Friday, May 25, 2012


The UFT held a special Delegate Assembly meeting on Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at UFT HQ in Manhattan. The only agenda item was endorsements for the June 26 Democratic Primary Election for Congress. Most of the picks were not controversial.

For New York’s 6th District in Queens, where Jamaica High School is located, I was very pleased to see the UFT endorse Grace Meng over Rory Lancman. Lancman is the local Assemblyman for the Jamaica High School area and he waffled back and forth before ultimately opposing closing the school in 2010. However, in the next round of school closings, Lancman came to our auditorium and said spinning off the Gateway program (one of Jamaica High Schools educational options), into a new school would be a good idea. Other politicians such as Tony Avella, Leroy Comrie, Mark Weprin and David Weprin have been unwavering supporters of Jamaica High School and other closing schools. I will gladly work to help Grace Meng.

In the hotly contested 8th CD race, the UFT took no position as to whether or not to endorse Councilman Charles Barron who has supported us on keeping schools open and many other issues but has made very controversial remarks on race. His opponent is Hakeem Jeffries who has backing from the charter school crowd.

Here are the endorsements:
·        CD 3-Steve Israel – Some dissent at DA because of his free speech positions.
·        CD 5-Gregory Meeks
·        CD 6-Grace Meng
·        CD 7- Nydia Velasquez
·        CD 8-No endorsement at this time
·        CD 9-Yvette Clark
·        CD 10-Jerrold Nadler
·        CD 11-No endorsement at this time
·        CD 12-Carolyn Moloney
·        CD 13-Charles Rangel
·        CD 14-Joseph Crowley
·        CD 15-Joe Serrano
·        CD 16-Eliot Engel

President Mulgrew touched briefly on the lawsuit that the NY Post reported on where our UFT President allegedly had an affair in school with a coworker before he was president.  After the affair was discovered, Mulgrew and then President Randi Weingarten allegedly colluded with the city to take away our rights in the 2005 contract so the city would cover up that Mulgrew was caught.  A friend told me that Mulgrew said that he would be happy to address the issues in court. (I arrived too late to hear this.) He also told the Delegates that it is sad that even when the mayor is named together with Mulgrew on the same suit, he still will not work with us.

My personal opinion is that the charges against Mulgrew are ridiculous. The Unity (political party) majority that runs the UFT agreed to go to a fact-finding arbitration panel in 2004. This panel produced the horrible fact-finding report that led to the giveback laden 2005 contract. Were the fact finders in on this conspiracy too? Come on now. We told then President Weingarten back in 2004 not to go near fact-finding arbitration but she did not listen. That was before this alleged affair took place.

As for granting union jobs in return for favors, if that is true then obviously it’s a problem but it is next to impossible to prove. The person named in the suit works in special education and not directly for Mulgrew. Hence, proof that there was a quid pro quo would be virtually impossible to find.  We should move onto something else and not concern ourselves with gossip.

However, if someone wants to investigate how the UFT doles out union jobs, it would be interesting. My position is that UFT after school jobs should be posted in schools and given to the senior qualified person who applies. UFT District Representatives should be elected by chapter leaders in a district as they once were. Divisional Vice Presidents should be elected by the members of their division.  For example, elementary school members should elect the elementary School VP. Now they are elected at large so the retirees and non Department of Education UFT members vote for who will represent active elementary school teachers. Democracy is a wonderful system. The accountability is to people below instead of above. A union should be as democratic as possible if it wants an active membership. We should at least be held to the same hiring standards that we would like principals to follow when giving out a compensatory time job.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Yesterday, the UFT Delegate Assembly would not allow an up or down vote on whether we should endorse state legislation to support one of two bills to end the mayor’s majority control over the Board of Education. The Board of Education is the legal name of what is now called the Panel for Educational Policy.  The PEP is dominated by the eight mayoral appointees who do whatever the mayor wants. When it is necessary, they always outvote the five borough president’s representatives.

Instead of supporting legislation (Senate Bill 6915) which would change the makeup of the Board of Education so that the majority would be appointed by the Borough Presidents and City Council, the Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew's political party) dominated Delegate Assembly referred this resolution, which I raised in April, to the UFT Executive Board.  Unity had a chance to make a statement that they opposed mayoral control and refused to do it.  As my friend Norm Scott says repeatedly, “Watch what UFT leaders do and not what they say.”  Every UFT member should memorize those words and say them whenever one of the Unity party faithful tells us the UFT opposes mayoral control or high stakes testing or that Danielson is our friend.

After last month’s surprise DA affirmative vote to place a resolution on the DA agenda to support either the Senate bill or a similar Assembly bill that would immensely improve the way schools are governed, people told me to watch out that the other shoe would soon drop and the UFT wouldn’t support legislation to end mayoral dictatorship.  I said let’s wait and see.  Maybe there is a real change in the thinking of UFT leadership.  I should have known better. 

This is especially troubling because Senator Bill Perkins, who is a staunch defender of public education, was the senator who introduced the bill in Albany. During the floor debate at Wednesday's DA, Unity people said that they examined the Senate bill and they oppose it in part because there wasn’t any place for parent representation on the new Board of Education.  (Are they serious? We can aim for a perfect school governance system down the road but now we need to take power out of the mayor’s hands as best as we can.)

In moving the resolution to support the end of mayoral dictatorship over the schools, I referred to Mulgrew’s earlier report where he told us that by a 7 to 1 margin, a new poll shows the public wants to end mayoral control of the schools.  I said that by the UFT endorsing either of the two bills introduced in the State Legislature, it was a way to start this discussion as the bills were similar and we need to come out boldly and forcefully as early as possible against mayoral dictatorship over the schools. 

I added that the current school governance law sunsets in 2015.  Why wait three years? We need to start pushing way before then and we made a mistake last time by doing committee work for years and then in 2009 accepting mayoral dictatorship version 2 which made no substantive changes to the 2002 law that put the mayor in charge.  Since the public is clearly on our side, I told the DA that we need to take this fight right to the heart of the chamber that is blocking change: the New York State Senate.  Majority Leader Dean Skellos is from Long Island so we should be having a rally in front of his office which is near the train station in Rockville Centre.  We can make it a big deal that we want our bills voted on.  I closed by saying my way of negotiating is to ask for the world (the end of mayoral majority on the Board of Ed now) and maybe we won’t get it today but we would have a much better chance of taking the mayor’s power to close or co-locate schools away from him or getting other legislation we want passed. 

Another delegate supported me but then someone from the fifth floor room said she opposed the Perkins bill and then another followed.  President Mulgrew then called on Middle School Vice President Richard Farkas, who moved that the resolution be referred to the Executive Board and now that they had their marching orders, the Unity faithful quickly thereafter ended debate and voted to refer the resolution to the Executive Board. 

I was not surprised but a little disappointed as our union has no strategy other than to repeat what did not work in 2009. UFT official policy continues from 2001.  That is when the UFT originally voted to support the mayor having majority control of the Board of Education.  I have opposed this policy all along and voted no on it back in 2001 and again in 2009. Will they ever learn?

 To all of my delegate friends who don’t come to the DA, all I can say is I could have certainly used your help Wednesday.  The absence of so many non Unity delegates makes it easy for the UFT leadership to almost always get what they want from the DA.

In the President’s Report, Michael Mulgrew told us there will be a special Delegate Assembly on congressional endorsements since the Democratic Primary has been moved up to June 26.  The special DA will take place next Wednesday at 4:15.  Mulgrew then boasted about the Spring Conference and how the new workshops, particularly the Danielson one, were successful.  He said that Charlotte Danielson herself was there and appreciated it. 

Mulgrew reported on mayoral control.  He said it was a big issue.  He said the UFT supports a bill that would compel the Community Education Councils (district school boards under the old system) to approve any new school co-location.  He also stated that we support a bill that would put a moratorium on school closings.  He continued by saying we could get these pieces of legislation by the Assembly but they would die in the Republican controlled State Senate.  (Well then why not picket their leadership?)

He continued by pointing out that mayoral control sunsets in 2015 but that we are hoping to make changes before that time.  He added that we have to be careful here but that we are hopeful of getting a workable State Senate next year. He said that parent groups and politicians are coming to us hoping to get our support on how the schools should be governed.  (I don’t think we can afford to wait for the perfect bill and must demand real change now.)  Mulgrew talked about the need for checks and balances.  (I have a poster  from 2009 in the UFT office at school that says the following: “MAYORAL CONTROL NEEDS CHECKS & BALANCES.”  I say today to beware of UFT Presidents calling for checks and balances because we got none in the 2009 law.)  Mulgrew closed by saying that it is too early to say what we will and won’t support. 

On the city budget Mulgrew reported that there would be 1,000 to 2,000 more teachers next year as the City Council held tough in budget negotiations.  He then said there are still major problems with the budget because the Day Care Providers who helped us fight layoffs last year now need our help as they are being threatened.  He told us that 16,000 daycare slots were on the chopping block.  He pointed out that the Mayor’s Early Learn program was really an attempt to privatize day care and we must oppose it.  He closed the budget part of his report by saying we are trying to get back teachers’ choice funding.

Mulgrew then gave his monthly speech on how disastrous special education reform is going and how many parents believe this is the mayor’s last ditch effort to destroy the school system.

Mulgrew then reported on the court case with the Turnaround schools that were closed.  He said that we would be back in court tomorrow because we have been doing the contractual article 18D hiring process for almost twenty years and now the DOE wants to make the committees work by majority vote instead of consensus.  He said that he is not looking to stop the 18D process but he wants it to work according to the contract.  He added that there would be no final decisions on hiring until after there is an arbitration.  (I thought we were suing to stop the schools from closing.  Can anyone help me on this?)

Next Mulgrew talked about a principal in the Bronx who had been removed from the job and made an assistant principal who now had new allegations against him.  Mulgrew quoted Chancellor Dennis Walcott who said: "Just because an allegation is made, it doesn’t mean the person is guilty.”  The UFT President then turned back to the lawsuit on closing the turnaround schools to say that we are working with the Council of Supervisors and Administrators on this case.  He talked about planning committees in the turnaround schools and stated that many schools didn’t have planning committees. 

The President then told us about a silent march on Father’s Day (June 17) opposing the Police Department’s Stop and Frisk policy which targets the minority community unfairly.  He then reported that using Monday and Tuesday June 25 and 26 for staff development was a DOE idea and not a UFT proposal and that we can do it if we like but we should inform the parents that this was not a UFT idea.  UFT staffer Amy Arundel then reviewed the School Based Option process.  Staff Director Leroy Barr went over some dates for events and then it was time for the question period.

The first question concerned absences. A delegate asked if more than ten absences in a year would automatically lead to charges against a teacher based on Education Law 3020A (process to discipline teachers). Mulgrew responded that it did not lead to automatic charges but that members should avoid being absent more than ten days at all costs.

A delegate asked about the principal interfering in UFT Chapter Elections.  Mulgrew answered that if there is documentation, we would slap a Public Employees Relations Board case on that principal in a second as it is an improper practice.

Marjorie Stamberg asked the next question.  She said that having Absent Teacher Reserves vote for chapter leader in a school they are passing through for a week and know nothing about was ridiculous.  The Unity faithful accused her of making a speech and not asking a question but Marjorie then turned it into a question by asking how this process makes any sense.  Mulgrew kind of answered it but mostly tried to avoid the issue she raised.  He talked about how the DOE is violating the agreement from last year and that if they placed all of the ATRS in positions where members were on leave or long term absence, then all would be placed.  Since DOE is not living up to their end of the agreement on this and not having an oversight committee meet as per last year's agreement, we are grieving and taking it to arbitration.  Mulgrew then stated that allowing ATRS to vote in a school they are at is the best thing we could do for them.  (I would not agree.)

Someone then asked about strengthening collaboration with CSA but Mulgrew said that this was hard when many CSA people are after our members but he pointed out that we would work with the CSA when possible.  Someone asked about community schools in Cincinnati and Mulgrew replied that we are piloting this with the City Council in NYC.

The new motion period was next and Megan Behrant introduced a motion for the UFT to support a rally for the Turnaround Schools at Tweed (52 Chambers Street) on June 12 at 5:00 p.m.  There is no debate allowed when there is a motion for this month’s agenda and it needs a 2/3 vote to carry.  The first vote  looked like it received the 2/3 vote needed to pass but Mulgrew said he wanted a second vote and then said it didn’t carry.  This caused anger as people saw many in support of the rally.  Mulgrew then reprimanded people who were calling out asking for a count of the vote saying that the rules don’t allow debate.  Someone raised a point of order to say that we were not calling for debate but were calling for a count.  Mulgrew then asked for people to stand who supported the rally and by this time the Unity faithful knew they better stay seated so Unity easily turned down the rally.

David Pecararo from Beach Channel told a horror story about his own reassignment and asked that the UFT reaffirm its support for Chapter Leaders.  Surprisingly, someone spoke against it saying it doesn’t need to be reaffirmed but the motion passed easily.

The regular motion period was next where there was a resolution to support an increase in the state minimum wage followed by a motion to support the silent march on June 17th to oppose stop and frisk.  Then came the mayoral control debacle.

All in all, The DA was another waste of time but this one was at least interesting as it took quite a bit of maneuvering by the leadership to hold their people in line.  I still wish everyone who complained about how the DAs are run would show up so we could change it. 

Monday, May 14, 2012


Recently saved FDR High School in Brooklyn last week elected activist Marian Swerdlow as their chapter leader.  Congratulations!

We also heard that Brooklyn Tech voted to go in a different direction in their chapter election by electing a new chapter leader by a healthy margin.

Anyone thinking about running for chapter leader this May and June should know it is a difficult job but that we need good people to step up and do it for the right reasons.  Building a strong union requires good people to take leadership positions at the chapter level.  Chapter leaders will need to be stronger than ever if we are to have any chance of prevailing in these difficult times.

If anyone else has election news, please pass it along.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012


The Council of Supervisors and Administrators has joined the UFT in the third annual closing schools lawsuit.  Nice to have the CSA on board with us this year. I fully support the lawsuit and hope the UFT wins.  However, in the case of my school (Jamaica High School) going to court just delayed the closing and we never received any support from the Department of Education even after we won in 2010. I doubt the results will be any different this year. These schools will be abandoned by the DOE if the UFT wins in court.

UFT is arguing this year that the turnaround schools are not really closing so DOE is trying to circumvent the contract by saying they are closing them and then forcing teachers and administrators to apply for their jobs again under the contractual Article 18D process in what are essentially the same schools.  It is an interesting legal strategy.

Sadly, we have to do more than just sue these people.  The 1968 UFT strike is still a very controversial historical event as it split the left wing activists in this city.  Put aside the issue of community control for just a second and take the UFT at its word.  The reason the UFT gave for the lengthy 1968 strike was that around 20 teachers were being forced to transfer out of a school district against their wills.

Fast forward a little over four decades and we now have thousands of teachers annually who are thrown out of their schools involuntarily because of closures and we have no way to stop it other than to file lawsuits and hope for the best.  I am not suggesting that we stop suing the DOE (I am certainly still hoping that last year's case is won so Jamaica can remain open,) or that we go on strike now but I am recommending a more comprehensive strategy as what we are doing is obviously not a success story.

Saturday, May 05, 2012


I have been reading through my election guide for this spring's UFT Chapter Elections.

This is what the Chapter Election Guide says about Absent Teacher Reserves voting in Chapter Elections:

"Member ATRs on weekly assignment to the school should be allowed to vote for chapter leader, not for delegate."  Whose idea was this?

I would like to pose two questions to anyone willing to tackle them:

-How did the UFT decide that Absent Teacher Reserves can vote for Chapter Leader in the school they are in for a week?

 -Why can't Absent Teacher Reserves vote for UFT Teacher Delegate?

This election guide makes no sense to me.  ATRS should be able to vote for sure.  They should have their own Chapter to ensure they have proper representation at the UFT Delegate Assembly and so their interests are protected by representatives of their own choosing.

Short of that, ATRS should be able to vote and run for office in the school that is their payroll school just like anyone else.