Wednesday, March 09, 2016


One of the most helpful documents in New York City for teachers is Special Circular No. 28, written by then Chancellor Joseph Fernandez on December 6, 1990.  It remains in effect to this day.

The subject of Special Circular 28 is lesson plans.  Article 8E had just been put in the UFT contract in 1990 and Fernandez wrote the circular to clarify what it means.  Article 8E says:

The development of lesson plans by and for the use of the teacher is a professional responsibility vital to effective teaching.  The organization, format, notation and other physical aspects of the lesson plan are appropriately within the discretion of each teacher.  A principal or supervisor may suggest, but not require, a particular format of organization, except as part of a program to improve deficiencies of teachers who receive U- ratings or formal warnings.

We now have ineffective ratings that are the equivalent of the old unsatisfactory.  Chancellor Fernandez in Special Circular 28 went on to explain certain aspects of this contractual provision when he wrote:

Within the school community of supervisors, teachers and students, lesson planning is recognized to be a vehicle for furthering instructional outcomes and a way of enhancing professional development.  If the development of a school instructional plan is a collaborative effort among supervisors and teachers, as part of that process teachers may be encouraged to share and coordinate lesson planning.  Since the mechanical, ritualized collection of lesson plans does not further these goals, it is prohibited.

This is clear language on mechanical collection of lesson plans that has held up in grievance arbitration.

Fernandez then encourages teachers to ask for help from their supervisors.  His words:

Professional supervisory practice includes an array of activities, such as time spent in classrooms demonstrating teaching techniques, assuring that professional development occurs and determining that appropriate curriculum outcomes are realized.

As the master teachers, supervisors are supposed to come in and spend time in our classrooms demonstrating the teaching techniques they want us to try.  It has come to our attention that they don't do this.  For example, too many Absent Teacher Reserves have been referred to websites.  This is not acceptable and certainly does not adhere to the Chancellor's Circular which I repeat remains in full force today.

It is recommended that teachers send a form of the following sample letter to their supervisors if they are seeking assistance.


Dear Principal ___________________,

As per Chancellor's Special Circular No. 28, I am inviting you to come into my classroom to demonstrate the particular teaching techniques you are recommending that I utilize.

Special Circular 28 states, "Professional supervisory practice includes an array of activities, such as time spent in classroom demonstrating teaching techniques, assuring that professional development occurs and determining that appropriate curriculum outcomes are realized."

The students and I would benefit greatly by watching you demonstrate what it is you are recommending I do in class.

I look forward to hearing from you expeditiously so we can arrange a day and time for you to teach my class.


Your Name

If the principal or assistant principal does the demonstration lesson for your class, you might want to write up an observation report.

If, on the other hand, they refuse to follow the Chancellor's special circular, please note it in writing and save it for the future.  If you end up in a hearing, you will have evidence that you asked for help as per Chancellor's Special Circular 28 and you were denied it.

You can file a grievance also but I very much doubt our union will take it beyond Step I even though it is a violation of Article 20.


Anonymous said...

Yea, that would go really well for just about any teacher. Unleashing the wrath of a vengeful administrator is usually not something most of us will do. Heck, most people let them circumvent our contract on a daily basis just to not piss them off and get their "attention". They hold our careers in their hands so most will just keep their heads down and aim for retirement. Realistically they can do whatever they want with no consequences.

Anonymous said...

If we had a real Union to back us, this might be fun to do. But with this current do-nothing, self-serving bureaucracy, I wouldnt play this game.

Anonymous said...

Don't blame Unity if you are not willing to step up and do your part.

Anonymous said...

agree with comment 3 5:01 pm

Anonymous said...

Unity is in charge! Of course I blame them! They don't do crap. They have let the chapters fall to shit. The small schools initiative splintered the chapters to bits, and the UFT never rebuilt them. Many schools have no CL, and most don't have delegates. The new teachers don't even know these positions exist.

The experienced teachers have seen all of the old CLs get excesses and harassed with *no* support from DOE. So, none of us will step up to replaced the fired and ATR-d CLs. I blame UnIty for *ALL* of this. They let this happen, and now trolls like you are trying to blame the members!

Harris L. said...

There were many things that led me to walk out of my school one day and retire after three years as a NYC public school teacher (I'd worked in City and State government for many years before I became a teacher so I had sufficient time and service to retire with a benefit).

But at 2:58 pm on March 16, 2012 I decided to get on the #5 train at Simpson St. in the Bronx and pray that I would walk into TRS on Water St. before the doors closed at 4:30.

I'd been observed teaching a lesson to my junior year ICT class about factoring quadratic expressions. The next day, during 8th period, Grismaldy Laboy spent 25 minutes telling me everything that had gone wrong with my newly Common Core-aligned lesson and how dismally I'd failed to differentiate the factoring of quadratic expressions.

I was in my third year and realized halfway through this barrage from my "master teacher" that there was no, none, nada, zip way that I would get tenure and that I'd have to do at least one more year as a provisional appointee with the Grismaldian Sword of Damocles hanging over my head.

I looked her in the eye and said "Ms. Laboy, would you please demonstrate for me how to differentiate the factoring of quadratic expressions?" She looked me back in the eye and said "Mr. Lirtzman, get out of my office."

The dismissal bell rang about 15 minutes later. Three minutes after that I was at the bus stop waiting for the BX5 to take me to Simpson St.

James, I love you, but I would not recommend this approach--notwithstanding all the failures of our beloved union--to any untenured or ATR teacher who doesn't have sufficient "fuck you" money to live on for a year or two.

Anonymous said...

If the members do something with a big number of people, Unity has no choice but to help. This suggestion is low risk and easy.

Anonymous said...

Do any of you really think that the UFT will be there every day for you when your administrator is up your ass? In any workplace environment, if you piss off management, you will lose. So to you Unity trolls out there, don't put it on us.

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James Eterno said...

I'm not a Unity troll. If we don't stand up to management when necessary (as soon as the abuse starts) - preferably as a chapter but also as individuals - then we are in trouble. Yes this piece was written more for tenured people as we have more rights. Newer, non-tenured teachers who are under attack should of course try to work it out with management as your rights are very limited but if that doesn't succeed and attacks continue, you may as well start a paper trail to defend yourself or you will have no chance.

As for tenured ATRs, this piece was written with them in mind.

In terms of "putting it on us" as the last comment says, it is on each and every one of us. Union power comes not from leadership but from the rank and file willing to stand up for themselves. All leadership can do is convince the rank and file that it is in our best interest to fight for our rights and then provide support. It is a bottom up system for sure. If we are unwilling to uphold the contract, then the leadership can't do it for us. Leadership will respond if pushed from below.

I spent too many of my 18 years as chapter leader pissing off management and I am still here teaching and writing about it. Why did I survive? OK, I kept my nose clean in the classroom but one is always vulnerable there. That's not the reason. One principal actually tried to use the kids against me and when word about it quietly spread through the building, that person paid a political price. I survived primarily because I had the complete backing of a huge majority of my chapter. The chapter's support gave the chapter power. It's one of the reasons our school had to go.

In that 18 years, I can count the tenured people who were terminated on one hand and still have fingers left over. We succeeded by taking action as soon as trouble began. People who taught at Jamaica still get in touch with my wife and me for help. My wife took the same, arguably tougher actually, approach as chapter leader at Queens Gateway and she is still called on too.

Unity gave support to both of our schools for the most part even though we are in the opposition. Randi visited and would call if asked. Michael Mendel was very good to us. Our various district representatives did their jobs too. Very few grievances didn't go to the Chancellor's level at least. Just about every programming grievance that was filed went to arbitration if not resolved in the building.

We understand the fear and intimidation so we know fighting back is difficult. It is better to do things as a united chapter for sure. In addition, we agree that teachers, chapter leaders and delegates should try to work things out with administration and not fight every fight every day. However, when it gets really tough, I would rather take my chances swinging rather than sit quietly.

Anonymous said...

There are some people at the union who are willing to help - not many - but find them. Build alliances with other teachers. You can only protect yourself by showing you have support. I understand the fear. Imagine teaching in the 1950s. Someone stood up and organized a union.

Anonymous said...

Hope you see this comment and can answer it. Re special circular 28, a question came up at our recent chapter mtg and no one seemed sure about it. It's from the very language in this circular that I am trying to wrest the answer.

Question: Can a supervisor dictate plans and collect them IF the teacher got an ineffective/unsatisfactory on an informal observation (or on any observation, for that matter)? Or is it only permitted after one gets an annual INeffective or U rating? I thought it was the latter, but a few teachers insisted this applies to just getting a fail on an observation, which is what's happening to a teacher.


James Eterno said...

Just saw this. Email in future. A formal warning would back a poor observation.

Anonymous said...

Is the Memo of former Chancellor Fernandez...controlling in this regard?


James Eterno said...

Yes. Absolutely. Email us at ICEUFT@GMAIL.COM if you need specific help.