Monday, September 28, 2015


While UFT members are waiting an extra fifteen days to see money that is contractually owed to us on October 1, 2015, our union president is pulling out the oldies but goodies as he explains the delay in the retro payments in his latest email to the members (see below).

First, President Michael Mulgrew pulls former Mayor Bloomberg out of his hat by saying, "Michael Bloomberg set aside no money in the city budget to pay for the two 4% increases for 2009 and 2010 that other city workers received." What President Mulgrew neglects to mention is that while the labor reserve was left empty by our former Mayor, the actual city budget has been in great shape.  In fact, the city recently ended the 2015 fiscal year with a $5.9 billion surplus.  Moving that money over to pay us what we are owed based on pattern bargaining would have been easy.  By yet again bringing up the implication that the city was broke and couldn't afford to pay us the money they owed us from 2009 and 2010 right now, our union President really thinks we are not that bright.

Mulgrew then states: "All active UFT members who worked for the Department of Education between 2009 and 2015 (plus those who retired after June 30, 2014) will receive a lump-sum payment of 12.5%, representing one-eighth of the amount they have accrued between 2009 and 2015. The payment, which will be added to a regularly scheduled paycheck, will be the first of five lump-sum payments between this October and 2020."  We understand that we have to wait until 2017 for the next payout and then the bulk of the money will come in 2018 and then in 2019 and 2020.  Half of the money is scheduled to come after the contract has already expired.  Mulgrew then once again shows he is working more for Mayor Bill de Blasio than for us.

The contract says in Paragraph 1E, "Lump sum payments stemming from the 2009-2011 Round and schedule for actives for those continuously employed as of the day of the payout.
i. 10/1/15 - 12.5%
ii. 10/1/17 - 12.5%
iii. 10/1/18 - 25%
iv. 10/1/19 - 25%
v. 10/1/20 - 25%"

Now I am not a lawyer but it says pretty clearly that the date of the payout is October 1, 2015 so any reasonable interpretation of that language would mean that the money should be deposited in our accounts on October 1, 2015 but that is not how Mulgrew reads this language.

Instead, he tells us, "For active teachers, paraprofessionals and other pedagogues, the money will be part of your Oct.15 check, the first regular paycheck after Oct. 1.  For nurses, therapists and other members who are paid on the H-Bank, the money will be in your Oct.23 check.  If you are on leave this October, you will receive your money on the date of the next scheduled payment that you are back on payroll.  Per session and F-status will be paid on Nov. 2."

The contract doesn't say the money will be paid on the first regular paycheck after October 1 Mr. President.  It says the date of the payout is October 1.  I wonder if the city will accrue interest by holding our money for two more weeks or three more weeks or over a month in the case of per session?

If I was the UFT President, I would be holding the city to the letter of the law and demanding two days pay in fines for every day they are late in paying us our money.  This is a breach of contract. The city would have no qualms about fining us two days pay for every day we are out on strike.

As for employees on leave having to wait until 2017 for any retroactive money, it says in the contract that members are owed money if they are "continuously employed as of the date of the payout."  Why does going on a leave mean that someone is no longer continuously employed?  Those on a leave have not resigned.

The city took us for such a ride with this inadequate contract where the UFT set the pattern of 10% over seven years (extended to 7 years, 1 month by an arbitrator to pay the lump sum retroactive money to retirees who left before July 1, 2014) that other city workers have had to swallow.  (Other city employees received their 2009-11 money in those years.  They aren't waiting until 2020.)  Why can't the city throw the UFT a little bone and pay people who are out on a child care, medical or other unpaid leave now?  How much would it cost?  I would have hoped the UFT would fight for these members, many who are the most in need of the money.

Mulgrew then tells us the calculations could be complicated and then truly insults us by saying we have a piggy bank that we can make our first withdrawal from on October 15. Let me tell you something Mr. President: having the city hold our money until 2020 while the city budget is producing whopping surpluses is crazy.  In addition, the Mulgrew piggy bank pays us 0% interest so inflation eats away at that money.

What is truly baffling is why anyone would be happy with this deal and how Mulgrew and his Unity Caucus can stand for reelection in 2016 based on it.

Dear James,

Our previous mayor tried to make it impossible for the next administration to give educators the raises they deserve. He failed in that mission. This October, you will receive the first lump-sum payment associated with those raises in your paycheck.

Michael Bloomberg set aside no money in the city budget to pay for the two 4 percent increases for 2009 and 2010 that other city workers received. Despite the virtually empty labor reserve that Mayor de Blasio inherited, we figured out a way in the 2014 contract to make our members whole.

All active UFT members who worked for the Department of Education between 2009 and 2015 (plus those who retired after June 30, 2014) will receive a lump-sum payment of 12. 5 percent, representing one-eighth of the amount they have accrued between 2009 and 2015. That payment, which will be added to a regularly scheduled paycheck, will be the first of five lump-sum payments between this October and 2020.

For active teachers, paraprofessionals and other pedagogues, the money will be part of your Oct. 15 check, the first regular paycheck after Oct. 1. For nurses, therapists and other members who are paid on the H-Bank, the money will be in your Oct. 23 check.  If you are on leave this October, you will receive your money on the date of the next scheduled payment that you are back on payroll. Per-session and F-status will be paid on Nov. 2.

You don’t need to have been on the job in 2009 or 2010 to be eligible for this payout. Every UFT member who has been continually employed by the DOE at any time between Nov. 1, 2009, and Oct. 1, 2015 and is active on Oct. 1 will receive a lump-sum payment in October. Teachers who have been on top salary for that entire time will receive a gross payment of between $5,000 and $6,000.

Your TDA will be updated, along with all other payroll contributions and deductions.
While the calculations can be complicated, the truth is simple: You deserve this money.

For every check you have received since late 2009 until today, lump-sum money has accrued representing the difference between what you would have been paid if your paycheck had reflected those two 4 percent increases in 2009–10 and what you were actually paid.

Think of it as a large piggybank. If you have been continually employed, you have been depositing money in this piggybank since Nov. 1, 2009 and will continue to deposit money until the two 4 percent increases are fully phased in in 2018. This October, you’ll make your first withdrawal.

Check the special Contract 2014 section of the UFT website for more information about the pay increases in the contract. If you have questions about your lump-sum payment, we encourage you to speak to a salary rep at your borough office. For issues that cannot be resolved in this way, you can file a Lump Sum Inquiry Form.

Thank you for everything that you do.


Michael Mulgrew

Thursday, September 24, 2015


For those UFT members expecting to see 12.5% of the money the city owes us from back in 2009-2011 on October 1, the day when we are contractually entitled to see the money, forget it.  We will have to wait until the fifteenth.

Buried very deep in the weekly Chapter Leader Weekly update is this gem:

First lump-sum payment under 2014 contract: In October, members will receive the first lump-sum payment of 12.5 percent of the amount they have accrued as a result of the two 4 percent raises dating back to 2009 and 2010 in the 2014 contract. Teachers, other pedagogues and paraprofessionals will receive payment in their Oct. 15 paycheck. H bank employees, including school nurses, therapists, supervisors of nurses and therapists and education analysts and officers, will receive their lump sum payment in their Oct. 23 paycheck. If members are owed per session, F-Status or per diem money, they will receive payment in their Nov. 2 per session check.

Here is what the Memorandum of Agreement from 2014 says:

E. Lump Sum Payments stemming from the 2009- 2011 Round and schedule for actives for those continuously employed as of the day of payout. i. 10/1/15 – 12.5%

Contract says the day of the payout is October 1 but we have to wait until October 15, October 23 or November 2 depending on the job title.

Are we to understand that in the year 2015, the city/Department of Education does not have the technology to pay people money on October 1 that contractually we are entitled to on October 1?

Teachers are held to the letter of the law but we allow the city/DOE to just interpret things in whatever way they like.

Just another little indignity.  Meanwhile, other city workers have already been paid all of their retro dating back to 2010.  They won't have to wait until 2020 to be paid in full like UFT members.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


The ICEUFT blog has been reporting on events from coast to coast during the last couple of weeks and there are updates.

In Seattle, the teachers voted to approve their new contract and end their strike. They made substantial non-monetary gains including ending teacher evaluations based on student test scores. That is a huge victory.  As for raises, the link we have says people were not complaining about them and the union is heading to the Washington State Legislature now to fully fund salary increases in addition to what they negotiated with the district.  On balance, this looks like it was a successful strike.

In Chicago, the Dyett High School hunger strike is over.  The courage of people who used this tactic to keep a neighborhood high school open cannot be underestimated.  From the Chicago Tribune:

The protests had helped prompt CPS (Chicago Public Schools) administrators in early September to take the rare step of reopening a building they elected to mothball after years of declining enrollment and academic performance.  But the plans did not accommodate some of the strikers' original demands - including that the building be reopened with a curriculum focused on green technology and global leadership - so the hunger strike continued until Saturday.

Meanwhile, here in NY we are not doing anything nearly as brave as a hunger strike but the Jamaica High School community is uniting at the urging of our long time payroll secretary Maria Giamundo (even though our school has already been phased out) to raise money for Dystonia research.  Head over to the signup page where you will discover we have met the threshold to form a "Reopen Jamaica High School" team in the Bronx Zoo walk on October 4.  It is a great cause and people can still donate so please join us.

As for NY evaluations, we haven't gone on strike to end teacher evaluations based on student test scores but Diane Ravitch via Fred LaBrun of the the Albany Times Union is reporting that the fight over regulations in our horrific new and invalid evaluation system is not over. Now if only the unions in New York would mobilize on this like they did in Seattle, we might get somewhere.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


Every year the UFT has informational meetings for Absent Teacher Reserves in each of the borough offices.  In the meetings, the union tells ATR's in a top-down way what our rights and responsibilities are and takes questions.  Here are the dates and times that the UFT has now changed:

Bronx:  2500 Halsey Street  Bronx, NY 10461--Monday, September 28, 4:30 pm-6:00 pm

Brooklyn: 335 Adams St., Brooklyn, NY 11201--Mon, Oct 5, 4:30 pm-6:00 pm

Queens: 97-77 Queens Blvd, Rego Park, NY--Wed, Sept 30, 4:00 pm-6:00 pm  Note this is a new day.

Manhattan: UFT HQ 52 Broadway, NY, NY 10004--Thurs, Oct 1 4:00 pm-6:00 pm

Staten Island: 4456 Amboy Road, Staten Island, NY--Thurs, Oct 1, 4:00 pm-6:00 pm

Saturday, September 19, 2015


The Seattle teachers strike has been suspended. There is a tentative agreement. Labor Notes is reporting that the contract proposal passed the Seattle Education Association's Executive Board 17-5 and 60% of the Representative Assembly then voted to approve it. As far as union majorities go, these numbers show there is some real dissent in the ranks.

There is a membership meeting on Sunday for a final vote on the proposed deal. That should be one interesting gathering.

From the perspective of social justice unionism, this agreement looks like a real victory with student recess added as a mandate, greater student access to services, less testing, race and equity teams established in 30 district schools and of major significance from my point of view: an end to teachers being evaluated based on student scores on standardized tests. These are substantial gains, the likes of which we haven't seen in New York in ages.

From a financial standpoint, the deal has some major detractors which explains the 40% no vote at their RA. These comments are taken directly from the Seattle Education Association Facebook page:

  • No pay increase the last three years and now we get a 9.5% increase over a three year period (3% 2015, 2% 2016, 4.5% 2017)    Unbelievably disappointing.
  • Completely disappointed in the pay increases.  This is barely more than the district offered last week.  Nice on the other issues, but minimal raises are unacceptable to me.  I urge members to vote down the TA (tentative agreement).   We deserve professional pay and this isn't professional pay.
  • 17-18 teachers get a 4.5 increase in their workday for a 4.5% increase in pay.  And this is framed as a RAISE?
In contrast, one of the agreement's supporters says:
  • Without all the details, this is pretty good.  I am wondering if those of you who are saying it is not good, are saying that because of the pay raise.  The raise is 9.5% over 3 years.  That is close to half of what was originally asked for.  That's good in the field of education.  In the span of 3 years, it is a better raise, than I have ever had in 20 years of teaching except the pay scale jumps when I have paid for and earned more credits/degrees.  Half of what was originally asked for is a win when you are bargaining with a district, especially this district.  And then add the state cola: 14.3% in three years.I am actually beginning to feel like everyone is realizing educating kids is important. Would I like more?  Of course I would, but this is the minimum of what I would have been happy with.
On the non-financial educational issues, the rank and file reaction on Facebook has been mostly favorable with comments such as:
  • Look at all our gains! Only district to bargain recess, testing data not suspended but ELIMINATED from teacher evals, better language for subs, SEAOPS, and paras, better SPED ratios, caseload caps, not working for free...the list goes on! I know it's hard not to get hung up on salary, but that fight isn't over.  Let's make it what it is: a LEGISLATIVE issue! Demand they fully fund education!  Bargaining is a compromise and no, we didn't get everything we wanted.  Personally I'm happy with the TA and am so thankful to our bargaining team.  Way to go!  I will be voting yes!
On the other hand, we did find this exchange on Facebook:
  • Good work.  What about special ed ratios?
  • Increase for middle and high school ACCESS to 13:1:3, decrease of SM4 to 7:1:2 preschool 10:1:3.  Everything else stays the same I think.
  • I am an Instructional Assistant in a middle school ACCESS program.  It is really hard to stomach that after the strike the numbers in my program went UP with no additional supports.  It will be impossible to serve the students effectively.  It's already been a challenge with 10:1:3.  So confused.  Agog.
Wishing you the best tomorrow SEA members.  On the east coast, we are very interested to see how this goes and this blog wholeheartedly supports the labor militancy.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


New Action Caucus (NAC) has decided not to support Michael Mulgrew for UFT President in 2016 and has agreed instead to run for office with the presidential candidate of the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE). This move has led MORE's Steering Committee to approve a joint slate with New Action subject to ratification by the MORE membership.  MORE is meeting on Saturday to discuss the deal and vote on it and then it will probably go to an online vote.

As a one time NAC member who served for seven years as a New Action representative on the UFT Executive Board representing the high schools (and then three more years with ICE), it is great to see NAC back opposing Michael Mulgrew as the inadequate contract and support for a horrible evaluation system shows he does not deserve reelection.  NAC coming back to the opposition is positive news.

However, it remains to be seen how MORE and New Action will work productively together as it is impossible to erase twelve years of history where New Action did not oppose Randi Weingarten for UFT President in 2004 and then endorsed as the head of the NAC slate, Weingarten in 2007 and Michael Mulgrew in 2010 and again in 2013. The alliance of New Action with Weingarten and Mulgrew's Unity Caucus (the UFT's ruling party) led to much animosity among opposition people.

It will take a while to build trust among the people in our union opposing Unity Caucus but it is worth a try because the stakes at this time for the UFT are huge and a united opposition has the best chance to get some non-Unity endorsed representation on the UFT Executive Board. The UFT has not had any non-Unity endorsed representatives on the Executive Board since 2007. 

In the 2013 election, the combined NAC-MORE vote totals in the high school division exceeded that of Unity Caucus. MORE easily out-polled NAC 1435 votes to 455 in the high schools while Unity received 1592 votes.  Even though MORE and NAC combined for 53% of the vote total, because NAC and Unity cross endorsed each other's high school candidates, MORE did not win any UFT High School Executive Board positions.  That won't happen again in 2016 if MORE's members approve the deal.

Based on the huge polling advantage in the last election, MORE could have insisted on having a strong majority of candidates compared to NAC in 2016, as NAC did to the Progressive Action Caucus when they cross endorsed high school candidates in 2001 and ran together in 1997, but for the sake of a unified opposition of major groups, MORE agreed to keep things relatively equal.  Read the entire deal below and tell us what you think. 


1.    This is a proposal. It is subject to the approval of New Action/UFT’s Executive Board [New Action has already approved], MORE’s steering committee [MORE’s Steering Committee has already approved], and a MORE membership poll.

2.    This proposal is for a joint, full MORE/New Action slate in the Spring 2016 UFT election. It is not for cross endorsing a few select candidates for officer or exec board positions. It is not for merging our groups. It does not involve other caucuses.

3.    Allocation of Slots
  •     The allocation of slots, in general should reflect both the relative strength of the caucuses, and the history and significance of the caucuses.
  • The number of delegate slots is sufficient that both groups may supply as many delegate candidates as they wish; we are unlikely to run out of space.
  •    The number of officer, divisional and at-large slots should be divided evenly, except where there is an odd number (eg, 7 high school slots) the extra seat will be filled by MORE.
  •    The presidential candidate will come from MORE’s ranks, and be agreed to by both groups.
  •    In the case of other officer candidates, and the divisional executive board candidates, the groups will review each other’s choices and agree to the specific candidates. If there are specific objections, the groups will discuss. In all other cases the individual group may choose its candidates without consulting the other group.

4.    Jointly prepare petitions. The groups will collaborate to determine the best way(s) for doing so.

5.    Joint program with broad topics, and some specific proposals. Each group will use the joint program, yet be able to add as it sees fit, within agreed upon parameters. The following list of broad topics is in development:
Abusive Administrators, Teacher Evaluation, ATRs, Tenure/Discontinuances/Probationers, Opt Out/High Stakes Testing, Union Democracy, Mobilization for the next contract

6.    One jointly produced piece of literature will be prepared for distribution, and modified for the New York Teacher and electronic dissemination. Each group may use the joint piece, their own literature, or any combination.

7.    Our groups and their predecessors have long histories working in the UFT. While at times we have collaborated, there have also been bad relations, invective, and personal hostility. A) To the extent possible, we will not rehash past disputes in these discussions. B) We propose that the groups facilitate at least one opportunity for members of the other group to come and learn about a positive part of our respective activity or history.

8.    In the likely event that we serve together on the UFT Exec Board, we will regularly meet and discuss questions, resolutions, stance on Unity motions and reports, etc. There may not always be agreement, but where there is, we will communicate well so that we can work together most effectively.

9.    Each group will designate individuals or a committee to coordinate between the groups through the course of the campaign.

10. We want to make our announcement, if we get to that point, without the news already being public. If this proposal is approved by New Action’s Executive Board and MORE’s Steering Committee, these announcements would occur soon after, on a mutually agreed upon date. [This has already been taken care of].”

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Teachers are often asked by fellow pedagogues and parents (not generally by administrators or politicians) what we would do differently if we at a say in running the school system.  If I was in a position of power, one of my first acts would be to expand the number of schools that are exempt from most of the Regents exams as part of the New York Performance Standards Consortium Network.

I didn't know too much about the performance based schools until October 2014 when I was first sent to Middle College High School at Laguardia Community College as a rotating Absent Teacher Reserve.  You can read my first impressions here.  I was given a full time job in December and have now been at Middle College for almost a year and the experience has opened my eyes about how education at the high school level can be truly a positive experience for both teachers and students alike.

Keeping this in mind, the other day my friend Mike Schirtzer from the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) sent out an April 2014 Village Voice piece that reigned down tons of praise on the consortium schools. In describing the model, The Voice stated:

The 28 schools in the New York Performance Standards Consortium network boast graduation, college-going, and college retention rates that routinely top city, state, and national averages, with a student body that is as diverse in income and ethnicity as the city as a whole. And they do it almost entirely without standardized exams, substituting student portfolios and oral presentations for most of the required state Regents exams.

Some of you are probably thinking these schools probably skim cream off the top and don't accept high needs students.  This should be studied in depth for all 28 schools but at Middle College, we take mostly students who are at level 2 or 1 reading/math levels and many of our students have Individualized Education Programs.

What is different in a school like Middle College is we are not so focused on test prep so classes sometimes feel more like college discussion seminars rather than traditional high school survey courses. Add to this mix an administration that is supportive of classroom teachers. From the point of view of this 29 year veteran, I cannot overemphasize how going to school each day feeling that the principal is on my side puts me in a better frame of mind to teach.

Furthermore. there are smaller classes.  This makes a real difference as we truly get to know the kids who we then mentor for their oral defenses of some of the final projects. Oral defenses are used instead of the Regents exams except in English Language Arts. Each student must stand in front of a three teacher panel to defend projects for an hour and a half or more.  This is a very comprehensive way to assess pupils. In many ways it is more difficult that taking Regents Exams.

The Voice article says that Vermont and Kentucky are adapting a portfolio approach in their high schools. Since the consortium schools have been successful here in New York, shouldn't we push to expand the model, even if it is done slowly, to see how if it would work on a slightly larger scale?  I am not saying the consortium model is a panacea, but something that is successful should grow a little.

Sunday, September 13, 2015


Jamaica High School payroll secretary extraordinaire Maria Giamundo is very much involved in helping raise money for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation.  There is a Bronx Zoo Walk on October 4 for dystonia research. Maria is looking to get some of her Jamaica friends and ICEUFT blog readers involved to support Dystonia research and to keep the spirit of Jamaica High School alive.  We can go as a group.   We need at least ten to be a "Reopen Jamaica High School" team.  We would get t-shirts with that name on them.
This is from the Dystonia Website.

Bronx Zoo Walk - October 4

Join us for a day at the Bronx Zoo to raise awareness and funds for dystonia, a rare neurological movement disorder affecting hundreds of thousands of people nationwide, one-third of them children. This debilitating condition can strike at any stage of life, affecting adults in their prime, interrupting careers and transforming the simplest tasks into challenges. Your support fuels our hope for a cure.
Cost $25 per adult walker/Children under 13 are $15.  Fee includes all day admission to the zoo, dystonia t-shirt and refreshments.

Registration begins at 8:00 AM
Event begins at 9:30 AM
Bronx Zoo - Dancing Crane PavilionMust Use Southern Boulevard Entrance
2300 Southern Boulevard
Bronx, NY 10460

The Eterno family -- James, Camille, Kara and Matt -- will be there supporting Maria as she takes up this worthy cause. We hope everyone can join us or at least donate.  It's easy to sign up. Just follow the link below.

I look forward to seeing many of you on October 4.

Friday, September 11, 2015


This blog gives full support for the Seattle teachers who are on strike as well as the teachers in Pasco, Washington.

Here are the major issues in Seattle taken right from the Seattle Education Association website:

While negotiations began in May, major unresolved issues haven’t changed, and the Seattle School Board has failed to offer acceptable proposals on these priorities:
  • Professional pay: We need to attract and keep caring, qualified educators in Seattle, which is one of the most expensive cities in the United States. We’ve gone six years with no state COLA and five years with no state increase in funding for educator health care.
  • Fair teacher and staff evaluations: Educators should be evaluated fairly and consistently, and the focus should be on providing the support all educators need to be successful
  • Reasonable testing: Too much standardized testing is stealing time away from classroom learning.
  • Educator workload relief: Current workloads mean many students aren’t getting the help they need.
  • Student equity around discipline and the opportunity gap:We need to focus on equity issues in every school, not just some.
  • The administration’s proposal to make teachers work more for free: It is unrealistic to expect teachers to work more hours without additional pay, and the district administration has been unable to explain how their proposal would help students.

There must be something in the water in the northwest as the teachers in Pasco, Washington are also on strike. They are defying a court order to return to work leading to fines each day. 

Here in NY we hear over and over how we can't go on strike because the Taylor Law would force us to be fined.

Wouldn't it be nice to work in a school system where teachers and our union were not afraid of engaging in a job action if necessary?  

Wednesday, September 09, 2015


I read the piece Carol Burris wrote for the Washington Post Valerie Strauss Answer Sheet blog on the devastating impact of school closings.  She was inspired by the events in Chicago where advocates for Dyatt High School are engaging in a hunger strike to stop the closing. She also mentioned Jamaica High School and other urban schools.

Burris wrote this on the reasons for school closures:

Poor test scores and low graduation rates are the excuse for closures, but the reasons for academic failure that lie beyond the schoolhouse are never addressed.  Jitu Brown, a Dyett hunger striker and board member of the nonprofit advocacy group called Network for Public Education, summed up the frustration when he said, “We’re tired of our children and our communities being demonized and being blamed for being under-served.”

Can't argue with that.

Strauss in her Answer Sheet blog has the latest on the continuing protest.

The brave hunger strikers certainly have upped the ante on protesting school closings.  We never even contemplated such a protest when trying to save Jamaica High School.  Do you think Joel Klein and Michael Bloomberg would have listened or would we have been forced fed or left to die?

Tuesday, September 08, 2015


I hope everyone had an enjoyable, restful July and August. As we return to school, I am receiving emails from new Absent Teacher Reserves about what to expect in this new chapter in their careers. The start of the school year is as good a time as any to give an ATR primer.

Teachers and other professionals in NYC schools who have been excessed due to school closing or program downsizing and could not find a permanent position, usually because we cost too much, are now ATRs. Some of us find temporary positions replacing teachers who are on leave or to fill a vacancy provisionally.  Others are placed in rotation.

(For teachers coming from a downsizing school that would like an opportunity to return to that school should a position open up in your license area, you should write a contractual Article 17 B, Rule 8 letter requesting to be placed immediately in a position should one open up in your license in the next year. Email us for a sample.)

For the first six weeks rotating ATRs will be sent to a school in the district they worked in to cover classes or do other work related to their field (guidance, social worker, psychologist). However, there is something called a mandatory interview that cannot be ignored. If an ATR misses two mandated interviews, we have officially resigned our employment. Tenure means nothing.


These interviews must be in the ATR's license and in the borough the ATR is assigned to. Contact the UFT immediately if an interview is not in license and within your borough.  According to the DOE, "This year, mandatory interviews can be scheduled on September 17th or 18th, September 25th and every Tuesday through Friday thereafter.

If an ATR is offered a position, the ATR is required to take it so if you are sent to interview at a school that would not be a good fit, speak up at the interview but be professional.

On October 19, ATR rotation starts. ATRS can be assigned to a different school on a weekly, monthly or some other basis. There is no rhyme or reason to the rotation other than it seems to be designed to demoralize ATRs so resigning becomes a viable option.

As for life in the classroom, ATRs on rotation are really substitutes even though many of us have decades of classroom experience. As such, teaching the lesson the regular teacher leaves is required. I kept a generic social studies lesson in a folder just in case nobody left me a lesson plan when I was a rotating ATR.

Since certain students in many schools have little or no respect for subs, some kids will not listen to the ATR's instructions. Try to avoid confrontations.  They aren't worth it. This includes battles with staff too. Familiarize yourself with the schools you are sent to as best as possible. Ask for a bathroom key. ATR's are entitled to one. Seek out the UFT Chapter Leader if he/she does not look for you.

In a later post we can discuss in detail the roving supervisors and the absurd ATR observations.  ATRs are observed with students the ATR doesn't know and will not be grading.

I only led the ATR rotation life for three months and I was in two good schools and another that was not bad before being lucky enough to be hired for the rest of last year at Middle College High School. I was rehired for this year at MCHS. I was personally treated very well in all three schools I rotated to but still felt the ATR experience was humbling after 28 years as a teacher.

Don't expect much help from UFT leadership either. The union refuses to give us elected representatives at the Chapter level. Many ATRs have been trying to fight this. Call the UFT immediately if you feel your ATR placement is improper.

Above all, be professional even though our employer and union both treat us as if we aren't professionals.

ATRs and anyone else can also email here at for support.  There are groups such as the ATR Chapter and the ATR Alliance that are helpful too.

My colleagues at Middle College HS elected me as their UFT Delegate this past May even though I was a Leave Replacement ATR who at the time had no position at MCHS for the 2015-16 school year. While I am not in rotation currently, I will do the best I can to represent ATR interests in addition of course to advocating for MCHS and UFT members everywhere.

(My ATR rotation experience was limited so please feel free to add anything to what was said here.)

Friday, September 04, 2015


In April the ICEUFT Blog published a piece in which we publicly admitted that for the 2013-14 school year state data showed that 88% of the teachers at the phasing out Jamaica High School were rated either developing or ineffective. At the time we stated sarcastically that we must be "the worst teachers on the planet." The blog also said these ratings were meaningless.

We concluded the post by making a not so bold prediction that for 2014-15, when teachers from Jamaica were sent to other schools where the student populations did not have as many needs as those at the phasing out Jamaica, we would see much better teacher ratings.

The data is now in for 2014-15 and another ICEUFTBLOG prediction has come true.  This year there were no adverse ratings from the 2013-14 Jamaica teachers who were still in the school system. We were perfect.  That is correct. 100% of the teachers who were at Jamaica in 2013-14, who became rotating Absent Teacher Reserves or were assigned to a school in the 2014-2015 school year, have been rated either effective or satisfactory. The only people who didn't receive these positive end of the year evaluations were the three who were fortunate enough to have retired.

How is it possible that we went from 88% of us receiving adverse ratings to 0% in just a year?  We were the same teachers.  I can only speak for myself here as I did alter my teaching style a bit in the progressive Middle College High School at Laguardia College environment but I didn't change it that much yet I still had a double digit increase in the amount of points I received on my Measures of Student Learning rating compared to my final year at Jamaica.

Was I that much more of an effective instructor compared to last year?  The answer is no I was pretty much the same teacher but the students in front of me were different.

As was stated in the April posting:
The pupils we were teaching at Jamaica High School in the final year of phase out were a mix of a few honors students and regular kids combined with a high percentage of special education, English language learners, students with interrupted formal education and overage pupils who fell behind in credits.  We started the year with under 100 pupils and four and a half rooms in the huge building that we shared with four other schools.

Those kids in the last graduating class at Jamaica were wonderful and a pleasure to work with, even though we knew it was going to be next to impossible to help many of them graduate. Some pupils were programmed incorrectly because we didn't have a sufficient number of students to give them classes appropriate to their levels. These students were lost.  Many were pushed out of the school while others were compelled to sit in front of a computer to make up classes with a teacher who had students taking several different subjects in the same room. Students complained to us that they wanted real classes. 

Jamaica had great kids who were placed in a preposterous situation as were their teachers. At Middle College, the students were placed in appropriate settings. For all of us who went to different schools in 2014-15, we were able to become effective again by just having students in front of us who were better prepared to succeed.  Either that or there is magic in those Teacher Improvement Plans. If you believe it was the TIPs, then you should get a position on Chancellor Carmen Farina's staff.

In reality, the teacher evaluation system is a complete farce.  If a teacher is teaching a challenging group of students like we had during the final year at Jamaica, then the chances of the teacher receiving an adverse rating are much higher.

The evaluation system doesn't work for teachers who teach students with the fewest needs either as the Sheri Lederman lawsuit is showing. She couldn't do much for growth for kids who started out at the top of the class already and the state test portion of her rating in three years went from 14 to 1 to 11 out of a possible 20. The evaluation system is flawed for teachers who work primarily with students with high needs and low needs.  My guess is it isn't much better for teachers who teach students in the middle also.

Any portion of teacher evaluations based on student test scores must end.  We need to do whatever it takes to change the law.  That is the only way out of this mess.

Thursday, September 03, 2015


Anyone who has known me since the early eighties knows I am a huge fan of the alternative rock band R.E.M.

Even though the group disbanded in 2011, members of R.E.M. and their manager continue to be active promoting causes they feel passionate about.

The ICE UFT blog happily discovered that R.E.M. manager-attorney Bertis Downs and his wife Katherine Downs were recognized at the Communities in Schools awards ceremony for their tireless and dedicated contributions to public education in Athens.  That's Athens, Georgia for those not aware of the famous college town that spawned an unbelievable music scene that included R.E.M., the B52s and many other bands.

Bertis made a short speech and then gave what "he called his own 'bumper sticker catch phrase fix' for what ails our public schools - #LSTNTOTCHRS."

Listening to teachers, what a novel and great idea. I think we should listen to Bertis who I have seen commenting on our behalf on the Diane Ravitch blog.