UFT DECLARES THERE IS NO INCREASE IN LETTERS FOR THE FILE
UNION WILL FIGHT BUDGET CUTS
UFT WILL BATTLE DOE'S PLAN TO EVALUATE TEACHERS BASED ON STUDENT TEST SCORES
by James Eterno; UFT Chapter Leader, Jamaica High School
More evidence that the school system where most of us inhabit is not the same place where UFT leaders work was presented at the Wednesday, February 6 Delegate Assembly. For the last two months, ICE has attempted to ask that the contractual provision concerning letters in the file be reopened as per a letter labor Commissioner James Hanley sent to Randi back in 2005 when we were giving away many of our basic rights. We wanted to introduce a resolution seeking to revisit only the letter in the file provision, not the entire Contract, that we were not able to raise at previous DA's.
To her credit, Randi Weingarten declared that there must be a new motion period at the February meeting. We are happy to report that our blog pieces are required reading at UFT Headquarters as Randi made several mentions of our blogs. However, when the new motion period came, Randi did not call on ICE to present its case. Instead, she called on VP Michael Mulgrew to raise a watered down version of our letter in the file resolution that does not even acknowledge that there has been an increase in letters to the file. The actual wording of the resolution signed by five UFT officers says that "with the exception of one school, there were no reports of an increase."
There you have it dear readers, only one school since the new Contract came out acknowledged an increase in letters for the file. Everything is just fine everywhere else. All of that 36% increase in Unsatisfactory ratings last year that the Chief wrote about must have just occurred out of the blue. The 39% increase in tenured teachers receiving U ratings was not supported by any unsatisfactory observations or any negative letters. To believe that requires one to willingly suspend disbelief.
Unity's resolution further weakened the original ICE motion when they resolved to make yet another effort to determine if there has been an increase in letters for the file. How will they gather information? By asking Chapter Leaders for data? Guess what, Chapter Leaders won't find out about letters in many cases because we can no longer grieve file letters and nasty observation reports. Therefore, many members don't even bother going to their Chapter Leader when they get a negative letter. Why tell the Union when the first line of defense, a grievance, was taken away in 2005?
When Michael Mulgrew rose and started talking about what a great Contract we have when he was supposed to be reading the resolution, I couldn't take it any longer and had to rise to a "point of order" as according to UFT rules, attempting to add a motion to the current month's agenda is not debatable. Randi acknowledged the point as subsequently Mulgrew simply read the resolution which of course easily passed the Unity dominated DA. We withdrew our motion as even a weak resolution is better than nothing and I suppose we should be content that we are helping to set the UFT's agenda.
However, we have to ask one question particularly to the Unity people who so closely read this blog: If there was not an increase in file letters, how do you account for the substantial spike in teachers receiving unsatisfactory ratings in 2006-07?
There was other important business discussed at the DA. The delegates nearly unanimously pledged to fight the city's budget cut of $180 million now and $324 million scheduled to be slashed in September. A resolution called for the UFT to actively participate in a "coalition with parents, community groups, and political and civic leaders to lobby against the cuts." We have no problem with this proposal. Some of our friends wanted to amend this motion to call for a massive rally which would include students on February 14 or at another later date. This amendment was rejected by the Unity majority after one executive board member after another spoke against it.
The DA also voted overwhelmingly to oppose the DOE's pilot project to rate teachers based on student test scores. Julie Woodward from ICE did get an amendment passed which talked about the folly of rating teachers based upon test scores if the teachers teach a subject where there are no standardized tests . She made a solid equity argument.
Finally, Mona Romain was nominated to serve another term on the teachers' retirement board. The vote was made by acclimation based on a motion made by Jeff Kaufman.