Friday, October 02, 2015

CL Meeting Takeaway

I took a few notes at our meeting last Tuesday, but I didn't hear anything of world-shattering significance. Mulgrew said he planned to discuss Friedrichs in more depth in October, but that UFT was preparing for it. Basically, they hoped to remedy Right to Work status, if it came to that, with state legislation, but would pursue a federal solution if necessary.

I'm not entirely persuaded of our influence in Albany.  For one thing, they just passed the single most anti-teacher piece of legislation in my living memory. The Heavy Hearts Assembly passed, and rather than outrage they got a big old thank you from UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

One thing that surprised me was his mention of the UFT dementors Rat Squad validators. Mulgrew said they had overturned 30% of principal ratings. This suggests they did not overturn 70% of principal ratings. Mulgrew suggested that we had 60 teachers with double I ratings, and that this was only 10% of the number of double U ratings. Let's accept that as true.

The distinction, though, is that now the burden of proof is on these teachers. Rather than have the DOE prove they are incompetent, these teachers will now have to prove they are not incompetent. That is indeed a high burden, and it's entirely likely as many, if not more, teacher jobs will be lost. I'm never particularly happy hearing leaders boast of how few of us got screwed. Were I among those screwed, I'm sure I'd be even less happy about it.

And let's look at the 30% who had their ratings challenged by the validators. What have they won? Essentially, should the principal decide to 3020a them anyway, they will face the same 3020a they would have faced before Mulgrew participated in crafting a law that allowed teachers to be judged by junk science. They won precisely nothing. But 70% of them lost in a huge way.

At one point Mulgrew mused that if you, as a chapter leader, were not pissing off your principal, you were not doing your job properly. He segued immediately into praise of Carmen Fariña's Tweed. It would seem to me, if one followed Mulgrew's logic, that he was not doing his job properly by not pissing her off. However, Mulgrew logic dicates that you do as he says, not as he does. Nowhere was this more evident than in the Twitter campaign he initiated and encouraged, the one in which he did not participate. Mulgrew is not on Twitter or Facebook, and he boasts that he doesn't read the blogs. This, I suppose, makes his job easier. After all, why should he condescend to talk to the likes of me when there are hundreds of loyalty oath signers who will tell him whatever he wishes to hear?

The tone, mostly upbeat, and the repetition of the old theme of how smart he and his fellow Unity Caucus members are, had very little to do with what I hear each and every day. Teachers, in constant fear of being Danielsoned, are not remotely consoled by how few teachers are facing dismissal this year. Teachers are obsessed with doing whatever they can to not land in that group, elite though it may be.

What most irked me, as an ESL teacher, was that Mulgrew was openly encouraging the four-course, 12-credit, instant ESL teacher formula. In my school, as in every high school, there are fewer ESL courses. That's because NY State, for reasons it has shared with no one, has decided to cut direct ESL instruction by a ratio of 33-66%. Perhaps the state, by cutting ESL, feels they're helping with compliance. Who knows what goes on between the pearl-studded ears of Merryl Tisch?

However, most of my colleagues, perfectly capable of helping ESL students, have been reduced to push ins. All over the city, ESL students are learning English, social studies, math, and whatever. Supposedly they benefit from having an ESL teacher or a dual-licensed teacher in one of their classes, even though they get zero extra time for this enrichment they are magically getting.

A by-product of this is ESL teachers are losing their jobs for not being dual-licensed in whatever area their schools have chosen, and subject area teachers without the magical 12-credit extension are not getting jobs. You'd think that would be a union issue but I see no evidence it has crossed the mind of our President for one solitary second.

Mulgrew boasted of the bus in the new UFT commercial, and pointed out to us that it's a real bus. He said that, if anything good were happening in our schools, we should tell them about it and they'd send the bus. I suppose if I were some Unity faithful anxious for patronage I'd jump up and down and beg them to bring it. In fact, there are a whole lot of great things going on in our school. But I'm not calling for the bus.

I'd settle for a union president with a feel for the pulse of working teachers. I see little evidence of that in the words or deeds of Michael Mulgrew.
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