Thursday, May 31, 2007

Toussaint on why we need political climate change

In this speech, Roger Toussaint makes a political analysis, not like Randi Weingarten who is all about tactics and strategy and political manipulation. No matter how much she talks about how she helped Toussaint, we all know that after the disastrous UFT 2005 contract, she would have looked pretty bad if Toussaint won a smashing victory. Her assigned role was to be an intermediary with the city, not an advocate, the same role she plays between the UFT and BloomKlein. Some say that is a good thing. But to have a labor leader always accept the argument there is no money without ever pointing to the surplus or the corporate tax breaks or the massive theft by real estates interests is not our advocate and plays more of a role selling Bloomberg's positions to us. Witness Deputy Mayor David Doctoroff's using up a massive chunk of time at the last Delegate Assembly where Randi was helping sell the plan. Contrast that with Toussaint's analysis of who exactly the plan is for.

Lisa North sent this along.
This speech by Roger Toussaint talks about living conditions and who decisions are made for in NYC/US. Not talked about in this speech was the fact that Bloomberg's plan for the future of NYC does not include building more schools for the increasing population. Some have said that his plans are for more wealthy people with NO children. If they do have children, send them to private schools or move! Lisa

(Remarks by TWU Local 100 President Roger Toussaint at the 2nd Annual Sumner Rosen Memorial Lecture on May 8, 2007)

Thank you Rabbi Feinberg, Ed Ott and all the organizers of this event. Thank you all for your support in these difficult times.

I want to talk about climate change. Some of you just had two full days on climate change at the North American Labor Assembly on Climate Change. Is there anything else to say? Especially from someone who is not a climate scientist.

I want to talk about changing the political climate. I have been asked to frame the discussion and then the panel jumps in. Here's a 5-point proposition for our discussion.

1. The political climate is very important.
2. The current political climate makes any progressive change almost impossible.
3. We are entering a period where the political climate can and will change.
4. Which way it changes -- good or bad -- is up to us.
5. So the big question is: What do the groups represented here tonight have to do to change the
political climate in a progressive direction. That's our task.

Our Union knows something about message development. 17 months ago, right before our last contract expired, TWU Local 100 put ads in newspapers and issued public statements. Our message was simple.

* Transit work is difficult, dangerous, vitally important work.
* Transit workers deserve respect and consideration for the work we do.
* Safety for riders and transit workers is our top priority.
* If we are hard nosed negotiators, it is because we have been to too many funerals.

That last line is not a paraphrase or summary. It is a direct quote from full page ads in December, 2005. "We have been to too many funerals."

The response from government and the media was swift and furious. We were denounced in the press for holding the city hostage. We were called greedy, overpaid, even lazy. We were told we should be thankful we had a job with any benefits. Editorials in the NY Post and Daily
News called for my arrest and jailing. Imagine that.

The media was not reporting the news. It was trying to create the political climate we had to work in. Let me add that the press was as rabid or more in 2002. Then the Post said I was leading a "neo-socialistic jihad."

There were also editorials about transit workers in the Daily News and Post this past week. Let me briefly quote from them:

"Safety is Job One in any environment. Transit workers find themselves in particularly dangerous circumstances all the time; the need for care is that much more acute."

That's from Rupert Murdoch's NY Post. Here's another, and here from the NY Daily News, an editorial titled "The tracks of our tears."

The sad, sorry truth is that most of us pay little attention to the men and women who keep this city running. Like the transit workers out there in the dark, dank tunnels where the subway trains come screaming through. We take both - the trains and the workers - for granted. Although the former would not be there for us if the latter were not there also, laboring under dangerous conditions.

We take the risks for granted, or do not understand the perils that come with the job. But this past week, our collective conscience was shaken by the deaths of two of these men.

Meanwhile, workaday New York - all the busy people rushing to-and-fro - should take a moment to acknowledge those who labor underground, unsung and unheralded. They deserve our thanks. And Franklin and Boggs and their grieving families deserve our prayers.

Like I said, the political climate can change. Local 100 did not hire a new PR firm to get these editorials. We paid a much higher price. There is an old IWW song: "We Have Fed You All For A Thousand Years." Here is the refrain:

But if blood be the price of all your wealth Good God we have paid in full

Transit workers have paid in full to keep New York moving.

Climate change is coming. I think we are in one of those historic periods where what we do in the next year or two will determine the way people live for the next generation or two. It's one of those periods where the stakes are higher than usual.

* The future of American health care will be determined.
* The future of immigration.
* Transportation policy, and all that entails.
* The environment.
* The nature of work and retirement.
* War and peace for the whole world.

Use whatever term you want. Watershed. Paradigm shift. Or listen to Sam Cooke:

It's been a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come

Should we be hopeful or fearful? I say both. Clearly there is hope. If we had this meeting a year ago, with Bush and a solid Republican Congress, the future would seem impossibly bleak. Today it is less so.

But all change is not good change.

The last time things shifted for a generation was 1980, with Ronald Reagan. We are still living under that change.

What do we need to make the change a good change?

* We need stronger alliances between labor and other movements.
* We need stronger alliances between union labor and the rest of labor.
* And we need to forthrightly confront the big cultural roadblocks that block the progressive path.

The first one is about the public good. We have had 25 years of denigration of the very idea that there is something called the public good. Government has to push it forward. Society has to pay for it.

The Republican presidential debate last week was at the Ronald Reagan library. It belonged there. Reagan unleashed the open assault on the public good. The candidates fell all over themselves trying to show who was the most Reagan-like. Who would keep starving the
public sphere and push all wealth into the marketplace.

I used to think that the only public good the right wing accepted was the military. But today they even send our children and neighbors and co-workers into battle without armor. And then de-fund the VA hospitals when they come home wounded.

We need a full scale cultural counter-attack on this front.

* The market can NOT provide health care for all.
* The market can NOT provide efficient, affordable, accessible mass transit.
* The market can NOT make the environment green.

There are things the market can do. It can provide 300 TV channels and a fancier cell phone every few months. And if progressive public policy decisions are ever made, the market can try to make a buck off of them.

The market won't provide equality, or decency. It won't ensure dignity in our old age, though it will try to profit if society goes that route. We need to change the culture that worships the market and rebuild a sense of the public good, the common good.

I think this will require taking a deep breath and wading back into the battle over taxes. I offer as a proposition for debate: low taxes are an indication of a society going the wrong way.

Let me say a few words about New York City. A few weeks ago Mayor Bloomberg unveiled his big "Plan NYC 2030" to develop a more sustainable New York over the next generation. This time I did not tell the Mayor to shut up.

Two reasons.

1. He was talking about a big public initiative. It's about time.
2. And much of the content made sense. Playgrounds and green space throughout the city, a sound water supply, a superior mass transit system, and even congestion pricing for lower Manhattan.

But I have to raise the same questions I raised yesterday at the Climate Change conference. We are all for a greener New York, but a greener New York for whom? Who should do the sacrificing? And whose children get to benefit? It's not just about generations. It is also about class and race.

Every picture tells a story. Examine the photos accompanying the 157 glossy page Plan. You will see lower Manhattan, you will see Midtown Manhattan, and you will see Central Park. Not the South Bronx. Not East New York. Not Jamaica. Now read the text. You will see references to improving conditions in every borough and in every neighborhood of New York City. There is a mixed message here. Might I even say class perspectives are being shown?

We spoke out on congestion pricing because we see it as part of the mix for making NYC more livable and more viable in the future. Congestion pricing must be coupled with expansion of our mass transit system, with reducing transit fares, and with restoring the City's dwindling
funding for mass transit.

For us, this is not about making lower Manhattan a more comfortable place for bankers and lawyers to work, liveand play. It is about making mass transit effective, accessible, affordable for working New Yorkers. It is a matter of class. But in New York matters of class often turn out to be matters of race as well.

Look at a map of childhood asthma in New York. The South Bronx jumps out at you, as do other minority neighborhoods. Bloomberg's plan notes that 15,000 diesel-fueled trucks work the Hunts Point Market every day. That's true. But the trucks did not get there by themselves. They did not even get pushed there by the by the doings of the invisible hand of the market. NYC put them there. NYC poisoned the children of the South Bronx through conscious planning decisions.

We did not invest in mass transit. Instead we shut the ports. We shut down the rail lines. And the Cross Bronx became a trucking route. Childhood asthma in the South Bronx is not an accident. It is not the result of unplanned growth. It is the consequence of policy decisions pushed by big money and enacted by government. Policies soaked through with environmental racism.

And still I might take that over what has happened since: the total abandonment of public policy, planning and investment. It is a good thing that Mayor Bloomberg has reopened the possibility of government action in the public interest. It's up to us to make sure that the
policies are good one.

One specific example that might illuminate our challenge. For the better part of a generation,
government has reduced its commitment to mass transit. City and State contributions have gone down, and down again. They even cut back subsidies to the MTA for transportation for school children. And at the same time, they cut taxes for the rich over and over. The MTA
borrowed to make up the difference. Now interest to the banks on bonds is a growing burden.

Bloomberg calls for more mass transit. But he left out more money from the City and State. He talked of using the congestion pricing revenues, but not increasing the City and State share. He left out progressive taxation. And he left out fare reductions as a pull to accompany the congestion pricing push. He left all this out. We better not.

Why do I focus so much on public policy? Ask Dick Cheney. Standing on Ronald Reagan's intellectual shoulders, he said that conservation is a matter of individual decisions, not public policy. Our children are taught that if each of us does our part, we can make the world greener.

NO. Turning off the lights and riding a bike to work will not solve the problem. We better reestablish the legitimacy of the social sphere and public policy decisions. We better reestablish the proper role of government.

One more issue of American political culture that needs a climate change. I also think we need a major campaign that re-values honest work. We are losing that fight. America idolizes investment income.

Wages you can raise a family on, healthcare, and pensions have become "unsustainable entitlements". We are accused of dragging down the economy. Our benefits must be eliminated.

They actually say "unsustainable entitlements." That's from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. Unsustainable!

Hedge funds are not called unsustainable. They don't think the war in Iraq is unsustainable. Good jobs and Social Security and Medicare are called unsustainable, over and over. This from the very people who say that spewing carbon based pollution has nothing to do with global warming.

Wages and pensions and health benefits are not just issues for labor negotiations. They are cultural markers that signify how society values work. Inside labor, we have many members who think their taxes are too high because public sector pensions are too high. Even in the
public sector. I think this is a culture war we have to get into if we want to keep our alliances and our ranks together.

Our notion of sustainability includes jobs you can raise a family on, jobs with health care for your family and a pension at the end. Our notion of sustainability includes parks and playgrounds, but also affordable housing and schools that work. Our notion of sustainability includes an effective, accessible and affordable mass transit system -- and good, union jobs
operating that system. Our notion of sustainability means making life livable for working people, for our children, and for our children's children.

If the lawyers and bankers come along for the ride, well, we can deal with that. But we are not giving up our seats for them.

This means we have to take a complex approach to the proposals that are out there. We will weigh seriously any proposal that can contribute to making life in New York more sustainable.

But we will also insist upon attaching the conditions necessary to meet our answer to the question "sustainable for whom?" For working people, that's who.

I started out saying that these next months will set the terms for a generation. On health care. Immigration. Transportation. The environment. Work and retirement. War and peace. And that we need alliances. Let me start the discussion with my comrades with an observation on
alliances and some questions.

* Labor is under attack.
* Labor is a key partner in any plan for progress.
* If we go down, we all lose.
* So our partners have to be much more than just tolerant of labor. You have to be affirmatively and strongly PRO-LABOR.
* If you (our partners in the environmental and other movements) need a strong labor movement, you have to help us more than you do.

So let me offer some questions to the panelists.

* What kind of alliances do we need to win?
* What do you need from us?
* What do you bring to the table?
* What's holding us back?

We have to collectively come up with the right answers or our children will hold us to account. Thank you.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

May 9th DA Report: Surreality 2

(See companion video on you tube after reading this account. Link below)

Instead of being part of a massive rally to point to the insanity of the current DOE reorganization and the entire folly of mayoral control, we are at YADA – Yet Another Delegate Assembly. With the usual suspects. Scads of full and partime UFT employees, Unity Caucus hacks, retiree Unity Caucus members.

Yada,Yada, Yada.

I’m there early with the ICE leaflet – the top 10 reasons to oppose the reorganization, one of the better ones we have done, considering an ICE committee had to modify the original leaflet written to support a parent press conference at City hall that never came off. Speculation is that some unnamed union leader turned some screws.

The usual Unity retirees are there to give out the Unity leaflet, this time a white sheet with Randi’s comments from the Spring conference. (Later they turn up with an extra special Unity leaflet attacking LiL Ole Me. Oh, da trees.)

Yada, Yada, Yada.

There are lots of ICE’ers there to distribute so I race upstairs to get my banana before their all gone and triumphantly return holding my trophy in the air.

All sorts of strange, officious characters push their way past disdaining the leaflet. They don’t look familiar or like the usual Unity hack refusniks. Too well dressed. Too much in a hurry. With a sense of importance. They turn out to be the LSO’s, SSO’s who will get to use the time when motions will not be gotten to but I precede myself.

The TJC crew shows up to distribute their leaflet. Some have signs. There was rumor of an informal picket line in front of 52 Broadway before the meeting to raise awareness of the Manhattan high school chapter leader resolution, passed by an 18-1 vote calling for a rally before the school year is out. I had reported on this possibility on the ednotes blog (which prompted the Unity leaflet attacking me) along with a fabulous article by Meredith Kolodnor in The Chief on the rally.

Skip Delano, Chapter leader of Brandeis HS is there to give out the Manhattan HS CL resolution to prepare people. Skip is quoted extensively in the Kolodnor piece and did a great job as the MHSCL spokesman.

But the rally isn’t organized and doesn’t come off. Some people came specifically for that and are disappointed. But the feeling seems to be there are not enough people to have an impact. Besides, there are a hell of a lot of Unity hacks that won’t be impressed.

I see so many of these characters that my sense that action at the DA is probably a waste of time. I tell myself that this is it for me. Not worth coming back to see and do the same old, same old..

Yada, Yada, Yada.

An hour later I change my mind. Sort of.

I head on up, figuring Weingarten can’t drone on and on again after what happened at the last meeting. And she doesn’t as I catch the tail end of what she was saying.

Yada, Yada, Yada.

There are some questions. And them the new motion period, the one chance for non-Unity people to make a motion. Randi has tampered with this time again and again, often shunting it far into the end of the meeting. But this time the 18-1 vote of CL who represent a lot of teachers cannot be ignored. But first she spends a lot of time giving people reasons to oppose the motion by saying the agreement with the DOE will be monitored carefully. HOO HA!

So she asks who will make the motion for a rally, secure in the knowledge that she can’t lose this vote. It’s between Skip and the Manhattan HS DR, Tom Dromgoole, the only non-Unity DR. Tom is going to make the motion, a gutsy thing to do considering Randi can fire him tomorrow. I turn on my video camera to capture the debate.

Randi shows how tough she is. She bravely asked Deputy Mayor David Doctoroff to leave the room for the debate but will let him back in if people say it is ok. No one responds to this “hint.”

I figure that Tom is in trouble for even allowing this motion to come up at his meeting, but Tom and his mentor and predecessor Bruce Markens, who is the poster boy for Dist Rep elections as he was repeatedly elected despite numerous Unity attempts to defeat him, actually run democratic district CL meetings instead of just making announcements of what the leadership wants CL to do.
I whisper to someone the rumor is that Randi has been kept informed and seems willing to allow this stuff to run its course. On the surface.

Oops. I spoke to soon.
Before Tom begins to talk, Randi says she has a compromise. Why not shelve the resolution for now and bring it to the (In)Action committee which is bipartisan she says – which means her New Action lackeys are on the committee in force to keep their idle hands busy.

Tom says NO! I hope he likes teaching those 6 periods a day with lunch duty thrown in.

Tom makes a strong statement. Jeff Zahler responds but I can’t hear what he says or even get a chance to get much of what he says on tape because I have received a visit from Michael Mendel who has been sent over by Randi to get me to stop taping. “Randi is ok but the Deputy Mayor shouldn’t be on tape. HOO HA!
“What’s the matter I ask, trying to hide all of this form the members?” I ask.
“You can edit is to misrepresent what people say,” he says. “We’ll have to come up with a procedure in the future.” It looks like I’ll be dealing with security at some point.

I miss Zahler’s scintillating speech where he probably called the Manhattan Chapter Leaders a bunch of Communists.

Well, guess what? The call to discuss the rally in June goes down in roughly a 2-1 vote. Unity people are too busy to waste their time. Deputy Mayor David Doctoroff is waiting to take up most of the rest of the time.

Randi then says that as ex-officio something or other she will bring the issue to the action committee anyway so they can monitor Tweed (those assholes and liars she referred to in a conference call with the coalition partners.) Martin Haber, delegate from Dewey tells me there has never been any action from the action committee. The InAction committee strikes again.

Doctoroff comes back and he and Randi kiss. Their families know each other, etc. Why am I not surprised? Anyone who thinks she has more in common with working teachers than with mayors and wealthy business people is smoking something that smells funny.

After Doctoroff and all the Tweedles are done, the delegates straggle out at 6:45 looking disgusted. A few of us go to Fridays to recuperate but the roach walking on the wall doesn’t help.

Link to video

The Wave - School Scope Column

-- will appear in the June 1st edition

DOE To Eliminate Job Of Principal

As reported by Gary Babad (Gadfly News): In a stealth announcement, the NY City Department of Education today released the news that it will be eliminating the position of principal in all of its schools by the start of the 2007-2008 school year. Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, weekending in an undisclosed location in East Hampton, released the announcement in Dan's Papers, a Hamptons-based give-away publication. Reached on his beach cell phone by this reporter, Chancellor Klein elaborated on the decision. "In every single one of our schools, principals draw the highest salaries. Eliminating those salaries will allow us to get the funds directly back into the classroom where the money belongs. It's a clear, simple business strategy: cut out the middle man."

How exactly will this new plan work? As Chancellor Klein explained, teachers will be able to choose from a menu of Supervision Support Organizations. "Some," he said, "called Big Bucks Supervision Organizations (BBSOs), will be funded entirely by Bill Gates. We're in discussion with him about that right now. Another option, which we're calling Throw Them A Bone Supervision Organizations (TTABSOs), might be offered by former principals. Some of our exiting principals might want to take advantage of the Memorial Day holiday to throw together a plan and submit it to us first thing Tuesday morning. And the third choice on the menu will be our Up The Creek Without A Paddle option (UTCWAP). Those teachers who opt to go the UTCWAP route can choose their Supervision Supports a la carte."

Gary does this regularly on the NYC Public School Parents blog ( But BloomKlein provide oh so much material.

People not directly involved in public education tell me they can make no sense of my columns. That it’s like trying to read another language. Aside from my natural tendency to be confusing, writing about the NYC DOE under BloomKlein is like a trip through the fun house in an amusement park. Well, at least for us retirees. For people still working in the system, it’s more like Nightmare on Elm St. So what about all those SSO’s, PSO’s, ESO’s, and LSO’s? This is NOT a joke, for all you civilians who happened to accidentally wander into this column, most likely never to emerge.

Okay, okay. If you’re trapped and can’t get out, let me try to explain it in one sentence. BloomKlein destroyed the structure of the school system not once but twice and every school is now a free agent (the Yankees were bidding on one of the PSO’s) and can choose amongst all these acronyms. If you insist on knowing what all this stuff stands for –

There are three types of SSO’s (School Support Organizations):
Empowerment Support Organization (ESO): schools choosing this option will join other schools in a network and choose how to receive support
Learning Support Organization (LSO): four organizations to be led by former regional superintendents
Partnership Support Organization (PSO): non-profit groups under contract to provide services

And the winner is...

Empowerment (35% of the systems almost 1500 schools).... and amongst the LSO’s, former Region 3 Superintendent Judy Chin making a spectacular showing at 27%. Spectacular compared to the other three LSO’s. Region 8’s Marsha Lyles (12%), Laura Region 2’s Laura Rodriguez (8%) and our own Region 5’s Kathleen Cashin (7%).

Now mind you, these four gals (where have all the men gone or does Klein have a problem) were the big winners in the sweepstakes over all the other regional superintendents and were then sent off to compete with each other. (An interesting sidenote is the ethnic breakdown of the fab four: Asian, Hispanic, African-American and White.)

Had enough? Sorry, there’s more. Chin’s network is called the Integrated Curriculum and Instruction LSO, or ICI. Got it? And the others? Lyles (Community), Rodriguez (Leadership) and Cashin (Knowledge Network.)

Oy vey! Can I get out of this column? Now! Sorry poor readers, I have to take a stab at breaking some of this down.

Other than Empowerment which may be coming from the newer principals, especially the Leadership Academy trained attack dogs without deep political ties to the old districts or regions, the home boroughs of Chin (Eastern Queens), Lyles (North Brooklyn) and Rodriguez (East Bronx) broke out as expected.

Cashin was the anomaly with a base in southeast Brooklyn and southwestern Queens. She got 55 schools in Brooklyn and only 35 schools in Queens, 4 from Staten Island, 2 from Manhattan and 0 in the Bronx. What explains her poor showing? Having received favorable press for going against the grain of BloomKlein with a more structured curriculum, cooperation with the UFT hierarchy and being the darling of the right-wing critics of BloomKlein (the phonics police) one would have expected a better showing. The NY Times article made the point of how few of the schools in Region 5 went for Klein’s Empowerment Zone baby last year. Was she sabotaged from within? Or did some of Cashin's constituents vote with their feet? Who can wend their way through the Byzantine DOE system?

I wouldn’t count Cashin out in the long-term. After the deluge of BloomKlein, when the Thermidorian Reaction (the revolt in the French Revolution against the excesses of the Reign of Terror) takes place, Cashin may well find herself as the Chancellor when the bobsey twins are out of office.

Judy Chin's team ran a great campaign (this IS all about the kids, right?) She has a reputation as the most benign Superintendent who gave her people the most leeway and the least hassle. Most of Region 3 probably stayed put. She made the popular Superintendent of Region 4, Charles Amundson, a deputy and a lot of Region 4 went with her. (Amundsen was a major backer of the robotics program that I worked for in the region and is one of the most pleasant mucky mucks I have met.) Amundsen also has a base in Staten Island and Chin got almost half of the schools in that borough.

All the LIS’s and PIS’s and who knows what from the former districts/regions and now back to districts who are still looking for jobs (think any of them are going back to the classroom?) will gravitate to Chin, who will have tremendous hiring power over all the others.

New Vision led the non-profits with 5% but they have been tabbed as extortionists in the past as they steal entire schools when large high schools are closed. Being the bag people for the Bill Gates money certainly helps New Vision.

Changes at the UFT Too

Randi Weingarten, BloomKlein’s Consigliore, also announced changes, moving the affable Michael Mendel from Staff Director to Executive Assistant to the President and elevating attack dog Jeff Zahler to staff director to ride herd over the staff and to stamp out any opposition while Weingarten traipses away to Washington as president of the AFT, most likely in July 2008 or 2010.

Weingarten’s goal is way bigger than AFT Presidency. A national merger with the much larger NEA would put her in position to head the massive combined union that would be the largest in the nation and set her up to head the entire AFL-CIO, a unique position for a woman, especially from the non-trades.

Who will replace her in the UFT? The betting has been that it will be former Rockaway resident and long-time Wave reader Michelle Bodden, currently UFT Vice-President for Elementary School. Many UFT staffers who are tired of Weingarten’s act are hoping for the change, as Bodden is extremely popular both in the union and in the schools.

But the UFT is just as Byzantine as the DOE and the changes announced are indicative that Weingarten, following in the footsteps of her predecessors Sandra Feldman and Al Shanker, will not give up the UFT presidency when she goes to the AFT. The AFT president has little real power but lots of prestige. Power resides in the locals and the UFT is the big enchilada in the AFT. To hand over her power base even to a hand-picked successor is a risk. When Feldman elevated Weingarten there was friction between them as Feldman felt she still had the right to tell Weingarten what to do. Weingarten was quick to purge certain Feldman loyalists who did not go along with the program, but most switched in a heartbeat. Would Weingarten fall into the same trap?

The recent UFT election was very important to Weingarten in that the lack of ability of the opposition to make a real dent gave her free reign to get away with holding both the AFT and UFT positions and I'm convinced she will run for UFT President again in 2010 even if she is in Washington and will fly in to run Delegate Assemblies and put out fires.

Both Shanker and Feldman had obvious lines of succession in place so they were able to give up the UFT Presidency at some point. For instance, as far back as the late 80's it was clear that Weingarten was going to take Feldman's place and they quickly moved to get her a teaching license and put her part-time in a safe school. Weingarten has not been as far-sighted, a deep level of paranoia being one of them. But hey, absolute power corrupts absolutely and all that crap. Experienced observers of the UFT know all the signs that will point to a successor.
And the successor is..... no less than Randi Weingarten herself.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What's Richard Mills Smoking?

For many years we have called for the resignation of NY State Commissioner Richard Mills to resign for so many reasons there's no room on the entire web to list them. Aside from his rigid testing schedule and the fact that he was the culprit show issued the waiver for Joel Klein to become Chancellor, the total mismanagement of the Roosevelt LI schools under his stewardship (NY State took over only one school district and totally screwed that up) should be sufficient reason alone.

But we never realized that Mills is also a comedian, as witness the following, with my comments in bold italics:

Due to shortages of certified teachers in NYC
State Education Commissioner Richard Mills is pushing for a bill to allow retired teachers to go back into the classroom for up to five years without endangering their retirement pay and would not cost taxpayers anything The Journal News in Rockland County reported on May 28th.

"We have teaching shortages in many parts of the state, in New York City," Mills said. "Between 11 and 20 percent of the teaching assignments in English (in New York City) are held by people without certification in English."

Federal law requires that students be taught by highly qualified teachers - in New York, that means, among other things, teachers with certifications in the subjects they are teaching. The reason is that children learn better if their teachers know what they are teaching, and children who learn do well on the tests that each public school child in the country now takes from third through eighth grade. Schools, school districts and educators are judged by how well their children do on the tests, so getting children the best teachers is good all around.

Usually, experience counts when it comes to teachers. [Has Mills spoken to BloomKlein lately?] Veteran teachers know all the tricks, have seen and worked with the different educational fads, have hours of extra training and a wealth of ideas that have worked in the past to get their subject across to each new class of children. [But unfortunately often insist that the contract be followed and know immediately when a principal is a bullshitter in over his/her head.]

Veteran teachers also cost a district more than newer teachers, and districts often try to balance experience against cost when planning each year's budget. [Ahh! Someone neglected to tell UFT leaders who have allowed seniority rules protecting teachers to be decimated.]

A district with budget worries can offer veteran teachers a retirement package, clearing the way for younger, cheaper labor. And in the past decade, hundreds of teachers locally and thousands statewide have taken the packages. [They haven't been clued in to how to avoid these packages - Get a compliant union to agree to changes in work rules that allow administrators to force out the highest paid teachers.]

Retired teachers are paid slightly more than 60 percent of their last three years' salary, and cannot earn more than $30,000 a year teaching in a public school in New York or risk permanent cuts to their retirement payments.

Teachers interested in supplementing their retirement can teach in neighboring states without jeopardizing their pensions. Many in this area retire in New York and start a career in New Jersey.

Mills wants to change that, to allow veteran teachers to come back to districts in need educationally and allow them to be in the classroom up to five years at the going salary, without putting their pensions at risk.

"There is a serious shortage," he said. "This is a good time to do it. It should be easier for a certified teacher who's retired to come back without penalty to their pension in shortage fields and hard-to-staff schools."

[Mills should go on the road with his act. and take the hordes of teachers who counted the seconds 'till they got out of the system since BloomKlein took over.]

Monday, May 28, 2007

George Schmidt on a bunch of stuff

The NY Times reported the other day:

Next year, the four pregnancy schools and the last seven New Beginnings centers for students with behavioral problems will be phased out because of low attendance and poor performance.

We always love to get Chicago's George Schmidt's reaction to things since he has been so accurate in predicting the impact of mayoral control/corporate style management on New York. Due to George's warnings as far back as 2001, Ed Notes opposed Weingarten's call for mayoral control when Giuliani was still nmayor and her total cooperation with BloomKlein since.

May 28, 2007

New Yorkers:

Despite the rhetoric that they are doing all of this "for the sake of the kids," it is likely, unless you put enormous pressure on them, that New York will follow Chicago on this one.

Here in Chicago, the same kinds of things were done. Programs that were serving children with serious problems were dumped, amid rhetoric about improving things. What was actually done was to dump the kids from the place of last resort. The trick was to repeat, over and over and over, about how this was being done to improve things for those kids, then make sure that nobody studied what happened to the kids who were thrown in the dumpster.

The same is true of the schools that served pregnant girls. The last thing on the mind of a pregnant thirteen-year-old girl with other problems is making a high score on a standardized test. Ditto getting to "school" every day on time. As a result, of course test scores and attendance are "bad."

But those schools here in Chicago provided medical, counseling and other services that couldn't be mesured by any simple "matrix" (to use that Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush word the CEO types love). The main points of the schools were to serve both people -- the mother to be and the unborn child. To even talk about the "failure" of these schools in terms of attendance rates and test scores is a little nuts.

Again here, the key will be to follow the "We've got a study on that" model pioneered here in Chicago.

Tell the world you're concerned about every kid you're dumping, promise to make sure every kid you're dumping is both tracked and provided with access to better services (across the board), and then ignore those kids.

Just about every major university in Chicago has collaborated with the Chicago Board of Education in this major form of dishonesty. There are no "studies" and for most of the kids that are dumped, this is a ruthlessly Darwinian move by those who rule the city to purge the system of them (and the social obligation to try and help them solve massive economic, social, educational and personal problems).

George N. Schmidt
Editor, Substance

Addendum: 5/29/07

One of the things Chicago's corporate media has ignored about all of these localized recreations is that extreme expansion of local administrative overhead.

Some Chicago high schools that once had one principal and one assistant principal (like Bowen, where I last worked before I was fired and blacklisted) now have three "small schools". That requires one "campus manager" (to coordinate all those operations within one building), three principals, and at least one assistant principal for each of those small schools. Each of those seven people is now being paid (straight salary) more than $100,000 per year.

That type of "reform" is providing a built-in social and economic base (within a new corporate "reform" bureaucracy) for the Bloombergs (New York City) and Daleys (Chicago) of the world.

The people who are becoming "principals" in these configurations never believed in their fantasies that they'd be earning $100,000 a year, or that they would be looking at pensions of $80,000 per year just for singing the praises of corporate "school reform" under the fascist model of the "CEO" solution to urban education -- or keeping their mouths shut about how corrupt it is.

Update on principal salaries:
One of the things that the imperial mayors want to do is create a distinct class of people, based on salary and prospective pension, that is always at odds, because of simple economics, with everyone else in the school.

When mayoral control began in 1995, the salary of the averae principal in Chicago was around 25 - 50 percent more than the salary of the average veteran teacher. Over time, the Board of Education tweaked that so that now both principals and assistant principals are being paid between $100,000 and $135,000 per year, while teachers are topping off at $65,000 per year. It seems that when a "teacher" (and this includes principals) gets into six figure incomes and the prospect of a pension based on that, any loyalty to the classroom ends. That's what's happened here in Chicago. The huge salaries are then supplemented, post retirement, with consultancies.

It's a mini version of the "CEO model" of how things are supposed to work.

Keep an eye on what's happening in New York, since for all the differences you're still following the Chicago script (including the collaboration of the teachers' union with the worst of corporate "school reform").

Saturday, May 26, 2007

My friend's son the rock star

My old Brooklyn College friend Dan just emailed the link to his son Sam's (that's him on the left) latest rock efforts on youtube. Sam was born in Israel and grew up in Washington and various parts of Australia as his dad's job led to lots of moving around (and lots of free places for us to stay on our visits.) On most of their visits to NYC Sam ended up spending a day with the kids at my school, where his Aussie/Washington accent was certainly a novelty.

His dad grew up in Williamsburg in Brooklyn but currently resides in Fremantle in southwestern Australia, about as far away as you can get from here.

Before he retired, Dan worked for the CI- er- US Information Service. Let's see - he was stationed in Kinshasa - riots, Laos - revolution, Australia - twice - -didn't the prime minister drown?, Jerusalem (where Sam was born) - 'nuff said, Paris - in an office that was hidden behind a fake butcher shop, and a few tours of Washington -- maybe even during Watergate.

Dan and wife Robyn (a native Fremantalian?) will be dropping by our Rockaway manse this summer for a month. We're ready for anything.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Margaret Spellings on The Daily Show

The biggest challenge to low student performance: the winner is low expectations!

Hey! Just change perceptions and miracles will take place.

I'm working on a report from the Manhattan Institute luncheon this past Tuesday where Spellings was a speaker. We were served a crock of crap and I got to pee next to Reading First's Reed Lyon. And it was so nice to see so many colleagues taking a day off from their duties at the UFT enjoying themselves. If they're there why not at least say something or ask a question to challenge the many assumptions that teachers are the problem. That is if they actually don't believe that themselves. Look for a full report soon.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Randi, Green Dot, the AFT

Jeff Kaufman's report on the UFT Ex. Bd. May 21st meeting at the ICE blog contained the following:
Randi decided to use her time reporting to the Executive Board to answer the "blog activity" about her recent trip to Los Angeles to visit Green Dot Charter Schools. She defended her attempts to partner with this company and tried to quell questions about the reported Green Dot's position against teacher tenure. "Green Dot is a pro-union Charter School," she proclaimed. She argued that the loss of tenure was actually good for the teachers in this Charter School as the standard for teacher dismissal, "just cause" was "actually better." We can only hope this does not signal a softening of the Union's position on tenure.

So why Randi's concern over "blog activity" on Green Dot charters? We won't go into the details (blogger jd2718 has put together a package of blogger posts on Green Dot) but point you to NYC Educators' posts on this issue based on the praise heaped on Randi by the LA Times which contrasted her cooperative nature with the truculence of the LA Teachers Union. When former Fed Secretary of Ed Rod Paige joins in with the praise for Randi from anti-union forces, it's "Houston (sorry Rod for this association with the big cheating scandal when you were Supt.) we've got a problem" time for Randi's move to the national stage with a goal of being seen as a tough union leader. Phew! The UFT PR machine has a lot of work to do.

So Randi put attack dog Leo Casey on the case and NYC has in his usual style shredded their arguments.

Randi's goal is way bigger than AFT Pres. A national merger with the NEA would put her in position to possibly head the massive combined union which would put her in position to head the entire AFL-CIO. So a lot is at stake when a nationally recognized blogger like NYC Educator shreds her image as a strong labor leader.

The changes announced on Monday in the UFT are indicative that Randi will not give up the UFT presidency when she becomes AFT Pres. following in the footsteps of her predecessors Feldman and Shanker. AFT Pres. has little real power but lots of prestige. Power resides in the locals and the UFT is the big enchilada in the AFT. To hand over her power base even to a hand-picked successor is a risk.

The recent UFT election was very important to Weingarten in that the lack of ability of the opposition to make a real dent gave her free reign to get away with holding both the AFT and UFT positions and I'm convinced she will run for UFT Pres. again in 2010 even while holding the AFT Pres. position which she should capture in July 2008 or if McElroy clings on, in 2010.

Elevating Michael Mendel to Executive Assistant to the President is a clear sign of her intentions. He is affable and well-liked by just about everyone, even by most of us in the opposition. (Besides, he is a NY Ranger fan.) But he is not someone who fits as president of the UFT. The betting has been that elementary school VP Michelle Bodden will replace Randi. Until Bodden is given a bigger role than elem VP and is asked to run Delegate Assemblies and Executives Board meetings that move will be on hold. Maybe one day. Michelle is also well liked, but like Michael, not considered hard-edged enough.

Enter attack dog Jeff Zahler as staff director to ride herd on the staff and on the opposition. Word is that Vocational HS VP Mike Mulgrew is up and coming. Combining charm (he was sent out to Staten Island to deal with the boys in the UTP after they ran Dist. Rep Charlie Friedman out of town) and the willingness to stab people in the back, he and Zahler will keep things in order, allowing Randi to fly in for DA meetings and to put out fires as they arise. But her lack of hands-on will have an impact. No matter what you think of her as a union leader, she is highly skilled at keeping the troops in line.

Both Shanker and Feldman had obvious lines of succession in place so they were able to give up the UFT Presidency at some point. For instance, as far back as the late 80's it was clear that Weingarten was going to take Feldman's place and they quickly moved to get her a teaching license and put her part-time in a safe school (where Leo Casey was Chapter Leader). When Feldman began to turn the DA over to Weingarten it was clear that a change was coming. Weingarten has not been as far-sighted.

Experienced observers of the UFT know all the signs that will point to a successor. And the successor is..... no less than Randi Weingarten herself.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Mendel Honed Skills Negotiating with Ed Notes

Impressed by his negotiating skills at convincing the editor of Ed Notes to stop video taping at the May 9th Delegate Assembly so as not to embarrass Deputy Mayor David Doctoroff during his lengthy appearance, Randi Weingarten appointed Michael Mendel, the current Secretary of the Union and Staff Director, as Executive Assistant to the President. A UFT spokesperson said that Mendel's concern for the Deputy Mayor while 800 delegates and chapter leaders stewed over being dragged to a meeting where all regular UFT business was suspended due to the appearance of Doctoroff and many people from the DOE made him a perfect mesh for Weingarten's policies.

Weingarten said Mendel will learn the ropes of negotiation and "all of the things I have not delegated in the past." As reported on the ICE blog by Jeff Kaufman, "We wish Michael well in his new position and can only hope he is able to win back all of the concessions we lost in the last contracts."

Ed Notes has received an advance plan of Weingarten's lessons on negotiating:

1. Speak loudly to the members, but carry a small stick with BloomKlein.

2. The prime directive in negotiating is to give up as much as the contract for money as possible but create the illusion for the members that nothing has been lost.

Send along other tips for Michael.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Coming Soon to UFT Staff: Loyalty Oaths?

With his new position as UFT Staff Director, Unity Caucus leader Jeff Zahler will have to give up his dual full-time positions of monitoring opposition blogs and as chief writer of red-baiting leaflets for Unity. In a recent speech at the Delegate Assembly he said he was proud of writing the red-baiting leaflet attacking ICE-TJC presidential candidate Kit Wainer.

Zahler brings a rich background to his new position as a disciple of red-hunter Joseph McCarthy and will be instituting loyalty oaths for all UFT employees.

Personally, seeing Zahler's role as full-time Unity attack dog be diminished is a sad day. His last leaflet, which focused on attacking the author of this blog, was a literary work of art. Released on bright yellow paper, it has been nominated for a Pulitzer for yellow journalism.

Good luck in your new position Jeff. Go get those reds under the beds at UFT HQ.

Chicago, Chicago...

George Schmidt provides a preliminary analysis of the Chicago Teacher union election. There will be more to come.

May 21, 2007

The Chicago Teachers Union will be holding a press conference at 10:00 a.m. today, but the results of Friday's election have been widely publicized (both in the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times), so it's possible to begin a commentary.

I'm going to focus here for the most part on the past three years (roughly from Debbie Lynch's only contract through last Friday). There needs to be a separate analysis of the errors made in interpreting the 2001 election victory (and some widespread misinterpretations of what happened in 2001 in Chicago) if anyone is going to learn from these things. And I personally believe that a great deal can be learned, both by people who feel they are in the "opposition" to the leadership in the major AFT locals, and by those in power. (This is important because the leadership now running the Chicago Teachers Union is in as much danger as anybody. They framed the issues as narrowly as possible and "won" on that basis, but they are probably missing the fact that their base is a mile wide, and inch thick, and under major assault -- and not from the inside),

Just to clarify one other thing. I've been a member of the Chicago Teachers Union continuously since 1969 (except for two years when I was organizing full-time within the "G.I. Movement" against the Vietnam War -- see Dave Cortright's "Soldiers in Revolt" for some details). I ran three times for CTU president and got 40 percent of the vote in 1988 against Jacqueline Vaughn and the United Progressive Caucus. My last run was in 1994 against Tom Reece four months after Vaughn's death.

I have served at every level of the union from local school delegate (several schools during my 28 years in the classroom) to executive board (high school vice president) and staff (director of security and safety under Deborah Lynch). I was fired from teaching by Paul Vallas in 2000 (for the publication of the CASE tests in Substance) and have been blacklisted from teaching since, both city and suburb. I was denied the right to remain a union member by the UPC leadership from 1999 to 2001, reinstated (after paying full back dues) by Debbie Lynch in 2001, then denied the right to pay union dues and retain membership after Lynch lost in 2004. I'm currently a member of the Chicago Teachers Union (now, a retiree member) again, as well as a member of SEIU (Local 73) and SESU (the Service Employees Staff Union, which represents those who work for SEIU).

I'm also a persistent critic of privatization and other attacks on unions and public schools. In these things, my record goes back decades. I only offer this summary because some people -- here in Chicago and in New York -- always try to make disagreements within the union into union busting attacks on the union. Also, given the fact that our histories are always being rewritten by the (temporary) victors, it's important for us to share as much information about realities (as opposed to hagiographies) as possible.

This is relatively important for us both in New York and Chicago. Consider the following question: Who are the last five presidents of the National Education Association, and who are the leaders of the largest locals of the NEA?


What we just learned from that simple question (and our inability to answer it) is that in the AFT, we have suffered from a lot of the cult of personality. This has been most true in Chicago and New York, but also in other major locals. Whether these choices (to have our leaders portrayed as larger than life people, from Al Shanker on) have been good for the union is another question. I suspect (but can't be sure yet) that Deborah Lynch may be the last leader of the Chicago Teachers Union to have taken on that kind of role as spokesman and media arbiter. (Note that she repeated for years that her most important mentor was Al Shanker).


That was just a couple of prefatory thoughts.

Although I'll be writing several news articles and at least one major analysis over the next two weeks (between now and the publication of the June 2007 Substance), the immediate facts that need to be known are the following:

1. For the past six years (literally, since May 18, 2001, when Debbie Lynch unseated the UPC and ended nearly 30 years of uninterrupted rule over the Chicago Teachers Union by that caucus), the United Progressive Caucus of the Chicago Teachers Union has run against Debbie Lynch. During the three years Lynch was President of the Chicago Teachers Union, the UPC did everything it could to sabotage Lynch's presidency, both from inside the union and in the schools.

There are dozens of examples of this kind of sabotage, which I'll be adding to my analysis in the coming week.

2. During the three years she was in power as President of the Chicago Teachers Union, Lynch failed to develop a coherent political organization in Chicago's more than 600 public schools and other work locations. In Chicago, there is no substitute for organized "precinct" level work, either in the public schools or in city politics. The inability (or failure) to organize a coherent political organization independent of the incumbency from 2001 to 2004 was a major problem that Lynch faced every step of the way. The reasons for this will require some energy on the part of people to discuss and analyze, and I'm not sure how many people will want to do this candidly.

3. During the three years after her defeat in the 2004 general union election and her ultimate removal from office after the heated battle that erupted over the question of the integrity of the 2004 election, Debbie Lynch and the main members of her leadership team returned to teaching in the schools. From those positions, they remained active in the union. However, their methods for broadening their base were not adequate to the task before them.

4. During those same three years, the UPC focused on a couple of narrow issues and handled them very well. The three main ones were (a) Debbie herself; (b) the contract provision that allowed principals to get rid of untenured teachers without cause; and (c) the relative cost of the health benefits in relation to the wage increase of four percent per year for the four years of the Lynch contract. (The Lynch contract wasn't signed until late 2003, but was effective -- thanks to retroactive -- from July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2007).

5. Instead of establishing her own broader agenda, Lynch spent a great deal of time and energy defending everything she did in that contract, including those aspects of it that were viewed by the majority of the membership as less than adequate. Placed on the defensive, she remained on the defensive by choice. This took place both in the media and in the union's daily affairs.

6. Early on in the Stewart administration, Stewart wiped out most of the major structural changes that Lynch had begun, including several committees that had been functioning to the benefit of the membership. Three of these I was directly involved in -- Delegate Leadership and Training; School Violence and Security; and Testing. Stewart simply abolished these committees. In other things, she simply purged any of Lynch's supporters from existing union committees and made every effort to return to the earlier status quo. Had PACT challenged each of these at the time and persistently from the beginning, it would have brought into focus what Stewart was doing. Instead, as noted above, PACT spent most of its time and energy focused on defending the record on the weakest things it had achieved.

7. Election rules. One of the most astounding things that the UPC was able to do was to return the Chicago Teachers Union to (almost) the place where elections had been prior to Lynch. Paper ballots cast in the schools. Although the election count is now done by the American Arbitration Association, the ballots are cast in the schools and are in the possession of the school delegate for several days during the election cycle.

8. Control of the union mechanisms. Throughout her three years in office, Marilyn Stewart was able to utilize an organization, which was clumsy but effective in many ways, to expand her base in the schools. This she did by emphasizing the contract and the issues, and downplaying personalities. Every month during the three years she was in office, Stewart (or her people) reached out to former supporters on Debbie Lynch, often bringing them into her caucus first through social events and later in marginal jobs (like committee service and a couple of other small things).

9. Stewart was also able to capitalize on one of Lynch's greatest weaknesses, the internal divisions in PACT. Former Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Howard Heath appeared on Stewart's ticket. That alone cost Lynch thousands of votes. Even though Heath had expressed reservations about Stewart, he agreed to run for union convention delegate, and his name was both a repudiation of Lynch and an affirmation of Stewart. This was especially true in the city's 300 black schools (out of a total of 600 public schools in Chicago, 300 are all-black -- among the students -- and majority black -- among staff, including teachers and administrators; this is not New York City style segregated; this is Brooklyn writ large).

10. From 2004 on, Stewart effectively cultivated African Americans, both in the schools and more generally across the city. During the 2004 election campaign, Stewart not only put her base in the schools, but also in the churches in those communities. She portrayed much of PACT's appeal as tokenism.

Now that the election is behind everyone, the challenge, articulated all along by Stewart and the UPC, is to get the strongest contract ever and re-unify the Chicago Teachers Union.

I don't know what opposition group(s) will present their platforms and people to the union's membership in the months ahead, but with a June 30 deadline for the current contract's expiration, the Chicago Teachers Union has its work cut out for it.

As I said, there will need to be more analysis in the coming months, and from many perspectives. I'm hoping to generate letters to Substance from many points of view, and we'll see what else comes forward.

George N. Schmidt
Editor, Substance

What It Means to Teach....

.... a book by Amy Demarest & Ellen David Friedman is reviewed in the Monthly Review. Most of the conclusions seem very reasonable though the points about the research showing that the quality of teachers and student achievement is as much of a major factor (sounds a lot like Klein and Cerf) and that salary alone will have a major impact. I believe that most people who leave teaching in public schools do so because of working conditions. Check out the elite private schools in NYC - the kind of people they attract and the salaries they make. Here are the opening paragraphs of the review. The entire article is at Norm's Notes.

Although some idealize and others demean the work of teachers, few people outside the field fully understand what it really means to teach. Misconceptions about teaching influence the ways that Americans think about the profession. One of the manifestations of this enduring disconnect between the American public and the professionals who teach is the low salaries teachers receive. This is the main issue that Moulthrop, Calegari, and Eggers tackle in this thorough and valuable ethnographic study of the lives of teachers, their daily struggle to make ends meet, and what it means to teach.

The authors challenge the perception that teachers have it pretty easy and instead paint a compelling tale of the inspiration and desperation that teachers experience in their professional lives. They examine what keeps teachers in a profession where they feel undervalued, and what makes them leave. They include the voices of educational experts, policy makers, and other players involved in all aspects of the educational system.

The main premise of this book is that teachers need and deserve a decent salary, and that schools will improve when they're able to attract, support, and retain "the best and the brightest" by paying higher salaries.

Daniel Moulthrop, Ninive Clements Calegari, and Dave Eggers, Teachers Have It Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America's Teachers (New York: The New Press, 2006), 355 pages, hardcover, $25.95.

Continued at Norm's Notes.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

SSO Spreadsheet

A spreadsheet of all NYC schools and the choices for SSO's they made is online at google. I sorted it by the SSO, then borough (city for Queens) then the zip code. If there better sorting options that make it easier to check for info, let me know or download your own version.

The embedded spreadsheet listing all city schools and their SSO choices has been removed due to the fact that it slowed up loading the blog. Click on the link above to view the spreadsheet on google.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Norm's Rules

May 18, 2007

Sol Stern asked for our agenda in case he was going to stop by the ICE meeting today. He also asked if we use Robert's Rules.

Can you bring a few chocolate bars as we can't afford to serve any food at ICE meetings? Or maybe stop by the UFT and ask Randi to send over a platter.

We don't
use Roberts rules - we use Norm's rules: anarchy. The loudest (and biggest) people get to speak as often as they want. People can throw things but a person must get hit by 3 objects before they have to give up the floor. If a speaker is to the right of Attila the Hun - ie. writes for the NY Post or the Sun - live ammo can be used but nothing heavier duty than a mortar round.

Norm's rules in action at a recent ICE meeting

The ICE agenda for the May 18 meeting:

Explaining Marxist economics to pre-kindergarten kids
The dialectic of the phonics vs. balanced literacy model
Impact of arming the phonics police with Tasers to zap teachers who forget to teach the short a sound.
Teaching birth control using multiplication tables.
How to take a class trip to North Korea and not get caught.
Dirty tricks on Randi: broadcast her del assembly reports with secret speakers stategically spaced throughout 52 Broadway 24/7 till people come running out of the building and throw themselves into moving traffic.
Integrating social justice themes in phys ed:
Relay races based on dodging American bombs
Is broad jumping anti-feminist?

Hope this info is helpful.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

And the winner is...

Empowerment (35%) ....

....with Judy Chin's (region 3) "Integrated Curriculum" network a close second (27%) followed by Marsha Lyles (region 8)(12%), Laura Rodriguez (region 2) (8%) with Kathy Cashin (region 5) (7%) bringing up the rear for the LSO's.

New Vision let the PSO's with 5% but they have been tabbed as extortionists in the past as they steal entire schools when large high schools are closed.

Many decisions are political. It will be interesting to see the brough breakdowns based on where the 4 former regional supt came from.

Other than empowerment which may be coming from the newer principals without deep political ties to the old districts or regions...

Queens R 3's Judy Chin's team ran a great campaign. She also has a rep as the most benign Supt. Most of R 3 probably stayed put. She made the Supt of R 4 Charles Amundson a deputy and a lot of R4 went with her. She may have captured a bunch of region 5 schools that did not go with Cashin. Did some of Cashin's constituents vote with their feet? Or is there some factor working here considering the Times article on her made the point that she did not follow Tweed dictums lockstep and so few of her schools in R 5 went empowerment last year.

Marsha Lyles probably got most of region 8 - north Bklyn execpt for the R 5 Brooklyn schools which might have gone to Cashin. It will be interesting to see where Staten Island and south Brooklyn went. Also Manhattan. Laura Rodriguez with access to the Bronx was expected to do better than 8%.

Outside the territories of the 4 Regional Supt, a breakdown of which schools went where will be an interesting study. People looking for jobs have been waiting for the breakdown and now Chin will have tremendous hiring power over all the others.

See more on this at

....where you can download an excel spreadsheet of all schools. If I get time, I'll update this post and put the spreadsheet directly on Google for direct viewing for those without Excel.

(Updated May 19, 9am)

May 9th DA: Surreality Part 2

Coming Soon

Joel Klein visits scene of the crime

DOE Press release:
Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein speaks at the Brooklyn Latin School's inaugural Founder's Day

Thursday, May 17, 2007 – 11 a.m.

325 Bushwick Avenue @ McKibbin Street (4th Floor) Brooklyn

Brooklyn Latin occupies the 4th flr of PS 147 where I spent 27 years, mostly tucked into a corner on the 4th floor with an entire corridor and 3 classrooms for my use. I should have turned it into a condo since that neighborhood in east Williamsburg is also undergoing gentrification. There will be nothing like having a Latin school in the area.

PS 147 is the school where my former colleague Kathy Blythe was taken out in handcuffs by 5-7 cops and shortly thereafter released after an investigation led the arresting officer to say it was all nonsense. "The principal could have halted it all with just a few words," he told me. But she was seen grinning ear to ear. No wonder. Kathy had almost won an election for chapter leader last June and had been consistently critical of the Principal's policies.

You can read more in our April 10 entry:

Query on qualifications for cluster positions

Are there any special requirements for the elementary school science cluster? Or is it true there is no elem science license and that a common branch license is all that is needed?

What does it mean if a teacher is not considered "highly qualified" for the school report card & NCLB? Can the principal use this as a reason not to give a teacher 1 of the choices on a preference sheet or not give them a cluster position that they have had? Is being "highly qualified" equally important for a cluster and classroom teacher?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I’ve been invited by the Manhattan Institute…

… to attend a conference sponsored by the right wing think tank on the science of reading instruction and No Child Left Behind. I didn’t expect to be invited again after my critical comments at the last luncheon I attended with Chris Cerf and my subsequent columns in The Wave. Sol Stern, a commentator on education who bases his expertise on his experiences navigating the NYC school system for his children, will moderate the panel. I hope he never has to go through a medical procedure with someone with the same level of expertise. Following the conference, I get to eat and listen to Margaret Spellings, the Secretary of the US Department of Education speak about the prospects of the disastrous No Child Left Behind legislation being renewed. I hope they have enough wine to dull the pain.

You can read about Spellings' progressive views at Freedom Socialist • Vol. 26, No.2 • April-May 2005

The education Terminator An excerpt:
The new education secretary's first official act was proudly described by the Christian News Service: “Spellings demanded PBS return money given for an educational program because it became a show that promoted the homosexual lifestyle.”

The dastardly program, Postcards from Buster, is a cartoon about an 8-year-old rabbit who travels around the country with his dad, learning about different children and their various ways of life. One such child has (horrors!) lesbian parents.

Not surprisingly, Spellings is also an advocate of government funding for abstinence-only sex “education” to the exclusion of instruction on safe sex.

Spellings was a key architect of Bush's No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), a program that holds schools “accountable” by imposing standardized tests and withdrawing federal funds, or even closing schools, if test scores are not high enough.

The National Association of School Psychologists reports that “being held back in school has now replaced losing a parent as a child's number one fear — and being held back a grade or grades is one of the leading predictors of whether a student will drop out of school.” (See the FS article "The Hypocrisy of No Child Left Behind" )

Sunday, May 13, 2007

UFT Creates Task Force to Monitor Ed Notes

Responding to threats posed to their control of the UFT by the Ed Notes blog, the Unity Caucus war room has responded by putting together a task force to monitor Ed Notes Online full-time.

An entire team of printers will be ready to put out Unity Caucus leaflets to be distributed to the schools within minutes of any posting on the Ed Notes blog that threatens the pillar of democracy established by Unity and Ed Notes repeated violations of democracy, Unity style will be monitored and responded to.

A post in the Ed Notes blog regarding the Manhattan high school chapter leaders forced the task force to rush out a an extra special ( in addition to the regular leaflet) to the DA on May 9th to counter it. The Unity leaflet stated "the author of Ed. Notes, a retired teacher and one of the leaders of ICE/TJC (you remember the guys who always complain) was at it again." (Check the May 8th post on this blog to see what Unity is complaining about this time.)

The hundreds of retiree Unity delegates, joined by the hundreds of full and part time UFT staffers, joined by the hundreds of Unity chapter chair people who get to attend conventions on union dues – all of whom make up an overwhelming majority of the people who attend Delegate Assemblies, surrounded the Ed Notes editor during the meeting shouting lines from Randi Weingarten's hour and a half speech at the April special DA. (see Randi self-destruct in the April 24th post on this blog- Another Day of Surreality at the UFT).

Not being able to take it anymore, Ed Notes' editor broke down, screaming in agony, "YES, I am not democratic like you guys are. Next time Weingarten can talk for 3 hours and I won't complain." He was led away sobbing to the Friday's across the street where Unity spies released roaches near his table as he tried to recuperate with some sizzling fajitas. (Roaches sizzle too.)

When questioned by some Manhattan high school chapter leaders at a follow-up meeting on May 10, Weingarten said "the Unity leaflet was a response to Norm." Hearing that, Ed Notes' editor became so distraught at the trees he was responsible for killing, he went back to Fridays.

Weingarten had originally put UFT roaches - er - staffers - Leo Casey and Jeff Zahler in charge of the task force but the threat posed by the Ed Notes blog is so great, she will be running the task force herself. The UFT has added instant time internet monitoring equipment tuned solely to the blog to her 24/7 chauffeur driven car. In an extreme demonstration of dedication, she will not give up this position even when she takes on the AFT presidency. "This undemocratic stuff must be stopped at the source," said a UFT spokesperson.

Postscript: Yes, there was a special leaflet put out at the May 9th DA and yes Weingarten did say it was a response to Norm. The rest… Truth is stanger than fiction.

Sol Stern looks for radicals under his bed

Sol Stern's "take" on the radical math conference was published in the right-wing NY Post on May 12. Rush over to Norm's Notes if you want to read it.

Sol's hunt for leftist radicals in the NYC school is pretty comical as he joins his friends in the UFT's Unity Caucus in Red-baiting. I have been pretty much in touch with the leftist scene in the UFT for over 35 years and the number of teachers on the left is minuscule. There are many more people proselytizing their religious beliefs than leftist views. (One of the teachers in my school had a cross on his classroom door and gave spelling tests with quotes from the bible.)

And what a pitiful attempt at muckraking. Like trying to brand Bloomberg and Klein as supporters of leftist causes. Only in the NY Post. And from the pen of Sol Stern.

Sol attended the math conference (see my post of May 11 on this blog). He attended Erica Litke's workshop which lasted an hour and a half. He asked questions. Where is evidence in his Post op-ed of his attendance? Apparently Erica didn't give him the smoking gun he was looking for. Ah, there is fair and balanced for you. Sol and the Post think that just using the word "radical" will get a buzz going.

I briefly attended a symposium at the conference where a high school teacher from Oakland humorously went into some detail that the word "radical" in the math world has more connotations than the way it is commonly used and is especially relevant to math teachers. Sol was in the audience but must have missed it. Soon Sol will be writing that the expression "free radicals" used in nutrition is a leftist plot to get political prisoners out of detention.

All Sol could report on after a full day of attendance was what he could glean from the conference brochure. And a few words from college professor Marilyn Frankenstein that food should be as free as air. Like free food would be a bad thing. Under Sol's and Rupert Murdoch's supposed free market economy (where anyone with money can buy the government) the air wouldn't be free either.

Amazing new technology will put computers to shame

Friday, May 11, 2007

Taking a shot at Bloomberg's presidential balloon

On the Bloomberg presidential balloon:
Times description : Visitors "will find celebratory images of the mayor holding children and smiling amid a receptive public."

Noel, a parent of a pre-k child, writes on the nyceducationnews listserve:

It's too bad that those "celebratory images" couldn't be put side by side with some decidedly less celebratory images of parents and teachers rallying together yesterday. For one short moment there was a coalition that could have made a large public statement against Bloomberg's "reforms", a statement that would have been impossible to ignore. That coalition was broken in exchange for a handful of supposed concessions that have already turned out to be empty, and the net result was a loss in morale, a loss of collective energy, and the loss of an opportunity to stop this juggernaut which is rolling through New York City and on to
Washington, furthering the reach of this disastrous "accountability" that is sucking the last life out of our democratic public education system.

I know this is just stating the obvious, but next time there's an opportunity to work together on such broad terms, if there is such an opportunity, I hope the parties involved will be a little less short-sighted and a little less easily placated.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sol Stern and Social Justice

"Admit it! You and Joel Klein are on the same side." Thus spat Sol Stern at me when we ran into each other at the radical math conference a few weeks ago. Sol is the Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow and contributing editor to the right leaning City Journal who writes on education, solidifying his reputation with critics of unions and advocates of vouchers - the idea of offering competition to the public schools. Breaking Free: Public School Lessons and the Imperative of School Choice.

In an interview with National Review Online in 2003, Stern said, "I started writing about education in 1994 when my kids were in the New York City public schools and I realized that the teachers' union contract was a big impediment to school improvement." His experience with his kids and the fact that the union contract allowed an incompetent math teacher to transfer into the top-level Stuyvesant from the low-performing Seward Park HS seemed to be enough for Sol to make a general assessment that the contract and it's allowance of a few hundred teachers each year to take seniority transfers was a major cause of the ills of the NYC school system. (Sol has accused me of making some of this up but I've heard him tell this story numerous times.)

One would expect a natural enmity towards Sol from the teachers unions and the UFT in particular. And in the early years of Randi Weingarten's tenure she did attack Sol at various UFT functions as our enemy. And there was some sniping from some of her minions at me for writing favorably about some of Sol's ideas, though I can't seem to remember any of them offhand at this time.

I got to know Sol years ago through Education Notes when asked to be added to my mailing list and we have had a number of battles (friendly) over the years arguing education policy. He is very sharp (and funny) makes one really defend their position and my understanding of my own point of view (that it is more correct that I thought) has benefited from these discussions. I also benefited from the invitation to Sol's book release at the Harvard Club where I got a yummy meal (why wasn't I surprised to find a UFT staffer like Joe Colletti there too?). I did get to ask him a question as to why he wasn't happy that the poor kids at Seward Park HS got to benefit when that math teacher went to Stuyvesant.

I know, I know. Everyone wants to get rid of bad teachers though I don't hear the same enormous outcry about bad doctors or cops, who can actually kill you instead of causing a slight disruption in your knowledge of calculus. And the argument that bad teachers cannot be gotten rid of is part of the principals propaganda machine where they claim that - poor babies - they actually have to document why they want to remove a tenured teacher instead of being able to fire them instantly for reasons like they don't like the color of their tie. Or because they don't bow and scrape before them.

Joel Klein has made many of the same arguments on seniority as Sol. Sadly, UFT president Randi Weingarten seems to agree as she joined Klein in gutting the entire seniority structure that has protected senior teachers.

Ah! Sol, Randi and Joel on the same page. A perfect alignment of the stars. But here it gets complicated. In a perfect ideological world one would expect it to be Joel and Sol vs. Randi. But it turns out to be Randi & Sol vs. Joel. On paper at least. As you know by now, Randi plays every side against the middle and I urge you to follow my golden rule -- watch what she does, not what she says.

It seems that Joel's move to use what Sol calls the progressive curriculum have made Sol and his allies like Diane Ravitch and columnist Andy Wolfe of the right leaning NY Sun big-time critics of Joel. There are other issues, of course, but the attacks on Joel by Sol have driven Randi and Sol into the same camp. Sol even got some nice space in the NY Teacher recently. Nice. Anyone but actual teachers like people in ICE and TJC who represent 20% of the working teachers should be able to get space in our paper.

Thus we come to Sol and the radical math conference. Sol has been writing about social justice in education as it relates to teachers' beliefs and to what extent they might be imposing them on their students. The recent controversy over the Beacon School student trip to Cuba has generated much press in the NY Post and the NY Sun. When a group of NYC teachers decided to hold a math conference (
they got a tremendous response from all over the nation and over 400 people registered.

Sol Stern was one of them, obviously looking to upgrade his skills so he could do his own taxes. Knowing full well they were not exactly going to get a fair and balanced viewpoint, the organizers handled Sol with aplomb.

I went to the conference as a volunteer, not a participant. I was a left-leaning teacher and I was open about presenting what I thought on issues to my classes because I felt kids want to know where you stand as a teacher. (I did try to avoid issues of religion though because the kids were involved with churches and I was an atheist, though that didn't stop me from having great holiday decorations going on in my classroom). I also tried to give them both sides but in today's world how does a teacher who is vehemently anti-war give the kids a fair presentation of that idiot - er - I mean - President Bush point of view? I and other volunteers were there to show these teachers some support for their activities.

Sol attended the Powers to the People: Unit Projects for Algebra 2 and Pre-calculus workshop with Erica Litke, a teacher at Lower East Side prep.

In this interactive session, participants will explore mathematics projects from Algebra 2 and Pre-calculus that integrate the curricular objectives of upper level mathematics with real-life social justice themes. With a focus on mathematical modeling, projects will include topics such as linear inequalities, exponential functions and logarithms, and regression analysis of a set of data. Participants will work through the mathematics of the projects, examine student work and brainstorm projects for other topics in the Algebra 2 /Precalculus curriculum.

I spoke to Erica after her workshop and she said Sol asked a few questions. Probably about the logarithms. Or maybe regression analysis. And those linear inequalities - here is a clear case of a teacher using math to influence students, always raising the issue of inequalities.

I ran into Sol after Erica's workshop. That is where he accused me of being aligned with Klein. "Joel Klein has created more schools with social justice themes than any chancellor in history," Sol said. Finally, Joel has done something right. If only he hadn't ripped the school system apart by shoving all these schools into larger ones. Well, one out of two on this one.

Well, people are waiting to see what Sol writes about his experience. Will Erica be condemned for unduly trying to influence her students? Or will Sol decide that he would rather have Erica teaching his children than that teacher who transferred into Stuyvesant?

The right wing attacks on teachers who use social justice themes in their teaching to engage their kids will continue. Instead of being defensive, they are striking back. Sally Lee of Teacher's Unite starts with her letter to the NY Sun followed by a reprint of an article in City Limits about the conference. You can read some of them at my other blog, Norm's Notes.