Monday, May 23, 2016


Last fall we wrote about an alarming development where the Department of Education was bringing incompetence charges against tenured teachers in dismissal hearings who have never been rated ineffective. The teachers had been rated developing. The union said that a developing rating would only lead to a Teacher Improvement Plan. They never hinted that teachers would face dismissal if rated developing.

Two people contacted me this past weekend about challenging developing ratings through the appeals process. While I make no claim to be any kind of expert on the current teacher evaluation system or the one going into effect in the fall, I see nothing that says we can appeal a developing rating. I don't know if there is anything that says we cannot either.

I put this out to our readers: Does anyone know if a developing rating has been appealed?

Can we set a precedent?

If the DOE is violating the spirit of the education law by charging people with developing ratings with incompetence in dismissal hearings, then certainly we should be able to appeal these ratings.

It seems the DOE has been given a double victory here. For teachers rated ineffective twice, the burden of proof is on the teacher to prove they are not incompetent in dismissal hearings. These teachers are guilty until proven innocent. At the same time the DOE is still charging people with incompetence the traditional way, with the burden of proof on the Board of Ed, who have never been rated ineffective.

Don't you wish you had a union that wouldn't stand for this?

Saturday, May 21, 2016


One of the main reasons for closing schools in New York City was to bust strong union chapters. Some of these were high schools that traditionally had a majority vote for opposition groups in the UFT. High schools were and still are the base of the opposition to Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus. The leadership of the union basically looked the other way or supported splitting up large high schools until it got out of control under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Now that Carmen Farina has figured out through receivership and out of time status that there is no need to close and reopen a school as four small schools to get rid of the staff, lo and behold schools are now merging to save costs.

In a Chalkbeat piece earlier this week Farina gave her rationale for school mergers:

When two or three schools consolidate, the money saved by paying for only one principal and administrative staff “goes back into classrooms,” FariƱa said, perhaps to fund additional elective classes or after-school programs.


Chalkbeat reported that there have been 25 mergers so far and Farina said that many more small schools could benefit from mergers.

Here is the response from retired Bronx High School District Representative Lynne Winderbaum on facebook:

Too late. We've closed all the great high schools after concentrating high-need students in them by over-creating small schools that wouldn't serve such students. Kennedy, Columbus, Jamaica, Stevenson, etc...gone. You don't have to be a genius to walk into a campus of what was once a single school and see 7 principals, 14 APs, duplicate guidance and programming departments, to realize what a colossal waste of money this generates. You don't have to be a genius to see the elimination of teams, specialized music and art classes, a variety of languages, special Ed and ELL compliance. You don't have to be a genius to see the toll taken by the displacement of students and teachers. So go ahead Carmen, merge the small schools because NYC destroyed everything the larger schools had to offer.

I agree with Lynne but I have to kick myself about why we didn't push for a merger when Jamaica was under the gun. From an earlier Chalkbeat piece: "City officials have also pitched school mergers as a school-improvement strategy, if a higher-performing school absorbs a lower-performing one."

If only I would have been smart enough to come up with this back in 2010. I could have called Arthur Goldstein and had Jamaica merge with the successful Francis Lewis. It would have solved our problems. Lewis could have an annex for their overcrowded school while Jamaica would've been attached to a successful school and magically improved. Someone at the Community Board actually pitched a version of this idea in 2010. Nobody took it seriously for good reason.

However, back then we all predicted that at some point in the future the DOE would figure out that it might save some real cash to not have so many small schools. That time may be here.

Friday, May 20, 2016


The New York City Public School Parents Blog is reporting on hearings held by the state Senate on renewing mayoral control of the schools in New York City which expires next month and must be renewed by the State Legislature and Governor to continue.

Two noticeable absentees from the hearings were Mayor Bill de Blasio and anyone from the UFT.

The best part for me was reading Class Size Matters Director Leonie Haimson's testimony.

Some highlights:

I have opposed Mayoral control and have done so since its inception in 2003. Unlike others who have switched their positions depending on who is Mayor and what policies he espouses, I have been consistent in my views.

Why have we consistently opposed this governance system? Mayoral control as it exists here, in Chicago and a few other cities around the country, is inherently undemocratic and provides no real checks and balances to autocratic rule. As a result, it has too often suffered from insufficient input from parents and community members, closest to conditions on the ground, the result being damaging policies and unwise spending priorities. Our entire system of democratic rule, from the federal government on down, relies on a separation of powers. Can you imagine if the Governor decided to dismiss the State Legislature on the grounds that it was an inefficient governance system?

It is simply unacceptable and frankly racist that the only places where Mayoral control currently exists have student populations that are majority students of color. Suburban and rural cities and towns in the rest of the state and the country would never accept a system that so disempowers voters, including the towns that many of you Senators represent, and neither should we here in NYC. I would add that nearly every poll that has surveyed NYC voters have found the majority against Mayoral control as well, and in favor of the executive sharing power with the City Council or an independent school board.

What about the record of Mayoral control here in New York City? Despite claims of great progress, Class Size Matters analyzed test scores city students received on the NAEPs, the most reliable assessments known that exist, also known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress. When gains in student test scores since mayoral control was instituted in 2003 are disaggregated by race, ethnicity,and economic status, it is apparent that New York City schools came out second to last among ten cities in improved achievement.

 Though it is true that graduation rates have increased, our gains mirror increased rates nationally, and as has been argued may also reflect increased pressure on schools to inflate their figures, through discredited methods such as credit recovery schemes and the like.

The justification for mayoral control is that the previous system was scandal-ridden, with corrupt local school boards exhibiting patronage and the like. But the reality is that Community School Boards had their power to hire and fire taken away from them in 1996, years before Mayoral control was instituted.

Moreover, the waste and fraud continues under the current system far outstrips what occurred previously. There were multiple, multi-million dollar no-bid contracts awarded under Mayor Bloomberg that subsequently turned out to be wasteful and/or corrupt. One of the largest related to a contract awarded Custom Computer Specialists, to provide internet wiring from 2002 to 2008, with the vendor hired by Ross Lanham, a DOE consultant. As a 2011 report from the Special Investigator’s office revealed, Lanham and CCS were involved in a massive kick-back scheme that stole millions from the DOE.

 The CEO of CSS and Lanham also started a real estate business together. Lanham later was indicted and sent to jail for his crimes, and the FCC excluded the DOE from more than $100 million of E-rate reimbursement funds because of the resulting scandal.

Leonie attacks the DOE on class sizes and other issues too. 

She is 100% right. This is why this blog has said it is time for the Legislature to let Mayoral control die.

Thursday, May 19, 2016


Here is a link to Arthur Goldstein's May Delegate Assembly report.

Some interesting tidbits:

Mayoral Control from President Mulgrew's Report
NY Assembly passed a 3-year mayoral control bill, no changes. Waiting on Senate, UFT does not support current version of mayoral control. Refers to NY Post editorial saying mayoral control ought not to mean total control, and says it contradicts what they said when Bloomberg was in power: Says NY Post are hypocrites, say what they say at any given moment. Says someone can tweet that out.

Since when did the UFT oppose mayoral control? It's news to me that we don't support the 2009 law.

Will the UFT have the guts to ask the Assembly in June to let the current law expire and go back to the pre-2002 school governance system? 

From the question period:

CL-Observations-deadline is coming up, but not everyone has been observed enough. How will it impact members?

Part of the Mulgrew answer:
SED will take a rating as long as there are two observations. But if admin doesn't do job, no harm should come to our members.

This is good to know.

Congratulations to Arthur for working to get the ESL resolution through.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


I literally hobbled back to work today after being out a couple of days. What a great school Middle College High School is as people from the safety agent on through colleagues and students were concerned about how I was doing.

Voting in the UFT election is proceeding nicely at MCHS with only a handful left to fill out ballots and one who needs to find the outer envelope at home. I limped to the mailbox across the street from the school on several occasions to drop ballots in the mail.

Also, an email blast was sent out to my Jamaica High School list early this morning and there was some great feedback from my longtime friends. Some are campaigning for MORE-NEW ACTION.

A few readers may not believe this but after one school day back although still not feeling close to 100%, I decided to skip the Delegate Assembly. As soon as NYC Educator has a report, we will link to it. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


This post is dedicated to Norm Scott who last week wrote, "When MORE got only 1,200 elementary school votes in the 2013 election Julie Cavanagh was incredulous. 'Everyone voted in my school,' she said. My response today would be - did you actually see their ballots? Did they send you a selfie of them putting the ballot in the mailbox?"

Glad you asked Norm. As I am out of commission for a while, one of my friends, who is far too busy to follow UFT politics and inadvertently threw out the original ballot but got another one sent at my urging or rather pestering, sent these texts out this morning.
Hey James- Mailing it out today.

LOL I mailed it James. You can check me off your list.

Now this friend is helping to make sure the others in my school who never received a ballot have finally voted while I am absent.

Tomorrow is the last day to call AAA at 1 800 529-5218 to get a duplicate ballot.

Keep that ground game going and find those 150,000 UFT members who more than likely still have not cast a ballot and tell them to vote [X] in the MORE-NEW ACTION box and put it in the mail.

Monday, May 16, 2016


The other day I blew out my occasionally tricky sciatic nerve so now I can barely walk let alone run around to get out votes for MORE-NEW ACTION in the ongoing UFT election. Doctor ordered rest so as I sit at home I have just been able to muster the strength to actually sit up for ten minutes at the keyboard to write this.

What I was thinking about, besides the proper way to sit to be comfortable or when would I do the recommended exercises, is how different Unity's strategy in this election is compared to prior campaigns.

  • No barrage of Unity trolls coming to ICE or Ed Notes every five minutes to preach the gospel according to Mulgrew. 
  • No negative campaign ads mailed to our homes calling us a bunch of communist radicals who want to take everyone's pension.
  • No real attack ads at all this year.
The Unity strategy seems to be to just ignore us all as if we don't exist. Maybe they have the right idea. As long as someone is known, they will get votes in elections no matter what kind of job they are doing. Retirees are generally content and many active people like their Unity chapter leader and don't want to know about how he/she has sold out for a trip to a convention where they will support whatever Mulgrew wants no matter how awful it is. Everyone knows Mulgrew's name. Name recognition is crucial in politics.

I read a couple of recent posts over at Ed Notes and it seems Norm has discovered the three rules of politics for accumulating votes:

1-Do they know you?

2-Do they like you?

3-Do they trust you?

If they don't know who you are, you never get beyond step 1 and you aren't going to get too many votes. As Norm found out, Francis Lewis High School will produce many MORE-NEW ACTION votes because the people there like and respect Chapter Leader Arthur Goldstein (They happen to be good judges of character at Lewis) but many even in that opposition friendly school will not have voted yet.

God willing, I will be back at school in a couple of days trying to convince everyone who still hasn't voted yet to cast a ballot for MORE-NEW ACTION in the UFT election. 

While I'm recovering, I have a request for the readers: 

Could some of you please take my place and spread the word while there is still some time left in this election to remind those who may not have voted to do so. You will be surprised how many votes are still out there. I would say probably over 150,000. Why give up now? It's only ten more days until the vote count.

Ok so this pitch wasn't quite up there with a Knute Rockne speech but I can't think of anything better right now.

Now back to my other great pursuit as I wait for my daughter Kara to arrive home from first grade: Contemplating the true meaning of life.