Thursday, May 21, 2015


Our friend NYC Educator has continued our tradition of doing monthly Delegate Assembly reports. For those who are new to the blog, I am in exile since Jamaica High School, where I worked for 28 years, closed in 2014 so I cannot have a DA seat this year.  If  Absent Teacher Reserves (ATRs) want to get elected as a Delegate or Chapter Leader for the next three years, we have to run for office at the schools we were in on May 4 even though we have no right to a position in these schools for next year when our DA term would commence.  Real fair isn't it?

Some of us put in a complaint on behalf of Absent Teacher Reserves to the UFT and when it was denied by the Executive Board, we appealed to the AFT.  There has been no response from AFT President Randi Weingarten after a week and a half.  We have to exhaust all internal remedies before we can go to the federal government for help.  Meanwhile, the DA marches on without the ATRs, including me.

It is good to know that NYC Educator is at the DA reporting so I don't have to go sit in the visitors' section on the 19th floor.

Judging from NYC Educator's minutes, nothing earth shattering happened this month.  Digging through his piece, here is my favorite part.  Below is a summary of President Michael Mulgrew's view of the new and soon to be spun improved evaluation system.  NYC Educator's notes on Mulgrew's report say this about the Matrix that the next rating system will be based on:

"Matrix—Misunderstood. For first time, if MOSL (Measures of Student Learning, i.e. student test score results) effective or developing, teacher can’t be rated ineffective. Says it will work for us until we can change federal law. Says state believes admin in cahoots with teachers and that’s what they act on. Says UFT is smart and tactical, and that we wanted this out of hands of legislature, which wanted minimum number of ineffective ratings (an ineffective rating quota). Says student proficiency ought not to be equated with teacher ratings."

The usual Mulgrew victory dance on how wonderful the UFT is doing and how the evaluation system is just great. Smart and tactical?  I might choose some different words.

I just had my fourth Danielson observation in a month today (I don't think administration at Middle College HS, where I have been assigned for the year, knew the school had to evaluate me when I first came there).  So far they haven't been bad observations but I am not feeling the love for any of the new evaluation system.  It is a pain in the butt that does nothing to improve instruction.

According what I am reading from the State Education Department via Perdido Street School, we might only have to have two ten minute observations next year. The person evaluating teachers from outside the school that the UFT wants to count for up to 25% of our rating can figure out we are effective in ten minutes. Another UFT victory? As long as the kids show growth on those deeply flawed exams that around 200,000 students opted out of, we'll be fine.

We can see the whole mess coming apart.  All that is keeping ed deform together is the big bucks of the people who want to destroy public education.

Thanks NYC Educator for sitting through each DA.  We appreciate your efforts

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


NYC Educator beat me to the punch, as he often does, by writing last week about the May 8, 2015 Ed Notes sponsored debate on whether or not it is worth it to run in UFT officer elections. Norm Scott argued against running in 2016 while Mike Schirtzer made the case in favor of the opposition being on the ballot.

Mike Schirtzer emphatically makes his point while Norm Scott takes a breath at the Ed Notes Debate on the 2016 UFT Election.

Norm spoke for a long, long, long time presenting evidence to show that it is impossible to win a UFT election so why not spend the time and energy building a group that can make a difference as opposed to running a futile election campaign, while sapping all of our strength, in what is essentially a rigged process. Let Mulgrew have his Saddam Hussein majority in an election that should be boycotted.  Norm went back about forty years analyzing the history of opposition futility in the UFT and he cited Einstein's definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. He also pointed out in painstakingly precise detail how the organizing that has taken place in the schools for the opposition since the 2013 election has left something to be desired.

Mike responded in around five minutes and won the room (diner) by saying basically an opposition caucus has to run. He said whatever strength the opposition has is represented by how many members back us and we can see that exact number when votes are tabulated.  MORE has a base of over 5,000 UFT members who voted for us in 2013 (up from 2010 ICE-TJC numbers in every division) and we are 20,000 strong if we count those who voted against last year's contract. He added we have a great list of possible candidates and our strong social media presence is a new factor that can't be discounted.

Questions and comments followed. In the end, one person sided with Norm, one abstained and roughly ten, including me, voted with Mike to run.

It was a healthy exchange of ideas but the best part of the evening for me was passing the application sheets around and having almost everyone there fill out the form and pay the fee to join the new statewide opposition to Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus called Stronger Together.

The next debate should be how we can win citywide, statewide and national union elections, not whether we should participate.

For those who read this blog, we will not get anywhere until our readers take a real activist role to change our union.

Monday, May 18, 2015


The Buffalo Teachers Federation held their elections recently and long time incumbent Phil Rumore has won reelection.  On the surface this would appear to be a blow to those of us seeking change on the state union level (New York State United Teachers aka NYSUT) as Rumore supported the Michael Mulgrew backed Revive slate last year in the NYSUT election.  However, a deeper examination of these results reveals there are some positive signs up in Buffalo.

First off, our fellow blogger Sean Crowley was elected to the union's Executive Committee.  Two other candidates from the opposition Renew BTF slate also won seats.  They are Kevin Gibson from Stronger Together and Teresa Leatherbarrow.

Digging even deeper we find that the opposition slates came within 64 votes of forcing a run-off election between the top two presidential candidates.  Anyone think there are grounds to challenge? The statement below does not look like they are heading in that direction but one never knows.

Meanwhile, out in Hawaii the teachers' union leadership lost the election and now they don't want to leave. The Executive Board voted not to certify the results.  Instead, they are calling for a do-over.

The statement from Renew  BTF up in Buffalo comes from Facebook.

Dear RenewBTF supporters,

We owe so many thanks to all of you who supported us along the way! Congratulations to Renew candidates Kevin Gibson, Teresa Leatherbarrow & Sean Crowley who won executive seats in their respective categories!
 We know you will be beacons of change, energy, and progress for the membership! I'm very proud that Mel and I and Kristen were able to post second place in our races and that the campaign and election indicate a large group of people who want change! We hear you loud and clear and we will continue to advocate for all of you and for our schools and public education. I have called Phil and congratulated him -- but had to leave a voice message -- I am looking forward to speaking with him in person -- and have said we look forward to working together with him as we have done in the past for what is best for the membership and for a strong union.
 RenewBTF will continue with its progressive mission and we will work tirelessly to effect change and to have impact at BTF, District, Board of Education, and NYSED levels. 48 percent of the electorate in this election supported the challenging tickets -- this is remarkable and it is a herald for change. We are as determined as ever to be strong advocates for members. We remain organized, vocal, and activated, and we are positive and looking up for BTF's future!

With much gratitude,

Pat Foster, Mel Holden, Kevin Gibson & Kristen Mendoza
-- We, as well as all of you who have given so much in support -- are RenewBTF

Saturday, May 16, 2015


The financial analysts at the city's Independent Budget Office (IBO) have released their latest budget forecast for the city and once again the financial outlook is solid for as far as the fiscal watchdogs can see. These are not wildly optimistic forecasters by nature; they tend to be quite conservative in their projections.

Some highlights of the May 15, 2015 report:

  • IBO projects the city will end the current fiscal year with a surplus of just over $3 billion, nearly identical to the amount expected by the de Blasio Administration.
  • Economic & Tax Revenue Forecast. Our estimate of a $685 million surplus for 2016, as well as substantially smaller shortfalls than projected by the de Blasio Administration for the ensuing years of the financial plan, is largely a reflection of IBO’s forecast of higher tax revenues. IBO’s projection for tax revenues is driven by our economic forecast, which has dimmed slightly since our forecast in March but still remains brighter than the de Blasio Administration’s forecast.
  • ...IBO projects that tax revenues will grow from $50.4 billion this fiscal year to $59.4 billion in 2019, an average annual growth rate of 4.2 percent.
  • —the city’s fiscal outlook remains solid.

Is that cupboard still bare as President Michael Mulgrew claimed it was in 2014 when he settled for a municipal labor pattern setting substandard nine year contract?

We agree with the IBO that there are some risks and an economic downturn could change the budget picture but if the UFT had not settled on a nine year contract stretching from 2009-2018, we would be in a much stronger negotiating position today as the city is flush with cash by any standard. The fact that the city's financial and media elite don't harp on the city's positive balance sheet just shows how they want to portray Mayor Bill de Blasio as a reckless free spending liberal when in reality it looks like he is more stingy than Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

I just looked at the latest salary increase on my pay stub (1% contractual raise and the first 2% of the 8% other city workers received from 2008-2010) but our family's city water bill also increased today and so has our property tax bill so we get to give a chunk of the money right back.

New York City teachers are now a measly 5% ahead of where we were back in May of 2008.  Add to this unknown healthcare savings that are in the contract and all of the demands that have been added to our job that the union has not successfully fought (for example constant demoralizing Danielson observations), and it is no wonder that people are leaving the system as fast as they can.

I become very frustrated when I see the city's financial outlook continues to brighten, not because I wish the city I live in financial harm, but because I know full well that if given a chance, the opposition to Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus with the strong backing of the membership could have done much better at negotiating a contract. City workers deserve a fair share of the pie when the city is doing well.

When our contract finally does end in 2018, the city will likely be ready to cry poverty again and our union leaders will probably be out there echoing the gloom and doom predictions.

Friday, May 15, 2015


Since we are in the middle of campaign season for Chapter Leader and Delegate elections, some teachers who are running for office are looking to get their views to the voters. A question has been raised about whether candidates can use teacher mailboxes to distribute campaign literature. The answer is yes.

If a current chapter leader or principal gives someone trouble about using the mailboxes, just quote the Harriet Baizerman Step 3 grievance decision from back in 1974 as precedent.

"The evidence presented at Step 3 also indicates that representatives of the U.F.T. had access to teachers' letter boxes to distribute material without obtaining prior approval of the principal.  The principal's policy of prohibiting the grievant from placing the aforementioned communication from a critical group within the U.F.T. in teachers' letter boxes without his prior approval constitutes discrimination against her for participating in...the activities of any employee organization in violation of Article II of the Agreement (contract), and had the effect of favoring one faction within the U.F.T. over another.  By requiring such prior approval the principal is not allowing grievant to exercise the same right to participate in the activities of her union as are the supporters of the Union and its leadership.

This conclusion is in accord with the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in N.L.R.B v. Magnavox Co.  which affirmed the right of employees to distribute literature during non-working time and in non-working areas on matters affecting the nature of their union representation on options open to employees concerning such representation whether or not their views coincide with those of the recognized bargaining agent.  As a representative of a critical group within the U.F.T., the grievant should be accorded the same right of access to teachers' letter boxes as that enjoyed by supporters or representatives of the U.F.T.

We have a Chancellors' decision and a US Supreme Court decision on our side.  There is also a memo from the Chancellor's Office from 2001 that affirms this right during campaigns for union offices. 

In other news if someone is on a leave, tell them today (May 15) is the deadline to notify the DOE's Chief Executive Officer of the Division of Human Resources of either their intention to return to work in the fall or to apply to extend the leave.  Don't let anyone on an Article 16E leave let this go or like ATRs who miss two interviews, they will have voluntarily resigned.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


For those keeping score, Absent Teacher Reserves-Leave Replacement Teachers and Temporary Provisional Teachers have appealed last week's decision of the UFT Executive Board to deny us equal voting rights to the American Federation of Teachers.

Let's see if ATRs get any justice at the AFT since we are only able to vote and run for elected office for the highest policy-making body of the UFT, the Delegate Assembly, in the schools we happen to be passing through on May 4, 2015 and might know very little about or have moved on from when chapter elections actually take place.

We'll see how President Randi Weingarten responds.  A copy of the appeal is below.

ATR's please join us in fighting for union rights.

May 12, 2015

Dear President Weingarten,

As per procedures set forth in Article VI, Section 14.(b) of the Constitution of the American Federation of Teachers, we are asking for you to  present to the the Executive Council an appeal of the Spring 2015 Chapter Elections for the United Federation of Teachers.  Our pre-election complaint concerning these elections (please see attached) was denied on Monday, May 4, 2015 by a majority of the UFT Executive Board.

The UFT is denying a certain class of teachers called Absent Teacher Reserves-Leave Replacement Teachers-Temporary Provisional Teachers equal rights to have representatives of our own choosing at the highest policy making body in the UFT: the Delegate Assembly.

Article VI, Section 14.(b) of the AFT Constitution states:
“The executive council may, by a two-thirds vote, authorize the president to appoint a committee to investigate a local or state federation where an election appears to have been conducted in violation of the local or state federation constitution, the AFT Constitution or applicable federal law.”

The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) in Title I. Bill of rights of union members in Sec. 101 (a)(1) Equal rights states:
"Every member of a labor organization shall have equal rights and privileges within such organization to nominate candidates, to vote in elections or referendums of the labor organization," rights we are being deprived of because we belong to no UFT Chapter.

We are being denied equal voting rights because we hold no regular position in a school since Absent Teacher Reserves (ATRs) rotate from school to school on a weekly, biweekly, monthly, term-to-term or yearly basis.  Some ATRs will not be working at the same school when Chapter Elections take place as the school they were assigned to on May 4, 2015. The UFT arbitrarily decided that the school ATRs were assigned to on May 4 would be their voting school. Since Chapter Elections can take place at any point in May or June and ATRs can be rotated from school to school on a weekly basis and there is no provision for absentee balloting, some ATRS will be disenfranchised.

Federal Office of Labor Management Standards regulations also state:
“Every member in good standing is eligible to be a candidate and to hold office subject to reasonable qualifications in the union’s constitution and bylaws that are uniformly imposed.”

It is not a reasonable qualification for an Absent Teacher Reserve, Leave Replacement Teacher or Temporary Provisional Teacher to have to run for office in schools they have no right to a position in when the term of office would begin this summer.  UFT policy has traditionally been to remove people from elected office when they are no longer a member of a particular chapter. In addition, while it is possible, it is highly impractical to have members represent schools they are no longer working at. The procedures put into effect by the UFT in 2015 put ATRs Leave Replacement and Temporary Provisional teachers at a huge competitive disadvantage in seeking union office for the Delegate Assembly, the highest policy-making body in the UFT.

In essence ATRs have de jure rights on paper that in reality are inferior to the rights our brothers and sisters who are permanently assigned to schools have.

A pre-election complaint (see attached) was filed with the United Federation of Teachers on April 13, 2015 alleging several violations of the Labor-Management-Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA).

The UFT responded by appointing Leroy Barr, the UFT Staff Director-Assistant Secretary to make a report on the matter.  Mr. Barr had previously spoken on the record at the Delegate Assembly against Absent Teacher Reserves having equal rights to vote and serve in union office.  Mr. Barr had also met with one of us on this issue in November and clearly was not sympathetic to the cause of ATR voting rights.  

Mr. Barr had a conflict of interest.  His lack of objectivity precluded us from having a fair hearing at the UFT Executive Board.  Instead, a biased hearing was held on May 4, 2015, where those of us who filed the election complaint were not permitted to respond to Mr. Barr’s report.

We are now appealing to the AFT, looking for full election rights for Absent Teacher Reserves-Leave Replacement-Temporary Provisional teachers. We believe that we are entitled to our own UFT chapter to represent our unique interests. We trust we will be hearing from you expeditiously within the next few days, as elections are now underway.


James Eterno
Francesco Portelos,
Al Zucker
August Leppelmeier
Absent Teacher Reserves-Leave Replacement Teachers

C: Monica Mohan

Sunday, May 10, 2015


Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last Thursday that the city's spending plan for fiscal year 2016 would include over $4 billion in reserves.  He also once again pointed out that income taxes were coming in ahead of forecasts and he even acknowledged that the city economy is in a recovery.

De Blasio stated, "The economy continues to grow, with New York City adding 120,000 private sector jobs in 2014 for a record 3.5% growth."

Remember these little tidbits of information fellow UFT members as we examine our next pay stub that will include a 1% increase while we also finally will see the first 2% of the 8% salary increases that most other city employees received back from 2008-2010.  We will not have the money from those years fully added to our checks until 2018.  The back pay from 2009-2011 will be given in lump sums in October of this year, then in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Furthermore, the Mayor in his budget presentation showed how city workers will soon be contributing healthcare savings to the city.

I keep recalling last year when UFT President Michael Mulgrew claimed the city's cupboard was empty as he sold us his substandard contract. The evidence continues to mount that the president was more than a little wrong.