Friday, December 30, 2011


The Saturday midnight deadline will come and go but there will be no new teacher and principal evaluation system for the teachers in New York City in the Transformation-Restart schools.  This is a positive development.  Any agreement that would have been hammered out with the Department of Education would be a disaster for teachers.  Reports from Transformation schools say that the new evaluation system based on the Danielson framework that the DOE has been able to partially implement this fall is nothing more than an attempt to get rid of veteran teachers.

Without an agreement, the city risks losing millions of dollars of federal Race to the Top funds called School Improvement Grants.  Since most of that money is earmarked for more of the same data driven nonsense that is destroying the public schools, I say keep your blood money.  We don't want it.

Under the new evaluation system that is mandated by a state education law, instead of rating us satisfactory or unsatisfactory, the new ratings will be highly effective, effective, developing, or ineffective. All schools will have to use the new evaluation system by next school year but the law mandates that details and a review procedure need to be negotiated with the teachers' unions.

The UFT agreed to let the new system partially start in Transformation-Restart schools and negotiate the details by the end of 2011.  The schools received part of the federal money but State Education Commissioner John King announced this week that if there is no agreement on how to fully implement the new evaluation system in the Transformation-Restart schools, the schools will lose the money. reported that the UFT was holding out in negotiations for a fair review procedure for teachers rated ineffective.  The UFT wants ineffective teachers to be able to appeal their rating to an independent arbitrator.

The DOE wanted to keep the kangaroo court system otherwise known as the U rating appeal in effect where teachers appeal unsatisfactory ratings to a DOE panel and then we almost always lose these appeals.

Gotham reported, and UFT President Michael Mulgrew confirmed, that the UFT was willing to go to binding arbitration over the details of the evaluation system but the DOE said no.  This concerns me as the UFT's record in arbitration is not so strong where we could say with confidence that this would be an easy victory.  For a reference just look at the 2005 contract that was mostly hammered out by arbitrators.  Arbitrators are hired and paid for jointly by labor and management so they tend to split the baby in half and give something to both sides.  I would not want our future evaluation system put into the hands of arbitrators.  We need to keep it in our own hands.

In arbitration, the DOE would more than likely ask for the sun, the stars and the moon as they did in 2005.  Remember the 8 page contract proposal that would've basically taken away all of our rights.  The UFT would be reasonable and responsible and ask for a few gains and the arbitrators would split the baby and give the DOE half of what they wanted.  That happened in 2005 and we are now suffering as multiple schools are closed and our members are shuffled around as Absent Teacher Reserves. Before, 2005, members who were excessed were placed in new positions and those coming from closing schools had preferred placement rights. In negotiations the DOE wanted all excessed people fired after a year and UFT wanted them placed as they were before.  The arbitrators wouldn't fire the excessed teachers but they called for the new system that allows for teachers to be unassigned ATRs.  It is a disaster that has gotten worse for ATRs with last June's agreement to allow them to be rotated to different schools each week.

I am imagining how arbitration would go on the evaluation system.  The DOE will come in and say they want to keep the current U rating appeal process for teachers who are rated ineffective.  The UFT will say that we want an appeal before an independent arbitrator and the arbitrator's dilemma will be how to split the baby down the middle.

 The cynic in me has a plausible answer. Since a high volume of ineffective ratings is almost guaranteed by the Danielson framework. this would allow arbitrators to land many jobs and a boatload of cash if they agree with the UFT position.  However, the arbitrator will not rule outright for the UFT as this would anger the DOE.  Therefore, to make the DOE happy, our ever intrepid arbitrator would say yes the cases have to be heard by arbitrators but they will make the standard for us to show we are not ineffective so high that few, if any teachers, will have their ratings overturned.

DOE is then happy because they can fire more teachers and shut many more up through the fear of the dreaded ineffective rating.  The UFT is happy because they can tell their members they won them an independent review process.  The arbitrators are elated about having more work.  In fact, everybody wins but the teachers.

A better strategy than arbitration for the UFT, NYSUT and the principals who will also be covered under the new evaluation system, is to demand that the state change this ridiculous law that will hurt children as many competent educators will be terminated if it fully goes into effect.  The suburban principals are with us on this as their letter opposing the evaluation system shows.

As for people in schools, our position must be to educate our members about the dangers of the new system and put pressure on the UFT to not cave in under any circumstances.

Finally, I want to thank my daughter for taking a fairly long nap today so I could write this.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2011


Members and former members of Jamaica High School met last evening. I heard from people who are now in Brooklyn and Queens.  Here is what my friends are reporting:

  • The Danielson Framework for evaluating teachers is very anti-teacher and if it is implemented citywide, it will lead to many teachers being terminated. Teachers at the restart-transformation schools where they use Danielson universally hate it and many are blaming the UFT for not protecting them. We will provide specific details in a future post.  

  • Being an Absent Teacher Reserve and going from school to school on a weekly basis is a horrible way for people to make a living as it robs teachers of their professional dignity.  ATRS pretty much feel they have been abandoned by the UFT. 

  • Newer teachers who are being denied tenure feel that the UFT does nothing to help them.
Not a pretty picture.  However, when I go to Delegate Assembly meetings, I hear how it's not so bad out there.

Happy Holidays!


Schools like Jamaica and Washington Irving have been trying to show the world that we are viable but the New York City Department of Education ignores everything we say that shows us in a positive light.

Now blogger Gary Rubinstein has crunched some numbers and finds we have some very respectable passing rates on Regents exams.  He found that Jamaica ranks 164 out of 424 schools and Washington Irving rates 175 out of 343 in Weighted Regents Pass Grades.

I don't think this metric is the greatest way to measure schools but it is another statistic that shows two schools doing well.  Why does the DOE ignore these numbers?  The answer is that the decisions on school closings are purely political as all of us already know.  This is just more evidence. Thanks Gary.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Gloria from ICE-GEM on NY 1 coverage of PEP protest last night.

Ever the optimist, Norm posts coverage at Ed Notes.

Of course, the rubber stamp PEP approved all of the charter co-locations.

The moral of the story: We never give up.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Congratulations to Peter Lamphere

A judge has overturned Peter Lamphere's 2009 Unsatisfactory rating.  Peter was chapter leader at Bronx High School of Science.  This is positive news for sure.  We salute the people at Bronx Science who have been standing up for their rights in the face of great adversity.

The story was covered by Gotham.


Date:  Monday, December 12, 2011  
Contact:  Peter Lamphere,

Judge Overturns Arbitrary Unsatisfactory Rating for Bronx Science Teacher

In an oral bench decision Wednesday, December 7th, New York State Supreme Court Justice Paul Feinman granted the petition to overturn a 2009 Unsatisfactory rating for Peter Lamphere, former math teacher and UFT chapter leader at the Bronx High School of Science.  The decision is a small step in restoring some of the damage done to the careers of numerous teachers at the prestigious Bronx school, where a deteriorating relationship between Principal Valerie Reidy and faculty has dramatically increased staff turnover accompanied by a decline in the school's national ranking (New York Magazine, December 12, 2011, New York Times, September 15, 2011, Daily News, March 29, 2011, attached).   

The decision rejects the Department of Education's attempt to ignore scrutiny of Principal Reidy's administrative actions. The DOE disregarded a fact finding ruling by an independent arbitrator last April upholding claims of harassment by 20 math teachers at the school, including Lamphere (New York Times, April 28, 2010). Even after Valerie Reidy abandoned the 2009 Unsatisfactory rating by refusing to contest Lamphere's administrative appeal, the DOE arbitrarily upheld the rating. 

"This is an alert to the Department of Education that they need to examine more closely what's happening at Bronx Science," was Lamphere's first response to the news.  "It's outrageous that they have chosen to look the other way while the school adminstration at Bronx Science has undermined the learning environment at what should be one of the crown jewels of the city's educational system."

Lynne Winderbaum, former UFT High School District Representative, commented: "It is a shame that teachers have to use the court system to get fairness. But justice will be done whenever the abusive tactics of principals such as Valerie Reidy are exposed to an unbiased hearing.

Mark Kagan, who voluntary transferred from Bronx Science as part of the exodus of 40% of the Social Studies faculty this year, added, "It was understood at Bronx Science that Valerie Reidy used U-ratings and denials of tenure for non-pedagogical reasons. I'm glad to see that the court saw this clearly. But it's too bad for the students that Peter and other good teachers were forced out of Bronx Science."

Former Bronx Science teacher Mark Sadok said, "I am delighted to hear the news, as it not only vindicates Lamphere, but also paves the way for a return to teaching for those of us whose dismissals were based on observations that violated the UFT-DOE contract." 
Megan Behrent, of the activist group Teachers' Unite, pointed out how this case "exposes the way teacher evaluations are used for political rather than professional reasons and how the 'the bad teacher' narrative provides cover for retaliation against activists. It also shows why tenure is so important. Without tenure, this victory would never have happened as Lamphere would have been dismissed without any due process at all."

Brian Jones, activist with the Grassroots Education Movement, stated that "Peter Lamphere is a dedicated and highly intelligent educator; and yes, he's also a union activist. Unfortunately the national campaign to scapegoat and punish teachers has meant that the former fact mattered less than the latter. I'm glad to see that Peter received some small measure of justice. Let's hope that this reversal reverberates through the halls of power and gives our highest officials reason for pause.

Jonathan Halabi, chapter leader of neighboring High School for American Studies, commented that "This unjustified U-rating should have been overturned much earlier.  Today's decision shows that the DOE's current internal hearings and appeals are unfair and rigged against the employee. New Action/UFT remains deeply concerned by the problem of abusive administrators.  A victory, especially by a chapter leader who had been targeted for abuse, is a victory for all of us. "

Another arbitrary U-rating for Lamphere, from 2008, remains the subject of another case before Judge Paul Wooten, with a decision expected soon. But, regardless of the outcome of this individual case, the recommendations of the independent arbitrator's 2010 fact-finding report will still not have been implemented, and the struggle to replace the current administration at Bronx Science with one that can work together with Bronx Science teachers to rebuild a positive environment and a commitment to educational excellence has a long way to go.

Additional Contacts: 
Mark Sadok -
Lynne Winderbaum –
Megan Behrent -

Thursday, December 08, 2011


The local press coverage went beyond what even I was hoping when we set up a press conference for Monday to tell of the plight of Jamaica High School's students and staff. We have two editorials supporting us and four articles in the local Queens papers.

Senator Tony Avella and our students were willing to tell it like it is and the community weeklies picked up on it.  DOE's answer that we were given a $50,000 technology grant is puzzling since we haven't seen any new technology in years.

The Queens Chronicle said it best in their passionate editorial: "What's going on at Jamaica High School is simply a travesty.  These children are being denied the state constitution's guarantee of a quality education.  They're being denied equal protection under the law. Since the majority are minorities, the city's neglect even carries the appearance of racial discrimination." 

Please spread the word far and wide about what a phasing out school has to endure as it downsizes.

Update: I just saw the list of schools slated for closure this year.  Please contact us if you are from any of those schools and want help.  We support you fully.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011


Thanks to Gustavo Medina, we now have the entire Jamaica HS press conference online.


I returned to the UFT Delegate Assembly today and I felt once again as if I was in an alternate universe.  UFT President Michael Mulgrew's marathon report featuring all of the latest Union triumphs was too much for a non kool aid drinker to handle.  Mulgrew spoke forever about how our activism and Occupy Wall Street has turned things around in Albany and now there is an agreement to raise taxes on multimillionaires while cutting taxes for most of the rest of us.  This will help pay for a $350,000,000 increase in state aid to New York City Schools. The first increase from Albany in four years.

Mulgrew then thanked the delegates for activating people for three rallies within a two month period which he said was unprecedented.  The third rally will come on Saturday as we meet in Manhattan on Madison Avenue and 61st Street at 11:00 am to march for voting rights.

Only after all of this happy talk did the President mention what all of us who work in the New York City schools know: the school system is falling apart and the public could soon lose confidence in the schools.  He also noted that the Mayor will more than likely still claim there is a tremendous budget gap in the city and call for more cuts but we should be able to stop him.  Mulgrew also talked about excessive paperwork and he closed by saying we are continuing to negotiate for a contract but that we will need to blow up on the craziness that is happening in the system by telling the public about the educational neglect that is being foisted upon our schools by DOE mismanagement.

Later the President also told us about the ongoing school closing lawsuit.  He said schools are set up to fail and the DOE has known this for years.

Leroy Barr reported on the rallies and promoted Saturday's rally.

Question period was next.  One question concerned the Absent Teacher Reserves and Mulgrew said the ATR pool was down to under 1,000 for the first time in six years. He said that ATRS should be filling vacancies and covering for leaves and long term absences but the UFT is aware that this is not happening in many schools.  He added that Chapter Leaders need to blow the whistle on F status people (part time teachers) and any uncovered position as they are depriving ATRS of full time classroom positions.  (My sources tell me there are openings in about 3/4 of the schools they go to.)

A Delegate asked about mandated online work.  Mulgrew answered that some schools want to communicate online which is great but it should not be mandatory. There was another question about having our pension fund used to build a bridge.  Mulgrew said that as long as it stays within the fiduciary boundaries, that our three elected members of the TRS Board would consider using our fund responsibly to help create union jobs to update infrastructure.  The next question was on CESIS and the President and Secretary Michael Mendel stated that members need to keep a detailed log of when they are working beyond the school day. The final question was about teachers being pressured to videotape their lessons.  Mulgrew answered that it should be voluntary and the teacher who is being taped owns the tape.

The motion period was kind of interesting for a minute as our friend Kit Wainer introduced a motion that the UFT should initiate a joint mobilization campaign with the Transit Workers Union whose contract will expire in January. Ours expired over two years ago.  I thought this was a brilliant idea that I enthusiastically voted for but it was not surprising that the Unity faithful voted it down.  There was another resolution on reviving Glass Steigel that did not carry and then the regular resolutions were dealt with.

The resolution on ATRS that we posted yesterday was first.  Secretary Mendel apologized for his outburst last month and then motivated the substitute resolution for the one raised last month.  The new resolution carried unanimously.  It is a move in the right direction as we are calling for free re-certification classes for those in obscure license areas, no new hiring until all ATRS in a license are placed and also the conditional placement of all ATRS for positions that open up after September 15.  I still am skeptical about how we intend to get this resolution to become DOE policy without a mobilization but since the makers of last month's resolution didn't complain, I voted for it like everyone else. I do hope we get these improvements for ATRS but the DOE does not appear to be in a giving mood on much of anything these days and needs to be forced into everything.

Three more noncontroversial resolutions also carried unanimously including support for the December 10 Stand for Freedom March, a resolution on child care providers and mandatory membership in the Teachers' Retirement System for paras.

All in all, a holiday love fest of a DA that will soon be forgotten as nothing of substance was even discussed.  Kit's resolution for the UFT to work with TWU was for this month so according to DA rules it could only be read and not debated.  It required a 2/3 vote in favor just to get on the agenda.  Needless to say, the idea of any real militancy, which working with TWU would require, was something our union leadership would probably never want to discuss. I expected it to be defeated but it did get some votes in favor.

I missed the beginning of the meeting as signal problems slowed the subway so if anyone knows what happened in the first few minutes, just fill us in.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011


Yesterday we were at it again at the phasing out Jamaica High School.  We don't know the meaning of the word quit.  Thanks to help from Senator Tony Avella and activist Jackie Forrestal, we were able to hold a press conference that was covered by Fox 5, NY 1 and some local papers.  See for yourself how articulate our kids are.

I think junior Kymberly Walcott summed it up best for all of us in New York City when she made this statement about having five schools in one building: "The other schools, metaphorically speaking, are given meals; we are given crumbs."  That's school reform in brief folks.  Jamaica's situation plays out in school buildings all over this country.


I will try to be as objective as possible and just post the proposed UFT Delegate Assembly resolution scheduled to be voted on tomorrow.

Does the resolution below go far enough for you?  Does it need some teeth such as a mobilization in support of these goals?  At least the Absent Teacher Reserve issue is alive and many members are pushing the union into action. Should we be satisfied that the issue is on the union's agenda? Please tell us what you think.

Resolution on Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) placements

WHEREAS the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) crisis is a clear and direct result of New York City Department of Education (DOE) policies and mismanagement; and

WHEREAS even though efforts to resolve the crisis have been partially successful, the DOE still has not kept its promises nor met its moral and professional obligations to ATRs and has thereby wasted valuable human and economic resources; and

WHEREAS maintaining fairness and increasing productivity in the city’s teaching force require that the talents of all educators be utilized in service to students, parents and school communities; and

WHEREAS solutions to the ATR crisis need to be proposed and implemented without delay in order to maximize productivity, teaching and learning in New York City public schools; therefore be it

RESOLVED that the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) call upon the DOE to create a recertification program for ATRs for designated shortage areas and allow participating ATRs to take the requisite course work at the City University of New York (CUNY) free of charge or be reimbursed for the related costs of attending a private college or university at the CUNY rate per credit; and be it further

RESOLVED that the UFT urge the DOE to require that all ATRs be given an opportunity for permanent placement in vacancies in their license areas in their district or high school superintendency before the DOE approves any new hire in a license area where an ATR has not been given an opportunity for permanent placement; and be it further

RESOLVED that the UFT urge the DOE to place all ATRs into vacancies in their district or high school superintendency after September 15 of any given year on a provisional basis; and be it further

RESOLVED that the UFT urge the DOE to allow principals and ATRs at the end of the school year to either mutually agree to have ATRs as permanent staff members or allow them to return to the ATR pool.


Monday, December 05, 2011


Thanks to Norm (Ed Notes) for providing the email below on ATR supervision in Brooklyn.  This is not encouraging.  The question I have is how much money is the DOE spending to run this nonsensical program?

From: Atrassignment <
Subject: Important Update on Supervision 
Date: Monday, December 5, 2011, 10:37 AM 

Dear Teacher, 

The Department of Education is piloting a new model for supervision of teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR).  This pilot will be implemented for most ATRs assigned to community school districts in Brooklyn as well as the Brooklyn High School superintendency, District 73; you are receiving this email because you will likely be included in the pilot.  Under this initiative, you will be supervised by a licensed administrator, called a Field Supervisor, who will periodically observe your practice and provide you with feedback to support your professional development.  The Field Supervisors are aware that as an ATR you do not have a regular program and that you rotate school assignments and they will take this context into account in their work with you. 

At some point in the next two months, you should expect your Field Supervisor to visit your assignment site to meet with you in person.  At this initial meeting, the Field Supervisor will work with you to develop a plan to support your professional growth and job search process.  The Field Supervisor will make an effort to contact you via your DOE email in advance of the initial meeting to give you a sense of when you can expect him or her; however, he or she may not always be able to provide advance notification. 


NYC Department of Education