Thursday, October 23, 2014


Copied below is the full text of the resolution I wrote, at the urging of MORE's Mike Shirtzer, calling for an Absent Teacher Reserve Functional UFT Chapter so ATRs can vote for representatives of our own choosing like all other UFT members can do. MORE fully backed it.

Gloria Brandman from MORE-ICE presented the resolution at yesterday's Delegate Assembly. She made arguments in favor of democracy. UFT Staff Director Leroy Barr spoke against ATRs getting our own Chapter.

Leroy used King George the Third era conservative reasoning to make his case.  He said that Chapter Leaders, District Representatives and Officers fully represent ATRS. He neglected to mention anything about voting. He did not say that many ATRs cannot vote for their Chapter representatives, and none of us can serve as representatives, unlike everyone else in this union. ATRs who can vote are just lucky enough to be passing through a school on a week when there is a Chapter Election. In reality we have no business voting at a school where we are not  Chapter members.

In 1776 it was argued that Members of Parliament represented all of Britain so the colonists in North America were fully represented in Parliament even if they couldn't vote for Parliament or serve in it.

The UFT non-elected modern equivalent of the colonial era appointed Royal Governors would be the appointed District Representatives. Leroy basically told us union leaders represent all of their subjects. ATRS don't need to vote for those leaders or have any hope of serving as a leader. (Yes we can vote for officers but the undemocratic nature of those "elections" is for another post.)

Of course the loyalty oath taking, ruling majority Unity Caucus DA voted with the George the Third style leadership against democracy. However, people who do not believe there should be taxation (union dues) without representation did receive significant support.

Why is Unity fighting so hard against starting an ATR Chapter? Remember when Norm Scott used to talk about "Unity's prime directive." The UFT leadership's main concern is to keep power. They see a citywide ATR Chapter with over a thousand members who might not vote for a Unity Chapter Leader and Delegates as a big threat.

Read the resolution for yourself.

Resolution  for  Full  Union  Representation  for  ATRs     
 Whereas,  the  Delegate  Assembly  is  the  highest  policy  making  body  in  the  United  Federation  of   Teachers,  and

 Whereas,  federal  labor  law  requires  that  policy  making  bodies  within  a  union  be  democratically   elected  with  each  member  entitled  to  a  vote,  and

Whereas,  Absent  Teacher  Reserves  (ATRs)  are  not  entitled  to  vote  in  Chapter  Elections unless  they   happen  to  be  working  in  a  school  that  has  a  Chapter  Election  during  a particular  week  that  the  ATR  is   working  in  a  school,  and

Whereas,  unions  can  set  up  reasonable  rules  as  to  who  can  run  for  office,  but  it  is  not reasonable  that   ATRs  including  Leave  Replacement  Teachers  and  Provisional  Teachers  cannot run  or  serve  as   Delegates  or  Chapter  Leaders  simply  because  they  belong  to  no  Chapter, and

Whereas,  the  ATR  position  has  now  been  embedded  in  the  UFT  contract  in  Section  16  of the  2014   Memorandum  of  Agreement,  therefore  be  it

Resolved,  that  the  UFT  will  immediately  create  a  Functional  Chapter  to  represent  the
interests  of   ATRs,  Leave  Replacement  Teachers  and  Provisional  Teachers.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


I am no longer a Chapter Leader so I will not be serving as a member of the UFT Delegate Assembly this year. My school closed so now I am an Absent Teacher Reserve. As an ATR, I belong to no UFT Chapter so I am not eligible to serve as a Delegate. This is totally unfair and I believe it is illegal. Many of us are out there pushing to get an ATR UFT Chapter. (See Motion Period section below to see how we didn't have any success convincing our union's leadership to do right by us.)

No points of order from me but I spent the afternoon in the visitors' room at the Delegate Assembly and blogged from there live.  I came a little late.

President's Report:

Mulgrew was talking about federal and state elections. It is us v Eva Moskowitz for control of the NY State Senate. Races in contention are north of city. We will be up there with busses to Hudson Valley. We want Democratic control so we have friends with two of three people controlling state government.

Referendum # 3 on ballot is for 2 billion dollar bond act for technology in education. This is not about replacing teachers with computers. 703 districts in state. Many don't have tech infrastructure. Hoping to use technology correctly. We are pushing a yes vote on #3.

Regents will make CTE industry certified exams as part of a pathway to graduation. They can replace certain Regents exams but not Math and ELA.

Very good response rate on school surveys.

88% of schools had professional development committees. Most are favorable.

Majority (52%) have curriculum for all 5 subjects.

We worked on social studies curriculum which many like.

Our challenge is to build a great school system. Joint letter from Chancellor and Mulgrew about judging lesson plans along with lesson. Paperwork committee working.

62 PROSE schools. It is working.

Guidance Counselors getting hired.

Secretaries: We created criteria to hire new secretaries. DC 37 people doing secretarial work should stop. We won this in grievance.

Mulgrew thanked Delegates who had 100% attendance.

Networks have no authority. Many Superintendents have been replaced. Chancellor giving Superintendents authority they have under the law.

Need education experience to be Superintendent.

DOE and UFT must work collaboratively at central, district and school level. Need to have consultation committee meetings. Chancellor told Superintendents teachers are not the enemy. She expects Principals and Chapter Leaders to work together to resolve issues. Borough based Chapter Leader training. Priority is to make schools places where we can have a great school system. Trying to get to where we want to be after surviving Bloomberg. We must uphold contractual rights.

Staff Director's Report:

Staff Director Leroy Barr announced many dates including DA for Nov 18, a Tuesday, at 5:00 pm. Sabbatical deadline is Friday as is the ineffective appeal deadline.

Question Period:
Question: Concern about students taking cellphone pictures
Answer: Our policy is not to have a citywide ban on cellphones.  Ban cannot be enforced. Schools should set policy. School Leadership Teams should decide cellphone policy. DA final authority and our position is leave it up to schools.

Question on parent engagement.
Answer: Struggling with professional development and parent engagement. Principals having difficulty with parent engagement and PD. We have a voice now. We are trying to make it work.

Question: Is Tuesday only day for parent engagement?
Answer: We have to be professional. Some teachers are coming in Saturday (SBO Vote) to do parent engagement. We should be flexible.

Question: Why meet on PD committee if principal has final say?
Answer: We need to document if principals are not listening.

Question: MOSL  Some kids can't grow. Scores are too high to start with (kids in Advanced Placement classes for example). What to do?
Answer: We want MOSL based on growth. We are an effective school system. MOSL moved some people up and down. How can someone score 5 of 60 on observations but get 40 out of 40 on MOSL?

Motion Period:
Gloria Brandman from ICE - MORE: Resolution to place on next month's agenda for full representation for ATRs. The motion is asking for an ATR Functional Chapter. Gloria motivated it by saying the ATRs have no elected representation.  ATRs are not going away. ATRs are not part of her school. ATRs cannot build relationships. ATRs cannot be Delegates in highest policy-making body in UFT. ATRs cannot vote unless they are in a school during a week Chapter Elections are taking place.

Leroy Barr opposed it. ATRS have full representation. We do everything to make sure ATRS have full rights of teachers in school. They have full voice and have support of chapter leaders, DRs, etc...

It was voted down clearly from our limited view on the 19th floor. (Funny how Leroy didn't mention any of the democracy issues.)

Update from the Floor
As a non-Delegate, I was forced to sit on the 19th floor and watch the DA on a TV screen.  When the vote on the ATR resolution was taken, the camera only showed the center rows of the DA where Unity is strong.  Mike Shirtzer of MORE made the following observation: "Leroy Barr stood and spoke against the ATRs having a Chapter. He carried the entire center of the room (strangely that's where the unity caucus sits). We carried the wings and back very strong." Mike estimated that we achieved maybe around a third of the vote.  Not bad when we have no patronage to give out; we can't count on people obeying a loyalty oath like the majority Unity Caucus requires of its members.  We are just rank and file teachers.

No time for any more motions.

Update 1- Resolutions
Resolution on 1960 strike passed unanimously.

Resolution to support Philadelphia teachers who had their contract voided passed unanimously. Busload will go down there to rally.

Lowest number of ATRs in years according to Mulgrew. Also, before I arrived Mulgrew reported on tenure struggle and pointed out how we are much better shape than some other locals because of our parent outreach.

Nothing much has changed in UFT land.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


I was a bit concerned yesterday as I was sent to a new school as a rotating Absent Teacher Reserve. I am pleased to report I have hit the jackpot for a second time in a row by being sent to Middle College High School.

This school operates nothing like Aviation, the fine school I was assigned to for seven weeks but it is a great place to work.

If Aviation produced culture shock for me due to all the kids coming back to the building after a period 9 fire drill, at Middle College the culture is so friendly so it almost doesn't feel like a high school. At times I think I am in a college because the students basically act so grown up.

I'm also having the pleasure of working again with two colleagues from Jamaica who teach here and rolled out the red carpet welcome as well as a former Jamaica Safety Agent who is here. The administration is professional as is the Chapter Leader who is an old friend.

I hope I don't jinx myself by writing about my luck in my first two ATR assignments but based on what I have seen, I would stay at Middle College in a second if this school wanted to hire me.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


(This post is dedicated to the students and staff of Aviation HS.)

I began my Absent Teacher Reserve journey in September after working for twenty-eight years at Jamaica High School, a school that phased out in June.  I was somewhat apprehensive as a new ATR as so many people who had been previously excessed from Jamaica cautioned me how the life of an ATR is so different from that of a regular classroom teacher.

For the first seven weeks of the school year, I was assigned to Aviation HS. I had a positive experience at this excellent school working with wonderful kids and caring adults but thanks to the Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers, I am now forced to move on to a different school.

When I arrived at Aviation on September 2, I was somewhat surprised to discover a few people knew me through my UFT work so I felt somewhat at ease.  During the first few days, the staff - including the Chapter Leader, teachers, support staff and the administration - was very welcoming and then the students were kind too when classes began.

I told the administration that I ran the College Office at Jamaica so they immediately gave me a professional assignment to assist in that office. I felt useful being able to develop trusting relationships with students and adults. Helping students with SAT applications, the Common Application, the SUNY, CUNY online process, Aviation's College Night and more was very fulfilling. I was told pupils started asking for me when I was out of the office because I had classes to cover or was sent by the DOE on one of those useless mandated interviews in other schools.

Covering classes at Aviation was not bad either. The kids usually behaved appropriately and would give me a chance to actually teach them something. The Principal noted how he saw me working diligently in his travels around the building. Unfortunately, I was also informed how the school budget is tight so they wouldn't be able to keep me there.

I have heard from several other ATRs in various schools since yesterday that they were given a similar message about how school administrators liked their work but they currently don't have a position. It does not matter how well an ATR is doing in a school, we are going to be rotated to different schools starting on Monday.

In addition, thanks to the always efficient operation of the Department of Education (sarcasm alert), ATRs received emails saying our next assignment was only for the following week while on the Excess Staff Selection System it says we will be at our next school for three weeks! Go figure. You can forward my mail to Middle College HS as that is where I am headed on Monday.

The ATR rotation system - whether for a week, three weeks or a month- is insane. How are we supposed to develop relationships with students and staff in such a short period of time? Why establish bonds when we know we will be gone in a week or a month?

The most ridiculously absurd part of this entire debacle is when people talk about school budgets as opposed to the overall DOE budget. Money to pay for a teacher is not going to magically appear on a school's budget because a school likes an ATR. Aviation cannot afford to keep me on their school budget so they have to tell me to move on.  However, the taxpayers of New York City will still be paying my salary whether I am at Aviation, Middle College or some other school.

Questions for the DOE and Chancellor Farina:

1-Why can't a school keep an ATR if that person is a good fit for a particular school?

2- Is your goal to find us schools or just to frustrate us?

Thursday, October 16, 2014


This is from the AFT.  Please sign and spread it far and wide.  Karen is one of the truly great people fighting to save public education and unions.


Our union's strength is our members—your passion, dedication, commitment and courage.
Get well soon graphicNo one understands that more than Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who has made a career of harnessing that passion to support learning and growth—from her days as a national board-certified chemistry teacher to her masterful leadership of the CTU strike in 2012 and so much more.
Today, we're asking you to help us support Karen. Earlier this week, Karen underwent emergency surgery for a serious illness. The surgery was a success. Now we want to help Karen recuperate by showing her how much she means to us.

Will you sign our get-well card to CTU President Karen Lewis and show her how much she means to all of us?

Karen is a remarkable leader. She understands how to bring together a community around a vision, and how to inspire people to be their best, every day. Even her detractors and opponents respect Karen's leadership. Today, the Chicago Tribune—which has not always spoken favorably of Karen or our union—wrote, "We look forward to tussling again, on your side of an issue or some other. You've brightened Chicago."

While Karen recuperates, let's come together with one voice and brighten her days with an overwhelming show of love and support.

Sign the get-well card for Karen, and let her know we stand behind her.

Karen has shown us all how to be a leader in the 21st century. Her courage, compassion and dedication have inspired a city—and supporters of public education across the country—to dream big dreams for the future.

And for those of us who know her, Karen has shown us what it means to be a friend. She pushes us to be our best, to challenge our preconceptions, to give everything we can to each other and our cause.

Let's show her that we stand with her now.

In unity,

Randi Weingarten, AFT president
Lorretta Johnson, AFT secretary-treasurer
Mary Cathryn Ricker, AFT executive vice president

Monday, October 13, 2014


In the past I read Bridging Differences.  I found the back-and-forth between two respected educators Diane Ravitch and Deborah Meier to be enlightening at times.

I guess Ravitch doesn't have enough time these days to keep this dialogue going so she has been replaced by AFT Vice President and one time UFT Vice President Leo Casey

Casey has been dubbed by this blog as the Defender of the Faith as he would defend any union policy, no matter how much it hurt the membership and he would do it in a way that would convince most members that being robbed of their rights and dignity was actually positive for us.  Leo's defense of the indefensible 2005 contract giveaways that he helped to negotiate is propagandist legend.

One 2005 contractual giveback the Union spun as no big deal was the Seniority Transfer System and School Based Option Transfer system being replaced by the Open Market Hiring System, which now leaves all teacher hiring up to principals.

Under the old seniority system, half of the teacher openings in a school were made available for transfer and the transfers were based exclusively on the seniority of the teacher who applied. The remaining vacancies were left to the discretion of the principal. This system pretty much assured schools would have a balance of veteran and newer teachers.  It also gave teachers a safety valve to get out of schools where there were administrators who were difficult to work with. 

Under the SBO system, hiring committees made up of a majority of teachers worked with the principal to decide who would transfer to or be hired in a school.  Criteria had to be fair; teachers could grieve if they were not selected by the hiring committee and they often won.

It was up to each school to decide whether to use the seniority or SBO system for transfers and other hiring.

In the 2005 contract, the UFT inexplicably agreed to replace these two pro-union member staffing systems that covered the whole city. The new Open Market system based on principal choice turned schools into fiefdoms and led to the huge proliferation in school closings because management in New York City knew they no longer had to place the displaced teachers when a school closed.  Instead, they could turn them into Absent Teacher Reserves who have no permanent position but are highly paid substitute teachers.

Leo's spin was the Open Market system would provide many more opportunities for members to transfer.  He saw it as a gain on balance. Here are his exact words from 2005:

"The loss here is that the principal will have final authority but we were able to win language which specifically prohibited a principal from rejecting a transfer on the basis of 'age race, color, gender, sexual orientation and union activities.' The principal will also be required to list all vacancies in his school [only one half of the vacancies are listed under the seniority transfer plan], all caps and limits on the number of teachers who can transfer have been removed and a teacher will hot have to obtain a release from their current principal to transfer, provided that she does so before August 7."

According to Leo, the UFT was able to "ameliorate" what Joel Klein and the fact finders wanted. Note how he says we were able to win language on transfers.  It was a negotiation that the UFT agreed to, not something imposed on the UFT.

In subsequent years, Leo and then UFT President Randi Weingarten would tell us how the number of people moving around the system increased substantially in the new Open Market system compared to the old seniority system. (They never compared the numbers with the SBO system included.) Critics like this blog were dismissed by Leo and others as whiners and complainers who spread myths and disinformation.

Keeping in mind that it takes two sides to make a contract, I was looking at Bridging Differences the other day and much to my surprise here is what I saw: Leo Casey is now blaming the 2005 change in hiring in New York City on then Chancellor Joel Klein and the fact-finders who created the framework for that horrific contract and not the UFT who agreed to it and sold it to the membership.  Here are Leo's exact words from 2014:

"Sadly, in the 2005 contract, this democratic process (SBO Transfer and Staffing) for making hiring and staffing decision was lost.  Then-Chancellor Joel Klein insisted that all power over hiring and staffing be given to the principal alone, and ill-informed fact finders agreed."

The UFT leadership agreed to it too Leo and pushed the change on the members. 

Leo Casey complaining about a loss of democratic rights for teachers as if he had nothing to do with it is quite misleading.  He is leaving out some crucial information. 

The fact finding arbitration process the UFT went to in 2005 was voluntary and non-binding. The UFT agreed to submit the contract impasse to this process. The opposition ICE caucus was on the UFT Executive Board at the time and we strongly urged Leo, then UFT President Randi Weingarten and the rest of the majority Unity Caucus not to go near fact finding with Joel Klein.  We knew we would lose because Klein was insisting that the contract be gutted and the arbitrators, who are trained to give both sides something, would give Klein much of what he asked for. 

Then, when the inevitable negative fact finding report came out, we pleaded with Randi, Leo and the rest of the UFT leadership to reject it as it was non-binding. We were rebuffed. We then led the fight against the giveback laden contract that was negotiated by Leo, Randi and company and not imposed on us as Leo now implies.  

As is just about always the case, Leo and Unity accept no responsibility for the loss of rights members have suffered because of their actions. The UFT Unity leaders agreed to end democratic teacher hiring and transfers in 2005; they urged the membership to vote for principal patronage hiring as a greater opportunity to transfer and promoted better results for years.  Only now, to show he is all for democracy in schools, does Leo Casey bemoan the lack of democratic hiring in schools as if he had nothing to do with giving it away. It was those ill-informed fact finders.

Trust AFT-NYSUT-UFT leadership at your own peril ladies and gentlemen.

Friday, October 10, 2014


Pennsylvania is having their Wisconsin Scott Walker moment as the School Reform Commission in Philadelphia has unilaterally rescinded the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers' contract to slash benefits.  If the teachers strike, they lose their teaching licenses so the students have stepped forward to support the teachers.

We salute you Philly kids!

View image on Twitter

The Reform Commission's move to negate the contract is very scary stuff that is expanding across this nation. 

For those who think this can't happen in New York because the Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law keeps our contract in full force after it expires until we have a new one, all it would take to change that is an act of the State Legislature to change the law.  Hanging all of our hopes on our New York State Legislature and Governor with their questionable ethics is a bit of a risky strategy for the long term.