Friday, September 30, 2016


In a significant victory for Absent Teacher Reserves, Speech Teachers, Pre-K teachers and other teachers not covered by Advance, an arbitrator has ruled that UFT members are entitled to a lesson specific pre-observation conference before a formal observation.

This is from the NY Teacher with a quote from Grievance Director Ellen Gallin-Procida:

With respect to the principal’s lack of notice, Gallin-Procida said the arbitrator’s ruling “confirms that a formal observation is one where the teacher knows in advance when an administrator is coming.”

There should be no surprise formal observations.

The arbitrator also ruled that post observation and pre-observation conferences are separate meetings according to the NY Teacher.

Teachers are supposed to be rated by formal observations under the old system. Therefore, while informal observations, which should also have a post observation conference, can be placed in teacher files, formal observations are needed for the rating.

This is an important ruling but why wasn't it taken on over two decades ago when this provision was put in the contract for all teachers?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Not that much to report out of last nights UFT Executive Board meeting. The big topics, according to Arthur Goldstein's minutes, were an election appeal and the high school reps advocating for their schools and lowering class sizes. The high school reps did not ask for the resolution on abusive supervisors to be taken from the table so it dies. Hopefully, it will be revived in a different form at a future date.

The only surprise from the meeting was to learn that the UFT and Department of Education are in negotiations for a new Absent Teacher Reserve agreement to replace the one that expired last June.

According to President Michael Mulgrew via Arthur's report, "ATR negotiating session did not go well-no agreement."

I have one question: Why don't they ask the rotating ATRs how they feel about negotiating a new ATR agreement? When the union goes to talk with the DOE, we can usually count on our working conditions worsening. I believe that will be the case here as well. I want to be wrong but the union's track record leads me to conclude nothing will improve for ATRs if there is a new ATR agreement.

Sunday, September 25, 2016


My entire family attended the Mets game as Middle College High School held a staff family day at Citi Field today. I think our school gave the Mets some positive energy as the Mets won 17-0 over the Phillies. It was one of their most lopsided victories in a long time.

Middle College proves over and over again how a dedicated staff with a supportive administration can make all the difference in the world. My family was happy to be a part of this amazing experience today. We had a great time.

Thanks to my social studies colleagues Jay and Jordan for taking and sharing these pictures.

The MCHS Crew Takes up Much of  the Section.

Some of the MCHS Staff along with my Daughter and me.

From Left to Right: Camille, Kara, Matthew, James

Friday, September 23, 2016


Class size grievance time is upon us. I have worked in a setting since 2014 where oversize classes are frowned upon by the administration. At Middle College High School my class sizes are between 21 and 27. This is manageable at the high school level.

However I am hearing horror stories of the Department of Education packing students in oversize classes. The DOE is once again misusing the half class size exception in the contract to pack academic subject class sizes with over 40 students in them. The DOE does not wish to create new sections of a subject class if the class won't have at least half of that 34 in it. A first grade teacher also told me recently about 33 6 year old kids in the class she was teaching. These stories should never happen.

The DOE agreed to settle the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit in 2007. The goals in the law to be achieved by 2011 was for these to be the average class size numbers in New York City schools.

Grades K-3: 19.9
Grades 4-8:  22.9
Grades 9-12:  24.5

Are you laughing or crying as you read these goals that are in the law?

The UFT contract also mentions the CFE funding in Article 8L where it says:

With regard to the long term recommendations the 2005 Fact Finders made subject to adequate CFE funding, the parties shall establish a Labor Management Committee to discuss the following issues: ...d)a program for the reduction of class size in all grades and divisions. 

We have been hearing for about a decade about how the UFT is going to fight for CFE funding to lower class sizes.

Even the class size limits in the contract (K: 25, Grades 1-6: 32, Grades 7-8: 33, Grades 9-12: 34, gym in middle schools and high schools and required music in high schools: 50.

The exceptions to these Article 7M contractual class size limits are wide enough to drive several trucks through. The UFT won't even demand that the loopholes be taken out of the contract even though the law says funding should be provided for significantly lower limits than our contract provides for. The UFT seldom uses the leverage they have. Go figure.

Anybody else want to chime in on class sizes? Chapter leaders should have grieved all oversize classes for teachers after yesterday.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


One part of the contract that still can work for UFT members is the reorganization grievance process. These are grievances claiming violations of the programming parts of Article 7 of the contract. If a school administration does not follow the contract on honoring preferences, rotation, keeping preparations to a minimum, giving teachers only three classes in a row or four work periods in a row and more, teachers have a legitimate way to address these contractual violations in an expedited manner resulting in their schedules being altered.

Reorganization grievances can succeed because they get to arbitration very quickly. On a regular grievance the administration just denies at the school level and the Chancellor's level (two kangaroo courts) and then it can take years before the union takes the case to an independent arbitrator. Meanwhile, the abuse of the member who filed the grievance continues and other UFT members see that fighting the system is pointless. The regular grievance process is completely broken and has to be restructured to have any chance of giving members any kind of justice.

Only obvious contractual violations get resolved through the regular process. The UFT is completely complicit in allowing the Department of Education to stall. They tell members to grieve and then they just abandon us in many instances after Step II (Chancellor's level).

Reorganization grievances still can be successful because the grievance goes right from the school level to arbitration in an expedited manner. These grievances must be filed within two school days of knowledge of the problem with the program but the Union then schedules many of them directly for arbitration after Step I (Principal's level) which has to be decided within two school days after the grievance is filed. I worked on on a reorganization case this week for someone in another school and we were successful at arbitration.

Teachers should know they have to present their own cases in the reorganization process. Some go to the Superintendent's level while many others go directly to arbitration. I generally write scripts that can basically be read at arbitration and provide talking points for administration's possible rebuttals. UFT does send someone from the Grievance Department to provide support. Principals have Department of Education lawyers to defend them. My experience with the process is that it actually works as long as members are prepared with evidence. It kind of reminds me of small claims court. Smart principals settle these problems in their buildings and don't let them get to arbitration.

We won or resolved so many reorganization grievances in favor of teachers at Jamaica High School that it really made administrators look ridiculous.

Monday, September 19, 2016


For the first time since 2007, tonight's UFT Executive Board meeting will include representatives not endorsed by Michael Mulgrew and Randi Weingarten's Unity Caucus. I am going to the meeting to show support to the seven high school reps from MORE-NEW ACTION.

If there is anything of great significance that is raised, we will certainly report on it but sometimes the most interesting part of the meeting is the food. We can pretty much count on reports from Arthur Goldstein who is now on the Board and Norm Scott.

Report from Meeting
Food was just some wraps. What a letdown.

On a positive note, MORE-NEW ACTION came prepared. Four rank and file members used the open mic to all speak against abusive supervisors (one was primarily there for a Chapter Election complaint but there is a vacancy due to an abusive principal).

All want the union to be more aggressive in going after administrators who get away with treating UFT members horribly.

One of the new high school reps asked about ATRs. Amy Arundel said there were fewer ATRs.

President Michael Mulgrew appeared to give the President's Report. School opening ok. Some schools had to shelter in because of suspicious packages today. No new ATR agreement but fewer ATRs. Negotiating for a new evaluation system. We want authentic assessments in evaluations. Small cities lost a lawsuit. Might make meeting CFE goals tougher on funding. NYC high school graduation rate at 70% for first time ever.

There were some reports from districts on events. Paul Egan gave a legislative report saying the UFT did very well on primary day. He talked about turnout and importance of electing Hillary Clinton.

There was a resolution on streamlining the process to start Career and Technical schools. It passed without opposition.

MORE and NEW ACTION raised a resolution (see below) for the UFT to identify and work to remove from schools abusive administrators. Mike Schirtzer motivated it. He said we have abusive administrators. Some only have two years teaching experience. Principals have incentives to hire junior people through fair student funding. It is a serious issue. Must use any means available to get administrators removed if majority of staff says for two years in a row the administrator is abusive.

Leroy Barr moved to table and then made a speech which is improper.  A motion to table is not debatable.

Chair Howie Schoor allowed MORE to respond.

Marcus McArthur from MORE spoke about a principal creating a toxic learning environment when he was a new teacher. Must do what we can to combat administrators in schools like that.

Howie Schoor after Unity voted to table said that principals have a union and collective bargaining rights too.

Resolution to Use School Survey to Identify and Remove Abusive Administrators
Whereas, UFT members in many chapters are working in fear because of abusive administrators; and

Whereas, too many UFT members are being given unfair adverse ratings by autocratic supervisors; and

Whereas, many administrators have very little experience in the classroom and are provided with a blue-print by superintendents and Department of Education lawyers to remove veteran and new teachers; and

Whereas, our working conditions are our students' learning conditions so when a UFT member is being unfairly treated it has a direct negative impact on students' learning environment; and

Whereas teachers have a limited opportunity to anonymously express their concerns about principals through the New York City School Survey Report, including whether “I feel respected by the principal at this school” and “I trust the principal/school leader at his/her word” and “The principal at this school is an effective manager”;

Resolved, that the UFT will publish the name of any school administrator in email updates, social media, the print and online versions of the New York Teacher and a press release the names of any administrator who receive less than a 50% favorable rating on the NYC School Survey Report from UFT members or when there is a chapter vote of no confidence in that administrator; and be it further

Resolved, that the UFT will use any means available to pressure the Department of Education to remove from a school any administrator who receives two years of unfavorable ratings from their staff.

Sunday, September 18, 2016


Most New York City Department of Education employees do not go through their Chancellor's Regulations. UFT members should know these regulations because they are appended to the UFT Contract under Article 20, Matters Not Covered.


The final standard for removing a principal is this:

Elementary, Middle and High Schools (Including Alternative High Schools and Special Education Schools) 

Other Standards: A pattern of failure to adhere to laws and regulations such as SOPMs, Chancellor’s Regulations, circulars, memoranda, local, state and Federal laws and regulations, and collective bargaining agreements. 

Chancellor's Regulations are part of our contract. A reason for removing a principal from a school is when he/she does not adhere to collective bargaining agreements. There are probably hundreds of principals that show a pattern of not adhering to any collective bargaining agreements. Why doesn't the UFT go after them en masse using this provision?

It makes sense and it could energize teachers and others to fight back within a school community when there is an abusive principal so it will more than likely never happen with our union leadership.

To be clear, this post is not about about trying to remove from schools average or a little below average principals. We are talking about administrators who consistently abuse their staff. Sadly, they exist and the UFT these days does little or nothing to attempt to compel the DOE to reign them in even when there is language in the Chancellor's Regulations that could be used in our favor.