Saturday, June 23, 2018

PORT RICHMOND IA PRINCIPAL ARRESTED BUT STILL ON JOB

A teacher I knew once was arrested for smoking marijuana and was removed from the classroom and sent to the rubber room the next day. What about a principal arrested on a third-degree felony this week? She is back on the job after her arraignment.

An excerpt from an article in the Staten Island Advance:

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Interim Port Richmond High School Principal Oneatha Swinton was busted Thursday for car insurance fraud in Pennsylvania, authorities said.
Swinton, 39, of Woodstock Avenue in Tompkinsville, was charged with four counts of insurance fraud, a third-degree felony, theft by deception and criminal conspiracy, according to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

Her alleged accomplice, Tanya John, 44, a former employee of the New York Department of Education, is charged with insurance fraud and conspiracy in connection with the scheme.
"These two defendants concocted a plan to fraudulently obtain lower insurance rates," Shapiro said in a press release.
In May 2014, authorities said Swinton fraudulently obtained her Pennsylvania driver's license by using John's local address.
John allowed Swinton to transfer the energy account for her residence into Swinton's name to secure proof of residency, authorities say.
After obtaining the license, the Staten Island resident then allegedly registered her two Lexus vehicles in Pennsylvania to secure cheaper rates. 
You would think this would be enough to have someone immediately assigned away from children but you would not be right.
Later in the story:
According to a source, Swinton was at Port Richmond High School Friday.
Attempts to reach her at the school and her home were unsuccessful.
"She will remain as interim acting principal at the school while we review the charges," said a spokesman for the Department of Education. "We treat these matters with the utmost seriousness and will ensure it's appropriately addressed." 
The Department of Education's "My principals right or wrong" policy continues unabated in NYC. However, I would be surprised if Swinton is appointed permanent principal at Port Richmond and of course she is innocent until proven guilty. 
I predict that after a plea deal she will end up reassigned to some cushy position in the school system.


This post has been updated with link to NY 1 story. Thanks to the reader who sent it.

Friday, June 22, 2018

DAVID IRONS POSTS ON PAID PARENTAL LEAVE

Nobody outside of the close Department of Education-United Federation of Teachers inner circle has seen the full Memorandum of Agreement on Paid Parental Leave. However, the Delegate Assembly was asked to vote on it the other day sight unseen. (In Mulgrew we trust!) We do have the Union's Frequently Asked Questions as a sort of guide but if anyone can get the actual text, please send it our way.

My vote (the only possible vote in my view) would have been to abstain if I was still a Delegate. Do you vote on what you haven't read?

The following is by David Irons, a UFT member whose popular Facebook Page is called Vote No on the UFT Contract. His views are his alone and do not necessarily represent the Independent Community of Educators. In fact all of the posts here do not necessarily reflect the views of ICEUFT unless the piece is approved by the caucus. Someone on Facebook asked for a person in the know to refute any of this. We would like to hear direct answers to David's points.

Parental Leave is a SCAM!!!!! (Some quick analysis)

I wanted to be excited about the new "Parental Leave," and like many of my friends on Facebook was. I am a foster parent, I have adopted several children and I plan to have more in the future. I am not a woman hating man either, I supported a leave that worked for "most"...but the details are horrible here!

1. The City is just trying to save the UFT and the UFT got $51 million dollars every year forever from the city. You will NOT be paid by the city, you will be paid by the Welfare Fund. The city funnels the money into the Welfare fund, the UFT pays out a little of it and keeps the rest as their slush fund.

2. Unpaid leave is NOT pensionable! Again, you don't get paid by the NYC DOE, you get paid from the UFT. So the Parental Leave time will not count towards your service.

3. You do NOT have to use your CAR days...as a matter of fact I was told you can’t unless you are a “birth mother.” So there is no way to get the time pensionable or as part of your DOE salary if you are near retirement.

4. We are all paying for it, and a lot. A one year raise at 2% for the UFT is estimated by the IBO (Independent Budget Office) to cost $240 million dollars. 73 days of lost raises is $48,000,000 dollars a year in perpetuity. My question is, what happens when our salaries grow, but the contributions to the Welfare Fund by the city don't? The UFT now has an incentive NOT to fight for higher raises for us, this benefit could strip the Welfare Fund bare in the future!

5. The city and UFT have you by the proverbial chain. If you take the benefit then you must return for 12 months or pay it back in full.

6. There's a lot hidden about who will be eligible: "If you have taken other leaves of absence prior to the parental leave, you should contact your UFT borough office with questions about their eligibility." It sounds like a smaller and smaller group will ever see the lauded benefits here.

7. For foster and adoption the child must be under 6. Trust me, a 7 year old needs just as-much if not more bonding time than a 2 year old.

8. If two parents work for the UFT they only get a total of 6 weeks they can use. So you both have to pay for it with 73 days of no raises, but you can't both benefit from it!

9. If you receive your child/have your baby during the summer you may lose all or part of the benefit. A man, woman adopting, people fostering, etc. only gets 6 weeks, so there is a large swath of the year(summer) you would not benefit. Again, the UFT walks away with $51 million every year forever and most of us get NOTHING!

10. Our chance at paid FMLA leave is gone. The UFT settled for nothing! Remember, this is only for parents, not for personal illness, taking care of a sick family members, etc. like NYS mandates for private employees now.

I am sure there are a lot more bombs to come when the full details see the light of day. The UFT is by far the biggest winner, watch closely, the Welfare Fund will not payout $51 million dollars for decades...but they will hire 100’s of Unity Hacks to administer the money!

But rest assured, NYC gave us nothing! We ALL paid for it with our own money! Michael Mulgrew and UFT are horrible negotiators, they go in with a dollar of OUR MONEY and come out with ten-dimes for themselves and call it a win.

David Irons

Thursday, June 21, 2018

SKINNY ON SKINNY AWARDS

Many of the leading advocates for public education in NYC, NYS and nationally were in attendance on Tuesday evening as Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters presented the Skinny Awards in Manhattan (opposite of Eli Broad who presented the privatization approved Broad Awards for years). Being in the presence of Leonie, Diane Ravitch, Carol Burris and so many other public education advocates was a thrill for sure.

Having my friend Norm Scott honored with an Award was fantastic. Nobody works like Norm to document what is occurring in the world of public education, including of course at the UFT. He is a great advocate for teachers, parents, students and the Union. Also honored were Councilman, Danny Dromm, test expert and critic of high stakes tests Fred Smith and a City Council assistant Jan Atwell.

Image may contain: 6 people, including James Eterno and Patrick James Walsh, people smiling, people sitting and indoor
Norm front right with Michael Fiorillo, and Patrick Walsh on one side
Norm's wife Carol next to my wife Camille and me on the other side.

SUNY PROFESSORS GOT EXPANSIVE PAID FAMILY LEAVE LAST MONTH AT NO COST

Paid Parental Leave is only controversial in NYC at this blog because all active UFT members will be paying for it by extending the contract, not the city. I don't see the cost as prohibitive for us but the city has an $8 billion surplus so why should teachers pay a dime for this?

I asked about Seattle in yesterday's post. Out there the government picked up the cost for Paid Family Leave for its employees. That's how it should be in NYC too. Mayor Bill de Blasio says he wants to make NYC the fairest city in America. Paid Family Leave is much better than just Paid Parental Leave because any employee can use it to care for a sick relative. It's not just to take care of infants. Perhaps the Emerald City in the Pacific Northwest is too far away and too progressive to have much bearing on NYC.

What about college professors in SUNY? Are they close enough to matter for us on this issue?

New York State has budget problems unlike NYC. The state had a $4.4 billion budget hole to close as of January. The budget was eventually balanced without that much difficulty which is not surprising. In this fiscally tight atmosphere, Governor Andrew Cuomo could have easily cried poverty when dealing with the SUNY union, the United University Professions. Instead, Cuomo intervened for whatever reason and found funding for a wide ranging Paid Family Leave benefit as part of the UUP contract last month that also includes 2% annual salary increases. The benefit will pay up to 67% of average salary for up to 12 weeks. Again, this is part of the contract so it is a new benefit on top of a raise. That's called a union gain.

This is from the Chief Leader. Fred Kowal is the UUP President.

The union, whose membership is 53 percent female, did not have to make any concessions to obtain the benefit, according to Mr. Kowal. He praised Mr. Cuomo for the state’s willingness to work with the union on the issue.


“The Governor had made a firm commitment that he wanted this for municipal employees,” he said.

The UFT settling for a narrow Paid Parental Leave as an extension of the contract set the precedent that UFT members will have to pay for Paid Family Leave in NYC. We now have a 0% increase for about 30% of a school year thanks to the UFT twice extending the present contract. We will surely get hosed by the city if we want to expand Paid Parental Leave to Paid Family Leave. It's not coming for free like at SUNY.

Wouldn't the UFT  and other city unions have been wiser to wait until the contract was up and make this part of the next settlement rather than do this on the eve of Janus as more of a public relations move than anything else? We could have used the UUP settlement with SUNY as a precedent and waged a real fight for a comprehensive Paid Family Leave benefit.

We would have had to use these simple words in negotiations:
"UUP got  comprehensive Paid Family Leave with the state; the city is in much better financial shape compared to the state; we demand Paid Family Leave too at the city's expense." In union negotiations parlance, "ME TOO!" Then, put on a full court press asking if teaching parents in NYC are not valued like college professor parents at SUNY.

Don't call us Monday morning quarterbacks and tell me that I should have said this beforehand. Read our June 6 post. We hoped the UFT and other city unions would use the state precedent and ram it home with the city's better financial position but the UFT as usual accepted the city's terms although we can say they were modified a bit so it really looks like a wash. Much more to come when contract is settled.

LEGISLATIVE SESSION ENDING WITH NOTHING NEW ON TEACHER EVALUATIONS

From the Albany Times Union:

ALBANY - Many of the hopes and dreams for this year's legislative session were dashed on Wednesday night as state legislators prepared to make their scheduled exit from Albany for the year.

Further down:
It was clear where some of the issues went to die, as sports gambling, a package of transparency measures, an expansion of charter schools and requirements for reporting bullying were killed by the state Assembly and the state Senate pulled the plug on safe staffing at hospitals, the DREAM Act, an overhaul of the teacher evaluation system, election reforms and additional gun control.

Since nothing happened on the law to slightly tweak the teacher evaluation law, let's restart our push to get rid of the entire teacher evaluation law. End student test score based teacher evaluation and Danielson observations. We have a petition that almost 1,300 have signed.

It's a nice start but with more teachers over here at the ICEUFT blog because of the debate on who should pay for paid parental leave, us or the city, maybe some will become interested in really getting rid of a horrible evaluation system. This is really an issue I am passionate about.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

MULGREW-MAYOR AGREE TO 6 WEEKS PAID PARENTAL LEAVE PAID BY ALL OF US

UFT President Michael Mulgrew and Mayor Bill de Blasio have reached an agreement on paid parental leave for UFT members.

It is six weeks with full pay and if accrued sick days are used, it can be longer,up to 12-14 weeks. That is a gain but please note it is parental leave and not the expansive paid family leave (taking care of sick relatives) that the state mandated in the private sector.


  • The cost will be paid for, not by the city, but by all active UFT members. We will achieve the savings by extending the present contract by another 73 days.


Therefore, the current contract raises are now 10% total salary increases for a total of 7 years and 3 months and 13 days (we already extended a month to pay retro for 2009-2014 retirees). The average raise for the present contract is now down to 1.37% per year. Mulgrew set the worst pattern ever and it only continues to get worse. That is not a misprint.

Any increase in the next contract will be delayed until mid February 2019 so you now have almost 30% of a year of another 0% increase. Remember, the contract originally ended in October 2018.

City must be broke again? No, they have surpluses as far as the eye can see ($8 billion) but UFT the membership will pay the price once again.

Also, for anyone who says I am unrealistic expecting the city to pay for this, city government in Seattle pays for paid family leave for city workers; union members do not. Don't forget it's paid family leave so anyone can use it to care for a sick family member. It's not just for parents out in Seattle.

A real union fights for benefits like paid parental leave that the employer pays for. A union like the UFT sends its members the bill.

For prospective parents, I say take advantage of the six weeks and bond with your babies but please think of all the rest of your colleagues who are paying for it.

BIG MAYOR, OFFICE OF LABOR RELATIONS, MULGREW PRESSER ANNOUNCES 6 WEEKS PAID PARENTAL LEAVE

We have learned from UFT Twitter this:
"Mayor de Blasio: starting in September on the First day of school, UFT members will have up to 6 weeks of paid parental leave.

UFT goes on saying, "This is huge! Subject to DA approval: Special Delivery."

We now have to ask about the cost and who is paying for this. The devil as always is in the details.

Original Post
Michael Mulgrew will have a press conference at 12:30 P.M. at City Hall. More details when we have them.

This is from Daily News reporter Ben Chapman's Twitter account:


New teachers union contract looks like a strong possibility today with this presser. No questions from the press permitted

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

NO WORD YET ON EVALUATION TWEAK UP IN ALBANY; JANUS DECISION IMMINENT

This is from Politico NY this morning quoting Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on the totally inadequate teacher evaluation law being considered up in Albany during the last few days of the legislative session:

Heastie said despite agreement on some issues over the weekend, he does not foresee any “major policy trades” before session ends, particularly involving the teacher evaluation bill that Senate Republicans are trying to tie to an increase in the number of charter schools allowed in the state and weaker oversight at yeshivas from the state Education Department.


“If they want to pass teacher evaluations, a straight bill, we’d be happy for them to do it,” Heastie said. “But we’re not trading charters, we’re not trading anything on yeshivas, for this — it’s clear two-way agreed-upon bills. No trades.”

It almost sounds like the Democrats have a bit of a spine here. Maybe they have seen that most teachers aren't enthusiastic about a slight change in the law that leaves the current system mostly in place. My guess is Democrats are expecting to win the State Senate this November. If that happens, isn't it time to scrap the entire evaluation mess as our petition calls for? No half baked compromise bill.

Meanwhile, I am not surprised that the Supreme Court is saving the Janus decision until close to the end of their term. It is kind of rare for the Court to overturn a forty year precedent, which is what they will be doing if they overturn the Abood decision and allow people to benefit from the union without paying fair share fees.

Big decisions often come at the end of the term. It could be Thursday or Monday. We will react as soon as we read the decision.

There is a good analysis over at Vox. Please read.

Monday, June 18, 2018

NYC & DC SHARE MAYORAL CONTROL OF SCHOOLS AND CORRUPTION IN SCHOOLS

Has anyone in authority finally come to the conclusion that putting mayors in charge of school systems in large cities is just going to lead to corruption as test scores and graduation rates become political tools to be manipulated?

In NYC, the NY Post publishes articles regularly exposing corruption scandals in New York City High Schools. In order to make graduation rates rise with students who have some great needs, principals do anything they have to in order to make sure students graduate The latest school exposed by the Post is repeat offender Dewitt Clinton High School in the Bronx which already removed a principal for playing games with the numbers but the new administration according to the Post is just as dirty as the old one.

From the Post:
This high school is a hooky player’s dream.
At DeWitt Clinton HS in the Bronx, kids who have cut class all semester can still snag a 65 passing grade — and course credit — if they complete a quickie “mastery packet.”
Insisting that students can pass “regardless of absence,” Principal Pierre Orbe has ordered English, science, social studies and math teachers to give “make up” work to hundreds of kids who didn’t show up or failed the courses, whistleblowers said.

“This is crazy!” a teacher told The Post. “A student can pass without going to class!
One would think that a principal who is replacing someone involved in scandal would be careful to not try anything funny but those of us who have worked in the schools understand that the culture to pass students by any means necessary is widespread in NYC schools. Numbers need to look good for the Mayor who controls the schools to look like he is running the schools successfully. People who object are dismissed by the Mayor as being involved in a "hyper-complaint dynamic" in the schools. Mayor Bill de Blasio is wrong in my insiders opinion. There is a hyper-corruption dynamic in too many high schools, not a hyper-complaint dynamic.

New York City is not alone in this regard. Washington DC provides us with another lesson in what happens when a mayor runs a school system with no accountability other than an election every four years.

This is from AP via Earthlink:
A decade after a restructuring that stripped the decision-making powers of the board of education and placed the system under mayoral control, city schools in 2017 were boasting rising test scores and a record graduation rate for high schools of 73 percent, compared with 53 percent in 2011. Glowing news articles cited examples such as Ballou High School, a campus in a low-income neighborhood where the entire 2017 graduating class applied for college.

Then everything unraveled.

An investigation by WAMU, the local NPR station, revealed that about half of those Ballou graduates had missed more than three months of school and should not have graduated due to chronic truancy. A subsequent inquiry revealed a systemwide culture that pressured teachers to favor graduation rates over all else — with salaries and job security tied to specific metrics.

The internal investigation concluded that more than one-third of the 2017 graduating class should not have received diplomas due to truancy or improper steps taken by teachers or administrators to cover the absences. In one egregious example, investigators found that attendance records at Dunbar High School had been altered 4,000 times to mark absent students as present. The school system is now being investigated by both the FBI and the U.S. Education Department, while the D.C. Council has repeatedly called for answers and accountability.


"We've seen a lot of dishonesty and a lot of people fudging the numbers," said Council member David Grosso, head of the education committee, during a hearing last week. "Was it completely make-believe last year?"

Nobody who works in a NYC high school is surprised by anything that is occuring in DC. The only reason we don't see even more stories of playing with numbers in NYC is that teachers have basically been frightened into silence in many schools. Administration here is very skilled at scaring teachers and retaliating against them as this story on two teachers at Clinton who are facing 3020a dismissal charges shows. The UFT, which should be screaming the loudest, is, well, the UFT. Don't expect much from the Union.

The only way to solve any of this is to return integrity to the school system by making the truthfulness of the statistics more important than the actual rise or fall of the graduation rate. That can happen if the UFT becomes a real union again. We should be the whistleblowers, not the NY Post.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

LONG ISLAND UNION WORK GENERALLY PLEASANT COMPARED TO UFT ADVOCACY

Since retiring in April, I have dedicated as much time as possible to being a volunteer advocate for teachers and some others. Not only do I assist UFT members with their concerns, I also work with friends from Long Island. Many people passed through Jamaica High School and I guess I developed a reputation for being a competent union representative so I am called on by former colleagues and their friends. It is a good feeling that teachers have some trust in my knowledge.

Today, I found out that a former Jamaica colleague now working in Nassau County won a programming grievance that I helped with. It was a rather straightforward case of too many preps so we just had to thumb through the local contract and find a clause that said administration can't do that. Once we discovered the right clause, we wrote something out and forwarded it in. This grievance was a fairly easy win. The person will start the year in September with a program that adheres to the contract and can prepare properly in the summer.

I have helped with other grievances and talked with union leaders from Long Island and upstate on many occasions. What I find interesting is how professional and respectful they are with me. I get a good feeling. It does not hurt that administration outside of the city in many districts is very different from what we have here in NYC.  In the Nassau case that was resolved today, it did not have to go to an arbitrator. Many administrators out on the Island can actually read clear language and they back down when they are violating the contract.

Let's compare that with New York City and trying to deal with the United Federation of Teachers and Department of Education. When I was a chapter leader, I had a basically professional working relationship with most of the UFT hierarchy and almost all of the grievances filed from Jamaica High School went through as far as they could. However, when we had programming grievances, they often weren't resolved in June and if they went to an arbitrator, it went until October so then programs had to be changed and kids were impacted. It would be in administration's interest if they really cared about students to resolve most of these cases and not let them go outside the building. That is how it should be and to be fair, this is how it is in NYC schools with enlightened administrators but hundreds don't follow this simple reasoning.

In addition, in the UFT contract, unlike many on Long Island, it is up to the Union, not the person grieving, to decide whether a grievance will be taken to the Chancellor and arbitration. The Union says they wrote the contract this way to avoid setting bad precedents but in reality it's just another way the UFT controls the members. The grievance process is slower than slow and generally situations are not resolved because nobody from the DOE Office of Labor Relations that I know of is encouraging principals to resolve grievances. Instead, the DOE practice boils down to "My principals right or wrong" in most instances.

Total principal empowerment has led to a very adversarial process in NYC in many cases. Last year I represented someone in a school outside of Middle College where I was the UFT delegate. The UFT actually allowed me to present a Step I grievance to the principal. The grievance went in our favor but then the Union quickly pulled the plug on sending me in to help members and the principal in this school soon thereafter ran rough shod over the teachers and people had to transfer as their only option. Had the UFT led a real fight, we might have won.

The UFT leadership I guess believed I was showing them up. It was bad politically for them. Forget about the possibility that I may actually be competent and trying to advocate for teachers. When talking to union people outside of NYC, I never get that nasty look that says, "What are you doing here?" Teachers aren't asked, "Why are you talking to someone from NYC?" It's refreshing.

To the dear Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew's faction of the UFT) higher ups  that seem to be intimidated by me having anything to do with a member who has a grievance or otherwise needs help and asks me for it, I have some advice: Relax. Winning a UFT election as an opposition caucus is about as likely as winning the mega-millions drawing.

You also need not worry that Michael Mulgrew is going to employ me. For anyone who witnessed our battle of wills at the contract Delegate Assembly in 2014, I think you saw that the animosity between us was real. When Mulgrew and I have seen each other at closeup range a few times, we normally don't even say hello. You think he is going to hire me to take your jobs? Not in a million years.

Since opposition to Unity isn't exactly united at this point,  I don't even know if we can pull it together to win the high schools next year in the 2019 UFT election, particularly if we lose members after the Janus decision.

Calm down Unity people; when I try to advocate for a member, my primary motive is to help that person. At least they seem to understand that concept on Long Island.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

HILLCREST HS AP AND PRINCIPAL SUED FOR SEXUAL HARASSMENT

This is from the NY Post.

A Queens assistant principal created a sexual assembly line of teachers at his Queens high school – and rewarded conquests with professional perks, according to a shocking new $10 million lawsuit.

John Binet bedded at least four staffers at Hillcrest HS since being appointed to lead the Jamaica school’s English department in 2014, according to a Manhattan court case filed Monday.

Binet belittled female teachers who questioned his behavior as “resistant” and once counseled a male colleague that the best time to pursue colleagues was around graduation, according to the suit.

Teachers lacking membership in Binet’s harem saw their careers stall while participants were treated to professional benefits, according to the suit filed by one current and one former teacher at the school.

“There are at least four female faculty members, whose names are known to the plaintiffs, who have all received benefits from their sexual exchanges with Binet,” according to court papers.

The case also asserts that principal David Morrison – who was investigated for improperly passing students in 2016 – knew about Binet’s behavior but did nothing to stop it because they were friends.

Both men are named as defendants.

“These individuals have been caught with their pants down,” attorney Gloria Keum told The Post Monday. “Time’s up for them.”

Filed by current teacher Caroline Shin and former staffer Eleni Giannousis, the suit asserts that there have been at least five formal complaints lodged against the two men with the teachers union and DOE – but that there’s been no tangible sign of action.

The atmosphere at the school became so poisonous for female teachers that at least six traumatized instructors have left entirely over the past several years, according to the suit.


We have been in touch with Hillcrest friends. Nothing yet questioning the accuracy of the story.

Queens High Schools administrators? How many more horror stories have to come out before people realize this is not an isolated problem?

Once again, where was the UFT?

The next paragraph in the Post story tells you everything you need to know about the UFT here:

Filed by current teacher Caroline Shin and former staffer Eleni Giannousis, the suit asserts that there have been at least five formal complaints lodged against the two men with the teachers union and DOE – but that there’s been no tangible sign of action.

"No tangible sign of action," is anyone surprised?

PORT RICHMOND HIGH SCHOOL IA PRINCIPAL SWINTON EXPOSED BY NY1

Thanks to Norm Scott for sending out a link to this piece from NY 1 on Port Richmond High School.

Here is an excerpt:

New details have emerged about the interim acting principal at Staten Island's Port Richmond High School.

Oneatha Swinton was appointed to PRHS as interim acting principal last July. Now the city Education Department is considering making her temporary appointment permanent, despite multiple complaints made by parents and teachers.

Swinton previously was principal at John Jay high school in Brooklyn.

When she left the Education Department's Office of Special Investigation had been looking into complaints by parents, alleging on cronyism and transparency.

That inquiry continues and others have since launched, including one looking at allegations she drives a car registered to a Pennsylvania address also used by an Education Department contractor.

Other complaints allege spending more than $400,000 on unnecessary positions for her friends and inflating grades to boost graduation rates.

Parents and teachers say they also have filed complaints with the governor's office which referred them to the state Education Department. That agency declined to comment as did Swinton. 

What does the Department of Education just rotate these people and hope nobody will notice? 

We will surely follow up here. 

It kind of concerns me in the Port Richmond story that the teacher who talked on camera had to have his face hidden and his voice disguised. I'm glad he spoke up but it is going to be difficult to win these battles if we don't come out openly even though I know the risk of retaliation in the schools is enormous. It's much less of a risk if people are together.

We can take this fight on in public as there are several schools that have contacted us about actions. It's kind of odd that they might not have confidence in their Union but they will will go to Norm or me. 

Here is part of what Norm says over at Ed Notes.

I'm also working with James Eterno on a plan to gather people from various high schools together to come up with joint strategies and maybe joint actions, including how to get people in their own schools on board. This summer we will hold some behind the scenes meetings. At the June 22 ICE meeting we will talk about the feasibility.

June 22 is the next ICEUFT meeting. We will surely be discussing the abusive principal issue.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

COMMENT RULES UPDATED

Since I support freedom of speech and letting commenters say whatever they want, I am getting hit over the head from all sides on the comments.

One person who leans left called the comments here a "cesspool" and stated the following: "You run a board full of racism, sexism, anti-unionism, and hatred of children. I find it abhorrent."  I don't agree but I have heard sentiments like this, maybe not to this extreme, before. Some of you really know how to agitate which isn't necessarily bad but does need to stay in bounds.

Someone who I think is more from the right said about the recent removal of certain comments, "Only one point of view. Sad, sad. Free speech finally ended. You had a good run James." I disagree here too. The last thing I want here is an echo chamber. Disagree all you want and tell us what you think conditions are like in the schools or in the union.

Since nobody seems happy, let me state the comment policy that I will try to monitor more closely.


  • Please try not to make it too personal with each other. I don't care if you want to attack me or attack anyone in the union. We are telling you our ideas in the public domain. We are in union positions or want to be there. If you want to tell us we are a**holes or full of s**t, go right ahead. I can't say calling Mulgrew or Randi names is ok but calling Norm or me names is out of bounds.
  • Be careful about using profanity as kids do read this stuff and let's try to keep it as clean as possible. (Note how I bleeped myself above.)
  • No hijacking the blog. This is where I am drawing the line for real. There is someone here who takes our pieces on whatever topic they are on and then copies a provocative article from the NY Post or some other publication and puts it in the comments and then for the next two days people are responding to the Post piece in the comments and not the original posting. That has to stop. It makes me feel like I wasted my time writing the original piece (very damaging to my fragile ego). Please stay on topic. Some of these pieces are broad enough where you can throw your world views in but some really are not.  
If there are controversial comments, I have established an ICEUFT blog Comment Committee consisting of my wife Camille, Norm Scott and me to settle disputes.

I hope you find this policy fair. If not, as Norm says, start your own blog and cut out the middleman. We want to continue providing union and education news and opinion and we definitely hope to hear from everyone who reads this but please be fair.

Thanks.


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

STATE SENATE LEADER WANTS CHARTER EXPANSION TO BE PART OF TEACHER EVALUATION BILL

Senate Republican leader John Flanagan has a bill to slightly change teacher evaluation while adding all kinds of goodies for charter and private schools.

This is from the Times Union:

In addition to addressing teacher evaluations and testing, the bill expands the cap on charter schools from 460 to 560 and rolls back restrictions on private schools in New York City.

At least NYSUT has come out against this legislation. We should all along have been demanding repeal of the entire teacher evaluation system as our petition seeks. Instead, we are asking for a tweak and our enemies in return want a pound of flesh just to concede to us a crumb or two.

Monday, June 11, 2018

UFT EMPHASIZES PAPERWORK STANDARDS

If the principal is mandating extra paperwork for a Quality Review or for his/her evaluation, there is a process to do something about it quickly. This is from the weekly Chapter Leader Update.

Paperwork related to Quality Review and Principal Performance Observation: Paperwork created for the sole purpose of the Quality Review violates Paperwork Standard II in the paperwork standards negotiated by the UFT and the DOE in 2015. We have an agreement with the DOE that teachers should not be required to create paperwork for the sole purpose of the Principal Performance Observation. To address these paperwork issues, the DOE and the union have agreed to modify the existing paperwork process so that all paperwork complaints related to the Quality Review and Principal Performance Observation will be expedited directly to the DOE for immediate assistance. Chapter leaders should submit a paperwork reduction report as soon as possible. This information will be communicated to the DOE for immediate assistance. Send an email to Debbie Poulos, the director of the union’s Contract Empowerment Department, at dpoulos@uft.org, and your district representative with any questions concerning this process.

It might be a little late to make a difference for this school year but observations are done for the year so it won't be as easy to retaliate and maybe next year we can reign in some principals.

Contract is not worth the electrons used to post it (we don't get paper copies any longer) if we don't use it. Everyone should read those paperwork standards.They are copied below.


I. General Standard
Educators and Related Service Providers shall not be required, whether on paper or electronically, to perform redundant, duplicative, unnecessary or unreasonable amounts of record keeping concerning the performance of, plans for or evaluation of students, unless necessary in order to comply with federal or state statutory or other legal requirements imposed on the DOE.

II. The Quality Review:
Schools are to present only existing curricular and existing school-level documents to contextualize the assessment of all Quality Indicators, especially, rather than create documents for the sole purpose of the Quality Review. Additionally, evidence can be verbal or observable in the classroom/school environment within existing school processes and will include a review of only those documents used in the normal course of teaching and learning. Reviewers and evaluators will consider the time of the year that the visit takes place and the work underway in each school when they review curricular and other school-level documents.

III. Special Education/D75
1. The DOE has discontinued the use of Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and CAP to record the provision of related services to K-12 students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), and will use SESIS encounter attendance as the primary system of record for related service provision, and BESIS for ESL provision.

2. The DOE will continue to engage UFT to prioritize how to streamline and enhance SESIS functionality to increase usability. The system enhancements will commence on a rolling basis as identified.

3. Each school or program shall continue to engage with all users of SESIS to provide adequate time and computer access to complete SESIS-related tasks.

IV. Data Systems and Attendance

1. Schools may adopt only one school-based system for tracking student attendance (not including SESIS) in addition to the DOE source attendance system, except when expressly required by law or expressly required to receive federal, state or private grant funds schools may have additional attendance systems as required.

2. The DOE will explore and pursue options to integrate attendance-taking systems with as many other tasks as possible as part of our commitment to the UFT to reduce teacher paperwork.

3. Educators and related service providers are not required to print collections or binders of documents that are available in electronic databases. Teachers are responsible for complying with reasonable requests for printing any documents for the purposes of parent interactions/communications and professional conversations with supervisors.

4. School staff will continue to be responsible, based on student need, for providing reports related to student achievement, report cards, a student’s IEP, student behavior, and the social/emotional development of individual students. Such requests will not be routinized, school-wide or solely for the purpose of creating a binder for the storage of information.

5. Educators and Related Service Providers shall be required to keep grades and/or session notes in one manner, unless necessary in order to comply with federal or state statutory or other legal requirements imposed on DOE. Staff required to use online or electronic systems shall be provided adequate computer access during the workday. This is in addition to the DOE source system until such time as systems can be aligned.

V. Parent Engagement, Other Professional Work, and Professional Development Parent Engagement, Other Professional Work and Professional Development time shall not generate excessive or redundant paperwork or electronic work. This shall not preclude a principal from creating reasonable requirements requiring teachers to briefly track Parent Engagement time. (See appendix for sample).

Every spring, and at the request of either party, the Central Paperwork Committee shall review the standards to see if they need to be modified and/or updated.

FAQs 

Who sits on the District Paperwork Committee? What is its role?
These District Committees will be made up of an equal number of representatives from the UFT and the DOE. The committee will include the District/High School Superintendent or his/her designee, and it will be primarily responsible for ensuring that the standards are met.

What happens when the school-level consultation does not bring a paperwork issue to resolution? Paperwork concerns will be addressed at the school level first. If the school staff, principal, and superintendent cannot come to agreement, the issue will be raised at the district-level committee. Should the District Committee be unable to resolve the issue, as per the system-wide paperwork reduction standards, the central committee will hear the issue. The decision of the central committee will be enforced by the superintendent.

What are examples of tasks that may be performed during the Monday PD time and/or Tuesday parent engagement time?
As per the Memorandum of Agreement, when Parent Engagement and/or Professional Development activities are not taking place, teachers may participate in other professional activities: collaborative planning, Lesson Study, Inquiry and review of student work, work related to Measures of Student Learning (“MOSL”), IEP-related work, work related to computer systems/data entry; preparing and grading student assessments; mentoring; as well as responsibilities related to teacher leader duties for all individuals in Teacher Leadership Positions.

What is a unit plan?
The UFT and the DOE have agreed upon this format as the acceptable format for the unit plan.

What about the paperwork associated with Teacher Evaluation and Measures of Student Learning (MOSL)?
These tasks are required. There will be one or two periods of time during the school year, based upon a school’s MOSL selections, which will be designated as “MOSL windows” for the entire school district by the DOE. During these MOSL windows, teachers shall be permitted to devote as much time as necessary during the entire Parent Engagement periods of time to perform MOSL-related work. Should teachers not have a need to do MOSL-related work during the MOSL window, they shall engage in either Parent Engagement or Other Professional work.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

WHAT DOES CHANCELLOR SHOWING UP AT CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS MEAN?

There is a picture in this week's Chapter Leader Update of Chancellor Richard Carranza shaking hands with UFT President at the initial contract negotiation bargaining session. Our contract ends at the end of November. The city will talk to us about financial terms but the Chancellor bargains education working condition issues with the UFT.

Joel Klein and Dennis Walcott were never there when I was on the Negotiating Committee. What does Chancellor's Carranza's presence mean?

Hard to say.


It could mean absolutely nothing. However, it could signify that the Chancellor is willing to discuss changing the anti-teacher culture at the Department of Education.

For anyone who wants to know how difficult it will be to really change the DOE culture, please read this comment from Harris Lirtzman on Arthur Goldstein's excellent piece on the end of the Leadership Academy. Change will not be easy and would require all of us to play a part in making sure the Union emphasizes that there are hundreds of abusive supervisors who need to be reigned in.


I have often wondered why Tweed never got a sweep.
This will be hard to explain but here’s part of the dilemma for anyone who runs a very large, complex government agency like, say, the DOE.
So, you sweep it. Then what?
You have dozens—hundreds—of senior positions that you need to fill by, oh, tomorrow. You don’t have months to find the best folks for each gig. Plus, the folks who are already there are telling you that they are indispensable. And so are their political and reformista allies outside the DOE.
The sheer inertia that keeps things and people in place in sprawling organizations is inconceivable unless you’ve ever been a manager of one.
The reformistas were smart. They had the money and muscle to start organizations that ‘train’ or, at least, certify people to run school districts.
‘We’ don’t have large pools of people ready to step into these gigs. Hell, the only person who gets called by and quoted in the mainstream edu-press is Diane Ravitch.
So, big city mayors change the superintendents but the supers are afraid to, or can’t, bring out the broom. Most don’t even want to.
It would be a great good thing if a billionaire would join our ranks and start the ‘Arthur Goldstein School for Education Professionals.’
Until then don’t expect to see any brooms . Anywhere. Ever.
To be clear, I am NOT justifying any of this.
Just offering the perspective of someone who was a manager for 20 years in organizations like the DOE].
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I understand that, but they've had four years. By now they could have at least made a dent if they wanted to. It appears they don't.


I suspect that the people at Tweed are already running to our "friend" Mayor Bill de Blasio and his team to tell the administration how important they are and how putting the teachers back in the drivers' seat will kill the schools. They are wrong as the school system needs a large dose of integrity as an initial step toward a brighter future. The people who could idemand an end to the DOE's anti-teacher bias are the teachers working in the schools en masse allied with the parents. We could do it but we need to push our union to take action.

Friday, June 08, 2018

AMY ARUNDELL APOLOGIZES TO MEMBER PUT ON HOLD AND DISCONNECTED

We are happy to report that once in a blue moon the ICEUFT blog does make a tangible difference. When we complained yesterday about a UFT member calling the Queens UFT office about a grievance and being put on hold and then disconnected and then calling back right away and the office being closed, UFT Queens Borough Representative Amy Arundell either read our post or had someone tell her about it. Amy contacted Arthur Goldstein who texted me and I was able to provide the name and phone number of the member with the grievance.

Subsequently, we learned this afternoon that Amy called the member personally, apologized for what happened and intervened in her grievance. Great job Amy! We appreciate what you did.

As for the cynical comments that are about to come that say Amy only did this because it was me complaining on the internet, that might have some validity at first glance but it really misses the big picture. 

If all of the UFT members who read and comment here and at other teacher blogs were to step out of the shadows and become one very loud voice, we would collectively have enormous power to move the agenda of the UFT. A membership making a thunderous sound to the leadership will have much more impact than one that withholds dues after the Supreme Court makes the Janus decision. 

If one blogger can make a little difference today, all of us combined can have a world of say tomorrow within a union and not on the outside.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

UFT PUTS MEMBER WHO CALLED DURING BUSINESS HOURS ON HOLD AND THEN HANGS UP!

UFT President Michael Mulgrew recently introduced UFT customer service along with their shiny new app. Well I have some advice for Mr. Mulgrew and UFT Queens Borough Representative Amy Arundell:

Please learn a little about customer service before you start throwing the term around.

Case in point:
A friend of mine was in contact with me yesterday about filing a very important grievance. The member (sorry leadership, we are not customers; we are UFT members) calls the UFT Queens Office at 5:36 P.M. I was texted the time of the call. After being told by the person answering the phone that the member would have to wait on hold because the entire staff was involved in a very important meeting, the member waited patiently for the meeting to end. At approximately 6:10 P.M. the member was abruptly disconnected after waiting on hold for over half an hour. Subsequently, the member called back and was told by a machine that the office was now closed and please call back tomorrow.

Are you kidding me?

Is that a way any business would treat its customers? I don't think so.

This is just an example of how the UFT has not changed at all even with the Janus Supreme Court case looming where dues could become optional  very soon. It's business as usual at least in Queens.

Would you give your money to any business that treats its "customers" in this manner? A union should not treat its members in this way either.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

UUP FIRST NYS GOVERNMENT UNION TO GET PAID FAMILY LEAVE; DE BLASIO ESTIMATES PAID FAMILY LEAVE WILL COST NYC $1 BILLION

Chaz reported earlier on United University Professions (SUNY professors) being the first public sector union in New York State to get paid family leave in contract negotiations. The Chief Leader has an extensive article on the agreement reached in late May. It is a six year contract with 2% annual raises.

New progressive friend of working man and woman Governor Andrew Cuomo was involved in this deal. 2% a year is no great monetary settlement but an extensive paid family leave benefit is significant.

From the Chief Leader article:
UUP members will receive 10 weeks of paid leave at 55-percent of their average weekly salary when the plan's next increase takes place in 2019. The benefit will increase to 67 percent of an employee’s average weekly salary for 12 weeks by 2021.

The cost to members for this benefit according to Fred Kowal, the UUP President, quoted in the Chief Leader:
The union, whose membership is 53 percent female, did not have to make any concessions to obtain the benefit, according to Mr. Kowal. He praised Mr. Cuomo for the state’s willingness to work with the union on the issue.
‘A Firm Commitment
“The Governor had made a firm commitment that he wanted this for municipal employees,” he said.
What about the ramifications for NYC municipal employees?

This is what the Chief Leader said:

The state (private sector) plan is fully funded through payroll deductions equal to .126 percent of employees’ weekly wage. The maximum annual contribution for this year is capped at $85.56.
Though no city employees have benefitted from the state plan yet, the de Blasio administration granted 20,000 city managers, who do not have collective bargaining rights, six weeks of family leave at full pay. The benefit was paid for by managers giving up a planned 0.47-percent raise. Employees with at least 15 years’ service also gave up two annual vacation days.
City Plan More Costly
The city’s budget would not be directly affected if unions representing city employees adopted the state’s plan, while a citywide expansion of the plan offered to managers would cost taxpayers an estimated $1 billion, a spokeswoman for the de Blasio administration noted.
The state has not made any estimates regarding how many public employees it expects to use the benefit.
Paid family leave will more than likely be in the city fairly soon after the precedent was set by a state union.


Tuesday, June 05, 2018

UFT EXECUTIVE BOARD PASSES RESOLUTION SUPPORTING WHAT DIANE RAVITCH TERMS "SHAM" EVALUATION BILL

The UFT often acts in ways that leave me scratching my head and saying, "What the f***?" Last night was one of those occasions as the Executive Board, with only one abstention, passed a resolution to support pushing a bill through the State Senate that barely tweaks the highly faulty teacher evaluation system.

It is not surprising that the resolution passed as Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus has a huge majority at the Executive Board. Members of the Unity Caucus agree they will support positions of the caucus in union and public forums.

What is shocking is that only one of the seven New Action-MORE-independent high school representatives abstained. Two were absent but the other four went right along with Unity supporting a resolution to promote a bill that changes very little in teacher evaluation. One of our seven reps wrote as recently as February these words about student test score based teacher evaluation: "It's funny because when junk science opponents (like me and Diane Ravitch) object to said junk science..." Here is a link to this piece which I agree with. Unfortunately, the bill the UFT and NYSUT are pushing continues the use of junk science in teacher evaluation. It just changes the options of the tests that can be used to evaluate us. Diane Ravitch correctly termed the bill a "sham" in her excellent analysis.

From Diane's blog:
Recently, gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon issued a press release calling for the repeal of the state teacher evaluation system, which links teacher evaluation to state test scores of their students.

Almost immediately, the State Assembly (in Democratic control) announced that it was writing a bill to revise test-based teacher evaluation. The Assembly bill passed overwhelmingly, but it was a sham. Instead of repealing test-based teacher evaluation, it said that districts could use the test of their own choosing to evaluate teachers, so long as the test was approved by the State Commissioner. That does not repeal test-based evaluation, and critics warned that there might be “double-testing,” once for the state tests, another time for local tests.

In addition, the bill does absolutely nothing to stop or reduce the anti-teacher Danielson observations that teachers in NYC are forced to endure.

New York State Allies for Public Education, Leonie Haimson's New York City Parents blog, Democratic candidate for Governor Cynthia Nixon and now MORE's Jia Lee (who is also the Green Party candidate for Lieutenant Governor) want the entire evaluation system repealed. Jia correctly calls the bill going through the Legislature "smoke and mirrors."

The ICEUFT blog goes out of our way be fair to our union leaders to try to understand their point of view.

Here is what we learn from Arthur Goldstein's report from last night's Executive Board meeting on this issue:

Evelyn de Jesus—Bill sitting in Senate. Bill says should be local control over teacher eval. We know teachers want to get rid of mandate. Locals should have other options. If doesn’t pass, moratorium will expire. We want to control our own destiny. Please vote for resolution.

Mike Schirtzer—Why are we not calling for repeal of 3012d and c? Agree it should be local. Trusts UFT to work out system for us.

Schoor—Lot of moving parts, some state law, some local negotiations. Some will be on table, some not. We try to do things that can actually get passed. That’s why it’s part of law. Other part would not get past State Senate. Trying to get what we can passed. We feel it can get passed now, other things not.

Schirtzer—Would bring back some local control?

Schoor—control over tests. Will no longer mandate Regents.

Passes 



Oh my word, the UFT is giving the "It's the best we can do" argument in support of their sham bill. Could  they at least come up with something better? It's the same thing they do in contract negotiations. How does the UFT know that they can't get the evaluation law fully repealed if they don't even try? 

It is obvious that tweaking a terrible law is not sufficient. If we go from using the Regents exams to rate teachers to an equally or more unreliable state approved city MOSL exam, this is still junk science. I would not support trading one version of junk science for another as it won't help our constituents in NYC.

If this bill does pass, the UFT and NYSUT will once again declare a major victory but teachers will return to school in the fall and realize virtually nothing has changed and they will become even more cynical about their union during their four Danielson drive-by observations.

It would be much better to ask now for a full repeal and make it a big issue in the campaign for governor, particularly with Cynthia Nixon running to the left of Cuomo in the Democratic primary.

The UFT and NYSUT are also opining that the moratorium on using the dreaded grade 3-8 state tests to rate teachers ends after the 2018-19 school year so if we don't have this bill, teachers will be judged on those tests in the 2019-20 school year.  That timeframe is all the more reason to make full repeal the goal now and if we have to, then settle for something next year when even if Cuomo wins reelection, he still needs to show his progressive credentials if he wants to be the Democratic candidate for President of the United States in 2020. We might have maximum leverage when Cuomo tries to move left to win the nomination. Instead, if we get this bill passed now, we will look very pushy to be going to the Legislature a year after they gave us something on evaluation and trying for more. 

Sadly, I don't believe the UFT will go for repeal regardless of what happens in Albany now because the Union favors as Mulgrew says "the use of multiple measures..." to rate us. Translation, student assessments should be part of our ratings according to our President. We fundamentally disagree on this issue. 

Today, I am just a little heartbroken as we have worked so hard, particularly in the last few months, to put out and spread a petition to repeal of the evaluation law and hoped to get full support from the seven people we helped to get elected to the Executive Board. At least Mike Schirtzer abstained which I can respect. Two were not present but our other four high school representatives in my opinion made a mistake voting in favor of a resolution that calls for the UFT to push a bill the Union says will "fix the state's broken teacher evaluation system." That bill will do no such thing. We are stuck with test based teacher evaluation for a long time unless Nixon upsets Cuomo in the primary or something else drastically changes after Janus.