The March Delegate Assembly was totally uneventful. In the usual marathon President's Report, Michael Mulgrew was in full spin cycle. He said that the Teacher Data Reports in the future may or may not be open to Freedom of Information Act requests when 20% of some teachers' annual review is based on student gains in standardized test scores.
Mulgrew spent a great deal of his time then defending the appeal system that he agreed to for the new evaluation system. The President first emphasized that the new evaluation system has not gone into effect but that there is an agreement on the appeals. He also was emphatic that 20% of the new evaluation system will be based on student growth in test scores but that another 20% that is based on student growth and the other 60% that is based on observations and peer review and maybe other factors must be negotiated by the City and the UFT.
Then Mulgrew went into details on the appeals process. He said that currently 99.6% of teachers lose their Unsatisfactory rating appeals in the Bloomberg era but that in pre-Bloomberg times 10-15% of teachers had their U ratings overturned in a given year. He added that this is why the UFT agreed to allow up to 13% of those who receive ineffective ratings in the new system, when it is implemented, to appeal to an independent three person panel. He said that these would not be reviews based on performance but rather would be reserved for teachers who receive ineffective ratings based upon being harassed by Principals because they are Chapter Leaders, other union activists or whistle blowers.
He then told us that the other 87% of those who are stuck with an ineffective rating would be observed by independent validators who are not current employees of the DOE or UFT but would have to visit the ineffective teacher three times to validate the ineffective rating. He felt this would be a good protection for teachers.
We believe otherwise as the program looks remarkably like Peer Intervention Plus Program where outside people not employed by UFT or DOE rubber stamp the Principal's findings most of the time. Mulgrew mentioned that if the validator concludes that the teacher is not ineffective then if the DOE wants to dismiss that teacher, then they still would carry the burden of proof in a termination hearing.
(Those teachers who have their ineffective ratings validated will then have to prove they are not ineffective [virtually impossible to do] in the new 3020A process to keep their jobs. We predict many people will be rated ineffective twice and validators will validate most of them and then there will be a huge backlog of people waiting to have their termination hearings. The only thing that might save people is that there might not be enough lawyers or arbitrators available to fire so many people.)
UFT spin is that the new system is an improvement. In reality, it fundamentally weakens tenure to the point where in the future we are all vulnerable if this ever goes into effect. Our hope is people will collectively rise to oppose it.
Mulgrew went on to say that the Mayor is not happy with the evaluation system so he will just continue to close as many schools as he can in his last 21 months in office as he tries to become a national figure. Mulgrew told us about the polls that have the mayor's approval rating on the schools at around 21% and the UFT's approval rating around 60%. He said the mayor knows he can't fire teachers en masse but that his stand plays well nationally.
Mulgew then said that there is legislation in Albany that is being sponsored by Assemblyman Keith Wright, that the UFT has a resolution supporting, that would make the Community Education Council have to approve any new co-location of a school in a current school building. (I wanted to ask why the UFT has no resolution on another bill in Albany to put major checks on school closings but as usual I wasn't recognized. It is a question worth pursuing.)
The President then told us that the City is not getting Medicaid reimbursements to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. He then segued into talking about SESIS, reporting that assistant principals were testifying on behalf of the UFT in the SESIS grievance, although the DOE says the major issues have been fixed.
He then read a letter from a CEC member in support of teachers. Mulgrew concluded his report by talking about how he addressed a Council of Supervisors and Administrators lunch event over the weekend.
Leroy Barr then gave the Staff Director's Report where he talked about an upcoming Para event and a March 15 Day of solidarity. Mulgrew came back to tell everyone to call Albany at (877) 255-9417 to oppose a Tier 6 pension. He said that we have paid for every benefit we have.
He then reported on how Joel Klein was served with a subpoena to testify in a suit filed last May opposed to school closings from 2011. A judge denied the UFT an injunction to stop the closings of many schools (including my school) last July but that he did let the case go forward. Mulgrew said the lawyers were lining up to try to question Klein.
Questions concerned the independent validators. Mulgrew said that possibly retirees could do the job. He talked about counter attacking on closing schools but that we need the law changed in Albany to stop the mayor.
I again need to point out that he didn't say why the UFT had no resolution to support a change in the state law on school closings. The other resolutions were all non controversial and all passed unanimously.
Finally, a Chapter Leader that I respect told me he reads my monthly DA reports so he knows the DA is a waste of time. While I agree with him essentially, I don't agree with non Unity people not showing up. If every Chapter Leader and Delegate who are not part of Unity Caucus would attend meetings, it probably would be a totally different union. People need to be active.