As I was watching last night I was thinking that Julie and Brian are elementary school teachers, a division that has often been marginalized in UFT elections, at least from an activist mode. Julie is the first elementary school teacher -- and special ed teacher - to run for President in UFT history. Brian has always taught elementary school.
The gap between elementary school and high school teaching experience is very large and as an elementary school teacher myself, with such close contact to the community and parents, you bring a different perspective. Which is often why you hear elementary school people spend so much time talking about kids and parents while high school people often focus on the contract. I know, I know, a wide generalization, but that is how I've seen it.
The opposition in the UFT has always had some disdain for elementary school teachers -- until ICE, that is. In 2002 I attended an Ex Bd meeting of New Action and the co-chair seemed astounded I was an elementary school teacher and practically blurted out, "But you seem so smart..." Well, the people I worked with are amongst the smartest and toughest people I have ever met. As Debbie Meier has said, teaching kindergarten was the most intellectual challenging thing she ever did.
MORE OFFICER CANDIDATES TOGETHER AT NYCORE MEETINGLast night downtown Manhattan had a chance to see and hear four MORE candidates for top UFT offices speak at a public forum. To say the least, they were at the top of their game.
UFT Presidential candidate Julie Cavanagh, Secretary candidate Brian Jones, Treasurer nominee Camille Eterno and Assistant Secretary nominee Michael Fiorello addressed a number of union and public education concerns and then they fielded questions from the audience at a NYCORE meeting. Issues covered included bloated union officer salaries and double pensions which leads to our leadership being out of touch with the membership, the history of the UFT, how to stop principals from abusing the UFT contract, what a member driven union would look like in practice, how destructive closing schools is for communities, privatization of education both here and abroad and many others.
A main theme is that now the UFT has a top-down bureaucratic structure that does not work for the benefit of the membership or the schools. If MORE is elected, the pyramid will be inverted with the members put into the driver's seat. The recent activism of the Chicago teachers can serve as a model.
I hope to see these four and other MORE candidates in action again. I was sitting in the audience imagining a debate between MORE"S top candidates and the UFT's current leaders from the Unity Caucus. I couldn't think of a bigger mismatch. I can see why Unity's President Mulgrew and company would never want a debate. I think we should have several.
Today is part 2 of the activist weekend at the CUNY Graduate Center.