Thursday, November 27, 2014

Harris Lirtzman on the City Budget Windfall - We can all bemoan the fact that our beloved union is run like a one-party state

This spring, the UFT wouldn't listen to those of us who were warning it not to buy the City's claim of imminent financial disaster.... Harris Lirtzman
One of the great things about staying involved is meeting people like Harry. We went out for a bite to eat after the PEP on Tuesday and I could talk to Harry forever.

Good old Harry - always on the ball. Having a guy with his knowledge on our side is an enormous plus. He posted this yesterday to ICE and MORE Listserves.
Funny, the City announced an unexpected $2.6 billion in additional debt service savings and tax revenues the day before Thanksgiving....almost like it didn't want anyone to find out that the joint is rolling in dough.

The City is "spreading" that sofa-cushion money over the next two fiscal years, again, just in case anyone, say a union contract negotiator, might realize it was there, now, in the bank account.

This spring, the UFT wouldn't listen to those of us who were warning it not to buy the City's claim of imminent financial disaster.

Our union might have got the retro payment in two or three years, maybe even a lump sum, and, God forbid, have negotiated an actual raise instead of a signing bonus for 2011-12. It could even have delivered on its promise to retirees to pay the lump-sum in July rather than reopening the contract five months later in order to have an arbitrator rummage around in the contract to find them their additional $60 million somewhere.

We can all bemoan the fact that our beloved union is run like a one-party state.

I don't think we can forgive our union leadership for failing at its primary responsibility--social justice or no social justice--which is to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement that doesn't sell its members short because of incompetence.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. .....
Harris



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Video: UPDATED - MORE and Teacher Diversity Committee at Panel for Educational Policy Nov 25, 2014

Teaching has often been a way for poor people from the city to join the ranks of the middle class. I'm an example of this.... Pearson, King, Tisch and Cuomo have been dismantling this tradition.... It is the gentrification of the teaching force....As someone who has been a dean, chapter leader and mentor, I see the difference between the way gentrifiers deal with NYC kids and native NYers deal with NYC kids. In short, we need many many more native NYers in the classroom, especially New Yorkers of color.
.....Assailed Teacher, blogger
Last night a batch of MOREistas were at the PEP to argue a number of points. Eterno covered ATRs. I touched on bully principals and a discontinued guidance counselor from Staten Island made a powerful statement (videos to follow). Sean Ahern and Megan Moskop joined others from the Teacher Diversity Committee to press for a more diverse and balanced teaching staff. Video below and at the MORE you tube site: http://youtu.be/g1_RDCkWLUM

Sean has been fighting this battle for a decade and is finally getting noticed by the DOE and the UFT - but outcomes do count.
I was going to speak about the lack of balance in terms of the racial composition of teaching staffs around the city. We find a lot of teachers of color in the poorest areas of the city - Harlem, Crown Heights, Bed-Stuy - the overwhelming majority in some schools and overwhelmingly white staffs in other areas.

This is often unfair to the teachers of color who are more likely to be teaching in the tougher schools.

Bloomberg got rid of a provision that allowed teachers of color to transfer based on race in 2005. You know the drill - principals should not be forced to take a teacher they don't want - even if the real issue is the decision might be based on racial bias - which by the way, can also work both ways - a white teacher had a tough time getting a job in the 70s in certain schools. But the racial bias is way more likely to work the other way. All power to the principals must be curbed and maybe this is the way to begin. It is time for the DOE to take a look at the racial imbalance in schools around the city.

I included an excerpt from Assailed Teacher in the video. Read the entire quote in my post yesterday: Impact on Teacher Diversity: Teacher Certifications Decline As NYS Uses Tougher Exams




Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Impact on Teacher Diversity: Teacher Certifications Decline As NYS Uses Tougher Exams

Interesting for a lot of reasons but also in light of the teacher diversity campaign.... Harris Lirtzman
A good debate took place at MORE and ICE discussion lists over an article in the Times last week about the teacher certification issue one of the great Pearson scams.

Today at the PEP meeting, the Teacher Diversity Committee, led by Sean Ahern, will be presenting petitions to Carmen Farina. At last week's DA, MORE's Megan Moskop made a proposed resolution but it was pre-empted by the leadership, which shows that Sean's decade long campaign is bearing fruit. Farina issued statement to every teacher on how the DOE supports moves towards teacher diversity. As Sean often points out, the diversity issue is not about claiming that more teachers of color will close any learning gaps, but about making sure our students see a diverse teaching staff in front of them, unlike so many mostly white, mostly young charter school teachers. The TDC has done its research and come up with some astounding numbers for Eva Moskowitz's Success Academy charters. (See ed notes: Success Academy Charter School Teachers Sep 22, 2014-   59% of NYC DOE teachers are white. Check out the astounding numbers of white teachers in the Success Charter school chain obtained by the Teacher Diversity Committee. If this were Birmingham in 1964 there would be ...)

Back to the teacher exam and how it connects to the lower numbers of teachers of color. The newer exams in NY State are quite expensive. The NY Times article states
"In New York, some education schools say the new teaching tests are hurting minority candidates the most. While many education experts celebrated New York’s result as an important step in enhancing teacher quality, state officials conceded that the new standards were likely to have a disproportionate impact on minority applicants. They described that situation as an extension of an achievement gap that begins in elementary school and continues throughout much of postsecondary education.

Administrators said they were starting to see some evidence of this at places like Lehman College in the Bronx, where passing rates for each of the new certification tests were lower than the statewide averages last year.

“We are largely serving what I would call minority populations not only because of the color of their skin,” said Harriet R. Fayne, the dean of the Lehman School of Education. “We serve recent immigrants. We serve individuals who have had interrupted formal education. We serve individuals whose first language might not be English.”
Assailed Teacher made some crucial points:
My student-teacher last year was a former student of mine. Like most of my students, she is a minority from the inner city. Her parents are from Mexico. She talked about edTPA and all the testing and it stressed her out. I learned a few things from this.
First, these new requirements do not ensure the quality of new teachers. They are, essentially, more exams. Passing an exam does not a good teacher make. The portfolio part is full of fluff and jargon. It tests your ability to spew pedagogical platitudes. It does not assess your potential worth as a teacher.

Second, my student-teacher was stressing out about the price she had to pay for all of this. She said between all the testing and edTPA, her parents were spending upwards of a thousand dollars on this stuff. That is ludicrous. Most of that money is going into the pockets of Pearson. It is a giant barrier ensuring poor people cannot join the ranks of new teachers. Only families who are independently wealthy can sustain a student who does not pass a test the first time around.

As many of us know, one of the major shortcomings of the current teaching force is the fact that there are too many non-native New Yorkers who grew up in some suburban wonderland with a mommy and daddy to support them. These new certification requirements will ensure that this remains a permanent state of affairs, and that is a shame to say the least.

Teaching has often been a way for poor people from the city to join the ranks of the middle class. I'm an example of this, as are many of you. Pearson, King, Tisch and Cuomo have been dismantling this tradition through these new ridiculous requirements. It is the gentrification of the teaching force.

As someone who has been a dean, chapter leader and mentor, I see the difference between the way gentrifiers deal with NYC kids and native NYers deal with NYC kids. In short, we need many many more native NYers in the classroom, especially New Yorkers of color.
==
I added:
Lots of teachers in my school came through the para program. They often came from the schools in our neighborhood and didn't get the same kind of academic and cultural education esp in high school. The tests seem to measure that - which has little to do with teaching. I worked with many of these people and they brought certain skills to the table that their backgrounds gave them.
I believe that the picture in the minds of ed deformers like Klein and Bloomberg, were not these from the neighborhood people. It is young and white. Deformers want to break the neighborhood connection to schools to make it easier for privatization and also see that a teaching staff with too many teachers of color who are unionized may undermine the deformer attempts to create an anti-union environment in prime charter invasion neighborhoods.

Memo from the RTC: Damn Yankees - The Kids Are Alright - Updated with photos and video

The crowded backstage
This was last Friday's column - boy am I running behind. The show closed this past Sunday with all sell-out performances. I had to race from backstage to the booth where I was taping. I love hanging out in both places - a unique perspective on live theater.

Some highlights from opening night:



Nov. 21, 2014
Memo from the RTC: Damn Yankees - The Kids Are Alright
By Norm Scott

The hair salon backstage
The opening weekend of the Rockaway Theatre Company production of the reprise of the Faustian “deal with the devil” updated to the sports arena in Damn Yankees, was sold out. And sellouts are expected (a few tickets remain www.rockawaytheatrecompany.org) for the four shows this weekend - Nov. 21-23 (Friday and Saturday night (8 PM) and Saturday and Sunday matinees (3PM). There were so many good reviews from audiences on the way out. A friend emailed me late Saturday night: “As always, a great show. Music/dance numbers were a smash. Either I didn't catch Katherine Robinson in previous plays or I must have been dead. She was terrific as Lola – my friend said - better than Gwen Verdon (who played the role on Broadway and in the movie).” I’m sorry my friend didn’t come see the Sunday matinee where RTC newcomer Erika Brito, who will be in 3 out of the 4 upcoming weekend performances, played Lola to equal perfection.

John Panepinto plays the devil with his triple threat skillset with touches of his bravura performance on the art of manipulation as the lead in “How to Succeed…” last spring at the RTC – except this time those manipulative efforts end in failure. This weekend, RTC newcomer Michael Whalen will play the devil in most of the performances. In the rehearsals I’ve seen he is also fabulous, though bringing a slightly different interpretation to the role. I hope Michael and Erika will become part of the RTC stable of top level talent (lots of excitement building already for next summer’s Guys and Dolls.)

John’s real-life sister, Dana DiAngelo practically steals the show as Gloria, a houndog of a reporter looking to expose corruption. Just wait until you see her tap dance. RTC mainstays David Risley and Jodee Timone play the roles of older Joe and his wife Meg respectively and as usual, deliver. I’ve seen Jodee, a former teacher at PS 114 in Belle Harbor, mostly in comedies and dramas at the RTC so I haven’t heard much of her singing, but she is wonderful. David, of course, can do just about anything on stage. And I can never get enough of watching Susan Warren Corning play anything. In the role of Sister she turns a fairly minor character into a force, delivering her lines with perfect comic timing.

Since I have no heavy lifting as an actor or set changer, other than about a 5 hour time commitment for each show, I get to do a lot of listening and watching while standing around backstage, in the lobby and up in the control booth, where I tape some of the shows. I keep a gag handy in the booth for when Producer Susan Jasper’s “angelic” comments (not one mess-up will go unnoticed) crack everyone up. Director John Gilleece is also up there taking copious notes for post-show reminders as Stage Manager Nora Meyers calls out instructions over the walkie talkie on every aspect of the show.

I have enormous fun taking part in the shows with big casts with lots of kids and teens watching how they interact with each other and with the young adult 20-somethings, especially since some of the young adults had been involved in the RTC children and teen program when they themselves were kids and grew up to become full-fledged actors, dancers and singers. Most of the conversations backstage throw me for a cultural loop. The other day they were reminiscing about their favorite TV shows in their youth (like a decade or less ago) and I had no clue. My youth was full of black and white TV – Father Knows Best, Life of Reilly, Superman, Dragnet – so I just keep my mouth shut. Since Damn Yankees takes place in the 50s, the outfits of the young ladies are very retro – “I feel I am back in high school,” I announced one evening. “That must be Norm,” one of them said. Who else, except for my other baby boomer colleagues – my fellow reporters Curtis (50-50) Wanderer and Tony (master-builder) Homsey, Cathy Murfitt (in a variety of roles), Fred Grieco (team owner) and Cliff Hesse, playing the manager who leads the Senators in a rousing rendition of “You Gotta Have Heart”. Sometimes we look at each other and shrug – are we in a foreign country?

Most of the youngsters emerge out of the fall/winter Saturday RTC young people’s theatre workshops where they prepare full-scale plays, this winter Seussical Jr (end of January/early Feb) and Legally Blonde Jr. (end of Feb/early March). Don’t miss seeing the future (and some current) stars.

View a 4-minute highlight reel of the show at:https://vimeo.com/112178951





Monday, November 24, 2014

UPDATE - Left Meets Right Over Common Core – Sort Of - Norm in The Wave

I finally did a column on education in my school scope column. I had been avoiding the ed issues in my ed column because there are so many I never can decide what to write about in 800 words. But when Joanne Smith did a column opposing common core the juices started flowing. Now if only she would do a piece on charter scams...
UPDATE From Pete Farruggio (a former colleague and political activist from late 60s-early 70s).

Norm,
 Your latest column recommends J Eppolito’s video for giving a “balanced view” of common core. I STRONGLY urge you to stay away from his video His opening was an accurate expose of the undemocratic maneuvering used by the plutocrats and their minions to foist the common core standards and their assessments upon public schools. But then his presentation degenerated into a right wing rant against progressive education. I wrote the following cautionary message (see below) -- 
 Pete

Published Nov. 21, 2014 at www.rockawave.com
School Scope: Left Meets Right Over Common Core – Sort Of
By Norm Scott

I was gratified to read Joanne Smith’s critique of the Common Core in the November 14 “It’s Just My Opinion” column. As a fellow opponent of the CC I would like to flesh out some points in her analysis. Joanne presents the issue as a government takeover of public education, as summarized in this point: “Common Core is just another way for the government to not only insinuate itself into the lives of our children, but more importantly, put a wedge between the children and their parents. Common Core has effectually made learning about the teacher and school versus the child and the parent, making it impossible for the parent to help the child. How does the government simply change the way students in lower levels learn and still have an expectation that the parent can work with the child on assignments when they have no idea what’s going on?”

Yes, the federal government under the Clinton (Goals 2000), Bush (No Child Left Behind) and Obama (Race to the Top) administrations has taken on a major role in shaping local educational policy, with the CC and the major push for privately managed, publicly funded charter schools being the latest iterations. (We’ll deal with the charter issue in a future column.) Note that both Republicans and Democrats are involved up to their ears in pushing an agenda that basically results in undermining the public school system and opening up the massive amounts of money in education to corporate and entrepreneurial exploitation. Joanne points to the role Bill Gates has played in the push for the CC. Basically, the founder of Microsoft has used his billions to take over public education. And he has been joined by many more corporate entities that will be able to enrich themselves, especially those involved in curriculum materials and the testing theocracy. Recently, Governor Cuomo declared the public schools a “monopoly” that must be broken. In other words, break it up and open it up to private exploitation, most of which will be non-union. Thus the massive amount of money flowing into his campaign from interests supporting the CC and charters.

Joanne doesn’t touch on the negative impact on teachers, given that the outcomes of testing based on the CC must be used to evaluate teachers whose careers are put on the line based on a test score. How does that pressure affect their ability to teach effectively? As a 30-year elementary school teacher, I had the freedom to take the children in my classes where my experience and judgment as a teacher told me to take them. I’m not sure I would choose to teacher inside the prescribed box CC would be putting me in. Despite the pro-CC propaganda coming from the federal, state, city government and the UFT/AFT – yes, our local and national unions support the CC – though the other big national union, the NEA, has been more skeptical. There is a small but growing movement of “Teachers of Conscience” who view the CC/testing regime as child abuse and are asking for conscientious objector status in refusing to give certain tests.

Contrary to popular belief, it was not the right/tea party crowd that first raised warnings about the CC, but left leaning academics and teachers, such as Diane Ravitch and Susan Ohanian, along with parent activists like Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters and parents opting their children out of tests, here in NYC a group I helped found and work with called Change the Stakes.

Only in the last year or two has the right wing of the Republican Party picked up the refrain that this was an Obama takeover of public education and of course anything Obama will do is taboo. Just wait and see what happens if Jeb Bush, a major CC supporter, runs for President. CC is a splitting mechanism in the Republican Party is it may turn out to be in the Democratic Party. In the recent election for governor, the Green Party candidates received 5% of the vote running on a strong pro-public education platform. (Brian Jones, a teacher and member of MORE which opposes the UFT leadership, was the candidate for Lt. Governor).
But the loudest noises have been coming from the tea party right. Left does meet right on the CC but they both don’t quite align, with the left emphasizing the corporate/privatizing aspect while the right focuses on government. Since I come from the left I view “government” as a wholly owned subsidiary of various corporate interests which compete with each other for influence, while we the public are left with the limited choices of candidates after they have been vetted.

If you are interested in learning more, see a balanced video presentation by a Nevada parent of four named John Eppolito. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5w4xD7nzLD8&feature=youtu.be

If you are a parent considering opting your child out of some or all tests (you have the right) or a teacher test refusenik email me and I will put you in touch with a support group.

You can read Joanne Smith’s full piece at: http://www.rockawave.com/news/2014-11-14/Editorial%257COpinion/Common_Core.html

Read Norm’s other column, Memo from RTC in this issue and more on education at Norm’s blog ednotesonline.org.

Pete's comments on the Eppolito video:

Friends,

Eppolito’s criticisms are loaded with conservative and behaviorist prejudices against holistic and progressivist pedagogy. For example, he launches an attack by conservative Math professor James Milgram against California’s excellent late 1980s Math standards, which were abruptly terminated by a right wing coalition of religious fundamentalists and the “Mathematically Correct” group of mostly-Stanford professors who advocated a return to the traditional form of didactic (rote memorization of facts and algorithms) teaching. This coalition started the infamous “Math wars” by attacking the holistic standards, which promoted conceptual understanding, as the so-called New Math. Here’s an article that describes how Prof Milgram and right wing crank Wayne Bishop viciously tried to ruin the career of a holistic Math researcher

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/10/15/stanford-professor-goes-public-attacks-over-her-math-education-research

Eppolito uses such discredited fonix proponents as Louisa Moats to criticize the common core language arts standards for not adhering enough to the seriously flawed pro-phonics “research”

Eppolito seems to be a sincere guy, but his 5 years of teaching experience apparently did not enlighten him about what effective pedagogy looks like. His presentation is NOT what we need to show what’s wrong with the common core

Pete Farruggio, PhD

Associate Professor, Bilingual Education

University of Texas Pan American

How UFT Leaders Help Undermine Public Ed in NYC Through Support of New Visions

[F]rom the start, charter schools were rotten through with corruption. ...the law that created charter schools in New York State came in return for a legislative pay raise. Charter schools in New York started with a quid pro quo. You want public money for private schools? Pay us and we'll give it to you. Now of course the charter operators themselves do the quid pro quos, throwing huge amounts of cash at the politicians in both parties in order to get their agenda passed.... Reality Based Educator at Perdido Street Schools explores the roots of the 1998 charter school law (Charter Schools Started As Quid Pro Quo Deal In New York In 1998)

And of course, our UFT/NYSUT crew were up to their ears in it. But is not only charters but the partnership with groups like New Visions. Randi and Mulgrew are both on the board. Look at this map of New Visions schools - district and charters. (See entire NV board of directors below.)

In 1998 I was so frustrated with the people controlling the schools  I was in favor of teacher run schools (still am) and saw charters as a way for the UFT to help us take away power from the corrupt districts and Board of Education. Call me an early version of an ed deformer. In an early edition of Ed Notes (which began in 1997) I proposed a resolution for the Del Ass calling on the UFT to set up a division of support for teachers who wanted to start charter schools. Randi asked me to hold off on this as she had her own plan. And I didn't raise it. Months later, Michelle Bodden contacted me asking if I wanted to be on a new UFT charter committee exploring starting a school in partnership with CCNY. I did join the committee but argued this was too top down - it was not my concept. But of course the committee was packed with Unity and I was there as window-dressing as a way to shut me up - and it worked. Randi abandoned the project when CCNY pulled out - wisely it turned out.

Michelle Bodden was a rising star and I really liked her - at one point later on rumored to be Randi's successor - but something happened and Michelle ended up running - and still does run - the UFT charter which has been at times a money pit sinkhole and an embarrassment for the union.

At that time, as a lone wolf with no base of support and also viewing New Action and other opposition groups as weak and ineffectual, I felt that working with the new UFT leadership which was promising reform was the best bet in the late 90s. My sense that the only way to change was a progressive union leader (which I believed Randi to be at that time) and a Unity Caucus on board.

My break came with the coming of ed deform and Randi's support of it. That was when it became clear the UFT was complicit and a partner and the New Visions deal is only a sliver.

New Visions for Public Schools

Board of Trustees

Richard I. Beattie
Founder/Chairman
Roger C. Altman
Co-Chairman
Robert L. Hughes
President
Calvin O. Butts, III
Lisa Caputo
Ian Cook
Blair W. Effron
Jerry E. Garcia
Gary L. Ginsberg
Jay L. Kriegel
Sue Lehmann
Beth J. Lief
Ernest Logan
Ellen Moskowitz
Michael Mulgrew
Peter R. Orszag
Ralph L. Schlosstein
Katherine J. Trager
Randi Weingarten

Honorary Board Members
Reuben Mark
J. Richard Munro

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Ohhhh, I Missed Mindy's Great B-Day Party with the MOREista Pack

Well, I had an excuse - Damn those Yankees.

Here is Mindy's report on facebook - and low and behold our theater pal Kim Simek, one of the great actresses at the RTC, ended up at Mindy's party. Smallish world - except that Schirtzer knows everyone. And MORE is planning a holiday party on Dec. 12.
Good morning all!! After I posted my pics last night, I conked out in my chair last night for like 2 hours then crawled into bed. I was really drunk last night and I really needed that!!! I really had such a great time with you all. Its was a long time coming. Thank you guys for being there for me. Couldn't have asked for a better group of friends and it was great meeting some new ones!! Love you all!!! We need to do this again. Mike Schirtzer you picked the perfect place last night!!! Thank you. Just another reason why you are the best in my book!!! Megan Moskop thanks for the ride home. Francesca Gomes you give the best hugs!!! Alexandra Roberson, the flowers are beautiful and Karen Arneson thanks for the card! Gloria Brandman and hub, thank you for coming out to hang with us and John C. Antush, your wife is a sweetie!!! Vinny Internicola and Kimberly Simek, it was truly great meeting you guys and I sure hope we can hang out again. Daniel Katz it was so great to finally meeting you! Brian Gibbons, thank you so much for coming out. Always great to see you and please give my love to Alison. Lynn Manuell and Anna Lisa Schnirman, my 811 peeps, thanks to you guys as well. Of everyone there last night, you two have seen my transformation. Thank you for being there for my journey!!! Finally, here is a shout out to the guy who crashed my shindig, thanks for the laughs. I haven't smiled this much in a long time. I will say it again, much, much, love to you all!!!
— feeling blessed with Francesca Gomes and 13 others at Joshua Tree East.
 




 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Why I Like Mike

We will not win by signing loyalty oaths or making back room deals like the Unity/New Action members...Like Arthur, I am willing to debate Weingarten or Mulgrew anywhere, anytime, as long as it is open to all our members, not in some small room at 52 Broadway. .... Mike Schirtzer, MORE 
I joined proud MOREista Mike Schirtzer yesterday afternoon at the Brooklyn Teachers Unite Brooklyn Restorative Justice Meetup + Workshop where we encountered about 40 teachers - mostly young - and around 10 students - and all of them staying around until 6:30 to talk restorative justice and related education stuff. We played some games and then I went off to a group of high school science and math teachers to talk pedagogy - and boy how I have missed talking to teachers about - well, teaching, instead of politics. And teachers who despite all the crap out there, seem to love what they are doing.

We even found a chapter leader and a delegate, and they loved Megan Moskop's presentation at the DA on Tuesday on teacher diversity. Mike is as enthused over the Teachers Unite restorative justice agenda as he is about MORE and union politics.

I'm proud to know Mike who in the 2 and a half years I know him has become a friend through our work in MORE. In a short time, Mike has captured the sentiments of the average UFTer and captivated the long term activists, tirelessly working the phones and internet and running off to meet with people in bars and diners to talk their school's politics. That is real organizing at the fundamental level - and if I were Unity I would offer him a deal ASAP.

Arthur Goldstein featured Mike on his blog today: Loyalty
 Mike is loyal UFT. And so am I. No one believes in union more than we do. Sadly, that's not the sort of loyalty valued by our union.
It is because of Mike and all the people he mentions below, plus others that he doesn't that I don't retire to the lounge and despite some of the issues Arthur has chronicled about MORE I remain involved, as do most people from ICE, which was a founding group of MORE. We still believe in the potential of MORE while also trying to make sure it keeps its wheels on the track. Just look at the demographics of MORE in terms of age and where people stand in their careers compared to any other group in the UFT, including Unity.

Mike, a non-Communist registered Republican (despite the slander some people are spreading that MORE is a communist organization), proudly sent this to the listserves today.
Thank you Arthur. I am so proud to part of MORE, the only positive alternative to the current union leadership. We stand by our commitment to social justice for all. Fighting for teachers is fighting for children, our working conditions are our students' learning conditions, the two cannot be separated. 

Our union is the only thing that stands between us and Wal-mart poverty wages, our union is the only check and balance of the government’s and privateer’s misguided directives. The day will come when loyal UFT members like Arthur, me, and my friends in MORE will have union jobs, but it will happen democratically, not through patronage or any loyalty oath. Unlike the other caucuses, Unity and New Action, we will never sacrifice our principles for a seat at the table. We will create our own table with classroom teachers, educators, and parents dedicated to a fair public education for all children. Like Karen Lewis and CTU, we must have a union that is ready to fight for its members , with its members, and the children we serve everyday. The job of our union is to represent us, not tell us what they represent.

We will do this through mobilizing educators at every school to fight against abusive administrators and privatization, involving all our members in the day to day activities of our union. True union democracy would mean a chapter leader like Arthur would have a voice at union meetings and NYSUT/AFT conventions. True union democracy would mean a membership that finds it important to vote in UFT elections and have a chance to set policy before Mulgrew decides what “we” want, such as common core, test based evaluations, and cookie cutter rubrics. 

The UFT is set up very top down now - at Delegate Assemblies, Chapter Leader meetings - the agenda is set before we come - this is not our vision of unionism. When we lead the UFT it will allow the members to set the agenda and the policies. 

We will win by defending our members, by mobilizing the UFT to fight “reform” polices, by fighting for lower class size, arts, music, after-school programs and for ATRs right to have classroom jobs and union representation. 

We will not win by signing loyalty oaths or making back room deals like the Unity/New Action members. 

Like Arthur, I am willing to debate Weingarten or Mulgrew anywhere, anytime, as long as it is open to all our members, not in some small room at 52 Broadway. It is time we have a union that is a vehicle for pro-education, pro-union, policies, not one that begs for a seat at the table. I look forward to working along side Arthur, he is a great teacher, loyal unionist, and overall an amazing person. 

Thankfully I’m surrounded with great “union teachers” like Arthur, Norm Scott, Julie Cavanagh, Mike Fiorello, James Eterno, Lauren Cohen, Harry Lirtzman, Kit Wainer, Jia Lee and plenty of others.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Today: Teachers Unite Brooklyn Restorative Justice Meetup + Workshop

I'm going to this event today with Mike Schirtzer from Leon Goldstein HS, though I have to leave early because we are doing a tuneup rehearsal at the RTC for this weekend's Damn Yankees shows. Mike has been totally captivated by the work of Teachers Unite. (I am a proud original member and supporter since its inception.) There is another one in Manhattan on Monday. See below.

Why restorative justice? I rarely had a child suspended and in fact used my own version of RJ to keep peace in my classroom. I think my approach to most kids helped keep me in the classroom for so long.  I felt suspension and or removal made me feel like a weak teacher. I wanted to have the attitude that I could deal with every child - even if not perfect I wanted that sense of confidence in myself.

Teachers Unite, founded by Sally Lee, has done amazing work in this area. Imagine a teacher and a child have a major conflict. I heard a story on NPR today about a battle between a librarian at Lincoln HS and a student who ended up suspended for 30 days. From what she said she did I can understand how a teacher would get crazy. But imagine if they could sit down with each other in some sort of setting to deescalate things. Now we know some students have such serious issues that things may never get resolved. In my one year as a special ed cluster (1979-80) working with in an emotionally and neurologically impaired unit in my school, kids were so off the wall, after over a dozen years of teaching I was still shocked. One of the great teachers in that unit told me there is a reason for why kids sometimes go nuts and as a teacher, being attuned and sensitive to the WHY of behavior is important.

Here are the Brooklyn and Manhattan announcements sent by Anna Bean who works with Sally. (Anna and her husband stopped by our house during Sandy recovery to offer a hand and that was how we got our dead - even though a month old - washing machine and dryer out to the curb.) Note the Dec. 13 fundraiser.

Brooklyn Restorative Justice Meetup + Workshop
***With Math & Science Breakout Group!***

Thursday, November 20th
4:30 to 6pm
 

Hosted by Brooklyn Frontiers High School
112 Schermerhorn Street
2/3/4/5 to Borough Hall |A/C/F/N/R to Jay St. MetroTech | G to Hoyt Schermerhorn
 
 Please RSVPanna@teachersunite.net
All are welcome—school staff, students, parents, community members—& food will be provided!
Flyer attached.
_______________________________________________
 

Manhattan Restorative Justice Meetup + Workshop

***NEW DATE!***
Monday, November 24th 
4:30 to 6pm
Hosted by Lower Manhattan Community Middle School
26 Broadway, 7th Floor Library (entrance at 81 New St.)
4/5 to Bowling Green | N/R to Whitehall | J/Z to Broad | 2/3 to Wall St.

  Please RSVP: anna@teachersunite.net
All are welcome—school staff, students, parents, community members—& food will be provided!
Flyer attached.
 
 
Join the FULL COURT PRESS against #SchoolPushout! 

Help us raise $10,000 to help 50 schools practice transformative justice this year and decrease the suspensions that lead young people to the School to Prison Pipeline. 

In a series of 3-on-3 half-court games, teams of educators and supporters will be dribbling, jumping, fast breaking champions in the pursuit of transformed public schools and empowered student voices. 

Saturday, December 13th
2-6pm
Manny Cantor Center

197 East Broadway in Manhattan

Donate at teachersunite.causevox.com

Spread the word on social media
Bring your friends and family on December 13th
Volunteer at the event – email Katie@teachersunite.net for information

Thank you!!!
 
 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

From 25 Years Ago: The UFT After Shanker by Lois Weiner and Bruce Markens

A lot to interesting insights about the UFT and the opposition from Lois and Bruce in this document published in 1990. Some good lessons for the new generation of teacher activists looking to challenge the half century of Unity Caucus control - well, maybe the lesson is the more things change the more they remain the same.

Lois Weiner and Bruce Markens were 2 of the most respected independent voices in the UFT. Bruce is truly the only independently elected district rep in history - he served for a decade as Manhattan HS DR despite repeated attempts by Unity to defeat him. He was so despised by Unity that when he retired I asked Randi to say something at the DA about his years of service and she refused. He was the reason she ended Dist Rep elections 2 years after he retired. Bruce and I are getting together with Mike Schirtzer and some others after the New Year to pass the historical torch so Mike can tell the story in 25 years -

and Mike met with Lois, Julie and some other MOREistas last week to get her current point of view.

I only met Lois after she had left the system and went into academia. She was the one who recruited Vera Pavone and I to write the review of the Kahlenberg Shanker bio which was published in New Politics. http://newpol.org/content/albert-shanker-ruthless-neo-con

Lois and Bruce have written an important historical document about Unity Caucus and the opposition from the point of view of a generation ago.

One of the things we see being sold by some today is the umbrella group idea where each caucus operates on its own and then comes together for elections or certain issues. Coalition caucus politics has been a failure throughout the history of the UFT opposition. ICE and TJC learned that lesson after a years of wrestling with each other and finally came together in MORE. Though there is still some internal wrestling, there is the sense that even a shotgun marriage is better than what was there before.

Here Bruce talks about how that worked out between 1981 (really since my group the CSW worked with TAC in the 1977 elections) through the writing of this article in 1990. NAC was the coalition of 3 caucuses initially and then 2. New Action was the result of the merger in 1996.


Imagine - in those years the opposition could pull high vote totals in middle and high schools but could never make a dent in the elementary and functional and of course the retiree divisions. In fact, in the elections following this 1990 article, the opposition won 13 Ex Bd seats  - its highest totals ever.


After New Action formed from the merger of TAC and New Directions in 1996 it had some success in the high schools by winning those seats through the 2001 elections. But seeing their advantage slipping away they jumped at the deal offered by Randi - don't run against her in exchange for Unity not running against NA for the HS seats. In 2003 I and others, unhappy with the state of the opposition - New Action, a fairly nascent TJC at that point and a 3rd caucus - Progressive Action - focused on one major item - teacher licensing - formed ICE as yet another alternative. (Hey - do you believe in choice?) While there was initial excitement that faded by the 2007 elections and ICE drifited into inactivity and into GEM and MORE. A real lesson for me - and others - which ultimately has led back to an attempt to create one unified opposition voice in MORE.

Attempts to brand Solidarity as a bridge group between New Action and MORE and a mostly dormant ICE will come to naught and maybe in 25 years someone will write this version of history.

If you have trouble reading the document below, go to this link where it will be larger.
https://www.scribd.com/doc/247106770/The-UFT-After-Shanker-Lois-Weiner-and-Bruce-Markens

UFT Delegate Assembly - Another Shaft for "Reorganized" Schools

....the press reported that teachers at Automotive High and Boys and Girls High Schools would be required to reapply for the jobs next September but that it would be OK because these teachers would not become ATRs if they were not selected for the positions. .... the specifics of that agreement draw a slightly different picture! As the president explained to the Delegate Assembly last night, teachers who are not rehired, or who don't apply, to those schools will be placed at another school somewhere in the borough of Brooklyn for only one year at a time. At the end of that time, those teachers will be shipped out to another school. And when that year is up, they will be shipped out to another school somewhere in Brooklyn. And when that year is up, they'll be placed again. This will happen five times. Over the next five years, teachers who currently teach at Auto or B&G HS  who are not rehired or do not reapply, will be put on year to year placements, spending each year at a different school somewhere within the borough. As they will not be regularly assigned teachers, it seems they will not have some of the rights of regularly assigned teachers....NYCDOENUTS
http://nycdoenuts.blogspot.com/2014/11/because-atr-by-any-other-name-would.html
I didn't go to the DA yesterday -- too cold out for my old bones and I also had a fiction writing group meeting in Park Slope. In fact I was getting ready to leave when DOENUTS called me in outrage to tell me the news he reports above.

MORE has a report: morecaucusnyc
Nov. Delegate Assembly Report -

Eterno also has a report on the ICE blog (with the help of MORE's Megan Moskop) - NOTHING EARTH SHATTERING TO REPORT FROM NOVEMBER DA.

DOENUTS seems to think the devil in the details may end up being earth shattering - if they end up closing 94 schools.
allowing those teachers to be displaced,  as our union has done, when none of this is their fault at the classroom level -and in the very same manner as ATRs were treated just a few years ago- is a DOEnut. In fact, it may just be the doenut of the year!

The Life of Brian (NYC Principal De Vale): Brands Merryl Tisch Comments Disgraceful and Hypocritical

You seem to be running an affirmative action program for the rich and unqualified. Enough is enough! I have watched the rich and powerful, like yourself, profit off of the destruction of public education for the past twenty years.You  have used your position to allow patronage resulting in the rich and the friends of the rich to run roughshod over our schools for far too long. ... Brian De Vale, Principal PS 257K, letter to Tisch
You have to love Brian's letter to Tisch. I've had lots of fun over the years roiling Merryl Tisch, one of the most despicable people one can imagine. Read one of my many pieces on Tisch:

Merryl Tisch: Might As Well Be a Crook ...when she has a problem with her refrigerator she calls the head of G.E...

or this one -- Ed Notes Online: Is the Evil Meryl Tisch Even Eviler than Eva?


or this Ed Notes exclusive -- Ed Notes Online: Dishonor Among Thieves: Merryl Tisch May 15, 2011 -- Ed Notes has learned that the letter Governor Cuomo supposedly wrote to Merryl Tisch and the State Board of Regents calling for a change from weighing teacher evaluations based on state tests from 20 to 40% was in fact written by Tisch ...

Also check out our pal: Raginghorseblog
What is Meryl Tisch Really Saying Here ?

And Daniel Katz: Chancellor Merryl Tisch to Mayor Bill de Blasio: Drop Dead
 



I'll let the always great Brian De Vale, an ed notes reader, tell the tale of Tisch's duplicity, malfeasance, fill in the rest of the blanks ----------- - and oh, what has her family done to the NY Giants?

Subject: Hypocrite

Dear Regent Tisch,

I found your latest comments about expanding charter schools to be not only disgraceful but hypocritical.

Unlike you and your crowd,   my sons did attend their local public schools and graduated with High School diplomas from their local,  traditional PUBLIC schools.  To my knowledge your own children never attended public schools. I do not believe you ever even worked in public education either.  You are quoted in  today's Daily News as stating your desire to  "expand charter schools again", despite the fact that there are over 100 vacancies upstate and 28 remaining in NYC.  Enough is enough!

I have watched the rich and powerful, like yourself, profit off of the destruction of public education for the past twenty years.  This movement went into overdrive under the administration of your dear friend "Michael" and pal Joel Klein who I read in a  NY Times article that you not only know but also share Passover supper and go on double dates with.  How quaint, cozy and intimate, yet terribly sad for public education.  I even remember a news article quoting you before Bloomberg's immoral overturning of term limits as saying "I absolutely support Mayoral Control as long as  Michael is in charge".  No sense of impropriety there at all!  The private sector, hedge funds and billionaires all  profited handsomely under these policies and our traditional public schools have suffered greatly as a result.  Just look at the ARIS debacle and the 95 million dollars  that were taken out of public education to pay for lawyers, data consultants, computer contracts, etc.. at the expense of classroom teachers and direct services to children.  Your pal Joel is reported yesterday's papers to have been paid to manage this project through his new employer Amplify under fellow billionaire Rupert Murdoch.

None of the unqualified folks that you consistently  helped obtain waivers  to run the system over the past dozen years  (David Steiner, Cathy Black, Dennis Walcott, Harold Levy or Joel Klein) ever possessed the required certification to hold their positions. You seem to be running an affirmative action program for the rich and unqualified.  You  have used your position to allow  patronage resulting in the rich and the friends of the rich to run roughshod over our schools for far too long.  This is all too much.   I  have done some research , forgive me if any of my findings are inaccurate, but I believe that none of you sent your children to a public school nor ever  worked in a public school (Joel's 6 month attempt to get out of the draft not included) yet you all declare yourselves experts in "Education Policy".   That is akin to those armchair generals  Washington is full of who are always sending our soldiers off to war. They  want to work in Defense and Military "Policy" but have done everything possible to avoid ever having to pick up  a weapon to defend their nation.

Bloomberg threw a hissy fit when the prior charter school cap was lifted only two years ago, as part of the State's Race to the Top Application. He was upset that there was a "Saturation Clause" placed in the legislation.  Such a clause would have protected areas like my own in Bushwick-Williamsburg where Charters are out of control despite lack of demand. This is seen by our Community Education Council for what it is, a land grab! The C.E.C. has even passed resolutions calling for a moratorium on charter schools in our Community School District.  The Saturation Clause was  improperly removed and our community, like Harlem is now overrun with these unwanted entities.    Charter schools were designed to be innovative lab sites, NOT the alternative school system that the rich want to see flourish  in order to cut their tax bills due to the lack of job stability, unions and pension costs.  If you want more charter schools open them in your own zip code. Our C.E.C.  has said 'NO". You need respect parent voice.

Why don't you call it a day?  Step aside and let us have a new regent take over who has actually worked in and understands PUBLIC education (Dr. Lester Young, Dr. Betty Rosa or Dr. Kathleen Cashin are a few possibilities).  Someone not rich, not from nor connected to the upper east side would be a  breath of fresh air.    The policies you and your friends have let upon loose upon our schools  are destructive and wrong.   The insane charter policies that you, the Governor and  Dean Skelos push on NYC would never fly in the suburbs which is why there are over 100 charter spots open upstate.  The cap in NYC still has not been reached but you and your rich friends are salivating over a chance to open even more. Shame on you.  You were all for mayoral Control when your rich pal was in charge but now that a populist who actually sends his children to public schools is in charge you start putting roadblocks in his way.  The people of NYC have spoken -  loudly and clearly. They do not want any more micromanagement from your crowd.  Let Mayor de Blasio do his job and stop  trying to control him through the back door from Albany. Mayoral Control is a policy and though I personally disagree with it, it should not be implemented as "good for my friend Michael" and "bad if I don't like Mayor de Blasio's policies". Once again you show a hypocrisy in that you supported one policy for your pal and another for our new mayor.

I know you rarely, if ever, receive letters like this from educators currently employed in public education. That is only because of the fear that taking a stance against you and these wrong headed policies will result in professional retribution.   I have seen enough and know what I am up against:  you and your very powerful friends.  That said, I must speak truth to power as I watch my community continue to be decimated by your destructive agenda. I pray for a better day in PUBLIC education, free from the destructive policies of billionaire "philanthropists", do-gooders and policy wonks where communities and the mayor they elected are free to run their schools.


Brian De Vale

PARENT of PUBLIC SCHOOL GRADUATES

29 Year Veteran PUBLIC School Educator

Principal

P.S. 257 /

Chairman

Council of Supervisors and Administrators

Community School District #14

60 Cook Street

Brooklyn, NY 11206

Meet Jesse Sharkey, the New Karen Lewis

I wouldn't frame things this way - Karen Lewis is and will be a major force. But a good piece on Jesse Sharkey who has a a great reputation. There has been some internal friction over the role the union has and will play in electoral politics, always a point of division, which to me might be a sign that we need to rethink the role unions can and should play in the electoral arena - like exactly how much good has it done for us here in NYC? When the major activity school workers are asked to engage in is related to elections rather than organizing there is a problem. Another discussion for another time.

http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/December-2014/Meet-Jesse-Sharkey-the-New-Karen-Lewis/?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=Facebook+above+story+26086+Nov+18+2014+17%3A05

Meet Jesse Sharkey, the New Karen Lewis


The Chicago Teachers Union vice president steps into the spotlight as the interim head.


Photo: Chris Strong

On October 9, when Chicago Teachers Union vice president Jesse Sharkey stepped to a podium to announce that the fiery Karen Lewis was suffering from a serious illness (later revealed to be a brain tumor), his days as a behind-the-scenes policy wonk were officially over. Now the acting CTU president, Sharkey, 44, sat down with Chicago contributing writer Carol Felsenthal to discuss what lies ahead for the union—and for the city’s public schools.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pushback Against Teach for America by College Students

Dani Lea, a sophomore at Vanderbilt University, believes that Teach for America (TFA) teachers in her high school in Charlotte, North Carolina, were detrimental to her learning experience and for those around her. Lea claimed that her principal didn't even know which teachers were members of TFA and which weren't. Upon hearing this, TFA co-CEO Matthew Kramer said, “That’s not our lived experience.” Lea responded, “That was my lived experience.”.... InTheseTimes

United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) - Here's a group of students hitting them where it hurts - at the college recruiting level.

Students to Teach for America CEOs: You Are "Complicit" in Attacks on Public Education
Monday, 17 November 2014 12:09 By Ari Paul, In These Times

The volley took place during an unusual open meeting at TFA’s midtown Manhattan headquarters November 13 between United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) activists and TFA’s top leadership, which offered the meeting after a widespread USAS campaign against the organization that includes visiting college campuses to question the education organization’s projected image as crusading do-gooders in American public education.
USAS is the country’s largest student labor organization, which has emerged in recent years as a serious force to be reckoned on labor issues ranging from sweatshop apparel production to campus union drives. The group’s main gripes with TFA and its Peace Corps-like model for American education, bringing college students—most from elite universities—to teach for a short period of time in some of the country’s poorest school districts, are that it is inadequately training teachers and promoting a for-profit, anti-union education reform agenda.
The Nation also recently released TFA documents regarding its response to critical press, adding to TFA’s recent headaches. USAS is demanding that TFA increase teacher training well beyond five-weeks and sever ties with anti-union corporations such as Walmart; USAS groups at universities like Harvard have demands their schools sever ties with TFA.
After offering an olive branch praising the intentions of TFA teachers across the country, USAS activists argued that the organization acts as a convenient staffing organization for municipalities looking to purge their career, unionized teaching staff and switch to a cheaper model based on high turnover.
Eastern Michigan University graduate student Will Daniels said his father, a career teacher in Detroit, was laid off in 2011 as a result of the city’s financial crisis, and said he saw the austerity-minded school authorities forming a marriage of convenience with TFA.  The district could hire “three TFA members for the price of my dad,” Daniels said.

Monday, November 17, 2014

South Bronx Blogger On Radio Tuesday, 6:35 - 7:20 AM


I'm Appearing Live in Studio Tomorrow Morning on WFAS-AM 1230 - WFAS 1230 AM is a small radio station in White Plains, NY. Tomorrow I will be appearing live, in studio on the Bob Marrone Show at 6:35 AM until about 7:20...
Live streaming: http://player.listenlive.co/26541

I don't have to tell you his story, which he chronicles in full at his blog.