Thursday, June 28, 2007

Executive Board Approves District 79 Reorganization as Hundreds of Staff Still Don’t Know Where to Go

In what was hailed as a "breakthrough" in negotiations the Executive Board approved, after an impact bargaining session, an agreement which alters the contractually mandated manner in how excessed teachers are treated.

On May 24, 2007 the Superintendent of Alternative Schools, Cami Anderson, announced widespread changes to District 79. Most notable were the closing of a number of schools, the movement of schools out of the district and the creation of special GED schools. While most of the personnel in the District knew that things were going to change no one expected that Anderson would overhaul the District in this manner.

In typical DOE fashion no consultation about the changes was ever entered into with our Union. Also questioned was whether the reorganization was basically a rouse to move personnel, a violation of our contract.

Armed with clear violations of the Contract and the knowledge that the DOE wanted to complete this reorganization due the extraordinary expenditures and alleged failures of the District's programs the Union demanded and won some protections in the reorganization.

Among some of the protections won include the ability of those excessed to apply for the new programs (basically GED programs) in the GED Plus, Restart and ACCESS schools. Personnel will be chosen by a joint UFT/DOE committee. Anyone left out who remains in excess will have the opportunity to be placed as an excessed teacher in one of 5 high schools or a borough, based on seniority.

The schools affected are ASHS, CEC, OES , VTC, New Beginnings, and School for Pregnant Teens.

Second Opportunity Schools and Offsite Suspension will be closed effective August 29, 2007 but have a separate agreement. SOS and Offsite teachers who opted in will be placed in a "New Suspension School" that will have a regular school schedule (summer pay will be kept). Excessed teachers from these schools will follow the previous agreement and will be placed in District 79 schools in their borough. Although not part of the written agreement it is believed that these teachers will be given the same choice as excessed teachers from the other closing schools are given (i.e. 5 school and borough pick).

After all is said and done the agreement does seem fair although it is unclear what would have happened if we fought the reorganization. In any case, the bottom line has not changed; very few of the over 700 excessed teachers have a clue as to where they will be on August 30th or what lies ahead for them since many will remain ATRs throughout the system.

Placement in a school of your choice, based on seniority, is a great concept which should be applied to other reorganizations but placement does not guarantee you appointment. If the principal wants you out you are out. As an ATR you have no rights to the position. In fact as an ATR you have no right to a teaching program preference. You will not be receiving the best programs.

It is clear there will be mass confusion at the start of school. How this helps students in need of special education services that alternative education provided only time will tell.

Connecting the Green Dots

By Norm Scott

Why Weingarten's deal with Green Dot dovetails with the general attack on public education

Following up on her appearance at the Brooklyn Cyclones game where she was supposed to toss out the ball - Teachers who have become ATR's, older, higher salaried teachers, younger and older teachers left without contractual protections, teachers doing lunch duty and potty patrol have no doubt she threw a Screw Ball -

Randi Weingarten has taken the screwing metaphor to a new level in today's announced deal with Green Dot charters. It is not just teachers the deal screws, but with all other the news today about Charter schools, her actions aid and abet the screwing of public education.

First we have a link to the LA Times version of the story where LA teacher's union president AJ Duffy rejected a deal with Green Dot. But not Randi. Watch the Leo Casey and crew at Edwize justify this one. As the NY Times version says "but their contract would be simpler than the citywide contract." Let's see how simple: "Rather than dictating the number of hours and minutes teachers must spend at the schools, it would just call for a "professional workday," they said. The contract could also eliminate tenure, but would set guidelines for when a teacher can be dismissed."

Heard of fuzzy math? Child play compared to fuzzy contracts.
NYC Educator goes into much greater detail on the contract so let's focus on other aspects. I won't even go into the issue of union democracy, where if the UFT weren't run like the Roman Empire under Augustus, there would actually be a serious discussion taking place. But the mandate given Weingarten by the 78% of working teachers who did not vote will have a long-lasting impact. By the way, has anyone seen a word mentioned about class size in this contract?

"We have never been against increasing charters, but we were against the anti-union animus in some charter schools," Ms. Weingarten said. The Times says, "Green Dot is heavily financed by the billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad."

If one looks at Broad's agenda in San Diego (and many other places) where Anthony Alvarado got to do his magic, which was almost totally replicated in NYC by Bloomberg and Klein, which Weingarten was supposedly so critical of - and you understand why I see her as such a duplicitous collaborator whose interests dovetail more with the BloomKleins, Broads, Gates, etc. When she criticizes them it is mere rhetoric. Always follow the mantra uncle Normie lays down: Watch what Weingarten does, not what she says.

Pay attention to the very relevant David Herzenhorn piece
"Patrons' Sway Leads to Friction in Charter School," also running in today's Times.

This article points to the pitfalls of the benefactor model of charter schools. While the rich Reiches gave a lot of money to Beginnings With Children school, Pfizer (across the street) donated the building. But I bet most money still comes from the public sector. Should the Reiches have such total control? What about parent and teacher roles?

Herzenhorn writes:

"The clash has exposed fault lines of wealth and class that are perhaps inevitable as philanthropists, in New York and nationwide, increasingly invest in public education, providing new schools to children in poor neighborhoods while making communities dependent on their generosity.

"And for those lucky to have such benefactors, the situation raises core questions: Who ultimately controls charter schools, which are financed by taxpayers but often rely heavily on charitable donations? Do the schools, which operate outside the control of the local school district, answer to parents, or to their wealthy founders?

"At Beginning With Children, many parents and teachers say that the Reiches' main interest is to burnish their reputation as advocates for charter schools, and that the school's original purpose, of catering to each child's individual needs, is now secondary to drilling for exams in an effort to elevate scores and the Reichs' credibility. "The Reichs said the problem was that the board was "constituency-based"...... Among those told to quit were five parent and faculty representatives."

Well, there you have it in a nutshell. We no want constituency-based input. Sound familiar?

I have a little background with the school, which is located in District 14 in Williamsburg and was once a public school but not under control of the district (a good thing). But it did function under the UFT contract. The chapter leader used to attend the district CL meetings.

I visited a couple of times and was impressed. They were adding a grade a year and had a very progressive model of education.

But the Reich's have the same agenda as so many other"benefactors" like Broad – to take public schools away from the public – and the school became a charter school. In order to further their political agenda the school moves away from the progressive model and towards test prep.

Note in the Herzenhorn piece how quietly we find out that the Courtney Sales Ross' charter school relocated at Tweed after they failed to force their way into the NEST school and has had 4 principals in a year. In the belly of the beast with all the Tweedles running around. We don't get any Tweed press releases telling us about that. Hey, I have an idea. Instead of running around the city telling everyone how to run schools, let Klein or Chris Cerf become the principal of the school and show how it should be done. Deck chairs on the Titanic, indeed.

If we connect the Green Dots to Weingarten's deal with Steve Barr, she is treading in dangerous territory with the future of public education. When a major union spokesperson basically accepts the philanthropic model (Broad gave the UFT $1 million,) it seriously weakens the case calling for full funding of public education and gives enormous power and sway to people with a narrow agenda that goes beyond the interests of the kids.

"If you really actually believe in kids and believe in their success, those of us in education, we really shouldn't be in the sandbox fighting with each other. We should be … trying to figure out how to work together," Weingarten said.

Does she really believe this stuff? People behind Green Dot have had so many negative effects (witness the DOE/Tweedles) and she wants to sit down in the sandbox with them? I'm sure that if she taught just a bit longer than 6 months she would have a slightly different perspective. Are they sitting down in the sandbox in Long Island schools or Scarsdale, where there are no charters but schools are fully funded, as NYC Educator has pointed out numerous times about the suburban school system his daughter attends?

That Weingarten will soon be spouting this stuff nationally as AFT President is a scary prospect indeed for the future of public education. Luckily, at this point, the NEA has taken a stronger stand and this issue may pop up in merger talks when Weingarten will hope to one day lead the entire national teacher movement into oblivion. Though AFT member AJ Duffy in LA took a politically correct stand when commenting on Weingarten's deal with Green Dot, the hope is that the LA Teachers Union will lead some kind of national resistance to Weingarten's turning the AFT into a shill for the attack on public schools by wealthy benefactors with narrow agendas.

As one of the first people in the UFT to advocate for Charters as a way for teachers to take over and run schools, I had conversations with Weingarten almost 10 years ago (Tom Pappas told me "You lost 50% of your support because you favor charters.") At one point in the conversation when I was pushing the idea from the point of view of teacher power, Weingarten made a rare, but revealing, slip, saying something like, "How can we trust these people" – meaning the teachers. Realizing what she said, she shut up and said no more. But it was a rare slip, my first inkling as to which side Weingarten is really on.

Monday, June 18, 2007

“Reckless Reform:” 700 Teachers and Staff Face “Excessing” in Region 79

Press Release


G.E. D. Students at Risk


Some seven hundred teachers, para-professionals and school secretaries are facing "excessing" from our G.E.D. programs on June 28, the last day of school. We are educators who teach in District 79 (the "Alternative Superintency"). "No Child Left Behind"? Our students are all kids who were left behind. We teach the students who have dropped-out and are now motivated to return to get their G.E.D. They are ESL students, students looking for a "second chance", newly arrived students who never had the chance to learn to read and write in their native countries. We are dedicated professionals and we are worried about the effect on hundreds and thousands of young black, Latino and Asian students who may likely get "lost" in the chaotic reorganization process.


On May 24, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein called a press conference and announced the closing of four GED programs, which would be "reorganized" under a new name.. He also stated the multi-site Program for Pregnant Teens would be closed and another program for at-risk students. He stated all changes would be in place by September. Seven hundred staff members will be effected. Only four hundred will be able to be placed in the reorganization process.


Under the "reorganization" and the creation of a new school, all current teachers in the program will be "excessed" (dismissed from their schools), and need to "reapply" to jobs they have held for many years. One-half of the jobs are to be eliminated, and of those, only those teachers "approved" by the new principal would be allowed back.

The press conference, held in our school, was done without prior knowledge of the teachers. Our union, the United Federation of Teachers, was given one day's notice of this plan.


The four closed G.E.D. programs are the Auxiliary Services for High School (ASHS), Off-Site Educational Services, Vocational Educational Services, and Career Educational Services. The New Beginnings program will also be closed. The new "reorganized" program is to be called "GED-Plus" and a literacy Restart Program is to be opened.


The DOE also announced the closing of the Program for Pregnant Teens, a multi-site program that is dedicated to helping these young women stay in school despite their difficult situation. The UFT is seeking to keep these crucial services and programs open.


It is outrageous that the Department of Education is excessing GED teachers when the need for them is more urgent that ever. Every year an estimated 20,000 students drop out of NYC schools (reported in Newsday, February 21, 2007). The drop out rate for black and Hispanic students is the highest of any city in the country. As of June 2005, the schools estimated that 138,000 NYC youth, ages 16-21, have dropped out or were significantly off track (Education Week, 15 November 2006). Over 40 percent of English Language Learners drop out of high school before finishing their education. The stress of continual "high stakes testing," mandatory regents, and new small schools which use a two-year option and refuse to enroll ELLs and Special Education students, are only some of the factors pushing kids out of school.


We welcome change and any real measures which help kids, teachers and the community. But this is the third "reorganization" in three years and can only be described as "reckless reform." ASHS has already been drastically cut back from 50+ sites to 5, even though the demand for G.E.D. is bigger than ever. Each time these closings came in July or later in the year, resulting in loss of many teachers and with terrible disruption to students. In September last year, students were told to transfer to a new site, and several hundred students were lost in the abrupt chaotic transfer process.


Now, thousands of students who participate in these programs do not know where they will go in September. Teachers do not know whether they will have positions in September. What centers will provide ESL services, which centers will provide Special Education? Where will Basic Education students go? What about Pre-GED students? What about students transitioning back from incarceration and desperately needing the training and support our schools provide? When will we be allowed to "reapply" for jobs we have held for years? These "unanswered" questions are part of the state of chaos now evident in our schools.


--Teachers, Paraprofessionals and Staff at Auxiliary Services for High Schools

June 15, 2007

More information: 917-545-5671

Friday, June 15, 2007

Memo to Unity Caucus:


By James Eterno UFT Chapter Leader Jamaica High School

For the last two months, we have arrived at Delegate Assembly meetings and received Unity Caucus literature attacking ICE. What's going on here? The election results were counted in March. Why the non stop smear campaign?

Yesterday's Unity attack on ICE was totally unnecessary. Unity is so obsessed with ICE that they feel the need to react to everything we say to anyone. In Monday's NY Sun there was an article entitled: "End of the UFT is Talk, After A Parley in L.A." The piece was about Green Dot Charter Schools. According to the Sun, Green Dot School teachers lack "privileges for senior teachers." Randi visited Green Dot in California last month because apparently they have empowered teachers in some ways.

In NYC we already gave up many of our seniority rights. All that senior teachers have when their schools are closed is the right to be an absent teacher reserve somewhere. Everything else such as seniority transfers, preferred placement if a school closes, and guaranteed placement if excessed were given away in the 2005 Contract. Yesterday's Unity leaflet quotes ICE's Jeff Kaufman in the Sun article saying, "This is the end of the Union." Unity neglected to mention Jeff's next line where he says referring to Randi: "She's going to leave in her wake now a real change in terms of what teachers unions are." Jeff has a point and for proof just refer to the 2005 Contract which ceded so many of our professional rights to management and certainly did change the nature of teacher unions. However, my point in writing is not to keep re-fighting the Contract or 2007 election battles again and again. We want to turn this around.

Instead of continuing in full 24/7 election campaign mode bragging about themselves, Randi, Jeff Zahler and their Unity Caucus should do what Randi said she would do on April 10, the first Executive Board meeting after the election. At that meeting Randi stated that she would work together with other groups and that she was reaching out to people. These sounded like positive steps. However, yesterday's Unity piece reverts to boasts about Randi's election victory saying how Unity's election victory was a "tremendous vote of support from all our UFT members." All of them? What about the almost 78% of teachers who didn't bother to vote? In Chicago recently, close to 2/3 of their teachers voted in their union election. I brought this fact up at the last Executive Board meeting. The UFT is a weak irrelevancy in numerous schools in NYC . The Contract doesn't matter in too many places. Countless teachers who I know feel tremendous burn out as this interminable school year finally winds down. We need to work to build a strong union if we are to have any chance of restoring our professional dignity.

Since the UFT leadership is so fascinated with reading blogs and obsessing over what we say, I have some free advice:

The UFT election is over; you won; now Get Over it!

Move on & fight to rebuild our union!