educator. Does the new chancellor have a sharper sense of humor than I do, or is he broadcasting the future?

Only time will tell.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

We Don't Need No Stinking Teacher Certification for College Now

Twice a year I go to class size hearings. As they go, this year was not particularly awful. We had only a handful of disagreements, but one proved very interesting. I identified a health class with 39 students. The DOE lawyer expressed shock that I'd protest it, since it was a College Now class. I found that odd, because not only was it not labeled College Now, but also I protest every oversized class, be it College Now, College Later, or just, you know, regular, ordinary high school. (That's what I teach, by the way.)

I often lose the College Now class size grievances. I believe I've won only once. Personally, I fail to see which great service the college is doing for our kids when they dump them in classes of 39. The class in question was a health class. I was pretty shocked to hear that not only was it a College Now class, but that it was also being taught by someone from the college. Previously every one of these courses I'd heard of was taught by either active or retired UFT  members.

When you take College Now classes you get credit for both the college and high school classes. It isn't easy to qualify to teach high school classes. As a high school teacher, I had to be fingerprinted and checked. I had to take and pass tests. I had to be certified. In fact, I'm certified to teach three subjects. I had to pay for each certification. I had to get appointed to a school, eventually. I had to get tenure. I also have to be observed several times a year. I am rated on test scores, and if my rating goes low enough I can lose my job.

What do college teachers need? Basically, they need to get hired. I got hired by Queens College as soon as I got my Master's, and I worked there for 20 years. I've also taught at Nassau Community College. I didn't have to take any test and I didn't have to be fingerprinted. Mostly they left me alone. It was a great way to supplement my income, and I made 50% of my DOE salary at one point. As my DOE salary went up, the percentage fell. Once I became chapter leader, I dumped the second job altogether.

I mostly worked at the English Language Institute at Queens College, where students from other countries would try to work their way into the actual college via our program.  In this program, three teachers would split skills and share a class. Sometimes my colleagues would have discipline issues. They'd bitterly complain that this student did this or that. How could anyone deal with that?

Oddly, I never had problems with any of these students. I barely noticed whatever my colleagues were complaining about. Day to day I marveled that they couldn't handle students I found to be challenging me not at all. The biggest difference between high school and college, for me, was that I could cover material much faster in college. I didn't have to bother with discipline of any sort, for the most part. I don't know what I did differently than my colleagues, but I think my experience dealing quickly with nonsense showed somehow.

For all I know, the college teachers in my school (and I've now identified two of them) are wonderful. Even if that's so, why the hell do we have to jump through all these hoops, pay all these fees, and get all these certificates if the schools can just pull anyone from anywhere to teach anything? Are the college teachers more versatile than we are? Personally, I doubt it. It takes an entirely different skill set to teach high school than it does to teach people who pay for their courses. I'd argue that teaching high school is much more challenging. (I'd also argue it's much more important, and that's why I never pursued a doctorate so as to teach college full time.)

There are all sorts of rules that bind us, including chancellor's regulations. None apply to visiting college teachers. We can be disciplined and they cannot. And anyway, Article One of the Collective Bargaining Agreement says UFT represents teachers of every stripe. We don't represent visiting uncertified college teachers from who knows where.

I filed a grievance demanding that UFT teachers teach these classes. If I lose I'll file another complaining that we ought not to need licenses, tests, certification, chancellor's regs, Danielson, or any of the myriad of things we go through to do this job. I'll also demand they compensate us for all the tests and time and fees. We ought to be whatever, and do whatever, since DOE can choose to allow whoever to teach in city schools.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Reformy Chalkbeat Can't Find a Working Teacher Who Isn't E4E

When you read Chalkbeat, you know you'll get a diverse point of view. Whenever I want to find a broad variety of non-teacher opinions, say, about the new chancellor I go right there.

First, you get Michael Mulgrew. While Mulgrew is the head of UFT, he hasn't been a working teacher for some years now. Then, you get a deputy mayor, who I assume also does not teach either. (I don't see a lot of deputy mayors hanging around the lunchroom.)

Then you go to the person probably most quoted by Chalkbeat, Jenny Sedlis, Executive Director of Students First NY. Everyone knows that the way reformies put students first is by putting teachers last. Of course, teachers should be fired at will, because supervisors know everything. They never act out of vindictiveness. They are never failed teachers who moved up because they couldn't do the actual job. Most of all, they are never utterly unqualified, like Joel Klein, Cathie Black, Betsy DeVos, or any number of people who've run school systems. If Michelle Rhee says taping kids' mouths shut is the way to go, that should be good enough for anyone.

Naturally, you then pivot to James Merriman, the CEO of NYC Charter Center. Maybe Eva Moskowitz was unavailable. In any case, it's important to find out what charter school people think about the chancellor, even though they can't be bothered following chancellor's regs. Verbal abuse? Well, abuse on if that means they're gonna pass the standardized test. Corporal punishment? Let the kids pee their pants instead of leaving test prep because we're zero tolerance and we don't go for that human dignity nonsense. Oddly, I afford my dog more dignity than some charters afford their kids so I'll be walking him very early on this slushy and snowy morning.

Then you go to Houston Federation of Teachers President Zeph Capo and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten: Naturally you group them together, because who can be bothered to distinguish between teacher union presidents? It's not like they're Educators 4 Excellence, in which case you'd need to get each and every one of their comments. Of course neither one of them teaches, so you haven't muddied the waters too much with anyone who actually does this job.

 You then, finally, get to someone very important, to wit, former teacher Evan Stone, who runs a group called Educators 4 Excellence even though he himself hasn't been an educator for years. I mean, he was one for maybe five minutes, but now he's got this groovy gig taking Gates money, and he doesn't have to be bothered with the trivial nonsense of actually teaching children. Chalkbeat once ran a feature about how E4E managed to acquire 100 signatures for something or other, probably more work for less pay. I work in the largest school in Queens, and I could collect 100 signatures in 45 minutes. But since I don't take money from Bill Gates, like E4E and Chalkbeat, who cares what I think?

Of course you follow that up by interviewing an actual teacher. Since you are, ostensibly, a site about education, but neither know nor can be bothered to look up any actual teachers, you leave no Evan Stone unturned and ask him who he knows. And who would've thunk it, but the only teachers he knows are also Educators 4 Excellence. So you talk to that person and you've killed several birds with one Evan Stone. First of all, you haven't had to bother with the messy work of talking to any typical rank and file, because who knows what they will say? Certainly no one at Chalkbeat, and certainly no one who relies on Chalkbeat for information. On top of that, you've managed to sneak in yet another reformy view while presenting it as that of an ordinary teacher.

Best of all you don't have to worry about those nasty bloggers calling you a reformy rag. You interviewed a living breathing teacher and no one can say otherwise. Who cares if the one you found signed a pledge of allegiance to a Gates-supported bunch of reformies that has no business claiming to represent teachers? The important thing is you can tell yourself you spoke to a teacher, and when you get down to it, that should be good enough for anyone.

After all, teaching is already a calling, so why should you bother calling teachers?

Correction: Of course they interviewed Eva Moskowitz. I don't know if they added it or if I missed it, but no Chalkbeat piece would be complete without her opinion.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Mandatory Voluntary Meetings

In recounting the exciting adventures of a 30-year-old Boy Wonder Supervisor, I used to harp on mandatory voluntary meetings. To be a supervisor with no respect for those you supervise is to spend a lot of time thinking of ways to go around the Collective Bargaining Agreement. How inconvenient to have to allow people to go to lunch. How time-consuming to actually rate people based on their performance rather than your caprices, or what the voices in your head say.

I just got an email about a school asking people to go to a mandatory summer institute if they wish to re-apply for their jobs. After announcing it's mandatory, they later say it's voluntary. I was actually ridiculing the doubletalk I'd seen from supervisors when I wrote about Boy Wonder, but this school actually and literally used it.

I don't know if these Renewal Schools, or whatever this one is called, operate under different rules. But it appears they know they're violating hiring procedures by calling this mandatory and then stating it's voluntary. It's quite creepy when supervisors engage in deceit to get around obvious rules. But Bloomberg's spirit is alive and well in the DOE, and the folks at "legal" sit around and plot how to do just that.

My contact in this school tells me that they do teacher team meetings each and every day. I'm assuming that's what their C6 assignment is. This is another blatant violation of the CBA. Unless there's an SBO, there is a menu of tasks from which teachers can choose. If they don't get one of their first three choices, they can get another three. If they don't get one after that, they shouldn't be stuck doing whatever task they didn't want twice in a row.

I've heard of schools with little or no union presence in which this is done. If you have no chapter leader, or if the chapter leader is asleep long-term, these things can happen. If it were happening in my school, I'd file a reorganization grievance for the chapter day one and send it to an arbitrator right away. The thing about those, though, is you have only a brief window to do that. So these people may be stuck. I'm not sure, but if I were CL over there I'd make it a point to find out quickly.

I have not been a lover of rules most of my life, actually. I once knew a supervisor who called herself a "rule-follower" who was nothing of the sort. I'm not sure anyone likes rules. You can't do this or that. You can't bring your dog on the beach. You can't fall asleep in front of your classroom. No, it doesn't matter if you are tired.

Of course, principals have no more love for the rules than you do. Like everyone, they want to do what they want to do, and if you want to do something else, well, that's just not convenient. If you're the chapter leader, you're a check on that sort of thing. When the principal puts on his cowboy hat and declares your school to be the Wild West, you have to fight back.

Rules are the only things that separate us from the animals. Now don't get me wrong, I love animals. I'm sitting with my favorite one right now. Maybe I should say rules are the only things that separate us from the administrators. It's our duty to throw these rules in their faces as much as possible. My dog doesn't really love to sit on command. So I practice it with him a lot. I'm gonna do it even more if we ever have nice weather. He can learn.

Call me naive, but I think administrators can learn too. You just have to be determined. If you give up, your dog will never sit, and your administrator will never stop assigning mandatory voluntary meetings.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

If You're Not With Us, You're Against Us

I don't know how to put that more delicately. I really have to wonder about people who won't pay into union. As soon as Janus passes, I'll be supporting them. I'll be paying for their representation. I'll be paying for negotiations on their behalf. I'll be paying for any salary increase or benefit that's negotiated for them.

I read comments from people who won't pay. They say Mulgrew sucks. He did this, he didn't do that. Or Unity sucks. Or whatever. I've had this blog up for 13 years now, and I've done my fair share of complaining about leadership. But I've also taken action. For nine years I've been chapter leader of the largest school in Queens. I've run against the Unity Caucus in both state and city elections, and a few years ago I actually won a place in the UFT Executive Board. It was a minor miracle, but high school teachers have often voted against the machine. That's why Unity rigged the election so we could no longer select our own Vice-President.

It's often frustrating to work in a situation in which you're hugely outnumbered. You bring up a resolution and 95 people are vehemently against it. They explain why and it makes no sense at all. One of the people we ran with for Executive Board got frustrated after his second meeting and stopped coming. I can understand why someone might feel that way. I can also understand anger at the leadership, particularly from woefully mistreated people in the ATR.

But still, no matter what leadership does, no matter what they fail to do, it's on us. We voted for them, sort of, when three out of four of us failed to vote at all. If we are so apathetic that we can't drop a ballot in a mailbox, we have little right to complain. Leadership plays a role in that too. While it's nice to see them reaching out, organizing in schools, and sending people to homes, it's disconcerting to think this is the first time in my 30-plus year career they've bothered to do so.

It's a pretty rude awakening to go from expecting all to pay to having to reach out. Leadership still surrounds itself with loyalty oath signers and that alone keeps them isolated. They hire idiots to represent us and promote them for no reason other than loyalty. Sometimes loyalty oath signers comment on this site. They say the stupidest things and I'll read a few months later they've been promoted. Maybe one of them is your district rep. and you have all my sympathy.

But still, it's our union. It's on us to work to change it. It's a delicate balance. I wouldn't bother to do this work if I thought it had no value. When principals pull crazy nonsense, or harass and abuse people because some moron at "legal" said it was a good idea, someone has to fight. The only people who can do that are you and me.

I'm up for it. If you don't pay, you aren't. And I'm really torn about what to do when people I represent don't pay. Right now when people get in trouble, I try to find out how and why it happened. I ask questions. I scour the contract to find violations. I asked a UFT official if I would have to represent non-members and I was told yes, I would.

I send out a weekly email to my members. I have an email address I devote to union business. When members contact me, I respond. Sometimes I know answers right away. Sometimes I can find answers on the UFT website. Sometimes I ask my district rep. Sometimes I go to contacts both in and out of leadership. But I can usually answer questions pretty quickly, one way or another.

A former chapter leader of mine had a different approach. If you asked him a question, he'd say, "Put a letter in my box." I used to do just that, but one day he told me that 80% of members didn't bother. That's a good way to cut down your workload, but if that's your goal, why did you take the job in the first place?

I'm not sure what to do about people who don't pay. I guess I could get really enthusiastic and show them how dedicated I am. On the other hand, I could drop them all from my email list and tell them to put a letter in my box when they have problems. I could move them from my "right away" files to my "when and if I get around to it" files.

I guess I have to go to discipline hearings them when they get in trouble. But it's hard for me to keep up with my reading. Maybe I could bring a mystery novel with me and read it while the principal does whatever. Maybe I'll forget about all those rules the principal has to follow when he puts a letter in your file. Maybe I won't hear those details because Miss Marple was making a crucial deduction when they came up. Who knows?

Is it ethical to do that? I don't know for sure, but it's hard for me to imagine feeling very bad about it. Is it ethical to withhold dues?

Absolutely not.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Chancellor Chickens Out, I Step Up

That's right, I am volunteering to be Chancellor of NYC Schools, and I won't accept the 353K. I will do it for half that. That's appropriate because my first action will be to halve the salaries of everyone and anyone who worked under Bloomberg. If they don't take the hint, they're fired.

We will also turn around the rating system. We will design tests for all educational administrators. We are through with all this effective and ineffective stuff, and Danielson, on her own recommendation, will be out of the classroom for good.

Administrators will be tested to determine whether they are Not Insane. That will be our highest and only rating. If they miss the rating, they will join me in the 50% pay cut. If they don't like it, they can always leave, and we will all be better off.

Next, we will settle the UFT Contract. UFT members get a 20% pay raise across the board. Non-UFT members will no longer be covered by the contract, but we will give all of them $15 an hour, because minimum wage is too low, even for those too selfish or shortsighted to join a union.

Class size in high schools will fall to 25, as per C4E. At other levels, we will follow the C4E mandates. Any administrators with oversized classes will be personally fined $1,000 a week for each student in each oversized class. If DOE grants them exceptions, their fines will be halved. We are reasonable.

Special ed. teachers with co-teachers will be granted one free period for every co-teacher, Once they get up to four, they won't teach at all. The money we lose by granting more than one free period will be paid personally by the administrators who assign them. Also, any administrators assigning anyone more than one co-teacher will lose the Not Insane rating (if they have it) and see their salaries halved, for a second time if necessary.

ESL teachers will teach ESL. No one will help them, and they will no longer support teachers of other subjects until every English language learner is served with a full program of direct English instruction.

Teachers will not carry guns except when they have meetings with administrators who failed to be rated Not Insane.

First members of my staff will be the people who regularly ask questions at UFT Executive Board. Sandwich eaters need not apply. There will be jobs for genuine union activists who will turn their activism toward helping the children of New York City. There will be a handful of extraordinarily talented union people who I will steal.

We will be appropriating certain properties via eminent domain, like Trump Tower, Cathie Black's penthouse, and Bloomberg's brownstone to start. We will be converting them into public schools. These changes will help us reduce class sizes and avoid overcrowding. Eva is out. Private schools are out. Zillionaires will send their kids to public schools, and there will be swift and decisive changes.

Feel free to suggest further changes in the comments.

The Contract Committee

I'm on the 300-member contract committee, which meets today. I'm really quite curious how 300 people can accomplish anything of substance in a two-hour meeting, so I'm looking forward to it. There is a questionnaire out that's probably reached your email, and I'd urge you to respond.

By tonight I will know what the 300-member committee is all about, but alas I won't be able to report it. Evidently, those of us who attend are sworn to secrecy. That's why I have mixed feelings about even going. Not only will our voice be relatively small, but we will also be hugely outnumbered by people who've sworn loyalty. So whatever happens, you won't be reading about it.

I've decided to go, just like I've decided to vote every chance I get. How many people stayed home and allowed Donald Trump to become President of the United States? I don't know, but I certainly wasn't one of them. Although I chose Bernie in the primary, I voted for Hillary in the general. While I wasn't particularly enamored by her, she looked good next to Donald Trump. I offered to swap my Hillary vote with a PA friend's Jill Stein vote, but he wasn't having it.

I will tell you that I have a few personal priorities. One is class size. C4E got a ruling that we would have sizes of 25 in the high schools. In fact, I don't think this needs to be a contractual demand. Unity always argues that class size is something we give up money for. Were it up to me, I'd frame the class size argument in terms of following the order. I know it's expensive, and that it may entail hiring more teachers and finding more space. But this is a priority if we really care about kids. Let them sell Manhattan Island. They only paid $24 for it, if I recall.

Another is Part 154. Oddly, the questionnaire asked whether we wanted stronger enforcement. This is an odd question, since these ESL regulations cause students to lose services on a massive scale and where they most need them. They also will result in fewer ESL teachers being hired, and existing teachers losing positions. We don't need stronger enforcement. We need the whole thing rewritten.

Another issue is co-teaching. As far as I can tell, the way co-teachers are chosen in my school is eenie-meenie--miney--moe. Thus I have to spend a lot of time negotiation bad pairings. I once had to sit with another teacher and negotiate how to split a class in two, since the co-teachers weren't speaking to one another. I've also had mixed experiences with co-teachers myself.

Special ed. teachers are particularly hard-hit by this. They have to not only co-teach, often with multiple teachers, but also write IEPs. They need some relief.

Although a lot of people like the extra hours for grading, I'd like to see schools grade tests. It's an enormous waste of city money to pay people to grade tests that could be done for free in house. That money could go to some benefit for us, e.g., parental leave.

We also need to reduce observations to the state minimum for those who do well. We need an alternative to junk science, or throwing crapshoots and hoping for the best.

Sorry, but I have to run and teach, and therefore I have to stop. What are your priorities?

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Janus Comes to Reformytown

I'm always amazed at the things that reformies say. Reformy of the day is Daniel Weisberg, who has an op-ed in the Daily News about Janus. First, the reformy supports union:

I personally think the court got it right a half century ago. It’s a matter of basic fairness that workers who reap the benefits of collective bargaining should also share in the costs.

And then, in a magical change of direction, we're told what to do after our certain loss:

The more radical move would be to get out of the collective bargaining business and become professional associations — think the American Medical Association or the National Trial Lawyers.

So let's be clear on this, because we're quite different from lawyers and doctors. Last I heard, doctors and lawyers could set their own fees. This means they have no need whatsoever for collective bargaining. If you think teachers are going to be able to charge districts on the basis of their fame and/ or expertise, I have a bridge in Brooklyn and I can give you a very good deal on it. I guess the union leadership could act all professional and we'd be left to hope for the best.

Oddly, differences I have with leadership often involve their eagerness to be professional. I retch when I hear about us getting a "seat at the table." Me, I'd prefer fair compensation to Mulgrew having a meeting with some important muckety-muck. But that's not all:

As professional associations, unions could put all their resources and political clout behind a long-term plan for elevating the teaching profession through higher pay, more rigorous performance standards, and better working conditions. 

Okay, so  I appreciate the higher pay (even though districts without collective bargaining get paid far less), but we don't actually "elevate the teaching profession." Our unions work only district to district. As for higher pay, if we aren't bargaining collectively, how the hell are we supposed to do that? Do we go to church and pray for it? Light a candle somewhere? I know we can't  demonstrate or strike because that would likely not be "professional." After all, doctors and lawyers don't do that stuff.

And then we're fighting for "more rigorous performance standards." I mean, why the hell not? Since we can't do anything to get better pay, why not make observations more rigorous? Isn't rigor what people want most out of life? Yes, I want to be observed 200 times a year, and I want to be judged by test scores in a way that's even more ridiculous than now. Maybe the reformy who wrote this piece is unaware that teachers all over the country are judged by junk science since "Race to the Top," but one of the great things about being a reformy is you get to just, you know, make up stuff.

And they could fight for this agenda without any obligation to defend individual members who engage in misconduct or who simply aren’t up to the job — a change that would probably win them new allies.

Well, thank you very much for that. Hey, I can't wait to have a union that won't defend me when I'm accused. Doubtless people will fall all over themselves for the chance to pay a union that doesn't stand up for them. Hey, why not just make principals God while we're at it? And the principal spake, and it was good.

Here's something that this reformy doesn't know--we don't defend individual members "who engage in misconduct or simply aren't up to the job." We represent everyone. We make sure administrators, who in fact are not God, follow the Collective Bargaining Agreement whether or not they feel like it. I can only imagine that if someone in this reformy's family got arrested, he'd decline to hire a lawyer, and say, "Sorry, son, but you engaged in misconduct. I suggest you plead guilty and save the state the cost of a trial."

Oddly, when charter people are embroiled in scandal, they tend to hire lawyers and defend themselves. I can only guess this particular reformy thinks teachers are innocent until proven guilty.

I don't. That's why, despite my well-documented reservations about leadership, I'll stick with the union. And if Mr. Weisberg wants to know where he can stick his advice, he need only ask.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Blogger's Day Off

But please read my piece on the fallacy that is Janus, live at Gotham Gazette now.

Monday, February 26, 2018

UFT Executive Board February 26, 2018--We All Get Along

I came from another meeting and arrived late at 6:08.

Minutes approved.

LeRoy Barr talking about how news SCOTUS judge is silent. DOJ was there on behalf of Janus. Conversation ent way beyond whether agency fee person should pay dues. Argued against collective bargaining. Said unions don’t have that right.

Mulgrew is not here.

Howard Schoor—Moment of silence for Parkland victims. Several resolutions.


Arthur GoldsteinMORE—:  Nobody responded to us to our request to negotiate resolutions.  Found it disappointing that after that you present two, covering the same ground as ours.  Seems unfair that we receive no notice of resolutions brought up by board, particularly when you consider you passed a resolution to require it from us. 

Schoor: Let us debate what we should do.

Mike SchirtzerMORE—Is it possible for us to reach out to our counterparts in DOE and request a safety meeting in the next week or two?

Schoor—Thinks it will be favorably received.

Schirtzer—Update on parental leave?

Schoor—Problem is anything we say gets out. We don’t want to take the chance it goes out. When you negotiate we don’t want to negotiate on the blogs. Some things need to remain private. There has been a snag.

Schirtzer—What can we do?

Schoor—We will eventually have a rally. Will be great optics.

Ashraya GuptaMORE—DeBlasio said this was a teachable moment, that he would walk out. He seems to suggest DOE will have plans. Can we advocate for teachers involved in design?

Schoor—We agree, but it’s more than that. There are different rallies and events. We will be involved but things are not yet finalized. Three upcoming demonstrations. We will be involved with the city. All our members are susceptible. Safety most important issue.

Marcus McArthurMORE—We’ve talked about problem admin and supes. Our discussions will focus around supes, we hear. How is that going?

Schoor—Brought four problem schools, three high schools in Queens and Manhattan. Don’t want to ID, trying to resolve. Asked borough reps to ID schools. May be movement in three of the four. We may report on them when things are clearer. May send officers to about 20 schools around city. We will try to resolve issues. New chancellor will have new policies.

KJ AhluwaliaNew Action—Can we do something about the sandwiches? I have Indian friends who can cater cheaply. It doesn't have to be expensive.

Schoor—Motion to change menu.

Passes unanimously.

Reports from Districts—

I miss the first one, as someone is talking to me.

Sterling Roberson—Annual Career and tech. ed—educators were honored. Over 60 individuals. Industry partners also selected. Awarded teachers, and schools so plaques will remain. Thanks all from various boroughs.

David Kazansky—Rally on Saturday was fantastic moment. Saw unions, NYSUT, PSE DC37 all in solidarity. 200 UFT. Good for break. Thanks Janella and Anthony Harmon, who spoke.

—Lutheran Medical Center contract settled. Highest rated by state, and only one with a union. Negotiating committee March 1st. Asked for demands from functional chapters. Have survey responses from 6K of 30K paraprofessionals.

Legislative—Paul Egan—asks for moment of silence because Chelsea lost. We have Lobby Day. There are vacancies. Last chance to sign up.

Ellen Procida—Grievance Dept.—Most of our grievances involve individual members. As a result of a UI we came up with a procedure when paras are arrested, if charges dismissed, they are made whole if they do all in time. They get quick arbitration. Board decided she didn’t notify in timely fashion, but she had. Arbitrator gave full back pay and admonished board.

Two cases with APPR and 13% appeal. We have deadlines to notify board. Two members scheduled to go for 13% also had APPR complaints. Both APPR were successful and members ratings no longer developing.

In elementary schools, graduation is issue. You are allowed day off to go to your child’s graduation. Board has been saying not necessarily for elementary. We go to expedited arbitration. Arbitrator says OP-201 no longer says except elementary, so of course they can go.

Paperwork—issues with lesson plans brought up, then taken out. We didn’t have to go to arbitration. Leave a copy of your lesson plan in folder, particular place, Memo sent—prohibited to do this.

Lots of cases come one person at a time. Grievance process is doing pretty well.

Schoor—paperwork has been successful, but not everything is brought to our attention. CL brings it to principal, then to superintendent, and then arbitration. Teachers don’t have to bring grievance. Not all come forward.


West Virginia Teacher Strike

Sterling Roberson—Asks we support teacher walkout in WV. Teachers walking out for better pay, health care, job security as opposed to pay cuts. Student learning conditions are our working conditions. If we don’t advocate and support fellow members it’s the same issue across the country. We will have to continue to do this with national conditions.

Mike SchirtzerMORE—As was previously stated, we sent out resolution and offered to work with you. Asks for amendment in lieu of other resolution. Asks we add resolved.

Resolved that UFT will publicize the courageousness of the WV teachers to help educate our members about the power of union activism, including strikes, even when strikes are illegal.

Says this applies in NYC as well. We should support it.

Schoor—Does anyone want to speak against?



Main resolution—


Resolution in favor of gun safety

Janella Hinds—Everyone horrified by what we saw. As NYC educators, we think of larger issue. Our kids live in communities where gun violence is pervasive. This resolution supports student activist in FL and around entire country. UFT will stand in support and work with advocates to prevent weapons of war accessible to teenagers.

We are looking at mental health. We need professional learning for intervention strategies. We need to prevent these catastrophes.

Ashraya GuptaMORE—Would like to add phrase to existing resolved and one additional, including revoking the federal Dickie amendment and banning high capacity ammunition magazines.

Resolved, that the UFT calls on DOE to review school safety plans with faculty at every school.

Dickie amendment says CEC can’t do research on gun violence. As teachers we should be up in arms about this. We need to advocate for more research.

High capacity magazines release multiple shots in short period. For military or having fun at gun range—doesn’t justify them. Even Marco Rubio said he would reconsider. AFT supported this ban last week. We should join them.

School safety plans important. We need to review what we’d do, however, disheartening these drills may be.

After second resolved, please.

—Let’s debate that.


Schoor—debate about Dickie amendment.

Sterling Roberson—offers to amend amendment. Strike all related to Dickie amendment. We have to do research to make sure we understand it.

Vin Scaglione:  I didn't hear the debate abuout the amendment.  He did hear about the CDC bans research on NPR.

Arthur Goldstein--MORE--Heard the same.  We should say that we support research into gun violence and end the ban on the agency.

Schoor: We are in agreement in policy.

Hinds—proposes second resolved. That the UFT supports federal research on the impact of gun violence, as number two.

Point of order—Sterling R.—

Schoor—Body can change rules…

Roberson—(I don’t follow his comment)

Ashraya GuptaMORE—If I withdraw mine, can we vote on Janella’s?

Schoor—We can do what we want. We have conceptual agreement. Janella’s resolved will supersede Sterling’s amendment.

Gupta—Can we add “public health impact” of gun violence?

Michael Friedman—Dickie amendment means feds spent no money at all. Can do no research. Any other issue CDC can evaluate. Dickie himself against amendment.

Vote on resolution with changes.


We are adjourned. 7:07

Thanks to KJ Ahluwalia for taking notes when I spoke and also for complaining about those awful sandwiches. 

Sunday, February 25, 2018

A Modest Compromise

Sure it’s nuts to have teachers carry guns in classrooms. Trump thinks we’re full of retired military, and sees every schoolteacher as a potential Bruce Willis from Die Hard. In truth, most of us would perform more like Barney Fife from The Andy Griffith Show.

The notion of arming teachers is simply absurd. I’d be shocked if any  other country on earth would even entertain this conversation. Of course, no other country on earth has the National Rifle Association, which poses as a citizen group but is actually funded by gun manufacturers.

This entire conversation is a distraction. I’m not sure whether or not Trump knows it, but I’m sure the smarter people who run and represent the NRA do. This conversation didn’t come up after past mass murders, but people have finally had it with “thoughts and prayers,” and “now is not the time.”

All of a sudden, our news channels are full of brilliant and inspiring teenagers who’ve been through an ordeal. These teenagers have heard the status quo and it isn’t good enough for them. In fact, it isn’t good enough for anyone, and hasn’t been for decades.

In spite of all that, teachers are always looking for solutions. If President Trump wants guns in schools, I think teachers would be willing to compromise so as to accommodate his wishes. Now I personally would not send my daughter to a school in which teachers were armed in the classroom. I see too much possibility for accidental mishap. Who knows when some teacher will finally get so mad at some student that the gun appears?

Police are professionals, and they make mistakes. We aren’t trained like they are, so we’ll likely make more. So let’s forget about sending armed teachers in the classroom. Fortunately for President Trump, we do things other than teach.

Often we find ourselves at odds with administration, and indeed teacher observations carry high stakes these days. I’ve actually sat at meetings with administrators who announced that lessons were unsatisfactory because teachers failed to have students raise green cards when they understood, and red cards when they didn’t.

I’ve seen others write that the only way to gauge comprehension was to have the students raise their left hands when they understood, and right when they didn’t. Maybe it was the other way around. Who knows? Not only that, but the teacher in question was criticized for walking around and looking at student work instead of doing these things.

I’ve been teaching for 33 years. One of the very first things I learned was that asking, “Does everyone understand?” is a waste of breath. Teenagers are not eager to be seen as not understanding things. When I was a 15-year-old boy, my primary interest was 15-year-old girls. There was no way I was going to admit to them I didn’t understand.

In the same way, I very much doubt the, “I don’t understand” red cards will go up the way they should. In fact, the only way I can see how individual students are doing is by looking at their individual work. I’d argue that’s better than taking their word for whether or not they understand. I can also gauge exactly what their needs are in that way. Of course, administrators may see it differently.

Anyway, here’s my proposed compromise with President Trump. We will keep guns in special lockboxes, perhaps in our car trunks. We will open them and take guns out only for meetings with our supervisors. Now I don’t want to paint them with a broad brush. UFT will have the option of labeling supervisors, “Not Insane.” It will be strictly forbidden, in the revised Collective Bargaining Agreement, to bring firearms to meetings with supervisors designated Not Insane.

I’m always happy to come to a reasonable compromise. Not only will this take our children out of harm’s way, but it will also enable NRA to sell additional guns, which is clearly the only thing about which they give a Golly Gosh Darn.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Arming Teachers Is a Scam

The more I think about it, the more I think all this nonsense about teachers carrying is just a diversion. As long as idiots like me stand around and argue teachers shouldn't carry guns, we're not having the real conversations NRA wants to avoid.

First of all, there's no way the insane notion flies in NY anyway. In other places, they're taking this seriously. Wave a little money at people and they'll say, "Yes! I'll carry!" It's going to happen somewhere.

This is a win-win for those who support it. If a teacher succeeds, they can say, "You see? We were right!" If not, they can say, "You see? Teachers SUCK!" That's what government says already, so either way they're proven right.

Meanwhile, every moment we spend discussing this is another moment we aren't discussing gun control. Gun control means less profits for the NRA, and let's face it, the NRA is not a group of sportspeople coming together in common cause. It's the gun manufacturers trying to make a profit by any means necessary. If our children get killed in the process, they're always ready with thoughts and prayers.

I think and pray that they go out of business. I don't expect them to. What I do expect is that every gun they manufacture is one more chance for some lunatic to go out and kill me, you, or some other American. No civilian should own an AR 15. Even the guy who created it thought that. But hey, we're a capitalist country, and if they gun manufacturers can grease enough Senators, well, they're not gonna vote to ban these weapons.

Three million bucks plus. Rubio came out against the idiotic notion of arming teachers, but even that promoted the conversation. Every minute we talk about this we don't talk about what needs to be done. We need to ban sales of military weapons to civilians. We need to buy back as many of these weapons as possible. We need to close the gun show loophole.

No, this will not be perfect. Yes, criminals who have guns will still have them. But isn't it time we kept them from getting any more? We know this worked in Australia, in the UK, and in other countries. If it is indeed some other thing that causes Americans to go nuts and kill people, it's still a good idea to have fewer guns out there.

Imagine facing a guy with an AR 15 while you have a pistol. Imagine anyone being stupid enough to suggest such a thing. Then imagine me and a million other people talking about it. That's exactly what the NRA wants.

Trump probably doesn't even know.