Friday, October 30, 2015


As I'm trying to catch up on the news for the week in the midst of a fairly busy schedule, I noticed something a little odd: some of the headlines in New York and nationally provide some reasons to be optimistic.

Carrol Burris has an excellent interpretation on what she calls the "flop" in national test scores that were released this week. She wrote on Tuesday in the Valerie Strauss Answer Sheet Blog in the Washington Post:

Today's National Assessment of Educational Progress score flop should come as no surprise.  You cannot implement terrible education policies and expect that achievement will increase.

NAEP is a truth teller.  There is no NAEP test prep industry, or high-stakes consequence that promotes teaching to the test.  NAEP is what it was intended to be--a national report card by which we can gauge our national progress in educating our youth.

During the 1970s and '80s, at the height of school desegregation efforts, the gap in scores between our nation's white and black students dramatically narrowed.  You could see the effects of good, national policy reflected in NAEP gains.

The gaps have remained, however, and this year, the ever so slight narrowing of gaps between white and black students is due to drops in the scores of white students--hardly a civil rights victory.

It is difficult to see any real growth across the board since 2011, with math scores backsliding to 2009 levels, eighth-grade reading flat for four years, and a small uptick in fourth-grade reading that is not a significant increase from 2013, which in turn was not significantly different from 2011.

Considering that the rationale for the Common Core State Standards initiative was low NAEP proficiency rates, it would appear that the solution of tough standards and tough tests is not the great path forward after all.  For those who say it is too early to use NAEP to judge Common Core, I would remind them that in 2013, Education Secretary Arne Duncan used NAEP increases to do a victory dance about the states that already implemented the Core at that time-- and I never heard any reformer complain.

Burris goes on to conclude:

The very folks who gleefully hold public schools accountable based on scores, evade using them to evaluate their own pet policies.  For those of us who had first row seats to the disruption and chaos they have caused, we have one simple message--no excuses.

Speaking of anti-public school reformers, it wasn't such a good week for Success Academy charter school Queen Eva Moskowitz either with the media no longer giving her glowing coverage. The NY Times exposed a "Got to Go" list for students who needed to be counseled out of one of Eva's schools.  It looks like some of the information against Eva is coming from the inside.  Will her deep pocketed friends save her? At least some in the press aren't buying her so called education miracle any longer.

As for our anti-public school Governor Andrew Cuomo, his political fortunes on education and many other issues just keep falling. A recent poll covered at Perdido Street School has Cuomo's approval rating on education at 68% negative to 27% positive.  Overall he is 18 points on the negative side. The UFT and NYSUT should be moving to go after this very unpopular governor now.

We at ICE are not just here to gloat about the misery of people who have done so much harm to public education.  The folks we think of as the good guys are speaking up on behalf of public education.

Rock group R.E.M. manager- public education advocate Bertis Downs wrote a piece for Valerie Strauss the other day on how a high needs district in Georgia is moving ahead.  Bertis stated:

I mean, really, if this over-testing, high-stakes culture is really such a great idea, wouldn't reformers want this environment for their own children?  Wouldn't they push the elite private schools their children attend to adopt those "innovative reforms" too?  The fact that they don't is telling.  these are not educationally sound ideas, and reformers know it, even as they call these policies "innovative" as they push them to the public.  Do they think we don't know better?  Of course the schools exempt from the public mandates don't nurture this absurd over-testing culture, especially the ones labeled "innovative" by those passing the laws. Balderdsh, by any other name....

Our family lives in Athens, Georgia, a community that - like most communities - values public education, and our kids go to our local public schools.  Our school district has been innovating, really innovating in some pretty creative ways, some of which might even sound old-fashioned or simple.  I actually prefer the word "intuitive."  Especially for the past six years, we are grateful for the leadership of Phil Lanoue, who was named 2015 National Superintendent of the Year.

Lanoue's prescription is not a panacea for education's ills but this is what Lanoue said concerning standardized testing:

You can't solve social inequities on a test," he said, speaking about the standardized test-based reform efforts that have taken root around the country.  It's ludicrous.

That sounds positive to me.

He also tries to feed kids both in and out of school.

Who else is against the test based madness that has taken over our schools?  Why that would be Jia Lee, the teacher/activist chosen by the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) to challenge Michael Mulgrew for UFT President.  As President, Mulgrew gave us test based evaluations to cover 40% of our annual teacher evaluation. Jia has fought high stakes testing by opting herself and her son out of the state tests.  Her candidacy was announced at the MORE State of the Union-State of the Schools conference last Saturday.  She has my support for sure.

Endorsements have come in from NYC Educator, Ed Notes, DOE Nuts and others.

All in all, not the usual bad news, worse news and worst news in education this week.

Thursday, October 29, 2015


This message went out to Absent Teacher Reserves on email and was sent to the ATR Alliance on Facebook. Everyone who could not vote or run in chapter elections should come forward and tell the Department of Labor. If you have any questions or concerns, contact us at

Hi all-

Last week I met with Mr. Robert Rennard, an investigator from the federal Department of Labor, about our UFT Absent Teacher Reserve 2015 Chapter Election Complaint. Papers were filed officially on Thursday, October 22, 2015. The DOL is now conducting an investigation of the UFT chapter election procedures and needs actual ATRs to tell them about being disenfranchised in the UFT chapter elections.

If you sent us the name of the school you were assigned to on May 4, 201...5 along with your name because you were not allowed to vote in the chapter election or were not informed about the election or you were not allowed to run for chapter office, now is the time to provide the evidence to the investigators!

Mr. Rennard and his partner on the case, Ms. Jaclyn Nunez, can be reached at (646) 264-3190. They will ask you a bunch of questions about the school you were in on May 4 and how the chapter election was run. All you need to do is tell them the truth about how ATRs are treated as second class citizens who are denied representatives of our own choosing by our union. This really has very little, if anything, directly to do with the Department of Education.

If you didn't get your name and school to me before the complaint was filed, you can still call the Department of Labor to add your name and the school you were in on May 4 to the list if you were not allowed to vote in the chapter election, didn't know about the chapter election and/or could not run for chapter office.

I have done all that I can do to get this moving and now it's up to the ATRs to support the four of us who started this protest in April with the UFT, went then to the AFT and now have appealed to the federal government.


James Eterno

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


The email below was sent from UFT personnel specialist Amy Arundell to an ATR. As some of us have said in the past, the reason ATR's are not hired for permanent placement, particularly in smaller schools, has much to do with most of us having seniority so we would have bumping rights over junior teachers in an excess situation.  Our high salaries are not added to school budgets as Amy illustrates. An ATR who is hired at a school still costs more than a new teacher, who would lower the school's average salary, however the difference is not great.  In the end, many veteran ATRs are not getting regular positions because we have institutional memory.  To put it another way, many of us won't say how high when asked to jump by administrators.

The ATR agreement in the current contract expires after the 2015-16 school year ends and must be renegotiated to continue.  I would argue that the UFT should let it expire to get rid of the provision that says that an ATR who misses two mandated interviews has automatically resigned.  Tenure is irrelevant and interviews can be missed for legitimate reasons.  I heard of someone who was sick for one recently.  If that person misses a second interview, is that teacher out?  This provision has to go. Also, the weakened tenure hearings for certain ATR's also needs to end.

The UFT could just sit and allow the 2014 provisions to sunset by doing nothing. We would revert to the previous contract. I predict they will continue the 2014 agreement and keep treating ATRs like third class UFT members. I hope I'm wrong.  I would like for the union's leaders to at least ask the ATRs how they feel about their contract.

Meanwhile, I spoke at length to Department of Labor Investigator Robert Rennard last week about our ATR election complaint.  It is now up to the ATRs to tell the DOL their stories about how they could not vote in Chapter elections in the spring.  Please email me at for more information on moving ahead with this.

Amy's Email

As I explained in the meeting:...
If a school hires an ATR permanently, the MOA states that any school that selects an ATR for a permanent placement will not have that ATR’s salary included for the purpose of average teacher salary calculation.

If a school utilizes a person from the ATR pool to 1) fill a vacancy as a provisional hire; or 2) cover a long term leave or absence for someone who is not on payroll, the school must staff the person, which means the person costs the school the average salary for the school for that fiscal year.

If a school has a long term leave/absence and the person who is being covered is using his/her days, the DOE allows a person from the ATR pool to remain at a school and cover that leave without the person from the ATR pool having to be staffed at the school (without going on the school’s Table of Organization.)

Everything you have listed below are the typical types of misinformation and “urban myths” out there around school budgets. What I have provided here is the policy of the DOE (in alignment with our MOA). Anyone who is told something other than what I have detailed are welcome to report this to my office and we will follow up and clarify with the school.


Amy Arundell
Director of Personnel and Special Projects
United Federation of Teachers

Saturday, October 24, 2015


The MORE-NEW ACTION electoral coalition announced today in Brooklyn that Jia Lee will be its candidate for UFT President in 2016. The announcement was made as part of MORE's State of the Union-State of the schools conference.

Jia teaches special education at the Earth School where she also serves as the school's UFT Chapter Leader. In addition to her teaching and union activism, Jia is a parent and leader in the opt out from testing movement.  She will be challenging Unity's Michael Mulgrew who has been UFT President since 2009. The UFT election will take place in the spring of 2016.

For anyone who wants an introduction to Jia, take a look at this video where she testifies before the US Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on the re-authorization of No Child Left Behind.

The next generation of UFT activists at the MORE conference

Friday, October 23, 2015


Four of us have filed a complaint with the Federal Department of Labor claiming that the UFT Chapter election process is unfair to Absent Teacher Reserves.  The UFT made a ridiculous rule this past spring that compelled ATRs to vote in important Chapter elections in the school they happened to be rotated into on May 4, 2015 and probably knew nothing about.  ATRs also could only run for Chapter office in the school they happened to be in on May 4.

We thought the process was completely unfair and effectively disenfranchised the ATRs so we contacted the Department of Labor. The DOL Office of Labor and Management Standards has jurisdiction over union elections. They informed us that we must exhaust all internal remedies before filing an official complaint with them so on April 12th we filed a pre-election protest with the UFT to try to have the rules amended so ATRs could have full democratic rights within the union.

It was no surprise that our protest was turned down by the Executive Board that is dominated by Unity Caucus, the group that makes its members sign an oath that they will support the positions of the caucus in public and union forums.  Unity is led by Michael Mulgrew and Leroy Barr.  Barr wrote the answer to our complaint and presented it to the Executive Board on May 4th.  No Unity member would dare go against Barr. We lost the vote.

We next appealed on May 12 to the American Federation of Teachers where again we didn't have much hope for success with former UFT President Randi Weingarten at the helm but we had to exhaust our internal remedies.  The AFT didn't help the ATRs either but they did issue a report on September 29th.  That gave us a month from that date to appeal to the Department of Labor.

I personally had to think deeply about appealing as I respect the union and would rather settle matters internally but if there is no way to get any justice within the UFT, what choice did the four of us have other than to go to the DOL?

Yesterday, I met with an investigator from the DOL and filed a complaint.  This will not be an easy case to win as unions are given wide latitude by the federal government as to how they set up elections but there are rules and the UFT is covered under federal labor law so we have a chance.

Thankfully, our calls the last few days for ATRs to come forward if they were not permitted to vote or run in Chapter Elections or they were never informed about the May Chapter Elections produced a fairly healthy response.  As of now, over twenty ATRs have come forward to add their names.

If anyone else has knowledge of ATRs who could not vote last spring, get the information to We'll see where it goes.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Four UFT members who all signed onto a protest to the UFT and AFT on behalf of Absent Teacher Reserves have agreed to go to the federal Department of Labor to try to get justice for ATRs in UFT Chapter Elections.

We need ATRs to now step forward and just give us their name, the name of the school they were in on May 4, 2015 and confirmation on one or both of these points:

1-You were not informed about your Chapter's Election last spring.
2-You did not get a chance to vote in the Chapter Election or run for office.

The more people who give us their name and school from last May, the more possible leverage we could have.

You are complaining against the UFT and not the DOE here. We're asking people to step forward now.

We need this information by Thursday (tomorrow), if possible, as we want to get as much as we can to the Department of Labor as soon as we can.

Just email at


Monday, October 19, 2015


Many of us warned the UFT leadership that we were going into uncharted territory with the new teacher evaluation system.  Before the UFT agreed to allow former State Education Commissioner John King to arbitrate the matter, we tried to tell the union's leadership to fight as nothing would go forward without union negotiations.  Now that we have finished two years under the new evaluation system and are again negotiating an even newer one that will probably not be an improvement, the Department of Education is setting dangerous precedents under the evaluation system that is euphemistically called Advance. I was surprised to find out recently, when a teacher called me to protest, that there are teachers being charged under State Education Law with incompetence after receiving two ratings of developing. I recall the UFT telling us that developing was equal to satisfactory.

Developing is not the lowest of the four possible ratings teachers can receive in Advance.  The four ratings are highly effective, effective, developing and ineffective.  Only an ineffective rating can be appealed.  Developing couldn't be challenged because according to the union the only difference between a developing and an effective rating was that the developing teacher had to have a Teacher Improvement Plan.

A tenured teacher with two ineffective ratings in a row is presumed to be incompetent under the new system.  The burden of proof is on that tenured teacher to prove they are not incompetent in order keep their job in a state dismissal hearing. To put it bluntly, that burden is next to impossible for teachers to meet, particularly if a Peer Validator agrees with the principal's judgement.

According to President Michael Mulgrew, speaking at last week's Delegate Assembly meeting, 30% of the teachers rated ineffective in 2013-2014 (year one) had Peer Validators say they were not ineffective when they observed them in 2014-2015 (year two). These lucky few will hold onto the rights they always had as tenured teachers, meaning the burden of proof will stay with the DOE in disciplinary hearings.  The unlucky 70%, hundreds of tenured teachers, will now be presumed to be incompetent.  Most will probably soon be terminated unless the new evaluation system doesn't hold up in court.

But what about teachers rated developing the last two years?  The high school teacher who called me told me that the New York State United Teachers' attorney said that the DOE was violating the spirit of the State Education Law by charging someone with incompetence who never received an ineffective rating. The DOE is saying there is nothing in the law that says they can't charge a teacher rated developing with incompetence.  Yes, the burden of proof stays with the DOE but they do not appear to be interested in justice as much as backing up principals no matter what and instilling fear in teachers.

It would seem to me the DOE is continuing the Bloomberg-Klein era policy of just throwing tons of charges at teachers to see what will stick.  Since hearing officers are aware they will be thrown off the panel at the end of the year if they don't please the DOE, very few teachers are not found guilty of something. Usually teachers end up fined and/or suspended.  Basically, the process, as some have relayed to me, is a legalized form of extortion.  In addition, teachers found guilty of something, even something very minor, are usually removed from their school assignment and become Absent Teacher Reserves.  Administrators can get rid of a teacher with two developing ratings if this disciplinary process is upheld.

Has anyone else heard of developing teachers ending up in disciplinary hearings charged with incompetence?

Friday, October 16, 2015


Has anyone yet figured out if their salary adjustment is correct?

Below is page 4 of my Salary Adjustment Notice from 2014 for the mini arrears for the 2013 and 2014 1% raises.  Notice how in 2014 there is a a number for what was received and then a figure for the actual entitlement and then the difference. The numbers work.

Then look below that at the October 15, 2015 Salary Adjustment Notice from Payroll Portal.  Notice the figures under Total Amount for Actual Paid and Entitlement don't add up.  Nothing is right. Can any of us know if we were paid the right amount? This looks like a bookkeeping error but they had over a year to figure this out. I am not accusing anyone of malicious intent. I just want to see correct numbers like we saw in the past.

Is the UFT too busy doing happy talk with the DOE to notice the mistakes?  I have confirmed the error with other members. 

For anyone who is looking to view their Salary Adjustment, just go to DOE Payroll Portal.  Then, put in your DOE email and password.  Then go to the left side on the Payroll Portal main page and log into Employee Self Service by putting in DOE email and password again along with your Employee ID Number.  This number is not your File Number.  It is found on pay stubs. Ask your Payroll Secretary if not sure.

When you are finally logged in, click on Payroll Register.  The next screen should say Employee Information.  Click on Pedagogue Payroll and then there should be a few options at the bottom. Click on Salary Adjustment to see your arrears. Mine as you can see is a mess.

I have gone to the UFT website to fill out an inquiry form. I suggest everyone with any kind of issue do the same.  We will have an update when we hear their response.

2014 Notice of Salary Adjustment

2015 Salary Adjustment Notice

Thursday, October 15, 2015


The Unity Caucus is Michael Mulgrew's faction of the UFT.  They are the majority political party in the union.  At the first Delegate Assembly of the 2015-16 school year Unity proved beyond the shadow of any doubt that making cheap political points is more important to them than helping UFT members in need when they voted down a resolution that would have provided loans for members on unpaid leave up to the amount of retroactive money someone is owed in 2015.

The main rival political group in the union is called MORE which stands for the Movement of Rank and File Educators (full disclosure: ICE supports MORE and I am a ICE-MORE member). MORE will run together in a coalition with another established opposition group called New Action Caucus to challenge Mulgrew-Unity in the 2016 general UFT election.

When MORE leader Jia Lee rose last night at the Delegate Assembly (the highest policy making body in the UFT) to raise a motion for the UFT to find a way to provide interest free loans to members in need who are on unpaid restoration of health, maternity or child care leaves, Unity decided they would rather score extremely cheap political points and voted against helping their own members in need.

There is a loophole in the 2014 contract that says someone has to be "continuously employed" to receive the retroactive money from 2009-2011 that other city workers received in those years that UFT members will receive piecemeal between now and 2020.  Our employer, the Department of Educations-City of New York, interprets continuously employed to mean on payroll.

Our friend John Elfrank, longtime Chapter Leader of Murry Bergtraum High School, is recovering from surgery and on unpaid leave.  He came to MORE and told us that it is unconscionable that because someone is on an unpaid leave that they should be told they have to wait for at least two years for the next payout date in 2017 to get retroactive money they worked for from 2009-11.  John is taking this up with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after being denied money from the Department of Education and denied support from the UFT.  He asked MORE's leadership if we would write something for the union to loan people on unpaid leave their retro.

MORE's Steering Committee said yes and asked me to write something up. I had help and inspiration from MORE's Mike Schirtzer, Julie Cavanagh, and Jia Lee along with Elfrank and we wrote the following resolution for the DA.

DA Resolution on Immediate Retroactive Money for UFT Members on Unpaid Leave for Maternity, Child Care and/or Restoration of Health
October 14, 2015

WHEREAS, the United Federation of Teachers has a long history of supporting members in need, and

WHEREAS, the 2014 contract did not cover members on unpaid leave for lump sum payments stemming from the 2009-2011 round (arrears) until they are back on payroll or retire, and

WHEREAS, the City of New York ended the 2015 fiscal year with a $5.9 billion surplus, and

WHEREAS, the first 12.5% of the arrears is scheduled to be paid on October 15, 2015, and

WHEREAS, many of our sisters and brothers on unpaid leaves who will not be receiving the arrears for at least two years are having financial hardships as they are not on payroll, be it therefore

RESOLVED, that the union will immediately petition the city to make no interest loans available to UFT members on unpaid leaves who are not receiving their arrears, and be it further

RESOLVED, that if the city refuses to make these loans available, that the UFT will provide immediate, interest free loans to any member on unpaid leave who applies for one up to the amount of arrears the member on unpaid leave is owed as of October 1, 2015, and be it further

RESOLVED, that if the city refuses to make these loans available and the union does not have the means to provide the loans, the Union will arrange with Amalgamated Bank or another labor friendly institution to make low interest loans available to UFT members on unpaid leave who are not receiving their arrears and the UFT, not the borrowers, will pay the interest.

People in MORE made some edits and we thought this would be something that would be passed as a humanitarian gesture for mothers or fathers on childcare leaves and members who are on restoration of health leaves. MORE leader Jia Lee, a mother herself, who is Chapter Leader from the Earth School, agreed to raise the resolution at the October DA.

At the DA meeting, President Michael Mulgrew filibustered for about an hour and a half talking about how wonderful our schools are and how great the union is to have gotten us the retro money (see previous post). He talked so much there was not time for much else. The DA did vote to extend the meeting for ten minutes to have a new motion period.

Jia rose to present the MORE motion for next month's agenda.  DA rules require that a majority approve for it to go on next month's agenda.  Delegate Mary Ahern raised an objection saying this rule violates Robert's Rules of Order.  That is a discussion for another post.

Then a member of the majority Unity Caucus rose to make a point of information asking if MORE was violating Robert's Rules because the resolution was printed on a MORE handout and advertised for MORE on the back of the paper. It also didn't have anything noting that it came from a union printer. The union's parliamentarian said these issues were not covered in Robert's Rules of Order so Jia was able to continue.

She talked about John Elfrank's illness and mothers in her school who could all use the money that they already worked for.  She noted the city's $5.9 billion surplus and how the resolution was crafted in a way so these would be loans. (The loans would be secured as the member's future retro could be collateral.)  She cited Mulgrew who previously said that medical distress should not mean financial distress.

This resolution is a no-brainer if ever there was one.  If the city says no, then the union would loan the money to members on unpaid leave who need it.  If the UFT doesn't have the funds, they would secure them from a labor friendly bank and pay the interest.

Unfortunately, the Unity majority would have none of this.  The Queens UFT maternity liaison rose to speak against the resolution.  She gave a cold-hearted speech that was booed once saying she tells mothers who are going on childcare leave they must consider their situation when taking such a leave.  They are making a choice but they will be made whole on retroactive money from a magical chest that will open again in two years.  (She didn't bother to talk about those on medical leave.)  She concluded by saying she didn't want the union to be involved in making loans.

For political reasons, the Unity majority, who all sign an oath saying they will support caucus positions in public and union forums, voted down the resolution easily.  There is sufficient patronage in all expense paid trips to conventions, after-school and full time union jobs that virtually all go to Unity members to keep them in line. They weren't going to go against their in house maternity expert.

There were many new Delegates who attended yesterday's meeting who will probably never return. Some came to Jia afterwards and told her they couldn't believe the union would turn down loaning money to members in need.  I wasn't at all surprised because caucus loyalty trumps good policy in the UFT all the time.  The union could not let an opposition leader get credit for sponsoring something this important.

Those Delegates probably will never come back but they should.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

DELEGATE ASSEMBLY REPORT (unabridged live blogging)

Mulgrew's President's Report

Debate about issues among Democrats last night. Good to see it is a national issue to put big pharmacy companies in check.

UFT in Albany testifying that receivership for schools is a bad policy. Janella Hinds (VP HS) was our person there. It goes back to Bloomberg closing schools.  Teachers in high needs schools are not bad yrachrrs if all kids don't pass tests.

Two Common Core commissions in Albany. A teacher is on governor's commission and UFT on State Ed Department commission. Some parts of Common Core are not developmentally appropriate. UFT wants commitment from state on developmentally appropriate testing for English language learners and kids with IEP'S (special ed). We need professional comments online when State Ed Department site for comments goes live.

SED must write regulations on new law. SED has approved emergency regulations. Board of Regents agrees there need to be changes. Teacher privacy regulation back. Teacher growth scores will always have outliers at the top and bottom.  Can't measure growth at top and bottom. State agreed. New Ed Commissioner agreed to put something in. We are working well with her. UFT still advocating for certain changes. 100 teachers being contacted as outliers in NYC.

UFT needs to negotiate with DOE to agree on a new evaluation system by Nov 15 or ask for a waiver from the state.  We are following law and negotiating.

War not over. These are just battles. 4000% increase in legal bills for UFT under Bloomberg. Small group trying to make us at will employees. Bloomberg was angry and signed contracts to make sure city had no surplus. Bloomberg said teachers would not get retroactive pay. Bloomberg helped us make friends in the community.

New mayor took over and realized money was tied up. Agreed to get it sorted out.

We got a large financial package. Never thought we could get this done. First installment of retro pay is tomorrow. No entitlement to retroactivity. UFT made sure people would be made whole. Mulgrew tells Delegates not to answer individual questions on their retro calculations. Everyone's package is different. UFT has specialists.

City said those on leave were not continously employed. We fought that and people will be made whole after they are back on payroll. We lowered rate on UFT dues for retro check. TDA: If you are contributing 10% into TDA, more money will go into TDA from retro. Everyone wants to know about their own calculation. It is a compound growth formula. 8% more each day.  Next check the money will be growing. Per session gets 8% on it also.

It will keep going up until 2018 when the full 8% is in our pay. Members need to talk to trained UFT specialists.  Tell members to fill in inquiry form.

Oversize class grievances down dramatically.  Huge financial boost in school aid from Albany. Close to 6000 new UFT members working in schools. Need to get Contracts for Excellence money from state from Campaign for Fiscal Equity case.  Settlement said funding should be based on need. State owes us over $3 billion. Class sizes lowered citywide but individual schools still have Oversize classes.

Same amount of reorganization grievances as in past. Half have been settled already.  Superintendents told to fix situations. This will free up grievance time for other matters.

UFT wants to retain 80% of new teachers.  Some new teachers have already quit. New teacher meetings in every borough. UFT met with over 1,000 of them. We should have committees to help them.

Building chapters is another initiative for this year and we need to celebrate schools.

Labor Education Institute. Designed curriculum. Delegates can take classes.

New battle. NEA, AFT, SEIU and AFSCME together to fight Friedrichs Supreme Court case. Many of our enemies now taking on Chicago and Los Angeles.  Cuomo approval down in 20's on education. Funding is where we will battle. We can take on Eva Moscowitz too.

Reforms failed. People understand that reforms don't work. Destabilizing unions a main goal of reformers. Reformers in big battle want to get rid of unions.

Friedrichs is scary hail Mary pass from reformers. Ten teachers in Cal. don't want to pay agency fee. Small group trying to destroy middle class. Organized labor is standing up to the few who want to destroy us.

Lawyers used legal maneuver to get Friedrichs on Supreme Court agenda. Teachers do not have to join UFT. Agency fee paid by non members for union services. Goal of Friedrichs is to bankrupt unions. 4-4 right now. Scalia on fence. Original decision called Abood was 9-0 back in 70s in favor of the agency fee shop.

Must educate our members and then educate public. A loss would turn country into right to work nation as unions could do nothing but organize if unions lose the cas. In spite of this, we must celebrate our schools.

Leroy Bar did Staff Director's Report. Gave some dates for upcoming events.

Next DA is Thursday, Nov 12.

Q Is mandating online grading ok?
Mulgrew answer: No

Q Can retired teachers help in chapter building?
A Yes

Q Dental going up. Why?
A Dental and drugs going up. We are covering everything and don't turn people down.

Q Will District 75 be on Common Core panel?
A Federal law says testing must happen for all students. We are trying to change testing mandate in DC. D75 concerns are taken into account.

Q How can members express disguist with John King appointment as secretary of education?
A: Common Core in NY a debacle so he gets promoted to federal secretary of education.

Q Sean Ahern asked about Rikers teachers being outliers. Two incarcerated kids passed Regents last year so teachers were highly effective. Kids gone now.
A We have to change what learning means.  Acknowledged work Sean does at Rikers.

Q Teachers make sure services are provided. We need to be acknowledged.
A We need to celebrate what we do.

New motions. Had to extend for ten minutes.

Jia Lee earth school made a motion for the UFT to help secure loans for people on unpaid leave who are not getting retro.

Point of order on procedure. Turned down

Jia presented reso on people on leave getting retro loans interest free. Medical distress should not
mean financial distress. She mentioned mothers at her school on childcare leave who could use money now and our friend John self rank who is recovering from illness and is on unpaid restoration of health leave.

Union's maternity person for Queens said people who take a child care leave made a choice and are on their own. She added that the union shouldn't get involved in securing loans for members.

Unity voted it down by a wide margin.

Mulgrew said they would look at maternity issues in the next negotition.

Time ran out. I briefly edited tonight. Commentary is next.

Monday, October 12, 2015


For those of you who are interested in changing the UFT, all of us will have our opportunity in 2016 as it is a UFT election year.  All of the citywide offices including President will be voted on in the spring.

The Chief Leader civil service weekly newspaper put in a full piece on the 2016 UFT election in the October 9 issue.  I was interviewed for the MORE-New Action joint slate which will challenge Michael Mulgrew and his Unity Caucus. Unity is the political party that has controlled the UFT since the 1960s.  Unity requires its members to be completely loyal to the leadership on every major issue or risk expulsion from the caucus and exile from the union gravy train that includes union paid trips to AFT/NYSUT conventions, after school union jobs and for the lucky few full time union positions.

If you want to change our union back into an organization that truly advocates for its members and public schools, now is the time to step forward and get involved to spread the word that there is a viable alternative to Michael Mulgrew and Unity.

I am personally looking forward to the upcoming election as the torch continues to be passed to a new generation of younger union activists. Veterans like me still have a valuable role to play but I will not be the candidate for President. An announcement on who will be the MORE-New Action challenger to Mulgrew will be coming this month. I will hopefully be nominated to run for some position and will keep working to transform the UFT back into a real trade union.

Friday, October 09, 2015


For readers who are DOE employees expecting their first retroactive payment, you can check the payroll portal to see the Oct 15 pay stub that includes it.

It will be very interesting to see how accurate calculations that were made are. Please tell us.

UPDATE: We understand from Perdido Street School and some of our comments that the DOE website is down until tomorrow.

This is from Rage Against the Levine:

By the way, I don't know if you heard teachers made the website crash because the retro check amounts were posted.

Imagine if they voted.

UPDATE TWO: DOE website is working again.

UPDATE THREE: I could not get on the retroactive page tonight. I was trying to compare this payment to 1996 when we received repayment from the city for a loan we gave them and yes we were given interest back then.  The union at that time was still functioning somewhat like a labor union.

I already wrote a comment about the union dues structure for people who, like me, are wondering about the different dues deductions on the money we will get on the 15th. For those who missed the comment, here is the dues structure from the UFT website:

"UFT members shall have a dues rate determined on the basis of 0.85 of one percent of the salary of Step 8B plus L20 in their title in the bargaining unit plus the pass-through, but not less than the minimum dues rate.  Where there is no maximum salary of Step 8B plus L20, in a bargaining unit, dues shall be based on 0.85 of one percent of the individual member's compensation limited to Step 8B plus L20 plus the pass-through, but not less than the minimum dues rate."

As I read this, everyone who worked from November 1, 2009 to the present should have the exact same union dues deduction.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015


New York State United Teachers is not happy with the appointment of former New York State Education Commissioner John King as Acting US Secretary of Education.  They want us to call the White House to complain.  Here is the statement:

NYSUT Statement on John King's Appointment as Acting U.S. Secretary of Education

Source: NYSUT Media Relations

"New York State United Teachers is disappointed in John King's appointment as acting U.S. Secretary of Education.  NYSUT has always considered John King an ideologue with whom we disagreed sharply on many issues during his tenure as the state's Education Department commissioner.  Just last year, our members delivered a vote of no confidence against him and called for his resignation.  NYSUT urges its members to call the White House switchboard at 202-456-1414 - as well as a special White House telephone line dedicated to public comments at 202-456-1111 - to express their displeasure in John King's appointment."

For anyone who has forgotten about John King, some basic information is in this video where Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association/Stronger Together Leader Beth Dimino blasts him at a town hall meeting.

As for UFT reaction to King's appointment, has anyone heard anything?

Sunday, October 04, 2015


The weather was not exactly perfect this morning as it was windy and kind of cool but the rain stayed away and the sun came out for a wonderful Jamaica High School event.  Around 20 of us came together at the Bronx Zoo for a charity walk to raise money for Dystonia research thanks to a call from our Payroll Secretary Maria Giamundo.

This was much more fun than your average charity walk as we were able to gain admission to the zoo and all of its attractions for the day because we participated in the walk.  My wife and two kids had a wonderful time as did the rest of us. It is always exciting for me when I get to see my colleagues and catch up.  Raising money for a good cause just made it an even more powerful experience.

Neither Joel Klein, Michael Bloomberg, Dennis Walcott, Carmen Farina, or Bill de Blasio could not kill the spirit of what made Jamaica High School a special place for so many students and professionals.

Notice "Reopen Jamaica High School" is our team name.  If there is some justice in this world, Jamaica High School will be reborn.

Thanks to everyone who attended and also those who contributed to the cause, including Norm Scott, but couldn't make it and those who left early and couldn't get in the photo.

Jamaica HS at Bronx Zoo Dystonia Walk

Thursday, October 01, 2015


It is not a surprise that the Absent Teacher Reserve Chapter Election appeal has been rejected by the AFT. The AFT's reasoning makes very little sense but unfortunately that is what we have come to expect from our union's leaders at the local, state and national levels.

It is up to the ATRs now on whether we appeal this decision.  If we move forward to the Federal Department of Labor, we will need information on whether or not each ATR was able to vote in this past spring's Chapter Elections.

Maybe the feds will finally provide some justice for the ATRs.

The AFT decision in its entirety is below.

Re: Request for Investigation of UFT Chapter and Delegate Assembly Elections; Voting Rights of Absent Teacher Reserves

Dear Secretary Pietromonaco and Messrs. Eterno, Portelos, Zucker and Leppelmeier:

The American Federation of Teachers (“AFT”) has completed its preliminary investigation of the 2015 United Federation of Teachers (“UFT”) chapter and delegate assembly elections. The AFT commenced the preliminary investigation based on an election challenge from UFT members James Eterno, Francesco Portelos, Al Zucker and August Leppelmeier. The purpose of the preliminary investigation was to ascertain whether the challenge raised material questions that would require a hearing for resolution and referral to the AFT executive council or whether it could be resolved based on the complaint and the UFT’s response. UFT Secretary Emil Pietromonaco responded to the complaint’s allegations on behalf of UFT. For the purpose of our review, the UFT chapter and delegate assembly elections are governed by Title I and Title IV of the Labor Management and Reporting Disclosure Act (“LMRDA”) and the AFT and UFT constitutions. Titles I and IV of the LMRDA require that members shall have “equal rights and privileges” to vote and nominate in union elections and obligate unions to provide “adequate safeguards to insure fair and democratic elections.”

After careful consideration of the allegations raised by the election challenge, UFT’s response to the challenge and the union’s applicable governing documents, we conclude that the allegations are not substantiated and therefore do not require a full investigation by the AFT executive council for resolution. The basis for our conclusion is set forth below.

The Election Challenge
The petitioners challenge the manner by which Absent Teacher Reserves (“ATRs”) are provided voting rights within the UFT and question whether it affords them full voting rights. Employees of the NYC Department of Education who are in excess after the first day of school may be assigned as an ATR until they are able to find a permanent position.  Typically, ATRs are assigned to a school for a month and serve temporary assignments such as filling vacancies and leaves as needed.

Consequently, an ATR’s placement in a particular school could change on a month-to-month basis.

This past May and June, each UFT chapter (each school is its own chapter) conducted its own elections to elect a chapter leader and representatives to the UFT Delegate Assembly. The challenge alleges that the UFT election rules and policies effectively “disenfranchised” ATRs and thus denied them the right to be represented on the UFT delegate assembly. The challenge contends that ATRs are disenfranchised because the UFT does not permit absentee balloting for ATRs who do not work at the schools where their chapter elections take place. The challenge also contends that ATRs are entitled to their own separate UFT chapter. Last, the petitioners express concern that if elected, ATRs will be removed by the UFT executive board from elective office as soon as they are moved to a new school location. Each of these allegations is discussed below.

Allegation 1:  
ATRs were denied equal voting rights in the 2015 UFT chapter elections.
The challenge first contends that ATRs will be disenfranchised because some ATRs may not be working at the school where their chapter election will take place. For the purpose of voting and running for office in school chapter elections, ATRs are assigned to the chapter that they belonged to on the first Monday in May before the start of the election period. Thus, if an ATR is assigned to the Stuyvesant High School chapter on April 30th, but is reassigned to the A. Phillip Randolph Campus High School chapter on May 8th, that particular ATR would vote in the chapter election at Stuyvesant High School. The challengers believe that ATRs will be disenfranchised if they are working at a different location from their assigned chapter because “there is no provision for absentee balloting” in the Election Guide and Bylaws. The record demonstrates, however, that this concern is unwarranted.
UFT’s 2015 Chapter Election Guide and Bylaws explicitly provide that each school chapter’s election calendar must give all UFT members, including ATRs, an opportunity to vote. Specifically, the Election Guide and Bylaws state that “provision will be made for members who are not on the school’s table of organization but eligible to participate in the chapter’s election to nominate and be nominated” and “cast ballots before the close of balloting.”  Accordingly, absentee balloting is not necessary. As Secretary Pietromonoco stated in his response to the election challenge, each chapter has an “affirmative obligation” to provide a time and place for those members who are not physically located at the chapter site to be able to vote. UFT further explained that accommodations could be made by having a UFT member remain after school closes on a designated date to allow members who do not work at the particular chapter to vote. These provisions in the Election Guide and Bylaws demonstrate that the UFT has taken steps to provide a system in which every UFT member in good standing, including ATRs, has an opportunity to participate fully in the union’s chapter and delegate assembly elections. This allegation is therefore dismissed.

While the challenge only contends that ATRs are denied equal voting rights in the chapter elections, it should be noted that ATRs are also provided full voting rights in UFT’s officer, executive board and affiliate delegate elections. Every member in good standing has the right to vote in the election of officers, the executive board and affiliate delegate elections as well as the chapter elections.2 A member’s status as an ATR thus results in no limitation on that member’s right to fully participate in UFT elections.

Allegation 2.
ATRs are entitled to their own separate chapter
The challenge requests that the UFT executive board create a separate "functional chapter" for ATRs. The challenge contends that ATRs have “unique interests” that are separate from UFT members permanently placed in chapters. The challenge adds that because these rights are not addressed by the current governance structure of the UFT, the rights of ATRs are “inferior” to the rights of other UFT members. As Secretary Pietromonaco explained in his response, ATRs are full members of the chapters they are assigned to and are "covered by the same collective bargaining agreement as any other person in the same title assigned to the school." ATRs have the same chapter rights as UFT members who are permanently placed in chapters. This includes the right to grieve matters regarding employment to chapter leaders and participate fully in union officer elections as discussed above. For these reasons, we do not find that the rights of ATRs are unjustly inferior to any other UFT member.
The issue here is not whether ATRs have voting rights, but rather, the petitioners do not agree with how these rights have been addressed by the UFT. The AFT, however, does not intervene in the policy-making decisions of its affiliates unless a local affiliate’s policy or action is in direct conflict with the mandates in the AFT constitution or "the principles of the AFT and tends to being the AFT into disrepute."3 It is also a well-established federal policy to avoid unnecessary interference in the internal affairs of unions unless the challenged policy conflicts with federal law and is deemed unreasonable.4 As discussed above, the record demonstrates that UFT has implemented a number of policies and rules to ensure that employees taken off a school's table of organization maintain the same rights as those employees permanently placed. We do not find that these policies are not in direct conflict with the principles of the AFT. Accordingly, the AFT has no basis to intervene in this particular matter any further.    

Allegation 3:
The 2015 Election Guide and Bylaws place unreasonable qualifications on members who are ATRs to run for office.  
The challenge alleges that it is unreasonable to require that ATRs remain in the chapter that they were a member of on the first Monday in May solely for the purpose of voting and running for office in chapter elections. The challenge finds this rule to be unfair against ATRs because it assumes that if an elected delegate moves from one chapter to another, the UFT executive board will remove that particular delegate from office.

This contention is purely hypothetical as the challenge does not provide an instance where an ATR elected as chapter chair has been forced to step down because he/she was rotated to another school. In the context of election investigations, the AFT generally does not investigate claims that are based in hypothetical and conjectural theories. Nevertheless, for discussion purposes, we find this allegation to be meritless as the UFT executive board assured the challengers that should an ATR be elected at one chapter and then assigned to another chapter, the member would remain in the elected position. This decision by the UFT executive board resolves the challengers’ concerns that an elected ATR would be asked to step down as chapter leader if relocated to a new chapter.

In his response, Secretary Pietromonaco did acknowledge that if an ATR elected as chapter chair accepts a permanent position in another chapter, the ATR must step down from his or her position as chapter chair. We find this policy to be fair and reasonable in light of the union’s duty of fair representation obligations. When anyone is elected as a chapter chair, the members of that chapter elect that person with the understanding that he/she will serve as their elected representative. The same applies to an ATR. So if an ATR accepts a permanent position at another school, the person is now a full-time member of another staff and no longer an ATR. It is only common sense that the permanent relocation requires the relinquishment of the ATR delegate position. It should be noted that this particular rule applies to all UFT members. For example, if a chapter chair who is a social studies teacher permanently placed at one school transfers to another school’s table of organization, that member would have to step down from his/her position as chapter chair as well. Given the uniform application of this policy to all UFT members and the prevailing representational interests of each chapter, we do not find this policy to be unreasonable.
The challenge also contends that the UFT election rules place ATRs at a “huge competitive disadvantage” in seeking union office because ATRs would be seeking to represent schools where they no longer work. As Secretary Pietromonaco correctly noted however, Title IV of the LMRDA does not guarantee “the right of any particular member to be successfully elected.” This also applies to the AFT and UFT constitutions. The AFT and UFT constitutions and Title IV of the LMRDA require that union officer elections are conducted fairly and democratically. That is, AFT affiliated unions must guarantee that all candidates for office are treated equally and that the right of every member to nominate candidates, run for office, and vote is protected. 5 As discussed above, the UFT Election Guide and Bylaws provide that every member in good standing must be given the opportunity to nominate candidates, run for office and vote. The election challenge did not present any evidence that would suggest any particular member was denied these rights during the 2015 UFT chapter and delegate assembly elections. Furthermore, the record does not demonstrate that candidates were treated unequally during the course of campaigning.
5 See Wirtz v. Hotel, Motel & Club Emp. Union, Local 6, 391 U.S. 492, 496 (1968).

The challenge seeks to remedy the alleged competitive disadvantage against ATRs through the creation of a separate ATR chapter. For reasons already discussed above, the challenge does not present evidence that demonstrates that a separate chapter is necessary in order to protect the democratic rights of ATRs. UFT’s policy reasons for not creating a separate chapter do not conflict with the applicable provisions of the LMRDA and are not unreasonable. Accordingly, AFT intervention is not justified. Last, the challenge’s assumption that ATR candidates who do not work at their chapter locations are disadvantaged is not supported by any factual evidence and therefore amounts to speculation. We, therefore, do not find that the UFT Election Guide and Bylaws hinder any UFT member’s ability to be elected in such a way that would violate Titles I and IV of the LMRDA or the AFT and UFT constitutions.

For the reasons discussed above, the challenge does not support the conclusion that ATRs are disenfranchised or have inferior rights within the UFT.  Based on the information provided to the AFT and a full examination of the record, we conclude that there is not sufficient cause to proceed to a full investigation by the AFT executive council. The AFT considers this matter fully adjudicated.
In unity,  

Dr. Lorretta Johnson
cc:  Randi Weingarten
Michael Mulgrew
LeRoy Barr
Adam Ross
Barbara Pallazzo
David Strom  
Channing Cooper