Monday, May 17, 2010

JW Email 24

May 16

Hello, good afternoon,

There is so much stuff out there in this week of no-say teacher evaluations and other union news that this email will end up being two, one now, one later.


PS: These emails are tedious to compile, but people should have access to more information than they are generally getting. You may circulate them in their entirety or just bits, and if people want to be on this list directly, I can add their names if they contact me:



Earlier in the week, someone was thoughtful enough to pass around a PDF of the bill going up to Albany on a buy-out. Because the gossip was that Mulgrew and Bloomberg already agreed on it — which made me understandably ecstatic for 36 hours — I asked Mulgrew at the end of the Delegate Assembly last Wed. if it were indeed true, that he and Bloomberg had already agreed on it. He said in no uncertain terms that he does back this bill, but Bloomberg doesn't yet and that he is pressuring him.

Here's the link for the bill:



BEFORE READING THIS, you may want to take a peek at this YouTube video on high stakes testing, otherwise known as "Making the boys happy." You'll only need to see a minute of Lesson 1 it to get the gist, then you can skip to Lesson 2 (at 4:55), which is what we've lost with this testing crap.

On 2/28/2008, during the run for the presidency, Michelle Obama said "No Child Left Behind is strangling the life out of most schools." and "If my future were determined by my performance on a standardized test I wouldn’t be here. I guarantee that.”

Apparently, she's not feelin' it so strongly anymore and has to be reminded. People are mounting a postcard effort on May 29th to Michelle Obama to flood her with this message in her own words:

Dear Michelle:

We want the same education for our children that you provide for Malia and Sasha.
Our child is not a test score.
Tell the President to end the use of high stakes standardized tests!

Name (address)

Mail to: First Lady Michelle Obama, White House, Washington, DC.



Some members were coerced into COPE deductions from their paychecks, some members believe in these deductions. They're used for UFT political actions in Albany and elsewhere, as spun on various UFT sites (e.g., here and here). They're also used for political actions for things you don't personally agree with and you have the right to STOP making these contributions. But, the UFT makes it difficult for you to stop the deductions. There is no form for it, you need to write the Committee on Political Education a letter down at HQ (52 Broadway, New York, NY 10004), and they're supposed to send you one. I'm going to try it today and see how long it takes. Keep in mind that when you ask them to send you a form to get a new pair of glasses, it takes no more than two business days. Let's see what happens with this.

Someone has written this comment to the Ednotes post on not-COPEing here:
"Change the nickel per pay period to one cent. That will make the year's contribution 24 cents. Not even enough for a phone call. For that you just need a BLANK cope card, not the pre-printed ones. If a thousand folks did that, it would result in a 10 buck per pay period gain in cope. A stinging message."



The process of creating comp-time jobs, professional activities, schedule changes and various other school-business items is supposed to be collaborative, between the union and the principal. It's set up in our contract that way.

But many non-contractual factors affect how well, or how fairly, this process takes place, so it's important to understand where the whole thing can break down:
PRINCIPAL – can be tyrannical, secretive, obstinate, well-connected, devious, manipulative, and not adverse to blackmail
CHAPTER LEADER – can be apathetic, lazy, in bed the principal, feeling pressured or intimidated; CLs can also pursue a strategy of dealing with the principal that members disagree with
MEMBERS – ditto: can be apathetic, lazy, in bed the principal, of feeling pressured or intimidated. They can also be ignorant of the contract — in the nice sense of the word (they haven't read it and don't actually know their rights) and in the negative sense of the word (they think it's up to the chapter leader to do all the heavy lifting and remain forever inactive, kind of like a child).
CONSULTATION COMMITTEE – some schools don't have them at all; individuals on the committee can be all of what's been mentioned already.
SUPERINTENDENT (all these things have to be approved at a higher level) – I suspect the principal has already consulted with their superiors beforehand). There is also a culture under Klein of "whatever the principal wants."

Here is part of the Art. VII.U. of the contract on professional activities:

1. The number of available positions for each professional activity and the
qualifications and responsibilities required for each activity shall be set by the principal
in consultation with the Chapter Leader. Each spring, but no later than April 15th, the
principal shall meet to consult with the Chapter Leader on the number of positions for
each menu item. Should the Union believe the number of positions for administrative
activities set by the principal is inappropriate, or should a teacher believe a selection
decision is in violation of the Agreement, the Union may appeal to the Chancellor.

I wrote a Special Rep at the union this question:
"Are teachers given a menu that the principal and chapter leader put together (from the list of 16 jobs), or are teachers supposed to be given the WHOLE list of 16 items from which they can choose?"

The response:
"Either way depending on the school . . . if principal narrows the list, then only those would be available, but if he/she doesn't then the whole list would be available to choose from."

My opinion: if the principal "narrows the list," the chapter should consider filing an appeal ! Don't know why the rep didn't mention that option. In fact, I don't know why it was worded this way at all: the principal can TRY and narrow the list, but the contract itself demands the process be collaborative.

Then I sent around these comment to CLs and delegates that I know:
You'll notice how the UFT is infuriatingly vague — they specifically say in one place that the teachers should be able to choose from the menu, and in another place say that the menu can be cropped by the principal. I believe the UFT let that looseness slip through the cracks, and that teachers should ALWAYS have been allowed to choose from the WHOLE MENU.
The principal is allowed to determine the number of positions for each item menu. But, the wording leaves wiggle room. It does not say that the principal can KILL some of the 16 jobs, but it does leave room for the principal to cause some jobs to be given "zero" no. of positions, which is the same thing as killing it. This has resulted in my school having NO teaching jobs at all -- only hall duty and cafeteria. I will push to grieve it, but it's the union's vague wording below that caused the damage in the first place.

And one CL responded:

"I have found it best to chose my battles with the principal. My principal has a direct connection to someone in the chancellors office so its almost impossible to do anything to get rid of her. My district rep from the union does not know much about things that are happening in the buildings, although she'll tell you she does. I am usually the first one in my district with 'new' things against my members from the principal so I am the one that other chapter leaders ask questions of. I have found the union mostly useless for much of the day to day operations in the buildings. They don't live what we live so I find using my common sense works much better.
"Regarding your question about prof activities, when the menu came out there was a specific list of about 15 activities that the members were to choose from, but I noticed in the latest contract that list no longer appears and the wording sounds like it changed too. For the past 4 or 5 years my principal narrowed down the list of activities because she wanted everyone planning together. So we have about 4 activities to choose from and one of those has 3 or 4 components. When I first brought it to her attention she was adamant about having only the ones she wanted. When I checked with the union I got the usual run around so I figured it wasn't worth the energy to fight her on this. Some of my members came to me about it when they received the menu and when I told them to file a grievance they said never mind. So as you can see, since my principal reigns through fear. What I usually do is I check with a few of my members that have good heads on their shoulders, then decide if it's worth the fight. By the way, my principal never consults with me about the items, she just gives out the list. My feelings are that it's just not worth the fight especially when your gut is telling you that the union is not going to back you.
"The one thing I did do is at a consultation meeting, once the school year started, we asked that since there are 4 weeks to a month, can one week be for portfolios, which she did agree with and it's been that way since. The contract's wording gives teachers the right to ask individually for a different activity if they want, but from my experience they will also be expected to attend all the planning meetings of their grade."

Another CL wrote:

"The chapter leader speaks to the members and gets input from them on what should be on the PA selection menu from the default list. If they come up with other activities that are not on the default list and the principal agrees with these new activities, then the chapter leader runs an SBO election. Based on the results of the SBO, if the members are in favor of adding new activities to the menu, then they are placed on the menu. That's how I do it at my school. We have activities that are not on the default list such as PBIS coordinator, Data Manager, Testing Coordinator, CTE coordinator, SAVE room teachers. The PA are based on the needs and size of the school."

I will write about the situation at my school in my separate Truman emails.



The Parents blog has a comprehensive post by Richard Barr on the the oral arguments made at last Thursday's hearings. Barr's final comment was "That was it. It is not known how long it will take for a decision to be announced. For what it's worth, it seemed to me that the judges reacted more positively to the attorney for the plaintiffs than to the attorney for the DOE," to which one person commented:
"Don't these judges know that Klein can do whatever he wants and DOE never faces consequences for breaking the law?"

I tend to agree, because it seems whichever way we look in this system, administrators, chancellors, and politicians are overlooking the laws and doing what they want. See also Arthur Goldstein on this subject ("The Tweed gang does what it likes, rules and agreements be damned") and ICE on a similar one ("The message to our kids is that laws are there to be broken by Tweed.") Both articles sound eerily identical to what's going on in my school and very many others.



From someone at the ISC on 28th and 7th:

"A majority of the top "administrators" working there were 'let go' and had to re-apply for their positions with The Children's First Network. The positions are all named under non-union titles!! . . . Two years earlier principals were given the choice to join this Network. Now they must join or not have their positions. . . . This Network has encroached upon space over there. Most office workers are now crunched onto a few floors while the network takes over the majority of the floors. The network was equated to something like the 'Districts' but are under the complete control of Bloomberg, etc."

"A school librarian was browsing on the DOE network and noticed that job applicants were directed by DOE to learn of their status for employment after having had their interview with the 'manager' meaning the principal. The 'manager' would post acceptance/non acceptance on a DOE website."

On getting people to participate on Inquiry Teams:
"This year, my principal was able to accomplish a high degree of inquiry participation by scheduling grade meetings (about 4 times) and calling them Inquiry Teams. Teachers did work on individual plans for low performing students but the teachers didn't mind because they got coverages to go to these meetings. . . . Principal was trying to look good and be able to report that she had 90% of teachers doing the Inquiry thing. Last year we got per session to do the teams."



They are emailing around about a plan to have:


In a shocking betrayal, the UFT leadership reached a deal with New York State
to change the way teachers are evaluated. Future ratings for the majority of UFT
teachers will be 40% based on standardized tests. Instead of two categories,
"Satisfactory," and "Unsatisfactory," there will be four categories and teachers
falling in the lowest quadrant twice can be fired in 60 days.
(For more information without the UFT's spin, the NYS Ed Dept. website is worth

Horrifyingly, the UFT leadership is hailing this as a victory! If this was so great,
why was there never any chance for members, the Delegate Assembly, or even
the Executive Board, to have any say in this decision?
Rank and file teachers know this is a disaster.

If you've been hoping that maybe Mulgrew was better, and you didn't have to spend time
and resources reforming the union, WAKE UP! Mulgrew has shown his true colors,
and there's a contract coming up. He's made a bad deal here and weakened our rights
and protections. Don't wait until its too late again. Get involved with us and help us
build a strong opposition to givebacks and sellouts. Take a first step: Attend our phone
conference meeting on Friday, May 21, at 4 PM. We will be discussing the new rating
system and the looming threat of massive layoffs.

TJC has also put out a leaflet on Job Security for all UFT Members! No Layoffs! (get a PDF there at "Click this link").
They ask you to make copies of the flyer and put them in teacher mailboxes, which you have the right to do, because this UFT website says so:



Mulgrew wants people to attend Klein's Panel for Education Policy this coming Tuesday (6 p.m. onwards, usually they have a sign-up 5:30), where they'll be voting on a $4.9 million contract to recruit and train new teachers while the union is facing layoffs. He also wants to protest in general about the 5 new management positions Klein just created to suck more ed funds out of the classroom. The Chapter Leaders Weekly says:

Even as Mayor Bloomberg called for 6,700 teacher layoffs in his executive budget yesterday, he has done nothing to stop Chancellor Joel Klein’s unbridled spending. Klein just added $500,000 to the management payroll when he doubled the number of deputy chancellors. Now the mayor’s appointees on the PEP board are on track to approve a $4.9 million contract for the New Teacher Project to recruit and train new teachers during a hiring freeze and while we’re facing possible layoffs! Let’s tell what we think of his spending priorities at the PEP meeting that starts at 6 p.m. at Long Island City HS. Go here for a map and directions to the school. The state and city have cut our schools budget by $1 billion over the past three years. We are at the bone. With the state and the city facing multibillion dollar budget deficits and people’s livelihoods on the line, Klein’s foolish spending is intolerable. We need every penny for the classroom. If you can’t attend the PEP meeting, call the mayor on a weekday during business hours at 212-788-3000 and tell him to rein in his chancellor and focus our precious education dollars on the classroom and student services.

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