Saturday, March 31, 2007

Anti-Klein Demonstrations in Tajikistan

Dushanbe, Tajikistan, March 30 (GBN News):
Numerous protests erupted around the country of Tajikistan today over the report that outgoing NY City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein would shortly be assuming the presidency of that country. As reported yesterday by GBN News, the Tajik President, Emomali Rakhmon, will become Schools Chancellor in New York, while Mr. Klein takes over the position of Tajik strongman. While reaction in New York remained muted, the Tajik people were not hesitant to make their feelings known.

Read the rest at: NYC Parent blog.

(Another gem from the hand of Gary Babad.)

Friday, March 30, 2007

I'm Not a Fan of Stalin, but I am proud....

.... to be part of ICE where we can work with people in PLP and the UTP (see comment below from a UFT official.) We are open and democratic.

Unity just slithers out from under a rock.

I believe people should be open about their political affiliations, especially people associated with parties, since party membership on the left is not exactly like being a Democratic Party member but a serious commitment that informs much of their political activity. That goes for New Action or TJC or ICE.

I know this much about ICE - unless some people are hiding their affiliation, the only party people are PLP, who at least are honest about where they are coming from. If they believe in Stalin, sorry I do not agree, but support their right to have that belief and be part of ICE.

But the commenter below knows full well that there are people in New Action who agree with PL on that issue. Some of them may even be on the Exec. Bd. I support them all in their right to hold those beliefs. Everyone involved in union activities over the years knows full well the bulk of New Action support comes from the old left. Witness the 1600 retiree New Action votes out of party loyalty. Too bad they are not open. We actually had a few former retiree New Action old left supporters who ran with ICE after they finally grew sick of Shulman's collaboration. And they were long-time loyalists. We were proud to have them run with us.

ICE can handle old left, new left, independent left, democratic party, slightly left-of-center capitalists like me, and even a Republican or two. We are trying to build an open, democratic caucus, unlike Unity (and New Action, I might add, which even as far back as the late 90's I criticized for being run in the same top-down manner as Unity.

In fact, some of the caucus battles over the years can be traced to behind the scenes ideological battles between the right-wing Social Democrats, USA (Shanker, Feldman and possibly Weingarten- all old-time Unity people were in the party) and the Communist Party, USA which was reflected in the old Teachers' Union (TU) and its successor, the old opposition caucus TAC (60's - 80's), one of the groups that merged with New Directions in the early 90's to form New Action.

At the DA Unity leader (and slimebag) Jeff Zahler, castigated Kit Wainer for publicly condemning Albert Shanker's support for the VietNam War. Gee, Jeff, were you joining Abe Levine and, in fact, announcing your own support for that War in your condemnation of Kit?

See below for the comments on red-baiting.

Note the comment from the UFT Brooklyn Welfare fund at 10 am.

Anonymous said...

As long as you want to have an open discussion of your ICE comrades from Progressive Labor, Norman, why don't you share with us the fact that they are not exactly garden variety socialists, but ultra-Stalinists of the sort that think Stalin was a great leader of the international proletariat [] and that the problem with Mao Zedong was that he was not radical enough []. Their view of the great crimes of 20th century Communism was that it did not leave enough corpses behind.

They make a perfect match for ICE's friends in UTP, with their quotes from Charles Lindbergh.

Of course, if UNITY really wanted to "red bait" ICE and TJC, it could have raised these issues. Instead, it quoted the published writings of your candidate for President, Kit Wainer, on union topics germane to whether or not he should lead the union.

Since in your book using Kit's own words is "red baiting," not only in print but also at the DA, then it would seem that Kit himself must be a red-baiter.


10:10 AM, March 30, 2007

Anonymous said...

Ask your comrades in New Action how they feel about Stalin. Next time make sure to inform the people who vote for Unity exactly who they elected to the Ex. Bd. Ask them if the people in the Soviet bloc are better off now or before the fall of the Soviet Union.

10:26 AM, March 30, 2007

ed notes online said...

Source of anon. comment 10:10

Organization: United Federation of Teachers Welfare Fund Brooklyn, NY

Aren't we paying you to do union work? Or are you on a prep?

UFT Election Preliminary Results

These are not final as they were counting ballots that came in yesterday -- 700 and not all were counted. These results also do not have the non-slate ballots which take a long time to count -- so individual totals for every candidate will vary.

My % numbers are based on rough estimates and lousy math.

The major story is the incredibly low turnout amongst working teachers. Maybe 22%. Weingarten's "overwhelming" victory should be looked at in that context. Of course that also applies to our votes.

Weingartens' 10,000 votes TOTAL (on Unity slate) from elem, middle and HS is numbing. Add around less than 1500 she got from New Action (a portion of whom did not know they were voting for her.) So she gets less than 12,000 votes out of the teaching staff of 70,000? More likely closer to 11,000 or less real support. I view this as an overwhelming rejection of her leadership. We just failed to capitalize.

An enormous bulk of votes coming from the Unity/New Action totals -- over 20,000 retiree votes. New Action got 1600 and we got 1061 - 5% of retirees.

Out of 50,000 retiree votes sent out around 22, 500 voted. Only 18,000 count as they will be pro-rated.

Unity got 2183 HS votes total out of almost HS 20,000 ballots sent out. We got 1524 and New Action got 521. That means Unity would have won barely if we got all the New Action votes -- but we would have challenged the election results if we had. New Action gets 3 ex bd seats with 521 votes. Democracy Inaction. They also got the 5 at-large seats for a total of 8 with an incredibly low % of votes.

Middle school returns were almost a joke. Out of 13,000 ballots sent out 2384 returned. Here are the results:
ICE/TJC: 444 (almost 20%)
Unity: 1499
New Action: 273

Elementary: Out of 37,000 ballots, 8,904 returned.
ICE/TJC: 1337 (15%)
Unity 6252
New Action: 562

Functional: paras, secties, nurses, speech, attendance, etc
Out of 42,000 votes, 9000 returns
ICE/TJC: 1032
Unity: 6464
Nw Action: 548

Loooking at the teaching staff in the 3 divisions (rough numbers):
70,000 ballots sent out. 15,000 returns
Retirees. 50,000 sent out. 22,400 returns

Positive Trends:
ICE/TJC buried New Action in every division except retirees where New Action got the bulk of their votes (almost half). The goal of replacing New Action as the recognized opposition has been met.

ICE/TJC increased their vote in every division from last time not as much by total but by %.

the campaign obviously did not reach the membership. TJC put out about 90,000 leaflets and we did about 50-60,000. The impact if any must be assessed. TJC did a mailing to every middle school teacher in the Bronx. With 444 total votes that impact was probably negligible.

Putting a lot of time and energy into Exec Bd and the DA looks like a waste. The results bear that out.

If an opposition/alternative is to grow (and the removal of New Action as a legit opposition despite their 8 seats is and continues to be a goal) direct, continuous activity to reach the teachers in the schools is necessary. Only a group of people who have the will to do this will make a difference.

Look at the high school results; 1524 total votes.
Think of the number of large high schools with people running with ICE/TJC-- many with 200 members.

Off the top of my head:
Jamaica, Hillcrest, Bryant, Aviation, Stuvesant, Bergtraum, Norman Thomas, FDR, Francis Lewis, Port Richmond, Bronx High. Did the bulk of our votes come from these few schools? Then the leafleting campaign had almost 0 impact.

For Unity it is even worse when you think of only 2183 votes after all the power they have? And New Action's 521 with their massive leafleting campaign? Unity would still have won without them. Interesting that their red-baiting campaign was a slap at new Action too.

(And by the way, New Action is trumpeting that their web site has an objection - tepid at that and that Shulman called Randi and she sort of apologized. New Action grows more pathetic by the minute.)

Frankly, it did not look like either New Action or Unity were happy. The ICE/TJC people at the count had the most fun all day. No spirit is bowed.

The issue: Is there a way to wake up the membership in the schools? What strategy would it take to do that? If the answer is that is not possible, people must decide if it is worth continuing. If the answer is there is a way, then people must have the will.

We Get Letters...

I am a veteran teacher of 27 years, and I had an excellent, unblemished record until my East Harlem Principal, PS 50, Renee Pollard retired a few years ago. Joel Klein plucked a 29 year old (2 years teaching kindergarten) teacher for his first year Principal's academy and she arrived at our school in 2004. She immediately went after tenured teachers and our wonderful AP of 20 years.....

Read the rest at Norm's Notes.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Breaking News: March 29, 2007

UFT vote count all day at Park Central Hotel, 7th Ave & 55th St. Election committee announced that mail received today will be counted. We may ask for Friday's mail also to be accepted. I will be there with Kit Wainer and Josh Kahn from TJC.

ICE meeting at Murray Bergtraum HS, Friday, March 30 at 4:15 to analyze election results, with a scavenger hunt to follow to find a restaurant in Chinatown.

When a question was raised at the DA yesterday about the red-baiting flyer Unity sent out,
Randi as usual cried about how she has stood up to such terrible personal attacks -- like questions about her teaching credentials and said she lives as honest a life as anyone she knows. (Except for that statement on NY 1 she made not long ago claiming she taught 5 periods a day for 6 years.) Randi then gave Unity head Jeff Zahler the floor to engage in another round of red-baiting, saying he was proud to have sent that out and reading excerpts in an attack on Kit Wainer. He said accusations of McCarthyism are not true because in those times Kit would be thrown out of the union and not even have a job. He attacked Kit for criticizing Al Shanker for supporting American foreign policy (like the was in Vietnam, which apparently in retrospect Zahler must also support. When he started frothing at the mouth Randi signaled "enough" and he sat down like a good boy.

Kit tool a point of personal privilege but didn't go beyond referring to the TJC response on their web site. Many thought he should have gone on the attack the way NYC Educator did and said he was proud to be a socialist who is willing to fight for a strong union and if Randi was a socialist our people wouldn't be in such trouble.

By the way, not one New Action member said a word or tried to say a word. so ironic since Unity had always red-baited them. I had a brief confrontation with some New Action people before the meeting when I castigated them for lying down with snakes and for not standing up. They argued they had sent a strongly-worded protest to Weingarten and said something on their web site. Whoopdee-doo! They should have come to the DA and handed out a leaflet. No guts, no glory! They also said they objected to the counter red-baiting in TJC's response. Let's see what Zahler and his friends in New Action have to say when his Unity faithful finds out they have elected members of a certain leftist organization who ran on the Unity slate to the Executive Board. Call this counter red-baiting if you want. If you lie down with snakes, expect to get bitten.

Having been involved with people from the left in union politics for a long time, I always feel people should be open about their political affiliations, especially if they are associated with a party which can have such a major impact on their political stance. That goes for people in TJC and in New Action. The word "Independent" in ICE has a lot of meaning. There are a lot of left people in the group but they are truly independent, people not comfortable with left party ideology. At least the 3 Progressive Labor Party members in ICE are out front, though sometimes in an awkward way.

Speaking of which....

Ironically, Jonathan Lessuck from the Progressive Labor Party (and ICE) got up right after Kit on a point of order to make the annual PLP May Day motion because Randi had shunted the New Motion period to the end of the meeting as she usually manipulates that time. She began that with me back in 2000 when she didn't want one of my motions in front of the body and actually called me outside to apologize. She was fairly new, with a Unity party still loyal to Sandy and looking for allies - not nearly as arrogant as she has become. That was my first indication (ok, I was slow) of how manipulative she was.

Jonathan has proven very adept at handling himself in these sticky situations. I was almost hoping he would say what Kit wouldn't in a rigorous defense of left activism in the union but when Randi engaged in an attack on him for daring to upset the democratic process because there is a backlog of so many motions (due to her long reports, invitations to DA's to politicians and DOE officials, etc.) but as usual, she tried to blame Jonathan. But he turned the tables on her when he called her Dusty, followed by "oops! When under pressure I get mixed up with my repressive, dictatorial principal." The place rolled with laughter and even Weingarten had to laugh. Humor is the best way to work this crowd and unfortunately few use it. Kudos to Jonathan.

When his first sentence of the May Day resolution mentioned the word Communist I said "Uh, oh!" but he saved the day with a great case for celebrating May Day as a way to reinvigorate the labor movement. When the vote was taken even Randi said it was 70-30 against. 30% of the DA FOR the May Day motion? Holy Cow! We must be moving left. More kudos to Jonathan.

When people ask how it is to have PL people (Jonathan, Carolyn and Joan) working with ICE I answer that it has been a pleasure to have their viewpoint which is very pro-student, presented. (
I know I'm simplifying - I object to them pinning every ill in the world on racism.) All to often, all you hear from teachers is the bad stuff about students. One of the reasons PL and ICE can work together is that we have always tried to deal with the rights of teachers and students (and parents.) Sometimes people, even in ICE arecritical, saying a caucus should only worry about teachers. My view is that is not a caucus I am interested in. Again, kudos to Jonathan.

I hung out in the back of the DA with Josh Heisler a teacher at Vanguard HS in the Julia Richman complex. Josh works with NYCORE (New York Collection of Radical Educators.) I met Josh through Sally Lee from NYCORE and Teachers Unite. Josh is doing work on anti-military recruitment. It was Josh's outrage at receiving the Unity red-baiting attack that spurred NYCORE, which usually doesn't get involved in UFT internal struggles, to endorse the ICE-TJC slate to their very large mailing list. I'm hoping we can get Josh to work with us in ICE.

The more I meet people like Josh and Sally, the more I appreciate the fact that there are still young leftists (Peter, Megan, Ellen from TJC) out there battling. Change in the UFT will only come from being spurred by the left and there is hope. I know there is a right-wing anti-Unity sentiment out there but it is not organized and frankly, I don't see that happening. If the right wants to get rid of Unity it will have create a caucus, join with the left, or sit on the sideline. Though I do not view myself as a leftist, I love meeting and working with them and there is a glimmer of a future for a movement.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Randi is outraged...

At this past Monday night's Executive Board meeting, Randi Weingarten attacked the opposition for supposedly not fully supporting the reduction in class size campaign with a snide comment, “Now that the elections are over, I hope you will join the campaign.” She claimed some of us have been too busy campaigning (guilty - like trying to race around schools trying to overcome the Unity monopoly on access to teachers)while she has been focused - probably one of the unintentionally funniest lines she has uttered in a long time.

Weingarten is trying to make it look like she invented class size reduction when in fact she tails after people who have led the fight.

Remember year after year of failed petitions drives that were thrown out of court and now a current drive to get CFE money to go to class size reduction, which by the way we do support, though god knows how many schools have to be built before this generation of teachers will ever get to see the benefit.

Leonie Haimson has been fighting for class size reduction for 10 years. And Ed Notes rarely put out an issue over 10 years that did not mention class size reduction as we often used the motto: (Class) Size Matters.

At every Delegate Assembly, when I and others put forth resolutions calling for class size reduction to be a major negotiating issue, Weingarten/Unity opposed all efforts from the time she became President to put the issue on the bargaining table. To force the issue before the UFT leadership the Ed Notes resolution calling on the NY Teacher to print a list of every class that is over the limit every year in the NY Teacher was passed in December, 2000. Somehow, Weingarten has forgotten to implement that for the past 5 years. Hey, what’s a little thing like ignoring a resolution passed by the DA even if it deals with class size reduction?

In fact ICE was founded on a basic principle of reducing class size through contract negotiations and has used the election campaign to put that idea in front of the members.

At the Executive Board meeting, Jeff Kaufman got up to challenge her and Weingarten said she was “outraged” by our actions.

There’s the whole thing in a nutshell. This is what outrages her (her usual phony show of outrage, by the way). Where’s her outrage at a teacher of 22 years with a perfect record being taken from a school in handcuffs by 5 cops? (See post below this. Weingarten has ignored multiple attempts on the part of the teacher to contact her.)

We hope now that the election campaign is over Weingarten will join the ICE campaign for reducing class size by placing the issue on the bargaining table.

NYC Educator, as usual, did a great job taking Weingarten's position apart:

UFT President Randi Weingarten, I'm told, is upset because in the middle of a contentious election season, the opposition did not abandon its campaign in order to jump on her class-size bandwagon. That's an odd accusation to make, as the opposition absolutely supports lower class sizes, and has demanded for years they be part of contract negotiations. Of course, they were voted down on a regular basis by the lockstep Unity patronage machine (which no doubt feels it ran a positive campaign).

The very first post on this blog was about class size.

And let's be very clear--our classes run up to 34 (often surpassing that), and Ms. Weingarten's machine has failed to do anything whatsoever about it for almost 40 years. Based on that record, I'd be loathe to criticize anyone. It's clear, having bought off her original opposition with patronage jobs, it would be quite convenient for Ms. Weingarten if her only genuine opposition pranced about singing her praises.

Politics aside, Ms. Weingarten's got many reasons to focus on class size, and a good many of them concern getting rank-and-file to stop thinking about the unconscionable givebacks of the 05 contract. Unity thinks if they ignore them long enough, people will simply forget where they came from (and they may be right, for all I know).

Yesterday, as I was walking the permanent hall patrol Ms. Weingarten negotiated for me, I had time to consider that contract. I was certainly thinking about it on the punishment days in August she'd thoughtfully negotiated for me. And I'm sure many of my colleagues think about it during their 37.5 minute classes, which Unity claims are not actually classes.

If Joel Klein's plan to have funding follow students becomes a reality, senior teachers will be pariahs, albatrosses around the necks of principals who need to fund their schools. Is there anyone who doesn't believe that Klein envisioned precisely this when he got Ms. Weingarten to agree to the worst contract in our history?

Joel Klein is by no means my favorite person. Still, he certainly knows what he's doing. Ms. Weingarten made the first step toward enabling Mr. Klein's vision it by supporting mayoral control. Another huge mistake was going to PERB and accepting the odious 05 contract, the implications of which seem to have utterly escaped her (and still do, for all I know). Perhaps Ms. Weingarten sees Mr. Klein's new funding proposals as mere coincidence, and not a direct result of her collaboration.

Regardless, as Ms. Weingarten eyes the AFT presidency, the dual AFT-UFT presidencies (following in the footsteps of both her Unity predecessors) or a position in Hillary's white house, she leaves the rest of us--students, parents, and teachers, to pay for her utter lack of foresight.

Where's the Outrage?

Monday night I spoke at the UFT Executive Board meeting, asking, “Where’s your sense of outrage?” as I brought up the incident of the teacher who was arrested, de-arrested and yet is still facing charges by the DOE. Instead of the union getting the information from the police that proves her innocence, she has to do it herself. I compared that to telling Julius Ceaser to reach back, pull out the knife and go carve the turkey for Thanksgiving. (OK, so I was reaching.)

Oh, the UFT will provide representation as they will have a rep with the teacher today as she is questioned by a DOE investigator. And I'm sure he will do a decent job. I'm about to head over to wait outside (as I'm not allowed in) in case the teacher needs some advice. I may also have a reporter with me to interview the teacher.

The assistance the UFT gives basically stops there. The teacher did get a call from Victim Support and she said that is not what she or the rest of the teachers in the school need. They need the union to expose a Leadership Academy principal who has gone after numerous people (supposedly, 7 U-ratings last year in a small elementary school.) Some of the best teachers in the school have left. But the only response of the union is to look at things on a case-by-case basis.

Basically, the UFT provides the least restrictive (for them) support instead of doing the maximum.

How do the teachers at the school feel after the person almost half of them voted for as chapter leader in the last election finds herself in this position? Did the UFT district rep rush over there? Or any other official? Someone came to talk about school safety (this exit or that exit) when the real safety issue is that of people's careers. One teacher told me of (his/her) outrage that when questioned, the UFT official basically urges silence. A militant union would have rushed to the school and give the teachers the support needed to fight back. The principal can get away with this and never have to pay a price.

BloomKlein have a strategy to break the union at the chapter level. The UFT has none other than to hire a bunch of New Action retirees to go into the schools and whistle in the wind.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Robert Jackson at the Feb. 28 Rally

I took footage of City Councilman Robert Jackson's speech at the rally organized by the UFT at St. Vartan Church on Feb. 28. He lays a whole bunch of truth on BloomKlein.
(I had to do a lot of ducking around the crowds so excuse the shaky video.)

The Longest Day

March 26, 2007

Today's NY Times has an article about schools implementing a longer day.

A longer day can only be implemented with very high labor charges. Thus the attacks on teacher unions nationwide where ever the corporate model is implemented. (The few people from the Leadership Academy who will talk say that is one of the major components of the training.)

The "heroic sacrificing teacher" is the model. They must be fairly young without families to go home to in order to put in 12 hour days. (Teachers with young children with long commutes are especially vulnerable and I bet when they apply for jobs these factors enter into decisions to hire them, though hidden, of course.)

Low salaries are a factor. Get rid of higher priced teachers and you can get 2 for 1. Thus the idea behind the school budgeting plan, the first step of which was to get a compliant UFT to agree to end seniority rights for teacher transfers, a bogus issue all along since so relatively few really took advantage of it. The open market plan strikes fear and loathing into any teacher who reaches a decent salary.

Behind it is the idea to use Professional Development (outsourced where possible of course) to train a new teacher corps when each group burns out or just gets tired of working the long hours and days. Teacher turnover is not something to worry about if schools are factories and teachers are easily replacable.

Schools like KIPP are a model and one should check their turnover rate and that at charter schools.

A report from Eva Moskowitz' charter school (Harlem Success) in Inside Schools:
A teacher at the school writes that in the four months since the school opened, four teachers and the assistant principal have left the school. "There is no full time staff with special education training despite the attendance of students with IEPs," writes the teacher. "Not all teachers are certified or have prior teaching experience." (November 2006)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A letter from ICE

There are people in your schools who have not yet voted or are not even aware an election is taking place. In the last election 70,000 active UFT members DID NOT VOTE. We need you to remind them to vote.

People say the 2006 contract was a holding action till the next one with more givebacks. They also agree that if not for the 40% teacher NO vote on the 2005 contract, Unity would have been emboldened to give back more in 2006.

Thus the case:
The higher the vote for ICE-TJC, the better the chance to fight givebacks on the next contract.

Without a potent opposition/alternative to Unity, the dictatorship leading to bad decision-making will continue.


Help get out the Vote for ICE-TJC!

The only opposition to Randi Weingarten, ICE-TJC, is under attack. Randi Weingarten’s political party (Unity Caucus) is using their bloated campaign contributions to slander ICE-TJC. Unity is able to raise vast sums of money because of the patronage jobs they reward their members with. Unity has mailed people a letter distorting the positions of ICE-TJC and our presidential candidate: Kit Wainer. Kit is a decent guy who is the long time chapter leader from Leon Goldstein High School in Brooklyn. He is not advocating an unprepared strike as the answer for every UFT problem. He knows that we would lose an ill-advised strike and all of us would not support one. That does not stop Randi/Unity from making stuff up.

The most ironic charge Randi-Unity made is that Kit is a socialist. We thought “Red Baiting” went out of style when Senator Joseph McCarthy was denounced publicly in the US Senate. The irony is that Randi Weingarten is running on both on the Unity ticket and on former opposition party New Action’s slate. As Teachers for a Just Contract says in their latest literature: “The New Action members Unity has cross endorsed include longtime open members of the Communist Party USA.” TJC adds, “Weingarten and her predecessors Feldman and Shanker were all socialists, card-carrying members of the Social Democrats USA, an offshoot of the American Socialist Party.”

People’s politics or personal lifestyles are not at issue. We care what their record of achievement is for the members of this union. As students of history, we would rather have socialist Eugene Debs backing us up than Randi Weingarten any day of the week. The real issue is how far Unity and New Action will go to hold onto power. That’s what this misinformation campaign is all about. Unity certainly can’t run on their record, which is a total failure. They gave away so many of our rights in the 2005 Contract:
We lost the right to grieve material in our files.
We lost the right to grieve observation reports.
We lost the right to say no to hall patrols and cafeteria duty.
We lost the right to start school after Labor Day; we now start in August.
We lost the right to transfer based on seniority.
We lost the right to a job if excessed; we now get in Absent Teacher Reserve positions (subs).
We lost the right to preferred placement if our schools are closed; we now have to hustle for jobs or be placed in ATR positions.
We lost the right to be innocent until proven guilty etc…

Unity has the money to mail smear stuff to the members. All we have to counter it is our mouths, our computers, our telephones, our votes and most importantly the truth. We need everyone to work for the only real opposition, ICE-TJC. To vote for all ICE TJC candidates, simply put an X in the ICE-TJC box and then place the envelope inside the secret ballot envelope, seal it, then place it in the outer envelope and put it in the mail. With your support, ICE-TJC will continue to have one agenda: doing what’s right for the members.

PUT AN X in the box


And tell your colleagues to do the same.

The Independent Community of Educators (ICE)

Election Snafu
Many ballots are being returned due to an error by the AAA who are supervising the balloting. New envelope have been sent from the AAA. But some have not received it and may not even be aware of the problem. However, it is possible a number of ballots will not be in on time (5pm, March 28) due to this snafu. That is an issue that will have to be addressed.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Effect of Students vs. Teachers on School Scores

Pointing to demographics is considered just another excuse by the right wing ideologues. In parts of west Williamsburg schools are undergoing a reverse of the situation below as richer white people move in. Most of them are young, so the kids are still at the pre-k- 1st grade level. I spent the last 5 years I was in the system at one of these schools before the changes began to occur. Historically, it was one of the lowest scoring schools in the district because of a high number of immigrant Spanish kids. As we saw the neighborhood start to change we joked how the school would rise to the top of the heap. BloomKlein will argue and give credit to their leadership and that of the principal (who is very young). Maybe even merit pay for teachers (when the UFT caves in on the next contract) and bonuses to supervisors. Some teachers find that some of the "new" parents meddle in areas that make them uncomfortable and seem to prefer the poorer group of parents.

The following was posted to
Eugene Falik

There is a very interesting experiment taking place in [Union Free] School District 15 (Lawrence-Cedarhurst) on Long Island. This is an upper income area that has historically been a top district with Westinghouse/Intel winners, Merit semifinalists, etc.

There has not been any significant turnover by the professional staff, yet scores are lower each year. Of course, this has created many complaints and much soul searching among the local residents. The significant change appears to be the districts demographics. There has NOT been an influx (so far as I am ware) of any group that is disadvantaged, or might be expected to have poorer grades. On the other hands, there has been a withdrawal of students who may have been a catalyst for learning, in addition to contributing to higher grades. This is because the Jewish population of the area has changed. The Jewish population had consisted of Conservative and Reform Jews who sent their children to the public schools. It has become increasingly Orthodox, a group that sends their children to yeshivas rather than public schools.

The result is that the same teachers who appeared to be so good before now appear to be less competent. Is it really true that they are less competent? I don't think that a serious argument can be made for that position.

Welcome, We've Got Mail!

[From a CL who despite being considered one of the best teachers in the school, underwent attacks by the principal, including U observations]
I agree with your positions. It took a while, but I am simply left with no choice but to accept the reality of the TRUTH: Randy opened the door and invited in the current slaughter.

From Elementary CL:
Hi Norman,
Just wanted to drop you a line to say I'm experiencing first hand the lack of caring or response of our union. Seems they work like snails, don't answer calls and offer very little help or support. We need news coverage to help our problem. These stories must get out. Somebody needs to start writing books

We are working in a very evil place. It's happening everywhere and they distort statistics to make it seem this is helping the children. They hate school more than ever before, especially the kindergarteners. Let's collect stories all over and get a book published called the "War on Teachers and Children". Or The Dictatorship of the Principals. Or How to Destroy a School System in Three Easy Lessons. or BloomKleinWein Rules: Educators Drool!! How about the Rise and Fall of Public Education or Why Johnny Can't Teach!. This is fun, I could go on all night IF I WASN'T SO F##$!ing tired. A little sarcastic tonight? Yes, I guess so. Feeling fed up and distressed.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Norm Scott in The Wave - March 23, 2007

A shortened version of this piece appears in The Wave on March 23.
The March 9 edition of my Wave column is posted at Norm's Notes and covers the following:

What Was the Question?
Is Washington in Randi Weingarten’s future?
UFT Elections
Teacher Arrested
BloomKlein appoints Martine Guerrier as Chief Family Engagement Officer)

The Question
I’ve been writing about Christopher Cerf, Joel Klein’s Deputy Chancellor For Organizational Strategy, Human Capital, and External Affairs. External Affairs? Does the DOE have a foreign policy? Or are their policies just foreign?
A previous column described my visit to a Manhattan Institute luncheon where Cerf explained the latest version of the Children Last reforms to a mostly anti-public school audience clucking approval. I got to ask the last question of the day and people have been asked what the question was. First, let’s look at some of Cerf’s premises.
There is an educational crisis and we should be outraged. We need a call to action and dramatic reform. Incremental reforms are not effective. Look what FDR did in 100 days. This is the civil rights issue of these times. Our critics, of whom there are many (except for the NY Times) are in favor of status quo.
Throwing money at educational problems like class size does not lead to solutions.
Teacher quality is the most important factor. Reducing class size without assuring teacher quality will not work. Of the 80,000 teachers the overwhelming number are superb. We want to make it easier to get rid of the 20% and move them to other careers.
If we swapped the teaching staffs of a top-notch school on the West Side with a failing school in the Bronx, we would see some major changes in the failing school. Good teaching should be rewarded with merit pay.
Accountability is the key right down the line.
Weighed school funding so the money follows the student. Schools with the same demographics have vastly different funding (mostly due to the vast differences in teacher salary)
We are data-driven and will track teacher quality and progress of kids.

The case Cerf made is very seductive to some, especially business people as it follows a business model. To educators, it is chilling.
BloomKlein have used the idea of accountability to absolve themselves of accountability. Put the burden on the schools – hold principals and teachers accountable and when things go wrong, say, “See, we gave them the tools and they failed. We’ll just replace them.” But how do we replace the BloomKlein/Cerfs when they slip-slide away on every failure of policy? Isn’t the fact of multiple “reforms” in a cataclysmic way an admission of failure?
Teacher quality is not abstract. It is affected by conditions. You get higher quality with fewer kids or with kids who are easier to teach: BloomKlein/Cerf negate factors like behavior, learning disabilities, language, and the support network at home.

The question
So, here is the question:
You say you are data driven but you present no data that shows that the overwhelming majority of the 80,000 people who must implement your policies think that 95% of what you said today is drivel.
You say throwing money at education problems doesn’t work – Cerf interrupted “Is not the only answer.” But you NEVER throw money at problems. You use gimmicks like reorganization, instead. You certainly didn’t try to solve the problems at Tilden HS with money. Why not try to fix Tilden by throwing money at it with more teachers, support personnel, etc instead of giving up and just closing it?
The overwhelming majority of teachers are highly insulted at the idea they would do a better job it you gave those who get higher test scores a bonus. Like they are not trying for want of a bonus. (The idea of merit is designed to get teachers to be motivated by money focus on test scores to the exclusion of real education to make Klein and Cerf look better.) Cerf interjected “you would be surprised at how many teachers I hear from who agree.” OK, Mr. Data, tell us exactly how many teachers out of the 80,000 tell you that and not throw out a vague number.
On swapping staffs of schools, why not go ahead and try it for a 3-5 year experiment if you are so sure of the results? I am sure it not only wouldn’t make a difference, but the results in the Bronx would be worse as the teachers who are not used to teaching kids there would take flight or require a serious adjustment in time, while the teachers who are placed in the West Side school would flourish under the better working conditions. I would bet my pension on the results.
That got oohs and ahhs from the corporate audience. Now I was talking. Cash on the barrelhead. Anytime Mr. Cerf wants to take me up on the offer, he knows where to find me. And my pension.

UFT Election Update
Ballots must be in by March 28th and the votes will be counted the next day. Three years ago 70,000 working UFT members DID NOT VOTE. The giveback-laden 2005 contract should bring out a higher turnout this time. If it doesn’t, well, what can you say?
Randi Weingarten’s Unity Caucus sent out a large postcard to most members with a red-baiting attack on ICE-TJC candidate Kit Wainer who is running against Weingarten for president of the UFT accusing him of being, oh my God, a socialist! Kit, who has taught at Leon Goldstein HS on the Kingsborough campus and has been elected chapter leader over the past 12 years (it seems the staff of Goldstein doesn’t have a problem with Kit’s politics) has published some materials on the web that were extracted by Unity and put in red bold letters. Why would we expect anything less than McCarthyite tactics from Unity? The irony is that their partners in the election, former opposition caucus New Action, were red-baited by Unity in past years because so many members had roots in socialist and communist organizations. Not that there’s’ anything wrong with it.
We received calls of outrage. Some thoughts expressed were, "Isn't it a slam dunk Unity will win? This smacks of the kind of desperation of someone who is losing a political campaign instead of expecting to win with a 90% vote. Why is it so important that a 70% majority is not enough? "
The most common analysis is that Weingarten wants an overwhelming victory so she can sail into the sunset with a glorious victory and head off to the AFT in the summer of '08.
It is not that simple. For Weingarten, it is important to keep the ICE-TJC vote low as a way of marginalizing them, which if they start attracting 25-30% of the vote, threatens to pass the vote totals New Action was getting when it was THE opposition. For Weingarten to leave an orderly union for her successor, she must reduce the threat ICE-TJC present and promote her homegrown opposition New Action.
By getting more votes than the ICE-TJC upstarts, New Action can claim, despite their alliance with Unity, they are still the main opposition, albeit totally tied to Unity's apron strings. They also have to prove to Weingarten that they are viable.
Weingarten is so enamored of New Action's leader Michael Shulman because he has proven time and again he can control the troops. When she announced the purchase of the new buildings on Broadway in 2003 just as the alliance with New Action was in the earliest stages, some of the New Action members on the Executive Board at the time wanted to ask for more information. Shulman, not a member of the Board, passed by each one and ordered them not to raise any questions. "Randi doesn't want this to become an issue, so don't say anything," Shulman said.
Now there's the kind of opposition Randi can be proud of.

Ms. Weingarten is not a socialist
NYC Educator is a brilliant blogger ( who has developed a national reputation. A high school teacher who has been a severe critic of BloomKlein and UFT President Randi Weingarten and her Unity Caucus since the 2005 contract, his blog has become required daily reading for many people involved in education. NYC has endorsed the ICE-TJC slate in the election, which I am also supporting (I am running as a candidate for the Executive Board at large.) Here is how he addressed the issue:
“I was just reading that Al Shanker, Sandy Feldman and Randi Weingarten were all card-carrying members of Social Democrats USA, which identifies itself as a member of Socialist International. But I take strong exception to the voices of ICE-TJC who'd infer that made her a socialist.
“First of all, socialists are known to strongly defend workers' rights. If Ms. Weingarten were a socialist, why would she endorse a contract that denied teachers the right to grieve letters in their files? Why would she support a clause that allowed them to be suspended without pay based on unsubstantiated allegations? It just doesn't make sense.
“And if Ms. Weingarten were a socialist, would she support giving teachers longer work days and punishment days in August? Would she want us to do "small-group tutoring" plus hall patrol, in perpetuity, in addition to the tasks we'd already performed? Would she support our prescription deductibles going up by as much as 1500%? Sorry, I don't see it.
“Would a socialist have supported a contract in 2005 that eliminated key seniority rights of teachers? Do you really think a socialist would have given away 40 years of hard-won gains for a compensation increase that didn't even keep up with cost of living? Would a socialist have supported and enabled mayoral control?
“Absolutely not. A socialist wouldn't have done any of those things. A socialist would stand up and demand an end to mayoral control, particularly in view of its ineffectiveness (not to mention its effect on classroom instruction). Do you envision Ms. Weingarten demanding an end to mayoral control? Of course not. So please, please, stop unfairly tarring Ms. Weingarten.
“Ms. Weingarten is not some old-time union boss, who just runs around insisting on better working conditions for her members. She's no socialist, and don't even think about calling her a militant socialist.
“That's just beyond the pale.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Day in the Life of a ... Mar. 20, 2007

This will be my last post of the winter. Almost time to hit the backyard and start rubbing fingers through the soil.

Got home last night after a night at Tweed watching Klein squirm after parents broke into the meeting and disrupted it. He tried to keep the meeting going and reversed himself about 12 times throughout the night. Boy, I can just imagine what kind of teacher this guy was when he taught for 6 months in the late 60's (something you never hear him talk about, for good reason I suspect) before high tailing it back to law school. I took some video and will post it on you tube when I edit it. The guys doing the movie on the rubber room were there and tried to get Klein to talk but he told them to see his press office. They should have just asked a question and get his response on tape but the minute they said they were doing a documentary, he shut up.

Some of the parents made strong statements and you can read more at the NYC Parent blog.

Today I hit elementary schools in my old district with the ICE election leaflet. It was like old home week as I met people I knew in every school. What a difference putting leaflet in boxes while chatting with old friends - teachers, paras, secretaries, even principals and asst. princ's who I've known for years. Everybody agrees -- BloomKlein suck! Plus a number of "the UFT is useless."

I started at my old school - lots of "I voted for ICE" comments. My old buddy the cook offered me a nice bowl of homemade chicken soup. One of the nice things about the school was how when we partied, there was little distinction between teacher, para, secretary, kitchen worker or custodian. Well, that's over under the new regime. Many teachers have left and all say how much happier they are in their new schools. The leftover masses huddle together, still in shock over the arrest of their colleague (who was my neighbor across the hall for 10 years) orchestrated by the principal a few weeks ago. (I spoke about the incident at the PEP last night, pointing out to Klein that these are the people he wants to give unfettered power to. Of course he does! Fear and loathing is how he wants schools to be run.)

I probably shouldn't talk about the rest of my day where people are actually relatively happy (or relieved they are not ruled by a Leadership Academy clone.) BloomKlein might hear of it and try to turn these schools into factories.

The highlight was a visit to a school where 2 of the people I worked with in my last years in the system are teaching. They love their principal to death, one of the old gang from the district office. It was a wonderful reunion and as it was Open School Day, they asked me to join them for a parent luncheon. I had other places to go but hung out with them on the line for food. A woman standing behind us turned to one of them and asked who I was. They told her and she said, "Oh my God! It's my 6th grade teacher." Turned out I was also her sister's 6th grade teacher and my wife and I had gone to her sister's wedding (one of 3 weddings from kids in that 1975 class I eventually attended.) She has been teaching for 17 years. (Oy vey! Am I old.) She is the 2nd former student I have connected up with in the last few months. (See the post on the play No Child where one of my students and her 18-year old daughter attended with us.) She will put me in touch with her sister and I hope to see her. It was sad to hear their mom, who I was very fond of despite the fact we couldn't communicate because she spoke only Spanish, had passed away.

Then it was off to some other schools, running into the former PTA president of my school who is an aide and had good stories to tell about her 4 children and all her grandchildren. Then on to the first school I taught at for 3 years, finding myself stuffing the same mail boxes that I stood before on my first day on the job almost 40 years ago. Phew! There was just a little lump in my throat as I worked. That was the scene of the 2 strikes in '67 and '68 and also the birth of my activism. But that's a story for another day. I called the CL from the office as a courtesy to let her know what I was doing and she said I should come up. She is a new CL and battling the principal in a fierce struggle. She doesn't want to be the one to put the ICE leaflets in the boxes. She has decent reasons. We went out with some of the gang after the last DA and had a lot of fun. I hope she'll join us again next week.

I was off to 2 small schools where I got to see some of the old computer teachers I used to hang with and we talked about how the multimedia center where I worked provided so much support to schools. Of course, it was killed after BloomKlein and now tech support is a sometime thing.

I ended up at a small school where 2 of my favorite people have become the principal and AP, who was the computer teacher at one time. On my last day of work before I retired almost 5 years ago, we had to wait around until 6pm for some delivery people to come to bring computers from my office to her school. I reminded her that she still owes me a night of drinking to celebrate the retirement binge I missed out on. I forgave her because I had to come in to work the last 2 days of June to help with the computer transfer and the per session I earned was added to my final salary.

Both gals spent most of their careers teaching at the school and it is very surprising they are now running it, as the corporate mentality of BloomKlein discourages this kind of fraternization. Every teacher I met there seems happy and relieved to be working for them -- actually, knowing these gals, they work for the teachers, as supevisors should. If teachers could elect their supervisors, which I feel would give us the best people, these 2 would win hands down. I left happy for them and the staff, though I suspect the CL is pro-Randi and the staff will vote Unity. But happy staffs often don't see problems with the status quo. Still, I met a teacher on the way out who said she can't believe people don't see how the union sold them out. At least one vote for ICE-TJC.

Well, I had enough for the day and was off to take my 89 year old dad out to a Chinese restaurant. He was ILGWU. If only he could vote ... nah! He wouldn't vote for me anyway.

Early Returns on Eterno/Zahler Debate

Thank you James Eterno for participating in the debate on WBAI tonight. You were strong and concise. You presented the ICE-TJC position with pride. The views of ICE-TJC were explained with no hint of antagonism or malice in you words and voice. I'm sorry to say this was not true of your opponent. You clearly were the winner. The union should be proud to have you as a representative.

Bravo, James! You did an excellent job tonight on the WBAI debate with Unity's Jeff Zaller. I agree that you were the clear winner. Your statements were clear and strong and reflected the ICE/TJC position very well. You were not defensive and challenged Unity with intelligence. You gave specific examples of what ICE/TJC believe is wrong with the UNITY approach to leadership and presented an alternative way to lead our union!
Bravo once again!
(The show will be archived and can be listened to on-line from the WBAI website-

Monday, March 19, 2007

Red-baiting from New Action Supporter? You Decide

When New Action candidate and blogger jd2718 posted a report on the debate on the war at the February 2007 Delegate Assembly, there were signs of the coming red-baiting buried in the report. Here are the details:

An openly Communist political party called the Progressive Labor Party has been active in the UFT since I can remember. They have a contingent of teachers in many schools all over the city. Though most PL people in the UFT do not join caucuses, they have been long-time supporters of Ed Notes and when ICE came together in the fall of '03, a few members of PL became part of the process and have been somewhat active in ICE since, with 3 PL members running on our slate. Though ICE'ers have been critical of both their politics and their tactics at times, we also find a lot of common ground.

As an open and democratic organization, ICE welcomes the discussions engendered by the views PL supporters bring to the table and we have grown to respect their views and the passion with which they express these views.

At DA's they mostly give out PL, not ICE literature and when they have tried to do both, we have spoken to them that it is not correct to confuse people as to which group they are representing. Mostly, they have complied with our wishes.

I was downstairs giving out ICE literature at the Feb. DA when a contingent of students came in with signs, led by someone I was not familiar with. Later I heard they were allowed into the DA. When I read jd2718's report, these people were labeled as ICE supporters instead of members of PL. No names, no mention of PL, just "ICE supporter." And mentioned 3 times — as "calling for the UFT to oppose imperialist war."

Gee, I've searched our archives and can find no expression that ICE has taken such a position, though there are certainly people who work with ICE that might agree. And others that might not.

The word "imperialist" is something I have discussed with out friends in PL as being a buzz word that is meaningless out of context to teh average person not steeped in left politics who hears it and in fact hurts whatever ideas PL is trying to get across. I also have pointed out that when a member of PL expresses their view as being in favor of Communism to an audience at a DA or at an ICE meeting, the meaning as understood by that audience is completely off base to what I assume the PL'ers really mean. Or maybe not. But I think it is a mistake on their part, despite the fact that we all absolutely love PL'er Derek Pearl, the charming 70-year old Brit who often made such proclamations. (I used to sit in front of him at DA's to block Randi's view, as she always tried to call on him as a way to avoid opposition resolutions.)

The Feb. DA

The entire action PL engaged in at the Feb. DA obviously had nothing to do with ICE and in fact I do not know how jd2718 knew which speakers were ICE supporters (as there were a lot more PL people who I did not know present) unless there was some help from his friends in Unity or New Action. The affiliation of members of PL have been well-known to anyone who has attended DA's for a while.

I wonder what jd2718 would say if someone representing the Communist Party speaking about how the old Soviet system was better for the people of eastern Europe, were mis-labeled as New Action supporters. I bet if he took a poll of his caucus, he might get some interesting answers on this question. Not that there's anything wrong with it.

Here is the relevant section of jd2718's post (my emphasis added).

In February, at the DA, ICE supporters brought students with signs against military recruiters on campus. The students were allowed to address the body, and offered fiery remarks. An ICE supporter moved a resolution - the exact language is not in front of me, but the sense follows: 1. The UFT opposes imperialist war. 2. The UFT has a resolution against the War in Iraq. 3. The UFT should oppose military recruiters in public schools for the duration of the current war. Jeff Zahler, a Unity leader, moved a motion eliminating point 1. He also spoke of extending the last point (3, the ‘whereas’ ) so that it referred to military recruiters at any time, and not just during the Iraq War. (either Jeff or a later speaker made that into a second amendment).

There was debate. An ICE speaker was so upset about the loss of inflammatory language, that he forgot to speak in favor of widening the scope of the opposition to recruiters in schools. Veterans who are delegates and chapter leaders spoke. One was upset by the tone of the discussion, didn’t want us to be against the troops, but agreed that students who want to sign up should go to a recruitment station rather than have the recruiters come to the schools.

The next time jd2718 gives a report, I suggest he name names and true affiliations instead of joining the Unity red-baiting bandwagon. I won't hold my breath, as jd2718 never misses an opportunity to take a pot shot at ICE.

James Eterno ICE's and Unity's Jeff Zahler tonight on WBAI at 7pm

WBAI Radio's Building Bridges: Your Community & Labor Report
Produced & Hosted by Mimi Rosenberg & Ken Nash
Monday, March 19, 2007, 7 - 8 p.m. EST, over 99.5 FM
or streaming live at
No Child or Educator Left Behind: A Debate with Candidates for the UFT Elections with
. Jeffrey Zahler, Special Assistant to President Weingarten,
At Large Candidate for Executive Board
. James Eterno, Chapter Leader Jamaica High School,
ICE-TJC, Candidate for Executive Board from High Schools

The UFT elections are underway - the ballots are out and two coalitions (UNITY-NEW ACTION vrs. ICE-TJC) are fielding slates vying for leadership. While the opposition ICE- TJC slate says that the 2005 contract gave away a tremendous amount of rights in the classrooms and in the schools, the ruling Unity Team boasts that the 2007 deal includes major salary increases and was concluded a year early. ICE-TJC maintains that the current UFT leadership refuses to mobilize the membership while UNITY accuses the opposition of advocating strikes and strike threats for political and ideological reasons and not as a last resort in bargaining. But, the question is what affect the position of these candidates will have on the education of our children!

I'll be at Klein's monthly PEP meeting tonight to hear all sorts of fun stuff, so let me know how the "debate" turns out.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Marian Swerdlow Video: The High School Executive Board elections

Marian Swedlow, one of the founders of TJC (Teachers for a Just Contract) 15 years ago, and a delegate from FDR high school, talks about the high school executive board elections.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Unity Propaganda Machine Treads in Dangerous Territory

Considering the attack on ICE-TJC presidential candidate Kit Wainer as being old-century, the McCarthyite tactic of branding the opposition as "Reds" seems so old century. But this is an old tactic on the part of Unity Caucus. Ironically, they used this time and again against their current allies New Action, many of whose leaders have strong connections to socialist political parties and are themselves so-called red diaper babies, whose parents actually faced persecution by the real deal, Joe McCarthy himself and have a visceral response to "Red-baiting." Not the least of risks for Unity in taking this action is the potential is the negative reaction from some of New Action's core members who have gone along with the Unity/New Action deal out of loyalty.

Of course, there's the UFT legacy itself where most of the leaders are/were members of the Social Democrats, USA. And then there's the additional danger that the same right-wing audience Unity is trying to incite against ICE-TJC will come back to bite them. What if the right wing anti-Unity forces (of which there is a considerable number) start mud-slinging and get other areas, such as race-baiting or gay-bashing? Ultimately, a right-wing group, not comfortable with some of the politics of ICE or TJC will spring up. Unity may consider that a good thing, but when you get what you wish, sometimes there is a high price to pay. They ain't seen nothing yet.

Before I even knew about the mailing, calls of outrage started coming. Some thoughts expressed were, "Isn't it a slam dunk Unity will win? This smacks of the kind of desperation of someone who is losing a political campaign instead of expecting to win with a 90% vote. Why is it so important that a 70% majority is not enough? "

I agree sending out this to the homes of so many people appears desperate but desperation is in the eye of the beholder.

To Randi Weingarten/Unity/New Action there are a lot of balls in the air in this election.

The most common analysis I heard from people is that Weingarten is most interested in an overwhelming victory so she can sail into the sunset with a glorious victory and head off to the AFT in the summer of '08.

It is not that simple. For Weingarten, it is important to keep the ICE-TJC vote low as a way of margianalizing ICE-TJC, which if it starts attracting 25-30% if the vote, threatens to pass the vote totals New Action was getting when it was THE opposition. For Weingarten to leave an orderly union for her successor, she must reduce the threat ICE-TJC present and promote her home grown opposition New Action.

By getting more votes than the ICE-TJC upstarts New Action can claim, despite their alliance with Unity, they are still the main opposition, albeit totally tied to Unity's apron strings. They also have to prove to Weingarten that they are viable and that she still needs them. It should be pointed out that despite enormous inroads ICE and TJC made into the New Action support base 3 years ago, New Action with the addition of retiree votes actually outpolled either of the 2 groups.

For ICE and TJC, this election is about establishing a base of support and then building out from there. (ICE got less than 5% and TJC around 6-7% in 2004.) It takes a long time to establish a brand name and both groups are beginning to work themselves into people's consciousness as an alternative to both Unity and New Action. But legitimacy as an opposition will not truly come until they begin to reach into the 25-30% range.

As pointed out in a recent article in The Chief, the real battle is in the high schools where Weingarten is desperate to keep the ICE-TJC people off the Executive Board where they can raise questions about UFT policy. They would be especially dangerous when she is not around to keep things under control. A lot of issues are coming up with the expected UFT support for the current system of mayoral control (with just a few cosmetic tweaks) high on the agenda. No embarrassing questions, no answers.

Weingarten is so enamored of New Action's leader Michael Shulman because he has proven time and again he can control the troops. When she announced the purchase of the new buildings on Broadway in 2003 just as the alliance with New Action was in the earliest stages, some of the New Action members on the Ex. Bd at the time wanted to raise questions. Shulman, not a member of the Board, passed by each one and ordered them not to raise any questions. "Randi doesn't want this to become an issue, so don't say anything," Shulman said.

Now there's the kind of opposition Randi can be proud of.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Unity Uses Red-Baiting - Just Part of their MO

Mr. Welch: Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty, or your recklessness. You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

That there is a large core of activists who have shunned UFT internal politics has been a well-known fact. Activating this group has not always been easy, as many of them view the UFT leadership as unmovable and the opposition movement devoid of the kind of politics that are of most interest to them.

Today's Unity mailing that slithered into UFT members' homes red-baiting ICE-TJC presidential candidate Kit Wainer has provoked many of these progressive UFT members into outrage and shock. The emails and phones have been burning up with offers to help in the final days of the election campaign from people who have had little prior interest.

Will the Unity intent to garner last minute votes backfire in the long run by waking up a potentially activist left-oriented section of the UFT that has been ignoring internal politics?

This is not the first time Unity has resorted to red-baiting. When New Action was not yet sucking up to them, Unity regularly slimed New Action's leadership for ties to left wing political parties. What will be New Action's response to the Unity attack on Wainer when they were themselves so wronged? And how does Unity's attacks on Wainer jive with the history of their current allies in New Action? Members of ICE and TJC always condemned the Unity mud-slinging at New Action in the past (and won't sling the enormous amount of mud on Unity personnel they have accumulated.) But now all we can expect from New Action will be the sounds of silence. Getting those seats on the Executive Board come with a very high price in principles, whatever ones are left.

Read TJC's strong response on the Norm's Notes blog.

I received this email tonight from a former New Action member:

"We used to go to Mike Shulman's home on Saturday mornings signing countless times to ensure a large number of NAC names would be on the ballot. As a former chapter leader, I had Mike come to our school--an elementary school--where the opposition message to Unity was warmly greeted.
When he and his inner circle betrayed us by pandering to Unity for jobs, it left us with a bitter taste.
The New Action ad in this week's UFT rag looks like it was an anti-NAC piece written by Unity."

The more you hang out with the sleaze, the sleazier you become.

UFT Election News - March 12, 2007

It is not often that people leave Unity Caucus, which can be compared to black hole where some good people desiring to change the union enter, never to emerge. Once enticed with job opportunities, free trips and other perks, the desire for change seems to go south.

Former Unity Chapter Leader running with ICE
That is why the Jerry Frohnhoeffer's move from Unity to the ICE-TJC slate is so remarkable. Jerry is chapter leader at Aviation HS, one of my favorite schools. He is running for Vocational HS VP against Mike Mulgrew from Unity. You can read his bio at my other blog, Norm's Notes.

Building a viable opposition
I met a new Unity CL recently and he is and has been a critic of Unity and even ran against the Unity CL at his school who was humping the 2005 contract. When he won he looked around for signs there was a viable opposition building. When the vote was taken on the 2006 contract he looked for signs in the vote totals that something had been built since the 2005 contract, and seeing the 90% YES vote decided that Unity was his only option. He hopes to reform them from within. Good luck!

He is wrong about that vote being the key. Many people opposed to Unity voted YES. The building of a viable opposition takes a lot of coalescing of forces to create a political movement. Seeing things evolve over the years there's room for hope. New Action's desertion has left a void in the infrastructure of an opposition. No matter how ineffective they were as an opposition, they did have the ability to get literature out. TJC started building 15 years ago but with New Action still around, the going was slow. Once it was clear they were aligning with Unity TJC began to have much greater success. ICE, starting out 3 years ago also has been building infrastructure and the election process is part of that building effort. No matter what the result in this election, the opposition is not going away. And if we should see the farce of New Action holding 8 Exec Bd seats, Unity 81 and ICE and TJC none, there is no better demonstration of the lack of democracy in the UFT.

Next: New Action History Lesson 1

See you at tonight's UFT Exec Bd meeting. Come on down. I'll be hovering over the ribs.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Measuring Teachers

"If teachers are to be held accountable for the performance of their students, strategies for measuring the impact of their work must be refined or, at least, the uncertainties of these measurements must be taken into account in assessing the impact of teachers and schools on student performance."

The word performance can be viewed narrowly (how kids score the reading and math test) or broadly. Once behavior enters into it - often discounted as an "excuse" but to teachers one of the most important factors - things get very sticky. I do not mean behavior in the sense of "good and bad' but in the wider sense of the resources students bring to the table and the ability of the teacher to work with them in that framework. I had "successes" with kids who did not move higher in reading but moved significantly in their ability to control their emotions, function within the context of a classroom, etc. Can these things be measured?

I taught in a rotation system in elementary school. One year you get the higher performing class, the next you don't. Same school, same families, same teacher, etc. This was not a big school -- 2 or 3 classes on the grade. My measured performance varied vastly depending on which level I taught. In some ways I was better with the struggling kids. There were teachers in my school who were awesome with the top classes but fell apart when they had the bottom classes. We had teachers who were willing to sell their souls to stay out of the bottom classes.

Class size made a difference but the administration in my school in the 70's at least tried to make the lower exponent classes smaller. Most teachers fought to teach the better classes even with the higher class size. Favorites of the principal were often rewarded (violating the contract) with these classes year after year. Or they tried to put the teachers they thought to be the best with the top classes, relegating the lower classes to some sort of triage.

The entire process is so complex, trying to judge teachers on performance is very difficult. In the old days the key thing was if you could control your class. The entire school -- colleagues, admins, parents, etc measured you as a teacher based on that factor alone. When I learned how to do that I felt it was one of the major accomplishments of my life and turned me into a confident teacher. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Dealing with actually teaching them after that became the next hard thing.

I met a top lawyer at a party a few years ago and he entered teaching around the same time I did in the late 60's to stay out of the draft. He couldn't believe I stayed in all these years. He taught in the south Bronx for 2 years and said it was the hardest thing he ever did. He was not referring to the teaching part.

Klein was there too as a teacher escaping the draft at the same time for around 6 months and you never hear him sat a word about that experience. I know what he must have went through. We all did. He knows what it's all about and that is why I consider him such a snake in the way he and others put the main blame for failing schools on teacher competency.

Cerf said as much at the Manhattan Inst luncheon. That is why we have all the phony prof. development. The way I and other generations of teachers learned PD was from the great teachers who worked with us.

Robotics at Javits Center Mar. 16-18

FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition) Regionals at Javits, Mar. 16-18

The New York City Regional is a FIRST Robotics Regional Competition that will be held between Friday, March 16 and Sunday, March 18, 2007 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. The 2007 competition will include sixty-three FIRST Robotics teams from New York City, the metropolitan region, and as far away as Brazil, Israel, and the United Kingdom.

The event is a world-class celebration of high school students, engineers, and mentors creating and discovering tomorrow’s science and technology! Twenty major New York City corporations will be on-hand to offer information about summer jobs, internships, co-op positions, and other employment opportunities at our first ever career fair. With an additional 200 middle school teams in five boroughs, the 2007 FLL and FIRST Vex demonstrations will only increase the excitement!

I will be there all 3 days at the registration desk, so stop by and say hello.

Friday is a practice day so the kids will have some time to take visiting school groups around.
I am coordinating school visits on Friday, so if you are interested in bringing a group contact me directly.

Read more at my robotics blog: