Monday, July 24, 2017

STUDY SAYS NYC THIRD WORST RUN CITY IN USA

A new study by Wallet Hub finds New York City ranks 148 out of 150 U.S. cities in terms of how well the city is run. Are we really the third worst run city in the country? I'm not sure I buy their methodology but it is worth a look.

On education, Wallet Hub ranks NYC 107. That is not that good.

From SI Live's article on the study:

"New York ranked as the third worst-run city in America. It has the third highest budget per capita, at almost $14 million, but it's not necessarily spent efficiently, especially when it comes to financial stability and education," said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst.

She noted the city is also saddled with debt, and has a high drop out rate.

"New York has the fourth highest long-term debt per capita at $17,308, and the sixth lowest high school graduation rate at 69.6 percent," said Gonzalez. 


We have the sixth lowest high school graduation rate of cities in the country? That is hard to believe.

Does every city just push the kids through high school by grade inflating?

In terms of the economy, Wallet Hub makes a big deal out of long term debt which might not be that huge a problem considering the very low interest rates we have been borrowing under for most of the last decade. Comptroller Scott Stringer reported in May that the NYC economy is healthy as the city outperforms the nation as a whole.

What do you think?

Saturday, July 22, 2017

SOME PRINCIPALS APPEAR TO BE READY TO REVOLT OVER FORCED HIRING OF ATRS

If you can believe this Chalkbeat NY article from Thursday, it looks like the principals in New York City public schools are ready to take a firm stand against the Department of Education force placing Absent Teacher Reserves in their schools for a year to cover certain vacancies. Since the giveback filled 2005 UFT contract, principals completely controlled the hiring process in each school. Chalkbeat interviewed several principals who are not at all satisfied over this limitation on their power.

For anyone who has not been monitoring the situation, DOE's Randy Asher said that ATRs will be placed in a school that has any remaining vacancies after October 15. Usually it is the more difficult to teach in schools that still have openings in October, often because they have principals who are tough to work with. If the teacher is rated Effective or Highly Effective on observations, they get to stay in the school permanently.

The principals are not going to take this reduction of their autonomy lying down. Here is an excerpt from the Chalkbeat piece:

“Many of them (ATRs) have been coming from schools that have been closed down or subject areas that were cut,” said Scott Conti, principal of New Design High School in Manhattan. “The majority of them were at schools that were highly dysfunctional.” He noted that some may have been out of the classroom for years and not getting proper professional development, effectively hindering their performance as teachers.

Conti said he did hire a teacher from the ATR pool three years ago, through the standard procedure he would use to hire other teachers. He objects to the idea of being forced to hire someone whose effectiveness he could not fully judge.

“It’s never good when somebody from outside a school decides to fill in a vacancy in a school,” Conti said. “ It’s scary that some teacher could be put in your school that you have no choice about.”

Other principals were more harsh. One Bronx principal said multiple experiences working with ATR teachers sent to the school for monthly rotations in the past left the impression that those in the reserve are “not qualified, with very few exceptions.” Other principals agreed, suggesting that if the teachers were high-quality candidates, they probably would have found positions on their own.

The principals and Chalkbeat forget to mention that with "Fair Student Funding" ATRs who are senior teachers will cost a school significantly more money when their average salary is factored in on a school's budget. Chalkbeat contradicts the comment from the principals on the low-quality of the ATRs when they point out later in the article  that "the city offered an incentive system to encourage schools to hire from the ATR pool. During that school year, 372 teachers were hired from the ATR pool under a DOE policy that subsidized the cost of the teachers’ first-year salaries by 50 to 100 percent." That's why I was picked up permanently. I was a freebie for the school in 2016-17 and I'm half price for 2017-18. When ATRs are free or on sale, we suddenly aren't so bad.

Blogger Chaz has covered the reasons why ATRs are not given permanent positions fairly extensively. He cites the high cost of senior ATRs if hired on school budgets, ATR seniority over junior teachers who might have to be excessed if an ATR is hired and the school later has budget cuts, institutional memory as ATRs who are hired permanently might ask questions if a principal says jump, and finally how ATRs have been demonized by the DOE.

When someone sees over and over again the press reporting that he/she is not of high quality, it can have a real effect on the person. I was a rotating ATR for only three months and it impacted on my confidence as a teacher for sure. I have been to several meetings of ATRs done by various groups where polls are taken. Each time, majorities of ATR's vote that they would like to stay in rotation and don't want regular teaching positions. The first time I saw this result I was kind of stunned. After all, what kind of teacher wouldn't want a regular class to teach? Also, who wants to be observed by roving supervisors sometimes nicknamed "field assassins"? These supervisors observe ATRs in classes where the teachers might not even know the kids in front of them and perhaps are not even be skilled at an out-of license subject they happen to be teaching. In the opinion of many ATRs, this is still better than the Danielson observations regular teachers are subjected to.

Looking back with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight after having been appointed to a regular teaching position in 2017, I can say the ATRs who have given up trying to seek a permanent position and/or are blacklisted by the DOE so they can't find a regular job have mostly developed superior coping skills and are to be admired and not criticized.

By making minor tweaks in the system so more ATRs will be placed in schools, Randy Asher is really not making any radical changes. The principals still get to rate the ATRs who are placed and as previously stated only those rated Effective or Highly Effective exclusively on the observation portion of their annual rating will stay permanently. Ultimately, principals remain in control and only the ATRs forced placed will suffer as principals will now have an incentive to rate these teachers Developing or Ineffective on observations which unfortunately will happen many times to ATRs who are sent to some of the system's worst principals.

Chalkbeat did not quote one ATR, not even one, for their article. We don't matter to them and that is why I stay away from their biased reporting most of the time. However, it is worth noting that more principals seem to be unhappy since Farina re-empowered superintendents in 2015. A piece from Chalkbeat in June describes the complaints of principals going from a system where they controlled everything in their schools to one where the superintendent has some authority over them.

One principal described the changes:

Ari Hoogenboom, principal of Abraham Lincoln High School, spelled out the pros and cons. Farina's system is likely to minimize wayward principals from breaking the rules or getting in over their heads. But in the long run, it might also discourage stronger principals from taking risks that could help students.

"With Bloomberg, it was like running a hamburger joint, but it was my own hamburger joint," Hoogenboom said. "And with de Blasio I'm running a McDonald's and I have to serve the Big Mac."

Whether the administrative nonsense comes down on teachers and other UFT staff from the principal or the superintendent does not matter much. We are still the ones who are powerless along with parents and students in too many schools. The only solution for the future is to re-empower the actual school communities. That is where the check on principal power needs to come from. In contract negotiations, the UFT should seek to take back all of the givebacks from 2005.

Friday, July 21, 2017

ATR BUYOUT OFFER EXTENDED TO JULY 28

July 28 is the new deadline date for Absent Teacher Reserves to take the buyout. Below is Amy Arundell's message taken from Gene Mann's The Organizer.

Either not enough ATRs are taking the deal to please the Department of Education or people are still making inquiries and didn't know the window was closing so quickly. Deciding to retire is an important decision that in this case has to be made quickly.

Since some DOE and UFT officials love to read the blogs, I can report that one of the reasons I am going to continue working this year is to make sure I make up the money I could have had if I didn't get appointed to a regular position in January and was still an ATR/provisional teacher who could have taken the buyout.

Don't expect the press to let up on the ATR issue. It looks like some of the principals are giong to rebel against any and every check on the virtually almost absolute power they have had over their schools since the UFT ceded so much ground to administration in 2005.

Amy's message:

      The deadline for the Severance Program for ATRs has an extended period through July 28. 
      Eligible ATRs who volunteer to resign or retire by the deadline and who are eligible for the severance package may choose either:

  • $50,000 in a lump-sum, non-pensionable payment or
  • $35,000 in a lump-sum, non-pensionable payment and six months of continued health coverage through Febreuary 28, 2018.
See a fact sheet with more information about the ATR severance program » (http://files.uft.org/atr-fact-sheet-extended.pdf)
If you are eligible and interested in participating, download the ATR Voluntary Severance Agreement and General Release form »(http://files.uft.org/atr-severance-extended.pdf)
        Once you complete the form, you must have it notarized before bringing it, in person, to the Human Resources Connect Walk-in Center, Room 102, 65 Court St., Brooklyn, by 5 p.m. Friday, July 28.

We strongly suggest you speak with a UFT pension specialist or contact the Teachers' Retirement System before finalizing your decision. If you have questions, please contact your UFT borough office. 

Sincerely,

Amy Arundell
UFT Director of Personnel

Thursday, July 20, 2017

MAYOR'S RACE NOT HEATING UP

The race for mayor this year looks like a true yawn as Bill de Blasio should easily cruise to reelection. It remains to be seen how the UFT's early endorsement of the mayor's reelection will play out in terms of the schools.

It is hard to see much improvement in the schools since de Blasio took over as mayor in 2014. We have a subpar contract and an administration under Chancellor Carmen Farina that has  pretty much continued most of the Michael Bloomberg-Joel Klein anti-teacher practices. Universal pre-k and a highly suspect high school graduation rate do not make up for how teachers, parents and others are treated in NYC schools. Maybe education policy will change in a second de Blasio term.

The mayor should be safely reelected by the time the UFT contract is up for renegotiation in 2018. The current interminable nine year agreeent does not expire until November 30, 2018.

For those looking for an alternative to de Blasio, the Village Voice has a rundown on the candidates in this week's issue. None look very strong in the Democratic field.

As for the Republicans, the only one running is Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis. I checked her website for anything on the schools and found this:

EDUCATION


Nicole attended New York City Public Schools from kindergarten through high school. She received a great education and she wants to make sure that every child in our city gets the quality education they deserve.

New York State spends $22,593 per student per year to educate our children, the most of any state in the nation and 87% above the national average.  But, when it reaches New York City, it doesn’t seem to make it to the classrooms.  A big chunk of money goes towards contracts and consultants! While, all the time, we hear about teachers paying for classroom supplies, students lacking up-to-date textbooks and technology and classes being held in trailers parked on the school playground. Simply put, it’s wrong and unacceptable.

It sounds ok. Money sucked up in the bureaucracy is a major concern in NYC schools and has gotten worse under de Blasio as central Department of Education spending on central staff has soared. However, how Malliotakis would solve education issues is very problematic. Simply put, she would end up lowering public school enrollment by pushing for charter schools and tuition tax credits for religious and private schools.

This is not on her website but it is from an SI Live piece quoting some Conservative Party officials endorsing Malliotakis:

As a product of New York City public schools, Nicole has a clear understanding of what a great education can mean to the children of our city; she'll fight for high standards and against the special interests that seem intent on dumbing-down our schools. She also will fight for the expansion of charter schools in the five boroughs and tuition tax assistance for New Yorkers who send their children to religious or private schools. The Conservative Party is proud to endorse Nicole Malliotakis for Mayor of the City of New York."

I'll take a huge pass on Nicole. Her Trump style plan would send the public schools into a major crisis. Lower enrollments as public money is diverted from public education to charter and private schools would lead to public schools offering fewer programs. The issues in our schools that she writes about on her website would worsen.

She is not a friend.

The real concern is how public school teachers have little to choose from in yet another election. De Blasio = more of the same and the Republican alternative is worse. I guess that is the case in most elections these days. Not too many politicians on our side.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

TRUMP NLRB SHAPING UP AS ANTI-WORKER

Mike Fiorillo sent out this piece from In These Times on the Trump nominees for the National Labor Relations Board. One of the reasons I vote Democratic, even though the Democrats have pretty much neglected labor, is because when Democrats control the federal bureaucracy working people tend to have a little less difficulty organizing into unions. Here is what the In These Times article says about Trump's NLRB:

It might not get as much press coverage as other Donald Trump administration calamities, but the U.S. president is set to appoint a known union buster to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), push the body to a Republican majority and reverse Obama-era protections that rankle Big Business.

And further down In These Times makes some frightening NLRB projections:

Trump is putting the NLRB in the position to undo a number of important Obama-era labor decisions. His NLRB could potentially reverse rulings that made it easier for small groups of workers to unionize, established grad students as employees, put charter school employees under NLRB jurisdiction, and held parent companies jointly liable for with franchise operators who break labor laws. Writing about the imminent anti-union crackdown on this website in May, Shaun Richman wrote, “Unions and their allies should be convening research teams to plot out a campaign of regulatory and judicial activism. That work should begin now.”

Darker days are here for unions and it will probably get worse before it gets better.

Monday, July 17, 2017

ANTI-TEACHER, ANTI-UNION WEBSITE PUBLISHES VIRTUALLY FACT FREE OPINION PIECE ON ATRS

Daniel Weisberg is a former New York City Department of Education lawyer under Chancellor Joel Klein. Weisberg has written yet another opinion piece for an anti-teacher website in which he repeats many half-truths and outright false statements about Absent Teacher Reserves, teachers in New York City who have no permanent teaching position through no fault of their own. This blog will not link to Weisberg's garbage but since ATR friends for some reason are sending it out all over the place, the ICEBLOG will provide a refutiation of the former Klein assistant's biased piece.

Weisberg claims that Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina "are resurrecting one of the most harmful and discredited ideas in education policy: forced hiring of teachers."  He then gives little specific evidence to prove that so called "forced hiring" is bad except to cite a very dated anti-tenure article from 1999 on the difficulty of firing bad teachers.

If the problem is keeping criminals and/or pedophiles away from children, the process to remove a teacher from a classroom in New York City takes about the time it takes to make a phone call to the Office of Special Investigations or the Commissioner of Special Investigations who then remove the teacher from the classroom instantly. Having to subsequently prove the teacher really is a criminal is something that should be basic to our system of justice even in schools since there are many false allegations. The reality is that anyone accused of almost anything can be taken away from students in a flash.

I personally know one of the four long serving teachers who the NY Post claimed were kept out of the classroom indefinitely but stayed on payroll. This teacher taught at Jamaica High School with me. He was going through a nasty divorce many years ago and was accused of sexually assaulting a child. The teacher was totally vindicated as the person who made the accusation recanted but it wasn't good enough for Joel Klein so the teacher was kept out of the classroom indefinitely on suspicion of possibly having once been suspicious. This must be one of the "lemons" Weisberg is talking about. For the record nobody at Jamaica High School where we worked together ever accused this teacher of doing anything improper to any child. Many of the so called "lemons" or "trash" that Weisberg and others refers to are simply people who had personality clashes with administrators. "Lemons" and "trash" are subjective terms.

Weisberg then cites some statistics from 2014 saying that 25% of ATRs were brought up on disciplinary charges. In the New York City Department of Education for many teachers this means that the teacher had a problem with an administrator. The simplist way for an administrator to get rid of a teacher from a school is to file charges against him/her. If the teacher is not overly popular with the students, it is as easy as bringing a few kids into an office and asking some leading questions.

When I was chapter leader at Jamaica, I was once called to a new principal's office because an outside investigator was in the building and a teacher needed advice on what to do. The new principal covered my class and asked the kids some leading questions about me. I tend to be popular with students so he got nowhere. How do I know this? When I returned to class, the kids told me about how they defended me. Unfortunately, asking the leading questions is done repeatedly by some unscrupulous admistrators to try to dig for dirt even when there is not even suspicion of someone possibly being suspicious. Remember, there are no real consequences in NYC that I know of for principals falsely accusing teachers. Maybe they can be transferred from an assignment to another if they alienate an entire school community but they don't end up unemployed except under very extraordinary circumstances.

Weisberg then claims 60% of ATRs don't even bother looking for a regular job. He neglects to mention that the open market transfer system is closed for many, particularly senior teachers as Chaz documented when Weisberg wrote essentially the same anti-ATR piece back in 2014 and we showed at this blog when we did our analysis of the so called open market last week. The open market is a dead end for most senior teachers regardless of their records. Principals can hire two teachers on their budget for the price of one experienced teacher. "Come back when you're younger" was the ICEUFTblog conclusion.

Weisberg continues by saying that placing ATRs after October 15 for the rest of the year, as the new Department of Education policy intends to do, is terrible policy. He writes: "More to the point, subjecting thousands of kids to ineffective teachers for even a year is simply unacceptable."  The argument is ridiculous.

Principals have between July and October to fill their vacancies with any certified teacher they want. They can go outside the system and hire those cheap newbies through October 15th. If they can't find a candidate in four months, the central DOE will send them someone and the DOE retains the unilateral discretion not to send anyone they think is not fit (a teacher who beat a disciplinary hearing). There are relatively few openings after October 15. Most are for leaves for illness or maternity and are temporary in nature. Would Weisberg rather see the classes go unfilled? That happens.

He then proposes the DC-Chicago solution where an ATR gets a time limit to find a new position if she/he is placed in excess because a school closes or a program is downsized and then they would be placed on unpaid leave if a principal doesn't hire them within a year (or a different time limit). This exposes his real aim which is to terminate senior teachers. This flies in the face of civil service law which put in place a seniority system in large part to stop a spoils system and arbitrarily firing people who have experience.

Weisberg is attempting to make an end run around the law to effectively eliminate tenure. Excessing would essentially mean firing if he has his way. We would all become at will employees since senior teachers are often passed on for jobs just because of the cost on a school budget. Tenure in DC or Chicago means next to nothing if a teacher is in a school that is slated for closure or downsizing. New York still has a more progressive civil service law that does not allow school officials to just clear out the senior, higher paid teachers by downsizing programs and then covertly blacklisting most of the excessed teachers which is the real agenda here. If someone doesn't think blacklisting exists, wake up. I was told by an official I was blacklisted. I got hired in spite of this mainly because the school will get a full subsidy for my salary for the first year and a half subsidy for the second year and I have sufficient time to retire already.

What about alternatives to patronage hiring?

Can managers succeed if they do not pick the employees that work for them? Obviously, the answer is yes. Look at the New York City Police Department where the Precinct Commanders are "stuck" with the officers that are sent to them. If someone is sent to them from the Police Academy or another precinct, they can't turn around and reject the new officers. Even without that hiring power, the commanders are still responsible for reducing crime in their precincts. Look at so many other government agencies and it is the same way. We can go outside of government on this issue too.

Let's examine sports. In most pro sports franchises, the general manager gets the players and then the manager in baseball or the coach in other sports has to work with the players he/she has been given. I don't see the Dan Weisbergs of the world screaming about how coaches need to hire all of their players.

Uncontrolled administrative power at the principal, superintendent or central Department of Education in New York City is the biggest problem here. At the principal's level, it has led to patronage hiring as well as massive grade inflation and grade fixing scandals. These scandals have been well documented by Sue Edelman. Sources tell us that what is public is the tip of the iceberg as many teachers are too scared to report what is occurring in their schools for fear of retaliation.

We have reported here that the place to investigate to find how the increase in high school graduation is rather meaningless is the CUNY on time graduation rates, particularly in the two year colleges, which are as low as 1.4%. NYC high school graduates feed these colleges. The answer is that we must bring back integrity to the high school diploma. In order to do that, NYC must reign in principals not only from above, but also from below by empowering teachers and parents again. Changing the hiring back to committees would be an important first step.

Good principals are not afraid to work in partnership with their school communities and would object to the Weisberg approach of firing the senior people in excess.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

STATE POLITICAL NEWS: CUOMO APPROVAL RATING DOWN; SHELLY SILVER CONVICTION OVERTURNED

The latest Quinnipiac poll has Governor Andrew Cuomo down to a 46% approval rating. Since his disapproval is at 38%, it isn't so bad. However, Cuomo was at 52% approval in March so he is going in the wrong direction.

The real positive news in the poll is that a majority of New Yorkers don't think Cuomo would be a good president.

From the poll:

11. Do you think Andrew Cuomo would make a good President or not?
                                                               WHITE......
                                                               COLLEGE DEG
                     Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Men    Wom    Yes    No
 
Yes                  34%    17%    49%    29%    32%    36%    32%    30%
No                   56     83     38     60     59     53     59     61
DK/NA                10      -     12     11      9     12      9      9
 
                     AGE IN YRS..............    WHITE.....           Non-
                     18-34  35-49  50-64  65+    Men    Wom    Wht    Wht
 
Yes                  34%    32%    39%    33%    27%    34%    31%    43%
No                   53     60     53     57     65     57     60     46
DK/NA                13      8      8     10      8     10      9     12
 
                     AREA.............
                     UpStat NYC    Sub
 
Yes                  27%    40%    36%
No                   66     48     52
DK/NA                 7     12     12


That 56% no number is encouraging.

As for former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, his corruption conviction was overturned on Thursday. This is not a surprise as the United States Supreme Court made corruption convictions for public officials very difficult in a rather awful 9-0 decision we reported on in June of 2016. Under these rules, I don't think it will be easy to convict Silver in a new trial.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

2017-2018 DA DATES (UPDATED WITH EXEC BD DATES) AND 2017-18 PREDICTIONS

For those who want to plan their union school year, Mike Schirtzer sent us the dates for this year's Delegate Assembly and Executive Board meetings.

For anyone who can't wait until October for the first DA to hear how absolutely wonderful the school opening was in the NYC schools thanks to the UFT but how awful everything else is, there will be a Chapter Leader meeting and two Executive Board meetings in September. 

The ICE-UFT Blog makes some basic predictions well before the school year begins.

There will be nothing negative said by UFT leadership about NYC schools with Mayor Bill de Blasio's reelection coming in November but we will hear how we must give more to COPE or we will lose our pensions in the constitutional convention. 

 I will vote no on the convention and urge collegues to do the same. The refendum will fail and there will not be a convention.

I will not vote for de Blasio and hope there is a reasonable third party alternative. de Blasio will be easily reelected but he will continue to treat us the same contemptible way Mayor Bloomberg did.

The school year will start off well in schools that are well run and will be a complete mess in many other schools but the UFT Mulgrew's happy talk will be almost non-stop except maybe for paperwork and SESIS.

Please check back on the accuracy of the ICR crystal ball.

The DA, Executive Board and chapter leader meeting dates are listed below.

Citywide Chapter Leaders Meeting            

Executive Board 
(Mondays- 6:00 P.M.)

September
11, 25

October
16, 30

November
6, 20

December
4, 18

January 2018
8, 22

February
12, 26

March
19, 26

April
9, 23

May
7, 21

June
4, 18

Delegate Assemblies  
 (Wednesdays - 4:15 P.M.-6:00 P.M.)
                             
October 18
    
November 8
    
December 6
   
 January 17
   
March 21  
   
 May 16
   
June 13

ATR LEADER ASHER'S EMAIL

If you are a Department of Education employee and you wish to watch Absent Teacher Reserve head Randy Asher's webinar on the ATRs, go to this link.

Below is Asher's statement on the ATRs. There isn't much new here but we print everything for the record and if you can find something different in Asher's words, please tell us.

On the issue of press reports calling ATRs poor quality teachers, I am not going to link to any of them. I read three stories on ATRs. I saw quotes from people who aren't in the classroom and nothing from any teacher or ATR. That is all you need to know about the biased press that is often anti-teacher.


Good Afternoon,

Earlier today, we announced updated placement procedures intended to reduce the size of the reserve pool, and ultimately to help teachers and administrators get back into schools where they are needed most.

The procedures announced today are discussed in more depth in this pre-recorded webinar

In summary:
·        Reserve pool teachers can be assigned across district lines within the Borough.
·        Beginning around October 15, we’ll place reserve pool teachers into vacancies funded by schools.
·        After the match to vacancies and long term absence coverage, we plan to significantly reduce rotations for most remaining reserve pool members.
·        If a provisionally hired teacher receives a Highly Effective or Effective rating at the end of the 2017-18 school year, and there is a vacancy in the same license area for the following school year, and there are no extraordinary circumstances, that educator will be permanently hired by the school.
·        The Voluntary Severance Program period is closing on July 14, 2017.

The ATR pool was neither the destination nor experience that led any of us to a career as professional educators.  Most of us became educators with noble intentions and the desire to have a positive impact on the lives of the students we serve.  The most effective way to achieve this goal is to serve in a classroom as a teacher or in a leadership role as an administrator.  We are looking forward to working with those in the ATR pool to provide opportunities to achieve these goals.

For those who wish to explore other options, the Voluntary Severance Program will remain open until July 14, 2017.  Please follow the specific instructions in the webcast to participate.

If you have questions or concerns, please email atrassignment@schools.nyc.gov

Working together, we can help ensure ATR teachers and administrators are given the opportunity to serve the 1.1 million students of New York City in a meaningful way.

Sincerely,
Randy
Randy J. Asher
Senior Advisor, Talent Management & Innovation

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

TRS WORKSHOP TODAY; MORE CONTRACT TRAINING TOMORROW

I spent the morning and early afternoon at the Teachers' Retirement System taking the "Getting Ready for Retirement" class. It was, to say the least, very informative. I feel quite a bit more confident that I know what I'm doing concerning what option to take, how my pension will be calculated and what to do with my TDA account when I retire.

There were many interesting little facts that we learned during the day. For example, 94% of TRS retirees choose TDA Defferral status for their TDA at the time of retirement. Very few withdraw the money or annuitize it. This is from the TDA Options at Retirement guide in the section on Deferral status.

If you subsequently withdraw all of your TDA funds or choose to annuitize your funds, you would lose TDA Deferral status. (However, if you make a partial wighrawal of your TDA funds, your TDA Deferral status would not be affected.)

Good to know this information.

It was also important for TRS representatives to go into detail on how to fill out the retirement forms, where to take them to and also what TRS members need to do with our employer and our union upon retirement. I thought it was kind of strange that some participants seemed skeptical about union pension consultations. The workshop included both UFT and Council of Supervisors and Administrators members.

The most compelling part for me was at the end of the class when two participants jumped to the head of the line to leave and then raced ahead of all of us so they could get to the side entrance of the building to turn in their fully filled out papers to retire. One I know was an Absent Teacher Reserve who wanted to make sure she had her papers filed so she was eligible for the $50,000 severance pay. July 14 is the deadline but TRS rules say the papers should turned at least a day in advance of retiring. I was kind of envious of this woman as I headed for the subway.



For everyone who wants to make it to retirement age and receive a pension, there are two possibe strategies to survive New York City's often anti-teacher school system:

1-Always work in a school with a decent administration.

2-Since option 1 isn't always possible, help build a robust union that will stand up to this corrupt system.

While I wish everyone could work with great principals and assistant principals so we could all collegially move the schools forward, the reality is somewhat different.

Therefore, I will be joining MORE (the Movement of Rank and File Educators) in the initial summer series event at the Dark Horse located at 17 Murray Street in Manhattan (very close to City Hall) on Wednesday, July 12, 2017 from 3:00 P.M. through 6:00 P.M. for hardcore contract training.

I don't pretend to have all the answers as the school system is beyond morally bankrupt and our union plays along too often but if we work as a union, I mean a real union movement coming from the schools, we can put pressure to move the situation in the right direction for teachers, students and public education in general.

I hope some of the people who comment on this blog can make it to the Dark Horse on Wednesday in the afternoon as I would really enjoy meeting you and sharing ideas on how we can find ways to fight back successfully.

Part of MORE's ad:

MORE’s FIFTH Annual Summer Series!

July 6, 2017 — Leave a comment
Please join us to… Discuss, Debate, and Organize!
WHEN:   Wednesdays this summer; 3pm-6pm
WHERE:  The Dark Horse, 17 Murray St. NYC; Near City Hall, Chambers St,
Drink specials: $4 drafts, $6 well drinks & $7 wine
RSVP ONLINE!
Hardcore Contract Training
tiny.cc/UFTcontract
July 12th
Is your chapter facing abusive administrators? Are there contract violations? Do you want to engage your members in the fight back ? Bring challenges that you and your colleagues have at your school, we will share suggestions based on our experiences. Veteran chapter leaders and UFT Executive Board members that have led successful actions and grievances will be joining us.

Monday, July 10, 2017

MULGREW'S LATEST ATR EMAIL ON DOE POLICY CHANGES

This morning in my inbox was an email from UFT President Michael Mulgrew on Department of Education policy changes concerning Absent Teacher Reserves.

This line on the DOE policy changes concerns me:

"...if an ATR is assigned to a school and rated Effective or Highly Effective by the school administration, absent extraordinary circumstances, the ATR will become a permanent member of the school community."

It sounds good on the surface. However, it seems to me this sentence will be used by some principals who feel control is more important than anything to rate teachers forced on them Developing or Ineffective to make sure they do not get stuck with ATRs they might not want, particularly veterans who will cost them more on their budgets. Maybe I am just too cynical.

What do you you think of the latest  DOE "policy changes"?

Yesterday, I wrote about the open market system and senior teachers. The bottom line is seasoned teachers cost too much on school budgets. That must stop. The answer to all of this is to fight to take back the givebacks from 2005. Incremental changes will not succeed.

Mulgrew's email in its entirety is below.


Dear James,
I am writing to you to let you know that the DOE has made changes to the way it will place members of the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool in schools. These changes reflect the UFT’s conviction that members of the ATR pool provide needed services to schools and that their work should be respected. While the DOE and the UFT have long sought to reduce the size of the ATR pool, we are pleased that the DOE is now looking to do this by matching educators and schools rather than through time limits and attacks.
These changes are policy changes — not contractual changes. First, the DOE has informed us of their commitment to fill positions that remain vacant on Oct. 15, 2017, with educators from the ATR pool. This is in contrast to the hands-off approach that the DOE has taken with principals in the past. As you know, this spring’s ATR agreement continues the agreement from the Memorandum of Agreement in 2014 that allows educators of the ATR pool to be assigned to schools in their borough. As was the case from 2014-16, ATRs can be assigned to a school in their borough with a vacancy in their license area. This has not changed.
Second, if an ATR is assigned to a school and rated Effective or Highly Effective by the school administration, absent extraordinary circumstances, the ATR will become a permanent member of the school community. This just makes sense. If a principal rates a teacher Effective or Highly Effective, and the match between the member and the school is appropriate, that principal should not send that teacher back to the ATR pool because of budget concerns or for other reasons.
The DOE is changing its own policy, but, of course, it cannot change or violate any of the terms of our contracts. As always, with your help, we will make sure that the DOE follows all contractual rules.
If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to your UFT borough office. Enjoy the rest of your summer.
Sincerely,

Michael Mulgrew
UFT President

Sunday, July 09, 2017

HOW OPEN IS THE OPEN MARKET TRANSFER SYSTEM?

To this blogger, one of the worst of the many givebacks of the 2005 contract was the end of seniority transfers and School Based Option transfers for UFT members replaced by the creation of the open market transfer system.

In the pre-2005 days, there was a system based solely on seniority for half of the openings in a particular school. There was also the School Based Option transfer system where personnel committees hired UFT staff that many schools chose to use.

 Article 18 (transfers and Staffing) from the 1995-2000 contract started with this line:

The Board and the Union recognize the need to maintain both staff stability and an equitable balance of experienced and inexperienced teachers in the schools.

That line really meant something until 2005. Now it is still in the contract but it is meaningless.

Article 18A of the 1995-2000 contract and the 2000-2003 contract (that lasted until 2005) based transfers solely on the basis of seniority. A teacher picked up to six schools and was given the first one where he/she had the most seniority among applicants.

Article 18A9 said this:

In the case of teachers indicating the same choice of school, preference shall be given to the teacher with the greatest seniority.

Could you even conceive of that being in the contract in 2017?

Teachers could reject schools, not principals. The penalty for teachers rejecting a transfer was not being able to use the senioirity plan the following year.

There were real restrictions that limited movement with the seniority system. Only five percent of the teachers were permitted to transfer out of a school using this plan. In addition, schools only listed half of their vacancies. The point was to give senior teachers an escape route from difficult settings like if a crazy principal took over or a chance to be closer to home. Now, teachers are trapped for the most part and principals don't want veterans because of the added cost on their budgets which in those days was not a problem.

If the seniority transfer system was not to a teacher's liking, there was the SBO transfer and staffing plan added to the contract in 1995. Personnel Committees were set up to fill vacancies in schools. Schools had to opt in to this system by 75% of UFT staff (55% after 2002) voting for a School Based Option that the principal and chapter leader signed off on. Contract Article 18F defined the SBO personnel committees:

The personnel committees shall be comprised of school staff members, the UFT chapter leader, the head of the school, and parents selected by the school's parent association. Where appropriate, others should be invited to participate. The majoirty of the members of the personnel committees shall be teachers selected by the UFT chapter.

Personnel committees with a majority of teachers hired staff just twelve short years ago!

Then there is this gem later in Article 18F:

The personnel committee will select the most experienced qualified applicant of those candidates who apply for vacancies advertised under the transfer component of the SBO transfer and staffing plan. 

There were exceptions for less senior applicants with "extraordinary qualifications". The same personnel committee with a teacher majority hired new UFT staff in SBO schools as well.

If an applicant felt he/she was rejected wrongfully by the personnel committee, there was an expedited grievance procedure that went to an arbitrator. This process was fair by accounts I have heard.

Those were the options for changing schools before 2005. In addition, there were transfers to further integration and hardship transfers for travel which were basically automatic if a teacher had to travel more than 90 minutes by public transportation to get to work.

What were these progressive systems that gave teachers some real power over where they worked replaced with?

The open market. This is from the current contract:

Article 18A. General Transfers.
Effective school year 2005-2006, principals will advertise all vacancies. Interviews will be conducted by school-based human resources committees (made up of pedagogues and administration) with the final decision to be made by the principals.

That line about the final decision being made by the principal set hiring back to the 19th century - before there was competitive civil service - as it left principals solely responsible for who teaches in a school. We now have a spoils system where there is no check on principal hiring power. When Joel Klein later changed school budgets so that teacher salaries in each individual school were taken into account in a school's budget, it gave principals an incentive to shun senior teachers because of the higher costs of their salaries.

In the post 2005 contract world, the UFT would give statistics to show how the open market system was better because more teachers were transferring compared to the old seniority system. However, the UFT would only meniton the open market versus the seniority system. They never compared with the SBO system which had taken hold in a large percentage of schools by 2005. Nor did they compare the number of senior teachers moving as compared to the old systems.

My own feeling on the open market is to paraphrase the Bible (something not normally done here).

From the Bible:

23Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

I hope I am not offending any devout Christians out there by saying:

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a senior teacher to transfer using the open market system.

Senior teachers do get transfers but it looks to me that it is kind of rare.

I might like to find a school closer to home. I'm not saying I am unhappy at Middle College High School but I have a long commute from Floral Park right at the city line to MCHS in Long Island City (close to an hour and a half by public transportation and sometimes longer by car, particularly getting home) but I don't think I have much hope of being successful.

Maybe it is just me because I am a 31 year veteran teacher who puts his name to each posting on a blog critical of both the UFT and the DOE so I've been told I am blacklisted. I get it. But what about everyone else who reads this blog?

Do you find the open market transfer system to be fair?

The UFT got this language into the 2005 contract in Article 18A:

Teachers who have repeatedly been unsuccessful in obtaining transfers or obtaining regular teaching positions after being excessed, will, upon request, receive individulized assistance from the Division of Human Resources and/or the Peer Intervention Program on how to maximize their chances of success in being selected for a transfer.

I have a way to save the DOE and UFT the time and money put into more patronage for the people hired to help teachers polish resumes. Instead, just play us veterans this Steve Wynn (the alternative rock guy from The Dream Syndicate, not the hotel guy) song from 1990.

It's called "Younger". Here is the line that could be from principals to senior teachers in NYC:

"Here's the door but don't come in
Come back when you're younger"

Am I just a jaded old blogger or is this the reality out there? Please help out on this one.




Friday, July 07, 2017

UFT MUST BE PRESSURED TO JOIN PARENTS, PUBLIC ADVOCATE AND EDUCATION ADVOCATES ON CLASS SIZE COMPLAINT

I'm quite late to the dance here but I read about Public Advocate Letitia James joining parents and education advocates to file a complaint with the State Education Commissioner concerning the New York City Department of Education not living up to the law and reducing class sizes. Here is the press release from Leonie Haimson's Class Size Matters, one of the groups inolved in the complaint.

One question: Why isn't the UFT leading or joining the fight here?

Class sizes have actually gone up over the last ten years in New York City schools.

This is from the press release on the Commissioner's Complaint:
In 2007, as required by the C4E law, the DOE developed a class size reduction plan for the City’s public schools, pledging to lower average class sizes in Kindergarten through third grade over five years to no more than 20 students; in fourth through eighth grade to no more than 23 students; and to no more than 25 students per class in high school core classes. The State Education Commissioner approved the plan.

The DOE never delivered on its plan. Instead, class sizes have increased sharply since 2007, particularly in the early grades, and are now substantially larger than when the C4E law was enacted. As of fall 2016, DOE data show classes in Kindergarten through third grade were more than 18 percent larger, classes in grades four through eight were six percent larger, and high school classes were 1.5 percent larger than in 2007.

NYC Educator also covered the Commissioner's Complaint. The opposition to Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus in the UFT called MORE-NEW ACTION needs to do more than publicize this case.The UFT must be pressured to join the parents or file our own case. After all, lower class size from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity sttlement is part of the UFT contract. As bad as the 2005 contract was, there are a couple of decent parts in Article 8L.

This is Article 8L.
Labor/Management Committee On Long Term Reforms
With regard to the long term recommendations the 2005 Fact Finders made subject to adequate CFE funding, the parties shall establish a Labor Management Committee to discuss the following issues: a) bonuses, including housing bonues, for shortage license areas; b) a pilot project for school-wide based performance bonuses for sustanined growth in student acheivement; c) salary differentials at the MA-5 through MA-7 levels; and d) a program for the reduction of class sizes in all grades and divisions. If the parties agree on the terms of any or all of these issues, they may be implemented by the Board using whhatever funds may be identified.

Of course we know how the school-wide bonuses were offered for years and then abandoned as they were as dumb as they sounded. The housing program is in Appendix H of the 2007-2009 contract. We're happy that the five year longevity was introduced in 2006.

Which reform has never seen the light of day? You guessed it, the lower class sizes.

Thanks to Michael Bloomberg, Joel Klein, Dennis Walcott, Bill de Blasio and Carmen Farina, principals are given the discretion on how they want to spend their CFE funds. Enlightened principals have used them to lower class sizes. In the spring 2017 cycle at Middle College my largest class had 23 students in it. Three of my classes were in the teens. These classs sizes are ideal, particularly as we do project based learning.

Is there precedent for the UFT joining a parent complaint to the New York State Education Commissioner? Yes there is.

Back in 2008, at Leonie Haimson's urging, I sponsored an amendment  to a resolution on School Leadership Teams at the Delegate Assembly asking for the UFT to join with the parents who were complaining to the State Education Commissioner that the NYC DOE was not following the law on School Leadership Teams. Joel Klein argued that they were advisory only. Then UFT President Randi Weingarten encouraged the Unity Caucus faithful (her and Michael Mulgrew's political party that demands complete loyalty from its members) to support this amendment and it passed. We won the case.

NYC Educator (AKA Arthur Goldstein) is one of seven elected high school representatives on the UFT Executive Board from the MORE-New Action coalition that won the high schools in the 2016 UFT election. The seven had an excellent first year. Convincing the UFT to join with the parents on lowering class sizes should be a top priority of the opposition High School Executive Board in September.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

JOHN BOWNE HS PRINCIPAL SUED AGAIN

In the world of the Department of Education, when one fights back against a boss, the retaliation is usually swift and forceful. That is what is now happening to Assistant Principal Marc Einsohn at John Bowne High School who sued Principal Howard Kwait in April for punishing him for refusing to go along with grade fixing.

Did a lawsuit stop the principal? The answer is a clear no. In the current environment created by Michael Bloomberg, Joel Klein, Dennis Walcott, Bill de Blasio and Carmen Farina, Kwait responded to the charges by turning up the heat on the retaliation. The lawsuit has been amended, as this local Times Ledger story shows, to add on more allegations.

As many here know, Kwait is no stranger to being sued and costing the city money. From Times Ledger:

This is the fifth suit brought against Kwait during his time as principal at the Flushing High school. In November 2016, former guidance counselor Lauren Prettitore sued Kwait for sexual harassment. In 2015, the city settled for $275,000 with teachers Maria Catenacci and Sally Maya, who sued over sexual harassment as well. In 2012, the city settled for an undisclosed amount with an assistant principal who accused Kwait of discriminating against her because she was pregnant, according to the New York Post. The city also paid $225,000 in a settlement over a student who was falsely accused of sending threatening e-mails.

As we have documented here, Kwait is not an isolated repulsive principal in Queens High Schools. It took a monumental effort from an entire school community to have one acting principal not obtain a permanent position at Townsend Harris. The rest of these principals go merrily along abusing staff with impunity. One small school principal is now charging multiple tenured teachers and a counselor in state dismissal hearings. Another is placing in excess people who filed grievances and giving them adverse job performance evaluations. Do you think the remaining people in those schools are going to stand up for their rights?

Schools succeed when administration and staff work together to serve the students. Anything less than that will usually lead to major problems. The goal of the DOE should be to get people to work collegial way and when that isn't happening, to find solutions and not punish people who speak up.

As for the UFT, there is a NY Teacher article on the agricutural program at John Bowne High School in the latest issue. I understand the current lawsuit is from an assistant principal, but UFT members have been victimized in the past by Kwait (see above) and probably some are in trouble today. Why promote this school?

Monday, July 03, 2017

WE DON'T NEED A CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION NOR MORE MONEY FOR COPE

By Constitution, New York State and its local governments have to fund pensions properly. This is why the national pension time bomb discussion doesn't include New York.We rank 40th out of 45 states in terms of pension risks. Not bad.

This is from Bloomberg:



On the other hand, our pensions are still in peril as 2017 will see a constitutional convention referendum on the ballot in November. Many in the UFT are going to use the threat to our pensions from a constitutional convention as an excuse to convince members to up our contributions to COPE (the union's political arm). Even the usually right on the money NYC Educator buys into this argument as his latest post shows. Our pensions are protected by the state Constitution and a convention could put them on the table.

I oppose the constitutional convention and will urge my colleagues to vote no. There are better ways to amend the NYS Constitution than a convention that could very well be controlled by corruption plagued Albany insiders and their well funded friends. I don't see much good that can come out of it. While I support the UFT-NYSUT fully on this issue, I cannot endorse donating anything more than a very nominal amount to COPE (I give a symbolic 25 cents and many of my colleagues believe that is too much). The UFT-NYSUT-AFT record in political endorsements or non-endorsements is abysmal.

Some history:

In 2017 we endorsed Mayor Bill de Blasio's reelection early. What has he done in return? Raised copays for medical and continued to allow Carmen Farina's many abusive principals to have basically free reign to keep destroying the careers of too many of our members.

In 2016, we gave the maximum amount allowed to anti-public education Republican Senate leader John Flanagan's Republican Campaign Committee and we refused to endorse opponents of some horrible Republicans. We endorse Independent Democratic Conference state senators who vote with the Republicans for charter schools.

2015 gave us the early endorsement of Hillary Clinton by the AFT-NYSUT_UFT while Bernie Sanders was launching an upstart campaign from the left. How did that one work out?

2013-14 saw the infamous NYSUT $10,000 contribution from now President Andy Pallotta to get a table at Governor Andrew Cuomo's private concert birthday party featuring Billy Joel and Unity rejecting my anti-Cuomo resolution. That came out real well when Cuomo was reelected. Well no it didn't. See the Education Transformation Act of 2015 featuring the Advance observation system and four years minimum probation to achieve tenure for more details.

Need we go back further to the UFT endorsing Bill Thompson in 2013 but not supporting him when it mattered when Michael Bloomberg ignored the will of the voters who wanted term limits and ran for a third term in 2009?

Oh and then there is the UFT support for mayoral dictatorship over NYC schools which has to be approved by the State Legislature and governor. We were fine with it in 2002, 2009 and every year since 2015 even though the public by huge margins does not think the mayor should have exclusive control of the schools.

Enough already! Forget COPE and donate to the worthy causes of your choice. If you want to work to defeat the constitutional convention, start here at the AFL-CIO website and then spread the word to your friends to vote no.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

PAUL FEINGOLD PASSES AWAY

I was very saddened to hear that long time New Action teacher-union activist Paul Feingold has passed on.

We express our condolences to his family.

Read a newspaper obituary here.

Below is Mike Shulman's eulogy for Paul from New Action's website.

Paul Feingold, teacher, leader, activist, 1945 – 2017

Dear Friends,

We lost a true trade union giant. Our dear friend and colleague, Paul Feingold, passed away this past weekend. Paul was a great rank and file chapter leader at John Jay HS, a long-time New Action supporter, and a fighter for social and economic justice. In 1986, when I was Academic High School Vice President of the UFT, Paul was finally recognized with a Trachtenberg award. Along with Jack Sexton, Paul was given a token of union appreciation for their years of dedication to the UFT membership. I could go on but those who knew Paul know what a great human being and visionary he was.

The struggle continues and Paul will be there with us.

In solidarity,
Michael Shulman

Saturday, July 01, 2017

CUOMO BROKE SUBWAYS

I sometimes find it hard to comprehend why politicians who are clearly awful cannot be challenged even if they get tons of money from their wealthy backers. Case in point: Governor Andrew Cuomo.

In this opinion piece from TheWeek.com, that I discovered from Reality Based Educator's Twitter account, Ryan Cooper clearly makes the case that Governor Cuomo is responsible for the wretched shape of the New York City subway system.

Here are the opening paragraphs of Ryan's article:
The New York City subway system, by far the largest and best public transit system in the United States, has reached a crisis level of dysfunction over the past few months, with serious congestion, delays, and a recent derailment in Harlem that injured 34 passengers. In a delayed response, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) declared a "state of emergency" on Thursday and ordered the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to produce a reorganization plan to fix the problem.

Don't fall for his shtick.

Cuomo has been directly responsible for the subway for over six years. It has been obvious since he took power that something like this would happen and he's done nothing but make it worse. The crisis is a clear result of his incompetence, his abysmal politics, and his odious personality.

Cooper cites overcrowding (subway ridership has doubled since 1990), aging technology and overpriced infrastructure as the three main causes of the system's decline. All should have been seen by the governor who basically controls the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Cooper continues:
A quality leader would have seen the problem approaching (or listened to the experts who have been shouting about it for years), and proposed a crash program to upgrade, modernize, and expand the subway. Tackling the maintenance backlog would reduce delays and forestall expensive repairs from failures. Upgraded technology would reduce train headways, which together with more trains and stations would allow for enhanced throughput — now a critical necessity in downtown especially. And tackling the cost problem would enable everything else, as dollars could be stretched much, much further.

Cooper's conclusion is a commercial for anyone running against Cuomo:
The man just does not have a clue.

That's just the kind of politician Cuomo is — an ultra-cynical lying snake who does things like help Republicans keep control of the state Senate, or lie about why Port Authority tolls are being raised, or get in a pissing match with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio out of pure spite.

Throw in anti-public school, anti-teacher, anti-worker and you kind of  know everything you need to know about Andrew Cuomo. Will he get a primary challenge from the left in 2018 as he runs for a third term?