Thursday, July 24, 2014

Rockaway Theatre Company "Gypsy" Highlights

Catch some of the magic in 2 minutes. Only 7 shows left - including tonight (tickets still available), sold out tomorrow (Friday). Call 718 374 6400.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

14 More Schools for Avaricious Eva - Coming to a School Near You - Or in Your Own School

....with so many schools how can Eva assure a consistent quality of cheating that keeps her scores so far above any of the other charters?
By way of example, the application points to one Harlem district school co-located with a Success school has started posting college flags in school hallways, based on a Success practice....
I'm trying not to fall off my couch laughing at this major impact Success had on one school. Talk about scraping the bottom of a barrel to try to toot your own horn.
If Success’ proposal to open 14 new schools by 2016 is approved by the trustees of the SUNY Charter School Institute, the network will enroll about 35,698 students and cost the city more than $165 million (not including the cost of potential private space) by 2020, according to the application. .. Capital NY - Success proposes to dominate NYC’s charter landscape
There is mucho unhappiness in NYC charter land today - even more than in the public school sector which pretty much has accepted the end is coming. But this pretty much spells the end of the independent/non-chain charter school. Maybe even some of the smaller chains too. The Capital NY article touches on a few issues of importance but also leaves a bunch of stuff out.

With de Blasio and the UFT helpless to fight Eva politically, and worse than that, the UFT refusal to organize schools invaded by Eva into an organized resistance force that could counter her, people in invaded schools are helpless. The UFT failed to put up any resistance to Cuomo's charter law sellout that requires the city to put up money to rent space or co-locate these schools.

Eva is jumping in to gobble up what she can, other charters be damned. We have been predicting -- even to my charter contacts - that live by the laws of competition, die by those same laws. Chains will gobble them up over time -- think of the mergers and acquisitions. Eventually, Eva will run into KIPP.

My old pal - NY charter school leader James Merriman - doesn't seem all too happy about this development. As Eva controls the entire charter landscape, he becomes superfluous.

Oh, and think of how many more UFT jobs get lost with 14 more schools. That is why the AFT/UFT are trying to organize non-teachers like nurses -- they know the teaching profession is doomed.

It won't be long before there are demands to lift the charter cap. The UFT is selling the fiction it can organize charters into the union but it will never dent the Eva monolith which is a school district within a school district. She will be facing her own wall as teacher burnout and turnover continues.

And worst of all for Eva -- with so many schools how can she assure a consistent quality of cheating that keeps her scores so far above any of the other charters?

Full Capital NY piece.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

MORE Steering Committee: A Lesson in Democracy

You can't talk about democracy in the UFT unless your own group has established democratic procedures itself. And if done openly, so much the better. And boy is this tough, especially as you grow and try to scale up. If I was in a caucus in contention with Unity that was not practicing democracy, I would walk because we don't need a "new boss, same as old boss scenario."

Democracy is not just about voting. It is how people deal with each other every day.

MORE is not just a caucus challenging the Unity leadership, but a fertile ground for people to nurture themselves politically and personally.

Tomorrow's MORE steering committee meeting will complete my 6-month term as the 3rd MORE Steering Committee  to take over on August 1. So far 23 people have served 6-month terms on MORE Steering over a year and a half. Both old and new steering committees - those in town - will hold a joint meeting. I'm proud of the fact that so many of these people are fairly new to MORE and to activism. And how they have blossomed playing leadership roles. Many of them did not enter teaching with a sense of "union" and are so excited to become part of that process due to MORE's advocacy.

Before I comment on the process let me know if you have heard of a transparent process revealed by other caucuses, Unity and New Action. MORE is so open we even invite New Action members to join us and even run for Steering. So far they have declined. Maybe we should invite Unity people into the tent too. Hey Unity, feel free to come to meetings and make your case.

So I have tried to be vigilant inside MORE -- arguing for distributed leadership and decision making. I know, this violates some basic precepts where strong leadership in the hands of one person is considered crucial. Note that many people viewed Julie Cavanagh as the leader of MORE when in fact she was one voice amongst many. And her focus on her family and her school responsibilities has made it difficult for her to do MORE work. If you asked me 2 years ago what would MORE be like without a very active Julie, my response would have been bleak. In fact MORE hasn't missed a beat (though Julie's wise counsel is missed).

For the first year MORE had no steering committee, which I favored. I felt people were just getting to know each other and argued for the least restrictive environment. We called it a Planning Committee, open to everyone. But by the end of last school year, emerging fron an election campaign, it was clear we had grown enough to think about forming a steering committee.

I am generally not in favor of elections, especially in small groups like MORE. But most people wanted to hold one. We decided on 9 Steering seats and had 20 people run. There was a tie so we just added one. Some were not well known by enough people and the election was to some extent a popularity contest. I also felt we should limit the terms of office for 6 months, which one member of the CORE steering in Chicago told me last week was "crazy." I told her it was the best thing MORE had done. (We also have an unofficial rule that after 2 consecutive turns on steering (1 year) one should take a break.)

Lots of lessons were learned in that first term and there was major turnover in the 2nd MORE steering which took office last Jan. 1 due to the intense amount of work required. Burnout was an issue. (And we are working on dividing the work to prevent that). There were only 2 returnees and 9 other volunteers. We decided that rather than hold an election to knock 2 people out, we would just add 2 people. To some this violated their sense of democracy. I did not agree -- rational democracy would call for inclusion, not exclusion.

While some people opposed my being on Steering due to my retirement status, others wanted my experience. (I think there should not be more than one retiree on steering.) And the fact that I was free during the day to be of more assistance. Frankly, I was so busy with other parts of my life I did not take on too many tasks - which is why I took myself off steering this time - at this point I don't want to help run an organization - leave it to the next generation. And what a generation it is. Almost no one below 40 and our youngest new leader just turned 28.

And the best thing: I can do nothing and not feel guilty.

Congratulations for those who have accepted nominations for the new MORE Steering Committee which takes office for a 6 month term starting on August 1. 
The current steering committee has proposed, that rather than having an election to choose 9 out of these 11 (or 10?) qualified candidates, that we simply accept all of them as new member of the steering committee.  This decision will be ratified at the MORE Retreat this coming week on Thursday, July 17 (11am-5pm, CUNY Graduate Center, 365 5th Ave. @ 34th st., 6 to 33rd, D,F,M,N,R to Herald Square).

Megan Behrent has taught English at Franklin D. Roosevelt High School in Brooklyn for 15 years. She has been a UFT delegate for FDR since 2007. In the Delegate Assembly, she has raised resolutions to support the rights of ATRs, to fight school closings/turnarounds, and to show solidarity with other unions. She is a founding member of MORE and active in the National Network of Social Justice Educators. As an education activist, she has appeared on the Melissa Harris Parry show on MSNBC and written for diverse publications including Socialist Worker, New Politics, Labor Notes and the Harvard Education Review.
Lauren Cohen entered teaching through the NYC Teaching Fellows in 2005 as a mid-year replacement for a K-2 self-contained special education teacher at a high-needs school in Harlem. She taught there for two more full school years. She spent the next 5 years at a Title 1 school in the East Village where she gained a reputation among her colleagues for speaking out against administrative mandates that were detrimental to student learning (such as canceling extended day enrichment programs in favor of test prep aligned to faulty and inaccurate Acuity results). She currently teaches at P.S. 321 in Park Slope, where the privileges available to her current students have only strengthened her resolve to fight for a more equitable system on behalf of the students she left behind. For the past two years, Lauren has worked with parents, teachers, and others in Change the Stakes, fighting against the use of standardized tests to punish schools, teachers, and students. She attended her first MORE meeting in the spring of 2012 and was thrilled to meet so many like-minded educators. She ran on the MORE slate for Elementary Executive Board in the UFT election, and she now serves as the chapter delegate for P.S. 321.

Francesca Gomes is an 8th Grade Humanities (ELA and Social Studies) Teacher at New Voices MS 443 in District 15.  She has been a member of the UFT for 13 years, and the only UFT Delegate for her school for the last five years.  She led the “Vote No” campaign at her school beginning on the first day after the 2014 contract proposal was announced.  Originally a member of Teachers for a Just Contract, she then became a member of the Independent Caucus of Educators, and is proud to have been a member of MORE since its early days.

Janice Manning is currently a fifth grade Special Education Teacher in an Integrated Co-Teaching Classroom at P.S. 503 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.  This is her 10th year teaching in New York City Public Schools.  She started her teaching career as a fourth grade teacher in Fort Worth, Texas.  After teaching in Fort Worth for a year, she taught English as a foreign language in Znamenka, Ukraine as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  She began attending MORE meetings in January of this year and is passionate about working with other educators to organize ways to improve education for ALL students.

Megan Moskop is a current member of the steering committee. She is a Special Education teacher and UFT delegate at M.S. 324 in Washington Heights, where she began teaching in 2009 through Teach for America. Megan was raised by educators in North Carolina, and her first “real” teaching job was in Malta as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant.  In addition to her work MORE, she serves as Learning Labs Director for the Manhattan Young Democrats, and she is a member of Teachers Unite. Deeply thankful for and inspired by her own teachers and students, Megan is committed to the improvement of learning and working conditions in schools everywhere, starting here.

Francesco Portelos is an engineer turned middle school STEM teacher. Over the last two years he has become a very strong advocate for educators and students. His advocacy did not come without sacrifice. After speaking up, he became a target and was removed from his teaching position. This did not stop Francesco. He ran and won the UFT Chapter Leader position in his school even though he is forbidden from entering the building. He has been successfully mobilizing and supporting his chapter and many other educators who read about his fight and seek his guidance from around the city and around the country. His objective is use his knowledge, leadership skills and out-of-the-box thinking to bring MORE to a point where they are successfully filling the great void left by our UFT Leaders. Read more at  Follow on Twitter: @MrPortelos

Kevin Prosen is chapter leader at I.S. 230 in Jackson Heights, Queens.  He campaigned as part of MORE’s slate for the executive board in last year’s elections, and has organized mass grievance campaigns at his school involving up to 35 members of his chapter.  He has been active in the MORE chapter organizing committee this year and has been organizing outreach to other chapter leaders in the city. His writings on UFT issues have appeared inJacobin andSocialist Worker.

Mindy Rosier is a native New Yorker who graduated from Marymount Manhattan College with a B.A. in Psychology and Elementary Education and Fordham University with an M.S. Ed in Early Childhood Special Education. She has been a teacher for 17 years, including 3 years at the NY Foundling Hospital and currently 8 years with the Department of Education in a District 75 school.After seeing the hardships that her school has endured and after researching the education system itself, she became active to promote an improvement in the quality of education for all children.

Mike Schirtzer is a lifelong Brooklynite, graduate of the NYC public schools and CUNY, teacher and UFT Delegate. Teaching has always been and still is his lifelong dream and his work here in MORE is just a continuation of fulfilling the goal of being the best teacher he can be! He has planned and mobilized several events, forums, and ran for UFT & NYSUT office as MORE. He was on the original planning committee, first steering committee, and organized MORE’s social media, press, contract campaign, and South Brooklyn groups.

Patrick Walsh a three-time elected UFT chapter who believes that the only force  that can  save our profession from the predators is our union and the only force that can save our union from itself is us.

Some people warn that by being so public we are putting a target on their backs for Unity to shoot at. One transgression in their schools and the Unity buzz machine will start backbiting. Believe me, I get Unity people picking and choosing their targets and attacking MORE behind the scenes with comments like "look at the people you have". Even if true I counter with "have you taken a close look at the people YOU have?"

Lee Sustar on #AFT14 Convention: Lots of Tough Talk - But Watch What They Do Randi Weingarten, "fighting forward" apparently means embracing the New York contract as a template for the entire union. The supposed benefits of the deal were hammered home throughout the convention. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose administration negotiated the agreement, spoke to delegates through a recorded video message, following a breathless introduction by UFT President Mulgrew.

Tellingly, actor Cynthia Nixon, who took to the podium as an education activist in New York, was the speaker to offer a more accurate assessment of the UFT contract. It was a deal, she said, that corporate education reformers would give their "eyeteeth" for. Moreover, Weingarten presented the de Blasio deal as part of a wider pro-teacher, pro-public education trend in the Democratic Party. Thus, the AFT has partnered with Democratic National Committee member Donna Brazile and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to create Democrats for Public Education. .... Lee Sustar, The Socialist Worker
Lee Sustar does a comprehensive job in analyzing what went on at the recent AFT convention in LA, including behind the scenes reports (see my sidebar for my written and video reports - with more to come). I always look forward to sitting with Lee in the press section at these AFT conventions. His sharp eye and ear often clue me in to what is really going on. Lee writes in the Socialist Worker, the newspaper of the Internationalist Socialist's. A number of ISO members are NYC teachers, some of whom are involved with MORE.

It is a long piece, but worth reading. Here is an excerpt   describing the panel originally set up for Karen Lewis and newly elected LATU President Alex Caputo-Pearl - dubbed the militant wing of the AFT. Randi intervened and forced Mulgrew and others on the panel to dilute their message. (I will post the videos soon so you can see for yourself.)

THE CONVENTION proceedings were organized to marginalize critical voices. The Unity/Progressive Caucus control of the agenda kept delegates in the dark as to when the politicians' speechifying would stop, when convention business would resume and what issues would come to the floor.

Thus, the emerging militant wing of the AFT had to find other places to express its views, off the convention floor. Important discussions took place in such venues as the AFT human rights committee luncheon, which featured Karen Lewis and Chicago community activist Jitu Brown, and meetings of the AFT Peace and Justice Caucus and U.S. Labor Against the War.

The most widely anticipated side meeting, focused on social movement unionism, was sponsored by the CTU and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), where the new Union Power slate had taken office less than two weeks earlier. Apparently concerned that CTU and UTLA might constitute a pole of attraction for militant teachers dissatisfied with the AFT leadership, union officials embraced the meeting themselves--and, as a result, added several more speakers, including Mary Cathryn Ricker of St. Paul and Mulgrew from New York City.

The room was crowded, with standing room only. As one attendee explained to others seated nearby, the UFT Unity Caucus had "ordered" its members to attend.

Because of the format--presentations by seven panelists, followed by "table talk" by delegates who then submitted questions--debate was limited. Weingarten herself stopped by to make comments from the podium, saying that she was so happy about that meeting that there were "tears in my eyes." It was unclear if the AFT president was moved by the content of discussion or the loyalty and discipline of her caucus.

Despite the restrictive format, the differences were clear. Karen Lewis described her union's efforts to mobilize members and reach out to the community to prepare for the strike, while UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl spoke about similar efforts underway in Los Angeles, which will include strike preparation in that city as well.

Mulgrew's version of social movement unionism was, in reality, organized labor's usual transactional politics with elected officials. Although the UFT president promoted his union's political outreach as the key to Bill de Blasio's victory in the mayor's race, the UFT actually backed one of de Blasio's rivals in the Democratic primary, declaring, "We don't pick winners, we make them." (The union more recently made amends with de Blasio by pouring $350,000 from its nonprofit arm into a de Blasio-controlled charity[21], in order to fund television ads backing the mayor's agenda.)

The UFT president also claimed credit for mobilizing against school closures, when in fact nearly all such initiatives were taken by groups like the Grassroots Education Movement and Occupy the DOE [22] [Department of Education]. Many activists from those groups went on to found the Movement of Rank-and-File Educators (MORE), which in part took inspiration from the CTU's CORE. In the 2013 UFT elections, MORE candidates captured about 40 percent of the vote [23], with Mulgrew's Unity machine increasingly reliant on retiree votes to pad its margin of victory.

Mulgrew also touted the new UFT contract's provision allowing teachers at 200 schools--around 20 percent of the total--to vote away decades of union rules and job protections. "You cannot touch your wages or seniority rights," Mulgrew said he told his union's members. "After that, I'm open."

By contrast, Lewis and Caputo-Pearl, while avoiding any direct criticism of the UFT or AFT leadership, made it clear that they see holding the line on such concessions as an imperative.

In her concluding comments, Lewis said that the CTU had for the past two years been sending members and staffers around the U.S. to help other locals. And Caputo-Pearl credited CORE with setting an example for his local to follow as it attempts to reverse years of decline in membership due to the proliferation of charter schools as well as concessions on wages and working conditions. He also alluded to the national network of teacher activists that is looking for a strategy on how to fight back [24]--something that the AFT and NEA leadership has been unable or unwilling to do.

The emerging militant network, however, remains small. Certainly, it doesn't figure in union electoral politics: Randi Weingarten and her slate won with only a symbolic challenge led by far-left union activists.

Even so, the sharpening of internal debate in the union is noteworthy. The AFT leadership can only go so far in raising militant rhetoric while abandoning decades of contract gains. And the militants will, sooner or later, have to move from opposing particular policies like Common Core to challenging the union leadership itself. As the attacks on teachers and public education continue to mount, the stakes in that struggle will only continue to grow.
What's behind the tough talk?
Lee Sustar reports from Los Angeles on the recent convention of the AFT.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rockaway Theatre Company's Gypsy: Weekend Sellout - Some Photos

It's tough to have to spend less than 5 minutes on stage with no lines and basically nothing to do other than have the actors move you around and then spend the next 2 hours backstage until the curtain call trying to get out of everyone's way. When I'm done I'll share the column for The Wave I'm working on the total experience of observing and participating (even as a sliver) in a massive undertaking. We have 4 shows this weekend with a rare Thursday at 8PM performance - probably the only one that won't sell out. So if anyone is inclined to see a show where the lead, Louisa Boyaggi, playing Mama Rose, is being talked about by people who have seen them all as being better than Tyne Daly, Pattie Lupone and even the legendary Ethel Merman. Oh, and Louisa is a UFT member - a guidance counselor in a NYC high school.

NYC teacher Kim Simek as a blossoming Louise turned Gypsy Rose Lee

The strippers

Sunday, July 20, 2014

My Video of Randi Press Conf at #AFT14

Some interesting insights from Randi on Vergara, Duncan and other issues. But not enough of a rigorous defense of tenure - rather a sense of - we are willing to help get rid of teachers. Left hanging are those teachers who have been chopped due to political persecution. Lenny Isenberg from LA asks Randi a question as do I.
A few days later there was a press conference with Mary Catherine Ricker dealing with some of these issues.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Ravitch Wars - Lois Weiner Reveals Fault Lines in Ravitch Position

About 10 years ago the UFT gave Diane Ravitch the John Dewey Award. When I posted about it there was outrage from the anti-testing community which viewed Dewey as turning over in his grave in outrage at Standardista Ravitch getting this awar - Jerry Bracey was ready to fly in from Seattle if we held a protest rally. My fellow ICE founder John Lawhead had loads of stuff exposing Diane's roll in initiating corporate deform -- that was how I was educated about her. But then she did an amazing turn around and critics turned to giving (qualified) praise. From my perspective I view her support for many of the things I have been involved with as being invaluable, especially when she was the keynote speaker at our film premiere. And how welcome she made me feel when I was an isolated loner at Manhattan Institute events - when she (and I) were still being invited. Even a major admirer, Sol Stern, has broken with her - from the right.

While she has been attacked from the deform crowd, there has also been criticism from the left -- not the same type we saw over the past decades about her being a standardista bit for her ties to the unions (I often defend her for reasons I don't have time to go into).

There has been a lot of back and forth about Diane Ravitch between Jim Horn and Mercedes Schneider, two people I admire.

Read Jim at Schools Matter:  Attacking Diane Ravitch? Or Questions Too Uncomfortable for the Comfortable?

Mercedes: Kathleen Carroll Soars on the Wings of Research Blunder; Jim Horn Hitches a Ride

Buffalo teacher Sean Crowley, who savages the slugs who run his union, is also a critic where his comment is posted at Schools Matter: Read Sean Crowley

Though Ravitch comes in for a lot of love and a lot of invective, it is often without analysis. Lois Weiner digs deep into the weeds in her post on New Politics, offering praise and analysis of where she feels Ravich doesn't dare go.

Here are some excerpts from Lois' recent New Politics piece.

Probably the most important liberal defender of public education today is Diane Ravitch. In battling her former co-thinkers with the personal resources and connections she acquired in supporting neoconservative policies, Ravitch has contributed mightily to public awareness of the threat to democracy and to children in the current drive to create a privatized school system funded by public money but without collective, public oversight... Ravitch has almost singlehandedly developed and publicized a liberal rebuttal to neoliberal “reforms,” in effect substituting not only for the teacher union establishment but for labor as well....

....the overarching argument that U.S. public education was doing as well as could be expected given the effects of poverty is a serious flaw in her analysis and opens her—and the movement—to the charge that we want to defend an unequal status quo. 

Ravitch does not address the contradiction between schooling’s non-economic purposes, its role in educating the next generation of citizens and nurturing each individual’s potential, and its use as a sorting mechanism to allocate a diminishing number of well-paying jobs. Unfortunately, neoliberal reforms resonate with poor, minority parents precisely because they want the same opportunity for their children to compete for good jobs as children of middle class parents have. Calls for schools that make children happy and develop creativity will not assuage parents’ fears that their children will not be strong competitors in an increasingly punishing labor market. Arne Duncan’s contemptuous dismissal of opponents of high-stakes testing and the new Common Core curriculum as “suburban moms” who can’t face their children’s limitations demonstrates that our opponents will fully exploit the utterly hypocritical and inaccurate claim that they protect poor, minority children against white liberals who want to maintain the status quo, to advantage their own children.

Her electoral strategy also reflects a desire to return to the (idealized) past. Ravitch recognizes that big money and corporations control the Democratic Party, and her solution is to push Democrats to be the defenders of public education she says they once were. She therefore encourages opponents of corporate school reform to embrace Democrats willing to criticize (however vaguely) privatization, testing, and charter schools and defend (however meekly) teachers unions. However, she (and those who agree with this political strategy) do not explain how we will hold candidates responsible to the activists who have worked on their behalf and avoid betrayals. Yet this issue is more pressing with each election cycle and each desertion of Democrats whom progressives have supported.
Although pressed by activists to criticize teacher union leaders, in particular her long-time friend, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), for endorsing the Common Core and commending legislation that links teacher evaluation to students’ standardized test scores, Ravitch declines, arguing this creates divisions. But the divisions already exist because union reformers are challenging the local and national leadership in both of the teachers unions. The question is whether we will encourage activists to democratize their unions, to make them social movements, or whether we think the model of “service” or “business unionism” should remain the norm. 
This point by Lois and other Ravitch critics misses her support for GEM which she was able to do because GEM was not a caucus directly challenging the UFT leadership even though all the people active in GEM were also part of the opposition. And also the continuous support Ravitch gives Karen Lewis and the CTU. Here is the link.

New Politics Vol. XV No. 1, Whole Number 57 
Below the break Lois digs deeper into the social justice union activists following in the wake of CORE and the CTU where I think she makes some assumptions I don't totally agree with - and from my conversations with Lois I think she is missing some understanding of how CORE took control - people think it was more social justice than bread and butter. I don't agree - and given I've been in contact with CORE folks since almost their inception, I will offer some insights in another post.


1. See Jeffrey Raffel, The Politics of School Desegregation: The Metropolitan Remedy in Delaware (Temple University Press, 1980).
2. U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Education Awards Promise Neighborhoods Planning Grants. Press Release, Sept. 21, 2010.
4. Mercedes Schneider, “A Brief Audit of Bill Gates’ Common Core Spending,” Aug. 8, 2013, Huffington Post.
5. Ann Bastian et al., Choosing Equality. The Case for Democratic Schooling (Temple University Press, 1986).
6. Amy Stuart Wells et al., Review of Research in Education, ed. Robert E. Floden (American Educational Research Association, 2004), 49.
7. Connie Schaffer, “Unmasking the Reformers; Essay Review of Ravitch’s ‘Reign of Error.’” Education Review/ ReseƱas Educativas, vol. 17, no. 3, April 12, 2013.
8. Jeffrey A. Raffel, “The Changing Challenges of School Segregation and Desegregation,” Education Review, vol. 16, no. 5, Oct. 22, 2013.
9. Herman Benson, “Sober Thoughts After Inspiring Years of Union Organizing,” Union Democracy Review, April/May 2013, 3, 5.
10. Nelson Lichtenstein, A Contest of Ideas. Capital, Politics, and Labor (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013), p. 150. 
11. Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin, The Making of Global Capitalism. The Political Economy of American Empire (Verso, 2012).

Friday, July 18, 2014

I Defend Tenure in the Indypendent

Thanks to John Tarleton for a great editing job. Making me look literate ain't easy.

Teacher Bashing Knows No Summer Vacation

Issue # 198
In a closely watched case, a California judge ruled on June 10 that the state’s teacher tenure laws infringed on the civil rights of students in schools in poor communities to a proper education guaranteed under the state constitution.
Pointing to evidence that one to three percent of teachers in California’s public schools are grossly ineffective, Judge Rolf Treu wrote in his 16-page decision that teacher tenure laws “impose a real and appreciable impact on students’ fundamental right to equality of education and that they impose a disproportionate burden on poor and minority students.”
The astroturf parent group that pursued the lawsuit was funded by Silicon Valley millionaire David Welch. While Treu left California tenure laws in place until state appeals courts review his ruling, similar anti-tenure lawsuits have since been filed in several states, including here in New York. 


Gypsy Opens Tonight at Rockaway Theatre Company in Fort Tilden

Last night was the final dress rehearsal and I put on my suit for my 5 minute stint as Mr. Goldstone where I end up standing on a chair. Don't tell me to break a leg - because I probably will.

Tonight begins the first of 10 performances. Tickets are selling out, so come on down to the theater at the very hot Fort Tilden. 

And there are scads of NYC teachers in the show. Maybe we can start a MORE chapter?

Did you know the beach there is a nude beach? A little naked sun and theater - but get dressed first.

Leon Goldstein HS teacher Steve Ryan, hoofing it as Tulsa
Steve is one of Mike Schirtzer's best friends - which he admits to only when being water boarded.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Primi Akhtar’s Valedictory Address, Queens Metropolitan High School, June 2014

I dare anyone to meet 18-year old Primi and not have enormous hope for the future. Primi is a founding member of NYC Student Union (and my adopted granddaughter) and she just graduated and will be going to Columbia. Does this age her out of the high school based Student Union? She will still be involved, though I imagine she will be raising some hell in college.

Jeff Kaufman sent this in. His wife was one of Primi's proud teachers and advisers.

Primi Akhtar’s Valedictory Address, Queens Metropolitan High School, June 2014

Welcome Class of 2014, teachers, staff, beloved supporters.

There are not enough “thank yous” to give out right now. I am really grateful to have known such amazing, talented, bright people. To each and every one of you- thank you for being the weird you that you are.

But there’s someone special who I always wanted to thank: and that’s my mother- the one who would yank blankets off me, set alarms at 6AM, and walk me to school since I was 5 years old. She was my first teacher, really. And of course, she would nourish me, with the best Bengali food ever. I would also like thank all those who have also sustained us and driven us to be who we are today-- our ancestors with their stories of struggle, our parents who work every day, our mentors and educators who guide us through compassion, farmers who cultivate our food and all the people that have labored to allow us the privilege to be here today.

So let’s give it up for them! It’s important to acknowledge how hard our people are working in hopes of a brighter tomorrow, and how we must work harder for that future that is more sustainable, humane, and of course... loving.

Those of you who know me, know that I don’t follow rules (well, for the most part). I know you are expecting a speech, but I will not give a speech today. Instead, I would like to send out my welcome, my gratitude, and my love through poetry.

But I need your help. When I say, “I’ll let them know” you respond with “I am”. “I am” is not me alone...but it’s us. We’ll do this together- a call and response. The synching may be tough, but we’ve been together for 4 years, so I think y’all will get it.

Let’s begin, and hopefully you’ll remember this one… 

I am.

Last year,
I chopped off my hair
In a Queens barber shop, under the 7 train. I remember wet clumps of my hair hitting the porcelain floors, my heart beating as though it wanted to run somewhere safe from the predictable fury of my mother.
Did you ever feel so scared, but so free? I felt like that, every time I cut it again, and again.
The following day,
Alisher noted I looked like Gandhi,
Others were shocked that I had the guts to go that far,
In a world that constantly wants to define us,
mold us to their shapes so we fit to what makes others comfortable.
I want you to look in the mirror and say to yourself.

I’ll let the world know!
I am.

Not defined by these norms and numbers, branded clothes, dollar bills and diplomas, that tell me I’m not great enough
That when I am seated in a classroom that bears a silence, as pencils circle in bubbles, forced to pick between five choices- I think for myself.  
I will always be more than what you’ve calculated of my worth. I won’t let you define me by society's standards of worthy...because
I’ll let the world know!
I am ---beautiful, different, boundless.

I’ll let the world know!
I am
not going to sit quietly. And place my hand in my lap in fear that what I have to say is not correct. Because if I do speak up, these words will uplift the fragile hearts of others to stand up, to move forward, to no longer carry the burden of the world on their own.

I’ll let the world know!
I am
not going to die never knowing who I am, and settle with this overall ability to sit quietly and never question, and let my fear stop me from creating something new and beautiful.
And keep falling under unreasonable expectations, causing my true self to wither away in efforts to blossom in society’s standard of “success”.

I’ll let the world know!
I am  
not what you think I am. These labels that say men are not suppose to cry, women are too hormonal to make reasonable decisions, that only a handful are smart because they pass these exams that everyone else  “fails”. That I must conform to straightness, because any other way is disgusting and wrong. I am told that this generation is “Worse than the last”-- even though I was born into a world where mistakes deem imprisonment, while steel bars and scantrons, stand in the way of my actual growth. Despite being boxed into prepackaged ideas and values, I will not be who you want me to be.

I’ll let world know
I am
going to discover my true self and discover our power as individuals, as youth, as a unified collective, not competing, not dividing ourselves by these digits, dollar bills, and diplomas.

And I am
going to define myself,
push against these walls
that box us, make us smaller, to fit into society’s ideals

And as I stand here as the epitome of that ideal student,
who represents high averages and test scores,
I am going to
speak up, and name what I am:
powerful, different, resilient.
And I dare you-- to put behind your insecurities, and name what you are!

And if there’s one message I can give to humanity,
it’s that we, must live where we fear to live.
Abandoning our insecurities in search of something more
and only then, will we be infinite in our worth, in our power, in our love.
and maybe beyond.

                                                                                    -Primi Akhtar
                                                                                    from her Valedictory Address
                                                                                    Queens Metropolitan High School
                                                                                    June 2014

Thank you and congratulations to the Class of 2014!

Teacher Diversity Committee Launches Petition at Harlem Book Fair

Sean Ahern, a long time friend, and one of the original founders of the idea of creating ICE (in a bar), has focused his attention for a decade on the teacher diversity issue. And that work is bearing fruit. Check out the numbers on the drop in hiring of black teachers posted in the petition. And the TDC has noticed that the number of white teachers has dropped too because many of the new "ideal" young white recruits leave and are replaced by -what else - other young white recruits.

I know that this can be a touchy issue for some - like what are they saying? White teachers can't teach black kids? Not at all. What this is about is what a black kid sees and thinks if 90% of the teachers they meet do not look like them. Reverse that and think of the impact if a white kid went to a school with few white teachers. That doesn't happen very often I imagine. Why not?
Dear Friends,

On Saturday July 12 the TDC of NYC launched our teacher diversity petition drive on a gorgeous summer day with the generous financial support from the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE), Teachers Unite and the donation of a table by the Harlem Book Fair (see photo and petition attached).

Over the course of the day members of the TDC, MORE, Teachers Unite (TU), the Coalition for Public Education (CPE), The MANY,  and People's Power collected over 300 signatures and spread the news about the Bloomberg hiring policies and why a grassroots effort is needed to change them.  Members of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) were also present and supported the effort.  We welcome the support of all races and creeds and political persuasions to stop and reverse the disappearing of Black and Latino educators from NYC schools.  

Thanks to Anna Maria,  Peter, Michelle, Seku, Everett, Michele, Marc, Ernestine, Muba, Anne, Gail, and Benita for taking the time  to launch this petition. Thanks to Michele for a great banner that will fly proudly this fall as our petition grows!  If you are interested in supporting this effort contact the TDC of NYC at  Feel free to download the petition and collect signatures. Return signed petitions before Dec. 1 to Teacher Diversity c/o Ahern PO Box 1025, New York, NY 10002.  They will be presented to the December PEP.
Sean Ahern for the TDC of NYC

Right WingNuts - AFT Commies, Include GEM Truth About Charters in Attack

Thanks to Jeff Kaufman for this gem about the GEM pamphlet being part of the Maoist AFT.

Among the literature cited was a GEM pamphlet. See front page story second document.

American Federation of Communists

Pro-communist literature handed out at AFT conference
Chinese protestors touting pictures of Mao Zedong / APChinese protestors touting pictures of Mao Zedong / AP
July 16, 2014 5:25 pm
Communist pamphleteers are using the American Federation of Teachers annual convention as a recruiting ground, according to a new video.
Men with Mao Zedong-emblazoned messenger bags distributed fliers to union members as they entered the Los Angeles convention center, where thousands of teachers have gathered to discuss the state of the nation’s second largest teachers union.
Communist literature has appeared throughout the convention floor. Issues of the communist newspaper Red Flag have also been handed out to teachers as they gathered to reelect president Randi Weingarten, one of the most influential Democrats in the nation and a leader of the shadowy Democracy Alliance.
The issue, which was found by conservative researchers at America Rising, features a front page story declaring, “Capitalist Attacks on Schools Demand Communist Response.”
The newspaper compared the debate over education reform to a bloody 1960s dispute between rival Chinese communists. Several radical students were beaten to death in 1968 after asserting that a Mao-appointed college administration was staffed by “pro-capitalist anti-revolutionaries.” That violence, according to the newspaper, is analogous to the American debate over school choice.
“This struggle helped to spark a monumental rebellion against ‘the people in party leadership taking the capitalist road,’” the photo caption said. “During this Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, leftwing workers and youth tried to transform education literally from the ground up.”
Participants at the AFT gathering were critical of education reformers and proponents of charter schools, as well as the Obama administration. A participant who claimed to be a Chicago teacher slammed Obama Education Secretary Arne Duncan for not toeing the union line at a Tuesday meeting.
“We see the destructive policies [Duncan] has pursued … I think we have to name the name of the main architect of these policies, the man who has taken away everything we hold dear,” a man wearing an AFT delegate lanyard said. “We have to say that no matter who it is we are gonna [sic] come for you … if you come for what is ours we are gonna [sic] take you out.”
An AFT spokeswoman did not return request for comment.