UFT Opposition to Changes so far Quite Low Key
by James Eterno UFT Chapter Leader Jamaica High School
The school year is under way and all appears wonderful on the outside. Last Tuesday on the first day of classes for students, UFT President Randi Weingarten , Council of Supervisors and Administrators President Ernest Logan, and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn were with Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Chancellor Joel Klein and Governor Elliot Spitzer in a show of unity for the start of the year. Some of you may have heard the latest optimistic UFT radio commercial. This is the ad that is running on major radio stations where a male voice is requesting that it is time for the city to work with its teachers to create a learning environment in the schools where teachers are partners with administration and share in decision making. Then, Randi comes on and says that the message is brought to you by the UFT. The timing to release this commercial calling for a collegial school environment is ironic to say the least as currently the Department of Education is attempting to strip parents, teachers and students of decision making authority on School Leadership Teams.
School Leadership Teams are supposed to exist in every school. They consist of parents, teachers (including the chapter leader), administrators in all schools and students are involved at the high school level. The SLT's are responsible for making up each school's Comprehensive Education Plan and to develop a budget and staffing plan aligned with the CEP. Decisions are supposed to be made by consensus between all constituencies on the SLT. State law calls for shared decision making between parents, teachers and administrators.
At our first District Chapter Leader Meeting, UFT Queens High School District Representative James Vascuez handed us a packet and buried inside was a flyer asking us to "Take Action Now" because the Chancellor is attempting to weaken School Leadership Teams. Under the proposed change to Chancellors Regulation A655 which covers School Leadership Teams, the teams would go from being collaborative to working under the principal. A draft of a new A655 says, "...the principal makes the final determination on the CEP and the budget allocation." Since SLT's are responsible for developing a schools' Comprehensive Education Plan, giving the Principal final say on the Leadership Team renders the SLT powerless and gives the principals even more dictatorial authority over schools. This flies in the face of part 100.11 of state education regulations which mandates shared decision making among parents, teachers and administrators. The UFT is quite correct to oppose the change to Chancellor's Regulation A655. The question is why is the UFT publicly talking about teachers sharing decision making with administration while Chancellor Klein is rewriting a regulation to strip away the authority parents, students and teachers have in schools?
Perhaps the UFT's leadership believes that the only way to win favor with Bloomberg and Klein is to privately push to stop the changes in the SLT regulation and not mention it in public. The Mayor constantly tells people not to yell and scream if they want something. This may be the case however there is a public comment period until September 16, 2007 on the proposed changes to Chancellor's Regulation A655. Why isn't the UFT at least informing its chapter leaders though multiple special emails and the weekly email newsletter or better still sending emails to all of our members who have email accounts and our parent allies about yet another attack on teacher, parent and student rights?
We should be mobilizing to bombard the DOE with emails to A655comments@schools.nyc.gov opposing any change to A655 that would weaken shared decision making. Wasn't the revitalization of the School Leadership Teams, not their weakening, one of the gains we supposedly made in negotiations to "postpone" the big rally last spring with the teachers, parents and students? It looks like the UFT is waging an extremely low key opposition to yet another attack on us.
This is not the time for the UFT to join along with the Bloomberg-Klein happy talk about the schools. We need to lead the battle now to enhance teacher, parent and student shared decision making authority on School Leadership Teams. ICE urges everyone to send an email to A655comments@schools.nyc.gov before September 16 opposing the weakening of the School Leadership Teams and send Randi a copy if you would like to also. It's not too late to make this a real campaign.