Friday, December 31, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Happy New Year everyone.
Friday, December 24, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Our students along with pupils from Queens Collegiate (one of the new schools in our building) wrote a play about school closings based on the Greek classic Antigone. A day before they were scheduled to perform it the principals of the two schools banned it. The students were very upset.
Thanks to my colleague Marc Epstein and with full approval from the students and their mentors at Queensborough Community College, the script is now on the Washington Post blog.
The play isn't very long. Please take the time to read it and ask yourself if banning this work isn't just another inevitable result of school deform. We can't say anything that might upset the mayor.
The Manhattan representative on the Mayor's rubber stamp body called the Panel for Educational Policy is Patrick Sullivan. He stated at a recent Panel for Educational Policy meeting that he often feels when sitting up on the Panel, whose majority constantly ignores the will of the people, that he is witnessing the end of democracy. The students who wrote and produced this play would certainly have reason to agree.
People have been in touch with the New York Civil Liberties Union. Let's hope the production sees the light of day.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
With the recent announcement by the DOE that tenure, as we have known it, will change the question remains, how. In their press announcement the DOE has cited the media created hysteria over tenure vowing to end or at least modify tenure "since it is a job for life."
The modifications, although not specific, contain some very troubling guidelines including a principals' "incentive" to reward those who don't grant tenure by allowing hiring outside of the hiring freeze.
The new guidelines also signal a move to remove tenure entirely or at least make it so difficult that only a few will be granted. Think about it. The law on tenure allows the DOE almost unfettered discretion in its decision making. What is to stop them from just not granting tenure at all and requiring probationers to annually extend their probation until they are eligible to retire?
In order to see if this is legally permissible is necessary to understand a little about the state of current tenure law.
Despite current misconceptions tenure is not "given" by the DOE. The only legal requirement for tenure is actually time; three years for teachers. After a three year period, within license, of being on payroll and the DOE has done nothing to stop the clock, you are automatically granted tenure. In fact you can be theoretically rated unsatisfactory for each of the three years and still get tenure if the DOE doesn't fire you or cause you to extend your probation.
Any other requirement for tenure is for the DOE to implement. The only legal requirement is that tenure not be denied "in bad faith." Does denying tenure to all teachers constitute "bad faith?" Perhaps, but it will probably take a court to determine this issue and a Union willing to bring a case.
If the DOE unilaterally decides to end tenure in this fashion and is successful it will end our Union and professional education in our city. This may be a long range plan for our employer and like tenure, only time will tell.
So, is tenure a strike issue? I am reminded of one of my first arguments with Randi Weingarten in the early days of the Bloomberg administration at a Chapter Leaders' retreat. After making it clear how a strike or job action was almost never justified I asked her whether there was "any" strike issue.
She thought for a moment and said, "Yeah, tenure."
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Jamaica HS PTA PRESIDENT CHARM
Rhoomes at Tweed with a stack of petitions
for the Chancellor.
Tweed sent half an army of officials to Jamaica High School today to announce their proposal to phase us out. We are not alone as 25 other schools are now slated for phase out. We must work as a union to stop this madness.
Yesterday, three parents and a student from Jamaica, accompanied by some teachers, went to Tweed to hand in 1670 signed petitions asking the DOE to keep Jamaica open. (Most were hard copies from the Jamaica community but the online petitions that we still encourage all to sign were also handed in.)
The group was met by a DOE employee who looked at the petitions and then put them through a metal detector. Apparently, they think we may have been trying to blow up Tweed. I can't believe how our democracy has degenerated.
Tweed also showed their hand that this so called proposal for phase out is in reality a done deal and they are just going through the motions by talking to us. They actually brought in a personnel person to help teachers look for new jobs. I think that is a bit premature.
We will have more details on the plan to fight school closings soon.
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
We encourage all of the schools threatened with closure to get petitons together too. We will support your actions and link to them on this blog. Just send us the information.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Here is some background on the potential Chief Academic Officer. I don't see much change coming but one never knows.
Let's keep pushing on and exposing this system for what it is.
Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday weekend.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
The first is from the Huffington Post. It is a great piece written by my colleague Marc Epstein about separate and unequal schools.
The second is a summary of my appearance before Queens Community Board 8 last week from one of the local Queens papers.
As my friend Marc says, the story of Jamaica is a cautionary tale. If you don't think what is happening to us can happen to you, you need to open your eyes.
What is depressing is the UFT's lack of a response.
He then spoke about the Teacher Data Reports. He stated that the Margin of Error was 61 and that if we lose in court and they are released, we still must stand behind the teachers who have data released.
Special Ed VP Carmen Alvarez reported on the special ed Raise the Bar campaign. She stated that the UFT had filed 3190 special ed complaints. She said that as a result our advocacy, thousands of children now get proper services but more needs to be done.
She also told us mandate relief has been approved by the regents. Speech has been reduced to 1 period. Furthermore, now the state will allow 14 students with IEP's in CTT classes. She concluded that we have to keep filing complaints when necessary.Mulgrew came back to say this campaign must continue on behalf of the kids.
The next topic in the lengthy President's report was bedbugs. The president stated that he was insulted by DOE saying teachers should be responsible for catching bedbugs. He went on to tell us how bedbugs reproduce as they need ten minutes of sucking human blood before sex. He continued by telling us how he wants us to catch the bedbugs and deliver them to Tweed. Many Delegates answered yes when asked if there was a bedbug problem in their schools. He reported on a DOE no bid contract where one exterminator used a toxic chemical that was not supposed to be for use in a public area. As a result, he said teachers had to have a Saturday car wash to replace supplies the exterminator destroyed.
Mulgrew followed up by talking about Klein's resignation. He said that we have been educating the public to set the record straight for the last 18 months about how Klein's policies are harming children. Wall Street Journal in a recent poll found that Bloomberg's poll numbers on education were down to 30%. He said UFT is in large part responsible for Klein resigning. The president went on to tell us that Bloomberg messed up the transformation to a new Chancellor. Klein's legacy is not good.
Selection of a new Chancellor was to go for a waiver again. Bloomberg didn't consult with important education leaders before picking Cathie Black. Mulgrew said he was hoping for a positive change in leadership and he doesn't know what to expect. Members mixed review on Black. Some will take anyone who will work with us. Mulgrew met Black for about 30 seconds. Mulgrew added that some undesirable candidates have educational credentials.
He said UFT worked closely with State Education Commissioner David Steiner last year on Race to the Top and the new evaluation system. He added it's the commissioner's decision. UFT then presented a resolution. Mulgrew wants UFT to change the law for the future. He wants stability and he argued that this is not possible under current law. He stated that we need a new law .
UFT Resolution says, "That the United Federation of Teachers support the process established by State Education Commissioner David Steiner as a credible and fair procedure for deciding on the request for a waiver from the qualifications for Chancellor of New York City public schools promulgated in state education law." (talk about not taking a stand on Black or the waiver)
High School VP Leo Casey had an amendment calling for the UFT to back a change in the law for selecting future chancellors. UFT wants to change the law to make the process more transparent in the future. David Pecoraro from Beach Channel and Unity proposed that UFT should not support the waiver unless Black commits to visiting schools before they close. Two Unity people spoke against the amendement to support closing schools.
At that point someone called the question and Sal Emanueli from Jamaica HS raised a point of order that nobody had spoken against the resolution. He appealed then for Delegates to support the amendment on behalf of closing schools or otherwise he said the resolution was too weak. The question was then called and the Unity majority by a fairly wide margin defeated any support for closing schools. This was followed by an overwhelming vote in favor of basically staying out of the waiver battle. How weak are we?
Then there was a staff director's report where the Delegates sang happy birthday to Leroy Barr. Mulgrew gave a contract update (mediation failed) and answered questions mostly critical of him for not opposing the waiver.Overall the meeting was depressing due to more UFT inaction. Or as one delegate put it, "That's two hours of my life that I can never get back."
Monday, November 15, 2010
Below is the link to the petition that will also send a message to state officials. Let your voices be heard. Without a waiver from education law that says the chancellor should have an education school district administrator certification, Ms. Black cannot be chancellor.
Please be sure to sign and spread the word. http://www.change.org/petitions/view/deny_a_waiver_to_cathleen_black_she_is_unqualified_to_become_nyc_chancellor
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Q: Do ATRs have specific rights?
A: There are no specific rights for ATRS because they are educators like everyone else whose schools have been shut down or reorganized, or whose programs have been eliminated.
Nevertheless: the circumstances under which people must conduct their careers and plan for their future substantially changes when they are excessed. This has not been addressed by the UFT at all. ATRs become second-class educators and suffer much abuse. They are sometimes given inappropriate jobs (clerical work, deaning against their will, out-of-license teaching), overloaded with prepping for classes they have never taught, sidelined from per session and preferences. Most importantly, they are constantly being lied to: they do not know the truth about vacancies or what efforts anyone is doing to re-locate them.
Q: Has anyone been told how many real ATRs there still are?
A: The figure supplied by the DoE on Aug. 29th and undisputed by the union was 1,800 (see Jennifer Medina in the Times: “Amid Hiring Freeze, Principals Leave Jobs Empty”).
Q: Can you play a passive role as an ATR and just accept what the DoE gives you?
A: Of course. You are under no obligation to look for a job on your own. But, if a job fair is scheduled during the normal course of a school day, you must attend.
Q: Is the UFT still holding strong in contract negotiations on the question of ATRs?
A: The DoE wants to terminate ATRS when they do not find a job in a certain number of months. The UFT claims it is holding to its position that ATRs will not be terminated. Because the union agreed to the 2005 and 2007 contracts that gave principals discretion in hiring, it cannot demand that all ATRs who want positions be placed. This giveback has been one of the most harmful to veteran teachers and the profession as a whole.
Q: Are most ATRs senior educators and/or people of color?
A: There is no way to know for sure, because no one making this information available. Teachers with large salaries seem to be having the most difficulty finding a new job, and it is clear that newer and untenured teachers are more attractive to principals looking to fill vacancies because they can be asked to do many things that more senior teachers could possibly find fault with.
Q: How well informed are ATRs on the Side Agreement that’s due to expire on Dec. 1st?
A: Not much, and especially that it only applies to ATRs paid out of Central, not those who in excess but remaining in their current school (and on their current school’s budget). Heck, even the UFT keeps forgetting to mention that the Side Agreement has only applied to certain kinds of ATRs.
Q: Do principals know about the terms of the Side Agreement?
A: Some ATRs feel that principals pretend not to know about what’s in that agreement. I am not sure they are correct, since they are offered monetary benefits for hiring ATRs.
Q: Do ATRs have a functional chapter?
A: Not at this time. Some have asked for one so they could meet as a group and send reps to the DA. Weingarten opposed the idea because she didn’t want it to become a permanent category.
Q: What happened to the age-discrimination suit the UFT was contemplating because of the number of senior teachers not being able to find new jobs?
A: No one seems to know. School closings and restructuring leads to excessing. Who remains in the ATR pool after vacancies are filled tend to be senior teachers with higher salaries. It seems to have been hard for the UFT or NYSUT to prove age discrimination more salary discrimination is just as likely.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF HIRING
Q: Where can I find the regulations regarding how ATRs should be placed?
A: Excessing and layoff are discussed in Art. 17B and 17D. It was the 2005 contract that created the Open Market and allowed principals to deny a placement suggested by the DoE.
Q: Is the DoE playing fair with placements?
A: Under the current contract, the DoE is to try and place ATRs in their “district/superintendency,” but successive restructurings have created confusion. One ATR reports that the DoE told her there are no longer any districts, that they’ve been replaced by the CFNs (Children First Networks), which are not constrained to a borough. But schools seem to still be assigned to a “geographical district” or “community school district” as well as to a DSSI cluster on the DoE portals (i.e., websites describing each school in the system). Gone are “regions,” so the concept of someone’s getting relocated to the nearest vacancy to his or her excessing school, and failing that, moving outwards from district to region to borough, no longer seems to be in place. A grievance would help to sort this problem out. This is an example of how the details of existing contracts between the DoE and the union have been circumvented by the Bloomberg administration.
There is actually no way to tell what is going on behind the scenes. If an ATR finds himself placed out of his district, sometimes far out of the district, it's impossible to verify how many possible vacancies were bypassed through nefarious means (hiding the jobs, nepotism, etc.). Deals and exchanges are being made all the time, and sometimes principals are being forced to hire specific people under threat. There are many ATRs who feel there is no rhyme or reason to where they are being relocated.
Q: Are ATRs told the details of their status when they switch schools?
A: If you’ve been excessed, you can check your status online (the DoE alerts you by email). When you are excessed, you get a personalized form letter from your principal. If you are appointed at another school, you might receive an email like this:
Name of Applicant: ___________________ATRs should really be told out of which budget they are being paid. The personnel secretary does not have access to Galaxy and won't be able to tell. The CL should have access to Galaxy and sometimes doesn't bother getting a copy from the principal or is too busy (there's only so much CLs can do in one day). ATRs are in general afraid to ask questions and speak up for fear they will be treated as troublemakers.
EIS# / File#: ________________________
Congratulations on your selection for the position listed below through the Excessed Staff Selection System.
Location of Vacancy: __________________________
Your current Principal has been informed of this selection. You have been included in the hiring school's Galaxy table of organization with a valid, budgeted vacancy. Based on this selection, you should report to the above school on (day of the week), (date). You may contact the above hiring school if you have any questions regarding your new assignment..
Once again, congratulations on your selection and thank you for your continuing professional contributions to the New York City Department of Education and the children we serve.
New York City Department of Education
Q: Does the DoE seem to make up rules?
A: Frequently. For example, one ATR was told recently that he couldn't change to another of his licenses in order to accept a new position, that he had to continue under the license he was working under when excessed. But, there is nothing in the Side Agreement (ending Dec. 1st) or the contract restricting someone from moving to another license when changing to another school. Who knows where this came from.
By the way: in the old rules, the DoE could ask you to work in any school down from your license, but not up. In other words, if you held a JHS license, you could be moved to an elementary school under your JHS license but not to a high school. Presumably this protocol (law?) is still in place.
Q: Is there a right of return to your school should your program be re-opened?
A: To our knowledge, this question has not been answered. In 2007, the UFT was advising excessed members not to be hasty about looking for a new job on their own, as it might jeopardize their right of return to their old school.
SUPPORT FROM THE DoE
Q: Is the DoE and/or certain Children First Networks being more helpful than others?
A: We’re not sure.
Q: Can ATRS contact the DoE for help with their questions?
A: Going to the local office might get you more answers than going to the UFT. After all, the employer is the DoE, not the union.
Q: What written information has the DoE provided ATRs to help them?
A: The DoE prepared a manual for ATRs some years ago on how to improve their resumes and prepare for interviews. Perhaps people are still receiving them (we're waiting information on that). We’ve been told that the DoE tells you how to dress for an interview.
SUPPORT FROM THE UFT
Q: Does the UFT help ATRs at job fairs and hiring halls?
A: Not really. The union keeps saying that ATRs are hired at the discretion of the principal. And since they themselves negotiated the terms of the last two contracts, there really is nothing more they can say on this point.
Q: How helpful have Chapter Leaders been?
A: The UFT has asked CLs to collect information on ATRs in their school but has not directed them to reach out in particular to these people.
Q: How helpful have the District Reps been?
A: We’ve heard that some District Reps are slow to respond to questions ATRs have. Some do not seem to know about the ATR Side Agreement.
Q: Are some boroughs and district staff more helpful than others?
A: There have been times when borough offices have not answered phonecalls or emails. ATRs have to be proactive to find out what they need to know and who can help them with their questions.
Q: Did the union react to the manual the DoE prepared for ATRs some years ago on how to improve their resumes and prepare for interviews?
A: No. As outrageous and insulting a document that it was, the UFT took it in its stride. They should have instead taken the position that educators are professionals and fully capable of doing what’s necessary to find a job if they want to (and they don’t have to do anything under the current contract). The UFT’s silence on the circulation of that handbook spoke volumes on their complacency in the face of such condescension on the part of the DoE.
ATRs now coming out of the rubber rooms have not been given these manuals.
Q: What is the UFT doing about formal observations for ATRs?
A: The UFT, which negotiated the protocols and stated purpose of observations with the DoE (Art. 8J), is in no position to find fault with the way observations are being carried out — even if they are now being used to evaluate excessed teachers.
The title “ATR” encompasses a variety of circumstances in which excessed persons find themselves. The evaluation system designed in Art. 8J is clearly for people in regular positions.
ATRs acting as day-to-day subs are at the greatest disadvantage. They do not know the students who sit in front of them, and in the upper grades they generally have to wing things period by period out of license. ATRs teach from a lesson plan that has been left by the teacher. (In the best case scenario, of course. Sometimes nobody's left them any at all). They do not design their own lessons or materials and should not be judged on how they deliver something they did not write and have only just seen for the first time. There is no justification for subjecting ATRs to the observation protocols defined in Art. 8J, though most principals do, and it's amazing to a lot of us that the issue has not yet gone to grievance somewhere in the system.
ATRs teaching full or part programs out of license should also not be observed under the same kind of arrangements as regularly appointed teachers. What would indeed help these ATRs teaching out of license would be any or all of the following aids: a complete set of lesson plans for the term, PD, relief from 6-R duties, and/or per-session money to compensate them for the extra time they spend learning another subject and preparing for their classes (plans, curriculum and materials). What these people need is help, not formal, misapplied criticism that goes into their permanent files. The UFT has been entirely AWOL on this issue. It should have been demanding other protocols for evaluating ATRs now that so many excessed teachers are afloat in the system doing second-class jobs.
Q: Does the UFT call regular meetings for ATRs to help them through their ordeal and solicit questions from them?
A: Not recently. ATRs are left unsupported and uninformed through much of the year.
Q: Is the UFT trying to find out how many ATRs there still are, what jobs they are doing, and the effects of the Side Agreement?
A: The UFT has been asking CLs to collect some info on what ATRs are being asked to do, but this effort cannot bring a complete set of results. If the DoE is not providing all the info on vacancies and hirings, the UFT should be going to court to get it.
MORE ON JOB FAIRS & HIRING HALLS
Q: Are principals coming to the hiring halls?
A: Not a lot. They generally send designees to interview teachers. Not many schools are even represented.
Q: What are the job fairs like?
A: People say most who attend are black, Hispanic or Asian. The few whites who show up are mostly senior teachers.
ATRs IN SCHOOLS
Q: What can ATRs expect when they are placed?
A: ATRs getting placed in the fall have missed the preference sheets of the previous spring and should ask for one. They are always at the bottom of school seniority the first year they come into a school. Some ATRs get full programs, some partial ones, and some are asked to cover classes all day long. A lot of this work is out of license, but it is not clear how much. The UFT has made no formal objection to the amount of out-of-license work ATRs are being asked to do.
Q: What happens to school seniority and other contractual rights?
A: ATRs are at the bottom of school seniority rotation lists and may stay there unless they have the nerve to fight for their rights. Newly relocated ATRs are generally too late to apply for per session jobs or comp-time positions and have no input in the SBOs already run for the current year.
Q: Can ATRs expect a room or space of their own?
A: ATRs with programs carve out space in a school as all teachers do, but day-to-day ATR subs generally have to find hideaways for themselves. Some stash their things in the teachers’ lounge or make other (unsatisfactory) arrangements; some have been given no closet or workspace at all. The UFT has not been proactive on this issue.
Q: Does the ATR get Teachers' Choice?
Prepared for ICE by Julie Woodward
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
However, some feel it doesn't matter whether the Chancellor is an educator or non-educator. The UFT response from President Michael Mulgrew was to say, "I look forward to working with Ms. Black. As a teacher, I will help in any way I can to help the children of New York.” That doesn't say much of anything.
Should the UFT be opposing the waiver? What do you think? Please let us know.
Monday, November 08, 2010
I ask any school in the world to take the Jamaica challenge: Cut 30% of the teaching staff (student enrollment drop is less than half of that) and take away roughly half of the school’s space, raise class sizes beyond what the union contract calls for in scores of classes, replace an excellent Programmer and Guidance Coordinator with assistant principals who are untrained in these areas and must still also do their previous jobs, while continuing to permit unlicensed non-secretaries to perform secretarial duties. Then, place new schools in the corners of the building and equip those schools with up to date technology and provide their teachers with lower class sizes and a beautiful makeover for their parts of the building while students and staff of the old school that includes many at risk pupils are shoved into the middle of the building in obsolete rooms. Do all of this to the old school and then ask it to raise the graduation rate and promotion rate. Even set up the lunch schedule to favor the new schools. Their kids eat lunch during normal lunch hours between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. while the old school’s kids are eating lunch starting at 10:00 a.m. or after 1:00 p.m.
We at Jamaica challenge any school to thrive under these teaching and learning conditions. A Quality Review or Joint Intervention Team visit under these circumstances is a setup for failure. Separate and unequal schools are unfair and it is time for the DOE to be held accountable for mismanaging the education of our kids.
Last week Jamaica had a Quality Review-Joint Intervention Team (city-state) visit and it was a farce on a major scale. (I do not know the score we received on the QR.) I will say that the state people were quite professional in their review. From all reports they were very personable and listened to what we had to say. They did not call in the Chapter Leader for a formal discussion but we did exchange some pleasantries. It was the two quality reviewers from the city that interviewed me in one of the most bizarre interactions I have ever experienced.
I was trying to explain to these officials what we do in the Advanced Placement United States History class and how we have revived the program in the last three years and now have pupils scoring the top grades of 5 and 4 on the rigorous examination. We built up the program without the supports other schools have. The male quality reviewer cut me off in mid sentence and told me how we have an English Advanced Placement class that has 34 students in it and this is educationally unsound. He seemed to be criticizing me for this situation. I told him that I couldn’t agree more that it was unwise to have 34 in a college level class in a high school but that in actuality the class had 37 and as Chapter Leader I grieved it and 82 other oversize classes at Jamaica this fall. He would not even admit that we have oversize classes. I said the principal and DOE lawyer used the half class exception to justify them. At this point, the two reviewers looked at me like I was from Mars and would not talk about the half class size exception.
What stunned me was that they seemed to be trying to put me on the spot for the oversize classes. Were they kidding? We were truly coming from two different worlds. I mentioned the Quality Review from two years back that said we need new technology but we have lost so much funding that we can barely afford a piece of chalk in this school while the new schools in the building have modern equipment and lower class sizes. I said the education in this building is separate and unequal and our kids deserve an equal education.
I compare our plight to being in a prison where the warden cuts our food ration by 30% and then complains that we are too skinny.
THE DIFFICULT ROAD AHEAD FOR JAMAICA
I read yesterday’s NY Post article about Jamaica High School giving away credits very closely. Even by adding over 1,000 credits to student transcripts, we still couldn’t get enough points on the DOE Progress Report for this year to get a C grade. That is hard to believe. Of course when administration took those credits away our grade became a lower D but I am still forced to conclude that they would have found a way to give us a D even if all of our students graduated in a week.
If DOE reviewed us fairly, they would have to admit we are performing miracles on a daily basis even with all of the obstacles they have placed in our way.
As for the extra credit probe of Jamaica High School for adding questionable credits to student transcripts that the NY Post is reporting on, I agree with Leonie Haimson that principals are cutting corners all over because of pressure to boost promotion and graduation rates.
High stakes decisions based on student progress are ridiculous when the school plays only a small part in determing student performance. Outside factors are far more important according to scholarly research and common sense. Hopefully, there will be a time when sanity returns to our schools.
Friday, October 22, 2010
At the hearing this morning, the principal, who is represented by a DOE lawyer, said he can't fix many of the oversize classes. I don't think there is enough space to start new classes in part because two new schools opened inside our building that now occupy many rooms. But that is not the argument administration made. The DOE lawyer asserted over and over the half class size loophole in the contract as justification for oversize classes.
Remember the class size limit is 34 for high schools so a half class would be 17 or less. Without 18 additional pupils in a subject area, DOE can claim there aren't enough students to start a new class. Therefore, in reality the half class exception allows for class sizes to go as high as 51 in a New York City High School although an arbitrator several years back did limit its use. As of today we still have a subject class with 48 at Jamaica and almost 50 classes remain oversize. This cannot be justified and yet the DOE lawyer repeatedly asserted the half class exception and the arbitrator in response asked the DOE to do their best to fix the problem or otherwise he implied he would allow the half class exemption.
It was so bad that DOE even utilized the half class clause when there were two English as a Second Language classes, one had 35 students and the other had 18. Anyone could resolve this as all DOE had to do was move one student from the class of 35 to the class of 18. That’s simple, right? No, because they meet in different periods so administration claimed that resolving this problem would cause massive disruptions in programs. Therefore, they had to use the half class exception. The arbitrator, to my astonishment, seemed to accept this logic and when I objected the UFT District Representative saw the arbitrator getting a little angry at me so after a pro forma protest, the UFT moved the proceedings ahead.
DOE is not supposed to use the half class exception as a rule but that is exactly what they did. In addition, establishing a precedent that they are abusing the exception takes years.
At overcrowded Francis Lewis High School an arbitrator said administration had to stop using the exceptions allowed in the contract as a rule. This happened last school year but even then the UFT still had to go to court to force DOE into compliance and it didn't happen until this school year. My guess is next year Lewis will go back to normal and there will be many oversize classes again. At a school like Jamaica that has a much greater percentage of at risk students compared to Lewis, we have a huge problem with students being discharged. Unfortunately, administration can use this to their advantage in the class size reduction process.
Administration over-booked the classes, as they have for a number of years and then they will wait for student attrition to bring class size down for the spring when it will be in compliance with the contract. In the end, the UFT can never say that the exception has become the rule. Therefore, we have no remedy for oversize classes. At the arbitration today the UFT showed last fall’s award where the administration used the half class exception. The arbitrator seemed to ignore it.
It should be noted that our school has no Pupil Accounting Secretary in our Attendance Office so it is inevitable that we will lose pupils. Pushing kids out is no way to solve the oversize class problem but attrition is why we can't prove a pattern of oversize classes as high schools are still technically organized on a semester basis twice a year.
Sadly, the real losers in this silly game are the kids who are stuck in oversize classes until they can't take battling for a seat every day and so they stop attending class.
This problem could be easily resolved by putting an absolute cap in the contract but the UFT won’t even demand this kind of modest class size reduction. The DOE agreed to lower class sizes to around 25 in the high schools to settle the Campaign for Fiscal Equity suit but they won't even enforce an absolute cap of 34 on their principals. Of course, DOE will still always blame the teachers when things go wrong in a school.
They will more than likely soon claim it’s our fault that at risk students can't learn in a class of 48 at Jamaica so they will probably try again to close the school and start another new small school. The new small school will then be provided sufficient funding for them to have class sizes capped in the twenties and then the DOE will declare that there is more proof that new small schools are better when scores improve. Meanwhile the next generation of at risk pupils will be moved to the next schools targeted for closure to be packed in oversize classes.
What is so frustrating is how the DOE continues to get away with abusing the class size limits. I saw this farce with my own eyes today.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Now that I am home from a super long day, here is the DA Report for the first Delegate Assembly of the year. Thanks to my friend Ellen for filling me in on the opening.
President Michael Mulgrew started out by talking about teacher bashing, the Waiting for Superman movie and more teacher bashing from NBC's week of blaming us for the problems of society.
He then told us how Chancellor will release teacher data reports. UFT had emergency resolution opposing it and saying we will take all actions to stop the release of these reports.
Mulgrew then made an election pitch and an appeal to do the phone banks. He followed up by telliing us there is no new evaluation plan in place as of now for teachers. New law was passed but it won't be implemented until we have negotiated a new contract. DOE is spinning test scores at CEC meetings. UFT is countering it with the truth. Nothing new on contract.
Mulgrew then said there is good news for daycare providers. He told us how the daycare workers now have healthcare benefits and they also have stronger protections with an executive order Governor Patterson signed. Mulgrew concluded by saying he would present delegates with Superman t-shirts.
Staff director gave some dates of meetings and thanked people for going to DC.
The Question Period followed.
Question on persistently low achieving schools was answered by Mulgrew saying that we have to change federal no child left behind law. Question on bullying. Mulgrew stated that UFT called DOE on conflict resolution and felt DOE doesn't care about this as it has nothing to do with testing and progress reports. Politicians want to push DOE to work on this issue.
Question about teacher who committed suicide after data reports in LA. Delegate wants bullying of teachers to stop . Mulgrew responded that we will reinstate Principals in Need of Improvement program.
UFT City Council endorsement for Nicole Paultrie Bell for city council then passed with no opposition.
Delegate Marjorie Stamberg then introduced a motion to get full disclosure of report on Rikers Island. Report had so much erased because it probably said that Rikers schools should not be closed. The schools have been broken up by DOE and many teachers and other UFT members have been sent to Absent Teacher Reserve pool. UFT will make a Freedom of Information Law request to get full report that probably was favorable to schools. Resolution passed unanimously from where I was sitting.Time ran out at this point so we didn't vote on anything else including a school closing resolution that was laughable.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
District 79 authorized an outside report by the Comer group at Yale University. But after the report was written, the district refused to release it. The teachers then filed a Freedom of Information Act demand to see the report. Last week, it was finally released. But it is so heavily redacted (i.e., blacked-out) it is unreadable. It looks like something the CIA would hand out when they're trying to cover up for U.S. war atrocities!
On Wednesday at the UFT Delegate Assembly, a motion will be put up requesting the union use it resources to demand the report be released in its entirety, which should bring some transparency to this whole nasty business.
Teachers at Rikers Island who work with incarcerated students are among the most dedicated in our system. Every day they come to work in very difficult conditions in order to teach the students who are most at-risk. These teachers deserve the thanks of all, not to be excessed and many thrown out of their classrooms into the ATR pool.
What's happening in D79 casts light on the urgent situation of some 1,800 ATRs throughout the DOE. As teachers are being made the scapegoats for every problem in this society, the ATR teachers are the most vulnerable. No one is "secure" in this era of privatization and public school closures.. As we all know, "if you're not an ATR now, you could be soon."
Rikers Island programs -- Release the Full Comer Report
Whereas the DOE commissioned a report from the Comer School Development Project at Yale University to evaluate the effectiveness of the programs on Rikers Island, and
Whereas the staff as a condition of the study agreed to fully cooperate with the evaluation process including extensive interviews, and
Whereas the evaluation was intended to guide the future of the programs on Rikers Island, and
Whereas the report was delivered to the DOE long before the decision to close and reopen the programs on Rikers Island, and
Whereas the Comer School Development Project Report was used by the DOE and the Superintendent of District 79 to justify the closing of the programs on Rikers Island to be replaced by a new program resulting in scores of staff being excessed, and
Whereas the DOE and the Superintendent of District 79 have refused to provide staff access to the report, and
Whereas the staff and others have made Freedom of Information Act requests only to receive a report with so many redactions as to make it meaningless, be it
RESOLVED, that the United Federation of Teachers call upon the DOE to release the full report, without redactions, and be it further
RESOLVED that the United Federation of Teachers take such appropriate action, including but not limited to taking an appeal of the FOIA response, as it deems necessary to secure the full report so that the decision to close the programs and create scores of excess staff who are now ATRs will be made transparent .
Monday, October 18, 2010
While the Post got the outcome right the impact and reason for the decision was not reported. Some of the important facts were also omitted.
Readers of this blog know that probationers can be terminated for any or no reason and Union lawyers will generally refuse to commence litigation in support of a terminated probationer and universally advise them to "forget about it" and get on with their lives. The Bryant case illustrates an important window for probationers…a window that should have been explored by our Union to protect impermissible probationary terminations.
Charles Bryant's excessive corporal punishment case was totally mismanaged by the Office of Special Investigations. The incident stemmed from Bryant's request to Cherry (a 16 year old and over 6 feet tall student) to go to the principal's office. A scuffle ensued after which the police were called. Bryant was reported by the police as the victim and Cherry the perpetrator.
Three student witnesses told OSI conflicting stories several days after the incident and Cherry told investigators that he was bleeding as a result of being hit by Bryant. The police report and the principal's vague memory did not support the student's account of the incident. No injury was ever reported.
Bryant's OSI interview was antagonistic and started with the investigator telling him, "I do not believe you."
Justice Emily Goodman of the New York County Supreme Court ordered the OSI files for an in camera or Court-only viewing review. The DOE refused. Additionally Goodman noted that Cherry was being held on Rikers Island on robbery charges.
Goodman noted the flawed investigation and found that "a probationary employee may be discharged without a hearing and without a statement of reasons so long as the act is done in good faith and not for constitutionally impermissible purposes."
Given the botched and biased investigation Goodman ordered Bryant back to work and ordered a new OSI investigation.
A victory for Bryant? Hopefully. However, the decision demonstrates that probationary terminations are not hopeless and our Union must take note of it and represent these Union members to the extent they deserve. (Bryant was represented by private counsel).
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Something really positive seems to be happening when teachers in Baltimore reject a lousy contract and voters in DC throw out Mayor Adrian Fenty who foisted Michelle Rhee upon educators in that city.
Could anti ed deform fever catch here in NYC?
I also heard that Waiting for Superman documentary isn't doing all that well at the box office. Maybe people are tired of hearing teacher bashing propaganda.
You can hear an interview with a Baltimore teacher here.
Read about the Baltimore story here.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Termination reversals after 3020-a hearings are extremely rare, but given the right circumstances and a "hanging" arbitrator and you just might get your case reversed. So is the case of Beverly Riley.
On September 21, 2006, Riley, a fifteen year elementary school teacher at P.S. 28, allegedly approached a nine-year old student who was in the hallway after school. As she approached the child, who was waiting for her family to pick her up, Riley allegedly grabbed the girl, pulled her to the wall and slapped her on the left side of the face. The incident was reported to the principal, OSI investigated and Riley was charged with corporeal punishment. A second charge of corporal punishment was preferred against Riley for an incident allegedly occurring against another student on October 4, 2006.
After a five day hearing the arbitrator dismissed the October 4, 2006 incident but sustained the first incident and imposed the penalty of termination. In his finding the arbitrator noted Riley's fifteen year unblemished record but found it insignificant due to the devastating impact on the child.
The arbitrator wrote "even one proven incident of corporal punishment can have a devastating impact on the involved student, and justifies the imposition of severe discipline. . .[s]tudents and parents need to know that the Department will not tolerate teachers using physical force to discipline students, even where the incident of corporal punishment was isolated and the only bruise was 'on the inside'."
On appeal Justice Saliann Scarpulla of New York Supreme Court found that the arbitrator had gone too far. One slap does not indicate the pattern of misconduct that deserves the most severe penalty. Besides, the child admitted she was not injured by the incident..
The Court ordered Riley be reinstated and the matter be sent to another arbitrator for a penalty consistent with the Court's decision.
A copy of the September 13, 2010 decision can be obtained here.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
It felt good for me to be a part of this protest-street theater. I witnessed young public school advocates together with veterans last night. We were all standing up for great public schools for everyone. Public school teachers have been demonized by many of the charter supporters who have devolved into a movement that wants to privatize education, bust the unions and take public dollars. The tragedy is that so many young children are being exploited terribly in the process.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Tomorrow, protestors will be at the Lincoln Center premiere of Superman. Join them if you can. Norm had a reviewer write a column at Ed Notes.
Charter advocates in New York and Michelle Rhee in DC got destroyed in last week's primary election. Let that be a lesson to us; we don't have to sit back and take the punches and appease the crowd that wants to destroy public schools. We're defending fairness for all of the children. There's no need to be shy about that.
Monday, September 13, 2010
During the 2009-2010 school year our school paid The School Development Program at Yale University, Comer Institute a reported $35,000 for a comprehensive report wherein teachers were interviewed extensively.
This comprehensive report discussed and analyzed the various aspects of Island Academy. The administration had promised on several occasions throughout the process that after a brief review by District 79 administration, the entire contents of this report would be available to staff. The document has been completed and sent to Island Academy's administration, but District 79 refused to share it with staff.
The school administration disagrees with the report claiming that "It undermines the rationale for closing the school." The report can be requested per the Freedom of Information Act from the DOE at firstname.lastname@example.org. The title of the report is "Contextual Analysis for Austin H. MacCormick - Island Academy, Rikers Island, June 29, 2010."
We encourage everyone to request the report so that the DOE will release it. Thanks for your help in this matter.
Former Chapter Leader, Island Academy at Rikers Island
Friday, September 10, 2010
by Seung OK
The legacy of Mayor Bloomberg and his reforms on education may very well be a footnote vilifying the extent of damage impacted on a generation of students in New York City. The story of Maxwell HS should be a canary in the mines of what’s to come for the rest of the city. Situated in East New York, Brooklyn - arguably one of the most difficult neighborhoods to learn and teach in – the school proudly ran vocational programs that actually placed students in viable careers.
The students in the optics program ran a free eyeglass clinic for all the students and staff in the building. Anyone who needed to replace their glasses came with their prescription or old frame. The students measured the lenses, cut new lenses, fitted them into new frames – and instead of paying 200 dollars, one received a new pair of glasses free of charge. Not only were students learning a valuable professional skill, but they were helping those in a community who may desperately need a new pair of glasses.
The students in the cosmetology program were not the most academically minded. If you remember the musical Grease, beauty school may not attract the next generation of Nobel peace prize winners. But that program was doing something that very few schools can claim – keeping struggling kids interested and motivated to come to school. The attendance of cosmetology students were among the highest at Maxwell. These same students that might otherwise shun a high school degree, could be seen hard at work in the barbering and nail technology labs. They would attend academic classes with their mannequin heads in hand and struggle through tough courses so they could continue what they loved to do.
Our health care students boasted of having the New York State president of the Health Occupations Students of America – a national student organization. Through internships in hospitals and instruction under a practicing physical therapist – our students have enrolled in medical and nursing programs throughout New York.
Just as in the case of Jamaica High School, all these programs are being abandoned by Mayor Bloomberg. Since our freshmen enrollment is down to 60 students – 30 teachers had to be excessed. At one point there were 300 students slated for our school, until the city violated the spirit of the judge’s ruling and sent out reselection letters to these students “in case” the city won the appeal. Our excessed cosmetology teacher is being replaced with a wood shop teacher from another school. There are not enough vision students to keep up the program. What was once a legitimate career alternative and stepping stone to college is now on the brink of vanishing.
Ironically, the mantra always touted by the mayor’s DOE is, “putting children first”. By not hearing the pleas of the students, parents and teachers in these “failing schools”, the mayor is putting his ego first. He has said as much in his radio program – where he denigrated the desires of parents to keep these schools open. The mayor’s seems intent on breaking the teacher’s union, and if that means putting the 1 million plus students in harms way, disenfranchising parents and their voices, and vilifying thousands of dedicated teachers – so be it. If the reformers win, it will be a pyrrhic victory – and history will show, there were will be very few winners to show for it.
Thursday, September 09, 2010
Back in December 2009 the Department of Education introduced proposals to phase out 19 schools but their plan was flawed because they wrote inadequate Educational Impact Statements. After the Panel for Educational Policy voted at 3:00 a.m. on January 27, 2010 to close all of these schools, the UFT (with the complete support of ICE), NAACP and others sued and won to prevent the closings.
Judge Joan Lobis decided on March 26, 2010 that the UFT was right when she ruled that the 19 schools should remain open. On July 1, an appeals court agreed 5-0 with the original decision. What was left unclear was whether new schools could still start in our buildings even though the old schools still existed. We believed they could not and wanted the UFT to go back to court on the issue to prevent the new schools from invading our space. I spoke with the chapter leader from Beach Channel and he agreed with me on this issue. I also emailed President Michael Mulgrew to no avail.
We thought we had a strong case by just looking at the flawed Educational Impact Statements. For Jamaica, the impact statement said that by phasing out Jamaica it would create space for the two new schools. No phase out equals no space for the new schools right? Well the UFT disagreed and on July 14 they basically sold out many of the nineteen schools by agreeing to allow the new schools to start in our buildings. In exchange we were supposed to get support.
Not only have we not received any help from either UFT or DOE after their July 14 agreement, our pupils have had to suffer the indignity of returning to school and being squeezed into the middle of the building in an area that looks antiquated while two new schools and an expanding third on the east and west wings install modern equipment for their small schools. It's appalling how conditions in the same building are so vastly different between schools.
Then to hear the mayor and chancellor say on the first school day that schools such as Jamaica don't deserve support is unconscionable. The corporate mindset has gone overboard. Bloomberg and Klein want to close our school so they will compromise the education of our students to prove their point. Even I am having trouble believing that people can be that vindictive against innocent children.
If anyone is thinking that someone should have told Judge Lobis about how her decision has been violated by DOE and UFT, we did. A Jamaica teacher named Debbie Saal, and I along with a student and parent wrote up something called an Order to Show Cause asking the judge to intervene as opening up new schools appeared to us to be a violation of her decision. In our petition, we asked the judge to stop two new schools from opening in our building since the Educational Impact Statement that created these schools was flawed as their existence was predicated on Jamaica phasing out, which it no longer is. We had many strong arguments saying that Jamaica’s pupils were suffering irreparable harm because we were losing so much space and funding.
Unfortunately, Judge Lobis, when she saw our papers, said because the case was closed our papers were therefore not timely. Translation, when the UFT made their deal with the DOE to let the new schools co-locate in our facility, we had no legal recourse. Since it is up to the judge to decide whether or not to intervene in a case, it means our legal options are very limited.
That's where it stands right now. Our school is open as an entity but with very few freshmen and no help coming from anywhere. Our programs are either nonexistent or a shell of their former selves. Some Advanced Placement classes have been dropped; there are no music classes; science classes meet one fewer period per week, many electives no longer exist and all ninth graders in general education, whether they are in our Gateway Honors program, Law program or are English Language Learners, are all in the same subject classes. 25 teachers out of 84 were placed in excess and Absent Teacher Reserves who don't know our school are being sent here to cover classes while our excessed teachers are sent packing all over Queens.
We have been abandoned by Michael Bloomberg, Joel Klein, Michael Mulgrew and Judge Lobis.
Our students and staff are casualties of school reform. Can anyone help us?
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
By Loretta Prisco
I don't know about the sex, but there are plenty of lies, and videotapes to prove it!
Using rising test scores, Klein/Bloomberg have insisted that schools are improving and went to Washington to brag about the "miracle" of NY.
The recent realistic NYS calibrations of the standardized test scores nixed that miracle. People of faith know that turning water into wine and curing leprosy requires Divine intervention. Educating children first requires an understanding of what it means to be educated. And that bears no relation to raising test scores.
- Klein/Bloomberg are still boasting about the increase in HS graduation rates.
- Another boast (or can we call it a lie?): the achievement gap between White and African American students is narrowing.
- Another boast: Klein/Bloomberg claim to have recommitted the schools to the arts and offer the proof that they have hired139 music and art teachers in the last 3 years.
- In response to questions raised in a weeklong series on NY 1, "Bars to Education", the DOE said that it didn't have the funds for summer school for incarcerated youth, yet maintains that one of its major goals for this population is "education".
- One more for this column: The DOE claims it is "accountable, transparent and open to parents".
And there must be some sex in all of this – we just haven't heard about it.