Friday, September 29, 2006

EdNotes Online #3 abridged - Sept. 29, 2006

Putting Lipstick on the Pig
Jim Cramer appeared on Imus and was asked about how such a disaster could occur at Helwlett-Packard, one of the classic tech success stories in history. He pointed to the stewardship of former CEO Carly Fiorina (he used a Martha Stewart analogy) who used a massive, highly successful public relations operation to control the press and disguise the disasters that were really going on. (“Talk to people at HP and they will tell you it was all about Carly.”) The story reminded me of certain operations – AHEM! – closer to home.

This idea is the theme behind my column appearing in the Wave on Oct. 6. I call it “Putting Lipstick on the Pig” a phrase from the movie “Boiler Room” that refers to the act of dressing up a bad stock to make it look good so suckers will buy it.

Watching Klein’s DOE (my article in the Wave on Sept. 29 is a report of my coverage of Klein’s press conference where he spun the slim results of the citywide exams) and Weingarten’s UFT, where globs of lipstick are being put on the catastrophic contract to dress up the Open Market system and the basic end of seniority that has led so many experienced teachers to be used as permanent subs. I won’t go into the rest of the stuff now.

I asked a chapter leader who is a former cartoonist to do a cartoon for the upcoming newsprint edition of Education Notes (I’m printing over 20,000 copies and will need everyone’s help to distribute it – early-mid November is the target). He did the much talked about cartoon we held up at the demo at the UFT last year of Bloomberg and Weingarten in bed. He also did the “Contract on Life Support” cartoon that appeared in the last newsprint edition of Ed Notes over a year ago. I will post that cartoon soon.

Elections: Why should you be involved?
As you know ICE is working with TJC in the upcoming elections and your help is needed if an alternative to the one-person dominated Unity caucus is to be built. And let me emphasize the last word. This election is not an end all and be all. It is part of a process of building a more progressive union that will stand up for its members, build bridges to other unions and communities, support teaching and learning in a positive environment, show positive results in the move to reduce class size, and address many other issues of concern.

Let’s face it. Unity has stacked the deck by manipulating the UFT constitution in such a way as to make it almost impossible for an opposition to “win” the election in the classic sense. It is possible to win 50% of the vote of active members and end up with no seats on the exec bd, where Unity currently has 92% of the seats, all of them in some way on the payroll of the union. There can never be reform in the UFT until the Exec bd reflects the membership and that will never happen as long as these people are on the payroll.

The key is the use of at-large voting where all union members get to vote for positions that should be voted on only by their constituencies (like the divisional – elem, ms, HS VP’s). Giving retirees a major say in this process - UFT leaders make annual junkets all over the country in January and beyond to meet retirees, this year these junkets will take place right in the middle of the election cycle.

But we expect them to do this when Unity’s prime directive is to HOLD ONTO POWER AND DO ANYTHING NECESSARY TO DO SO. That includes serving the membership as well as they can, given their constrictions, so it is not all bad. The reaction of the leadership to the 40% no vote on the last contract has been more responsive as they have taken many positions of their critics in ICE and TJC, at least for PR purposes.

Let us not ignore the benefits to the membership of having an alternative to Unity that can become a serious threat. There will be a response to this pressure and is one of the reasons you should be involved in the elections. If we ran a full slate of 800 people (that includes the AFT/NYSUT delegates, a winner-take-all system for Unity perks so that if we got 49% of the vote we get no delegates) IMAGINE THE IMPACT!!!

Another benefit is the impact on the DOE of a militant opposition calling for the union to really stand up to BloomKlein instead of making phony protestations of militancy while playing patty cake behind the scenes. Apologists for Unity will brand critics of Unity as traitors to the union and assisting BloomKlein by being divisive. Don’t buy it. A growing movement to light a fire under the asses of Unity is a much bigger threat to the games BloomKlein have been playing than total support for Unity’s givebacks. Frankly, if ICE/TJC got a serious amount of votes, I don’t think BloomKlein would be happy. Their union leader of choice is, GUESS WHO? How else will they be able to complete the rest of their agenda in dismantling the contract and the union at the chapter level?

Some of the few divisional positions on the Exec Bd that are up for grabs are winnable and the opposition has won the high school exec bd seats fairly consistently over the past 20 years. The last election 3 years ago was unusual in that long-time oppositions group New Action made deal with Weingarten not to run against her in exchange for Unity not running against them for these high school seats. Looked like a win-win for them. Except that ICE and TJC put a fly in the ointment by challenging New Action for these seats and winning them.

Now mind you, these are only 6 out of the 89 seats - the other 83 are controlled by Unity which naturally votes in a block to support Weingarten. Every single one of these 83 people is in the employ of the UFT either full or part-time and hired personally by Weingarten. They get double pensions and the overwhelming majority are totally out of the classroom. Can you spell C-O-N-F-L-I-C-T O-F I-N-T-E-R-E-S-T?

Well, the most active among this little group at the Exec Bd. – mostly Jeff and James, at times joined by Artie and Ellen from TJC – have driven Unity crazy and they are just as crazy to get these seats back in the upcoming elections. Impossible, you say with the high schools more anti-Unity than ever? Don’t count that gang out.

You see, Unity is desperate to have another opposition group on the ballot to confuse the membership. It is no surprise that in the interests of ”democracy” they have made it easy for people to put slates together. So, they are trying to recruit another “opposition” to run as a stalking horse for Unity so they can install puppet “oppositionists.” There are some eager candidates for the role. We’ll keep you posted.

Union democracy: How it affects you
Most people generally don’t care much about union democracy, unless they are directly affected at the school level. Even District Rep elections (this issue is being featured on the ICE and UTP blogs) used to be in the hands of chapter leaders and didn’t impact directly on the rank and file. (That is one reason many of us are in favor of having all teachers in a district vote for DR.)

The UFT has one-person rule since Al Shanker took over with each person in charge hand-picking their successor – Sandy Feldman – Randi Weingarten. Three strong leaders in 40 years. When I say strong I am referring to internally, how they run the operation and the Unity Caucus political party.

We know that all decisions flow from the top down. There is no real discussion because everyone owes fealty to the person that hired them. Even in the 1000+ member Caucus, there is little discussion as everyone, even if not in the employ of the union, has high hopes. At the very least, they expect to be rescued from a bad situation in their school by the arrangement of a convenient transfer.

I remember a Unity chapter leader who was basically burned out from working in one of the most horrible middle schools in the city and looked like a wreck. He just couldn’t take it anymore. Soon after, he was rescued by Unity and appeared in a Teacher Center job in a nice suit and tie, looking wonderful and managed to get to retirement in good shape. Yes, Unity takes care of its own and it is understandable why people join.

But in the process, they take the Unity oath to support the leadership even when in conflict with the members --- witness the last contract where hordes of Unity people invaded the schools to threaten people with a strike. If you saw the leaflet ICE handed out at the Sept. chapter leader meeting you can read what ICE wrote in Oct. 2005 about how turning down the contract and keeping the old one would at least keep basic protections in place. You can see it at: or at the ednotesonline blog in the Sept. 20 entry.

(I received a call from a recently elected chapter leader who had never heard of ICE until that leaflet and said she was sorry the people in her school didn’t see it last year.)

But let me come back to my original premise. Are you as rank and file affected by this undemocratic system? Let’s compare the way the UFT is run to the DOE, also run by one-person rule. What do you think of the results of one-person, unchecked rule in the school system? In the old system you had about 40 little dictators and the chancellor was just one of many. Not a great system but not nearly as catastrophic as today. At least you could pick up a phone and call someone you knew. I also like to think that the graft was local – someone stole a piano, etc. Now much more massive amounts of money flows to the biggies with connections to BloomKlein. I never thought I would say this, but give me the old system.

Back to the UFT. If they delivered under their dictatorship-like system people would not care much about whether there was democracy. But it is my contention that one person rule without checks and balances leads to such terrible decision making that there is no way they can deliver. And if you follow my “Lipstick on the pig” analogy, they are left with nothing else other than to put on a big PR show to give the impression they are being successful. Lipstick on the pig. Shades of Carly Fiorina and Joel Klein.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

ICE Leaflet - September, 2006


ICE Contact information
Phone: (917) 992-3734

Dear Chapter Leaders

Congratulations on your election as chapter leader! Being a Chapter Leader is often a thankless job but one that is crucial to our Union.

The Contract of 2005
The contract negotiated by the UFT and the DOE last fall confirmed our initial analysis that the UFT leadership would use givebacks of time and contractual protections in exchange for what they would call “raises.” It’s not hard to get money when you are willing to sell off chunks of the contract. During the ratification process, the leadership claimed “we’re in a crisis” as an excuse for what they admitted was a bad contract, saying it was the best they could do. It was clear that the already bad 2002 contract had more protections than the new one.

On October 23, 2005 ICE put out the following statement on the blog encouraging a no vote:

What We Keep If We Vote No

* The right to grieve letters in our file to have unfair/inaccurate material removed immediately. (Currently letters can’t be used against us in dismissal proceedings after three years and we can attach responses to letters in our file.)
* The right to grieve unfair/inaccurate observation reports.
* The right to do professional activities during our professional period.
* The right to say no to hall patrols, potty patrols, and cafeteria duty.
* The right to maintain our current teaching load; no 37.5 minute small group extra teaching period at the end of the day.
* The right to transfer based on our seniority.
* The right to be part of SBO Committees made up of majority teachers that determine who transfers into our schools, not principals exclusively deciding.
* The right to due process so we can’t be suspended without pay based on an allegation of misconduct.
* The right to a full and fair hearing if we are charged with lateness/absence issues.
* The right not to turn over confidential medical information to the DOE.
* The right to a vacant position if we are excessed.
* The right to widest placement choices possible if our school is closed or reorganized.
* The right to any in license position instead of worrying about becoming an Absent Teacher Reserve if our school is closed or reorganized.
* The right to a full summer vacation. (Many surrounding districts have school years fixed by contract at 183 days. If we vote yes, we will have a 190 day school year, the longest in the Metropolitan area.)
* The right to one less work day in June for teachers in Brooklyn and Queens.
* The right to current longevity and step increases without givebacks.
* The right to have our pay based on our education and experience, not some merit pay system called lead teacher where a committee with a majority of administrators decides who will get a raise based on whatever criteria they want.
* The right to grieve selection of our professional assignment to an independent arbitrator, not a city employee at the Office of Labor Relations.
* The right to ask the state for 55/25 pension that will be paid for by the city, not us (a Tier 4.5)
* The right to push for a no layoff agreement like we had in the last two Contracts.
* The right to full breaks for secretaries.
* The right to demand real raises, not time for money swaps.

Contract supporters admit the contract is terrible. Be not afraid. Rejection does not mean strike. The law requires good faith bargaining.

Don’t Sell Your Rights For Pennies! VOTE NO!

Now, months later:
The actual implementation of the contract has been worse than expected, culminating this fall in the full impact of the open market system and the total breakdown of seniority as numbers of experienced teachers end up as subs while brand new teachers take classroom positions. We have seen:

*Mistreatment of experienced teachers: The end of seniority transfer and excessing rights coupled with the reorganization of hundreds of schools leads to a situation where talented, skilled and experienced teachers are forced to work as day-to-day subs.

*Tyranny of supervisors and inflexible teaching mandates. This includes harassment of chapter leaders, forcing teachers to use inappropriate programs and methodologies, the rampant use of u-ratings and the capricious removals of teachers from schools, and the intimidating of all staff. The concerted effort to replace tenured staff with untenured staff reinforces this tyranny.

*Cost-cutting at the classroom level while the DOE hires more and more layers of consultants, experts and authorities whose main task is to find more ways to insure a compliant, easily replaceable and low paid teaching staff.

*Experienced licensed math teachers as subs while new math teachers hired with housing subsidies.

Yet the UFT/Unity spin machine continues to try to put lipstick on the pig by saying all of the above is a victory for teachers. Part of the damage control is courting chapter leaders through training, meetings, promises of career opportunities and other perks. But membership in Unity comes with a price as Unity members must sign an extensive obligation statement promising to “support the decisions of the caucus and the Union leadership elected from the caucus in public or Union forums.”

The loyalty oath and patronage system have hurt our union because Unity members must owe greater allegiance to the Caucus than to the members in the schools who elected them. The result is cynicism in schools when the program of the leadership is pushed down members’ throats. Change needs to come from the schools and independent chapter leaders will be key to this process. Only by building a progressive alternative to Unity Caucus can we hope to strengthen and unite members in a fight back against a concerted effort to destroy both our union and public education. We look forward to working with you.

Put a dent in the Unity monopoly by supporting the ICE/TJC election campaign. To counter Unity spin every school in the city needs to be reached. You can help by distributing literature in your schools. Contact us:
Name: _____________________________ School: _______________________ Email: ________________
Contribution Enclosed for $_____ made out to Independent Community of Educators.
Independent Community of Educators P.O. Box 1143, Jamaica, NY 11421 Phone: (917) 992-3734

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The A&M Story Tastes Better than M&M’s

by Norman Scott

The following article appeared on Sept. 15 in The Wave, Rockaway's (in New York City) community newspaper since 1893. (

Oh my! Where do we start? So many delicious stories, so little time.

The strategy of the DOE is out there for all to see. Turn over and retrain teachers over a 5-year period. Automate and standardize the curriculum and teaching styles and spend a lot on professional development to do this. No tenure, low salaries, no pensions, no real union. New teachers will struggle with high class sizes and other horrible conditions as an apprenticeship and when they have earned their teaching spurs will go elsewhere. In the corporate world of BloomKlein, using children as guinea pigs is irrelevant.

If you read my report of the Joel Klein press conference on Sept. 1, which I covered for The Wave, this became very clear. I wrote Klein “seemed to negate the experience factor in teacher quality when he said even if teachers do leave after 3 years the system benefited from having such high quality teachers for even a short time, pointing out that this is better than having some 20-year teachers who do not function effectively. He did not address charges from some experienced teachers that they have been systematically discriminated against, with some schools openly advertising positions would only be open to first year teachers and openly stating ‘They must not be a transfer from another NYC public school.’ Some have surmised that the move to newer teachers is merely a cost-cutting device.”

The ad referred to above was informally posted by a teacher on a listerve, but it reveals what she was told. Anyone who has been around a school or been in a classroom for any amount of time knows full well that experience does count no matter how dedicated a new teacher is. Preferring a first year teacher to one with experience makes no sense unless it is all about a lower salary and a person without tenure who will not demand the contract be adhered to.

Some say it takes 5-10 years to become a fully rounded teacher but in my experience by the 3rd year, people are pretty capable. That Klein seems so willing to accept that people from the high priced Teaching Fellows program will leave after two or three years shocks educators but makes perfect sense in the corporate world where the bottom line is so all-important. It is interesting that the high end school systems in the suburbs are snapping up many of these NYC people as they compete their 3rd year while avoiding first year teachers like the plague. Just ask new teachers who try to get jobs on Long Island. They are told to go to NYC to learn how to teach. I’ll comment next time on the Open Market Plan that has turned so many teachers with seniority (a dirty word at the DOE – and it seems the UFT) into substitute teachers as the UFT tries to put lipstick on the pig of the last contract.

Many questions were raised at Klein’s press conference about no-bid contracts, in particular the 17 million dollars awarded to consulting firm Alvarez and Marsal. I reported “A&M has come under scrutiny for their management of the schools in St. Louis which led to drastic cuts that included the closing of 16 schools, cut staff and charges the corporate management turn-around mentality had taken a school system in severe trouble and made it worse.” A report from teachers in St. Louis said, “… the ‘turnaround’ management team was brought in for union-busting purposes and privatization.”

Of course, Klein claimed the money is being well spent since A&E will cut $200 million from the bureaucracy to be redirected to the classroom. Sure! Go ask teachers if they see any of these savings.

Why Klein’s expensive management team can’t be trusted to find ways to cut the bureaucracy themselves is beyond me, especially since much of the bureaucracy was created by Klein himself: Ten Lis’s per region (well over 100 altogether) at 135-150k each, Ris’s, Pis’s, who knows how many at Tweed, etc. etc. etc. Klein turned what was a simple mess before he took over and turned it into a tangled mess. Pick ten teachers or principals at random and I bet they could find $200 million in savings and would probably do it for free.

Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters reports:
“I have just finished reading “A Recipe for Failure; A year of Reform and Chaos in the St. Louis Public Schools” by Marilyn Ayres-Salamon, about her tragic experiences as a middle school teacher the year Alvarez & Marsal, a corporate turn-around firm with no education experience, took control of the St. Louis schools. On NY1, Joel Klein said he “had no idea” what the firm had done in St. Louis; a rather astonishing admission considering the money they are paying them. Perhaps someone should send him a copy of this book.”

Basically, A&M balanced the budget at the expense of the students — typical behavior expected of corporate managers who make sure to take good care of themselves financially, while providing the standard corporate perks — lots of travel allowances for managers, expensive communications devices, etc. It is interesting that the corporate manager expect teachers with lots of education to take a hit for working in the public sector but exempt themselves. The complete Audit Report is at

Back here at the NYC DOE, also known as Blackberry Ville, we can see all the corporate perks right out in the open as everyone above a classroom teacher can whip out their little machines every 10 seconds to check their email. I hear some teachers want to dress up as Indians and hold a local version of the Boston Tea Party where every Blackberry gets thrown into the Hudson River where they can try to swim their way back to Tweed. Hey! We just saved the DOE some serious bucks.

Attending a press conference with the NYC Education press corps is certainly an interesting experience as Klein lies — I mean spins — and reporters often don’t have the detailed knowledge needed to counter these “spins.” He bills these events as roundtables, which implies some level of dialogue or discussion. But that is not the case as there is little opportunity for extensive follow-up or for providing information to counter what Klein is saying. I’ve covered a couple of these for The Wave and am trying to feel my way and shift from a clearly partisan attitude to a reporter while at the same time framing questions in a manner that will get some useful information out of Klein (who told me at one conference “I see you’ve gone form being a gadfly to a reporter.”) It is a tough shift.

One of the things you notice right away is how many people surround Klein — including an enormous public relations and press control operation. Many of them are very young — some refer to them as “Twinkies.” Since perception is more important than reality, it is a must to spend money on the spinning operation. In the corporate world, the bottom line is profits. In the ed-corporate world the bottom line is based on test scores, graduation rates, attendance, etc. and massaging these numbers to make them look good can be tricky and costs big bucks.

I’ve often been critical of the education press corps. But given the conditions of covering ed news, which many reporters use as a way station to bigger and better things (two of the Times recent ed reporters are now bureau chiefs), some do a pretty good job on certain stories. Dave Andreatta of the Post, considering the anti-teacher positions of that publication, does some very good and fair reporting. Erin Einhorn of the Daily News distinguished herself on the A&E story, as have Andy Wolfe’s columns in The NY Sun. Here is some of Einhorn’s reporting on A&M that is worth sharing:

“The most expensive consultant, Sajan George, is billing the city a staggering $450 per hour as part of a $17 million contract that the city awarded his firm, Alvarez & Marsal, without competitive bidding… George's fees alone will cost taxpayers $1.7 million - more than four times what Schools Chancellor Joel Klein will earn during the same 18-month period. And in an unprecedented move, the contract appears to make some of the consultants responsible for work historically performed by top Education Department officials.”

To Klein accountability is only for people at the bottom.

Saturday, September 9, 2006

Ednotes Online – Sept. 7, 2006

What is the difference between Ed Notes and ICE?
Ed Notes and ednotesonline is a one-person operation – me. I get to spout any nonsense I want.

Though I have been very involved in ICE, that is a caucus with a large group of people that reach decisions by consensus, some of which I don’t always totally agree with – but then that is what consensus ca be all about. Thus, I don’t always get to spout my nonsense.

I see Ed Notes as somewhat as a clearinghouse for ideas from all groups, caucuses and individuals looking to build an alternative to Unity. I don’t see ICE as the group working alone that will change the UFT. Let a 100 caucuses bloom is my philosophy, all organizing their specific constituencies.

Running in UFT Elections
Did you know?
Let’s say ICE-TJC received 50% of the active membership vote in the election. Unity would still control over 90% of the Exec Bd. due to retiree votes and other factors in the election process. That this is undemocratic is obvious. But this leads to a leadership that executes such failed policy without real checks and balances and is why UFT members are in the position they are in.

ICE wants to run a full slate so as to use the election as a basis for change in the UFT. Our strategy is to get a large enough percentage vote of the active membership to make a case to the membership to try to force constitutional change to make the union more democratic.

ICE also wants to build an alternative to Unity that has enough outreach to match the propaganda machine. ICE will be part of the alternative but not necessarily the alternative. We will be supportive of other groups who align with our basic views but we are different in the way we approach things by taking on issues that go beyond but tie in to education. Most other groups are/have been high school based. ICE has a balance with a number of elementary school people and increasingly some middle school people.

If you are interested in running with the ICE-TJC slate send me an email.
We also need people to distribute literature in your schools. Let me know if you will/can do that ASAP.

Check the ICE blog and please leave comments

The ICE website contains articles with greater depth:

There’s so much great material on the blogs I am including a bunch of them here.

Make sure to make a regular visit to NYC Educator’s blog where you get a real sense of what is happening in the NYC system and his fabulous commentary. He posts every 10 seconds so it is right up to date on the latest atrocities, plus some great picx.

The UTP blog is still as irreverent as always.
Read Return to Bountiful – all 3 parts.

Joe Mudgett from the UTP has formed the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT)
“The Alliance of Concerned Teachers is a new caucus dedicated to reforming New York City's United Federation of Teachers. Founded by the former director of the Unified Teachers Party, Joe Mudgett, ACT! takes great pride that the joint ICE/TJC slate has incorporated much of the UTP's ideology in their campaign platform.”
Joe has posted his reports of the Delegate Assemblies last spring.

Check out
A fairly new teacher posts about experiences and offers new teachers advice on walking the minefield of internal school politics. She writes how her involvement in the union got her in trouble. Here is an excerpt:

“As we are on the eve of the new school year, I have been thinking a lot about what constitutes a good leader. During the past two professional development days, I've been comparing my new Sane Principal (SP) to my old Crazy Principal (CP) from last year. It is a good comparison because both schools are now in their second year of existence and both are now in the Empowerment Zone. “

The following job opening was posted. Note the preference for a new teachers as opposed to a teacher with experience. Everyone knows that experience DOES count as you grow as a teacher over a period of years and that no matter how dedicated and sincere a first year teacher is the kids are still being used as guinea pigs. My opinion is that by the 3rd year people pretty much get it but some say it takes 5-7 years. So, what would motivate a school to only want a first year teacher other than money?

Here’s the post
“We were notified of an immediate opening today, and were asked to pool our resources together to help find the replacement. The opening is in a K/1 classroom. All of our classes at P.S. 3 are mixed grades. We are looking for a teacher new to the Board of Ed. They must not be a transfer from another NYC public school.”

Leonie Haimson’s nyceducationnews listserve generates a lot of email but also some great discussion. Here is a snippet.

On grade retention:
Comment: I feel a child who cannot achieve to meet the standards will falter more if promoted to the next year.

The research on grade retention actually shows the reverse – kids who are held back do much worse than kids of equal ability who are promoted, and end up dropping out at double the rate.

There is nothing else in the educational literature where the research is so overwhelming. See


Leonie Haimson
Class Size Matters

From Teachers Unite
Happy New School Year!
Teachers Unite is launching STMs this Sunday for teachers who need an
educator-friendly space to plan for a full week of school. STMs (Sunday Teacher Motivators), are weekly sessions for teachers to drop-in, plan lessons, grade student work, and network with other progressive educators! This program has been funded by The Sparkplug Foundation.

Please visit www.teachersunite.NET and click on "Newsletter" to learn about STMs as well as the important work being done by teachers committed to social justice in New York City.

Enjoy the rest of this first week of school!

Best wishes,


Posted on ICE-mail and NYC Educator blog

Excessed Teachers
I am an excessed teacher with 25 years in the system. I know, I can't believe it either! My school was reorganized this year, leaving almost 50 teachers - all experienced and tenured - in the ATR pool, which is not a place you want to be. This has been an education, a crash course, about what this contract means to all of us.

When a school is reorganized it is also renamed. (If it had the same name all of the senior teachers would have retention rights). Now you have a brand new school, or two new schools, or however many schools it was divided into. The principal now has to hire only 50% of the staff of the "old" school. Teachers must apply and be interviewed for these positions, seniority counts for nothing. Then the principal is free to hire anyone they want to fill the remaining positions - they can hire the rest of the current teaching staff if they want to, but this is not likely to happen. They generally hire brand new teachers. If you are not hired you become a well-paid sub.

I don't know of anyone who was hired from the open market system. The DOE also sponsored "hiring fairs" for us, where I met a lot of teachers from reorganized schools. Oh, BTW, they had fairs for new teachers at the same time; new teacher's fairs would begin at 3 PM, ours at 4PM, and then they would not admit us for another hour or so. Do you think they really want us to be hired?

The union has mailed us letters, telling us about their great job. They say that the city wanted to terminate us if we didn't obtain a permanent position within 18 months, but they saved us - we can now stay in the ATR pool forever, if necessary. I can't help but notice that the Kleinberg machine seem MUCH smarter than the UFT!!! -excessed teacher

On the First 2 days

Thank You Randi, Joel, & My Clueless Administrators For The Two Most Miserable Days In My Teaching Career

I just spend the two of the most miserable days in my teaching career doing nothing at my school. Instead of recharging my batteries on vacation and preparing for the next school year, I found myself subject to mindless (un)professional development, a principal who spent precious time telling us how great he is, and assistant principals who had a mind-numbing session on bulletin boards, hallway practices, and classroom sharing. We were also exposed to an afternoon of videos of "right to know" that drove most of the teachers bonkers.

You might ask. "How about working on the classrooms?" Well my school administrators didn't program time in for this in our very busy two days of mindless nothingness. But Randi said the two days were to fix-up the classroom? Well, tell that to the administrators because they didn't seem to care what Randi said. What follows is my two days of misery.

Thursday, August 31st started off with coffee & bagels as the principal spoke about how our school improved their Math & English scores over last year. Clap, clap, clap. Next he introduced teachers who came back from sabbaticals and informed the staff of the teachers he excessed. We did not lose any teachers to transfer using the open market system. Note; teachers don't usually leave large traditional high schools in Queens for smaller schools despite the best efforts of Kleinberg to make the smaller schools attractive. See my August 24th blog. Next, he informed us how he single-handedly fought the Tweed educrats on adding cameras, security officers, and a police presence in our school I thought it was a total effort between parents, students, teachers and some administrators? What do I know. Finally, he finished it up with how we should all work together and collaborate on issues that affect the school and that we are one big family. Boy was I getting sick of this phoney. My principal is a "cya person" and will stab you in the back if that is what his Tweed masters want.

Next, it was off to our department meeting for the rest of the morning where we discussed what should go on our bulletin boards. Should it be student work, or posters? What can go on the walls? Can student work be put on the hallway walls? Thankfully, the session ended for lunch as the assistant principal was explaining how three teachers can share one room.

The afternoon session consisted of two videos on the "right to know" what chemicals are being used in the school and what the procedures are to inform medical personnel. However, our right to know apparently does not include knowing if our students have Communicable diseases. We are forbbiden to know if a child is HIV positive, another reason why a teacher should not break up fights. By the time the videos were finished it was time to go home.

Friday, September 1st we are back to coffee & bagels and another speech by the principal. Charitably, he limited it to a half hour. However, he had a wonderful surprise for his teaching staff, a day-long professional development session. Of course, despite his statements that he wants to collaborate with the teachers, he didn't ask for teacher input or comment on the type or necessity of professional development. By the way the administrators were exempt from the professional development sessions. The professional development consisted of
non-educators telling us how we should be in touch with our feelings. What a wonderful waste of time and money. Yes, he used his budget to pay for this rather than saving the money for before/after school tutoring. This professional development was to extend to the end of the day but a revolt by the teaching staff truncated it to 1:50 pm. This allowed the teachers one hour to fix up their rooms!

Didn't Randi say that the two days before Labor Day will be used for teachers to fix-up their classrooms? Well I took a look at the contract and under section 6C it states that "part of the time on the days before Labor Day will be allocated to classroom preparation. " The question is what does part mean? Half a day, 2 hours, 10 minutes? Another, poor job by Randi and her lawyer friends that did not specify what part of a day means. Does giving us one hour on the second day meet the definition as part of a day? What about not having any time on day one? What are the penalties for non-compliance of the contract by the administrators? I suspect there will be no consequences for the administrators for violating the contract. Can you imagine if you refused to go to the professional development session? Yes, you would be charged with insubordination and at the very least receive a letter to the file and maybe even being removed from the school!

My miserable day ended with my assistant principal (who I have a good relationship with) coming into my room and asking me if I finished the Earth Science lab booklet. My response was "you must be kidding" I informed him that had I not been required to go to the professional development session, I would have been finished. He left my room and told me that I forced him to find a common lab paper to hand out next week. My heart bleds.

In conclusion, I would like to thank Joel Klein who does not understand the law of diminishing returns and thinks quantity means quality. Joel, more time in the classroom does not mean better grades if you overwork the teacher & students. I would also thank Randi Weingarten who first, agreed to the two days before Labor Day that ruined many a planned vacation and second, lied to us about how the two days were to be used. Finally, I would like to thank my school administrators who time and again fail to practice what they preach and use limited funds for professional development that nobody wanted.

Before I forget, I want to give special thanks to Randi & Joel for the precedent-setting 190 day school year.

My comment:
Great post Chaz.

"The question is what does part mean? Half a day, 2 hours, 10 minutes? Another, poor job by Randi and her lawyer friends that did not specify what part of a day means. Does giving us one hour on the second day meet the definition as part of a day? What about not having any time on day one?"
The contract is and always has been full ambiguous words like "part" that allow interpretations instead of saying that teachers will be allowed, say, 5 hours to work on their room.

What stopped the UFT from insisting on specific language? So when Jonathan suggests everyone inform Rona and Randi that they weren't given the time I have to ask what were the intentions of the leadership when the word "part" was used instead of a definitive time period?

I do not subscribe to the theory our union leaders are stupid. I think they know exactly what they are doing and the use of the word "part" is what makes them collaborators with Klein. They are intentionally allowing language that can be violated easily and then they will go into the dance of "tsk tsk, how awful of your principal, do you want us to file a grievance? No! WELL, how can we help you if you won't stand up?"

They are perpetrators and phony defenders and the language indicates they are really partners in crime with Klein. That's why at Klein's press conference on Friday he expressed such thanks to the UFT for allowing such basic changes in the contract as he said he looks forward to working for more of them.
Norm | 09.05.06 - 7:21 pm |