Saturday, September 13, 2014


Call me a crazy idealist but I took a teaching job to spend time working with the kids, not for useless nonsense.  However, since the UFT and Department of Education negotiated a contract that includes added time away from the students for single session schools, they had to figure out what could be done in that time.

Our union sent us Frequently Asked Questions covering the extended time Mondays and Tuesdays.

For those who have great professional development and are working collaboratively with administration to make positive use of the extended time on Monday and Tuesday, please tell us how you are doing it.  For everyone else, may Monday and Tuesday afternoons pass very quickly.

We have advice for anyone in the latter group: figure out how to become a multi-session school so you don't have to bother with any of this.

The UFT's Frequently Asked Questions:

Repurposed Workday FAQ

In response to the many questions about the repurposed time in the workday, we’ve assembled the following FAQ to provide answers. For more information about the repurposed time, you can check the Contract 2014 section of the UFT website.

Who does the repurposed workday apply to?
It applies only to all classroom teachers (including speech teachers and Hearing Education Services teachers) and paraprofessionals in single-session schools unless a school has adopted a school-based option on the reconfiguration of time. Teachers and paras are the only staff required to do Professional Development, Parent Engagement and Other Professional Work during the repurposed time.

Does the repurposed workday apply to guidance counselors, school psychologists and social workers, OTs and PTs, school secretaries, lab specialists, school nurses and supervisors of nurses/therapists?
No, it does not apply. People in those titles work the same number of hours and minutes each day and they do the same work during that time as they always have.

Length of Workday
Guidance Counselors6 hours, 30 minutes (exclusive of lunch)
Lab Specialists6 hours, 30 minutes (exclusive of lunch)
OTs/PTs6 hours, 25 minutes (exclusive of lunch)
School Psychologists6 hours, 50 minutes (exclusive of lunch)
School Nurses6 hours, 25 minutes (exclusive of lunch)
School Secretaries7 hours, 20 minutes (including lunch period same length as teachers)
Social Workers6 hours, 50 minutes (exclusive of lunch)
Supervisors of Nurses/Therapists7 hours, 10 minutes (exclusive of lunch)

What is the schedule for the Professional Development, Parent Engagement and Other Professional Work time?
All single-session schools, except those that have adopted a school-based option to change their schedules, will have the following schedule:
Monday: There is an 80-minute block of time immediately following the school day that will be used for Professional Development. If less than the entire 80 minutes is used for Professional Development on a given day, the remaining time will be used for Other Professional Work. This period of time ends exactly 80 minutes after the end of the school day.
Tuesday: There is a 75-minute block of time immediately following the school day, 40 minutes of which is for parent engagement and 35 minutes for Other Professional Work. This period of time ends 75 minutes after the end of the school day. Paraprofessionals are only required to work the first 70 of the 75 minutes of this block.

For single-session schools that have not adopted an SBO on the reconfiguration of time, the school day plus the repurposed time must be between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays, and between 8 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

 Can IEP conferences be scheduled during Parent Engagement time?
Yes, but only if all staff required to be at the IEP conferences are present. No one in job titles other than teachers can be required to attend IEP meetings during this time.
Can IEP conferences be scheduled during Other Professional Work time?

Who has to attend the four evening parent-teacher conferences (the back-to-school night in September plus regular conferences in November, March and May)?
All school-based teachers in single-session schools plus all guidance counselors, school social workers and psychologists in single-session schools must attend these four evening conferences. Paraprofessionals are among those who are not required to attend.

How long are these four evening parent-teacher conferences?
For teachers, they are three hours each. Guidance counselors, school social workers and psychologists attend for three hours in September and March and for the first two hours and 10 minutes of the conferences in November and May.

Do all schools have the two additional evening parent-teacher conferences in September and May?
No, only single-session schools hold them.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Yesterday there was a UFT meeting for Absent Teacher Reserves in Queens.  The UFT is having these meetings throughout the boroughs this week. 

Several ATRs asked some very thoughtful questions about the plight of the ATR.  Mike Sill was the UFT representative who gave us information and handled our questions.

I was given the floor to speak at this meeting.  I took advantage of the opportunity to address the ATRs by saying the time is now for the ATRs to have our own UFT Chapter. We have been disenfranchised as we do not have representatives at the school level of our own choosing.  Our Chapter should include ATRs who rotate in schools from week-to-week as well as teachers who are hired provisionally for a year and people who cover for leave replacements.

We are ATRs until we are put in a permanent position.  We are subject to particular contractual provisions.  We need our own elected representatives who can understand what we are going through.  It is a very different experience than being a regular teacher or counselor in a school. Being an ATR can be extremely isolating.

We are the only group in the Union that has no representation at the UFT's highest policy making body: the Delegate Assembly.  Delegates and Chapter Leaders are not accountable to us and we cannot get elected as Delegates or Chapter Leaders after becoming ATRs.  As some ATRs have been stuck in the ATR pool for years, we are clearly being treated as second class or third class union members by our own Union.

The rationale the UFT leadership has given in the past for not starting an ATR Chapter is we don't want to institutionalize the ATR position.  This argument no longer holds any water as the UFT embedded the ATR position into the contract in May.  The entire Section 16 of the new contract is about ATRs, including leave replacements and members hired provisionally.

It has to be noted that although Sill and Amy Arundell are hard working people who represent ATRs for the UFT, not one ATR voted to have them advocate for us.  This flies in the face of union democracy and I believe it violates our rights to be treated equally under state and federal law.

If there are 1,800 UFT members combined in all three categories (weekly rotation, leave replacement and provisional vacancy), at a ratio of 60 members =1 Delegate, we would be entitled to 30 UFT Delegates at the Delegate Assembly.

I did not ask the question to Mike Sill by wondering if we would get a Chapter; I asked when we would have our own Chapter.  Besides protecting our jobs this year, I anticipate starting a Union Chapter will be the most important union goal for ATRs. 

I think we even have our slogan:

No Taxation (union dues) Without Representation! 

Sorry, it isn't exactly original but I think it fits.

My question was greeted with enthusiastic applause by the ATRs assembled.  Mike Sill answered that this would have to be taken up by people higher up in the UFT than he is.

As for the rest of the information session, we basically were informed that ATRs will start going on mandatory interviews in our own boroughs during the school day next week for leftover vacancies and rotation of ATRs to different schools within a district from week-to-week (or the UFT might negotiate for month-to-month rotations) will commence in the middle of October. 

Nobody can yet define what "problematic behavior" means in terms of the new contract's expedited 3020A dismissal procedure for ATRs, but we do know that people in rotation will not be subject to the new process, only those who fill vacancies and are removed by two principals will be subject to the rapid dismissal hearings.  We also had it confirmed that anyone missing two mandatory interviews will have resigned. 

Sound advice from ICE blog: Make sure your GPS is working so you don't miss any interviews.  If you are driving, check the parking regulations in advance for a school if you are able to.  Some places are really difficult to park around while other schools are not easily accessible by public transportation.

Sunday, September 07, 2014


This one borders on the bizarre.

The United Federation of Teachers and the Department of Education when they negotiated our recent contract didn't think so many UFT members would retire.  They under-funded the pool of money needed for full retroactive cash payments for people who retired by June 2014.

Apparently, both sides are surprised that so many people who were eligible to retire this June decided to actually leave. 

According to Capital NY:

The two sides need to agree on how to pay union members who retired before June 30, 2014, because more teachers left than the contract had accounted for, both sides confirmed.

City Hall had set aside $180 million to pay lump sum retroactive wages to retiring teachers—a figure the union agreed to in June when it signed off on the nine-year deal that runs from 2009-2018. But the higher-than-anticipated retirement rate means the city may need to increase that total and negotiate how retroactive payments will be made to the additional retirees.

Capital adds:

Capital previously reported 2,263 U.F.T. members applied for retirement in June, up from 1,484 applications in June of last year, according to figures provided by the New York City Teachers' Retirement System. (The figure includes CUNY instructors who are not covered by this contract.)

We here at ICE are shocked, just astonished (sarcasm alert) that so many people decided to leave and take the money up front now.

Here is the possible thinking of a teacher eligible to retire:

"Let's see I can retire now and get over $30,000 in back pay right away or I can retire and get it piecemeal without interest up through 2020 or I can stay in the system and be abused for a little longer and wait until 2020 to get all the money they owe me."  After about five seconds of contemplation, the teacher concludes: "How do I get to 55 Waters Street to file my retirement papers and when will the total payment be put in my bank account?"

Yes, for some people the tax implications made them want to wait to get the payments they are owed but that was only a few.

What is truly scary is these people in the UFT and city government have a real say over so many aspects of our lives. They can't even figure out that if they throw money in front of beleaguered teachers who can retire and have often been abused in this system, most of them are going to take the money and run. 

Now it will be interesting to see if the city tries to weasel out of paying the money now as Perdido Street School speculated they might do and then how will the UFT respond at that point?  Another giveback?

Saturday, September 06, 2014


I spent my first week in the Absent Teacher Reserve pool and I must say I am a pretty fortunate ATR to have been assigned to Aviation High School.

The teachers, support staff, administration and students at Aviation have been fully welcoming. There were no problems covering classes with these amazing kids.

I might have terrible experiences later on in the year but for my first assignment, which is supposed to last until mid October, I feel quite lucky.

As for the so called Open Market and the Excess Staff Selection System, I did my best on the Open Market this summer but the only replies I had were to say a school has received the application and/or that I didn't get the position.  I did manage to secure three interviews for leave replacements but nobody took me. 

Our wonderful union is inviting ATRs to informational Q&A sessions next week.  They will be conducted by union staffers.  We can't choose who will represent us because we have no elected Chapter Leader or Delegates. Did our union ever hear about no taxation (dues) without representation?

The invitation is printed in full below.

Dear James,

As a member currently in excess, you are invited to attend an informational Q&A session on issues pertaining to employees in the ATR pool. UFT representatives will be on hand to answer questions.

Refreshments will be provided.

All meetings will take place from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Please attend at the site that is most convenient for you:
  • Monday, Sept. 8
    UFT Brooklyn office
    335 Adams St., 25th floor
  • Tuesday, Sept. 9
    UFT Manhattan office
    52 Broadway, 10th floor
  • Tuesday, Sept. 9
    UFT Queens office
    97-77 Queens Blvd.
  • Thursday, Sept. 11
    UFT Staten Island office
    4456 Amboy Rd.
  • Friday, Sept. 12
    UFT Bronx office
    2500 Halsey St.


Amy Arundell
UFT Director of Personnel and Special Projects

Thursday, September 04, 2014


(Janella Hinds is UFT Vice President for Academic High Schools)

Good Day Janella-

We knew teachers at a phasing out school would be at a huge disadvantage in terms of the ratings in Advance and informed you of our concerns when you visited Jamaica last May.   As we move ahead, our issues need to be addressed as most of the teachers from Jamaica's final year have received adverse ratings. The ratings make no sense.
How is it possible for one Jamaica HS teacher to have 73 points and still get rated ineffective (0- 64 points is ineffective according to Advance) when other teachers who had fewer points still received developing ratings? Two teachers who had that exact same 73 points as the teacher rated ineffective and were ineffective in both the state and local portion of the rating still received overall developing ratings. Something does not add up right.

The ratings based on testing are very discriminatory against teachers who work with a very small sample size of pupils who have greater needs than average students as we have alleged all along.  But for the luck of the student draw and fighting for every last Danielson point last year, I too would have received an adverse rating. 

As an ATR (I told you I would be an ATR when you visited Jamaica and yes I sent my resume out, including to Jamaica Gateway, and went on interviews to no avail), I am extremely concerned for all of us.  We could very well be force placed into a school where we will be at a huge disadvantage in terms of being rated because of the nature of the challenges students face that might be beyond our control. 
At the school I have been assigned to for this month (Aviation HS), the Principal informed the staff they were all rated effective or highly effective.  Could this be because they are teaching students who are mainly better prepared than the small group of only 34 students who made up Jamaica's final cohort.  Those 34 were to a large degree English language learners, Instructional Support Services Students and/or over-age.  We worked diligently with those young people.  Is it fair we are being penalized for some students who were non-readers in their home language as well as English? We informed administration of pupils who were programmed improperly during UFT Consultation meetings.  Why should teachers be penalized for who they teach?

I also find it troubling that you negotiated this evaluation system and exempted yourselves from it even though some UFT staff teach and have at least six students so should be covered by Advance according to the law. How can 34 students in an entire school  be a sufficient sample size for our total of eight teachers but a class of 34 for a UFT District Representative is not adequate to be rated by Advance?  We certainly don't have much leading by example from our union's leadership.  One of our teachers emphasized repeatedly to you how we should be rated either satisfactory or unsatisfactory because of our circumstances and we are prepared to take action to achieve this goal.

In addition, I have not been informed about the Queens informational sessions on filing appeals. I guess it should be no surprise as it looks as though UFT leadership shed me from Queens Chapter Leader lists as fast as you could even though there is unfinished Chapter business that still needs to be taken care of.

I am not just complaining here.  I am attempting to move forward more than backwards.  We should come up with a plan about what we can do together as a union to resolve this situation with our adverse ratings.  While we appreciate your attempts to persuade DOE officials to do what is fair by UFT members in closing schools, it does not seem to be working.  The teachers at Jamaica and any other closing school should be among the 13% of teachers who are selected for independent arbitration for their appeals under the new contract.  We are prepared in whatever way possible to work with you toward our goal of erasing these unfair ratings.

In struggle,

James Eterno

Tuesday, September 02, 2014


It was a very productive ICE meeting on Friday, August 29, 2014.  It was much more than chatting and chewing as full discussion and analysis of issues and ideas was followed by decision making and then more in depth discussion.

The meeting lasted for five hours and could have gone on longer.

Specifically, three decisions were made by a consensus of the group that attended:

1-ICE urges its supporters to vote for Zephyr Teachout in the Democratic primary for Governor on September 9 if they are registered NY State Democrats.
If Teachout doesn't win the primary against the anti-teacher Andrew Cuomo, we will advocate for Howie Hawkins of the Green Party in the general election.  (If Teachout pulls off a major upset in the primary, we will have an interesting dilemma of having two candidates who support public education to choose from.)  Teachout has an education plan that is superior to Cuomo's abysmal pro-charter school, pro-high stakes testing, anti-worker, anti-union, anti-public education record.

2-ICE fully supports the nascent Statewide NYSUT Caucus called Stronger Together.
Stronger Together is challenging Unity in NYSUT.  ICE members worked with Stronger Together during the recent NYSUT election and the bond has continued after the votes were tallied.  There is a great feeling about the potential the caucus has and we are happy to be part of it.

3-ICE will start a book club to meet and discuss important education books.

Monday, September 01, 2014


Multiple people have sent me copies of the Daily News piece from Sunday where Chancellor Carmen Farina said she is looking to make it easier to fire ATRs after earlier saying teacher retention is a problem.

Here is how Perdido Street School covers the contradiction.

Fariña pledged to announce in the next two weeks a big reduction in the number of teachers getting paid despite not having steady classroom jobs. Earlier this month 114 of the roughly 1,100 teachers — known as the Absent Teacher Reserve — accepted $16,000 buyouts.

Fariña said the numbers would dwindle further as principals are taught best practices for writing up teachers and beginning the arduous termination process.

 This threat comes just one paragraph after Farina talks about the importance of teacher retention:

She also expressed confidence she could improve teacher retention by restoring the dignity of the job. But it won’t be easy. A recent teachers union survey found that 32,000 teachers walked away from city classrooms in the last 11 years, with about 4,600 going to jobs elsewhere in the state — mainly to city suburbs that offer higher pay and less challenging teaching conditions.

Okay, so let me get this straight.

Farina says she wants to restore "the dignity of the job" in order to improve teacher retention but she intends to have her NYCDOE minions go around the city making sure principals "are taught best practices for writing up teachers and beginning the arduous termination process."

Anybody else see the contradictions here?

How do you restore "the dignity of the job" while having principals schooled in the ways to write up teachers in order to terminate them?

Seems to me that's the same kind of teacher-targeting that we got during the Klein and Walcott Years.

Thanks Perdido.  More to come on this as we receive more information. I know I am feeling very apprehensive about returning to work on Tuesday.

As for ATR assignments, I received this email from an ATR named Lisa about people being selected for persecution.  I'm new at this ATR business but I kind of agree with this piece.

When it comes to the mystery shrouded assignment process, perhaps some of you might do well to remember the old adage, "Never attribute to malice what can equally be attributed to by stupidity."
Two years ago, I was assigned to a school 12 minutes from my home.  Last year, the school was 20 minutes away.  This year I'm 12 minutes away.   Do I think I'm being singled out for "special" treatment?  Hardly.  During the last two years I have been assigned multiple times to schools on the border of Brooklyn and Queens, as well as Brooklyn/Manhattan where it took me an hour to commute in rush hour traffic.  Do I then think I've been singled out for special punishment?  Not at all  --  I just think of the selection process as a lottery and this week, I had crappy luck.
I could be totally wrong about this, however.  Two years ago a friend of mine was assigned to Washington Heights for the three week startup.  She lives in Brighton Beach and her commute was an hour and 45 minutes each way.  Is it possible the DoE targeted her for extreme annoyance and was trying to force her to retire?  Who knows?  Only the HR Connect can say, and they do not tell, either way.  
So, in terms of the paranoia and vitriol -- ladies and gentlemen --  pace yourself.  I know the startup is mentally and emotionally painful, traumatic and depressing, but we have a long school year ahead of us to deal with.  Try not to let your negative past experience cloud your perceptions of the new and as yet "undiscovered country".   

Here's wishing everyone a successful startup.