Friday, November 28, 2014


On Tuesday evening, I spoke on behalf of Absent Teacher Reserves at the Panel for Educational Policy meeting in Manhattan.  The text of the speech is below and you can watch it on You Tube if you would like (thanks to Norm Scott for the video).

To illustrate how little has changed since Bill de Blasio took over from Mike Bloomberg as Mayor and Carmen Farina replaced Dennis Walcott as Chancellor, a DOE official took down my contact information after I spoke at the PEP but I am still waiting to hear from them on what is an immediate concern. 

As part of my speech, I requested a release from being an ATR at Hillcrest to start at Middle College High School right away as Middle College wants to hire me for a leave replacement position through June.  Guess what, I heard nothing from anybody at the DOE except for an email telling me to go to Hillcrest next week.  I will have no chance to become acclimated at a new school that does not operate in a traditional way. Nothing against Hillcrest but if another school wants to hire me, shouldn't they be able to let me come there right away instead of wasting another week at a school where I am only covering classes? In the grand scheme of things, this is no big deal; it's just one little anecdote showing how little has changed in the schools compared to the past.

I also asked for the Chancellor or someone from her office to meet with representatives from the Absent Teacher Reserve Association.  Let's see if we hear back from them.

PEP Statement November 25, 2014

 Good evening Chancellor Farina and Panel members.  My name is James Eterno.  I addressed the panel many times under the previous administration mainly advocating for Jamaica HS, the 122 year old school that was closed by Chancellor Walcott but didn't fully phase out until this past June. We tried to get a new lease on life from our new Chancellor as we wrote to you in January and you sent a deputy to visit but after that we never heard from you or your office.  We had to find out from Melinda Katz, the Queens Borough President, that we were officially closed.

Since Jamaica is now closed, this fall many of my colleagues and I are now Absent Teacher Reserves. Having spent many years dedicating our professional lives to working with kids, we deserve better than to be bounced around Queens whenever administration decides to play musical ATRs.  I would like to point out to the Panel and the Chancellor some of what goes on in schools with regard to ATRs.

For example, many of us have been sent on mandatory interviews for jobs that do not exist. We are forced to go or we will have resigned our jobs. Assistant principals meet me and apologize for wasting my time.  What kind of organization sends people on phony job interviews while simultaneously  paying for coverages at the schools where we are temporarily assigned because we are not there?

There is a myth out there that all of the ATRS do not want a permanent placement in a school.  I can't speak for anyone else but I know some friends from Jamaica and I want permanent jobs.  In this ridiculous rotation system you and the UFT agreed to, two administrators have told me they like my work but nobody will hire me permanently because I'm too expensive.  This is outrageous.  Even now when middle College HS wants me as a leave replacement, I can't get released from Hillcrest by your ATR office until after December 5. Why not tomorrow? This is just ridiculous.

The rotation system has no rhyme or reason to it.  Some of us changed schools after three weeks while others are staying for six.  We have no say in it as it is apparently up to the whims of principals; some are very professional and feel for us while others are not.

Chancellor you have mentioned mutual consent hiring rather than forced placement.  Mutual consent does not apply to ATRs because we can be forced placed by any principal at any time and if we say no to the placement, we've resigned.  What kind of mutual consent is that?

Over 100 ATRs have formed the ATR Alliance.  As an employee organization, we would like to meet with you or your representatives to discuss our concerns which I have just scratched the surface of in two minutes.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Here is a story from Capital NY about how the city has found an additional $2.6 billion in savings and revenue while adding much less in spending. 

Anyone who believed the cupboard was bare, as Michael Mulgrew told us when the contract was settled, just wasn't looking.

UFT members who voted for the contract on the belief that if we turned it down and went back to the negotiating table we would do worse are not looking like financial geniuses now either.

Our friend NYC Educator wrote a piece earlier on what he is thankful for this Thanksgiving.  I am fairly certain the mayor is thankful that he negotiated a pattern setting contract with the UFT's current Unity Caucus leadership and not the people in the opposition.

Harris Lirtzman filed this report on the added city revenues. We thank him for discovering the windfall which is kind of buried in the Capital NY account.

Funny, the City announced an unexpected $2.6 billion in additional debt service savings and tax revenues the day before Thanksgiving....almost like it didn't want anyone to find out that the joint is rolling in dough.

The City is "spreading" that sofa-cushion money over the next two fiscal years, again, just in case anyone, say a union contract negotiator, might realize it was there, now, in the bank account.

This spring, the UFT wouldn't listen to those of us who were warning it not to buy the City's claim of imminent financial disaster.

Our union might have got the retro payment in two or three years, maybe even a lump sum, and, God forbid, have negotiated an actual raise instead of a signing bonus for 2011-12.  It could even have delivered on its promise to retirees to pay the lump-sum in July rather than reopening the contract five months later in order to have an arbitrator rummage around in the contract to find them their additional $60 million somewhere.

We can all bemoan the fact that our beloved union is run like a one-party state.

I don't think we can forgive our union leadership for failing at its primary responsibility--social justice or no social justice--which is to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement that doesn't sell its members short because of incompetence.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.



The letter below is from a local leader in response to NYSUT leadership's offer to send to presidents lists of our members who did and didn't vote earlier this month.

Hey All,

After sitting on this for a couple of days - I finally formulated my thoughts on the offer to get a list of my members who did not vote.

As disappointing as it is to hear that only 40% of NYSUT members voted, what is more disappointing, for me, is the response by NYSUT leadership. Blaming the results of the November 4th election on the rank-and-fie membership not voting is at best misdirection and at worst an unforgivable lack of understanding for the current circumstances most members find themselves in.

Many of us feel that it was NYSUT's silence in the Gubernatorial election and flawed (and subsequently failed) plan to elect low level Democrat's in the Senate, that left members un-motivated to participate in this election. It seems pretty obvious Justin Wagner was not going to get members to the voting booth. We already turned the Senate Democratic and the Governor with the help of the IDC worked behind the scenes to steal this success from us. Putting all of our hopes on this same strategy virtually guaranteed we would be snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The reality is, individual Senators and Assembly members make little difference in New York. It is the three or four men in the room that determine the policies we live under. Whether or not Justin Wagner won or lost it would have made at best a marginal difference for our members, even if we voted in a Democratic senate, he was destined to be a Senator of a party in the minority. It is clear now that the IDC is still alive and kicking.

Our members were not fools, gullible or lazy, they were confused. It is clear to everyone that Andrew Cuomo will not rest until he destroys our profession and unity. Our members correctly identify him as the biggest problem in the state and wanted us to lead them towards a solution. NYSUT's enforced silence on the Governor's race conveyed a sense of hopelessness to the membership and they responded the way hopeless people always do. I agree that 40% turnout is incredibly disappointing, but I do not believe the membership is at fault. After spending six million dollars in this campaign, how many of our members, or Presidents, can say what the strategy was. We had an opportunity to bring the Governor below a 50% threshold, which would have been a career ending embarrassment for him. Despite our silence he only earned 52.5% of the vote. If we had given our members a plan to address their reality they would have voted. When we convey hopelessness, they give up. It is a problem with leadership not membership.

This leadership team promised a *NEW* NYSUT. This leadership team promised militancy. This leadership team promised that NYSUT will be the voice that cannot be ignored. This leadership team called Cuomo the Scott Walker of NY - but now suddenly they want to endorse Cuomo while the rest of the state has to fight against that. If we are to believe that the Revive NYSUT rhetoric was anything other than a cynical ploy to oust the former officers of NYSUT (because they were moving away from Randi and blind support for , the core, Cuomo), the NYSUT officers must make real moves towards engagement.

So, in short, do NOT send me a list of my members who did not vote. Send me a viable plan to oust the politicians that are supporting the corporate reform movement. Send me a list of candidates who are going to repeal the Tax Levy Cap & GEA. Send me a list of candidates who want to revoke Common Core. But do not send me a list that tells my members that it is their fault.

There you have it.

Monday, November 24, 2014


The School custodians who are part of 32 BJ  Local 891 have reached a new contract agreement with the city.  According to press reports I have seen, they are receiving the same 18% salary increases over 9 years that the UFT got in the spring to set a pattern for city workers.

The custodian's contract is retroactive to 2007 and lasts through 2016.

I have one question for anybody who has a good relationship with their custodian:

Do the custodians have to wait until 2020 to get their retroactive money like we do? 

Press reports are silent on this question but I think it is important.

UPDATE: As Unity Must Go stated in the comments, I spoke to one of the custodial staff at Hillcrest High School, where I am temporarily assigned, and he confirmed that the payments are stretched out so the UFT pattern holds for them.

I will just add the comment from Unity Must Go in full to the posting. 

Unitymustgo! said...
Yes, the custodians have to wait. One of my custodians showed me the agreement. Their arrears will be paid out using exactly the same 12.5, 12.5, 0, 25, 25, 25 through 2020 as us, only their date for payment is july 1 of each year. Their contract only extends to 2016. They are also getting the same $1000 ratification bonus. There is no interest.

Friday, November 21, 2014


The NYC Independent Budget Office has released a report on city finances. Harris Lirtzman, who knows finance, has some analysis that he sent to ICE. It is copied below in full.

The IBO projected today a budget deficit of approximately $2.5 billion for the next fiscal year. That represents 3.3% on the City's $75 billion budget.

This is sofa-change for the City, which in the past had to close $5-6 billion deficits on much smaller overall budgets.

I raise all this because you'll probably remember the panicked cries that went out before and during the contract negotiations that paying the retroactive increase would break the bank.  So the contract was extended to nine years and the retro stretched out beyond the term of the contract.  Employees who quit before the new contract got nothing and retirees are being told to wait until an arbitrator can find $60 million somewhere else in the agreement to move around to pay them.

No disaster.  No bankruptcy.  No fiscal crisis.  Some of us said loudly at the time that there would be no disaster or fiscal crisis.

Unfortunately, our leadership bought the narrative lock, stock and barrel and we got a lousy deal through 2018 with payments stretched out to 2020.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


A resolution calling for the UFT to support the cause of students in Mexico who have disappeared and one calling for Time Magazine to apologize for their teacher bashing cover were passed at the November Delegate Assembly yesterday. The Mexican students had disappeared and were probably tortured and murdered.  Abe Levine of the ruling Unity Caucus spoke in favor of an amendment introduced by Leroy Barr calling for the AFT to do research on the nature of the organization we were supporting in Mexico before we fully support them and the body agreed to this change before passing the resolution.

(Update: AFT did some quick research and supported the resolution for the missing students. There is a demonstrations on their behalf on Friday, Nov 21 at the Mexican Consulate, located at 21 E 39th Street, Manhattan at 4:00 pm.)

Two different resolutions failed at the DA. One was introduced by Megan Moskop who wanted the UFT to support a teacher hiring diversity petition.  She wanted it placed on this month's agenda which is not debatable and requires a 2/3 vote to be added in.  Before she raised the motion, Unity's Leroy Barr during his Staff Director's Report commented that the UFT was doing much already through its Social and Economic Justice Committee to increase diversity in hiring.  Megan did get to make a few points even though her motion was for this month's agenda so she is just supposed to make a motion.  She did not get the 2/3 vote necessary to put it on the agenda.

Another motion was raised by Marjorie Stamberg to support First Amendment rights in Ferguson Missouri.  This also failed to carry.

President's Report
(Thanks to Megan Moskop for helping on this as I was late getting to the nearly deserted visitor's section on the 19th floor.)

What do we say about the elections that just passed?

Low voter turnout- 28% in NY State, lowest number ever. That’s what the people who don't like us are always pushing for. If we vote and get our people out to vote, we’re in a good place.

You all have TVs, so Mulgrew didn't get into details.

Governor’s races are a problem.
Tons of mailers. We need to spend some time and money organzing people to actually get out to vote. Fewer mailers.
Tech bond act passed- millions of dollars to technology in NYC.

94 struggling schools in NYC

92- want to set up meetings jointly w/ DOE and UFT folks in schools. Farina keeps saying, and keeps getting beaten up over collaboration. When she says trust she means trust for the whole school community. Integrity. Shared responsibility. Must move from being an individual profession to a team profession. The job is too hard; we can do it better together. Successful schools should be sharing ideas. She’s been clear that the hunger games are over.

2- Automotive & Boys and Girls: special cases
Submitted a plan a while ago, but it was rejected. It is clear that SED was going to close the schools. Long hours to come to agreement. We feel this is a good plan for how to move forward without closing the schools. (Will not close until we first try to help them.) These two schools have never been treated fairly. Huge #s of high need kids. Now we have a planning committee. Change in conditions of work environment now. Personnel committee- 50% UFT members (if dispute, it is taken to Mulgrew and Farina). We want to show people that this is how it should  work.

Aris and Amplify
Contracts have been cancelled for both.

Tenure Lawsuit
Motion to dismiss California copycat case to end tenure in NYS filed by us in late October.  Should hear an answer by November 28.

Consultation and Paperwork Committees
Every school needs a Consultation Committee.  Must bring up school-wide issues during the contractually mandated monthly consultation meetings with the principal.  The newly empowered Superintendents can help resolve problems if we have raised them at the school level first.  The same applies to paperwork.  We need to bring the issues up at the school level first.

Arbitration on Arrears for Retirees
Last night the arbitrator ruled that there would be arrears paid to those UFT members who retired between 2009 and June 2014.  Intent was for everyone to get the money up front (Editorial: That's already not happening).  We will work with arbitrator to make everyone whole.  $60 million in a $5 billion contract should not be difficult to fix. Lucky we had a clause to reopen this if there was a problem.

Leroy Barr Staff Director's Report
The next DA is December 17; he also announced other upcoming events with special emphasis placed on the UFT committee that helps the homeless.

Question Period
Question: What is being done about principals who make our members' jobs more difficult?
Answer: Superintendents are now in place who will oversee like the law says they should.  Since Superintendents serve at the pleasure of the Chancellor, none would dare do much under Bloomberg but now they are empowered under Farina.  Superintendents are now educators.  15 have been replaced. Farina says there needs to be trust.  Principals must respect staff.  Fixing accountability system is next.

Question: Can administration dictate binders that call for everything including what colors they should have be submitted?
Answer: No, this is an example of something that should be worked out in consultation and if it can't be resolved, then take it up with the District Representative.

Question: Aren't we creating new ATRS in Automotive and Boys and Girls?
Answer: People have to reapply for their jobs because we changed the working conditions by adding a mandatory week of work in the summer.  Persons not rehired will be placed in schools for a year if they cannot find a new position. 

(Editorial- Mulgrew says people displaced from these two schools won't become ATRS but annual placement for ATRs is precisely how ATRs were used before the infamous 2011 rotation agreement when the UFT inexplicably agreed to weekly movements from school to school.  Then again, it is indefensible that the UFT agreed to give up preferred placement when schools close in the horrific 2005 contract.  No real gain here, just easing the loss a bit.)

Question: A principal says there is no money in the budget for supplies.  Is this a proper excuse for not having supplies?
Answer: File a grievance under Article 7R.  The School Leadership Team is required to discuss the budget.  Schools have to decide how to use their money.  Administrator per session has been abused in recent years.

Question: There is a leaky roof at Clara Barton High School that is leaking into an electrical box.  Isn't this a dangerous situation where we should walk out?
Answer: We are informing the School Construction Authority immediately.  This is a dangerous situation and we will do what it takes to ensure safety of the school.

Motions already mentioned were all that was left on the agenda.  Some worthy causes were raised but there was nothing earth shattering for sure at this meeting.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Arbitrator Martin Sheinman has written a decision saying the city does not have to use extra money to pay arrears owed to UFT retirees. In our new contract, the city agreed to set aside $180 million for back pay for UFT members who retired between November 2009 and June 2014. These retroactive increases are for when these employees were still active. Teachers went six years without a raise.

Under the terms of the new contract, members who retired by June 2014 were going to be given all of their arrears in a one time payment as opposed to receiving the money piecemeal through 2020 as other members will be paid. Amazingly, the city and UFT were caught off guard when many more UFTers retired than they expected. That is the cause of a $60 million shortfall. Sheinman will decide how to make up for the deficit.

According to his decision, cited at, "Out of a multi-year package costing billions of dollars such modification shall not be difficult and shall be relatively minor."  What does that mean? 

Meanwhile, retirees have to wait even longer for their promised money.

Monday, November 17, 2014


For those following my travels, I have been assigned to Hillcrest High School until December 5.

It is interesting working in a school that is so close to Jamaica HS and similar in many ways but has managed to survive.


Here we go with the storm clouds coming as Regents Chancellor Meryl Tisch calls for raising the charter cap and closing more schools.

Here is a quote on charters:

“As we look to this legislative season, people are going to say we need to raise the charter cap. I personally am a great believer in charter schools ... I believe in opening them aggressively” Chancellor Merryl Tisch said on the John Catsimatidis radio show. “I’d like to push more charter schools.”

Now for a quote on closing schools:

"If we do not see movement on these schools, these lowest-performing schools, in terms of their ability to retool their workforce, by the spring, we will move to close them,” she said. “Because these are the schools that have failed for generations now.”

See how she blames the teachers for the failure which is absurd.

She also does not favor changing admission requirements in specialized high schools so they can admit more African American and Latino students.  She blames elementary schools for the low admission rates for these students.

A triple crown for ed deform from the state.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


Around 40 ATRS took time out from their holiday on Tuesday to meet in Queens. All agreed we have had enough of the mistreatment that comes with working for the Department of Education. We also came out against UFT acquiescence to the DOE when it comes to ATRs.  At this citywide Absent Teacher Reserve meeting, the group came together and decided to form an  official association. We will be known as the Absent Teacher Reserve Alliance (ATRA).

Our mission is to do what our union is supposed to be doing: representing ATRs with people of our own choosing who have walked in our shoes.  ATRs have been denied democratic representation at the school level by the officers who run the UFT. This is not acceptable. This point was made clear during the discussions that took place at the Tuesday meeting.

Five borough wide representatives were nominated and elected to represent each borough and then the entire body elected me to be the president. I would rather think of it as being the Chapter Leader because ATRS should have our own Functional chapter.

Functional Chapters are citywide UFT Chapters created for UFT members who are not part of the regular teaching staff. The UFT has around 40 such Functional Chapters. They each elect a citywide Chapter Leader and Delegates to the UFT Delegate Assembly based on their size. There is no rational reason why ATRS should not be a Functional chapter.

If the UFT leadership refuses to do right by us by continuing to not allow us to elect official UFT chapter representatives, then we need to find a way to move them toward our completely democratic and fair point of view.

ATRA is not affiliated with any UFT Caucus including ICE.  It is an independent group.  If you know any ATRs, you might want to direct them to ATRA.

Stay tuned for further information as this develops.

Sunday, November 09, 2014



Absent Teacher Reserve

Ambassador Teacher on Rotation (ATR)

Citywide ATR Meeting!!!!

This event is being organized by certain groups and individuals within the UFT but not the UFT leadership. I helped with planning it and will be there.



Veteran activist and teacher Harris Lirtzman guest blogs here.  Harry uses recent events as evidence that UFT-NYSUT members are in for some very bleak days as we move forward.

Last week Chancellor Farina and Mayor de Blasio released to great fanfare something called the “School Renewal Program” intended to provide long-needed help to 94 struggling public schools around the City.  The School Renewal Program is intended to demonstrate to teachers, parents and the public that the Mayor and the Chancellor have finally developed a coherent alternative to the Bloomberg Era’s primary reform strategy—hold schools strictly “accountable” and close the ones that “fail,” usually by fiat but with an occasional nod to public participation.  Their Program intends to shower resources and love onto these schools but will also hold them to unspecified “accountability” measures that may still result in closure if they haven’t improved within three years.

The Chancellor, the mayor and the UFT spent the last eleven months declaring that the new cooperation among them would show the people of New York and the rest of the country that “school reform” can be accomplished without recourse to Bloombergian autocracy and school closings.  The unveiling of the School Renewal Program demonstrates, however, that nothing has changed about how the City’s education policy is really made except the sweetness of the way that Mr. de Blasio, Ms. Farina and Mr. Mulgrew talk to each other.  Tweed is still “Tweed.” The kinder, gentler UFT will still support programs that hurt teachers and harm students.

The first school to be the subject of the program is the long-ailing Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn.  Let us count the ways that nothing has changed in how the City’s schools are run and its teachers treated except that the people who run them are different people and the things they say are said more nicely:

1. Last month, NYSED Commissioner John King declared B&G to be "over time" with regard to a turnaround plan from the City.  King said that it was understandable that the City would be delayed because of the contract negotiations but demanded a plan from Tweed for B&G within two weeks.

2. Tweed has not changed under the new administration except for its new but overwhelmed Chancellor.  Tweed specialized in "one plan fits all" strategies in situations that require nuanced and specialized approaches to the problems each failing school faces.  It still does and always will because the Mayor de Blasio was unwilling or unable to appoint a tranformational Chancellor and to sweep the senior and middle echelons of the place.  Our "new" Tweed is still the "old" Tweed with a handful of different names at the top of the same memos it still sends by lightning bolt to superintendents and principals—this time, however, B&G got its memo in the newspapers.

3. The Mayor was neutralized around education issues during the spring charter fight with Eva Moskowitz and after Tuesday's election and controls City education policy only by sufferance of Andrew Cuomo, NYSED, the Regents, John King and the Republican State Senate.  What has happened at B&G is going to happen very soon to a school near you.

4. The School Renewal Program has few details but in usual Tweed style is rapidly taking shape at B&G only after it was announced with great ceremony.  It seems to consist of three pieces: a version of the Harlem Children’s Zone/Cincinnati wraparound services model which has had limited and not entirely scalable outcomes in improving student performance, a version of the failed "Chancellor's District" from the late 90s and early 00s to flood struggling schools with additional BOE/DOE resources, which even its architect, former Chancellor Rudy Crew, recently declared a disaster because of its "one size fits all nature" and today's announcement of the adoption of the federal "turnaround" model for school staff.

5. The new principal at B&G received a sweetheart deal to induce him to take on the job: he is "executive principal" at B&G, which gives him an automatic $25,000 bonus, while retaining a new title created for him--"master principal"--at his former school, Medgar Evers Prep. He has the right to transfer back to MEP after one year, he is required to spend one day a week at MEP and he publicly declared that "MEP is really my heart."  All guaranteed to get teacher, administrative, parent, community and student buy-in to whatever changes he makes at B&G before he cashes his check and goes back to the school he really loves.

6. This new principal at B&G has already been purging the register of students with poor performance and attendance but particularly with low numbers of credits, forcing them into transfer schools to "goose" his numbers.  This includes a student like the president of the junior class.

7.  The Program, to the extent that it is a program since “program” implies a coherent set of interventions that meet the specific needs of a troubled school while establishing a framework that can be applied across the system, is another example of the top-down, hurry up, “here-it-is and-be-quiet” approach built into Tweed’s DNA.  The entire process has been improvised without input from any real teachers, administrators, parents, students or community groups.  We expect that from Tweed but when the Chancellor, the mayor and the head of the UFT announce a “program” that embeds a “wrap-around” model for B&G it would be reasonable to think that the health, social service and other community organizations which will be expected to “wrap-around” B&G might be consulted before being wrapped-around.

8.  The surprise announcement yesterday, of the federal "turnaround" model for staff, whereby all of B&G’s teachers must reapply for their jobs—the terms of the process secretly negotiated by Tweed and the UFT in an MOU that leaves many questions unanswered—appears to create an entirely new classification of teachers, somewhere between fully appointed staff members and ATRs, who have certain placement rights but do not appear have the full set of contract protections.  UFT members at B&G have not been thrown to the wolves but rather to barking dogs and feral cats.

The result: an entire School Renewal Program concocted in panic and in the dark, around a conference table at Tweed with our union fully present, with the 'details" fleshed out under duress by NYSED and John King, all coordinated by a weak Chancellor and a mayor who wouldn't know what goes on in a real school if a member of UNITY took his right hand and a member of MORE took his left hand and walked him through one.

Teachers of New York City, welcome to Tweed’s new motto:  "At least we're not Bloomberg!” Welcome to Tweed’s new educational strategy: “We no longer do what Michael Bloomberg tells us to do; now we work for Andrew Cuomo, NYSED and the New York Times."

My friends, this is our future and it will be put specifically into state legislation by April 1, along with an explicitly punitive revision of APPR, by our education warrior governor and his education cheerleaders, the Republican New York State Senate.  Do not count on the Democratic New York State Assembly or the Board of Regents, nominally under the control of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, to protect us because the Regents, individually and collectively have little reason to believe that Speaker Silver can or will protect them from the Governor and Senate.

Here’s the real lesson from the mess that is the School Renewal Program.  It took our union leaders exactly five days to reveal their new strategy after the drubbing they took in the election: there is no new strategy.  They will continue to lie down with the Lion, Andrew Cuomo, and with the Lamb, Bill de Blasio, to placate the Lion in the hope that it will not eat us and to retain their ever-important seats at the big table.  The problem, which even they have not yet awoken to, is that they've been relegated to stools at the children's-table where they may not speak but are allowed to listen to the adults talk while they nod with complacent and hopeful smiles to whatever the Lion wants to say.

Saturday, November 08, 2014


It looks like a version of the Turnaround model has been agreed to by the UFT and DOE for Automotive High School and Boys and Girls High School for next year.  According to a Memorandum of Agreement dated November 6, 2014, staff will have to reapply for their jobs to a personnel committee and get rehired or they will be sent elsewhere. 

The ridiculous notion that replacing the teaching staff in certain schools will lead to real educational improvement has been agreed to again by our union's leaders. Teachers are not the problem but we are treated as if we are.

My guess is most UFT staff won't be rehired.  According to paragraph 14 of the MOA, which was sent to me earlier today, those who are not rehired will not become Absent Teacher Reserves but they won't be permanently placed either. 

Instead, the agreement is creating a new middle-ground with annual rotation and undefined duties if there aren't vacancies in license in schools where the displaced teachers are assigned.

Here is the actual language from the MOA:

If a released UFT represented employee does not secure a position through the Open Market, the DOE shall assign him/her as follows: Starting with the 2015-16 school year and continuing through the 2020-2021 school year {unless the employee is permanently staffed to a school}, the employee shall be assigned annually to a high school with a vacancy in his/her license area on the first day of the school year in the same borough as the School.  If there is no vacancy in his/her license area in a high school in the same borough as the School on the first day of school, then the pedagogical employee shall be placed in the same borough and High School Superintendency as the School.  Once assigned to a high school in accordance with this paragraph, the employee shall remain in the high school for the entire school year except as follows:

           {i}The first time in a school year that a principal requests that the employee be given a different assignment, the employee shall be moved to a different high school assignment in the borough if, and only if, the Superintendent and the UFT district representative agree both that the employee should be moved and to which high school in the borough he/she shall be assigned:

          {ii}The second time in a school year that a principal requests that the employee be given a different assignment, the employee shall be moved to a different high school assignment in the borough, if and only if, both the Superintendent and the UFT district representative agree that the employee should be moved and to which high school in the borough he/she shall be assigned.  However, no employee shall be moved a second time in a school year unless the principal of the high school to which the employee would be assigned, agrees, except that, if no high school principal in the borough agrees to accept an employee who the Superintendent and the UFT district representative agree should be moved a second time, the high school in the borough to which the employee shall be assigned shall be jointly agreed to by the President of the UFT and the Chancellor.  Should the President of the UFT and the Chancellor be unable to agree, the high school in the borough to which the employee will be assigned to shall be determined by a neutral arbitrator jointly selected by the parties.

         {iii}If, in extraordinary circumstances, a third principal in a school year requests that an employee be given a different assignment, the UFT President and the Chancellor shall review the request and jointly determine the best course of action.

UFT represented employees assigned pursuant to this paragraph 11 shall not be subject to rotation, field supervision, or the expedited discipline process set forth in section 16 of  2014 Memorandum of Agreement....

The rest of this line didn't show up on the version that was sent to me but I think you get the idea.

This new class of teachers will not be entitled to program preferences.  Clearly, this latest agreement is creating a new group of displaced teachers who are not permanently assigned but are not rotating ATRs.  In that sense it is not a bad precedent but I believe our case as ATRs to end our third class status is even stronger.

ATRS will be meeting on Tuesday, November 11, 2014 in Elmhurst.  I will post more about this meeting later.

Friday, November 07, 2014


The other day I stated that we lost badly in Tuesday's election and now our governor is looking to finish us off as this article shows.

Here is a quote from the newly reelected Andrew Cuomo:

“I want to focus on the performance,” Cuomo said today. “Does that upset the teachers union? Yes, it does. By the way, the first time I ran they didn’t endorse me, they didn’t endorse me.”

Can you see a push to lift the charter school cap or do away with it and also to make the teacher evaluation system even crazier than it already is?

Aren't you glad we have Michael Mulgrew (UFT), Karen Magee (NYSUT) and Randi Weingarten (AFT) defending our interests? Watch them appeal for a united front.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014


There is little doubt that public school teachers and our unions suffered major losses in yesterday's midterm elections from coast to coast. The reelection of anti-union Scott Walker in Wisconsin and other anti-union governors truly stings.

Pennsylvania's Governor's race and California's state Superintendent of Education election look like exceptions. Also, putting Value Added Assessments for teachers into the Missouri state constitution went down easily. Other than these and some other little wins, the election looks like a complete disaster for labor and public educators.

Read this Politico story from Stephanie Simon for the ugly details on education.

Will the new majority Republican US Senate pass a new No Child Left Behind law?  What will it look like? Maybe Race to the Top ends. Perhaps Republicans try to leave education to the states but it is hard to see either party turning their backs on their big money charter school friends. Look for school choice to be pushed.

What happens to Common Core?  Maybe there is a silver lining in Republican opposition to Common Core but don't bet on anything improving.

Here in New York Andrew Cuomo was reelected Governor and will have a majority Republican State Senate to work with. Sheldon Silver and the Democratic majority in the New York State Assembly are right now all that is separating us from oblivion.

Howie Hawkins from the Green Party made a bit of a dent in Cuomo's victory margin. Hawkins received 5% of the vote which is much better than in 2010 when he garnered just 1.3% against Cuomo. Even without any scientific exit polling, I think we can safely say some of that Green boost came from angry teachers voting against Cuomo.

I am not looking forward to the news coming out of the next legislative session.

Sunday, November 02, 2014


Educators are condemning Governor Andrew Cuomo for the teacher bashing comments he made to the Daily News. Even State union President Karen Magee responded positively to a letter Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino wrote to teachers. 

Astorino appears to be better than Cuomo on education but he is not with us on way too many issues including the expansion of charter schools and public money going to private schools.  This is from his education plan:

-"Provide more school choices for parents of children in schools determined to be failing, including more charter school availability and vouchers for private or religious school." This is not our friend.

There is no doubt in this election who has the best education plan and that is the Green Party's Howie Hawkins.

ICE-UFT has unanimously endorsed Hawkins, so did MORE, as have a group of NYSUT locals including the Buffalo Federation of Teachers and our friends at the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association.

Hawkins and his Lt. Governor running mate Brian Jones pledge to support public education and worker rights.  You can read their letter to teachers here.

MORE lays out the positions of the candidates rather well in this chart.

As for how to respond to Cuomo labeling public schools a monopoly, we need to call him out on it.  Cuomo would replace that so called monopoly with a rigged game where families can choose a charter school but the charter can counsel students out if they don't fit in and guess who has to educate everyone the charters don't want: the public schools. His plan, if implemented, would probably end up leading to the re-segregation of the schools. Public education is a constitutional right in this state.  We cannot let Andrew Cuomo dismantle one of the bedrocks of our republic.

Cuomo's sole defender in the education union world right about now is the one and only AFT President Randi Weingarten, as reported in Capital NY.  No surprise there.

I'm voting for Howie Hawkins for Governor and Brian Jones for Lt. Governor and ICE urges our supporters to do the same. I don't agree with everything they have ever said or done but clearly in this election they are easily the best option for those who care about public schools.

Saturday, November 01, 2014


Capital NY covered remarks made by the city's Chief Labor Negotiator Robert Linn who said the city would not be increasing the fund which set aside money to pay retroactive increases owed to UFT retirees.

Our contract has been reopened on this issue and UFT President Michael Mulgrew said he expects it to be resolved by Thanksgiving.

The city and UFT agreed that only $180 million would be needed to pay retroactive increases under our new contract in one lump sum payment for those who retired up through June 30, 2014. However, neither the city or the UFT expected so many UFT members to retire in an astounding bungle.  They were caught off guard that so many teachers chose to retire in June instead of waiting until 2020 to get the new contract's full back pay.

Here are Linn's exact words:

"The limit of the fund is $180 million.  The fund is a fund certain.  The issue then is how to make payments, but the fund is $180 million," he said.  "I'm not saying how it's going to be resolved.  I'm saying the fund is $180 million.  The fund will not change."

It is estimated they are about $50 million short.

Anyone want to guess how this gets resolved?


Jamaica High School lost part of our family as John Murnane, a social studies teacher, passed away. I knew him for over twenty years.  The first words that come to mind when John Murnane's name is mentioned are eminently likable.

John was excessed from Jamaica in 2013. He was an Absent Teacher Reserve for a couple of weeks before retiring last fall. In that short span of time he made such a positive impression on the people in the new school he was temporarily assigned to that they held a retirement party for him.

This man was so pleasant that I never heard anyone say they did not like John Murnane. Students were glad he was their teacher; colleagues enjoyed working with him and administrators as well as support staff held him in high regard.

He was the ideal person to run Jamaica's Peer Mediation and Negotiation program which he did successfully for many years.  When outsiders came into the school, they almost always wanted to view the work of the Mediation and Negotiation team led by Mr. Murnane. He could calm down just about any situation.

John was also one of my earliest supporters when it came to encouraging me to do union work.  He was one of the first people to sign the first petition I ever wrote back in 1995 and he persuaded others to help me out.

John didn't let the problems of the school system get him down. I think the main reason he could do this was because he knew he had the most loving and caring family to go home to at the end of the day. His love and loyalty to his wife Theresa and daughter Jennifer and their love for him were so clear for all to see and admire.

Many of us from the Jamaica family came together the last couple of days to celebrate John's life with his family and their multitude of friends. It was a sad occasion as we were saying goodbye to someone who touched our lives who was taken away from us too soon. However, while standing in the back of the funeral home on Thursday with so many Jamaica colleagues, I was thinking about how close the Jamaica High School family still is. We are there for each other no matter what. That is the essence of what family, and dare I say since this is a union blog, unionism are all about.

Rest in peace John. You will be missed but not forgotten.