Thursday, July 30, 2009


I recently received the following email from the excessed pupil accounting secretary at Jamaica High School, Juliana Cody. Over a year ago, the UFT won an arbitration saying school aides should not be doing secretarial work. We provided numerous documents showing that aides were doing secretarial duties at Jamaica High School and nothing has changed since then except more of our members are being placed in excess. What follows is the email secretary Cody sent to the UFT grievance department and their reply. As the DOE just continues to laugh at the grievance process and our Contract, our members suffer.

How would an ICE/TJC union run differently? If the DOE did not comply with an arbitration award, we would have every school that was not abiding by the decision publicly exposed repeatedly in any way we could. We would not tell people to just wait.

From: Cody Julianna
To: Michelle Daniels

As of this date, myself and two other secretaries at Jamaica High School have been in excess at our jobs and illegally replaced with school aides. For more than a year now we and our union representative have been emailing, telephoning, and faxing pages and pages of required and requested documentation to the UFT to uphold the legal decision that prohibits school aides from doing secretarial work. After all of this, the only answer now given is that the decision is in court waiting to be upheld - a second time.

While I prepare for a new job in a new school, I can't help thinking how ridiculously unsatisfactory this answer is. For the life of me I don't know how you can stand by and let jobs be given away because a school administrator lied about being in compliance with a legal decision. I am being forced out of my job, but not before I say how disgusted I am in how this is being handled.

I have no faith in you as UFT representatives. You all talk the talk but you can't walk the walk, as the saying goes. You should be ashamed of yourselves for allowing this to get so out of hand. I know my UFT representative, James Eterno, has worked tirelessly to get this decision applied to Jamaica High School. We have complied with every request yet your only response is that we must wait it out in court. We won the arbitration over a year ago! Administration is lying about being in compliance and no one cares to follow through on what has already been determined to be illegal.

So, thanks for nothing and for wasting my time and that of many others as well. I now know how much I can not count on your support in the future.

Juliann Cody no longer Pupil Accounting Secretary at Jamaica High School

To: Julianna Cody Pupil Accounting Secretary Jamaica High School
From: Michelle Daniels
Cc: Howard Solomon
Subject: RE: Secretaries Arbitration

Ms. Cody,

I understand your frustration, and in fact, share it. However, the matter IS in the courts, specifically because the Union sought to have the Arbitration Award confirmed by the courts so that the DoE is ordered into compliance in the matter. As such, I do not believe that the Union is just standing by and doing nothing.

My colleagues and I have worked very hard in order to effectively argue this case and be successful at winning this case at arbitration. I do not believe we have any reason to be ashamed of ourselves.

I will notify you as soon as a court decision is rendered. Hopefully it will positively affect your current reassignment.

Fraternally yours,

Michelle Daniels Michelle Daniels
UFT Special Representative Grievance/Arbitration Department

DOE Uses Immigration Law to Fire Tenured Teacher Who Won Disciplinary Hearing

O.K., say you're an immigrant from Jamaica attracted by a teaching opportunity in New York City where you are promised DOE sponsorship for a visa and ultimate legal residency. Now you teach for several years, acquire tenure, and you are brought up on disciplinary charges. You have your hearing and the arbitrator suspends you for three months and orders that you get some sensitivity training before you go back to teaching. Just when you are getting your life back together the DOE terminates you because they withdrew the immigration sponsorship application and claim you are now an undocumented alien, no longer entitled to be in the United States much less teach.

That is exactly what happened to Nurchett Brown.

Brown had no recourse with immigration since the DOE withdrew its petition but she believed that her dismissal was in violation of Education Law which clearly states that tenured teachers cannot be dismissed without a full hearing. So she appealed to New York County Supreme Court.

The matter was referred to Justice Eileen Rakower who affirmed the dismissal. Brown v. Board of Education, New York County Supreme Court, Index No. 102678/2009, decision dated July 22, 2009.

Rakower was unmoved by Brown's situation and found that the DOE did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in dismissing her since, while suspended, technically she did not meet the requirements of the immigration law and that DOE "had no choice" but to withdraw its sponsorship.

Friday, July 24, 2009


When Pedro Payano, a para assigned to P.S. 205 in the Bronx was fired from his position by Principal Maria Pietrosanti he must have thought that at least the Union would be there to protect his rights.
Boy, was he wrong. Payano's case illustrates just how our Union treats paraprofessionals as second-class citizens.

In order to terminate a tenured teacher most of us know that the Board must serve written charges and, if the teacher so requests, an arbitration is held pursuant to Education Law 3020-a. The hearing offers the teacher an opportunity to cross-examine witness against him and while difficult to appeal, due process is afforded.

Paraprofessionals do not come under the provisions of 3020-a. As non-competitive civil servants the rights against unjust termination are contained in their contract. The para contract provides "the discharge of an employee should be based on good and sufficient reason and that such action should be taken by the supervisor having such authority only after he/she has given due consideration to the matter." Article 23.

Any challenge to a firing must go through the grievance procedure…, step 1, principal; step 2, chancellor; step 3 arbitration. Article 22.

Payano was charged with abandoning a special needs child. He challenged the termination at step 1 and step 2, which was denied. He sought to appeal to step 3, arbitration but the Union denied taking the matter further. Payano was left without any real remedy.

Para terminations are not treated properly by our Union. Unlike 3020-a's when a teacher is represented by a lawyer paras get a teacher. The teachers selected to represent paras at these hearings have little formal training (a couple of weekends at a hotel) and no formal legal background. For the most part they read from scripts prepared by "more experienced" teachers. The hearings can take place long after the para has been fired. In short, totally inadequate representation is provided for these dues paying members.

Payano didn't even get this sham representation which would have cost the Union next to nothing and would have demonstrated that we stand by our members.

We can assure you this would not happen under an Eterno lead UFT.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Yesterday's UFT events show how little will change with a different person in the presidency. Falling back on over twenty years of undemocratic tradition, the UFT Executive Board nominated only one person, Vocational Vice President Michael Mulgrew, to succeed Randi Weingarten. Friends at ICE considered nominating yours truly for the position as I have declared that I will run in 2010, but were not allowed to speak.

This is how this process works. UFT presidents plan their exit. Going back to Al Shanker, the UFT President at some point takes both the presidency of the UFT and the national union, American Federation of Teachers, at the same time. The UFT is by far the largest AFT local. The last three UFT presidents, Al Shanker, Sandy Feldman and Randi Weingarten, have simultaneously held the AFT and UFT presidencies. When they are ready to go full time to the AFT, they resign the UFT presidency in the middle of their term. The UFT Constitution allows the Executive Board, not the membership, to pick a successor.

It says in Article V, Section 17: "A vacancy occurring in the Executive Board or in an elective office shall be filled by the Executive Board. Nominations shall be made at one meeting and elections held at the subsequent meeting." The Executive Board is elected mostly at large so even though a group like ICE-TJC received 36% of the high school teacher vote in the last UFT election, we get no representation on the Board. Therefore, the group of ICERs who went to yesterday's Executive Board meeting was muzzled. They could not even nominate a presidential candidate even if they wanted to.

This is not that big a deal as caucus obligations require Unity Caucus people to vote as their caucus tells them so we are under no illusions that we could have won an Executive Board election for president. The point is that the UFT runs like a corporation and not as a democratic labor union. Do you think the membership knows how the process for picking a new president is rigged?

This procedure allows each new president of the UFT to go around to schools for a year as president, promoted by the union's propaganda newspaper, New York Teacher, and then run as an incumbent with a huge advantage over any opposition candidate in the ensuing general UFT election. This is completely undemocratic but it was used when Shanker left in the eighties, Feldman in the nineties and now with Weingarten. UFT leaders are so predictable.

What has changed is the nature of the opposition. New Action (NAC), the long time opposition party which made deals to not oppose Weingarten in 2004 and 2007, now has eight Executive Board seats even though they received fewer votes than ICE TJC in the last UFT Election. In the eighties and nineties NAC opposed Feldman and Weingarten with their own candidate. Now, they support Weingarten's replacement: Mulgrew.

The ultimate irony here is how the Constitution is twisted by Unity. Ed Notes reported that NAC's Michael Shulman said that there was no need for an election as Mulgrew was the only candidate, but UFT Secretary Michael Mendel called for a second special Executive Board meeting and an actual election for later in the month. He wanted to do it by the book.

If he really wants to go by the letter of the Constitution, then Mulgrew cannot be a candidate for President at this time, nor can any other UFT officer. Article IV, Section 9 of the UFT Constitution states, "No person in any elective position may be a candidate for any other elective position during the term of office, unless a resignation is submitted effective as of July 1 of that year." I very much doubt Mulgrew has resigned his Vice Presidential position as of July 1 because if he did, there would have had to have been nominations for that position too.

The reality is the Constitution to UFT officials is just like the Contract. It is selectively enforced by the UFT Unity leadership. Since the Executive Board is the body in charge of UFT elections, it makes very little sense to spend any energy appealing. After all, they all come from the Unity Caucus where they signed what we call the Unity loyalty oath and the rest are from New Action which is no longer a real opposition group.

The only way to change any of this is for people in the schools to become educated educators and realize that no matter who the UFT President is, as long as he/she comes from Unity Caucus, his/her main responsibility will be to protect the caucus.

Our first promise as a presidential candidate is that if elected, nobody will ever have to sign a piece of paper saying that they will support decisions that ICE-TJC come up with. We take the word independent in Independent Community of Educators very seriously.

More on yesterday's proceedings later.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Interesting Piece on Obama and Education

Lisa North sent this article to us. It's very good reading.

The Chicago model goes national.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


While this space is no fan of the mayor, you have to hand it to Mayor Bloomberg on school governance. He was ready to put the Borough Presidents in line immediately when the law giving him control of the schools expired after June 30. Therefore, mayoral control continues unabated.

As for the BP's, once they were empowered to appoint a majority of the Board of Education, they caved in to the mayor so fast that one has to wonder if they received anything in return for their acquiescence. Queens BP Helen Marshall, went so far as to appoint Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott as the Queens representative. Only Bronx BP Reuben Diaz showed any hint of independence in his actions.

The biggest surprise is Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer who had appointed Patrick Sullivan to the now defunct Panel for Educational Policy where the mayor had a majority of the appointments. Patrick was a sane voice of reason who earned accolades for his integrity. Why was Patrick not appointed to the revived Board of Education?

We can only speculate as to what is going on behind the scenes. We can predict that no matter what happens in terms of school governance in Albany or New York City, there will not be much improvement in conditions in the schools.

We need to organize more now than ever.