Monday, October 18, 2021

UFT Executive Board October 18, 2021---Health Care Concerns and More

UFT Secretary LeRoy Barr--Welcomes us. Minutes approved. Nominations to replace Sterling Roberson, who has retired as CTA VP.

Mike Sill--Nominates Leo Gordon, who worked in a CTA school. Taught how to be effective organizer and how students learned in CTA setting. Gordon can extend Sterling's embrace of technology. Was helpful teaching how to do remote teaching. No one better qualified. 

No other nominees. Leo Gordon is unopposed. 

Gordon--Thanks committee, is honored, CTE is my life. Believes in it and will help usher in new generation of professionals.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew--Congratulates Gordon. Thanks coordinators for Strides. Happy 3D mammograms are up and running. 

Last week, D 75 took huge hit on paras. Many unvaccinated paras were D75. UFT called schools, asked how many had been nominated and not processed. There were hundreds. DOE took no responsibility, saying there were things missing in system. UFT reached out to those people to fill in whatever was missing, and got 500 paras processed today. Still working on it. All about communication.

Biggest challenges are student communities not being supported properly. Former Rikers school was locking members in rooms and not letting them out. Again DOE took no responsibility. We pressured them and city hall complained to state. Constantly dealing with these challenges. 

Critical of mayor. Over two months of decisions based on what will help him run for next office. Have had many phone conversations with Eric Adams to try and help with transition. 

DN says Eric Adams is rolling back program for retirees. Adams said he never said that. We have to communicate more than ever. Over Election Day, for example. We had asynchronous agreement. Said yes Thursday, no Sunday, then that they had until 15th to inform or it was remote. No way to run school system. 

Through this year and next we will look at health care for both retirees and in service. Retiree plan will be good. Many spreading misinformation. We will make sure retirees are happy. We still have to deal with in service health care. DC lobbyists spending billions lobbying NOT to cap drug costs. Pharma companies very much against it. Bot Republicans and Dems said they want to stop it. We were able to push legislation on surprise billing. We want you to use ER when it's an emergency. Nothing about health care is free. We bargain for it all the time and pay for it. When people start pushing single payer they dont understand we will lose what we have now and going forward.

We've already paid for health care. value gone if it passes. Billions in budget. If health care needs 4.5 billion increase it's coming from education. We will push this out in communications. 

Going from mayor to governor race will make things interesting. Bloomberg wants to be relevant again. We will follow, and do more impact bargaining. Changes require it. We will help people understand issues. 

Close to vaccine for 5-11 year olds. LA already mandated vaccines for eligible students. Adams will look toward doing that, he says. People will come to us for our opinion. Thanks to Strides and D75 again. 

Impact bargaining is operational.

?--Had agreement with DOE, Paras could be sent to schools, DOE violated. Have to be placed in proper borough, reverse seniority order. Ended in one week. Another redeployment agreement also violated almost immediately. Filed operational complaint, resolved as of Friday. Those placed interborough get $67 per day. 

Special Ed. Recovers Services--Case managers had to meet with teachers, contact parent, make plan. Two per session hours for every student on caseload for every student, to be done after schools. Issue with people allowed to work from home, should be resolved this week.

?--Digital classroom, should be done by Oct. 1. One day worth of lessons in it. Will be $225 supplemental this month. Instructional lunch--Children having lunch while teacher is teaching--teachers get coverage every time that happens. 

Report from Districts-

?--As of 4 today, UFT raised 95,000 dollars. Michael Freedman team raised 5K.

?--Please encourage seniors to fill out Al Shanker scholarship forms. Will be student portal this year to upload transcripts. Next year they can apply online. 

6:36 We are adjourned. 

?--Sub incentive.50 day for certain time.

Debbie Poulos--operational process--Last year we had expedited process. Now we have new agreement--Five school days at school and district level, and we meet once a week as needed. We have one escalated case on instructional lunch from a high school. 

Questions--

Digital classrooms--Is it four hours for every person?

A--225 each for everyone. 

Note: I seem to have lost the last few minutes of the meeting here. Not sure why. Ended at 6:26.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Pro-Charter Adams Pays Lip Service to Saving Medicare for NYC Retirees

In one of the most cynical ploys I've seen, in the last few days at least, Democratic mayoral shoo-in Eric Adams is trying to bolster his pro-union cred. He's publicly criticizing the de Blasio-MLC deal to place NYC retirees on a Medicare Advantage plan by default. He calls it a "bait and switch." In many respects, that's true. Retirees had every expectation of joining Medicare for no added cost and are now being told, come January, that will cost you an extra 200 bucks or so per month, per person. 

This has been the battle cry of those who oppose this move, and perhaps some of them will read this story and come to support Adams, as has UFT. It doesn't really matter whether they do or not. Adams is going to be the next mayor. His main opposition is Curtis Sliwa, a cartoonish figure, a publicity-seeking serial liar with xenophobic and sexist tendencies. If you like the Proud Boys, Sliwa's your guy. I don't think that will fly with New Yorkers. 

Let's take a closer look at Adams ostensibly standing up for union member rights. If you go to the very end of the DN article, it says this:

But he admitted that, if he’s elected, he’s unsure how much power he’ll have to undo de Blasio’s proposal.

What does that tell you? It tells me he's going to do absolutely nothing to block this proposal. Adams is not going to step into office just to be vilified by the press for ostensibly costing the city a bunch of money to support union members. The papers hate unions. I mean all of them, up to and including the faux-liberal NY Times, which has an education reporter who fairly regularly trashes UFT as though its something everyone should take for granted. 

More importantly, and you wouldn't know this from the other nights Delegate Assembly, Adams has taken six-million dollars from a pro-charter PAC that has close ties to Michelle Rhee and Eva Moskowitz. The fact is this PAC does not support union, and the fact is the overwhelming majority of charters are non-union. When Adams is mayor, he will undoubtedly move to expand them, whether or not he takes the time to make nice with UFT. That PAC didn't hand him suitcases of cash just for fun.

If you are a union supporter, you do not enable and encourage non-union work. While it's nice that Adams gets up and calls this anti-union before all but admitting he'll do nothing to stop it, it would be a lot nicer if he disavowed his own blatantly anti-union ties. And that's not gonna happen, because the ties he wears are paid for by Students First, a name that misleads you because what it really means is Teachers Last.

I've had student teachers who couldn't find jobs in public schools who got stuck working for charters. It's a living, but not a career. You jump through all sorts of hoops and they fire you anyway. That in itself is not bad, because there's always another willing to hire you. This notwithstanding, we don't want our kids growing up jumping from gig to gig, especially in a country and state that doesn't guarantee health insurance. 

Adams himself worked himself up to captain in NYPD and retired with a nice fixed pension and health care for life. It's unconscionable that he supports enterprises that will provide much less for NYC's children. Adams, evidently, is a firm believer in, "I've got mine, and now screw the rest of you."

That's hardly the sort of example to set for NYC's children. It's pathetic that we have only these two viable candidates in what's perhaps the bluest city in the United States. To say we could do better would be the understatement of the year, if not the decade.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

On Persuasion, Lack Thereof, and UFT Endorsing a Bought-and-paid-for Charter Shill

 Last night's DA was remarkable on multiple levels. There was talk about NYCH, a bill that would provide health care for all New Yorkers. We heard that we would lose money if it were enabled, but no particulars were offered. If that were to be the case, it would behoove us to modify the bill so that it ceased to be the case. Then, we should support it. Health care for all, however we go about it, is a moral imperative.

Mostly, though, was the 180-degree turnaround on Eric Adams. Just weeks ago, Michael Mulgrew was speaking as disparagingly about Adams as I would. Last night, though, judging from what was said of the resolution, you'd think he was savior of the universe, a Marvel super hero, or a national treasure of some sort.

The fact is that Adams took six million dollars from charter interests, and not just any charter interests. He took it from a PAC affiliated with Students First.  Students First was founded by Michelle Rhee, who blathered on about the perfidy of teachers, had a miracle cure to improve schools, failed by every measure, and now peddles fertilizer of a more literal sort. You can see Jenny Sedelis if you click the link, who once worked for Eva Moskowitz, and pretty much still does. I'd always see her quoted back in the Bloomberg days, and if you thought they were fun, get ready for Eric Adams.

Some of the arguments I heard last night, likely all of them, were preposterous beyond belief. One person got up on his hind legs and said that we needed to fight Sliwa because of his involvement with charters. It's certainly true that Sliwa supports charters, but just as true that Adams does. In fact, the charter interests have put their money behind Adams, quite literally, and most certainly expect a return on their investment. Not one pro-Adams speaker even mentioned Adams' support of charters, and if you didn't know better, you'd think that we were battling charter interests. We are absolutely not doing that.

Another speaker got up and spoke of how we needed to support our members, you know, the ones we've been misleading about Adams and his positions on charter schools. Were that to be a valid point, we'd need to give them a vote, or at the very least survey them. Of course, we've done neither. I'm not averse to representative democracy, but I have a real problem misrepresenting this endorsement as the will of rank and file. Any rank and file familiar with the work of Diane Ravitch would have serious issues with this endorsement, as do I.

Another speaker got up and spoke to what Adams has done. He did this. He did that. He's our great supporter. Yet weeks ago the president was telling us he was in the pocket of charter interests, to absolutely not select him, and that the charters really wanted to be a force with which to be reckoned. Whoever this speaker was had no issue ignoring that utterly, and reading a litany of incredibly wonderful things that Adams did, all the while ignoring the six million dollars he accepted from people who hate us and everything we stand for.

There was also an argument that the selection committees did a lot of work. This notwithstanding, during primary season they determined to oppose Adams. 

Now there is an argument to be made for supporting Adams, though I heard no such thing last night. That argument was made to me privately by someone in a position to understand why UFT leadership may be doing this. That is the possibility that, if we support Adams, we can counter the anti-public-education forces who have pretty much bought him. Now that may be valid, though I don't really believe it us.

I remember our good friend Hillary Clinton, who we supported before we supported Obama, telling us there were things we could learn from "public charter schools." Just by calling them that, she granted them validity I don't believe they merit. Charters are, in fact, where anti-public-school folks went when they failed to sell vouchers to the public.

And I remember our good friend Barack Obama, who we supported when Hillary lost that nomination. I also remember Arne Duncan, whom he appointed as Secretary of Education. Duncan was the one who pushed the ironically named "Race to the Top," which left us with the awful, counter-productive evaluation system we now face. It also contributed to the mountain of testing our poor students face, sometimes used to rate teachers. 

The fact is Obama was a Democrat, supposedly our supporter, but very much under the sway of Bill Gates and his merry band of reformies. Education Secretary Duncan saw Hurrican Katrina as an opportunity, He privatized the entire NOLA school system and declared that Katrina was the best thing to happen to education in NOLA. That, of course, was because hiw wealthy BFFs were finally profiting from it. Also, there was no more messy union to stand in their way. You gotta love a Democrat who kills union and calls it progress. I did not vote for Barack Obama in his second term.

I don't anticipate good things from an Adams administration. Mulgrew said Bloomberg was talking to him, and I could very easily anticipate Bloomberg mach two. Personally, I very much hope I'm wrong, and that Adams turns out to be a reasonable guy, despite the suitcases of cash he happily took from people who hate us and everything we stand for. 

However, aside from educational visionary Diane Ravitch, who isn't even a politician, I've never seen a single reformy see the light. 

All they seem to see is the cash.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

UFT Delegate Assembly October 13, 2021--UFT Endorses Pro-Charter Adams as Friday the 13th Occurs on Wednesday

UFT President Michael Mulgrew--Introduces CL Jennifer Brown.

Brown--Speaks of Carl Plummer, who took her place as CL. Fought for all students and co-workers. Will miss him dearly.

Moment of silence.

Mulgrew--Welcomes newcomers to DA. Will be easy year, says sarcastically. Opening was very hectic. Thanks all who opened their arms to students. Has been much turmoil since. Thanks those who do the work that will get union through challenge. Says it's not easy. 

Wants to recognize all District Reps. Asks them to stand. 

Reflects on last year, and says we were constantly trying to change and adjust. Key to school is stability and we don't have it now. Probably won't have it this year either. Speaks of agreements made through operational complaints last year. 2200 made last year, over 2K resolved. Normally we use grievance process, but many things we're asked to do now aren't covered in CBA. Teaching in a pandemic is new thing. Negotiating often yelling back and forth with DOE. They think it's only about them in central. 

We have to keep focus on work being done at school and instructional process. All of these agreements had compensation tied to them when DOE broke them. We're working under new conditions, and if they break agreements, we need to be compensated. All change, though it's right thing now, is not good for us or children of NYC. It's stress on top of stress.

But we are stuck in a pandemic. We'll have to work this way until we get out of it. We have to continue negotiating because their management is very flimsy. This is uber-stress on everyone right now. Members want to know how to take care of things, but answers constantly change. Not good for instructional practices.

We're beyond flexible. No matter how much we plan, we know things won't work out as we expect. We don't need craziness from outside our schools intruding. We need to recognize we've had a lot of stress and there will be more. Hope things will go back to normal without constant disruption. Not happening this month. 

Our focus for this year is to figure how to relieve as much stress as possible, even though it will be stressful year. I'm waiting for January. We're at end of an administration, never a good time. New admin will have its own challenges. Pre-K through entire city is positive. Haven't solved challenge of DOE knowing it has to help schools rather than hold them accountable. 

How we help each other reduce stress will be this year's challenge. We shouldn't be changing rules and debating how to measure three feet.  All of a sudden, because we had no observations, people don't have two Es in a row, so DOE says they need formal observation.

We need to move membership in better place. That is the job, and that's why you were elected. CLs need to support one another. That's a major piece. We have to help people do their jobs, and make them easier when we can. All of you have gone above and beyond. We need everyone who will take that challenge on. I believe this school year will end it, but I believed that last year too.

We have agreement on partial closings,with compensation attached. We believe it will be tough to close elementary entirely, and we are reinterpreting partial closures for them. When you or members are told to supply instructional support remotely, partial closure agreement goes into effect. 

COVID protocols--City couldn't deny what was put forth in last week's council hearing. DOH can change protocols, and did so around NYC schools. Said principal or school responsible for determining close contact. Some principals say whole class. They may be getting calls saying this is frowned upon. Shouldn't be that way.

Can only close school if you determine COVID happened because people brought it in, but DOH not doing investigations, therefore no evidence available and no closure. Three feet is no longer three feet, now measured from center of desk to center of desk. Last year we had strictest protocols in US. This was probably done via polls that didn't ask whether they wanted to be with others who tested positive. Probably by pols looking to advance.

Numbers have dropped dramatically in last few weeks. Very low percentage. We know everyone is vaccinated, but still, teachers take great pride in keeping students safe. Instinctual to us. Our critics don't understand this. If you put our children and ourselves at risk, you will have to deal with us and hear from us.

DOE is Lord of the Flies. Who's next? Who will keep job? 

We did emergency agreement because of vaccine mandate. We wanted schools to have enough flexibility to stay safe. We can't have multiple classes in auditoriums. Ed. officials stayed at DOE and redeployed everyone who wasn't. They did it wrong, we have to fix, constant challenge. They don't think about schools first.

National--looking at big package, infrastructure. We want our schools to have money to go completely green and new ones built with zero consumption. Met last night w Sen. Schumer. Ventilation was big problem. We fixed, put in air purifiers. Why did it take a pandemic? We filed safety complaints for 15 years but schools not covered by OSHA. Within three months, we fixed. NYC needs major investment in school facilities. We need big infusion of cash. 

Ruled against us on everything in NLRB for past four years. Hope future is better.

State--June is primary for governor. State party will choose candidate in February at state Democratic convention. Have met with Hochul. Good on our issues. But there will be many other candidates. We'll see where we go.

City council--Next hearing about forcing DOE to lower class size. This is our legislation. Over 400 schools could lower class size right now, but up to schools. Won't happen without plan in place, Real estate development, and seats. City has housing crisis. Where housing is built will have relation to school seats. 240 school seats built for Hudson Yards with 6K units of housing. 

General elections NYC--Series of endorsements today. One will be up for debate. AS CL I had three principals. Greeted with open arms when they came it. 'Worked with two, failed with one. Happy we have good plans. Want to move ahead. We need a partner to help us with Tweed. If we want to have a partner, we have to ask if you want one. This delegation will make that decision. We can say we don't want a partner but I don't recommend it.

Medicare Advantage Plus--This year in service plan comes up. We have a health care crisis in this union. Fight is to keep what we have and try to expand. Nothing is free. Will be a struggle for entire MLC. 

I know the name Medicare Advantage is bad thing. Most are horrendous. Not recommending Joe Namath plan, which is terrible. We knew, within three years, we'd be looking at major retiree premiums. We don't like premiums. We don't want to pay for things we've earned, and it's used against us in contract negotiations. 

We tried to work with them, but hospitals ripping us off. We got surprise billing legislation in NYS. I have to argue with people who charge 500$ to take temperature. We found out that a group can form its own Advantage plan. Not like anyone else's in country. Three years from now, will be seen as nothing but a success. People yelling at us about it will take credit for it. 

Keep pushing if you have complaints.

SBO deadline October 15. Many of you used it way past. Do you want it extended again? Surveys room, most wish to extend it. SBOs in our contract, not principals' If you don't like it, don't use it.

Never be afraid of observations. As leaders, push that culture. Have been in schools where observation cycle was used well, have also seen it used badly. We oppose formal/ informal, are in negotiations now, will get info out tomorrow or Friday. 

New teachers--5000 new UFT members. Sending out lists to DRs. Have been many problems with lists, corrupted files. 

Instructional lunch means child is eating lunch in classroom. HS students who grab lunch, eat in class, is instructional lunch. Many codes have not been created for payroll secretaries. Payroll secretaries haven't gotten clear instructions. You as school need to keep track because you've done work for many coverages. Be in close contact with payroll secretary. 

Election Day--Postings going up for people to upload asynchronous work for students. Consultation with DOE--asked for official position whether people were at home remotely--Said now maybe not. Still discussing. Principal must inform you by October 15th. If not, working remotely.

Record for lowest number of oversized classes this year. Only 41 schools, usually 4-600. Not asking as remedy to place more people in classroom, of course.

Screenings--Academic, social-emotional---Screenings should be coordinated with principal and chapter. Academic screenings done next Friday, 22nd. All of that screening will produce a lot of info school needs to act on. There are compensation packages tied to it. If CL not part of discussions, could be problematic. 

Social emotional screening was supposed to be November, now December. 

We supported and helped DOE put forth proposal to US DOE to help students with IEPs. We received a grant. Negotiating with city. All work to be done by UFT members. Academic recovery has compensation attached. You can have up to thirty students, two hours per student.

Started UFT debt clinic two years ago. Student loans big issue. We had people retiring and still paying. National scandal. Hired law firm. Thousands of members went through program. Egregious behavior by loan companies, mostly Naviance. We filed lawsuit against Betsy de Vos and US DOE. Lawsuit settled today. Any teacher whose name was on lawsuit has student debt completely erased. Anyone denied access to programs will have ability to have entire case reevaluated. Many members tried to do right thing and were screwed by loan companies. 

Thanks all who wore pink. Very big issue to us. For years we knew rate of breast cancer among our membership was higher than national average. We now are big supporters of Strides. Servia and team have raised over ten million dollars. We want this eradicated. We will help members in health crisis. Decisions based on protecting and making better, and holding those responsible who don't treat us well. 

We made agreement with MSK so members and families had access. They are best, but nowhere near most expensive. Price doesn't dictate quality. 3D imaging  for mammograms is what we need. Emblem Health has partnered with Lenox Hill and expanded it. They can detect problems three years before other technology, and may prevent cancer. This week we are announcing we have deal in place. Our members can get right into 3D mammograms.

Half our membership, 50 and above, didn't have baseline mammogram. Want number at 100%. Thanks all who are doing Strides.

LeRoy Barr--Making Strides walk this weekend for NYC, Brooklyn was last week. CL training Oct 17 postponed. Now CLs can participate in Stride walk. Tuesday Oct 26 virtual town hall. Election Day--lot of politicial resolutions, but day is November 2nd. Don't forget to vote. Teacher union day, Nov. 7. Usually first Sunday in Nov. to commemorate first strike, this is exact anniversary. UFT Veterans committee Nov 11 parade, 10 AM, next DA Nov. 17.

Mulgrew--CL training may be hybrid. 15 minute question period

Questions:

Q--MOSL deadline 10/22--DOE put out guidance--Will there be UFT guidance?

A--Will send out Friday.

Q--Global two year scope, last year were waivers.

A--Are conversations at SED. Nice to have commissioner like Betty Rosa, who knows what we do, makes decisions in best interests of children. 

Q--What happened to subs mayor said he had lined up?

A--I don't want to say he's lying, but there weren't 11K--there were 6500. Best thing was court intervened. Would've been bad if we'd gone that Tuesday. Redeployments helped. We now have enough subs. We have about 2K out for being unvaccinated. Subs may not have correct certificates.Hopefully long term solution by next week.

Q--Last year there was position for lead paras...

A--Still available this year. Paras have been phenomenal throughout this. 

Q--NY health act--Delegate Assembly supported it, but UFT ran ad against it. Why are we paying COPE dollars against things we supported.

A--We will not support NYHA. Will take thousands of dollars out of UFT pockets. If we can get our health care at no cost, we would do it. Not what NYHA will do. I know facts on social media are what people go on. But our lawyers say otherwise. 

Q--New teachers in our school haven't been able to get paid. DOE says they mailed checks, and when they used direct deposit that didn't work either.

A. Give us name and Mike Sill will get back to you. We will handle this. Check in mail not appropriate.

Q--Heard your testimony city council hoping to get 20% back for weekly testing. Any update?

A--Things are falling apart at city hall. Not where we were last year. Was model for country. This year it isn't. We will continue to push. We have daily meeting on this issue. At least numbers have gone down in last three weeks. Prepared for all levels of action if things go awry.

Q--School nurses being pulled to other schools, split in uncovered schools, running ads to pay more money than working nurses--What can we do as coalition to get permanent nurses in every building? Don't want to wait for death of a student.

A--School nurses have to have a lot of knowledge about all students and conditions. Thought we passed this hurdle last year. City should've understood they needed a plan in place. We need a nurse in every building. We need a compensation package that will attract working nurses. Eric Adams worked side by side with us to get this. DOE says they can't do it, because nurses are under different contracts. Pay disparity between DC37 and UFT nurses--They have no motivation to make nurse in every building a reality. Now we have many more children but not one in every building. Sometimes we have one for thousands of kids. City admin is crumbling, not dealing with issues. This year we were short 1500 safety agents because of mandate. We will continue to push. 

Motions--

Carmen Romero--for this month--add resolution in third spot. Wants city council to select a woman for council speaker. We know presence of women's voices is paramount, and women will have majority on council. UFT should seek to empower women seeking city council speaker position, and advocate for women to serve. 

Online 87% yes. Internally passes by more, says Mulgrew, and reso passes.

Point of order--Peter Lamphere--Roberts rules say chair should be impartial, Called two members of UFT caucus--

Mulgrew rules out of order--Says not about caucuses. Says he called on him too.

Rafael Tompkin--for next month--On observing moment of silence for 9/11--Fell on Saturday this year, Sunday next. If it falls on Saturday Sunday or holiday, not covered. Wants it to be observed following Monday in all school divisions, and to use appropriate curriculum for all levels. 

Online 85% yes, Mulgrew says over that in person, placed on agenda.

Resolutions--

Peter Lamphere--Asks for extension to motion period, says hundreds of members rallied today.

Mulgrew--Says people have volunteered time, out of order, in resolution period. 

Chants about saving health care heard in background.

Liz Perez-- UFT endorsements of city council officers. Many interviews. Just wants to ask everyone to endorse 48 candidates. 

?--Rises in favor. Proud of SI screening committee. Knows committees throughout city spend many hours doing work. Did professional dedicated job. SI has former UFT member running, supports lowering class size. Looking to help unionize charters, though not a fan. 

Chen Volpi--Speaks in favor. As member of political action committee, says much work was put into this. Spent hours on Zoom with team. If pol chosen by team, is candidate we can rely on.

Vote to call question---Passes. 86% online. Mulgrew says more in person.

Resolution---Passes. 86% online.  

Point of information--Motion to extend in time or agenda?

Mulgrew--Can be either way. 

Rashad Brown--Asks to extend to 2 and new 3. 

Passes--Online 62% Passes in house.

Liz Perez--Endorsement for mayor, city and borough offices. Asks for endorsement of Eric Adams, Brad Lander, Jumaane Williams, Mark Murphy, (someone else I didn't catch).

Seung Lee---Rises to support. Long lengthy process. People who've been CLs know how lengthy process was. Selected people who are eminently qualified and will support schools. Adams not favorite. If only charters endorse him, it would concern me. To rep school, please follow with all members and people you rep and vote for this reso.

Elan-- Opposes. With all due respect, we did not endorse Adams. Has harmful policies. Have received mailers from UFT protesting his policies. There is a better alternative, someone who supports us.

Marvin Rieskin--RTC, Was CL, DR, director of political action. Rises to support Adams. Has worked to support nurses, to support ed. by providing funding. Is a union person. Took civil service exam, was transit cop and captain in NYPD. Was in State Senate, supported all measures NYSUT and UFT asked to support. After Marty Markowitz term limited, he ran. Worked with us in Brooklyn. Has supported public ed. Respects teachers, not DOE.

Ken Achiron--RTC, former CL. Supports Adams. Says opponent too involved in charters.

Question called. 75% yes online. 

Resolution passes 76% online. 

Carmen Romero--Historic moment for women, majority in city council, but not enough. Woman must be placed at helm on city council. We need to lean into leadership, empower women on city council to seek position. We will be better for it.

Mulgrew on floor speaks in favor. Important issue. Disturbed our major leadership positions are held by men. Worked hard to support female candidates. They are majority. This may not be easy lift. ...

Robert Belinski--Wants to know why we are spending so much time when it's limited, addressing political special interests...

Barr rules out of order. 

?--Agrees with maker of resolution. Women huge voting block, community leaders across city, large majority of UFT. Important women have seat at table. Urges support.

Rashad Brown--Calls question.

Passes.

Resolution passes--87% online. 

We are adjourned 6:26

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Adventures in Deaning

I'm a dean this year. You can see me walking the halls with my little radio before 7 AM. I get to meet people I've never met before. Unlike my students, they speak English, so it's a pretty notable difference.

Today I met a young woman who was already cynical at 15. She was in the large hallway near the cafeteria and the gyms, which we call the strip. She was standing with two of her friends, and I always ask non-moving students where they are going. They showed me a bunch of fliers they were going to hang up for the SO, or something. 

"Have fun," I said.

"I'm not having fun," she replied.

"Well, have fun later then," I told her.

"I won't," she said.

I was a little upset by this. After all, I figure I've earned the right to have a bad outlook if I want to, but by my reckoning, she hasn't. A few minutes later, I saw her laughing with her friends while they were hanging up Whatever It Was they were hanging up.

"You lied to me. You're definitely having fun," I told her.

She nodded.

My next adventure wasn't so great. I was walking down the hallway in the second floor when I saw a young woman rushing down the hall. Where are you going, I asked. To the bathroom, she said. I asked why she didn't have a pass and she started lecturing me about how I always hassle her when she's just trying to do her thing, and then became rapidly less complimentary. I asked for ID and she made a great show of refusing. I followed her, but she ducked into the bathroom. I actually waited for her. I decided to be very clever and tricky.

So when she came out, I decided to follow her to class. She must've been going there, because she kept telling me she was, and why didn't I leave her alone, and a lot of things I won't write here. She then walked downstairs, and then out the building. I saw her approaching my beloved trailers and thought I had her. I went to the last one, but she wasn't there. I then noticed the trailers were no longer fenced in, and the young woman had run into the field to places unknown. I gave up.

Later I met a young man who was standing on the strip, doing nothing, not even looking at his phone. I asked him where he was going.

"No English," he said.

This was very surprising to me. Anyone who really had no English should've been in my classes. The young man was very surprised when I asked him the same question in Spanish. In Spanish, he told me he was finished with school and going home. I was a little jealous, but I asked him who his English teacher was. 

"Ms. C." he said.

I happened to know that Ms. C. teaches the higher level kids. I told him that, and then I told him that if he really didn't know English, he'd be in my class. Then I said, in English, "You speak English, brother."

By then he'd had enough of me and my nonsense. He left the building and went home. Soon thereafter, the bell rang and I did the same.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

On Cozying Up to Reformies and Endorsing Our Enemies

I was pretty shocked the other day when leadership moved to endorse Eric Adams for mayor. I shouldn't have been because it was reported elsewhere, but that's on me. 

Now there's a saying to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. I see Randi in the photo there with Bloomberg and I don't blame her for trying to work things out with him. However, I vividly recall that he he ended up being our worst adversary in my career, at least, and making nice with him paid off not at all. (Don't get me started on trying to be buddies with Bill Gates, who walked out of being keynote at an AFT convention and immediately started attacking teacher pensions.) 

One person at our meeting suggested we ought not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and that we ought to be more optimistic. I'd suggest that reforminess is not only not perfect, not good, but that it is the single most important factor in diminishing our union and profession over the last two decades. Every teacher in America is still feeling Race to the Top, initiated by the administration of a President we endorsed. As for being more optimistic, I'd suggest it's far more important to learn from experience. Doubtless you've heard the expression that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

On Monday night, Michael Mulgrew announced that Eric Adams was meeting with Bloomberg, which didn't surprise me in the least. After all, Adams took six million dollars from a pro-charter group. Mulgrew himself told us that anti-union groups like so-called Students First were trying to take City Hall back. And yet now we are poised to endorse Adams. Are we indirectly endorsing Students First?

Make no mistake, this group is anti-union. Most charter employees are not unionized and work on temporary contracts. Charter school employees I know jump from school to school every few years and take it in stride. Making teaching into a gig rather than a career helps neither students nor teachers, and we should oppose it absolutely. 

Reformies, on the other hand, can suggest nonsense like teachers don't improve after the first two years, and splash that in tabloids where people may buy it. The fact is working teachers learn constantly, and those who don't can't hack a demanding job like this. While Moskowitz can hand prefab lesson plans to her disposable teachers, or hire her unqualified son to teach whatever, those of us who plan our own lessons give a piece of ourselves to our students. We are all different, and teacher voice can and should be more influential and helpful to kids than endless test prep.

I heard various rationales for supporting Adams. One was that he only supported charters because he supported parental choice. That was unpersuasive. Charters, in fact, are the privatization of education for profit, and no, it does not matter whether or not charters call themselves non-profit. Eva Moskowitz, for example, doesn't do this for fun, and pays herself around 800K a year.

We know how privatization works. I have known people who've died for lack of health care, or for fear of going broke for an ER visit. For years, I've seen musicians I admire hold fundraising events to pay their medical bills, something unheard of in most countries. Privatized prisons have bought off judges who sent kids there. The city is now offering so-called Medicare Advantage to retirees. Even if it ends up offering coverage equivalent to government-run Medicare, there's something unethical about our supporting privatization. We should work to make health care a public good.

So personally, I don't care why Adams supports charters, although the six million dollar contribution is a large clue to me. I'm pro-union, and most charters are anti-union. Many charter teachers lack the options and freedom they need to develop teacher voice, and I don't believe children benefit from being marched around like toy soldiers and peeing themselves because they're too frightened to take bathroom breaks. Students First will want a return on their six million dollar investment, and I'm sure improving conditions in public schools will not be one of them. They'd just as soon close us all down and make more money off the backs of all city kids.

While charters may have been conceived as a way to offer more academic freedom, they've been hijacked by people who aim to profit off of education, cripple union, and reduce teachers to script-readers. Our children don't  need terrified wage slaves as role models, and deserve to grow up with opportunities better than becoming charter school teachers or Walmart "associates." (And it's no coincidence that the Walmart family gives heavily to charters. When they found people wouldn't support vouchers in open elections, that was the next go-to.)

You can rationalize Adams' support of charters by saying he only wants parental choice. I can rationalize Thanos clicking his fingers and destroying half of all life by saying it's good for the environment. But these are pathetically weak arguments. 

And yes, I know that Adams' opponent is a lowlife who means us no good. That said, Adams is no bargain either, and a veritable shoo-in. It seems we get everything wrong at every step in every mayoral race. We've looked foolish many, many times, and once Adams starts sticking it to us, we'll look foolish (at best) again. 

We should be neutral in this race. 

If you really want to vote for a candidate, I suggest you write in my dog Toby. He stayed with me every day when I taught remotely, and was a fabulous co-teacher, inspiring both me and my students. He is head, tail, and shoulders preferable to either of the major candidates.

Forget Adams. Forget Sliwa. The people's choice is Toby in 2021.

Monday, October 04, 2021

UFT Executive Board October 4, 2021--Hybrid Model--UFT Executive Board Endorses Pro-Charter Eric Adams

UFT Secretary LeRoy Barr--Welcomes us both online and in person. Says David Shulman, former DR has passed, and holds moment of silence. 

George Altamari--Says we can all reflect on his life and leadership. Was active as CL in several schools. Involved in many activities, including strikes. May he rest in peace.

Vincent Gaglione--Was bigger than life. Always well-dressed. Smooth talker. Helped when I was borough rep by making connections. Was a good guy.

Barr--Sterling Roberson has retired. Thanks him and appreciates all his years of service. Will be round of meetings in which we will take nominations for the vacancy.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew--Thanks entire staff who worked all last week to face challenge of today. Overall, today was the day. Good we had extra days, but today was still tough. 4K of us are out. Perhaps 3K on unvoluntary leave, rest have accommodations. Never happy when someone is taken off payroll. Court cases stated over 100 years of vaccine mandates stated they were legal, but we needed to work for exemptions and accommodations, currently about 900.

We don't want schools to combine classes. We have given flexibility for the week but will monitor everything. Many schools have dealt with this internally.

Tomorrow I testify at state hearing on what city is doing with fed money. Then we will meet on quarantining and contact tracing.

Special ed. town hall Thursday. We will also have one with people on involuntary leave. Anyone who gets vaccinated can come in next day. We will see where it goes. Big problem with paras out. Schools trying to process subs. Hat off to UFT staff and chapter leaders dealing with challenges. Want to keep it short because everyone had long days.

Questions/ answers

Q--# citywide teachers not permitted entry? 

A. No finite number. Few hundred showed with vax cards. Under 3K if you don't include accommodations. More than half paraprofessionals.

Spring break pay--Step two done, waiting for city's response. Scheduled early December. We are ready. 

David Campbell--Looking at mid December, most likely. 

Will Adams be pro-charter?

Was vetting committee's biggest concern. Bloomberg meeting with him. Bloomberg would love to try and charterize NYC. We are watching, talk to Adams all the time. Working cautiously.

What agreements were made on impact bargaining?

Will present at next meeting. Every title in emergency can do coverage. Sent out to CLs.

D75 teachers lacking guidance--What if students won't wear masks--We don't suspend, so how do we handle exposure and non-compliance?

Majority of d75 sites had people wear masks and shields. Some teachers wore medical gowns because some students had difficulty with masks. They get more PPE than regular building. Have seen schools where everyone wore them.

What about buses, and cases related to it? Distancing on bus?

Numbers are coming down right now. Waning quickly where there is high vaccine rate. Of course we don't know what's next. We don't have all the answers to your questions. Had great relationship with testing team last year. This year there are changes and issues. School now has to determine what is close contact. Far from ideal. We will make sure people understand what's going on. We need hearing because we don't know what's coming. Disagree with mayor's policies.

What will happen to unvaccinated if Supreme Court overrules mandate?

If that happens they go back to work. There is a lot of law involved, and people have to know what we're being told by lawyers. They were very clear with us. Vaccine mandates have never been overturned, especially if they're done properly. This SCOTUS session could be very dramatic, but lawyers say they'd be shocked if overturned. We are over 97%, approaching 98, but we don't want anyone to lose their job. 

Thanks CLs, staff, for rising to occasion. 

Reports from districts:

Patricia Filomina--Had annual bocci tournament. Thanks SI people. Raised 1K for disaster relief.

Barr--Sean Rocowitz new SI rep.

Serbia Silva--100 teams for Strides. Asks people wear pink October 10 walk Brooklyn, October 17 elsewhere. 

Resolutions-- Endorsement for mayor, comptroller, public advocate. Including Eric Adams, says he will fight for worker rights. Jumaane Williams, Alvin Bragg, Mark Levin, Brad Lander, Mark Levin, Mark Murphy.

Michael Friedman--Lost paraprofessional Michael ?, asks for moment of silence.

Mike Schirtzer and Arthur Goldstein speak against Adams endorsement due to his support for charters and having taken money from pro-charter PACs.

Rashad Brown--We cannot find a perfect candidate. Speaks in favor of resolution.

Liz Perez--Position on charters is because he believes in parent choice. Has been good on other issues. Not anti-public ed. Created steam centers. Supports resolution. 

Anthony Harmon--In favor as it stands. Goes with hopes and not fears. Feels hopeful. Wants to educate him on issues. Has supported us on other issues. 

Debate closed.

Carries overwhelmingly.

Second resolution--City council endorsements--

Liz Perez--3/4 of city council will be changed. Interviewed 300 candidates. Names many names far too quickly for me to get down. 

Resolution carries without opposition.

We are adjourned. 6:44

Non-English Speakers Race to the Standardized Test

As everyone knows, learning English is not very important for newcomers to this country. Otherwise, why would the city, in its infinite wisdom, make them spend weeks taking the NYSESLAT exam? 

The NYSESLAT exam is supposedly to determine how much English they know. What it does, actually, is determine how Common Corey they are. Evidently Common Coriness is an important quality. Personally, I feel deprived because never in my life has anyone tried to determine just how Common Corey I am. Perhaps I shouldn't have graduated high school. 

Of course, in the days when I went to high school, we tested ridiculous things like how well you read or write. I actually had to write an essay on my English Regents exam, and I had no list of facts to be for or against. Now I did pretty well, if I recall correctly, but it's entirely possible I'm not Common Corey at all. How, then, could the city employ me and pay me to be a role model for these kids?

Oddly, when I teach advanced classes many of my students can no longer handle novels, like back in the old days before we rated the Common Coriness factor. Nor can many of them write their way out of paper bags. Perhaps we need a new standardized test to measure writing your way out of paper bags. Stranger things have happened.

In any case, so what if my students lose a few weeks of direct English instruction. If the instruction isn't helping them to pass multiple choice tests, or regurgitate a bunch of information they're for or against, what's really the point? After all, the genius who designed Common Core, David Somebody or Other, conclusively determined that no one gives a crap what you think or feel. Therefore we have a newer English Regents exam. Though we've removed the words Common Core from them, it still tests how Common Corey you are.

Another thing I just learned is this--Since my students only lose a week or two with the Common Coriness test, they need another one. I don't recall what it's called, but my supervisor just told me we start giving it on Wednesday. This test, evidently, will take multiple days, and is important because the superintendent wants to measure something or other of Great Importance.

And not only that, but later this year they've going to test them again to see how well they've learned Whatever It Is that's on this Very Important Test. Then, we're going to test them for a third time, just for good measure. We need to know how they do on multiple choice questions related to passages they don't understand at all.

Brilliant.

I said my students have only been here for a few months and know very little English, but that doesn't matter. This was decided way above our level  We need to determine whatever it is this test measures before we worry about trivial things like whether or not our students speak English. Evidently the superintendent, or the chancellor, or some other omniscient being even higher up has determined this needs to be done. As a lowly teacher, I don't get a vote on whether or not it's necessary.

So who cares if kids lose 10-20% of whatever slither of English instruction we have left after Part 154 cut ESL instruction into ribbons? The important thing is to find out Whatever It Is This Test Measures. Let's get on that right away, for goodness sake. 

Meanwhile, the mayor should economize and hire a monkey to do my job. Sure, maybe the monkey would have to use a recording rather than reading the instructions, but to tell you the truth, given my students don't know any English, the instructions won't make a damn bit of difference.

I continue to be grateful that the people above me know what's best. If it weren't for them, I'd fritter the whole year away teaching newcomers how to speak English.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

The Mask

There's nothing quite like coming to work every day with a mask on. I've tried a few now. At first, I was using the K95 masks from China. I was okay with them, but I read a lot about how you can't exactly trust the quality of things coming from China. 

There was also the breathing factor. One day I found it so hard to breathe I had to change into one of the blue and white masks we have lying around the school. They really are a lot easier, but I understand they don't provide you with much protection. My understanding is they function mostly to prevent you from infecting others. 

I switched to the KF94 from Korea. I bought a bunch of them last year. I've read their quality is more consistent and reliable than those coming from China. However, you have to be careful about them too. I found what appeared to be a great deal and ordered more of them, only to find that these were not actually Korean masks, but rather copies from China. I guess the MAGA hats aren't selling quite like they use to, and a factory's got to show a profit somehow.

At least one day I had to forgo the Korean mask and use a school one, you know, because just I needed to breathe, but since that day I've been okay with them. They kind of have a built-in air pocket, and you can adjust the little wire above your nose so that your glasses don't fog up at all. I'm not sure how much protection I actually need, but it's not only COVID but also flu season. Might as well be as safe as possible.

As a dean, I have to monitor the mask-wearing of students. Every now and then I have to tell a kid to pull the mask over the nose. I certainly understand the temptation to leave it below and breathe freely. But a mask below the nose is likely as good as no mask at all. Most of the kids seem to cooperate, in our building at least. 

What really surprises me is the number of adults not wearing masks properly. I guess I should expect that, given all the crap in the news and pseudo-news. You have politicians, the same ones who support the repeal of abortion rights, screaming bloody murder about the right to go unmasked. It's outrageous!

It's those goshdarn radical leftists forcing their idiotic notions about public health on us! Who the hell do they think they are? Didn't Tucker say just last night how awful that was? (Tucker, of course, has to either be vaccinated or take COVID tests DAILY, because that's the company policy over at Fox News. Evidently, they want a safe workplace no matter what their talking heads say.) 

So every time I see an adult with a mask hanging under a nose, I wonder if that person watches Tucker and is engaging in a not-at-all subtle act of rebellion. Of course, that's not a rebellion I particularly admire. Some people, in fact, are holding fast to their principles, refusing the vaccine, and going without a paycheck. 

Here's the thing, though. Over the years I've had nurses come into my classroom and say things like, "Maria, you need to be vaccinated or you can't come back to school." Honestly, I fail to see why we are so precious, why we are such delicate flowers that vaccine mandates can't apply to us. Vaccine mandates have been upheld by the Supreme Court as early as 1905, A new argument I'm hearing now is this isn't technically a vaccine since the science is different. Whatever it is, it prevents a whole lot of people from getting hospitalized and dying. Its widespread use is a public good. Most COVID is still spread by the unvaccinated, and that's why this has become more of a red state problem than it used to be.

Sorry, but if you can't wear a mask, if you can't roll up your sleeve and take the shot to help your community, you are not a hero. More likely you're a victim of the awful propaganda that we allow to pass as news in this country. And if that's the sort of thinking in which you indulge, I have to question your fitness to teach our children.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

There's No Tired Like Pandemic Tired

For a while, I thought it was just me. I've been coming home every day after work feeling like I've just crawled the entire Gobi Desert. I sit down and I don't want to get up. In fairness, I get to work by 6:30 AM and I usually wake up around 4 AM. Because our school is so outlandishly overcrowded, we're on a 14 period day. Because I'm a dean, I report period zero to help get kids in when they come early.

I've been talking to teachers a lot younger than I am who have the same experience. It doesn't matter when they come in. Everyone I know is adjusting to a new experience--going to work. While we've worked through the pandemic, teaching online is not quite the immersive experience that teaching face to face is. For me, at least, when I taught online I had little idea what, if anything, my students were doing. If I'm in a classroom I walk around and check work of every person in the room. I'm really a lot more useful as a live teacher. 

We know, though, what makes us tired. It's lack of oxygen, and when we sleep we replenish it. When you're wearing a mask all day, though, you get just a little less of it. I don't know about you, but given the plague I don't think a cheap mask is sufficient. I've been favoring KF94 masks from Korea. They have a sort of air pocket and adjust so you don't fog your glasses. I hope, of course, that they help keep us from contracting the virus.

Nonetheless, I'm kind of catching up. Yesterday I had a lot more energy than any day previous, and I'm hoping today will be even better. I've even started doing things after work aside from sitting zonked out in front of a television. I'm not complaining about work, actually. I'm just getting used to it again. 

I suppose we all are. It's shocking not only to be back, but also to be back masked. I have a whole new group of students and I don't really know what any of them even look like. For me, at least, it makes learning names just that much more difficult, especially as students move their seats around to find the best place for them. I don't really mind that, since my classes aren't so large, but I've cut a bunch of manila folders into name plates. They help, so far, but I'm really hoping not to need them soon. 

Then, of course, there's the stress of knowing we're in a pandemic. Against that landscape, we watch the mayor doing everything in his power to act like it's not happening. He wants all schools open and as little quarantining as possible. In a way, that's a good thing. However, it seems he's determined to do this with little or no regard to our safety or that of our students. As we all walk around knowing this, it's hard to feel energized.

As if that all isn't enough, we have people leaving the job rather than get the vaccine. While I am personally unlikely to miss people who make such a decision, it brings stress to those of us who remain. Some teachers may jump up and down at the opportunity to make more money teaching an extra class, but I'd argue it's not healthy to be stretched out so far. I never take an extra class. This job, under normal circumstances, is stressful and taxing, and no one ought to have to teach an extra class.

Clearly that doesn't concern Mayor de Blasio or any of the geniuses who inhabit Tweed. Not a single one of them will step off their pedestals and condescend to teach, or work as a security guard, or do any of the duties that will need doing as a result of the vaccine mandate. Make no mistake, I support the mandate, but I think there should've been thoughtful and extensive preparation for the inevitable parade of Tucker viewers out the door. In fact,  I think the mandate should be extended to all eligible students. However, I don't expect the mayor to go that way. While he's willing to piss off a few unionized school workers, he doesn't want to anger a much larger group of parents. His convictions extend just so far.

It's going to be a rough year. I wish every one of my colleagues around the city and state the best of luck.

We're certainly going to need it.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Boy Wonder Deals With Class Size

You always try to hope for the best, no matter what. These days especially, you hope for supervisors to be reasonable. After all, half the country is traumatized and terrorized, and the other half is deluded by demagogues on cable news. 

Given the tension everyone is feeling, you'd think some of Bloomberg's crazy supervisors would restrain their worst instincts.

Of course that won't happen. Their worst instincts are their only instincts, and hey, they used them to score the gig. If it worked this time, why wouldn't it make them principal? Superintendent? Chancellor? Dictator for life? Whatever works.

So I shouldn't be surprised to receive a story like this one in my email. But I was. You'd think, at my age, I wouldn't be so naive. But there it is:

Today my boy wonder AP comes in for a "walkthrough." Boy wonder AP takes note of the board, the bulletins, the lesson plan folder, and then says "It's very crowded in here. There's no social distancing right now."

"Yes, there's over 30 kids in here." I didn't say the second part, which is that it's hard to socially distance with 34 kids in a half-classroom.

Boy wonder AP frowns. "You can improve the spacing." I saw on his clipboard that "spacing" was one of the sticky notes he had written out.

"How? There's over 30 kids, two of whom are sitting at my desk because there's not enough desks."

Boy wonder AP furrows his eyebrows. Obviously, his clipboard full of sticky notes did not have an answer for this issue.

Finally, his eyes lit up. He had a solution! "If we move the teacher desks and bookshelves out of the room, then we can have another row of student desks."

It evidently doesn't occur to him that teacher's desk or no teacher's desk, it's impossible to have much "spacing" in a half-classroom with a roster of 34.

There's another science teacher teaching the same class. Her class only has 15 kids. I suggested moving some of my roster to hers to even out the rosters. Tada! We'd get the "spacing."

Boy wonder AP frowns again. "Miss ____ says she likes her classes small."

Well, don't we all.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Safety or Popcorn?

That's the dilemma we face at our school. On several occasions in years past, we complained about air-conditioners shorting out and dropping dead. The response we got, and I don't doubt the truth of it, is that the DOE will come in, march around the building, and say you have to get rid of that microwave, that refrigerator, that coffee machine, and a whole bunch of other stuff. 

This, of course, is a Catch-22 in one way. If you want the AC to work, you can't have any of these conveniences. So maybe you ignore an AC unit malfunctioning here and there. We never really pushed the issue. 

Now, though, we're facing a very different situation. I, for one, have three of the NYC non-HEPA air purifiers in my miserable little half classroom. None of them work for more than two minutes at a time. I don't know how good these things are, how well they work, or how essential they are. But my inclination, unlike the mayor's, is to err on the side of safety. I don't much care about whether or not I'm able to microwave popcorn after class.

Of course, I'm only speaking for myself. If you take an action that causes a lot of people to lose conveniences upon which they depend, they're likely to come kill you and stuff. So it's a risky move to advocate for the city to come in and deal with this, at least in the short term.

In the long run, the city ought not to hide behind formalities like this. Policy, evidently, is any school that complains is threatened. If they don't follow up, the city looks the other way. That's pretty convenient for Tweedies, who can sit around and do Whatever It Is they do, while schools like mine struggle to get by with 60-year-old electrical systems. Hey, a lot of things have happened since 1960. You don't see a whole lot of fuseboxes anymore, for example.

But that doesn't matter to Tweed. As long as they can save money to redecorate the Assistant Chancellor's office, or whatever it is they do with that bloated budge, they're golden. So what if a few thousand kids have to sit in sweltering miserable classrooms, or moldy broiling trailers? There are thumbs that need twiddling and video games that need playing. 

The fact is, a modern school should handle modern workplace conditions. People in offices have to eat sometimes. I don't know anyone who brings Sterno cans to work and we shouldn't have to either. Personally, I'd be happy to give up coffee or popcorn or whatever. But even if I weren't, it's on the city to update our electricity to a modern standard. 

People who threaten you when you make requests about human comfort or safety are slime. Being slime, of course, might be the first thing you put on your resume if you want a Tweed gig. 

I hope the next mayor cleans out that place from top to bottom, fumigates, and hires a staff that's Not Insane. More likely, having taken millions from her PAC,  he'll just turn the whole place over to Eva Moskowitz.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Observations on Observations, and Forced Formality

I was pretty surprised to learn that teachers rated effective would need to have a formal observation this year. It wasn't how I remembered our agreement with the city, but I got several messages saying this was the way it was. 

I then got a whole bunch of inquiries asking me why that was, and I had no idea until yesterday. You may recall the year before last we were suddenly working from home, and that no one got ratings that year.

Evidently, under the scenario of no rating one year and an effective the next, you are in line for one informal and one formal observation. A lot of effective-rated teachers were upset by this. Why were they facing consequences for an apocalypse not of their making? That's a reasonable question. 

I would further argue that having another person in the room for an entire period lessens the possibility for distancing and increases the risk of COVID infection. Ideally, we'd have as few people as possible in a classroom at all times. There are likely a whole bunch of classrooms that can't handle even a single observer without violating protocol. 

Personally, I'm not terribly upset about being observed. However, that's only because my supervisor is Not Insane. I'm afraid that's not the case for many of my colleagues. A good number of supervisors were trained in the Bloomberg era to be hateful and critical for the sake of reflecting Bloomberg's education philosophy. Half-man, half predatory bird Joel Klein ran around kissing Eva Moskowitz's ass and vilifying those of us who woke up each morning to do the actual work.

Then there are those supervisors who took the extra coursework to "get out of the classroom." They never respected our job, couldn't wait to slither our of it, and now get to stand around issuing directives to those of us who actually do what they could not, or did not want to. Those are just a few reasons why so many NYC supervisors are out of their minds.

Given that, it's not surprising that many teachers want to spend as little time as possible with these supervisors. I knew one teacher who had a-fib episodes every time he got near his supervisor. I had to sit through many meetings with this supervisor, making pompous pronouncements about whatever crossed his feeble mind. I'd sit there thinking there are a lot of people smarter than I am, but this guy just isn't one of them. 

A formal observation can be helpful if you trust your supervisor has something of value to share. Sadly, with so many terrible supervisors, that's far from the norm here in Fun City. There is, however, also the advantage of planning a lesson together. If it doesn't work, you can always ask, then, just why the hell they asked you to do it. And it's better than a drive-by from a Boy Wonder supervisor who picks the half-day with 15-minute periods when fewer than half your students show up, just so he can write you up for not inspiring them to attend.

Ideally, it would be up to us to decide whether we wanted formal or not, That said, the current agreement is better than the previous one, with three, four, or 200, or however many observations it demanded.

Now you can tell from what I just wrote that I'm not an expert on this or any evaluation agreement we made. However, someone at 52 Broadway is. Furthermore, this was a predictable issue, and that expert ought to have not only anticipated it, but prepped for it. Said prep would entail going to the city, explaining that no one had anticipated a pandemic under which no one got a rating, and either substituting the previous year for that one, or working out something else reasonable under the circumstances.

In fact, it's not too late to work something out right now. If that mystery expert at 52 is reading this, it's time to wake up, call whoever you talk to at Tweed, and get something rolling. Maybe you could persuade Tweed. just for the hell of it, to let effective-rated teachers choose whether or not they would benefit from a formal observation. This would have the added benefit of pissing off the supervisors who escaped from the classroom. They'd be at our mercy if we wanted to drag them back in for full classes.

Heck, maybe those supervisors would learn something. Stranger things have happened. Still, anything that gives power to working teachers is worth pursuing.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Quarantines Are Out. It's Parades, Balloons, and Toxic Positivity

I've been to my first Executive Board meeting this year. I was pretty surprised to hear people speaking about how wonderful the first day was. It was a party! There were balloons and a parade! Everyone was so happy they just didn't know what to do next!

From my position, out here doing the work, I can agree with that up to a point. I'm happy to be coming to work and doing my job. I hated teaching from my computer (and I love my computer). However, these days I'm not precisely doing cartwheels down the hall, and I don't actually know anyone who is. We're all pretty nervous and frightened. Just look around. I'm wearing a big black mask as I write this. All my students are masked. This is not a party atmosphere. 

In fact, Mayor de Blasio has just decided quarantining is overrated.  If you don't actually test positive, who cares if someone in your classroom did? Just keep on coming and hope for the best. However, now our esteemed mayor will double his inadequate testing. He will now test 10% of anyone unvaccinated who feels like being tested every week, rather than every other week. If you don't want to be tested, that's fine. Just keep coming and hope you aren't an asymptomatic carrier. Perhaps, Mayor de Blasio wants to compete with Florida's governor to see which one can spread more COVID.

We all wonder, particularly considering the mayor's outlandish notions about testing and quarantines, when the next shoe will drop. We've already had positive cases in our building, and both students and staff members have had to quarantine. So it's hard to sit around singing Everything is Beautiful in its own way. Masks are necessary, but not especially beautiful. COVID is neither necessary nor beautiful, and like many thinking teachers, I wonder whether our being here prolongs the pandemic. 

I had two of those fabulous non-HEPA machines that the geniuses at Tweed saw fit to buy in my tiny classroom. We have a proud tradition of placing ESL classes in the crappiest facilities in the building, and for many years I volunteered to be in the trailers rather than these crappy rooms. Anyway, in my crappy room, neither of the crappy machines worked at all. They'd turn off in two minutes. Today someone generously placed a third one, which didn't work any better. It turns out the electricity in our 60-year-old building is not what you'd call modern, so none of them will work.  So I guess you dump the ELLs in that room and hope for the best. How much are we risking our health by not having an air purifier? Who knows? Who cares?

Today a colleague became violently ill and needed to leave the building. We eventually had to call an ambulance, and I'm still unsure what's going to happen. Last I heard, my colleague was in a waiting room with 200 other people, contemplating whether to call an Uber and go to urgent care. My advice was to wait, as the folks from urgent care would simply call another ambulance. Now I can't say for sure the less than festive back to school atmosphere contributed to this, but I can't say for sure it didn't, either.

I have another colleague who's weighing the pluses and minuses of resignation. I tried to say that was a bad idea, and that there were various leave options. I recommended a Restoration of Health Sabbatical, and suggested that resignation was not the way. I don't know how that's going to go, but I know this person was grappling with working in an overcrowded building during a pandemic. There's so much we don't know, and even the CDC seems to jump back and forth. Do we need a booster shot? How likely are breakthrough infections? Will there be a new variant that just makes your head explode or something?

I have a student so terrified she will barely speak to me. I'm not entirely sure that's due to the pandemic. It could be who this kid is. But until and unless she opens up, I'll never know. 

Now I know we are very fortunate. We weathered this apocalypse better than many. I have friends who work as musicians who simply lost all their income for over a year. We were further lucky to get accommodations to work from home last year. Our friends doing custodial work, for example, just came in each and every day whether or not students were in attendance. 

But as good as we have it, things are not perfect. Mayor de Blasio has not done jack squat to combat rampant overcrowding. While we've extended our day to 14 periods, passing is still face to face, elbow to elbow, and no social distancing whatsoever. We're masked, but that's not a panacea. None of us know whether we can sustain this, and we're all walking on tenterhooks. 

So hey, it's great if some school wants to put out balloons and have a tea party. But this is a scary place. I think we'd be better off acknowledging it than pretending otherwise. Everyone knows how things really are anyway.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Back to School, and COVID's Not the Only Issue

I'm really in a state of semi-shock at being back at work. While some are overjoyed, and others are horrified, I fall somewhere in the middle. Honestly, with COVID hanging over our heads, I'm mystified at the relentless optimism some people display. This notwithstanding, I'm thrilled to be back doing my real job, and now that I'm a dean, I'm kind of fascinated by my new one.

Being a dean was really great for the first few days. I spent most of my time orienting and helping kids find their way around our huge overcrowded building. This kind of work is great for me. Also I kind of like walking, so running around the building like a lunatic fits right into my personal lunacy. 

My classes are great. The students are mostly new, and sometimes very nervous. Because my classes are small, I've been able to really focus on some of my more frightened and/ or needy students. When they had problems, I was able to go right up to them and walk them through. I'm trying to put all my handouts and things online, and I really don't think that the city's remote instruction, synchronous,  asynchronous or otherwise, will be any issue at all. 

Of course, not everything is perfect. I've now gotten to see NYC's non-HEPA air filters up close, and they suck beyond belief. I turned one on, and within five minutes it turned itself off. I thought that was odd, so I tried the other one, and had the same result. I briefly considered tossing them out the window, but all the windows were closed. I was not sure that tossing machines out windows was the precise impression I wanted to leave my students the first week, but what do you do with garbage if not toss it out?

On the bright side, the room is air-conditioned. This was particularly helpful last week. I have colleagues who are not so fortunate. Of course they are in full classrooms, while I'm in one of the quasi-closets in which newcomers from my school have been dumped forever. This is not too bad now, but if we get a lot of over the counter students, it will be a disaster. I'd actually asked for a trailer. Since almost no one wants them, and for good reason, they're usually easy to get. Though the trailers are awful, they are full sized and you can give tests in which cheating is not akin to the national pastime. 

Wednesday I deaned the second and third floors of our school. One of our school's policies is to close student bathrooms for the first and last ten minutes of each period. I think, actually, that this is a fair policy. It means, for one thing, that we don't have students taking the pass at the beginning of the period and returning at the end. It also theoretically means the bathrooms are not likely to be all-day hangouts for students looking to avoid the whole class thing, or run illicit businesses, or whatever may happen in there. 

I soon learned, however, that none of our bathroom doors naturally close. So if I lock a door, pull it shut, and a student is inside, the student exits and the door remains ajar. This, essentially, means locking and unlocking the bathroom doors is a complete waste of time. Not only that, but I recall this coming up at a UFT consultation years ago. This means the doors have  been that way for years.

In fact, after having locked a girls' room door, I returned back to it to hear a girl banging on the door, stuck inside, and unable to get out. I unlocked it and gave it a brutal shove to open it. It is unbelievable and unconscionable that no one has repaired these doors in years. Someone should make it uncomfortable for the doors to be left that way, and I've got a number of ideas about how to make that happen. 

It's not really just about kids being trapped in bathrooms. I was about to lock a boys' bathroom, and given the girl being locked in, I asked whether anyone was inside. (I don't know about you, but I'm not walking into a student bathroom. Anyone could accuse you of anything,) A number of boys walked out, One, upon seeing I was going to close and lock the door, said, "Wait. Let me get my stuff." He emerged with a large skateboard and a backpack. 

Now I have no idea what was in the backpack, but the boy had evidently planned to return to the bathroom later, or he wouldn't have left his things there. I also noticed him looking very carefully under a radiator as I walked him downstairs and toward the cafeteria. I doubled back, but found nothing there. But who knows what showed up there later?

It's absolutely insane that we can spend years with faulty doors, enabling not only trapped students, but also opportunities for students to do virtually anything in those bathrooms. I would not feel safe sending a kid into one of those rooms, yet as a teacher, it's actually my job to do so. I don't really like turning over rocks and seeing what's underneath. I hope not to learn a lot of things like this one.

But holy crap, I have to be far from the first person to notice this. I hope I'm not the only one determined not to look the other way and let this situation fester. 

I'll soon find out.

Monday, September 13, 2021

UFT Executive Board September 13, 2021--The Good, the Bad, and the DOE

VP Karen Alford--Saw incredible energy in schools, though teachers had angst, none showed in schools she saw today. Saw bands and pom poms, love grace and energy. Felt like a homecoming. Hope you had same. Our teachers are the best.

VP Janella Hinds--Also saw lots of energy at her school. Different this year was number of parents standing outside watching teenage kids go in. Were tears, hugs, haven't seen this much parental turnout before. Students welcomed with music and balloons.

VP Rich Mantel--Was great. Same energy, enthusiasm. Didn't see as many parents. Folks were happy to be with kids. Hope you all also had great day.  

Mike Schirtzer--Great first day, kids super excited to be back. Concern with lack of testing. All should be tested. With 3 year old at home unvaccinated would like all eligible students vaccinated. Would like remote options for those who need it.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew--Thanks us. Echoes what officers reported. Didn't think this would be the smoothest school opening. Many people volunteered and were trained in safety, social-emotional things. Today everyone in this union should be very proud of membership and how hard we worked. Things were very smooth. We don't have final attendance, but was north of 800K. 

I thought entry app would crash but MS moved quickly and gave more broadband. Teachers seemed to say we got this, and saw this over and over. Saw balloons, bands, red carpets, happy parents. They were just as anxious as we've been but this was a great day, the smoothest opening ever. City lucky to have folks in this union. You saw how important it was to do their jobs.

Now we can talk a little more freely about some things. We have not been happy about last-minute decisions. We had to do things on fly--safety protocols. There will be big air filters in cafeterias. Schools are clean. We have safety hot line set up. 

Vaccine mandate--We knew majority of our members were vaccinated. We have highest % of city workers. There is convo about challenging it. Five unions mandated, not just us. There may be more. I knew because of 9/27 deadline lawsuit would take too long, so we moved into impact bargaining. Otherwise city could have dumped people off payroll, and that was their position. They wanted to do that, so we went immediately to PERB. We also had to go to court, as they wanted to recognize exemptions and remove people from payroll.

We tried mediation for three days, and moved to arbitration. We needed to move forward. Exemptions and accommodations had to be honored. We can't have medical conditions used to take people off payroll. We heard a lot from membership, about, for example, pregnancy. All doctors took position if you're pregnant you should be vaccinated. We didn't want people giving birth to lose medical coverage, so we put that on the table, and looked for ways for people to do meaningful work. 

We made a much stronger case than city. Toward end, mayor spoke publicly about arbitration. Not supposed to do that. He said city of course would recognize exemptions and keep them on payroll. Mayor said he was always going to do this but that was never the case. Thursday we pushed because we needed a decision. Medical accommodations were being denied. Was very ugly. Denying vaccinated people with no immune system. Doctors said you can't be inside of schools, and some can't leave homes. 

Things got ugly. On Friday we said we needed a ruling. Thanks members, staff, and some people volunteered to go on TV if necessary. We did press conference with people being denied. This changed, I believe, final outcome, as people saw conditions and what they suggested. Friday evening we finally got arbitration even as city denied having denied people. City apologized, called denied members and apologized to them. 

Don't usually agree with Post, but their headline was de Blasio loses to UFT. These members have to be protected and will be. 

Issue now with members who don't want to take vaccine. Anyone who's applied for exemption, we don't believe city will be done by Sept. 27. Decision will wait on appeals process. This will be done by neutral party, not city. People who don't want to take vaccine, without exemption, will be put on involuntary leave, but will have medical benefits until November 30. Up to Oct. 29 severance package is available. Can use sick days one for one and will keep medical coverage for rest of year. Will not lose license, and can return. Can also opt for voluntary leave until next September and keep medical coverage. On September 5 are automatically resigning. If you do nothing, on Dec. 1, city will file disciplinary charges and go after license.

Unions are challenging court case.We say city can't grant exemptiomns and remove people simultaneously, Only our members are covered under arbitration, but it will be used as evidence in court case. So far, this is working. Many people helped. Agreements are just for one year. All of these are subject to operational complaints, except salary. 

Cafe big concern for us now. If not possible to use, we think there can be lunch and learn, and teachers will receive coverage for every day it's done. DOE agreed to all provisions from last year. 

Mike Sill--Everything in memo, time off for vaccine, for side effects, COVID symptoms, if been told to quarantine, days won't come out of CAR. These are limited. More time for leave at 2/3 pay, up to 12 weeks. Last year didn't apply to health care workers, this year they do.

Mulgrew--Mask policy--We now have one to deal with what happens if there is an issue. Took long time, but said of course we want to involve child, but it's safety issue.

Home schooling--Chancellor and mayor said medically fragile children would be part of it. Didn't make sense at first. We were able to say they could be taught on 15-1 ratio remotely. We can perhaps expand it. 

More to come. We have special ed. issues. Will get info out as we have agreements.

Today was really good day. We will have tough days and things will go wrong. We have to help members. Worth it to keep constantly pushing. We saw political games in other cities. We want more testing. City says it's doing more than last year, but we have 3X as many people. What we will need is more testing teams. We need about 20 more. Has to start at elementary schools on weekly basis. Can't predict future, but hope we will get it. We have the most, but NYC doesn't have remote option like LA and Chicago. Was not free for all. Was criteria around it. We'll have to see attendance over next few weeks. 

If parents decide there's no way, can city just say they get no education for the year? We won't stand by for that. In that case, we will need a real remote option. First priority now should be monitoring, and pushing for weekly testing. Believe we'll have 75% of over 12 vaccinated this week. Today was relatively good because we were out there. 

Next week this board will be in person. You need to show proof of vaccine to enter. Will try next week. 

Spring break negotiation first arbitration we filed. On 27th we will find out when it's scheduled. 

Questions/ answers

Member quarantined but now unvaccinated can file for medical exemption on SOLAS. Questions can be directed to Mike Sill.

Where will staff go who has accommodations?

Most will go to non-classroom DOE facilities. Some will not be able to. Doctors will decide.

How is med. accommodation different from traditional?

Sill--City said there would be none. We said they didn't have authority to do blanket denials and exceptions. We asserted you have to offer reasonable and medically warranted exemptions.

Mulgrew--Not all leaves are the same. We're talking about COVID leaves, and hope we never need one again, but you'll have up to a year, and your job and benefits will be reserved. 

Last year, nurses weren't included. Will they be included this year?

Yes they will. This is for all UFT members. Accommodations will be limited to severely immunocompromised. 

Appears DOE changed pre-COVID policy demanding one formal and one informal observation. 

DOE cannot do that. Can only use what we have in contract for observations. We have no agreement otherwise this year. Contact us if this happens.

Will r and f be in contract negotiations?

Hopefully school gets organized quickly. We've extended reorganization to November 5. After we get through that we will put this together, and of course it will be rank and file. DOE didn't want to do digital agreement with us. Claimed they had right to mandate it. Digital work will be big part of negotiation.

Hearing that vaccinated members who test positive with no symptoms are expected to report and not quarantined. (See update at end of post, please.)

True, unless they show symptoms. Vaccinated people have less chance of getting sick. We agree with protocols in terms of quarantining right now. We know how to get through this. We get people vaccinated. As a union, we have done our job. That's a testament to the work that happened here. Ask that people respect one another. Some people are upset about whatever the city does. We will have debate about vaccine mandate and will try to take care of all members, vaccinated and unvaccinated. 

Upsetting when people attack their own union. Same people who paid for Janus are trying to get people to quit union. That's a line you don't cross. We could've jumped around and screamed, filed to go to court, and if we took those actions, everyone would have been put out on September 27 with nothing. Impact bargaining was the way to go. Some people have gone to other side, are not unionists, and work to hurt unions.

Thank you. What you did today was wonderful. Being reported everywhere. 

What's our position on mandated vaccines for 12 and over?

We don't have official position right now. As long as new strains come in, more actions will be taken. Like what Biden did. If I have to use money or legislation to push vaccination, I will do it. Of course some will disagree. We already have five mandated vaccines for school age children,. Mississippi has eight, but complains about COVID requirement. It is a state issue, and requires state approval. Hoping that third vaccine clarification comes soon.

Thanks again for all your work through August. See you 27th in person. 

UPDATE: I've received clarification from a UFT source: Vaccinated teachers EXPOSED to the virus but showing no symptoms do not have to quarantine. Vaccinated teachers who test positive DO have to quarantine.