Saturday, May 27, 2006

Without Adequate Representation You Will Lose Your U-Rating Appeal

To paraphrase Dostoevsky’s famous quote you can measure the effectiveness of a Union by how it treats its most troubled members. The U-rating is management’s most effective weapon, short of a full 3020-a hearing, in its arsenal against our members. A “U-rating” for non-tenured teachers is a career ending act. For tenured teachers it means the inability to move forward in salary and can become the basis of a 3020-a hearing and ultimately dismissal.

You would expect that as the number of U-ratings increase the Union would be providing competent and caring advocates to members given the severity of its implications. Not so.

At a U-rating hearing I recently attended at 65 Court Street the main issue was the teacher’s lateness and attendance record. The advocate advised the teacher that there was nothing that could be done as 30 absences and 15 latenesses were “clearly excessive.”

After I called the advocate he admitted that there was no specific standard for excessive absences or latenesses but that “teachers had been fired for less.”

I suggested that he obtain the records of the attendance and lateness records of the school and that when he did he would find that the U-rated teacher had a better record than many S-rated teachers in the school.

I advised the teacher to file Freedom of Information Law requests for these records. She instead wrote directly to the Chancellor.

Virginia Caputo, the head of the hearing officers wrote back stating that the records were considered confidential and would not be made available to the teacher thus confirming the advocate’s statement that there was no way to defend this appeal.

Rather than take Caputo’s letter as clear evidence of lack of due process in the hearing the advocate is content to sit there and collect whatever small sum our dues pay him for showing up.

We need aggressive advocates who don’t wait until the night before the hearing to contact our members.  We need aggressive advocates who don’t accept the DOE line that these hearings are indefensible and instead use their imagination to make records for appeal to Court or the State Commissioner.

Insist on fair representation. It is your right!

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Taylorism Comes to the NYC Public Schools, with the Union's Blessing

by Michael Fiorillo, Delegate, Newcomers' High School

In a new low for the UFT leadership, President Randi Weingarten gave her tacit endorsement to the DOE's upcoming reorganization and accountability - read productivity harassment - program by giving over one quarter of the May 17th Delegate Assembly to a sales pitch by two DOE officials.

On Wall St., a traveling sales presentation is known as a "dog and pony show." That's what UFT chapter leaders and delegates were subjected to at our own union meeting, in which the leadership provided a forum for management to sell a "new" program that calls for testing students every six to eight weeks and holding the teachers and schools responsible for the results.

The opening presentation was giving by James Leibman, the chief accountability officer for the DOE, in which he went to great lengths to persuade those present that management's new organizational structure was "not a business," would "empower" teachers, and would provide equity to disadvantaged students. He opened by saying that he has children in the public schools, which made him a good front man for a regime that has shown nothing but contempt for students, parents and teachers, and which is moving ahead quickly, albeit stealthily, to privatize the system. Manipulating a close vote as to whether Leibman and Eric Nadelstern, who made a pitch for the new "autonomy zones", should be directly questioned by the members, Weingarten succeeded in having a large portion of the union meeting hijacked by management.

Stripped of its comforting tone, cliches and buzzwords, the new program is the application of what are known as Taylorist - not to be confused with the NY State public employee labor laws of the same name - principles of mass production.

Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915) was an engineer known for developing the principles of "scientific management." Trained as an engineer who then apprenticed as a machinist, Taylor sought to have management gain full control of what was essentially still the worker-controlled craft of skilled machine and metalwork. Using time and motion studies, he would break down every job into its minutest components, seeking the greatest efficiency and the removal of worker control over the job. These influential studies became the basic template for all production, initially in manufacturing and later extended elsewhere. Embraced by capitalist and Communist overseers - Lenin was a big fan of Taylor - they are now on the verge of reaching the classroom door, and apparently our dues money is speeding up the process.

Taylor proposed five principles of Scientific Management (thanks to Wikipedia for the following):

1. Each part of every task should be broken down and studied and one best way of performing it developed.

2. Choose the best person for doing the job.

3. Train, teach and develop the worker.

4. Give financial incentives for following the methods (and, presumably, deterrents for resisting them).

5. Divide work and responsibility so that managers are responsible for planning the work methods and workers are responsible for implementing them.

Does it sound familiar?

The question is not why the DOE is seeking to implement these methods. After all, they are management, and they cannot help themselves: it simultaneously corresponds to their worldview and extends their authority. The question is why a trade union leadership would provide a forum for legitimizing this among its members. Randi naturally said that she was merely providing this for the purposes of informing the membership, but that was an insult to our intelligence. By giving management an opportunity to sell its latest offensive against teachers, she gave it her unspoken endorsement.

Mr. Leibman of the DOE asked for our collaboration in this process, and Randi apparently is to be his chief collaborator. It leads to the question: which side is she on?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


by James Eterno, Chapter Leader, Jamaica H.S., H.S Rep., Executive Board

The 2006-07 school calendar has been released (see below) and it is not good news for UFT members. As ICE predicted several months ago on this blog, we will be working a week longer next year as compared to this year. Some UFT members in non extended time schools will be working 192 days next year. The rest of us will be working 190 days. This year we are working 185. Thanks to our Unity Negotiating Committee NYC educators will have the longest school year of any district from Montauk to Manhattan that we know of. We are not aware of any other school system where teachers start on the last day in August and then don't finish until June 27.

Our extra long year is caused by the fact that we don't have a fixed number of days in our school calendar like most districts have (For example, Farmingdale: 183 days per year and Copiague: 183 days per year). Therefore, since some of the holidays fall on weekends in 2006-07, and we added two extra days in the new contract (three for members in Brooklyn and Queens), we are forced to work an unending 190 day year. Anyone who thinks that our students will learn more just because they are attending school for an extra week knows nothing about the law of diminishing returns.

While our year is longer, our pay is still among the lowest in the region and our teaching and learning conditions in terms of class size, school safety, access to up to date supplies and books, etc. will still be the worst in the area. But the UFT won't accept more work time. Thanks a lot! In the next contract we can be grateful that we still have July 4 off.


August 28, Monday The following staff report: Assistant principals and school-based intermediate supervisors not designated to work an increased work year, and staff returning to former Extended Time Schools.

August 31, Thursday Classroom Teachers, Bilingual Teachers in School and Community Relations, Guidance Counselors, Attendance Teachers, Nurses, Therapists, Laboratory Specialists and Technicians, Educational Paraprofessionals and staff new to former Extended Time Schools (except for School Secretaries, Psychologists and Social Workers) report for a Professional Day -General staff orientation. School Secretaries, Psychologists and Social Workers report for a regular work day. Employees in titles not listed should consult the applicable collective bargaining agreement. Students will not be in attention.

September 1, Friday Chancellor's Conference Day for staff development (regular work day for School Secretaries, psychologists and Social Workers).Students will not be in attendance.

September 4, Monday Labor Day.


September 6, Wednesday Early Dismissal for Kindergarten Students Only.

October 2, Monday Yom Kippur

October 9, Monday Columbus Day Observed

November 7, Tuesday Election Day Chancellor's Conference Day for staff development. Students will not be in attention.

November 23, Thursday and November 24, Friday Thanksgiving Recess

December 25, Monday through and including January 1, Monday

Winter Recess (including Christmas and New Year's Day), students return to school on Tuesday, January 2 2007


January 15, Monday Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

January 31, Wednesday Fall Term ends for HIGH school students. HIGH school students will not be in attendance. All other students will be in attendance.

February 1, Thursday Spring Term begins for HIGH school students.

February 19, Monday through February 23, Friday Midwinter Recess (including Washington's Birthday)

April 2, Monday through Tuesday April 10,Spring Recess (including Good Friday, Easter and Passover), students return to school on Wednesday April 11.

May 28, Monday Memorial Day Observed

June 7, Thursday Chancellor's Conference Day for staff development IN ALL FIVE BOROUGHS. School staff report to work if required by their collective bargaining agreement. Students IN ALL FIVE BOROUGHS will NOT be in attendance.

June 27, Wednesday LAST DAY FOR ALL STUDENTS. Last day for all Classroom Teachers, Bilingual Teachers in School and Community Relations, Attendance Teachers, Nurses, Therapists, Laboratory Specialists and Technicians and last day for Paraprofessionals. An early dismissal of students is to be scheduled under the guidelines outlined in Sections 8 and 9 below.

June 28, Thursday and June 29, Friday All other staff report except Classroom Teachers, Bilingual Teachers in School and Community Relations, Attendance Teachers, Nurses, Therapists, Laboratory Specialists and Technicians, and Paraprofessionals.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Open Market Transfer Plan Shows Trap for the Unwary

Billed by the Union as the best thing since sliced bread the "Open Market Transfer Plan" has already shown some of its most basic flaws. Remember this supposed "win" from our wonderful contract. Teachers and other staff would not be limited by caps, anyone could transfer anywhere and the world would become a safer place. Yeah, right!

When you go through the sign up procedure and find a school that is listed that you are interested in all you do is click here and acknowledge there a voila you are in the running for a transfer. But not so quick. Just what is sent to your prospective principal? This question was not asked in the Union's recent Q&A.

As it turns out, not much. Name, rank and serial number information is transmitted. What does that tell a prospective employer? Unless he or she is desperate the inbox with your application will be deleted. There is nothing to base a hiring decision, positive or negative, in what is sent to the school. Perhaps a prospective principal, if she is so inclined, can weed through your online personnel records for pedegree information and basic info but would you want to work in a school where the hiring decision was based on such meager information?

In order to have a chance to tranfer at all you must send a copy of your resume to the principal by U.S. Mail and indicate that you have applied on the online system. This was the advice of Vanvette Heath a DOE problem solver for the new system.

Click and forget at your own peril, although it is hard for us to believe that this system has any chance of success, anyway.

Monday, May 01, 2006

UFT Members Beware!

Hell Must Have Frozen Over;

by James Eterno, Chapter Leader, Jamaica HS; Executive Board Member, HS Rep.

UFT Won't Accept More Extended Time in Next Contract but All Other Givebacks will be Considered

A little over a year ago when Teachers for a Just Contract and ICE wanted the UFT leadership to hold the line and demand that all offers to add time to the school day or year should be rejected by the Union, the UFT leadership blasted us. Unity Caucus at the time put out literature entitled "Hell Will Sooner Freeze Over" saying that the UFT delegates have no right to tie the hands of the Negotiating Committee. Unity stated in their December 2004 leaflet: "Placing prior constraints on the negotiating committee is a blatant attempt to usurp the rights of UFT members to make the ultimate decision on what they will or won't accept in contracts."

Fast forward a little over a year and now the leadership has completely reversed its position as they recently passed a resolution at the Executive Board and the Delegate Assembly that says the UFT will not accept any offer in the next contract that adds extra time to the school day or year. The leadership has adopted the TJC-ICE position that extending the school day or year should be non-negotiable issues, but it's a little late, isn't it? A year ago hell would have to freeze over before there could be prior constraints on the negotiating committee but now it's ok to tie its hands when it comes to time. Forgive us for being a tad cynical.

A quick look back at the 2002 Fact Finding Report that led to the first extension of the school day shows that the UFT implicitly put extending the school day on the bargaining table, not the city. Part of the Report says, "While no proposal was made by the UFT, its arguments seem designed to invite the panel to recommend that any above the pattern increases be funded through extending the work day for teachers."

It's all good and well that the UFT leaders have come around to our position on extended time, however when our friends at TJC recently proposed that the UFT reject any and all givebacks in the next round of negotiations, the UFT leadership said NO. It's clear to many of us that the Union knows that the membership is disgusted with the longer day and longer year and so they will not make additional work time an issue in the 2007 negotiations, but all other givebacks will be considered by the UFT.

We believe that we will probably be asked to pay for part of our health care like the transit workers. We also feel that there will be more of these merit pay schemes such as Lead Teacher on the table and look out for more housing bonus plans for certain people to divide us next year. We might be asked to give up even more of our due process rights; maybe there will be a Tier V pension for new hires and who knows what else we will be asked to give back, but the leadership will come back and try to sell the contract by bragging how we don't have an even longer day or a 12 month school year.

Everyone out there should not worry about further extensions of the school day or year. Instead, start worrying about losing significant other parts of the contract.