Saturday, March 31, 2007

Guide to Jargon

Here is some of the jargon you need to understand what is happening in New York City’s Department of Education, formerly the Board of Education.

ARIS - Achievement Reporting and Innovation System - a new City initiative to help schools analyze, report and manage information about student and school performance. The 5 year, $80 million dollar program is being administered by IBM.

CEC - Citywide Educational Councils - 32 groups replacing the old Community School Boards, along with two others, for High Schools and Special Education.

CCHS - Citywide Council on High Schools - a CEC.

CCSE - Citywide Council on Special Education - the other CEC.

DOE - New York City Department of Education - the old Board of Education.

FSF - Fair Student Funding Mayor Bloomberg’s new school “revision.”

LSO - Learning Support Officer - DOE employees who help principals.

NCLB - No Child Left Behind - Federal law requiring testing and goals for schools.

PA/PTA - Parent Association/ Parent Teacher Association.

PAC - Parent Advisory Council School group for Title 1 (in need of improvement) schools. These are in addition to the PA/PTA.

PEP - Panel for Education Policy a 13-member group which advises the City. Five are appointed by Borough Presidents, seven by the Mayor, and the Schools Chancellor, who is also appointed by the Mayor.

PSO - Partnership Support Organization - Contractors to help principals.

SINI - Schools In Need of Improvement - defined by Title 1 of NCLB.

SLT - School Leadership Team - 14 member teams at each school, who develop an educational plan, match budget to needs and build a “sense of community.” Half are parents, the other half are teachers, staff, union, PA, students or community members.

SURR - Schools Under Registration Review - a State watchdog process for seriously underperforming schools. There are currently 65 SURR schools - 35 in New York City

From the Queens Courrier

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Norm Scott in The Wave - March 9, 2007

by Norman Scott

The Wave
March 9, 2007

What Was the Question?
This was the response to the last School Scope column “Travels to a Distant Word” on my visit to the University Club to cover Christopher Cerf, the Department of Education Deputy Chancellor for Something or Other at the Manhattan Institute luncheon where I got to ask Cerf the final question. My response is a long one and there are lots more fish to fry this week, so I’ll keep people in suspense a little longer. It is suffice to say that Cerf is now being investigated as to whether he funneled business to companies he held stock in while a DOE consultant. I wrote in this space years ago that one day Joel Klein would be taken from office with his coat over his head. Can that day come soon enough?

Is Washington in Randi Weingarten’s future?
UFT President Randi Weingarten will never have to leave office with her coat over her head, but she seems to have found a better way. With elections for the American Federation of Teachers Presidency taking place in the summer of 2008 (in Chicago) and with the UFT controlling an enormous block of delegates (the 800 Unity delegates who are expected to be elected in the current UFT elections will be going along for the ride at UFT members’ expense), that job is hers for the taking whenever she wishes.
Weingarten is quoted in an article in The Chief as saying, “I have a big agenda here. I’m not crossing any other bridges at this time. Ed [McElroy] is the president [of the AFT] and he’s doing a great job. I hope he serves a long time and I look forward to working with him for years to come.” Perfect lawyer language. Interpretation? Ed better not sign a long-term lease on an apartment in Washington.
My guess is that she will not give up the UFT job when she goes to Washington but will leave the UFT in caretaker’s hands the way her predecessors Al Shanker and Sandy Feldman did. At least until some sort of successor can be found. Former Rockaway resident Michelle Bodden is considered a front-runner, with up and coming VP for Vocational schools Mike Mulgrew being tapped as the enforcer to ride herd on the Unity Caucus faithful, though as one teacher at Mulgrew’s former school recently told me, “Bodden better watch her back.” Ah, the palace intrigues at 52 Broadway. In the meantime, the affable Michael Mendel will continue to run things in Weingarten’s absence.

UFT Elections
Speaking of The Chief, reporter Meredith Kolodner wrote a front page article on the UFT elections currently in progress - “UFT Election: High School War Looms.” To prove her power to teachers nationally, Weingarten wants a very large vote (she has told people anything less than 90% will be viewed as a lack of success) as proof she can shove bad contracts down people’s throats and still manage and manipulate the membership into supporting her.
Before I continue, I should make the disclaimer that I am a candidate running with the Independent Community of Educators (ICE), a group running in the elections in a coalition with Teachers for a Just Contract (TJC) against Weingarten’s Unity Caucus, which is allied with the former opposition New Action. Got it? If not, read Kolodner’s piece.
So, why does a high school war loom? You had to ask. ICE-TJC took these 6 seats in the 2004 elections away from New Action (Weingarten did not run candidates, trying to reward new Action for their loyalty.) Now mind you, this gave the opposition only 6 out of 89 seats. But even those 6 opposition voices are too much criticism for Weingarten. Weingarten needs some kind of “opposition” to claim the UFT is democratic and not a banana republic. What better “opposition” than one you control? Enter, New Action.
Seeing that in this election New Action could not win these seats back, and doubting the ability of her own party to win by themselves after the disastrous 2005 contract, Weingarten is running the 6 New Action and Unity candidates jointly. And New Action is running Weingarten at the top of their ticket. Nice backroom dealing. Oh! And New Action members also got union jobs. Can you run as an “opposition” to the very people that employ you? A question for the ages. Ballots go out March 9 and must be returned by March 28th. They will be counted on March 29th. If you teach in the public schools, you know my recommendation is to vote the ICE-TJC slate.
NOTE: Many ballots are being returned to sender by the post office due to an error by the AAA. New envelopes will be sent out. The extent of the dislocation must be determined as to what the impact might be.

Teacher Arrested
In one of the more outrageous acts by a Leadership Academy principal who wanted to get a teacher who has been a critic of her policies out of her hair, a parent ally of the principal claimed the teacher abused her child when the teacher escorted the child to her seat after she had run out of the room twice. Five cops came to the school (the principal was seen grinning ear to ear), arrested the teacher and held her until 7pm, when after they did their own investigation, they decided she did nothing wrong and released her saying “it was all nonsense.” The “arrest” was rescinded.
I spoke to one of the arresting officers and he said the principal could easily have prevented the arrest with just a few words, but “she clearly has an agenda.” If you can’t beat them using the contract, just manipulate a parent into doing it for you. The story is emerging that the parent herself is being investigated and it was all just a cover-up.
The teacher will now sit in the rubber room (Teacher Reassignment Center) most likely for the rest of the school year and probably beyond.
What had been the response of the UFT? I took the teacher to a UFT Exec. Bd. meeting to state her case. It is clear that the UFT does only what it has to do and nothing more. “We’ll get you a lawyer for arraignment, but since you weren’t arraigned…”
The teacher is helpless and the help from the union is minimal. It's almost 3 weeks and the District Rep has not even returned her call. The UFT sent in Victim Support for the teacher and she said that is not what she needs. What she needs is for the principal’s actions to be exposed so this will not happen to other teachers. Of course, the union doesn’t do that. She also needs an advocate to try to get any paperwork that exists at the DOE and the police department, which is not all that willing to cooperate since it has to answer as to how a teacher can be so humiliated after 22 years without a mark against her record in front of parents, students and colleagues. The UFT takes the position that all that is up to the teacher, responding with “What if they’re guilty?” Duh! Let the DOE and police worry about the guilty. The UFT is there to protect the innocent. And, yes, to protect the rights of the guilty too.
The DOE will spend months investigating with a bias favoring the principal, who will have months to work over the story with the children. Where is someone to investigate for the teacher? The union just shrugs. When ICE’s Jeff Kaufman tried last June to get the union to hire people to jump in and investigate on behalf of the teacher so both sides get told, the UFT Exec. Bd. led by Randi Weingarten said “NO” and accused Jeff of playing politics. The teacher in the rubber room waiting for the ax to fall doesn’t see that as politics. Just one more reason why I am running with and supporting the ICE-TJC slate in the UFT elections. More on this case that puts a chill up the spine of every teacher in future columns. Or you can check my blog (see below) for updates.

BloomKlein appoints Martine Guerrier as Chief Family Engagement Officer
I got to know Martine a bit from attending the Mayor’s Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) monthly meetings and grew to like and respect her enormously. I found her to the one person on the PEP who questioned Klein (gently, but firmly). BloomKlein have trumpeted this appointment (at $150,000 a year) as a sign they listen to their critics. She voted against the 3rd grade retention policy at the Monday Night massacre (March 14, 2004) when Bloomberg fired the panelist he controlled who were opposed. Martine, being appointed by Brooklyn borough head Marty Markowitz was immune to firing. That act made Marine a hero to many of us.
But since that time, in step with Markowitz’ total support for Bloomberg, Martine’s votes on the PEP increasingly veered toward BloomKlein. When it came to the 5th grade retention policy vote, she abstained. I noticed on other issues (which my dying brain cells refuse to pull up) a disturbing trend. That the press (The NY Times is the worst) allowed the BloomKlein PR machine to get away with declaring Martine “a persistent critic” is s sign of their cheerleading.

There was so much to cover this week, all the pieces were shortened. You can read extended versions on my blog at Check it for daily updates.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

TJC Answers Weingarten/Unity Lies

Showing their desperation at facing a genuine militant opposition, Weingarten and her Unity Caucus have resorted to the most outrageous lies and slanders.

Their shameless smear job comes in the form of an oversized campaign postcard mailed to UFT members' homes without a return address or designation as campaign literature, in violation of election rules and possibly paid for by members' dues in violation of the law.

They denounce presidential candidate Kit Wainer as a "militant socialist." But what's wrong with that? The New Action members Unity has cross endorsed include longtime open members of the Communist Party USA. There's nothing wrong with that! Weingarten and her predecessors Feldman and Shanker were all socialists, card-carrying members of the Social Democrats USA, an offshoot of the American Socialist Party. There's nothing wrong with that! Eugene Debs, one of the greatest union leaders in American history, was proud to be a militant socialist. Weingarten and Unity want to say that militant socialism is "back in the "last century." That's right: the century when the UFT itself organized through a series of militant strikes, when our union made real progress for members.

But there is one part of the "last century" Weingarten and Unity do seem stuck in: McCarthyism and red-baiting. Will someone please tell these people this is 2007, not the 1950s? What's next from Unity? Gay-bashing? Racial slurs?
Let's take the wild, false charges one at a time.
*The Truth: TJC is totally and unconditionally opposed to any unprepared, irresponsible or impulsive strike. As our presidential candidate, Kit Wainer, was quoted in The Chief newspaper, March 9, 2007, "With the Taylor Law, it's not enough to just say if you strike, then you win. You need to prepare in advance, through months of mobilizations and education, and members need to be in control when they go back. The transit workers' strike in December 2005 was not the model to use for a walkout."
*The Truth: It was Weingarten's Unity caucus that has held two strike authorization votes (in 1993 and 2002) WITHOUT ANY PLAN for how to win a strike if one took place.
*The Truth: In our leaflets, on the Internet, and on the floor of the Executive Board and the Delegate Assembly, TJC has consistently presented detailed plans to prepare the UFT to win a just contract, including, but not exclusively, blueprints on how to prepare ourselves to pose a credible threat of a winning strike.
*The Truth: We have consistently produced the leading ideas of this union, with Weingarten's Unity Caucus lagging behind us, first attacking our ideas and then quietly picking them up and pretending they were their own. For example:
*The Truth: At the November 2004 Delegate Assembly, it was TJC that proposed that the UFT reject all added time in our next contract. Weingarten and Unity attacked us. Then, in 2006, Weingarten adopted this demand and pretended it was her idea.
*The Truth: At the April 2006 Negotiating Committee Meeting, it was TJC that proposed that the UFT reject all givebacks in the next contract. Weingarten and Unity attacked us. Then, in October 2006, she adopted this demand and pretended it was her idea.
*The Truth: At the Executive Board in January 2007, it was TJC that proposed that the UFT mobilize the membership against threats to tenure and job security. Weingarten's Unity Caucus rejected this. At the very next meeting, a Unity member made the very same proposal, and this time the Unity Caucus all voted to accept it!
Today, TJC is proposing we organize to win back what we gave back. We challenge Weingarten and Unity to adopt this demand and organize to win it.
*The Truth: TJC opposed Weingarten's 2005 contract because of the longer day, the longer school year, the loss of the right to grieve letters and observations, the loss of the right of excessed teachers to be placed in another school, the more onerous "professional and administrative" assignments and many other givebacks, and the fact that it did not keep pace with the cost of living in NYC.
*The Truth: Weingarten's charge that we wanted to slash starting salaries for new hires is an outright, bald, blatant and shameless lie. We challenge Weingarten to produce any evidence whatsoever that TJC ever took anything remotely resembling this despicable position.
*The Truth: We opposed the 2005 contract because it hurt ALL UFT members, from the newest to the most senior, in every kind of school and license. TJC has always worked to unite all UFT members.
We are truly sorry that Weingarten and Unity have descended to personal attacks. But we feel it shows that they are afraid of the truth: their policies have failed. They know that only lies - big, blatant lies - can save them. The truth is, the UFT needs new leadership and TJC can help provide it.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Jerry Frohnhoefer, ICE Candidate for Vocation HS VP Bio

I've been teaching English at AV with a short stint at Cardoza HS for the past twelve years.I have been the journalism teacher for the past four and college advisor for the last two and a half. I have been chapter leader at AV for three and a half years, and as such initiated the first fight against the workshop model in the City. We, at AV were able to get serious modifications on the rigid "Columbia" model under the tunnel vision rule of Reyes Irizarry. Our school was one of the school's last year that spoke up against the lack of including Christian religious holiday during these called "spring break". We as a school were also quite active in speaking up on the failure of BloomKlein to respect veterans Day in our schools when all other city and state employees by law had either the day off or a day with pay at their discretion. I also worked for private not-not-for profit groups including Catholic Charities, ENTER INC. (a drug and alcohol free program in East Harlem for seven years, and a street club supervisor for Hotline Cares., also in East Harlem. I have also been an active member of the NYC 23-25 Gladiators, a n amateur boxing club in East Harlem and have served on the Ethics Committee of the Metropolitan ABF. Jerry F.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Martine Guerrier Appoinment Announced

Martine Guerrier has been appointed "chief family engagement officer" at Tweed. I wish her good luck.

Without any real evidence that DOE officials are prepared to listen to parents' views on a number of critical issues relating to the future of our schools, including the overriding need to reduce class size, I don't hold out much hope that her appointment is any more than window dressing.

If DOE really intended to take parents seriously, they would stop the rush to put their proposals into effect, including the risky weighted student funding proposal which could lead to real cuts at many schools, and their new testing and grading schemes.

They would announce right now that they are starting from scratch. Since this hasn’t happened, I don’t put much faith that they intend to change their ways.

See email message from Tom Huser, CEC person at Tweed below.

Instead, I think this announcement today is their way of trying to head off the bad press they expect to get as a result of the rally tonight.

What do others think?

Leonie Haimson

From: Huser Thomas Subject: Martine Guerrier -- Chief Family Engagement Officer

We are happy to announce Martine Guerrier as the new Chief Family Engagement Officer to the Department of Education. Martine has been the Brooklyn representative on the Panel on Educational Policy (PEP) since 2004. Martine served in various capacities with the Educational Priorities Panel. Attached is copy of the release announcing her appointment.

During her time on the PEP, Martine has been an independent voice, often disagreeing with the Department of Education positions. She has also been a champion of increased parent involvement and input. She will be a strong advocate on behalf of the interests of the Education Councils.

Martine will be our guest at the Parent Leaders Meeting on March 12 from 6 PM to 8PM at Tweed. We will send out the formal invitation later today. We hope that you will join us to meet and hear from Martine. There will be an opportunity to ask her questions.