Thursday, June 02, 2016


Alex de Tocqueville in his classic Democracy in America warned about democracy deteriorating into a "tyranny of the majority." The governing structure of the United Federation of Teachers is a textbook example of a tyranny of the majority.* The ruling Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew and Randi Weingarten's political party) shuts out dissenting voices and basically rigs the election process in a sophisticated way to make challenging them basically impossible.

An opposition party cannot possibly get to retirees scattered all over the country and beyond so they could get to know us. Therefore,UFT elections are over before they start. The union has offices in several states, a newspaper and vast email network to spread the UFT message which is the Unity caucus message. Add to this the Unity loyalty oath which compels Unity members to support all caucus positions no matter how detrimental they are to the rank and file or they risk losing free trips to conventions and/or union jobs and the result is many schools with Unity chapter leaders hear only the Unity party line.

Unity keeps tight grip on information. When was the last time there was an opposing viewpoint presented in an op-ed in the NY Teacher? Opposition is allowed one advertisement at election time every three years.  That is it. Anyone who has passed Political Science 101 knows this is not sufficient exposure for a fair electoral process. In spite of these huge obstacles, opposition groups to Unity, currently MORE-NEW ACTION, have won a majority of the voters in the high schools in many UFT elections including in 2016.

The high schools are one of four divisions in the UFT. The others are middle schools, elementary schools and functionals (non teachers). We concede that we are nowhere near Unity in the three other divisions. However, in the high schools the UFT is now a "tyranny of the minority" as Unity Caucus, the clear runners up in the recent UFT election, control all of the high school positions except for seven high school representatives on the 102 member UFT Executive Board. That's better than nothing but clearly the high school teachers deserve more.

When high school teachers agreed to join the UFT in 1960, Academic High School members voted exclusively for their Vice President and Career and Technical High School (called Vocational High Schools back then) members did the same. However, when New Action's Michael Shulman had the audacity to actually win the Vice Pesident for Academic High Schools position in 1985, Unity challenged their own election and forced a second one where Shulman won by an even greater margin. To make sure this never happened again, Unity changed the rules several years later so that all UFT members, including the retirees that we could never possibly get to, vote for the two high school vice presidents.

We know MORE-NEW ACTION won the high schools even though we still do not have a breakdown of the slate vote by divisions in the 2016 election for the first time in the nineteen years I have been following UFT vote counts. We can look at the Executive Board tallies by division to figure out how high school teachers voted. We know who won the vice presidents by division since the overwhelming majority of voters choose a slate to vote for all of the candidates of that caucus. We can easily conclude that a clear majority of high school teachers voted for the MORE-NEW ACTION slate because all of our Executive Board candidates won by around 200 votes over their Unity opponents. Remember, only high school teachers voted for these positions.

It is obvious that a majority of the high school teachers who cast a ballot want Christine Gross and yours truly to be their vice presidents for the Career and Technical and Academic High Schools respectively. So, who will be in those jobs? The answer of course is Unity's Sterling Roberson and Janella Hinds. Nothing against Sterling or Janella who are decent people but they do not represent the majority of the high school teachers who voted. MORE-NEW ACTION does. Throw in Solidarity's 2.4-3% and it is a strong majority of those who vote in the high schools who don't want Unity representing them. We truly have a tyranny of the minority.

Let's take this lack of democracy a step further and look closely at those Executive Board results. The four top vote recipients are Arthur Goldstein, Chapter Leader of Francis Lewis High School (2292 votes), Jonathan Halabi, Chapter Leader High School of American Studies at Lehman College (2290), Ashyra Gupta, Delegate from Harvest Collegiate High School (2289) and then Mike Schirtzer, Delegate from Leon Goldstein High School (2286). Arthur, Jonathan, Ashraya and Mike beat Unity's Anthony Klugg and James Vasquez handily. Nothing against James or Anthony but who deserves to be the Assistant to the Vice President, Queens, Manhattan or Bronx High School District Representatives? In Unity's world it is the ones with the fewer high school votes!

Yes these positions were not on the ballot this spring. Please note, however, that chapter leaders used to vote for district representatives and Manhattan High Schools voted for independent Bruce Markens. Bruce was DR for a decade. When Bruce retired, Manhattan High Schools had the nerve to vote in another non-Unity representative Tom Dromgoole. Unity's response was to change the rules to make district representatives a position appointed by the UFT President.

High school teachers who have seen our schools closed all over the place and working conditions deteriorate are being almost completely disenfranchised by the UFT. Unity will let seven of us speak and vote at the Executive Board but that's it.

The UFT is a tyranny of the minority in the high schools because of the overall UFT tyranny of the majority. That needs to change but will not until the sleeping giant that is the UFT membership at large is awakened.

*I fully understand that the UFT tyranny is not exactly of the majority because 3/4 of the teachers don't vote. If we had voting in schools, I think I know politics well enough to conclude that the turnout would be substantially higher but results would not change that drastically because of Michael Mulgrew's name recognition. Therefore,  tyranny of the majority fits for this piece.


Jonathan said...

Recheck your vote counts.

James Eterno said...

Sorry Jonathan. I have corrected the post this morning.

Horace said...

Administrators at a troubled Brooklyn high school face potential firing for covering up allegations that a female student was raped by five football players in a locker room, The Post has learned.

The educators include Boys and Girls HS Principal Michael Wiltshire, who was publicly praised by Mayor de Blasio last year but is currently eyeing a new job on Long Island.

An internal investigation by the Department of Education concluded last week that Wiltshire and two assistant principals failed to report the alleged mid-December gang rape after meeting with the girl and her mom, according to a source familiar with the probe’s findings.

Investigators also found the trio failed to report the suspected theft and use of a DOE credit card by students at Boys and Girls, the source said.

“We have clear reporting procedures to ensure incidents and misconduct are thoroughly addressed, and any failure to report is deeply concerning,” DOE spokeswoman Devora Kaye told The Post Thursday.

“We’re reviewing this case and discipline is pending.”

DOE rules include a mandate that all employees who learn of alleged crimes committed by students that don’t pose an “immediate safety threat” are required to notify the principal, who “must, in turn, notify the police and the [school safety agent]” and the “appropriate superintendent.”

Principals also are required to file an incident report within 24 hours through the DOE’s Online Occurrence Reporting System.

Instead, Wiltshire and his assistants — Cami Wittingham and Sherlene Thomas-Hughes — questioned whether the girl consented to the locker room incident, the source familiar with the investigation said.

The NYPD’s Special Victims Division, which investigates sex crimes, has no record of a reported rape at the Bed-Stuy school during December, a police spokesman said. DOE officials said no charges were filed.

Modal Trigger
Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn.Photo: Matthew McDermott
In addition, “nothing has been entered” into the DOE’s computer system, which is used to compile annual, state-mandated reports, the source familiar with the internal investigation said.

DOE Superintendent Michael Alcoff, who oversees Boys and Girls as part of de Blasio’s School Renewal Program to turn around 94 under-performing schools, learned about the alleged rape through an anonymous phone call following the principal’s meeting with the girl and her mom, the source said.

Wiltshire played dumb when Alcoff confronted him about the tipster’s call and denied knowing anything about the rape allegations, the source said.

Alcoff then blew the whistle, sparking a probe by the city schools’ Special Commissioner of Investigation Richard Condon. His office referred the case to the DOE’s Office of Special Investigations.

Probers recommended that the DOE convene a “technical conference” with department lawyers to consider firing or otherwise disciplining the administrators, the source said.

Wiltshire was put in charge of Boys and Girls in 2014 to improve its dismal performance, which at the time included three straight F’s on its annual progress reports and a graduation rate of just 42 percent.

The deal included a $25,000 bonus for Wiltshire — who earns $182,000-plus annually — and an unusual arrangement that made him “master principal” at Medgar Evers College Preparatory School in Crown Heights, which he has run for the past 13 years.

At last year’s Boys and Girls graduation ceremony, de Blasio hailed Wiltshire’s performance there, which included boosting the graduation rate to 50 percent.

Bill de Blasio, Carmen Farina and MIchel Wiltshire together in March.Photo: Paul Martinka
“What I have seen just over this last year from Principal Wiltshire is the kind of leadership that moves mountains, that inspires people, that changes things that people say couldn’t be changed,” de Blasio said.

Wiltshire recently interviewed for a new job as principal of Uniondale HS on Long Island and was planning to decide whether to accept it by the end of the city school year on June 28, DOE officials said.

Anonymous said...

What a surprise, FRAUD DOE. Violations not put into OORS. And of course, there should have been several arrests here.

Anonymous said...

Solidarity didn't even get fair representation on the ballot. The UFT is a fraud.