Monday, May 21, 2007

Staff Shake-Up at UFT Gives Strong Signal of Randi’s Departure

Executive Board Report….

Randi Weingarten, President of the UFT, in a "surprise" announcement at the May 21st Executive Board meeting, appointed Michael Mendel, the current Secretary of the Union and Staff Director, as Executive Assistant to the President. The new title recognized, as Weingarten put it, the fact the "I am not bionic."

According to Weingarten, Mendel will learn the ropes of negotiation and "all of the things I have not delegated in the past."

Weingarten did not say whether she was appointing Mendel to his duties because of any plan to leave her post but there has been wide spread speculation that she would abandon her day to day UFT responsibilities for Washington, D.C.

In related development Jeff Zahler, former Special Assistant to Randi and head of Unity caucus was appointed as Staff Director to permit Mendel more time in his new position.

We wish Michael well in his new position and can only hope he is able to win back all of the concessions we lost in the last contracts.

While salary enhancements were not announced the smiles on both Mendel and Zahler's faces after the announcement spoke thousands.

Randi decided to use her time reporting to the Executive Board to answer the "blog activity" about her recent trip to Los Angeles to visit Green Dot Charter Schools. She defended her attempts to partner with this company and tried to quell questions about the reported Green Dot's position against teacher tenure.

"Green Dot is a pro-union Charter School," she proclaimed. She argued that the loss of tenure was actually good for the teachers in this Charter School as the standard for teacher dismissal, "just cause" was "actually better."

We can only hope this does not signal a softening of the Union's position on tenure.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Top 10 Reasons to Hold a Rally to Oppose the DOE Reorganization

Number Ten: Privatization –

The reorganization moves us towards the privatization of public education by allowing outside companies to increasingly manage and provide resources to our schools.

Number Nine: Schools continue to be measured by high stakes tests instead of a wide range of criteria and there will be more testing than ever –

Interim assessments (more tests) every 6-8 weeks will take away teachers' ability to assess their students' needs, instead allowing private companies to decide what each student should be working on. Design Your Own (DYO) schools will not receive additional funding giving little incentive for schools to design their own assessments. Testing every 6 weeks that will take up even more instructional time and cost enormous sums while teachers will be bogged down in accumulating data that will be 95% useless in terms of really assisting children.

Number Eight: Continues one-way accountability –

No accountability at the top for massive errors at Tweed as everyone is assessed but themselves.

Grading system of accountability dumps the buck on principals. The accountability will likely force many principals to make decisions based on not getting a D or F rather than what is best for children's education. Principals' jobs will be based on test scores (85%) and only a little on graduation rates (and fake ones at that). This will give even more incentive to principals to punish teachers who they feel are not testing to the max and suspend, discharge, transfer, and get rid of low-performing students any way they can to bring up their grades and save their jobs (and get a nice bonus too boot.) None of those outcomes – and none of the missing students – will be measured anywhere on the school report cards.

Number Seven: Reorganization without evaluating effects of previous reorganizations –

The 3rd reorganization since Bloomberg/Klein took over the schools with no assessment of previous reforms will lead to another round of disruption. Instead of lowering class size and instituting programs that will improve conditions in the classroom, money will continue to be diverted into the hands of privateers lining up to feed at the public trough. From districts to regions and back to districts – U-turns – but this time with the twist that each school is an island that will be judged (harshly) based on a narrow range of data accumulated in a heartless and inhumane way by an $80 million boondoggle contract given to IBM for the Aramis system that even computer experts denigrate. As parent leader Tim Johnson and historian Diane Ravitch have said recently, when you make constant U-turns you end up going around in circles.

Number Six: Small schools push at expense of large schools –

Small schools will still not be equipped to handle the most at-risk students – causing overcrowding in the large schools and their subsequent closings. While creating small schools is not a bad thing, no matter how many small schools are opened there can never be enough to make a dent on the massive numbers of students in NYC. Solutions to problems in large schools must be found, which involves making an investment in hiring enough teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, etc to create a small school atmosphere in the context of a large school.

Number Five: Special education needs continue to be ignored –

Who will be responsible for making sure students are provided with services? Where do parents go to get assistance?

Number Four: The reorganization actually expands the bureaucracy –

Does anyone believe bureaucracy is being cut to put money into classrooms? Check the number of superintendents and deputies and other bureaucrats under this reorganization and it is clear that when added to the enormous cost of their multiple experiments and unproven schemes, these claims are no more than outright lies. As are the claims that schools will not be micromanaged.

Number Three: Parent/teacher surveys distributed without mention of class size, high stakes testing, and other crucial issues – and will be minimally taken into account.

Number Two: Funding formula even as modified harms higher salaried teachers –

There is no advantage for schools to hire teachers other than those at the low end of the salary scale. Full impact of Fair Funding Plan is only postponed. Even the modification of the fair student funding formula is a big loss for teachers with mid-high salaries as well as teachers at the top salary levels. A 6th year teacher contacted us with the following question: He doesn't want to leave his school just yet, but might one day. He has all his credits and is making around 60K. Beginning to understand the implications of the revisions in the budget and the UFT basic agreement to accept the Tweed plan (the school keeps the money if a senior teacher leaves but the principal can hire a new teacher and can use the difference to buy a 50 inch plasma TV for his office) he realizes that as his salary goes much higher, he is in danger of being stuck at his school for eternity. Or until a new administration comes in and decides to harass high salaried teachers no matter how good they are. Or if his school closes. With the UFT-touted Open Market System and all its flaws, the teacher is in a quandary. "Do you think I should make my move now even though I don't want to?" he asks. "What worries me is when I am in the salary range where they can get 2 new teachers to replace me." Answer: He should be worried. Very worried.

And the Number ONE reason to hold a rally to oppose the DOE reorganization –


What do we gain from holding a rally?

The Mayor got what he wanted: to kill the momentum building toward the May 9th rally – a rally that would have exposed the Bloomberg/Klein "reforms" as a sham to the entire nation with little support among parents and teachers just as Bloomberg is gearing up to run for president on the backs of the educational community. For the first time we could have wrung real concessions and killed or severely maimed most of the schemes to turn the public schools into a playground for privateers. The Mayor put some crumbs on the table and unfortunately, they were snapped up.

Educators, Parents, Community Activists, and Concerned Friends of Public Education will have a chance to demonstrate the deep-seated opposition to the Bloomberg/Klein destructive overhaul of the system. It will build momentum towards an end of mayoral control. An opportunity was lost when May 9th was cancelled. Can we still reverse the reorganization? We have nothing to lose.

Reorganization + Co-optation DOES NOT EQUAL


Monday, May 07, 2007


On Wednesday, May 9 a demonstration is planned in front of 52 Broadway to protest the UFT's decision to abandon its fight to stop the reorganization. The Manhattan High Schools' Chapter Leaders voted 18-1 to support a resolution to reverse our Union's appeasement with the Mayor and hold a rally in the near the future.

We need to demonstrate that the deal Randi Weingarten struck with Klein is not in our members' interest.

See you at the rally.