Friday, December 30, 2011


The Saturday midnight deadline will come and go but there will be no new teacher and principal evaluation system for the teachers in New York City in the Transformation-Restart schools.  This is a positive development.  Any agreement that would have been hammered out with the Department of Education would be a disaster for teachers.  Reports from Transformation schools say that the new evaluation system based on the Danielson framework that the DOE has been able to partially implement this fall is nothing more than an attempt to get rid of veteran teachers.

Without an agreement, the city risks losing millions of dollars of federal Race to the Top funds called School Improvement Grants.  Since most of that money is earmarked for more of the same data driven nonsense that is destroying the public schools, I say keep your blood money.  We don't want it.

Under the new evaluation system that is mandated by a state education law, instead of rating us satisfactory or unsatisfactory, the new ratings will be highly effective, effective, developing, or ineffective. All schools will have to use the new evaluation system by next school year but the law mandates that details and a review procedure need to be negotiated with the teachers' unions.

The UFT agreed to let the new system partially start in Transformation-Restart schools and negotiate the details by the end of 2011.  The schools received part of the federal money but State Education Commissioner John King announced this week that if there is no agreement on how to fully implement the new evaluation system in the Transformation-Restart schools, the schools will lose the money. reported that the UFT was holding out in negotiations for a fair review procedure for teachers rated ineffective.  The UFT wants ineffective teachers to be able to appeal their rating to an independent arbitrator.

The DOE wanted to keep the kangaroo court system otherwise known as the U rating appeal in effect where teachers appeal unsatisfactory ratings to a DOE panel and then we almost always lose these appeals.

Gotham reported, and UFT President Michael Mulgrew confirmed, that the UFT was willing to go to binding arbitration over the details of the evaluation system but the DOE said no.  This concerns me as the UFT's record in arbitration is not so strong where we could say with confidence that this would be an easy victory.  For a reference just look at the 2005 contract that was mostly hammered out by arbitrators.  Arbitrators are hired and paid for jointly by labor and management so they tend to split the baby in half and give something to both sides.  I would not want our future evaluation system put into the hands of arbitrators.  We need to keep it in our own hands.

In arbitration, the DOE would more than likely ask for the sun, the stars and the moon as they did in 2005.  Remember the 8 page contract proposal that would've basically taken away all of our rights.  The UFT would be reasonable and responsible and ask for a few gains and the arbitrators would split the baby and give the DOE half of what they wanted.  That happened in 2005 and we are now suffering as multiple schools are closed and our members are shuffled around as Absent Teacher Reserves. Before, 2005, members who were excessed were placed in new positions and those coming from closing schools had preferred placement rights. In negotiations the DOE wanted all excessed people fired after a year and UFT wanted them placed as they were before.  The arbitrators wouldn't fire the excessed teachers but they called for the new system that allows for teachers to be unassigned ATRs.  It is a disaster that has gotten worse for ATRs with last June's agreement to allow them to be rotated to different schools each week.

I am imagining how arbitration would go on the evaluation system.  The DOE will come in and say they want to keep the current U rating appeal process for teachers who are rated ineffective.  The UFT will say that we want an appeal before an independent arbitrator and the arbitrator's dilemma will be how to split the baby down the middle.

 The cynic in me has a plausible answer. Since a high volume of ineffective ratings is almost guaranteed by the Danielson framework. this would allow arbitrators to land many jobs and a boatload of cash if they agree with the UFT position.  However, the arbitrator will not rule outright for the UFT as this would anger the DOE.  Therefore, to make the DOE happy, our ever intrepid arbitrator would say yes the cases have to be heard by arbitrators but they will make the standard for us to show we are not ineffective so high that few, if any teachers, will have their ratings overturned.

DOE is then happy because they can fire more teachers and shut many more up through the fear of the dreaded ineffective rating.  The UFT is happy because they can tell their members they won them an independent review process.  The arbitrators are elated about having more work.  In fact, everybody wins but the teachers.

A better strategy than arbitration for the UFT, NYSUT and the principals who will also be covered under the new evaluation system, is to demand that the state change this ridiculous law that will hurt children as many competent educators will be terminated if it fully goes into effect.  The suburban principals are with us on this as their letter opposing the evaluation system shows.

As for people in schools, our position must be to educate our members about the dangers of the new system and put pressure on the UFT to not cave in under any circumstances.

Finally, I want to thank my daughter for taking a fairly long nap today so I could write this.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2011


Members and former members of Jamaica High School met last evening. I heard from people who are now in Brooklyn and Queens.  Here is what my friends are reporting:

  • The Danielson Framework for evaluating teachers is very anti-teacher and if it is implemented citywide, it will lead to many teachers being terminated. Teachers at the restart-transformation schools where they use Danielson universally hate it and many are blaming the UFT for not protecting them. We will provide specific details in a future post.  

  • Being an Absent Teacher Reserve and going from school to school on a weekly basis is a horrible way for people to make a living as it robs teachers of their professional dignity.  ATRS pretty much feel they have been abandoned by the UFT. 

  • Newer teachers who are being denied tenure feel that the UFT does nothing to help them.
Not a pretty picture.  However, when I go to Delegate Assembly meetings, I hear how it's not so bad out there.

Happy Holidays!


Schools like Jamaica and Washington Irving have been trying to show the world that we are viable but the New York City Department of Education ignores everything we say that shows us in a positive light.

Now blogger Gary Rubinstein has crunched some numbers and finds we have some very respectable passing rates on Regents exams.  He found that Jamaica ranks 164 out of 424 schools and Washington Irving rates 175 out of 343 in Weighted Regents Pass Grades.

I don't think this metric is the greatest way to measure schools but it is another statistic that shows two schools doing well.  Why does the DOE ignore these numbers?  The answer is that the decisions on school closings are purely political as all of us already know.  This is just more evidence. Thanks Gary.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Gloria from ICE-GEM on NY 1 coverage of PEP protest last night.

Ever the optimist, Norm posts coverage at Ed Notes.

Of course, the rubber stamp PEP approved all of the charter co-locations.

The moral of the story: We never give up.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Congratulations to Peter Lamphere

A judge has overturned Peter Lamphere's 2009 Unsatisfactory rating.  Peter was chapter leader at Bronx High School of Science.  This is positive news for sure.  We salute the people at Bronx Science who have been standing up for their rights in the face of great adversity.

The story was covered by Gotham.


Date:  Monday, December 12, 2011  
Contact:  Peter Lamphere,

Judge Overturns Arbitrary Unsatisfactory Rating for Bronx Science Teacher

In an oral bench decision Wednesday, December 7th, New York State Supreme Court Justice Paul Feinman granted the petition to overturn a 2009 Unsatisfactory rating for Peter Lamphere, former math teacher and UFT chapter leader at the Bronx High School of Science.  The decision is a small step in restoring some of the damage done to the careers of numerous teachers at the prestigious Bronx school, where a deteriorating relationship between Principal Valerie Reidy and faculty has dramatically increased staff turnover accompanied by a decline in the school's national ranking (New York Magazine, December 12, 2011, New York Times, September 15, 2011, Daily News, March 29, 2011, attached).   

The decision rejects the Department of Education's attempt to ignore scrutiny of Principal Reidy's administrative actions. The DOE disregarded a fact finding ruling by an independent arbitrator last April upholding claims of harassment by 20 math teachers at the school, including Lamphere (New York Times, April 28, 2010). Even after Valerie Reidy abandoned the 2009 Unsatisfactory rating by refusing to contest Lamphere's administrative appeal, the DOE arbitrarily upheld the rating. 

"This is an alert to the Department of Education that they need to examine more closely what's happening at Bronx Science," was Lamphere's first response to the news.  "It's outrageous that they have chosen to look the other way while the school adminstration at Bronx Science has undermined the learning environment at what should be one of the crown jewels of the city's educational system."

Lynne Winderbaum, former UFT High School District Representative, commented: "It is a shame that teachers have to use the court system to get fairness. But justice will be done whenever the abusive tactics of principals such as Valerie Reidy are exposed to an unbiased hearing.

Mark Kagan, who voluntary transferred from Bronx Science as part of the exodus of 40% of the Social Studies faculty this year, added, "It was understood at Bronx Science that Valerie Reidy used U-ratings and denials of tenure for non-pedagogical reasons. I'm glad to see that the court saw this clearly. But it's too bad for the students that Peter and other good teachers were forced out of Bronx Science."

Former Bronx Science teacher Mark Sadok said, "I am delighted to hear the news, as it not only vindicates Lamphere, but also paves the way for a return to teaching for those of us whose dismissals were based on observations that violated the UFT-DOE contract." 
Megan Behrent, of the activist group Teachers' Unite, pointed out how this case "exposes the way teacher evaluations are used for political rather than professional reasons and how the 'the bad teacher' narrative provides cover for retaliation against activists. It also shows why tenure is so important. Without tenure, this victory would never have happened as Lamphere would have been dismissed without any due process at all."

Brian Jones, activist with the Grassroots Education Movement, stated that "Peter Lamphere is a dedicated and highly intelligent educator; and yes, he's also a union activist. Unfortunately the national campaign to scapegoat and punish teachers has meant that the former fact mattered less than the latter. I'm glad to see that Peter received some small measure of justice. Let's hope that this reversal reverberates through the halls of power and gives our highest officials reason for pause.

Jonathan Halabi, chapter leader of neighboring High School for American Studies, commented that "This unjustified U-rating should have been overturned much earlier.  Today's decision shows that the DOE's current internal hearings and appeals are unfair and rigged against the employee. New Action/UFT remains deeply concerned by the problem of abusive administrators.  A victory, especially by a chapter leader who had been targeted for abuse, is a victory for all of us. "

Another arbitrary U-rating for Lamphere, from 2008, remains the subject of another case before Judge Paul Wooten, with a decision expected soon. But, regardless of the outcome of this individual case, the recommendations of the independent arbitrator's 2010 fact-finding report will still not have been implemented, and the struggle to replace the current administration at Bronx Science with one that can work together with Bronx Science teachers to rebuild a positive environment and a commitment to educational excellence has a long way to go.

Additional Contacts: 
Mark Sadok -
Lynne Winderbaum –
Megan Behrent -

Thursday, December 08, 2011


The local press coverage went beyond what even I was hoping when we set up a press conference for Monday to tell of the plight of Jamaica High School's students and staff. We have two editorials supporting us and four articles in the local Queens papers.

Senator Tony Avella and our students were willing to tell it like it is and the community weeklies picked up on it.  DOE's answer that we were given a $50,000 technology grant is puzzling since we haven't seen any new technology in years.

The Queens Chronicle said it best in their passionate editorial: "What's going on at Jamaica High School is simply a travesty.  These children are being denied the state constitution's guarantee of a quality education.  They're being denied equal protection under the law. Since the majority are minorities, the city's neglect even carries the appearance of racial discrimination." 

Please spread the word far and wide about what a phasing out school has to endure as it downsizes.

Update: I just saw the list of schools slated for closure this year.  Please contact us if you are from any of those schools and want help.  We support you fully.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011


Thanks to Gustavo Medina, we now have the entire Jamaica HS press conference online.


I returned to the UFT Delegate Assembly today and I felt once again as if I was in an alternate universe.  UFT President Michael Mulgrew's marathon report featuring all of the latest Union triumphs was too much for a non kool aid drinker to handle.  Mulgrew spoke forever about how our activism and Occupy Wall Street has turned things around in Albany and now there is an agreement to raise taxes on multimillionaires while cutting taxes for most of the rest of us.  This will help pay for a $350,000,000 increase in state aid to New York City Schools. The first increase from Albany in four years.

Mulgrew then thanked the delegates for activating people for three rallies within a two month period which he said was unprecedented.  The third rally will come on Saturday as we meet in Manhattan on Madison Avenue and 61st Street at 11:00 am to march for voting rights.

Only after all of this happy talk did the President mention what all of us who work in the New York City schools know: the school system is falling apart and the public could soon lose confidence in the schools.  He also noted that the Mayor will more than likely still claim there is a tremendous budget gap in the city and call for more cuts but we should be able to stop him.  Mulgrew also talked about excessive paperwork and he closed by saying we are continuing to negotiate for a contract but that we will need to blow up on the craziness that is happening in the system by telling the public about the educational neglect that is being foisted upon our schools by DOE mismanagement.

Later the President also told us about the ongoing school closing lawsuit.  He said schools are set up to fail and the DOE has known this for years.

Leroy Barr reported on the rallies and promoted Saturday's rally.

Question period was next.  One question concerned the Absent Teacher Reserves and Mulgrew said the ATR pool was down to under 1,000 for the first time in six years. He said that ATRS should be filling vacancies and covering for leaves and long term absences but the UFT is aware that this is not happening in many schools.  He added that Chapter Leaders need to blow the whistle on F status people (part time teachers) and any uncovered position as they are depriving ATRS of full time classroom positions.  (My sources tell me there are openings in about 3/4 of the schools they go to.)

A Delegate asked about mandated online work.  Mulgrew answered that some schools want to communicate online which is great but it should not be mandatory. There was another question about having our pension fund used to build a bridge.  Mulgrew said that as long as it stays within the fiduciary boundaries, that our three elected members of the TRS Board would consider using our fund responsibly to help create union jobs to update infrastructure.  The next question was on CESIS and the President and Secretary Michael Mendel stated that members need to keep a detailed log of when they are working beyond the school day. The final question was about teachers being pressured to videotape their lessons.  Mulgrew answered that it should be voluntary and the teacher who is being taped owns the tape.

The motion period was kind of interesting for a minute as our friend Kit Wainer introduced a motion that the UFT should initiate a joint mobilization campaign with the Transit Workers Union whose contract will expire in January. Ours expired over two years ago.  I thought this was a brilliant idea that I enthusiastically voted for but it was not surprising that the Unity faithful voted it down.  There was another resolution on reviving Glass Steigel that did not carry and then the regular resolutions were dealt with.

The resolution on ATRS that we posted yesterday was first.  Secretary Mendel apologized for his outburst last month and then motivated the substitute resolution for the one raised last month.  The new resolution carried unanimously.  It is a move in the right direction as we are calling for free re-certification classes for those in obscure license areas, no new hiring until all ATRS in a license are placed and also the conditional placement of all ATRS for positions that open up after September 15.  I still am skeptical about how we intend to get this resolution to become DOE policy without a mobilization but since the makers of last month's resolution didn't complain, I voted for it like everyone else. I do hope we get these improvements for ATRS but the DOE does not appear to be in a giving mood on much of anything these days and needs to be forced into everything.

Three more noncontroversial resolutions also carried unanimously including support for the December 10 Stand for Freedom March, a resolution on child care providers and mandatory membership in the Teachers' Retirement System for paras.

All in all, a holiday love fest of a DA that will soon be forgotten as nothing of substance was even discussed.  Kit's resolution for the UFT to work with TWU was for this month so according to DA rules it could only be read and not debated.  It required a 2/3 vote in favor just to get on the agenda.  Needless to say, the idea of any real militancy, which working with TWU would require, was something our union leadership would probably never want to discuss. I expected it to be defeated but it did get some votes in favor.

I missed the beginning of the meeting as signal problems slowed the subway so if anyone knows what happened in the first few minutes, just fill us in.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011


Yesterday we were at it again at the phasing out Jamaica High School.  We don't know the meaning of the word quit.  Thanks to help from Senator Tony Avella and activist Jackie Forrestal, we were able to hold a press conference that was covered by Fox 5, NY 1 and some local papers.  See for yourself how articulate our kids are.

I think junior Kymberly Walcott summed it up best for all of us in New York City when she made this statement about having five schools in one building: "The other schools, metaphorically speaking, are given meals; we are given crumbs."  That's school reform in brief folks.  Jamaica's situation plays out in school buildings all over this country.


I will try to be as objective as possible and just post the proposed UFT Delegate Assembly resolution scheduled to be voted on tomorrow.

Does the resolution below go far enough for you?  Does it need some teeth such as a mobilization in support of these goals?  At least the Absent Teacher Reserve issue is alive and many members are pushing the union into action. Should we be satisfied that the issue is on the union's agenda? Please tell us what you think.

Resolution on Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) placements

WHEREAS the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) crisis is a clear and direct result of New York City Department of Education (DOE) policies and mismanagement; and

WHEREAS even though efforts to resolve the crisis have been partially successful, the DOE still has not kept its promises nor met its moral and professional obligations to ATRs and has thereby wasted valuable human and economic resources; and

WHEREAS maintaining fairness and increasing productivity in the city’s teaching force require that the talents of all educators be utilized in service to students, parents and school communities; and

WHEREAS solutions to the ATR crisis need to be proposed and implemented without delay in order to maximize productivity, teaching and learning in New York City public schools; therefore be it

RESOLVED that the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) call upon the DOE to create a recertification program for ATRs for designated shortage areas and allow participating ATRs to take the requisite course work at the City University of New York (CUNY) free of charge or be reimbursed for the related costs of attending a private college or university at the CUNY rate per credit; and be it further

RESOLVED that the UFT urge the DOE to require that all ATRs be given an opportunity for permanent placement in vacancies in their license areas in their district or high school superintendency before the DOE approves any new hire in a license area where an ATR has not been given an opportunity for permanent placement; and be it further

RESOLVED that the UFT urge the DOE to place all ATRs into vacancies in their district or high school superintendency after September 15 of any given year on a provisional basis; and be it further

RESOLVED that the UFT urge the DOE to allow principals and ATRs at the end of the school year to either mutually agree to have ATRs as permanent staff members or allow them to return to the ATR pool.


Monday, December 05, 2011


Thanks to Norm (Ed Notes) for providing the email below on ATR supervision in Brooklyn.  This is not encouraging.  The question I have is how much money is the DOE spending to run this nonsensical program?

From: Atrassignment <
Subject: Important Update on Supervision 
Date: Monday, December 5, 2011, 10:37 AM 

Dear Teacher, 

The Department of Education is piloting a new model for supervision of teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR).  This pilot will be implemented for most ATRs assigned to community school districts in Brooklyn as well as the Brooklyn High School superintendency, District 73; you are receiving this email because you will likely be included in the pilot.  Under this initiative, you will be supervised by a licensed administrator, called a Field Supervisor, who will periodically observe your practice and provide you with feedback to support your professional development.  The Field Supervisors are aware that as an ATR you do not have a regular program and that you rotate school assignments and they will take this context into account in their work with you. 

At some point in the next two months, you should expect your Field Supervisor to visit your assignment site to meet with you in person.  At this initial meeting, the Field Supervisor will work with you to develop a plan to support your professional growth and job search process.  The Field Supervisor will make an effort to contact you via your DOE email in advance of the initial meeting to give you a sense of when you can expect him or her; however, he or she may not always be able to provide advance notification. 


NYC Department of Education 


Monday, November 21, 2011


The Committee on Freedom of Association that is part of the International Labor Organization (ILO) of the United Nations found last week that New York State’s Taylor Law, which fines public sector workers two days pay for every day of a strike and jails leaders who call for strikes, violates an international treaty that the United States signed.

The ILO said the Taylor Law ban on public sector strikes violates the Freedom of Association protected under ILO Conventions 87 and 98. While the United States never ratified those conventions, the US is an original founding member of the ILO and agreed to the ILO Constitution so the United States is bound by the principles of these conventions through the original treaty according to this decision. The Daily News noted that the US stands with a handful of nations such as China and the Sudan in not ratifying the Conventions. That says a great deal about where this country stands.

The complaint was filed by the Transit Workers Union in 2009 because of what happened in 2005 when the TWU staged a three day strike which led to a judge imposing the harsh Taylor Law penalties on the union. As a result then union president Roger Toussaint went to jail, strikers were fined two days pay for each day of the strike and the union almost went broke after it lost automatic dues check-off for eighteen months.

Subsequently, the next TWU contract was decided by arbitration but the employer, New York City Transit, would not implement that judgment even after a court sided with the union.

The ILO decision is only symbolic at this time but when a UN agency decides that the law in New York State is violating fundamental worker rights, public sector unions need to go on the offensive to push for a change. Without the right to strike, our hand is severely weakened in any labor dispute.

Perhaps this decision by the UN agency that is made up of representatives from governments, employers and unions will spearhead a change in union outlook toward demanding that the oppressive penalties of the Taylor Law should be abolished. The UFT should take the lead in this movement as we now have the weight of a United Nations’ agency upholding our right to peacefully strike.

As of today, I still have not seen any reaction to the ILO judgment from the UFT. It should be noted that TWU’s current contract expires in January.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone. You can read the entire decision from ILO here.

PS- Since our last post, my wife Camille, our friend Stuart from Springfield and I had the pleasure of attending Barbara Kaplan-Halper's retirement party. UFT was represented by District Representative James Vasquez.

Barbara served with me on the UFT Executive Board for three years. She was the Chapter Leader at Forest Hills High School for many years. We wish her many, many happy and healthy years in retirement.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011


A good friend took notes for me as I was watching my two year old daughter.

President Mulgrew's report: People who hate us learned a lesson in Ohio with the voters overwhelmingly voting to repeal a law that was passed that took away collective bargaining rights from public sector workers. The UFT made 50,000 phone calls and there were 25 people on the ground helping out. The vote was almost two to one in favor of repealing the law that would take away collective bargaining rights. Mulgrew said there seems to be a mood shift in the country in our favor.

Turning back to New York, Mulgrew told us that there are all kinds of rallies going on and we have to be selective on which ones we support. There are three that were mentioned. One is for November 17 sponsored by SEIU. The next one is for December 1 where there is a permit to close Broadway between Herald Square and Union Square. The third will be on December 10 which will be against voter suppression laws.

Mulgrew then talked about the budget. He told the delegates that the schools cannot afford a fourth straight year of budget cuts. He said that over 950 schools returned surveys on the cuts we are currently facing and that was the strongest response ever from one of these surveys.

Mulgew thanked Staten Island people for helping to get Daniel Donovan elected as DA.

On the recent city pension changes, Mulgrew stated that there will be fewer people on the pension board. The UFT would support the new process but would adjust our thinking if things aren't working out.

Next up was the evaluation system where Mulgrew reported that the DOE realizes there may be a problem. The UFT was moving to have chapter leaders and principals train together at 52 Broadway on the Danielson evaluation system. He said that in Tennessee there were issues with Danielson because of meaningless paperwork that we don't want to replicate here. He also told delegates that they need to inform principals that teachers need not write new core curriculum standards.

NAEP (national test) results showed that New York was one of only two states to have a decrease in scores, probably because of New York City. Since the national test measures learning and test prep doesn't work, Mulgrew said that it demonstrated, as the UFT has been saying for years, that DOE needs to change direction. He then stated that we need to publicize the good work that is going on in many schools so that the public does not lose confidence in the schools.

The next topic was the arbitration on SESIS (special ed). Mulgrew said that we need to document problems for the first hearing on December 8.

On Absent Teacher Reserves, Mulgrew told us there are 1,140 ATRs presently but that there were more last year. Chapter leaders need a procedure to meet and greet ATR's.

Muglrew closed by going back to the budget and said that the biggest issue is how the schools cannot afford a fourth straight year of budget cuts. The UFT has already given up sabbaticals for a year and has the ATR agreement to save the city money. He said it can't just be us alone. He added that the government in DC is dysfunctional and he is not optimistic about the super-committee helping education.

Leroy Barr gave the staff directors' report saying that over 1,000 showed up for teacher union day. He also celebrated the November 7, 1960 strike, which was the first one the UFT called. He saluted people who were there.

Next up was the question period. A question was asked about ATRs in District 75 being sent all over the city as it is a citywide district. The answer from Mulgrew was that people should contact the UFT if there are abuses.

Then there was a question about excessive paperwork. The answer was that the DOE knows there is a problem.

The next question was about placing ATRs. The answer was that 212 have been placed.

A question from Marjorie Stamberg was about ATRs voting. The answer was that all members have a right to vote and that the Election Committee was examining the issue. (I didn't even know the Election Committee was active.)

The next question was about principals sending out emails on weekends. The answer was that the DOE can't compel us to read emails on the weekends; they can only request it during the work week.

Next up was the motion period. Megan Beherent from TJC raised a resolution for next month that the UFT mobilize its members to rally for:
1-no new hiring until all ATRs in a license are placed;
2-re-certifying people without loss of tenure in arcane licences
3-auditing DOE hiring for age and race discrimination
4-restoring contractual right to closest vacancy.

There was some discussion about what rights excessed teachers previously had but Secretary Michael Mendel spoke against this motion saying that the makers of the motion misinterpreted what is going on. He stated that in the past people were placed anywhere in the city and that is no longer the case; he also argued that to re-certify people without going through the legal process would be unprecedented. After his strong plea the resolution failed to get on next month's agenda.

Four resolutions on the regular agenda then passed and the meeting ended.

From this report I can tell you for sure that watching my daughter Kara was clearly the better way to spend the afternoon.

Monday, November 07, 2011


The decay of public education in New York City over the past decade has been documented in great detail by ATR Marc Epstein, who is a former colleague. It wasn't published in any New York paper or the NY Teacher but by Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post. This story of the dramatic failure of school reform needs to be read by everyone.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Our roaming ATR correspondent describes a week spent at Long Island City High School as a Ghost Teacher. One has to ask how the UFT and DOE came to this agreement. It is clear the DOE couldn't care less about educating children.

Today was my last day of 'ghosting' at Long Island City HS. Now entering the third month of one of the most surreal experiences of my life, I can no longer refer to my ATR duties as actual teaching. I'm speaking for my own demoralized self when I write this and do not mean to offend any other ATRs, but taking attendance, monitoring bathrooms and doing endless periods of cafeteria duty is not the work of a professional teacher.

So I 'ghost', each week haunting another NYC school building, gliding through hallways unnoticed by students, faculty, and even UFT presidents. I ghosted at Beach Channel last week, LI City this week, and next week I'll be ghosting at a hallway near you.

This morning (Friday) was my last day at LICHS, by the way. The APO (Assistant Principal Organization) wanted to see me bright and early so I floated down to his office. Our meeting was brief and to the point. "I'm required to give you an interview before you leave," he began. "We have no positions available so...consider yourself interviewed."

My fellow, apparitions, you cannot make this stuff up. As I stepped out of his office, I repeated his words to myself slowly, keeping a close eye on the second hand of my wristwatch... A five second interview! Life in the Big City, I guess, and one disturbing, narcissistic phrase lies at the heart of all this dream-like absurdity and madness: Mayoral Control.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


An ATR from Jamaica sent this email to me yesterday.

Reported to LI City HS today as five day ATR, a nice looking, modern building, six stories tall. I covered three different teachers, none of whom taught English (my certification). When I got to my last class, the freshmen all asked, "Are you our real teacher or just another sub?" I asked another teacher leaving the room why this class had no regular teacher as we steadily approach November. Her reply was stunning. "We actually have five vacancies in the building," she said. "We're in transformation, which means they're trying to cause as much chaos as possible until they can shut us down." Naturally, this is the compete opposite of what the word 'transformation' means, unless the DoE means transforming into more boutique academies and creating still more ATRs, which is exactly what they intend.

I'm certainly glad I spent my summer attending five separate DoE job fairs, while some buildings are intentionally understaffing and have absolutely no intention of hiring ATRs. I could tell from all those bobbing heads and smiling faces during July and August that no one was actually looking to hire teachers, let alone pay attention to what we were saying. Yet at this point in my career I can honestly say that I know who I'm dealing with when it comes to the Dept of Ed, a truly vicious, union busting entity. The real question I have is where my union is during all this madness. When will our pseudo-tough guy president finally step up and protect his people? I was paying tolls last week in the Rockaways at Beach Channel. This week I'm on the complete opposite side of Queens in Long Island City. The DoE is obviously testing my limits, but not one message, call, or e-mail from my union telling me to hold on, to keep fighting, to wait until things get better. So Alright, fine. I'll simply stop waiting. My fiance is a teacher in this troubled system, as well. From here on in, we are a teaching union of two.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Delegate Assembly Report

Wednesday was the first DA of this school year. Without giving away any state secrets, we will attempt to report on the DA as fast as possible.

Mulgrew report: (I was a little late)

Problems with Sesis should go to Carmen Alvarez.

New evaluation system for teachers: There is a letter out to DOE on problems with the new evaluation system because there is not a system based on trust in NYC. Cincy, Ohio and somewhere in Maryland using Danielson framework happily. Only restart and Transformation using Danielson in NYC. Everyone else is using old system. Problem is DOE implementing it properly. It looks like lawyers are in charge. Example is rubrics. Dr. Danielson horrified by DOE rubrics used in her name. Reforms won't work in top down mayoral control system.

Yesterday, UFT sent letter to DOE. Mulgrew said system is broken. DOE is looking for evidence based teaching. 26 months to go with these people in power but we don't want a broken system. UFT must be responsible. We are frustrated. DOE says all is well. DOE disconnected. DOE is calling for engagement. They don't know how to support us. Send problems with evaluation to Michael Mendel. Many schools are not ready for Danielson.

Absent Teacher Reserves: ATRs are being placed but still 1,100 atrs. People staying in district with weekly assignments. Union chapter leaders should reach out and welcome atrs each week in their schools.

Food drive at next da.

Bronx educational summit last week. Same day 28 buses and an Amtrak train went to DC for Martin Luther King dedication and also UFT raised more money than any other group in making strides against breast cancer.

UFT announced BRAVE, helping to stop bullying. Hotline for kids and parents being bullied. UFT spent 50,000 to have the anti-bullying hotline. Politicians all there and grateful to UFT. David Kazanski spoke about anti-bullying hotline run by Life-net. Hotline is up and running.

Mulgrew summarized by saying UFT is engaged in the community.

UFT giving some help to Occupy Wall Street.

Upstate slammed by Hurricane Irene. Most don't have flood insurance. Teachers upstate saving their towns. Story off press radar screen. Small union leader from upstate spoke next about how teachers were there when Wall Street was not.

Mulgrew came on again to say contract negotiations moving forward. UFT preparing for fact finding. (I don't see how much good can come from this but we won't say more.)

Staff Director Report:
Leroy Barr talked of all uft has been doing.

A delegate asked about support for laid off dc 37 colleagues. Mulgrew answered that dc37 put money on table but mayor laid people off anyway. UFT feared mayor would lay off people to make a point and he did just that.

Question about contract. No real answer. that we can report here.

Question about School Construction Authority. UFT working on PS 51 situation. SCA checking lease sights.

Julia Schlakman, excesed teacher from Jamaica, asked who represents her as an atr. Answer was chapter leader in school she is in each week.

Question about bullying by administrators. Answer was to document.

Question about class sizes where a middle school has 36 average in grade 8. Answer is to file contempt of court charges if DOE does not abide by arbitrator's rulings.

Motion period:
Gloria from gem and ice presented a motion that resolved to march to support occupy wall street by marching there after the DA. Motion received 2/3 vote to be put on agenda but time later ran out so it was not acted on.

David from Beach Channel resolved that atrs have a chapter for as long as atrs exist. He explained that atrs have a right to vote. Leroy Barr spoke against it saying said that we do not want to create a permanent chapter for a temporary position. The motion failed but got a great deal of support. Mulgrew acknowledged that voting would be a problem and they would work on it. (I voted for it.)

Regular motions were next on the agenda.

A resolution on on a DA endorsement passed easily. Dan Donovan was the candidate.

Resolution on the new evaluation system was next. VP Leo Casey spoke in support of the resolution. UFT wants this done right and will wok for that. Sam Lazarus spoke against. His school, Bryant HS, is one of the restart schools using the new system and teachers hate it. He said majority would be rated ineffective or developing. He talked about mandated, scripted lessons and teachers having to have exit slips filled out each day by each class. Teachers must rework lessons. Staff is shocked that UFT would support framework.

District rep James Vasquez spoke saying there are issues but the resolution was not about restart schools. Another two delegates praised Danielson and then the delegates overwelmingly supported the resolution. Meeting then ended.

My own feeling is that the new evaluation system will be used against us by the usual suspects and that this can never work under the current DOE leadership. I voted with Sam. A friend said that the UFT promoting Danielson sounds a great deal like 2001-02 when they touted mayoral control of schools. Look how well that turned out.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Leroy Allison was an Elevator Operator at Jamaica High School. His last day on the job was last Friday. Leroy was one of the 700 school support people laid off by Mayor Bloomberg. He had over twenty years in the system and was close to being able to retire, but since he was buying back for years where he wasn't in the retirement system, he cannot afford to leave now.

Some of you might be saying that the job title of Elevator Operator is probably obsolete and that because unions protect employees whose jobs are no longer necessary, this is why many people hate unions. Well if you say that then I can say you are totally wrong. Leroy Allison worked all over Jamaica High School. He was retrained and did much more for the school than the elevator which was often broken. The fact that the school never changed or expanded his job title is not his fault. He should not have been laid off.

Over the years Leroy's job evolved to where he was the stock person who filled all of the supply orders for the school. He was also in charge of incoming and outgoing mail for the building. In addition, he spent time helping with student entry in the morning and also toiled in the student cafeteria helping out there. Mr. Allison truly performed many tasks. Without him, I don't think I could have administered the SAT exams on Saturdays for the past decade. He was greatly respected throughout the school.

Only months away from being eligible for full retirement, Leroy was let go in a move that just shows how stupidly the school system is run. Already there is virtually no paper being distributed at Jamaica. Besides Leroy, all of our school aides have seen their hours cut leading to a potential safety crisis.

Leroy was replaced by an Elevator Operator who was excessed from another school and was able to bump him. As the city takes out their vengeance on the lowest paid employees while at the same time allowing retired administrators come to schools as paid consultants, while simultaneously collecting their Tier I pensions, many of us are enraged every day that we walk into work as we see injustice everywhere.

We can only hope that some intrepid reporter will tell the story of each of the hundreds of hard working people who were let go for no other reason than the mayor was apparently angry at their union. Bloomberg and Walcott need to be held accountable for this outrage. I am energized that the City Council held hearings on the layoffs and strongly criticized the Chancellor the other day.

Please don't let up until Leroy and every other employee has their jobs back.

Mayoral Control on Trial Saturday

Come to DC 37 on Saturday to see and/or participate in the trial that will at least let people express their anger at mayoral control .

Friday, October 07, 2011


The press has discovered that the Absent Teacher Reserves are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. We have seen the reports from the Bronx and Brooklyn meetings about how enraged the disenfranchised ATRS have become. The ATRS are now migrant workers, pushed from school to school on a weekly basis. ATRS received their new assignment for next week through a cold email from human resources. Hang in there ATRS. Between your forced weekly moves and the DC 37 layoffs, these are terrible days.

Don't despair. Come to the October 20th ATR meeting at 5:00pm at the Skylight Diner on 34th Street and 9th Avenue in Manhattan sponsored by the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) to discuss the next steps in the fight for dignity.

Also today, Teacher Ronin (ATR) Marc Epstein explains the folly of closing schools over at Huffington.

Sunday, October 02, 2011


We Are ATRS: Absolutely Teaching Ready –

but denied the opportunity by the Department of Education.

They’ve closed our schools, reduced the student population through charters, excessed us through outrageous budget cuts and made it illogical for a principal to hire us because we are experienced, well trained adults who insist on respect and are more than a few steps up the salary schedule from new graduates.

Demand Respect & Justice for ATR Teachers

The "hiring" freeze was not a freeze at all: ATRs must be placed before any new teachers are considered with no salary penalty to the school: The DOE claim to lift the hiring freeze this summer was bogus as principals were only required to interview 2 ATRs and then were free to hire newbies and less experienced teachers. Ex: one large HS in Queens has 5 newbie math teachers.

2,000 excessed teachers have swelled the ranks of the ATR- teacher pool as ATRs are obligated to waste time at Job Fairs that for the most are exercises in futility. This is an injustice that:

· Is unprofessional, disrespectful, demoralizing and humiliating to teachers who have dedicated years of satisfactory service to our school communities. Both a “no layoff/firing guarantee” and a permanent classroom job are what all teachers deserve.
· Is an unconscionable waste by the DOE of taxpayer money in these lean budget times, costing the city from $80 to $100M yearly.
· Discriminates against students, parents, and schools by denying adequate quality staffing.
· Foments larger class sizes and a deterioration of the quality of teaching.

The attitude that "We are lucky to have a job" is not acceptable

ATRs demand that the UFT:

· Insist on no new hiring until all ATRs are placed.

· Call for ATRs in "obsolete license areas" (like Reading) to be allowed to recertify in a new license or get the summer crash course that TFA and TFs get to allow them to fill vacancies shortage areas.

· Create ATR Chapters with elected CLs in each borough to provide fair representation: ATRs shifted from school-to-school do not have a permanent Chapter Leader to represent their interests.

· End the agreement that forces ATRs to be wandering substitutes at different schools each week: parents, especially women with young children will face child care issues due to unpredictable assignments. The UFT must recognize that the DOE aim is to drive many to the brink of quitting.

· Publicize the plight of ATRs to all teachers and the general public in all media.

Every teacher is a potential ATR through excessing, closing schools and charter school growth. We refuse to be swept under the rug by the DOE and the UFT. We need to organize ourselves since the UFT refuses to do so. We need an outreach campaign to our fellow teaching non-ATRs (but possibly soon to be) to get them on our side.

Our strength is growing. The bigger we get the better the chance the DOE and the UFT will be forced to respond in a positive manner.


What you can do: Attend meeting we are calling for ATRs on Oct. 20, 5PM at Skylight Diner (34th St. and 9th Ave)

· Attend one of the UFT borough office meetings and distribute this leaflet and ask people to join this committee.

· Join the GEM ATR Committee sponsored by the Grassroots Education Movement: Email -

· Follow updates and post your stories at: &

· Support and sign the resolution at the UFT borough ATR meetings (see reverse side on some leaflets or check the blogs).


Long-term demands:

· Restore rights of excessed teachers lost in 2005 UFT/DOE contract when ATR pool was created: bring back guarantee of right to vacancy in license area at another nearby school. Put an end to current open market "principal choice."

· End fair funding formula: schools get charged for teacher salaries giving principals incentives to NOT hire higher salaried/senior teachers.

· Protect LIFO (Last In First Out), seniority and tenure contractual rights: Privatization advocates are pushing hard to eliminating tenure/seniority rights guarantees as they've done in Chicago (ATRs get 9 months) and Washington, DC (ATRs get 6 months) before they are fired.

· Fight for a diverse teaching force: ATR ranks are filled with a high proportion of Black and Latino experienced teachers. Last year, the UFT passed a resolution to protect and promote “diversity in the NYC teaching force”. Ensure that the UFT uphold the spirit and letter of that resolution.

· Stop the charter-privatization of our schools: The nation-wide and local City drive to dismantle, close public schools and replace them with non-unionized charters helped precipitate this massive ATR pool. End mayoral control of schools: none of the above happens without turning the system over to the mayor.

NEXT STEPS: ATRs will gather October 20 at 5PM at the Skylight Diner (34th St and 9th Avenue)

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Irma Segovia is a Spanish teacher who recently was improperly excessed from Jamaica High School. It was a wrongful excess because Ms. Segovia has over twenty years as a regularly appointed teacher and shouldn't be excessed. This is what the UFT contract says about excessing twenty year veterans in Article 17B Rule 10:

“Teachers at all levels who have served 20 years or longer on regular appointment shall not be excessed except for those in neighboring schools who are excessed to staff a newly organized school.”

The language is clear and unambiguous. Nobody is being excessed to staff a new school. They are being excessed to become wandering ATRS. The contract says twenty year teachers should not be excessed but Jamaica had teachers with Rule 10 status excessed in June and the grievance process is playing out slowly as usual. To be fair, I have been working behind the scenes with UFT help to try to get Irma back but DOE basically has said that they don't care about no stinking contract. Making matters worse, we have fourteen classes that are still uncovered while teachers who could teach them are working as substitutes in other schools. Frustration is mounting.

Irma is a wonderful teacher and a fine person who I am happy to know. She volunteered to serve on the school's UFT Chapter Consultation Committee for years and she made a diligent attempt to find a job after being illegally excessed. However, getting an email on Friday night for a mandatory interview Monday clear across town is more than she can take. According to the contract, teachers in excess are supposed to be assigned within their district. After the latest email from DOE, Ms. Segovia sent me this email out of utter frustration and agreed to allow me to post it.

Hi, James:

Here is another attempt by the Human Resources to ignore the UFT contract. They are so convinced they can get away with it, like their new twist on Article 17B rule 10:
"Teachers cannot go back to their schools when the school is being phased out"

Now, they want me to interview outside my district and it is “a mandated interview.”

I have had interviews offered via email but I emailed them back saying it was a hardship
because of the commute (Staten Island, The Bronx, Brooklyn).

Do I have to attend if it is out of my district? It was sent today at 5:00pm through the DOE email. I couldn’t even call them to argue my case because it was sent too late.

All these atrocities, the games being played by the DOE, the ignoring of the UFT contract, the rule bending, and all the other things that go on and ATRs are experiencing (that you won’t even believe because they have not happened to you, yet) MUST be reported and the public must hear the truth behind “the no child left behind excuse.”

Let’s get people from “20/20” or from “60 Minutes” It’s time for the big reporters to report what the mayor and his puppets are doing, have done and will rampantly continue to do to the NY children and to the system if they are not investigated and stopped.

Teachers are held accountable for everything the mayor and the DOE deem wrong or bad even when it does not make sense.

When do the mayor and chancellor and even our questionable Mr. Mulgrew get to be accountable or graded for their irresponsibility for the destruction of the school system in New York City and abuse of power? As long as we keep on paying our dues, never!!!

We were sold out! Our rights are being violated and our integrity as professionals is being questioned.



Thursday, September 22, 2011


On Tuesday the Absent Teacher Reserves from Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island were compelled to go to the Brooklyn Museum to attend a job fair. All of the reports I have received say that there were very few positions there for the hundreds of ATRs who attended.

We are also hearing about schools that are hiring multiple new teachers and passing up on the experienced teachers who are out there. This is really sad.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Tuesday was the day for the latest ATR job fair where experienced teachers had to line up for what we have been told were very few positions. Next week there will be another one of these pseudo hiring halls.

Meanwhile back in Jamaica High School, there is nobody covering the library as the librarian was excessed and has been assigned as an ATR to a school in Long Island City. Therefore, the library is closed most of the day; it is only open because there are no classrooms available so some teachers, including myself, are teaching there. In addition, 35 classes at Jamaica are oversize as our phasing out school is squeezed into a smaller part of the building.

I was also informed by another friend who was excessed from Jamaica that she has nothing to do at her new school. 35 oversize classes at Jamaica with no librarian and teachers are sitting around as ATRs in other schools doing nothing.
How can the DOE, the union, the press and the public allow this to happen?

It gets worse. Today a former colleague, now an ATR, talked about having six working periods in a row in a long term assignment when the contractual maximum is four. I also heard a report about a teacher who quit rather than face a second year as an ATR. In my opinion, this is exactly what the DOE wants.

The agreement that the UFT and DOE signed in June that allows ATRs to be moved every week (I was told weekly rotations will start as early as October) appears to be an effort to make ATRs so fed up with the system so that more of them will resign.

To add further insult to injury, the city eased its so called hiring freeze this summer to further decrease the chances of experienced people being picked up in a different school.

The city lost on non seniority layoffs (Last in First Out) when the state refused to change the civil service law earlier this year but humiliating ATRS by sending them around to different schools every week and making them travel across the city to hiring halls that offer only a few jobs appears to be a way around the law. It looks like the DOE plans to make life so miserable that these professionals will become demoralized and leave. Please hang in there ATRs.

We must push the UFT into supporting ATRS or find another way to help. This situation cannot be allowed to continue. If the UFT tells you that you are lucky to have a job in this economy, I would acknowledge that they have a point but that all teachers, including ATRS, deserve to teach with dignity. The current system robs these pros of a chance to practice their craft in a truly meaningful way.

For those who are in the so called good schools and aren't worried, you should be. It's very easy for the DOE to move well prepared students into schools the DOE likes and flood a school on the DOE hit list with students who are less likely to succeed.

The only positive development is that there has been some coverage of the plight of ATRS in the Huffington Post from my colleague Marc Epstein that was picked up by the NYCATR blog. Chaz and Ed Notes are also noting the brewing anger of ATRs.