Friday, November 28, 2014


On Tuesday evening, I spoke on behalf of Absent Teacher Reserves at the Panel for Educational Policy meeting in Manhattan.  The text of the speech is below and you can watch it on You Tube if you would like (thanks to Norm Scott for the video).

To illustrate how little has changed since Bill de Blasio took over from Mike Bloomberg as Mayor and Carmen Farina replaced Dennis Walcott as Chancellor, a DOE official took down my contact information after I spoke at the PEP but I am still waiting to hear from them on what is an immediate concern. 

As part of my speech, I requested a release from being an ATR at Hillcrest to start at Middle College High School right away as Middle College wants to hire me for a leave replacement position through June.  Guess what, I heard nothing from anybody at the DOE except for an email telling me to go to Hillcrest next week.  I will have no chance to become acclimated at a new school that does not operate in a traditional way. Nothing against Hillcrest but if another school wants to hire me, shouldn't they be able to let me come there right away instead of wasting another week at a school where I am only covering classes? Just one little anecdote on how little has changed in the schools compared to the past.

I also asked for the Chancellor or someone from her office to meet with representatives from the Absent Teacher Reserve Association.  Let's see if we hear back from them.

PEP Statement November 25, 2014

 Good evening Chancellor Farina and Panel members.  My name is James Eterno.  I addressed the panel many times under the previous administration mainly advocating for Jamaica HS, the 122 year old school that was closed by Chancellor Walcott but didn't fully phase out until this past June. We tried to get a new lease on life from our new Chancellor as we wrote to you in January and you sent a deputy to visit but after that we never heard from you or your office.  We had to find out from Melinda Katz, the Queens Borough President, that we were officially closed.

Since Jamaica is now closed, this fall many of my colleagues and I are now Absent Teacher Reserves. Having spent many years dedicating our professional lives to working with kids, we deserve better than to be bounced around Queens whenever administration decides to play musical ATRs.  I would like to point out to the Panel and the Chancellor some of what goes on in schools with regard to ATRs.

For example, many of us have been sent on mandatory interviews for jobs that do not exist. We are forced to go or we will have resigned our jobs. Assistant principals meet me and apologize for wasting my time.  What kind of organization sends people on phony job interviews while simultaneously  paying for coverages at the schools where we are temporarily assigned because we are not there?

There is a myth out there that all of the ATRS do not want a permanent placement in a school.  I can't speak for anyone else but I know some friends from Jamaica and I want permanent jobs.  In this ridiculous rotation system you and the UFT agreed to, two administrators have told me they like my work but nobody will hire me permanently because I'm too expensive.  This is outrageous.  Even now when middle College HS wants me as a leave replacement, I can't get released from Hillcrest by your ATR office until after December 5. Why not tomorrow? This is just ridiculous.

The rotation system has no rhyme or reason to it.  Some of us changed schools after three weeks while others are staying for six.  We have no say in it as it is apparently up to the whims of principals; some are very professional and feel for us while others are not

Chancellor you have mentioned mutual consent hiring rather than forced placement.  Mutual consent does not apply to ATRs because we can be forced placed by any principal at any time and if we say no to the placement, we've resigned.  What kind of mutual consent is that?

Over 100 ATRs have formed the ATR Alliance.  As an employee organization, we would like to meet with you or your representatives to discuss our concerns which I have just scratched the surface of in two minutes.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Here is a story from Capital NY about how the city has found an additional $2.6 billion in savings and revenue while adding much less in spending. 

Anyone who believed the cupboard was bare, as Michael Mulgrew told us when the contract was settled, just wasn't looking.

UFT members who voted for the contract on the belief that if we turned it down and went back to the negotiating table we would do worse are not looking like financial geniuses now either.

Our friend NYC Educator wrote a piece earlier on what he is thankful for this Thanksgiving.  I am fairly certain the mayor is thankful that he negotiated a pattern setting contract with the UFT's current Unity Caucus leadership and not the people in the opposition.

Harris Lirtzman filed this report on the added city revenues. We thank him for discovering the windfall which is kind of buried in the Capital NY account.

Funny, the City announced an unexpected $2.6 billion in additional debt service savings and tax revenues the day before Thanksgiving....almost like it didn't want anyone to find out that the joint is rolling in dough.

The City is "spreading" that sofa-cushion money over the next two fiscal years, again, just in case anyone, say a union contract negotiator, might realize it was there, now, in the bank account.

This spring, the UFT wouldn't listen to those of us who were warning it not to buy the City's claim of imminent financial disaster.

Our union might have got the retro payment in two or three years, maybe even a lump sum, and, God forbid, have negotiated an actual raise instead of a signing bonus for 2011-12.  It could even have delivered on its promise to retirees to pay the lump-sum in July rather than reopening the contract five months later in order to have an arbitrator rummage around in the contract to find them their additional $60 million somewhere.

We can all bemoan the fact that our beloved union is run like a one-party state.

I don't think we can forgive our union leadership for failing at its primary responsibility--social justice or no social justice--which is to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement that doesn't sell its members short because of incompetence.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.



The letter below is from a local leader in response to NYSUT leadership's offer to send to presidents lists of our members who did and didn't vote earlier this month.

Hey All,

After sitting on this for a couple of days - I finally formulated my thoughts on the offer to get a list of my members who did not vote.

As disappointing as it is to hear that only 40% of NYSUT members voted, what is more disappointing, for me, is the response by NYSUT leadership. Blaming the results of the November 4th election on the rank-and-fie membership not voting is at best misdirection and at worst an unforgivable lack of understanding for the current circumstances most members find themselves in.

Many of us feel that it was NYSUT's silence in the Gubernatorial election and flawed (and subsequently failed) plan to elect low level Democrat's in the Senate, that left members un-motivated to participate in this election. It seems pretty obvious Justin Wagner was not going to get members to the voting booth. We already turned the Senate Democratic and the Governor with the help of the IDC worked behind the scenes to steal this success from us. Putting all of our hopes on this same strategy virtually guaranteed we would be snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The reality is, individual Senators and Assembly members make little difference in New York. It is the three or four men in the room that determine the policies we live under. Whether or not Justin Wagner won or lost it would have made at best a marginal difference for our members, even if we voted in a Democratic senate, he was destined to be a Senator of a party in the minority. It is clear now that the IDC is still alive and kicking.

Our members were not fools, gullible or lazy, they were confused. It is clear to everyone that Andrew Cuomo will not rest until he destroys our profession and unity. Our members correctly identify him as the biggest problem in the state and wanted us to lead them towards a solution. NYSUT's enforced silence on the Governor's race conveyed a sense of hopelessness to the membership and they responded the way hopeless people always do. I agree that 40% turnout is incredibly disappointing, but I do not believe the membership is at fault. After spending six million dollars in this campaign, how many of our members, or Presidents, can say what the strategy was. We had an opportunity to bring the Governor below a 50% threshold, which would have been a career ending embarrassment for him. Despite our silence he only earned 52.5% of the vote. If we had given our members a plan to address their reality they would have voted. When we convey hopelessness, they give up. It is a problem with leadership not membership.

This leadership team promised a *NEW* NYSUT. This leadership team promised militancy. This leadership team promised that NYSUT will be the voice that cannot be ignored. This leadership team called Cuomo the Scott Walker of NY - but now suddenly they want to endorse Cuomo while the rest of the state has to fight against that. If we are to believe that the Revive NYSUT rhetoric was anything other than a cynical ploy to oust the former officers of NYSUT (because they were moving away from Randi and blind support for , the core, Cuomo), the NYSUT officers must make real moves towards engagement.

So, in short, do NOT send me a list of my members who did not vote. Send me a viable plan to oust the politicians that are supporting the corporate reform movement. Send me a list of candidates who are going to repeal the Tax Levy Cap & GEA. Send me a list of candidates who want to revoke Common Core. But do not send me a list that tells my members that it is their fault.

There you have it.

Monday, November 24, 2014


The School custodians who are part of 32 BJ  Local 891 have reached a new contract agreement with the city.  According to press reports I have seen, they are receiving the same 18% salary increases over 9 years that the UFT got in the spring to set a pattern for city workers.

The custodian's contract is retroactive to 2007 and lasts through 2016.

I have one question for anybody who has a good relationship with their custodian:

Do the custodians have to wait until 2020 to get their retroactive money like we do? 

Press reports are silent on this question but I think it is important.

UPDATE: As Unity Must Go stated in the comments, I spoke to one of the custodial staff at Hillcrest High School, where I am temporarily assigned, and he confirmed that the payments are stretched out so the UFT pattern holds for them.

I will just add the comment from Unity Must Go in full to the posting. 

Unitymustgo! said...
Yes, the custodians have to wait. One of my custodians showed me the agreement. Their arrears will be paid out using exactly the same 12.5, 12.5, 0, 25, 25, 25 through 2020 as us, only their date for payment is july 1 of each year. Their contract only extends to 2016. They are also getting the same $1000 ratification bonus. There is no interest.

Friday, November 21, 2014


The NYC Independent Budget Office has released a report on city finances. Harris Lirtzman, who knows finance, has some analysis that he sent to ICE. It is copied below in full.

The IBO projected today a budget deficit of approximately $2.5 billion for the next fiscal year. That represents 3.3% on the City's $75 billion budget.

This is sofa-change for the City, which in the past had to close $5-6 billion deficits on much smaller overall budgets.

I raise all this because you'll probably remember the panicked cries that went out before and during the contract negotiations that paying the retroactive increase would break the bank.  So the contract was extended to nine years and the retro stretched out beyond the term of the contract.  Employees who quit before the new contract got nothing and retirees are being told to wait until an arbitrator can find $60 million somewhere else in the agreement to move around to pay them.

No disaster.  No bankruptcy.  No fiscal crisis.  Some of us said loudly at the time that there would be no disaster or fiscal crisis.

Unfortunately, our leadership bought the narrative lock, stock and barrel and we got a lousy deal through 2018 with payments stretched out to 2020.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


A resolution calling for the UFT to support the cause of students in Mexico who have disappeared and one calling for Time Magazine to apologize for their teacher bashing cover were passed at the November Delegate Assembly yesterday. The Mexican students had disappeared and were probably tortured and murdered.  Abe Levine of the ruling Unity Caucus spoke in favor of an amendment introduced by Leroy Barr calling for the AFT to do research on the nature of the organization we were supporting in Mexico before we fully support them and the body agreed to this change before passing the resolution.

(Update: AFT did some quick research and supported the resolution for the missing students. There is a demonstrations on their behalf on Friday, Nov 21 at the Mexican Consulate, located at 21 E 39th Street, Manhattan at 4:00 pm.)

Two different resolutions failed at the DA. One was introduced by Megan Moskop who wanted the UFT to support a teacher hiring diversity petition.  She wanted it placed on this month's agenda which is not debatable and requires a 2/3 vote to be added in.  Before she raised the motion, Unity's Leroy Barr during his Staff Director's Report commented that the UFT was doing much already through its Social and Economic Justice Committee to increase diversity in hiring.  Megan did get to make a few points even though her motion was for this month's agenda so she is just supposed to make a motion.  She did not get the 2/3 vote necessary to put it on the agenda.

Another motion was raised by Marjorie Stamberg to support First Amendment rights in Ferguson Missouri.  This also failed to carry.

President's Report
(Thanks to Megan Moskop for helping on this as I was late getting to the nearly deserted visitor's section on the 19th floor.)

What do we say about the elections that just passed?

Low voter turnout- 28% in NY State, lowest number ever. That’s what the people who don't like us are always pushing for. If we vote and get our people out to vote, we’re in a good place.

You all have TVs, so Mulgrew didn't get into details.

Governor’s races are a problem.
Tons of mailers. We need to spend some time and money organzing people to actually get out to vote. Fewer mailers.
Tech bond act passed- millions of dollars to technology in NYC.

94 struggling schools in NYC

92- want to set up meetings jointly w/ DOE and UFT folks in schools. Farina keeps saying, and keeps getting beaten up over collaboration. When she says trust she means trust for the whole school community. Integrity. Shared responsibility. Must move from being an individual profession to a team profession. The job is too hard; we can do it better together. Successful schools should be sharing ideas. She’s been clear that the hunger games are over.

2- Automotive & Boys and Girls: special cases
Submitted a plan a while ago, but it was rejected. It is clear that SED was going to close the schools. Long hours to come to agreement. We feel this is a good plan for how to move forward without closing the schools. (Will not close until we first try to help them.) These two schools have never been treated fairly. Huge #s of high need kids. Now we have a planning committee. Change in conditions of work environment now. Personnel committee- 50% UFT members (if dispute, it is taken to Mulgrew and Farina). We want to show people that this is how it should  work.

Aris and Amplify
Contracts have been cancelled for both.

Tenure Lawsuit
Motion to dismiss California copycat case to end tenure in NYS filed by us in late October.  Should hear an answer by November 28.

Consultation and Paperwork Committees
Every school needs a Consultation Committee.  Must bring up school-wide issues during the contractually mandated monthly consultation meetings with the principal.  The newly empowered Superintendents can help resolve problems if we have raised them at the school level first.  The same applies to paperwork.  We need to bring the issues up at the school level first.

Arbitration on Arrears for Retirees
Last night the arbitrator ruled that there would be arrears paid to those UFT members who retired between 2009 and June 2014.  Intent was for everyone to get the money up front (Editorial: That's already not happening).  We will work with arbitrator to make everyone whole.  $60 million in a $5 billion contract should not be difficult to fix. Lucky we had a clause to reopen this if there was a problem.

Leroy Barr Staff Director's Report
The next DA is December 17; he also announced other upcoming events with special emphasis placed on the UFT committee that helps the homeless.

Question Period
Question: What is being done about principals who make our members' jobs more difficult?
Answer: Superintendents are now in place who will oversee like the law says they should.  Since Superintendents serve at the pleasure of the Chancellor, none would dare do much under Bloomberg but now they are empowered under Farina.  Superintendents are now educators.  15 have been replaced. Farina says there needs to be trust.  Principals must respect staff.  Fixing accountability system is next.

Question: Can administration dictate binders that call for everything including what colors they should have be submitted?
Answer: No, this is an example of something that should be worked out in consultation and if it can't be resolved, then take it up with the District Representative.

Question: Aren't we creating new ATRS in Automotive and Boys and Girls?
Answer: People have to reapply for their jobs because we changed the working conditions by adding a mandatory week of work in the summer.  Persons not rehired will be placed in schools for a year if they cannot find a new position. 

(Editorial- Mulgrew says people displaced from these two schools won't become ATRS but annual placement for ATRs is precisely how ATRs were used before the infamous 2011 rotation agreement when the UFT inexplicably agreed to weekly movements from school to school.  Then again, it is indefensible that the UFT agreed to give up preferred placement when schools close in the horrific 2005 contract.  No real gain here, just easing the loss a bit.)

Question: A principal says there is no money in the budget for supplies.  Is this a proper excuse for not having supplies?
Answer: File a grievance under Article 7R.  The School Leadership Team is required to discuss the budget.  Schools have to decide how to use their money.  Administrator per session has been abused in recent years.

Question: There is a leaky roof at Clara Barton High School that is leaking into an electrical box.  Isn't this a dangerous situation where we should walk out?
Answer: We are informing the School Construction Authority immediately.  This is a dangerous situation and we will do what it takes to ensure safety of the school.

Motions already mentioned were all that was left on the agenda.  Some worthy causes were raised but there was nothing earth shattering for sure at this meeting.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Arbitrator Martin Sheinman has written a decision saying the city does not have to use extra money to pay arrears owed to UFT retirees. In our new contract, the city agreed to set aside $180 million for back pay for UFT members who retired between November 2009 and June 2014. These retroactive increases are for when these employees were still active. Teachers went six years without a raise.

Under the terms of the new contract, members who retired by June 2014 were going to be given all of their arrears in a one time payment as opposed to receiving the money piecemeal through 2020 as other members will be paid. Amazingly, the city and UFT were caught off guard when many more UFTers retired than they expected. That is the cause of a $60 million shortfall. Sheinman will decide how to make up for the deficit.

According to his decision, cited at, "Out of a multi-year package costing billions of dollars such modification shall not be difficult and shall be relatively minor."  What does that mean? 

Meanwhile, retirees have to wait even longer for their promised money.

Monday, November 17, 2014


For those following my travels, I have been assigned to Hillcrest High School until December 5.

It is interesting working in a school that is so close to Jamaica HS and similar in many ways but has managed to survive.


Here we go with the storm clouds coming as Regents Chancellor Meryl Tisch calls for raising the charter cap and closing more schools.

Here is a quote on charters:

“As we look to this legislative season, people are going to say we need to raise the charter cap. I personally am a great believer in charter schools ... I believe in opening them aggressively” Chancellor Merryl Tisch said on the John Catsimatidis radio show. “I’d like to push more charter schools.”

Now for a quote on closing schools:

"If we do not see movement on these schools, these lowest-performing schools, in terms of their ability to retool their workforce, by the spring, we will move to close them,” she said. “Because these are the schools that have failed for generations now.”

See how she blames the teachers for the failure which is absurd.

She also does not favor changing admission requirements in specialized high schools so they can admit more African American and Latino students.  She blames elementary schools for the low admission rates for these students.

A triple crown for ed deform from the state.