Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ed Week: DNC Emails Published by WikiLeaks Show Links to AFT and Common-Core Anxiety

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton supports the common core, as do two of her big backers, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.... Ed Week
We know that Randi and crew are tied to the Democratic Party hip and wikiLeaks is further corroboration. That is how our union maintained support for ed deform since the late 1980's. The rising bile of the rank and file has forced the leadership to back off somewhat on supporting deformers and might even lead to moving the Dem party a bit away from the Obama deforms though you haven't seen anyone openly trashing Race to the Top - even Bernie. So as an educator don't expect much in the way of massive backing off charter schools and common core revised as a horse of a different color.

DNC Emails Published by WikiLeaks Show Links to AFT and Common-Core Anxiety

By now you've probably heard about the trove of emails to and from the Democratic National Committee that were released last week by WikiLeaks, an organization that publishes leaked documents to expose what it says is corruption and malfeasance by governments, as well as corporations.

So what if any links do these emails reveal between the DNC and teachers' unions in particular?

• The DNC communications team appears to be very sensitive about the Common Core State Standards and the issue of local and federal control over schools.
In a May 3 email expressing frustrations about the content of a video emphasizing that the "GOP doesn't appreciate teachers," Eric Walker, a deputy communications director at the DNC, wrote the following:
"A) Common core is a political third rail that we should not be touching at all. Get rid of it. B) Most people want local control of education so having [then-GOP presidential candidate Ted] Cruz and [now-GOP nominee Donald] Trump saying it on a DNC video is counterproductive. Would get rid of any references to that."
Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton supports the common core, as do two of her big backers, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. It's taken a political beating on the national stage from both Democrats and Republicans, although most states that originally adopted the standards have stuck by them.
• A series of emails on May 4 deal with talking points being crafted by the DNC for a conference call with reporters the next day.  American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and U.S. Rep Mark Pocan, D-Wis., were slated to speak about how GOP nominee Donald Trump's rhetoric had contaminated schools.
Walker suggested having Weingarten speak before Pocan on the call, writing, "she's the bigger draw."
Eventually, the DNC was told that the AFT had signed off on the talking points.
• On May 5, John Ost, AFT's political director, wrote the following in an email to the DNC: "RW [Weingarten] is doing some press today re: Trump. We've been working with TJ [Helmstetter, who also works in DNC communications]. Question: who can we connect with to get more background/research re: Trump? We want to shift gears and spend more time educating our members."
Ost subsequently wrote to [DNC communications director Luis] Miranda that his group would take that background and research and "repurpose into AFT branded mailers/flyers."
• Miranda responded in an email with the heading of "Donald Trump - Bad for Education, Labor & Healthcare" about Trump's desire not to work with unions, eliminate the U.S. Department of Education, and (ironically enough, given AFT's skepticism of how standardized tests are often used) his dislike for "mindless standardized tests."
37aft_randi_600.jpg• Later on ,May 5, Weingarten held the scheduled conference call with reporters—including Education Week—claiming that now-Republican Party nominee Trump's rhetoric was damaging to public school students.
We noted in our blog post about Weingarten's comments, published the same day, that the DNC had set up the call. (Weingarten did in fact end up speaking before Pocan.)
Other emails deal with:
• A press call with the New Jersey Education Association in which the DNC appears to try to get a "bigger surrogate" on the call than someone from the AFT (which had not responded to the DNC about the matter) such as New Jersey Sens. Cory Booker or Robert Menendez.
• What an email calls a "dangerous Trump-Christie education agenda," referring to New Jersey GOP Gov. Chris Christie, who once said that teachers' unions deserve a punch in the face.

'On a Regular Basis'

In response to our inquiries about these emails, AFT spokesman Evan Sutton said such coordination between the union and the DNC is nothing out of the ordinary.
"We request information and research from allies on a regular basis, including the DNC, when we believe they may have materials that can be helpful to us in promoting our goals," Sutton wrote in an email.
And as for common core, Sutton said that while the AFT is on record supporting its goals, he also noted that the union has expressed concerns about its rollout and its links to "high-stakes" standardized testing.
So how much of this work between the DNC and the AFT is surprising? We'll leave it up to individual readers to decide for themselves. On that note, you can go to the WikiLeaks site for yourself and see if you can dig up anything education-related in the batch of DNC emails.
We also asked the DNC and the Donald Trump campaign about these emails, and we'll update this post if we get a response.
Photo: AFT President Randi Weingarten speaks in Detroit in 2012. Andre J. Jackson/Detroit Free Press

Friday, July 22, 2016

#AFT100, #AFT16 - the Social Justice Convention - Some Reflections

At the AFT convention, as usual, I learned a lot about a lot of different things and a lot about different people.  In my follow-up I will address the 4 days of social justice mixed with a lot of defense of teacher rights -- so there was some real balance. But more of that later.

The convention was over by noon and we all scattered. I haven't done a very good job of following the details. Look to Jonathan Halabi and Arthur Goldstein for better reporting. I posted links to all their reports so far below in the Afterburn.

I'm not sure I can cover all my thoughts in one post without putting every reader to sleep but I am going to try and expand on some items in the future. I'll touch on some things in no particular order. As usual I am more interested in social interactions than what actually went on at the convention.
My problem is within a few days most of what I learned will be gone -- so I better get what I can down even if I have to free associate.

Friday Morning - July 22, 2016 - Home at last

Got home close to 1AM last night - thanks to wonderful wife who picked me up at airport. Plane was loaded with Unity people and - most of whom were black - which is of no little consequence when we talk local and national social justice -- Leroy Barr's amazing speech is still reverberating - I never ran into him to congratulate him. (Halabi also writes about the speech).

Arthur and I got to hang out with other MOREs -- Lisa North, Gloria Brandman -- my usual travel mates to AFT - and Gladys Sotomayer - a 4-year ATR - so we got a lot of that point of view this week. This has been the 4th AFT convention for us. One Unity upper echelon person who hung with us one afternoon asked my what I got out of shlepping to these events at my own expense. Gloria and Lisa are 2 of the major reasons. In 2 years it's Pittsburg and Arthur and I are already thinking of a caravan of cars. So here are some thoughts, in no particular logical order.

Jia Lee, rock star
Jia Lee was also there but she was staying with the Chicago crew and since Jia is becoming a nationally known figure, she had many political interactions with people from all over the nation who wanted to talk to her. Needless to say, they were impressed. So I didn't get to hang out with Jia very much. (Mike and I are being joined by Arthur and his daughter at Peter Luger's this Monday when I pay off my bet to Mike re: the high school elections and we are hoping Jia will join us.)

I learned something about Jia this week. She has the political chops and skill to do this work --  and the drive. Everywhere I looked Jia was huddling - with BATS, with Chicago people, with teachers from around the nation who follow union politics.
Within many quarters of the AFT and teacher movement, Jia has become a star and has come up BIG.

Arthur Goldstein, my roomie
Arthur and I roomed together and even though I know Arthur for a decade we have never traveled together. I often room alone on these trips or try to get a suite when we room with the ladies.  Arthur didn't snore (a major plus) though I can't guarantee I didn't snore. Arthur didn't care if I had the light or TV on when he went to sleep - another major plus. Arthur gets up early. So do I - the first morning I awoke to the tapping of the keyboard - Arthur was up and blogging shortly after 5AM. Arthur likes to eat breakfast early - and the hotel restaurant opened at 6:30AM. What's not to like? So we had a very compatible trip as roomies and travel mates generally and I think we are even closer as friends than before -- and you can't always say that after traveling.

Adding cement to the MORE/NEW ACTION Alliance
We spent a lot of time with New Action's Jonathan Halabi, someone both Arthur and I had not always had a good relationship with, particularly me - we probably didn't talk for years. At AFT14 in LA Jonathan and I had a bit of a thaw and chatted somewhat but I was never comfortable. In the recent election, after a rough start Jonathan and I worked very well together - mostly from a distance. He has been coming to some MORE events but always makes it clear he is not MORE but New Action.

Arthur and Jonathan had established a good relationship before the convention and there was even talk of him rooming with us. Over the past few days I probably learned more about Jonathan than anyone else. He knows a hell of a lot of stuff about everything - in his own words, a good deal of it useless information. He is very funny and very smart - as is Arthur - so hanging with 2 very funny and very smart guys is not a bad way to spend a few days. He loves to eat like we do. And he wanted to meet everyone -- I realized that being part of New Action he had not interacted with our colleagues from around the nation and I think he may have enjoyed these interactions with like-minded people the most. One of my main reasons for going to AFT is to hang with the local1 Chi gang - at parties and bars --- I think he also found the Chicago people amazing.And we all hung out at UCORE in the bar the other night and he connected up with the Minneapolis REACH people who he went to Cuba with. They are also among my favorite people.

I was proud to introduce Arthur and Jonathan as 2 of the magnificent 7 elected UFT Exec Bd members - people from around the nation who want to see the Unity monopoly broken practically broke into cheers. I think the two of them joined by the other 5 will make for an effective team at EB meetings. So, yes, I believe the alliance between MORE and New Action emerged from the convention stronger.

OK. I think it is time to stop for now and continue later with some deeper reflections on The Genius of Randi, MORE and Unity, and more.

Here are my reports so far and below that Halabi and Goldstein - all in reverse order of posting dates.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

#AFT100, #AFT16 Day 4: On Divorce and Succession Blues - Mulgrew, Ricker, Poulos, Randi

Mulgrew's next stop?
Excuse this rambling post but I'm sitting in the convention center with Randi running this for hours -- and watching her on the big screen. Like a 4 day UFT delegate Assembly nightmare from the year 2001.

Well, the final few hours of the AFT convention are at hand and Arthur Goldstein and I got here late after a hearty breakfast at the Normandy Inn  - I always try to frequent places with the name "Norman". Arthur forgot there was such a thing as a shower curtain this morning and I had to swim to the toilet. Arthur seems to love the hotel: NYC Educator, Happy Days Redux.


Getting a divorce
Liza North, Gladys Sotomayer and Gloria Brandman, my convention wife for the past 4 days, have a suite in the same hotel and I made my first visit there to pick up the extra MORE leaflets to drop off at the convention this morning. It is a like a real apartment and only for 40 bucks more a day -- Arthur and I could have gotten one of these and added a third person. Next time we are in Minneapolis for an AFT convention - maybe in 2034. 

Before I left I officially got a divorce from Gloria until we remarry for the next convention in 2 years. Arthur and I had another hearty breakfast and didn't get to the convention hall until almost 10.

They are hurrying to try and wrap up. I admire Randi for her ability to run these proceedings for almost 4 days - think of a 4 day delegate assembly. She does all this with amazing energy and enthusiasm. There are some of the usual games and Randi mannerisms but other than when she screeches and screams I don't find her offensive.

There are people from BAMN who are raising important points but also in a strident way that alienates even potential supporters. I can't pin down exactly what bothers me about them because I support much of what they say --  it must be the way they say it -- with a moral fervor bordering on hysteria -- as if just getting to say their stuff here is the most important thing in the world and saving civilization depends on them getting their full time at the mic.

They are treated as pariahs - much like I had been at times at the DA -- and one thing I learned to navigate at the DA was how I would present myself in ways that I could navigate through the maze. I often managed to keep Randi and the rest of the Unity horde at bay through some use of humor and charm - I might give Mulgrew lessons. I had some charm - Mulgrew thinks he has charm.

Randi just made a nice tribute to Karen Lewis whose birthday was yesterday - Mulgew in his speech had everyone sing happy
birthday to Karen but she was at a meeting. She came to the mic earlier to thank Mulgrew and the delegates. He tried to be charming but didn't pull it off.

Rather than deal with the convention today as it wraps up I want to touch on some the things that have been going through my mind while here, some of it based on observations and some based on conversations.

I always look for patterns in what might appear to be disparate events and seek to find connections - a grand unification theory.

I speculated yesterday about whether Randi and Mulgrew were on the verge of divorce: #AFT100, #AFT16 Day 3 Post 2: Palace Intrigues -

I wrote how Exec VP Mary Cathryn Ricker is an increasingly rising star in the AFT and is looking as a possible Randi successor and how Mulgrew was fairly invisible at this convention.

As I was about to hit SEND, Randi called Mulgrew to the stage to speak about teacher organizing. His comments were poorly prepared  - he said nothing of substance and when faced with running out of time after saying nothing about organizing he tried to save things by having the body sing happy birthday to Karen Lewis - who was not present - but I do know that one saving grace for Mulgrew is a really good relationship between him and Karen - they clearly have some affection for each other.

They were giving Mulgrew a big moment and on the whole he did not garner much respect for his performance. My instinct is that Mulgrew is being blamed for losing the high schools to MORE/NA because he didn't cultivate the carefully nurtured relationship Randi had brokered with New Action.

And is Mulgrew blamed for the Unity leaflet mocking the opt-out movement which alienated a major parent group in NY State - a group Randi has also worked to nurture a relationship with.
Leroy Barr - made great speech on black lives matter
Although Leroy Barr is in charge of Unity Caucus and some people tell me he also dropped the ball on New Action. I can't be mad at Leroy today because of his wonderful speech yesterday on black lives matter. If I see him before I leave I want to congratulate him

And how about that internal strife I was writing about with Unity people actually telling us how they voted for Jia Lee and some of them are mocking Mulgrew. Why is my post on the movement of Debbie Poulos out of the Brooklyn office getting so many hits (Mulgrew Removes Brooklyn Borough Rep Debbie Poulos)?

I speculated that Randi was behind the move through her NYC surrogate, Ellie Engler. I got this anon comment:
Of course Engler is her agent. She is not even a UFT member and was made one of the Direcor's of Staff because she was Randi's roomate in college. You can't imagine how hated she is by UFT staff.
I don't know it this is true. If this comes from Randi, why? Was Debbie really a threat to Mulgrew? One thing I would bet my pension on -- Randi will be part of any decisions on Mulgrew's successor. 

The AFT president is dependent on the UFT Unity Caucus as their power base. So don't forget what Al Shanker did to his former mentor Dave Selden by using the Unity machine to dump Selden in 1974 at the AFT convention (in Toronto and I was there). Shanker remained UFT president for another decade to cover his back and every supposed successor went by the wayside until Shanker finally decided on Feldman as a total loyalist who would never stray.

Sandy when she moved up and handed the UFT over to Randi did not maintain control of the UFT as Randi had years to take control even before Sandy took over the AFT when Shanker died. Someone told me the other day that Randi didn't want to see Mulgrew do to her what she did to Feldman - Randi worked as quickly as she could to move out Sandy loyalists and put her people in place. 

Mulgrew has been in power for 6 years and from what I see many of Randi's people are still in place - if people out there know more than I do leave comments. Through the grapevine I hear that Randi doesn't hesitate to intervene when she thinks things are not going right in the UFT.

If Mary Cathryn is Randi's successor if Randi should go to Hillary admin then what happens to Mulgrew - basically stay where he is in the UFT? If Randi doesn't move them everything is static. But could Mary Cathryn get the AFT  presidency without UnityNYC support? I don't think so. Thus if Mulgrew wants it if Randi leaves and Randi wanted Mary Cathryn - what reality TV that would be.

Let's say Mulgrew wins a power struggle and becomes AFT president -- I can see the cringe factor working ----- his skill set is so far behind Randi's and after his performance over the past few conventions - almost inconceivable - unless they send him to charm school. Again - I appreciate Randi for her incredible political skills at manipulating and co-opting. I can see Mary Cathryn Ricker as someone with her skillset.

Who would replace Mulgrew? Leroy Barr? 

Another obvious choice is HS VP Janella Hines - though we think James Eterno is the real HS VP since he got more high school teacher votes than Janella did and she was only elected because of the at-large votes -- yes retirees too. She is a woman of color and that would break new ground in the UFT.

People like Janella. I do. We had some great discussions at the vote count - one day I have to touch on those conversations. Out HS Exec Bd slate will work with Janella on issues related to high schools. Maybe we can push for some better discipline policy and to address principals who abuse teachers.

Did Janella see Debbie as a threat? Hard to believe Debbie had ambitions to be UFT president. Debbie began to develop a loyal following in Brooklyn but people beyond there really know her. In her new job she may make many more contacts so I don't see how moving her around makes much difference internally though Debbie does have some avid supporters in the hierarchy.

If I am off base on any of this blame it on my bar hopping over the past 4 days -- my knee is killing me because I actually did hop from bar to bar.

Well, it looks like we are coming to the end so Jonathan, Arthur and I will be heading back to our hotel to meet up with Lisa and Gladys and spend a few hours finding a way to stay out of the 100 degree heat until Arthur and I catch our train to the airport for our 7:30 flight.

Here are my previous posts on the AFT convention.
One more blast from the past - Allan Lubin -
 Of course Allen didn't do too badly as NYSUT Exec VP who in essence ran NYSUT for 20 years.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

#AFT100, #AFT16 Day 3 Post 2: Palace Intrigues - Does the Rise of Ricker Mean the Fall of Mulgrew? Not Yet

Mulgrew wears cloaking device... until now

It's 4:30 and Mulgrew gets his big moment - he was just introduced to speak about organizing. Organizing?
Mulgrew calls for us to sing Happy Birthday to Karen Lewis and then finds she is not in the house -- embarrassing. That was his speech on organizing.

Now they are introducing Marla Kilfoyle and Jaime of The BATS and Randi is taking a photo op -- Marla is one of our great allies so Randi even tries to subsume them. BATS weren't happy about that Unity leaflet.

We've been having a lot of fun using that June DA Unity Caucus leaflet attacking MORE and Jia Lee for supporting opt-out and a bogus charge we were irresponsible for causing schools to lose money.

Our MORE leaflet has resonated with some people who don't know how Unity operates in New York - some ask how that relates to the Progressive Caucus at the AFT - the only viable caucus - there is really no opposition caucus at this level.

Randi has subsumed any potential opposition.

[Sidelight - just noticed AFT Vice Presidents whose main job seems to be to call the question to kill debate on as many issues as they can - do they get a bounty per question killed? Is the ability to call the question a prereq for being an AFT VP?]

No sign of Stronger Together from NY or of UCORE in terms of a formal presence and definitely no hint of opposition. BATS have a table but they are fighting different battles. When I was asked why no national caucus challenging Progressive I responded there will not be a true national caucus - Randi is too nimble. And unless LATU and CTU jump into the fray - which they won't for numerous reasons -- no opposition can get footing.

As long as Unity controls NYC and through them the state, there will be no national opposition of a serious nature (though BAMN is running once again and will get about 5% of the vote.)

If Randi leaves, what then?
The obvious assumption is that Mulgrew would follow Randi to the AFT presidency since that has been the usual progression - Shanker (74-97), Feldman (97-2004), Randi (2010-). (2004-10 - Ed McElroy filled interegnum as a Randi placeholder).

A year ago there was an assumption that if Hillary won, Randi might AFExit to work in her administration - I'm not so sure about that - and that Mulgrew - an ambitious fellow - would see it as a dis if he didn't get the AFT presidency. Would he take a lesser AFT position more suitable to his skill set? Which is? Well, apparently is is organizing.

Some people think Mulgrew might have to face competition from....

Mary Cathryn Ricker who was president of the St. Paul union - see an article by her to get a gist: Teacher-Community Unionism: A Lesson from St. Paul. Note the title - social justice unionism all the way. She rose to Exec AFT VP in 2014, clearly in the line of succession.

She spoke this morning after being introduced by her dad who was a teacher, as is her husband. She has a natural charm that wears better than Randi's does. She is so at ease in front of a crowd, she makes Randi in comparison look like a klutz.

In comparison to Mulgrew - her major  problem is does she come off as too nice and not tough enough.

Funny - someone from another local said yesterday she would be only marginally better than Mulgrew - die quickly or from a boring slow drip.

Where's WaldGrew: Mulgrew wears a cloaking device
A year ago Mulgrew played a prominent role here -- always at the mic, leading the way on some issues. Until his appearance just now we were wondering where he was.

Mulgew was given the job to motivate the nomination of Hillary yesterday - and some report he was bombastic.

Common core "Punch in face" flack?
Some of us are wondering whether Mulgrew's "punch in the face" and general goonism from last time hurt him. Here are some links:
Don't get me wrong -- given the Unity machine if he wants to be AFT president I imagine Unity can deliver this to him through the 750  -- close to 30% of total delegates plus supporters.

Has Mulgrew slipped internally and in the esteem of other AFTers around the nation? Some thoughts on these issues:
  • losing high schools because he let New Action walk
  • the recent attack on opt-out in the Unity Caucus leaflet and the parent reaction
  • internal strife in Unity
Mulgrew ignoring New Action undermined years of Randi's work

Did Mulgrew lose New Action - intentionally or through oversight? Randi had spent serious time dividing the opposition and catering to New Action - she made sure the opposition could not get a foothold by doing what it took to keep New Action on board. Mulgrew, in contrast, seemed to have disdain for NA or ignored them altogether. Now some think it was Mulgrew who dumped New Action - and one must ask why? Did they become a pain in the ass at the Exec Bd? They had 10 Ex Bd seats out of 100. They can't win a vote so why dump them? [in the interests of accuracy NA claims they would have left Unity anyway.]

Was Mulgrew so confident of winning the high schools 3 years after Unity received only 1585 votes plus the 440 from New Action out of 19,500 ballots sent out? Simple math would show that assuming no changes in the voting patterns from last time, just swapping the 440 votes nnfrom Unity to MORE would end with a victory for the latter. Remember that Randi put some serious time and effort into keeping NA on board and Mulgrew seems to have frittered that effort away. I can't help feel Randi must be pissed.

Unity leaflet attacking MORE on opt out
Leroy Barr, as Unity Caucus head, bears ultimate responsibility for that leaflet which caused an important state parent group to attack the shit out of Mulgrew. I knew that under Randi nothing went out without her viewing it - even Unity Caucus leaflets - except maybe when Unity was lead by Jeff Zahler who she had supreme confidence in.

MORE and allies spread the leaflet around but Mulgrew doesn't really give a shit what MORE thinks. The parent response was a major hit: Ed Notes Online: Parent Opt-Out Group Slams Mulgrew Over Unity ...

Many of these people have been cultivated by Randi for years. I bet she was pissed at this too.

Internal strife
For the first time in this election, Unity people told me they split their ballot and voted for Jia. "Mulgrew's an ass," or something similar has been the comment. Even here in Minneapolis some Unity people have been telling me Mulgrew has been spoken about with derision in some quarters. Are the recent personnel movements a sign of strife? Ed Notes traffic shot up since my Debbie Poulos post: Mulgrew Removes Brooklyn Borough Rep Debbie Poulos - Was She too aggressive on certain abusive principals?

Jumped over 4000 and then yesterday over 7500 and is tracking over 5500 so far today. Some Unity people are giving me interesting looks - not sure whether they want to slip a shiv in my back or shake my hand.

There is some speculation that Debbie was becoming too popular for Mulgrew. Others say it was a Randi hit for some reason not clear but one of  her legacy people was supposedly involved in the hit on Debbie. Some Unity person in the Brooklyn office told someone in MORE that it was a good move to remove Debbie. Another Unity person told another MORE person that people were devastated. No matter what is true, there is some turmoil going on. And then there are other changes not all of which we have confirmed other than that Howie Schoor is not running the Bronx and Mary Atkinson is.

Well, they are wrapping up now so we will be going out into the heat which will follow us to New York by Friday - I say we go home the other way by flying west and around the world until the heat wave passes.


Labor Notes threw a nice UCORE event in a bar last night. Jia Lee is clearly a national celebrity in the category of internal resistance. She spoke as did LATU President Alex Caputo-Pearl. MORE is viewed very favorably in so many places around the nation. At dinner with CTU people before we went to the bar there were many questions for us but I also had a lot of questions for the Chicago folks - I got to meet a whole new batch of people. More later or tomorrow

See George Schmidt video speaking today:

#AFT100, #AFT16 Day 3 Post 1: The Prequel - Randi's Revenge - ESSA Vs Rally

Last night in a bar I asked a Chicago Teacher Union member if the scheduling of the ESSA Reso discussion was set up to conflict with the rally was Randi's revenge and the response was - a good chance it was.
Wed., July 20, 11 AM

Before I get into today's convention stuff let me take care of some housekeeping. James Eterno has a piece up on ICE - somewhat gloating - because he thinks my post yesterday (#AFT100, #AFT16 Day 2 Post 2: Breaking Shocker - AFT Endorses Hillary) makes him the winner of our ongoing debate about social justice unionism.  ICEUFT Blog NORM SCOTT CONCEDES ONE TO RANDI ON SOCIAL JUSTICE

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

#AFT100, #AFT16 Day 2 Post 2: Breaking Shocker - AFT Endorses Hillary

In an enormous surprise, the AFT just endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. Randi Weingarten expressed shock at the outcome given the low key level of AFT organizational support for Hillary.
Seriously folks -- deed is done, let's move on. I've never been a Hillary hater and anyone who says she lies more than most other politicians is nuts - and Trump has 10 lies a minute. I am taking under consideration the idea that beating Trump overwhelmingly trumps voting 3rd party.

Here are my previous 2 posts from the convention in reverse order:
Arthur, Jonathan and I took a long walk to an area known as Eat Street where we found a Vietnamese place - that coffee with condensed milk is like Jet fuel. Gloria and Lisa made copies of the MORE leaflet while we were gone. When we got back they along with Jia and Gladys had distributed many of the leaflets to delegates going in - I saw more than one Unity guy almost choke.

Our leaflet deals with the Unity leaflet attacking MORE for supporting Opt-out -

#AFT100, #AFT16 - Day 2 - First Posting of the Day

I ran into some Chicago people yesterday who told me there will be no floor or committee fights with Unity this year for the first time since 2010. All issues were settled behind the scenes in negotiations, in particularly on an ESSA reso.

So no real action from the top but I know some Chicago teachers will take individual action - no heavy loyalty oaths.

I'll be posting multiple times today if I have decent wifi - including updates on what I am picking up about the Debbie Poulos story I reported on the other day, a story that got over 4000 views.

If looking for good summaries of Day 1 check out my fellow bloggers who are much younger and have better memories:

AFT Convention 2016 – Day 1

Clinton at AFT--Let's Learn from Public Charter Schools
Who'd have expected Hillary could push "public charter schools" without a whimper from the AFT crowd?

Arthur and Jonathan are tweeting all day so follow them at teacherarthurg and jd2718x.

My more rambling Day 1 comments are here: #AFT100, #AFT16: Waiting for Hillary, Waiting, Waiting, Waiting... and finally she's here

Monday, July 18, 2016

#AFT100, #AFT16: Waiting for Hillary, Waiting, Waiting, Waiting... and finally she's here

Monday, July 18 - 5:30 PM
I've been in the convention hall since just after 2 PM - with Arthur Goldstein and Jonathan Halabi - check their blogs on my blogroll,
twitter, and facebook accounts as they are doing a much more serious job than I am - I'm just trying to stay awake. We all have press passes and wanted to set ourselves up in the press section - of which there are 2 and both areas suck. We are behind a platform where camera people are set up blocking our view of the stage - we can watch Hillary on TVs - or we can lean over into the aisle and watch her live.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Mulgrew Removes Brooklyn Borough Rep Debbie Poulos - Was She too aggressive on certain abusive principals?

"Mulgrew may think Poulos doesn't have the right temperament for the job," a Unity source told me. "She doesn't kiss ass enough."

Night of the long knives at the UFT

Sunday, July 17, 2016

A central office UFT Unity source contacted Ed Notes with an unconfirmed  rumor that UFT President Michael Mulgrew was removing popular Brooklyn Borough Rep Debbie Poulos. Poulos will be given another position in the UFT. The announcement is due to be made sometime tomorrow to the Brooklyn reps at the AFT convention in Minneapolis. Mulgrew often uses the occasion of AFT conventions to make these type of staff changes.  It wouldn't shock me to see other changes coming.

Poulos had a good working relationship with members of the opposition in MORE who worked in Brooklyn and a bunch of us hung out with her last Friday at the SOS march in Washington - she even took a photo with us wearing MORE shirts. "This won't get you into trouble," I joked. She laughed.

But that has nothing to do with this change. Behind the scenes Debbie has been known to be more aggressive than other UFT officials in hassling certain abusive principals. She supposedly had a top-10 hit list of principals. She played a role in the John Dewey story with the removal of principal Kathleen Irvin, sending in special reps to assist chapter leader Michael Solo in his battle. Michael left MORE and joined Unity Caucus because he was so appreciative of the help.

Debbie was a chapter leader early in her career under an abusive principal and full well knows the score. I put up a reso in the late 90s calling got more protection for chapter leaders due to the situation Debbie was in. Unity Caucus turned it down overwhelmingly.

There is speculation that Poulos had stepped on some toes in the UFT hierarchy who have especially close relationships with officials in the Farina's DOE administration who are unhappy with UFT officials who are considered too aggressive. There are rumored names of those in the UFT hierarchy who had it in for Debbie but at this point that info is not confirmed - Unity slugs are welcome to speculate in the comments section.

Mulgrew, not wanting to endanger his seat at the DOE table,  may be sending a message to those few reps who stand up for teachers too rigorously. When I checked with another source in Unity I was told they might try to turn the Brooklyn office into another Queens borough office which is considered by some to be the worst - or equal to the Bronx -

I know my old pal Howie Shoor will take exception to that but he is no longer Bronx borough rep, being replaced by Mary Atkinson who at one time was an Ed Notes distributor. Howie has moved up to 2nd in command as UFT Secretary. Howie was Debbie's guide and mentor and I wonder how he feels about this.

Debbie Poulos is popular with the Brooklyn reps who feel she  has their backs. I don't know all details but I've never considered the people I know in the Brooklyn office of being especially aggressive. But I am not plugged in to that info.

We'll report from the convention if we hear anything more.

If we find tomorrow that none of the above is true I will have to find a nice Minneapolis hat to eat.

MORE Going to AFT Convention Taxed but not represented - Joining 12,000 Non-Unity Voters

UFT members pay a big chunk of change out of their UFT dues to the AFT so they can spend loads of money working for Hillary and playing in Bill Gates' and Eli Broad's sandboxes while we don't get a say in those decisions.

"But wait," your friendly Unity Caucus slug will say. "The UFT just elected 750 delegates to go to Minneapolis to represent you. And isn't it nice they all will be told how to vote and all vote the same way. Don't you feel better now?"

Look at John Halabi's vote totals in his analysis: Certified UFT Election Results – Part I

Unity MORE/NAC Indiv.*
Elementary 73.6% 24.1% 2.3%
Middle 60.9% 32.5% 6.6%
High School 46.5% 51.0% 2.5%
Teacher Total 64.4% 32.6% 3.1%
Functional 74.8% 22.1% 3.2%
InService Total 68.3% 28.6% 3.1%
Retirees 86.7% 12.5% 0.8%
Grand Total 76.3% 20.9% 2.8%

Look at the teacher vote - 32%. When you add in the functional (22%) totals where Unity gets a much higher vote total (due to total control of the functional chapters, which are as undemocratic as any in the UFT we get 29% of the inservice people who get no delegates to the AFT (and NYSUT) conventions.
Even with the retirees added in where we got only 13% of the vote -- that comes to 20% of voters who get no representation - and if you add in the Solidarity anti-Unity votes we get over 12,000 people who get taxed by UFT dues to AFT and NYSUT but are not represented.

Not only are you being taxed by AFT/NYSUT dues but you are also paying the expenses of closer to 800 Unity Caucus people who are going - hotels, airfare, meal vouchers. Do that math - let's say $2000 a person - the next few days are costing us a pretty chunk of change and you might think of that as our 750 champions rise as one to cheer Hillary when she speaks on Monday.

If MORE/New Action received delegates based on even 20% we would be sending 150 people. Instead we have about 7 people spending their own money.

I actually believe there might be a potential class action suit on this but would like to hear a labor lawyer comment.

James Eterno has a piece on this same issue but focused on the actuality that the high school teachers actually elected MORE to the 7 exec bd seats but none of them can be a delegate to the AFT - Arthur Goldstein is the only new Ex Bd member going.

James points out that the almost 20,000 high school teachers are larger than most local teacher unions in this country. If we divided those 750 delegates by divisions the high schools would get a pretty good share - and in a winner take all situation MORE/NA would get quite a chunk. But the high school election was almost 50-50 I would say Unity and MORE/NA could pretty much split the HS share down the middle -- wait - I must leave this fantasy -- and start packing for tomorrow when my wonderful wife will get up at 4AM to drive me to the airport.

MARGINALIZED UFT HIGH SCHOOL TEACHERS WOULD BE VERY LARGE AFT LOCAL - As the July 18 Minneapolis AFT Convention approaches, it is worthwhile to point out just how disenfranchised high school teachers in New York City are. In ... 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Why Less Blogging and Meeting Hillary (Sort of) - School Scope, Norm in The WAVE

Norms low line
I seem to be busy though I am not sure why and thus have neglected Ed Notes. I spend a lot of time sitting on my porch or backyard deck. I've been paying more attention to my writing group where they have been trying to get me to write some fiction and I

Just built trellis leaning on deck
picked up a novel I last worked on 5 years ago. Writing fiction is as hard as writing blogs is easy. I've also been busy working at the Rockaway Theatre Company building the set for La Cage Aux Folles and rehearsals even though I have the tiniest part imaginable (we have a few hours of rehearsal today at 11). And there is the MORE book club where we are reading about the 68 strike. And the MORE other summer events. And the work I am doing around the house - yesterday my friend Tony helped build a massive trellis for my deck which I still have to install. I've been building my version of the high line, calling it Norm's low line only to find out someone is actually building a low line in Manhattan - but it won't be finished until 1920 - I hope I can beat them to it.

Getting ready to leave very early Monday for the AFT convention with a crew from MORE. We were going to originally leave Sunday and probably should have since we are missing a bunch of events with the Chicago Teacher reception, BATS and UCORE. So when we get there we have a lot of catching up to do.

And then of course are my columns for The Wave - which kills one morning a week of blogging. Here they are for the July 15, 2016 edition.

Meeting Hillary (Sort of)

School Scope
By Norm Scott

I can tell school is out for summer vacation by all the open parking spots on my block, which is near a school. Since retiring 14 years ago this is the one of the main ways I notice school is over. I usually write only one column on education during the summer but this year I may not be able to shut it down so easily. There is too much happening regarding politics, education and race to keep quiet for the entire summer. My problem is that there is so much to say I’m having trouble deciding on exactly what to say. The more I think, the less I write. Even my blog has gone fairly silent recently. So I am emptying my mind right now – that shouldn’t take long – give me two seconds.
Okay, I’m back. My fingers are taking over so don’t hold me responsible for what comes out. I’m heading to Minneapolis for the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) convention next week with what I hope will be press credentials to cover the event for The Wave. I’ve gotten such credentials for the past three conventions since 2010 in Seattle, Detroit and Los Angeles but I am always concerned that the people running our union will try to stifle dissenting voices. Two years ago I was the only one to videotape UFT President Michael Mulgrew saying he would punch people in the face who tried to take his common core away. The video went a little viral with the story being picked up by local and national press. Of course when common core became a hot potato Mulgrew backed off and claimed he was now against common core – but he never said he would punch you in the face if you tried to force common core upon him.

Hillary Clinton is due to speak Monday and I hope we get there in time. I want to hear how she walks the tightrope of appeasing her charter school and corporate education deformers while trying to make teachers feel she is on their side. Having her main supporter, our AFT President Randi Weingarten, standing next to her and cheerleading should help. Especially since Randi is bringing along 800 of her NYC buds who were elected as delegates in the recent UFT election.

My caucus, MORE, won the majority of high school teacher votes which gave us seven executive board seats and over 25-30 percent of the total vote in various other divisions and about 11,000 votes all told, but get no delegates. Thus, 11,000 UFT members are disenfranchised. Taxation without representation. A bunch of us from MORE are going at our own expense. Why? Because we are nuts. I hope to have something written for next week’s edition on what Hillary said.

I and others are union political junkies. MORE is running a summer series of workshops on dealing with organizing at the school level, especially if there is an abusive principal, of which there are too many to count. The UFT does nothing about these people and MORE is trying to fill the gap. Our next workshop is on Aug. 3 and if you are dealing with a crappy principal email me for details. We are into exposing these people. At a recent Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) meeting I and others spoke on this issue where we challenged Chancellor Carmen Farina over her continued support for bad principals. (See videos on my blog at: video-norm-scott-comments-to-farina-at.html,

From what I am hearing from too many schools, one of the major issues we are facing in education in this city is the poor state of so many people in charge of schools. But everyone wants to ignore that and focus on the bad teacher. Farina empowered her superintendents to put their buddies into these supervisor jobs. Since I began teaching 49 years ago the percentage of competent teachers outstrips that of supervisors - truly competent supervisors were a rarity – and those who were, quickly rose to their level of incompetency within the DOE bureaucracy.

I started to write this column to talk about Hillary, Trump, politics, race and education but quickly got overwhelmed by what is going on in today’s news. Teachers and police occupy some similar roles in society and we all intersect on the issue of race. In my years of teaching in Williamsburg I had about two or three kids who weren’t black or Hispanic. I went into the job as a liberal who supported civil rights but had no idea about race and racism and to what level I myself had racist attitudes. Spending 30 years teaching kids of color taught me a hell of a lot and even recently I have been learning from my former students through Facebook and a recent reunion I had with some of the students from my 1979 sixth grade class (who are approaching 50). I don’t have my thoughts together enough to get deep into this issue. I read some comments in The Wave that are disturbing. I’ll try to address some of these issues in future columns.

My other column for this week is below:

Memo From the RTC:  Breaking in La Cage
By Norm Scott

Well, master Rockaway Theatre Company builder Tony Homsey and crew are getting close to completing the set for the August 5th opening of La Cage Aux Folles with the last major piece being the bird cage that must be large enough to contain eight dancers. Tony procured every pcb plastic pipe from miles around for the  project. Some of the set pieces are truly massive and the painting crew headed by Frank Caiati and Cliff Hesse are busy at work. Frank painted a simulated stone wall running across almost the entire stage that looks so real I want to get a piece for my garden after the show is over. I mean why try to find real (heavy) rocks? I can’t wait to show people how strong I am by lifting an entire stone wall with one hand.

The large cast is busy almost every night and weekends rehearsing complicated dance routines under the direction of choreographer Nicola DePierro-Nellen and vocals under musical director Richard Louis-Pierre. Director John Gilleece and Producer Susan Jasper are riding herd on the entire crew for one of the more ambitious shows the RTC has undertaken. Even I have a bit part in the show. Why go see Hamilton for $800 when you can see our show for $15? Evening performances Aug. 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 19, 20 and Sunday matinees Aug. 7, 14 and 21. Don’t miss this one.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Damaged Presidential Candidates - Hillary, Randi and Education

Let me say right up front - anyone who votes for Trump is in essence endorsing these people described in today's Times - For Whites Sensing Decline, Donald Trump Unleashes Words of Resistance. You may not consider yourself racist but ... and by the way ... many of the people described in this piece are anti-Semitic too. 

Hillary and Randi are getting a lot of love for the education plank in the Democratic party platform - Accountable Talk
In Praise of Randi.
We know all about platforms and if Hillary wins I want to see what people have to say in a year or two. Let's remember this about the Randi-Mulgrew run AFT/UFT - as reported by NYC Educator:
UFT leadership takes a stand, sort of. They supported mayoral control. When it came up for renewal, they asked for changes, didn't get them, and then supported it anyway. Now Mulgrew says they support it, but not as is. What does that even mean? If they don't support it as is, why the hell did they support it ever? Leadership sort of sits on the fence on testing. Mulgrew's gonna punch all our faces out if we don't support Common Core, but they complain about the rollout, which is the same nonsense Cuomo rationalizes it with. They're against excessive testing, but when opt-out actually does something about it, they spout the same crap as Reformy John King. When opt-out places fear into the alleged heart of the Cuomo, and inspires him to make a few superficial changes, they declare it a victory (and take credit). But as they declare absolutely everything a victory, that's got kind of a hollow ring. They attack everyone and anyone who disagrees with them. If they can't think of a good argument, they dredge the bottom of the barrel, and spit out whatever they come up with. Who cares if it's accurate or not? Anyone who's signed a loyalty oath will believe it or lose their free trip to Schenectady next year. Or maybe an after school gig. So they don't contradict it, and just as likely don't even bother to think about it.
There are reasons why Eli Broad and Bill Gates support Hillary. But yes, we will be better off on education with Hillary than Trump - if anyone thinks we won't take a good look at Wisconsin and public employee unions and the picture will be bleak. But I still will vote 3rd party because my vote in NYC won't make a difference and I believe long term we must have a 3rd party because I do not believe the Dems can be reformed.

An interesting item in the NY Times:

Would Donald Trump Quit if He Wins the Election? He Doesn't Rule It Out

Maybe that is why people want to be his VEEP - a path to the presidency.

Trump and Hillary polls are bouncing around like crazy.

The idea that Trump wants to win but not govern is intriguing - or imagine a sudden health problem for Trump - a frightening scenario for the Clinton people and their supporters as they would lose the major reason driving her campaign. So imagine Paul Ryan, as bad as Trump but without the bombast.

See Paul Krugman's assault on Ryan (All the Nominee’s Enablers) whose policies would be even more disastrous than Trump's.

Does anyone think that Hillary can beat Ryan? Or just about any GOP candidate except Trump? And since the email disaster, even that is in question.

So the pressure is on for those of us who do not want to vote for Hillary using Trump as a bludgeon. What if there were suddenly no Trump?

Arthur Goldstein, who I will be rooming with at the AFT convention next week - yes we are paying our own way, delves into why he isn't voting for Hillary in this post last week.

Read it in entirety here: Mediocrity Rules
Since I agree with so much I'll just quote some excerpts:

I've gotten a lot of flack about my decision not to vote for Hillary. Thus far, no one's really addressed my reasons, but rather I've been accused of supporting Trump via my lack of support for his opponent. That's simply ridiculous, as is Trump. Trump is amoral and reprehensible, for my money absolutely unacceptable. On the other hand, I've long felt a whole lot of GOP pols were pretty much the same as Trump, but found little weasel words to avoid saying outright what Trump does. Trump shouts the bigotry other Republicans know to only hint at.

Were I in Ohio or Florida I'd think twice about it, but if Hillary's NY race is competitive enough that she needs my vote, chances are she's lost anyway. Our Electoral College system is bizarre and undemocratic, and votes in my state are just not worth that much.
I'm a public education advocate, and if you want my vote you'd better either share that priority or be so good on everything else that I'm willing to overlook it (as was Bernie Sanders). I'm sorry that people are so upset about this, and I fully expect UFT to run an all-out, no-holds barred push for Hillary over the next few months. I believe that Hillary will likely not be as awful as Trump, but I fail to understand why we didn't extract significant concessions before going all in.

I voted for Barack Obama in 2008, he broke my heart, and I made a personal decision not to vote for reforminess anymore. When Cuomo ran on a platform promising to go after unions, I voted for Green Howie Hawkins. In 2012, I voted for Green Jill Stein for President, and I expect to do so again in November.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Video: Chapter Leader of Art and Design HS at PEP: Principal Manuel Urena Ignores Collective Bargaining Agreement

The next day he sent letter to Farina who has not yet replied -- and if she does I'll have to find a hat to eat.... Ed Notes

Principal Urena has repeatedly ignored the contract and disrespects and mistreats faculty members in manners they have never experienced before.  ... Jason Agosto, CL
A&D CL Jason Agosto attended the MORE event on Wednesday regarding chapter organizing and made good contributions to the discussion, including pointing out just how useless the UFT has been in providing assistance, which was the common theme at the MORE event. MORE posted the video and I am reposting with Jason's letter to Farina.

MORE will be doing follow-ups in early and late August in downtown Manhattan to help people brainstorm how to deal with these principals.

Chapter Leader of Art & Design HS Informs Carmen Farina About Principal’s Treatment of Teachers -

The chapter leader of Art and Design High School in Manhattan appeared at the monthly Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) meeting on June 22, 2016 to inform Chancellor Carmen Farina and members of the PEP that their principal, Manuel Urena, has treated teachers at the school in an unprofessional manner since he took over in February 2016. This video contains Jason Agosto's comments.


The next day he sent the following letter to Farina who has not yet replied -- and if she does I'll have to find a hat to eat.

UFT Chapter
The High School of Art and Design
Jason Agosto, Chapter Leader

Dear Chancellor Farina:

     I write to thank you for your attention at yesterday’s PEP meeting. As I mentioned when I spoke to you, the faculty at the High School of Art & Design have been under a constant state of duress since the new principal, Manuel Urena, arrived in January of this year. Contrary to the vision laid out by you and Mayor DeBlasio when our current contract was negotiated, we are not treated as partners by the administration of our school. Instead, Principal Urena has repeatedly ignored the contract and disrespects and mistreats faculty members in manners they have never experienced before. This also extends to the way Mr. Urena and his assistant principals misuse the Advance rating system and the Danielson rubric that forms its foundation.

     There are many other items governed by the labor agreement between the DOE and the UFT that the administration of our school have ignored or misapplied.  We have engaged in the grievance process to address these transgressions. Union officials from the UFT Manhattan borough office have been into the building at least half a dozen times in the last two months. Just today, the faculty turned out in large numbers to express their sadness and anger at the way they are being treated to the PTA leadership. But we respectfully ask for your help as well. I would like repeat my invitation for you to come to our school and speak with our teachers about their struggles to deliver high quality instruction in an environment in which they feel scorned and disrespected by the current administration. 

     We know it is very late in the school year, but would greatly welcome a meeting with you before everyone departs for the summer.  If that is not possible, we would look forward to meeting with you in early September. By carbon copy of this letter, I am informing UFT President Mulgrew that we have opened this conversation with you. We hope it will be acceptable to both you and him that we would like his participation in these discussions as well.

     Thank you again for your time.  We look forward to joining with you to secure the most productive, inclusive environment for all members of our school community. Our students’ continued achievement will be best served when all stakeholders can make meaningful contributions without fear of negative consequences.

Thank you.

Yours truly,

Jason Agosto
Chapter Leader
High School of Art & Design (02M630)