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: 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.
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.