Thursday, July 29, 2010


It seems as though many people are almost gloating over the huge fall in state test scores. People are saying that it finally proves, what teachers knew all along, that tests were dumbed down to fit the mayor and chancellor's political agenda.

I am not expecting any apology from Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein in the near future. I don't think they are going to come in and say, "You know those teachers were right all along and maybe we should listen to them from now on."

Instead, my crystal ball (for what it's worth) sees them doubling down on the test,test, test the kids and blame, blame, blame the teachers policy in the next year or two. You see they play a game of heads I win and tales we lose.

If the test scores go up, they will say it is obviously because of Klein's great managerial skills which proves that you just have to bash the teachers to get them to teach harder so the kids learn.

On the other hand if the scores go down, they will assert that it clearly has nothing to do with DOE's management of the schools which they say is superb. They will say it's those pesky inflexible union rules that are to blame. DOE will actually have the nerve to say the giveaways that took away most of our rights in 2005 and since haven't gone nearly far enough.

Watch out as we move ahead and the powers that be come after us with even more force. Notice the Daily News and Post don't have anything negative to say about the mayor or the chancellor in their editorials on the test scores.

I hope I'm wrong and that forces aligned with sanity will win the day but I am not holding my breath waiting.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Ed Notes reported extensively on the UFT agreement with the DOE that I refer to as a stab in the back where two new schools are going to be allowed to start in Jamaica's building in the fall. This illegal change in school utilization has ramifications for the entire city and beyond as it illustrates the sorry state our union is in. The UFT won the lawsuit on school closings and then was victorious again in the appeal. A little over a week later the UFT was back collaborating with the DOE to give away half of the schools by letting DOE invade our space with new schools so we can't properly run comprehensive programs.

At Jamaica, the community has reacted strongly. Community activist Kevin Forrestal has written a second letter to UFT President Mulgrew (a copy is below or follow this link; Ed Notes has the first letter). Members of the School Leadership Team met with community activists and it was covered by Jamaica Times reporter Anna Gustafson.

Then, this past Monday we were once again at the Panel for Educational Policy standing up for ourselves and our students. Seven of us from Jamaica attended, four spoke and my public comment is copied below (I didn't finish because my two minutes were up). One of the great unpublicized stories on school reform is how many students are casualties. The pupils who are in a school have their education compromised to make way for the "flavor of the day" schools that are pushing the downsizing school out. The impact of the de facto phase out is appalling as programs and classes are dropped like flies.

It is also interesting to note that on Monday Joel Klein admitted that the UFT and DOE merely agreed on how to implement the lawsuit and that there wasn't a settlement of the case. We think they are both now violating the law.

On Thursday, Public Advocate deBlasio had a press conference in front of Tweed where he released a report that calls for a moratorium on school closings and co-locations until an independent study can be done assessing its impact. Sounds like a good idea that will probably never get off the ground under the current regime at Tweed and City Hall, but it's a start. Ten of us from Jamaica attended this event and we saw people from Maxwell and PS15 as well as many others.

We are now in the process of reaching out to Jamaica's school community to decide how to proceed.

Queens Tribune

Illegal Collusion
To The Editor: Open Letter to Mr. Michael Mulgrew, President, United Federation of Teachers:

This is in follow up to an e-mailed letter to you dated June 11, 2010, with the subject line, "Justice for Jamaica High School." (See Ed Notes) With that letter, we forwarded a copy of a letter to a student admitting the student to Francis Lewis High School rather than to the student's choice of Jamaica High School.

Today we write in response to the agreement made yesterday between the United Federation of Teachers and the Department of Education. The plan submitted to the Panel for Educational Policy in January was for a phased closing of Jamaica High School combined with a phased opening and growth of three new small schools. Accompanying it was a flawed Educational Impact Statement. This plan, approved by the Panel for Educational Policy, was presented as one integrated resolution. The Supreme Court of New York State, upheld by the Court of Appeals, has found the PEP votes for the approval of that resolution null and void and annulled the votes.

New York Education Law - Article 52-A, § 2590 - clearly gives the procedure for the co-location of new schools in an existing school. See also Chancellor's Regulation A-190, "Significant Changes in School Utilization", which clearly outlines the procedure which begins with a filing six months before the start of the school year and calls for an EIS, hearings, and a vote of approval by the Panel for Educational Policy. The announcement of the UFT and the Department of Education's agreement to allow the placement of new schools at Jamaica High School in violation of New York State Law is reprehensible. It sends a terrible example to the students and staff. The action pairs the UFT with the DOE as co-collaborators to circumvent the letter and the spirit of community-based decision making.

I call upon you to reconsider your decision and extricate yourself from a course of action that is a flagrant act of defiance of the new Mayoral Control Law passed last summer.

Kevin J. Forrestal,President, Hillcrest Estates Civic Association

James Eterno
Panel for Educational Policy Statement
July 19, 2010

Iam James Eterno, a social studies teacher at Jamaica High School. Those of us from Jamaica did not plan on being here tonight in the middle of July but last week’s events where the UFT and DOE agreed to hand our school a de facto death sentence compelled us to act once again and speak here.

I am not a lawyer but it appears to me that the new school governance law was broken by DOE and now UFT too with your new agreement. There is a significant change in Jamaica High School's usage, the co-location of two new schools in the Jamaica High School building, that will virtually kill Jamaica HS and probably result in fewer high school seats in crowded Queens that is being allowed to move ahead without a proper educational impact statement or a joint meeting of the School Leadership Team.

How will our school be impacted? Teachers are being thrown by the score into the Absent Teacher Reserve Pool where teachers do not want to be so of course we are being affected. But now let’s talk about the students. It is supposed to be children first always but once again children are getting treated horribly.

The following courses and programs were announced as being done away with in June at Jamaica because of the possible co-locations of two new schools in our building. AP US History dropped, a new AP Government class gone. Also phasing out is the Finance Academy program, the Virtual Enterprise program and the Freshmen Law classes. There will be no African American history, no pre-calculus, no psychology class, no environmental science, no Latin American literature elective or African American literature elective, no more visual basic classes, no music classes at all and we are down to two very overcrowded health classes. There will be no social studies ESL classes for grade nine and no native language classes for Spanish freshmen. In fact there are no classes scheduled at all for our incoming ninth graders.

Even if you were to restore all of these classes today, there would be no room for them because you gave away the east wing of the third floor and the east and west wing of the second floor to the two new schools and a third school, Queens Collegiate, which is expanding to include a grade six class.

Even if you gave us our teachers back and said ok you can teach those classes, with so few rooms left it would be a nightmare to try to program all of this where students would get the classes they need and their programs would fit. Even if you give us back our staff, you would be asking us to do the impossible: run a full comprehensive high school program with honors level and Advanced Placement classes, regular classes, self contained special education, and English as a Second Language programs in half a building. Please help us instead of defacto killing us.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Committee At Jamaica Vows to Fight on After UFT Gives us Away

The following is an excerpt from something sent out to the Jamaica email list. Help us if you can as this is positively a call for assistance. Jamaica was the only one of the nineteen schools originally slated for closure, that were saved by the courts, to have two new schools started inside its building in September in this latest giveaway from the UFT to the DOE (we already have another school inside that is growing).

Hi Everyone,

We suffered a setback today when the DOE-UFT agreed to co-locate the two new schools in our building for September and the UFT agreed not to sue. It is hard to believe how we were stabbed in the back by the UFT. They didn't even have the decency to consult with us before they allowed the DOE to move new schools into our building.

I must admit that I was caught off guard. I thought the whole process to significantly change the usage of a building was supposed to be done with full community input. Isn't that what the new governance law and the lawsuit the UFT just won were all about? That seems to have been ignored. It appears our union will ignore the law when it wants to just like the DOE.

Let's understand that we are still open as a school but we are much smaller now with three small schools taking over our building. DOE promised support but not money.

Seven of us: four teachers, a retiree, PTA President and a community activist met tonight to discuss our options. Our work was covered by a local reporter. The sentiment of the meeting was to be defiant and not give up the fight for our school.

Right now we need incoming students to fill seats or else the DOE will continue to insist there is room in our building for new schools. We plan on continuing to pursue our attempt to get contact information from the DOE of students in our zone so we can publicize Jamaica as an alternative to overcrowded Queens High Schools.

After the meeting, I contacted important people who might be able to assist us legally. Any strategy will not work, however, unless we have full support of the Jamaica High School community!

Link to Gotham Schools piece.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Appellate Court Stops City’s Attempt to Discipline Through the Conflicts of Interest Board

In an apparent case of first impression the Appellate Division, First Department, has unanimously affirmed a lower court's determination that the only way to discipline a tenured pedagogue was through the 3020-a process and it was improper to utilize the Conflicts of Interest Board for such employees.

The case, In re Stephen Rosenblum, the DOE declined to bring 3020-a charges against a tenured Assistant Principal (acting as a principal at the time) for allegedly using his influence to call the principal at another school where his son was a teacher to save his son's job. The son's principal reported Rosenblum and the DOE referred the matter to the Conflicts of Interest Board.

The Conflicts of Interest Board is a City agency which rules on issues where, among other things, city employees are alleged to utilize their city employment in improper ways. The COIB attorneys offered Rosenblum a $10,000 fine and he brought a lawsuit declaring that, as a tenured pedagogue, the COIB had no right to discipline him since the exclusive method for disciplining tenured pedagogues was through the 3020-a process.

The lower court and the Appellate Division agreed. There have been many tenured pedagogues who have been disciplined by the COIB. Under COIB rules the case goes before an OATH Administrative Judge (a city employee) who makes factual findings and disciplinary recommendations to City Department heads after an administrative hearing. Under 3020-a rules, arbitrators, jointly picked by the DOE and the Union, make final disciplinary determinations.

Thursday, July 08, 2010


Take a look at Gotham for a link to the speech that newly elected Chicago Teacher Union leader Karen Lewis gave last week upon taking office. She won an election where her Caucus of Rank and File Educators defeated Chicago's version of Unity. Dissidents taking over a union isn't a pipe dream. It can happen.

I will have more to report on the school closing decision here in NYC soon. Thanks to Jeff for keeping this issue alive while I was away.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Closing School Litigation: Pyrrhic Victory?

After a long anticipated period the Appellate Division, First Department has upheld Justice Lobis' decision to enjoin the DOE from closing 19 schools. In their decision the Appellate Division found, as the lower court did, that the DOE failed to follow the newly drafted law which required parent and community input in school closing decisions. The law requires, among other things, the preparation and dissemination of an Education Impact Statement whenever the DOE wants to close a school. In the 19 schools case this was found to have been done improperly.

The Appellate Division also dealt with the DOE's main argument in the case wherein the City claimed the Union (and other plaintiffs) had no standing or right to bring the lawsuit. This was rejected summarily when the Appellate Division found that the union had designated persons (Chapter Leaders) on each School Leadership Team and the SLTs were an indispensible part of the law.

Before we start dancing in the aisles it is still unclear what impact, if any, this decision will have on the actual closing of the schools. The DOE has technically complied with the decision by admitting a small freshman class. (Jamaica is reported to have only 22 students enrolled for this September). And of course, there is nothing in this decision which prevents, deters or any way prohibits the DOE from trying to close the schools (or any other school) again. This decision only dealt with the inadequate procedural requirements that the law requires for closing a school.

Additionally there may be other schools, like Rikers, which close without any Impact Statement or notice and because of their lack of parent or union support get little media coverage.

When all is said and done we do have a lot to be proud. In schools like Jamaica students, teachers, staff and in some cases even the union, got together and registered their dissatisfaction with DOE unilateral decision making. Our work is not done. We will continue to sound our voices even after this administration can no longer buy its way into office.