Sunday, March 30, 2014


The piece below was posted yesterday at the NYC Public School Parents Blog by the amazing former Manhattan Panel for Educational Policy member Patrick Sullivan.  Not much to add on this one other than to call and complain to your local legislator.

I emailed my area's State Senator Tony Avella's office.  Their response on charter schools is below.

The MOST onerous charter law in the nation: State Budget Set to Divert NYC Public School Funds for Charter School Rent

The proposed budget bill was posted online overnight.  The bill will require the NYC public schools to either allow space for new or expanding charter schools in our buildings or pay for market-rate rent out of our budget.  Parents should contact their Assembly member and insist they vote against this bill.  The loss of funds diverted to charters will come directly from our classrooms.  

[note from Leonie Haimson:  also call your Senators and tell them to vote NO.  This is the most onerous charter school law in the nation.  As far as I know, NYC is the ONLY place in the country where the district will be obligated to provide free space for ANY new or expanded charter that wants it.  The Legislature in their wisdom gave Michael Bloomberg maximal mayoral control when we had a mayor who wanted to maximize public space for private corporations; and took it away when a mayor was overwhelmingly elected who ran against charter co-locations -- recognizing their divisive nature and the fact that our schools are already hugely overcrowded.  Nevertheless, according to sources, the mayor and his people were nowhere to be found when the deal was made, and put up no resistance to this devastating law, cooked up by the Governor and his billionaire contributors. 

I expect nearly all new schools in NYC to be built or leased with public funds in the future will be charters -- as we have 52 more coming until we reach the cap; and parents will have no choice but to apply to them.  The NYC School Construction Authority should be renamed the NYC Charter School Construction Authority.]

Added comment from Patrick:
There's an alliance of wealthy NYC financiers, suburban Republicans, the governor and many Democrats that says urban children should be educated by publicly funded schools controlled by private boards.   They've given charter schools higher per capita funding, free rent and unlimited private donations.   There will be two school systems serving very different populations.  In many ways we are returning to the school system as it existing before the creation of the public schools in the 19th century when Governor Seward took control from private boards and gave it to the elected Board of Education.

Response from Diane Ravitch: Patrick, the private boards in the 19th century educated the poorest and street urchins. I would say we are reverting to pre-Brown v Board--a dual school system. One chooses its students, the other must accept all. 

Links to the bill can be found on the Assembly web site here.

Language on rent can be found on page 71:

  21    S 5. Subdivision 3 of section 2853 of the education law is amended  by
   22  adding a new paragraph (e) to read as follows:

Saturday, March 29, 2014


Interesting piece from The Real News Network with Professor Lois Weiner. In the end she calls for a one day national teacher strike across the US.  She says we need to catch up with teacher unions in a large part of the world who see the necessity for militancy to save public education.

Below is the part of the interview conducted by Jaisal Noor concerning the US teacher unions:

NOOR: Now, Lois, one place you don't really hear about strikes is right here in the U.S. You know, of course, the last major strike that people will have heard of is the Chicago teachers strike back in the fall of 2012. But you've been a longtime critic of teachers unions on the left, saying they don't work with--they don't do enough social justice unionism, they don't work closely enough with community groups. And the same problems you described that are happening across the world with these emphases on testing is happening across the U.S. I've talked to dozens, maybe hundreds of teachers over the past several years, and they all share that common criticism of the public education system. And, also, there's hundreds of schools being closed across the U.S. What is your take or critique of teachers unions here? Why aren't they going on strike the same way we've seen teachers going on strike around the world?

WEINER: Well, the unions here are calcified. That's the best way for me to put it. They're calcified at the national level. They're mainly calcified at the state levels. There are two major unions, the National Education Association and the AFT, and they're bureaucratic and conservative in different ways. They're not--the problems are not identical, but the results are the same. And the result is that the unions are--number one, they are not democratic. To me that's a key issue. Another issue is that they're not militant, they don't mobilize the members. And the third issue is that if they often--their bargaining demands or the way they're looking at themselves is they're fighting for members' interests as defined very, very narrowly by what's allowed in union contracts.

And I will say that we're seeing changes that are not being picked up by the corporate media. For instance, the Portland--Portland is the largest city in Oregon. It has the largest teachers union in Oregon. They waged a campaign for a new contract that put class size first and was not about salary. It was about working conditions of teachers that affected the learning conditions of kids, having what's called in some places specials, you know, making sure that teachers who teach phys-ed and music and art have jobs, because if we don't have phys-ed and music and art teachers, we don't have phys-ed, music, or art.

NOOR: And you see a lot of these programs being cut around the country, because schools have--.

WEINER: They are. They are. They're cut all over the world. Education is being stripped down to its most watered-down vocationalized essence. And the teachers unions in the United States have been late to addressing that. And I think that a fundamental problem is that--which I explain in my new book, is that they don't see themselves as leaders of a movement, of a social movement to push back on these terrible changes being made to education.

But we are seeing some really promising changes, sparked in good part by Chicago, mainly by Chicago.

I think that part of this, part of what we should be looking at in the United States, based on what we're seeing going on globally, is to set out for teachers the idea of a one-day national strike supported by both the AFT and the NEA that would focus attention on what's happening to education nationally. I really think that we need to shift the emphasis from a purely local level to both the national and global.

NYS Taylor Law, a human rights violation, should not be a main part of this discussion except for the part banning strikes being repealed. If there is a national movement for action, do you think we will be a major part of it?

Friday, March 28, 2014


We may not have a contract yet or an evaluation system that anyone can figure out but the UFT is providing us with a pamphlet to help us navigate the end of the year requirements of the new teacher evaluation system.  The email below was sent from President Michael Mulgrew to chapter leaders. Look for your guide at school as you try to work your way through your artifacts, your MOSL, your instructional shifts, etc...

Dear James,

Please keep an eye out for a UFT end-of-year guide to the teacher evaluation system that is getting shipped to you at your schools beginning tomorrow, Friday, March 28.

this is the first - and we hope the last - guide to ending a school year under this particular teacher evaluation system.  As you know, the UFT is currently in talks with the city.

The guide, called Summing it up: an end-of-year guide to the new teacher evaluation & development system includes a timeline and information on summative conferences, artifacts, professional records, ratings and how student assessment results will figure into evaluations.

You and your members will also be able to find the guide and additional information on the evaluation system on the UFT website.

If you have any questions or need more information, please contact your district representative or borough office.

Thank you for all your work and your support to our members during this challenging year.


Michael Mulgrew
UFT President

Monday, March 24, 2014


The email below was sent to NYSUT President and Stronger Together leader Dick Iannuzzi, UFT President Michael Mulgrew and Revive NYSUT from several of the candidates running for office in the first ever contested NYSUT election.  We are asking for a debate or some kind of open forum in New York City before the April 5 election.  As you can see, President Iannuzzi has responded.  We are still waiting to hear back from President Mulgrew.

I never received an answer when I asked for a presidential candidate forum before the UFT election in 2010. MORE caucus didn't get a reply when we requested a debate between Mulgrew and MORE's Julie Cavanagh before the 2013 UFT election. Would anyone be surprised if we don't hear back from our UFT President now? 

Yes, we understand President Mulgrew is a very busy person but when something as important as the leadership of our city or state union is at stake, don't you think we at least deserve a response?

The lack of a reply now is especially baffling since there have been numerous candidate forums all over NYS the last few weeks ahead of the NYSUT election.  I reported on one such forum that took place on Long Island a couple of weeks back.

Why is Mulgrew, and the NYC Unity Caucus he leads, so afraid of open discussion? Perhaps the fact that members of his caucus are obligated to support caucus positions in public and union forums means the leadership does not feel the need to discuss anything. I have protested repeatedly about President Mulgrew stifling dissent at UFT Delegate Assemblies.

We can only hope Norm Scott is right and some of the NYC Unity people are willing to open up their minds and vote their conscience.

Our letter to Iannuzzi, President Mulgrew, Stronger Together and Revive NYSUT:

Dear Brothers Iannuzzi and Mulgrew,

We are NYSUT members, teachers, UFT Chapter Leaders and Delegates, and many of us are members of the MORE caucus (Movement of Rank and File Educators) in the UFT which received over 5,000 votes in our first run for local office in 2013. Our caucus received over 40% from high school teachers. We are running to represent New York City educators from the UFT as NYSUT Board of Directors and Executive VP.
We write to you today concerned that districts all over our state are holding forums with candidates from their respective districts and those running for officer positions.
In the spirit of democracy and transparency we are requesting a forum at a neutral Manhattan location open to all UFT and NYSUT members, including NYSUT delegates from the UFT and the media. We believe the members of Stronger Together, Revive, and our independent slate of eight members ought to be able to express our vision for state union leadership to our members.

We look forward to hearing your response as soon as possible and working together to plan this event!

Best regards,
Julie Cavanagh

Teacher/UFT Chapter Leader P.S.15

Lauren Cohen
Teacher/UFT Delegate P.S. 321

Beth Dimino
Teacher/President of Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association

James Eterno
Teacher/UFT Chapter Leader Jamaica High School

Arthur Goldstein
Teacher/ UFT Chapter Leader Francis Lewis High School

Jia Lee
Teacher/UFT Chapter Leader The Earth School

Francesco Portelos
Teacher/UFT Chapter Leader I.S.49

Mike Schirtzer
Teacher/UFT Delegate Leon M. Goldstein High School

The response from President Iannuzzi:

Dear MORE Caucus Candidates and others:
Thank you for reaching out with your concerns and proposal.

NYSUT is committed to running a transparent and open election in accordance with the law and is willing to collaborate in any way that would provide opportunity for the voices of all statewide candidates to be heard consistent with not violating the law. As the head of the Stronger Together slate, I can assure you that this is our position as well.
I am forwarding your email to NYSUT's General Counsel and Elections Committee for their input. I am asking Counsel to communicate directly with you and to copy me with their response.
In solidarity,
Dick Iannuzzi
President Mulgrew's Response:

Saturday, March 22, 2014


The Minutes from the March 10 UFT Executive Board meeting contain the following paragraph:

Ellen Procida, Director of the Grievance Department, gave a report on all the union initiated grievances that have been filed regarding the new APPR (teacher evaluation) system. All but one of the 17 plus filed have had a chancellor’s level decision but none have received a response from the chancellor. Intent and demand for arbitration has been filed for each grievance. Closing arguments on the lesson plan case will be completed on Monday.

Is anything changing?

Thursday, March 20, 2014


The fun has been taken out of doing this report as most of the good stuff is in the previous two reports.  However, since we try to keep you informed about everything, here is a report on the more mundane parts of the March Delegate Assembly.

President's Report
I missed the start as I was a little late but when I arrived President Michael Mulgrew was talking about Albany.
State Senate Budget
Senate introduced a bill for public scholarships for private schools.  Much of the Senate budget plan is not good, particularly with charter schools.  We expect to be at war with Eva Moskowitz.  The $4.4 million she spent on ads the last few weeks could have been used to buy a building for her schools.  There are also some good things in the Senate budget.
Where we really have friends is in the State Assembly where Speaker Sheldon Silver is speaking out for public school kids who are going to school in trailers and buildings that are falling apart.
NYC Campaign
UFT is highlighting teacher retention crisis.  It has traditionally been a problem for teachers with 0-6 years to quit but teachers with 6-15 years of experience are leaving at a rate that is up 28% in just the last two years.  These are the teachers who stabilize schools.  Abusive administrators, paperwork and large class sizes are cited as reasons for leaving as well as the salary disparity between NYC compared to the suburban districts.
Evaluation system with observations and artifacts is a mess.  We must simplify the evaluation system. We are now sitting with people across the table on the Department of Education side who understand the need for teacher voice in the schools.
We need to be treated as professionals but we also have to act as responsible professionals.
Negotiating Committee met last week.  We have many enemies out there who want to sabotage a contract so it's best to keep things private and not negotiate in public.
It was a great success.  We have 24,000 UFT paras.
Specialized High School Admissions
Lowest number of black and brown students admitted ever this year.  UFT Task Force led by Janella Hinds made seven recommendations which basically say that there should be more than just a test to base specialized admissions on.
Staff Director's Report
Leroy Barr reported on the aforementioned para conference and guidance conference and he gave some dates for upcoming activities. 
Mulgrew came back and reported on how Chancellor Carmen FariƱa wants to talk to teachers and will be at many events in the near future. He also told Delegates how the Disaster Relief Fund needs to raise funds to assist victims of the East Harlem building explosion. (By the end of the meeting well over $2,000 was collected.)
Question Period
Question: What is our relationship like with governor Cuomo?
Mulgrew Answer: Mulgrew has a good relationship with the governor but they have had some difficult conversations with him lately because of his standing with Eva Moskowitz.
Question: What does the ineffective rating appeals process look like for next year?
Answer: Each side will now have four hours, instead of two, to present cases.  13% of the ineffective ratings, those caused by harassment and not incompetent teaching, will be pulled to go to arbitration.  The rest of those rated ineffective will get an independent validator next year.
Question: Any signs of the hostility of the last twelve years toward us being taken away at DOE?
Answer: Yes
Question: What is the UFT's position concerning the horse carriage drivers?
Answer: We are working through the Central labor Council.
Question: Is the ATR pool down compared to the past?
Answer: It is down to around 900 with many counselors placed for the remainder of the year.  It should not be increased much as there are no closing schools but some phase outs continue.  We are working with the DOE to come up with a common sense plan on hiring.  Previous administration contracting with Teach for America and the New Teacher Project made no sense. 
Question: What should we do about many Public School Athletic League problems?
Answer: Contact Kenny Achiron.
Question: Any plans for a demonstration to counter Eva Moskowitz activities?
Answer: Our focus is on Albany and getting a contract.  She closed her schools for demonstrations and arm-twisted parents into coming.  Imagine what we could do if we took everyone from just one district to Albany.  We are very concerned with the way she uses children for political reasons.
New Motion Period
See previous post on MORE's shining moments.
Special Order of Business
There was a resolution to celebrate the 54th anniversary of the UFT that caused surprising controversy as someone spoke strongly against it, which prompted Leroy Barr to respond by recognizing the founders of the union who are still part of the DA.  The motion carried easily.
There was the Brown v Board of Education resolution that led to my regular battle with Mulgrew concerning him calling on speakers opposed to a motion.  This carried easily.  It was followed by a resolution supporting California teachers as they fight to keep due process protections and one recognizing Chicago teachers who brought national attention to the growing concerns about the overemphasis on standardized testing.  These both passed. I believe time ran out here but if the last two resolutions were acted upon, they were not controversial.  One was on raising the minimum wage and the other was on Avonte's Law (help autistic children and their parents).

That's all folks.


Regular readers of this blog know one of the biggest issues I am passionate about is fairness at the Delegate Assembly.  I believe in the dictionary definition of debate which according to Webster is "to discuss a question by considering opposing viewpoints." (Bold type was added by me)  I have regularly challenged UFT President Michael Mulgrew on this issue as he seldom calls on Delegates at DA meetings who oppose his majority Unity Caucus.

At Wednesday's, March Delegate Assembly meeting, Mulgrew and I argued vociferously over this issue out in the open. The fact that I was heard from the back of a pretty big hall while he was talking into a microphone from a stage made me feel ok. In the end he said I was wrong but for the rest of the meeting he admitted I was right by asking for speakers against the remaining motions on the agenda.

Here are the details as we get into the Robert's Rules weeds. 

There was a resolution on the floor to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision.  Unity Vice President Sterling Roberson made a strong speech in favor of the motion.  This was followed by another Unity speaker and then someone who wanted to make sure Thurgood Marshall was included in the resolution (his name was in there).  A Delegate who had opposed an earlier resolution celebrating the 54th anniversary of the founding of the UFT then called for a Point of Order asking if Mulgrew was going to call on any speakers against.  Mulgrew said he doesn't have to.

I shouted out that he was wrong.  Mulgrew then called both of us out of order but I challenged his ruling based on Robert's Rules.  Mulgrew then gave a long speech about how it's up to the body to end debate if someone makes a motion to end debate.  Nobody is arguing that a 2/3 majority can't shut down debate whenever they want to but first someone must obtain the floor to make the motion to close debate.

When debate is occurring, the chairperson's obligation is to alternate between supporters and opponents of whatever motion is on the floor.  I don't know why this basic parliamentary principle that goes back to the 1500s is so difficult for our President to follow. Mulgrew said I was wrong "as usual" while I questioned his ability to read. I thought we had an understanding after I raised this issue a few months back that he would follow the rules and alternate between those for and against each motion.

After Mulgrew told me I was wrong and I should take the issue up with the Parliamentarian, he spent the rest of the meeting following the rules and asking for speakers against each motion so I guess I can say I was right as usual. After the meeting, I took the President up on his offer and went right to the Parliamentarian, supported by MORE's Megan Moskop and her friend David. Mulgrew saw me coming and sadly decided to walk the other way.  I would really like to discuss this with him.

I spoke at length to the Parliamentarian and UFT Secretary Emil Pietromonaco after the DA.  The Parliamentarian noted that Robert's Rules says the President has to alternate speakers when he knows there are speakers who want to speak on each side of an issue.  Emil backed him up.  I said this was a ridiculous argument because Emil and Mulgrew know full well who most of the opposition people are (many wear MORE t shirts at the DA).  The President is also aware that the Delegates from his Unity Caucus will support whatever the leadership brings to the floor because their caucus obligations oblige them to support the decisions of the caucus in union forums.  When those of us in the opposition raise our cards to speak, we are almost always opposing something or looking to amend it.  Calling on one Unity caucus speaker after another is clearly stifling dissent. It is not that difficult to ask who wants to speak against something after a speaker finishes a speech in favor of an issue.

The actual language from page 31 in Robert's Rules states: "In cases where the chair knows that persons seeking the floor have opposite opinions on the question, the chair should let the floor alternate, as far as possible, between those favoring and those opposing the measure."  It continues by discussing ways for this to be achieved.  Later the book talks about other methods for achieving alternate speakers (separate microphones, different color cards). Bottom line: opposing speakers are mandated for it to be called a debate.

On this particular day, Joan Heymont - a leading dissident voice in the UFT for years - was raising her card throughout the debate on the Brown resolution.  Obviously, she wanted to speak against it or amend it. She was passed over while Unity speakers were called on again and again. 

During my discussion with the Parliamentarian, I even went back to the preface of Robert's Rules and read a portion where it gives the history of parliamentary procedure.  Right there on page xxiv, it says in 1592 the principle was established to alternate speakers between those for and against.  Here is the wording: "It was made a Rule, That the Chairman shall ask the Parties that would speak, on which side they would speak... and the Party that speaketh against the last Speaker, is to be heard first."  Our Parliamentarian  said the preface doesn't apply!

422 years of parliamentary tradition thrown out the window at the UFT DA.  In the end, the Parliamentarian gave his copy of Robert's Rules to a new Parliamentarian and Emil told me we should speak to Emil himself prior to meetings to make sure the leadership is aware of our intention to speak against particular resolutions. I guess President Mulgrew won't be able to tell us he wasn't aware if we tell Emil in advance.

For the record, I support the leadership on the resolution to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Brown resolution.  This isn't about me wanting to speak.

Part III of the DA Report later.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


The March 19 Delegate Assembly was highlighted by MORE's Kit Wainer speaking in favor of a MORE sponsored resolution for the UFT to escalate their defense of  Chapter Leaders and others who speak out against abusive administrators.  Although the motion failed, it received strong support from the Delegates

The resolution is printed here in its entirety:

Whereas, educators are fearful of reporting detrimental working and learnings conditions established by principals who work in a dictatorial manner; and

Whereas, our contract provides due process for all UFT members; and

Whereas, whistleblowers such as Francesco Portelos have been removed from schools and now falsely arrested and imprisoned for reporting abusive conditions and expressing their free speech rights; be it therefore

Resolved, that after careful consideration, the UFT will publish a list of DOE’s most abusive administrators in its newspaper, website, social media, and in a press release; and be it further

Resolved, that the UFT will escalate its defense of educators who speak out on behalf of their colleagues and students; and be it further

Resolved, that the defense of UFT members, particularly chapter leaders, who speak truth to power will include, but not be limited to, a full mobilization of our membership for protests and rallies with educators, parents, students, and concerned community members to expose despicable administrators; and be it further

Resolved, that UFT will demand the immediate removal of all administrators that are found as being abusive

“When UFT members are under attack, we must stand up and fight back!”

In motivating this resolution for placement on next month's agenda, Kit told the Delegates there are many abusive principals and assistant principals out there and some have real personality defects. He added how some are outright anti-union and are using the disciplinary process as an intimidation tactic.

Kit then pointed out how our union provides good legal representation but this is for individuals.  We now need to raise the stakes against these supervisors by taking collective action in picketing or engaging in other public actions as a union!

UFT Secretary Emil Pietromonaco spoke against MORE's motion.  His main argument was to say he understands the intent of the resolution but we already rigorously defend our chapter leaders and take action so there is no need for a further resolution. 

The vote followed and although MORE did not win a majority, the minority is growing.  I would say close to 40% of the vote was in favor of the motion.

President Michael Mulgrew then tried to comment but was stopped dead in his tracks by MORE's Megan Moskop who shouted for a Point of Order and didn't wait for a microphone to tell Mulgrew he was speaking out against a resolution that had already been voted on.  Mulgrew tried to continue but Megan wouldn't have it so Mulgrew moved on and closed the new motion period.

I'll put the remainder of the DA Report up in a later post, including my shouting match with Mulgrew over Mulgrew once again saying he doesn't need to call on any opposition speakers in debate.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


There is very little controversy over who to support for Executive Vice President in the New York State United Teachers election on April 5.  It is Arthur Goldstein, Chapter Leader of Francis Lewis High School.  He is endorsed by the Movement of Rank and File Educators.  He explains the NYSUT issues in great detail over at his famous NYC Educator blog.

For those who have not been keeping score, NYSUT (our statewide union) has five officers.  Four of the five incumbents are running for reelection on the Stronger Together slate.  This includes President Dick Iannuzzi who since breaking from NYC Unity's (Mulgrew) grip arguably qualifies for an opportunity to be nominatedas Most Improved Union President (huge rally in Albany last June, vote of no confidence in King recently and more). He is being challenged by a group started by former UFT Bronx District 10 Representative Andrew Pallotta.

According to Arthur, the split in NYSUT basically comes down to Iannuzzi refusing to look the other way at union support for Andrew Cuomo's reelection.  This is straight from Arthur's piece:

What I do know is that Andrew Cuomo came into office promising to go after unions. I'm a lifelong Democrat, but I found that so repulsive I voted for a third-party candidate, for the first time ever. And the first time Cuomo ran, NYSUT sat out the election in AFL-CIO, which resulted in the AFL-CIO endorsement of Cuomo. Personally, I'm mystified as to why any union would endorse someone openly hostile to us, but as NYSUT declined to vote, they let it pass.

What I'm hearing, though, is that NYSUT is no longer prepared to sit idly by, what with abundant evidence that the governor values charter schools dearly, and public schools not at all. If NYSUT were to vote NO on Andrew Cuomo, that could cost him a labor endorsement he values. (We, of course, are public school teachers, and he couldn't care less about us.) And were that to happen, we could stand to lose our much-coveted "seat at the table."

Thus, UFT-Unity raised Andrew Pallotta has put together a group of people to challenge every NYSUT officer but himself, and the rest of the NYSUT officers decided to run for their jobs. This was a very good deal for Andy Pallotta, as he could not lose. However, someone went and decided to challenge him, and that would be me.

I've been awakened by writing this blog, by running for chapter leader, and by watching my union create an inner circle of people who signed loyalty oaths to support whatever they were told to support. That included things that hurt teachers--mayoral control, VAM, Common Core, and a contract that decimated seniority privileges. Personally, it's hard for me to understand how an education activist could support causes like those, and I'm still mystified as to how any of those things benefit teachers or students.

And spreading this program statewide would be a huge error in judgment. We simply can't have it. The Revive (Unity) candidates protest too much, claiming repeatedly they are not beholden to UFT leadership. Yet only last year Pallotta sent NYSUT staffers to campaign for UFT fave Bill Thompson. Perhaps Mr. Pallotta was unaware NY mayor is not a state position. It's odd that when asked point-blank in Melville whether or not he'd support Cuomo, yes or no, he hemmed and hawed until the crowd dragged out of him the statement he would not personally support Cuomo. I don't know a single member who supports the atrocious anti-education, anti-union, pro-corporate policies of Andrew Cuomo.

Unfortunately, only NYSUT Delegates can vote in the election so the UFT's 800 voters will be people who pledged to support decisions of the caucus in union and public forums (the Unity loyalty oath).  Maybe some of them will show some good judgment and break from Unity and do what is right by our members who I am sure would not want Andrew Cuomo supported in any way shape or form. 

It's up to our readers to tell their Unity Chapter Leaders to vote for Arthur. 

Norm Scott also addressed the NYSUT election today over at Ed Notes.

For the record I am also running in the NYSUT Election for an at large Board of Directors' Position.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


Anybody anywhere near the inside at the UFT has been spending a great deal of time the last few days addressing rumors about what the terms will be in a possible new contract.  I'm really not sure about what is true or untrue.  Printed below in full is a piece from the UFT weekly Chapter Leader Update about the negotiations.  Read into it what you like.

Contract negotiations between the UFT and the DOE resume

The UFT has begun meeting regularly with the Department of Education in an effort to reach a new contract for teachers and other UFT-represented DOE employees. The two sides met last weekend and again on Wednesday and today (Friday), with Martin F. Scheinman, the arbitrator who is the neutral chair of the fact-finding panel, serving as mediator. Our 300-member rank-and-file negotiating committee met on Thursday. No settlement is imminent, but we are making headway now that we have someone across the table that is serious about getting to a deal. Our goal remains to have a new contract ratified and in place by the end of June. Contract negotiations are never conducted in public. When a tentative agreement is reached, it will go before members in a ratification vote.

For a look at what the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) would like to see in a contract, read here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Between the NYSUT election campaign, a ridiculous quality review for my phasing out school, trying to keep up with the notorious Danielson Framework's absurd demands and of course helping to take care of the family, my plate is kind of full.  However, I have lately been spending an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out how to fight multiple unsatisfactory observations for colleagues who are part of the Absent Teacher Reserve pool.

ATRs were basically created by the infamous 2005 contract when former UFT President Randi Weingarten and then Chancellor Joel Klein ended preferred placement for teachers when schools were closed.

There are great teachers in the ATR pool.  Some have been working for decades and have never seen an unsatisfactory observation in their careers.  In 2011, the UFT leadership, for some reason known only to themselves, agreed to send teachers without a regular position because a school was closed or downsized into the traveling ATR circus where every week they have to go to a different school to be substitute teachers.

Since teachers in the ATR pool do not have a regular class or classes, they are not covered under the new observation system that our union agreed to have Commissioner John King impose on us last June.

The observation system for ATRs is a colossal fraud.  Roving supervisors visit and observe the ATR in one of his/her daily substitute assignments. ATRs do not know the students in front of them. The ATR is not the teacher of record so there is no accountability for the students with the ATRs. This is a pure "gotcha" system.  Since the Department of Education is holding us to the letter of so many ridiculous standards, we should respond in kind and hold them to the exact letter of the law. 

When a former colleague at Jamaica was given an unsatisfactory ATR observation, we filed a grievance based on numerous procedural violations. While preparing for the grievance, I looked, as I usually do, for documentation to prove that procedures were being violated. It is a waste of time to study the content of the observations as our union leadership gave away our right to grieve inaccurate/unfair material placed in our files in that horrific 2005 contract.

Article 8J1 of the current contract, the part covering teacher evaluations, states: "The reviews must be based on the agreed upon characteristics of good teaching, including consideration of positive student learning outcomes and parent involvement."  How is someone covering a class for a day (an ATR) supposed to involve parents?  It's impossible. Notice the word must in the contractual language. 

The contract also talks about linking teacher performance to a school's education goals and related professional development activities.  What does a roving supervisor coming in to see someone covering a class have to do with any of this?

In addition CEO Memorandum 80, which clarifies contractual Article 8J, says teachers new to a school are supposed to have an observation early in the term by a principal and then should be able to decide, in consultation with a principal, whether they want to be observed formally or choose another way of being reviewed.  No ATR I know of was given this option.

I also reviewed a document called "Teaching for the 21st Century," the paper which is the basis for the evaluation system and is embedded into Article 8J of the contract.  I found pages and pages of material in Teaching for the 21st Century to prove the ATR observation system is completely illegal. 

For example, on page 12 it says the following in paragraph 2, "The Publication Teaching for the 21st Century, the new teacher review resource handbook, will be distributed in a three-ring binder to every New York city public school teacher and supervisor."  Did any ATR get his/her copy?

There is so much more.  On page 23 we see the following in a section called Developing School-Based Procedures: "Both teachers and supervisors must have input into developing a school's procedures for annual teacher performance reviews."  Did any ATR have any input into these procedures?  I don't think so.

Then there is another gem on page 23: "Teacher performance review procedures must be developed at the school level by teachers and supervisors which integrate the Characteristics of Good Teaching with the school's plan for achieving its educational goals and objectives." Again, notice the word must when discussing teacher participation in setting up review procedures.  However, ATRs are not involved in any of this development.

I could go on and on but I think the point has been made.  We have a very strong case to throw out this observation system.

We of course lost our grievance at Step I (principal's level) but felt some confidence when the UFT agreed to take it to the Chancellor's level.  I should have known better. Upon reviewing the documentation, we discovered the Union would only ask that a prescriptive remedial plan be removed from an ATR observation but they would not ask for the observations, which are all being done illegally, to be stopped.

When I questioned our representative at the hearing (a very decent guy who I respect and have a good working relationship with), he told us we could fight these numerous procedural violations if the Department of Education tries to terminate a tenured teacher in the state mandated 3020A process.  I told him I respectfully disagree with his view.  This is what the grievance process is supposed to be for. Why wait until someone is going to be terminated? Stop the cancer at the first sign of it?

Unfortunately, my phone is ringing constantly with other ATRs complaining about unsatisfactory observations. 

I would like to leave it up to the ATRs as to what we should do.  Do you think we should file a class action grievance, or other kind of action, to stop the DOE from observing ATR's in violation of our contract? Or should we wait until we are about to be terminated before we take a stand?

Thursday, March 06, 2014


New York State United Teachers is all of the local non supervisory educator related unions (and some non educator unions) in New York State combined into one statewide union. On April 5, NYSUT will have its first contested election in its history. The election will take place at the NYSUT Representative Assembly.  Only Delegates can vote; the rank and file will be shut out.

To help Delegates make their decision, The Long Island President's Council hosted a forum last night for candidates for the five NYSUT officer positions. If last night's crowd reaction was a poll, President Richard Iannuzzi and his Stronger Together slate should breeze to reelection. Andrew Pallotta, who split from Iannuzzi recently to help form Revive NYSUT, was put on his heels most of the night trying to deflect very tough questions and some attacks on his legislative record.  His colleagues, including presidential candidate Karen Magee, looked tentative at times.

Conversely, the four candidates from Stronger Together, led by Iannuzzi, came armed with facts and figures to confidently defend their records and provide a vision for the next three years.

Iannuzzi and the other three officeholders were joined by none other than Arthur Goldstein, Chapter Leader from Francis Lewis High School, aka NYC Educator.  Arthur had a very impressive debate debut as he put his opponent Pallotta, the incumbent officer who defected from Iannuzzi, on the defensive most of the evening by merely emphasizing the awful laws that have been passed in New York the last few years under his watch.  The Executive Vice President is in charge of NYSUT's political operation and has a big say over which candidates get voluntary COPE money from us. 

Arthur and Karen Magee were the only two candidates who played much offense.  Arthur went after Pallotta's failure as the Executive Vice President.  Pallotta was compelled to answer for the inferior new pension Tier VI, the 2% property tax cap and the horrible Annual Personnel Performance Review (APPR) system.  Pallotta was also questioned about Revive's possible support for Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The highlight of the evening was when a question was asked about whether or not we should endorse Cuomo's reelection.  Arthur answered with a definitive no and launched into an attack on the governor's anti-union, anti-public education, pro-charter school record.

Pallotta, on the other hand, responded to the question by saying that it is not up to him to endorse candidates.  He explained that the Union has a process involving many people and he would let the process play out.  This answer did not please the crowd who loudly accused Pallotta of trying to duck the question.  This prompted Pallotta to respond by noting he would not personally be endorsing Cuomo.

Iannuzzi and Magee sparred over the 2% tax cap.  It takes a 60% vote to raise property taxes over 2% and the issue is hurting many NYSUT locals.  Iannuzzi noted this and said he is very proud his team is using the courts to fight the cap.  Magee had criticized the President for waiting two years to file a lawsuit over the cap.  The President responded by pointing out how filing a lawsuit the day after the cap was passed would have been a great public relations move, but it would have ultimately failed as there was no evidence yet to have standing to win in court.  He added by saying our patience gives us a much stronger chance of victory because now we have ample evidence to support a legal claim on how the cap is harmful to education.

The two presidential candidates also disagreed on charter schools with Magee drawing a distinction between private charter schools and public charter schools and basically only criticizing private charter schools while Iannuzzi emphasized how we have to organize charter schools.

On the Stronger Together side, the three other incumbent candidates were Maria Neira, Kathleen Donahue and Lee Cutler.

Neira confidently defended her record of meeting with the State Education Commissioner to make the best of the hand we have been dealt.  The basic theme of Stronger Together was that the legislative part of the NYSUT operation led by Pallotta had failed by allowing terrible laws to pass in the Legislature and then Neira, Iannuzzi and others have sprung into action to negotiate to clean up the mess they have been handed with new laws. (A little revisionist history but it does make the case well for who is more to blame for the shape we are in.)

Secretary Treasurer incumbent Lee Cutler was attacked for a NYSUT deficit but he boldly defended his record by stating how he turned a multi million dollar NYSUT deficit into a projected surplus.  He continually said how he had built up the Union's non-dues revenue in the last few years. Kathleen Donahue also confidently backed up her own record of achievement with many of the non teachers who are NYSUT members, including Jones Beach Lifeguards.

Revive candidates emphasized how elections are a positive good for a democratic union. Paul Pecorale talked about his Long Island experience while Catalina Fortino pointed out the strength in diversity, talking about her English Language Learner background.  Martin Messner spoke out on how he would involve the locals more in making decisions. Messner also made vague pledges to be transparent.

Messner for some inexplicable reason felt it necessary to mention how he is not a tool of the UFT leadership.  Earlier, Goldstein had talked about how the UFT is run by a closed, invitation only group (NYC Unity Caucus) which forces its members to sign a paper saying they will support the positions of the UFT leadership in public or union forums (the so called Unity loyalty oath).  Arthur added that NYC Unity shuts out people who disagree with policies the UFT supports such as mayoral dictatorship over NYC schools.

Overall, Revive did not look ready for prime time.  If this is the best they can do, then we may be in even more peril than now if they take over NYSUT in April.  The four incumbents in Stronger Together and Arthur Goldstein looked very comfortable up on the stage while Pallotta and his Revived challengers appeared to be overmatched at times.  Pallotta even said running for office in a competitive election gave him a newfound respect for politicians and he no longer likes Twitter.

Since the 800 UFT Delegates to NYSUT all come from NYC Unity and President Michael Mulgrew supports Revive, Revive starts out with a huge advantage as this is around 1/3 of the potential electorate.  Judging by last night's performance, however, Revive looks like they may be taking victory for granted.  They better start campaigning for real or they very well could end up losing. Stronger Together won the evening for sure.

Full Disclosure: I am running in the NYSUT election for an at large Board of Director position.  I am not part of a slate presently.

UPDATE: For more on Revive, see this Facebook page.

Also, Arthur has written a piece on our trip to Melville on Wednesday over at NYC Educator.

Sunday, March 02, 2014


John Lawhead is a very deep thinker who is the brains behind many an ICE policy over the years. Recently, he felt compelled to respond to Professor Mark Naison.  Naison leads an organization we often agree with known as the Badass Teachers Association (BATs).

Recently, BATs supported an initiative from Governor Andrew Cuomo on privatized prison education.

The piece below first appeared Thursday at John's Catch 29: inside the nyc schools fix blog.

A Message to Mark Naison          

by John Lawhead

I’m utterly baffled by your celebration of Gov. Cuomo’s college classes in the prisons initiative and your choleric overreaction to dissenters. For one thing this program is simply the expansion of an ongoing program established with private funds in 2007 and is likely to continue as some kind of public-private partnership, in keeping with Cuomo’s relentless drive to reduce state services.

Another thing is the timing of the announcement. It came two days after Assembly Member Karim Camara and State Senator Adriano Espaillat issued their Valentine’s Day statement of support for John King and the Common Core State Standards. This has led observers besides myself, including David Howard King in the Gotham Gazette, to surmise that Cuomo was offering a token of appreciation to Karim Carmara and the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus which he leads. Indeed the governor’s press release announcing the prison classes initiative quotes Camara praising the initiative as a “progressive investment in the future.” The impression of a quickly hatched quid pro quo seems further validated by the fact that Cuomo mentioned job training and better reentry services, but said nothing about college classes in his State of the State speech a month earlier.

Apparently, the admins at the Badassed Teachers Association had to scramble to keep up with your personal interest in defending the governor’s initiative in order to make it organization policy. They posted a long compilation of material, some of it plagiarized from the ACLU website and Teaching Tolerance magazine without attribution. Apparently someone googled “school to prison pipeline” to get the stuff.

The result is of this awkward document is a dramatic shift from an appeal that unites all teachers who “refuse to be blamed for the failure of society to erase poverty and inequity” to a group that declares that many prisoners have been “failed by the education system, as well as the mental health field” with members who owe it to themselves “to recognize those people and educate them like ‘we’ were supposed to in the first place.”

Will there soon be a metric for measuring which schools send the most people to prison so Bill Gates can devise a intervention?

There is not a word in this policy statement about the lack of jobs in this country. I don’t imagine the mass incarceration of Americans being significantly reduced without changing the economy. That seems like something to be figured out by organized working people rather than by philanthropic foundations and advocacy groups. In the meantime, the BATs become spectators, waiting for another good policy to applaud. I’m baffled, I’m bewildered and I’m sad.