Tuesday, February 19, 2013


It's school closing season again in New York City.  As there are only ten months left in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's disastrous term as dictator over the schools, this is his last shot to close schools. 26 are on the list this year to be closed or phased out.

The UFT should be ratcheting up the pressure for one last fight over this totally failed policy.  Law and Government High School in Queens was conducting their Joint Public Hearing last Wednesday and the UFT presence, while strong, did not include one of the eleven Officers.

The only potential UFT Officer there was my wife, Camille Eterno, who is a candidate for UFT Treasurer from the new MORE slate.  During the public comment portion of the hearing, Camille brought the house down when she came right out and said that the policy of closing schools is pure racism.  She asserted that there are never schools that have significant white populations that are targeted for closure but rather it is in places like Southeast Queens, a mostly African American neighborhood and in other predominantly African American or Latino areas where schools are closed. Camille went on to say how Law and Government was denied resources, particularly guidance help and lower class sizes, and then deemed a failure. She was very well received by the audience.

William McDonald from the NAACP followed a few minutes later and cited Camille's remarks on racism in his speech.  Law and Government's School Leadership Team gave a fantastic presentation comparing numbers and proving that the Department of Education was arbitrary in selecting them for closure and leaving other schools alone that have much worse results. Many speakers pointed out how Andrew Jackson High School was phased out in the 1990s and replaced with small schools and now the DOE is admitting that these small schools are a failure too.

The UFT was represented by Borough Representative Rona Freiser, District Representative James Vasquez and others from the Queens UFT office as well as some Chapter Leaders including the head of the Lab Specialist Chapter.  Also, Greg Lundhal from the phasing out Washington Irving in Manhattan spoke for Vice President Janella Hinds.  While this was a good turnout of UFT people, at past Joint Public Hearings I have attended, the Union usually sent an Officer or the Staff Director to show support.

Perhaps no Officer was in attendance because there were just too many school closing hearings on this particular evening, or maybe the UFT is downplaying the fight to stop school phase outs this year because our protests are normally futile and the Union's main strategy is now to wait for the next mayor.  Under a new mayor, they reason, we can hope for better results. I agree we need to vote smart but a new mayor will not solve all of our problems, no matter how friendly.  We should be turning up the heat against school closings now by applying maximum public pressure.

I also spoke at the Law and Government hearing and described what life is like in a phasing out school. It is not pretty to watch students leave and those left behind not getting the programs and classes they were promised when they enrolled.

Unfortunately, too many other students and educators will be going through what my school, Jamaica high School, is going through in phase out.  I hope the UFT finds some legal grounds to at least sue the DOE again on this issue.


Anonymous said...

I don't understand why there wasn't an officer there James, but virtually the whole Queens Office plus Chapter Leaders from all over turned out to support Law and Govt. A larger question in my mind is why there seemed to be no one from MORE there. Not a single red t-shirt. Is this the MORE plan to "fight the power"? Was Norm Scott there, or was he too busy composing a blog villifying the very UFT folks who actually showed up to defend Law and Govt.? There are MORE delegates and Chapter Leaders in Queens. Where were they? MORE wants to run the UFT and they can't even organize their members to go to a closure hearing?

mike said...

Our top officer candidate was there, unfortunately we don't have access to the entire email list of Uft members as does unity. Please enlighten us to leaderships. Mobilization to fight back against school closings and co-locations, i must not have paid attention the last 10 years of mayoral control (which randi and mike agreed to) while unity has showed up with its 80,000 members to hearings, let me see while Leo Was getting busy to lead his 10 paid staffers across the street, we went into the hearing with the real activists. People ddont show up because unity is too afraid we're going to activate our members so as you do your back room lobbying we'll continue to build, your days of terrible leadership will end soon, I promise

CLUB-LAND said...

I smell fear, unity's days of destroying our union, sharing drinks (paid for with our union dues) and getting free dinners and free trips are going to be over soon. You were all scared of Karen Lewis, you are all scred of Julie Cavangh, Camille Eterno, and Brian Jones- becuase everyone knows it will be a true positive democratic leadership, none of that unity nonsense that only DA attendees have the right to a vote

Anonymous said...

Mike - Don't you have access to the names and numbers of the people in your own organization, MORE? You don't have an email or phone list? Is that why there were only two people there? How many MORE people are there in Queens, or live in Nassau and couldn't be bothered to grab a bite and show up in support of their brothers and sisters? Club-Land - not only are people not "scred" of the people you mention, they don't know who they are.

Anonymous said...

Where was Central UFT? James and Camille are in MORE. Pretty good presence I think 10:08

Anonymous said...

I have been to many a school closing/colocation hearing and PEPs over the years where there was no one from the UFT represented...and this was even before MORE came into existance. It seems the present UFT leadership sends folks when THEY have a stake in a school (and not always then). So stop the finger pointing and work harder to stop the closing of our public schools. Two people who speak out are better than those who sit in the shadows and say nothing.

ed notes online said...

I was at the Sheepshead Bay HS closing hearing and there were as many MORE people there as UFT officials. I have the video tape to prove it.