Thursday, November 02, 2017

Executive Board Takeaway October 30th--UFT's Top Secret Info Source

It was a fun-filled night down at 52. I barely know where to start. Howard Schoor offered his condolences to the five new members of the Executive Board. I'm always amused by comments on what an ordeal these meetings are, and they've been occurring more frequently lately. I guess it must be painful to answer questions from people who work in schools each and every day. As a chapter leader, I do that as a matter of course. Come Janus, entrenched leadership had best learn some new tricks.

Thus far this year, Schoor has answered none of my questions, so it must be excruciating for him even to listen. It's, "We'll get back to you," and they don't. Or, "Someone will address that at the next meeting," and no one does. But the very best answer I've gotten was this week. I asked a question about the much-ballyhooed 3,000 U ratings I keep hearing about. I had a little help with this question from a very prominent APPR opponent. Here is our exchange:

Arthur Goldstein—MORE—In our last meeting, you repeatedly cited a figure of 3,000 teachers receiving U ratings. We would like to know exactly what year that was. We would also like to know how many of those teachers were tenured, and how many were dismissed. Finally, we would like to know exactly how many of these teachers had the burden of proof on them during 3020a.  I’d also like to point out that so far, none of my questions have received an answer. Thank you.
Schoor—We’re not entitled to that info. Check Chalkbeat.  

Check Chalkbeat, because we don't know stuff like that. He actually said that, out loud, in a public forum. They can't even tell us when it happened.

Now here's my next question, which I won't bother asking Schoor. If they don't know what year this was, and they don't know how many members were tenured or dismissed, how the hell do they muster the audacity to say it was a better year last year? With 217 ineffective ratings last year it may have been, but ultimately they can't prove it. The number is not wholly relevant until the consequences are spelled out. However, I know the answer to the last question. How many of those U-rated teachers had the burden of proof on them during 3020a?

That number would be zero. If last year's numbers were any higher than that, this particular figure does not represent improvement.

We brought forth a resolution to lower the number of observations.  It contained this line:

Whereas, there are many teachers for whom two observations should be sufficient...

We meant that teachers who were effective or higher ought not to need more observations.  Perhaps we could've been more explicit. But I'd argue we did that in the Resolved:

Resolved, that UFT will encourage further observation only for teachers in need of additional support...

This suggests, to me at least, that additional observations would be used to improve ratings. More than one person from Unity suggested that this would result in fewer chances for teachers to do well. Our resolution suggested the opposite. In retrospect, I wonder whether they bothered to read it before attacking it.

However, the first argument against it came from LeRoy Barr, who did not take a position for or against. I was sitting with KJ from New Action, and I bet him a dollar that LeRoy would bring up the 300 member committee that helps negotiate the contract. I walked out one dollar richer.

Several people from Unity approached me and told me I'd be on the committee. From what I've heard, the committee is top secret and you can't tell anyone what happens. If I recall correctly, in 2014 they voted up the Memorandum of Agreement before anyone had actually seen it. I guess it's good that they include opposition on the committee. However, as someone who visits the Executive Board every two weeks, I'm acutely aware of what happens when you're outnumbered 20 to 1 by people who vote against you as easily as they draw breath. A 300-member committee seems just unwieldy enough to allow leadership to do Any Damn Thing They Please without undesirables getting in A Word Edgewise.

After LeRoy's argument, they threw the kitchen sink at us. We have all these protections, they have to document all this stuff, and whatever. Our resolution opposed absolutely none of those things, and none are related to number of observations. Principals could do whatever they wanted, they said. This is the strawman they toss out whenever anyone opposes APPR. Nonetheless, I'd argue vindictive supervisors can still do whatever they wish. I spoke of a video lesson in which I observed proof of a supervisor fabricating. Things like this happen all the time when you have supervisors like that. Someone told me it's difficult to do consistently, but as I watched a whole department terrorized by a lunatic over a few years, it seemed entirely plausible to me.

Over at Banana Kelly a principal got caught making up observations. I know someone who got a bad rating as a result. Now if I were making up observations, I'd write them glowing so no one would complain. On the other hand, how many undiscovered Banana Kellies are out there? How many teachers are too terrorized to object? Judging from the number of abuse stories I hear via Exec. Board and email, I'm gonna guess--a lot.

A whole bunch of teachers got up and described Tottenville High School as a veritable hellhole. Leadership said they visited a bunch of times. They did not actually focus on what changed when they did. Having listened to the teachers, I'm not entirely persuaded what leadership did was Highly Effective.

Jonathan Halabi asked about an Adult Ed. teacher who was hounded out by lunatics and fired. He wanted to know if we could do anything to retrieve her retro pay lump sum payment. You know, that's the money you earned years ago that you don't get until 2020. But it's not retro pay (presumably because so many people who did the work don't get it). We were told if she won her case she would get it. That implies if she loses she won't. Jonathan wanted to know if we'd go the extra mile for her. Evidently we will not.

This deal we made for the 2014 contract shut out a whole lot of people--anyone who resigned, died or was fired. I have to suppose that's a great savings to the city. Sure, Mayor de Blasio, pay us off in dribs and drabs, and half the people won't get to the point where they get any money. We're due larger payments in 2018, 2019, and 2020. This is not encouraging when we consider that our contract expires next year.

In fact, if that isn't discouraging enough, Mulgrew told us that all things budgetary are pretty dire. The state can't depend on the fed and the city can't depend on the state. I have no reason to doubt his word. When you consider that PBA is being offered 4.25% over four years, entirely funded by givebacks, things do not look particularly rosy for us. The smart thing to do would be wait out the police, but if the city estabishes a crap pattern with us or DC37, the cops won't get all that far.

As we face a right to work nation, UFT leadership has decided to refuse to answer questions from the only democratically elected representatives of high schools. They've decided that four observations is better than two. The fact that I don't know a single working teacher not on UFT payroll who agrees is neither here nor there. They've controlled everything for 50 years and their primary message appears to be, "Don't pay attention to that man behind the curtain."
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