Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Privatization & Mayoral Control

Mayoral control of school systems is a symptom rather than a cause. What has occurred is privatization of policy over public schools, where people like Eli Broad and Bill Gates get to use their private money to make public policy and shape urban public school system the way they want to without public oversight. Mayoral control is their instrument since it allows then to do their thing without having to open themselves up to public scrutiny. All they have to do is get Bloomberg, et al on board, which is easy to do by the offer of money.

Can you imagine them getting away with this in places like Scarsdale? "We think you should break up your high school into small schools."

All over this nation, local people have some say over their schools. But not the people in urban areas that have given themselves over to mayoral control. When the UFT agreed to this model, we should not pretend they did not know what they hath done. They hath proven themselves part of the Broad/Gates cabal of corporate takeover of the public schools to the detriment of students, teacher, parents and the general public.

What Joel Klein Really Wants

From his first days Klein claimed the UFT contract hindered his ability to place experienced teachers in schools of high need and wanted the ability to do so. The UFT basically agreed but claimed (for public consumption) they wanted some merit system to get people to work in these schools. The extended day idea in the Chancellor's district under former chancellor Rudy Crew was a form of this idea. When I started teaching in '67, schools classified as special service (poverty areas) gave extra preps to teachers for years, a form of merit pay, so the idea is not new.

What Klein, with the assistance of the UFT, has put into place is a system that just about guarantees the chance of experienced teachers ending up in these, or any, schools, is very unlikely.

The ideal contract for Joel Klein

Woodlass, in a follow-up comment on the ICE blog post by Jeff Kaufman on the evisceration of seniority, made a very cogent point exposing BloomWeinKlein.

Thanks for the historical and structural overview described in the post and the first comment. You can rely on ICE to provide background information on grave union issues such as these, and I regret deeply, both on a personal and a collective level, that the people running this union and ultimately responsible for maintaining our existing job protections break so frequently with long-standing union goals.

I would like to comment on something the Chancellor has pushed for and what he has actually done.

One of Klein's earliest and most continuously iterated goals has been to be able to put good experienced teachers where they are needed, in the more difficult schools. His two recent initiatives, the Open Market hiring system and the way teachers will soon be paid (directly from the principal's budget), have not only hobbled his cause, but have shown him to be duplicitous.

Experienced senior teachers who indeed want to work in tough schools for a variety of reasons (the commute, the level, the challenge) have just become expensive. It is attractive for a principal to avoid calling them in for an interview, let alone hiring them.

Young teachers who spend a year or two in a difficult school are already looking to transfer out, to what they think is a better school in another district or out of New York City altogether. There is no reason for a new teacher to settle into a school with a difficult environment or one they're not happy in when adequate skills and a low salary makes them highly marketable. They'll apply to the schools with good reputations, and by gosh, they'll get those jobs.

It used to be that job vacancies were frozen until excessed teachers were placed, but the Human Resources people are no longer allowed to do this. The vacancies will be filled with new and fairly newly instructors, some of whom do not yet have a Masters. And even before these young teachers get tenure and full certification, they too will get the chance to look for and take that job in a "better" school. This is not conjecture, I already know of many examples.

The Lead Teacher program puts a few experienced teachers in difficult schools - for a salary bonus, and for only half their time teaching. That's a failure for the city's kids no matter how they spin it, and since it's a form of merit pay, it's a failure for labor, too.

There is not one item in the chancellor's agenda that will put good experienced teachers in full-time teaching programs in difficult schools and make them want to stay there.

The Chancellor is a fraud, the Mayor still backs him, and it looks as if Union leadership has a different agenda than what's in our best interest. I can't believe they thought these schemes would be of any use to the profession in the long run. It's something else, and they don't want us in on it.

As I pointed out in a comment on the ICE blog:

We should not view the issue solely from the perspective of teacher rights. One issue I would like to deal with is the argument Klein makes that a school system should not be about job protection but about teaching and learning. Weingarten I believe goes along with these beliefs as evidenced from her actions and by info from the inside that she talks about getting rid of bad teachers and not being worried about protections. I believe there's an argument to be made that seniority rules create stability and school cultures that overcome the instances of the bad teacher being protected (I still think there are as many poor teachers if not more since BloomKlein and many people loyal to the principal will be protected no matter how bad they are.) Stable schools include experienced people who often share their knowledge. Kids have long-standing relationships with teachers in these schools. The assault on seniority had done as much damage if not more to the educational institutions as it has to the traditional union perspective that you raise.

Monday, July 30, 2007

UFT To Members: Seniority is No Longer An Issue Because We Eviscerated It

......was posted by Jeff Kaufman on the ICE blog.

It lays out the basic seniority issues very well from the teacher rights point of view.

We should not view the issue solely from the perspective of teacher rights.

Joel Klein makes the argument that a school system should not be about job protection but about teaching and learning. Sounds noble if you don't know the real deal. Weingarten goes along with these beliefs as evidenced from her actions in relation to seniority protections and by info from the inside that she talks more about getting rid of bad teachers than about being worried about protections.

There's a case to be made (NEVER by the UFT, of course) that seniority rules create stability and school cultures that overcome the instances of the bad teacher being protected (I still think there are as many poor teachers, if not more, since BloomKlein and many people loyal to the principal will be protected no matter how bad they are.)

Stable schools include experienced people, many of whom share their knowledge and do the real training of newbies. Kids have long-standing relationships with teachers in these schools. The assault on seniority had done as much damage, if not more, to the educational institutions as it has to the traditional perspective of job protection.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

UFT Deal with Green Dot: New Low for UFT Leadership

Teachers for a Just Contract sent out an email with a nuts and bolt analysis of the deal the UFT and Green Dot have made. They point to the lack of democracy in making these decisions. But the blank check given Weingarten due to the failure of the opposition to make a serious dent in the Unity machine in the '07 UFT elections is the backdrop.

Eventually, the Unity rank & file in schools that does not get jobs and other perks may figure out that the free conventions may not be worth the hell Unity policies have been putting people through. Of course, many of the Unity R&F are chapter leaders and have the ability to work out deals with principals to protect themselves while others get screwed. Some naive Unity people think that when Weingarten is at the AFT things might change for the better with someone like Michelle Bodden in charge. They are wrong.

What is missing from the TJC analysis is the backdrop of the whys and wherefores which we have been exploring on this blog.

The fact must be emphasized that Weingarten is in step with the Bloombergs, Eli Broads, the charter school movement, the Democrats/Clintons, etc. The deal with Green Dot makes sense if the UFT still gets dues even if the members are screwed.

Read the TJC post in its entirety at Norms Notes.

NYC Educator has an excellent post today on mayoral control. I commented in response to this statement: Ms. Weingarten's job is to represent the interests of working teachers.

Weingarten's real job is to distract, deflect and control the labor movement in NYC (like did she really want the TWU to win their strike?) and in the nation. Corporate and certain political interests could not find a better person to sell and execute their plan. She is the master of deflection and deception.

No one should be fooled that she is somehow incompetent or bamboozled by BloomKlein or Eli Broad or the Clinton/Democratic party interests which include Green Dot's Steve Barr. She is the perfect agent.

The UFT has become a perfect metaphor for a company union. More proof if this will come September 18 when the Broad prize is announced and BloomKlein will win it in a political deal to sell their program nationally. Of course, the UFT already has $1 million of Broad's money for it's charter schools.

There has been some agitation on Leonie Haimson's nyceducationnews listserve for some action on the part of parents (and hopefully, independent teachers) on that date to protest in front of an adoring national press. Expect the UFT to sit on its hands - unless a large enough outpouring of teachers joining parents will force the leadership to try to deflect people in other directions. Like maybe wear a black armband and spend 30 seconds walking around the schools so no one will notice.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

UFT: Masters of Deflection

The UFT response to teachers asking for help has been “Wait till September.” It could be a song:

Wait till September
We hope you won’t remember

Just how much you’ve been screw-ew-ed.

Even when people get some attention, they often don’t realize the UFT leadership tries to deflect people from taking action either on their own or even worse (for the leadership), in concert with others. It takes some people years to realize this. The goal is to stop anything from getting organized and if the threat is serious enough they may actually do something (or give the impression they are doing something.)

Remember the supposed Age Discrimination suit? The entire purpose was to deflect people from taking action on their own. When people inquire about it with the UFT’s Sherry Boxer, she says she has no info and refers them to the EEOC. Call the EEOC and they tell you Sherry Boxer knows exactly what is going on. If you try to get added on the case, they say “NO Dice.” Of course, why would the UFT want hundreds and maybe thousands of people listed? The might actually win and then how would they explain it to Bloomberg?

A conversation with a regional DOE official…
"We couldn't believe it that the the union signed off on this thing." And later: "Before when a teacher was excessed, we could freeze the vacancies til the teacher could be placed. Now we can't do that anymore."

Without this agreement, many of the DOE reorganization plans would have been blocked. Certainly, the ability to hold schools accountable for teacher salaries could not be implemented.

So, when you get the attention of the UFT, keep an eye out for


The NY International Fringe Festival

All of New York (downtown Manhattan, at least) is a stage...

I’ve been a volunteer at this wonderful event for the past few years. Last year I was a cameraman on the 10th Anniversary film they are making and got the chance to film lots of the plays and interview actors, directors and others. People come from all over the nation and around the world to put on their plays. Hundreds of them with a top price of $15, all down town (usually 14th St and below). It runs from August 10-26. Daytime (often starting around noon) and into the night.

You will see performers promoting their plays (at least 5 performances of each) all around the city. Last year a group came in from Chicago by bus and would pull up while the dancers did their number on top of the bus. Nice trick in NY traffic.

Get tickets online www.FRINGENYC.ORG or stop by at Fringe Central (80 Carmine St,, corner of Varick St.) Number for info is: 212-279-4488

I'll be spending a lot of time at Fringe Central and at some of the shows helping out so look for me if you stop by. Or call me if you're in the area and need assistance with something: 917-992-3734.

Better yet, if you have some time, volunteer for a 2 hour shift which gets you a free ticket.

Of interest to teachers:

Pedagogy: Can working for the Department of Education be worth more than just a $10 co-pay?

A high school teacher from New Dorp HS, Nanci Richards, has written a play, Pedagogy.

Tag line: Can working for the Department of Education be worth more than just a $10 co-pay?

She is performing in it as well. A retired teacher, with a tremendous number of acting and directing credits to his name, Michael Tennenbaum, has directed.

The play is being performed at the Center for Architecture, 536 La Guardia Place in the Village.

For tickets and information, 212-279-4488
All tickets are $15, non-reserved seats
The dates/times are:
August 8 @ 7:00 pm
August 14 @ 9:45 pm
August 18 @ 2:00 pm
August 20 @ 7:30 pm
August 22 @ 5:30 pm
August 25 @ 4:00 pm

A bunch of us are going to the Aug. 22 5:30 performance of "Pedagogy" and then off to dinner somewhere afterwards. Get tickets on your own and meet after the show. If interested in the dinner part let me know so we can try to find a place that will accommodate us.

200 Mystical Fictions
Another show on my definite list is “200 Mystical Fictions” by Debbie Siegel, whose dad Mike teaches at Staten Island Tech and coaches the robotics team. Debbie taught in Japan for a while. Check my blog for any other shows of interest that come up.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Green Dot, Weingarten and Dual Unionism

Let's say the Teamsters union comes into NYC and starts to organize charter schools. What would be the reaction of the UFT?

Well, that is exactly what is happening in Los Angeles where Steve Barr of Green Dot charters, Randi Weingarten's ally in crime in setting up a charter school in the Bronx, has formed a company union to compete with the LA Teachers Union. Al this is chronicled in Sam Dillon's NY Times piece of July 24 which I posted on the Norms Notes blog.

I can't tell you how may times people have said to ICE, "The Unity machine will never be beaten. Why not invite another union in like the Teamsters and set up a dual, competing union?"

Our answer has always been that this is so anti-union and divisive that it is unthinkable.

Well, maybe not. Randi Weingarten and Unity Caucus have endorsed this action with their support for Steve Barr and Green Dot. Just imagine, teachers can be Teamsters and never have to drive a truck.

Selected quotes below indicate a few basic truths:

The UFT is already a company union so there is no great leap here.

The Democractic party/Clinton gang are in this up to their ears. Weingarten is part of the gang which includes Joel Klein who also worked for Clinton.

Weingarten's undermining of the LA teachers union AJ Duffy may have some interesting play when she makes her move for the AFT presidency. It is disappointing to see Duffy backtracking. Will there be any repercussions in Chicago next July?

Here are some comments on Green Dot from another post on this blog. Note in particular the Unity hack defense and the former LA teacher, which I highlighted:

This is the end of organized labor as we know it....the article also states how Randi is helping to bring Green Dot into the South Bronx....Goodness gracious! What won't that woman do to be lauded by those who hate organized labor???? SHAME ON RANDI FOR SCREWING THE UFT MEMBERS!!!!! I hope one day she is impeached. 12:42 AM, July 24, 2007

17 more years said...
Just finished reading the article. The fact that Randi is trying to bring Green Dot to the Bronx confirms everything I ever thought about her.
I found it particularly interesting that the young teachers are so willing to embrace Green Dot, while senior teachers are hesitant (and rightfully so). With the large numbers of young, idealistic Teaching Fellows entering the ranks of NYC public school teachers, can't you see that happening here? 9:47 AM, July 24, 2007

Gene Prisco said...
Perhaps Randi Weingarten should invite the NEA to NYC to support Edison or any organization create charter schools with a union different than the UFT since this is exactly what she has done in supporting Green Dot in LA. Long live dual unionism! the Albert Shanker Solidarity Award 2007 goes to Randi Weingarten. 1:22 PM, July 24, 2007

Anonymous [Unity Hack] said...
Perhaps Randi Weingarten has a better view of education in America then the average teacher. I also read the article and what impressed me was that Green Dot has taken over failing schools, High Schools and did so with a teachers contract albeit, not the 300 page contract the LA teachers have. Maybe Randi is posturing an experiment in New York to offset the eventual dissolution of teacher unions as happened in LA. By engaging Green Dot in NY and being pro-active she will have a stronger say rather than fight the wrong fight at the wrong time. Please note that the article claims that the LA union has been fragmented and Green Dot in one school competed and drew the students away from that school district. What makes you think that could not happen in NY? Also note, that Black and Hispanic parents advocated for the Green Dot take over. Give Weingarten credit for being ahead of the curve on this issue. I believe that she will maintain core contractual values and tenure when this entire era of corporate accountability expires. 5:36 PM, July 24, 2007

Anonymous [LA Teacher] said...
I was a teacher in Los Angeles and now have retired (to Las Vegas). That article in the NY Times is full of bulls++t. The parents didn't advocate for it and the younger teachers went for Green Dot because they were duped....
The article is so misleading. Green Dot has not made any progress. They throw kids out of their schools if they harm the progress in the Green Dot school
I am shocked that your union is cooperating with this mess called Green Dot. What is wrong in NY? July 24, 2007

Selected quotes from Times article:

"Mr. Barr has fomented a teachers revolt against the Los Angeles Unified School District. He has driven a wedge through the city’s teachers union by welcoming organized labor — in contrast to other charter operators — and signing a contract with an upstart union."

"Mr. Barr, a former fund-raiser for the California Democratic Party."

"Randi Weingarten, the president of the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, is working with him to put a Green Dot school in the South Bronx. That alliance embarrassed United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents some 40,000 teachers."

"The union representing Green Dot teachers, Association de Maestros Unidos, has a 33-page contract that offers competitive salaries but no tenure, and it allows class schedule and other instructional flexibility outlawed by the 330-page contract governing most Los Angeles schools.

"Andrew J. Rotherham, who worked in the Clinton White House and is co-director of Education Sector, a research group in Washington, said, “Green Dot is mobilizing parents in poor neighborhoods and offering an alternative for frustrated teachers, and that’s scrambling the cozy power arrangements between the school district and the union to a degree not seen anywhere else.”

"Mr. Barr has not just used his charters to challenge the district. He is also an ally of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat who has also battled the Los Angeles school district, seeking mayoral control."

"Mr. Barr says that if he does not win the chance to use the Locke campus for his new charter schools, he will surround it with Green Dot’s next 10 charter schools, which are to open nearby in 2008, supported by a $7.8 million donation from the Gates Foundation.

“If the district doesn’t work with me, I’ll compete with them and take their kids,” Mr. Barr said."

Monday, July 23, 2007


It's time to act.

An excessed teacher, frustrated with the UFT response, or lack of, decides to take action. The UFT always prefers to deal with individuals rather than an organized group of people and WILL respond more positively (for PR purposes) when faced with a pressure group. Currently, there are other people holding meetings around certain issues. Look for updates on this blog.

This message is for anyone who's just lost their teaching position and has been abandoned by the DOE, which has broken with the rules stipulated under 17.B. of the Contract and is now claiming on p.4 of their 23-page booklet to excessed teachers that "it is ultimately your [the teacher's] responsibility to secure a new position with New York City."

As of this posting, the UFT website is not showing any sign of life regarding this most recent attack on on public school educators. Don't be confused by the link on uft.org called "Denied a Transfer? Let us know," which was not especially designed for excessed teachers. It's for anyone who's had problems with their attempts to transfer.

We're worried here about excessed educators, especially those who don't even get an interview. It is very troublesome that there are no links on the website for "Got Excessed?", "Got IMPROPERLY Excessed?", "Denied an Interview?", or "Know of Any Irregularities in Recent Job Hirings at Your School?" Maybe the union didn't see the problem coming, maybe they didn't care. Whatever is behind their thinking, they are certainly not contacting us at this time, when they could easily find out not only WHO has been excessed, but communicate with each one of us personally to find out how we're doing in this chaos.

Some of us don't share their apathy or hesitation. We think we have to act collectively and get the data for ourselves.

PLEASE CIRCULATE THIS MESSAGE. Tell your excessed colleagues about it. Let's get some raw data on what's really happening to our jobs and our careers, and make sure no one is going to plead ignorance of the situation.

If you've been excessed and want to be sent some information about how things are going for you, copy and paste the questions below into a new email, answer the ones that you want to answer, and send them to: excessed101@gmail.com. You don't have to give your real name if you don't want to. The data will be compiled and you can say whether you want to be sent updates on what we're finding out.

Your real name (optional) OR a pseudonym to prevent duplication: ________
When were you excessed? Month ________ Year _____

Seniority at the end of June 07: _________________

If you're a teacher, your subject: ______________
Otherwise, your title: _______

Used the Open Market yet? Y/N _____

No. of schools applied to: _______

No. of interviews you were granted: _____

No. of interviews you attended: ______

Has the DOE tried to place you yet (as stipulated in the contract)?
Y/N ______

Any factors you think make your excessing not your fault (e.g., school closing): _____
Any factors you think make it unlikely you'll be placed in a permanent position (e.g., politics, race; optional, but probably very important): ________

Additional comments: ________________________________________

Do you want to be contacted with updates on the statistics? Y/N ______
If so, your email address: _____________________________

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The UFT is an Urban Myth; Coogee Beach Will be One Soon

We've been invaded by aliens - visitors for the next month from Western Australia. Is now safe for people in the Fremantle/Perth area to come out of their homes.

Dan (native of the Williamsburg houses in Brooklyn) and Robyn (Fremantle native) Scherr have descended on the New York area. They are these activists back home fighting to save their local and beloved Coogee beach from the actions of developers. While here, they should hang out with the gang from "Develop, Don't Destroy" who are fighting Bruce Ratner and his Atlantic Yards. It is funny how developers destroying neighborhoods in Brooklyn or Coogie use the same tactics against even small groups of critics: branding them anti-development, professional protesters, outside agitators, a vocal minority, etc, etc. They monitor every word of criticism, no matter how mild, very closely and use their PR machines to respond instantly.

It all sounds so familiar for those of us who are active in the UFT opposition movement. The Unity Caucus machine spends an amazing amount of time and energy to monitor the opposition. Witness our blog posting here on excessing and how a high UFT official felt the need to respond within hours of it's posting. (Hey! It was a Saturday in the summer. Shouldn't he be planning how to sell off more of the contract?) Why do people who have overwhelming power, money, and resources need to go on the attack? My guess is their response is a clear sign they are so insecure because they are doing something wrong.

The UFT attempt to minimize the impact of their willingness to destroy the protections many teachers have fought for so hard by selling the Open Market System and minimizing the ATR issue where more senior teachers (which will soon be anyone with over 8 years and dropping) are under attack requires marginalizing critics.

As NYC Educator recently posted:
"But on the official union blog, they say problems with the "open market" plan are an urban myth, and virulently refuse to answer any questions on, or even acknowledge, the situation of ATR teachers. Since there are more transfers, it's better. Period. There will be no discussion of ATR teachers, and don't look at that man behind the curtain."

Increasingly, it is the UFT that is an urban myth.

For those visiting Western Australia, stop by Coogee Beach while it's still there. For those visiting UFT HQ at 52 Broadway, stop by and check out the 6-figure salaries and double pensions.

Ex-general is Baltimore schools chief of staff

Another ex-general and Broad Superintendents Academy fellow has just been appointed to a leadership position in a large urban school district.

"In a move to fix the city school system's managerial problems, Andres Alonso, the system's chief executive officer, has chosen a retired Army officer with a strong background in logistics to act as his second in command."

Alonso trained at the feet of Joel Klein, so he must be making good decisions. And these generals have done so well in Iraq, why not let them run school systems? Note in the article how the Broad Academy has few people who actually taught. I wonder exactly what kind of teaching Alonso himself did during his 10 year teaching career. He must have been deprogrammed to purge all identification with teachers, who clearly are not to be trusted with running things on their own.

Friday, July 20, 2007


The following was sent by a correspondent:

Let's open up the subject of Excessing, the latest thunderbolt in the contemptible attacks on the teaching profession by Joel Klein and his corporate handlers.

Our present contract establishes an excessing procedure in Art. 17 B, Rules 4-6 and 11. These rules state that the DOE will place us into new jobs. Please note that the DOE is the active "Placer" and the teacher is the passive "Placee." (The fact that we can, and most likely will, end up as ATRs is a secondary issue I'll address later.) So, we have:

Rule 4. Teachers in excess ... must be placed in vacancies to the fullest degree possible .....
Rule 5. ....... If there are no openings or vacancies in the district/superintendency, the teacher shall be excessed from the district to a vacancy in the region.
Rule 6. The central board has the responsibility for placing teachers who ... cannot be accommodated by their own district/superintendency, if vacancies exist, within the region ........
Rule 11. Unless a principal denies the placement, an excessed teacher will be placed by the Board into a vacancy within his/her district/superintendency; or if such a vacancy is not available, then in a vacancy within his/her region. The Board will place the excessed teacher who is not so placed in an ATR position in the school from which he/she is excessed, or in another school in the same district or superintendency.

After the original excessing letter, we received other emails and packages from the DOE that have broken with the contract entirely and shifted the onus of finding a new job right onto the excessed teacher him/herself. They did it through lies and obfuscation. Take this one: "As you may know, the current UFT contract has changed the way in which excessed teachers and staff seek and receive new positions." The current UFT contract has most certainly NOT changed the way teachers and staff seek and receive new positions. Article 17.B says numerous times that excessed teachers will be placed. And in the DOE's recent emails and written materials, there's a consistent and not-so-subtle shift in language from the passive voice (i.e., teachers "will be placed") to very active orders indeed. By way of example, here are their instructions in an email of a week or two ago:

1) Register for the Open Market Hiring System
2) Attend the July 10th job fair . . . bring a copy of your excess letter.
4) Download the 2007 Placement Guide . . . . This guide contains all the information you will need to conduct your job search . . . Use it as a reference throughout your search.

In no way can these "orders" be interpreted as "options." We are told to Register, Attend, Visit, and Download, no ands, ifs, buts about it. And just this week they've sent us a 23-page booklet that has to be seen to be believed! It's as outrageous and demeaning as I've come across, a real wolf in sheep's clothing. Not only does it fly in the face of the contract with these tidbits:

"Although it is ultimately your responsibility to secure a new position within NYC" (p.4, para 1)
"In the coming weeks it is your responsibility to secure a new position" (p.5, para 1)
"Human Resources may continue to change your ATR school until you find a permanent position." (p.5, para 2)

it goes on to TEACH us how to construct a resume step by step (they even provide an example). After that lesson, they instruct us how to write a cover letter, dress for an interview, speak to a principal, do a follow-up, etc., along the same lines. The pièce de resistance is the Appendix: a full-page list of "Action Verbs" to help in our job search! To whom does the DOE think it is talking to in this booklet? Some of us have spent most of our careers teaching kids how to write well. Some of us have endured 30 credits above a Masters to make sure we are equipped to do that very job. Some of us, for heaven's sake, have second jobs as writers, editors, counselors, and tutors.

So when I say that this chancellor and this group of educrats has the most profound hatred of teachers, I'm not exaggerating. They virtually flaunt their disregard for the contract and hope no one's looking. They swamp us with instructional material to infantilize us, and they do it under the guise of being helpful.

It's clear they want us VOICELESS. It's clear they want the most senior of us OUT OF THE SYSTEM ENTIRELY.

I am told the union is working on this. Not fast enough though, because by the time they act, the job vacancies on the Open Market system will most likely be taken. Which brings me to that ATR thing mentioned in Rule 11.

We all know by now that Klein recently changed how teacher salaries are going to get paid. In a short time, the principals will have to budget for the higher salaries if they want to retain the most experienced (senior) and most heavily credited (MA plus 30) teachers. I'm afraid this is the death knell of the profession as we once knew it. Even though there's a year's grace on who foots the salary bill, administrators have been heard saying things like "You get two for the price of one" and "Hey, I don't want to interview anyone with over 15 years." Let's say that you, as an excessed teacher, never even get an interview in the new Open Market system because of your years-in or high salary. You may end up subbing for a long time, and you may be subbing in the most difficult schools or getting bounced from one school to another. (UFT bosses, stay alert: the nifty wording in Rule 11 implies possible placement in a second school, but I'm sure the DOE has every intention of keeping its options open to bounce you around to as many schools as it wants.) Few of us would choose to remain in the profession if we had to sub under those conditions for any length of time, but bingo! From the DOE's point of view so much the better, high salaries and high future pensions being such a worry for them. They'd much prefer it if all the senior teachers just quit.

And not just the higher paid teachers. There are so many other gosh-darn reasons for not taking in an excessed teacher: inadequate skills, no charisma, lukewarm recommendations, a history of union activism or whistleblowing, the way the person dresses, that...um...race thing. I knew a principal who wouldn't hire a teacher because she didn't have her nails done. All these people can be ATRs as well until they can't stand it anymore.

There is no check on any of this because the UFT doesn't have a proactive bone in its collective body and has not in recent contracts paid much attention to anything but salary. They're just watching it all play out, and one can't be but baffled at their indifference. Much of what the DOE has sent out to excessed teachers in the past month contradicts the very paragraphs on the subject that the UFT has posted on its own website (see "Know Your Rights"). The union was obviously not at the table when the DOE schemed up this Open Market thing. Hold on, maybe it was at the table. Some people think the union has been complicit for years.

You can't turn a person into an activist. You have to recognize your own anger and convert it into a political voice -- against a fundamentally rotten education department installed and supported by a privileged, power-obsessed mayor, and against a marginalized and semi-comatose union.

Sol Stern on mayoral control


I posted Sol Stern's recent article in the City Journal "Grading Mayoral Control" at Norms Notes. It is a good summary/history of the issues that have arisen since Bloomberg took control of the schools.

Stern was a supporter of mayoral control in the beginning. He was also a severe critic of the UFT, blaming many of the ills in the school system on the teacher contract, something Joel Klein has also consistently done. But politics makes strange bedfellows and Randi Weingarten has embraced Stern, even giving him space in the NY Teacher.

Stern focused his original criticisms of Klein over the adoption of what he called a progressive curriculum, instituted by Diana Lam and enforced by her successor Carmen Farina. I won't get into the details here. But teachers reacted as much to the dictatorial nature of the forced implementation as to the ideas of how to teach.

Stern says:
“Dictate” is exactly what Klein did for the next three years. The city’s principals were deemed so deficient in pedagogical understanding that Klein and his lieutenants would tell them how to arrange the chairs, the desks, the rugs, and even the bulletin boards in their classrooms. But Klein’s directions on more important matters did not inspire confidence: for example, he imposed a reading program that progressive educators favor called Balanced Literacy (a euphemism for the “whole language” instructional approach), despite the lack of evidence that it works for disadvantaged children.

I know teachers that believe in balanced literacy, which they say is very different from the whole language approach, which has been discredited in many places for the lack of phonics and structured language teaching. One of Stern's points has been that phonics should be taught, an approach that seems as rigid as Klein's. I was a big fan of phonics teaching, but as a teacher I made the choice as to what extent it was necessary. I eschew any system where teacher choice is minimized.

Ironically, Stern supports "Success for All," one of the most dictatorial, rigid, non-teacher input (and expensive) programs out there. He writes:

To his credit, Klein approved the inclusion of several providers with substantive academic programs. One of these was the Success for All Foundation, which features the scientifically tested reading program that Klein unwisely dumped from dozens of schools in his first year in office. But it soon became clear that the program didn’t have much of a chance to sell its goods in Klein’s new supermarket. When I visited the hall in which SFA staffers were making their presentation, it was practically empty. Nervous principals, shell-shocked by this latest reorganization, decided to play it safe and go with one of the providers that knew its way around the DOE headquarters, rather than with an out-of-town organization like Success for All. Several sources also confirmed that providers had offered jobs to some of the supervisors departing the school system—on condition that they sign up as customers the principals whom they used to supervise.

It's class size, stupid!
I have heard teachers refer to Success for All as a "Nazi" program. Well, maybe that's going a bit too far. I mentored Teaching Fellows for a few years; one of the schools was using the program. All activities in the school would stop for an hour and a half and all personnel, including out of classroom people and cluster teachers would be part of the program. Thus, the sizes of the reading groups were drastically reduced.

Duh! There's the scientific basis Stern refers to. Small groups work, not necessarily the program itself. Scientific studies would cite a control group where, say balanced literacy were used with the same student/teacher ratio as SFA. Bet we would see similar results.

The morning would start with some kind of music piped throughout the school and kids would be marched to their classrooms. Teachers complained that they often worked with students that were not in their class but for just the SFA period. After about an hour and a half the music would start and everyone would be marched back. I often thought they could sell a CD called "Best Marching Songs Success for All."

Stern attributes the lack of interest in SFA from Nervous principals, shell-shocked by this latest reorganization. But even principals who knew the program from the days when former Chancellor Rudy Crew forced it into every school in the former Chancellor's district, also rejected it as too expensive for what they were getting - just another program for profit. They chose not to go with SFA because they could get more for the buck elsewhere.

Stern has also pushed the program being offered by Kathleen Cashin, one of the 4 super superintendents left from the regions, claiming her program was the most rigorous. But she ended up with the lowest total of schools of all 4, while Judy Chin, considered the least rigid, got the most schools. Many Principals seem to have voted with their feet for the least restrictive environment. And that will probably end up being an illusion too.

Another irony here is that the UFT leadership with Randi Weingarten leading the way, partnered with Crew in implementing the SFA program with the support of the UFT run Teacher Centers. When the UFT complained about the rigid programs implemented by Klein, SFA teachers had a good laugh. Oh, the hypocrisy!

I have one more bone to pick with Sol Stern over his article when he says:

The Bloomberg administration must have known that the UFT would have to protect its senior teachers. Along with a coalition of activist groups that opposed the entire reorganization, the union began organizing a massive City Hall protest rally. The mayor initially hung tough: he called his own mini-rally, attended by 100 supporters, attacked the “special interests” blocking progress in the schools, and likened the UFT to the National Rifle Association.

But the next morning, the mayor was breakfasting with union president Randi Weingarten. After a weeklong negotiation, the administration took both the new funding proposal and the tenure initiative off the table for the next two years—by which time Bloomberg will be packing to leave City Hall. The mayor may have been right about the “special interests,” but his retreat had plenty to do with politics and his own interests. A big fight with the teachers would have damaged his reputation as the “education mayor” and threatened his potential White House run.

Th UFT gave the impression of protecting senior teachers, who were not really protected, as all the ATR teachers and the inability of so many to find jobs in the Open Market System have proven. Who really blinked? As previous posts here have pointed out, Weingarten wanted as little to do with a rally as Bloomberg.

Who blinked first?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Klein Defends Class Size Reduction Plans

by Norman Scott
special to The Wave for the July 20th edition
July 18, 2007

Facing severe criticism over his plan to spend the money coming to the NYCDOE from the CFE lawsuit, Chancellor Joel Klein has mounted a rigorous defense. Detailed presentations were made at the monthly Panel for Educational Policy meeting on July 16 on the much criticized plans to reduce class size but did not prevent Manhattan’s Panel member Patrick Sullivan from voting against the plan or Queens’ Panel member Michael Flowers from abstaining. The other members of the Panel approved the plan.

Klein followed up at a sparsely attended press roundtable held the next day. He went into some detail on a controversial aspect in his class size reduction plan: to create 400 collaborative/team teaching classrooms that will consist of a 60/40 % split of regular ed students and special ed students, with two teachers in the room specializing in each of these models. Klein forcefully made the point that the two-teacher model will certainly mean a class size reduction for the regular ed children.

Due to low attendance from the major dailies, this reporter had an opportunity to engage in a give and take with the chancellor on this issue. Will there be a para included, as there are currently paras in many special ed classes? “Only if the IEP of a student calls for it,” said Klein. These paras are known as management paras directed at a particular child and not as general paras in the classroom. For some special ed students used to two adults in the classroom, this plan may not result in an improved ratio. Klein said that this collaborative model has worked very well in some schools, but did not give any specifics. Some Long Island districts have instituted a similar model to some success but an aide or para is often added to the mix.

“Did he expect some parents of the non-special ed students to complain about their children being placed with special ed students,” I asked? “Hey, this is New York, what would you expect,” he responded? I followed up with a question about class size caps. “Around 25,” he said. Another reporter raised the point that this sounds more like a great model for mainstreaming, not necessarily reducing class size. Klein said that in a class of 25, for both the 15 non-special ed and the 10 special ed students, this would be such a reduction.

I raised the point that all groups, the union, parent groups and the DOE seem to agree on one point: increasing the number of schools will be necessary to accomplish serious class size reduction. If he feels this collaborative model of two teachers in a room can be successful, why not try it across the board in schools that are deemed to be failing by inundating the school with extra teachers instead of just closing them down? He responded that each school has to be looked at individually.

Throughout the press conference and at the PEP meeting, Klein time and again reiterated the point that just about every decision, from instruction to major policy initiatives, is data driven. The accumulation and analysis of data has been the heart of the extensive restructuring of the system, but critics have claimed that the data has been focused to support the Chancellor’s programs.

At the PEP meeting, panel member Richard Menschel, a Bloomberg appointee, asked Klein if there have been any studies on the impact class size has on instruction. Klein responded the studies have been mixed and emphasized that teacher quality was the prime factor in effective instruction, not class size. As part of a two minute presentation the public is allowed, I was able to respond that all one had to do was look at the class sizes in Long Island and Scarsdale and at the exclusive private schools where parents pay $30,000 a year, basically for lower class sizes.

At the press conference, I was able to bring up a question on Klein’s emphasis on teacher quality. Since he was so data driven, where is the data that points to what makes an effective teacher, especially since he wants to pay teachers based on merit? Or is it just a case of “you know one when you see one?” I pointed to informal exit polls I had taken from teachers leaving the system and with private school teachers who choose to work for less pay rather than work in public schools. They point to 3 factors: high class size, the overemphasis on testing and the inability to control what happens in their classrooms. Are the conditions in the schools preventing the ability to attract quality, experienced teachers?

He responded in some detail, pointing to schools that have hundreds of applicants for every open position, while other schools have a great deal of trouble recruiting teachers. Teachers want to work where they are respected, where there are good conditions and where they are paid based on the effort they put in. “An effective teacher is one that gives the children a full year’s worth of instruction,” he concluded.

Comment: I covered the July 17 press conference for The Wave and tried to write this piece as an impartial reporter rather than an opinion piece. Klein responses to the questions were not glib with the usual PR tilt but I felt in a thoughtful manner. At the end he sort of threw up his hands with an attitude of "Norm, you just don't get it." Maybe I don't. But I liked that. He actually seems to believe in the stuff he is doing, which I can accept. A true believer with a moral streak and some disdain for people who just can't see where he is going. The problem is, he is the one who just doesn't get it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Video: PEP rubber stamps CFE

Other than seeing Patrick Sullivan break the unanimity of the rubber stamp PEP panel by voting NO on the "plan" for CFE money, the best part of going to PEP meetings is touching base with people like Noel Bush and Lisa Donlon from District 1 (lower east side) parent group. I knew Noel was up to something with his video camera. See Joel play with Blackberry. See Patrick ask probing questions. See one of the usual PEP shills raise a disingenuous question about whether studies show that low class size makes a real difference - I'll address this idiocy in a separate post.

Here's Noel's Post on the nyc education news listserve:

Here's some amateur video of an intense, substantive debate at yesterday's meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy about the merits of the city's plan for the CFE money. All PEP members were deeply engaged, asking probing questions and exhaustively probing the matter of whether the DOE's plan complies with state regulations and fulfills the spirit as well as the letter of the CFE. The panel engaged in passionate debate that extended well into the late evening. The final vote (there are, of course, votes for everything the PEP does) was a
close one, with members on both sides of the issue expressing detailed, reasoned arguments for their conclusions. It was truly an example of the democratic process in action -- a demonstration that public education really is in the hands of concerned citizens who understand the significance of their decisions in the lives of our city's schoolchildren. This was, indeed, a validation of the wisdom of mayoral control, and a full repudiation of the critics of our wise Mayor Bloomberg and his ingenious right-hand man, Chancellor Klein.

Oh wait a minute, sorry, wrong reality. (*Knocks self upside head*)



Food, Glorious Food ... at the PEP

At last night's Panel for Educational Policy meeting at Tweed, the monthly go-along with BloomKlein gang (with the exception of Manhattan rep Patrick Sullivan and at times Queens' rep Michael Flowers), a presentation on the feeding program that the DOE has instituted city-wide was made, with samples on the way in for the attendees. Now, this in no way competes with the spread the UFT offers at its Exec. Bd. meetings, but it was a nice touch. Klein said he heard the food is pretty good. Apparently he doesn't go near the stuff himself. But not me. I ate. Twice. Once at the meeting and once when I got home. Not bad. But I prefer the old Jamaican beef patties, where all you had to do was collect the oil from the trays and run your car for a week on it.

Broad Jumping

The Educational Intelligence Agency's Mike Antonucci reports in this week's posting on his coverage of the NEA convention:

The delegates also pulled their annual punch at Eli Broad, referring to committee an item that directed NEA to "aggressively work to expose the dangers of pursuing the 'Broad Prize' and other veiled awards promoted by those who seek to destroy public education."

Don't expect even a light jab from the AFT at Broad, who gave the UFT charter school $1 million and is the backer of Green Dot charters' Steve Barr who has been in a love fest with the UFT's Randi Weingarten. When Weingarten takes over the AFT next July, will her connections to Broad be one of the sticking points in the long-sought merger between the AFT and NEA?

The Broad prize has been much coveted by BloomKlein so they can use it politically to validate their daily reorganizations of the schools. Getting the Broad prize for NYC would be the equivalent of the Bush Administration getting the Halliburton prize for humanity.

People consider it a slam dunk they will win it this year (announcement is Sept. 19) so the Broadies can use NYC for their own political purposes: defang teacher unions, privatize as much as possible, etc.

Pretty ironic, eh, for Broad to give $1million to both BloomKlein and Weingarten? But then again, you know the mantra of this blog - that the UFT collaboration with BloomKlein has been instrumental in allowing them to do what they did to the system - sort of a 5th column. You know, like in the old WWII movies, where you are shocked to find out the supposed leader of the Resistance was actually working for the Narzi's all along.

The one chance to make a statement opposing them by holding a massive rally on May 9th was undermined by Weingarten who sold teachers on the deal by claiming the deal with Bloomberg would keep schools from being penalized for hiring higher salaried teachers. See if that's true by checking out the post: The Bronx is burning with ATR's.

Note: Leonie Haimson came up with an interesting idea for a date to hold a rally: Sept. 18, the day before the Broad prize is announced. Want to bet my pension the UFT will nix that idea?

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Smoking Bush

Hedging my bets if the post on parochial schools offends the higher powers. Couldn't find a burning bush but found the next best thing in the back yard. Not a bad view from the rear window. One more reason to never leave home.

But, alas, I may have to. Can't resist tonight's PEP meeting at Tweed to watch lone Klein critic on the PEP, Patrick Sullivan, question Klein about the small school grad rates and other goodies. I may even bring along a video camera.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Friday I was getting a hair cut when the phone rang. My haircutist (new word, here) got a phone call from a friend who was crying over the fact her son was just booted out of the parochial school he was attending. After his junior year.
"Why," I asked after she hung up?
"For failing his classes," said the barberista.
Thinking of the discussions I used to have with pro-voucher people like Sol Stern I said, "The people who argue for vouchers always deny parochial schools throw kids out."
"Are you kidding," she said? "They throw kids out all the time. And they took my friend's money for summer school and THEN threw him out. He actually received more attention when he went to the local public high school. Even though he fooled around there they went more out of their way to help him."
"So why did she move him?"
"You know, Catholic school. She thought the discipline would get him serious."
"Sometimes kids have to take responsibility. My advice," I said "is to tell him to drop out and get a job for a while. That should do it."
By now, most of my hair was on the floor. I'll get the rest of the story next month.

Comment: Steve Orel founded the WOO in response to the pushouts of low performing kids in Birmingham. With so much now at stake in public schools (principal bonuses should add too the pot) the amount of pushouts and not so gentle refusals to take certain kids in the first place would increase dramatically. Read Jeff Coplon's piece (posted on the Norm's Notes blog) on the public NEST school for a prime example of how a principal operates to manipulate the school population.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Steve Orel: December 20, 1953 – July 7, 2007

Posted at Susan Ohanian's web site:

and at Norm's Notes
Read our previous post here.

The Bronx is Burning ... with ATR's

A UFT official writes in an email to one of my correspondents:

"The number of veteran teachers in excess in the Bronx is huge. 33% of the teachers at Stevenson have been placed in excess this June and a whopping 56 employees from Evander Childs have been excessed. Dozens from Walton are out, including the Chapter Leader. Meanwhile, on the hiring committees that I have been attending, at least 3/4 of the applicants have been Teaching Fellows with shiny new Trans B licenses."

*For readers outside the NYC area
ATR: Absentee Teacher Reserve
Recent UFT contracts have so drastically changed (eliminated) seniority rules that used to allow senior teachers to bump junior teachers in their license area. Now they just become substitutes. For those of you who think this is a good thing, keep watching an eye on the ensuing chaos that is occurring. I maintain that with all the evils of seniority, it is still the best (only) way to maintain some level of stability in the system.

Friday, July 13, 2007


This past Weds. I was off to see the new Australian modernized version of Macbeth over at the Quad cinema but made a stop at Sony Wonder on 56th and Madison to check in on the robotics gang who were there for the day in the atrium doing exhibitions of FIRST Robotics and FIRST LEGO League. Kids, parents and teachers from Stuyvesant, Lehman HS, HS of Computers and Technology and MS 217Q.

So as I enter the atrium, a few of the teachers come running over, "You missed him. You missed him."

"Missed who," I said?

"Klein. (NYC Schools Chancellor) Joel Klein was here."

"You mean Joel Klein made a special trip down here to see the kids and the robotics," I said disbelievingly?

"No, He just happened to be passing through, checking his Blackberry. We tried to engage him and get him to stop by to talk to the kids but he said he had to catch a plane."

Aha. Serendipitous corroboration that Joel Klein has absolutely no interest in seeing what kids are doing unless it can be used for public relations. And since he didn't have his massive PR core with him, why give even 30 seconds of his precious Blackberry time to stop and say hello to the kids?

These teachers were being polite (and they still work in the system.) Lucky I missed him. I wouldn't have been.

(You can read the feel-good part of the story at my Norm's robotics blog.)

As for Macbeth, a fine movie. We've had our own version here in NYC playing for the past 5 years. In the leads? Who have had the most blood on their hands? YES! BloomKlein in the lead. And do I have to tell you the top choice for Lady Macbeth?

Too Little, Too Late on Class Size...

....UFT uses borough hearings as "Do Nows" to let out a little gas as a way to control militancy.

While we all appreciate the eloquent comments from so many people like John Elfrank-Dana (see post below this one), the reactions of parent groups and the UFT is a case of too little too late.

David Quintana commented on this blog:
I never understood why Randi and most of the other coalition members believed the empty promises of the Tweedies and allowed Bloom/Klein to effectively disrupt and cancel our original rally...We had the Tweedies nervous and they were on the run...Parents got little or nothing in return...Lets be honest...Our side blinked...I know many CPAC members wanted the rally to go forward, even after the UFT bailed out...A parents rally is needed now more than ever...

Our April 20 post titled, "A Unique Opportunity had been missed," was a reaction to the bitter disappointment over the cancellation of what was expected to be a massive rally on May 9th that was killed by the deal between Mayor Bloomberg and a coalition of parents and teachers, but it is clear it was Randi Weingarten's dealings with Bloomberg that killed the rally.

Why? Because Weingarten has the same alliances as BloomKlein do: Eli Broad, the Clintons, Green Dot charters, etc. She can get away with rhetoric criticizing Bloomberg (and note how the UFT has focused on Klein, as if he is independent from Bloomberg), but any street action that actually would have results is too dangerous. The enthusiasm at the Feb. 28th rally at the church that was the precursor to the excitement among teachers and parents in planning the May 9th demonstration scared Weingarten as much as Bloomberg.

Ironic, since she had so much to do with building a good coalition of groups that for the first time was a credible threat to BloomKlein. I never believed she ever intended to hold the demo May 9th in the first place. Her role is not to lead any street movements but to make backroom deals that would prevent any possibility of militancy getting out of the hands of the leaders.

Think of it as a bottle of gas. The leadership keeps things under control by letting out a little at a time and then shutting it once some steam is let out. The current storm of testimony in front of the bogus borough panels set up by Tweed is a perfect example. Busy work and Do Nows for the activist people in the UFT, including the opposition. I can' tell you how many of my colleagues who are opposed to Unity raced down to speak. To what end?

Would you be surprised if you found out that these borough events were part of a plan hatched by Bloomberg and Weingarten as a way to let out that gas just enough to shut people up and distract them from calling for a demo?

When the deal in April was announced, I posted the following on the issue of class size to the influential NYC Education News listserve, which is dominated by activist parents in the NYC area:

"On class size, I don't care what they say or what committees they form. They do not believe that reducing class size will have the same impact spending money on professional development will. That is their mantra... They will say one thing and do another. To put any trust in Tweed given their record is a mistake."

Many other posts to the listserve made similar points. NYC High School Parent Council head David Bloomfield: Promises of consultation on class size, drop out prevention, and middle school reform seem little more than crumbs.

The leaflet put out by the Independent Community of Educators (ICE) at the April Delegate Assembly said on the class size reductions in the deal:
"Expect spinning the wheels. ICE’s position has always been that there will be no reductions in class size without contract negotiations."

The reactions of the UFT and parent advocacy groups - attend press conferences, write politicians, speak out at the borough meetings are all fine. But if all they do is let off steam then it is just a case of marking time - more of the same old, same old.

Forget all of this and start building for a rally at City Hall this fall. We have been told all along by Weingarten when we kept calling for the May 9th rally to be held (the UFT rescheduled it's Delegate Assembly on May 9th) and when the Manhattan HS chapter leaders' call for a rally was rejected by Weingarten and Unity Caucus at the DA (see video of the DA here) with the argument that we will hold a rally if the DOE goes back on its deal.

Holding that rally on May 9th would have been the best way to get class size reduction and many other items on the agendas of parents and teachers. But the age-old reliance on politicians and the leadership of Randi Weingarten has misdirected all too many people away from the understanding that street action works. No one seemed to learn the lesson that was made so strongly at the February 28 rally that frightened BloomKlein into sitting down at a table that was heavily tilted in their direction. But when the very person supposedly leading the movement is really in alignment with Bloomberg, the chances of putting something together that will actually have an impact is very unlikely.

Only when there is a movement of teachers independent of the yoke of Unity caucus and a corresponding movement of parent groups not under the dominance (and fear) of the UFT leadership, will there be a chance to have an impact.

Follow ups:
An article and leaflet handed out by ICE "What was gained and what was lost" and the "Top 10 reasons to oppose the reorganization".