Monday, June 24, 2019


I am hearing various reports about budgets being cut in the schools for the 2019-2020 school year.

Does anyone have any information on budgets for next year besides what is already on the school budget pages which is incomplete?

Is there out of control excessing occurring because of cuts?

This has turned into a very busy end of the school year with UFT members from all over getting in touch with me.

It is difficult to believe I am not still active as I seem to be as busy answering union questions as when I was an active teacher.

This piece of advice a d article on excessing from Unity's Gene Mann's The Organizer may be helpful.

Principal's tell people…

I need you to switch your license…

…so that you can become a probationer again? Why would you do that? Check with your borough’s UFT Edcational Liaison before agreeing to teach out of license. In Queens that’s Heather Goldberg (

You’re going to be excessed. You should resign…

…excessing has nothing to do with employment. Your job is assured even if you cannot find a new position on the Open Market. (See the Excessingarticle below.)

You’re going to be discontinued. You should resign.

…resignation is a weighty decision which involves sacrificing lump sum payments and health care, as well as employment. Reach out to your District Representative immediately.


Every year, because of fluctuations in funding and student population, schools have to make staffing decisions, which may well result in excessing.

It is important to understand that excessing is a loss of position, not a loss of job. Excessed staff members continue their employment without interruption.

It is almost equally important to understand that working without an appointment-being an ATR-is not the world’s most comfortable situation. This is particularly so for untenured members-the most likely to be excessed-as they can never achieve tenure without teaching their own students in their license area.

Persons who are feeling insecure should register for the Open Market and check opportunities regularly. All members should check their school’s June seniority list to determine how vulnerable they are in their license.

Three additional things to bear in mind:

Being told by your principal that you will be excessed is not actually being excessed. You will receive a letter from HR giving you complete instructions. It is not impossible that the excessing decision may be reversed.

You should give your principal a letter asserting your Right of Return under Article 17B, Rule 8. This prevents your school from hiring another person for “your” position for a year and a day. (See sample below. Thanks, James and Washington.)

If you transfer during the Open Market period, you have sacrificed your Right of Return.

Special Notes

Common Branches (781B) teachers working in middle schools are considered for excessing purposes only as probationers in a subject area which they have taught for the past three years.

Rule 10 teachers (20+ years of continuous appointed service in license), if excessed, remain in their buildings as ATRs.

Saturday, June 22, 2019


We knew that with the UFT not making a push for reducing class sizes that there was no chance that the City Council would insist on it so we were numbed when the City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced their budget deal recently that did not include money to reduce class sizes.

Here is a brief rundown from Class Size Matters' Leonie Haimson at the NYC Public School Parents blog on what is and is not in the budget for education.

In terms of our public schools, it included $41M more to hire about 200 new social workers for schools, especially those with lots of homeless kids and $857,000 for seven additional Title IX Coordinators to handle complaints of gender discrimination and sexual harassment.  The budget will also put $250M into an overall city budget reserve to be used during economic downturns that now totals $6 billion. 

The education budget will  include  another $25 million  for the Mayor’s top education priority: 3K expansion into 14 new districts, bringing the cost to around $100M.  If the pattern of previous years holds, the DOE will continue to draw kids out of existing preK centers run by Community Based Organizations  and pushing them into already overcrowded public schools, which in turn will contribute to higher class sizes for kids in grades K-5.

What the education budget doesn't include: any increase in Fair student funding (with many schools are currently at only 90%), no dedicated funding for class size reduction, and no amount to achieve CBO pay parity for preK teachers -- though the Council says they got a commitment from the Mayor to address this disparity though negotiations by the end of the summer.

I am no budget expert but I cannot understand how if the city has close to $6 billion in reserves why many schools are funded with a 10% cut from full funding. Something is wrong that there isn't a peep of protest here.

The city seems to be expecting a recession while the Federal Reserve looks like it is about the cut interest rates to stimulate the national economy. Wall Street is loving it. Record highs for them. Continued austerity for the schools.  At least our TDA's have done well.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019


Monday's posting has achieved a great deal of reaction from a number of different schools on grade inflation and outright grade fraud. If the false grades are as widespread as readers contend, is anyone willing to do anything about it?

Let's look at the UFT Contract. It provides two areas where this topic is covered.

First is Article 8D:

D. Students’ Grades                                                                                                                              The teacher’s judgment in grading students is to be respected; therefore if the principal changes a student’s grade in any subject for a grading period, the principal shall notify the teacher of the reason for the change in writing.
Teacher grades are to be respected. Only the Principal, not you, can change a grade. Let administration have it on their hands if they want to engage in grade fraud.

I know, I know, I can already see the anonymous comments coming. Some of you are now going to tell me how you can't stand up to your all powerful principal. If you dare to challenge him/her, you will be inviting upon yourself ineffective observation reports and then there will be trumped up charges to throw multiple letters into your file. Refusing to be involved in fraudulent passing grades will be the first step in you being fired. Listening to that crazy guy at the ICEUFT blog will have cost you your job.
Okay, I get it. You can't fight city hall, or rather Tweed Courthouse, alone. 
But what if members of a staff were united in demanding a fair process to test and appraise kids? Can we get that through the Contract? The answer is yes although we can only go as far as the Superintendent.

Let's go to Article 24:

ARTICLE TWENTY-FOUR PROFESSIONAL CONCILIATION                                                  The Board and the Union agree that professional involvement of teachers in educational issues should be encouraged. However, it is recognized that there may be differences in professional judgment. 
A. School Level 
1. Where differences related to school-based decisions in one of the following areas cannot be resolved, a conciliation process will be available to facilitate the resolution of these differences:

a. Curriculum mandates
b. Textbook selection
c. Program offerings and scheduling
d. Student testing procedures and appraisal methodology 
e. Pedagogical and instructional strategy, technique and methodology.
I have seen this seemingly weak process that cannot go beyond the Superintendent work successfully when Chapters are united. Student appraisal methodology is covered as is instructional strategy, technique and methodology. If we want to be seen as professionals, we have to assert our professionalism.

I would be more than happy to assist if teachers are ready to cry foul on the grades and are willing to go through the conciliation process. We can alert the media if you like.
Ten Chapters would be a nice start. 
Forget the anonymous comments and do something about it if you are really interested in restoring some integrity to the school system. I'm not talking about people who are lone wolves in a school. These teachers need to do what it takes just to survive. 
I'm looking for teachers who are respected by their colleagues; teachers who can unite most of the pedagogues in their schools.   
It's not up to Chancellor Carranza or President Mulgrew to stop the fraud. All of us can start the process.

If any school is in, you know where to find me.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


Seven others, besides Holden, signed on.

De Blasio defended Carranza in today's NY Post.

Please also note that Diane Ravitch has covered the NY Post taking on Carranza.

From Diane:
Susan Edelman reports in the New York Post that nine members of the NYC City Council complained that Chancellor Richard Carranza was hiring inexperienced cronies for top jobs. 
One of his hires was a former Disney executive who will serve as “chief experience officer,” which is ironic since he apparently has no education experience. Maybe he will be there to make sure that students and teachers have good experiences, like the kind you get at Disney World.
Another will be paid $205,000 a year, although there are unanswered questions about his employment history. His title is: “senior executive director for continuous school improvement” with the Department of Education and a staff of 40.

Monday, June 17, 2019



I am a high school teacher.  I have read many things, in many locations about the inability of public school students, as old as 17-21 years.  Unfortunately, all of those allegations are correct.  I am not an English teacher.  I don't blame English teachers.  When I give an assignment, and students can't spell the word "Minute" or "Social" I'm not sure if I should laugh or cry.  We are talking about kindergarten level writing.  They can't even calculate and average using two numbers.  Again, not the fault of the teacher.  There is zero work ethic and zero will to do anything.  How about not showing up to school with a pen, pencil or paper?  What disturbs me even more than their inability, is that staff and Administration has to push those students through.  It is that time of year where I will sit at graduation and hear how much the students have accomplished and how hard they have worked.   In reality, they all got 65 because I had no choice.  What a joke...  

-A graduating senior who can't write a coherent sentence?

-How about the whole senior class being unable to write a sentence?

-How about staff being held accountable, grading policies that all of a sudden don't apply because a given principal wants all of his/her students to graduate so he/she can float a fraud about how successful the school is?

-I can now accept work from 5 months ago? 

-How about the staff being bullied all year?

-How about no-show students completing a few minutes of make-up work so a teacher can go back and give them credit for all the classes they missed?  

-What happened to seat time?

-What happened to standards?

-What happened to academic rigor?

-Congrats to my school for having a fake graduation rate...

-If everyone is doing so well, why was the average SAT score in the 800 area?

-I am embarrassed...

-I am a liar...

-I am being abused...

-Four years of doing no work, walking in an hour late, eating breakfast in class, missing assignment after assignment, years below grade level in real terms, but has never failed a class...

-How exactly does a student get a 55 in the 1st MP, 55 in the 2nd MP, but magically get an 85 in the 3rd MP so we can average the 3 to get a 65?

-It will be humorous and sad when these students are expected to actually do something, maybe in college, maybe when they get a  job...But at that point they will all do what they already do, blame someone else.  When they pass every class while doing nothing, what would you expect?

Where is UFT assistance?  President?  Vice President?  Personnel?  I know I am not the first to call fraud.  Teachers get careers wrecked while students get a free ride?  A reply from several of you would be wonderful.  If you would like to see a sample of what I mean, I can gladly forward student work.  This is clearly an epidemic and it is all across NYC.  

This is the second exasperated teacher who has cc'ed the ICEUFT blog on a letter to the Chancellor and UFT President Michael Mulgrew. If anyone else is interested, it is and
It is interesting as at my last school we were told seat time was a legal responsibility for students to have in order to acquire credit. The DOE gives conflicting guidance saying here:

The City requires children ages 6 to 17 to attend school on a full time basis. One of the requirements for passing to the next grade is 90 percent attendance.
However, in another document the DOE states:

Attendance alone cannot prevent promotion or graduation
Students cannot fail a class or not be promoted because of their attendance, but attendance may affect grades. Students who meet class expectations must receive credit and are not required to make up the exact hours of missed class time.
 For tenured teachers, it is up to everyone to stand together if there is massive grade fraud going on. A couple of people writing the Chancellor and UFT President isn't going to change things.

Sunday, June 16, 2019


This came from my son Matthew who was born on Father's Day in 2014 and so turned five yesterday.

Happy Birthday Matthew!

My daughter Kara with Matthew enjoying his birthday dessert. Note Matthew's favorite is still apple sauce.

I will get back to writing about the schools later.

Happy Father's Day to all!

Friday, June 14, 2019


I was saddened to learn today of the passing of longtime UFT Vice President for Elementary Schools Abe Levine. He was 89. Abe retired as VP in 1993 but stayed on the Executive Board through 2013.

I respected Abe. Although we often disagreed, he was a man of principle. We had something in common as we were not afraid to state our opinion even if it was not the popular position.

Abe was a hawk on U.S. foreign policy very much in line with the Albert Shanker pro-Vietnam, hard line Cold War foreign policy.  When Randi Weingarten was annointed to lead the Union, she moved our position on foreign policy a bit to the left. Abe would still get up at the DA and Executive Board and repeatedly speak out against the UFT's new slightly more 2000s mainstream Democratic Party positions on international policy. I disagreed but admired his resiliency and his ability to speak up for what he believed was right. Unlike in a previous era, Abe was not thrown out of the ruling Unity Caucus for disagreeing with the caucus on these issues.

Retired Teachers Chapter Leader Tom Murphy sent out the tribute below.

Dear James,

Abe Levine, the first vice president for elementary schools and a steadfast presence at the UFT until his final months, died on Thursday evening. He was 89 years old.

Funeral services will be held at noon on Tuesday, June 18, at Plaza Jewish Community Chapel at 630 Amsterdam Avenue (at 91st Street). UFT members are welcome to attend.

Levine joined the Teachers Guild — the UFT’s predecessor organization — in 1953. In the mid-1950s, he spearheaded the campaign to win the right to a duty-free lunch for teachers. When the UFT was born in 1960, Levine was elected its first vice president for elementary schools, a post he held for 33 years until his retirement in June 1993. He served on the UFT Executive Board for nearly 59 years, including his time with the Teachers Guild, until he stepped down in 2013. He missed only one meeting in all those years. Since his retirement, Levine continued to be an ardent trade unionist and regular participant at UFT events. He never missed an opportunity to work a phone bank or attend a rally. Levine also made a practice of visiting the sick, bringing them cheer and letting them know that their fellow union members had not forgotten them.

We will miss him tremendously. May he rest in peace.


Tom Murphy
Retired Teachers Chapter Leader