Friday, September 28, 2012

Analysis: NEST+M Teachers Meet With Mulgrew

The UFT brought out the entire crew. There were almost as many of them as us...... Attendee at meeting of NEST+M teachers with Mulgrew & core of advisors
With the story hitting Gotham Schools, Mulgrew now, out of nowhere, wants to meet with the entire staff.  My guess is that they are furious with the chapter because the teachers did all of what they did, without any backing of the people at the Manhattan Borough Office.  The Manhattan Borough Office, though, has always felt that because the teachers at Nest don't have the serious issues other D1 schools have they should just be happy and not complain about anything.  Therefore, they have done very little over the years to get through to Livanis.  Well, the pressure has been building for six years and has finally blown.  I think they need you, and the organizers of MORE, to help and guide them through the no man's land between UFT and DOE. --- Anon source
If you haven't been following the story at NEST+M you must get over to Gotham and read the story and the comments. Many parents support the teachers.

Simmering tensions at NEST+M boil over on Curriculum Night

Teachers at a school where hundreds of parents signed a petition against the principal this summer continued the protest today by boycotting Curriculum Night. Teachers at New Explorations in Science, Technology, and Math, or NEST+M, announced the boycott via email this afternoon, telling parents that Principal Olga Livanis had not soothed relations with the staff after she surprised several of them with “unsatisfactory” ratings. -- Gotham Schools, Sept. 20, 2012
Teachers took action by boycotting curriculum night (which they have never been paid for in the past), not an easy thing to do but given the background of the deteriorating relationship with principal Olga Livanis, their frustration came out. Most of this is fleshed out in the Gotham comments where teachers, parents and students (and me and others) have been commenting. They tried to meet with the principal to discuss some arrangement where they would get some comp time for showing up -- really, as a show of faith on her part that she was willing to work with the teachers and show them some respect -- but she rejected, insulted, abused, etc.

Apparently, Livanis is so socially inept, she makes Mitt Romney look like a  smoothie.

As always, I'm interested in what the UFT did and didn't do both before and after the teachers took their action and it went public last week which led to Mulgrew asking the teachers to meet with him, which 20 of them did on Monday night (Sept. 24) with about 10 union officials, an indication of the level of crisis mode the UFT was viewing this.

The union promised to get more involved and become more of a presence in the school. The key person on the ground for the UFT has been the District Rep who many people at NEST+M seem to like but feel her hands may have been tied from above, with some blaming the Manhattan Borough chief for ignoring the situation.

I get two types of stories. One is that the District Rep did what she could do, arranging meetings with higher ups, etc. And another that she and the union did not do enough. She does get credit for helping turn back a Discontinue for an untenured teacher but might have done more on the U-ratings.

Someone left a comment at Gotham about the principal's treatment of the Chapter Leader - disrespectful and practically abusive. To me that should be a call for a press conference. But that is me.

7 U-ratings in one year at a top schools should raise a red flag

Principal Olga Livanis gave out 7 U ratings and a Discontinue to a non-tenured and popular teacher last year, in addition to driving at least one top notch fed-up teacher into resigning. The D is a career-ender (vs a U which would have allowed the teacher to remain in the system), a vicious act on the part of any principal --- how the UFT allows the handing of a loaded gun to every principal is outrageous. Even if a principal wants to hire a Discontinued teacher, they couldn't, so this amounts to perpetrating an act of murder on a teacher's career. The clearly unfair D outraged teachers and parents to the extent that the union did make some arrangement with the Superintendent to overturn it. So give the union a plus for that  – though I can tell you loads of D people who got fired and not a peep from the union, which throws up its hands. It does show you that it takes enormous pressure on the union, mostly when things threaten to go public, to get them to pressure the DOE when it wants to.

Reasons for U-Ratings a joke

When you hear the reasons for the U-ratings Livanis gave out, even in today's world of lunatic principals, you have to be astounded. Like if a child complains about you once, BAM, you get a U for the year. Just to remind people -- the U means frozen salary steps, no after school or summer jobs, and an inability to transfer. It is a career threat subjecting you to attacks on all sides, including the press and slugs like E4E leaders. Yet Livanis seems to feel, oh, la-di-da, what's the big deal? She's a real lune, with the social skills of an --- I hate to insult them - an ardvark.

Parents support teachers

Not the least of angles here is that most of the NEST+M parents, especially the most active ones who work with the teachers and see how much they give every day, support them. They feel almost all the U's were ridiculous. They are a potentially powerful political source of support for the teachers. This may be one politically interesting case.

Imagine if they actually pulled the Parent Trigger and removed the principal. Hmmmm. One interesting event to watch is the level of parent unhappiness with the possible cancellation of many sports teams because U rated teachers who handle the sports cannot work after school. This may turn out to be a serious flashpoint.


Teachers invited to meet with Livanis - sort of

Last week, Livanis invited the staff to come to a staff meeting, ostensibly to "solve problems together." Words like "we're a family" and "keeping the story inside" and "we'll get professional help to solve our problems" were supposedly used.

Instead they sat through a 40-minute presentation on special ed. Only after that meeting did things open up -- naturally, on the teachers' own time. 75% remained for another hour of venting. Teachers talked about fear of taking school trips because if the slightest thing happened they might be U-rated. They told Livanis if she was unhappy with a teacher they should be told early on so they could make changes, instead of telling them the last week of school they were getting a U. They called on Livanis to revisit the files of the 7 U-rated people.

Interesting point: the UFT people are saying that all Livanis has to do is make a call and the U would be rescinded. Is this true? Hard to believe it is but not hard to believe that some people in the UFT have their heads up their asses.

What does the UFT really want?

So, immediately upon the publication at Gotham, the UFT contacted people at the school that Mulgrew wanted to meet with them. Eyebrows were raised since they had been petitioning the UFT for some higher level of support for some time, but the teachers were happy that they finally were getting a response. Again, there is a feeling in the school that the UFT ignored them because they get top students and even with a lousy principal, compared to the chaos in other schools, the union views them as having things relatively easy.

Monday night, 20 teachers went over to 52 Broadway to meet with what one source said was about 10 UFT officials -- the UFT brought out the house to deal with this crisis. And don't think that the UFT doesn't view this as a crisis -- for them. (It has been a crisis for the teachers for a long time.) It is a public relations crisis for the union because
  • a) they feel actions like this hurt the image of teachers -- and they are not wrong here, but most important 
  • b) they are exposed on a number of grounds -- ineffective in protecting teachers and not caring enough to even try doing something serious about it.
So a major goal of Mulgrew is/was to shut down the public debate -- create a black hole where the only thing coming out is what the union wants to come out -- not necessarily in the interests of the NEST+M teachers, but of the UFT.

As often happens in these type of situations, the teachers feel relieved - initially -- wow, the UFT is finally going to get involved. They will be coming to the school. OK. I don't want to shoot down their bubble, but let's see where things stand in a few months. Maybe an article with loads of pics of in the NY Teacher showing how much Mulgrew cares.Will the UFT lead rallies and protests and help organize parents to call for the removal of Livanis? Don't be on it.

My guess is the UFT wants to bury this story as much as the DOE and the principal does. Why, because it exposes the UFT as
  • a) weak 
  • b) neglectful 
  • c) doesn't give a shit until it goes public  
  • d) all of the above
Here is an edited email from an anonymous source regarding the UFT:
With the story hitting Gotham Schools, Mulgrew now, out of nowhere, wants to meet with the entire staff.  My guess is that they are furious with the chapter because the teachers did all of what they did, without any backing of the people at the Manhattan Borough Office.  The Manhattan Borough Office, though, has always felt that because the teachers at Nest don't have the serious issues other D1 schools have they should just be happy and not complain about anything.  Therefore, they have done very little over the years to get through to Livanis.  Well, the pressure has been building for six years and has finally blown.  I think they need you, and the organizers of MORE, to help and guide them through the no man's land between UFT and DOE.
If the call for MORE was a trigger for UFT sudden involvement then MORE is doing its job just by existing.
 
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NEST+ Background

The K-12 NESt+M, on the lower east side, has been one of the most coveted schools by teachers and parents. An old friend of mine out here in Rockaway, used to drive his 5-year old grandson into Manhattan every day just to go there. There was some controversy about the school years back when Joel Klein tried to shove in the Ross Global Charter run by a millionaire but was turned back by the founding principal who organized parents. Klein got even by finding some dirt on her (she was no angel), forcing her to resign, and installing Livanis, who was an AP at Stuyvesant. I posted - (Ross Launches Missile and Goes Ballistic and urged people to read the great Jeff Coplon piece in NY Mag about the history of the school – (NEST+m: An Allegory). I met Jeff, not an education writer, and told him that was one of the best education pieces I've read.

7 comments:

  1. Norm - What does the Principal's Union do in a case like this?

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  2. They back the principal all the way, just like Tweed does. The fact that the UFT cooperates with instead of declaring war on the CSA is maddening.

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  3. I visited NEST+M in my search for the G&T program for my daughter, and I picked up on seriously negative vibes. Obviously the kids and the teachers are tops, but the administration was very, very off-putting. I loved Andersen and the School of Inquiry, so to get such a bad feeling about this school meant something was very, very wrong. I hope the publicity grows and grows. It goes to show that this nonsense happens everywhere. Go NEST+M parents and teachers. I support you all the way!

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  4. A similar form of education and training standards could be formulated in the same way as the electrical trades industry, with training providers obtaining licenses to create, develop or to deliver education and training courses to the public.

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  5. I went to the school tour for incoming Sept 2013. The guidance counselor never showed up. The same K teacher presented at all the tours. Makes me wonder.. since it is during school time..why aren't the other 3 K teachers expressing their thoughts. The principal did not seem too interested in the lower grade schools, as she didn't know the details in regards to schedules and clusters - instead the K teacher would respond.

    Any current parent feedback??

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    Replies
    1. As a recent former NEST parent, I can tell you that this school is very poorly run. Everything from scheduling to testing is disorganized, and the poor guidance staff and teachers have to "fix" a lot of the administration's mistakes.

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  6. I'm a NEST teacher. As predicted, NOTHING came out of this union meeting. Teachers are angrier than ever and Livanis's ratings continue to drop...while she either fails to understand--or chooses to ignore--any feedback from her staff. She regularly comes late to or doesn't attend SLT meetings and Consultation Committee meetings with teachers volunteering their time. It's all very disrespectful and demoralizing.

    ReplyDelete

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