Monday, June 29, 2015


UFT Secretary Emil Pietromonaco has written a response to the Absent Teacher Reserve AFT election complaint.  If anyone wants to read the entire letter, just click here.

For those who do not wish to read the entire document, the UFT is claiming ATRs are being provided with rights that adhere to federal labor law because we are permitted to vote and run for Chapter Leader and Delegate in schools we were in on May 4, 2015.  As we said in our election complaint, rights on paper are not necessarily rights in reality.

Some of the main points from Emil are below.

On my election as a Delegate at Middle College High School:
While assigned Middle College HS, Mr. Eterno has the same function as any other teacher assigned to the school. Specifically, I am informed that he is currently a member of the social studies department. Accordingly, the same teachers' collective bargaining agreement that applies to all other teachers at Middle College HS (and the rest of the City School District) applies to him as well.
Most importantly, Mr. Eterno ran for the position of delegate from Middle College HS and was elected. Despite his speculation and skepticism in the instant Challenge, the UFT has made clear that if Mr. Eterno does not return to Middle College HS next school year, he will keep this delegate position.

Can I properly represent Middle College High School if I am not returned there in the fall?  According to Emil:
Finally, the hypothetical future issues Mr. Eterno posits may arise should he be moved to another school are speculative at best.

Can anyone stay on as a representative if we are in a different school:
As discussed above, the UFT has made it clear that anyone elected can continue to serve, even if assigned to a different school. This is not to say, of course, that an ATR who accepts a position on the table of organization of another school, who is disciplined, who ceases to be a member, or who is otherwise ineligible to serve may continue to serve as chapter leader or delegate.

So we only stay in office if we continue as rotating ATRs or are returned to the school we were elected from. We are being encouraged to stay as rotating ATRs even though Emil later claims the union is trying to minimize the number of ATRs (see below).

On equitable treatment for ATRs, Emil states:
Moreover, Mr. Etemo does not suggest that some other date or other school would be more appropriate. (I did make other suggestions) Rather, he seems to take issue with school-based chapters either all or with respect to ATRs. In that regard, he does not seek to have ATRs treated the same as others, but rather he seeks to have them treated differently. That, the UFT cannot do. Specifically, 20 U.S.C. S 481 (e) provides that "qualifications" for "eligibility to be a candidate and to hold office" must be "uniformly imposed."

ATRs have to be treated the same until the UFT wants to treat us differently.

On ATRs not being allowed to vote if they were moved on from the school they were assigned to on May 4, 2015:
The report (from Leroy Barr to the UFT Executive Board) further explained that each chapter was required to arrange for a time when staff outside the building could come and vote, thus resolving the concerns regarding absentee ballots. Indeed, the solution to this question can be as simple as allowing voting to occur past the end of school on a particular day to allow teachers not on campus time to travel to the school and vote.

Forget the absurdity of ATRs being forced to vote in schools we were just passing through on May 4, was anyone told about the ability to travel back to a school they were no longer assigned to in order to vote?

On the legality of ATRs having to vote in the school they were assigned to on May 4, 2015:
Similarly, I am advised that, even if it were determined that the LMRDA does apply, there would be no violation of election provisions of Title IV of the LMRDA. In Wirtz v. Hotel Motel & Club Emp. Union, Local 6, 391 U.S. 492, 496 (1968), the U.S. Supreme Court explained that this provision "requires adequate safeguards to insure a fair election; guarantees a reasonable opportunity for the nomination of candidates, the right to vote, and the right of every member in good standing to be a candidate and to hold office subject to reasonable qualifications uniformly imposed." As discussed above and further explained below, this is precisely what the Bylaws accomplish.

Accordingly, the Bylaws rules are not only in line with the law, but they are reasonable and fair.

Reasonable and fair? That is more than debatable.

Are we at a huge competitive disadvantage in elections as ATRs? Not according to Emil:
Yet, some staff may view an ATR being outside the building and thus not directly subordinate to the principal as a benefit in more zealously representing the interests of staff.

As for the very important issue of the creation of an ATR Functional Chapter:
Indeed, the creation of an ATR functional chapter would serve to undercut the goal of assuring proper treatment for ATRs. It is the UFT's position that, when assigned to a school, an ATR should serve the same function as any other person assigned to the school in that title. To create a functional chapter for ATRs would be contrary to this position as it would suggest that an ATR teacher, for example, does not and should not serve the same "function" as a teacher on the school' s table of organization.

If we had an ATR Chapter, it would undercut the goal of assuring proper treatment of ATRs.  Is he serious? We don't serve the same function as a teacher on the school's Table of Organization. Nor do we have the same rights. He goes on:
Likewise, it is the UFT's goal to minimize the number of members without permanent placements and to make the ATR position a temporary one until a permanent position is obtained. To this end, in the most recent MOA, the UFT pressed for — and obtained — contractual provisions that "to the greatest extent reasonably possible" requires the DOE to arrange for interviews of ATRs. The goal of reducing the number of ATRs and making it a short-term assignment is inconsistent with the notion that members who are ATRs somehow need a functional chapter to advance their interests.

How many ATRs have been temporary for almost a decade? The UFT, which created the ATR problem with the 2005 contract, has done very little, if anything, to help us get placed.

As stated previously, anybody who wants to read the whole letter, just click here.

Sunday, June 28, 2015


As predictable as the sun rising in the east, you can pretty much guarantee sunny reactions from United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew and New York State United Teachers President Karen Magee to anything coming out of an Albany legislative session. Hence, there was no surprise last week as Albany ended the legislative session with a massive bill termed the "Big Ugly" and it was followed by Mulgrew and NYSUT putting on the rose colored glasses on with their reactions.

The "Big Ugly" set public education back a little further by giving $250 million to private schools and expanding charter schools only two months after the disastrous April budget law that will make student test scores count for 50% of teacher evaluations was passed into law.  We are being slowly destroyed in Albany and the UFT-NYSUT leaders want to look at the positive.

However, not all teacher union leaders are trying to spin our latest Albany defeats into victory.  Last night I read a letter to NYSUT President Karen Magee from the leader of the Uniondale Teachers - Local 3070, Paul Marconi, calling for the unions to boycott the new Annual Professional Performance Review labor negotiations.  In April when the new evaluation law was passed, the ICE-UFT Blog asked for the unions to contemplate just saying no to this awful piece of legislation by refusing to negotiate on the local portions.  It is great to see a union president now pushing for real union action.

The entire letter from Paul Marconi to NYSUT President Karen Magee, that Beth Dimino posted on Facebook, is printed below.

Thank you Paul for writing this letter and asking to have it posted.

Dear Karen,

Let's call it as it is.  We've been jerked around long enough.

Governor Cuomo's goal is dismantle Public Schools, break the Labor Unions, and Privatize Education.

APPR is nothing more than a poorly disguised tool by the Governor to "Get Teachers" ----to fire Teachers.  The NYS Teacher of the Year received an "Ineffective" Rating.  The Sword of Damocles dangles over all of our heads.

The Legislature has let us down.

the Regents have let us down.


It's time to act -------- BOYCOTT APPR.

Please call for all of NYSUT to do so NOW!  And, remind Mike Mulgrew and the UFT that "THEY ARE PART OF NYSUT".  Should they choose not to follow the NYSUT President's call to Opt Out of APPR, as they failed to suport the NYSUT President's call to Opt Out of Testing, then they should separate from NYSUT ---------NO EXCUSES.  We will all suffer pain by Opting Out of APPR ------but that is temporary; what is being done to us is permanent.

The Governor and the Legilsture are giving $250 million to Private Religious Schools, yet our Public Schools are not fully funded AND WE STILL HAVE A GAP ELIMINATION ADJUSTMENT (GEA). WHO IS HE KIDDING???

We haven't had a Budget Gap for more than two years; yet we still have a Gap Elimination Adjustment.  And, magically, the Governor finds $250 million for Private Religious Schools???

And the 2% Tax Cap will continue for 4 more years.  As inflation grows, what will happen when inflation hits 3%, 4%, 5% and more???? with a 2% Tax Cap in place???  It's impossible to do---- and the Governor knows that, and is counting on it to show that Public Schools have failed.  The noose is tightening, the box is shrinking around us, the air is being squeezed out of us.  

Look at the big picture--We are getting picked apart piece by piece.  Education will no longer be a Profession; Unions will be dissolved; the Labor Movement will be set back decades.




And when, and if, the Governor withholds "additional State Aid" --- watch the Parents scream, the Regents scream, the Legislators scream ----JUST IN TIME FOR THE NOVEMBER 2016 ELECTIONS!  Governor Cuomo is a BULLY. Punch the BULLY in the nose.  That's how you deal with Bullies.


Paul Marconi


Uniondale Teachers - Local 3070

cc: LIPC

Friday, June 26, 2015


The graduation for Middle College High School at Laguardia Community College was a very moving ceremony that I attended yesterday.

The best parts for me were to be able to congratulate graduates who I came to know well in the short eight months I spent at the school as an Absent Teacher Reserve and then Leave Replacement Teacher and also watching as the school gave awards to the safety agents for the work they do to keep the school safe. In twenty nine years of teaching, I can't recall ever having witnessed safety agents being honored by a school until yesterday.

Middle College HS at Laguardia CC Teachers, Guidance & Administration

I hope I am back at MCHS next year.

Have a great summer everyone.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Here are the essentials on education from Diane Ravitch that are included in the latest deal up in Albany that ends the legislative session:

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the legislative leaders reached a budget deal that included major education issues.

The budget does not include the"education tax credit" for private and religious schools (vouchers), but does include $250 million for religious schools.  That should satisfy Mr. Cuomo's friends in the religious communities whom he courted.

The deal includes 180 new charter schools, 50 in New York City and 130 outside the city.  That should please the hedge fund managers who gave millions to the Governor's re-election campaign, while providing Eva Moskowitz plenty of room to grow her chain.

The deal extends mayoral control in NYC for only one year, despite Mayor Bill de Blasio's request to make it permanent. That should remind the Mayor who is in charge.

The deal retains the tax cap on school districts.  Regardless of their needs, they won't be able to raise property taxes by more than 2% unless they are able to win 60% approval by voters.  It may be undemocratic, but it is popular, especially among GOP legislators.

How long until UFT President Michael Mulgrew and/or NYSUT President Karen Magee declare victory since we fought off vouchers?

As for rent regulations, they will continue but there is not much positive to report here either as Gothamist reports:

The title of their piece says it all, "Cuomo to NYC Renters: Drop Dead"

It then states:

New York City loses tens of thousands of affordable apartments each year to deregulation.  Under the "framework" of an agreement to extend rent laws announced today (Tuesday) by Governor Cuomo and the two leaders of the state legislature, the city will keep on losing them.

They continue:

Earlier this month, the Assembly passed a bill that would repeal the state's vacancy decontrol law, which allows landlords to jack up the rent on regulated apartments as soon as a tenant leaves and perpetuates a system of inequality.

That change was eliminated.

Instead, the leaders promised to do what they did in 2011: modestly increase the rent at which a rent-regulated apartment could be deregulated, from $2,500 to $2,700.

How are those COPE contributions doing with those politicians up there in Albany?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


The UFT negotiated for an increase in Teacher's Choice money from the City Council for next year. This is positive news; we will get around $125 per teacher for supplies.  While this is a gain, it is still well below the $260 level that was allocated for Teacher's Choice just a few short years back. Furthermore, when the city is flush with cash and the state isn't doing too badly either, where was the push by the union for something really significant?

How about lowering class sizes?   I don't think pushing Mayor de Blasio, the City Council and Chancellor Farina to significantly lower class size is even a UFT priority.

Let us not forget that this is actually part of our contract. Notice below how Article 8Ld) calls for a program for reduction of class size in all grades and divisions.  The Department of Education and UFT found money for other parts of Article 8L such as the ill fated school wide merit pay program and, to be fair, the the five year salary differential.  However, why has lower class size been forgotten?   Wasn't the Campaign for Fiscal Equity suit settled years ago?  Wasn't it Mayor Bloomberg who opposed lowering class sizes, not Mayor de Blasio?

Article 8L
Labor/Management Committee On Long Term Reforms With regard to the long term recommendations the 2005 Fact Finders made subject to adequate CFE funding, the parties shall establish a Labor Management Committee to discuss the following issues: a) bonuses, including housing bonuses, for shortage license areas; b) a pilot project for school-wide based performance bonuses for sustained growth in student achievement; c) salary differentials at the MA-5 through MA-7 levels; and d) a program for the reduction of class size in all grades and divisions. If the parties agree on the terms of any or all of these issues, they may be implemented by the Board using whatever funds may be identified. 

The UFT just does not play offense very well.  I think it is one of the main reasons we are in such a difficult situation as a profession these days.

Anyway, here is the UFT's latest victory statement on Teacher's Choice:

We won a 62% increase in funding for Teacher's Choice in the final city budget that the mayor and the City Council announced late last night. Teachers should receive about $125 in the coming school year, up from $77 this year. Thanks to everyone who participated in the social media and lobbying blitz for this vital program!

Monday, June 22, 2015


The blogger Chaz is reporting on what we are perceiving as a spike in unsatisfactory ratings for Absent Teacher Reserves who rotate from school to school on a weekly or monthly basis.

We can confirm based on people getting in touch with us that ATR unsatisfactory ratings are being doled out based on one or two trivial matters in schools. In the past these minor incidents may have not even risen to the level of someone receiving a disciplinary letter for file.

We will need some kind of coordinated response now to protect ourselves as it appears we are under attack and our union seems to be looking the other way.

The Department of Education refuses place ATRs in permanent positions and principals are reluctant to hire ATRs die to budgetary restrictions since most of us are senior teachers. Principals also reject us since we are usually veteran teachers who would go to the top of the school's seniority list which would leave junior teachers at risk of being placed in excess. We are thought of, usually wrongfully, as bad teachers because many of us are coming from closing schools.

Chancellor Carmen Farina has not exactly been teacher friendly or particularly ATR friendly since taking over in 2014.  It looks like going after ATRs for basically nothing is her policy to try to get rid of as many of us as she can.

Friday, June 19, 2015


Will the growing high stakes testing rebellion now move up the grade ladder to the high schools in New York State? In the past the answer seemed to be no simply because passing the Regents exams is a high school graduation requirement for most pupils so opting out was not a realistic option.

However, the world may have changed yesterday as children are being used as live experiments for the new high stakes Common Core Regents exams. The algebra test appears to have been an exam that in part was not based on what was taught in the class.

Read some of the reaction at the Diane Ravitch blog or here.

Here is a sample reaction from New York parent Marci Rappoport:

My daughter took the CC Algebra regents exam today. She said two ofher friends ran out of the test crying and another one(a very smart girl) wrote on the last question, "I have no idea how to answer this because we never learned it."  My daughter said some of the questions made no sense but she attempted every one because she didn't want to "look dumb" even though this test made her feel dumb.  What are we doing to our kids?"

A comment at the Ravitch blog noted that the New York State Education Department will probably weasel out of this by setting the cut score for a passing grade so low so the passing percentages will equal those of the old tests.  Will this be sufficient to stop the student/parent revolt?  Time will tell.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


New York State United Teachers has issued a statement (see below) in reaction to the New York State Board of Regents voting 11-6 to approve rules for another new evaluation system for New York State teachers and principals.

For New York City, this will make it three straight years where we are working under a different evaluation system unless we get a waiver.

It is likely the UFT will work out local details on implementation with their buddy Chancellor Carmen Farina in a timely manner.  When they reach agreement on whatever details are left for negotiation, you can bet UFT President Michael Mulgrew will say how we negotiated a set of local rules that are a yet another UFT triumph.

At least NYSUT didn't call the new system a victory.  I guess that is progress for our state union. I haven't seen any reaction from President Mulgrew yet.

Beth Dimno from NYSUT opposition caucus Stronger Together wants NYSUT President Karen Magee to take a much tougher position. Below is the NYSUT press release followed by Beth's reaction on Facebook.

NYSUT statement on SED regulations

Source: NYSUT Media Relations

ALBANY, N.Y. June 15, 2015 — New York State United Teachers today issued the following statement on State Education Department regulations adopted today by the Board of Regents:

“In concert with parents, we will not rest until New York state education policy supports tests and evaluations that are good for students and fair to teachers. We will continue to press the Regents and the Legislature to remedy the ‘test-and-punish’ agenda pushed by Gov. Cuomo to the detriment of students. While today’s Regents discussion created a small amount of necessary breathing room for districts, New York nonetheless is still moving to make tests count before making them work. The Regents who voted for the State Education Department’s narrow interpretation of the governor’s plan did not go far enough to heed the voices of hundreds of thousands of parents who are fed up with high-stakes testing, and educators who support fair, research-based evaluations that strengthen teaching and learning.

“We applaud those courageous Regents who listened carefully to parents and educators, worked tirelessly to carefully develop regulations that conform to the law while advancing learning, and who are strongly advocating for a system that is fair and meaningful, uses multiple measures and fosters the professional dialogue and collaboration that is essential to helping New York’s already strong teaching force become stronger.

“Continued over-reliance on standardized testing can only make it harder for school districts to attract and retain the excellent teachers that students need and deserve.”

New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.

The response from NYSUT opposition Stronger Together leader Beth Dimino:

Karen Magee... As per the IREFUSE resolution that was passed at the NYSUT RA this year....You must publicly state that all teachers should refuse to allow their children to take these tests!

Starve the data beast!  That is how we win.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


Award winning Principal Carrol Burris from Long Island has dissected the entire new and not so improved teacher and principal evaluation system in New York State.  Read her critique,of the newly released Regents regulations.  Also, be sure to study the matrix on page 21 and you will pretty much understand the basics.

The short version: Student test score results will make up 50% of teacher ratings.

From Carrol Burris:

Half of a teacher’s evaluation will be dependent on the performance of her students. For 3-8 teachers of Common Core English and/or mathematics, that rating (Ineffective, Developing, Effective of High Effective) will be either 100% dependent on Common Core tests, or 80% dependent on Common Core tests.

The complex question and fuzzy details concern how each of the test score and observation parts will be decided.

In addition, the observations from someone outside the school will only make up a small percentage of the rating.

Updated with the Matrix

Saturday, June 13, 2015


The American Federation of Teachers has sent an official response to our appeal about Absent Teacher Reserves not being properly represented by the United Federation of Teachers in the Delegate Assembly.

The next step should be to hear the usual stale answers from the UFT.

We will keep you posted.

AFT A Union of Professionals

Via Electronic Mail and USPS Mail

June 10, 2015

Emil Pietromonaco, Secretary
United Federation Of Teachers
52 Broadway
New York, NY 10004

Dear Secretary Pietromonaco:

My office is in receipt of a challenge to the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) Spring
2015 chapter elections. The challenge was originally sent to AFT President Randi Weingarten. President Weingarten forwarded the challenge to my office so that we can conduct a preliminary review of the matters raised pursuant to Article VI, Section 14(b) of the AFT Constitution, That section allows the AFT president to request that the AFT Executive Council initiate a formal investigation, upon receipt of a bona fide complaint by one or more members alleging that a local officer election was conducted "in violation of the local or state federation constitution, the AFT Constitution, or applicable federal law.. Before the Council considers such requests, the Secretary-Treasurer's office traditionally undertakes a preliminary review to ascertain whether there is in fact a bona fide complaint. The purpose of the initial inquiry is not to resolve all the issues surrounding the election, but, instead, to determine whether the challenge raises material questions that require a hearing for resolution and referral to the Executive Council or whether the election challenge can be resolved based on the complaint and the local's response.

The challenge alleges that the UFT election rules effectively "disenfranchise" Absent Teacher Reserves (ATRs) and thus deny Ă…TRs the right to be represented on the UFT Delegate Assembly. The challenge contends that ATRs will be disenfranchised because some may not be working at the site where their chapter election will be taking place since ATRs are not permanently placed in schools. The challengers also express concern that if elected, ATRs will be removed from elective office as soon as they are moved to a new school location. The challenge was submitted by four UFT members: James Eterno, Francesco Portelos, Al Zucker and August Leppelmeier. As you are aware, this challenge was originally submitted to UFT President Michael Mulgrew. The UFT Executive Board voted to dismiss the election challenge on May 4, 2015.

We understand that the UFT has addressed this issue - that ATRs as well as other union members have the opportunity to fully participate as union members at the school where they have been assigned. Part of that participation includes the right to vote in the chapter elections, the right to nominate and be nominated and the right to cast ballots before the close of balloting. We also understand that Assistant Secretary LeRoy Barr provided a report and recommendation to the UFT Executive Board on the issues raised by the complaint and that report was the basis of the Executive Board's dismissal of the challenge.

As part of AFT's preliminary review process, we ask that you respond in writing to the election challenge by no later than June 19, 2015. A copy of the challenge is enclosed. To the extent that there are documents relevant to the challenge, please include them in UFT's response as well. The challengers should be provided a copy of your response to the AFT. Once we have had a chance to review the information concerning this challenge, we will let you know whether or not there are sufficient grounds to proceed to full Executive Council consideration or whether the challenge may be resolved based on a preliminary investigation.

In unity,

Dr. Lorretta Johnson 



James Eterno
Randi Weingarten 
Michael Mulgrew
Leroy Barr
Adam Ross
Barbara Pallazzo
David Strom
Channing Cooper

Thursday, June 11, 2015


The June Delegate Assembly was highlighted by Jia Lee from the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) introducing a resolution for the UFT to vote no confidence in Mary Ellen Elia, the controversial new State Education Commissioner.  Elia was fired by the school board from her previous job in Hillsborough, Florida.

The resolution didn't carry but you can judge it for yourself (see below).

The entire DA Report is over at NYC Educator.

This was my last DA in exile.  I will be an elected Delegate again next school year.

Resolution: No Confidence in New State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia
Whereas, the top down education policies under No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and high stakes accountability tied to Common Core Standards have had disastrous effects on whole child education and democratic, school-based decision-making in New York State 

Whereas, there was no transparency in the selection process, no public vetting of candidates, no opportunity for public input in the appointment of the new State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia  

Whereas, Ms. Elia’s record makes it clear she is a strong supporter of the Common Core State Standards (even though Florida has pulled out of Common Core) and high-stakes testing; she was an early proponent of using test scores to evaluate teachers, complete with $100 million in funding from the Gates Foundation. She also negotiated a merit pay system and supports school choice 

Whereas, last January, the Hillsborough Board of Education voted 4-3 to dismiss her. Members who voted her out have been on record as criticizing her for board-superintendent tension, her salary and benefits, and constituent complaints about too much high-stakes standardized testing, some said her tough disciplinary policy disproportionately affected black students and employees who said her management style was heavy-handed  

Whereas, she failed to notify the district immediately that a 7-year-old girl had stopped breathing on a school bus and died later; she said she didn’t know the scope of the tragedy until the family sued the district.   

Be it Resolved, that UFT will hold a press conference and issue a press statement of no confidence in the appointment of Ms. Elia, because it does not serve the best interests of our children, educators, or public schools  

Resolved, that the educators of the UFT seek public vetting and member discussion before the leadership of the largest local in the state supports the appointment of any state chancellor.

Resolved that our union leadership will organize meetings at the beginning of the 2015/16 school throughout the boroughs, for working UFT educators to discuss this appointment , state educational policies and develop our own vision of statewide educational policies that will best serve all our children 

Be it further Resolved that the UFT will fight for a renewed statewide emphasis on the arts, music, libraries and physical education for all of our children

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli reported that New York City is ending the current 2015 year with a huge $3,000,000,000 surplus. Tax revenues are coming in ahead of projections.  The positive financial news will not end right away according to the Comptroller's forecast.

From JP Updates:

New York City's budget is balanced for next year, and the out-year budget gaps appear manageable," the State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a statement.  "The city's economy is strong and shows no signs of slowing."

This is just the latest piece of evidence that the city wasn't broke as UFT President Michael Mulgrew claimed back in 2014 when he agreed to a sub-par contract with minuscule salary increases for UFT members.

If we take just 1/3 of that surplus and divide that $1 billion by 110,000 working UFT members, the result is each person could have received over $9,000 this year.  Certainly with no sweat the city could have afforded to give us the  4% +4% salary increases other city workers received from 2008-2010 right away instead of making us wait until 2015 through 2018 to get those raises in four annual increases of 2% each.

Monday, June 08, 2015


School reform has led to a major increase in the number of new schools created since the Bloomberg era.  Jamaica High School was one school that was phased out and now the building that once was Jamaica houses four small schools.  Evidence continues to build that the Department of Education did not improve the overall education in the building when they closed Jamaica.

Carlos Borrero is one of the Bloomberg era principals who was appointed to run the High School for Community Service, one of the four new schools that took over the Jamaica High School building. The New York Post reported on Saturday that Mr. Borrero has been named in a major lawsuit. Some details:

A Queens Principal allegedly dangled a strip club jaunt to a group of students in 2012 if they focused on their schoolwork, according to a Brooklyn federal suit.

The allegation is part of a civil lawsuit from a former staffer at the High School For Community Leadership in Jamaica who claims it was part of a pattern of behavior in which principal Carlos Borrero also encouraged her to wear provocative clothes in order to command attention from her charges.

Stacey Long claims she refused to play ball and that she was eventually forced to resign as a literacy teacher, court papers state.

While this is just an allegation that needs to be proven in court, nobody who was at Jamaica the last four years is very surprised by this.  In my dealings with Principal Borrero, I found him to be rather averse to following the rules although my business with him concerned completely different matters when compared to the lawsuit.

Back in 2011, he decided that his kids didn't need to walk to the student restroom so he just had them use the third floor teacher's restroom instead.  Some Jamaica High School teachers, who at the time still worked on a portion of the third floor where Borrero's school is housed, complained so we filed a safety grievance. In response, Mr. Borrero refused to meet with us.  I remember him hiding and only agreeing to talk to a Special Representative from the Queens UFT office.

We easily won the grievance but in subsequent years when we had grievances over athletics in the building and had to go to Mr. Borrero who was in charge of Public School Athletic League activities, I sensed he was not looking to resolve situations amicably.  Some of the teachers from his school came down to the Jamaica High School UFT office looking for union assistance for non athletic matters too. To be fair, I do recall he ran a very good pep rally that enhanced school spirit. My guess is he has his supporters.

Yet a staffer who is still working in the Jamaica building got in touch with me Saturday to say that if it was a teacher who was charged for doing what Mr. Borrero allegedly did regarding the strip club, the teacher would have been removed from the building faster than the blink of an eye.  That is exactly what happened last year when a teacher from the Hillside Arts and Letters Academy (another new school in the Jamaica building) was caught in an internet sex sting.  He was removed from the building immediately and a plea deal was struck this year.

We completely agree that the serious charges warranted severe action since the DOE is supposed to have a zero tolerance policy for any sexual misconduct but it appears administrators are held to a much lower standard than teachers. The blogger Chaz has written extensively about the DOE double standard when disciplining administrators compared to teachers.  One thing the two incidents have in common was they both involved DOE employees who worked at the building that was once Jamaica High School.

There have been other occurrences at the Jamaica campus showing that the DOE has done nothing to improve the climate in the building after they decided to phase out Jamaica High School.  At another new school in the building, Queens Collegiate, there was a release of pepper spray by students back in 2013.  It happened again this year causing a dozen students to be sent to the hospital. There was also the lockdown of the building this past winter because of alleged intruders who turned out to be students sneaking into the school.  Funny how the media still attributed this problem to Jamaica High School even though the school no longer exists.

I could go on and on writing about other incidents Jamaica staff witnessed before we were exiled from the building that never made it to the media but I think readers get the point.

A record is mounting showing that the four new schools that replaced Jamaica High School are no better than the traditional Jamaica High School.  I will repeat what I said in January that the building is actually worse off as four schools compared to one.  Saturday's NY Post story on Principal Borrero is just another piece of evidence substantiating that claim.

It is time for the DOE to restart comprehensive neighborhood high schools.  Jamaica should have never been closed nor should have many others.  If justice ever returns to our school system, Jamaica will be one of the first to be reborn.

Friday, June 05, 2015


The students and staff from Middle College High School took a trip to Bethpage State Park for a Field Day on Friday.  It was a wonderful day with a terrific group of adults and kids.

In the age of school reform, this is the kind of great experience that has been lost in too many schools because of the test crazed culture created by No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and whatever rubbish is coming out of the New York State Education Department and the New York City Department of Education these days.

Here is a report from Facebook on our softball victory over the students from our star pitcher Jordan Moore.

Teachers take down the students second year in a row! 7-0 quote a student: "how the hell we losing to those old fools". Pitched 6 innings of 3 hit ball. — with Rachel Wolff Lefkof, Randy Ohmen, Jae Lundgren, James Eterno and John Poon at Bethpage State Park.

I played second base and this old fool actually had a legitimate hit for anyone who is interested.


Everyone connected to education has ideas about how to "fix" so called troubled schools. Now the State Education Department and city are calling them Out of Time or Renewal schools.

These are the schools that invariably have higher concentrations of high needs students. When a high school has high numbers of English language learners, students with interrupted formal education, overage-under credited students, instructional support services pupils (special education) and/or those living in temporary housing, that school will probably have some more difficulty graduating all of their students.

This blog proposes a test to see if the Bloomberg/Gates reformers are right that poverty, homelessness, and students not knowing English are just excuses and the solution to the problem of low performing schools is to improve the quality of the teaching.

Let's do an experiment where it is Bloomberg style reform verses traditional public education to see who really has the solutions to improve the failing schools.

We can perform this limited trial in Brooklyn where the two original Out of Time Schools, Automotive High School and Boys and Girls High School, are located.

To set this up, we will need to borrow from former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's playbook by cherry- picking quality students but without having to give the school a new name or starting four new schools in a building built to house one school as was done in the past or even replacing all the teachers. Our plan will save the taxpayers some money.

We can accomplish Bloomberg style cherry-picking by using a model for recruiting students that has been very successful: a draft just like they do it in professional sports.  

Think about how Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Football League and National Hockey League achieve competitive balance. The teams that have the worst records pick new recruits in the draft before teams that are successful. If we apply the same method for selection of new students for Recovery or Out of Time schools, we can turn them around almost instantly and with very little cost or disruption if the traditionalist theory is right that quality students= good schools. Boys and Girls and Automotive and any others that are out of time select new students first because they have the worst records. Then come the Recovery schools who pick students next. The so called high achieving schools would pick last.

If we send the top eighth graders to the Out of Time and Renewal high schools in each district, like magic these schools will improve if scientists such as the American Statistical Association are accurate saying teachers make up a difference of 1-14% on student test scores. Just send the schools high achieving pupils, and presto, instant turnaround.  No need to close any schools or bring in any wrap-around services or lower class sizes. They won't need extra hours or more nonsensical professional development. Just give them the top pupils and see what happens.  If traditionalist theory is correct, it will be quite easy to improve the Out of Time and Renewal schools. 

If the traditionalists are wrong and reformers like Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee are correct that it is bad teachers that lead schools to fail, high performing schools won't be impacted even if they get the last picks of students since they obviously have superior teachers which explains their success. The reformers are certain that the most important factor to making a good school is the quality of the teaching. It has nothing to do with the background of the pupils. Let's put that theory to the test.

Some of you are probably thinking parents in the "good" schools aren't going to like this experiment. Their schools will have students enrolled who can't make it into a Renewal school. Well there is an answer both Republican and Democratic mayors would like.

Mayoral control means we can ignore parents. Both former Mayor Bloomberg and Mayor de Blasio concur on this. This experiment is for one district where school choice can be put on hold for a couple of years.  If parents want to opt out of the district, maybe we can allow it.  But why would they want to leave?

Our Out of Time-Renewal experiment can take in a fortune in Race to the Top funding so we actually could hire more lawyers and other administrators to put teachers on trial and track student progress. Anyone against this program we could say is an adult who represents some special interest who just wants to keep the statusquo and does not want to see schools improve.

OK so there is some satire above but the absurdity of what our education system has devolved into is on full display each day we show up for work.  The Parthenon Report back in 2006 suggested to the city's Department of Education limiting the number of high needs students placed in large comprehensive high schools to give those schools a chance.  To the surprise of nobody, the DOE ignored the advice. Under a different mayor the people in charge continue to expect schools with large concentrations of at risk kids to perform as well as schools that really are destined to succeed.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015


A judge has ruled that a major court case challenging New York State's teacher evaluation system can move forward. The story is at the Diane Ravitch blog.

Here is my issue: Why is plaintiff Sheri Lederman's husband Bruce, an attorney, handling this case and not lawyers from New York State United Teachers? Ms. Lederman received an ineffective rating on one of the student growth portions on her rating but was fine in the other areas of the evaluation.

The New York State Education Department tried the "No harm, no foul" defense since the overall rating was not adverse. This did not succeed in court and now a great many details about the senseless evaluation system will be coming out.

Our NYSUT/UFT leaders, who are not at all personally impacted by any of the evaluation system, should at the very least be joining this case to challenge the nonsensical and incomprehensible way New York State rates teachers but they seem to be sitting on the sidelines.  Maybe I am missing something here.

Couldn't we have hundreds, if not thousands, of similar cases challenging this inane law?