Wednesday, June 20, 2018


Michael Mulgrew will have a press conference at 12:30 P.M. at City Hall. More details when we have them.

This is from Daily News reporter Ben Chapman's Twitter account:

New teachers union contract looks like a strong possibility today with this presser. No questions from the press permitted

Tuesday, June 19, 2018


This is from Politico NY this morning quoting Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on the totally inadequate teacher evaluation law being considered up in Albany during the last few days of the legislative session:

Heastie said despite agreement on some issues over the weekend, he does not foresee any “major policy trades” before session ends, particularly involving the teacher evaluation bill that Senate Republicans are trying to tie to an increase in the number of charter schools allowed in the state and weaker oversight at yeshivas from the state Education Department.

“If they want to pass teacher evaluations, a straight bill, we’d be happy for them to do it,” Heastie said. “But we’re not trading charters, we’re not trading anything on yeshivas, for this — it’s clear two-way agreed-upon bills. No trades.”

It almost sounds like the Democrats have a bit of a spine here. Maybe they have seen that most teachers aren't enthusiastic about a slight change in the law that leaves the current system mostly in place. My guess is Democrats are expecting to win the State Senate this November. If that happens, isn't it time to scrap the entire evaluation mess as our petition calls for? No half baked compromise bill.

Meanwhile, I am not surprised that the Supreme Court is saving the Janus decision until close to the end of their term. It is kind of rare for the Court to overturn a forty year precedent, which is what they will be doing if they overturn the Abood decision and allow people to benefit from the union without paying fair share fees.

Big decisions often come at the end of the term. It could be Thursday or Monday. We will react as soon as we read the decision.

There is a good analysis over at Vox. Please read.

Monday, June 18, 2018


Has anyone in authority finally come to the conclusion that putting mayors in charge of school systems in large cities is just going to lead to corruption as test scores and graduation rates become political tools to be manipulated?

In NYC, the NY Post publishes articles regularly exposing corruption scandals in New York City High Schools. In order to make graduation rates rise with students who have some great needs, principals do anything they have to in order to make sure students graduate The latest school exposed by the Post is repeat offender Dewitt Clinton High School in the Bronx which already removed a principal for playing games with the numbers but the new administration according to the Post is just as dirty as the old one.

From the Post:
This high school is a hooky player’s dream.
At DeWitt Clinton HS in the Bronx, kids who have cut class all semester can still snag a 65 passing grade — and course credit — if they complete a quickie “mastery packet.”
Insisting that students can pass “regardless of absence,” Principal Pierre Orbe has ordered English, science, social studies and math teachers to give “make up” work to hundreds of kids who didn’t show up or failed the courses, whistleblowers said.

“This is crazy!” a teacher told The Post. “A student can pass without going to class!
One would think that a principal who is replacing someone involved in scandal would be careful to not try anything funny but those of us who have worked in the schools understand that the culture to pass students by any means necessary is widespread in NYC schools. Numbers need to look good for the Mayor who controls the schools to look like he is running the schools successfully. People who object are dismissed by the Mayor as being involved in a "hyper-complaint dynamic" in the schools. Mayor Bill de Blasio is wrong in my insiders opinion. There is a hyper-corruption dynamic in too many high schools, not a hyper-complaint dynamic.

New York City is not alone in this regard. Washington DC provides us with another lesson in what happens when a mayor runs a school system with no accountability other than an election every four years.

This is from AP via Earthlink:
A decade after a restructuring that stripped the decision-making powers of the board of education and placed the system under mayoral control, city schools in 2017 were boasting rising test scores and a record graduation rate for high schools of 73 percent, compared with 53 percent in 2011. Glowing news articles cited examples such as Ballou High School, a campus in a low-income neighborhood where the entire 2017 graduating class applied for college.

Then everything unraveled.

An investigation by WAMU, the local NPR station, revealed that about half of those Ballou graduates had missed more than three months of school and should not have graduated due to chronic truancy. A subsequent inquiry revealed a systemwide culture that pressured teachers to favor graduation rates over all else — with salaries and job security tied to specific metrics.

The internal investigation concluded that more than one-third of the 2017 graduating class should not have received diplomas due to truancy or improper steps taken by teachers or administrators to cover the absences. In one egregious example, investigators found that attendance records at Dunbar High School had been altered 4,000 times to mark absent students as present. The school system is now being investigated by both the FBI and the U.S. Education Department, while the D.C. Council has repeatedly called for answers and accountability.

"We've seen a lot of dishonesty and a lot of people fudging the numbers," said Council member David Grosso, head of the education committee, during a hearing last week. "Was it completely make-believe last year?"

Nobody who works in a NYC high school is surprised by anything that is occuring in DC. The only reason we don't see even more stories of playing with numbers in NYC is that teachers have basically been frightened into silence in many schools. Administration here is very skilled at scaring teachers and retaliating against them as this story on two teachers at Clinton who are facing 3020a dismissal charges shows. The UFT, which should be screaming the loudest, is, well, the UFT. Don't expect much from the Union.

The only way to solve any of this is to return integrity to the school system by making the truthfulness of the statistics more important than the actual rise or fall of the graduation rate. That can happen if the UFT becomes a real union again. We should be the whistleblowers, not the NY Post.

Saturday, June 16, 2018


Since retiring in April, I have dedicated as much time as possible to being a volunteer advocate for teachers and some others. Not only do I assist UFT members with their concerns, I also work with friends from Long Island. Many people passed through Jamaica High School and I guess I developed a reputation for being a competent union representative so I am called on by former colleagues and their friends. It is a good feeling that teachers have some trust in my knowledge.

Today, I found out that a former Jamaica colleague now working in Nassau County won a programming grievance that I helped with. It was a rather straightforward case of too many preps so we just had to thumb through the local contract and find a clause that said administration can't do that. Once we discovered the right clause, we wrote something out and forwarded it in. This grievance was a fairly easy win. The person will start the year in September with a program that adheres to the contract and can prepare properly in the summer.

I have helped with other grievances and talked with union leaders from Long Island and upstate on many occasions. What I find interesting is how professional and respectful they are with me. I get a good feeling. It does not hurt that administration outside of the city in many districts is very different from what we have here in NYC.  In the Nassau case that was resolved today, it did not have to go to an arbitrator. Many administrators out on the Island can actually read clear language and they back down when they are violating the contract.

Let's compare that with New York City and trying to deal with the United Federation of Teachers and Department of Education. When I was a chapter leader, I had a basically professional working relationship with most of the UFT hierarchy and almost all of the grievances filed from Jamaica High School went through as far as they could. However, when we had programming grievances, they often weren't resolved in June and if they went to an arbitrator, it went until October so then programs had to be changed and kids were impacted. It would be in administration's interest if they really cared about students to resolve most of these cases and not let them go outside the building. That is how it should be and to be fair, this is how it is in NYC schools with enlightened administrators but hundreds don't follow this simple reasoning.

In addition, in the UFT contract, unlike many on Long Island, it is up to the Union, not the person grieving, to decide whether a grievance will be taken to the Chancellor and arbitration. The Union says they wrote the contract this way to avoid setting bad precedents but in reality it's just another way the UFT controls the members. The grievance process is slower than slow and generally situations are not resolved because nobody from the DOE Office of Labor Relations that I know of is encouraging principals to resolve grievances. Instead, the DOE practice boils down to "My principals right or wrong" in most instances.

Total principal empowerment has led to a very adversarial process in NYC in many cases. Last year I represented someone in a school outside of Middle College where I was the UFT delegate. The UFT actually allowed me to present a Step I grievance to the principal. The grievance went in our favor but then the Union quickly pulled the plug on sending me in to help members and the principal in this school soon thereafter ran rough shod over the teachers and people had to transfer as their only option. Had the UFT led a real fight, we might have won.

The UFT leadership I guess believed I was showing them up. It was bad politically for them. Forget about the possibility that I may actually be competent and trying to advocate for teachers. When talking to union people outside of NYC, I never get that nasty look that says, "What are you doing here?" Teachers aren't asked, "Why are you talking to someone from NYC?" It's refreshing.

To the dear Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew's faction of the UFT) higher ups  that seem to be intimidated by me having anything to do with a member who has a grievance or otherwise needs help and asks me for it, I have some advice: Relax. Winning a UFT election as an opposition caucus is about as likely as winning the mega-millions drawing.

You also need not worry that Michael Mulgrew is going to employ me. For anyone who witnessed our battle of wills at the contract Delegate Assembly in 2014, I think you saw that the animosity between us was real. When Mulgrew and I have seen each other at closeup range a few times, we normally don't even say hello. You think he is going to hire me to take your jobs? Not in a million years.

Since opposition to Unity isn't exactly united at this point,  I don't even know if we can pull it together to win the high schools next year in the 2019 UFT election, particularly if we lose members after the Janus decision.

Calm down Unity people; when I try to advocate for a member, my primary motive is to help that person. At least they seem to understand that concept on Long Island.

Thursday, June 14, 2018


This is from the NY Post.

A Queens assistant principal created a sexual assembly line of teachers at his Queens high school – and rewarded conquests with professional perks, according to a shocking new $10 million lawsuit.

John Binet bedded at least four staffers at Hillcrest HS since being appointed to lead the Jamaica school’s English department in 2014, according to a Manhattan court case filed Monday.

Binet belittled female teachers who questioned his behavior as “resistant” and once counseled a male colleague that the best time to pursue colleagues was around graduation, according to the suit.

Teachers lacking membership in Binet’s harem saw their careers stall while participants were treated to professional benefits, according to the suit filed by one current and one former teacher at the school.

“There are at least four female faculty members, whose names are known to the plaintiffs, who have all received benefits from their sexual exchanges with Binet,” according to court papers.

The case also asserts that principal David Morrison – who was investigated for improperly passing students in 2016 – knew about Binet’s behavior but did nothing to stop it because they were friends.

Both men are named as defendants.

“These individuals have been caught with their pants down,” attorney Gloria Keum told The Post Monday. “Time’s up for them.”

Filed by current teacher Caroline Shin and former staffer Eleni Giannousis, the suit asserts that there have been at least five formal complaints lodged against the two men with the teachers union and DOE – but that there’s been no tangible sign of action.

The atmosphere at the school became so poisonous for female teachers that at least six traumatized instructors have left entirely over the past several years, according to the suit.

We have been in touch with Hillcrest friends. Nothing yet questioning the accuracy of the story.

Queens High Schools administrators? How many more horror stories have to come out before people realize this is not an isolated problem?

Once again, where was the UFT?

The next paragraph in the Post story tells you everything you need to know about the UFT here:

Filed by current teacher Caroline Shin and former staffer Eleni Giannousis, the suit asserts that there have been at least five formal complaints lodged against the two men with the teachers union and DOE – but that there’s been no tangible sign of action.

"No tangible sign of action," is anyone surprised?


Thanks to Norm Scott for sending out a link to this piece from NY 1 on Port Richmond High School.

Here is an excerpt:

New details have emerged about the interim acting principal at Staten Island's Port Richmond High School.

Oneatha Swinton was appointed to PRHS as interim acting principal last July. Now the city Education Department is considering making her temporary appointment permanent, despite multiple complaints made by parents and teachers.

Swinton previously was principal at John Jay high school in Brooklyn.

When she left the Education Department's Office of Special Investigation had been looking into complaints by parents, alleging on cronyism and transparency.

That inquiry continues and others have since launched, including one looking at allegations she drives a car registered to a Pennsylvania address also used by an Education Department contractor.

Other complaints allege spending more than $400,000 on unnecessary positions for her friends and inflating grades to boost graduation rates.

Parents and teachers say they also have filed complaints with the governor's office which referred them to the state Education Department. That agency declined to comment as did Swinton. 

What does the Department of Education just rotate these people and hope nobody will notice? 

We will surely follow up here. 

It kind of concerns me in the Port Richmond story that the teacher who talked on camera had to have his face hidden and his voice disguised. I'm glad he spoke up but it is going to be difficult to win these battles if we don't come out openly even though I know the risk of retaliation in the schools is enormous. It's much less of a risk if people are together.

We can take this fight on in public as there are several schools that have contacted us about actions. It's kind of odd that they might not have confidence in their Union but they will will go to Norm or me. 

Here is part of what Norm says over at Ed Notes.

I'm also working with James Eterno on a plan to gather people from various high schools together to come up with joint strategies and maybe joint actions, including how to get people in their own schools on board. This summer we will hold some behind the scenes meetings. At the June 22 ICE meeting we will talk about the feasibility.

June 22 is the next ICEUFT meeting. We will surely be discussing the abusive principal issue.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


Since I support freedom of speech and letting commenters say whatever they want, I am getting hit over the head from all sides on the comments.

One person who leans left called the comments here a "cesspool" and stated the following: "You run a board full of racism, sexism, anti-unionism, and hatred of children. I find it abhorrent."  I don't agree but I have heard sentiments like this, maybe not to this extreme, before. Some of you really know how to agitate which isn't necessarily bad but does need to stay in bounds.

Someone who I think is more from the right said about the recent removal of certain comments, "Only one point of view. Sad, sad. Free speech finally ended. You had a good run James." I disagree here too. The last thing I want here is an echo chamber. Disagree all you want and tell us what you think conditions are like in the schools or in the union.

Since nobody seems happy, let me state the comment policy that I will try to monitor more closely.

  • Please try not to make it too personal with each other. I don't care if you want to attack me or attack anyone in the union. We are telling you our ideas in the public domain. We are in union positions or want to be there. If you want to tell us we are a**holes or full of s**t, go right ahead. I can't say calling Mulgrew or Randi names is ok but calling Norm or me names is out of bounds.
  • Be careful about using profanity as kids do read this stuff and let's try to keep it as clean as possible. (Note how I bleeped myself above.)
  • No hijacking the blog. This is where I am drawing the line for real. There is someone here who takes our pieces on whatever topic they are on and then copies a provocative article from the NY Post or some other publication and puts it in the comments and then for the next two days people are responding to the Post piece in the comments and not the original posting. That has to stop. It makes me feel like I wasted my time writing the original piece (very damaging to my fragile ego). Please stay on topic. Some of these pieces are broad enough where you can throw your world views in but some really are not.  
If there are controversial comments, I have established an ICEUFT blog Comment Committee consisting of my wife Camille, Norm Scott and me to settle disputes.

I hope you find this policy fair. If not, as Norm says, start your own blog and cut out the middleman. We want to continue providing union and education news and opinion and we definitely hope to hear from everyone who reads this but please be fair.


Tuesday, June 12, 2018


Senate Republican leader John Flanagan has a bill to slightly change teacher evaluation while adding all kinds of goodies for charter and private schools.

This is from the Times Union:

In addition to addressing teacher evaluations and testing, the bill expands the cap on charter schools from 460 to 560 and rolls back restrictions on private schools in New York City.

At least NYSUT has come out against this legislation. We should all along have been demanding repeal of the entire teacher evaluation system as our petition seeks. Instead, we are asking for a tweak and our enemies in return want a pound of flesh just to concede to us a crumb or two.