Tuesday, December 22, 2009

JW's Email #11

Hi, good evening,

Before the rest of this email, let me just say to TRUMAN people that people are very discontent about the Dec. 21st directive to augment or even re-do the Progress Reports we just submitted. The chapter leader wants to know of your concerns: see him, email him, call him. Whatever.

Other than that -- our profession is really going down the tubes. Everyone has to start getting involved.




There were rallies last week. At the PEP meeting on Thursday, over which Klein presided — though he was texting his way through most of it on his Blackberry, to the irritation of everyone in the hall) — it was interesting that the protesters got the panel to back off two of the school closing proposals on the docket. (Gotham calls these "flashes of independence" on the panel.) As someone in the listservs remarked, if they can get the Klein and his PEP team to withdraw one of these things in ten minutes' worth of discussion, that says a whole lot about the fragility of this politically-motivated campaign to close down schools.

I was impressed by a lot of HS VP Leo Casey's short speech in the public comments, which he premiered the week before at the DA. Some of the things he said were what we in the progressive caucuses have been saying years — that Klein is driven more by corporatization and real estate than out of a desire to help children, teachers, or schools. (Leave it to Norm Scott to remind us that it's "disingenuous for Casey to complain that closing schools is just a real estate grab (Ed Notes, ICE and GEM should have copyrighted the idea) when the UFT is engaging in its own real estate grab with two charter schools occupying space in public schools.")
If the union is adopting some of our progressive analysis, I believe there's a wide gap between Casey's speeches and the Union's new campaign to portray Klein's failures as mismanagement. (See this UFT link for more on that.) Casey did speak of Tweed mismanagement in this Edwize post from Dec.9th, but I'm almost sure I didn't hear much of that "mismanagement" rhetoric in the two more recent speeches (DA and PEP), where he was clearly making the point that Klein's assault on the system are political and ideological.

In his President's Report at the DA, Mulgrew forcefully suggested we all go around calling Tweed "Mismanagement Central" (exx.: burgeoning class sizes; the hiring of new teachers and even paying bonuses to recruiters while there is still a hefty ATR pool). According to the NY Teacher, Mulgrew said: "These issues could have been — and still could be — better resolved with better management and hard work, not political grand-standing.” That's a very far cry from Casey's speech, which cast Klein as a deft and ruthless politician going about killing off our schools.

Two GREAT videos of the PEP protest are here and here . These are very exciting times and it's good to see these people in action, but it's very sad that there is such a disconnect between educators and parents.

FOR PEOPLE IN THE BRONX, the union is mounting a rally to Save Columbus HS on Jan 7th.



Developing in the union at this point are at least two thoughts on how defend against closings. The UFT seems to want to protest in little ways, community board by community board, school by school. Members of the opposition are leaning toward larger, citywide protests. Though Mulgrew is not inclined towards the latter, the Chapter Leader Weekly is MEEKLY asking us to

Save the Date: Citywide protest against school closings

In that paragraph they ask chapter leaders (and I assume members) to "plan on attending" the PEP monthly meeting at 6 p.m. on Tues., January 26, when there will be a vote to close 20 city schools. Frankly, I don't know how asking a cityful of educators to attend a monthy PEP meeting is the same as the "citywide protest" mentioned in their heading. To me, a citywide protest means a 10-block march culminating in a demonstration at Tweed, not trying to get thousands of people inside a public hearing whose agenda moves slow as molasses through all the business of the panel before anyone from the public has the chance to speak. And then only for 90 seconds, which they've just reduced from 2 minutes.

I thinketh the UFT speaketh in forked tongues. Or maybe it has management problems . . .

Here's JD2718 's take on how the union should be reacting to these things:

The DoE is acting so quickly, which creates some urgency here. They are planning to run the public hearings next month, fulfilling the letter of the requirements of the new governance law (while thumbing their thumb at the spirit of the law). This will be likely be the largest round of closings we have seen. They are running it like a lightning round:
One day, probably this week, a DoE team shows up at the door and starts by meeting with the Principal, the cabinet, Chapter Leader… Then a Faculty Conference. The next day they make arrangements to send a letter home to parents. And then the third day, or soon after, a parent meeting. Then they wait a few weeks (cowards are using Christmas break to reduce the number of work days), hold an open meeting with the SLT, accept comments. And that’s it. Except for the formality of a PEP vote.

He gives this list of the schools the DoE is looking at, saying that some will be ok:
Science Skills Center HS for Science Technology and Creative Arts; International Arts Business School; School for Legal Studies; Boys and Girls; Maxwell; FDA IV; Metropolitan Corporate Academy HS; Secondary School for Law; Robeson; FDNY HS; HS for Civil Rights
Peace and Diversity; Columbus; Monroe Academy for Business Law; Grace Dodge; New Day; Gompers; Clinton; Smith; JFK; Jane Addams; Global Enterprise; Community Research and Learning
Norman Thomas; Murray Bertraum; Choir Academy of Harlem; Academy of Environmental Science; University Neighborhood HS; Legacy School for Integrated Studies; Washington Irving; Chelsea Career and Tech; Coalition School for Social Change; Graphics; Leadership and Public Service
Beach Channel; Business Computer Applications and Entrepeneurship; Jamaica; John Adams; Grover Cleveland; Math Science Research Magnet; Richmond Hill

There's also this bit that's been circulating the listservs:

"The data person for my school went to a DOE data meeting last week. They were told that a 80% graduation rate will be required....33 more schools are in danger of being closed because of this." Later:
"It was stated that of the 33 schools there were two schools in "North Brooklyn" that were in danger of not meeting this requirement. This rate is for 4 and 5 year graduation rates."



Norm Scott just blogged on his perspective of union history, particularly the opposition. It is a good reference point if you want to get involved with union activism, even if you are looking to join Unity. An few sentences from it:

By 2001, it was becoming clear that Randi was not only not liberalizing the union, but also making it more undemocratic than ever. As a small example, the new motion period ever since I became a delegate in 1971 took place immediately after the question period. Suddenly, if Randi didn’t like a resolution I [JW: or someone else, I suppose] was proposing, she either eliminated the time altogether or pushed it to the end of the meeting. She became more and more of a demagogue . . .
. . . W hatever progressive wing there might be (and I had plenty of conversations with people who came off that way) was cowed by Unity Caucus discipline. It became clear that the caucus was like a black hole. Once you went in you never came out."



1. The side agreement that the UFT reached with the DOE in June regarding our pension benefits was only recently enacted into law by the NYS Legislature. Benefit changes for members hired after Dec. 9, the change in the rate of return for the fixed TDA plan, and other questions are answered at Q&A at this link.

2. Reminder to have your file letters removed after three years. Make an appointment with principal to do this.



Recognizing in the Dec 09 issue that people "despair" over the state of the union — "It's been go-slow and don't-rock-the-corporate-boat" — Jim Hightower says now is the time to be more active than ever and suggest six ways to cope with such despair:

1. Consider what's reasonable for you: since the issues are complex, just take one bite on one issue and contribute what you can — in time, skills, contacts, money, enthusiasm, etc.
2. Inform yourself
3. Democracy belongs to those who show up.
4. A community is more than a collection of issues and endless meetings. (He suggests socialize, but who has the time?)
5. Become the media (we've been doing that already)
6. Hold your "what to do" sessions in your community.


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