Thursday, July 09, 2020

UFT Executive Board July 9, 2020--Riding a Hybrid Safely

 Roll Call 2:50

UFT Secretary LeRoy Barr welcomes us.


UFT President Michael Mulgrew--You all saw mayor's "blended plan." In April, after multiple models, there were two options to open safely. Either we triple classrooms and teachers, or have one third of students present. We are okay with the model as the way to go. The type of schedule is problematic. We would like to limit the number of models to those most schools could use, but offer flexibility.

Doing something else, though, does not mean you ignore safety rules. That comes first. Next phase is safety and developing protocols. We will enforce masks, not just talk to children about it. Everyone in school will have to wear a mask.

Medical accommodation process will be going out on July 15, along with ability for parents to opt their children out of live instruction. We believe 20-25% will opt out, if we stay on current trajectory of virus. We expect results by August 7th. We are not sitting around and waiting. Almost 1300 schools did walkthrough. We are engaged in this.

Blended plan yesterday is step one. We're looking at health and safety, and working conditions. We will need a temporary agreement for these conditions. We will have remote and live teachers, and some who do both. All of these things have to be negotiated. There are many outstanding safety issues, including physical proof that shields, masks, cleaners and protocols are in place, with personnel to make sure it's done.

This can't be like March. We will have to walk to each school and make sure this is all in place. Talking to infectious disease doctors, will talk to DOE and CSA about testing regimen. We will recommend that everyone, especially living in NYC, get an antibody test. Will be very important if you come into contact with virus. Thinking about a program to offer this to UFT members. Talking with hospitals and health care providers about this.

You should keep these results.

We will discuss process for children who won't wear masks. In our rec centers, kids wore masks. Different challenge for special ed. students. What kind of PPE will various positions need? We have to work this out by August 7th.

We are on the attack against mayor about child care issue. If children aren't in school every day, what will parents do? We had a parent town hall last week, and hopefully by next week we will be demanding a program.

APPR--This year no one is getting a rating. We need to make sure there is no harm. We don't want it to hurt anyone's tenure, and we don't want first or second year teachers to have it held against them.

Investigations--trying to get those started, want to get rid of false allegations. We are negotiating with DOE, who doesn't get back to us.

What will APPR look like for remote and hybrid teachers next year? How does this and PPE fit in with Danielson?

Leaves--What's a medical accommodation vs. a family leave? We are trying to clarify for people.

We are working on these things right now. As I told you, fear and the virus are our twin challenges. We're moving ahead, and despite all protests, there's been no bump in NYC. We are more disciplined than people in other parts of the country.

Some people think there will be another bump here, as we see them everywhere. We are concurrently planning remote instruction. Assuming state will come out and say something in August, but it may not be definitive. If virus bites we know what will happen. We've learned a lot and will need more of a framework.

Summer school has been a fiasco, and that's tied to their new platform. Chancellor was clear there is no mandate for any school to move into new platform. People have to be comfortable and ready. Anyone teaching summer school can tell you about all the problems they've been having.

Mike Sill--What will remote instruction look like this year? It will have to be different. We will have to have more of a schedule so as to preclude conflict. There are issues with ratings, people with TIPs or people frozen at salary steps. What will PD look like? Will it be remote? Probably. What about SBO? Parent teacher conferences? Each decision ripples throughout the contract. Focus groups have been helpful. Best info comes from membership.

Mulgrew--These are new situations, and we'll have to have a temporary agreement along with a process to figure out things that aren't covered. On health and safety we have a team working.

Elly Engler--We have a team working with UFT and DOE and we have a team with parameters for HVAC system. Working with HVA to make sure they're operational. Without good ventilation rooms will not be used. We need operational windows, which can dilute ability of virus. Electrostatic cleaning will be done, will be machines. If they're using this it means dust won't be cleaned, but virus will be destroyed. Will not look as pristine as proper deep cleaning. There will be a list of things available to all schools, PPE and cleaning supplies. If all guidelines are followed we will be okay.

Mulgrew--We also need procedures for medical issues. We no longer trust this administration anymore. Working on something so we can have checks and balances. Not good enough to take people's word when we already know it's no good.

Questions--(or answers)

Students can opt out. Teachers can ask for accommodations or take a leave.

Equity of schools split into five as opposed to two or three--Will do best we can. Will be discrepancies, but we can't have a cookie cutter approach in this system.

Concern for paras, AP decided to put one with two or three students, not safe for anyone--We will work on a regimen about paras.

There will be different patterns, and that's why they moved to these general models. D75 students will suffer more with lack of continuity. If school wants to use different model they can advocate.

Where is school calendar--DOE scared to pull it out. Wants to start September 10th, but not sure. Will be a lot of training on how schools run differently. Has to be real training, not just a PowerPoint. We will need a scope and sequence in place for each subject in each school for this year. This can't work otherwise. Remote and in person teachers have to be in sync.

We will be involved in safety discussions. Still not sure safety officers will be in DOE, and not this year anyway.

Districts may have remote learning teams. Some schools may have more accommodations than others. We have not figured out how observations will work.

Many things will be addressed at SED level. Blended learning has to be compliant.

Will there be teletherapy in the fall? Probably. Will be combination. What's right PPE for people doing speech and OT/PT? Will coordinate with hospitals to find out.

We are short teachers already. Even with federal package, which would put safety measures in place. We will never have enough teachers. We now need three teachers for thirty students. Chancellor wants to redeploy every DOE person as a teacher this school year. There are some contractual issues with some of these things, but we will discuss it.

Is there any discussion about mandating live synchronous instruction? Will be some sort of expectation for everyone of live synchronous instruction. We are not recreating the school day.

President Trump wants all schools open, no guidelines, says CDC is crazy. We heard that. If CVC changes anything based on politics rather than medicine we won't abide by it. This is ridiculous. Betsy DeVos, who lives in an ivory tower, says everyone takes risks.

Masks are non-negotiable for us.

We don't believe cameras in classrooms will work. Perhaps we can experiment, but we think separate teachers will do remote.

We are moving toward a blended learning model. Not sure why we didn't talk about it in April.

Mulgrew--Do we do a Town Hall, and should I pursue antibody testing for UFT members? 

Member suggests Town Hall would be a good idea, and that testing would be helpful to UFT members.

Ellen Driesen--Agrees.

Mulgrew--City can mandate us to have Covid test, but not antibody test. Professionals are recommending it. Last week a new Covid test came on market, a less invasive nasal swab. There will be something in place, but not sure what it will be yet.

Member suggests there are more questions than answers now, and that we should delay Town Hall. 

Member suggests general Covid tests for UFT members as well. Says some testing sites are screening for who is more at risk, and insurance companies are requiring doctor to tell you to get tested. We should make it easier for members to get both tests and get through red tape.

Mulgrew--Many national labs are now swamped. Once we start school, Covid tests and contact tracing will need to be available. Will need to be immediate.

Will think through Town Hall. We will have these meetings periodically through the summer. We will have to check deeply and carefully in every single school.

Thanks us for coming, and wishes us all down time. 3:53

The Chancellor Writes Us Again

Dear Colleagues, 

I hope you and your families are staying healthy and safe as we transition to the 2020-2021 school year. Earlier today, Mayor de Blasio and I announced our latest planning for bringing students back to school buildings in September—a plan that was informed by an internet survey with no controls whatsoever. I want to make sure you hear my rationale, however feeble it may be—understanding that it is very possible that pieces of this will change, given that COVID is exploding all over the country, and that it's likely to happen here too once we rashly open buildings. 

With all the ups and downs, one thing has remained constant: our utter indifference to your health and safety. It’s why we put off the closure of school buildings earlier this year — which was essential to the explosion of COVID-19 infection across New York City. Of course, we also closed our office buildings and work sites, meaning our gala luncheons are now largely take-out, but still from restaurants you could never afford on a teacher salary.

Now, as we look ahead to September, we see the big picture: the continuing rise in cases across the country; which we have ignored utterly in our premature opening plans; and the knowledge that as the trajectory of the coronavirus continues to evolve, we must focus on ways to resurrect Mayor de Blasio's political career, which alas, appears deader than a doornail.

In addition to rejecting guidance from health authorities, we have also ignored the input and perspectives of thousands of our colleagues, and hundreds of thousands more from our parents, families, and students. Please know that the reason we surveyed parents and not you is because we well know you have a concern for your safety and health, as well as that of your loved ones.

It is clear that ignoring the safety of all of you, our staff, along with our students and families will demand new health protocols, physical distancing, and more changes for the 2020-21 school year. Our Health Department failed to close schools in March, and is ready to fail to close them once again in September. Make no mistake: New York City students will still be appearing to learn 5 days a week. A major difference is that for the coming school year we are preparing an untested model, never established to work anywhere, and hoping for the best.

Blended learning means students will be taught on-site in school for part of the week, and will attend school remotely on the other days of the week. Fewer students in each classroom means it's your job to figure out what the hell the rest of your students are doing during that time. We will need to be creative. For example, we may need to split some of you in half so that half of you can teach in the classroom, while the other half teaches remotely. We have our finest DOE doctors exploring this issue, and we will provide more information on this soon. 

While we are preparing for multiple blended learning models to meet the diverse needs of our families and students across the city, any family can choose all-remote learning, for any reason. Based on our totally unscientific internet survey, which had every employee at Tweed as well as all our friends and relatives furtively filling forms for forever, we believe everyone wants to go back, even though no one told real parents it was only for a day or two a week. We must not look away from how this virus has further magnified the effects of systemic racism in our communities. Certainly, our communities of color who depend on schools to care for their children during the day when they work, will be totally screwed by our plan. But we are fully aware of this, so we are not looking away.

Our plans must be nimble because teachers will be doing one heckuva tap dance as students, deciding not to risk their lives after all, move away from showing up and opt for remote learning. We are also awaiting guidance from the bastards at State of New York, and the mayor will be eagerly pursuing his sandbox battle with the governor once it is released. Because we are so gosh darn nimble, we will be changing our mind at the drop of a hat over such important issues as:  

·         Shifting Principles 
·         Our Planning Process (LOL!)
·         Health, Safety, and Lack Thereof
·         Student Schedules 
·         Maintaining Equity & Excellence Via Ignoring All Equally
·         Family & Community Engagement Via Ignoring UFT
I always say that New York City has the best staff, students, and families in the world—so it's a wonder they put up with the likes of us. A safe return to schools in the fall, and the broader safety of our whole city, will be totally impossible for all of us — DOE staff, families, and students. Together we can ignore that, hope things work out, and work toward rehabilitating the mayor's miserable reputation. After all, we left the school buildings open after Broadway closed, and we're about to open the school buildings even though Broadway is still closed.

In unity, 


Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Reopening Plans Translated

CONTACT:, (212) 788-2958


Health and safety will lead all planning, even though health and safety are concepts rather than leaders. This, however, takes us off the hook, since we’ve publicly committed ourselves to open schools with no regard to the state of the virus in September. This approach didn’t work in Israel, South Korea, Australia or Beijing, but we’re hoping for the best.

—Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza today announced last-minute improvised plans for school reopening in September, assuming, for no reasons whatsoever, the city continues to meet all necessary COVID-19 public health thresholds.

While giving valuable lip service to the health and safety of school communities, schools will be provided with specific models to develop schedules for students that include in-person and remote instruction every week. Teachers will be expected to do both simultaneously so that we don’t have to pay them extra money.

“Getting our kids back to school no matter what inconvenient realities we need to disregard is the biggest part of restarting our city. Parents with no idea what our actual plans entail have spoken clearly – they want their children back in school buildings to the greatest extent possible. We will shovel them in any way we possibly can,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

 “As we continue to plan for September, we’re steadfastly pretending to prioritize the health and safety of our communities while hoping schools will come up with workable schedules,” said Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza. “We can’t be bothered working out any practical or workable programs because we have to do Very Important Stuff”

“Re-opening our schools will be a complex and difficult process, but we are not going to be careless with our students, their families, and our educators,” said Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers.

"The first priority of school leaders is always the health, safety and well-being of the communities they lead," said Mark Cannizzaro, President of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators. "Though there is still tremendous uncertainty and incredible challenges ahead, we look forward to our continuing collaboration with the Department of Education as we determine when and how school buildings will open.”

Reopening plans will cover four main areas: health and safety, building programming and scheduling, blended learning, and family engagement. We are not at all concerned with social and emotional well-being, because that’s not a thing. Even as teachers teach both online and in person at the same time, all students will have an option to be all-remote in the fall.

The City will continue to disregard the State because Cuomo speaks ill of the mayor, so screw him.

Health and Safety

School buildings will promote healthy behaviors and environments by requiring physical distancing, face coverings, and increasing access to hand washing and sanitizer. However, if students can’t manage to follow the rules they will be given a stern talking-to.

Each building will be deep cleaned on a nightly basis with electrostatic sprayers which dispense disinfectant so that it adheres to surfaces without the need to physically touch them, but when students pass from one class to another, too bad for you. Try not to touch places they did. Also, we’re leaving the gum under the desks.

Building Programming and Scheduling

Students will sit six feet away from each other, except when they don’t, in which case they will not. Also they’ll be eating lunch in their classrooms. Students will be expected to place their masks on in between bites of their food. DOE masks will have special holes to pass straws through.

The DOE has developed three baseline scheduling models for all schools to use. We have utilized a number of models, both the AB model, and the ABC model. We will break schools into two groups when they are AB, and three when they are ABC.

All families will also have an option to pursue an all-remote schedule next fall. Teachers will not only teach the nine students in the classroom, the 25 students at home, but also all the students who are at home. Students will not need a medical reason to register for this option. Teachers will, though, because screw them. Families who opt for fully-remote learning will be able to change their minds anytime they wish and jump from one program to another. It will make no difference, what with teachers all teaching three programs at once.

Model One

We will split students in half.  However, teachers will teach all groups at the same time.

Model Two

We will split students into three groups. Of course teachers will teach all students at the same time.

Model Three

We will alternate even more, because why not? Teachers will teach all students at the same time.

This model is available to middle and high schools.

Model Four:

We will establish weeks of up to fifteen days each so as to accommodate hugely overcrowded schools. That way, we can break into four, five or six cohorts. Teachers will be required to teach up to fifteen days each and every week. We will not compensate teachers for this because we canceled Teacher’s Choice, and you’re lucky to have jobs at all.

Based on building capacity and student enrollment, principals will choose from these models, and if the people who actually do the work don’t like the principal’s decision they can all go to hell. Any school that doesn’t like our models can make up their own, but let me tell you, we worked for weeks on our models and they’re all crap, so good luck coming up with anything better.

To reflect, the unique needs of their student population, District 75 schools will have an additional two model options that may have students in school every other week for five days straight, and we’ll cram those kids in any gosh darn way we can.

Except in schools with fifteen day weeks, students will be learning five days a week. Blended learning is designed to make people think we’re doing something effectively via placing nine kids at a time in a room in which they may have no interaction with the teacher or each other, and by having other kids sit on computers somewhere. We figure by doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that, maybe someone will pick up something somewhere.

We gave away a whole lot of technology—distributing over 300,000 iPads to students who need them—and we are working with teachers to be more effective online instructors. Of course we will continue to blame them for anything that goes wrong, because we ourselves are Very Important People, and if we weren’t, why would our salaries be double those of the people out there doing the actual work?

Teachers, staff, and students will have the time and support they need to adapt to these necessary changes. Social-emotional learning and trauma-informed care will be integrated throughout the year, and all schools will offer mental health support. We have no clue whatsoever as to how we will do that, since there is no space whatsoever to do anything more, but the mayor believes for every drop of rain a flower grows. That’s why he ran for President. While that didn’t work out, he hopes this will, or his career is finished.

Family Engagement

We will have a whole bunch of meetings in which we try to explain this stuff. We don’t really understand it ourselves, but we have a whole lot of employees who make over 200K a year, so we figure it’s the least they could do. They will nod their heads with great respect and pretend they care about your words, and faithfully answer, “I'll get back to you on that.” More information is available at

The Best Equity Money Can Buy

I taught Zoom lessons for three months. I have ideas on how they can be better, but no one asks me what they are. They will never substitute for the face to face teaching I signed up for. That’s the very toughest work I do, but like the overwhelming majority of my colleagues, I love doing it. It doesn’t look like that’s what I’ll be doing in September, though.
This school year, the mayor says he's going to open the buildings. Depending upon whom you ask, that's his prerogative. Let's ignore the sandbox fight between Bill de Blasio and Governor Cuomo for now, and focus on what they're saying. They both say they have authority over city schools, and both are willing to argue it in public. It's undeniable, though, that this announcement is premature. If there’s one thing we know about Covid, it’s that we have no idea what its impact will be in September.
We do know some things, though. We know that the mayor’s preferred model of instruction is a hybrid. I'll have nine masked students sitting socially distanced from one another in my classroom. Where the other 25 will be, or what they'll be doing while I stand masked in front of the other nine and approach none of them, I have no idea. That's for principals and UFT chapters to negotiate, should they happen to be on speaking terms, over the summer. (To me, this sounds like something out of Black Mirror.)
However, not everyone has to utilize hybrid learning. The mayor has specifically stated that anyone who didn't wish their children to travel to school buildings would receive remote instruction at home. After all, which parents want their children to travel on public transportation, thus risking a potentially deadly infection? Which parents want to depend on children to respect masking and social distancing? Which parents want to depend on NYC school cleanliness? (And why didn’t the mayor ask those questions on his parent survey, which I’ll get to in a moment.)
The question, then, becomes this—Who will even be able to take the mayor up on his generous offer? Let's first look at who will not. Clearly, households that don't have access to daycare are out. While it's true that some families may qualify for aid, many of those who don't can't afford to pay. Those people will not be able to take the mayor up on his thoughtful offer. I’m not sure how this represents the equity the mayor’s DOE claims to champion.
Of course, if you've got money, your kids need not travel anywhere. You can pay someone to take care of them. Your kids can stay home and attend classes remotely. No risky bus rides for them. No contact with children or adults who’ve been infected. No depending on sorely overworked school custodians to do so-called deep cleaning in selected areas of the school from time to time. 
Let’s take a look at those parents who send their kids to school. That will solve the child care problem. Except it won’t. Most schools will see students in cohorts. If you’re extremely lucky, your kids will attend every other day. More likely they’ll attend every third day. However, if you’re in a school as popular as Francis Lewis High School, your kid will only attend once every five days. That means, if you need child care, you’ll need it 80% of the time. Despite the mayor’s intentions, that’s not particularly helpful to working families.
The mayor says three out of four who filled out his survey wanted buildings to open. There are a few issues with that. One is that the mayor was not clear what opening entailed. Would people have said yes to, “Do you think it’s a good idea we let your kids come to school one or two days a week, and hope for the best the rest of the time?”
Another is that it was an internet survey, not precisely the gold standard, with no controls whatsoever. Absolutely anyone could’ve taken it as many times as they wished. Were there people at Tweed furiously filling out surveys? Who knows? We should be planning for each scenario. Instead we plan for nothing and hope for the best.
We have no idea what the state of Covid will be in September, but City Hall has some ideas, at least. The chancellor sent a PowerPoint to principals with an entire section entitled, “Preparing for when someone gets sick.” Not if but when. It also suggests staff members and students should stay home when sick. Not must but should. That’s about as definite as it gets with this mayor.
In one way, there is certainly equity. This mayor is failing all of us.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Chalkbeat Gets It Wrong Again, Finds Out, an̶d̶ ̶C̶a̶n̶t̶ ̶B̶e̶ ̶B̶o̶t̶h̶e̶r̶e̶d̶ ̶M̶a̶k̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶a̶ ̶C̶o̶r̶r̶e̶c̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ and Finally Corrects It (See update below)

Chalkbeat wrote a long piece about the education budget. I was planning to read the whole thing, but had to stop. actually sent a message to a Chalkbeat reporter over this passage:

There is a freeze on new hires within the education department, but schools will be able to hire from the Absent Teacher Reserve, a controversial pool of educators who remain on the city payroll but do not have permanent positions because they face disciplinary action, or because their schools closed or lost enrollment

Here's the message I sent the reporter:

Shouldn't "face" be in past tense? Anyone facing disciplinary action is usually reassigned, but never to the ATR.

I heard back that, no, some teachers are in the ATR while facing charges. That's not at all true. Evidently Chalkbeat has no issue trashing working teachers who don't belong to E4E or work in Moskowitz Academies. They are "a controversial pool of educators." What the hell does that mean? It doesn't sound particularly good to me. Would you want to invite a controversial pool of educators over to your house for spaghetti? I wouldn't.

There are several ways to get into the ATR. One is to have your school closed. The staff is scattered to the four winds until and unless they find jobs. It's hard for them to do that, because publications like Chalkbeat stereotype them, and have been doing so for years. I recall an article there where some teacher or other said she and her principal were horrified at their quality. And that, my friends, is a stereotype. It may or may not have been true what the young teacher and her principal saw, but it in no way represents the group as a whole.

Another way to get in, a particularly popular way in the fun old days of Bloomberg, was to go up on charges and be vindicated, or pay a few thousand bucks for some minor charges that never ought to have been brought up in the first place. I had friends who that happened to. If a principal didn't like you, he'd just bring you up on charges, make up piles of nonsense to accompany it, and hope that one or two things would stick. That happened to a former supervisor of mine who was in a perpetual sandbox fight with my then-principal. He was a good supervisor, but the principal, like many others, had a very fragile ego.

Chalkbeat sets itself up as an authority on education but has no issue making fundamental errors. It doesn't know things that every UFT chapter leader does, and has no problem issuing misinformation as a matter of course. If you want to know the last time Eva Moskowitz sneezed, or what the two-year teachers who lead E4E are doing when they aren't getting fat off the Gates gravy train, Chalkbeat is a great resourse. If you want to see exactly what Mike Bloomberg "got done" in terms of journalistic bias, or what Walton, Broad and Gates bucks buy in journalism, Chalkbeat is your go-to.

I don't always have flattering words for the New York Post, but I will tell you that its education reporters are always interested in fine detail. Chalkbeat doesn't give a golly gosh darn. Publish whatever. Take the Gates money. If it's wrong, who cares? Chalkbeat is certainly something.

But whatever it is, it's certainly not journalism.

Update: Chalkbeat has corrected the paragraph above. It now reads as follows:

There is a freeze on new hires within the education department, but schools will be able to hire from the Absent Teacher Reserve, a controversial pool of educators who remain on the city payroll but do not have permanent positions.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Hamilton and Me

I love theater. I see it whenever I can. There's absolutely nothing like it. I haven't seen Hamilton, though. I've entered the lotteries a few times, but haven't won. I know people who have, but they just enter it every day until they win. Now, of course, it's closed along with every other show on Broadway.

If you're a teacher, like me, you can't just ante up 800 bucks every time a hot show comes up on Broadway. I see a lot of shows via TDF, which you can join right here, if you like. They're a great cause, and your membership won't become effective until the theaters reopen. You can see Broadway shows for 40 or 50 bucks a seat, and off-Broadway for considerably less.

Now you're not going to find Hamilton on TDF any time soon, even after Broadway opens. However, you can now watch a filmed version of the play on Disney Plus. You have to pay $6.99 for the month, but you can quit after the first month. I guess you can watch Dumbo too, if that's your thing. Still, I'd rather pay $6.99 than 1600 bucks to see it with someone. Much as I love live theater, I just can't imagine a show that's better than a new Macbook Pro. Anyway, even if I had an extra 1600 bucks lying around, the theater's closed.

So there you are. I heard a story about a guy who went to see Hamilton. He waited months and months, and finally got his chance to see the show. He went into the theater, and sat down next to a young woman. She was sitting next to an empty seat. He was shocked.

"Excuse me," he said. "I can't help but notice that you're sitting by yourself. I'm a little surprised. It took me months to get this seat."

"Yes," she said. "I was going to come with my husband, but he passed away very suddenly."

"Oh, excuse me," said the man. "Forgive me for even bringing it up. I'm very sorry for your loss."

"That's okay," she said. "You're very kind to say that."

"I just wonder why you didn't ask someone else to come with you," he said. "You could've asked a friend or another family member."

"Yes," she said. "I wanted to do that, but they're all at the funeral."

Sunday, July 05, 2020

The School Safety Shuffle

There's a recent Post article that suggests it's a bad idea to take school security from the police and assign it to the DOE. They trudge out Mona David and her mysterious parent organization, and offer two examples of bad behavior before the officers were under the supervision of NYPD. David, of course, is the woman who thinks teacher tenure will lead us to Armageddon. I'm sure she's good for a quote here and there.

The two examples are the kind of argument frequently used against us. This teacher is awful, and that teacher is awful, and therefore all teachers are awful. It's exactly the sort of argument people like Campbell Brown and Mona David like to use. Take away teacher tenure, and have them depend on the tender mercies of Joel Klein and Mike Bloomberg, or every single teacher will be terrible. They take a few sensational examples, a quote here or there from one questionable source or other, and the case is closed.

I don't know about you, but I could tell stories about rogue police officers and write a similar story. I could cite examples of rogue reporters and write a similar story. We have a President who tells stories about reporters who tell the truth and condemns them for it. If you want to make an argument against a group, you don't do it effectively via a few sensational arguments about outliers. Arguments of that sort are called stereotypes. I'm offended by them, and you should be too. They can be used against any and all of us.

Will the DOE do a terrible job supervising school safety officers? Of course they will. The DOE does a terrible job at everything. It's a monument to blithering incompetence, a master of bureaucracy for bureaucracy's sake. I don't know how much time I've wasted over the last decade fighting with idiots employed by Tweed. Any chapter leader who actually does the job will agree with me.

Was NYPD successful in transforming school safety into a force that made a great difference? Here's something I'd argue is notable:

The city made “school safety agent” a civil service job requiring an exam, full background investigation, and 17 weeks of training. Physical agility was required for emergency response and rescues.

I guess that's a huge improvement over, "Here's your uniform and good luck." I'm not particularly sure what it has to do with NYPD control, though. Anyone could improve standards, or at least establish them.

Are we to believe, based on this article, there are no individuals in school safety who've acted inappropriately since NYPD took over? That's simply impossible. It's easy to find people who don't do the job in any group. There are always outliers.

DOE control will not improve anything about school safety. It's a bone de Blasio is throwing to pay lip service to New Yorkers upset about police misconduct. He's not defunding the police. He's taking money that used to flow through NYPD and channeling it to a different agency. I'm not sure why the mayor takes us for such rubes.

I recall a time when safety officers did a better job. I recall a group of safety officers who were deployed to our school. This particular group of officers worked very closely with our deans. They got to know our students. A lot of us knew them by name. That's not to say we don't know some like that now, but for me it's no longer the rule. I'm not sure that had anything to do with who was in charge centrally.

Will DOE try to make safety officers a part of our school community? It's hard for me to imagine how they'd do that. As far as I can tell they're hugely indifferent to what actually goes on with those of us who do actual work. I waste a great deal of my time due to their grotesque ineptitude, and I don't imagine that changing any time soon.

This reminds me of nothing more than Bloomberg's school closings. Too many kids failed, so he closed the school. He sent the same kids to another school, they failed again, and he closed that school as well. While he helped no one, and accomplished nothing, he was successful in blaming teachers for systemic failure. It made him look good to people who read lazy reporting and failed to question it. That was good enough for Mike Bloomberg. He "got it done."

Ultimately, what he got done was nothing. That's exactly what de Blasio is getting done with this superficial shuffle.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

De Blasio Says He'll Open School Buildings. What Could Go Wrong?

Mayor de Blasio has had an interesting couple of days. First, he determined it was too dangerous to open restaurants for indoor dining. Then, he decided to just open all the school buildings. After all, three of four people who took his open online survey, the one you could fill out anonymously as many times as you wished, said they want schools to open.

Mind you, I read the survey, and it didn't precisely ask under what conditions they'd be willong to open. It didn't cite an acceptable sickness or death rate for UFT members, school children, or our loved ones. Broadway, of course, is closed until January because people who pay hundreds of dollars for orchestra seats are so fragile that if anyone touched them, they would probably break.

It turns out, though, that schools will be only sort of open. You know, like when you were in junior high school and that girl liked you, but she didn't like like you? You could talk about that math teacher and how he gave to much homework, but you couldn't run off into the school yard together.

This means students will come in on alternate days, something I discussed here and here already. I've heard from the UFT chapter leader survey that says, if this actually manages to spring full blown from the mayor's opium pipe, that schools will have to alternate between seeing students physically and remotely. If I recall correctly, most schools will have three cohorts, but there are outliers that will see five.

I'm in one of those outliers, and I really wonder what the hell 80% of my students will be doing while I meet whoever among the rest shows up on their day. Will they remember to come in on the right day? Will their math classes meet the same day as their science classes? Will our custodians show up between classes and clean hundreds of rooms before anyone else arrives?

These are just a few of the questions to which Mayor de Blasio has given no thought whatsoever. How exactly am I supposed to get in touch with my other students 80% of the time? Should I give one lesson five times? Should I give five lessons once and hope the other 80% of my students just feel the vibe? I'm a great believer in vibes. Will they now teach vibes in teacher programs? (I'd go back to learn that.)

Meanwhile, on this astral plane, all that remains are questions. And they remain in abundance. All over the country, we are backsliding on Corona. We've managed to control it here in New York, after once being the epicenter. Who thinks we can continue after we open the schools? I mean, if they weren't able to pull it off in South Korea, which initially handled the virus much better than we did, how can we pull it off here. Israel was not very successful either. Beijing also reversed itself on school openings.

I have one overarching question here. Does anyone reading this believe Bill de Blasio will do a better job than the governments of South Korea, Israel, or Beijing? I've been pretty close to things as they've developed here, and it's my considered opinion that if Bill de Blasio had a good idea, it would likely die of loneliness. He's the guy who kept schools open after Broadway closed, and he was dead wrong. He's also the guy who wants to re-open school buildings before Broadways does, even as he says it's too risky to open indoor restaurants.

People I know, both in UFT and DOE, tell me one story in common. There is no planning coming from central. They make decisions on what they hope for, throw up their hands, and ask those of us who actually do the work to figure out how to make it happen. Any actual decisions are put off until the last possible moment, just one more reason why this premature announcement is remarkable. I wonder whether de Blasio watched to much Captain Picard back in the day, and fancies himself the guy standing there saying, "Make it so."

I think what Picard was suggesting was, "Make it so it works well," while de Blasio just says, "Make it so it happens any gosh darn way  it happens, and hope for the best."

I don't know about you, but I'm not precisely feeling the love for this "plan."

Update: Cuomo, of course, says the mayor's decision is premature and that the governor will decide on safety. I'm not an expert on whose authority it really is, but the decision is ridiculously premature, and perhaps a last-ditch attempt on de Blasio's part to remain relevant.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Yet Another Letter from the Chancellor

Dear Colleagues, 

Last night, we celebrated the extraordinary class of 2020—and in case you don't find that impressive enough in itself, I'm going to name drop like there's no tomorrow. If you don't believe me, please visit to relive some of the best moments, including messages from Jennifer Lopez, Alex Rodriguez, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Kenan Thompson, Andy Cohen, and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. There are also our students themselves, whoever they are, and many more famous people I forgot. I promise it will make you forget about the draconian budget cuts this letter is really about. Hopefuly, you'll forget them altogether!  
Yesterday, we reached another important milestone as well. As you may have seen, Mayor de Blasio and the New York City Council released the City’s Adopted Budget for Fiscal Year 2021, which begins today and ends June 30, 2021. We call it "Adopted" because we want you to think we didn't make it up, that someone else started it somehow and we just picked it up because we are just so gosh darn good-hearted.
The Adopted Budget was created and negotiated in a climate of absolute desperation in which none of us knew what the hell to do. The gala luncheons! The fancy offices! The clean buildings we work in! The reliable heat and air conditioning! Fortunately we still have those things, no one in my office was touched by it, and I'll be able to continue providing you with these self-congratulatory emails. I know you may be screwed ten ways to Sunday, but Tweed looks exactly as it always has. None of us ever really communicated with one another anyway. Honestly I barely know anyone's name in that building, let alone what the hell it is they do there. I'm usually busy writing email.
I have been fighting for every single dollar we can get to continue to serve our students, staff, and families, who need us now more than ever. Though it may not seem that way when the mayor says he's laying off 22,000 people and I don't raise a peep, we must double down the work of Equity: giving students what they need as individuals to succeed in school and in life. We do this by offering them the highest class sizes in the country, overcrowding schools to over 200%, and threatening to fire teachers in a pandemic. However, when we do those things, rest assured they will be done with Equity and Excellence, the hallmarks of our administration.

Despite all my flowery words, we are completely screwed, Neither the mayor nor I have a frigging clue how we can open the schools in September even under a hybrid model, about which we know nothing, and for which we have no plan. We continue to take no responsibility whatsoever and blame State and federal government, because if they don't pay for your jobs, we're surely not gonna do it ourselves. New York City is the economic, educational, and cultural heartbeat of our state and nation—and Broadway is closed until January because people who buy $800 Hamilton tickets are too fragile to get sick and die right now. Rest assured we have no such reservations about city schoolchildren, let alone their frigging teachers and families.
DOE and the City’s Adopted Budget  
While many important questions remain, I want to share what we know about the budget.  
Overall, the Adopted Budget includes $400 million in new cuts, and $125 million in restorations of previous cuts, across FY 2020 and FY 2021.  
New cuts to FY 2021 include:   

·         $50 million in summer busing savings as a result of Summer in the City programming going remote this summer.  We were gonna pay for it for no reason whatsoever, but Leonie Haimson raised such a damn fuss we gave up on it.
·         $30 million in savings to central and field offices resulting from the hiring freeze and OTPS reductions. We will reduce the OPCDs and the OKLVs. There will be no more KUCHs As stated to divisional COOs, this means that virtually all HLUGCEs and JGSGVSs will not be (&^%$*!!!  
·         $10 million in cuts to some afterschool program.  
·         $21 million in cuts to per session budgets, because we're no longer going to pay you for all the extra work we'll be demanding. You will do that because you love and support us.
      We also won't be bothering with that Teacher's Choice stuff, because you can all buy your own damn computers and home studios and whatnot for the remote learning we ordered you to do with no training or preparation, and if you don't like it you can quit. We were probably going to fire you anyway, or make you come to work in a pandemic in an incredibly risky environment.
·         Further reductions to food and shelter for those of you who are still indulging in such frivolities. Grow a spine and suck it up.
We will continue to keep you posted as developments arise, but it’s also important to recognize that there was some positive news. 

·         We were really embarrassed by those bastards who write for the New York Post, so we're restoring money to Fair Student Funding, which was never fair anyway. We will still determine what's fair to pay schools and give them less than that.
·         The Single Shepherd program, as well as certain social worker positions, have been restored after the Post embarrassed the crap out of us for dumping it. We're hoping to save money by not paying some of these people and hoping they don't notice until it's too late.
          We will make up some missing funds by ticketing the crap out of you.
Even with these restorations, going back to last July, the net impact of budget reductions over Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021 has been over a billion dollars.  
Without additional assistance, the entire city—not just the DOE—will be in an even more compromised position. We're not at all sure how we're going to teach these students we all care about so much after we fire thousands of their teachers, but hey, we'll improvise. Maybe we'll hold classes outside instead of inside. The virus doesn't transmit as fast that way, I read somewhere. Sure it gets cold sometimes, but hey, this is New York.
We must continue to work together to serve our students and families, no matter what. I will continue to fight every day to show how bad I feel that we've made all these cuts, but hey, I'm the guy who demanded we have 108,000 epidemiologists sign a survey before I'd close schools in the midst of a raging pandemic. You won't hear me say boo about how badly these cuts affect people as long as my job depends on keeping Bill de Blasio happy.

School Safety Agent Transition 
Yesterday, to get people to shut up and leave us alone, we transferred school safety from NYPD to DOE. This is largely a cosmetic move, since the DOE will provide neither leadership nor guidance.  Nonetheless, we hope to appear anti-racist and centered around the day to day experiences of our young people even as we cut down on an already woefully insufficient teaching staff. In fact, there was a successful state lawsuit saying we discriminated against our students by saddling them with huge class sizes. We haven't done jack squat to address that in the past, and we certainly won't be doing anything about it now either.

In this moment in time, students, families, and many of you have joined hundreds of thousands of fellow New Yorkers in our streets to demand greater justice for communities of color. But make no mistake: students will continue to face the highest class sizes in the state, whether it be virtual, hybrid, or actual classes. While giving your children as little attention as we can get away with, we will pretend that creates the conditions for academic excellence for our students—our chief mission. Because all classes will be oversized, because no one will receive sufficient attention, we will continue to maintain that represents Equity and Excellence for All. 
In the next year, a task force will begin the multi-year shift of the School Safety Division, starting with additional DOE-led training for SSAs in key areas like de-escalation, implicit bias, and restorative justice. When the transition is complete, SSAs will be DOE employees and nothing whatsoever will be accomplished. But people with think something happened, and perception is reality.
I know that in this moment in time, change seems to be around every corner. I am confident that no matter how many of you we fire, no matter how many of you get sick and die, no matter how many of you or your students lose loved ones due to our callous ineptitude, we will emerge stronger and this will be our finest hour.  Yeah, that's the ticket.
Your commitment and service would be admirable at any time. In moments like this, it is nothing short of remarkable. Thank you for your service. While I'm not sure whether we'll be able to continue to pay any of you if you survive the pandemic, consider this a virtual hearty hand clasp. You can imagine how much you must all mean to me.
In unity,

Schools Don't Need No Stinking Air Flitration

But malls do, according to Governor Cuomo. You see, shoppers need fine air. They can't go around breathing deadly toxins. After all, how is that going to positively influence the economy? No, the sick and the dead are simply not adequate consumers.

What do they buy? No, they are just a suck on the economy, lying around in hospital beds and using expensive ventilators. Next, they'll be asking Jared to use his private stock of American ventilators that aren't for state use. Perhaps Cuomo sees students and teachers the same way as sick and dead consumers--a drag on the economy.

HEPA filters aren't just things from expensive vacuum cleaners. They actually reduce the presence of Covid 19 in the air. So you just know that these consumers will be returning to JC Penney to buy yet another 39-dollar polyester Cricketeer suit when the next wedding comes around in 2022 or so.

New Jersey isn't requiring this because it's, well, New Jersey. But Cuomo is really concerned about NY malls, among other things. He's also worried about the way people fail to comply with social distancing and mask wearing. That's a valid concern. Every day I walk out and see people with no masks. I see them in outdoor bars and restaurants. I see employees who can't be bothered pulling the masks over their noses.

And hey, in a country where the President of the United States doesn't wear a mask, where people will fight Walmart greeters rather than comply, a country where some people think it's their basic constitutional right to spread their germs everywhere, it's a concern. There are an awful lot of people who won't comply.

Among them are almost certainly our students. Young people are remarkably social, and with terrible adult role models everywhere I go, I don't envision them respecting social distancing, let alone masks. Of course it won't likely be them getting sick. It will more likely be the adults with whom they come into contact. That would be their parents, grandparents, and teachers.

There are ways to use school buildings safely and productively. We've seen this for months as children of first responders were cared for. There's also a huge need for babysitting services, which alas we do not provide. Popular perception may indicate otherwise, but it's simply a by product of what we actually do that kids stay with us.

Were school buildings to open, a lot of teachers wouldn't go back due to medical conditions. If you have allergies, it's too risky to get a deadly disease. If you have diabetes, it's too risky to get a deadly disease. Here's my question--when is it not too risky to get a deadly disease?

Given the fact that Covid hasn't finished with us, and given the outbreaks all over the country, including parts of New York, I have to wonder exactly who it is who can afford to risk deadly disease. Who can risk it for their loved ones?

There is a silver lining to the fact that we're so inept, and that's the increasing possibility we won't open the buildings. If we do, however, it will be a monument to the criminal indifference of the governor, the mayor, and the chancellor, all of whom should know better.

If you need a barometer, here's one. Broadway isn't planning to open until January. I fail to see why theatergoers should be any better protected than students and staff at public schools. I fail to see why malls need better protection than public schools.

We'll soon know whether the governor and mayor share those priorities.