Sunday, January 17, 2010

Email 13

Good afternoon, folks.

I may have to follow this email with another one this weekend because there's a lot going on.

BLOGGERS, ICE and GEMers - if you have an opinion on what I write below on "Partners in Education" - can you let me know?




See Chaz for analysis and comments. His premise:
However, the union has now declared an impasse and that is scary. I am concerned that after the usual mediation process, the contract will go to the "fact finding" phase. By allowing the three member PERB "fact finders" to determine the conditions of a new contract is very disturbing. In this difficult economic environment it will be too easy for the PERB "fact finders" to allow for "givebacks" and to further destroy teacher rights.

I think many of the bloggers are all on the same page and keeping their fingers crossed that going to PERB is the right decision for the union at this point.

Writes NYC Educator in a comment on Chaz's post [excerpt]:

There is a significant difference right now in that the pattern is favorable. That's unusual, and I don't remember the last time that was the case. When the pattern is crap, they insist we take it, and that we give the earth, the moon and the stars if we wish to deviate even the slightest bit. Now that it looks good, however, despite Weingarten's remarkable support of Bloomberg, they wish to deny it.
So the big question is--will PERB stand by its assertions that the pattern is a good thing that needs to be respected? Or will it say this is a special circumstance and allow Mayor Mike to weasel out of it?



I don't agree with much about the way the union handles our interests, but I think this comment in the Chapter Leaders Weekly is on target. Encouraging people to call 311 to oppose school closings, they say:

The schools targeted for closing educate a significantly higher percentage of high-needs students — English language learners, special education students and poor students — than surrounding schools. The criteria for closing schools seem to be a moving target, with different DOE measures being cited in different cases; and some of the schools on the list have made progress on every measure or received bonuses for improving scores. Rather than address the needs of struggling schools and provide resources and support, the DOE’s response is to walk away and shut down the schools. But this will simply displace vulnerable students yet again, pushing them further to the margins. It does not address the real needs of high-needs learners at all. Tell the Bloomberg administration that these proposed school closings represent a fundamental abrogation by the DOE of its duty to educate all of our city’s children.

Why you should go to the protests: Read this from NYC Educator:

Unfortunately, there is no community in New York City. There is mayoral control. That means, of course, that the mayor does whatever he wants, whenever he wants, however he wants, and if the community doesn't like it, they can go fish, and never mind how cold it is outside. So Eva Moskowitz charters need space and the neighborhood schools get less of it.

This is called "school choice." It means that Mayor Bloomberg can choose to leave your neighborhood with less school space, or even no school space. He can diminish or close your school, and if you have no neighborhood school he won't even give you a damn metrocard so you can get to whatever school he says you need to go to. Public transport too expensive? Walking an hour-and-a-half in the below-zero wind chill helps battle childhood obesity.

Most communities wouldn't stand for the decimation of their school systems. But New York City has turned their community over to a demagogue who cares only to get as much public school money into the hands of as many private entities as possible."

Read Norm's Notes here for a list of school closings and reutilization.

Read Marian Swerdlow's notes on the Dec. Del. Assembly posted below for how Mulgrew and the UFT are wishy-washy on the PEP protest, Jan. 26th. It is interesting that the Chapter Leaders Weekly more or less confirms the opinions set forth there, that the UFT is interested in showing a big effort on that one occasion (the PEP meeting), then walking away from the issue. See the sentence I put in RED: Will this be our "last chance"? If so, it proves the are not intending to do much else. Note, too, the continued claim that the DoE "mismanages" things - which they don't. They are systematically exploding public education as we know it.

This will be our last chance to tell PEP that closing schools should be a last resort, not a first, and to call the DOE on its cynical strategy of closing schools to blame the schools and their teachers for a school’s problems, instead of the DOE’s own mismanagement or neglect. Check out the UFT’s comprehensive Web page on the school closing campaign, where you’ll find links to related news stories, all the public hearing dates and locations, videos produced by the schools, links to school’s Facebook pages, and much more.

TRUMAN staff: Please email me if you are intending to go to any or all of these and, as usual, we will try for a contingent. All of the protests are starting at 4 p.m., so there's no time to go for a drink first. We'll have to "get into the mood" on the subway, where experience has shown repeatedly that if you carry posters on the train, you'll do more to educate New Yorkers than most of the city's news media.

See the sidebar of Under Assault for the details of the 3 main protests and downloadable flyers.



I just noticed the new PARTNERS IN EDUCATION webpage of the Union. I don't know how long it's been there, and although I agree that we teachers are partners in education, I am not convinced the UFT has the right to take this approach when our profession is being mashed out of existence. UFT management are "partners" all right, but they've been partnering the deformers, and at the highest levels. Weingarten has been making real nice to Duncan, for example. And all these years that parent voice was being systematically pushed out of the system by BloomKlein, our union under Weingarten certainly didn't act as "partners" to rail against the parents' losing a voice in their kids' education. In fact, they advocated vociferously to keep the dictatorial use of mayoral control. So I find this partnership thing all deeply suspect.

"In addition to tools and time, we must also foster a climate of trust. Teachers must be treated as partners in reform, with a real voice. "
"The goal is to lift whole schools and systems: to help promising teachers improve, to enable good teachers to become great, and to identify those teachers who shouldn’t be in the classroom at all."
Funny, she didn't fuss when they put college grads into classrooms after a 3-week summer program and called them "teachers." That was tantamount to putting a Halloween costume on them and saying: Here, go teach. Learn what you can as you go along. Sorry if I'm offending new teachers, but there used to be such a thing as student teaching, or at least having an MA in your subject before you took on a full program.

Nevertheless, I see that current prez Mike Mulgrew seems to oppose Weingarten on this. The jd2718 link above gives Mulgrew's response, and the New Action NAC position can be found here. It says:
"On January 12 UFT President Michael Mulgrew issued a statement warning of the dangers of linking test scores to teacher evaluation. New Action/UFT absolutely opposes linking student test scores to teacher evaluation and tenure determinations.
Mulgrew’s statement was in reaction to an interview and a speech given by AFT President and former UFT President Randi Weingarten. Weingarten has shown an unhealthy flexibility over the years to proposals for corporate-style “reform.” . . . Mulgrew points out “the DOE has repeatedly ignored the UFT’s substantive suggestions to speed up the discipline process.” New Action agrees with Mulgrew that it is the DoE that has broken the system. We seek real justice for teachers who have been “temprorarily” reassigned, in some cases for years.

I am sure ICE and TJC will have an opinion on this, but haven't spoken with them, so I can't elaborate. Some of those people are far more knowledgeable of union history than I am, so I am sometimes hesitant to write about new issues without talking to them first. Coraggio.



Pakter is the 1997 Teacher of the Year described in this post: Raw Experience into Words. I didn't know until this moment what he does (or did) in his concurrent (or former) life: see this link. In any case, I'm quoting his essay in full because I've been thinking along the same lines. He talks about the DoE's "pathetic diatribes" against teachers. I've been thinking that their threats and drivel have been thrown around so often that they've become meaningless. Everything we do, or may possibly do, or have contemplated doing and have not done is being attacked by threatening verbiage — either in an LIF or in real charges. What used to be a "word with the principal" — and still is in many other professions — is now a pat, contemptible, legalistic phrase that debases everything we stand for in human relationships.

How the NYC Dept of Education Insults New York City Teachers

Has anyone ever noticed how often certain terms are used by NYC DOE flunkys, sycophants, clueless stooge "administrators" and other assorted Joel Klein lackeys.

There is no other profession on Earth where the terms "discipline" and "appropriate" and/or "appropriate behavior" are used ad nausea. And not used, as one might expect, with reference to school children, so much as in reference to those people who teach the children in our Public Schools in New York City.

Read any so-called "Observation Report" created to help build a case for rating a Teacher, "Unsatisfactory" for the year, and you will see what I mean.

Or how about those endless, self repeating diatribes penned by some pathetic DOE lackey to bring a Teacher up on "Official" charges known as a Teacher's "SPECIFICATIONS" prepared for the Teacher's NY State 3020-a Teacher Hearings/Trial.

Almost as if sprinkling salt over a Jumbo movie theatre sized order of buttered Pop Corn, the words "appropriate" and "discipline" and other such related terms, intended to criticize, demean, denigrate and otherwise "tear down" a teacher, are employed in gloriously ample profusion.
Imagine stating in the performance review of a New York City Fireman:
"Your grimacing as you struggled to keep the 85 pound heavy duty fire hose directed at the main source of the fire was inappropriate- especially when considering that there were children in close proximity who might be puzzled and/or even frightened by your inappropriate behavior".
Or how about an observation report drafted by a Police Precinct Commander that ended with the comments: "Your inappropriate reaction when your immediate "supervisor" ordered you to accept a third year of night shift duty, 12 AM to 8 AM, was inappropriate and may lead to further discipline with the possibility of an "Unsatisfactory" Rating for the year and permanent Termination.
Only Teachers are forced to put up with the indignities, childishly worded letters of criticism from burnt out and often sadistic "supervisors" and other such "slings and arrows" that arise in a system that follows the top-down model.
A system in which advancement is directly dependant and predicated on becoming a "Yes" man, a toady, a subservient lackey, a person who will not hesitate to fabricate, lie and encourage false "witness testimony" to destroy the career of whomsoever the system orders one to destroy.
But what is truly "inappropriate" is for people to "buy" Elections, and then appoint as a school's Chief an entirely incompetent "Legend in his own Mind", Educationally uncredentialed, and Ethically challenged, former Federal Prosecutor as schools Chancellor so that he could wreck the lives of more than one million inner city, at risk children and visit Hell and Havoc on the lives of one hundred thousand men and women who had dedicated their entire lives to teaching New York City's children in over-crowded and under funded classrooms.
Joel Klein Esq. will eventually be relegated and consigned to the scrap heap of history as MUST be the Fate of all incompetent fools and charlatans who step into places and situations where they so clearly do not belong.
Sooner or later ordinary people finally wake up, come to their senses and understand and recognize when the "Emperor has no clothes".
But how much damage, how much harm must be visited on the lives of innocent children and their teachers before the great awakening arrives and the citizens exclaim:

"Was blind- But now I see".



The following points are extracted from ICE's UFT Elections 2010 site. They are useful for anyone who wants to participate in the upcoming union elections.

1. Virtually nothing significant has changed since the last election cycle. Literature from the 2007 elections was distributed as examples of the way things would proceed this time around. Most importantly, it appears that the number of divisional exec. bd. members will remain the same: they're still counting on 6 HS members, 5 MS members, etc.

2. Here is a rundown of the important dates and deadlines involved:
a. January 4, 2010 -- The Election Committee will meet again to finalize details for the election.The finalized details will be turned over to the Executive Board that same evening for approval.
b. Shortly thereafter, petitions will be available.
c. January 11 and February 4 -- Notice of the election will appear in the New York Teacher.
f. March 4 and March 18 editions of the New York Teacher will carry the caucus ads as part of special election editions.
g. March 12, 2010 -- Ballots will be mailed to members.
h. APRIL 6, 2010 (TUESDAY), 5:00 pm -- DEADLINE FOR RECEIPT OF BALLOTS BY AAA [Amer.Arbitraion Assn].
i. April 7, 2010 -- Ballots counted by AAA.

a. Number of signatures needed for nomination:
i. All Officer positions -- 900
ii. All other in-service positions (Exec. Bd., Delegates) -- 100
iii. Retiree delegates (should we choose to run any) -- 25
b. Who can sign which positions:
i. ANY UFT MEMBER can sign for Officer positions and for Exec. Bd. at Large
ii. ONLY TEACHERS IN A PARTICULAR DIVISION can sign for candidates in that division's Exec. Bd. So only High School TEACHERS can sign for High School Exec. Bd. candidates; only Elementary School
TEACHERS can sign for Elementary Exec. Bd. candidates, etc.
iii. ONLY FUNCTIONALS (paras, secretaries, counselors, etc.) can sign petitions for candidates for the
Functional Executive Board.
iv. Only RETIREES can sign petitions for candidates as Retiree Delegates.
c. Once again, Chapter Leader lists will be made available to requesting parties for $10.



Notes from the UFT Delegate Assembly, December 16, 2009
by Marian Swerdlow, UFT Delegate Emeritus, FDR High School, Brooklyn
(The views expressed in these notes are those of the author alone. They do not necessarily reflect the positions of any caucus. If you should wish to "forward" these notes, please forward them to other union members ONLY. And please do not post these notes on the Internet. -M.S.)

[JW note: the first 5 paragraphs are her commentary. The 5th paragraph is particularly important. The Report starts below the double line I've added.

I am aware that this is very long and you may not have time to read it. So I have put some asterisks next to the most salient points for those who need to skim. They are, of course, my own opinion on what's essential reading in here.]

email norm for notes

Erratum in Email 12: Just to say that when 3 people were quick to tell me I had the dates of the protests wrong, I sent a revised version around saying they were three GEM and ICErs. Actually, it was one GEM person, one ICE person, and one TJC person — with overlaps, of course, since activists belong to more than one group.

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