Tuesday, April 28, 2015


The UFT did not respond to our letter faxed on April 13, 2015 asking for time at the next Executive Board meeting to make our case on why Absent Teacher Reserves and Leave Replacement Teachers are entitled to a UFT Chapter. We belong to no UFT Chapter and need representatives of our own choosing because of our unique status within the union.

The next scheduled Executive Board meeting after we sent our letter was Monday, April 27, 2015. This was the last meeting before May Chapter elections.

It is no surprise that we did not hear back from President Michael Mulgrew but AFT President Randi Weingarten did reply. She told us the AFT had to wait to see what the UFT did. ATR John Silvers spoke during the open microphone period at the Executive Board but we have heard nothing officially regarding our letter.

Since the UFT has ignored our pre-election complaint, it is on to the AFT.

Here is our email to Randi that was sent on Monday.

Good day Randi,

Absent Teacher Reserves and Leave Replacement Teachers in the United Federation of Teachers sent the attached letter to UFT President Michael Mulgrew on April 13, 2015 as an official pre-election complaint.  The letter was sent via fax and email.  The letter was faxed a second time on Friday, April 24, 2015 requesting time on today's agenda to discuss our complaint.

Tonight, April 27, 2015 the UFT Executive Board is meeting.  This will be the last Executive Board meeting before Chapter Elections begin. There is one item on supporting a parade on the agenda that should not be controversial and there are other routine items.

There certainly could have been time for ATR's to make the case for a Chapter.  However, our letter requesting time at the next meeting has inexplicably been ignored by President Mulgrew.

As the Executive Board decides electoral disputes within the UFT and Chapter Elections can begin on Friday, May 1, we are asking the American Federation of Teachers to intervene immediately to resolve this dispute.  We believe our duty to fair representation has been violated.

Please get back to us as soon as possible.  Our democratic rights are at stake.


James Eterno,

Francesco Portelos

Sunday, April 26, 2015


Last week we urged people to run for Chapter Leader or Delegate in the upcoming UFT Chapter Elections taking place in May or June.  For those thinking about a run for office at the crucial school-chapter level, we have copied below the UFT's Election Guide and Bylaws.  Please read them closely and email us any questions.

If NYC teachers are determined to change the UFT, now is the time to step forward and lead.  It will basically be impossible for us to make any moves in a positive direction if we don't elect a healthy number of new independent Chapter Leaders and Delegates who will not sign the Unity loyalty oath. Unity Caucus is Michael Mulgrew's political party.

Unity requires their members to sign an obligation stating they will support leadership positions in union and public forums.  Unity representatives vote as they are told and then go back to their schools and repeat the Unity party line. Busy rank and file members either accept it or become cynical and detach themselves from union involvement.

Do you believe leadership when they call the teacher evaluation system a victory for us?  It isn't; it is awful and getting worse. Question your Unity Chapter Leader/Delegate on this. I also recommend asking every Unity Chapter Leader if they voted against a strong resolution to support the parent opt out revolt against common core testing that is occurring throughout NYS?  Unity voted it down.

You can be sure your Chapter Leader/Delegate belong to Unity Caucus if they are heading this week to the NYSUT Convention in Buffalo. One has to run on the Unity slate to get a chance to get free trips to the AFT and NYSUT conventions.

Good people can no longer sit on the sidelines. 16,000 teachers voted no on the contract last year with its meager 10% raises over 7 years.  That contract will also make us wait until 2020 to be made whole for money most other city employees received back from 2008-2010.  The best way to stop the top-down mismanagement of the UFT is to elect independent Chapter Leaders and Delegates who will represent you and not Michael Mulgrew.

Chapter Election Procedures
Election of chapter leader, other chapter officers and delegates to the Delegate Assembly shall be conducted by secret ballot under the supervision of an election committee.

The Election Committee may be designated by the chapter leader with the approval of the chapter, or may be elected by the chapter.  Candidates for chapter leader and DA delegate may not serve on the Election Committee.  If the chapter conducts an election, there must be clear notice of the process posted or discussed at a union meeting.

The duties of the Election Committee shall be:
 1.  To choose the chair of the Election Committee.
 2. To prepare a Notice of Election. This notice shall contain:
 a. A list of the positions to be filled.  In addition to the chapter leader, the notice shall state how many delegates are to be elected: one per 60 teacher members or major fraction thereof. The school printout provides the number of DA delegates. The chapter may include other chapter positions exclusive to the school.
 b. A procedure for nominations.
 c. An election calendar.
 d. A procedure for appeal.
 3. Preparing the ballots and the ballot box and determining eligible voters on the basis of UFT-  established rules.
 4.   Conducting the actual election.
 5.   Counting the ballots.
6.  Certifying the election to the UFT Membership Department on the appropriate form.
7.  Keeping the ballots and the ballot box in a safe place for at least one month, in case of a challenge to the results.

A copy of the Notice of Election with the Election Calendar must be distributed to each chapter member through the school mailboxes, including those in annexes and school sites, and shall be posted on the UFT bulletin board at least three (3) school days prior to the date of nominations in each site and annex.

The Election Calendar must include the following information:
·       Date of Nominations  This date must be at least 3 school days after the distribution of the Notice of Election.
·       Date of Election
The actual elections must take place on one day. This date must be at least 5 school days following the distribution of the Notice of Election.
·     Time and place of voting
This schedule must be suited to the school so as to give all UFT members an opportunity to vote.  The schedule must make provision for all school sites and annexes.
      An election calendar
Sample election calendar:  Thursday, May 7th:  Notice of election distributed; Thursday, May 14th: Nominations close at the end of the school day; Thursday, May 21st: voting.

Every school is entitled to elect a para-professional representative and the vote may take place at the same time as the chapter election. Only paraprofessionals may nominate, run and vote for paraprofessional representatives.

The UFT Constitution does not provide for co-chapter leaders. If a chapter chooses to have a co-chapter leader, it may only be on an informal basis. Only one name may be submitted as chapter leader of record.

The chair of the Election Committee must verify that all nominees accept their nominations.
Provision will be made for members who are not on the school’s table of organization but eligible to participate in the chapter’s election to nominate and be nominated.

Conducting the Election
The ballot box must be secure and monitored at all times by the Election Committee.

Provision will be made for members who are out on official school business—e.g., a class trip or conference—or who are not on the school’s table of organization, but eligible to participate to cast ballots before the close of balloting.

Members must vote in person; no absentee ballots may be cast.

Voting must take place by secret ballot on the date announced in the Election Calendar.

In cases where positions are not contested (only one candidate has been nominated for a particular role), those candidates can be confirmed without a formal vote.

Time and Place for Counting Ballots
The count shall take place on the day of voting, and provision must be made to include the vote
of all school sites and annexes with the school count.

A supervised ballot box must be provided at a specific location. A membership roster must be available, and is to be initialed by the voter at the time the ballot is cast. Each chapter leader will have a membership printout and a chapter certification form. The printouts should be checked immediately by the Election Committee for errors or omissions.

Members who were not on the school’s table of organization but were assigned to the school on the first Monday in May will be added to the roster.

An individual whose name is not on the printout, but who claims membership and can display evidence of UFT membership—such as a NYSUT membership card or check stub with proper dues code (“-U”)—should be allowed to vote.

The ballot, however, is subject to challenge and must be sequestered. 

Ballots shall be counted at the time and place announced in the Election Calendar. Candidates or their observers may be present at the count.  Election shall be determined by the highest number of votes.  Challenged ballots shall be set aside and, if their number could affect the outcome of the election.

The Election Committee shall place an announcement of the results on the UFT bulletin board immediately after the election.

All ballots and election materials shall be retained by the Election Committee for at least one month to allow for review of results.
As soon as results have been certified by the Election Committee, the Committee Chair must complete the Chapter Certification Data Form and send it to the UFT Membership Department, 52 Broadway, New York, NY 10004, 11th floor.

Procedures for appeals
Appeals of elections must be made in writing to the UFT borough representative, with written notice to the chapter within five (5) school days following the election. In the event that a challenge to the election is successful, the borough representative shall establish an expedited election procedure.

Any full-time member may nominate, run for a position and vote in a school’s election if he or she is on the school’s permanent table of organization or assigned to the school on the first Monday in May of an election year.
Only teachers are eligible to nominate, run for and vote for school DA delegate, provided that they have signed the union card at least 60 days prior to the election. 

Secretaries, guidance counselors, paraprofessionals and other functional chapter members are represented in the Delegate Assembly through their functional chapters and may stand for election as delegate from their functional chapters. 

District 75 and District 79 members nominate and are nominated for chapter leader in their District 75 or 79 school.  District 75 or 79 members and others who are permanently housed in the school building may vote in that chapter leader election.

Agency fee payers may not nominate, run or vote in chapter elections.

Schools with Multiple Sites: To facilitate communications and service, schools with multiple sites often have liaisons at these sites. These liaisons are not chapter leaders nor are they DA delegates unless they specifically run for those positions in the school’s election.

Persons on split assignment shall vote in their payroll school. Like others, these members must vote in person; no absentee ballots may be cast.  F-status substitutes (those with regularly scheduled part-time assignments) may vote in their school election.

Friday, April 24, 2015


The Wall Street Journal reported the other day on how companies in the ever noble private sector are having second thoughts about giving competitive ratings for employees. Some are even moving away from the policy.

This section will make more than a few teachers nod their heads:

Plenty of managers like ratings for the same reason employees loathe them--the grades are informed less by data than by the boss's judgment.  The irony is that ratings remain subjective as companies have more ways than ever before to track staff performance.  At Deloitte LLP, the company recently overhauled its performance-management system after realizing that ratings revealed more about the manager assigning the ratings than the employees themselves.

Is anyone now saying Duh? This conclusion seems kind of obvious.

The article carries on with this little gem:

Some executives worry that figuring performance measures such as time it takes for restaurant workers to take an order into reviews might lack context. I have a real love-hate relationship with data," said Kevin Reddy, the CEO of fast-casual restaurant chain Noodles & Co. "You can get a false sense of security if you zero in too closely on a rating system."

So there is actually some sanity in the world?  Observations of teachers and student test results need to be put in context too.

It is time to use some of the information gathered from the private sector as part of our fight against the new evaluation system that even Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch wants to postpone until September 2016.

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Several groups are backing a rally-press conference outside of Tweed (50 Chambers Street in Manhattan) this afternoon (Thursday) from 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm.

Non tenured teachers have been discontinued at a rate that exceeds the Blommberg years under Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina. Some want to fight back and tell their stories. This blog says we should listen closely and support fellow educators.  Many were dismissed for trivial reasons.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Do you want to fix the United Federation of Teachers?  Do you really seriously want to be involved in repairing the mess that our union has become? If the answer is yes, then right now is the time to step up and be a part of a movement for change by running for a Chapter leadership position.

We all know President Michael Mulgrew and his ruling Unity Caucus are in bed with management now that a Democrat, Bill de Blasio, is mayor. Unfortunately, their collaborative relationship has not led to improved teaching and learning conditions in most schools. The mayor's Chancellor, Carmen Farina, has done little, if anything, to advance the teaching profession in NYC.

In addition, our union's leaders did almost nothing to put a halt to Governor Andrew Cuomo's anti-public school agenda and now UFT officials are not lifting a finger to assist parents as close to 200,000 students statewide are boycotting invalid, abusive Common Core exams.

Blogging, Facebook, Twitter, other social media and complaining in the teacher's room about how awful the union leadership is can be helpful but it's not enough. Right now is the time for each and every UFT member who has seen our profession come close to being destroyed to do something about it.

Chapter elections are coming in May or June in every school.  These are the really important UFT elections since the Chapter Leader and Delegate basically control the flow of information from the union leaders to the rank and file. Many UFT members are too busy to follow the day-by-day workings of the union. They count on their Chapter Leader and Delegate to help them understand what's occurring.

Sadly, however, too many Chapter Leaders and Delegates belong to Unity Caucus, Michael Mulgrew's political party, that has dominated the UFT for half a century.

Unity requires its members to sign an obligation compelling them to support caucus positions in public and union forums. Critics call it the Unity loyalty oath. In exchange, they get free trips to conventions where they endorse whatever the leadership wants, even if it is harmful to teachers.

Unity Chapter Leaders and Delegates return to schools after union meetings to spread the Unity party line no matter how horrific it is for the rank and file. Examine the contract with its paltry raises or the anti-teacher evaluation system that changes every year that Unity always claims is a victory.  We know conditions are rapidly deteriorating but Unity paints a rosy picture so they can stay in power.

Many members hear the Unity nonsense and become apathetic. Some wish to ride out the perpetual storm in a low key way until retirement. The indifference is understandable but it is not the answer to our problems.

If we ever are to change the union and improve working conditions in the schools, we need at the very least a few hundred independent people to take Chapter positions away from the Unity Party. We must stand up to the leadership when necessary instead of having what one Unity member once called "blind faith" in the UFT president.

It is not that difficult to be a  UFT change agent.  A Delegate has only nine meetings a year to attend and then report back to the Chapter on what goes on.

Chapter Leader is a more complicated position but groups such as ICE and the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) contain within their ranks experienced Chapter Leaders who can provide a great deal of support.

Email us if you or someone you know wants to help rescue our union from its current pathetic state.

Step I is taking back the Chapters one-by-one.

Remember, the U in union stands for you!

Monday, April 20, 2015


A parent group called NYC Kids PAC has given Mayor Bill de Blasio some very low grades on how he has run the New York City schools.  The mayor received five grades of "D", three "F's" and three grades of incomplete out of a total of fifteen areas where he was scored based on how his time in office has compared to his campaign promises.

The Mayor's "F" grades were for class size, transparency and accountability as well as diversity, "D" marks were for co-location and space planning, parent engagement and input, busing, special education and privacy,

I personally think the parent group was a little too generous.  They actually gave de Blasio an "A" for not closing schools. While de Blasio has stopped closing schools, his plan for what to do with so called failing schools is to get rid of the teacher and make them reapply for their jobs.  This has much of the same devastating impact on the school communities as shutting schools down.

Some of the most stinging criticism dealt with class sizes. The amazing Leonie Haimson did not pull any punches in her critique:

The Mayor gets an "F" on class size, because he has fulfilled none of his promises on this critical issue, the top priority of parents according to the DOE's own surveys.  Despite his commitment to reduce class size significantly, and if necessary, raise funds to do so, class sizes remain at a fifteen year high in the early grades, and the administration has taken no action in this area or indicated that they intend to follow through in any way.  In fact, the Chancellor has repeatedly ignored the concerns expressed by educators and parents, and has stated that class size is not a problem that needs to be solved, despite the decision of the state's highest court that NYC children are denied their constitutional rights because their classes are too large.

I can give some anecdotal evidence to support Leonie's point.  I worked as an Absent Teacher Reserve at a school for a short time that had many classes over the legal limit of 34.  It matters; large class sizes do hinder the educational experience.  I am currently employed at a school where lower class sizes are important to administration and my experience has been so much more positive.

For some media coverage of the report card, go here.

It would be interesting if the mayor polled the teachers on his education record.  My guess is he would do as bad or possibly even worse than he did with the parent group.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


A couple of weeks back we wrote a piece on how awful receivership would be for teachers because of changes made in the education law. The State will basically be telling districts to turn over schools deemed failing to receivers. Receivers will have plenty of power but it looks like they will not have authority to lay off NYC teachers.

The receiver will be authorized to set up a personnel committee that has to rehire at least half of the "qualified"staff. Those not rehired cannot bump other teachers so it looks like they will be laid off and have to wait until a job opens up in their district to be employed again. This applies outside of NYC.

NYC Educator put out a detailed New York State United Teacher analysis of the new law.  NYSUT's analysis shows there is a distinct provision of law for New York City teachers and supervisors on layoffs on the books. Layoffs in NYC are covered by Education Law 2588 which mandates layoffs based on who the junior person in a license area is.

The new education law does have language in the receivership section that says notwithstanding any other provision of law so it looks like 2588 survives. My guess is that staff from schools put into receivership in NYC will probably end up as teachers sent to schools on a year to year basis like the new agreement for Boys and Girls and Automotive. They are a kind of Absent Teacher Reserves who do not rotate weekly. This beats layoff for sure.

Outside of NYC, it looks like layoff is the policy if a receiver takes over a school according to the NYSUT analysis. Hopefully some good lawyers will find some loopholes to save these teachers.

Once again I would like to point out that I am a teacher and not a lawyer so this is a layman's interpretation of a complex statute. If anyone can correct us, we will update the posting.