Sunday, January 24, 2021

Philly Teachers Have the Right Idea--Vaccinate Before Opening

I'm a big fan of common sense, even if  it's the least common of all the senses. And in Philadelphia, the union is saying no to school openings until all staff is vaccinated. That seems like the best way to open school buildings. This is an important step to remove the terror and loathing of so many teachers and other employees (who of course should be vaccinated along with the teachers).

What I don't see in this demand is the students. Frankly, they should be vaccinated as well. It's not exactly a win-win if school employees are protected but students are not. I'm not seeing a net positive if students are contracting the virus and making their families sick and/ or dead. In fact, if vaccines aren't available to all, the only kind of viable building openings would be masked, socially distanced, and sorely limited.

That appears to be what Philly is looking at right now, though the story is a little short on details. We've thus far been able to pull that off in NYC without any major catastrophe, but as the story points out, facts on the ground are constantly in flux. We have these new virus mutations that spread more rapidly, and the Philly union is right to take that into consideration. Really, no one knows what will change or how, and if we aren't ready to adapt, we're lost.

The question then becomes whether or not vaccines should be mandatory. I'm inclined to say yes, but at that I'm at odds with both DOE and UFT. We demand that students be vaccinated against multiple diseases. I teach newcomers, and they're often called out to be warned that if they don't receive vaccinations they will not be able to attend school. I'm at a loss to see why Covid is any different.

Of course there are exceptions. If doctors advise you not to be vaccinated, and I know at least two people for whom that's the case, then that's one. I've received the first vaccine, and if you see me and others with extra arms growing out of our heads, that might be another thing to consider. Honestly, though, it would be optimal for everyone to be vaccinated before we went back to doing what it is we actually do. 

It's the UFT position that vaccines are voluntary, and I haven't heard the city express anything different. So if you decide to exercise your personal freedom and risk getting Covid, and transmitting it to others, I guess that's your right. But I don't want to be near you until I get dose 2 and it takes effect, and I don't want any kids or colleagues near you until they have the same. I suppose if we all at least has the chance of protecting ourselves we can go back with our eyes open. (Of course it would be an awful shame for anyone to end up with their eyes permanently closed.)

These are such odd times, though. We need to be flexible and open to new situations. The chancellor uses the word "nimble" in his saccharine emails, but what he means by that is do whatever Bill de Blasio says. Alas, de Blasio is not the great leader we need at this tough time. Joe Biden now has the opportunity to be precisely what de Blasio is not, and one of his first tests will be whether he's able to ramp up production sufficiently and quickly enough to remedy this dire situation. 

I'm hopeful, which is more than I could say when Big Orange was ostensibly in charge.

Friday, January 22, 2021

The Mysterious Case of the Missing Students

I was pretty surprised to see a piece about how 2,000 students have not connected at all in NYC.  What surprised me most, though, was how low the number turned out to be. 

To be fair, one of those students happens to be mine. His parents were worried about the virus and sent him back to China. He never bothered to sign out, but was eventually dropped from the register. I have others who have come infrequently. 

I call and check on these kids and don't have a whole lot of success. One of the students who's stopped coming is very bright, and I really hate to see him go. But when I spoke to his dad most recently, he said, "He just doesn't want to do it." If I can't convince Dad, I'm certainly not going to convince the teenager. Online learning, like socially distanced learning, is not for everybody. It's better than literally risking your life with Covid, but that's not the best calling card.

I wonder, though, if we haven't got 2,000 students who never show up during an ordinary school year. When you consider there are 1.1 million schoolchildren in Fun City, that's an extremely low percentage. (No, I'm not doing the math, but have at it if you like.) Every year, we get "no-shows." When I grieve class sizes, the school looks for them and pulls them off of rosters. That's the easiest way to comply, I suppose. 

Here's a shocker for you:

While the missing students are a small fraction of the estimated 1.1 million students enrolled in New York City’s public schools, advocates say these are likely the most at-risk students who need support systems offered in school the most during the pandemic.

Well, of course students who don't show up need support systems. Of course they're at risk. If they aren't attending school, they're at risk of failing, at the very least. How is that different from non-attendance during a non-apocalypse? I'm not seeing it from that. 

There are substantive differences, though, as the piece points out:

“The stakes really couldn't be higher," said Michelle Yanche, the Executive Director of Good Shepherd Services, which is one of the city’s largest youth services providers. "I mean that you have the double impact of both the disconnection from education, and just what that is going to mean for the young person, in terms of losing precious ground during this time, but also just the isolation that comes with the pandemic, and all of the ways -- some extraordinarily scary -- of what that could mean for a young person."

I see that a lot more clearly. The isolation during this period is awful. I wonder a lot about what my student, the one whose father enables his chronic absence, is doing right now. Actually, knowing him as I do, I picture him playing video games 24/7. I could certainly be wrong though. He's very social, and if he hasn't got any chance to be social, he could be suffering. at

This could be a lot more serious for younger students developing basic skills, or failing to do so. What happens to a child who doesn't learn to read? It would surely be traumatic to be placed in a class full of readers when you haven't yet picked it up.

The city says they want everyone to attend, and I have no reason not to believe that. I'm hopeful that Biden will follow through with using emergency powers to ramp up vaccine production so this doesn't play out any longer than absolutely necessary. Fortunately, he appears poised to do just that. He wants to open school buildings within his first 100 days. We're going to need a whole lot of vaccines to pull that off. 

Still, I hope he does it. That would be an incredible achievement. If he doesn't pull it off, I think we're looking at September for a full return.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

No, It's NOT Time To Fully Open School Buildings

I'm fairly gobsmacked to see an op-ed from a teacher suggesting otherwise in the NY Post, but everyone's entitled to their opinion. There are some things in this piece, however, that are quite correct. Zoom just is not what we do. I've been personally discouraged, more than I can say, by doing a job other than the one for which I signed up.

I teach on Zoom, and like many of my colleagues, I've been doing so for months. I'm as discouraged by it as the writer of this piece. I know why I love being a teacher, and it has little to do with anything I've been doing since last March. Were this the job, I'd never have lasted. There are great rewards to this job, and few tend to show up on computer screens.

I really miss seeing students face to face. I absolutely believe there's a dimension beyond my subject. That's hard for me to admit, as I consider my subject, the English language, absolutely indispensable to my newcomer students They can still learn from me online, but it's not as easy. I'm far less effective remotely than I am in person. I'm also not able to support or influence students as well as I could. Students won't tell me secrets that need telling online. The writer is absolutely correct that students aren't getting what they should. 

I'm surprised the writer didn't cover the shortcomings of masked, socially distanced learning as well. The bizarre practice of having students sit far away from one another, masked, does not really promote the sort of discovery we want in a classroom. I don't aim to instill fear in students, but these classrooms can do a pretty good job of it. About the best thing I can say about the state of education in NYC right now is that it's better than nothing. 

And as flawed as Zoom is, it's kind of a miracle we're able to do even that. I'm old enough to remember a time when it was inconceivable. However, I've also read of outdoor classes that took place early last century. Uncomfortable though they may have been, I can see how they may have been better than Zoom in some ways at least. Mayor de Blasio never really got that off the ground, let alone on it.

As for Zoom, I'm lucky in that my supervisor programmed me to teach many of my last year's students. I have history with them, and I really know a good portion of them. This makes a big difference, and I'm grateful that I've had a chance to know these kids. I think I serve them better for that, even under these circumstances. It's tougher to really see and know students I've only known online. 

Like the teacher who wrote this, I belong in a real classroom. Unlike him, I don't think it's safe for me, my students or any of our families to return now. I'm frankly shocked at the shallowness of his arguments otherwise. 

The writer correctly points out that vaccines are effective. What I didn't see in the article was the sad fact New Yorkers are not getting the vaccine all that quickly. A whole lot of sites are booked for months in advance. Also, NYC uses Moderna vaccines, and they require two visits a month apart. If we were able to get all New Yorkers the vaccine today, it would be a month until they got the second shot, and I'm told it would take twelve days after that before they'd be effective. That would bring us to March. Even if Biden makes spectacular progress (and I very much hope he does) that's not happening. 

Furthermore, vaccines have yet to be tested on children. Moderna, at least, has begun the process, but if we want to prevent the spread of COVID, we're going to have to include kids. Even now, European school buildings are closing to prevent spread of COVID. They're seeing more evidence that children spread the virus, and it behooves us to protect both them and their families.

Another argument the writer makes is that there's a very low rate of infection in city schools. There are multiple reasons for that, none of which are mentioned in the piece. The most obvious is that a very low percentage of city students have been in attendance. If, say, 75% of students are not in attendance, that cuts down significantly on transmission opportunities. Another reason is enforcement of masks and social distancing. If we'd had a President who deemed that important, perhaps we wouldn't have the explosive fatality rates we see in these United States.

There's another factor in play here, though, and that is the testing that we insisted on. Flawed though it was, and is, it's led to hundreds of building closures that precluded further spread of the virus. The low transmission rate is not due to luck or chance, but rather to care. And of course we need to continue to take care. Right now the city hasn't even got the capacity, should we do as this writer urges, to test a sufficient number of people who'd be full time in buildings. If we gamble with testing, we risk reversing the very stats this writer puts forth. We can't afford that.

If we are able to widely distribute the vaccine and keep people safe, of course we should open school buildings. Like the writer of this piece, I'd like nothing better than to see my students and offer them the services they need and deserve. It would make me a whole lot happier. I actually like this work, and this year has been the most discouraging, bar none, in my 36 year career.

Education is one of the most important things we can offer kids, and I'm very proud to have devoted my life to doing so. However, I'm not willing to risk the lives of everyone in the building just so I can do what I want to right now.

In fact, about the only thing I can think of that's more important than education is health. Turning a blind eye to health while jumping in headfirst and hoping for the best has proven to be one of the most abysmal failures in the history of our nation. It won't work out for us, our students, or our families either. It behooves us to give our students the best we have to offer. 

Right now, like it or not, that's exactly what we're doing. 

Monday, January 18, 2021

MLK and Making America Union Again

MLK is famous for his life and work, and words of insincere reverence regularly escape the lips of people who'd have opposed him absolutely when he was alive. One thing a lot of people seem to forget about him was that he was passionately pro-union and pro-labor. In fact, at the time of his assassination in Memphis, he happened to be there to support a sanitation workers' strike

MLK was calling "right to work" a false slogan as early as 1961.  What people like Donald Trump call right to work is nothing more than the right to shirk union dues, thereby weakening union in favor of bosses. No one needs a right to work enforced. Our union keeps no one from working and never has. We don't select people for UFT. We simply support and protect everyone who joins. 

That's something in union concept and practice that's missing from the tapestry of modern American life. What Dr. King fought for now comes up as Black Lives Matter. Some people answer that with that American flag with a blue stripe, calling it Blue Lives Matter. What that says, to me at least, is Black Lives Don't Matter, the clarion call of racism in this country since its inception. 

In union, we don't discriminate. I get health care, you get health care, and we all get health care. I get retirement benefits and so do all of us. Who you are doesn't enter into it. Our retirement benefits are now better than those of most Americans. Those same politicians who support the white supremacists would take them away from us (and them) in a heartbeat. Mitch McConnell opposed the HEROES act saying states should go bankrupt. He said some states wasted their money on things like, yes, retirement benefits.

Our pensions are, in fact, part of our agreement with the state. We all agreed to work as teachers, and likely earn less than our advanced degrees might suggest, but the pension was part of the sweetener that kept us there. We earned that. All of us did, whatever our ethnic backgrounds may be.

As for those of us who support Trump, they get the same benefits. In fact, when neo-fascist Rudy Giuliani got cancer, he used government run health care, GHI, to treat it. Yet he'd deny Americans the same privilege. We as union really don't discriminate. But Rudy would. He's part of a movement to explicitly negate the votes of Americans of color.  

Make no mistake--that's what the Trumpies are all about. They aren't marching for the right to deprive Americans of health insurance, as far as they know. They aren't marching for the right to make sure Americans can't unionize to fight for a living wage, as far as they know. They aren't marching to make sure that they continue to pay taxes while the uber-wealthy and corporations pay nothing, or less than nothing, as far as they know.

I know UFT Trump supporters. They're happy to have all the benefits of union. They're happy to have someone to speak up for them, and never hesitate to demand their rights. They'd fight for that, to an extent. However, when we were on the verge of a strike, several told me they would cross picket lines. One was absolutely shocked I challenged him, and seemed to expect me to laugh it off. That's what you call entitlement.

I was not at all happy with his position. First of all, it weakened mine, and ours. Further, why the hell should I, and my true brothers and sisters, make enormous financial sacrifices to benefit scabs? But the scabs, though they want rights, don't believe in union. They won't make the sacrifices or do the work. Union is socialist or something, so it's no good, but sure, they'll take all the benefits anyway.

What they're fighting for is to Make America Great Again, which many of us read as Make America White Again. Hey, The Andy Griffith Show is charming, but America doesn't look like that. Some people want to all of us to pretend it does, and they're the ones who stormed the Capitol on January 6th. They decided not to accept the voices and votes of people of color, and they think that, just because their insane leader says so, they can roll back the voice of the people. Never mind their lip service otherwise.

This year, they've been unsuccessful in completely overturning the people's will. This notwithstanding, it's troubling to see police taking selfies with the seditionists. You have to wonder how many police have drunk the Kool Aid. Judging by police endorsements of Donald Trump, including that of NYC's PDA, many of them have. Police who enabled, encouraged, or gave comfort to the traitors ought not to be police. They're supposed to work for us regardless of skin color. You can't protect people during the day and wear a hood in the evening.

MLK would be relieved that Trump lost this election. He'd be relieved we held Congress and took the Senate, and he'd want us to make sure the racists never ruled our country again. He'd want union to be something available to all Americans. By fighting to keep union vibrant and relevant, we honor his memory. 

Of course our union isn't perfect, and of course we can fight to improve it. But when creeps like de Blasio try to say, screw you, we're not paying you the money we've owed you for over a decade, we have recourses. If the MAGA folks had their way, we'd all be standing around with nothing to comfort us but our right to bigotry.

Who needs that? Let's keep MLK's memory alive, and let's fight even harder to see his vision realized.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Chasing the Vaccine

On Sunday morning I decided to try the city site for the COVID vaccine. I'd heard that we would be eligible beginning Monday and that we could book early. It sounded like a great opportunity. I kept getting bounced off the site, over and over. I wasn't sure why that kept happening, but I was pretty persistent. It was quite annoying that even though you set up a profile, the site only recorded part of your information.

Every single time I got on, I had to copy the long number off of my GHI card. It also demanded a photo or scan of the card, and it was really irritating having to upload it every single time I hit the site. Usually I got bounced out before I hit an appointment. Sometimes the site told me I wasn't qualified for the vaccine. Those times I have to log back on and slog through the whole thing again.

A few times I got lucky, or at least I thought I did, In fact, on Sunday, I was able to score an appointment at 5:40 PM, that day, at Hillcrest High School. I was ready to go, even if it meant canceling my rumba lesson. However, when I pressed "next," it gave me some kind of warning. Are you sure you want to leave this site? Well, I figured I had to if I wanted to finalize this appointment, I had no choice. But oh my gosh, it sent me right back to the first screen. 

I then tried a few more times, but that appointment was gone. I never got all the way to the appointment again. Eventually I got tired of all the forms and gave up. There are only so many times you can fill out the same forms and answer the same questions without taking a break. Meanwhile, a friend texted me that he got an appointment for Wednesday. How did you do it, I asked. He wasn't sure, but I congratulated him. 

The next day, I tried again. I decided what the hell, I have nothing to lose but a little time, and perhaps my mind. I went through a few more rounds, and managed to score an appointment for John Adams High School sometime this week. Again, I got the dreaded next button, and when I pressed it, it kicked me right out again. A little later I tried again, and everything was booked up for weeks and months.,

UFT sent an email saying they would help hook us up, so I signed up for that. I had nothing to lose. However, I do have an accommodation this year, so that made me last priority. Still, with around 20,000 applicants, and Mulgrew saying they got 6,000 done early this week, it seemed worth a shot.

Nonetheless, I decided to branch out. I looked for sites in Nassau County, and found several. They were all booked up, though, for months it seemed. For some sites, it said call this number, and when I did it sent me back to the website from which I started. 

Somewhere, I found the number for Advantage Care, the place where GHI members can go with no copay. I called, and the message said there were no more appointments for Tuesday or Wednesday. I decided to go to their website, which you can find right here. I decided to register for an account, I went to book an appointment, said it was for the vaccine, asked me if I was UFT, and they offered me one for last night at 5:30 PM. I was amazed. It was a miracle! (A friend tells me they're now out of spots, but it's worth a try.)

Last night, I traveled to Cambria Heights, maybe ten miles from where I live, and I have to say all the folks at Advantage Care were helpful and professional. They made me fill out a bunch of forms, but I only had to do it once. I also had to wait a while, but eventually they got to me, and now I'm vaccinated. You have to wait for 15 minutes afterward to see if you have side effects. (The only one I have today is a sore arm, but that's par for the course with vaccines.)

Everyone I know who's gotten the vaccine, myself included, has gotten the Moderna version. I understand the Pfizer vaccine has to be so cold it needs special refrigeration. Most facilites haven't got that, and they haven't got Arnold Schwarzennegger's Mr. Freeze suit, so that's how it goes. 

I just called UFT again to say they didn't need to hold my place in the vaccine queue. I really hope Biden makes good on his promises to ramp up production via emergency measures. All I can tell you is a mass COVID vaccine makes a whole lot more sense than some frigging wall. All the drugs are coming in by truck anyway. I wouldn't even mention that except none of said drugs include COVID vaccines. 

I was lucky. I very much hope you are too.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

UFT Delegate Assembly January 13, 2021--Waiting for Vaccines

 4:19 UFT President Michael Mulgrew welcomes us. 

National--Has been difficult week. Tough for teachers to explain. We've never had students seeing everything happening in real time all the time. This is on top of all the other issues. We have to guide students through this craziness. We get no support at all from DOE. Hopefully things will turn around. From feds we need vaccine and funding. DeVos quit, tried to remove equity, to privatize, to help vulture lenders, to help all we're against. Probably worst Ed. Sec. of all time. We should see a strong contrast with a lifelong educator in this position.

Stimulus--Last one passed. NY State should get 4.5 billion, Much should go to NYC. First was one billion, but was completely supplanted by governor, as he took another billion out. We know students will be hurt by this situation. People will look to us to deal with various crises. Social and emotional stress, isolation--this is deeper than just learning loss. If state continues to supplant federal money will be huge problem. State is taking away money to help children in crisis. 2.4 billion coming our way, and children need to be prioritized. Will also effect city budget. We have no layoff clause until June.

Biden wants to do an infrastructure project. We've had resolutions throughout the year. We would like an aggressive program that makes every school carbon free. We want to utilize solar. It goes further. We're talking about ventilation and lighting aggressively. There could be an opportunity here to retrofit school buildings. 

Vaccine--Federal govt. has expanded the pool of people who should be eligible. State will likely follow. Add ons mean people with certain medical conditions and people 65 rather than 75 means 16.4 million will be eligible. Feds say they will release all reserve vaccines. Only way through is to get 65-70% vaccinated. They will release reserves, but not for two weeks, so it's not useful. They expanded pool, tripled it, while we have very limited supply. NY State gets 300K doses. In NYC, this is a major challenge. Governor asked unions to set up own apparatus, and we did. From now until Biden is in office, we will see a lot of people and institutions trying to get vaccine. Large orgs have run out or are close to it. This was very bad, will cause more frustration and anger across nation. Like final middle finger to everyone walking out door.

New Pres. will at least double Title One. We put between us and others over 1.2 million in GA, with many volunteers. In terms of our education agenda, the two Dems winning benefits us. We focus on protecting public schools and our livelihood. Lots of damage being done to our country nationally and internationally. 

We've had two stimulus payments for education, should get a third. 

State--Budget at state level. Gov. claims 63 billion deficit over three years. I believe closer to 30, but scary. 2007-8 we had 700 million deficit. We were very lucky, worked hard, but we were only large local that didn't see a deficit. 33K laid off in NYS in 08 and 09. We're looking at 9-10 billion dollars deficit a year for next three years. Protecting livelihood will be great challenge. If we want to help children, we need to fund programs. We can't have funds supplanted. I do believe next stimulus will have state and city funding, but won't cover deficit. We are going to push a revenue package. Senate and Assembly can now override vetoes.

Governor has said nothing about education. but this is what we're dealing with. We support taxing wealthy and ultra-wealthy, we support pied-a-tere taxes. We shouldn't give breaks to part time residents. We want state electeds to send clear message about supplanting of money.

We have new Regents Chancellor, Lester Young, NYC teacher, and Betty Rosa is Commissioner. We no longer have people who don't understand education running education. Has been long time since that happened, along with US Ed. Sec. being former educator. Others look at vulture charters and privatization.

State having hard time with vaccine, but is distributing them to local DOH. Except city has been stockpiling and not effective getting it out. Rest of state got out 74% of what they've been given. We want 100. NYC has only distributed 52%. We'll see where this goes, but now we know there will be a major vaccine shortage. I will be very upset and will get very loud with city if they continue to leave vaccine in storage. That's not how we get past pandemic. 

If we have people ready to go we want to get them through. Over 20,000 members responded to our program, but I now am not sure how fast vaccine supply will last. Biden will produce more vaccine as emergency. We are ready to work with providers, but can't do much until we see how this turns out. Happy we were able to help as many as we could. 

Two weeks ago they said teachers would have to wait until February. Mayor had 200K doses sitting on shelves. We said give them to us. I tell people try every avenue. Was really happy to see UFT nurses getting vaccines on Saturday. Last March 15, buildings closed, but school nurses were in centers, nursing homes, worked through entire summer. Grateful they were safe, glad they were first to get vaccine. Will be massive shortage over next few weeks. Happy for all who got them but we have long way to go.

I get questions about positivity rates. When state came out with reg, said every school district needed a plan signed off on and submitted. In September, state put out change that said school district could change its plan without collective bargaining as long as it met state minimum standard. State can do that under health emergency. When we get through this our first negotiation will be about spring break they unilaterally took from us. 

When city closed in November, it decided to change plan again. We were able to get state to agree that city would have to abide by new agreement for more aggressive tests.  City formula is irrelevant, has its own number. We felt it was being used for political purposes. State's plan said 9% caused county lockdown. Governor reversed that. Said district can remain open as long as they have school testing program in place and school positivity didn't go above community rate. That will never happen because sick people don't attend.

We disagree with this. Shifting policy undermines public confidence, causes fear, anxiety frustration. Our schools are very safe, but if NY state number hits 9% we will go to war. May be parents against us in places. You can't keep shifting policy. Psychological toll becomes physical toll. City numbers get higher when mayor wants to pressure governor. We have to go by state numbers. Both state and city numbers are going down. City number never counted. 

When you hear we're closing many schools. that's positive. 271 schools, 100 classes closed today. This means our program is working. Social distancing, masks, ventilation important, but we need to know if COVID is in building. Not good enough for us to probably stop it. We need to shut them down and our testing program was designed to do that. Doctors have said if you do everything else you can keep them open but I said no. 

This should be set up in entire country. It isn't but we have it here. Christmas Eve was a disaster, but schools were closed. 

Random lists for each school should be generated by DOE. Of course, that's not good, but we have made progress. Now testing more children than adults. Wasn't random when 2/3 were adults. We are getting better nonetheless. 

Some people upset about how we prioritized vaccines. People in schools were able to get vaccines. We will get through people in schools first. City made same decision but put nothing in place. I understand some may disagree. But we need to get it to elementary and D75 members. 

Evaluation--We have to have one but are getting nowhere with DOE. I have consultation Friday with chancellor. DOE people have no clue. Have never taught remotely and want to work out evaluation. We have issues with Danielson, but may have worked. DOE turned it into attack tool.  We have to have a MOSL. State has told us this. 

Operational issues--Thank you CLs. We've had 1693 filed. 1036 settled. 176 closer in progress. We're working in ICT and class size issues. We're not closing them until CL approves. 

Mayor's race--We have many offices coming up. Mayor, city council, and we'll have great budget challenges. Thanks volunteers. Have groups at all City Council districts. We have 21 planned endorsements, will have more. Starting Feb. 1 we will have Town Halls for mayoral race. We will interview 4 or 5 at a time. We will select 4 finalists and do open Town Hall for all members. We may not make an endorsement, but likely will. 

We have a lot of people in background who were near and dear to our previous mayor. Thanks to all people volunteering on this. 

471 people at last CL training. Thanks to all who help teachers by being union activists. We have one more training to go. This is hardest time ever to be CL. 

We had issues with CTLE course. Thousands registered for one course. We will make sure every person gets into one shortly. 

Elementary Town Hall will go back out. 3,000 wanted to attend. We will fix it with Zoom. 

WeFeedNYC program was going to begin in February, but started earlier. We see huge lines everywhere for food. Anyone distributing food now is facing major shortages. We've raised some money and will raise more. We've delivered over 20,000 meals to many orgs. Restaurant owner called to thank us for allowing him to help.

Optical form for UFT--No more. Beginning Feb. 1st can be done online. Will be email on how it's done. 

LeRoy Barr--Good afternoon and happy new year. We have over 2000 delegates on the call today.

1. 1/21 - Black History Film Series - From Chisholm to Harris. Breaking the glass ceiling in government. We’ll be watching “Chisholm ‘72, Unbought and unbossed. We’ll send the link in the CL update.
2. 1/23 is the last CL training for this semester. Please sign up.
3. 2/1 - 2/5 BLM week of action in schools. Links are on UFT website. We will send it out in the CL update as well.
4. School safety and scanning committee has started meeting. If you want to join them send an email to teamhighschool@uft.org.
5. Congratulations to Lester Young Jr. on being named chancellor of the NYS board of regents. He’s the first African American to hold the post. We’ve done a lot of work with him over the years with my brothers keeper.
6. Enjoy Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Do something in his name and his spirit.
7. Happy new year.

 Questions--

Q--Happy about UFT efforts for vaccine, also concerned. Members want to know if UFT is trying to rush vaccine so schools will fully open.

A--Safety is important. Our goal from March has been to get schools closed, then get through pandemic. Teachers need quick access to schools. We, along with Chicago, are only large school district that opened. Members were on board with closing in March. Since then more disagreement. Some think we're trying to mandate vaccine. Some saying no one should be allowed back without it. Some were upset when schools closed in November, Others wanted them closed. We will always have differences. We will continue to make decisions, and rarely will all agree. We will say why we're doing it, I'm setting up program because I want people vaccinated. Having no conversations about opening schools. We're using schools for vaccines. They will have to be hubs. Hospitals not designed for this. Since there are people who hate us, they use this as way to oppose public education. People try to create wedge issues. We're smarter than that. 

Q--Student participation low at school despite reaching out. Admin pressuring us to pass students when not warranted.

A--There is a law that says our professional judgment cannot be changed. In our numerous conversations with DOE we said remote instruction requires much more work. Why don't they plan to help people? In the end they'll want to deal with low passing percentage. UFT asked DOE to put together a district and citywide administrative program to help disengaged students. They refused. 

Q--Any update on retirement incentive? Would it help those with 20 years?

A--Depends how it is negotiated. This is a city, not state priority, for all except uniform workers. State said not for people with 20 year plans. This is one of our biggest priorities in Albany. Until we work it out, it's all rumor. My goal is to get as many as possible included. We have a lot of subs looking for full time jobs now. Will save money for the city. Working on it for this and many other unions.

MOSL--City polices nothing. Puts out things and refuses to fix them--previous observations cannot be used against you.

Q--Update on improved communication to schools on infection rates?

A--If there is specific issue, contact DR. We are improving but still not where we want to be. We will make sure DOE knows. They are getting better. They want to keep rates low, shut down problem schools quickly. These are not DOE folks, actually, doing shutdowns. Not there yet, but in better place. If you need a result, go to DR and we will get it.

Q--Do you know when middle and HS may return?

A. No. We don't know yet. We're using large HS for vaccine distribution. City doesn't have capacity for testing so they can't open them up. If you're vaccinated you still have to wear mask. You may not feel symptoms but you can still spread it. We have to see how this plays out. If I hear anything, I will communicate it. I expect next September we will open.

Q--What will union do to protect G and T programs?

A--Our position is there should be such programs in all schools. We believe they're in every school I don't think we should be testing pre 3rd grade kids for this. For specialized HS, they didn't give us a heads up, a deputy chancellor did it on his own. There will be new guidance for this exam given in two weeks. Will enforce social distancing. 

Q--What if people can't get second vaccine on time?

A--They'd have to start all over again. We want to avoid that. We know you need shot three weeks later. You should be scheduled in same place. MLC went hard to negotiate release time if you need it, as well as additional time for adverse reactions. We negotiated for all city unions, and DOE tried to reinterpret it, giving authority to principal. 

Q--Teachers complaining that building not clean, things been on floor for week...

A. Tell us and we will take care of it. Send it to DR.

Motions--

Charlaine Williams--Proposes resolution in honor of Stacy Abrams for leadership in elections, for next month. Was Democratic nominee for governor of GA, lost and created massive constituency, turned GA blue and won US Senate for Dems.

Passes 89%

 Nichole Puglio--Next month--Crime to incite a riot, Trump did, urged people to fight like hell, we know attack is worse than we'd thought. Was act of domestic terrorism. We need to condemn these actions. 

Katherine Martin Bridge--Concerned with last resolve. Trump will be out of office. Seems silly to put in something that will have already happened.

Mulgrew--Motion is motion, but we assume it could be amended next month.

Passes 75%

Resolution--

Endorsements--Liz Perez--Encourages body to endorse 21 canditates--51 open seats in city council, want to endorse incumbents who've supported our agenda and newcomers we support. We also endorse incumbent Queens Borough President, will expand economic and education opportunities. 

Mulgrew--Does anyone object to any individual candidates?

Jonathan Halabi--Objects to Gjonaj

Mulgrew--We will take a motion, taking Gjonaj out, and we will vote on rest as group. All those in favor, please vote yes.  

Yes 41% No 59% Motion fails

Vote to endorse all candidates--

Passes 83%

Mulgrew--Thanks us, apologizes for long report. Will keep you updated. Thanks for all you do. Hope I can continue to do what needs to be done to help you.

Note--I missed at least one question due to excessive barking in my living room.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The Post, with Little Evidence, Creates a Teacher Issue

The Post has a piece suggesting teachers are at war with one another over who gets the vaccine. That's absurd, and there are several large hints in the story. The biggest hint is who they quote--one anonymous DOE employee, one anonymous administrator, and one anonymous teacher. (Let's disregard the fact that none of those quoted feel comfortable using their names.)

Everyone, perhaps excepting the person who wrote this piece knows the DOE does not represent teachers. The fact is, more often than not, they are our largest adversary. Those guys with suits who come in and try to fire us? That chancellor saying he wants 108,000 signatures before closing buildings in a pandemic, that Boy Wonder supervisor who sees fit to observe you the day before a break when only eight students are in your class? All those folks are the DOE. 

And the ones who work at Tweed? Forget about it. They haven't got a clue what goes on in buildings. They're too busy sitting in offices doing Whatever It Is that goes on there. 

Their last example is an administrator working remotely who took the vaccine but was upset his elderly mom couldn't get it. How that supported the notion that teachers are upset with one another I have no idea. They also cite emails, but they appear to be the generic emails we got from the chancellor, you know, the guy who told 108,000 signatures, who just tried to steal a billion dollars from us, who sends us saccharine, blatantly insincere emails every week or so.

Now as for the teacher, I don't doubt there's a teacher somewhere pissed off that she didn't get an appointment. In fact, I don't doubt there are thousands of teachers pissed off about not getting appointments. I know because I'm one of them. Before I even heard about differentiating between teachers with or without accommodations I hit the city site. Sunday morning I had an appointment for 5:40 at Hillcrest High School, after having failed many times. But when I clicked "next," it bounced me right back to square one.

The city system is slammed. They haven't got enough vaccines anyway, because no one does. I rep 300 teachers, I'm all over social media, and the complaints I hear are along the lines of, "Why can't I get in?" I gave up on Sunday and signed up when I got the email from UFT.  In fact, UFT did prioritize. UFT is going to make those currently working in buildings priority one. It will make middle and high school teachers who teach live (though not currently) priority two. Teachers with accommodations, like me, are third priority. 

I can live with that. Nonetheless, I wouldn't blame anyone who can get the vaccine for doing so. We're talking about a life-threatening disease, and I know people who've died from it. I wouldn't wish this on anyone. 

However, we have enough problems without the Post trying to build mountains out of molehills. In fact it was Andrew Cuomo who set priorities and failed to differentiate, and Donald Trump who chose to use emergency powers to build walls rather than ramp up vaccine production. Biden says he will, in fact, ramp up vaccine production.

Related: Here's another piece about teachers who feel lucky to get the vaccine, (They are.)

Monday, January 11, 2021

UFT Executive Board January 11, 2021--The Elusive Vaccine

Joined in progress 6:05--Mulgrew--Will have more .possibilities for funding with new Senate.

Very sad week for US this week, lost clout internationally

Positivitity rate inside schools very low. There is usually a small bump after holiday. We are still closing schools under emergency provision. Today 190 schools closed. Monday always worst day because that's when we get results, but this is how we keep people safe. We will continue to do that. 

1B has officially opened up. Vaccine had been being wasted, not going where it needed. We have been working with providers and will get doses. Getting calls all day, and many orgs already running out of vaccine. This will happen for next two weeks. Biden will release all reserve vaccine day one, will use defense act to ramp up production. 

Whether or not you want to take it, we need 70% of population to take vaccine. Some people don't want to take it, and it's not mandated. This is a state issue. 1B pool is over 4 million people. This means you need 8 million doses and state only gets 300K a month. We matched 6,000 members today. 

Recommend you take either vaccine. Doctors say no difference in terms of quality or side effects. Governor said union could set up own process, and we are now the only ones who've done it. Scarcity will be an issue. City seems to have issue getting out what they have. Of 400K they got, they still have 90K sitting in refrigerators.

We've prioritized people working in buildings. Those who would be, middle and high schools, are priority two, and then the rest. 

Our school nurses were the first to get vaccines. They have been on front lines.

We negotiated two hours release time. Document says if you can give three days notice, show you have appointment, you can get two hours release time. You may have to show you got vaccine. No database at city level. Members going Wednesday won't be able to give notice. Principal may not say no. 

If you have adverse reaction, and this will be very low %, you have ten days of COVID leave. If you have cough, shortness of breath, etc., you may use this. If you have fever less than a day they will add two days. Fever over 24 hours can add 8 days. Depending on symptoms. DOE tried to reinterpret, but we fixed it.

If state rate goes to 9% in NYC we will have to go to war with mayor. Legally they have right to change rules, but they're still wrong.  Hopefully it won't get to that. We will see moving forward. 

We still have politics to take care of. Normally news cycle would be city elections. Primaries in June. We have six endorsements for City Council, will be more. We are doing interviews and thank all doing work.

City putting together budget, and they may talk layoffs. We will have challenges for minimum 2-4 years. We will have 3 or 4 mayoral panels. We will build out what our educational platform is during these panels. We will probably do panels in Feb. and March via Zoom, and open to membership. 

We will then come up with list of finalists and do a panel.

Comptroller, borough presidents, will be borough wide. DA Manhattan is one of most powerful law enforcement official in country. 

We need people who will work with us. Financial issues will be tough.

Post COVID plans are good, but we have no way to finance them. Eval. and special ed. issues are in process.  Special ed. and legal people at DOE want compliance from us, and don't want to admit when they are. Their hypocrisy knows no bounds.

Lester Young first African American Regents Chancellor. We have good relationship with him.

If you want vaccine, use every area you can find. We are getting members set up, but there is a lot of stuff going on.

Question

Can there be UFT event around inauguration day?

That will be tough. We're working very hard to match people up for vaccines. That's been our main focus. Still this is tough time. Students are watching things happen in real time. Every teacher's got to answer student questions. We need to focus on getting people over 75 vaccines.

We will have updates at DA Wednesday. We will set up sites for teachers to be vaccinated.

Do you expect an evaluation agreement?

We have no choice. We're required to have a MOSL. Lots of elementary schools use running records. Do we want to develop a MOSL for five months? Of course not. But we have to. DOE is pushing Danielson, but how can that work? DOE wants to focus on student engagement. How can you do this when you're an in person teacher of 5 students, or you're on Zoom? They have no idea what they're talking about. They're saying parents want to know why we're not engaging kids. They make us grade kids who never show. 

Thank you all for coming.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

White Supremacy Is Everywhere--Even in UFT

Like everyone I know, I'm totally freaked out by what happened in DC last week. I guess no one should be surprised, as it was telegraphed by the President, a whole bunch of House and Senate members, and Trump media outlets and devotees around the country. What was really shocking was the response, or lack thereof, of the police and/ or military. (Worse, the rioters absolutely expected the police to support them.)

We saw a much different approach to BLM demonstrations. There were a few of those in my town, Freeport NY, and the neighboring town, Merrick. I'm constantly walking my dog on the canal here and I was pretty shocked to see a contingent of police, mounted and otherwise, near a local bar. The cops told me they were there to prevent violence. There wasn't any, so they mostly sat in a parking lot talking to one another. But they were prepared. 

In Merrick, a much whiter town, there wasn't any violence either, but there were a whole lot of stupid white people shooting off their mouths about how BLM didn't have the right to assemble, and how the demonstrators should all go to Freeport. There was a video up on Facebook that I'm not gonna search for. There wasn't any violence beyond the verbal sort. It was shocking, though, to see those people publicly announcing their essentially white supremacist positions. This openness is a by-product of the Trump presidency. I guess cancel culture is when you tell these folks to keep their filthy ideas to themselves.

Of course other parts of the country were worse. There was violence against BLM protestors all around these United States, despite the fact that most such demonstrations were peaceful. The contrast in the way BLM was treated in the Capitol with the way the Trump riot was handled is stark indeed. Anyone who doesn't believe in white privilege today has got his head buried in the sand. 

The Trump rioters came in with the expectation of overturning a democratic election. Now, sure, they don't believe it was a democratic election. That's because, in these United States, we've dumped the Fairness Doctrine that required both sides of issues be presented. This enabled Fox News, without which Donald Trump would still be a TV show host. Now, because even Fox doesn't satisfy Trump or the most virulent of his supporters, there are two more news channels. There's OAN and Newsmax, catering to the hardcore Trumpies. 

I was pretty horrified to learn days ago they were both on my cable package. I watched OAN for a few minutes, and they were having a conversation asserting that there were Democrats rioting along with all those lunatics. I follow an ex-teacher friend of mine on Twitter, and her feed is full of tweets saying Antifa was taking part. 

The riot was a step too far somehow, and a lot of rats are deserting the sinking ship, not the least of whom is our good friend Betsy DeVos. You see Senators like Lindsey Graham finally admitting that Biden will be President. Graham is the guy who was humiliated by Trump in the primaries, yet managed to spend a good four years kissing his ample posterior. Graham took a principled stand not to give Merrick Garland a hearing for SCOTUS, but shoved in Amy Coney Island five days before the election. People like Graham are more reprehensible than their followers, because they know better and just don't care.

Now we sit in a country where the white supremacists feel they own it and we don't. I passed a store in Merrick yesterday with an Impeach Cuomo sign. I'm not a huge fan of Cuomo either, so I took a closer look. The next sign said Trump got over 400 electoral votes. This guy hangs this sign on his business and people still come and do business with him. 

So it's not surprising that hundreds of white supremacists felt emboldened enough to go to DC, storm the Capitol, and have no fear of meeting violent resistance. Far worse is the fact that they were absolutely correct. Trump, on Twitter, told them he loved them before finally being forced, likely as not kicking and screaming, to release a video denouncing violence. This is the guy who chants law and order all the time, and we now know the shouts of law and order apply only to certain skin tones. 

Trump himself is a racist and a bigot, having refused to apologize to the wrongly convicted Central Park 5, for whom he demanded the death penalty. There's his assertion there were very fine people on both sides of the nazi rally. It's sickening that so many Americans could overlook that and support him, egged on by Fox and their even lower common denominator spin offs. While not every Trump supporter may be a bigot, their support certainly enables and encourages bigotry. 

And alas, here in New York, we aren't immune to it. PBA endorsed Trump. Can you imagine being police of color and seeing that happen? (Police of color in the Capital spoke of "racist ass terrorists" in DC. The National Guard took its time showing up to help.) 

Of course, there are Trump supporters in UFT as well. It's hard for me to fathom that, as Trump is virulently anti-union, supporting "right to work" and enabling a court that allowed public employees who who felt like it to shirk on union dues. Let me tell you something--as bad as things are, however you feel about UFT leadership, we are very fortunate to weather the apocalypse as well as we have. If Trump had his way we'd all be teaching full classes in buildings or fired. Or dead of COVID. Take your pick.

Even in UFT, this is nothing new. I will never forget what happened to Eric Garner and reading the UFT Facebook page. UFT decided to support the march protesting Garner's death. The borderline racist, not to mention overtly racist, comments on that UFT Facebook post were humiliating to me as a union member and teacher. I'd had no plans to go to that march, but called a friend I knew who was going, and made it a point to be there myself. 

Of course a bunch of those teachers decided to wear NYPD shirts to school after Garner's murder. Here's how it was covered in the NY Post

Angry city teachers who refused to be bullied by their union posted Facebook photos on Thursday of themselves in NYPD T-shirts — after the UFT warned them not to wear the “inappropriate apparel” on the first day of classes.

You see? It's right here. It walks among us. Let's forget about the NY Post characterizing the UFT's suggestion (in a news story no less) that we not openly endorse murder as being "bullied." Can you imagine being a student of color, having just heard Eric Garner was murdered for the offense of selling loosies, and then having your teacher come in supporting the police in this case?

There are times to support the police. I generally support the police. I do not support police who commit gratuitous violence against citizens. I specifically oppose police who capriciously kill people who look like my students. I don't know what all those white teachers were thinking, or even if they were thinking, but I would hate for my kid to see that sort of thinking paraded as that of a role model.

Now that the treachery of the DC mob has been lain bare for all to see, those who encouraged it are taking another tack altogether:

 

 

Of course, Ivanka's not alone here. All the House and Senate members who wanted to thwart democracy, who openly tried to reverse the votes of citizens of color, who got caught and failed, now say they want to work together, as though they won't obstruct absolutely everything designed to help working people and promote everything designed to enrich those who least need it. Never mind the hundreds of bills that sat dormant on the desk of Mitch McConnell all these long years. Never mind the suppression of votes that's been going on for years here, or those who still pursue it.

White supremacy was and is everywhere. It's a great sin that Donald Trump, Fox News, GOP reps and others, even some of us, have now normalized and encouraged it. I don't envy Joe Biden the task that lies ahead of him, but I wish him luck.

Thursday, January 07, 2021

The Chancellor Responds to Current Events

 Dear Colleagues,
 
Like so many other days in the past ten months, yesterday we experienced an alarming and frightening moment that was unprecedented in our lifetimes. And l have to tell you, I was relieved to see the breach of the U.S Capitol, I was absolutely certain that something like this would make you think about something other than my forcing you to work in the worst epidemic any of us have ever seen.  I am hopeful that such incidents redirect your sadness and anger. I’m tired of reading nasty crap you guys say and write about me. I’m just doing my job, man. 


I was equally disturbed by what I saw as the response of law enforcement, who apparently allowed the entry and later the peaceful dispersing of these violent rioters. If I drive you guys to strike, it won’t look like that at all. I’ll ask the police to drive vans right through the lot of you. There will be rockets red glare and carnage ahoy. The city cops endorsed Trump, you know.


My heart breaks to know that our young people have witnessed this violent assault on people, property, the rule of law, and on our democracy itself—If we do it here in New York, we’ll endeavor to cover it up much better than they did in DC. The best response at this time, as I see it, is to open all the school buildings, give a lot of homework, and make sure no one has time to think about this stuff.  


Today, tomorrow, and beyond, you will have the opportunity, and responsibility, to acknowledge and discuss these events. However, make sure to do so in such a way that you stir no controversy at all. Don’t upset any of the students or I’ll nail your asses for verbal abuse, as per CR A-421. Remember, it’s not what you say, it’s what they hear. If you say, “Good morning,” and some kid objects, too bad for you. That’s a letter to file.


We have a lot of to resources for you, including ways to facilitate discussion in class about these events. Be advised, though, that if you actually tell students what you think you will be subject to discipline. Just listen to whatever they say and pretend you have no feelings about it whatsoever. That’s the kind of role model our kids need. You don’t see me standing up for what I actually believe in.


Seriously, do you think I want to open the frigging buildings? Of course I don’t. But Blaz does, and he’s the boss. Where am I gonna score another gig with a free house, an outrageous expense account, and at least triple your salary? 


You are essential to the functioning of a healthy democracy: educating and supporting our children, preparing them to contribute to their communities and country. We stand together with you, for our students, today and every day.


Just don’t actually say anything, or we’ll come down on you with the wrath of Bloomberg, whose pungent stench still lingers here in Tweed. Not in my office, of course, I’ve got the kind of ventilation you can only dream about, as I sit here by myself, when I even bother coming in.


Please do not hesitate to reach out with any other needs, concerns, or questions. You can count on us for valuable lip service, or a visit from some guy in a suit who will bring you up on 3020A charges faster than you can say, “What the hell did I ever do to deserve this?”
 
In unity,
 
Richard