Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Where’s Waldo – er– the Union at Far Rock?

With the recent announcement that 5 schools would be closing, 3 of them large high schools in south Brooklyn, I thought this story of how the UFT operates in relation to these closings would be of interest. Ed. Notes and ICE have been opposed to these closings, calling for the resources to be placed into the schools to fix what is broken. The breaking up of large schools into smaller schools is a gimmick that just moves teachers and children around as chess pieces and serves to further destabilize other large schools as students, especially ESL, special ed and ultimately discipline problems, are forced into them. It also destroys what is often strong UFT chapters. Now add the disastrous provision from the '05 contract that teachers from these schools who do not find jobs will end up as subs and the new '06 provision that after a year as a sub these ATR's will be offered an "incentive" to leave. How fast can you say Guantanamo?

Below is a note printed in the April '05 edition of Education Notes from Michael, a 3rd year teacher at Far Rockaway back in 2005 when they announced the closing of their school.

Michael invited me to attend a union meeting at Far Rock after school right after the announcement as an ICE rep. I followed all school procedures in checking in and was sent to the auditorium where the meeting was to take place after a faculty conference. The school administration passed by me as they left and not a word was said or asked as to who I was. (You'll see why this is important later.)

Ray Tureskin the Unity CL spoke at first and after finishing said it was my turn and left. I talked about how the UFT went along with all the closings without raising a ruckus about fixing what is wrong with the school in the first place and that closing schools was mostly about getting rid of the teachers. If the UFT actively opposed the closing and aligned with parents and the community something could be done. I was there about 15 minutes.
Michael was U-rated at the end of the year and forced out of teaching, mainly because he did not remain quiet and raised educational issues in the school. He received a letter in his file for inviting me to the meeting. That letter was used as part of his U-rating hearing. There was not a peep from the union at that outrage as Unity takes the position that only they should be able to walk into schools and lay their propaganda on people and I would not be surprised if the UFT did not play some role in getting the admin to use this against Michael. Unity will use any tactic to punnish people for flirting with the opposition.

Michael is now happily living in Israel. He called me from there not long ago to talk about the farce of how the union represented him at his hearing when he came back for a visit this past summer.

Michael's frustration and outrage at the way the union deals with school closings is expressed below.

Where’s Waldo – er– the union at Far Rock?

Apr. 4. 2005: Today our 100 minutes professional development was interrupted for a staff meeting in the auditorium for the Region 5 LIS to tell us the school had officially been put on the reorganization track under a “Fast Track” title...though no one truly knows what this means. As usual the rhetoric was that the Region and everyone really cares for us at Far Rockaway(HS) and now it is the “big, bad state” that has come in to ruin and reorg and mess this whole mess up even worse....

MORE appalling was the union meeting after this brief interruption by [UFT Queens HS Dist. Rep, now head of the Queens borough office] Rona Freiser and another person claiming the DOE doesn’t know anything and blah blah blah about our rights and how they are here for us....Before I opened MY big mouth a seasoned teacher asked what the union had done for us....and where they had been and what about the past year and what about now....needless to say Rona got a tad bit defensive and had the NERVE to say she has been at our school a b’zillion times....(last time I saw her was the very beginning of last year (Sept/Oct 2003!!!)....I said loudly “I never see you!!”...she wasn’t pleased .....another colleague said we have felt abandoned....and I reiterated my plea for some help.....and questioned Randi’s absence (“Where’s Randi?...as in “Where’s Waldo”?)....we have been wondering where she has been the past 2 years.....not this week....last she was at Far Rock....she posed for a photo op and said that her and Joel Kelin were working together to make Far Rock a safer place......hmmpphhh...the union reps were trying to make us feel as if we owed Randi and them a thank you for provision 18-G allowing for some type of rights when a school is reorg’d in the city.....THATS THEIR JOB!!!!....

Welll....since I had asked these “reps” or whatever they should be called...about supporting us with press releases, ads in local papers, and some media exposure(if you aren't aware the states concept is to do away with the staff--at least 50%--at Far Rock.....where the new staff is coming from is beyond us all)......Rona Freiser responded “The Mayor has control of all the papers”.....I mean the audacity and idiocy to insult my intelligence--and as if they can’t get something printed either locally or regionally or nationally.....really!!!!!....hold a press conference, be proactive...anything!!!

We need parents attention and even a bit of support and she dismissed the parents of Far Rock as ever possibly voicing concern or support over losing such #’s of staff at our school....however to give up with no attempt is like me saying my kids can't read, so why bother.. "

A sidelight to this story is that Rona threw a fit for my daring to print this and even whined to some ICE Queens chapter leaders about it. Tough. Rona has been part of the UFT coverup of the actions of Principal Grace Zwillenberg at John Admas HS in Queens as the UFT seems more concerned about protecting her than the teachers she has harassed. I will write soon about the role Rona played in stealing an election from an ICE person as chapter leader at Forest Hills HS.

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