Saturday, September 30, 2017


The UFT leadership is making a big deal out of Chapter, District and Central consultation meetings with administration at all levels of the Department of education. These consultation meetings are all part of the UFT contract. See Article 19H of the Teachers Contract.

According to UFT President Michael Mulgrew, once the UFT gets the information they can take care of problems. Forgive me for being skeptical. I see little evidence that this will succeed system wide.

Take for example, Queens High Schools where this blog has documented many awful principals.The UFT is highlighting Namita Dwarka from Bryant, Jose Cruz from Math Science Magnet High School, Meredith Inbal from Queens School of Inquiry, Charles Ogindimu from Frederick Douglass Academy VI, Allison Persad from Young Women's Leadership School of Astoria and Kayode Ayetiwa from Humanities and the Arts Magnet High School because they all received low scores on teacher-principal trust on last year's school surveys. UFT wants to concentrate on high staff turnover as a problem. The Superintendents' response is classic. Staff turnover is a result of teachers leaving for the suburbs (see below).

The focus here will be on Ayetiwa. He had numerous grievances and other complaints filed against him by the staff during his first year in 2016-2017. The reaction from the principal when people filed grievances or spoke up at meetings was fast and furious as the Principal and two assistant principals turned up the heat against the targeted teachers and other UFT members. The UFT was powerless to stop the assault against the Chapter. The Chapter Leader ended up out sick in part from the stress. Then, a teacher who many thought was a supporter of the Principal ran for the job and lost an election to a pro-union teacher who spoke out at meetings.* Ayetiwa responded by going after that new Chapter Leader by giving him an adverse annual MOTP rating.

Recently, there has been a mass exodus at Humanities and the Arts with many teachers and other UFT staff being forced to transfer, brought up on 3020a or 3012d charges or pushed into retirement before they were ready. School aides now serve as deans; the student population is down as word has spread to avoid the school. It is so bad at Humanities and the Arts that a guidance counselor awaiting 3020a charges has been exiled to a room in the basement where she must sit all day as if in a medieval dungeon prison.

For full disclosure my wife Camille was one of the teachers who took a job elsewhere this fall after she worked at Humanities since 2004 and was UFT Delegate since 2005. As the Delegate, Camille and her Chapter Leader documented numerous abuses from administration in consultation meetings, through the grievance process and other forums the last two years. The UFT, from the District Representative up through the Vice Presidents for Academic and Career and Technical High Schools, Staff Director and Union President were informed along the way. (The AFT President was informed too.) The Union response has been to deal with problems individually and to encourage people to parachute out of the school. How does that build a strong union?

After they have conceded the battle, the UFT makes it a district consultation issue? A little late guys! The damage to the Union has been done. 

I'm not saying the UFT shouldn't tell the Superintendents about the terrible conditions at Humanities and the Arts and the other schools. However, having endured the endless ramblings of Superintendent Juan Mendez during the Jamaica High School closing battle and hearing horror stories about how Superintendent Elaine Lindsey ignored or dismissed complaints from our friends at the High School of Applied Communications about Principal Michael Weinstein, these two superintendents might not be the best people to resolve problems fairly with teachers.

The UFT is wasting great organizing opportunities at schools like Humanities and the Arts and the other ones on the list. Instead of telling members to run for the hills, the UFT should be picketing in front of these schools and screaming to the press after we tell the Superintendent what is befalling our members and the kids.

Below is the account from Unity's Gene Mann's The Organizer documenting the Queens High School District Consultation meeting with the UFT. Jonathan Nuesra, Chapter Leader from Bayside High School, took these excellent minutes. After that you can read the UFT Chapter Leader Weekly Update to see how the UFT is emphasizing how consultation is the way to resolve issues at the school level.

 A Model:  The Importance of Consultation
         The Consultation Committee in your school is replicated at District and City Levels.  The agendas for the meetings outside of your school come from the concerns you raise in consultation in your school.
         The Queens High School Consultation of September 15 is an exemplar.  Note how, in my annotation of Jonathan Nuwesra’s meticulous minutes, the UFT folks raised issues, the superintendents (in this case) went on the record with some surprising claims and some promises, which will be followed up at subsequent meetings.
         The meeting was held at 30-48 Linden Place, Flushing, NY.  The UFT members present were 
Camille Toma – CL of Martin Van Buren HS (Renewal Schools)
Christina Lopez – CL of The Young Women’s Leadership School of Queens (New Visions)
Janice LaVaute – CL of Civic Leadership Academy (New Visions)
Brian Gavin - CL of Glover Cleveland HS (District 77)
Jonathan Nuwesra - CL of Bayside HS (New Visions)
Sandra Dunn-Yules - UFT QHS Special Representative
Washington Sanchez - UFT QHS Special Representative
James Vasquez - UFT QHS District Representative 
The Superintendents present were
Elaine Lindsey - D24, 25, 26, 27, 29 and 30 QHS
Juan Mendez - D28 New Visions QHS
Michael Alcoff – Renewal High Schools
Kathy Pelles - Consortium, International, Outward Bound QHS
Fred Walsh - CUNY QHS
I.    Schools with High Turnover and School Surveys 
The UFT Consultation Committee highlighted several schools that have high turnover rates of staff.  These schools included Bryant HS, Humanities and the Arts, Math and Science, The Young Women’s Leadership School Astoria, Frederick Douglas Academy VI.  What do the Superintendents do when receiving reports of schools with high turnover? How is high turnover addressed?
Response: Superintendents believe there is no “cookie cutter” approach because each school may have different causes leading to high turnover. There is a conversation with Principals reviewing the relationship of trust as measured in school survey data. There is a belief that the NYC school system loses educators to our wealthier neighbors to the north and east. Geography may play a role in impacting hard-to-staff schools like those on the peninsula where it is difficult to place math and science educators. Superintendents do not believe that trust alone correlates to high turnover.
Editor’s Note: “There is a belief” does not equal evidence that the members who leave those schools go to higher-paying jobs in Westchester and on Long Island.  Other schools on the peninsula do not have the high turnover that FDA VI has, nor do other schools in Astoria suffer the same staff losses as William Cullen Bryant and Young Women’s Leadership School.
The UFT C.C. agrees that geographic location and competition with other school districts in NY may make it more difficult to recruit and retain staff, and that is why it’s so important to create school communities where the staff feels supported and trust the administration.  The UFT has received complaints from members working in high turnover schools and those complaints have been forwarded to the superintendents.  In many cases, UFT members have stated that they would leave their present school location if they could. These reports are connected to low morale and trust in these schools and not because of out-of-district employment or geography. The UFT C.C. asserts that there is a correlation between the measurement of perceived low trust on school surveys and high turnover of staff. It is an important indicator of the success of leadership at a school. How are Superintendents using school survey data to address the issues of low trust and high turnover at Bryant HS, Queens School of Inquiry, Humanities and the Arts, The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria? 
Editor’s Note: The high school boroughwide average for the teacher-principal trust questions on the school survey is 79.13.  For the schools mentioned in the minutes:
Q252 Queens School of Inquiry (Meredith Inbal) 70.5
Q260 Frederick Douglass Academy VI (Charles Ogindimu) 54.75
Q286 Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria (Allison Persad) 31
Q445 William Cullen Bryant (Namita Dwarka) 39.75
Q492 MAST (Jose Cruz) 53
Q498 Humanities and the Arts (Kayode Ayetiwa)28
Response: At PPOs, there is a discussion between a Superintendent and Principal. There is a conversation about perceived trust levels in these schools. In some instances, Superintendents meet with teachers to gain a better understanding of the trust issues in the schools. In general, Superintendents are looking for (1) the number of teachers completing the survey and (2) the ratio of teachers taking the survey among the whole. Superintendents believe that in cases where there is high turnover, Principals should focus on retaining their faculty in the school.
Superintendents agreed to a follow up at the next meeting to discuss trust and high turnover in the highlighted schools, Bryant HS, Humanities and the Arts, Math and Science, The Young Women’s Leadership School Astoria, Frederick Douglas Academy VI.

NY State begins the second year requirement that educators meet 100 hours of CTLE within five years. Many educators are apprehensive about acquiring the necessary hours because of availability, timing, geography and expense. The UFT C.C.  reported that faculty in our schools often feel “left out” of the CTLE conversations. This is a factor that might impact trust and high turnover. How can we address the concern and better provide for CTLE/PD opportunities for employees?
Superintendents agree that schools should look into UFT Teacher Centers as a possible solution to better provide CTLE within schools. In addition, Superintendents suggest that schools look into webinars paid for by the school and seek opportunities at the BFSCs. Both of these avenues may provide opportunities for CTLE both during and after the school day.

III.        SAVE Protocol
SAVE legislation originated in the early 2000s and is a required implementation in NYC schools according to Chancellor Regulation A443. 

The UFT reminded Superintendents that removed students should not miss instruction.  Students are required, and should be expected to, complete their class assignment in a designated location (i.e.; a SAVE room staffed by a teacher). Guidance Counselors cannot be assigned to SAVE room duties.
The UFT and Superintendents agreed that the student removal procedures in a school must be codified and shared with all staff. SAVE procedures within a school should be reviewed periodically. Additionally, the SAVE procedure must be an addendum to the school’s hard copy safety plan. 

IV.        Teacher Evaluation
There is a growing concern to address how teachers are evaluated, especially where MOTP ratings are low and MOSL ratings are high. How do Superintendents look at teacher ratings and outcomes with Principals? The UFT Committee asked the superintendents to identify schools and departments where the MOTP scores were significantly lower than MOSL scores. Two schools in this situation are Bryant HS English department and Hillcrest HS physical education department. 
The Superintendents agreed to examine discrepancies in terms of MOTP vs. MOSL scores.
V.  Intervisitation
The 2017-18 school year introduces new options for MOTP observations that include peer intervisitation. The UFT reminded Superintendents that teacher intervisitations are not evaluative and have no requirement for paperwork.

Superintendents agreed and as requested by UFT are advising Principals that intervisitation is non-evaluative and does not require paperwork; there should be no written reports or submission of documents. Superintendents believe that intervisitation effectiveness might increase when supervisors promote guidance: “what does an educator want to learn/what did you learn” -or- “how might you integrate what you learned into your practice?” These conversations, while important, should be informal if they occur. Superintendents agreed that building this practice will take time. In addition, Principals should have a cabinet of teachers (i.e.; representing departments) where these “teacher teams” can discuss teacher needs and progress in terms of intervisitation.

Respectfully submitted,

Jonathan Nuwesra

First story in UFT Weekly Update for Chapter Leaders:

UFT’s first Chancellor’s Consultation meeting focuses on consultation process

The UFT leadership held its first Chancellor’s Consultation meeting of the year with Chancellor Carmen Fariña earlier in September. Most issues on the agenda each month come directly from members, who are reporting issues to their chapter leaders and district reps. At this initial meeting, the union’s primary focus was on the consultation process in schools and at the district level to ensure that the consultation process detailed in the DOE-UFT contract is not only in place, but used effectively. Let’s make sure that our rights are upheld and resolve issues as they come up. Putting things on the record is key to holding people accountable at every level. The only way we can solve workplace problems is if we know about them. Chapter leaders can now go online and enter notes about their consultations — not the minutes, but the topics that were discussed as well as what was resolved and what wasn’t.  What’s more, district reps can now track those conversations and bring up unresolved school-level issues with superintendents. 

*This post was updated after a comment from someone who apparently works at Humanities and the Arts. The word lackey was taken out and replaced to make it clear that I am reporting on what was told to me by inside sources. Sorry about that choice of a word. 

Friday, September 29, 2017


UFT President Michael Mulgrew sent out two emails to members within two hours of each other on Thursday. Mulgrew claims another great UFT success because next month the city will pay us 12.5% of the money they have owed us since 2009 but without any interest. In his second email, Mulgrew warns us about the danger that lies ahead because the US Supreme Court is hearing a case that may soon make union dues in the public sector optional. He urges us to be unified.

Keeping Mulgrew's advice in mind, I read with more than a little irony High School Executive Board member Arthur Goldstein's email to three UFT officers requesting office help and space at UFT Headquarters so the High School Executive Board members can properly carry out their duties. Arthur sent a copy to me. 

These emails reveal a UFT whose leadership talks about being together and then does everything they can to surppress anything and anyone that dares to question anything they do.

In one of Mulgrew's emails he warns us of the Supreme Court case called Janus v AFSCME. If the unions lose (the most likely result) non-union members will no longer have to pay fair share (agency) fees and can ride for free. We don't know how the decision will be written. It might be that people will have to opt in to the union or maybe they will have to opt out. Many will probably choose not to pay dues to a union that seems almost completely detached from its rank and file.
Mulgrew reminds us to remember "that all of us together are the union." True but his Unity caucus that controls the UFT, and has for over half a century, is unaccountable. They run the UFT as a top-down organiztion that rarely seeks input from the rank and file.  Since it is virtually impossible to get to almost 200,000 members to win a UFT election, Mulgrew's invitation only group knows they can't lose and act as if the rest of us and our ideas are not important.
If you want the most recent example of UFT's lack of democracy, just look at the resolution they passed on Monday at the Executive Board stating that Executive Board members who want to present a resolution must have it copied for the entire Executive Board and available at least a half hour before the meeting starts. Unity leadership does not work in the schools. Their resolution does not impact them.

Since the meetings begin at 6:00 P.M. and High School Executive Board members work all day in schools as teachers, the Union leadership is making it more difficult for high school people to raise something at the Executive Board. The high schools not coincidentally are the only part of the UFT that voted against Unity in the 2016 UFT election.

Resolutions require five signatures to be introduced at the Executive Board. The seven high school people (the only ones on the 102 member Executive Board opposed to Unity Caucus) are coming from all over the city to get to 52 Broadway for meetings after school and now must get there earlier to present a resolution to the Board.

This is just another anti-democratic rule put in place to stifle opposition to Unity. It is especially not needed now when the union as we know it is being threatened  by the Supreme Court.

Arthur Goldstein sent what is a funny but sad email requesting office space and assistance from the UFT leaders. I can't wait to see if there is an answer. 

Arthur's email is copied below and under that are the two from Mulgrew: one on Janus and the other gloating about the UFT's triumph of managing to get the city to pay a loan paid back to us without interest.
The people Arthur wrote to are Staff Director Leroy Barr, VP High Schools Janella Hinds and UFT Secretary Howard Schoor. I was sent a copy.
Dear LeRoy, Janella, and Howard,

Since you’ve decided to not allow us to bring resolutions without distributing them 30 minutes beforehand, we are at somewhat of a loss. Unlike you, we all teach full time. We are able to meet at the lobby at 52, but since we all teach we are often unable to get together earlier than 5 or 5:30. Furthermore, we are not allowed into the actual building until at or very close to 5:30.

Unlike all of you, we have no staff. We have no one to make copies.

Therefore I’m certain that you’ll have no issue giving us an office in which to meet whenever we need to, along with a copying machine. I’m certain you’ll have no issue granting us the use of staff to distribute whatever resolutions we come up with.

Thank you so much for your kind consideration.

Very sincerely,

Arthur Goldstein 

Dear James,

It’s official. The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to hear the anti-union Janus vs. AFSCME case in its current term.
The Janus case is the new Friedrichs case. It is paid for and brought to us by people who want to destroy unions so your benefits and rights can be taken away. They want public-sector unions to be barred from requiring non-members to pay fair-share or agency fees to cover their portion of costs associated with collective bargaining and union services.
The court will hear oral arguments, and a decision will be rendered no later than June.
As we brace for this challenge ahead, remember that all of us together are the union. Because we have stuck together, we have pensions, employer-paid health insurance, job security, due process rights, a grievance process and a voice in how our schools are run. Because we have a strong union, UFT members are receiving SESIS compensation and lump-sum payments this fall.
We must continue to stand strong and united since so many invaluable rights and benefits hang in the balance.
Michael Mulgrew
UFT President

Dear James,
Because you have a union that fights for you, you are entitled to be compensated for the two 4 percent raises that Michael Bloomberg gave to members of some municipal unions in 2009 and 2010 but refused to give to public school educators and other city employees at the time.
When Bill de Blasio became mayor, he agreed to pay the money owed but said the city could not afford to pay it all at one time so we negotiated a contract in 2014 that ensured that UFT members were made whole by 2020.
I am pleased to remind you that all UFT members now on payroll who worked for the Department of Education between 2009 and 2017 (plus those who retired after June 30, 2014) will receive a lump-sum payment of 12.5 percent of the money they are owed in their October paychecks.
This payment comes on the heels of a 4.5 percent rate increase that all DOE-employed UFT members received this past May and in advance of a 5 percent rate increase coming in the spring of 2018.
The 2017 lump-sum payment, which will be added to a regularly scheduled paycheck, is the second of five lump-sum payments between 2015 and 2020 (see “The payment schedule” graphic).
For in-service teachers, other pedagogues and paraprofessionals, the money will be part of your Oct. 16 check. For nurses, therapists and other members who are paid on the H-Bank payroll, the money will be in your Oct. 20 check. Per-diem and per-session payments will be issued on Nov. 2. 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.
Even if you weren’t working for the DOE in 2010 but are on payroll now, you will be receiving a lump-sum payment since the 8 percent rate increase all members should have received then is being phased in.
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 savings account. If you have been continually employed, you have been depositing money in this account since Nov. 1, 2009. This October, you’ll make your second withdrawal.
See this handy chart to learn more about the salary increases and lump-sum payments you will receive as a result of the 2014 UFT-DOE contract.
Thank you for everything that you do.
Michael Mulgrew
Michael Mulgrew

Thursday, September 28, 2017


NYC Educator has a comprehensive report on Wednesday's citywide chapter leader meeting.

We expected President Michael Mulgrew to take a victory lap on the latest version of the teacher evaluation system because with Measures of Student Learning counting for half of teacher ratings, it is easy for teachers and principals (they are also rated by this system) to manipulate the student growth portion of the ratings. I knew my own highly effective rating was a joke. I also kind of figured that if I was highly effective, many other people be rated that way and that was confirmed when everyone in my school received highly effective.

The Department of Education has responded, not by accepting the overall higher ratings, but by ignoring them. Some examples:

  • In their new Absent Teacher Reserve policy, the DOE will only count the Measures of Teaching Practice (observations) part of the rating when deciding if a teacher s assigned to a vacancy stays or goes from a school.
  • The DOE is discontinuing non-tenured teachers who have effective ratings.
  • The DOE is charging tenured teachers in incompetence hearings who do not have any ineffective ratings but only have developing ratings.
  • The DOE is terminating and forcing tenured teachers to resign in state disciplinary hearings after only one ineffective rating. Read about it at the Chaz blog.
We need our High School Executive Board members to ask if fewer non-tenured teachers are being discontinued and if there is a reduction in tenured teachers facing charges through the state teacher disciplinary process.

We admit that only a few teachers will have the burden of proof shifted to them in dismissal hearings which was our biggest fear with the new evaluation system. There are still a few tenured teachers who have to prove they are not incompetent because of two ineffective ratings and they most probably work in schools where students have the greatest needs. There should be no teachers who carry that difficult burden of proof.

If tenured teachers are still being dismissed and charged at the same rate as they were before, then is it worth it that we all have more observations and anxiety compared to the old satisfactory/unsatisfactory system where it was one and done for the year for observations for most tenured teachers at or above Salary Step 8B?

We must have more hard numbers to answer that question.

For non tenured teachers, do you really care if you are rated effective if you no longer have a job?

Mulgrew's Report on evaluations from NYC Educator:

Teacher evaluation—our favorite topic for last 8 years—within one year of RttT, districts were using new evaluations. States needed the money. Politically, test scores were the fad. Problem I had was passing percentage. Made me nuts, because we always had standardized testing and were looked upon as horrible. Rest of state doesn’t teach same children we do. How long would some of our colleagues around state last in our classrooms?

Remember when we recruited teachers? Many couldn’t understand how children were allowed to act certain ways and left quickly.

There were no good old days of teacher evaluation. Ratings were based on how principal thought of teacher. Did nothing to help us develop.

Decided if we were going to move forward it had to be about growth—where does a child come in and where does he leave? That is what validates our work, not whether he can pass a test. Not same work teaching AP and at-risk. If it’s about test score, I’m putting myself at risk by teaching at risk.

Bloomberg presented a formula to us that said 85% was about passing a test. They didn’t know about variables for special ed. They used one variable and did not consider different disabilities. They were all business majors. We continued that fight. Test scores should not be only thing we measure. We pushed authentic student learning when Cuomo’s rating plummeted.

We do not want to go back to when principal decides if he likes me or not and gives a U or an S. We wanted something that gave a true understanding of what we do, and needed a check and balance against the principal.

If there is evidence about student learning, and principal says I’m bad, then principal’s word is not valid. City would never agree. Mentions matrix, to applause. Blogs said matrix would kill us. I read all the blogs. We have a lot of smart people. We got this into the law because we won the argument in Albany.

I know it looks a little weird, and I heard all the jokes, and said just wait until it kicks in. I know we were onto something because now they don’t want to negotiate overall rating. They want just MOTS. We say no, they must use overall rating. We are not gloating.

When this started 8 years ago, my own experience was there was no support. The only reason I’m still a teacher is because of a teacher I shared a room with. He said I needed help. We don’t have a system that helps people understand how difficult our profession is. We force administrators to do observation in a way that they have to talk about our craft. We take children at all different levels in September and we move them. It’s not about a test. I wanted to validate what we do in NYC.

DOE is way behind on how to do observations correctly. Some schools have collaborative processes.

25.88% highly effective this year. Up from 22.
71.1% effective down from 81.
2.68% developing down from 6%
.34% ineffective down from 1%

Editor's Note: The numbers add up to 110% on last year's system.)

Post will lose its mind, say we hoodwinked them. Some people want to go back to “good old days.” We took journey and figured out basis was student growth. For first time, NYC outperforms rest of state of NY. We’re better at it because we have more experience with children with disabilities and ELLs. Those are areas of growth. Are those kids being educated in schools that say they’re better than us?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


Below is Chancellor Carmen Farina's email to our DOE accounts.

Commenters with a racial agenda can have a blast blaming race. At least you will be on topic. Problem with that view is that when white kids snap in schools around the country and use deadly weapons, we never hear anything from the people with the agenda.

Children being killed in schools has  to stop. Schools should be safe havens.

Dear Staff,
I am saddened to share that a student life was lost today as a result of a tragic incident at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation in the Bronx. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and school community during this incredibly difficult time. 
The Mayor and I were in the Bronx today to support grieving families, concerned students, and staff members and we are ensuring that additional grief counselors and NYPD School Safety Agents will be at the school tomorrow and in the coming days. 
The loss of a student is heartbreaking and the DOE and the NYPD are working to conduct a thorough investigation. The safety of students and staff always comes first and we rely on our safety protocols, our staff, and our partnerships with students, parents, families, and communities to ensure the safety of all school buildings.
Principals and school staff should review information on the Principal’s Portal:
Today, we stand with the entire city as we mourn, and we remain committed to ensuring every child has a safe, welcoming school to attend, every day.
Thank you,

Carmen Fariña


When the US Supreme Court basically legalized political corruption in 2016 in a unanimous decision, the ICEUFT blog was one of the places that sounded the alarm.

A little over a year later we have more evidence that corruption is acceptable as the convictions of former New York State Senate leader Dean Skelos and his son have been overturned on appeal. Just as with former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the prosecution says there will be a second trial.

This comment is from former federal prosecutor Preet Bharara:

“As with Sheldon Silver, (federal prosecutors) will retry Dean and Adam Skelos,” said Bharara via Twitter. “(The Supreme Court) made it harder to punish corruption, but justice should prevail here.”

I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for justice for corrupt politicians. Pay to play is the law of the land. Our leaders just cannot give absolutely direct quid pro quos and they are on sound legal ground.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


I respect all of the classes I teach and have taught over the years but sometimes there is a class that stands out as ideal because of a great mix of students.

I'm fortunate to teach kids that I look forward to working with. There are some challenges for sure but each day my day at Middle College High School ends with what has so far been an absolutely wonderful class with articulate left leaning, right leaning, apolitical and just curious students who were somehow grouped together. I just throw out a topic and they take the discussion to another level on a daily basis. We have a good time and we all learn from each other.

The kids googled me yesterday and some discovered this blog. I told them I would say hello so I am keeping my word.

As for the adults, once again, I'm asking the grown up readers, particularly those who are understandably frustrated by not working in a positive classroom environment, to please refrain from using some of the intemperate language that is used in the comments. This is an open blog that anyone can read and I know for a fact that some of the pupils I work with occasionally drop by.

Monday, September 25, 2017


Michael Mulgrew, the UFT President who almost never shows up to hear members under attack pleading their cases at the open mic before Executive Board meetings, was there tonight to hear teacher Emily James present her petition with close to 80,000 people on it looking for paid family leave for UFT members.

Mulgrew responded, according to High School Representative Mike Schirtzer, by saying the city managers got a terrible deal for parental leave (The ICE blog has reported on this) and the UFT won't be pressured internally into accepting a bad deal but we will take the petition to the city and report back to Emily at the next meeting.

We also heard from Mike through UFT lawyer Adam Ross that anyone on unpaid leave (child care, restoration of health, wind up personal affairs) when the lump sum payments (I call them interest free loan repayments) are made will be a year behind. Those on payroll or retired received a payment in October of 2015 and will get one next month, another in October of 2018, the next in October 2019 and finally the last payment will come in October 2020. Someone on leave will be at least a year behind. Someone who was on leave in October of 2015 who is back now will receive the 2015 payment now and will be a year behind and waiting until 2021 to get the full money back.

I don't even want to ask what happens to someone who is on a multi-year leave to take care of the kids. They may get paid back in full during the next solar eclipse.

Arthur Goldstein's full report on the Executive Board up is now up.


Marian Swerdlow is a long time activist -teacher-chapter leader as well as being one of the key people in the very important opposition caucus called Teachers for a Just Contract. TJC split amicably when MORE was formed a few years back.

Earlier this month Swerdlow wrote an in depth letter to the editor of the Chief Leader civil service newspaper that is printed in its entirety below. Marian goes into great detail in her defense of the Absent Teacher Reserves to counter some of the anti-ATR biased press stories that have been published recently. Marian retired in 2016. We hope she stays as an activist.

 Bad Rap for ATR Teachers
Sep 1, 2017 

The New York Times article, “New York City Redeploys Its Sidelined Teachers” (Aug 19 issue) is sometimes misleading and, what is more important, lacks context, unnecessarily undermining parents’ confidence in the city’s schools.

From the very first paragraph, the Times’s reporter paints a misleading picture of the members of the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool, ascribing their presence in the pool as “in most cases because of disciplinary problems, or bad teaching rec­ords, or they had worked in poorly-performing schools that were closed…”
Insofar as there were people in the pool for the first two reasons, they were there because the charges against them were found to be unsubstantiated, either by an impartial arbitrator or the Department of Education’s own hearing officer.

In discussing the contractual changes that led to the creation of the ATR pool, the Times’s reporter writes, “Under the deal, Teachers could not simply be fired, so they were put in a pool known as the Absent Teacher Reserve.” This falsely implies there was something culpable about everyone in the pool. Not only that, under the earlier contract, they would not have been fired, but would have either returned to their schools or been placed in nearby vacancies, which acknowledges they were still considered fit Teachers.
What is not discussed in this Times article are other reasons, unrelated to Teach­er quality, that Principals don’t wish to hire from the pool. Although the Department of Education at different times has offered to pay part or all of such a Teacher’s salary, if a school hired him or her permanently, within a short time, the school would become completely responsible for the cost.

The Teachers in the pool are disproportionately senior, and a Teacher after 23 years earns almost twice as much as a new Teacher. Furthermore, many have licenses now in limited demand—
for example, because of the trend away from vocational education, and the narrowing of arts and foreign language curricula.

Finally, the Teachers in the pool are disproportionately African-American, Afro-Caribb­ean and immigrants, as compared with the city’s teaching force. Some consideration should be given to the role of bias in the failure of these Teachers to find permanent positions.

The article’s report that 12 percent of Teachers in the pool received “the lowest possible ratings of effectiveness” should be put in the context of the way they are rated. Those who rotate from school to school are commonly as signed a different class each day. Roving supervisors drop in, unannounced, and observe these Teachers with students they do not know, in a class they were unaware they would teach until they arrived at school that day.

Finally, unfortunately the story perpetuates one pernicious myth that was often repeated in the pages, and even the editorials, of the New York Times prior to the referenced contractual changes: “Before [2005] Teachers with seniority could claim whatever job they wanted, displacing novice Teachers...”

In actuality, the 2000 contract has no fewer than eight pages governing transfers. It boils down to this: The only positions Teachers could transfer into were those that were vacant or had never been opened up to transfers previously; that is, had been vacant a year ago and had been filled by a new Teacher.

Of those positions, a Principal needed to post only one out of two. So, if a Principal had more vacancies than first-year Teachers, he or she did not have to displace any novice Teachers. If not, it still gave the Principal some control over which “novice” Teach­ers to secure, and which to subject to the vagaries of the transfer system.

Furthermore, Principals often found ways to “hide vacancies.” This gross exaggeration of the prerogatives of veteran Teachers, appearing in “the paper of record,” most likely helped bring about the 2005 contractual changes. Thus the Times is, itself, in part to blame for the problems of today’s ATR pool.

I was a NYC Teacher 1989-2016. I was an independent UFT chapter leader at Frank­lin Delano Roosevelt H.S. from 2012 to 2016. Neither I, nor any friend or rela­tive of mine, has ever been in the ATR pool.


Editor’s note: Ms. Swerdlow was also one of the city’s first women Train Conductors during the early 1980s.

Saturday, September 23, 2017



I am writing on behalf of the affiliate leaders in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, from whom we have been getting texts and other communications intermittently. Barely a week after Hurricane Irma, AFT members and their families in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are coping with the ravages of a direct hit from Hurricane Maria. For the third time in the last month, we are asking you to give to the AFT Disaster Relief Fund for our colleagues who have been devastated by a monster hurricane.

We’ve never seen three back-to-back hurricanes that caused so much destruction, and our brothers and sisters need our help. Please consider making a donation to the AFT Disaster Relief Fund today.

Hurricane Maria is the largest storm to hit Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in more than 80 years. Puerto Rico is completely without power—and some are saying the electric grid has been destroyed. One of its dams is on the verge of failing. Neighborhoods throughout the Caribbean are waterlogged. Roofs have peeled off homes, schools and shopping centers. And the death toll is rising.

The damage has left so many of our members and their communities with nothing, and it will take years to rebuild. Help us lend a hand in their time of need by donating to the AFT Disaster Relief Fund.

The AFT is here for our members, their families and the tens of thousands of students and others we serve on Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. And we know this is personal for our many members who have family who live on the islands.

Our three local unions in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are making every effort to get in touch with all our members there to check on them and see what they need. We are praying for their safety. And just as we are doing in Texas, Florida and the other areas hit by these hurricanes, we will help them rebuild.

We are all Puerto Ricans today. We are all Virgin Islanders today. Show your solidarity by donating to the AFT Disaster Relief Fund.
As I said when the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico’s teachers union, joined the AFT, “tu lucha es mi lucha.” We will be with our members every step of the way to ensure they recover after this devastating storm.

I have made another donation to the AFT Disaster Relief Fund, and I hope you will too.

In unity,
Randi Weingarten, AFT president
Aida Diaz, Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico president
Carol Callwood, St. Thomas-St. John Federation of Teachers, Local 1825 president
Rosa Soto-Thomas, St. Croix Federation of Teachers, Local 1826 president

P.S. Watch the video of how the AFT has helped members in Texas after Hurricane Harvey. This is what we do as a union—and what we will do for our members in Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Friday, September 22, 2017


One of the more onerous features of the disastrous 2015 Education Tranformation Act is that New York State Teachers certified since September of 2004 now must complete 100 hours of professional development every five years. The PD we do every week no longer counts under the new law as it used to. Under previous law, 175 hours of PD were required but in school PD such as faculty conferences used for PD counted toward fulfilling the requirement.

Under the current law, the UFT, DOE and other providers of PD can charge us for it. What a scam!

One member I know took to Facebook to plead the case of the teachers.

The teacher asks the UFT why the Department of Education does not count the Professional Development we do after school each week for the 100 hours required by the state education law?

Here is a copy of the UFT answer and the response from the teacher that is printed with the teacher's permission:

UFT: The state education department doesn't want to give CTLE credit for in-school PD on Mondays because it can't guarantee that all schools are providing relevant PD. We know it is frustrating but it is not in the union's power to change that policy.

The followup from the teacher:

I apreciate you getting back to me. My question is then why are we being asked to do the PD if it doesn't count? Why are we being forced to pay for something? The raise you fought for for us teachers is being given right back to the city and/or state? Most of these classes cost $200 + and we need to use our time outside of school for PD. How is that fair?

UFT Answer: I know it is frustrating. If it is any solace, the Teacher Center and the union is committed to low-cost PD for members so you shouldn't have to pay large sums for it.

The teacher replies:

Like I said I appreciate you getting back to me.

This blog has stated before in many ways that the UFT and NYSUT are unions in name only.

It is long past time for teachers to do something about this unfortunate state of affairs other than pulling union dues if, or rather when, the Supreme Court says we can.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


There are good people in the UFT who have decided to organize around winning paid maternity and childcare leave for expectant and new moms and dads too without givebacks. Many members have no problem with paid family leave as long as it is done without givebacks. The city, not us, should pay for it.

Unfortunately, the reality is that the UFT has little or no leverage when talking to the city and is basically doing collective begging. We go to the bargaining table and probably say this: "Please Mr. Mayor may we have paid family leave?" The city more than likely replies: "You can have paid maternity/paternity/family leave as long as you pay dearly for it. We want our cut too."

To make their case at the bargaining table, the city  can cite the city managers who were granted paid family leave over a year ago. One of the managers' representatives asked the Independent Budget Office how much the managers' paid family leave was costing the city and the managers? The IBO's Ronnie Lowenstein sent a letter back to the managers explaining how the city is obtaining substantial savings by granting paid family leave. In order to obtain a paid family leave benefit, all of the city managers had to give up a .47% raise and lose two days of vacation. 

From the Lowenstein letter:

The primary savings to the city from rescinding the .47 percent raise is almost $4.4 million in fiscal year 2018. This figure only includes the savings on base salaries. In addition, the city will save about $1.3 million through reduced pension obligations, FICA and MTA payroll taxes, and other employee benefits. Savings from eliminating two days of paid vacation is an estimated $2.5 million annually.

So how much did the city pay out for the new parental leave benefit?

Lowenstein provides the answer:

In the first year that paid parental leave was available, 230 employees--with an average and median age of 37 years--took advantage of the benefit, at an estimated cost to the city's payroll of $2.4 million.

A $2.4 million benefit costs employees $8.2 million!

The city does great in ripping off its workforce, even if they are managers.

Granted, teachers on average are a little younger than city managers so we would probably have more members who would use a maternity/paternity benefit but the city wants to profit from giving this benefit to union workers.We pointed out the potential cost of all of us possibly losing some sick bank days in a posting this summer that turned very controversial in the comments section. The UFT to their credit has said no so far to givebacks for family leave.

We will probably get paid family leave by accepting a lower raise in the next contract. The only way we could possibly win this benefit for parents without decreasing the next salary increase, or accepting some other dreadful givebacks, is if we were ready to fight like a real labor union for a decent contract.

For this union to act like a real labor union is a pipe dream so get ready to have everyone pay for paid maternity/paternity leave.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


I guess I wasn't the only Teachers Retirement System member who had trouble trying to use their website this weekend. TRS last week encouraged UFT members to up our TDA contribution rate for the October 16 check which will include12.5% of the money we are owed for raises most other city employees received from 2008-2010 that we are receiving in interest free installments through 2020. Many TRS members attempted to increase their TDA rate so the TRS system couldn't handle the volume. TRS, to their credit, sent this email out yesterday.

Dear TRS Member:

We know that many of you experienced difficulties with our website over the past several days, either when registering for the first time, logging in and being prompted for a verification code, or receiving confirmation emails from online transactions. An unusually high volume of users during this period compounded the problems, and many members were justifiably frustrated.

We sincerely apologize for the problems our members experienced, particularly while they were attempting to increase their TDA contribution rate in advance of the September 16 filing deadline. Due to the website issues, TRS has worked to extend the filing deadline to Thursday, September 21, at 9:00 AM.

Members who file for a rate change prior to Thursday at 9:00 AM will have their new TDA rate take effect on the October 16 payroll (which will include a retroactive payment under the UFT contract for many members). New TDA rates will take effect on the October 31 payroll for members who file after 9:00 AM on September 21 through October 1.

Remember, your new TDA contribution rate will remain in effect until you change it, so you'll probably want to make another online rate change in time for the following payroll.

Thank you for your patience—and your participation in the Tax-Deferred Annuity Program.


TRS Member Services 

Monday, September 18, 2017


This email came from Carol Burris yesterday. The first in a series of short films defending public education has been released. It features Diane Ravitch. You can view the film here and spread it please. 

One of my former students, Kimberley Walcott, will be featured in a later release. Attending the filming was quite enjoyable for me.

Dear James,

Thank you again for playing a crucial role in the promotion of 8 Powerful Voices in Defense of Public Education.  We delayed release of the first film due to the hurricane, but we are ready to go.

Sunday, September 17, 2017


Looking through the UFT's Weekly Chapter Leader Update (see the first three stories below) shows editor Peter O'Donnell has no sense of urgency about a union and union movement that are both in peril.  The UFT's funding is at stake as the US Supreme Court could take away mandatory union fees for non-members in the public sector in the case of Janus v AFSCME. I don't even see the case mentioned at all in the Update and I didn't see anything last week either. Maybe I missed it. Overall, it looks to me as if it is business as usual down at 52 Broadway. Since I gather editor O'Donnell gets his marching orders from the leadership, it was most likely not totally his decision to not mention Janus.

To their credit, the Union does have a photo showing members at the Labor Day Parade ready to vote no on the Constitutional Convention but then there are two lead articles telling us this is just another school year starting.

First, the Union is telling us they are opening up a Welcome Center at 52 Broadway. That is the lead story to tell Chapter Leaders in the first full week of the school year? This is hard to believe.

Then, the Union advises us to use our Chapter Committee Consultation Committees to resolve issues with principals. All good and well but not exactly urgent when the Union as we know it is in jeopardy.

Third, they ask us to donate for Hurricaine Irma relief which is at least an action.

Buried down in about the 33rd item is news of a rally on Monday afternoon down at City Hall in support of IBEW Local 3 workers who have been on strike against Charter-Spectrum (formerly Time-Warner Cable) since March. These workers need to be a higher priority than in the 30's on the list of weekly news stories.

Here are the first three paragraphs in this week's Update:

Photo of the Week

UNION PROUD: UFT District Representative Jessica Harvey (center) and members from District 2 schools get ready to march in the Labor Day Parade on Sept. 9. 

This Week's Focus

UFT opens Welcome Center at 52 Broadway

When our members arrive at union headquarters, we want them to feel welcome and we want them to receive top-notch service from their first interaction with us. That’s why the UFT opened a Welcome Center in the lobby of 52 Broadway on Sept. 5. From Monday through Friday from 3–6 p.m. when school is in session, members coming to 52 Broadway will first visit the Welcome Center, where they’ll be greeted by staff and a union officer. We’re taking this step to help ensure that members find the services they’re seeking and are directed to the appropriate department to answer their questions and address their issues. Members may travel to union headquarters to attend a workshop, obtain information on member benefits or follow up on a grievance. Whatever the reason, we want each and every member to have a good experience.

Use our school consultation committee summary tool to stay on track

Principals are required to meet with their school’s UFT consultation committee once a month according to Article 19, Section H3 of the UFT-DOE contract. As you prepare to hold your first meeting with your principal, we wanted to let you know about a new resource we’ve created to help you stay on track and to ensure that your district representative can support you as effectively as possible. You can fill out the UFT’s new online Consultation Summary Form (you must be logged in to the UFT website) to report resolved and unresolved issues at your school to your UFT district rep. When you fill out the form, you will be emailed a summary of your school consultation committee meeting that you can share with members of your chapter. The form also lists possible topics for discussion, which may be useful to you when creating your meeting agenda. Your district rep will receive a copy of each summary form you submit. Your district rep, after checking with you, may add your school’s unresolved issues to the agenda for his or her consultation meeting with your school district’s superintendent. Reach out to your district representative if you need help forming a UFT consultation committee at your school or if you are encountering any issues with consultation, including a prinicipal’s refusal to meet with your committee.

Donate to help your fellow educators affected by the hurricanes

Take action Hurricane Harvey devastated the Texas Gulf Coast. Hurricane Irma has caused massive destruction in the Caribbean and in Florida. Our fellow educators and retired UFT members in Texas and Florida need our help. Make a donation to the UFT Disaster Relief Fund to help them recover from the hurricanes. Donations will go toward disaster relief for affected members of Texas AFT, affected UFT members in Florida and public schools in Texas and Florida. Use our online form to make a donation by credit card. If you prefer to donate via check, make your check payable to UFT Disaster Relief Fund and put Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in the memo line. Mail your check to UFT Disaster Relief Fund, 52 Broadway, New York, NY 10004. 
Here is the item to to support the striking workers:

Political Action

Take action Support striking union members at a rally and march: We must stand united at this moment when our rights as unionized workers are under siege. Help us support a fair contract for striking Charter/Spectrum members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 3. Sign up to join the UFT contingent at 4:15 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 18, at Foley Square for the rally in support of these workers. Protesters will be gathering at 3 p.m. in Cadman Plaza Park in Brooklyn and marching over the Brooklyn Bridge and then walking to Foley Square. At approximately 4:15 p.m., local and national union leaders, including UFT President Michael Mulgrew, will address the protesters at the final staging place. Almost 2,000 Spectrum workers are five months into a job action against the cable giant to keep the company from destroying their retirement and health benefits, unfairly disciplining workers and threatening job security.

Saturday, September 16, 2017


When someone thinks of powerful labor unions in the USA, the Teamsters often come to mind. New York Teamsters have just had their pension cut by almost 30%. These cuts are for current retirees. Future retirees will see a19% cut.

From the Daily News:

Pension payouts to retired Teamsters in New York will be cut by roughly 30% starting next month.

The draconian move is a last-ditch effort to keep the New York State Teamsters Conference Pension and Retirement Fund solvent — and it was taken following a vote among its 34,000 members.

The Teamsters fund covers nine local unions, mostly in upstate New York.

The average cut for those who retired with 30 years of service will be about $2,000 — taking most retirees to $3,550 from $5,000.

The rank and file vote on the cuts was strange to say the least.

From the Daily Gazette:

The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday announced that active and retired Teamsters across upstate New York had voted against big pension reductions by a more than 2-1 ratio.

But since most of the 34,000-plus eligible Teamsters didn’t vote — and under federal law, an unreturned ballot counts as a “yes” vote — the cuts are approved, and will take effect Oct. 1.

UFT officer-executive board elections are done by mail balloting and the vast majority of members don't vote in these UFT elections. Even with a gigantic pension cut at stake for the Teamsters, less than half voted. The Gazette reported that over 34,000 ballots were mailed out but only 13,869 were returned of which 9,788 were against and only 4,081 were in favor. The 20,767 non-returned ballots were counted as yes votes. My take is this is further evidence that mail in ballots lead to low turnouts.

The Teamsters are in a tough situation with declining workforces but anyone who thinks pension cuts cannot happen with public sector employee pensions is just plain wrong.

What is occurring with the Teamsters is just another reason why we must vote to protect our pensions by voting NO in the general election on November 7 on a Constitutional Convention (Proposition 1). A convention could put reductions to our pensions on the table.

Friday, September 15, 2017


Since we are getting back the second interest free payment (12.5% of the money we are owed) from the loan we gave to the city of the raises other city unionized employees received  from 2008-2010 on October 15, 2017, UFT members will need to up their TDA contribution rate by Saturday, September 16 for it to be included in the October 15 check.

Anyone who is not maxing out their TDA could up their contribution temporarily to lower their taxable income for 2017 and add to their TDA. Remember to switch back to the lower rate for the next payroll or the new rate will continue.

Here is the email from TRS:

Dear TRS Member:

As you may know, a retroactive payment under the United Federation of Teachers contract is scheduled for the October 16, 2017 payroll. According to our records, you may be receiving this retroactive payment.

TRS is contacting you because we know that members receiving such a payment often choose to increase their contributions to TRS' Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA) Program in advance. The retroactive payment provides a rare opportunity to make a larger one-time deposit into their TDA account.

If you are interested in increasing your TDA contribution rate for the October 16 payroll, TRS must receive your rate election by this Saturday, September 16. To change your TDA contribution rate, log in to the secure section of our website, choose "TDA" in the main menu bar, and use the "Change Rate" feature by September 16.

Remember, your new TDA contribution rate will remain in effect until you change it, so you'll probably want to make another online rate change in time for the following payroll.

For more information, please read the related news bulletins on our website. 


Thursday, September 14, 2017


Mayor Bill de Blasio easily cruised to a Democratic Primary victory the other night. It looks like the under-funded, not well known Republican Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis does not have that great a chance to upset the Mayor in November although you never know it could be a closer election than people think.

What does de Blasio cruising to reelection mean for those of us who work in the NYC schools?

 It's probably more of the same with Chancellor Carmen Farina or one of her deputies following her if she retires. The war on teachers in too many schools will more than likely continue. On the other hand, maybe the mayor goes in a different direction in his second term in office.

Time will tell but the UFT's early endorsement does not seem to matter one way or the other in how the schools are run. Teachers seem to be taken for granted.

I don't see much improvement in working conditions but what does everyone else think?