Sunday, February 27, 2011

Petitions to Support LIFO and Seniority: Five Year and Under Teachers and Parent Groups Strike Back at the Ed Deform Empire- and CSA Too

Last Update: Monday, Feb. 28, 2011, 8AM

Hi folks,
A group of us who met at a recent NYCORE meeting drafted this letter from newer teachers in support of the seniority rule. Will you pass it on to your lists? We are hoping to get as many "newer" teachers (who have been in public schools in NY for 5 years or less) to sign today or tomorrow as possible so we can get it to the media tomorrow. Thank you! 

A group of parents group and a group of younger and newer teachers, outraged by bogus groups like ME4ME, have decided to strike back with a petition supporting senior teachers and LIFO. They worked on this idea after meeting at a NYCORE breakout group - a groups you wouldn't know existed if you read the mainstream press or even Gotham Schools. (Sign up for the NYCORE March. 26 conference.) In addition, Leonie Haimson and other parents are also calling for support for teachers with their own petition. And guess what else? The principals' union, the CSA, is joining in too.

Read all about it below:

Let's see how much this counter attack by a group of relatively new teachers gets from the press - listening Gotham? I guess not so far this AM - here you have young teachers, parents and supervisors - and it's NOT a story?

Copy and paste this and circulate to the appropriate people in your schools. Remind them that if they remain in the NYC schools it won't be long before they are more senior to a whole lot of new people. 
Dear colleagues,
 In the current budget negotiations, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Black are pressuring Governor Cuomo to overturn the teacher seniority rule, known as “last in first out,” which would eliminate protection in the law for more senior teachers.  Attached is a letter from newer teachers (who have taught in New York State for five years or less), expressing our opposition to overturning seniority rights.  In addition to the reasons outlined it the text of the letter, we support upholding the seniority rule for the following reasons:

·      We recognize the importance of hard-won teacher job protection measures –including the right to due process in job evaluation. 

·      We value the irreplaceable knowledge of experience in honing the craft of teaching and the importance of more senior role models for newer teachers.

·      Bloomberg and Black wish to measure teacher performance, for the purpose of determining who should be laid off, by student test scores.  Turning the classroom into a stressful test-preparation zone restricts the space we have to learn about the real needs of our students and how to respond to those needs with all the creativity and rigor that the media extol us for.

·      The new teacher programs (New York City Teaching Fellows, Peace Corps Fellow, Teach for America, and others) by which many of us came to work in New York City public schools often shortchange teacher development.  These programs place inexperienced teachers directly in the classroom, often in new schools that are not organized enough to provide us with beneficial support. Thus many of us commence our careers under extremely stressful working conditions which contribute to a high new teacher turnover rate. The resulting “revolving door” of newer teachers may, ironically, facilitate the budgetary number crunching of our financially stressed superiors, as alternative certification programs provide a constant pool of entry-level faculty who are less expensive to employ. We reject top-down reforms which treat us as cheap labor without building in the true cost of professional development and adequate collaboration time for new teachers.

·      Even if we were to be kept on now thanks to a merit system that undermines seniority protection, this does not mean we will be able to practice our work into the future without constantly being required to prove our worth as educators according to the popular evaluation rubric of the day. 

·      Bloomberg and Black’s plea for “flexibility” in deciding who to lay off is, ultimately, a strategy to weaken teachers’ power to collectively organize and advocate for more support for all teachers.

Please join us as we stand with our senior teachers to fight to uphold the seniority rule and other union-won protections. 

An Open Letter from Newer Teachers of New York State
 February 21, 2011
Dear parents, students, colleagues, school administrators, elected officials, and members of the public,

Currently, New York State's seniority rule protects experienced teachers from layoffs, a policy sometimes known as "last in, first out." In recent budget negotiations, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Black have pressured Governor Cuomo to overturn this rule. We, the undersigned teachers who have been teaching in New York State for five years or less, stand in solidarity with our more experienced colleagues and strongly support maintaining the seniority rule. 

As newer teachers, we rely on our more senior colleagues for guidance and support.  Senior teachers offer us their advice, their formal mentorship, and their connections with communities.  Without more senior teachers, we would lose our bridge to lessons learned through years of dedicated work in the school system.

In addition, the rates of black and Latino new teacher hires in New York City have steadily declined since 2002, while the vast majority of New York City public school students are black and Latino. Opening up more senior teachers to layoffs would risk further decreasing the already sparse ranks of teachers of color.  These teachers provide guidance for younger teachers of all backgrounds, and play an important role in the lives of our students.

We also believe that Bloomberg and Black’s so-called “merit-based” system for retaining teachers will foster competitive, fearful school cultures that are detrimental both to teachers' professional development and to student learning. In addition, Bloomberg and Black seek to measure teacher performance by student test scores, an imperfect measure at best, and one that encourages narrowly test-focused curricula.

Finally, Bloomberg and Black's arguments against the seniority rule are based on the fact that newer teachers work for lower salaries than our more experienced peers; allowing experienced teachers to be laid off would therefore reduce the total number of necessary layoffs.  This argument, however, fails to account for the true cost of professional development and adequate support for newer teachers.  It also ignores the fact that teacher experience is one of the most reliable predictors of student learning.  If student achievement is the priority, then experienced teachers are more than worth their cost.

Ultimately, the debate over who to lay off is a distraction from the root causes of inequity that continue to affect our profession and the lives of our students; budget cuts should not include any teacher layoffs.  Education is an investment in our future, and cuts to education are ultimately short-sighted.  We reject political tactics that raise the specter of massive teacher layoffs in efforts to divide the workforce and pit parents against teachers.  In the interest of our students, we stand with senior teachers in supporting the seniority rule.

Newer Teachers of New York State 
Click below to add your name:
 Parents Support Teachers

I just created a petition entitled Prevent ANY teacher layoffs and protect the seniority rights of teachers! because I care deeply about this very important issue.
To send a message to the Governor and your state legislators, click here:

It'll just take a minute.

Meanwhile, our other petition, against any budget cuts to schools now has 598 signers; you could be the 600th!

Once you're done, please ask your friends to sign both petitions and spread the word. 

Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters

Excerpt: Remember that these layoff numbers will be projections, not real numbers but a worst case scenario that is meant to scare you, your staff and parents and generally strike fear into your hearts and generate support for their bill to eliminate your seniority and tenure rights.  In the past, similar projections have been greatly exaggerated and layoffs, if any, have  amounted to substantially fewer than projected.

Council of School Supervisors & Administrators <>

Feb. 25, 2011

The note below alerts you to the fact that the DOE was likely to email you with teacher layoff projections for each of your schools in an attempt to present you with a worst case scenario.  Our analysis of the DOE's strategy is included in the note.

This evening, we learned that late in the day the DOE gave the media those projections embargoed for Monday.  The DOE did not share those projections with CSA.  This DOE strategy gives reporters ample time to contact you over the weekend to ask you how these projected losses will affect your schools. We don't want you to be blindsided by the DOE's action; therefore, we strongly suggest that you take the time to read the message that follows.

Layoffs and Last-in/First-out

You have been reading recent news reports about a bill introduced by Long Island Republican state Senator John Flanagan that would strip teachers and supervisors of their current  seniority and tenure rights. Teachers would be laid off if they have had an unsatisfactory rating in the last 5 years, have been faced with a fine or suspension, have been the subject of an SCI, OSI or OEO investigation, have been  in excess for more than six months or meet one of several other criteria. The criteria in this bill also apply to  Principals and Assistant Principals.   In terms of seniority rights, it puts you in the exact same boat as teachers.

In addition, in the very near future, you may receive DOE projections telling you that thousands of teachers have to be excessed due to a budget crisis in NYC. The projections are likely to include the specific impact on your particular school and your teachers.  Remember that these layoff numbers will be projections, not real numbers but a worst case scenario that is meant to scare you, your staff and parents and generally strike fear into your hearts and generate support for their bill to eliminate your seniority and tenure rights.  In the past, similar projections have been greatly exaggerated and layoffs, if any, have  amounted to substantially fewer than projected.

CSA, UFT and many good government groups are fighting not just to whittle down the number of projected layoffs, but to eliminate them altogether.  We accept Governor Cuomo's  contention that  New York City, with its $3 billion surplus and its revenues way above projection, does not need to have any teacher layoffs at all.  We also believe that additional funds can be raised by leveling a fair tax on the extremely rich.

CSA has and always will support improving accountability for teachers and school leaders and continues to be open to discussing better ways to better evaluate the work of educators. But we do not believe that the threat of layoffs should be used as a political tool to eliminate your seniority rights wholesale.

As union members, you should contact your state legislators and local council members to ensure that budget cuts to education will not result in teacher layoffs that would be tragic for the children you serve.  If you need assistance contacting your appropriate elected officials, contact our government relations department: and in New York City and in Albany.

For CSA's full response to the Flanagan bill, please click HERE. <>

Ed Deform and Neoliberalism

People are comparing Egypt and Wisconsin. The link? Neoliberalism. Tattoo the word on your arm. Look at the entire ed deform program in the context of neoliberalism. Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism" is the bible ed deform resisters. Paul Krugman on Friday referenced Klein's groundbreaking work. Now if only Krugman would tie the  string to the ed deforms and tell people that charter schools are the battering ram of neoliberal assault on the public school system. Leonie Haimson's husband, Michael Oppenheimer, teaches at Princeton with Krugman. Michael should whisper sweet anti ed deformer words in his ear.

Confused about the Democratic Party support for ed deform? The Clintons are classic neoliberals and the rest of the party is in step.

Confused about why the UFT/AFT/MulGarten crew won't put up a defense? They too are neoliberals, who are close relatives of neocons. That was why Vera Pavone and I titled our review of Richard Kahlenberg's "Albert Shanker: Tough Liberal" Albert Shanker: Ruthless Neocon. We could easily have called it "Ruthless Neoliberal" but didn't want to confuse people who think neolineral is a modernized version of classic American liberalism when it is exactly the opposite.

Union leaders like Weingarten differ from the anti-union neoliberals in that they feel unions should exist - naturally - but in limited format - in support of the government/corporate state more than the membership. But of course they support the concept of unions - look how well they have done as leaders who misdirect the energies of the members. That is why Weingarten is helping find ways to get rid of teachers. See NYC Educator: A Fine Day for a Sellout

With the myriad of anti-teacher crap pervading the headlines, AFT President Randi Weingarten thinks it's a good time to discuss faster ways to fire us
If things ever get sticky just watch where they stand.

What is neoliberalism?

Yves Smith at  has the links:
In his Brief History of Neoliberalism, the eminent social geographer David Harvey outlined “a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterised by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade.”

Neoliberal states guarantee, by force if necessary, the “proper functioning” of markets; where markets do not exist (for example, in the use of land, water, education, health care, social security, or environmental pollution), then the state should create them.

Guaranteeing the sanctity of markets is supposed to be the limit of legitimate state functions, and state interventions should always be subordinate to markets. All human behavior, and not just the production of goods and services, can be reduced to market transactions.

And the application of utopian neoliberalism in the real world leads to deformed societies as surely as the application of utopian communism did…..

Shock Doctrine, U.S.A.


What I Learned From a Former Student: Ernie Silva One Man Show Rocks - Today is Your Last Chance

Ernie Silva (center) with Mendez (left) and Mark-Viverito
Friday night I went back to see R. Ernie Silva's one man show, "Heavy Like the Weight of a Flame" at LATEA for the 5th time since last April (Ernie lives in Los Angeles and returns periodically) and it gets better and better. I was pleasantly surprised to see two City Councilwomen in the audience, Rosie Mendez and Melissa Mark-Viverito. (I've seen Ms. Mendez at various charter school co-loco hearings on the lower East Side and she has been a rock.)

Ernie will be performing for a month at the upcoming Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Every time I see Ernie, who was in my 4th grade class in the early 80s (he's around 39 now - oy!) I learn something new. (It was also nice to see Dino, another former student from the same class who is a former NYC teacher. Dino is always there to support Ernie.)

His performance gets better as he hones his story (the first of an upcoming trilogy). His characters get sharper and more distinct, reminding me of the great Nilaga Sun who wowed people with her one woman show, "No Child Left." - see video here. And he keeps adding topical material. And there and more interaction with the audience. I know this bothers some theater people. I went to see Ernie perform with my acting teacher during the summer and his only criticism was this breaking of the "4th wall" because he feels it took Ernie out of character and into stand-up comedy territory. Ernie as a former stand-up comedian falls naturally into this role and it works for me.

There were a some ladies in the audience who grew up in the same projects as Ernie (and still live there) and totally identified with Ernie's life. One, in tears, thanked him so much for making the connections. I spoke with Rosie Mendez after the show and she is also is a Williamsburg gal, going to an elementary and middle school not far from the Bushwick projects.

Most important for me was the lessons for educators (I wish every teacher gets to see their students grow up and interact with them - there's a better chance if you remain in one school and neighborhood.) I wrote about it before:
I've been telling teachers that this is a special show for them. How Ernie was disparaged for reading too much and told his fate was drugs. How he lost 8 of his friends to aids, drugs and murder by the time he was 17. I feel this show lays lies to so much of the ed deform crap - Ernie was a good student yet still had to go through so much shit. Unless we as a society figure out how to help tackle the shit kids have to go through we will be pedaling backwards.
Every ed deformer who says that education through the right teaching/teacher will override all the outside stuff should hear Ernie's story, which is focused on his family - two brothers were involved in drugs - both died very young. Ernie and his friends were accosted by cops - just for walking as a group in the streets. I wonder if the "scholars" at Harlem Success Academy will be defended by Eva Moskowitz when they are teens hassled by cops for being black?

Ernie is so articulate and well educated. It showed especially during the post-show Q&A talk back where the audience got to ask him questions. People were congratulating me for my supposed role in  Ernie's education. I laughed. I had nothing to do with it. Ernie was in one of the two "One" - top- classes I had and could read years above level when he came into my class. And his dead brothers probably were good readers too - good readers tend to run in families. Ernie graduated from Murry Bergtraum HS and went onto college, eventually getting a scholarship to grad school at the USC acting program.

Read this description about "Heavy Like the Weight of a Flame."
A product of the Bushwick projects in Brooklyn, New York R. Ernie Silva honed his talents while sleeping on odd couches, in random hostels and homeless shelters, and while riding freight trains around the country. The story of this journey, Heavy Like the Weight of a Flame, has won the NYC’s One Festival; been nominated by LA Weekly for Best Solo Performance and most recently won the Hola Award for Best Solo Performance. Ernie’s story and performance was described by the LA Times as “inspiring.”
In the talk back, when asked how he escaped his brothers' fate, he said show business was another side of the hustle his brothers went through in the drug world. Actually, he shared some wonderful insights - wish I had a tape.

You can see Ernie on video:
  Promo 3 min: "Heavy Like the Weight of a Flame

Weight of a Flame" is a critically acclaimed one-man show starring R. Ernie Silva

Friday, February 25, 2011

Whose Schools? Our Schools! Register for NYCORE Conference- March 26. 2011

Is this another event that will be ignored by the press while E4E gets extensive coverage?

If you read Gotham Schools you would never know that NYCORE - NY Collective of Radical Educators - exists. A group with outreach at least 5 times that of E4E. A group that gets 60 people to each membership meeting, mostly young teachers. A group that at last year's conference had at least 400 people attending, with lots more expected this year.

And GEM - Grassroots Education Movement - another group that has attracted teachers with a decade and under in the system also gets nary a mention. I guess it takes getting money from Bill Gates to make the grade.

2011 Conference

Join educators, parents, students, activists, and community members from across the city and beyond for a one-day conference focused on exploring the connections between education and social justice.  This conference is an opportunity to network, inspire one another, and build a movement.

Conference 2011 Theme: Whose Schools? Our Schools!
The challenges currently facing our educational system can be daunting and discouraging. Critical thought and effective pedagogy seem to be buried under the flood of calls for “accountability” and “increased test scores.” But in the face of all these challenges, educators are working together with youth, parents, and community activists to keep the fires of critical thinking and curiosity alive. Committed educators know that there is no silver bullet, no magic wand, and no place for rescue from above. We know that the true superheroes are those who work every day with dedication, creativity, and compassion. We know that we change lives not with promises of rescue, but by working in solidarity with youth and their families to be our own heroes and heroines.

This conference is an opportunity to get together and share how we are doing this, in our classrooms, our schools, and our communities. Join us in celebrating the daily courage of educators in our city and beyond. Join us in networking, connecting, and building a movement of educators and community members who care about social justice.


2010 Conference – 2010 NYCoRE Conference Program

Black Blinks: New Date for CEC President's Meeting with Chancellor Black

If you read our piece Black and Bloom Try to Screw Mulgrew on CEC Meet a... where Tweed tried to scuttle a meeting set up between UFT President Mulgrew and parent leaders by scheduling a meeting with Cathie Black on the same night, you will have a bit of joy in reading this:
Hello CEC and Citywide Council Presidents,

We are pleased to announce that we have changed the date of the meeting with Chancellor Black.  It was not our intention to schedule anything in conflict with another meeting.  In an effort to accommodate as many CEC and Citywide Council Presidents or their designees as possible, our new date will be Monday, March 28th, 2011 at 6:00 PM.  

Thank you to everyone who replied to the previous invitation.  However, please note that there will be no meeting with the Chancellor on March 7th.  

The new meeting on March 28th will take place in the Second Floor Conference Room at the Tweed Courthouse, 52 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007. 

The purpose and agenda of the meeting is to meet and greet.   During the meeting, the Chancellor will share the work she is doing and her thoughts about the work ahead.   We are inviting you to share any major themes from your work with parents that you would like her to hear.

As previously indicated, Chancellor Black will be joined by the new Director for the Office for Family Information and Action, Ojeda Hall, and our CEC Manager, Ewel Napier. Please RSVP by March 21st to Juan Rosales:

Please note that this invitation is for CEC and Citywide Council Presidents or their designee.  Feel free to RSVP and send along a representative if the President cannot attend.  We look forward to seeing you on March 28th.

Ojeda Hall and Ewel Napier
Office for Family Information and Action

Ending LIFO Another Form of Racism?

Last Update: Friday, Feb. 26, 2011, 3pm

 Under BloomKlein the percentage of Black teacher new hires has dropped each year from 28% to 14% (as of 2008). 

Ending LIFO will make the teaching staff whiter.

What has a greater impact on kids? Having a sign on your classroom that says your teacher went to Duke, or having a teacher who comes from your neighborhood and had similar experiences growing up?

You just have to take a look around many schools to notice something painfully obvious: the number of senior black teachers and the numbers of younger white teachers.

A few weeks ago I was invited to speak at chapter meetings in a Harlem elementary school, a school that has been invaded by a charter school. I was somewhat surprised to see that of the 25+ staff members that attended the meetings only one was white and only a few were in their twenties. It could be that there is a different demographic that didn't attend the meetings but the overall staff seemed to be people of color.

In contrast, just about every teacher I saw at the charter school was white and young. But the teachers did have signs on their doors advertising the fancy colleges they went to. I didn't notice one CUNY college, a place where you might actually recruit teachers of color. Does Teach for America even consider them colleges? Racism? You judge.

I wrote about this a few weeks ago: The Racial School Divide in Harlem
Almost the entire staff of the public school is black or Latino/a and senior while almost the entire staff of the co-located charter is white and young. And this is Harlem where all the kids are the same color of the public school teachers. What has a greater impact on kids? Having a sign on your classroom that says your teacher went to Duke, or having a teacher who comes from your neighborhood and had similar experiences growing up?
So what has this to do with Last in First Out? It should be obvious - that there is a higher percentage of older teachers of color than there is of younger teachers and an end to LIFO will make the staff younger and whiter.
At yesterday's ICE meeting one of my long time colleagues from the 70's reminded me that in the massive layoffs of the mid-70's LIFO was attacked as being racist because many Black teachers had been hired since community control came into effect in 1968/9 and were the younger teachers being laid off. Our group, which consisted of many progressive members who had gone in to work during the UFT 1968 strike because they considered it a racist attack on the community, went through a difficult decision making process but ultimately came down on the side of preserving LIFO because it was such a lynchpin of protection for all teachers, arguing that in the long run it would protect even these Black teachers. And so it has come to pass.

I want to point out that I had this very same discussion with a young 4th year Black teacher at the school 2 weeks ago. She supported LIFO but was concerned about layoffs. I pointed to the fact that LIFO gave her rights over all the teachers who came before her - what would stop her principal from choosing a first year teacher over her without LIFO? I also pointed out that if she were laid off under LIFO she retained rights of return in the same order she was laid off, something that would probably disappear if LIFO ended.
Racist Hiring policies at Tweed?
Look at the hiring policies since BloomKlein took over. I wrote about it a few times based on the work of Sean Ahern, a founder of ICE.

 Racial Policies at Tweed: Disappearing Black Teachers
 Joel Klein calls the achievement gap "The Shame of the Nation" as he races to black churches to sell his program of change in the NYC schools. But the real shame just may be the drastic drop in the number of black teacher hires in the BloomKlein years from 27.2% in 2001/02 to 14.1% in 2006/7 according to a report from the black educator blog.

From 1990 - 2002 it rose steadily from 16% - 27%.
Also the % of Hispanic teachers has dropped from a high of 18% in the mid-90's to 11% today, though the numbers are fairly consistent under BloomKlein and the drop began before they took over. At the height, Hispanic an African Americans mader up over 40% of new recruits and that has dropped to 25%. And the % of white teacher recruits has risen from 49% - 65%.
 Sean worked with the UFT to put together a diversity resolution which addressed this issue and it was passed at a recent Delegate Assembly. Sean sent this email around yesterday.
"It is an urgent tactical and strategic necessity that  the defense of seniority be joined with the effort to stop and reverse the disappearing of Black and Latino educators."

Bloomberg wants to be able to lay off senior higher paid teachers in order to retain newly hired, untenured, lower paid teachers.  In order to do this the NYS legislature would have to change existing law.  

The senior teachers most at risk are more likely to be Black and Latino teachers. New teachers are more likely to be white as a consequence of Bloombergs hiring policies. Since 2002 there has been a yearly decline in the percentage of Black and Latino teachers being hired.  In addition the senior teachers who are being most targeted for layoff are those in the absent teacher reserve (ATR).  The Bloomberg policy of closing schools in the Black and Latino communities disproportionately affects Black and Latino teachers who are concentrated in these schools.

The link to the article by Jeff Kaufman, former UFT Executive Board member and a leading rank and file spokesperson for ICE (Independent Coalition of Educators) one of the opposition caucuses in the UFT, provides useful background on the activities of a group set up and funded by the Gates Foundation which supports teacher layoffs without regard to seniority.  

Missing from Brother Kaufman's otherwise excellent article is a racial profile of the teachers that are most at risk;  the senior teachers, and the ones more likely to be retained in the event of an layoff;  the newly hired teachers.   We can't force a social consciousness onto Gates and his flunkies but we can speak for and practice justice in our own schools and union.

The layoff of senior teachers over newly hired teachers would accelerate the disappearing of Black and Latino educators from NYC public schools.  It is an urgent tactical and strategic necessity that  the defense of seniority be joined with  the effort to stop and reverse the disappearing of Black and Latino educators

The joining of these two issues cuts across caucus affiliation and is the touchstone of solidarity at this moment within the UFT .  The extent to which union activists  raise our own awareness and that of the membership and public at large will go far in determining the strength of our common defense of learning and working conditions in the coming months.  Leaders and caucuses existing and in formation will be measured by their words and deeds on this touchstone of solidarity.
Defend seniority rights in the event of layoffs!
Defend learning and working conditions - Renew the Millionaires tax!
Stop and Reverse the Disappearing of Black and Latino Educators!
Implement the "Resolves" in the UFT Resolution on Diversity!

Sean Ahern

Resolution promoting diversity in the New York City teaching force

January 19, 2011
WHEREAS, it has been a long standing policy of the UFT to support the existence of a diverse teaching force, both in the interest of equity and because education research has consistently proven that African-American and Latino students who have had teachers of color as positive role models achieve greater educational progress; and
WHEREAS, a study of the UFT Committee on Civil and Human Rights found that in relation to the numbers of African-American and Latino students in New York City public schools, African-American and Latino educators are dramatically underrepresented;
WHEREAS, the Committee found that while the hiring of new African-American and Latino educators had steadily increased into the early 2000s, there has been a troubling reversal of this trend under the tenure of Chancellor Joel Klein with the effect of exacerbating, rather than abating, the dramatic underrepresentation of African-American and Latino educators; be it therefore
RESOLVED, that the UFT demand that the New York City Department of Education rededicate itself to a policy of actively recruiting and hiring teachers of diverse backgrounds in order to reverse the downward trend of the last eight years in the percentages of African-American and Latino classroom teachers and to diminish the considerable gap between the numbers of African-American and Latino students and the numbers of teachers of color; and be it further
RESOLVED, that the UFT use all its resources to compel the Department of Education to take affirmative action to increase the numbers of teachers of color in its contracts with third party entities engaged in teacher recruitment on its behalf; and be it further
RESOLVED, that the UFT use all of its resources to compel the Department of Education and the third party entities engaged in teacher recruitment on its behalf to target recruitment at public universities such as the State University of New York and the City University of New York; and be it further
RESOLVED, that the UFT lobby the Federal, State and City governments to develop and expand scholarships and other incentives to encourage and support college students in entering the educational profession; and be it further
RESOLVED, that in conjunction with the NYC Department of Education, the UFT encourage the development and expansion of future teacher programs in the NYC public high schools, and highlight education as a viable career path by encouraging its development through the use of financial supports; and be it further
RESOLVED, that the UFT use all of its resources to compel the Department of Education to provide expand its support for existing programs which produce large numbers of experienced and qualified African-American and Latino teachers – the career ladder program for para-professionals and the Success Via Apprenticeship program for aspiring Career-Technical teachers; and  be it further
RESOLVED, that the UFT continue to combat the negative depiction of teaching and the teaching profession which can only result in turning away prospective teachers from our profession, and be it further
RESOLVED, that the UFT through its own efforts and in conjunction with the Department of Education persuade the Teach for America program to expand its pool of potential teachers to include more teachers of diverse backgrounds and advocate that both Teach for America and the NYC Teaching Fellows actively recruit more African-American and Latino teachers.

Attack on Public Employees Deals a Sharp Blow to Blacks

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gates, et al Funding Union Insurgency in UFT? ME4ME Workshop Today to Focus on School Organizing

NOTE: Must Read: Jeff Kaufman's take down of  E4E lies, distortions and outright manipulation and dishonesty at the ICE blog (and reproduced below the fold). Jeff, who works in a school full of them, termed them ME4ME - which I am changing to the more appropriate ME$ME. 

If you have an ME$ME person in your school, copy and print Jeff's statement for them because most of them know not what they do. OF course, instead of exposing them like Jeff does, Mulgrew chooses to meet with them.

Insiders in the UFT are buzzing about the upcoming challenge being presented by E4E - Educators for Excellence. This will be the first time in history that Unity will face an opponent fueled by billionaires who will pay for a high end ad and PR campaign and other goodies - there are already 4 organizers, with more to come. (They seem to be doing something similar in Los Angeles.)

As we reported (Don't Miss Educators4Excellence Party - Thurs, Feb. 24 at "The American Conference Center," 177 Prince St. on the 2nd floor), today ME4ME is holding an organizing training workshop that they are billing as:
Come join E4E to learn how to become a better advocate for kids.  E4E is hosting a two hour grassroots training event to help give you the advocacy tools you need to maximize your impact for kids.
Of course this has nothing to do with kids but is all about the adults who are funded by Gates and DFER. What they are advocating for "kids' is an end to LIFO, which will keep the adult ME$ME members in a job.

Our sources are telling us today's grassroots training is about chapter organizing with a plan to prepare for chapter leader positions in the spring 2012 elections in preparation for a challenge to Unity in 2013. The platform will be a very simple one issue campaign: getting rid of LIFO.

Now keeping LIFO alive as a hot issue is dependent on layoffs or the threat of layoffs. With Bloomberg's threat this year, ME$ME is out of synch in terms of election seasons. In my conspiracy tinged world, if Bloomberg doesn't get LIFO ended by this summer, the layoff threat will disappear until next year.

And when a ME$ME member runs for chapter leader, expect the word from the DOE to go out to the principals to grease the skids for them. Of course as a one issue group they will not be interested in protecting the rights of the members in their schools and will be suck-ups to the principals.

So how could they win a chapter leader position? Easy. Many principals run their own candidates who get elected because the chapter is afraid to elect a person who will stand up (believe me, I went through this in my school where the principal had a core of 5th columnists nipping at me for being an aggressive CL.) But in this case, they will have protection from the very top of the DOE.

And watch when they run in 2013 - bet their literature gets some "help" getting into most of the schools. Unity will no longer have a lock on the mail boxes. If ME4ME wasn't such a slime ball operation, it might bring a smile to my face.

ME$ME will attack Unity on their vulnerability when it comes to democracy, even using some of the points made by the opposition for years. Unity will use this as an opportunity to vilify other opposition groups if they run on a platform criticizing Unity as helping ME4ME. Except for New Action, of course. They have no purpose other than to be a stalking horse for Unity in exchange for 8 Executive Board seats. The issue will be whether Unity thinks it is an advantage for them to have New Action on the ballot.

What of the other opposition groups - ICE and TJC? They will be placed in an interesting position. With a lack of resources they would have to in essence battle ME$ME and Unity (and New Action). Is it worth it in an election they cannot win or even make much headway? It will be interesting to see where this goes.

What about a new group like GEM? I know that Unity sees GEM as a possible opposition group but so far GEM has focused on the bigger issues of fighting the ed deformers in the battle to save public education - one of the mantras of GEMers is that they have to do it since the UFT is not. But is that a platform for an election? My guess is that at this point GEM is sticking to the ed deform struggle. Another point is that GEM has been working with parents groups and some of those alliances do not always dovetail with an inside UFT strategy.

Since GEM has been organizing young teachers who are of the same constituency as ME$ME, GEM might take on the battle with them since they squarely fit into the ed deform category.

One thing is sure, ed notes will be there to report on these fascinating developments.

Add On
Accountable Talk has done some great work on ME$ME:  An Asshat By Any Other Name

Jeff Kaufman made some important comments on that post in defending his school:
I agree that the e4e (me4me) crowd are self-absorbed anti-union types but the name calling and divisiveness must end. What turns a me4me into a all4all are experiences where they must call upon their colleagues, Chapter Leaders or Union for help. Our "f" rated school was not based on was based on graduation rates in a second chance high school. Costa will learn that the DOE in concocting this measure did nothing but assure that our school will close despite our teaching. The struggle must be against all misdirected and irrelevant measures included me4me's "taking ability into account for layoff purposes."
Here is his ICE Post, which by the way is another link missed by Gotham Schools (What Makes Gotham Schools (and What Does Not). Gotham posts a link when Evan or Sidney fart.

“White Paper” on a Roll: How Ed Deformers Distort the Record on Seniority Layoffs

by Jeff Kaufman
On February 14, 2011 Educators 4 Excellence, a mouthpiece for the current movement attempting to reverse the current law on seniority based layoffs issued a press release announcing what they termed a "first research-based proposal" contained in a "white paper" entitled, "Keeping Our Best Teachers: An Alternative to Seniority-Based Layoffs."
As our Union remains conspicuously silent on this issue, preferring to argue against the need for layoffs rather than the method, it is time to take this piece of alleged research apart to see what supports their recommendations and whether these recommendations truly support their main thesis; that seniority-based layoffs hurt students and cause some of the "best teachers" to be terminated.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana - New York? Video of Rally at FOX News

It won't be as drastic here, but it is coming. Attacks on just about everything union related using the opportunity of a financial crisis, real or imagined, to go after the working class. Of course our UFT/AFT  leaders have been telling us we're not part of the working class - we are a union of professionals. How's that working out? (When ICE's James Eterno suggested years ago that we ally with the Transit Workers and threaten a joint strike, he was laughed at.) Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine
pretty much laid out the plan.

NYC Educator has a great post up today that nails a lot of what I would say - how great those younger guys can get up early and do the work for me: Wisconsin--Not the End Game
Politicians like Walker indulge in Shock Doctrine. Walker not only took advantage of a crisis, but actually created it by initiating a tax break that caused the shortfall he claims, with a straight face, he must eliminate collective bargaining in order to close. He's also heavily financed by New York's Koch brothers, a fact even the staid New York Times editorial board arose from its slumber to note this morning.
Yesterday I went into Manhattan to see a performance of the Jamaica HS and Queens Collegiate student play about the closing of the school and the disparate resources at an off-Broadway theater. The discussion afterwards was rich and revealing and I taped it all. A few blocks away, demonstrators were gathered in front of FOX News to show their support for Wisconsin - the Middle East in the Middle West - union members. I went over and caught the tail-end of the rally on video. I urge you to watch it - I cut it to less than 10 minutes. I went around asking if anyone had seen one of our UFT leaders around. Here's the you tube link:

Here are just a few quick links of many - check my blogroll for more (which as a reader of this blog is a MUST since I can't get all the info up here).

GENERAL STRIKE!!! Will Wisconsin Have the 1st General Strike in Over 70 Years?

Denver's Rally for Solidarity with Wisconsin Workers

Three hundred California teachers are flying in Wednesday to join the embattled Wisconsin teachers and other public workers. This was in today's Wisconsin State Journal, reporting on the announcement from the Madison teachers union.

There will be some kind of response from the "official" union leaders here in NYC on Thursday at noon. See below the fold for info.

Media Advisory

Ring City Hall!
Wisconsin - New York -- One voice

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Don't Miss Educators4Excellence Party - Thurs, Feb. 24 at "The American Conference Center," 177 Prince St. on the 2nd floor

Thanks to South Bronx School for doing the scut work.  Before you can party you have to learn how to do grassroots undermining the union organizing. Maybe they'll even talk about running a caucus in the UFT elections. Hey, I can do a seminar on how to get the signatures on the nominating petitions. Unity may even help them out, along with New Action their bought caucus so a true opposition won't get traction.

Cross post from South Bronx School

It Is Time To Party With Educators4Excellence!

Hey, E4E is having a party! Yes! As reported by Norm over at Ednotes, Educators4Excellence, Uncle Mike's favorite excellent educators are having a party, a get together, a kegger, a hoe down, a coffee klatsch, this Thursday, February 24. But, it is a secret. The location is a state secret.

The crack team here at SBSB find it somewhat curious as to why the locale of a E4E shin-ding is draped with all this secrecy. Surely, to attend one of their propaganda round tables one must not only give their name, but their home address, their phone number, their school, and their blood type as well. We here at SBSB question why such details are needed. Is this to be put on a mailer? Is it to be put into a contest to spend a night with E4E Princess Sydney Morris? Enquiring minds want to know!

But good fortune came to us here at SBSB the other day. A mole deep inside E4E has been in contact with the crack team. After many sessions of debriefing the mole, and promises made to the mole of New Jersey Nets tickets, and just appealing to the mole's values we here at SBSB have found out the location of E4E's Thursday, February 24 @2PM hoe down is going to be.

The E4E Grassroots Training Party will be held at the "The American Conference Center," 177 Prince St. on the 2nd floor. We here at SBSB suggest that you take public transportation due to the fact that parking will be limited, and that the E4E upper echelon's limos will be taking up spaces on the street. The closest subway stop is Spring St on the 8th Ave line.

Now, just a few tips on crashing a party. You can try the Abbott and Costello method of walking in backwards so they think you are leaving. Also, a method that worked for me at a Jets game once. A friend and I walked into a private suite. If anyone asked we were to say that we are meeting Joe here. Everyone knows a Joe, so just say you are looking for Joe. Or, you can just walk in.

But whatever you do, be sure to be on your best behavior, dress appropriately, and partake in any free food and/or beverages. Also, please give the respect the Little Evan and Princess Sydney think that they deserve.

Currently we are awaiting from our embedded mole an estimate of how much this get together will cost. I am sure Bill Gates said no problem to cost, so let's party!!!

TODAY at 5PM in NYC - At Fox News - Rally for Wisconsin Unions

I know this is short notice. I was heading into the city to see the Jamaica HS student play about closing schools at 4PM and will head over to 6th Ave after the discussion. I will try to get some footage.

Dear MoveOn member,

Have you seen what's happening in Wisconsin? 

Teachers, nurses, students and firefighters have occupied the state capitol building for the past week. On Saturday, 70,000 Wisconsinites took to the streets of Madison to protest their tea party governor's radical attack on public workers.  

Wisconsin has become the national rallying point in the fight that will decide whether our economy works for all Americans, or just the super-rich. Republicans are using budget deficits as an excuse to attack workers, cut funding for crucial public services, and threaten successful programs like Social Security.
With the groundswell in Madison, we have our best opportunity yet to stand up to the radical Republicans who think we can cut our way to prosperity. Dozens of progressive organizations are organizing solidarity rallies this week in cities across the country, including one today in New York.
Can you come out today to make clear that we'll fight back as a national movement, not just state by state? The rally is at the Fox News Building, at 1211 6th Ave, in New York. It starts at 5:00 PM today.
11 other states are considering similar bills. And in nearly every state, politicians are using budget shortfalls—caused by a Wall Street-driven recession—as a justification for cutting necessary public services.
So let's get out there today and show our solidarity. Can you join us at 5:00 PM in New York?
Thanks for all you do.
–Daniel, Tim, Joan, Eli, and the rest of the team

See Diane Ravitch today on:

I Stand With the Teachers of Wisconsin

Dear Deborah,

As I write, thousands of teachers are staging a protest in the state capitol in Wisconsin. Others stand with them, including the Green Bay Packers, other public-sector workers, and even public-sector workers who are not affected by the proposed legislation, namely, firefighters and police. The teachers and other public-sector employees are speaking out against Gov. Scott Walker's effort to destroy their collective-bargaining rights. Gov. Walker demanded that the teachers pay more for their health benefits and their pension benefits, and they have agreed to do so. But that's not all he wants. He wants to destroy the union.

I wrote an article about this contretemps for, not realizing that the teachers had already conceded the governor's demands on money issues. The confrontation now is solely about whether public employees have the right to bargain collectively and to have a collective voice. Monday's New York Times made clear, both in a column by Paul Krugman and in its news coverage, that the union is fighting for its survival, not benefits.

It's time to ask: Why should teachers have unions?
MORE: I Stand With the Teachers of Wisconsin

Why Won't Unity/UFT/AFT Leaders Fight Back? See Puerto Rico and Wisconsin

A union can't mount a rigorous battle unless it is a democratic union.
NOTE: Come and meet Puerto Rico Teacher union (FMPR) President Rafael Feliciano when he will be in NYC in about a week to 10 days - look for more info at ed notes
ACLU-PR Director Ramirez anti-police-UPR-terror event in NYC

I am constantly asked why Randi Weingarten and Michael Mulgrew - or MulGarten - won't put up a fierce battle to stop closing schools and the invasion of the charters in order to defend teachers and public education. Recent events give us some insight into the power of government over unions and how they treat "good (cooperative)" and "bad" (fightback) unions.

In Wisconsin we are seeing an attempt to totally scuttle unions whether good or bad by removing collective bargaining rights, forcing a union election every year and taking away dues checkoff. Less drastic but certainly moving in that direction is what we see here in NYC with a massive attack on the basic protections teachers have with tenure and last in first out.

As we've been reporing, instead of a rigorous defense of LIFO (Why Won't Mulgrew Defend LIFO?), MulGarten has punted, talking about how we should tax Wall Street. Now this is certainly a move in an interesting direction for the union, which has always avoided attacking the bastions of the rich because, as staunch supporters of capitalism, they wanted to keep class warfare off the table. I remember writing about it the spring of 2008 (months before the big crash) when on the day the UFT held a rally at City Hall begging for a few hundred million in the restoration of ed funds, Bear Sterns - just a few blocks away - was being bailed out with billions.

Not one mention was made of the connection between the funneling of massive monies into private hands and the ed deform movement that purposely talks about "teacehr quality" as the key while disparaging solutions like class size reduction that might actually make a difference. (From the first time I heard Randi Weingarten sign on to this TQ idea I told her she was leading us down a slippery slope that has turned into a free fall.)

In order to fightback a union requires an informed membership and a democratic structure that makes everyone feel they have a real stake and say in union policy. But opening up to other voices is dangerous for a union leadership like Unity Caucus because it could ultimately threaten their control. So they make the choice to cooperate with the powers that be - to be known as a "good" union - rather than stand and fight.

A union can't mount a rigorous battle unless it is a democratic union.

Now, as you will read below, the governor of Puerto Rico, fed up with a union that has fought him - successfully - at every turn, has taken the drastic step of firing every leader of the FMPR which would  make them ineligible to run the union. This act is even worse than what is happening in Wisconsin, disenfranchising 40,000 teachers in PR.

This after failing to undermine them by removing dues checkoff, running a bogus group from SEIU against them and other tactics. I should report that the FMPR removed itself from the AFT in 2003 (just search this blog for FMPR or Puerto Rico to get a weatlh of articles) because they were paying enormous dues to a national union that wouldn't fight for the workers.

Here's the gory story:
Entire Leadership of Puerto Rican Teachers Federation (FMPR) Fired from their Teaching Positions

Puerto Rican Education Secretary Jesús Rivera Sánchez dismissed the 11 members of the executive committee of the Puerto Rican Teachers Federation (FMPR)  [unaffiliated with US teaching federations] from their teaching posts and blocking them from exercising their profession in public and private systems. 

The teaching licenses of the FMPR leadership were permanently revoked.

The union's president, Rafael Feliciano, together with the ten other dismissed leaders, characterized the measure as repressive and unprecedented, with the goal of destroying the union leadership and intimidating the teachers from struggling against the current administration's plans to privatize the schools and liquidate the teachers' retirement fund.
The struggle against privatization, against labor rights violations, the right to union, the right to strike, freedom of speech and assembly in Puerto Rico needs your solidarity.   The FMPR is an independent democratic social justice justice union that has defied their version of the repressive Taylor Law (Law 45) and have had successful strikes and continuously organizes walk-outs with parents, students and communities against the horrible school conditions. We can not allow colonial Governor Fortuño to destroy the FMPR with fascistic repressive & union-busting measures that serve to escalate the privatization of  public education (Kindergarten to University) and all public services.

Spread the word.  Angel Gonzalez
Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits.

Monday, February 21, 2011

We in Nebraska are fortunate to still have control of PUBLIC schools

Anonymous comment on Waiting for Superman review in Lincoln, Nebraska
It's unfortunate than in its coverage of this film, the Journal Star missed an opportunity to investigate the issue Waiting for Superman misrepresents. The film review suggests that the film is "not journalism," but the reviewer doesn't perform much in the way of journalism either. Nowhere are LJS readers presented with an analysis of either the real issues the film purports to address OR an analysis of the filmmaker's egregious manipulation of the facts. This is no big secret--a number of easily accessible pieces from highly respected journalistic enterprises have outlined how Guggenheim re-staged scenes, presented factual errors as truth, and engaged not in documentation of the challenges that education in America faces, but rather a polemic that places all blame on teachers and legitimizes privatization of schools. The JournalStar suggests that the film has "generated debate" but its reporters offered no suggestion of the issues that caused that controversy.

What IS clear is that we in Nebraska are fortunate to still have control of PUBLIC schools with elected boards of education that we the people control. We also have public schools that attempt to educate ALL children. So unlike the charter world where, amazingly enough, even though it's a "lottery" for admission, significantly fewer of the students are English language learners, have special needs, are on federally-funded or reduced lunch, our public schools here in Nebraska deal with every kid who comes through the door. A free public education for all people is the genius of America. Do we really want to turn our schools over to charter corporations (check it out in New York--they're legally set up as corporations, not non-profits)that get to cherry pick students, and get rid of the students as well as the teachers who don't perform? (The film also fails to note Geoffrey Canada's well-publicized "firing" of an entire class of middle school kids who didn't score well enough on standardized tests. Where did those kids end up? Oh, yeah, the public schools. . . .)

And regardless of how much you like the mayor of your city, do you really want him or her running the school system as a department of his/her office, with no direct public access to open discussion and decision-making like we have through regular school board meetings? This is the model that Waiting for Superman suggests--the mayors have taken over schools in New York and D.C., handed public money to private corporations (try to go to one of their board meetings)and painted all public schools and all teachers as the sources of the problem. The people who are really trying to remake education are the teachers in our community (and thousands across the country, including big cities)who get up every day and go to classrooms where they deal with a huge variety of student capacity, background, parental interest, resources and more. But that's not nearly as dramatic as a system that creates winners and losers in some sort of made-for-the-camera ritual.

Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill Protest

Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill Protest from Matt Wisniewski on Vimeo.

YouTube version here:​watch?v=5TmSNPpzkWc

Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits.

On Wisconsin, NY Testing Con - and Rochester Teachers: 94% No-Confidence in Kleinite Brizard

UPDATE: Forgot to clue you in to this story in Rochester where former NYC Kleinite and grad from Eli Broad Academy of Ed Deform Jean Claude-Brizard had a 94% no-confidence vote by the teachers:

So much going on I am tied into knots just trying to figure out what to put up. I could do 10 posts a day but I'm wearing you out already, so I'll try to combine them.

I'll try to get to it later but make sure to read Jeff Kaufman's excellent take-down of E4E bullshit misleading manifesto at the ICEUFT Blog

I'll try to do more in depth on Jeff's story - make sure to find his report on his attendance at an E4E meeting - Jeff's school is a hotbed of E4Eers.

On Wisconsin: There's no point in my adding to some of the superb posts out there by other bloggers and commentators. I loved the Ed Show Friday night live from Madison where he called out the right wingers - note how they exempted police and fire but they were turning out anyway to support the teachers. Loads of stuff out there:
  • Diane Ravitch: Teachers are rallying against Wisconsin plan to cut their benefits, union rights
  • She says teachers have been singled out for blame on America's education problems
  • Ravitch: How can we improve schools while cutting funding and demoralizing teachers?

"Walker then used the deficit he'd created as the justification for assaulting his state's public employees." 12 Things You Need to Know About the Uprising in Wisconsin | AlterNet 

Paul Krugman has a great piece in the Times today: Wisconsin Power Play "
"What’s happening in Madison isn’t about the state budget"

RBE at Perdido St. School
Many Pro-Union Demonstrators Outnumber Anti-Union Demonstrators
The wingers brought in Joe the Plumber and Andrew Breitbart to rally the corporatist forces in favor of the Walker plan to bust the unions - but they were outnumbered four-to-one:

And NYC Educator: How Far Is Wisconsin? I left this comment:
In GEM's new film responding to Waiting for Superman a parent says, "First they came for the auto workers." Paul Krugman points out how they went after the private sector unions first.
We have to look at Wisconsin as part of "The Plan" to undermine and destroy teacher unions not only in this nation but around the world. Lois Weiner has been doing workshops on this issue for a long time and has a book out about it, all dovetailing with the work of Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine. Teachers are the focus because when they are organized they theoretically have the ability to reach into the homes of every parent with children in this nation. As a political force the right wing considers teachers especially dangerous as a force to battle their ideology. Of course they don't take into account the Randi Weingartens of this world - you make an excellent point - the unions have already given in to so many of the demands the right smells blood. Negotiations start right there instead of from a point where we will compromise on how much to give. Any fiscal crisis can be manufactured for political and ideological reasons and I believe we have a similar situation here in NY. Note how Bloomberg is manufacturing the layoff crisis to end LIFO.
It will be interesting to see how the union reacts here when things get stickier - look for the same - "we give" on many issues other than the ones that might weaken their control over the members - as a yearly election or end to dues checkoff would do. I've heard some anti-Unity Caucus people say "good." Sure it might open up the union to other groups - but if they were to replace Unity there would not be much of a union left. How ironic would it be if it ever came to the Wisconsin law here - we would all be forced to stand with Unity to help keep them in power, well, forever.

NY Post on the NY Testing Con
From the NY Post, no less - but it places most blame on former State Ed comm Richard Mills - come on, Meryl Tisch and the other Regents are off the hook? There was some great commentary on the NYCEdNews listserve. I extracted some of it and posted on Norms Notes.

New York's school testing con: Commentary on Sue Adelman NY Post

Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Diane Ravitch Makes an Offer We Cannot Refuse as "Absolute Truth Behind WFS" Moves to Completion

Who would you rather receive a phone call from, Geoffrey Canada or Diane Ravitch?
I ain't Geoffrey Canada, but you can offer me for a 10 minute chat.
Yes, we'll be raffling off a phone call from Diane for those who host house or school parties for the Grassroots Education Movement soon to be released film, "The Absolute Truth Behind Waiting for Superman."(See trailer here).

Diane's offer was prompted by the this call from the ed deformers for their WFS propaganda film:
National DVD House Party Day
Waiting for "Superman" is now available on Blu-ray and DVD. We invite you to join us on February 25 for our National DVD House Party Day. Here's how you can take part:
1.     Order your DVD or Blu-ray on
2.     Sign up to receive the Waiting for "Superman" DVD House Party Guide for all the tips and tools you need to host a great evening.
3.     Invite your friends and family to join you on February 25! Can't host a house party on the 25th? Don't worry, you can do it any time.
When you sign up, you will also be entered for a chance to win a personal phone call with Harlem Children's Zone Founder, Geoffrey Canada on the night of your party.
Happy viewing!
Gag! gag!!  gag!!! It took Diane about 10 minutes to respond with her own offer of a phone call. Yes, she sure ain't Geoffrey Canada, thank goodness.

We held our first preview of our film on Thursday evening in front of about 50 people who were asked to fill out evaluation forms giving us guidance on the final editing. A rousing discussion was held after the 50 minute film ended.

There were lots of suggestions and criticisms and we are looking at the evaluations to see where we might improve the film without making it much longer. A key question is "Who is the target audience?" People who already agree with us but have not yet gotten active in the resistance or people on the fence who might be won over? I'm still up in the air on this one, waiting to gage more reactions though I am leaning to the former - we will not be able to build a resistance without ground troops - so if the film inspires people to become more active it will be an accomplishment. There were some suggestions that by sharpening up some of the info we present we might move the fence sitters.

A little history of the film
NYC special ed teacher Julie Cavanagh, who was one of the main writers and narrators along with Brian Jones, told the audience that the movie idea was hatched in my "man cave" (which as readers of this blog know has turned more into a female cave) last August when she and I were working on a short film (Educational Dysfunction at the New York City DOE).

We took a look at the WFS trailer and were so disgusted we decided to make our own film in response. I suggested a spoof but Julie felt we needed a serious well-thought out response. She was right.

As members of GEM we brought the idea to the group and they enthusiastically supported the project. We were joined by DM, who also works in the school system at a public school invaded by Harlem Success Academy (as does Brian Jones) and he became the main editor and a narrator on the film (thus allowing this old guy to rest). Julie also teaches at a co-location invaded public school by a charter (PAVE) school operator with lots of political influence. (The charter school push into public schools is our best organizer). We asked long-time activist Brian Jones to narrate along with Julie.

When WFS opened in late September, we organized a rally at the theater, wearing red capes with "RR" stamped on the back and started publicizing a list of Real Reforms rather than market-based ed deform anti-union and anti-teacher program so celebrated in WFS. They performed a rap song throughout the evening protest in front of the theater. Thus was born the Real Reformers who have performed at various PEP meetings since then.

In the meantime, while we worked on the film, GEM continued to respond as more schools closings and charter co-locos were announced, along with the Cathie Black nomination as Chancellor.  More and more footage accumulated and we were revising and adding B-role as we worked. Once we set the Feb. 17 date we had to move to get a completed product. Last Saturday we spent 12 hours finalizing the draft. A dvd wasn't cut till Wednesday, which made an old techie who always saw so many DoE events get screwed up by bad tech, very nervous.

I ran up to Williamsburg to get a copy but didn't get to watch it till last Weds eve, the first time any of us had actually watched the film from end to end. I tried to watch it as an outsider. I was impressed with the work they had done in putting this together, though I am ambivalent on how we deal with the union - we have a strong piece on the attacks on unions but do not address the problems with the UFT/AFT support for ed deform, the feeling being  - correctly I believe that this is not the place to get into that -  yet I don't think we can totally ignore this point. We're hoping to resolve this in further edits. Anyway, I didn't fall asleep, which is quite a tribute since I fall asleep at everything.

And then came the offer of support for the film from Diane Ravitch (who gave me an exclusive interview for the film - and looks wonderful in it in addition to giving her usual sharp analysis). So, start getting out those chips for your house or school party and a chance to win an exclusive phone call from Diane Ravitch.

Why did Waiting for Superman get snubbed and Exit Through the Gift Shop get nommed? - Ravitch Critique played major role