Sunday, September 20, 2009

Email #3 from JW

JW puts out regular email updates packed with information. Here is the latest.


The info in this email is taken from a variety of meetings and messages, big and small. It's longer than usual, but a lot is happening.


From Weekly Update for CLs, there's a reminder that oversized classes have to be resolved by Sept 22nd so the union can file demands for arbitration. Class size limitations are in Article VII.M.
When mentioned to a district rep that I wanted to be fair and let class sizes settle down before reporting them, she said No, send them in now if they're too large. They can monitor how much the school has been doing to bring them down when the 22nd rolls along.


The faculty handbook that my school has put out is incorrect when it says that "All teachers are contractually obligated to accept coverages assigned . . . and may not refuse coverages for any reason." Not quite. You get a coverage when there is an emergency. If a pattern persists whereby a teacher is always getting coverages during a certain period (let's say there aren't any other teachers available to take them), this can be grieved on the grounds that there is no "emergency." It's been caused by poor planning: the school has failed to program things in such a way as to protect that person's prep, which they are allowed to have every day.


The CLs in my district were told that people being absent should only have to make one single phonecall to call in their absence. Some schools use the Registry, others use ATRs. If you call the Registry, it's logical to do it early (by 6:15 a.m. at my school) so they can get someone to the school in time for first period. If the school wants you to call the school as well as the Registry, you can do this out of courtesy but not because you are required to.

Interestingly, it was the DoE's responsibility, we were told, to enforce schools having teachers call into the central Registry. But they didn't enforce it it, so schools are handling absences their own way.


From the UFT's website: "As the result of an arbitration won by the UFT, faculty conferences must be scheduled on Monday." It is therefore logical that if the principal wishes to change the meeting date to a Wednesday, for example, there must be an SBO. Many teachers have childcare considerations that are set up before the year starts. They should have a say in changes made to their after-school schedules and principals should respect that and be anxious to accommodate the majority opinion.


The HS Parent Conferences in the spring that I sent in Email no.1 were incorrect (and I can't remember the document that I copied and pasted that from). They are really on Thurs., March 18th (evening) and Fri., March 19th (afternoon).


There was a mandatory job fair last Monday that I believe the union should have balked at, and maybe they have but I don't think so.

First of all, the contract doesn't require ATRs to look for a new position, though most do. It does require the DoE to try and place people in positions, which of course they've continually avoided doing for the past two or three years because if people were to find jobs, the city couldn't claim there are all these dead beatteachers hanging around, so please let's get rid of tenure.

Secondly, the directive was to be attend until 4 p.m., which is after hours, unless they want to pay us.

What the DR just told us at a recent meeting was shocking:
Principals were claiming that they had interviewed 25 teachers for a particular vacancy and couldn't find anyone for the job. It turns out, they were talking to 25 teachers at Monday's job fair, rejecting them all, then asking on the basis of those mini-conversations for a waiver to hire a new teacher.

Here's a first-hand story someone sent me.
An ATR who "had been happily ensconced as an ATR in a school that liked him and had given a full program in license for a teacher that may or may not ever come back from a leave. On Friday, much to the dismay of the Principal and AP, he was told to report this past Monday to another school, while ATR's were being sent to his school. Just a shifting of the ATR's for no apparent reason other than to disturb, upsent, annoy them, it seems. When he reported to the new assignment (a horrible one, I might add), he found that all of their ATR's had been suddenly sent elsewhere.
What's going on? Just harrassment to force them out?"

I don't have the answer, but the next time people are asked to come out in support of ATRs, you should really make a point of doing it. Any school that's closed in the future will bring more ATRs, whether new teachers or vets. This is where solidarity is key, and the city's public school educators have as a group been pretty complacent about rallying for ATRs. One hopes that will change when they are next called to show support.



From a TJC mailing:
"After winning a David vs. Goliath strike against the multinational giant that bought their little company, the [Stella d'Oro] Bakery union workers are now facing the closure of their plant. And who is financing the move of their plant to Ohio? Goldman Sachs. In the name of union solidarity, we urge you to join other TJC supporters on Friday, September 25, at 5 PM, to protest at Goldman Sachs, 85 Broad Street, Manhattan (4 or 5 train to Bowling Green.) Immediately afterwards, we will march to City Hall to urge the City to use government action to keep Stella in the Bronx.



The Chapter Leaders Weekly says that Klein said if principals don't fill vacancies by Oct. 30, he'll take back the money for the positions. "If your school loses money, it means more oversized classes. We want vacancies filled by principals hiring ATRs and putting them on the school’s Table of Organization. Principals may have been waiting out the hiring freeze, filling open spots with regular or per diem subs or teachers teaching out of license. ATRs may have been teaching full programs in or out of license so that the principal could avoid putting them on their payroll."

Chapter leaders are being asked to "check the Galaxy Table of Organization (your principal must give you a copy) and your school’s organization sheet to see where the vacancies are, and who may be improperly filling them."

The trouble is, there are many chapter leaders who are in kahoots with principals and this is not being done. I am thinking that if you know that Amy Arundell at 52 Broadway ( ) is collecting this information, why not send any knowledge you have of real vacancies to her yourself? Or through me, as I don't mind passing it on since I know her and she'll look into it properly. See Email no.2 of last week for the positions were the hiring freeze has been lifted.



These have to be done from scratch (it turns out that there were signatures on them of people who had passed away.)
We were told by the DR that if a Safety meeting occurred without UFT representation (CL or designee), the meeting did not exist.



It was supposed to be a meeting for new chapter leaders, but at short notice it was changed to the first DA of the year so that members could vote on the union's contract demands. I say the "union's" contract demands, but that doesn't necessarily mean the members' demands, which from what I listen to, are pretty much totally different. The contract demands that were voted upon were designed by the union officials, to some extent tweaked by the Negotiating Committee, and presented first to the Exec. Bd. for a vote and then to the DA.

The delegates were told to discuss these with the schools if they'd like, but keep the supposed confidentiality of them. Remarkably, copies of the demands were then given out to everyone who in the hall and all the people outside in the hallway, who may or may not have been CLs or delegates. So much for confidentiality. The press got a hold of a copy, so you can read them for yourself at Gotham Schools.

Interestingly, the Chapter Leader Weekly brags about the big attendance at the last DA as a "SRO crowd" and how "great" it was to see so many peopl "turn out for the discussion of our contract demands." That's not something to be proud of.
If it was "SRO," that means the hall the UFT built with our dues money does not accommodate the number of delegates supposed to be attending these meetings. They were standing, all right — out in the hall, where they couldn't vote.

Lastly, from TJC is a "POP QUIZ" on the September DA.

True or False:
1. According to President Mulgrew, for the UFT, the most important race in the coming city elections is the mayoral race.
2. The majority of the time at the Special D.A. on UFT Contract demands was spent on discussion of UFT Contract demands.
3. At this D.A., President Mulgrew informed the Delegates what the city's demands were.
4. At this D.A., Mulgrew urged Delegates to let members know what the union's demands are, so we know what we need to mobilize to win.

Answers: If you answered "True" to any of these, you are under some degree of illusion that the UFT leadership is dedicated to democracy and to organizing members to win the best possible contract.
To find out what really happened at the Delegate Assembly (minus the verbatim demands, which those present were exhorted not to put in print to anybody) [JW: tell that to Gotham Schools] reply to this email and ask for Marian Swerdlow's D.A. Notes.



The UFT is asking if anyone wants to sign up for this study (a DR explained that it should be groups of three teachers in either Math, English, or Science at the same school.) Each will get $1,500 over two years (half at the end of the first year.

The Chapter Leaders Weekly asks "Why not encourage your principal to participate and to attend an informational meeting with at least one teacher from your school?"

Here's why not — by Marjorie Stamberg. The underlining is mine, after which sentences everything should also be underlined.:

We just got a notice from the chapter leaders that there are boro-wide joint UFT-DOE meetings to push through the "Gates Plan." The same thing they did to push through merit pay in the schools that bought into it. (On merit pay -- our school had extensive on-line and in person debate and discussion and voted it down by a big majority.)

So again, here's my take on the "Gates Project" -- don't buy it.

Once again, like over "merit pay" only maybe worse, the UFT leadership and the DOE and working hand-in-glove to bring us a new teacher evaluation. This plan is suppposed to be a better "alternative" to the education "reformers'" "business model" that links teacher pay to student test scores. Guess what -- this one does too, and a teacher test attached to it. Also a lot of other bells and whistles, but that's the bottom line. They're trying to sell us this version of "teacher eval lite," but buyer beware.

If you read the letter from the UFT, beyond a lot of pedagogical language it says the evaluation includes "information on student academic growth on specially administered standardized tests." And it calls for a "brief test" to "assess teacher knowledge of content and pedagogy." Videotaped classroom sessions will be used not to support the teacher but to grade them.

This is typical of the UFT leaders' methodology of collaborating with management. As Mike Mulgrew said in the letter, "instead of debating people about how they are wrong," instead of saying "no" to attacks on teacher tenure, they come up with a "least bad" alternative, and then tell us "it could have been worse." Bit by bit they are giving up all the job protections that the union is supposed to be there for.
Instead of standing up for seniority transfers, in the disastrous 2005 contract they agreed to give the principals sole right to hire. Now we have more than 1,600 senior ATR teachers out of the classroom, plus more than 250 guidance counselors and 750 school aides without positions. Meanwhile classrooms are more crowded than ever. And the kids pay.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's previous shtick was "small schools." This meant breaking high schools up, excessing hundreds of teachers, weakening strong union structures in the high schools. And the result? In a speech to the Education Forum last November, even Bill Gates had to admit that most of the small schools were dismal failures.

Here's what he said: "In the first four years of our work with new, small schools, most of the schools had achievement scores below district averages on reading and math assessments. In one set of schools we supported, graduation rates were no better than the statewide average, and reading and math scores were consistently below the average."

Thanks a bunch. But for Gates and the rest of the corporate education "reformers," the purpose was not to improve education. They're out to undermine teachers unions, and in that they're succeeding, with the help of our leaders who won't, and probably don't know how to, fight back.

I'm all for teacher professional development. The UFT Teachers' Center does a great job of supporting teachers in the classroom, with lesson plans, modeling, reflection, advocacy, workshops. But this is NOT what the new Gates-DOE-UFT study is about. It's all part of the test mania that is one of the main prongs of corporatization and priviatization of the schools.


If you still want to read the info, go here to read the list of dates, times and locations of our informational sessions along with contact numbers for further information.

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