Tuesday, April 29, 2008


by James Eterno, UFT Chapter Leader, Jamaica High School

According to the April 29, 2008 NY Sun, Mayor Bloomberg will ask for the UFT Contract to be reopened. The City apparently did not gain enough concessions in 2005 so they want yet another bite at the apple by asking that the Contract be renegotiated so that they can fire excessed teachers after 12 months if we can't find a new position. The Sun is predicting a full scale battle. I see no reason to drawn into any combat.

A simple look at Article 32 of the Contract should end the discussion. It says, "This Agreement and each of its provisions shall be effective as of October 13, 2007, and shall continue in full force and effect through October 31, 2009. Negotiations for a subsequent Agreement will commence no sooner than April 30, 2009 upon request of either party filed two weeks in advance or as otherwise mutually agreed." Since it is not April 30, 2009, there is no valid reason why the UFT should consider new Contract negotiations at this time. No mutual agreement should mean no new negotiations.

Furthermore, for the City to even ask for the issue of firing Absent Teacher Reserves to be raised again is a foolhardy move that could easily be considered bad faith. The fact finding panel who made the disastrous recommendations that formed the basis for the punitive 2005 Contract agreed with the UFT on the ATR issue. Here is the actual language: "Fourth, the City/DOE has recommended that an excessed teacher who does not find a new position within 18 months of being excessed be terminated from the system. We specifically reject this proposal." Specifically rejecting a proposal is pretty strong language from arbitrators who obviously favored most of management's giveback demands such as taking away our ability to grieve letters for file, forcing us back in the cafeteria and halls, lengthening the school day and school year, weakening due process, etc... Even after the Contract expires in 2009, there would be no reason to entertain the city proposal as the Taylor law would keep our existing Contract in place until we have a new one.

Additionally, civil service law would have to be altered and I don't think other unions in New York State would be eager to see a change to allow ATRs to be fired as it would set a horrible precedent. If the UFT agreed to amend the Contract so we could be laid off after 12 months of being in excess, the entire labor movement's principle of last hired=first fired would be gone. Tenure would mean nothing. Chancellor Klein could close or reorganize virtually every school. Our rights would basically disappear. As a dissident who has often been critical of the UFT leadership, even I have confidence that Randi would not agree to terminating the ATR's after 12 months or 18 months or placing them on unpaid leave. It should not ever be considered.

There is nothing to negotiate; this proposal should be labeled dead on arrival.

Monday, April 21, 2008

89 From Jamaica High School Rally at Panel For Educational Policy Meeting

by James Eterno, UFT Chapter Leader, Jamaica High School

Monday evening was a special night as 89 teachers, other educators, parents, students, and alumni came from Jamaica High School to the Panel for Educational Policy meeting to express our outrage at a new College Board School that will have mostly high achieving students is placed in our building. Six speakers (two parents, three teachers and a student) told Chancellor Joel Klein and the PEP about how the Department of Education has been strangling our school over the last few years. Many of us chartered a bus to attend the meeting.

Audio has been posted at
EdNotes Online.

The speech that I wrote out (there were a few minor changes that I said off the top of my head on Monday) is below. Hopefully, the positive feeling all of us had will lead to some support for our school. We would like to publicly thank Manhattan PEP member Patrick Sullivan for his support.

PEP Presentation

Good evening PEP members. I’m a long time social studies teacher from Jamaica HS. We are sick and tired of the unwarranted negative publicity our school received because we were wrongfully labeled by the state as persistently dangerous and now we are being slowly strangled by the DOE.

In 2007 when we were mislabeled persistently dangerous, the DOE sent an ominous letter because of No Child Left Behind to every parent encouraging them to transfer their students out of our school. When 173 took the offer and transferred, DOE slashed our annual budget in the middle of the year. You forced us to excess 13 teachers but most of them remained in our building doing busywork and covering classes. How does it serve the public to have teachers who are not allowed to teach? We could have used those teachers to lower class sizes.

Now to add insult to injury you are placing a College Board School in our building because of the declining enrollments that your misuse of statistics caused. Our students will lose a part of their school while other Queens’ schools are busting at the seams so that an elite group of 85 students can be accommodated with lower class sizes and modern technology from Gates and Dell. This is morally indefensible. What about Jamaica’s kids?

The PEP needs to reevaluate the comprehensive high school. Big isn’t necessarily bad.

Not too many 14 year olds know what they want to do with their lives. A comprehensive school offers a wide range of academics, sports and clubs so that kids can find a niche. When academic schools are too big as they are in most of Queens, it’s not good but when they are too small like us, then we can’t offer the students the wide range of programs to be a proper comprehensive school.

We propose that you let us ask some of the thousands of students who are scheduled to be placed into overcrowded Queens schools to be allowed to voluntarily come to Jamaica instead to even out the enrollments.

Also, the city looking to save money. We understand that 600 buildings have more than one school in them. Multiple administrations in the same building are very expensive. That’s money that could go to kids. The College Board School with a separate administrative staff is not cost efficient and does not belong in Jamaica.

Many of us from Jamaica HS came here tonight to show you our school spirit. It’s an intangible your Aris Computer and learning environment surveys can’t measure. Our school is 116 years old and should continue as one school. Jamaica High School: one school!

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Another Resolution Passed Asking Chancellor to Stop Closing Schools

By James Eterno, UFT Chapter Leader, Jamaica High School

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein

The UFT Delegate Assembly passed yet another resolution, the fourth since 2005, asking the Department of Education to stop closing schools until someone can show evidence that small schools substantially enhance student achievement. What makes anyone think that the DOE is going to listen to us this time around when they didn’t listen the last three times? Einstein knew his stuff.

If the DOE doesn’t hear us this time, the resolution calls for some kind of actions. Haven’t UFT members, parents, students and activists in many schools already protested, gone to court, and worked with politicians to stop their schools from closing? Have we succeeded and kept most of the schools open? The answer is no. We need some real trade union action to show our schools are viable and we’ve had enough of being bashed.

I proposed the following amendment to the latest please don’t close schools resolution: “Resolved, that the UFT boycott all Article 18D hiring committees in any new school placed in any closing, phasing out, phasing down, underutilized or existing school unless the UFT Chapter and Principal are agreeable to the new school.” If the UFT boycotted the hiring committees when a school community agreed that the new school did not belong in a particular building, then the closing of schools might be slowed down. The leverage we could amass would be considerable.

The UFT could publish in the NY Teacher a list of schools being boycotted and tell the parents and the press that we don’t approve of students enrolling at a school where the teachers have not been screened by qualified teachers, or how an existing school has students who are being deprived of resources because of a new school stealing their space. There is obviously a risk that the anti union forces would urge parents and teachers to go to new schools where the UFT advised people to boycott, but a real trade union could win this boycott if it were done properly.

It needs to be pointed out that the DOE reported that there are over 600 buildings that now house more than one school. Does anyone have any idea how much money is being spent on all of those extra administrators? Those funds could go to the kids. Also, the damage done to students when they have closed so many comprehensive schools needs to be fully assessed and exposed.

The UFT reacted to my proposal with Randi, Tom Dromgoole (the Manhattan High School District Representative) and Leo Casey (HSVP) saying that I want to deprive our members of their rights. They basically wrote off the idea of a real trade union action (a boycott) as if it was absolutely foreign to them and the amendment received only a few votes.

Instead, we are passing the same resolution for a fourth time and expecting different results. Einstein’s definition of insanity applied to the 2008 UFT.

*Please note that I have nothing against small schools. My wife has worked successfully in two of them. I have a problem when schools are involuntarily imposed on other school communities and the new schools compromise the mission of the original school. I also oppose it when viable schools are deemed as failing and are closed/reorganized. Schools are dealing with social issues that are way beyond their control. Subsequently, the educational “quick fixers” with their empty promises enter and in many cases nothing really changes and many people suffer, including students.*


Our well read blog pieces have led to something as at least there was a full question period and half a new motion period at the April 16 Delegate Assembly meeting. Maybe we should view this as progress. However, in order to take away time from the motion period and make sure that the resolution opposing privatization of healthcare never made it to the floor, Vice President Michael Mulgrew used time in the new motion period to ask for a change in the agenda to bring up a resolution on fighting the budget cuts from the city. This easily passed but with only ten minutes for new motions, this particular resolution took up over half of the time. When we were on the Executive Board, Randi would sometimes tell us we have a chance to raise issues at the Executive Board so we should let others speak at the DA. As Mulgrew is on the Executive Board, the same rules should apply to him.

My understanding is that the resolution on fighting the city budget cuts was passed by the Executive Board on Monday so it could have easily been added to an amended agenda and not taken up half of the new motion period. In the past, many Executive Board actions were two days later added to an amended DA agenda.

Another resolution sponsored by Megan Behrant, a delegate from FDR High School, in support of a group of workers in North Carolina fired for union activities was raised and received overwhelming support so it was added to the May agenda. There was not time left for any other new motions.

To our loyal Unity readers: we would like a floor vote on the privatization of health care. We should at least be able to raise the resolution.

In Randi’s report, she said that she would be running for the AFT Presidency but that she would not take double salaries for doing both the AFT and UFT jobs. In addition, Randi spoke about how well we did with the state budget. She also claimed a big victory because tenure decisions cannot be based on changes in student test scores but the issue will be revisited in two years. These are both victories and we congratulate the UFT on the work they did in Albany but we shouldn’t be popping open any champagne corks on the tenure or budget issues.

Newsday reported recently that the Long Island school districts didn’t really want tenure being awarded based on student test scores. They would rather make these decisions based on whether or not a teacher is willing to devote extra time to the job to coach. (Now that’s not exactly a valid measure on the quality of a teacher either.)

Randi also said that an age discrimination case was filed by Absent Teacher Reserves in State Court because 81% of ATRs are over 40 while only 56.5% of the teaching force is over 40. She then reported on the Holy Thursday court case where Chancellor Klein told principals to change the religious observance rules the day before Holy Thursday and some principals were denying people a religious observance day.

A video from Tom Chapin was then played called “Not on the Test.” It was a song about excessive testing in schools. Randi then stated that there is State Education Department proof that the comprehensive high schools take a disproportionate amount of kids with special needs. (Why is it then that the UFT is sitting on hiring committees for new schools when comprehensive schools are closed?). She also reported on PCBs and said that the Union was taking a better safe than sorry approach to the problem.

Finally, she saluted members for their activism including the people who went to protest at the Julia Richman complex which is slated to be closed. She also praised the school psychologists who made their case at the panel for Education Policy meeting on Monday, and yes, Jamaica High School where 89 of us went to Monday’s PEP meeting to advocate for our school. In addition, she recognized the secretary’s chapter for their courage in winning a grievance so that school aides and others will no longer be allowed to do secretarial work. Grievance Director Howard Solomon said that since the arbitrator retained jurisdiction, members should report violations to Chapter Leader Jackie Ervolina who will get them to the arbitrator.

In the special orders of business section, resolutions were passed to mobilize in support of tenure and a resolution in support of technical and career education was also passed.

It is interesting to note that the Unity literature at the DA criticized ICE for not being involved in any recent UFT actions. Truth is we were involved in all of them except for the one protest which was occurring at the same time as the Jamaica High School action. The Unity leaflet also prominently quotes former Bush Education Secretary Rod Paige saluting Randi. That’s the same Rod Paige who equated the National Education Association with a terrorist organization.

Monday, April 14, 2008


Jamaica's 116 Year Tradition of Excellence is threatened by the Department of Education's decision to open a College Board Grade 6-12 School within Jamaica High School in the fall.

College Board Schools are supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.

Who Will Support Jamaica High School's Students?

Don't our students deserve:

* Modern, up to date computers?

* Lower class sizes?

* Abundant new textbooks?

* Fully funded extra curricular activities (sports, tutoring, clubs, etc…)?

* A full range of course offerings for all students including those with limited English proficiency and special needs?



Join Jamaica HS parents, educators, and students at the Monday, April 14 meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy (Board of Education) at the Frank Sinatra School (30-20 Thomson Avenue in Long Island City; take E,G,R or V to Queens Plaza or 7 to 33rd Street)

5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

You don't have to speak; just your presence is welcome but you must be there by 5:30 p.m. if you wish to sign up to address the Board of Ed members.

For more information email peprally0414@hotmail.com or call Alvin Baker at 718 297-7986

Tuesday, April 08, 2008



by James Eterno - UFT Chapter Leader, Jamaica High School

Members of the Independent Community of Educators welcome the city's 28,000 Home Child Care Providers to the United Federation of Teachers. According to the November 1, 2007 NY Teacher, there are now more than 188,000 UFT members. That means the 80,000 NYC teachers are now a minority in our Union, making up a little over 40% of the total membership. This piece in no way is being written as a criticism of non-teaching UFT members. We are aiming to tell our readers that the Union's Constitution is now completely obsolete and needs to be amended to fairly represent teaching and non-teaching UFT members.

To begin with, examine Article IV of the UFT Constitution which refers to officers. Five of the eleven officers must come from the schools. The Child Care Providers, the newly unionized Administrative Law Judges and others within the UFT who have nothing to do with the schools should not have all officers who are teachers. Most of the UFT's elected officers were at one time teachers. (Quite possibly all of them came from teaching lines; I'm not sure.) This structure is illogical as the majority of the people they represent are not active classroom teachers.

The at large, winning caucus (political party) takes all voting system makes absolutely no sense. There was never any legitimacy to a system that has Elementary School Teachers voting for the Vice President for Academic High Schools, but that is nothing compared to Home Child Care Providers and the City's Administrative Law Judges voting for the High School, Middle School and Elementary VPs. This system is absurd and cannot be justified in any way shape or form by Randi Weingarten and her Unity Caucus. However, if one accepts the argument that we are all one union and should vote together, then shouldn't there be proportional representation (win a proportion of seats based on the percentage of votes a caucus [political party] gets in a UFT election) on the Executive Board?

Representation on the 78 seat UFT Executive Board is now completely out of proportion to the job titles within the UFT. The majority of the UFT membership is now Functionals (non-teachers) and the Executive Board should soon reflect this. According to Article V, Section 1 of the UFT Constitution: "Thirty (30) shall be elected from the four divisions, namely the elementary schools, junior high/intermediate/middle schools, high schools, and functional chapters. Each division shall be entitled to that fraction of the thirty (30) which its membership bears to the local membership of the organization as of December in the year preceding the election."

If by the 2010 election there are 200,000 UFT members and 80,000 (40%) are teachers, this would mean that teachers would only be entitled to twelve divisional seats, plus six more because each division (high school, middle school and elementary schools) gets two additional seats for having over half of their members organized. Thus, one half of those 36 divisional seats would go to teachers who would not make up close to 50% of the UFT membership. The remaining 42 seats of the Executive Board will be elected at large by the entire membership as per the Constitution. With slate voting (put one X in a ballot for a caucus you like and you vote for every candidate from that caucus), the Caucus (political party) that gets the most at large votes wins all of the at large Executive Board seats and of course all of the officer positions.

It is theoretically very possible for a caucus to lose the teacher vote by an overwhelming number of ballots but still win the election and completely control the UFT by winning the non-teachers. This is ridiculous; we are called the United Federation of Teachers. The Union has clearly outgrown its archaic electoral structure. It's time for all of us to demand a restructuring of the UFT.

Here are some suggestions for democratic reform that would require a series of Constitutional Amendments and/or DA motions. Please read them and tell us what you think. (Some of these suggestions are official ICE positions while others are new and not necessarily anyone's position.)

1. Restore divisional voting to each school division for Vice Presidents. High School members only vote for HS VPs; Middle School members only vote for Middle School VP and Elementary School members only vote for Elementary School VP.

2. Create a vice president for the Retirees. Create a vice president for other non DOE employees including the Home Day Care Workers. Create a vice president for all functional school chapters to vote for. Only members of these particular Functional Chapters can vote for their own VP.

3. Teachers and other school employees only vote for a Teacher President who will negotiate for teacher issues.

4. Functionals (non-teachers) not in the school system including retirees vote for a Functional President. (The total would be 15 officers.)

5. Make the District Representative into a Constitutionally elected position (voted on either by Chapter Leaders in a district or by all UFT members within a district).

6. Allocate all at large Executive Board seats by proportional representation. If a caucus (political party) wins ten percent of the at large vote, they should win ten percent of the seats on the Executive Board as well as 10% of the AFT and NYSUT Delegates.

7. Divisional Executive Board seats should also be allocated based upon proportional representation determined exclusively on the percentage of votes in that particular division.

8. At Delegate Assembly Contract ratification votes, only members of a particular Functional Chapter or the Teachers should be able to vote on their Contracts. All it would take is different colored voting cards for different functions and teachers.

9. Give email addresses of all of our members to registered caucuses so each caucus can send campaign emails to the membership.

10. Open up the NY Teacher to dissenting voices in every issue, not just in the two election issues every three years.

The alternatives to these suggestions are to split the Union into smaller more manageable locals including one for the retirees and home childcare workers, or to keep the current totally undemocratic system where thousands of members feel completely disenfranchised and a very small percentage actually bothers to vote in UFT elections.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Randi's Actions Are Incrementally Worsening The Teacher Profession

by Chaz (This article first appeared on Chaz's Blog)

Randi Weingarten, in a New York Times puff piece was proud to point out how she wanted incremental and sustainable changes in the New York City education system, I did an investigation of these incremental changes she brought us and here is what I found.

First, Randi gave us the 192 day year for us. Including those wonderful two days in August. Yes, she certainly incrementally increased our work year.

Second, Randi gave us the extra 150 minutes of classroom time during the week. Thanks Randi for incrementally increasing our work day.

Third, Randi has allowed the DOE to incrementally increase the paperwork that the classroom teacher must do. Another promise Randi has kept.

Fourth, Randi has allowed the DOE to increase the number of "ATR" and "rubber room" teachers. Here again Randi has kept her promise to incrementally change the New York City education system.

Fifth, Randi agreed to incrementally increase teacher administrative duties such as cafeteria, hallway, and potty patrol. Way to go Randi.

Sixth, Randi has agreed with the DOE to incrementally increase the number of teachers, subject to a 90-day unpaid suspension and no health benefits based upon hearsay.

Seventh, there appears to have been an incremental increase in Letters-To-File (LIF) since we cannot grieve them anymore.

Finally, Randi has seen more and more teachers leave the system as she buys into the DOE's recruitment over retention policy. Yes Randi has kept her word in incrementally increasing the resignations of New York City teachers.

Some bloggers call Randi Weingarten a liar. However, in this case Randi has lived up to her promise to incremental and sustainable changes in the New York City educational system. Unfortunately, these incremental changes have worsened the New York City teacher profession but why should she care? Randi and her inner staff are not in the classroom and not subject to any of the incremental and sustainable actions that have affected the classroom teacher.

Now doesn't that show she deserves the national AFT Presidency?