Saturday, May 30, 2015


In a genuine display of union solidarity with the Absent Teacher Reserves, teachers at Middle College High School yesterday elected me to be their Teacher Delegate for next year, in spite of the fact that there is a real possibility that I will not be returning to MCHS in the fall. I have been working as a Leave Replacement Teacher at MCHS since December.

As far as I know, this is the first time an ATR or Leave Replacement Teacher has been elected to the Delegate Assembly from a school. (Please correct me if this is wrong.) The teachers at MCHS put themselves in a bit of a handicap situation by electing me because if I am not returned to MCHS, I will have to be a long distance Delegate.  One of the big questions asked to me during the short campaign was how I could represent the school if I am not in the building and yes it will be more difficult.  Is the union now going to get me release time so I can go to MCHS and hear the views of the teachers on the union issues that impact them?

What really happened here is the UFT higher ups put election rules together that forced the ATRs to vote and run for office in the schools we happen to be in on May 4 because they had to allow us to vote somewhere or they would be violating federal labor law. They probably figured nobody would vote for strangers who were just passing through a school so it would look good on paper that they were not disenfranchising ATRs but in essence that is exactly what the UFT leadership was doing.

The union's election guide in my opinion is illegal so four of us have appealed these absurd chapter election procedures to the American Federation of Teachers which has not yet responded.  I don't think the election of one or two Delegates weakens that case. Certainly having one ATR in the DA when there are over 1,000 ATRs and Leave Replacement Teachers is still grossly unfair and it wasn't even ATRs who elected me so technically I represent MCHS and not ATRs.

Several people at MCHS asked me why the UFT doesn't just give ATR's a Chapter because having us run for office and vote in schools we are passing through is ridiculous.  The answer to this question is hard to figure out since it is now a decade since the infamous 2005 contract was passed that created the ATR mess by ending preferred placement for teachers when a school was closed or placement to a permanent job when UFT members were excessed from a school for other reasons.  This is not a temporary situation, as the UFT previously argued, since there is now a whole ATR section in the 2014 contract.  We proposed having a temporary Chapter that could dissolve if sanity returns to the school system and ATRs are finally placed permanently. The leadership turned that down along with other reasonable requests for ATR elected representation.

I want to personally say a huge THANK YOU to the people of MCHS for having enough confidence in me to send me to the DA to represent MCHS, even though I might not be at MCHS in the fall. MCHS is a  great school to work at.  Thanks to MCHS support, I don't have to sit on the 19th floor at the DA in the visitor's section next year watching the proceedings on closed circuit television.

The opposition to Unity Caucus has done some incredible work at the DA without me this year.  I hope my presence doesn't set us back so I will be studying my Roberts' Rules of Order over the summer. Or maybe it's better if I don't study those Rules of Order.

Thursday, May 28, 2015


Stronger Together, the statewide opposition to Michael Mulgrew's ruling Unity Caucus, took to Twitter to release a statement concerning the hiring by the Board of Regents of Mary Ellen Elia as New York State Education Commissioner.

  • STCaucus calls for the inclusion of each of the stakeholder voices... related to all aspects of the public education.

  • Wednesday, May 27, 2015


    Yesterday was a big news day for public education.  The Board of Regents has finally replaced John King as State Education Commissioner.  The new Commissioner is Mary Ellen Elia who was recently fired in Hillsdale, Florida.

    Reality Based Educator is pointing out how Elia has full deformer credentials including taking Gates money for a plan to fire teachers. While in Florida, Elia was in charge when staff didn't call 911 in a timely manner to get sick students help.  Here is the story from Reality Based Educator via the Buffalo News:

    One school board member criticized the accidental deaths of three students, saying that alone was grounds for her dismissal.  In two of those cases, the students died after school staffers did not immediately call 911 when the children experienced medical problems. The third drowned in a nearby pond after walking away from gym class.

    This will sound familiar to Jamaica High School staff where a principal and assistant principal were reassigned because there was a similar incident back in 2007.

    Reaction to Elia's appointment is coming in. NYSUT President Karen Magee and Randi Weingarten from the AFT are of course welcoming.  Mark Naison is reporting that the UFT and Chancellor Carmen Farina pushed for Elia.

    Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, writing in The Albany Times Union, says the Regents have finally jumped the shark (reference to Happy Days TV show going too far with the Fonzie character) by hiring Elia because of her management style of using intimidation.

    Beth Dimino, leader of the Stronger Together caucus in NYSUT, had this to say on Facebook:
      REALLY!?! There wasn't any other person in the world they could have chosen to do this gig?!? And NYSUT Leadership is looking forward to working with her!?!
      I'm living in the twilight zone!!!

    Meanwhile in New York City, we finally have a politician who I am not regretting voting for as Letitia James released a report calling for major reforms to mayoral control of NYC schools.

    While I don't agree with every suggestion right down the line, her recommendation for a Board of Education with 17 members where the Mayor only appoints 7 would be a good starting point for change.  At least the mayor would have to convince two non mayoral appointees that something is right before going ahead with it.

    Empowering Community Education Councils and School Leadership Teams are excellent suggestions.  Here is a link to the report.  It is good reading.

    Tuesday, May 26, 2015


    "Do not use student test scores to evaluate teachers." This line is taken from a report of a major Task Force on High Stakes Testing.  Can you guess what group it is from?

    I read further and the Report said this about test questions:

    The questions which really measure the students' prior knowledge and experience, what they bring to school, provide the best way to ensure a "proper" distribution of scores, and accounts for the subtle bias that many people find in these tests.  The test scores, then, do not measure only what happened as a result of instruction but also measure a host of other variables.  These scores are not valid measures of teacher performance.

    And then further down it states:

    Test scores are not accurate enough or reliable enough to justify serious consequences.  Consider how the incorrect reporting and scoring of standardized tests, as seen in the 2003 administration of the Math A and Physics Regents exams, as well as other city ad state tests over the past six years, affected students and teachers.  Diplomas were granted or withheld based on false scores.  Most recently, parents and educators raised questions regarding the validity of test items on the 4th grade ELA exam, pointing out that flawed test designs can yield flawed results.

    Who is this radical group that issued this report in April of 2007 that I found the other day when looking for something else?  If you guessed the United Federation of Teachers, you would be right?

    Fast-forward eight years to the Minutes of UFT President Michael Mulgrew's April 2015 Delegate Assembly report.  Our esteemed president now thinks quite differently from the UFT Task Force of 2007:

    This year we have 16 teachers rated ineffective in Brooklyn even though all 16 were rated effective or highly effective on their student test scores.  The issue here was the 100 point system.  Under the matrix being proposed, student achievement would trump the principal's judgment.  The higher grade would trump the lower grade.  It's not a distinct percentage.  The purpose of evaluation is growth, development and support.  The job of the evaluation system is to have a constructive professional process.  It's the only way to move education forward.  Nothing will matter if this doesn't get done.

    If the student test scores trump the Principal's judgment, then the flawed tests will account for 100% of the rating.  Principal and outside evaluator judgment can only get someone a developing rating at best according to the latest new and improved evaluation system coming soon.

    The reality of the situation is Governor Andrew Cuomo and the well funded people who want to cripple and then destroy public education are looking for a teacher evaluation system where they can blame teachers for mediocre or poor test scores so they can fire the maximum number of teachers. Conversely, the UFT and NYSUT want to keep outsmarting the system so teachers can receive effective or at least developing ratings, even if the ratings are based on flawed tests.  The unions are trying to weather the storm of school reform.

    Maybe this strategy succeeds or perhaps it doesn't. I don't foresee the deep pocketed people who want to destroy us giving up so easily.  If the members of the UFT ever put me in a position where my voice will actually be heard, I am going to recommend we dust off that 2007 Report of the UFT Task Force on High Stakes Testing and make it UFT policy again.

    Union leadership should start from a position of trying to gain what we know is best for teachers as well as students and then mobilize around that position instead of trying to game a flawed system and call that victory.

    Saturday, May 23, 2015


    In the weekly email for Chapter Leaders, the UFT reports that there is relief on paperwork coming for UFT members. Here is the story taken directly from the Union.

    The UFT and the Department of Education reached agreement on May 19 on a broader set of enforceable paperwork standards in the union’s ongoing effort to reduce and eliminate the excessive paper and electronic demands that are taking educators’ time away from students. The three new standards, negotiated by the union based on teacher feedback, builds on the first systemwide standards, which were negotiated and implemented at the beginning of the school year as a result of the paperwork provision in the 2014 contract. “Excessive paperwork is the biggest daily issue facing our members in schools,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “These standards give educators a tool to get relief if they can’t resolve the issue at the school level.” Read the expanded paperwork standards

    Now here is the entire agreement copied below.  If you can find any real relief or gains here, please point them out to us. It looks to these eyes like there are enough loopholes in these standards to drive a truck through.

    Paperwork Reduction Standards   

    I. General Standard   
    Educators and Related Service Providers shall not be required, whether on paper or electronically, to perform redundant, duplicative, unnecessary or unreasonable amounts of record keeping  concerning the performance of, plans for or evaluation of students, unless necessary in order to comply with federal or state  statutory or other legal requirements imposed on the DOE.   

    II. The Quality Review:   
    Schools are to present only existing curricular and existing school-level documents to contextualize the assessment of all Quality Indicators, especially 1.1, rather than create documents for the sole purpose of the Quality Review. Additionally, evidence can be verbal or observable in the classroom/school environment within existing school processes and will include a review of only those documents used in the normal course of teaching and learning. Reviewers and evaluators will consider the time of the year that the visit takes place and the work underway in each school when they review curricular and other school-level documents. 
    III. Special Education/D75   
    1. The DOE has discontinued the use of Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and CAP to record the provision of related services to K-12 students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), and will use SESIS encounter attendance as the primary system of record for related service provision, and BESIS for ESL provision.   
    2. The DOE will continue to engage UFT to prioritize how to streamline and enhance SESIS functionality to increase usability. The system enhancements will commence on a rolling basis as identified.   
    3. Each school or program shall continue to engage with all users of SESIS to provide adequate time and computer access to complete SESIS-related tasks. 
    IV. Data Systems and Attendance   
    1. Schools may adopt only one school-based system for tracking student attendance (not including SESIS) in addition to the DOE source attendance system, except when expressly required by law or expressly required to receive federal, state or private grant funds schools may have additional attendance systems as required.   
    2. The DOE will explore and pursue options to integrate attendance-taking systems with as many other tasks as possible as part of our commitment to the UFT to reduce teacher paperwork.   
    3. Educators and related service providers are not required to print collections or binders of documents that are available in electronic databases. Teachers are responsible for complying with reasonable requests for printing any documents for the purposes of parent interactions/communications and professional conversations with supervisors.   
    4. School staff will continue to be responsible, based on student need, for providing reports related to student achievement, report cards, a student’s IEP, student behavior, and the social/emotional development of individual students. Such requests will not be routinized, school-wide or solely for the purpose of creating a binder for the storage of information.  
    5. Educators and Related Service Providers shall be required to keep grades and/or session notes in one manner, unless necessary in order to comply with federal or state statutory or other legal requirements imposed on DOE. Staff required to use online or electronic systems shall be provided adequate computer access during the workday. This is in addition to the DoE source system until such time as systems can be aligned.  

    V. Parent Engagement, Other Professional Work, and Professional Development   
    Parent Engagement, Other Professional Work and Professional Development time shall not generate excessive or redundant paperwork or electronic work. This shall not preclude a principal from creating reasonable requirements requiring teachers to briefly track Parent Engagement time. (See appendix for sample).   
    Every spring, and at the request of either party, the Central Paperwork Committee shall review the standards to see if they need to be modified and/or updated. 
    Who sits on the District Paperwork Committee? What is its role? These District Committees will be made up of an equal number of representatives from the UFT and the DOE. The committee will include the District/High School Superintendent or his/her designee, and it will be primarily responsible for ensuring that the standards are met.  

    What happens when the school-level consultation does not bring a paperwork issue to resolution? Paperwork  concerns  will  be  addressed  at  the  school  level  first.  If  the  school  staff,  principal,  and superintendent cannot come to agreement, the issue will be raised at the district-level committee. Should  the  District  Committee  be  unable  to  resolve  the  issue,  as  per  the  system-wide  paperwork reduction standards, the central committee will hear the issue. The decision of the central committee will be enforced by the superintendent. 
    What are examples of tasks that may be performed during the Monday PD time and/or Tuesday parent engagement time? As per the Memorandum of Agreement, when Parent Engagement and/or Professional Development activities are not taking place, teachers may participate in other professional activities: collaborative planning, Lesson Study, Inquiry and review of student work,  work related to Measures of Student Learning (“MOSL”), IEP-related  work, work related to computer  systems/data entry; preparing  and grading student assessments; mentoring; as well as responsibilities related to teacher leader duties for all individuals in Teacher Leadership Positions.   
    What is a unit plan? The UFT and the DOE have agreed upon this format as the acceptable format for the unit plan.  

    What about the paperwork associated with Teacher Evaluation and Measures of Student Learning (MOSL)? These tasks are required. There will be one or two periods of time during the school year, based upon a school’s MOSL selections, which will be designated as “MOSL windows” for the entire school district by the DOE. During these MOSL windows, teachers shall be permitted to devote as much time as necessary during the entire Parent Engagement periods of time to perform MOSL-related work. Should teachers not have a need to do MOSL-related work during the MOSL window, they shall engage in either Parent Engagement or Other Professional work. 


    Thursday, May 21, 2015


    Our friend NYC Educator has continued our tradition of doing monthly Delegate Assembly reports. For those who are new to the blog, I am in exile since Jamaica High School, where I worked for 28 years, closed in 2014 so I cannot have a DA seat this year.  If  Absent Teacher Reserves (ATRs) want to get elected as a Delegate or Chapter Leader for the next three years, we have to run for office at the schools we were in on May 4 even though we have no right to a position in these schools for next year when our DA term would commence.  Real fair isn't it?

    Some of us put in a complaint on behalf of Absent Teacher Reserves to the UFT and when it was denied by the Executive Board, we appealed to the AFT.  There has been no response from AFT President Randi Weingarten after a week and a half.  We have to exhaust all internal remedies before we can go to the federal government for help.  Meanwhile, the DA marches on without the ATRs, including me.

    It is good to know that NYC Educator is at the DA reporting so I don't have to go sit in the visitors' section on the 19th floor.

    Judging from NYC Educator's minutes, nothing earth shattering happened this month.  Digging through his piece, here is my favorite part.  Below is a summary of President Michael Mulgrew's view of the new and soon to be spun improved evaluation system.  NYC Educator's notes on Mulgrew's report say this about the Matrix that the next rating system will be based on:

    "Matrix—Misunderstood. For first time, if MOSL (Measures of Student Learning, i.e. student test score results) effective or developing, teacher can’t be rated ineffective. Says it will work for us until we can change federal law. Says state believes admin in cahoots with teachers and that’s what they act on. Says UFT is smart and tactical, and that we wanted this out of hands of legislature, which wanted minimum number of ineffective ratings (an ineffective rating quota). Says student proficiency ought not to be equated with teacher ratings."

    The usual Mulgrew victory dance on how wonderful the UFT is doing and how the evaluation system is just great. Smart and tactical?  I might choose some different words.

    I just had my fourth Danielson observation in a month today (I don't think administration at Middle College HS, where I have been assigned for the year, knew the school had to evaluate me when I first came there).  So far they haven't been bad observations but I am not feeling the love for any of the new evaluation system.  It is a pain in the butt that does nothing to improve instruction.

    According what I am reading from the State Education Department via Perdido Street School, we might only have to have two ten minute observations next year. The person evaluating teachers from outside the school that the UFT wants to count for up to 25% of our rating can figure out we are effective in ten minutes. Another UFT victory? As long as the kids show growth on those deeply flawed exams that around 200,000 students opted out of, we'll be fine.

    We can see the whole mess coming apart.  All that is keeping ed deform together is the big bucks of the people who want to destroy public education.

    Thanks NYC Educator for sitting through each DA.  We appreciate your efforts

    Tuesday, May 19, 2015


    NYC Educator beat me to the punch, as he often does, by writing last week about the May 8, 2015 Ed Notes sponsored debate on whether or not it is worth it to run in UFT officer elections. Norm Scott argued against running in 2016 while Mike Schirtzer made the case in favor of the opposition being on the ballot.

    Mike Schirtzer emphatically makes his point while Norm Scott takes a breath at the Ed Notes Debate on the 2016 UFT Election.

    Norm spoke for a long, long, long time presenting evidence to show that it is impossible to win a UFT election so why not spend the time and energy building a group that can make a difference as opposed to running a futile election campaign, while sapping all of our strength, in what is essentially a rigged process. Let Mulgrew have his Saddam Hussein majority in an election that should be boycotted.  Norm went back about forty years analyzing the history of opposition futility in the UFT and he cited Einstein's definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. He also pointed out in painstakingly precise detail how the organizing that has taken place in the schools for the opposition since the 2013 election has left something to be desired.

    Mike responded in around five minutes and won the room (diner) by saying basically an opposition caucus has to run. He said whatever strength the opposition has is represented by how many members back us and we can see that exact number when votes are tabulated.  MORE has a base of over 5,000 UFT members who voted for us in 2013 (up from 2010 ICE-TJC numbers in every division) and we are 20,000 strong if we count those who voted against last year's contract. He added we have a great list of possible candidates and our strong social media presence is a new factor that can't be discounted.

    Questions and comments followed. In the end, one person sided with Norm, one abstained and roughly ten, including me, voted with Mike to run.

    It was a healthy exchange of ideas but the best part of the evening for me was passing the application sheets around and having almost everyone there fill out the form and pay the fee to join the new statewide opposition to Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus called Stronger Together.

    The next debate should be how we can win citywide, statewide and national union elections, not whether we should participate.

    For those who read this blog, we will not get anywhere until our readers take a real activist role to change our union.

    Monday, May 18, 2015


    The Buffalo Teachers Federation held their elections recently and long time incumbent Phil Rumore has won reelection.  On the surface this would appear to be a blow to those of us seeking change on the state union level (New York State United Teachers aka NYSUT) as Rumore supported the Michael Mulgrew backed Revive slate last year in the NYSUT election.  However, a deeper examination of these results reveals there are some positive signs up in Buffalo.

    First off, our fellow blogger Sean Crowley was elected to the union's Executive Committee.  Two other candidates from the opposition Renew BTF slate also won seats.  They are Kevin Gibson from Stronger Together and Teresa Leatherbarrow.

    Digging even deeper we find that the opposition slates came within 64 votes of forcing a run-off election between the top two presidential candidates.  Anyone think there are grounds to challenge? The statement below does not look like they are heading in that direction but one never knows.

    Meanwhile, out in Hawaii the teachers' union leadership lost the election and now they don't want to leave. The Executive Board voted not to certify the results.  Instead, they are calling for a do-over.

    The statement from Renew  BTF up in Buffalo comes from Facebook.

    Dear RenewBTF supporters,

    We owe so many thanks to all of you who supported us along the way! Congratulations to Renew candidates Kevin Gibson, Teresa Leatherbarrow & Sean Crowley who won executive seats in their respective categories!
     We know you will be beacons of change, energy, and progress for the membership! I'm very proud that Mel and I and Kristen were able to post second place in our races and that the campaign and election indicate a large group of people who want change! We hear you loud and clear and we will continue to advocate for all of you and for our schools and public education. I have called Phil and congratulated him -- but had to leave a voice message -- I am looking forward to speaking with him in person -- and have said we look forward to working together with him as we have done in the past for what is best for the membership and for a strong union.
     RenewBTF will continue with its progressive mission and we will work tirelessly to effect change and to have impact at BTF, District, Board of Education, and NYSED levels. 48 percent of the electorate in this election supported the challenging tickets -- this is remarkable and it is a herald for change. We are as determined as ever to be strong advocates for members. We remain organized, vocal, and activated, and we are positive and looking up for BTF's future!

    With much gratitude,

    Pat Foster, Mel Holden, Kevin Gibson & Kristen Mendoza
    -- We, as well as all of you who have given so much in support -- are RenewBTF

    Saturday, May 16, 2015


    The financial analysts at the city's Independent Budget Office (IBO) have released their latest budget forecast for the city and once again the financial outlook is solid for as far as the fiscal watchdogs can see. These are not wildly optimistic forecasters by nature; they tend to be quite conservative in their projections.

    Some highlights of the May 15, 2015 report:

    • IBO projects the city will end the current fiscal year with a surplus of just over $3 billion, nearly identical to the amount expected by the de Blasio Administration.
    • Economic & Tax Revenue Forecast. Our estimate of a $685 million surplus for 2016, as well as substantially smaller shortfalls than projected by the de Blasio Administration for the ensuing years of the financial plan, is largely a reflection of IBO’s forecast of higher tax revenues. IBO’s projection for tax revenues is driven by our economic forecast, which has dimmed slightly since our forecast in March but still remains brighter than the de Blasio Administration’s forecast.
    • ...IBO projects that tax revenues will grow from $50.4 billion this fiscal year to $59.4 billion in 2019, an average annual growth rate of 4.2 percent.
    • —the city’s fiscal outlook remains solid.

    Is that cupboard still bare as President Michael Mulgrew claimed it was in 2014 when he settled for a municipal labor pattern setting substandard nine year contract?

    We agree with the IBO that there are some risks and an economic downturn could change the budget picture but if the UFT had not settled on a nine year contract stretching from 2009-2018, we would be in a much stronger negotiating position today as the city is flush with cash by any standard. The fact that the city's financial and media elite don't harp on the city's positive balance sheet just shows how they want to portray Mayor Bill de Blasio as a reckless free spending liberal when in reality it looks like he is more stingy than Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

    I just looked at the latest salary increase on my pay stub (1% contractual raise and the first 2% of the 8% other city workers received from 2008-2010) but our family's city water bill also increased today and so has our property tax bill so we get to give a chunk of the money right back.

    New York City teachers are now a measly 5% ahead of where we were back in May of 2008.  Add to this unknown healthcare savings that are in the contract and all of the demands that have been added to our job that the union has not successfully fought (for example constant demoralizing Danielson observations), and it is no wonder that people are leaving the system as fast as they can.

    I become very frustrated when I see the city's financial outlook continues to brighten, not because I wish the city I live in financial harm, but because I know full well that if given a chance, the opposition to Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus with the strong backing of the membership could have done much better at negotiating a contract. City workers deserve a fair share of the pie when the city is doing well.

    When our contract finally does end in 2018, the city will likely be ready to cry poverty again and our union leaders will probably be out there echoing the gloom and doom predictions.

    Friday, May 15, 2015


    Since we are in the middle of campaign season for Chapter Leader and Delegate elections, some teachers who are running for office are looking to get their views to the voters. A question has been raised about whether candidates can use teacher mailboxes to distribute campaign literature. The answer is yes.

    If a current chapter leader or principal gives someone trouble about using the mailboxes, just quote the Harriet Baizerman Step 3 grievance decision from back in 1974 as precedent.

    "The evidence presented at Step 3 also indicates that representatives of the U.F.T. had access to teachers' letter boxes to distribute material without obtaining prior approval of the principal.  The principal's policy of prohibiting the grievant from placing the aforementioned communication from a critical group within the U.F.T. in teachers' letter boxes without his prior approval constitutes discrimination against her for participating in...the activities of any employee organization in violation of Article II of the Agreement (contract), and had the effect of favoring one faction within the U.F.T. over another.  By requiring such prior approval the principal is not allowing grievant to exercise the same right to participate in the activities of her union as are the supporters of the Union and its leadership.

    This conclusion is in accord with the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in N.L.R.B v. Magnavox Co.  which affirmed the right of employees to distribute literature during non-working time and in non-working areas on matters affecting the nature of their union representation on options open to employees concerning such representation whether or not their views coincide with those of the recognized bargaining agent.  As a representative of a critical group within the U.F.T., the grievant should be accorded the same right of access to teachers' letter boxes as that enjoyed by supporters or representatives of the U.F.T.

    We have a Chancellors' decision and a US Supreme Court decision on our side.  There is also a memo from the Chancellor's Office from 2001 that affirms this right during campaigns for union offices. 

    In other news if someone is on a leave, tell them today (May 15) is the deadline to notify the DOE's Chief Executive Officer of the Division of Human Resources of either their intention to return to work in the fall or to apply to extend the leave.  Don't let anyone on an Article 16E leave let this go or like ATRs who miss two interviews, they will have voluntarily resigned.

    Tuesday, May 12, 2015


    For those keeping score, Absent Teacher Reserves-Leave Replacement Teachers and Temporary Provisional Teachers have appealed last week's decision of the UFT Executive Board to deny us equal voting rights to the American Federation of Teachers.

    Let's see if ATRs get any justice at the AFT since we are only able to vote and run for elected office for the highest policy-making body of the UFT, the Delegate Assembly, in the schools we happen to be passing through on May 4, 2015 and might know very little about or have moved on from when chapter elections actually take place.

    We'll see how President Randi Weingarten responds.  A copy of the appeal is below.

    ATR's please join us in fighting for union rights.

    May 12, 2015

    Dear President Weingarten,

    As per procedures set forth in Article VI, Section 14.(b) of the Constitution of the American Federation of Teachers, we are asking for you to  present to the the Executive Council an appeal of the Spring 2015 Chapter Elections for the United Federation of Teachers.  Our pre-election complaint concerning these elections (please see attached) was denied on Monday, May 4, 2015 by a majority of the UFT Executive Board.

    The UFT is denying a certain class of teachers called Absent Teacher Reserves-Leave Replacement Teachers-Temporary Provisional Teachers equal rights to have representatives of our own choosing at the highest policy making body in the UFT: the Delegate Assembly.

    Article VI, Section 14.(b) of the AFT Constitution states:
    “The executive council may, by a two-thirds vote, authorize the president to appoint a committee to investigate a local or state federation where an election appears to have been conducted in violation of the local or state federation constitution, the AFT Constitution or applicable federal law.”

    The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) in Title I. Bill of rights of union members in Sec. 101 (a)(1) Equal rights states:
    "Every member of a labor organization shall have equal rights and privileges within such organization to nominate candidates, to vote in elections or referendums of the labor organization," rights we are being deprived of because we belong to no UFT Chapter.

    We are being denied equal voting rights because we hold no regular position in a school since Absent Teacher Reserves (ATRs) rotate from school to school on a weekly, biweekly, monthly, term-to-term or yearly basis.  Some ATRs will not be working at the same school when Chapter Elections take place as the school they were assigned to on May 4, 2015. The UFT arbitrarily decided that the school ATRs were assigned to on May 4 would be their voting school. Since Chapter Elections can take place at any point in May or June and ATRs can be rotated from school to school on a weekly basis and there is no provision for absentee balloting, some ATRS will be disenfranchised.

    Federal Office of Labor Management Standards regulations also state:
    “Every member in good standing is eligible to be a candidate and to hold office subject to reasonable qualifications in the union’s constitution and bylaws that are uniformly imposed.”

    It is not a reasonable qualification for an Absent Teacher Reserve, Leave Replacement Teacher or Temporary Provisional Teacher to have to run for office in schools they have no right to a position in when the term of office would begin this summer.  UFT policy has traditionally been to remove people from elected office when they are no longer a member of a particular chapter. In addition, while it is possible, it is highly impractical to have members represent schools they are no longer working at. The procedures put into effect by the UFT in 2015 put ATRs Leave Replacement and Temporary Provisional teachers at a huge competitive disadvantage in seeking union office for the Delegate Assembly, the highest policy-making body in the UFT.

    In essence ATRs have de jure rights on paper that in reality are inferior to the rights our brothers and sisters who are permanently assigned to schools have.

    A pre-election complaint (see attached) was filed with the United Federation of Teachers on April 13, 2015 alleging several violations of the Labor-Management-Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA).

    The UFT responded by appointing Leroy Barr, the UFT Staff Director-Assistant Secretary to make a report on the matter.  Mr. Barr had previously spoken on the record at the Delegate Assembly against Absent Teacher Reserves having equal rights to vote and serve in union office.  Mr. Barr had also met with one of us on this issue in November and clearly was not sympathetic to the cause of ATR voting rights.  

    Mr. Barr had a conflict of interest.  His lack of objectivity precluded us from having a fair hearing at the UFT Executive Board.  Instead, a biased hearing was held on May 4, 2015, where those of us who filed the election complaint were not permitted to respond to Mr. Barr’s report.

    We are now appealing to the AFT, looking for full election rights for Absent Teacher Reserves-Leave Replacement-Temporary Provisional teachers. We believe that we are entitled to our own UFT chapter to represent our unique interests. We trust we will be hearing from you expeditiously within the next few days, as elections are now underway.


    James Eterno
    Francesco Portelos,
    Al Zucker
    August Leppelmeier
    Absent Teacher Reserves-Leave Replacement Teachers

    C: Monica Mohan
    ICEUFT Blog

    Sunday, May 10, 2015


    Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last Thursday that the city's spending plan for fiscal year 2016 would include over $4 billion in reserves.  He also once again pointed out that income taxes were coming in ahead of forecasts and he even acknowledged that the city economy is in a recovery.

    De Blasio stated, "The economy continues to grow, with New York City adding 120,000 private sector jobs in 2014 for a record 3.5% growth."

    Remember these little tidbits of information fellow UFT members as we examine our next pay stub that will include a 1% increase while we also finally will see the first 2% of the 8% salary increases that most other city employees received back from 2008-2010.  We will not have the money from those years fully added to our checks until 2018.  The back pay from 2009-2011 will be given in lump sums in October of this year, then in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

    Furthermore, the Mayor in his budget presentation showed how city workers will soon be contributing healthcare savings to the city.

    I keep recalling last year when UFT President Michael Mulgrew claimed the city's cupboard was empty as he sold us his substandard contract. The evidence continues to mount that the president was more than a little wrong.

    Thursday, May 07, 2015


    ICE and the new statewide opposition to Unity Caucus called Stronger Together have had a close relationship since Stronger Together was formed in 2014.

    We officially endorsed ST last year.  Here is our statement in full from September:

    ICE fully supports the nascent Statewide NYSUT Caucus called Stronger Together.  Stronger Together is challenging Unity in NYSUT.  ICE members worked with Stronger Together during the recent NYSUT election and the bond has continued after the votes were tallied.  There is a great feeling about the potential the caucus has and we are happy to be a part of it.

    Stronger Together established itself with a great first NYSUT Representative Assembly last weekend where they had support from roughly half the Delegates.  They were urging more democracy at the statewide union level and backing parents who are opting their children out of state standardized tests.

    We think ST caucus is the real deal and is the best bet to seriously challenge the bureaucratic top-down stale leadership of Michael Mulgrew and NYSUT President Karen Magee's Unity Caucus.

    ST is opening up to rank and file membership unlike Unity which only accepts Representative Assembly Delegates at the state level and is a closed, invitation only group in the UFT.

    I urge everyone to join ST.  Below is the email from the caucus that opens up membership.

    Dear ST Caucus Members,

    We were thrilled with the support the caucus received at the NYSUT RA in Buffalo.  Over 500 delegates joined, 145 of which were local presidents.  Our inaugural caucus meeting was standing room only with incredible enthusiasm and support for our resolutions and democratic reform within NYSUT.  Our bylaws and a slate of caucus officers were approved.

    While our constitutional amendment proposals were defeated, we were able to get the RA House of Delegates to pass three resolutions that address the flawed nature of the standardized tests in New York State.  The resounding voices of the Delegates at the NYSUT RA in favor of these issues will now compel NYSUT leadership to do the right thing for New York's students and teachers by supporting the opt out movement!

    As we move forward, we will be revising the voting amendments dealing with democratic reform within NYSUT for the RA next year. Please feel free to reach out to caucus officers regarding any concerns you might have as the year progresses. We truly want rank and file members to utilize this avenue because it will help focus our positions and determine our resolutions for the next RA. 

    ST Caucus is open to any NYSUT Member in good standing, delegates and non delegates alike.  Please encourage every member in your local to join--a membership form can be found here.  T-Shirts in sizes M,L,XL,2X and 3X are still available for a $20 donation here.  We will continue to keep you informed of new developments.  In the meantime, please share information about the caucus with your local and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

    In Solidarity,

    Chair: Beth Dimino—President Port Jefferson Station Teachers' Association
    Treasurer: Beth Chetney—President Baldwinsville Teachers’ Association
    Secretary: Laura Spencer—President Smithtown Teachers’ Association
    Membership Chair: Michele Bushey—PAC, Saranac Teachers’ Association 

    Vice-Chairs representing NYS by region 
    1)   Central NY/Southern Tier: Angelee Hargreaves—President Port Byron Teachers’ Association
    2)   Capital District: Megan DeLaRosa—President Shenendehowa Teachers’ Association
    3)   North Country: Nate Hathaway—President Malone Federation of Teachers
    4)   Tarrytown/Mid-Hudson: Mike Lillis—President Lakeland Federation of Teachers
    5)   Nassau/Suffolk: Kevin Coyne—President Brentwood Teachers’ Association
    6)   NYC:  Mike Schirtzer—UFT Delegate; MORE CAUCUS
    7)   Western NY (Buffalo):  Joe Karb—President Springville Faculty Association
    8)   Western NY (Rochester): Orlando Benzan—President Brockport Teachers’ Association

    Tuesday, May 05, 2015


    A fairly strong contingent of Absent Teacher Reserves and our supporters were at the UFT Executive Board last night.  I was given the honor to represent the ATRs and Leave Replacement Teachers as we made the case for having a UFT Chapter with representatives of our own choosing.

    Leroy Barr and lawyer Adam Ross represented the UFT and they made what all in the back considered to be a case that was laughable at best and truly pathetic at worst.  They claimed that ATRs have an equal chance of winning elections at schools that some of us just got to today. In addition, when we are moved to the next school, they both said with a straight face that we can still be the Chapter Leader for the school we are just passing through this May.  The audience of ATRs and our friends just chuckled and had to be told to be quiet.

    In the end a couple, or maybe it was a few, New Action people voted with the ATRs while the remainder of the New Action representatives and the Unity rubber stampers all voted with Barr and Ross against the ATRs having equal voting rights or didn't vote at all.

    As one observer put it: ATRs have democratic rights on paper but not in reality.

    I would like to head to the AFT for an appeal. Is anybody with me?

    UPDATE: New Action co-chair Jonathan Halabi emailed me tonight saying that the New Action representatives voted four with us and one abstention.  For the record, I only saw two hands go up to support our protest.  One was my old friend Doug Haynes, who is a fine human being, and the other was the woman sitting next to him. The other two apparently voiced their no vote rather than show us who they were.  Nobody called out for an abstention which is standard procedure. Jonathan claims he emails the tallies in. I guess NAC gets do-overs.

    Halabi and the other NAC Co-chair Michael Shulman seemed lukewarm at best in their speeches last night. Halabi called for ATR liaisons in the borough offices.  That would not solve our legal problem at all but in the interest of fairness, I am responding on the blog to what he put here in comments and sent in email.

      Executive Board Appeal
    May 4, 2015 

    My name is James Eterno; I am a Temporary Leave Replacement Teacher at Middle College High School in Queens but with no permanent assignment.

    I’m here tonight because there are many union members who happen to be Absent Teacher Reserves, Leave Replacement Teachers or Temporary Provisional Teachers have no chapter and therefore are being denied fundamental democratic union rights that are guaranteed in federal labor law. 

    Pretend you are on a business trip to Hawaii for a month or even a little longer.  Do you think you should have a right to vote for who the governor of Hawaii should be since you happened to be there on Election Day? 

    Do you think you should be eligible to run for governor of Hawaii because you happened to be in the state on Election Day? 

    Both of these situations are completely ridiculous.  But this is basically the kind of chapter election system for ATRs the leadership of this union proposed and this Executive Board recently approved in the Chapter Election Guide and Bylaws for this spring’s elections. 

    ATRS and Leave Replacement Teachers vote at the school we are just passing through in May even if the school has an election in June and we are no longer there. That violates the federal law. 
    ATRs, Leave Replacement Teachers and Temporary Provisional Teachers are supposed to run for chapter leader or delegate from those same schools we are just passing through this May. This is absurd and also flies in the face of the federal law. 

    Since the Delegate Assembly is the highest policy-making body in the union, it must be elected.  This is what the Landrum Griffin Federal Regulations say concerning eligibility to be candidates and to hold union office: 

    Every member in good standing is eligible to be a candidate and to hold office subject to reasonable qualifications in the union’s constitution and bylaws that are uniformly imposed. 
    Is it a reasonable qualification that if I want to serve as a delegate or chapter leader, I have to run for office in a school where I have absolutely no right to a job in that school when my term of office would begin in July? Past union policy has been that once a person is removed permanently from a school they are no longer the chapter leader, particularly after 3020a cases are settled and a person becomes an ATR.  That is why Mr. Portelos is no longer chapter leader at his school.   

    Is there now a change in policy where people can serve as chapter leader if they no longer are in a school? That might help to stop vindictive principal excessing of our chapter leaders but if that is the new policy, I would like to know why Mr. Portelos is not chapter leader at his former school and why he can’t run again there 

    The whole policy of us voting in schools we are just passing through makes a mockery of democracy.  Remember, federal regulations say qualifications have to be reasonable and uniformly imposed.  Clearly the regular members of a chapter have an automatic advantage over ATRs in chapter elections.  That is not reasonable and certainly not a uniformly imposed regulation. 

    In the past we were always told that ATRs can’t get our own chapter because we don’t want to institutionalize and thus accept what is a temporary position.  This argument was always weak but now it is completely mistaken because the UFT embedded a whole Section 16 into the contract that concerns ATRS. We have weaker due process rights; we are compelled to go on interviews, some for jobs which don’t exist and we are forced to resign if we happen to not check our emails and miss two interviews.  Due process be damned for ATRS.  Some even can be denied interviews by the Chancellor.  (Now with out of time schools coming, a new category is being created that looks like year to year ATRs.)  We are embedded. There is even a temporary group of teachers that was recently assigned to a chapter; Peer Validators. They exist in the contract for only two years and yet they were sent to the teachers assigned chapter.  Only ATRs are constantly told no. 

    ATRS/Leave Replacement and Temporary Provisional teachers have been asking for almost a decade for our own chapter with a chapter leader and delegates to deal with our unique status.  I don’t know too many executive board members who have walked in our shoes. Functional chapters such as the guidance counselors use the chapter leader in the building they are at and then can call on their own elected central guidance chapter leader and delegates when needed for unique guidance issues.  Several categories of teachers including teachers assigned and teachers of the home-bound have their own chapter leader too.  If you continue to insist the temporary nature of the position is a problem, we have a solution:  We can put in the bylaws that we will dissolve the ATR chapter if all of the temporary provisional, leave replacement and atr teachers are placed. We can even make it one of our goals. The citywide Ed Evaluator chapter was dissolved.  We too can be dissolved if some sanity returns to the Board of ed and we no longer exist.

    As for this evening, without wanting to show any disrespect, I was told that Leroy Barr was chosen to make the report on our election complaint.  Leroy spoke passionately against an ATR chapter in October at the DA and he rejected my arguments in November when we met for our equal voting rights. His lack of objectivity on this subject presents a conflict of interest. 

    I would like to close by asking an important question: If this body rejects our very reasonable request for fair voting rights and equal rights to serve in office for ATRS, Leave Replacement Teachers and Temporary Provisional teachers, then we will go up the ladder to the AFT who we have already contacted and then to the Department of Labor who I have spoken to and they are interested in our case. Some, not me, are going to go to PERB too.  The UFT is going to waste a large amount of time, money and effort fighting against its own members because we want to vote and serve in office in the same way as everybody else. Ten or twenty delegates and a chapter leader won’t make much of a dent in any caucus majority at the DA so why is anyone afraid of us?  We want to have the same voting rights and rights to hold office as all other UFT members. Save that money, time and effort by giving us fair democratic rights.  Create a chapter for us tonight.