Friday, April 09, 2021

What Do We Really Need to Open Buildings Successfully?

Online teaching is so bizarre. I have a bunch of students I've never seen. Do they even have faces? Are they extra-terrestial? It's all a big mystery. How do I know they don't have ringers? Maybe one of my best students is really one of my worst students. There's really no way on earth I could tell. On the other hand, going back in is nuts. Even if we're all vaccinated, students won't be. Every week there is a new strain of COVID, and it looks like some new ones are affecting kids more than older ones. I see people moving to reopen buildings without any modifications whatsoever, screaming on Twitter, quoted in the Times, and the Times doesn't even pretend to be objective anymore. 

I'm fully vaccinated. I don't think I'd be at great personal risk in a classroom in September. That said, I couldn't say the same for my students, most of whom are under 16 and thus ineligible for vaccination. Will their parents jump up and down and demand they go to school full time? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say no, they will not. 

Now don't get me wrong, here, I'm not up on my soapbox demanding we stay online next year. I am not a big fan of teaching online. It's better than nothing, but I can't defend it much further than that. I would much rather be in a classroom. However, when I say that, I don't mean in a classroom with a small group of students who are socially distanced and prohibited from interacting. 

So what does that make me? A chronic malcontent? Perhaps. 

Now I can do all these things. I can teach online. I can teach to a small group, bizarrely separated from one another. It's just not the same, and Andrew Yang can lie about us and what we do from now until Doomsday. It will make no difference. There will always be self-important tinhorn politicians out there spinning nonsense about us so as to have someone to blame. 

But this is a health emergency. Pointing fingers is wasted energy. We just all have to, somehow, get through it. 

We are enormously lucky to have kept our jobs consistently through this disaster. I was watching Top Chef last night and a clearly talented young man was speaking of how he had to close both his restaurants. He was grateful for the chance to compete, since he had nothing else to do. That's an entire industry of people falling by the wayside. We managed to keep the schools open, and we did the best we could. If Andrew Yang thinks he could've done better, he's delusional. Money doesn't make you omniscient. 

So I posed a question here, but I don't have an answer. Sure, having a machine like the one pictured at the workplace would make things better. I wouldn't mind having one in my home some days. Sadly, I don't think the new chancellor's mind is open to such bold improvements. 

Meanwhile, we'll just have to take one step at a time, hope that kids can soon be vaccinated, and that we can get back to something remotely resembling normal. 

If you have better ideas, I'm all ears.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

The DOE Office of Equal Opportunity at Work

The DOE has an Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management, commonly called OEO. It's supposed to protect people from discrimination. 

That's a worthy goal. I spend my career dealing with students from other countries. I see them discriminated against, and I find it sickening. Sometimes I can't stand to watch the news. My wife does. I hone in on the weather and tune out the rest quite frequently.

Here's the thing--OEO vies to be the most inept group in the DOE, and that's saying something. If I do something stupid, they have six months to conduct an investigation and come after me. I've been chapter leader of a very large school for twelve years now, and I have not seen them complete an investigation in six months, ever. Not one single time. 

Let's say I do some outrageous thing, make some racist statement, actively discriminate against someone for nationality, gender, or whatever. If OEO can't make a case in six months, I'm theoretically off the hook. I had a member in trouble for something years ago, and a year after the thing occurred, they came around and asked him to sign a "non-file letter." What the hell is a non-file letter?

Your administration has three months after an occurrence to give you a file letter. While they do all sorts of slimy things to get around that, and I've seen them do it, OEO has six months. And what needs to be done here? You interview everyone who witnessed whatever it is. How is it that reporters manage to interview people and get stories out within days but OEO can't do it, ever, within six months? And how valid are interviews that occur years after whatever the incidents may be?

Anyway, if we are out there doing outrageous things, we're likely getting away with it. That, in itself, makes OEO incompetent, an abject failure at its mission. However, that's not the only thing they're bad at.

I know people who've been hounded by them for years about incidents that occurred, of course, years ago. They bring these people in, make them miserable, and place them in whatever it is the defunct rubber rooms are called today. 

Some people think purgatory is worse than hell. Friends of mine in purgatory lived on pins and needles. nervous, anxious, utterly freaked out. The people I have in mind did nothing that warranted anything but a conversation with the principal. They hurt no one.

If I were principal, I'd call someone like that in and say, "Hey, that was stupid. Please stop doing stupid things." I might add or remove words based on the individual case, but that would be my message to someone who harbored no ill intentions and did no lasting harm.

OEO, though, goes after these people. Sometimes members come back from purgatory, are restored to their jobs, and OEO calls them in again. They question them on things that are ridiculous. Why did you look at this person like this? What did you really mean when you said good morning? Why did you come to work ten minutes early? 

It's like they're sitting around with nothing to do, and someone says, "Hey, why don't we take a random crack at this person on Tuesday morning?" "Yes, sure, I have nothing else to do that day."

Their ineptitude is staggering. If you're guilty, you have little or nothing to worry about. If you aren't, though, they can harass you to the point of madness.

And that is incredibly cruel. These people are guilty of precisely what they're tasked to protect us against.

Monday, April 05, 2021

UFT Executive Board April 5, 2021--We Are Back

Academic HS VP Janella Hinds--Herstory event last day before break. Sherry Chan, actuary, new chancellor, Jolene from NYSUT--Women spoke of shattering glass ceiling. Recalled being disciplined for wearing pants to work, and what it was like becoming chapter leaders. April 7, one hour event about women in labor movement will be broadcast live on Facebook.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew-State budget still not done. Every day we heard they needed to finish it. We think all we need is there. Could be best budget in some time. We hope to finish tonight, but we've been saying that since last Sunday. 

Mayor wants to come to an agreement on changing policy. We need approval from Albany. Positivity rate overall has dropped, but in schools it has not. It's about safety first, and we also have a responsibility to keep kids safe. Now more than two thirds of cases are children. Variant from England causing that.

City--Trying to plan robust summer school. Lots of money for it this year. Goal to have 800 buildings open. 683 will run, but we don't know about remote actions. We are discussing it, 

We don't want to move forward with programming until we know what we're going to do next year. 

Final mayoral forum Wednesday afternoon. Zoom will allow up to 10K. Forum will be with small number at UFT HQ. Candidates will be there. We know how many candidates are. We want specific info from them. They all have canned answers so we want to make it interesting. 

Don't believe APPR waiver will happen in Albany. We already have an agreement so it won't affect us as much as other places.

Students can only take tests in person. There are no stakes and it is time limited. SED is only doing it because feds forcing their hand.Majority of folks not opting in. 

Few parents are opting into live school. 26K gain is about 2%. We think opt ins will follow pattern of schools who already have high %.

We have a super aggressive vaccination program. Some states have really screwed this up, so it's impressive we have so many fully vaccinated. Curious how many UFT members have been vaccinated. Wouldn't want names attached. We know over 46K have been vaccinated, but number is much higher. We know vaccines work. They are more effective than anticipated. 

Q--Mayoral candidates--How did we arrive at Yang, who seems anti-union. Eric Adams also pro charter.

A-To not have Yang would be crazy because he's frontrunner in every poll. Would be irresponsible not to have him answer. Not just about policy, but viability. 

Q--Testing--If NYSESLAT not given, ss can't get out?

A--We have a resolution, but the idea that ss can't get out of L classes is something that must be addressed

Q--Students who don't appear?

A--Attendance teachers are now doing home visits. Teachers should report to admin. 

We are back. We have to continue to go forward. Sorry about budget, but there are a lot of things going on. Quite sure we will be happy when all is said and done. Mayor seems to need a press conference every day. Maybe that's the only way people will watch him. Let's work together to get to the end of this school year.

Saturday, April 03, 2021

Putting Children First, Always, by Selling them Vapes and Third-Rate Education

Our friend Joel Klein has a new gig. He's working for Juul, selling marshmallow flavored vapes to our children,  This is, at the very least, ironic, I spent years listening to him rail about how evil we were, and how dare we ask for tenure and seniority? Were we righteous, we'd do whatever he decided, and happily be fired by arbitrary and capricious measures. Alas, we failed to jump at this opportunity, as we didn't trust the beneficent intentions of our chancellor. 

On the positive side, Klein has paid valuable lip service to the ridiculous notion that he doesn't want to give our kids cancer:

"I believe the company must continue to play a critical role in reducing the devastating harm caused by smoking," Klein said in a statement emailed to Insider. "To accomplish that paramount goal, Juul Labs must, first and foremost, continue preventing underage use of its products."

So if you take him at his word (I do not), he's merely interested in poisoning adults. There's a role model for us all. I will give no one cancer until they're 18 years of age. What a prince. The problem with this line of thinking is consistent with the rest of reformy thinking. What actually happens to kids if we take good care of them and have a modicum of reasonable luck? Give up? Well, they become adults, and thus subject to people like Joel Klein, who are in the business of selling them cancer. 

I don't smoke, and I don't vape. However, I've had cancer. I can tell you it's not precisely a walk in the park, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone, even Joel Klein. However, given his birdlike features, I'm not entirely sure he's human. So there's that. Nonetheless, how this man musters the audacity to lecture anyone on right and wrong is beyond me. 

Klein was a terrible chancellor, beholden to billionaire Mike Bloomberg. Despite his constant righteous lectures, he was clearly in the pocket of Eva Moskowitz, at her beck and call even as he ignored all those of us who bothered to speak to him at PEP. He sat on his Blackberry doing Very Important Stuff. Screw the public, and figure out how to please the gazillionaires who fund the Moskowitz Academies. It seems to have paid off for Klein as he collects big bucks for his loathsome activities, 

Elsewhere, former chancellor Richard Carranza is also trading on his reputation, such as it is, to score a cool corporate give. Carranza is moving to Silicon Valley and jumping on the e-learning bandwagon. Now that there's finally a fair chance our children might be able to come to some reasonable facsimile of learning, perhaps even with smaller classes, Carranza wants to cash in on the clearly inferior practice of having kids learn on line. 

After all, who can forget the support Carranza gave us when we turned to online learning last year? That was, of course, after he and de Blasio resisted closing the schools during the most frightening period of the most frightening event of our lifetimes. What did they do? They asked all staff to come back a few extra days for training in online education. Who trained us? That was a bunch of administrators, none of whom had any experience whatsoever with it at all. 

But I guess if you're Carranza, you can sit there like Jean-Luc Picard, wave your hand, say, "Make it so," and hope for the best. And even though the system is a mess and you've lost the faith of people who once believed in you, you can score a cushy gig lending your name to some dubious product. 

Jeff Bezos isn't the only dude getting rich on the pandemic.