Sunday, June 29, 2014


Jamaica HS phased out on Thursday after 122 years of service to the community.  We had a final graduating class of around only 25 students for 2014 but nobody had their enthusiasm dampened at the graduation ceremony and reception held at Antun's on Thursday evening. For students to make it through a phase out situation with its very limited course offerings was not easy. These pupils persevered.

Borough President Melinda Katz was in attendance at the ceremony as was her deputy: former Councilmember Leroy Comrie. The Borough President's father taught at Jamaica and Comrie is a graduate.

The alumni were fully represented with recent grads such as Kymberly Walcott mixing with keynote speaker and 1974 graduate, Assemblyman David Weprin and Comrie.

Weprin, just like Community Activist Jackie Forrestal and me, refuses to concede defeat on Jamaica High School ceasing to exist. The school has been around since 1892. Jackie, her husband Kevin and their daughter Kathy (Jamaica HS class of 1994) were all in attendance at the graduation.

What made the event truly inspiring were the speeches from the students. Adriana Vega's emotional valedictory speech along with addresses from Sarah Kissoon and Phillip Samuel were the equal of anything ever said at past graduations, even when we had much larger graduating classes.

Don't take my word that this was a great evening. Read the Daily News account and see highlights for yourself that the Daily New put on video.

Jamaica High School's Class of 2014: Their motto: "Out with a Bang!"

Reception follows the Graduation ceremony


Thursday, June 26, 2014


Today is a very emotional day for many people as Jamaica High School will hold its final graduation ceremony this evening.  I am sure friends at other closing schools such as Norman Thomas, Beach Channel, Columbus and many more are experiencing similar feelings.

For me personally, it is the end of a twenty-eight year teaching stint at the 122 year old Jamaica HS that will officially cease to exist. 

As of today, we are still trying to make sure every eligible student is permitted to graduate.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Phone calls, texts and emails came flooding in today as ATR's received their annual ratings. Everyone received last year's rating and Cumulative Absent Reserve numbers.  They said they would fix it but didn't anyone look this over before sending the ratings out?

We all make mistakes and this one could easily be forgiven but if Central DOE can't get this simple task right, why are they still given a free reign to harass ATR's and the rest of us?  Where is the media to expose the DOE incompetence?

If teachers messed up paperwork citywide, it would be front page news.  DOE administrative ineptitude will hopefully be reported by more than just by Chaz and me.

Friday, June 20, 2014


Teachers in New York won a delay for two years out of the State Legislature and Governor on counting student results on Common Core tests for teacher ratings.  Here are some of the details from Capitol Confidential:

A bill to temporarily hold teachers harmless for poor student scores on Common Core-based tests is headed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk, after the state Senate approved it unanimously early Friday. The Senate voted 60-0 to OK the bill around 12:45 a.m., not long after the Assembly also voted overwhelmingly in favor of the legislation.

The bill will receive Cuomo’s approval; he officially introduced it early Thursday.

When signed, the bill would apply to teachers who receive a “developing” or “ineffective” rating on their annual evaluations through the 2014-15 school year. Those teachers would have their ratings recalculated without any Common Core-based test scores counted; if their rating remained poor, they would be subject to potential disciplinary action.

Local measures I guess will count double.  This law will only impact teachers in grades 3-8 who are judged in part based on Common Core English or math tests.  As NYC Educator points out, they will still be judged partially on test scores but it will be different unreliable junk science.

Most high school Regents tests are not yet aligned yet with Common Core so we are still on the hook for all of the student test score portion of our evaluation for this year and next.

Perdido Street School provides us with a reason for a little optimism on evaluations this morning when he states: "Still, the more changes they have to make in Albany to this mess of a system, the more likely the whole system collapses under the weight of its own absurdity."

I couldn't agree more.


As you can clearly see by reading the letter below from our esteemed Union President and Chancellor, the $1,000 contract bonus is set to arrive next week.  That is earlier than many anticipated.  What about the 2% retroactive owed to us (1% from May 1, 2013 and 1% from May 1, 2014)?  We'll see.

The best part of the joint letter for me is this statement: "We want you to know you have our respect and our thanks." Do you feel respected as this school year ends? 

After 28 years in the school system, I just got a letter of excess that included instructions on how to pound the pavement to look for a new job.  I'm not feeling respected at all but maybe others feel differently.

Dear James,

As you come to the end of this school year, we both wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for all your hard work and dedication. We both know from experience how difficult the work you do is, and we take great pride in the thousands of people in New York City public schools who work hard each and every day to try to fulfill the dreams and hopes of over one million students. We want you to know you have our respect and our thanks.

We wanted to do more than tell you we appreciate your hard work — we wanted to take action to show you. So we have taken the first step in implementing the financial component of the recent collective-bargaining agreement between the UFT and the New York City Department of Education, which provides for a one-time ratification bonus of $1,000 (pro-rated for part-time employees) to be issued to any member who was on payroll as of the date of ratification, June 3, 2014. We are pleased to inform you that pending the ratification by the Panel for Educational Policy on June 24, for most school-based UFT staff this payment is going to appear in either your direct deposit account on June 25, or in a check delivery scheduled for June 26. Other UFT staff such as nurses and therapists should receive this payment on July 3, and part-time F status staff should be receiving their pro-rated portion on July 10.

We hope you enjoy the summer and return refreshed and ready for the next school year. We have much to work on together, including efforts around enhanced professional development and dedicated time for parent engagement, and we look forward to working together on these and many other initiatives next year. Thank you for your work this year to provide a quality education for all of our students to keep them on the road to success.


Michael Mulgrew and Carmen FariƱa

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


What should the UFT be doing right about now to support its members?  A good start would be to encourage more protests like the one that occurred at Bryant High School in Queens. 200 adults and students were out in the street calling for the removal of a less than stellar principal. 

There was coverage of the event in the Daily News.

“This is the end of my 30th year teaching here. No principal has ever treated staff like garbage like this one does,” said teacher Mary Bozoyan, 51, who attended the high school herself. “Everyone’s waiting for the next ax to drop on their head.”

 I am fairly certain there are stories like this one in many schools across NYC.  Let's see if this type of event is repeated elsewhere.

Friday, June 13, 2014


President's Report
President Michael Mulgrew opened the June Delegate Assembly by talking about California.  He said the decision of the judge to get rid of tenure and seniority rights because they violate the California Constitution is very troubling but we are confident about the appeal.  We knew once the case was assigned to this particular judge that it would be difficult to win.
The premise of school reform is that public education is failing but this isn't true.  Judge said students were having their civil rights violated because of bad teachers.  The judge is wrong because the problem is poverty and teacher retention and not subpar teachers.  We expect copycat lawsuits in New York State from front groups like Students' First.
We also anticipate a deluge against us from the so called reformers who own the media outlets.  Tenure does not hurt children.  We have no tolerance as a union for people who can't do the job.  All tenure means in New York State is that we get due process and can't be fired at will.  That's it.
The President updated Delegates on the situation in Albany.  In the State Senate, we believe one party should all sit with each other.  The Governor has revitalized talks on teacher evaluations tied to testing.  Five days are left in the session.  We are not sure what the results will be.
On specialized high schools, we have legislation on opening admissions to multiple measures and not just a test. Schools like Harvard do this.
New York City-Contract
President Mulgrew said this was a good school year.  We have a new Mayor, a new Chancellor and a new contract.  (Was it a good school year?  Do you feel any different inside the schools compared to last year?  Please let us know.)
We set a record with 90,459 people voting on the contract.  77% voted to ratify it. We now have a great deal of work to do.  Mulgrew asked if everyone set up Professional Development Committees.  (Some had and some had not.) Central Functional Chapter (non-teaching) Committees have met.

Many UFT members want to talk about horrible things done to us in the past. We have to shift into talking about what we actually want.  The alternative is to hire more consultants for $100,000 to do Professional Development.  The UFT has asked Chapter Leaders to submit names of people on the Professional Development Committees.
We believe educators inside school buildings provide the best professional development.  Central union needs to know if principals reject valid idea for professional development.  Chancellor Carmen Farina has told principals that they need to collaborate.
Teacher leadership positions have been posted.  They will be in 120 schools.
We need to form more committees. 
Even though the deadline is passed, we are still accepting School Based Options.  There have been 530 SBO's so far.  236 were on changing the time.  That means 1,564 schools will go to the default time schedule or they are multi-session or District 75 or 79. 
Hiring restrictions have been lifted.  There never was a real hiring freeze.  Central Department of Education must approve all excesses.  The hiring restrictions prevented paraprofessionals from moving up to teacher positions and teachers from going to guidance positions.  This has stopped.
We took on a very dangerous arbitration by taking the lesson plan grievance to arbitration.  If we lost, lesson plans could've been dictated by administrators.  UFT completely won on the lesson plan arbitration.  Administrators cannot grade a lesson plan on its own.  It must be graded in the context of the lesson.  Teachers decide on the format.  We own the lesson plans.  Principals can look at lesson plans; they always had that right.  Mulgrew thanked the people involved in the case including Ellen Procida who heads the Grievance Department.  A group of teachers took on the DOE lawyers and we prevailed.
Staff Director's Report
Leroy Barr reported on the UFT giving out 410,000 books on May 31 and the Secretary Luncheon on that same day.  He also thanked Anthony Harmon for Monday's Albert Shanker Scholarship Award ceremony.  The UFT will be giving out $1 million in scholarships again this year.  (Congratulations to all the recipients including Adriana Vega from Jamaica High School!)
Question Period
Question: How do we bring collaboration to fruition especially in large chapters?
Mulgrew Answer: If principals are not interested in collaborating, we need to use outside intervention.  We also want to have borough based Principal-Chapter Leader meetings.
Question: District 64 non-public schools down from 27-7 support staff.  How do schools get back what we need?
Mulgrew Answer: It is very difficult to do what is needed in non-public schools.  Every school needs at least one mental health professional.  It is by far the greatest need in the schools.
Question: Principals in many schools know nothing about committees in the new contract.  What should we do?
Mulgrew Answer: Contact us and we will contact deputy chancellors who are understaffed right now.
Question: How can we get a fair distribution of parking permits system in place?
Will student test scores be used to evaluate us this year?
Mulgrew Answer: People are being told they are ineffective but that is premature because we don't have the student test score results in that are part of our ratings. Albany could change how student performance is impacted in our ratings.
Parking is up to the Department of Transportation.  Legally, only they can issue parking permits.  The old DOE issued parking permits were illegal.  We are looking to negotiate for more spaces.
The motion period was covered in an earlier report.
Special Order of Business
Four uncontroversial resolutions were passed.  One called for a $15 per hour minimum wage; another called for retirement security like we have for every working person; a third was on expanding parking for UFT members and a fourth was on boycotting Staples because they hire non-union people to do work that US Postal Service Workers do. 
All of the resolutions carried and after the meeting there was a raffle.  Irony of all ironies was when I was told the raffle papers were printed on Staples paper.
That's all from the DA for this year.  Will I miss this after I am no longer a Chapter Leader?  Proof that I am completely insane is that the answer to some extent is yes.



As soon as there was the slightest hint of controversy at the June Delegate Assembly, UFT  President Michael Mulgrew gave up any hint of required chairperson impartiality. Instead, as usual, he treated someone who disagreed with him in an unfair and inappropriate way. This month's target was the Movement of Rank and File Educator's (MORE) Megan Moskop.

The issue up for discussion was democracy, a subject our President is not too well acquainted with at DA meetings. During the ten minute new motion period, Joan Heymont from the Progressive Labor Party had introduced a resolution saying the following: "Resolved that we, as educators will join our class brothers and sisters at a rally sponsored by Congregations for Justice and Peace calling for welfare benefits and food stamps adequate for workers to live." 

Since the resolution was for this month's agenda, no debate was allowed and 2/3 of the Delegates needed to vote to add the resolution to the agenda.  After Joan read the resolution, which had been properly disseminated before the meeting, there was a vote.  It looked from where I was sitting that most people didn't vote but that a significant number of people who voted wanted to add the resolution to the agenda.  It did not look like it was the 2/3 necessary but someone could have reasonably made a motion to divide the house (ask for an actual count).

Ms. Moskop rose and stated that the vote on the last resolution looked awfully close.  Mr. Mulgrew, instead of being an impartial chair, said the vote wasn't close and then added, "You're out of order."  Megan responded, "You're interrupting me."  To which Mulgrew replied, "I can interrupt you because you're out of order."  She never had the chance to make a motion for a count.  Democracy at its finest again as a Delegate who was seeking clarification on what looked like a close vote was instead put down by our chair.  But wait, it gets worse.

Later in the meeting, there was a resolution on political endorsements that the leadership forgot to put on the agenda so they had political director Paul Egan ask the Delegates to add it during the new motion period.  Here is the language: "Resolved, that the United Federation of Teachers' Delegate Assembly authorizes the Executive Board to consider, make or modify endorsements that will be recommended to NYSUT during the summer in order to have a timely impact on any such campaigns." 

NYSUT does make our recommendations for state offices but there is no reason why the UFT can't have our picks ready for endorsements by June for most State Assembly and State Senate seats in NYC.  Instead, our political team just expects the Delegates to defer to the much smaller, mostly elected at large, Executive Board.  Megan objected to this resolution as an affront to democracy.

She made a passionate plea that the Delegates should not cede their authority to make endorsements to the Executive Board.  She wondered aloud why this resolution was added at the last minute and thought maybe this was done so people wouldn't have time to think about it. 

Rather than being an impartial chair and just listening, once again Mulgrew interrupted the speaker to say that Paul Egan made an error (in not bringing this resolution up sooner) and was a "bad boy" but he also cut in because Megan made a remark about how we are making back room deals exchanging money for support (routine stuff in Albany's pay to play culture although we do it in a more sophisticated way).  Mulgrew responded by acting as if he was shocked by such an assertion.  He should have kept his mouth closed and just let Megan finish.  He has no right to circumvent Robert's Rules like this. Megan declared that we should be discussing endorsements out in the open. She called for a special DA in the summer on endorsements or electronic voting (very possible in 2014).   

The head of Unity Caucus, Leroy Barr, followed Megan and said something about how this is what democracy looks like.  UFT democracy maybe, but not a real one.  The resolution was rubber stamped by the Unity Caucus majority but a minority including me voted no.  Megan made some very valid points. 

It was troubling seeing how she was treated but heartening to watch her persevere in spite of the difficult time given to her by the Chair for just having an opinion different from his.  At least he is asking for speakers against each motion but his new method of killing debate is to just interrupt anyone when they say anything he does not like (read the May DA report for further details). A sad ending to the school year at the DA.  I will have a more thorough report on the routine items later.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014


I just read the full decision of the judge who ruled California's teacher tenure and seniority laws are unconstitutional.  Fortunately, the judge said his ruling will not go into effect  pending appeals.  (There is a link to the complete ruling here.)

All of us should be very troubled by the decision but we can hope it will be a wake-up call for teachers and other public employees.  The ruling elite of this country are out to destroy us and will stop at nothing.

The best reaction to the decision I have seen comes from new United Teachers of Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl who said: “The outcome if this is going to be that it actually creates more instability at the very schools and with the very kids who need stability.”

Oh the irony. It is so true that promoting instability in schools as the judge wants to do, particularly in urban areas, does nothing for kids.

Read this piece to find some important advocacy arguments favoring teacher tenure.

Or, try these seven reasons defending tenure from Russ on Reading .

  1. Tenure Prevents Teachers from Being Fired for Non-Performance Reasons - Without tenure you could be fired because you weree hired by a Democratic board and then Republican board took over or because a new principal wanted to hire a friend. Long ago my second grade teacher was fired because she got pregnant. 
  2. Innovative Teaching Requires Risk Taking - Engaging instruction is often noisy and messy instruction. If teachers are afraid to take risks to provide good instruction, learning will suffer. Good teaching is also often experimental. If teachrs are afraid to experiment, learning will suffer.
  3. Professionalism in  Teaching Requires Student Advocacy - The teacher must often act as an advocate for a child. Occasionally, this advocacy may come up against some goals, finacial or other, of the administration. A teacher must feel secure in the knowledge that advocating for children will not cost her her job, otherwise who will speak for the children?
  4. Tenure Prohibits School Boards from Firing Experienced Teachers to Hire Cheaper Inexperienced Teachers - If you believe this can't happen look at what is happening in Newark, NJ with Teach for America.
  5. Tenure Protects Teachers from Being Fired for Teaching Controversial Subjects - Any volunteers for teaching evolution or sex education or civics in a world without job protections?
  6. Tenure Assures Due Process When a Teacher is a Target of an Accusation from Student or Parent - This should resonate with any teacher who was not backed by an administrator after a parent complaint.
  7. Tenure Protects Teachers from Punitive and Unreliable Evaluation Systems - Think aboout the combination of value added measures basing teacher evaluation on student test scores and no job protections. That should scare us all.

Sunday, June 08, 2014


Bloggers have already crunched the numbers on the UFT contract ratification vote (see tallies below) and Norm Scott reported that the vote count was fair.  Members in schools that were largely opposed to the contract  are incredulous that three out of every four teachers supported another inferior contract

I'm a little surprised, not that the contract passed, but that the numbers approving ratification were so high but if one looks historically, 75% approval from teachers (77% overall with non-teachers included) is not unusual. 

Digging a little deeper shows why this result should have been expected.  The vast majority of chapter leaders belong to the Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew's political party) or are independent.  Very few are in the opposition (MORE).  Busy members generally ask their chapter leaders for advice on union issues. If they asked about the contract, the Unity faithful would have informed them that it was great and so people naturally approved it.  Then when these same teachers have to live with what they voted for, they will probably become disillusioned quickly.

What is truly bothersome is how our expectations have been lowered by the steady bashing we have been subjected to since the Giuliani-Bloomberg years.  Obviously, our morale is quite low.  I don't see that changing much in September when most of us will come back to the new contract's endless "professional development" that has been nicknamed "teacher detention".

UFT President Michael Mulgrew says the contract empowers us.  Does it?  We are basically being asked to form school committees to choose between the lesser of evils. What kind of "professional development" do we want?  Do we want to stay after school two or three days a week for professional development, parent outreach and other professional work?  What kind of junk science (teachers being evaluated based on student test scores) do we want to use for our annual ratings?  The joke is truly on us as the principal has veto power over anything we come up with and then there is nothing we can do.

On professional development the actual language of the contract says, "The Principal shall review the SDC’s (Staff Development Committee's) work but shall have final approval of Professional Development."

I may be an anomaly here but in 28 years in the system, I cannot recall one professional development session that was truly worthwhile. Having 80 minutes every Monday is not something to look forward to.  About the best I can say on this provision is that most people think administrators will lose interest and will just give up after a few weeks in many schools.

The only cure for our depressed state is for the rank and file to start acting like we are in a real union and demand more. If a few hundred people who voted against the contract were to step forward and become chapter leaders, our world would change rather quickly.  The battle over the future will be won at the school level. 

Back in 1995 when the membership voted down a contract, there was a much stronger opposition to Unity in the schools as compared to now.  In those days Bruce Markens, an independent, was actually a UFT District Representative.  District representatives were elected by chapter leaders until 2003. 

If we follow the script set in 2005, when there was a 40% no vote among teachers opposing a horrific contract, people will subsequently crawl back and hide and not become more active in the union. Then UFT President Randi Weingarten knew the rank and file was not happy and quickly recovered by producing an early contract the next year that had enough money in it to stop any momentum from building for the opposition. If people just accept their fate in 2014, then the deterioration of our working conditions will just continue as we muddle on through. 

Absent Teacher Reserves, a category I will most likely join in September, have the most to lose in the new contract.  We can be terminated after a one day hearing if two principals cite us for undefined problematic behavior.  ATRs need to join together collectively to avoid getting picked off one-by-one by the DOE. It is called being a union and we sure could use one now.

As for the contract vote count, I agree with Norm that the American Arbitration Association and the UFT didn't mess with it although at the school level, it would have been easy to vote early and often.  Any chapter leader could have easily stuffed the ballots as the printout provided with the ballots had the identifying information of every chapter member. I could have voted for any member who forgot to cast a ballot. I am not accusing anybody of anything here.  I am pointing out reality.

Ballot box stuffing, or rather express mail envelope stuffing, was not how the contract was ratified. However, in the future there must be safeguards put in place so everyone is confident that the vote cannot be tampered with. 

Ratification by the numbers
Category# Yes# NoPercent
School secretaries2,12541184%
Guidance counselors1,80645980%
Psychologists and social workers1,30726583%
Occupational/physical therapists1,05826380%
Staff nurses3152293%
Lab specialists and technicians571975%
Supervisors of school security38393%
Supervisor nurses/therapists22679%
Sign language interpreters11379%
Directors of alcohol/substance abuse programs66% 

Thursday, June 05, 2014


It is with deep sadness that I write tonight. I found out earlier that the world has lost one of the most wonderful people around, particularly within the education and UFT world, with the passing of Loretta Elinor Prisco. 
I met Loretta through ICE and we became friends.  She and her late husband Gene truly are role models for my wife Camille and me.  Camille and I often talk about how Gene and Loretta Prisco proved that you can be active in politics, the union and education but you do not have to sacrifice your family life or your integrity.  They were truly inspirational people.
I remember an ICE meeting in the summer of 2012 when there was some kind of MORE forum afterwards and it was a beautiful day.  Loretta and I didn't want to hop on the subway on such a sunny day so we walked through downtown Manhattan to get to the second event.  That was one of many occasions where I was fortunate enough to pick her brain on topics from childcare to dealing with difficult principals.  
Camille and I sometimes tend to view the union and education spheres in almost a kind of good versus evil way so it is important for us to be able to talk to people like Loretta who had such an open mind and could always find room for some optimism.  We saw her when she was ill and still she was so positive in her outlook.
She will be missed in so many ways.  Below is what was sent to us via Norm Scott from Loretta's daughter.
With a heart broken open with love, I let my community know that my mother, Loretta Elinor Prisco, transitioned to spirit side last evening. She was full of grace, light, intelligence, and a deep sense of justice. She taught me to see situations from multiple angles, and to consider others' points of view. She courageously chose life, while simultaneously grieving and facing a painful and difficult illness. She was taking photos of the flowers outside even at the end of her life.

For those who are able to attend, her wake will be Friday June 6, from 2 to 4pm and 7 to 9pm at
Harmon Funeral Home on Staten Island, with a mass on Saturday June 7 at Our Lady of Good Counsel on Staten Island (Harmon's has the address), burial to follow at Moravian Cemetery.

I think her and Gene are on a wonderful Celestial Cruise Ship, and I wish them the smoothest of seas and the happiest of voyages.
Thank you for your love and support during this long and difficult season. I would not be functioning without it.

With love,

Tuesday, June 03, 2014


The UFT is reporting that 77% of those voting approved the contract.  This includes every bargaining unit and not just teachers. The turnout was remarkably high with around 90,000 voters casting ballots out of a total of  around 110,000 eligible voters.

77% is a surprisingly high approval rate as is the turnout.

For the teachers, the unofficial, preliminary totals show 75% in favor and 25% opposed. 

The UFT came remarkably close to the 84% TWU approval rate and they missed the 89% yes vote in the last UFT contract by not that wide a margin when one considers the details of this contract.

As soon as numbers are official, we will report more.


Many of us have spent a great deal of time the last month working diligently to oppose the UFT contract.  Ellen Fox and Norm Scott from the Movement of Rank and File Educators observed the ballots being opened yesterday by the American Arbitration Association and today they will be there for the vote count.  We will know later this afternoon how the vote turned out. My understanding is the turnout was quite high.

There will not be just one count.  There are many different bargaining units in the UFT.  Teachers are the largest but there are Paraprofessionals, Occupational Therapists-Physical Therapists-Nurses, Guidance Counselors, Secretaries, Lab Specialists, Psychologists-Social Workers and more.

It is very difficult to predict the results as there is not scientific polling.  We do know that the Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew's faction of the UFT) has control of many schools through their chapter leaders who sign the statement that they will support the decisions of the caucus in union and public forums.  Many UFT members are very busy and look to their chapter leaders for guidance.  This gives Unity a major head start.  In addition, union staff did a thorough job in coming to the schools to sell the contract to the membership and Mulgrew was even given press space to advocate for it.

Against those odds, the opposition did its best online and we received some help from other unions.  We also did get some press coverage. However, I don't think we had nearly as many hard copy leaflets out in the schools as compared to the 2005 or 1995 contract votes so we will see if the online campaign made up for the lack of literature in the schools.

My sources tell me that the people with the most to lose from the contract, the ATRs, voted overwhelmingly against the contract.  At Jamaica I can tell you only one person wanted to vote secretly which I of course encouraged for all.  Everyone else openly showed me they voted NO.

Virtually everyone thinks the contract will carry with the teachers.  If it is defeated I would be very surprised.  I would also be astonished if it gets 84% approval like the TWU contract did recently. Considering the resources we don't have and what we are up against, anything over 35% would be a success for the opposition forces as I see it.  We'll know later today what happened.

Monday, June 02, 2014


While the New York State United Teachers' Board of Directors were meeting in Albany, the group that ran in the NYSUT election in opposition to Unity Caucus, Stronger Together, held their first post-election meeting on Saturday in Clifton Park (just outside of Albany). Unity is Michael Mulgrew's political party that has a very firm grip on the UFT and now clearly controls NYSUT, our state union, as well. A statewide opposition to Unity is solidifying and looks like it will be a force to be reckoned with.

It was enlightening for me to be sitting with many local union presidents from around the state.  These locals operate in such a different way when compared to the UFT here in NYC.  Their officers are working teachers who have to live with what they negotiate for their members.  UFT officers are basically removed from the classroom. I understand we are a much bigger union in NYC but being out of the classroom does leave a gap between the leadership and the members.

Other union leaders from around the state are horrified by how the UFT has allowed for the creation of Absent Teacher Reserves in NYC.  They told me they would never allow seniority rights to be compromised to make senior people vulnerable as we are in the city if schools are closed or downsized and teachers are forced to find a new job or become a substitute who moves from school-to-school on a weekly basis.

Recently, I asked UFT VP for Academic High Schools Janella Hinds directly if she was going to have to be evaluated like an Absent Teacher Reserve under the proposed new contract.  If the contract passes, two incidents of "problematic behavior" could lead to an expedited one day termination hearing for ATRs.  To her credit Janella admitted she would not be evaluated this way. 

When union leadership loses touch with their membership, the contract becomes an abstract to the leaders.  It is then much easier to negotiate contracts that compromise seniority as the UFT has done in 2005 and again in 2014.  Getting acquainted with union leaders outside of New York City has been a wonderful experience for me as these leaders are classroom teachers who are negotiating for themselves as well as their members.  To put it another way, they have skin in the game.  I'm not saying that it is impossible for union leadership that is out of the classroom all day to do what is right by their membership, however it is a real challenge and the contract proposed for NYC clearly shows that challenge has not been met by our current officers.

By contrast, Stronger Together appears to me like it will embrace member driven unionism.  The group left a very positive impression on me about the direction this new organization will take as we move ahead.  Certainly, the strong feelings expressed against Governor Cuomo were evident right from the start.