Friday, November 17, 2017


We have been reporting for months on the IBEW strike against Charter Spectrum, the cable giant that used to be Time Warner Cable. The strike started in March and continues.

The city has generally supported the workers and is now starting the process to increase competition in the broadband sector.

The workers are spending $500,000 for a new ad campaign. They are fighting to retain their seniority rights. We totally support the IBEW strike.

Meanwhile, on Long Island the school bus drivers strike ended after  almost two weeks. Negotiations between TWU and the Baumann Bus Company along with a federal mediator ended in a tentative settlement. It looks like the workers and management here could not hold out any longer.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


 The city being the city and the DOE being the DOE means contracts are made to be broken as long as they are the ones benefiting by violating the agreements.

Case in point: the lump sum payments that most of us will have to wait until 2020 to be paid back in full for work we did from 2009-2011 that most other city workers received back from 2008-2010 and has been in their pay checks ever since.

If someone was on an unpaid leave in 2015 or this year, that person is a year behind in getting the payments and won't be made whole until 2021. If someone is sick or has a family emergency, tough luck. You cannot get a dime in advance. That is how the DOE negotiated this with the UFT. No exceptions, right? Well, um, no.

The DOE will give you the money in advance to pay them back if you owe the DOE money. To put it another way, you can have the money now as long as you give it right back.

From a friend:

 Remember we that were not on payroll in 2015 are one year behind in the cycle of retro payments. We are to be made whole in 2021. Therefore I was supposed to get 2015 in December actually. Well as it turns out if you owe the DOE money like I do for overpayment, the DOE gets you your retro on the fast track, hence my retro, in October - both years 2015 and 2017. They sent me an updated statement where they took out a large amount of money.

I wonder if this sets precedent. The UFT won't care.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Over at NYC Educator, Arthur Goldstein, Chapter Leader at Francis Lewis High School, has written what is now a recurring post on the uselessness of the class size grievance process. Principals know that the exceptions on oversize classes that are written into the contract can easily become the rule.

The solution arbitrators are offering is for teachers to be relieved of their professional assignment in exchange for having oversize classes. This is absurd as how is a teacher doing less tutoring or some other professional activity going to help students in overcrowded classes? Arthur pointed this out in his piece.

Francis Lewis isn't the only high school where oversize classes are a perpetual issue. According to Unity Caucus retiree Gene Mann in The Organizer, "Benjamin N. Cardozo High School has more oversized classes than any school in the city-252.  Chapter Leader Dino Sferrazza has been struggling with this issue ever since he took over from the previous Chapter Leader (me) in 2004.  (I only had 209 oversized classes in 2003-2004.)"

Clearly, the grievance process is broken when it comes to class sizes. (It is broken in other ways too but that is a story for another day.)

My guess is that teachers in other schools have given up when it comes to oversize classes. Grieving is a waste of time in terms of fixing oversize classes as long as administration refuses to budge. Principals are backed up by the Office of Labor Relations whose philosophy on labor-management relations can be summed up in five words "My principals, right or wrong."

The Department of Education has made a mockery of the system. They are prepared to accept whatever bad publicity Arthur, groups like Class Size Matters or the UFT may throw at them.They don't care about oversize classes or they would compel principals to respect class size limits as they often did in the late 1990s and early 2000s in the pre Joel Klein-Carmen Farina days.

I cannot accept that Fair Student Funding budgeting that penalizes schools monetarily for having a mostly senior staff is the only problem here. How is it that Middle College High School, which has an average teacher salary almost as high as Cardozo, manages to maintain mostly reasonable class sizes?  I have been at Middle College since 2014 and have never taught a class here with over 28 students in it. There have been no contractually oversize classes in this school since I arrived.

The spending priorities at places like Cardozo and Lewis are not the classroom. Jamaica HS was at one point a fairly large school but we usually managed to be in compliance on class sizes. It can be done.

The current grievance process to remedy oversize classes is a mess and with the current union leadership it is not likely to be fixed. The UFT holding case conferences after the DOE refuses to lower class sizes when arbitrators order them to be reduced is not the answer.

Bold steps are needed such as filing PERB charges and/or court cases against the Departmet of Ed for continually going against the spirit and letter of the contract and the law too for that matter.

That's right, the law is being violated. To settle the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, the Legislature set a 25 student average limit for high school class sizes.

While charges we would file would be winding through the legal system, we could be threatening walkouts as the overcrowding is educationally unsound as well as being a safety issue for staff and students. Let the DOE try to throw the Taylor law prohibition against strikes at us when we stand up for safe teaching and learning conditions.

As for the class size law., sorry, I forgot laws only apply to little people like teachers and students at the DOE.

Having the law apply to the DOE is a pipe dream. It would be possible if we had a union that fought union battles and didn't just go through the motions.

Yes I'm dreaming again of having a real union that will fight the good fight with every tool available to uphold teacher rights and advocate for the kids too. I need to wake up. We have the Unity Caucus controlled UFT. They will sit and talk with the DOE and do little if anything to fix the overcrowding in schools but will claim lots of victories.

Monday, November 13, 2017


Last Wednesday at the Delegate Assembly, UFT President Michael Mulgrew made a big deal about how we can use the contract and a joint letter from him and Chancellor Carmen Farina to take advantage of teacher autonomy over lesson plans. We posted the letter on Saturday. MORE sent it out too. We received a reply that shows how administrators can easily make an end run right around the letter and the contract to dictate teacher lesson plans.

This is from a highly respected chapter leader:

How do we reconcile the Joint Letter:
Although a supervisor may suggest elements to include in a lesson, lesson plans are by and for the use of the teacher. Their format and organization, including which elements are to be included, and whether to write the plans on paper or digitally are appropriately left to the discretion of the teacher.
With the MOTP: Domain 1: Planning and Preparation
1a: Demonstrating knowledge of content and pedagogy
1e: Designing coherent instruction
When these domains explicitly mention:
In Domain 1a:
•The teacher’s plans use inappropriate strategies for the discipline
•The teacher’s plans demonstrate awareness of possible student
misconceptions and how they can be addressed.
In Domain 1e:
•The plan for the lesson or unit is well structured, with reasonable
time allocations.
•Lesson plans differentiate for individual student needs
I understand that domains 1 & 4 make up 15% of our final rating, but I am afraid that some of our overzealous administrators will try to “bootstrap” a poor Domain 1 rating via lesson plans and then using that to bolster poor ratings in the other domains.
For example:
Your lesson plan did not include appropriate discipline strategies therefore 1a & 1e are ineffective. Therefore you could not create an environment of respect (2a) or manage student behavior (2d). This lack of respect also means that students cannot engage in learning (3c) and your assessment tools are weak (3d).
How do we prevent such an occasion from happening?
I say this because we had an afternoon election day session devoted to Domain 1 and the importance for our lesson plans to reflect this Domain.

The ICEBLOG answer is to bring the joint letter up in a consultation meeting and file individual APPR complaints so the principal is aware that this is a local and central union issue. Remember, we only have five school days from when we receive an observation to file an APPR complaint.

More importantly, we need to mobilize to lobby the state to get rid of Danielson and the entire teacher evaluation system and create something that is sane.

Sunday, November 12, 2017


This video shines the light in 2 minutes and 38 seconds on the Republican tax bill in a masterful way.

Corporations win-middle class, including teachers, lose. 

Pretty simple. 

Washington Representative Suzan DelBene is the one asking the direct questions.

Saturday, November 11, 2017



Dear Colleagues,

The Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers recognize that lesson plans are a professional responsibility.

Everything about our evaluation and development system is based upon the understanding that a constructive, professional process is the best way for colleagues to collaborate to help children learn. We all know that effective teaching requires authentic and thoughtful planning.  The development of lesson plans by and for the use of the teacher is a professional responsibility.  A teacher’s lesson plan is not the lesson itself. A lesson unfolds in the classroom as a teacher works with his or her students. Planning may be evaluated through observation of a lesson being taught, by the professional discussions that take place between teacher and supervisor and, of course, through discussion and review of the plan used to teach an observed lesson. The lesson plan cannot be evaluated in isolation but as a part of the planning cycle of the observed lesson.

Lesson plans are but one part of the process of creating and delivering quality instruction that engenders learning. How well students learn is what is most important.

Although a supervisor may suggest elements to include in a lesson, lesson plans are by and for the use of the teacher. Their format and organization, including which elements are to be included, and whether to write the plans on paper or digitally are appropriately left to the discretion of the teacher.  If the teacher was Ineffective, the supervisor and teacher will collaborate about different strategies. Lessons should be taught in a manner consistent with the school’s educational philosophy.

Lesson plans are part of the instructional planning process. As has long been the case, supervisors may continue to request and collect lesson plans; however, they may not be collected in a mechanical or routinized manner.

We know this clarification will help us work together to provide the best education for our students. We will continue to work toward our shared goal of making New York City’s public schools the best in the country.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew and Schools Chancellor Carmen FariƱa

Friday, November 10, 2017


The UFT is in uncharted water with the threat of the Janus Supreme Court decision coming in 2018 that will almost certainly make union dues optional in the public sector, including the UFT. Some who comment here are looking forward to the ruling so they can stop paying union dues and pocket the money while people like me feel opting out of a union is a terrible move that will make all of us vulnerable to losing many of what is left of our hard earned rights in the work place.

Long time activist Norm Scott encouraged me to get involved in helping to edit a newsletter called Another View in the UFT so that some of us who are critical of the Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew's invitation only political party that runs the UFT) could put out something at UFT Delegate Assembly meetings. Norm, High School Executive Board members Mike Schirtzer and Arthur Goldstein and I put out our first issue at the Wednesday DA.

We were hoping that the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) would be doing this work but MORE is fully on board with Unity's campaign to get members to pledge to stay in the UFT and has at least for now pretty much ceased being openly critical of the UFT leadership in literature at the Delegate Assembly meetings or during the actual meetings.

Some of us disagree with this position. We feel we must continue reporting on how Unity Caucus is running the Union as sort of co-managers of the school system with the Department of Education and not as a real trade union. Norm called out the leadership on this the other night at the Executive Board in his brilliant speech in defense of teachers and against administrators who abuse our members.

Here from the NYC Educator summary of the meeting is an account of Norm's speech:

SpeakerNorm Scott—Speaks about NY Knicks and NY Jets.

Says he was first speaker here 15 years ago, spoke of abusive principals. Asked to defend chapter leaders, they opposed it in 1999. Every week we come here, and there are still abusive principals.

Spoke against principal tenure, was voted down. Sandy Feldman loved it, but said politically it was untenable. At that time they were willing to put something in paper, and had regular features about them. Last week Tottenville High School was here. Principal sounded like the Mooch.

Last year we got rid of two principals, CPE1 and (Townsend) Harris, where parents and students rose up. That’s what got those people out. Union had nothing to do with 50 people who came up, when CL was pulled, and when delegate was pulled.

What about teachers who don’t have 50 parents coming? We could rouse the 50 parents if we wanted to. State of fear exists in many schools because you (UFT leadership) won’t go public. Maybe there’s an arrangement with CSA. Union won’t step on too many toes.

And now we hear, from union, that teachers have to be held accountable. We need same for principals. We have almost zero say, despite committee, on how administrators are chosen. We need to hold them really accountable to parents and teachers at schools. They used to have fear of union.

When are you, leadership, going to be accountable? You say the DR is wonderful, when teachers say otherwise. You don’t hold principals or yourselves accountable, yet you say teachers should be observed 4 times a year instead of two.

Let’s see everyone accountable.

Schoor responds they are accountable every three years.

Every three years there is a UFT election that is essentially rigged because there is no way for a group opposed to the ruling Unity Caucus to have sufficient access to almost 200,000 UFT members spread out throughout the country to have enough meaningful contact with those members to win an election.

This blog documented this cold hard fact back in early October.

Is this the kind of union that the opposition MORE caucus wants us to pledge to remain in? There is basically zero accountability for the leadership and they fully know it. That is why the Union leadership fears Janus. They know that this will be the first chance active teachers and others have ever had to stop giving the UFT money.

I know we need a union as much now as ever but I am having a very difficult time seriously committing to encouraging people to pledge to give dues to anything run by Unity Caucus. The October 5 posting here explained how difficult it will be to fix the UFT from within and what it would take to accomplish the nearly impossible task of starting our own union by fragmenting the high schools (or any other division) from the UFT.  We hoped that people might be interested in taking up that cause in the high schools or working to fix the UFT.

There is some interest for starting a petition drive to decertify the UFT as the high school teachers bargaining agent and start a militant high school teachers' union but not nearly enough to be a threat to the Unity Caucus.

As for fixing the UFT from within, I see little or no growth in the opposition caucuses even though the six Executive Board members from MORE-NEW ACTION are doing a great job against the 95 strong Unity majority that all votes the same way on just about every matter before them.

We need people to step up and join us. The new newsletter is one way to tell members that we must do more than just pledge to say yes to staying in the UFT or complain on the blogs. However, it also needs to be read in the schools and not just online or at the DA.

Norm can have the last word:

The problem with MORE Lit is often an unwillingness to take on the union leadership or even mention Unity Caucus. MORE often has bigger ideas it wants to emphasize and wants to avoid coming off as negative. Like take its "Save Our Union" campaign which a minority in MORE feel is better left to the leadership because it puts MORE in the ticklish position of trying to be an opposition and critic - in theory - while in essence urging people to back the Unity party in power. (Some MORE people did show up to hand out a Save Our Union leaflet yesterday.)

I have no qualms about going after the union leadership and am withholding a blanket "Stay in the Union" pending some signs from the leadership of democratization. I am in my 51st year of UFT membership (and will remain a member) and over decades have seen too much on how the ruling party operates. Some of the younger MOREs may need a few more decades of seeing how they operate before they get riled up like me.

Howie Schoor's response to my speech (see Arthur's report) at the EB meeting the other day where I called on the UFT leadership to be held accountable for he failures to challenge awful principals more aggressively and for the climate of fear in so many schools was that they are held accountable every three years in the UFT elections.

I was already off the mic  -- I wondered how many teachers at Port Richmond and Flushing and Tottenville HS feel that way --- just wait until post Janus.