Monday, May 7, 2007

Chapter leaders call on UFT to hold rally to fight reorgnization

Actions will take place at Delegate Assembly on Wed. May 9th.

There will be an informal picket line before the UFT delegate assembly this Wednesday, May 9th by teachers who will make the point that the DOE reorganization needs a stronger fight than the UFT has been willing to put up. Following that, a group of Manhattan high school chapter leaders who voted 18-1 to call for a rally in the next few weeks to fight the reorganization will attempt to get the delegates to approve a rally. TJC and ICE members and supporters will be present to provide support to the effort. If the delegates turn down or deflect the motion, or if Randi Weingarten filibusters to such an extent that the motion doesn't get to the floor – one of the above is expected considering the operation of the Unity machine– there is a possibility the group might call a rally on its own.


Below is an article published in The Chief on the actions of the chapter leaders.

Still Angry With Mayor: UFT H.S. Group Seeks Protest
By MEREDITH KOLODNER

The Chief
May 11, 2007

The United Federation of Teachers Manhattan high school chapter chairs will try to convince this week's delegates assembly to hold a rally against Mayor Bloomberg's school reorganization in place of the May 9 protest it voted to cancel.

An April 24 emergency delegates meeting voted overwhelmingly to cancel the long-planned rally in the face of an agreement that pushed back some of the provisions of Mr. Bloomberg's restructuring plan that UFT officials found most onerous.

'Delegates Out of Touch'
But the following day, the chapter chairs voted 18 to 1 to bring a resolution to the May 9 delegates assembly to call for a new protest against aspects they still find objectionable, including measures they believe will punish senior Teachers and those that would privatize some school functions.

"Our view is that the delegates' vote doesn't reflect what Teachers in our schools feel," said Skip Delano, the chapter chair at Brandeis High School. "A lot of us based in the schools have seen a lot of anger about the reorganization and the attitude towards Teachers, and we think people should be given the opportunity to show that anger to the powers that be and to the public."

The chapter leaders were not convinced that the agreement between the Mayor, the UFT and a coalition of community and parents' groups addressed one of their key concerns: a disincentive to employ higher-paid Teachers.

Currently, when schools hire Teachers, their overall school budget is not affected by whether she or he is making the starting salary or the maximum.

Unchanged for 2 Years
The Mayor's original plan would have forced Principals to take into account a Teacher's salary when drawing up their budgets. In that case, if a Teacher making $90,000 applied for an open position, UFT leaders believed there would have been a disincentive to hire him or her over a Teacher making $45,000.

The new agreement assures that for the next two years, if a Teacher leaves a school, the school will not lose any of that Teacher's salary.

The chapter chairs point out, however, that a Teacher's salary is still part of the hiring decision, because even though the school may not lose a $90,000 salary, a Principal is allowed to hire a new Teacher at $50,000 and spend the extra money on something else, such as another Teacher or classroom supplies.

Conversely, if a $90,000 Teacher applies for a position vacated by a $50,000 Teacher, the Principal will have to supplement the higher salary using other school funds.

Tenure Worries
The chapter chairs also thought the tenure deal, which holds off changes for at least one year, was not secure enough. And many objected to private nonprofit groups playing a role in advising schools on instruction, professional development and other aspects of school administration.

"Not everybody agrees that the agreement is so hot," said Ellen Schweitzer, the chapter chair at Stuyvesant High School, "and if you look at the resolution [canceling the rally] that the delegate assembly did pass, it said we needed to continue to fight for changes in the reorganization plan that is flawed."

Ms. Schweitzer is part of the opposition caucus Teachers for a Just Contract. Three of the 18 chapter chairs who voted to push for a new rally are TJC members.

The Manhattan high school chapter leaders had been planning a protest against the re-organization before the May 9 rally was announced. After the protest was made public, they switched their efforts over to turning people out for that rally.

When they met on April 25, the group discussed the possibility of once again calling their own rally, but decided it would be better to seek the participation of the entire union. They are reaching out to other chapter leaders around the city in an effort to gather support for their resolution.

Parent Objections
They are also planning to bring other Teachers who support their resolution to lobby delegates entering the May 9 meeting.

A couple of groups representing parents and those opposed to high-stakes testing, who were part of the Put the Public Back in Public Education coalition but did not sign on to the agreement, are holding a press conference on that day at City Hall to express their ongoing opposition to the reorganization. Most of the major players in the coalition were included in the overall deal and will not be participating in the press conference. [NOTE: This has been cancelled since the publication of this article].

Many of the Manhattan high school chapter chairs were frustrated with what they saw as too little time devoted to discussing the May 9 rally cancellation at the delegates assembly meeting. They complained about an hour-and-15-minute-speech by President Randi Weingarten, with about 20 minutes allotted for delegates to discuss before they voted.

Mr. Delano emphasized that the resolution was not designed to attack the union leadership, but instead was part of the process of relating what members in their schools were saying. "We are a small voice," he said, "but since we have a contrary view, we felt we needed to bring it back to the union and let our colleagues know what we're hearing."

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