ICE To Randi:Fight Back for Real This Time
The "first I love you then I hate you, then I love you" saga between UFT President Randi Weingarten and the Bloomberg-Klein administration seems to be moving back to the "I hate you" mode. Chancellor Joel Klein announced last week the creation of a new witch hunt office of prosecuting attorneys whose job will be to help principals go after ineffective teachers. Randi wrote a response that she sent to Chapter Leaders where she names the new office the "gotcha unit" and she calls on Bloomberg and Klein to "retract it and...apologize to the hard working teachers of this city."
Randi is so incensed that she has decided to support U Rated Teachers who have called for a vigil at Tweed headquarters on November 26, the night of the next meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy. ICE endorses the vigil and is glad to have Randi's support. However if this is to be more than the usual public relations' push to show UFT members that she feels our pain, then it is time for the UFT leadership to finally come to the realization that there can be no collaboration with this administration and we must fight back for real. You see we've seen the "Randi is Angry" show before and we didn't like how it ended.
Just as Randi is ticked off now as Klein's "gotcha" squad is announced one day after dismal test score results from national tests are released, she was incensed in 2003 only a few months after the UFT supported Bloom-Klein's first school reform. Soon thereafter, Klein was attempting to micromanage everything including how teachers should use classroom rugs. Randi challenged Klein to teach and then there was the UFT's protest that the city should "Let teachers teach." There was a giant UFT rally at City Hall with that theme.
Then, there was the protracted Contract fight from 2003-2005 where Randi was angry with the proposal to have an eight page Contract that would have eliminated virtually all of our rights, but she still ignored strong warnings from ICE members of the Executive Board and went to non binding arbitration where the UFT lost. She ended up standing next to Klein for that famous kiss as she gave away so many of our rights in the 2005 Contract (longer day, school in August, no right to grieve file letters, return to hall and cafeteria patrol, suspension without pay based on Office of Special Investigations' Reports that are often biased against teachers, no more seniority or SBO transfers so schools have become Principal's patronage fiefdoms, no placement for excessed teachers and more) in exchange for salary increases that were the same as every other Municipal Union received except that we work more hours and get paid at the same rate for that extra time. Since then, it's been mostly a love fest as the next Contract was negotiated a year early.
There was the bus route change fiasco earlier this year. Bloom-Klein were having a real hard time as the UFT joined with parent organizations in opposing Klein's latest reorganization of the schools. A major rally was planned for the spring, but was cancelled when Klein made some minor changes to the reorganization that appeased Randi. By the start of this school year, she was joining with Bloom-Klein to say how smooth the opening was and the UFT had commercials on the radio urging collaboration between management and UFT Chapters. Simultaneously, Klein was rewriting rules for School Leadership Teams which were rendering Leadership teams powerless.
Now, Randi's furious one more time and demanding an apology from Bloom Klein over the "gotcha" team of prosecuting lawyers who are being sent in to help principals get rid of tenured teachers. Randi is supporting the vigil that U rated teachers had already planned and demanding an apology as well as the end of the "gotcha" squad. We are happy to see Randi supporting the vigil. However, Randi has gotten on and off the Bloomberg -Klein bandwagon so many times that it is quite difficult to figure out where she really stands.
Those of us who work in the schools have continually seen teaching and learning conditions deteriorate under Bloom-Klein. ICE has consistently opposed their anti-education, anti-union agenda and we have supported the parent groups opposing the administration. We have also called for an end to Mayoral Control of the schools to be replaced with real School Based Shared Decision Making between administration, parents and teachers with accountable oversight that is not tyrannical. Randi's support for the vigil and call for the apology are great but woefully inadequate. We need this to be the starting point to rebuild the UFT as a viable trade union.
Specifically, here is a ten point plan to revitalize the UFT which we would like implemented immediately:
1. Revitalize the trade union purposes of the UFT by sending out to the schools teams of UFT officials to encourage members to use the grievance process to protect our rights. No more officials coming to schools to push for the latest Department of Education "flavor of the month." Too many members feel little or no real union presence in their schools. That must change immediately if members are to have the confidence to stand up for their rights with rank and file actions.
2. The UFT created an award for Principals who collaborate with UFT Chapters; we would like to see an award and publicity in every issue of the NY Teacher for Chapters or individual members who stand up for their rights in the face of unwarranted attacks from administrators. Why should people be calling Norm Scott or ICE about their issues? They should be calling the UFT and the Union should be fighting assertively for its members.
3. Use the harassment provision of the Contract aggressively. Right now members are told to keep an extensive log before an intimidation/harassment case is lodged against a principal under Article 23 of the Contract. Why not make these cases routine as soon as the harassment of our members begins? Two negative file letters/observation reports should set a pattern and be enough for us to fight back and file a harassment/intimidation special complaint in most cases.
4. Encourage Chapter Leaders to tell their members that the Contract calls for us to be treated equitably and fairly (Article 22A) and if we are not, let's file grievances that are all moved forward quickly by the UFT and insist that the DOE follow time limits outlined in the Contract.
5. If the DOE refuses to hear grievances in a timely manner, let's go to court to force their hand.
6. Take the DOE to court or to the State Education Commissioner against U ratings that are unwarranted if the Chancellor will not overturn them. We have nothing to lose but our members must know that we are fighting for them with every weapon at our disposal.
7. Picket in front of schools where the UFT Chapter is not being respected by administration and call in the press.
8. Publicize the failures of management. For example, show how there is a huge problem with students who are mis-programmed in the high schools because there isn't enough time between the end of summer school and the start of the school year. Show examples of great teachers who can't get jobs because of a political hiring process that has turned schools into principal patronage fiefdoms. Tell the world about teachers who have PhDs who are watching students in cafeterias. Publicize how extra money that has been added to the education budget in NYC is not going to classrooms (Where are the lower class sizes from the CFE settlement?, etc...)
9. No more standing next to Bloom-Klein if they back off a little on their "gotcha" plan. We don't need any incremental gains. It's time to renounce their mismanagement of the schools and abuse of our members forever.
10. Demand an end to Mayoral Control of the schools. The system does not need to be fine tuned; it needs a major overhaul and now is the time to push for it as the law permitting the mayor unilateral control of city schools sunsets in 2009 and must be renewed by the State Legislature. We should not give a penny in UFT political contributions (COPE money) or any kind of support to any politician who does not oppose Mayoral control. It's time to mobilize our members to end it and not merely try to mend it.
We welcome our readers to add more suggestions to the list.