Thursday, June 10, 2021

Check Out the Mayoral Candidates

The mayoral race, for us, is a mess. We have three toxic candidates--Yang, Adams and Garcia. Under ordinary circumstances, they'd be competing with one another. However, with ranked voting, the charter lobby can pretty much hedge their bets by voting for all of them. It's not a particularly good year for progressive New Yorkers.

With the NY Times, the Daily News, and even the Chief Leader having endorsed Garcia, she probably looks good to a whole lot of New Yorkers who haven't read anything like this. They don't know she wants to lift the charter school cap over to Eva Moskowitz and the hedge funders who prop her up. They don't know she's wary of rent stabilization, standing for landlords over people who have to pay to live somewhere. 

Every day, Eric Adams looks more ridiculous. He lives in a basement in Brooklyn, or maybe in his office, or maybe at some girlfriend's house in Jersey. Who knows? And Andrew Yang sounds okay, but if you know anything about the subjects on which he speaks, you realize he doesn't even know what he's talking about. But hey, let's not make a big deal over that. After all he's famous. What's he famous for? Well, he ran for President and he wears a MATH pin. That should be good enough for anyone. 

And alas, the UFT endorsement does not seem to have done quite what we'd hoped. This seems to be our curse, I'd argue, at least this time, that's not our fault. At the time we made the endorsement, Stringer looked, to me at least, like the best candidate. I will never forget Patrick J. Sullivan on the PEP, speaking sense to Bloomberg, albeit while woefully outnumbered. Joel Klein sat playing with his Blackberry and clearly did not give a crap about his constituents. Were he a classroom teacher behaving like that, he'd have been up on 3020a charges, and justifiably so. 

Stringer has not done a good job defending himself against his accusers, both of whom are represented by the same scummy anti-union lawyer. In a perfect world, he'd step down and endorse Maya Wiley, who from all I can tell, appears to be Not Insane. This notwithstanding, stepping down is not the sort of thing politicians do. What we need is a list of five candidates who are sympathetic to public schools, and we need to GOTV for them. If we can't manage that, it looks like Yang, Adams, or Garcia, any of whom would be terrible. 

So now we find ourselves scrambling to put together a City Council that isn't awful, and that may be within our sights. However, with mayoral control being more like mayoral dictatorship, it will be a tough four years under any of these candidates.  Though we've dumped a whole lot of money into the Stringer campaign, we haven't got the hedge fund bucks that float Yang and Adams, and we won't be able to just ship suitcases of cash in the direction of the new mayor.

Alas, with this ranked voting, they don't have to hang their hats solely on Yang. They have Adams too, and from all I can see, they've also bought off Garcia. Get ready for a roller-coaster ride if any of them win. Me, I don't love roller coaster rides. 

Don't forget to vote!

Monday, June 07, 2021

UFT Executive Board June 7, 2021 Ranked Choice Voting, Arbitration for Break Pay, Possible Rating Waiver, and More

UFT Secretary LeRoy Barr--Rally Thursday 3:30 Brooklyn Borough Hall--Hedge fund billionaires want sway in City Hall and we will speak against it. 

UFT President Michael Mulgrew--ERI--Problem was city wanted to increase rather than decrease head count--lots of federal money. Wasn't about titles anymore. They just didn't want to cooperate, and do not want people to retire. They can't fill the need in many titles. It was us, DC37 and DSA. Once federal money came in, city changed position. 

We are expecting teacher evaluation to be waived again. Not passed yet. Thanks to everyone for staying on top of issues. 

Will be changes in special ed. plan due to corrective action plan. Hiring psychologists and social workers should see changes. DOE has completely abdicated responsibility in IEPs.

Next year--not sure about masks for next year

Overcrowded schools--76 very problematic--and 200 merely problematic--looking into rental space and creative solutions. Want them to understand these schools need help even if there is no social distancing. 

Politics--very stormy out there--Thanks to people who are doing phone banks. We have challenges on mayoral side. No one knows what to do with ranked choice voting. We have some bad people trying to stop us. 

Retro--Agreement said we would get it on second paycheck in July. City has agreed to do it on separate check July 22nd. People have been asking for that. Worked for both them and us. If you want to change TDA you have to move quickly. 

Debra Penny--Email will come tomorrow. You can change back from July 1 to 15th. Will be email tomorrow. 

Questions/ answers

What will happen now is if ATR has a positive rating, they will be placed permanently. Has cost a lot of money. Principals were reluctant to hire senior teachers.

Mike Sill--Has been a long fight. They tried to make people miserable via weekly rotation and senior teachers had it rough. Now they will be placed permanently and their positions will be funded. Amazing how principals' issues disappear when money comes with them. Our enemies won't be able to use existence of this pool against us anymore.

Mulgrew--This is common sense. Talking with DOE, trying to open up everything officially. Governor said today that all COVID safety procedures are gone when everything hits 70%. We have an agreement that when this ends, grievances and arbitrations are open. First will be spring break. 

Summer school--I don't believe there will actually be 700 sites. Looking at safety. Still doing social distancing. Checking on AC. Waiting for DC to come back first and verify which sites will be utilized. Won't be anywhere near 200K. Over 14K applications

Bad principals--Keep filing things, stay on top of them and shine a late. Less than normal craziness this year, but always bad apples. 

Bryant--lots of turnover, terrible ratings, what can we do?

We will keep pushing issue, and at end we usually get result. Shame it can't be automatic. Principals say we make things up. Bryant on radar.

Single session--Will we go back?

This was about getting parent teacher conference remote, and we also got pre-approved SBOs. You don't have to fight at school level. Elementary can have 30 minutes in morning for planning. We can sunset it on yearly basis. We are filing impact bargaining claim against principals who insist on digital classrooms for next year. Sent letter today.

Last day of school, full day?

Will meet with them and ask for time to pack up classrooms. They suggested during prep periods or lunch break. That's unacceptable. 

We will monitor what happens in the state and focus on city budget. We will do a push for city council and deal with ranked choice. 6:26

Saturday, June 05, 2021

The Chief-Leader Endorses Anti-Union, Pro-Privatization Garcia and Adams

It's pretty shocking that a publication that caters to working New Yorkers would support candidates who work against them. However, that's just what The Chief- Leader did a few days ago. 

Never mind that Adams is being pushed by no less than the anti-union, pro-charter Students First NY and that the charter lobby now runs a super PAC trying to sell him to us. Never mind that he used to be a Republican, and like Mike Bloomberg, goes with whatever political party that serves his personal advancement. Never mind that he supports the overtly racist stop and frisk policy so beloved by Mike Bloomberg. That's all good with The Chief, evidently. 

If you're a teacher, Eric Adams isn't your friend. Students First NY were the darlings of Mike Bloomberg, and for years we've had to put up with all their quotes and notions in Chalkbeat and the NY Post. If you think it's great to work a non-union charter with no job security, taking forced trips to Albany to whore yourself out for Eva Moskowitz, Adams is your guy. If you want our children, our students, and our incoming brothers and sisters to do that, Adams is a great choice.

However, if that's what you like, Adams isn't your only choice. There's Yang of course. And Kathryn Garcia wants to lift the charter school cap, because there aren't enough children test-prepping 200 hours a week. There aren't enough children on Moskowitz got to go lists waiting to be tossed out of elite charters and sent back to public schools, so that we can be vilified for what is, in fact, the failure of charters to perform their promised miracles. There aren't enough students peeing their pants during test prep rather than taking breaks because they're, you know, human. 

After saying very little about education for most of her career, Garcia is a sudden convert to charters.  It's not awfully hard to guess why. Billionaires are pushing pro-charter Yang and Adams, and why shouldn't she pick up a few suitcases full of cash for the cause? Why shouldn't she have some MAGA PAC pushing her, just like the one that pushes Yang? After all, isn't America the land of opportunity for people with big bucks? And how on earth is Kathryn Garcia going to buy herself a piece of that opportunity if she can't get the big money to flow in her general direction?

In fact, it looks like Garcia will be a thorn in the side of not only unionized teachers, but also New Yorkers in need of places to live

It is difficult to imagine Mayor Garcia allowing the same to ever happen on her watch. In a recent interview, she expressed skepticism about rent-stabilization and sympathized with landlords who she said have to contend with rising costs. “We need neighborhoods to be stable, and rent stabilization does that, but we also need to make sure that we’re not having unintended consequences of folks of not having the money to do the renovations on vacant apartments,” Garcia said. “We have a lot of small landlords. They control an enormous amount of the rent-stabilized housing stock and they have to be able to make it here as well.”

That's something else, isn't it? Standing up for the "small landlord?" Not only that, but she does so at the actual expense of the even smaller tenants, you know, those people who work to pay them rent. I guess it looks better to stand up for the small landlord than Donald Trump, but the fact is real estate interests also donate quite a bit to political campaigns. If you think Garcia is catering to "small landlords," I have a bridge in Brooklyn with your name on it. 

If you want higher rent, vote for Garcia. 

We need a friend in City Hall. Stringer has had a tough week, with a second accuser coming forth. He hasn't been particularly effective in addressing this accusation. Perhaps in a perfect world, he'd step down and endorse Maya Wiley, opening the path for our union to do the same. (In fact, AOC endorsed Wiley just  today.) Personally, I haven't seen much of a perfect world this year. We really need to ID five candidates who don't hate us and everything we stand for, and we need to work hard to make sure one of them wins.

I can understand the Times and the News endorsing Garcia. Their editorial pages are not particularly pro-union. But I'm sorely disappointed that The Chief would endorse these candidates, who ought not to be rated at all by anyone who supports working people. I wrote a letter to their editor saying they were free to endorse who they wished, but if they didn't support working people I couldn't support them. I told them to cancel my subscription and return whatever portion I hadn't yet paid for.

It's really a shame. I genuinely like reading The Chief. On the other hand, I don't get out to my local library enough, and this will give me the incentive I need to get over there more often.

Friday, June 04, 2021

The Good Blues in a Bad Year

Like most people, there are few things I enjoy more than a good sulk. Naturally, after finding out there was no early retirement incentive, I've been devoting a lot of time to feeling sorry for myself and sitting sullenly in various dark corners. I've acquired a Bill de Blasio voodoo doll, which is a fairly good stress reliever, except it's so tall it doesn't easily fit anywhere. 

But this has been a year like none of us have ever seen. Who could have imagined that a pandemic would essentially shut down the world? (Obama and his staff, did actually, and Trump tossed their plans for it in the trash.) And yet that's what happened. Now it was bad that we didn't get the ERI, but not as bad as I've seen it portrayed elsewhere on the net. What's the worst that will happen? You work another year, and with the increase in pay your pension will be close to what it could've been. Or retire now with a little less money, if you like. 

Here's the thing--the reason we didn't get the incentive was that the city was no longer broke. Weigh that against having the incentive, and the possibility of layoffs despite fewer senior teachers to pay. Weigh that against a budget emergency. Imagine being shuffled around to another school to teach 50 kids. Imagine clauses of the Collective Bargaining Agreement being overridden by a budget emergency.

I've heard these things described by teachers older than I am (and yes, there ARE teachers older than I am, thank you very much). This would be a disaster for public education, and a disaster for the city. When I weigh that against my personal issue of having to go to work, the ERI doesn't seem like such a terrible loss. Sometimes in life a person has to make the supreme sacrifice and go to work. There's just no way around it.  

If Biden had not won,  we'd still have Trump, and we'd still have the ERI. However, we'd have left a pretty awful mess for those who follow in our footsteps. I'd rather see the bigoted, juvenile execrable Big Orange sulking in sweltering Florida, even if it means I'm doing a little New York sulking myself. We can't raise our children well with a self-serving, self-centered, self-important lunatic as the number one role model.

That's not our sole good fortune, though. Go ahead and criticize me, and go ahead and criticize UFT leadership to your heart's content. The fact is we were very lucky to weather this worldwide disaster as well as we did. Businesses all over the country failed, millions of Americans lost work, and Donald Trump did not give a golly gosh darn about any of them. Biden isn't perfect, but he's head and shoulders better than the would-be fascist, still spouting delusions about being "reinstated" after having lost by six million votes. Now I won't contest the fact that he won the 2016 election by every possible measure (except votes cast, of course).

Here's another thing you may not know. A lot of us received accommodations this year and were able to teach from home. That, in itself, is remarkable, and a few decades ago would have been impossible. There would be no Zooming on AOL, or with no internet. I was contacted by teachers outside of NYC, and for them accommodations consisted of rooms with bigger windows, or some other such nonsense. 

I also know a lot of teachers who complain about technology. How can they make us do this? Well, the alternative is to be without work altogether. I love technology, for the most part. However, I really do not like teaching remotely. Everything I love about this job is in the real classroom, seeing real people.

That said, I am extremely grateful we had these options, and very lucky to have been able to take advantage. Could things be better? Of course they could. Things can always be better.

Let's work to make them that way. (For those of us who remember Bloomberg less than fondly, a good start will be this--Don't rank Yang or Adams.)

PS--Don't rank Garcia either.

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Are You There?

There will be no early retirement incentive. I'd have retired if there had been one, as I can't resist a bargain. The city will pay for its intransigence by having to further deal with me.  However, I'm not really dying to stop working or anything. I actually like teaching very much, for the most part.

That said, this year has brought me closer to burnout than any other. The first day I taught, ever, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I met a lot of older teachers who advised me, "Get out while you still can. Go work on Long Island."

I thought I never wanted to be like that, and I'm very happy to say that I've managed never to be like that. Now I'm not perfect. People do things that make me angry, and that certainly includes my students. But I've learned to keep my mouth shut when I need to, and I've learned to be much quieter than usual whenever I feel angry. That's when my students should be concerned. If I'm screaming like a lunatic, I'm happy and enthusiastic and putting on a show.

This year I'm no longer facing students. I'm facing images. Now some students show their faces every day, and I really appreciate them and the fact they do this. I know them better, and truth be told, I probably call on them more and pay more attention to them. For one thing, when I call on them I know they will answer, even if just to say, "I don't know." And that's fine because they don't need to know. I need to know, and one thing I need to know is when they don't know.  

Of course I do actually call on students who choose to show icons. I've gotten to know which ones I can regularly count on. But every time I call and they don't answer, I ask, "Are you there?" If I get no response, I know they're playing a video game, sleeping, at the park with their phone on, or doing just about anything but paying attention to the class they're pretending to attend. 

It's an enormous waste of time, in fact. I hate it. And I'm not sure exactly who's being fooled, because most, or likely all, students who are never there when I call on them are failing. Of course there's no failure anymore, and they'll get NX. That means they'll get even more time to not do the work before they get actual failing grades. 

I have one student who just stopped coming earlier in the year. He doesn't like going online for school. I know this because his dad told me when I called. He's a great kid, actually. I had him in my class last year, when it was a live class. He's now failing everything because he just will not study online. I feel bad that he won't pass, but I respect this kid a lot more than those that are pretending.

It's really hard for me to understand, though. I have made my classes easier than ever in my career. I do the homework as a class activity, and all they need do is hand in what we've done together. Yet many, of course including the students who are there but not there, don't do it. 

Last week, I asked my students whether all their teachers constantly ask, "Are you there?" Some told me no, some other teachers call on them, and then mark them absent. That makes sense to me, and I don't know why I didn't think of it, or why I still don't do it. I pride myself on my evil nature, yet somehow I fell like I have to be consistent. After all, the grades of students who do no work are fairly consistent whether or not they are marked present.

I will be happy to be in a classroom in front of live students, and I will be happy to look to see who's there, rather than having to ask. I will be happy to pass by sleeping students and wake them up, rather than sit on my ass. Actually, when I give students work I've been calling the homes of students who are absent, particularly those whose great misfortune it is to speak a first language that I speak as a second language.

But I will be happy each and every day I don't have to ask, "Are you there?"

Are you with me?