A pair of columns about Democrats, one about what black voters lost by hitching their star to them, and another about the price Democrats paid for letting unions die, cried out to me. It's very much something that's been freaking me out, particularly since Trump took the White House. A lot of this began with Bill Clinton and his New Democrat nonsense.
Clinton was sorely wounded after his failed effort to nationalize health care. He stood strong and said that he was going to achieve it or strike down any alternative. What was the difference between Elvis and Bill Clinton? Elvis was alive.While it was the right thing to do in many ways, his failure to achieve it meant he turned down something very similar to what became Obamacare, actually proposed by the GOP. Who knows where we might've been by now had that become law?
Clinton pivoted in the other direction, giving us the Republican Lite that failed to focus on helping the groups with whom Democrats were supposed to identify. When Obama ran, I was troubled by his educational positions. I had no idea he'd give GW Bush an extra term in education, and I had no notion he'd nationalize junk science to rate teachers. Nonetheless, he looked pretty reformy to me.
He ended up a lot worse than I'd expected. One thing that made me vote for him was his promise to enable card check. The possibility of enabling more union for working people seemed worth pursuing. Alas, he didn't bother. Obama also promised to find a pair of comfortable shoes and march with labor, but when Scott Walker shot labor in the back, Obama sat at his desk, presumably wearing heavy Oxfords that didn't encourage walking.
Hillary ran an uninspiring campaign, and the best thing people like me could say about her was, "Well, at least she isn't Donald Trump." Of course, because we don't actually run a national election, votes like mine in New York are relatively meaningless. While voting against Trump was a moral imperative, our fundamental lack of democracy left him President.
And this brings us to union leadership, which endorsed Obama despite his miserable record, and jumped at the starting gate to endorse Hillary. The idea was to be ahead of the curve. An early endorsement could, perhaps, strengthen your negotiating position. After all, AFT had endorsed Hillary against Obama, and that may have emboldened Obama to take all that reformy money and stab us in the back. Who knows?
So this time, the idea was to get with a winner way in the beginning. Or maybe it was about a preexisting preference for Hillary. I remember being part of an AFT phone call, supposedly to help pick a candidate. The first person to speak, supposedly from the crowd, was a hack for NY State Unity who ran an ad hominem blog on me. He called me a part time teacher and a part time unionist. Randi Weingarten tweeted it out and praised it, but retracted it when I pointed out his baseless attack applied not only to me, but also to every single working UFT chapter leader.
It looked to me like the Hillary endorsement was in the bag. I was not persuaded by talk of a "scientific survey" because there was no talk of how respondents were chosen and we were never shown the questions asked. It could have been a push poll, and one thing I'm certain of is no one I know actually took the survey. Also, I saw no evidence that AFT had made any demands of Hillary. Some people speculated that there was a job for Randi in a Hillary administration, but I don't believe that. I don't think Hillary would ever have risked the press reaction to a union leader as Education Secretary.
And why didn't Hillary inspire? Because she offered nothing other than more of the same. Universal health care? After having failed spectacularly to get that for Bill, she wasn't gonna try that again. Affordable college? She argued that we'd be financing Donald Trump's children, as though Trump would even dream of allowing his kids to go to SUNY or anyplace remotely similar. A living wage for all Americans? Hey, let's not get carried away. In fact, I don't recall her even bothering to pay the lip service to card check and/ or union that got me to vote for Barack Obama, once.
The point is that this corporate crap is not only unproductive, but also unappealing. Obama had enough charisma to overcome the stigma of some of his awful policies, but they hang in the air as having enabled Trump, and voters have had enough. We need to dump the "New Democrats" and find someone who supports working people.
And if leadership UFT can't locate and support politicians with pro-labor, pro-teacher policies, they need to find someone who can, or make way for someone who can. We're in crisis and sleepy mediocrity simply won't cut it anymore.
A year ago or thereabouts, Mayor Bill de Blasio started a community policing program. The idea, I guess, was to get police on the street like the beat cops of yore. Where would these cops come from? It appears the mayor pulled them from the public schools. After all, cops don't magically appear from magical fairy dust, and hiring more cops would entail paying their salaries and stuff.
In our school, we had a resident police officer for thirteen years. Some people have large issues with police in schools. I had smaller ones. Our officer, Raul Espinet, tended to talk a lot at security meetings. This upset me, because our AP Security runs the best meetings I've ever attended in my life. He would have three agenda items, would burn through them in five minutes, and we would all leave. Espinet always had comments.
On the other hand, how many teachers ask questions at meetings, thus making them longer? And while I'd like to chide the newer teachers for not knowing better, they frequently turn out to be vets. Sometimes they are me, in fact.
On the other hand, our deans loved him. He would give them heads up about gang activity and drugs in our area. He would preclude issues that may have entered our school otherwise. So ultimately, the information he provided was of more value than my desire to leave absolutely every meeting at the earliest possible minute. I mean, you think you go to a lot of meetings, but chapter leaders go to a lot of meetings.
Anyway, I started getting a whole lot of complaints that Espinet was leaving. The timing was particularly troubling, right after the Florida shootings. A lot of people were on edge. I called Susan Edelman from the Post, who was very interested. She sent a colleague to our school on parent-teacher day, and it turned out our PTA was passing around a petition to get our "armed officer" back. I didn't like the emphasis on "armed" so I didn't sign it. But a thousand other people did.
Edelman's story generated a lot of interest. NBC 4 picked it up, and within days our PTA President and one of our students was on Fox and Friends, of all places. I was able to tell some of my right-leaning friends that I was indirectly responsible for a story on their favorite network. Who would've thunk it?
Someone relented, eventually and there was soon another story saying that police would return to three very large schools in our area, Lewis, Bayside and Cardozo. My sources tell me the DOE did not want this to happen, but bowed to pressure.
This was a moment when union, community and the press came together and we made something happen. It was an energy that moved from person to person and culminated in our getting something. This is kind of how things are supposed to work. I look forward to being part of more things like these.
I started a shitstorm (not my first) when I posted about the January UFT Delegate Assembly. This was the one when Dermot Myrie got up to propose a resolution to support Black Lives Matter and it was voted down by Unity. When I write about meetings, I mostly write whatever I see or hear without editorial content. I generally add a snarky headline, and the one I chose that night was "Black Lives May or May Not Matter."
This was then picked up by Lindsey Christ at NY1 and a few other outlets. It upset the hell out of the Unity Caucus, who wrote some particularly vicious things about the "not so loyal" opposition. I always read the nasty crap they write about us and think I could do it more effectively. On the other hand, I don't really do personal attack much anymore. I used to do it more frequently when I started the blog, but I use it less and less over time. It's not as effective as actual argument, which is my personal go-to.
One of the primary things that's reduced my use of ad hominem was doing real union work. Being chapter leader of the largest school in Queens, the most overcrowded school in the city, is insane. Sometimes I tell people my job is insane and they think I'm complaining. Surprisingly, I'm not. I thrive on having an insane job. I wonder whether teaching is an insane job, if I have an insane approach to it, or both. It doesn't much matter. I love what I do, and when I say how crazy it is, I'm fine with it. (That doesn't mean I don't like time off now and then.)
But it's easy to sit on the sidelines and bitch about the union. That's what I was doing before I got involved, though I didn't really know it at the time. I was particularly tough on Leo Casey, because he was the designated mouthpiece over at Edwize (UFT had a blog back in the day.), and frankly, he was pretty nasty to us too. As soon as I became chapter leader, I went on a mission to try to reverse our school's overcrowding. Leo Casey came to our school and set up a meeting at DOE. At this meeting we were able to come to an agreement that worked well for a few years.
So what can you think when a person you've said the most awful things about for months and months comes out and helps you? It's pretty awkward. You can't really just say that everyone in leadership sucks unreservedly, even though you've been saying that for years. It's a lot easier to talk like that if you're far away and play no part in union issues.
I have legitimate criticisms of leadership, though. There's class size, which was placed in the contract over a half-century ago. You'd hope we'd have moved forward since then. There are the excessive observations. There's the junk science. There's our wildly undemocratic process. There's the ATR, which was and still is a huge error that needs fixing.
My Executive Board buddy Mike Schirtzer wrote this a while back, and I guess it's time I say it too--I don't remotely suspect Unity Caucus of racism, bigotry, or anything of the sort. I think they made an error not endorsing Black Lives Matter, but I certainly don't believe they feel black lives don't matter either.
They called it a splinter issue. They're right that by endorsing BLM you're liable to lose the Trump/ racist contingent (assuming that isn't already a done deal). Make no mistake, there is that contingent in UFT. I saw it very much on display on UFT's Facebook page preceding the Staten Island march protesting the Garner shooting. I had not planned to attend that march, but I was so thoroughly disgusted by remarks from my fellow union members that I changed my plans.
More recently, it appears to me Hillary lost the election (among other reasons) because she failed to stand up. Hillary didn't support universal health care, a living wage, or affordable college. The guy who ran her campaign was no friend of ours. Like Obama, who proved to be a terrible education president, we endorsed Hillary unconditionally. I'm not privy to high-level negotiations, but why on earth are we giving our support to people who lecture us about "public charter schools," whatever they may be, at the AFT Convention, of all places? It was easy for me to vote for Hillary against Trump, but she didn't look good alone (or compared to Sanders, who I believe would've defeated the Donald).
To my mind, this is the same thought process that kept us from endorsing BLM. I know Trump voters who are just not going to pay union dues. Why should they? People like me will pay. Trump wouldn't pay. He'd make us do it, and indeed we pay millions for all his golf junkets and military parades and whatnot. I don't think Trump voters are the ones who will save our union. Trump voters would ruin the union just as eagerly as they're ruining these United States.
MORE isn't perfect either. MORE"s handling of the Garner march was embarrassing. I understand there was a meeting in which they tried to retroactively support it, which was even more ridiculous. Hey, you were there, or you were not there. I've been at more than one meeting in which a bunch of white people sat around and pondered how to attract more educators of color. I wondered, why are you asking me?
Off the top of my head, I'd say that educators of all colors and sizes want to be treated with respect. They want better pay, less stupid paperwork, fewer pointless mandates and fewer lunatic administrators. They want better, not worse working conditions. They want to work with confidence, not live in fear. One thing MORE has right is that our working conditions are student learning conditions.
Maybe we should all get together and improve those conditions. I'm ready. Alternatively, we can all run around and insinuate nasty shit about one another.
I'm still at NYSABE. There is a lot of good stuff going on. Everyone here supports ELLs. UFT VP Evelyn de Jesus, speaking this morning, quoted a Czech proverb, You live a new life for every language you speak, and expressed support for tweaking Part 154 so that we could give ELLs the language instruction they need.
Alas, until that happens, we have to deal with what's in front of our faces. That's why I chose to attend a presentation about co-teaching. The presentation was certainly thoughtful. In an ideal world, everyone would follow the practices the presenter espoused. The problem is we're not quite in an ideal world. I made the egregious error of answering two questions before I realized I was thinking about a universe that did not specifically exist in the room I was in.
The first question was, "What is co-teaching?" My answer was co-teaching is when the principal says, "You, and you, go teach together." This was not well-received by my group. They said co-teaching is a relationship. It's a marriage. It's a negotiation. They weren't wrong.
But I wasn't wrong either.
The presenters weren't totally out of the loop on what goes on. For example, the presenter acknowledged that the ESL teacher often appears to be an educational assistant. The young woman next to me said she often felt that way. In fact, she said, two of the teachers with whom she co-teaches don't even acknowledge her presence in the room.
So think about that. If co-teaching is a marriage, this young woman is conducting at least three marriages concurrently. I don't know about you, but that's a high bar for me. If we really wish these things to work, why are we setting such impossible standards? The presenter said when you have issues with your co-teacher, the best thing to do is go out for a drink or something. Don't go to the principal and complain. As the person who's often in the room with the principal and the co-teachers who've complained, I couldn't agree more. Alas, it's always too late.
The second time I opened my mouth I made yet another faux pas. What's the main issue with co-teaching? The main issue, I said, was that the English language was not regarded as sufficiently important under Part 154 to be regarded as a subject. Another attendee took exception to that. "Did you try telling your co-teacher about specific English errors, as opposed to simply labeling them "awkward?"
Now she isn't wrong about that. Were I paired up with the science teacher I might be able to offer specific suggestions on how to more effectively improve composition skills. She thought I was expressing some sort of feeling of inferiority or envy, as though I weren't being appreciated. That's not the case at all. I have multiple certifications, and I don't actually need to co-teach.
What I'm talking about is the fact that these co-taught ESL classes come at the expense of direct English instruction, something my kids direly need. There is simply no substitute for it. How would you like to go to China and be placed in a Chinese history class taught entirely in Chinese? Would it help you if I gave you five vocabulary words every day? Would it help you if I had a Chinese as a second language teacher wandering around the room to give you tips on what the hell the other teacher was talking about? Maybe a little, but probably not remotely enough for you to learn Chinese history.
Under CR Part 154, what really happens when you plant the ESL teacher in the science class? As someone who struggled with science in my native language, I don't really see how I could be expected to learn not only science, but also a new language, especially in the same time native speakers learned only science. No matter how many good ideas you have about co-teaching, that's an insurmountable obstacle right there. Furthermore, it's made worse by the fact that the ESL teacher likely has several other co-teachers and little or no time to consult with any of them.
The presenter said two heads are better than one. That's potentially true. Last year I was in a great co-teaching situation. After having mediated between bitter pairs of teachers for years, I told my boss I never wanted to co-teach. Unfortunately, I'd also told her how quick-witted and smart I found one of our new teachers. My AP, to prove me wrong yet again, paired me up with her and we got along very well. Our only issue was how fast we did things. I make decisions very quickly, and she always wanted to think about things. "We have no time for that!" I'd tell her, but she persisted. Nonetheless, whenever I got called out to some stupid meeting somewhere, I had absolute confidence my students were well-cared for.
Co-teaching would be great if we were actually adding something. Under Part 154, we add a co-teacher, but we take away a fundamental element of language learning, to wit, time. You don't acquire a language simply by wishful thinking and good intentions. Adding a co-teacher to one period does not mitigate the fact that you've subtracted a period of direct English instruction. Not only have you failed to compensate for that, but you've also taken time away from the core subject by adding language instruction to it.
Hey, it's great for co-teachers to get along. But in New York State, they're attacking the problem backwards. If you couldn't climb a mountain in one day, I'd suggest you take two or three days to do it. New York State says do it in half a day, but here, bring someone with you. How stupid is that?
I'm at the NY State Association for Bilingual Education Conference, a guest of UFT Education VP Evelyn de Jesus. For some reason Evelyn thinks it's a good idea to send me to conferences that center around the kids I serve, and this is the second year she's sent me here.
I'm not at all sure how this story got past me, but a teacher saw fit to tell a Spanish-speaking student that she needed to "speak American" and actually got caught on video.
“Men and women are fighting. They are not fighting for your right to speak Spanish,” the teacher said in the Oct. 12 video. “They are fighting for your right to speak American.”
Well, I'm glad I didn't have to represent that teacher. There's not a whole lot you can say or do to mitigate that kind of speech. I won't mention the name of the young woman who was the recipient of those comments, but today we saw her. It's horrifying that anyone would speak to a student like that. I'm a little upset it was an English teacher, because in a galaxy long ago and far away I was one too.
In New York City hate speech like that would be a violation of Chancellor's Regulation A-421, verbal abuse. A-421 is pretty broadly written, perhaps too much so. Anything that would make a student feel belittled or abused is a violation. If you say, "Good morning," and the student doesn't like it, and the principal doesn't like you, you're likely up on charges.
You kind of expect an English teacher to be well read. To me, at least, that would imply a rudimentary understanding of culture. If you are telling people to speak American, culture's not the first thing I'd be accusing you of. I have little to no tolerance for racism, bigotry, or even garden-variety stupidity. These are especially egregious in adults. To my mind, none of these qualities are desirable in teachers.
It's different with kids. They often don't know better, and one of the things about this job is you get chances to be proactive. You can help kids to grow up and never say things like, "speak American." I'm pretty shocked when I see bigotry in my ELLs, but I do. Sadly, I'm less shocked by homophobia, which many of them deem acceptable. They're pretty surprised when I don't wink and nod with them. I let them know that it's no different from making fun of their country, religion, color, sex, or any number of things.
The students today gave me the impression this speech was not that unusual. The only thing that really changed was that this was captured on video. I don't think this teacher would have fared as well in NYC. I know someone who did something I'd consider less egregious, got caught on video, and got fired. Of course you never know on any given day what some zany madcap arbitrator might decide. But I am so glad I didn't have to represent the teacher who said this odious thing.
I was walking to the meeting with KJ from New Action, and the first thing he said to me was, "I can smell the food." I told him that had never happened before and it seemed like a good sign. Maybe they had finally abandoned those awful sandwiches. We got there and there was all sorts of food. I tried a piece of the eggplant and it was pretty good. We hoped maybe a better fed meeting would be a more productive meeting but alas, that was not to be the case.
Eric Mears started the meeting with a great analysis of Danielson. He picked out parts that suggest teachers should essentially work without compensation if they wished to have good ratings and asked how that was even legal. He pinpointed lines that said we should essentially rat out our co-teachers. It was great that he was able to plod through all that nonsense to find this stuff. It's kind of remarkable that no one else did before. I often lack the patience to go through tedious crap with a fine tooth comb but I really appreciate that Eric was able to do it. Let's see what leadership has to say about this.
We got to hear further about the massive abuse in Adult Ed. I'm really surprised that a sitting cesspool like that has yet to be drained. It seems to be affecting some of the most vulnerable people in the city, and I'm not talking about the teachers. This superintendent appears to be getting away with murder.
ATRs are given an opportunity to vote in UFT elections for a chapter leader who will almost certainly not be their chapter leader come September. It hardly seems worth it, if you ask me. Why should I be worried about a leader who won't be my leader? This distinction, alas, appears to escape leadership, who didn't even wish to discuss it. My understanding is that they contend the ATR to be a temporary aberration. The fact that they enabled it via the 2005 contract, as well as the fact that it's endured for twelve years appears not to register.
When I asked whether we could reach out to ATRs I was told that this wasn't a question. Howard Schoor said I knew how to write a resolution and indeed I do. I can certainly provide one for the next meeting, but given the dismissiveness of that remark I'm not confident we'll prevail. It's kind of disturbing to think that, at the same time we're urging people to remain in the union, we're telling a whole group of people stuck in a purgatory created by leadership that they don't get a meaningful vote. It wouldn't be my preferred approach.
Amy Arundell spoke about saving two Queens schools, which was a very positive achievement. It is sorely disappointing to see Bill de Blasio, for whom I worked, to whom I contributed, whose first inauguration I attended, closing schools a la Mike Bloomberg.Worse, it appears he fired the PEP member who enabled it, in direct violation of a campaign promise.
Now I rejoice as much as anyone when we avert closings. Sadly, I'm not sure I can agree that this is the result of union power. Union power is certainly desirable, and I'm sure it didn't hurt. But you also have to factor in the dumb luck of getting someone on the fake school board to vote with you. The likelihood of it happening again after this firing hovers around nil. I remember going to many raucous and passionate hearings for Jamaica, and the PEP shut it anyway.
Then we come to a class size resolution. I've been trying to negotiate with Unity for months. I don't recall offhand when Howard Schoor said they'd be happy to meet about this, but the fact is I reached out immediately after that meeting. I got one response saying it was a good idea to do things this way rather than just hitting them with resolutions, but no one answered my repeated requesta for a meeting. I followed up, but by last Monday I'd had it.
I sent our resolution in during the school day. Unity passed a resolution demanding they get to see any resolution at least an hour before the meeting. Ironically, they themselves need not show us anything and can bring whatever they feel like with no notice whatsoever. In any case, on Monday I learned exactly why they need to do this stuff.
In response to our resolution, Unity put up two guys to respond. The first guy got up and read from a piece of paper about what he wanted stricken from the resolution. I stood up and was going to ask why he wanted to do that. As it happened, Unity put up a second guy with an explanation for their rationale. He explained that asking for any particular number in class size reduction would cost us money in the contract negotiations.
Now it was odd that he said that, because the resolution specifically said that this was unrelated to contract negotiations. Yet he and at least one other speaker said that any specific request for class size reduction would come with a price in negotiations. The Unity Caucus therefore voted to remove all references to specific class size from the class size resolution.
Evidently, since our resolution now made no specific class size demands, there would be no specific price paid during negotiations. In case the implication of that is not obvious. I'll point out that this means we specifically demand nothing whatsoever in the way of lowering class size. Certainly the city won't be charging us for that, and the clause saying we ought not to pay during contract negotiations remains.
I was really struck by what the guy who appeared not to understand why he was asking what he was asking when he added
Resolved that UFT will continue to fight to get C4E monies dispersed to NYC.
Note the implication here. UFT is already doing something, evidently, and will continue doing whatever that may be. As someone who grieves class sizes twice a year, I'm thoroughly unimpressed with our fight. Thus far, it's yielded precisely nothing. The notion of continuing whatever it is we're doing appeals to me not at all. The notion that UFT has been carrying the torch for lower class sizes is preposterous beyond belief.
That's why I voted against my own resolution, and that's why I'll vote against it again if it comes up in the DA. I know a meaningless, toothless nothing when I see one.
There's an interesting piece in The Chief ($) about reaching out "in building unity," and judging from this photo, it's pretty easy to see why. Note that the young woman in the photo is wearing a Unity Caucus t-shirt and appears to be in a UFT hall.
Now I'm not a fashion consultant, but I have to say that it's pretty inappropriate for anyone to knock on doors wearing a shirt like that. I'm not remotely sure that was the case, but she is clearly sending a message to Chief readers.
It is, however, a pretty good representation of union leadership, whether she intended it or not. The UFT is run by the Unity Caucus and has been since its inception. It's actually not something they widely broadcast. I barely knew it existed until 2005, when I started taking a much closer look at UFT politics. Until then they existed only as a name on a ballot that turned up every two or three years.
Unity Caucus is an elite, invitation-only caucus, a veritable gravy train of perks and gigs for those who sign up. As I write frequently, it requires its members to sign a loyalty oath. It basically says you may disagree within the caucus, but in public you must fall in line with all caucus positions. This can be frustrating, especially if you sit on the Executive Board every two weeks determined to speak what you see, as opposed to what you're told. There are seven of us in the opposition. You can recognize us because we're the ones asking questions. We're the ones bringing resolutions demanding things like, oh, following the C4E law to reduce class sizes, or giving ATR members a meaningful vote.
At the Executive Board, I watch dozens of people sit around, saying and doing nothing until and unless they're instructed otherwise. These are the people, hand-picked by leadership to represent your interests. The only problem is they aren't actually permitted to do that. In fact, they've signed a specific document pretty much promising to tow the line whether or not it serves your interests. Make no mistake, this holds us back.
Sometimes I feel the only thing I really own is my voice. I can't and won't sign an oath to give it up. That this is the price of what they call activism speaks volumes as to what our problem is. I'd actually love to work with and support the union. Sometimes I get called to do that, but not all that frequently. It's too bad we can't work that out. It kind of breaks my heart to see people whose only redeeming quality to the union is the ability to sit down and shut up. This is about the least useful quality an activist can have. But if you want to entertain working for UFT, it's the only one that matters.
We're now facing an existential threat. The reaction of leadership is the same as it ever was. Pay flunkies to work around the office, doing something or other, and continue to erect brick walls to keep the activists the hell out. That's an ass-backward approach. You are either a leader or a follower. UFT policy is to actively discourage leadership. That's bad organization, and it's also bad teaching.
I go to work each and every day and try to draw out the voices of my students. Given that they don't speak much or any English, that's not precisely a walk in the park. Sometimes I have to pry it out of them. Sometimes I feel like I'm a dentist with a pair of pliers trying to extract a recalcitrant tooth. Sometimes I feel like I'm holding them by their knees and shaking them up and down until something falls out. I never stop trying though.
UFT Unity seems to go about things differently. It's like they are emulating Michelle Rhee and taping their student's mouths shut. After all, if they're open, who knows what could come out of those things? Sadly, come Janus, listening to rank and file will become essential if we are to survive. Sadder still, leadership has almost no experience doing this, and as far as I can tell, little to no inclination to start. It's gonna be a long and interesting year.
Speakers—Eric Mears—Health Opportunities High School—(delivered me his speech, which I present verbatim)
Ladies and gentlemen,
I speak today to address the shocking sample comments of the Charlotte Danielson rubric; particularly the “Professional Responsibilities” section.
One can infer from these comments that teachers who are unwilling to do free labor or commit treachery against their colleagues may be rated Developing or worse. Teachers' opinions may also be used as reasons for low ratings under Danielson.
Here are four egregious examples of sample comments:
1. "The teacher listens to his principal's feedback after a lesson, but isn't sure that the recommendations really apply in his situation." (Developing; Component 4.E. - Growing and Developing Professionally)
- Here, the teacher is to be penalized for being skeptical about his principal’s feedback; in other words, for his opinion. Indeed, even if the teacher carries out all of his principal’s suggestions conscientiously, he shall be punished for his lack of faith in them. The Developing rating is to be assigned, in short, because a teacher has committed a thought crime.
2. "The teacher says, 'I have always known my grade partner to be truthful. If she called in sick, then I believe her.' " (Developing; Component 4.f. – Showing Professionalism)
- Here again, the teacher is to be evaluated based on his opinion of his colleague. This is already absurd. But worse, a teacher can only show that he distrusts his grade partner by investigating her, quarreling with her, gossiping about her, or performing some other treacherous act. And the Danielson rubric would reward him for doing so.
3. "The teacher considers staying late to help some of her students in after-school daycare but then realizes it would conflict with her health club class and so decides against it.” (Developing; Component 4.f. Showing Professionalism.).
- Here, a teacher is to be punished for failing to provide extra and perhaps free labor in her school. This fact alone would seem to make the Danielson rubric illegal and inadmissible as a document through which to evaluate teachers. At minimum, it is contemptuous of teachers’ dignity and time.
4. "The principal says, 'I wish I didn't have to ask the teacher to 'volunteer' every time we need someone to chaperone the dance." (Developing; Component 4.d. – Participating in the Professional Community)
- Here, a teacher spends his free time chaperoning every school dance that occurs in a given school year. But because his principal asked him to volunteer, he is perversely punished with a Developing rating. This comment is not only anti-labor (and probably illegal) like the others. It is also poorly written and not thought through.
Nothing can ameliorate a rubric that is tainted by these sample comments that encourage the violation of labor law. It is immoral, illegal, and unacceptable to evaluate teachers in the way that Danielson prescribes.
So, what should be done? I recommend two actions and a contingency:
Action #1: Demand that the DOE rescind all Developing or Ineffective ratings that were given during the Danielson era - - - or at least rescind those ratings in categories where Danielson encourages labor law violations.
Action #2: Demand that the DOE replace Danielson with an alternative that is devised and agreed upon by NYC teachers and principals. The consultant class does not deserve a say in any new system; not after five years of crudely encouraging labor violations under Danielson.
Contingency: If the DOE does not agree to these two demands, file a class action lawsuit on behalf of all teachers who have been harmed by Danielson. This should be a winnable lawsuit – since the document blatantly encourages administrators to violate labor law.
A school system that uses Danielson does not respect its educators, or basic labor law, for that matter. And a union that allows Danielson is not serving its members. Please act, now, UFT leaders, to repair the harm that Danielson has done, and would continue to do, to UFT teachers.
Schoor—Are these examples?
Mear—They’re sample comments.
Schoor—Send them to me.
Roberta Pixar—fired from Adult Ed.—Asks union to help with budget. All other teachers have access to school budgets. As public agency budget is public, but Rosemary Mills has denied access as we watch program eliminated.
Told we could no longer teach low level students due to funding. Program being dismembered. We want to see budget.
One third classes closed despite over 50 million budget. Career and tech training disappearing. Mills bought kindergarten and college books with no levels in between. They are useless, no money left to buy appropriate ones. Mills hired managers rather than buy books. More and more of our teachers and support staff are fired and handed out. Strictly per session program with no benefits lately.
Barr has budget but has not released to chapter. What is the secret? We are now being denied access by our own union.
We need to see where money has gone year by year, we need income sources and detailed expenditures. We suspect mismanagement, at least. We want our program back, alive, not moribund. Asks that UFT stops withholding budget from members. Want to see it and five previous budgets. Will you do that?
Schoor—We have it, we are analyzing it. Parts of it are public, but not all of it. CLs entitled to part of it. There are different views of budget. We will give it to CL with our analysis.
Mulgrew not here—says if you haven’t seen DeVos interview you should get it. This is what you get for 200 million in donations.
LeRoy Barr—middle school conference, great event, thanks Richard Mantel, guidance conference and para luncheon, went well. Letter from DOE about 17 minute walkout, March 14, encourage schools to have plans. Make sure students are safe, volunteer. UFT Anniversary March 16. Saturday elementary conference. March 21 DA, EB March 26. March against gun violence March 24.
Janella Hinds—UFT will support March for Our Lives in Central Park. March 24th
Schoor—As we get info on marches we share
Vince G—praises menu change. Thanks LeRoy Barr.
Arthur Goldstein—MORE—It appears our brothers and sisters in the Absent Teacher Reserve will be eligible to vote in chapter leader and delegate elections. That’s positive. Less positive is the fact that many or most of them will not be in the same schools come September. I speak to a lot of ATRs, and they feel about this just as many of us felt about the Electoral College when Trump won. I understand leadership’s position that the ATR is temporary, and like everyone here, I’d like it as temporary as possible. I understand that as an objection to a permanent chapter. I’d therefore propose we establish a temporary chapter, to be dissolved as soon as the ATR is. Like all of you I’m concerned about Janus, and I think our brothers and sisters in the ATR require and deserve a unique voice to express their unique interests.
Can we work together to make that happen this year?
Schoor—You can make a proposal. Question period not proper time. Made this decision three years ago. This board voted. Some people filed a complaint at US Labor Dept.
Goldstein—With all due respect, I’m speaking for teachers here, I'm trying to help them regardless of what US Labor Dept may have said.
KJAhluwalia--New Action--I deal with ATRs as well, was in phased out school. What about security? Often have no keys. Have to scramble for someone to lock door. How do we protect them and make them feel like citizens instead of pariahs?
Schoor—We should ask DOE to come up with plan. Thank you for question.
Mike Sill—Appreciate that question. Wrote to Randy Asher about this issue. DOE sometimes lacks uniform policies. Some schools have universal keys, some are individual. DOE agrees. It’s something our safety division is taking up as well. Need to work to make it happen.
Ashraya Gupta—MORE—We have folks here who are labor lawyers. Could we get a response on that? Is it in violation of labor law?
Schoor—Agree. That’s why I asked for questions.
Marcus McArthur—MORE—People concerned about Janus. In my school we’ve assembled committee. Members want to know what’s next. What can we do now?
Schoor—Have a program, door knockers. We don’t know yet what decision will say. Could say you don’t need new cards. Might say we have to have different language and have to resign everyone. May have to do it each year. Many possible variations. We are reaching out. Soon there will be a new UFT app. Will introduce at DA on 21st. We think we do a great job now but we have to do more.
?—Professional conciliation—What if DOE gives us curriculum but it isn’t good? How can we address it?
Debbie Poulos—Anyone interested in this, we created a form for assistance. Sometimes it can also be paperwork. Fill out form or email me.
Shelvy Abrams—Want to respond to Marcus—Talk to members. Those of you who heard about Wisconsin, it can happen here. This is what we can lose, bargaining, health. This is do or die situation.
Schoor—Our contract controls many things in your life. That’s what we’ve fought for since March 16, 1960. Everything is in the book and everything is at stake.
Reports from Districts
Tom Murphy RTC—We are on the road, visit 4K retirees. Janus concerns us. Trying to make PR like NOLA. Evelyn de Jesus asked us to help. We are coordinating 146 people.
Anne Goldman—Thanks from nurses who ratified a contract. We don’t assume that we will successfully bargain without power in political arena and bargaining table. Striking issue for us is they often want our pension. We’re part of a giant ruthless system, but they invested 80 million in it, result of our fight. We work with staffing similar to class size. Quite pricey to achieve. Have struck twice, but achieved our success because of all of you. We’re in it together, part of attack on each of us. Overwhelmingly ratified. Thank you.
Shelvy Abrams—Para luncheon Saturday, 1000 members. Thanks all who came, Ellie Engler and Teacher Center, did great job. Hardest working people in schools, so next time I want more than 1000 and want to see members.
Janella Hinds—March 1, we held Future in Focus, hosted 36 colleges, 30 labor unions who presented to 600 HS students, exposed to college and career, especially unionized.
Events—Triangle Shirtwaist Fire commemoration—sweatshop fire, women 16-20 died horribly, every year they remember them, March 23rd at noon.
Herstory—brunch and celebration to honor women in labor movement March 25th. Academic HS Awards, Friday April 13th, fourth annual.
Amy Arundell—PEP meeting last week—Several schools were voted on, two of which in Queens, 42 and 53, HS in Manhattan, and others. Raucous meeting, reminiscent of Bloomberg era, ended 2:30 AM. 42, 53 and Health Careers were kept open. Denied mayor these closings. Left at 12:30 feeling sad, and someone texted me to say they didn’t pass. Isn’t that amazing?
Happened because 3 school communities fought tooth and nail for schools. Packed meetings.
Members expressed feelings with help of our reps. Much political work going on, provided financial support. Bused communities in. Testament to work not just of union but also to community partners. Great day and lesson. All of us will save all of us.
Thanks union and all resources, school communities, parents and activists. Unionism looks bright to me now.
Paul Egan—Big week for Chelsea playing Barcelona. Won on weekend. Next week is Lobby Day. Over 1100 people. Packed. Opportunity to make our presence felt. Please attend. Door knocking is ongoing. Four trainings, fifth going on in April. Asks if you know or can recommend someone please reach out.
2018 chapter election guide—
LeRoy Barr—Rises to motivate—same as what we did in 2015. Made sure that everyone repped by UFT could nominate, vote and run. Asks you adopt this guide and by laws.
Gender Neutral Restroom Resolution
Rashad Brown—Requests UFT provide gender neutral restrooms in offices. UFT has been in center of many fights to help LGBT and other communities. Good also for children. AFT does it at assemblies, so does NEA. DOE has it in place for students. Urges yes vote.
Arthur Goldstein—MORE—Since our last class size resolution, we’ve given a lot of thought to the idea that all contractual negotiation was the province of the 300 member committee. We acknowledge and understand that position, which is why this resolution makes no mention of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and proposes nothing related to it.
Instead, we’re focusing on an existing mandate. This gives us a golden opportunity to support our students and members without touching upon confidential negotiations. It’s been a long time since we’ve taken concrete steps to help the class size situation. In actual fact, it’s been over half a century. Here’s a way for us to address not only class size, but also the problematic nature of enforcement. Instead of giving teachers a day off from tutoring, let’s offer those who violate the law consequences worthy of lawbreakers. Let’s make recalcitrant principals and DOE lawyers subject to actual law and its consequences. Let’s decisively end the practice of making teachers and students pay when administrators and lawyers who claim to place, “Children First, Always” practice contempt for the law. We can do that right here and right now.
Let’s take this opportunity to show communities and members that we will zealously press for the enforcement of regulations designed to help and support them. Let’s show our colleagues, at this crucial juncture, that union is there to support them. Let’s show city parents that we, the people who wake up every day to work with their children, are the people who really put children first. And let’s tell politicians who cavalierly ignore the law that we won’t allow them to do it anymore. Stuart Kaplan—amendment—Strike second to last “Whereas” and first Resolved. Adds Resolved that UFT will continue to fight to get C4E monies dispersed to NYC.
Gregg Lundahl—Asks to strike second to last Whereas (same one) Says there is a difference between C4E and CFE, C4E doesn’t have specific numbers, but there is a great deal of money withheld since 2015. Don’t wish to pay for it in contract negotiations. These are specific numbers. Much more comfortable with our substitute resolution. If we fight to do this for the contract money will have to come from somewhere. Let’s get money from state.
Kiera—Point person for class sizes. Speaks in support of the amendment. Looks at it from negotiation standpoint. Doesn’t want to make class size negotiation public policy.
First strike next to last whereas—Vote.
Passes on party lines.
Passes on party lines.
Passes on party lines.
Resolution as amended passes on party lines.
We are adjourned.
RESOLUTION TO REDUCE CLASS SIZES TO C4E LAW LEVELS (actual class size language now stricken)
Whereas, reducing class size has proven to be one of the best ways to improve student learning, lower teacher attrition rates and disciplinary problems, and narrow achievement and opportunity gaps between racial and economic groups; and
Whereas, NYC schools continue to have the largest average class sizes in the state, and NY’s highest court said that our class sizes were too large in our schools to provide students with their constitutional right to a sound basic education; and
Whereas, UFT contractual class size limits continue to be ignored by the DOE; and Whereas, the DOE uses outlandish “action plans” to address these limits; and
Whereas, the NYC DOE recently reported class sizes have continued to increase this year; and
Whereas, Article 8L in the 2005 Contract called in part for a labor-management committee to discuss lowering class size if Campaign for Fiscal Equity Settlement funding was available; and
Whereas, the 2007 Contracts for Excellence (C4E) law, which settled the CFE case, required NYC to reduce class size in all grades; and
Whereas, the goals for class size in the city’s original C4E plan, approved by the state in the fall of 2007, are for an average of no more than 20 students per class in K-3, 23 in grades 4-8 and 25 in high school core classes; and
Whereas, the Department of Education has flouted this law flagrantly since 2007; and Whereas, the DOE gets C4E funding that is often not used to reduce class size; be it therefore
Resolved, that the UFT will make lowering class sizes to the C4E limits of 20 students in a class K-3, 23 in Grades 4-8 and 25 in high school core classes a major goal; and be it further
Resolved, that funding for this class size reduction should not in any way affect monies for contractual raises for UFT members as the DOE is already receiving C4E money to reduce class sizes from the state.
I honestly don't know a whole lot about Richard Carranza. I see good and bad things. On the plus side, he's a former English Language Learner, or ELL. This gives me hope that he might see through the miserable Part 154 that robs ELLs of both direct English instruction and also core content instruction. In 2017, we ought to offer our most needy kids something better than sink or swim.
Also, he seems to be an advocate for public schools. The last guy the mayor picked, Tom Carvel or somebody, looked like an advocate for school choice in the Jeb Bush mode. Florida's not where I would go to model public schools, though the weather seems pretty nice. Alas, Carvel not only failed to bring the weather over, but also failed to show himself.
On the other hand, there are the stories, largely in the Daily News, from his failure to perform miracles, to creepy treatment of female subordinates, resulting in a 75K payoff. I'm not personally too put off by the miracle thing, because miracle stories, like accomplishments of Texas and Michelle Rhee, usually turn out to be outright fabrications. Carranza seems to have a thing for TFA, while I think he'd be better off finding local talent. In fact, I wonder why the mayor couldn't find anyone in NY. The mayor said mayoral control was all about him doing what he wanted to do, but that's not really true.
When de Blasio was elected, he not only stated opposition to charters, but also blocked a Moskowitz Academy or two. Cuomo and his Heavy Hearted Assembly rapidly passed a law that NYC would have to pay rent for charters of which it didn't approve. This said to me that mayoral control was valid only if the mayor was a reformy. They never passed laws against Bloomberg. Evidently, de Blasio hasn't put that together just yet.
Carranza says there's no daylight between his vision and that of the mayor, but I have no idea what the mayor's vision is anymore. When he first ran, he seemed great. He opposed charters and reforminess. He was the anti-Bloomberg. I supported him even as the UFT was pushing that guy, what's his name, who told the Daily News that teachers didn't deserve the raise cops and firefighters got.
These days I have no idea what the mayor stands for. He left a whole bunch of Bloomberg's people in place, so we still lose at step two hearings even when we're 100% correct. He left a bunch of scumbag lawyers in "legal" who believe in doing whatever the hell they feel like and believe screwing UFT members is the national pastime. He picks an outright reformy to be chancellor and then immediate turns around and picks a guy who appears to support public schools. Though the NY Post thinks he's Che Guevara, he negotiated the lowest pattern bargain in my living memory for city workers.
A few days ago, I was speaking to a music teacher I respect a lot who said the new chancellor was a great singer. I later found a video over at Leonie Haimson's site, which I've posted below. He is a very good singer, and he also plays the violin. You have to respect that. Maybe I'm culturally biased or something, but his choice of song is pretty unusual as far as I'm concerned. It's called El Rey, or the king, and it seems like a tribute to machismo or something:
Con dinero Y sin dinero Yo hago siempre Lo que quiero Y mi palabra Es la ley
That says, roughly, if I'm rich or if I'm broke, I do any damn thing I feel like, and my word is the law. It's the kind of song Donald Trump might tweet if he had any music in his miserable, barren soul. El Rey is about a man whose "queen" appears to have dumped him for his miserable attitude, a man who's learned nothing whatsoever from it. While it's tongue in cheek, I'm not at all sure I'd teach it in a class. Given Chancellor's Regulation A-421 about verbal abuse, I'd be very nervous about it. You know, it might make some student feel uneasy.
I might be sitting in the principal's office being accused of sexism and getting a letter in my file for sharing that song, but there's our chancellor, with an orchestra full of students, performing it. Putting the potential sexism aside, the notion of being the king is the kind of thing I'd expect from Bloomberg or Trump, not an educator. Does the new chancellor have a sharper sense of humor than I do, or is he broadcasting the future?
Only time will tell.
New Superintendent Richard Carranza sings with Sam Houston and Northside High School Mariachis - YouTube
Twice a year I go to class size hearings. As they go, this year was not particularly awful. We had only a handful of disagreements, but one proved very interesting. I identified a health class with 39 students. The DOE lawyer expressed shock that I'd protest it, since it was a College Now class. I found that odd, because not only was it not labeled College Now, but also I protest every oversized class, be it College Now, College Later, or just, you know, regular, ordinary high school. (That's what I teach, by the way.)
I often lose the College Now class size grievances. I believe I've won only once. Personally, I fail to see which great service the college is doing for our kids when they dump them in classes of 39. The class in question was a health class. I was pretty shocked to hear that not only was it a College Now class, but that it was also being taught by someone from the college. Previously every one of these courses I'd heard of was taught by either active or retired UFT members.
When you take College Now classes you get credit for both the college and high school classes. It isn't easy to qualify to teach high school classes. As a high school teacher, I had to be fingerprinted and checked. I had to take and pass tests. I had to be certified. In fact, I'm certified to teach three subjects. I had to pay for each certification. I had to get appointed to a school, eventually. I had to get tenure. I also have to be observed several times a year. I am rated on test scores, and if my rating goes low enough I can lose my job.
What do college teachers need? Basically, they need to get hired. I got hired by Queens College as soon as I got my Master's, and I worked there for 20 years. I've also taught at Nassau Community College. I didn't have to take any test and I didn't have to be fingerprinted. Mostly they left me alone. It was a great way to supplement my income, and I made 50% of my DOE salary at one point. As my DOE salary went up, the percentage fell. Once I became chapter leader, I dumped the second job altogether.
I mostly worked at the English Language Institute at Queens College, where students from other countries would try to work their way into the actual college via our program. In this program, three teachers would split skills and share a class. Sometimes my colleagues would have discipline issues. They'd bitterly complain that this student did this or that. How could anyone deal with that?
Oddly, I never had problems with any of these students. I barely noticed whatever my colleagues was complaining about. Day to day I marveled that they couldn't handle students I found to be challenging me not at all. The biggest difference between high school and college, for me, was that I could cover material much faster in college. I didn't have to bother with discipline of any sort, for the most part. I don't know what I did differently than my colleagues, but I think my experience dealing quickly with nonsense showed somehow.
For all I know, the college teachers in my school (and I've now identified two of them) are wonderful. Even if that's so, why the hell do we have to jump through all these hoops, pay all these fees, and get all these certificates if the schools can just pull anyone from anywhere to teach anything? Are the college teachers more versatile than we are? Personally, I doubt it. It takes an entirely different skill set to teach high school than it does to teach people who pay for their courses. I'd argue that teaching high school is much more challenging. (I'd also argue it's much more important, and that's why I never pursued a doctorate so as to teach college full time.)
There are all sorts of rules that bind us, including chancellor's regulations. None apply to visiting college teachers. We can be disciplined and they cannot. And anyway, Article One of the Collective Bargaining Agreement says UFT represents teachers of every stripe. We don't represent visiting uncertified college teachers from who knows where.
I filed a grievance demanding that UFT teachers teach these classes. If I lose I'll file another complaining that we ought not to need licenses, tests, certification, chancellor's regs, Danielson, or any of the myriad of things we go through to do this job. We ought to be whatever, and do whatever, since DOE can choose to hire whoever.
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