Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Lingering Stench of Mike Bloomberg

 The other day I asked a question at UFT Executive Board:

The DOE is full of Bloomberg leftovers hired from TFA refugees, cocktail parties, hopeless relatives and who knows where else. What are we going to do to get the next mayor to sweep clean, get rid of the incompetence and indifference, and sweep the stench of Bloomberg from Tweed forever?

Why, exactly, would I ask a thing like that? For one thing, it's years of dealing with DOE "legal." Ostensibly, this group exists to advise principals, but in reality, its prime directive is to impede union activity in any way possible. It will offer the most outlandish advice, and a chapter leader might repeatedly spend months grieving as a result. 

One of the reasons is that, at Step Two of grievances, the DOE generally doesn't even bother listening to UFT. Like "legal," the people repping the DOE can't be bothered with rules, evidence, or any such frivolity. They just do any damn thing they like and make you wait months again to see an arbitrator. I was once told to stand outside a door, and actually heard the rather loud hearing officer essentially say the principal had no case. Months later, I lost the Step Two hearing anyway.

For one very long year, I took the job of LAB BESIS coordinator. This job had to do with testing ELLs. I had to deal with a whole lot of records. It was good in one way, because I finally had an office to conduct union business, but I wasn't particularly fond of the actual job. It was a lot of tedious computer work, and the DOE system I had to use was twenty years out of date. It was tedious and not especially rewarding.

The thing that pushed me over the edge, though, was when I tried to help a kid. I don't remember exactly what happened, but there was a missing record or something, and a kid was misplaced as a result. I spent months asking about it, and no one would say anything to me. When I finally sent an email with a tone a little less than neutral, I got a threatening letter back that there would be consequences if I kept pushing the issue, though none of said consequences involved helping the student in question. The student was beside the point.

I walked into the APO's office and said, "I quit." She thought I was quitting my job as a teacher and was kind of shocked. I told her no, I was going back to being a teacher and giving up all the glory and perks of being LAB BESIS coordinator. I disliked the job, but really hated the people who were supposed to support me. They did not remotely support me, and bristled at the thought of having to do anything but sit in their offices and do Whatever It Was they did there.

A recent winner in what takes the cake, though, is this--All paraprofessionals are now entitled to work the same hours as teachers, and leave buildings after six hours and twenty minutes. This is an agreement between UFT and DOE. It's pretty clear to me, and to anyone not hard of reading, what that means. In Bloomberg's DOE, though, creative interpretation is a big plus

For example, there are also sub paraprofessionals. Sub paras are not quite like substitute teachers. Substitute teachers may get called day to day, teach this or that, and go here or there. Every sub para I know has a regular assignment. They have to work at least thirty days in a row somewhere, but they also have to wait until the DOE magically opens its hiring window. Sometimes they get hired faster in D75, but regardless, they work for a daily salary with no benefits until and unless they procure full time positions.

The DOE, in its wisdom, has now decreed that these paraprofessionals cannot leave thirty minutes early as per the UFT agreement, or they'll be docked. We are fighting it, but it's absolutely disgraceful that the DOE would seek to take advantage of these people. And for what? To keep them around for an extra thirty minutes? Doe that really make a pivotal difference somewhere?

It's not enough for the DOE that these paraprofessionals are working without health benefits in public school buildings in the midst of a pandemic, the likes of which none of us have seen in our lifetimes. No, the DOE needs to nickel and dime them and squeeze every last drop of blood they can.

Honestly, I don't know how people so soulless and vicious got into education. I knew one DOE hack who got the gig because her mother was a more prestigious DOE hack. I hear Bloomberg hired a lot of TFA two-year wonders. We all know the kind of people Bloomberg and Klein wanted, and we all know the kind of behavior they encouraged.

Mayor de Blasio sat on his ass and did nothing about these people. The chancellor, who talks a big game about his love and respect for educators, has followed and sustained the do nothing policy. Now I can understand how a bunch of people hired for their sociopathic qualities might be good with this sort of thing. 

But honestly, I have no idea how the chancellor sleeps at night.

It is of paramount importance that we support a mayoral candidate willing to clean house at the DOE.

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