Friday, August 23, 2019

Valerie Strauss writes The Answer Sheet blog for The Washington Post. She is a public education supporter. She sent this out on Twitter earlier.

TEACHERS: if you are buying school supplies or getting them anywhere other than from your schools, please email me and tell me what you are getting and why your school isn't providing them. thanks.

Do the teachers reading the ICEUFT blog spend money on supplies?  Considering the interest we get whenever we write about Teacher's Choice, my guess is many go beyond the allotment.

My opinion is that it is normally unnecessary to spend so much on supplies. NYC has plenty of money. I learned my lesson for good in 2012 when Jamaica High School was phasing out. For years we were told there were shortages and no money in the school's bare bones budget for many supplies. Many times we had to fight like crazy for teachers and students to get our fair share.

Then in 2012 my friend COSA (Coordinator of Student Activities) Steve Heiss and I (College  Advisor) were moved to a basement office as phasing out Jamaica High School was relegated to the first floor and basement in the huge building. The room next door to our "new" office had a door administration did not know was connected to our office. This room was the excess supply room.

Steve explored the room and later called me in. We looked at each other like we discovered hidden treasure when we looked around. The room was fully stocked. There were enough supplies such as copy paper to open a Staples store. What a waste. We ended up being a bit angry because having to fight for supplies was so ridiculously avoidable.

The real shame was how there were unused ink cartridges from machines that were obsolete and so the cartridges were never used. Also, the Expo markers sat there for so long that they dried up almost instantly when we finally used them. Still, we had few shortages in our last two years before we closed in 2014.

Are there other schools out there struggling with supplies because they are being hoarded by the powers that be?

Thursday, August 22, 2019


  1. Transit Workers Union Local 100 is the one government employee union in NY where militancy is a possibility even though the memory of the 2005 strike might be holding them back.  In the past, TWU, would have at least been threatening some kind of job action the day when their contract expired. TWU's contract with the MTA expired in May. The TWU is the sleeping union giant that just may have been awakened after the MTA's presented their latest insulting contract offer.

Transit workers are being blamed in the press for the subway system's failures. However when one digs a little deeper, usually we find managerial ineptitude is the biggest cause of this ageny's troubles.

In the recent past, TWU has used their alliance with Governor Andrew Cuomo to further their cause.  That might not be enough now.

The TWU Local 100 executive board rejected the MTA's latest contract proposal unanimously (see below) on Monday. Will TWU now threaten real militancy? If the answer is no, expect Local 100 to join with most of the other public unions in NY by accepting concession after concession in exchange for minimal raises.

The full TWU motion on MTA's contract proposal.

Motion to Reject MTA's Contract Offer

The members of the Executive Board of the Transport Workers Union Local 100, representing the 40,000 workers who operate and maintain the New York City Bus and Subway system, emphatically reject the MTA’s contract offer presented on August 14, 2019.

The “offer” is wholly inadequate and insulting to the men and women who have worked tirelessly to provide

New York City its most essential public service 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

It completely ignores the union’s legitimate contract proposals – presented to the MTA more than four months ago – on main table issues and Departmental concerns. 

Worse, it seeks a series of unacceptable giveback demands that would turn the clock back on decades of hard fought gains.

This Board also rejects the MTA’s recent negative media campaign that shamefully paints its workers as overtime thieves and pampered no-shows. 
These are despicable and intentional attacks on the character of thousands of honest, hardworking men and women of TWU. 

The MTA offer also purposely overlooks the remarkable job the transit workforce did in implementing the Subway Action Plan. The MTA’s top leadership recently boasted of major improvements in on-time service. This would not, and could not, have happened without Local 100 transit workers.

Furthermore, the MTA offer continues to minimize the fact that this City cannot function without our bus and subway system. Transit workers provide the incredible mobility that makes New York an economic giant and the world’s greatest center of art, culture, finances, technology and tourism.

Transit workers know that there is no down time on the job. The pressure to produce is intense. We work through snowstorms, hurricanes, power outages, freezing temperatures, and brutal heat. While the rest of the City is asleep or hunkering down during weather emergencies, our members are keeping service moving, protecting the equipment, and assisting the public.

Whether we are driving a bus, operating a train, fixing the signals and track, or maintaining the rolling stock, the lives of millions of New Yorkers – every day – literally depend on the dedication and professionalism of the transit workforce. This enormous responsibility falls squarely on our shoulders and adds to the pressures of our members’ jobs.

Transit workers are without question the most productive labor force in the City or State. But remarkably, we are also the most under-appreciated, and that disrespect disgracefully flows from the MTA itself.

Transit workers are the targets of assaults on a daily basis, both physical and verbal. The intimidation factor can be overwhelming. Recent outrageous assaults on our members are symptoms of an unacceptable situation that is only getting worse.

No other workforce in New York has to put up with this level of abuse, threats and bullying.

Then there are the many life-threatening dangers transit workers face on the job. Three transit workers were killed in horrible accidents in the system during this contract period. One worker recently lost a leg. Another lost an arm. 

Hundreds more are injured in all sorts of mishaps due the hazardous conditions we face across the system on the tracks, in our depots and barns and while operating on the road.

None of these harsh realities are reflected in the MTA’s offer.

Transit workers take their jobs seriously. They know that what they do is critical to the City. They enjoy their jobs, enjoy their co-workers, and feel a part of a team, despite the criticism from on high; despite the ridiculous levels of discipline from the MTA’s management structure; despite the venom from the media, and despite all the other issues that plague the system that are born of age and social crises that transit workers did not create but have to deal with.

As such, the Local 100 Executive Board calls for the TWU Local 100 leadership to deliver this message of categorical rejection of this contract offer to MTA Chair Patrick Foye, and we call for the entire TWU Local 100 membership to stand as one with this leadership to support any and all efforts deemed necessary to achieve a fair and equitable contract.

The Local 100 membership has earned it, and deserves it.

Monday, August 19, 2019


Teachers return to school two weeks from tomorrow on September 3, 2019. I noticed the ICEUFT blog is getting a bunch of hits this week on last year's Teacher's Choice piece when we wondered why the Department of Education and the UFT hadn't announced the amount of the Teacher's Choice allocation or the start date for spending which was traditionally August 1. Last year's allocation was $250 for teachers.

I just asked my wife if she has received an email from the UFT about Teacher's Choice for the upcoming school year. She told me she has still not seen a text or email on the start date for spending this year or the allocation amount. Therefore, I just checked the Teacher's Choice page on the UFT website and here is exactly what it says:

Please check back soon for information on funding for the 2019–20 school year.

As we said, spending usually starts on August 1. Why should the UFT or DOE announce when teachers can make purchases and this year's amount?  Because it's August 19!

We do know the City Council approved Teacher's Choice funding in the current budget. We have no idea why it seems to take longer and longer each year to figure out when teachers and other school based UFT members can start spending for supplies and how much the allocation will be as well as then to update the website. UFT has no shortage of well paid staff nor does the DOE.

If the amount and date when spending can start is already out there and I missed it, please send us the information.

Sunday, August 18, 2019


I find Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez to be quite genuine in her support for working people. Her recent battle with Barstool's David Portnoy is revealing. Portnoy threatened to fire anybody on the spot who was even discussing forming a union.

AOC responded on Twitter:

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

If you’re a boss tweeting firing threats to employees trying to unionize, you are likely breaking the law & can be sued, in your words, “on the spot.” ALL workers in the US have the protected freedom to organize for better conditions. See @NLRB & union orgs like @AFLCIO for tips.

Another Tweet on worker power from AOC:

Bosses don’t wield all the power. Workers have plenty - yet many don’t know it! Study up & search the history of labor rights in America. School doesn’t teach the history of the US labor mvmt, but we have weekends bc of it. & We risk losing rights if we forget how we earned them. 

I don't agree about not teaching labor history as my colleagues and I certainly covered it but otherwise AOC is spot on. If NYC teachers en masse would stop just complaining on social media and start organizing for a better union instead of waiting for Michael Mulgrew to do something, we could win our rights back and cut the influence of the overpaid bureaucrats that the NY Post's Sue Edelman, not the UFT's NY Teacher, exposed today.

Thursday, August 15, 2019


The Department of Education has pulled the plug on David Morrison as principal of Hillcrest High School. Our source on the inside tells us Morrison was a decent guy who was well liked by a good portion of the staff.  Hillcrest was Jamaica High School's sister school and we used to marvel how they managed to graduate almost everyone with basically the same population that we had.

It turns out Hillcrest was pushing the kids through to graduation with bogus classes that didn't even have teachers. That was substantiated by the DOE but since when did passing kids through any means necessary land a principal in trouble? Evidence we have seen from the DOE is that passing everyone is encouraged.

As for the lawsuit for sexual harassment filed against the English Assistant Principal who was allegedly rewarding female staffers for sleeping with him, the AP has been tenured and continues in his job while the suit continues in court. That sounds like the DOE we all know.

Who did Morrison tick off?

Wednesday, August 14, 2019


Politico New York has a story on the NYC chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America attempting to take over the unions and move them to the left politically. Infiltrating unions is a classic left wing strategy.

Here is the general introduction of the article:

NEW YORK — A left-leaning political organization that publicly backed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in her insurgent victory last year was also quietly plotting to penetrate another New York City power source — labor unions.
The New York City branch of the Democratic Socialists of America presented its members with a strategy last year to gain entry into some of the city’s most powerful labor organizations and ensure they are adhering to the “militant” principles that the group felt had been diluted over time. POLITICO obtained a previously unreported, 37-page memo laying out a follow-up plan that identified 10 unions to target.
The members approved zeroing in on six of those labor groups during a January meeting and have since begun pursuing the effort.
In its memo, the DSA makes clear its dissatisfaction with some of the same unions that were once regarded as a bedrock of left-leaning Democratic politics. The tension resembles the national strain between left-flank Democrats, who want to capitalize on the energy in their wing of the party, and centrists aiming for broader appeal.
“We will focus our branch resources on recruiting NYC-DSA members to take jobs in these sectors and on developing a strategy for militant, democratic, classwide struggles based in these sectors,” reads the introduction to the plan.
It goes on to detail what DSA sees as the shortcomings of each of the six unions and why each is ripe for a shakeup. The organization also identifies ways outsiders can access jobs that would allow them entree into the labor groups.
Okay so you know we are going to dive down to where they get to the UFT. Politico has a spot on paragraph prior to discussing the UFT on the lack of union democracy:

“Unions that aren’t democratic oftentimes fall into the trap of not being able to fight back against concessions that an employer is asking for,” Bianca Cunningham, co-chair of DSA’s city chapter, said in an interview Tuesday. “When you don’t have democracy in unions, they might endorse candidates that are not enacting an agenda that’s beneficial for most working people in the city.”

No problem here Ms. Cunningham but then Politico writes about the UFT and it's cringe time.
Another target is the United Federation of Teachers, a nearly 200,000-member union representing teachers, social workers, secretaries and other school employees.
“UFT is the largest local of one of the largest unions in the country. It has the potential to be extremely influential in electoral politics,” the group wrote. “It is extremely internally undemocratic, but there is a reform caucus, MORE, which has many active DSA members.”
MORE refers to the Movement of Rank and File Educators, whose website leads with a July post criticizing the union’s internal election process and calling for voting reforms.
The union “fails to exercise the full potential of its power” and ends up backing centrist or conservative Democrats, the group added.
“With more DSA teachers, we could bolster and significantly support the internal movement for democracy and militant organizing within the union but it will likely take years to reform the UFT,” it concluded.
Through a spokesperson, UFT President Michael Mulgrew said his union “has been fighting for students, teachers, families and progressive causes since the day it was founded.” He did not comment on anything else in the strategy memo, which references the prospect of school shutdowns over contract negotiations.
Mulgrew's words are a joke. Look at who the UFT has endorsed and given money to over the years, the Union's opposition to opting out from standardized testing and the UFT doing nothing in half a century to lower class size to see where the UFT is at politically. The critique of the UFT from DSA has plenty of validity.

While I have no problem stressing "democracy and militant organizing," those DSA folks in MORE are not going to have much credibility on the democracy issue until they clean up their own undemocratic house.

From our February 2019 endorsement of rival Solidarity's Lydia Howrilka for President of the UFT:

Another opposition caucus calls itself the Movement of Rank and File Educators. They will be running a slate in the 2019 election. I ran with MORE in 2013 and 2016. MORE talks about member involvement and making the UFT more democratic. Unfortunately for MORE, the caucus in the last year has not practiced what it preaches. An organization that calls itself a rank and file group must provide rudimentary due process and MORE badly fails the due process test.

MORE suspends people from their steering committee and caucus without ever giving them a chance to defend themselves. They practice totalitarian style steering committee show trials where people are convicted without ever being allowed to confront their accusers at a trial. The caucus does not respect basic rights. MORE Steering suspends members without even first interviewing or charging them.

MORE in their bylaws say they use Robert's Rules of Order. Here is what Robert's Rules says about disciplining members on page 656:

"A member or officer has the right that allegations against his good name shall not be made except by charges brought on reasonable ground. If thus accused, he has the right to due process--that is, to be informed of the charge and given time to prepare his defense, to appear and defend himself and to be fairly treated." Is it due process if someone gets an email saying they have already been sentenced before they have even had a trial? This is no way to run a caucus, let alone a union.

MORE voted against working with any other opposition group in 2019. It appears they are more interested in pushing their political views than in changing the UFT. It is impossible to defend MORE's indefensible lack of fairness. While I can still work with members of MORE on individual issues like opposing the contract, it is very difficult to support their candidates for union office under these circumstances. I don't want my union to be run like this caucus.

We stand by those words. MORE's vote totals for President in the 2019 UFT election fell off a cliff compared to 2016 from 10,743 to 2,700. Karma justice? Perhaps.

If the Democratic Socialists of America want to be taken seriously inside the UFT, they should work on having their people live up to that democratic part of their name. 

Monday, August 12, 2019


This is from Sue Edelman in the NY Post. Another school where the staff voted that they have no confidence in a principal has succeeded in having the principal removed.

The principal of a Brooklyn high school where out-of-control kids threatened and injured staffers has been removed, The Post has learned.

Sybil Girard, interim acting head of It Takes a Village Academy in Flatbush, will not return in September, but will start a new job as an assistant principal — with lesser pay — at a school nearby, the city Department of Education confirmed.

“Everyone is so relieved,” said a teacher at ITAVA. “There are tears of joy, literally, among the remaining staff. A lot of good people have left because of her.”

Girard is now under investigation for allegedly firing five teachers who openly wrote letters of complaints, the DOE confirmed.

Among horrific incidents at the school, which reeked of pot, one teacher found a note warning, “I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE BITCH!” with her home address obtained by a kid who gained access to an office computer.

A school safety agent trying to break up a fight fell and broke his arm. A pregnant paraprofessional who asked a student not to shove her was told by the girl: ‘I will f–k you up.”

Besides safety concerns, teachers said Girard let the once highly regarded school slide academically.

The school’s robotics team fell by the wayside. Teachers who left were not replaced. Not a single student graduated this year with an advanced Regents diploma, because the required courses in math, science and Spanish were dropped.

In June, the frustrated faculty took a vote of no-confidence in Girard, with 48 of 63 staffers approving it.

The staff no confidence votes seem to be working. First, Forest Hills, then LaGuardia and now It Takes a Village. Three principals removed after no confidence votes. Chapters don't need 100% support. This school had 76% vote no confidence. A big majority of a staff can have a huge impact. Try to convince your colleagues of the need to stay together to have a real voice.

Please note that none of the ousted principals are unemployed. We do not advocate for terminations except in the most extreme cases and think teachers should be treated as professionally. At It Takes a Village Academy, hopefully those five teachers who were allegedly fired for complaining could have a real chance of being reinstated.