Friday, January 30, 2009

January 30, 2009 One School's Account of Devastating UFT Failure

Jamaica HS Chapter Leader (and fellow ICE'er) James Eterno interrupted his report on the Delegate Assembly to chronicle the devastating impact of the failure of the UFT to protect its members. I extracted it and am re-publishing this powerful statement on the predicament strong union people like James face in the light of major budget cuts to come. You might also want to check out my friend Vera's sharp criticism of the UFT on where they were all these years when the city was flush with money, Responding to Randi.

Since Randi is a regular reader of the blogs, I have a question and I will send this directly to her and some of the Unity hierarchy. How am I going to convince my members to attend a UFT rally at City Hall on March 5 when they feel abandoned by the Central UFT?

Back in 2007, the secretaries at Jamaica filed a group grievance saying that school aides were doing their jobs. In 2008, their Chapter Leader, Jackie Ervolina, came to Jamaica and urged us to support the UFT's citywide grievance on this issue. We agreed. Last spring the UFT told us they won the citywide case. To date, nothing has improved at Jamaica.

Part of this situation at my school goes back as far as 2006 and before. A secretary who had been doing evening school for many years was replaced by a school aide for most of her hours in 2006. She has been waiting almost three years for arbitration. In addition, two secretaries filed workload disputes. The disputes died at the Superintendent's level. One was supposed to be reconvened in February 2008 and never was.

Our secretaries stood together as a group and were told by the UFT to stand tall and fight. They are a shining example of trade unionism. What has the UFT done in return? When we email their Chapter Leader, or talk to our District Representative, we are told to wait and wait and wait and wait and then wait some more. Do you think I am going to be able to get these courageous UFT members out to a rally? They feel they have been abandoned by the UFT as three have since been excessed. Two of these are ATR's and the other is out of Jamaica.

Furthermore, how do I convince a teacher who can't get an answer from the DOE on her Family and Medical Leave Act request that she applied for in December, to come to a rally? A few days ago this person was told by the UFT that we have to be patient because the DOE is slow. Federal law gives the employer five business days to respond to a FMLA request; the UFT tells us to wait, and wait and wait some more.

How am I going to persuade the many teachers who lost parking permits to come to the rally? Jamaica lost many of our legal parking spaces, not just permits, under the new procedure implemented in the fall. We complained in September and haven't heard from the UFT in months on this issue?

How do I tell the Absent Teacher Reserves in my school that they should come to a rally when some aren't put back on our school's budget even when they are teaching full programs (planning, teaching, and assessing)? We've been working with Michael Mendel on this all year and the Principal basically refuses to move unless the situation is obvious and even then it takes a long time for action.

Administration improperly excessed a UFT Delegate and it took us two months, a great deal of effort and a grievance to get her back. Both the delegate and I thanked Mendel personally for helping us in this arduous fight but the central UFT has allowed conditions to exist in the schools where Principals can try to illegally excess a union activist with impunity.

In addition, a teaching fellow was teaching a full time math program all fall but the school would not put him on our Table of Organization. The UFT was informed. Once again, patience was preached. This young teacher ended up finding a job at another school rather than risk getting fired on February 3. Subsequently, that full time math position was left vacant (filled with coverages) for the last two months of the semester. The UFT has told us nothing. Another math teacher who was excessed and is at another school, applied to return to Jamaica and grieved. How do I convince these people that the Union cares about them?

A colleague and I have emailed Randi several times on how the Principal habitually violated our Contract. There are plenty of other examples I could cite but let me just sum up by saying that if I had a dime for each time a UFT member came to me and said that they trust me but the UFT is full of you know what, I would have the salary of a UFT officer. OK that's a little exaggeration but you get the point.

If this is the situation at Jamaica High School where we are not afraid to stand up to the DOE as we rallied at a Panel for Educational Policy meeting last year and wrote to the state twice this school year demanding equity for our school, I can only imagine what is occurring at other Chapters.

To Randi and Unity readers: I'll be there on March 5 and I'll urge people to join me, but could you please give me some tips on what I can say to get my members to have some faith in a Union that is great for "lip service" but has let us down on so many occasions.

Today's Best Person of the Day

Haimson Eyed As Key Influence in Mayoral Control Fight

Living in Miami and never having laid eyes on Leonie Haimson, I was a bit surprised by the idea of her as a "little lady". In my minds eye she has always appeared as a giant. But I guess there is precedence for such confusion.

Rosa Parks was a diminutive woman and at the same time a giant in the people's eyes. So it has happened before but that does not change the feelings of gratitude and awe that I feel for Ms. Haimson. She is living proof that good people will persevere, and that at the end of a long and difficult struggle, we will win.

Thank you Ms. Haimson for all you have given to America's children and teachers in the public schools.

Paul A. Moore

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Suzane Joseph – MS 313K

Today's Worst Principal of the Day

PS 150K Update

Our correspondent reporting on the situation at PS 150K, a school slated to close, sends this follow-up to a previous report.

There was a union person sent to 150K today to talk to the teachers about their rights and what to do as the year closes. Well, she was unaware that the school was getting a charter school. She then had little to say to the staff. The only thing they were told was that the current principal could only select folks to stay in the phase out school based on grade level seniority. Most of the teachers in the 7th and 8th grades, which are staying, are not fully licensed and would have to be let go.

A woman from the neighborhood said several folks had heard from others outside the school neighborhood that a charter was set to go in there even before the school staff were informed.

Next week someone from the DOE is scheduled to visit and speak with the staff.

The UFT and Mayoral Control

The UFT has been on the wrong side of just about every progressive education issue. By signing on to the “teacher quality is the most important Joel Klein/Michelle Rhee formula" they abandon the stronger case that lower class sizes are more important and in fact would raise the level of teacher quality across the board. Thus you see all kinds of class size reduction gimmicks like the 2 failed petition campaigns (haven’t heard much about those lately, have you) while ignoring the calls from this publication and ICE to make class size reduction a priority contract item. The numbers you see today that you can at least grieve on were implemented in 1970. Remember the argument used against us that we would see educations due to the CFE ruling? How's that working out?

Abandoning seniority rules, accepting school closings as a fait accompli, joining in on the influx of charter schools, accepting the CEO model, tacit acceptance of non-educators as chancellors, supporting the Gates and other private interest onslaught on public schools, signing on to the testing mania by supporting merit pay and individual teacher report cards based on these tests – I won’t give you any more of the laundry list – has led to the worst working conditions for teachers in decades and a deterioration in learning conditions for many children, no matter what the fudged numbers might show.

One of the major planks in the corporate agenda for education is to put large urban school systems under dictatorial mayors who are free to shut out parent and teacher input while undermining the union at the school level. Don’t get me wrong here. They are not anti-union - at the top level. They need a union with a collaborative leadership like the UFT, which can function as an intermediary to sell their programs to the teachers and control any signs of resistance.

From the day Randi Weingarten announced her support for mayoral control in May 2001, Ed Notes has stood against this policy, pointing to the Chicago model which began in 1995. Indeed, the Independent Community of Educators (ICE) came together in 2003 based on people opposed to the UFT’s going along, getting along policies.

So, now as we come to the possible sun set of the law, which would force us back to the what, today, looks like the good old days of local district boards.

If a referendum were held, I bet 75% or more of the people who work in the schools would vote to end mayoral control.

The UFT leadership is in a bind. How to continue to support mayoral control in practice while giving the members the opposite impression.

Thus, the creation of a governance committee, open to all, but packed with Unity people.

Meetings were held on all boroughs, but I have always felt the positions the UFT will take is predetermined and all this is about finding the right language that will play well. Now there are ICE people on the committee but they can’t tell us what is going on because there is some kind of gag rule and they will be water boarded if they talk. Or sent to GITMO.

In case you didn’t notice, there is another Delegate Assembly scheduled for next week (Feb. 4). It is all about the position the UFT will take on mayoral control. They must be having difficulty drafting a document that will play both sides of the issue against the middle. ICE has been adamantly against mayoral control and it will be interesting to see how this plays out. My guess is there is a lot of maneuvering on the part of the leadership. No mater what, I expect attacks on the ICE committee members. And for the UFT to say one thing while asking for tweaks.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Video the UFT Doesn't Want You To See: The ATR Rally

A Tale of Two Rallies
A Tale of a Rally
A Wine and Cheese Party

[Make sure to see Part 2 also]

On November 24, 2008, teachers without positions, known as ATRs, held a rally at Tweed. They had forced the UFT to endorse the rally but in the interim the UFT signed an agreement with the DOE. The leadership called for an information meeting at UFT HQ, a mile away at the very same time the rally was due to start. Mass confusion. I taped the UFT HQ while David Bellel did the rally. The back story is how desperate UFT leaders were to suppress the tape I made. In fact, today at the Delegate Assembly they will pass a gag rule to try to prevent future embarrassment.

Part 1
Concurrent events at Tweed and the UFT

Part 2
UFT leaders with some ATRs who went to the info session march -er- meander up Broadway to Tweed where the 2 forces meet. Unity is outnumbered and Randi is heckled as she speaks. Note: She congratulates the people who called for the rally, saying there would not have been an agreement with the DOE if not for the rally. Less than an hour before she gave the people at the info meeting the reverse message: that in these bad economic times, things like rallies and militancy are not wise. No wonder they didn't want me to tape.

LA Teacher Union Urges Boycott of Practice Tests....

....but is warned the scores may go down.

Gee, ya think?

L.A. teachers' union calls for boycott of practice testing

These tests are all about practicing for THE BIG ONE. They take time away from doing real teaching. But they do serve the purpose of artificially inflating the scores. Sort of like lifting weights. I can actually make my puny biceps look like more than little lumps with a few sets of curls. Lasts a few hours before shrinking back to reality.

"The union Tuesday directed teachers to refuse to give them to students on the grounds that the tests are costly and counterproductive."

Here's a union that walks the walk. Not like the UFT which sets up a committee to study the testing issue for a year, comes out with a pretty good report (so they can say they have reservations about testing) but then endorses merit pay based on test scores and measuring individual teacher performance based on these tests.

[LATU Pres.] Duffy remains skeptical.

"The pig does not get fatter when you weigh it 10 times a day," Duffy said. "And if the test scores do go up, isn't it phony? Because what you are doing is teaching to the test, teaching a subject that has been narrowed down radically. We're not creating smarter kids. We're creating smarter test takers."

Duffy announced the boycott Tuesday at Emerson Middle School on the Westside, where teachers said the district tests were too burdensome on top of already mandated state and federal testing.

"We are supposed to be teaching, not testing," said Emerson English teacher Cecily Myart-Cruz. "We can come up with our own assessments in our classroom, and we do -- every day."
Teachers and schools actually seem to have some say, not like here in NYC, and Duffy may actually pull this off. The LATU showed off its biceps when most of the teachers in LA boycotted classes successfully for an hour at the beginning of the school day earlier this school year.

[Supt Ray] Cortines asserted that the assessments are part of teachers' assigned duties -- they are not optional. He also said he has and will amend aspects of the tests that need fixing. But he won't toss them out because, he said, they have contributed strongly to rising performance on the state's own annual tests.

I'm disappointed in Ray Cortines, who I always considered a good educator, for pushing these tests but all these guys are under enormous pressure to show results. But I think he is not arrogant like a Joel Klein and hopefully will try to make some changes. But even the best seem to be caving. How he will respond to a massive boycott will be interesting. If teachers ever started using their power enmasse.... ah, why even bring it up? In NYC the UFT is just one big obstruction with tiny biceps.

When Bronx teacher Doug Avella's 4 classes refused to take one of these practice tests, the DOE called out the hounds and he seems to have disappeared from the school system. Maybe they sent him to GITMO.

Articles on Ed Notes on the Avella story in chronological order beginning in May 2008.

Bronx Teacher Under Gun Due to Student Boycott of Test

Dear Joel Klein - Letters on Student Test Boycott

Where is Leo Casey and Edwize on Test Boycott?

Monday, January 26, 2009

PS 150: The Real Game Behind Closing Schools

Everyone knows if you close a school and replace the teachers, nothing much will change. Except that the school with a newer crop of inexperienced teachers will be much more unruly. In 2006, PS 225 in Rockaway was reorganized and all teachers had to reapply for their jobs, with a small handful being retained. Now that school is being closed and we have been looking for the signs that they will attempt to claim success by somehow changing the school population, not an easy thing. NY State Senate leader Malcolm Smith runs a charter school about 2 miles away that is based in quonset huts. Maybe they'll figure out a way to move that school into PS 225. Who knows?

Parents and teachers know the key to showing the kind of results that can be used politically is to change the kids.

This story about another closing school just came in over the transom from a source:

PS 150 in Brownsville is one of the schools slated to close (phased out). When the first parent meeting was held the DOE could not (and would not) answer their questions about the transition. All they said was we don't know. Parents were upset, but did not do anything immediately. Monday, the school - parents and teachers - were told that the "new school" was going to be a charter school with all that it implies. It was a small group of parents, but they found out their children will not automatically move from 150 to the new school. NOW they are angry and are planning some type of demonstration. But I fear it is too late. The DOE has spoken. This is not happening in all the schools that are closing. But, I wonder how many are getting this treatment.

Here is one thing we know. The UFT will send someone in to tell the teachers it is a fait accompli and nothing can be done. And good luck as an ATR.

Facts About GED–Plus

The PEP meeting tonight, there will be an update on GED similar to the one offered to the City Council by Cami Anderson, the Superintendent of Alternative Schools. Anderson is a Teach for America alum and fits the usual profile of people at Tweed. Many people view her tenure as a disaster. We're not surprised. She's part of the Joel Klein version of FEMA. You're doing a great job Brownie - er - Cami.

Here is some background on GED Plus from Marjorie Stamberg and Jeff Kaufman.

GED -Plus is a multi-sited program, with more than 80 sites across the city and 6 "hubs". The teachers are extremely dedicated and hard-working, but we are laboring with very deep problems of financing, lack of resources, and loss of many students and teachers from the program. This in part stems from the disastrous "re-organization" of the city's GED programs in June 2007. There were city council hearings on that closing, and the UFT testified there at that time.

Here are some questions to ask at the PEP:
1) Consequences of the "reorganization" of the city's GED program, in June of 2007.

The program was "reorganized" in June 2007, and involved closing five GED facilities in the district*, and reopened as "GED Plus. All the teachers were excessed in masse at the time, and GED Plus then opened in September 2008 with only 1/2 of the teachers and the loss of hundreds of students whose sites and programs were closed over that summer. Teachers with PhDs in literacy were let go, as were bilingual English-Chinese teachers -- I know many of them personally, and we have been struggling to place these extremely talented and dedicated teachers and get them out of the city "ATR" pool every since.

Importantly, there is no record of what happened to the students who had been in the previous programs when their sites closed in June 2007. Literally hundreds of students simply "disappeared." One of the closed schools was the "Program for Pregnant and Parenting Teens." Meredith Kolodner in the Daily News recently published an article reporting that the DOE had very few records on what happened to these students.

2) Loss of arts and enrichment services. Previously, there were a number of arts programs, partnerships with the Metropolitan Museum, musical programs, and others. Now, to my knowledge all arts and enrichment programs at "GED Plus" are no longer available.

3) Many students at GED Plus are not ready to take the test, and are placed in literacy classes at the five GED Plus "hubs" across the city. There is a paucity of age-appropriate books, lack of computer services (out-dated and broken down computer labs, if any), "smart-boards" or any modern technology for these students.

4) Cami Anderson will state they have brought in an outside vendor of literacy specialists called "The Aussies" (at great expense). They have virtually NO experience dealing with the multi-lingual, multi-ethnic older teenage population we work with in New York City. Their idea of basic "literacy" instruction is far more advanced than that needed by students reading on a 3rd or 5th grade level. Many students simply cannot read the books in the classroom libraries.

5) What special services for Special Ed counselors, testing, and special materials, Wilson training, access to VESED occupational training is going on? To my knowledge, students are still able to participate in an excellent partnership at "Co-op Tech" but this again is limited.

6) What special counseling services, partnerships with CUNY, participation in literacy and ESL programs available at CUNY are being offered? Much of this was also lost in the reorganization.

*The five closed schools were Auxiliary Services for High Schools, Career Education Services, Vocational Education Services, Off-site Educational Services and the School for Pregnant and Parenting Teens.

Jeff Kaufman:
Since the D79 reorganization in 2007 Anderson has stated that her intention was to reduce GED referrals and to streamline the process so less students would “fall through the cracks.” While I don’t have statistics I do know that students who were formerly incarcerated continue to be dissuaded to return to their schools and still do not make it to alternative programs like the GED. In fact they are terrible in tracking students despite the fact this problem has existed for years.

Ms. Anderson and the D79 superintendency are sure to talk about the "low" attendance rates in the GED programs. GED Plus is where students go who have dropped out, or been pushed out of their high schools and are now trying again for an education. So it's not rocket science that many have attendance issues. But outrageously, students often are counted in as being in GED -Plus and parallel programs when they are pushed out of other schools. In fact they may never have shown up, but it is a manuever used by the DOE to lower the drop out rate from the high -schools. I.e., if a student was "transferred" to another program, it doesn't count as a drop out.

Furthermore, if you look at success rates of the program, how can one possibly judge GED-Plus which is only in it's second year of running. It takes many of these students a number of years to get their literacy skills up enough to pass the GED.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Are SCI and OSI Corrupt?

Teachers: Be careful out there. Very careful.

SCI and OSI investigations are suspect

Reports, both public and private to Ed Notes from a blogger at South Bronx School ought to make potential whistle blowers about misconduct of their supervisors, especially when it comes to corporal abuse, very nervous.

Investigators from OSI(Office of Special Investigations) came into the school [Friday] to meet with the boys' parents, and [the] principal. I do not know if [the Assist. Princ.] was there. In this meeting the investigators pressured and cajoled the boys parents to sign a waiver that [the assist princ] did not inflict corporal punishment. That he was in fact breaking up a fight. They told the parents that if they did not sign the waiver that [the AP] would be in danger of losing his job.

Special Commissioner of Investigations Richard Condon's gang are no better than OSI. No, he is not The Manchurian Candidate Richard Condon, though he sure shows signs of using a few of the tactics in the book.

So when a teacher is accused of anything, even looking at a kid cross-eyed, poof– into the rubber room. When supervisors are accused, they get a slightly better deal. Like, go ahead and keep on doing your thing. Well, at least politically well-connected supervisors.

Long-time readers might remember my friend Kathy, who has spent almost 2 years in the rubber room? After a wild child had run out of the room twice, Kathy took her over and sat her down into the chair. Supposedly a button came off in the process, though the kid claimed she as also scratched (no scratch was found). The principal had the parent call the police and Kathy was taken out by 5 cops in handcuffs – after 22 years of teaching in that school and not one mark against her in all that time. Even the cops realized they were manipulated by the principal, as the arresting detective later told me. (Soon after the child was moved to, let us say, another environment).

I was brought up in an environment that you NEVER let a child leave the room, especially an agitated one, as they could run out of the school and into traffic. So I restrained any child who wanted to run, with force if necessary. Of course, in today's world, the teacher would be blamed anyway. (I once had a brief OSI experience which demonstrated the political nature of the operation – My Brush With OSI/).

In Kathy's case, it was political. She had run for chapter leader 6 months before on a platform of standing up to the principal and lost by only 1 vote. That's taking of your political enemies.

I took Kathy to a UFT Executive Board meeting, where we called for the UFT to conduct their own investigation into the case by getting statements from the cops, who appeared to be on Kathy's side. Lots of luck. "That's her responsibility," I was told. Sure, race down to Police HQ or the precinct after a day in the rubber room. This case got cold very fast. The UFT basically does the minimum it has to do and I had to make the point time and again that I had taught across the hall from her for years and never saw an iota of the kind of charges being made.

In June 2006, when ICE still had members on the UFT Exec. Bd, Jeff Kaufman presented a motion calling on the UFT to hire people to conduct independent investigations in parallel to SCI. The motion was categorically rejected by Weingarten and Unity Caucus. I posted on this in August Why Didn't The UFT Demand An Independent Investigation For Alleged Teacher Misconduct... as a corollary to a post by Chaz.who has been dealing with this a great deal (see related links below.)

One teacher who has experienced SCI abuse, sent me this yesterday:

At the risk of telling you what you already know, SCI and ALL the so-called "Investigatory" agencies in NY are all in bed together with the DOE and the Mayors Office. They are ALL joined at the hip and share info with one another re those they have decided are "trouble makers."

The minute any agency puts a target on someone's back all the other agencies do the same. The person immediately becomes a Dead Man Walking and doomed for life.

Half the work that Condon's SCI office does is use the info they get from Whistle-blowers to later set them up and stab them in the back as they did to me. Condon's office could not be more crooked if it were twisted into a dozen pretzels.

There is literally nothing they will not do to destroy a person who challenges the system and/or their power.

The chief point is that SCI though it pretends to monitor corruption, in actuality monitors and assists in destroying the people who try to expose the rampant corruption.

The teacher who goes to SCI is in effect signing his/her own Death Warrant.

Same thing if a teacher goes to the District Attorney's Office.

Warn teachers to beware that once the UFT has used then for their own purposes and their 15 minutes of Fame has passed away, the system will try to bury their asses.


Is the UFT also in bed with the DOE and SCI? There are mixed opinions out there, but I lean toward a somewhat collaborative effort. The UFT doesn't want to dirty its hands by defending a teacher who may be guilty, so they start out by believing all teachers are guilty – until some truth emerges that gives them reason to think otherwise.

In other words, drop the automatic assumption the UFT is on your side until you make a convincing enough case to them, which has more to do with your believability factor. Convincing the UFT to mount some defense can hinge on the level of support you are perceived to have, though don't count on much either way. You do that through public relations with the support of colleagues, parents, etc. Teachers who are isolated and loners or out of the social mainstream of their schools are especially vulnerable and are often the first targets.

One tactic used is to find an excuse to get the whistle blower teacher into a rubber room to cut off potential allies. Banned from entering the school, the teacher has no mechanisms to challenge the lies being spread and to build support. They even go so far as to make the teacher take a psychiatric exam with DOE doctors who are programmed to look for anything to classify the teacher unfit.

Don't you know Officer Krupke, he must have a social disease. The boy has got to be crazy for blowing the whistle on the administrators who beat on kids.

Teachers sometimes get confused since the UFT always has a "special rep" present during the interview. Some view this as part of a set up – that the UFT rep is only there so the UFT can give the false allusion that the teacher is being protected by Due Process and that the UFT is fully complicit in these set ups. But I do hear the other side from some people – that they got real help from the UFT rep. It may depend on the individual rep, but how is a teacher to know?

David Pakter's case which has dragged on for years, he called in Dr. Alberto Goldwaser* who contradicted the medical hacks at the DOE. David once wrote:

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should any teacher appear at the Medical Office when requested without arranging to engage the services of the renowned Goldwaser.

He is the only Forensic Psychiatrist they are afraid of and will not Railroad a teacher if he is in the room at the time of the interview. He has saved countless teachers over the past five years.

He is NOT cheap but the alternative is being taken off salary IMMEDIATELY by the Med Office if one goes alone.

Chaz School Daze has focused lots of attention on this and related issues in these posts.

Why Are There No Consequences To The OSI & SCI Investigators When They Are Caught In A Lie By The Arbitrator?

The DOE Double Standard Continues As Administrators Are Given A Free Pass When Threatening And Telling Second Graders To Lie

The New Underhanded & Sleazy DOE Policy To Get Teachers To Resign On The Spot

*Jeff Kaufman in a June 2006 report in the ICE blog on ICE's rejected proposal.

Betsy Combier adds some deep background

Oh, and Richard Condon makes $179,168 a year.

*Goldwaser contact info:


My Brush With OSI

I had one brief brush with some goons from OSI (Office of Special Investigations or its precursor) around 1990. Two of them came in and threatened my principal over a leaflet I had handed out in front of a school headed by a principal who has given a friend an unfair U-rating.

She refused to pull me out of class, to her credit.

We didn't get along but she was one tough bird who wouldn't take shit from anyone - me or the goons from central. (Later she told me they warned her she would never get anywhere in the system if she didn't "cooperate" which probably meant they wanted her to go after me. No matter how much she hated me politically, she wouldn't stoop to that as so many principals would today.)

They came back. This time with a letter ordering her to send me and two colleagues down to the office to meet with them. I grabbed a giant video recorder and walked in with it on and stuck it in their faces. I thought they would duck under their chairs like it was one of those shelter drills from the 50's. They handed me a letter ordering me to appear at OSI.

The three of us involved in the leaflet were pulled out of school for a day and hauled down to tell our story. It was clearly about intimidation. I practically leaped across the table at the arrogant guy who questioned me (with the UFT lawyer trying to restrain me). "I'll walk into any school I feel like and put it into any teacher's mailbox I want," I said. "Check the chancellors' regs which give me the right to do it." I was sort of bluffing but figured I'd use the same tactics they did. They seemed so used to teachers walking away with their tail between their legs, they backed off.

I was able to be so brazen because I never worried that I as vulnerable within my school, something in today's climate I could not count on.

We were out of there by 10:30 AM and headed off to Riis Park Pitch and Putt to play golf for the rest of the day.

How sweet it was playing golf on the DOE nut.

Friday, January 23, 2009

What's This Card Check Stuff All About?

A few weeks before the election, a retired teacher who was clearly anti-Obama, asked, "What right does he have to take away the secret ballot in union elections?"

"Huh,"I said at first? "Oh, you mean Card Check. The unions want that, I tried to explain. But it was no use. She found another reason not to vote for Obama.

Well, she was not very conscious of union issues anyway.

But I was shocked at a small meeting I was at a week or two ago when a close political ally and strong union person expressed concern over the loss of the secret ballot implied in the card check campaign. That he was confused made it clear that we have to do more education on the issue and I've intended to write about it for some time.

Thank goodness for NYC Educator. The other day he talked about how Obama was already waffling on the issue in this post and I've finally has gotten off my ass. I left the following comment on his blog.

Ahh, the old secret ballot.

This is my impression of how card check works and correct me if I'm wrong.

Card check means if a majority of people sign a statement they want a union they get it without having an election. This is majority rule. And this seems to be what happened at the KIPP school - in NY state or the city do unions have that protection so there is no secret ballot at the KIPP school?

But the business community wants to do it again. After the majority sign off, they now have to vote - in essence a do-over. But now the boss has all the names of the people who signed. And a list of the most active organizers. SO guess what happens in the do-over? Maybe a few of these people disappear into layoff land. Or are threatened. And lo and behold, after the "secret ballot" the unions lose. Fear is a powerful weapon.

Reminds me of some UFT chapter elections where school admins get involved which are in some ways similar to the secret ballot.

I am sure part of the training at the principal academy is how to assure an admin friendly chapter leader and the techniques to use during the election to make it happen.

I lived through a few of these when my principal attempted to install her own CL. She ran her own slate against the CL (A decent Unity guy) and me as the delegate. 2 pro admin hacks who had shown little interest in the union before. It was a battle royal.

Months before I had filed a grievance for one of her flunky's jobs in special ed and won at the district level (I slipped the Supt. 2 Ranger game tickets after I won to thank him).

This "win" placed me in the heart of the beast - a special ed unit headed by the guy running against the CL. Over the months I was able to win over just enough votes to give the CL a 2 vote victory. I won by 6 votes.

Fifteen years later I took over as CL after that same Unity guy I had helped withdrew from the election, the principal sent the AP around with a petition calling for a new election so they could find a candidate to run against me. Over 20 UFT members were intimidated enough to sign it. We just ignored the petition, as we had followed UFT rules on holding elections to the tee.

I've actually heard of principals going to the UFT to complain about procedures - or getting their flunkies to do so - when they don't like the result. (And if the winner happens to be an ICE person, they get a good shot at getting a new election.)

I hope my little tale provides an insight as to why card check is so important and why we should not look at the narrow issue of the secret ballot in relation to democracy without considering the full implications.

Of course, the corporate world and the right wing has been presenting this as a workers' rights issue - that union goons will intimidate workers into signing on. Considering the state of labor in this country, we know where the goons are really coming from.

Looking for teachers/parents with views on ARIS

I won't get into what I think of the Education Sector and always have reasons to suspect their motives. But Leonie may have a point here. Let's see what they come up with though I wouldn't be surprised if they find ARIS to be one of the great inventions of all time.

For parents and teachers who have experience and/or views on the value or importance of ARIS, data inquiry teams or other aspects of the DOE accountability initiative, please contact Catherine at from the think-tank Education Sector.

See her email below. It is important that she hear from stakeholders with a wide range of opinion on this important issue. Thanks, Leonie

From: Catherine Cullen
To: Leonie Haimson
Subject: RE: ARIS interview request

Ms. Haimson,

Thanks again for your time today. My email address is Here's a short blurb about the project:

Education Sector, a non profit think tank, is looking into the ways that technology can facilitate collaboration around student information. I'm seeking a broad range of perspectives on ARIS, the DoE's data warehouse. Please contact me at if you are willing to share your experiences and opinions.

Arne Duncan, Segregationist?

Would the first African-American president appoint as an education secretary someone who has led Chicago backwards in terms of integration and percentage of black teachers being employed? George Schmidt has some answers.

Chicago, under Arne Duncan, has finally begun the job it was unable to do back in the days when Al Shanker (in the name of "standards") was sustaining an ethnic cleansing of the teaching force in New York City.

As you know, Chicago was always an anthesis to New York inside AFT. By the 1970s, Chicago had an enormous base of black teachers, and black leadersip at all levels within the Chicago Teachers Union. By the mid-1980s, that leadership was across-the-board. Jackie Vaughn was CTU President, and with massive support from unionized black teachers (and some others, like us here at Substance) Harold Washington had become mayor. By the time Jackie Vaughn died in 1994, the number of black teachers in Chicago's public schools nearly equalled the number of whites (with "other" gaining). By the end of the 1990s, white teachers were in the minority in the teaching force, and the majority of people working (in union jobs) in Chicago's public schools were black.

"School reform" in Chicago has been a sustained attack on those gains for black people. But, like other bourgeois attacks (especially of course the Jim Crow South under the Dixiecrats, the old "Solid South") on unionized workers, the entire class suffers when these divisions take hold.

The most grotesque thing about Barack Obama's appointment of Arne Duncan to be U.S. Secretary of Education is not (as some including former CTU president Debbie Lynch) that Duncan is "unqualified," but that Duncan has successfully led the ethnic cleansing of Chicago's teaching force (via privatization) while simultaneously ignoring Brown v. Board of Education and all federal desegregation rules (including Chicago's deseg consent decree) in a white supremacist way that would have been unthinkable at any time between the 1960s and the dawn
of this century.

1. Chicago has purged the teaching force of 2000 black teachers and principals since Duncan took over in 2001.

2. Chicago has created a segregated separate privatized school system (the charter school system of more than 80 "schools" and "campuses") since Duncan took over in 2001. That school system would be the second largest school system in Illinois were it made outside CPS.

Needless to say (especially for those of us who supported Barack Obama from "back in the day" when we first met him as an Illinois State Senator), the appointment of a segregationist privatizer and union buster to run the Department of Education is more than a bad sign. It's a clear indication of the struggle we will face in the years ahead.

Reading the entire thread about the Kahlenberg book, Sean's take on the underlying lie of 1969, and the Hirsch attack on Norm and Vera*, I'm hoping in the coming months there will be time and space to make a few of these points coherent in the pages of Substance and to our broader audience. Sean's points are among the most important, especially from the point of view of Chicago history.

And, as Sean notes in his material about 1968, our ability to counter a Big Lie with facts will continue to be challenged. After all, it's only been 40 years since "Ocean Hill Brownsville". And that Big Lie still holds central sway, not just because it's being repeated now in "Tough Liberal."

George N. Schmidt
Editor, Substance

*NY Teacher Reporter Responds to Our Shanker Book Review

Related: Duncan's Last Move: Close 25 Schools

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Players at South Bronx School Revealed

Following the South Bronx School blog gives us a clue to the nightmare that exists in so many schools under BloomKlein. Tales of corruption and abuse. The players were revealed.

The school: PS 154X District 7

John Deacon, The Principal: Linda-Amil Irizarry

Numb Nuts, The Assistant Principal: Derrick Townsend
Linda-Amil Irizzary was supt. of District 8 last year. She was asked to leave. Her best friend is the supt of District 7, Yolanda Torres.

Let the word go forth!


A case of the hedge (fund) hogs coming home to roost?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tweed Ineptitude Extended to Special Ed

Jeez. Can they get anything right? From parent Patricia Connelly to NYC Education Listserve to Patrick Sullivan, Manhattan rep on the Panel for Education Policy. Meeting this Monday, Jan.26 6pm at Tweed. (Sign up for speaking time at 5:30.)

Regents Vice Chancellor Meryl Tisch showed up unexpectedly at our CCSE (Citywide Council on Special Education) monthly public meeting this evening which was held at PS 77 in Brooklyn this evening.

She actively questioned D75 Superintendent Bonnie Brown and CCSE members regarding our feelings/impressions/views about Klein's latest reorganization announcements -- especially Garth Harries' new charge to conduct a system-wide "efficiency and efficacy" review of special education and related services.

Bonnie was more diplomatic than CCSE members, aka John, Ellen & I, were about what all this might bode. I repeated the CCSE call to appoint a "cabinet-level" deputy chancellor (an actual educator with the necessary expertise) to be accountable for special education throughout the system regardless of setting, classification or mandate.

Vice Chancellor Tisch reiterated her claim that she asked Bloom-Klein for this 7 years ago! She also said that she would call on Tweed to convene a special meeting with the CCSE, D75, and other special ed parent advocates with Harries and Eric Nadelstern to discuss the review and the latest reorganization before matters went much further.

We also made it a matter of public record that we did not feel that Klein was serious about "improving" education and services for our special needs students because he had asked Garth Harries to undertake this latest review -- someone who is not an educator by training, has absolutely no experience with special education issues and, in fact, allowed many new "small schools" to open on his watch with no special education infrastructure or plans in place to meet the needs of the students who would inevitably would need such support and services.

John and I plan to attend Monday's PEP meeting on Monday to address our latest concerns with Tweed's ineptitude (to put the matter politely) when it comes to our most vulnerable and needy students.

As always, thanks for all your efforts!

Patricia Connelly

Labor and the UFT

Friday night I was at a NYCoRE reception for their spring ITaGs (Inquiry to Action Groups.) There must have been at least 40 people present. I was too busy drooling over the guacamole to count.

I joined the Teachers as Organizers group and for the next 6 weeks we will explore issues related to labor with a focus on the UFT. (I wrote about it a few weeks ago Teachers as Organizers @ NYCORE.) I think there are about 7 of us in the group with quite a range of age and experience, so it should be illuminating.

Group leaders Seth Rader and Rosie Frascella, both NYC teachers, led an introductory discussion on where we should put our focus. We will cover issues related to working with teachers and working with children. Our first "assignment" is Why Teach Labor History? from the winter 2008/9 edition of American Educator.

Here is a tentative list of topics:
  • History/structure of the UFT
  • Identifying potential issues to organize around in individual chapter settings (bringing it back to schools)
  • Connections to the wider labor movement
  • Looking at teachers unions globally
  • Teaching about labor

Since the first scheduled session is tomorrow, Jan.22, there was a conflict with the conference
WHAT STRATEGIES FOR STRUGGLE IN THE UFT: A Discussion/Debate being held at CUNY tomorrow from 4:30-7:30.

So, we're going on a field trip (I have to have my soon to be 91 year old dad - on Tuesday - sign my consent slip) to CUNY tomorrow.

With chapter leader elections this spring and with UFT general elections a year from now, it will be interesting to see how the different groups view the organizing situation. There is no official ICE speaker. ICE is in the process of working out where it will stand on a range of issues. Two speakers are affiliated with ICE and will be speaking from their own point of view. I'll have a report on the event Friday.

Here is the announcement from John Powers.

With public education the focal point, it is time to raise and debate the strategies and struggles facing the UFT and all educators. Join in an evening of lively discussion of various viewpoints.

Speakers: Sean Ahern (Ad Hoc Committee to Reverse the Disappearing of Black and Latino/a Educators), Angel Gonzalez, Sally Lee (Teachers Unite), Marjorie Stamberg (Class Struggle Education Workers) and Kit Wainer (Teachers for a Just Contract). Moderator: John Powers (CSEW)

Thursday, January 22, 2009, 4:30-7 p.m.
CUNY Graduate Center, Room 5414
365 Fifth Avenue (at 34th St.)

B, D, F, Q, R, N, W to 34th (Sixth Ave.), or 6 train to 33rd

Obama Changes Rules on Lobbyists and Ethics




Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Responding to Randi

by guest blogger, Vera

By now you have all received a Dear Colleagues letter from President Weingarten calling for you to sign up in a “union campaign” in response to the looming cutbacks. Some comments on her statements (italics):

Unemployment…is expected to reach 9 percent in 2010.

What about the real unemployment situation? Including part time and discouraged workers? Where have our union historians and analysts been in recent years when many economists have been pointing out a real unemployment rate of between 9 and 12%, indicating a structural problem that would eventually have a huge impact on effective demand? And then, the widespread destruction of higher paid union jobs which left many workers with significantly lower incomes. All of which, in turn contributed to the explosion of private debt, the financial bubble, and the predictable collapse.

At least 46 states are facing huge budget deficits... In Albany, the deficit for the upcoming fiscal year has reached more than $15 billion.

What about the decades-long shortchanging of cities and public services as a result of taxation and spending policies? Examples, lower federal taxes on rich, states forced to pick up costs formerly paid by federal government, huge military spending, federal subsidies for corporate giants like farming and oil monopolies, and NYC subsidies to wealthy real estate and business interests. Why didn’t the union join the call for a stock-transfer tax, which would have tapped into all the profitable speculative trading?

Between the city and state, education is slated for more than $1.5 billion in cutbacks.

Where was the money when the city was rich? Why weren’t new schools built and why weren’t CFE funds spent where they were mandated to be spent—in the schools? Now we have nothing to give up. Many of our schools are already overcrowded; our class sizes are already too large, children have to travel miles all over the city because schools haven’t been built in neighborhoods with expanding populations, adding enormous transportation costs on to the education bills. Not to mention the cost of a growing education bureaucracy dedicated to excessive testing, data manipulation, administrative policies punitive toward teachers, demoralization of staff, and harassment of senior teachers. Then there is the costly chaos of closing large schools, opening up small ones, hiring four principals for one school building, repeatedly changing the bureaucratic structure, and hiring costly educational experts and monitors, with their checklists and buzzwords but nary a clue about what to do to make our schools more effective.

Predictably, the calls are already going out to reduced pensions and health benefits.

Why hasn’t our union joined the nationwide voices that are calling for universal health care? Where is a union-led movement to make social security more of a safety net for retirees by raising the income ceiling on taxable income and increasing benefits? Where were our union-designated pension board members when our pension funds were being put at risk through speculative investment?

A major call to action…a powerful public information, lobbying and action campaign…calling for… federal help and some additional fair taxes…and a hard look at the expenditure side to prioritize the classroom…[and identify] alternative education savings including downsizing the DOE’s vast testing apparatus… [and] the possibility of a retirement incentive.

Here are battles that should have begun long ago. Fair taxes? Where was the union when the upper tax rate was reduced from 39% to 35% at a time when the income gap between rich and poor was increasing greatly? Where was the union when the Bush administration launched a war that is expected to cost us three trillion dollars? Where was the union when successive administrations and congressional regimes paved the way for the eroding of our real economy through a free trade race to the bottom, the proliferation of offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes, and the destruction of a responsible banking system through deregulation? As for the vast testing apparatus, this is only one of the many boondoggles that have enriched corporate friends of the mayor and chancellor at the expense of our school system and our union members.

An effective call to action necessitates:

  • clear economic demands, not just begging for a few crumbs: raising income and corporate taxes on the wealthy, closing tax loopholes and eliminating most subsidies, and re-directing federal money to states and municipalities

  • mobilization of the entire labor movement nationwide to fight on behalf of workers (non-union and union) for jobs and services, universal health care, portable pensions, and adequate social security

  • a call for an end to the war in Iraq and a drastic downsizing of military expenditures

  • a campaign to end mayoral control and to replace the present DOE bureaucracy with a non-politicized, elected, responsible and accountable body of educational leaders who have the support of parents and teachers.



On inauguration day, I was riveted to the screen all day. I received a Move-on invitation to an inauguration party in Arverne-By-the-Sea (in Rockaway) that evening but I didn’t want to miss the chance to channel hop (not that the cold and snow weren’t factors). Now I’m sort of sorry I didn’t get into the spirit of the Obama call for community action. I wonder how he’ll feel if the activation of the American public leads to real protests over giving away the country to the wealthy? I certainly don’t have much hope for effective change in education based on Obama’s choice of Chicago school superintendent Arnie Duncan as Education Secretary. (More on this in future columns.)

I generally don't pay much attention to inaugurations. John Kennedy's inauguration in 1961 was unforgettable for a 16 year old. He had galvanized young people just as Obama has today. I was a sophomore at Thomas Jefferson HS in East New York. It may have been regent week and there wasn't a full program at school or schools were closed due to a snowstorm, but we were home that day. After a morning of carousing in the snow, my friends and I gathered in front of the TV to watch the speech. I vividly remember feeling embarrassed when Robert Frost's poem blew away. We listened intently to Kennedy's galvanizing words, still somewhat surprised we were actually interested in politics after the boring Eisenhower.

I'm still haunted by visions of that day connected to the stunning events less than 3 years later and the horrible years that followed. Despite the excitement of this past Tuesday’s events, that gnawing knot just never goes away. When the Obamas got out of the car, I couldn’t sit still. These feelings will never go away, as I bet they won’t for most people of my generation.

That Kennedy inaugural in you tube:

The only inauguration I attended was Richard Nixon's 2nd inaugural in 1973. We were not there to cheer. A large group of protesters went down to line the parade route to boo Nixon as he passed. I took the train with Lew Friedman. Lew was the guy who introduced me to left politics after I started working with Another View, an organization of educators based at IS 318 in District 14 (Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.) Another View is in many ways the antecedent of today's Independent Community of Educators, with some of the same people involved.

It was a cold day in DC and we stood on the parade route for hours, freezing our butts off. There were an estimated 60 - 75.000 people in DC protesting that day, a number not topped until Bush's first inaugural in 2001. We ducked into a coffee shop to grab a cup of cocoa. Just as we were paying, we heard a roar and a massive chorus of boos. We raced out and caught the tail of Nixon's car disappearing down Pennsylvania Ave. I got in a weak, hoarse boo. Even that brief moment gave us a high and the train ride home was a party.

This was all new to me, as I had missed the protests of the 60's. My first demonstration had been with Another View on May 1, 1971 at UFT HQ where we protested UFT President Al Shanker's support for the Vietnam War. In less than two years I had made up a lot of protesting time.

Monday, January 19, 2009

NY Teacher Reporter Responds to Our Shanker Book Review

Last year Vera Pavone and I reviewed Richard Kahlenberg's "Albert Shanker: Tough Liberal" for New Politics (A Journal of Socialist Thought) (

We titled it "Albert Shanker: Ruthless Neocon." (Get the pdf on the ICE web site.)

We tried to cover a lot of ground in our review of 40 years of UFT history. We tied the role Shanker played in the alliances with business starting in the
early 80's with the catastrophe that has befallen public ed based on so much of where Shanker really stood. While some people think Randi Weingarten shifted the union in another direction, in fact she has only continued the policies set by Shanker.

We also dealt with Shanker's sell-out in 1975, a precursor to what is to befall schools in today's crisis - listen to Randi's words carefully and you will get the picture. Then there was Shanker's role in undermining teacher unions around the world based on his anti-left ideology.

Michael Hirsch, on the editorial board of New Politics, has responded. Hirsch is a reporter for the NY Teacher and employed by the UFT. Think he has a dog in the race?
He does fess up in his comments that Randi Weingarten is his boss while at the same time claiming he is not responding because of that.

Interesting that at the end of his response, he is identified this way:
MICHAEL HIRSCH is a New York-based labor journalist and is a member of the editorial boards on New Politics and Democratic Left.

Not exactly truth in advertising. In Hirsch's first draft he ended with a mild criticism of Shanker, which in a follow-up he removed. Call that being careful. Very careful.

We were given half the number of words (800) that Hirsch used in our response. Thus, we were severely constrained in responding to his red-baiting and attacks on us as members of ICE where he tries to marginalize as the lunatic fringe by distorting the election results.

This comment is particularly revealing:
"But surely the point of view of habitual dissidents whose union caucus garnered just 7 percent of the vote in the last presidential election, and who remain a null factor in union politics is itself a telling critique. These were the wrong reviewers to take on Kahlenberg."

For a null factor, Weingarten and Unity spend a hell of a lot of time addressing our nullness, something Hirsch who is present at DAs and Ex Bd meetings has known full well. This goes beyond distortion into the realm of outright lies.

Hirsch also confuses the ICE position with that of TJC when he talks about strikes. As a matter of fact he seems to completely confuse the positions of ICE and TJC.

He totally misrepresents the '68 strike. And to disclaim any responsibility for the leadup to NCLB on the part of Shanker by saying he died years before the law was passed is to ignore the entire last third of Kahlenberg's book.

And for a supposed socialist, Hirsch spends a lot of time red-baiting. The very first words of his commentary? Leon Trotsky. And he makes sure to throw in Rosa Luxembourg and Lenin for good measure. Doesn't Hirsch know I'm still (barely) a capitalist?

Both responses are posted at the New Politics web site. It is worth checking out. The hard copy will be out in a few weeks. I'm now a subscriber and it is a pretty serious looking journal. I'm looking forward to reading Jack Gerson's,"Where Will Obama Go?" (Jack was briefly with Coalition of NYC School Workers, a precursor of iCE, in the early 70's before he went on to bigger things. Just about every left wing teacher teacher in NYC passed through our group back then.)

I posted Hirsch's piece on Norms Notes for ease of access.

Hirsch Responds to Pavone-Scott Review of Shanker Book

Our response is also on Norms Notes. Ira Goldfine joined us in the response.

Scott/Pavone/Goldfine Response to Hirsch

Here were some comments on ICE-mail

Woodlass says:

Great response to Hirsch review.

In addition to all you've come back with in the limited space, and particularly that line you
quote below where he talks about ICE: "But surely the point of view of habitual dissidents whose union caucus garnered just 7 percent of the vote in the last presidential election, and who remain a null factor in union politics is itself a telling critique" —

Hirsch makes it seem that ICE has been around for as long as Unity has, being composed all these many decades of "habitual dissidents" who could in all this time only garner 7% of the vote. So on top of the election analysis you laid out in the response, it's also important to note that ICE is a fairly recent development in the history of this union. It's a caucus with no money, no headquarters, no access to new members, no computers connected to DoE statistics, restricted speaking time at union meetings, and in general very few ways to do any garnering at all. That it has been able to take on the Unity machine at all these past six years — and have people like Weingarten, Casey and even Hirsch take so much note — is a result of its dogged commitment to teachers and kids and a keen eye for the abuses of imperial unionism.

J says,
I think its a measure of how strong your critique was that he doesn't even attempt to defend the book.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Math Teacher Asks---

This Jan. is last Math A exam as transition has begun (last June) to new Math regents Sequence. So far it is an unmitigated disaster in NYC. This is due to the poor preparation of most incoming students, more difficult material, and only two terms to learn the Integrated Algebra Regents curriculum. I wonder how others feel.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Some Thoughts

From Loretta on ICE mail:

When I saw the photo of the pilot and noted the gray hair, I thought that if Joel Klein ran American Airways the pilot's 40 years of experience would have landed him in the pilots equivalent of the teachers' rubber room– not safely on the Hudson. How lucky those 154 people were to be in the hands of experienced people.

Comment: Pilots are unionized. They have work rules. And seniority. Are there calls for 6 week summer training programs for pilots? In the heaps of praise from the press, these facts get lost by the wayside.

From Michael Fiorillo on ICE-mail in response to this headline:

16 Chicago schools to be closed, consolidated or relocated

It's the Shock Doctrine at work: the economic crisis being used as an opportunity to implement the plan to close, reorganize, charterize, privatize and de-unionize schools.

Not exactly what we thought we were voting for in November, although some of that was our own - meaning those of us who voted for Obama, myself included - self delusion, since Obama has never hidden his intentions to expand charters.

"Change We Can Deceive In"

Chicago Fight Back on School Closings

Friday, January 16, 2009

DOE Tech Reorganization All About HAL-er -ARIS

As we reported yesterday (Yet Another Reorganization From Tweed) Tweed has instituted another reorganization of technology. Now we are getting a clue as to what's behind it all.

It is all about ARIS.

About a week ago, some members of Office of Instructional Technology were "observed" by officials of the Office of Accountability giving an ARIS workshop for teachers. Soon after, the Office of Instructional Technology was folded into James Leibman's Office of Accountability. Was their workshop an audition for their being chewed up by HAL - er - ARIS?

Yes, it's all about ARIS training for teachers and possibly parents. (See a bunch of Elizabeth Green's postings on ARIS at Gotham Schools.)

Now let's make it clear. The purpose of OIT has always been to train teachers to deliver tech services to children by developing programs that will increase computer literacy.

Amongst all the other gaps, one of the keys is the technology gap that poor urban kids seem to face. Can they use word processing and spreadsheets? Can they even use a keyboard effectively? Can they make effective use of the internet? I can go on.

As I said yesterday, the ability of the schools to deliver these services to kids is at a significantly lower level than it was 6 years ago when I left the system. In fact, it has suffered a steady erosion as they moved from a district to a region to a borough and now to a citywide level.

This growing tech gap is apparently not a civil rights issue of our times for people like Al Sharpton and Joel Klein.

All studies have shown that to just put hardware into schools is not enough. Estimates are that 35% of the money should be spent on support. Most of the money for this support under BloomKlein has come in the form of federal Title IID grants, not from city money.

Managing these millions of dollars of grants effectively is a big job and as it migrated from district to region to borough under BloomKlein, the ability to deliver effective services to schools has eroded. Until today, these grants have been managed by the OIT head in each borough. Now all grants will supposedly be managed by one person and a small staff at the citywide level. Someone at the fed and state level should take a good look at how effective this will be.

Now it looks like instead of delivering services to kids, OIT personnel will be used in the service of a flawed system like ARIS.

So, on top of the $80 million tag for the ARIS data system, add these costs of training and support. Soon to be added? The other multi-million dollar special ed compter system. The data munchers at the DOE have consumed the education of an entire generation of kids.

One day, like Colonel Nicolson in Bridge on the River Kwai, Jim Leibman will scream out in pain, "What have I done?"

Leibman leads his new troops from the Office of Instructional Technology over the bridge to nowhere.

Top graphic by David B


New Visions warns principals not to trust ARIS data warehouse

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Yet Another Reorganization From Tweed Tech

I was actively involved in instuctional technology issues in NYC schools from the school level to the district to the citywide level from roughly 1985 to 2004. You could say that under the BloomKlein system of management, the state of technology in NYC schools, as measured by the degree of knowledge and skills the kids are getting, is at a lower state than it was when they took over. (This is corroborated by many of the people I know who are still involved.) That's an amazing "achievment" in a time of explosion of technology.

I mean, how many things can you mess up and never be held accountable?

Speaking of accountability, or the lack thereof, Jim Liebman's accountability office will now be taking over much of - get this gang - instructional technology. Hee, haw, what a joke this is turning out to be. And they are putting the former head of OIT as grant manager in charge of all the Federal Title IID grants, pretty much an impossible task.

Tech is going through its 3rd - or is it a 4th - reorganization. You can't keep the reorganizations straight without a scorecard.

Let's see. When I left, we supported schools at district level. In my district we did not do a bad job, considering most of the teachers were not computer literate. Like, we had to teach them how to set up and use an email account and navigate the web. And try to get as many kids as we could reach to learn word processing and internet skills at a time when less than 5% had home computers.

There was a central office of instructional technology (OIT) that brought us together a few times a year to share and a citywide tech support structure was being built. They provided some money and teacher training. This was from the late 90's through 2003.

But then came the destroyers from Tweed. Regions, with sometimes hundreds of schools. They made 11 tech instruction heads, one for each region, plus District 75 (special ed.) It took 2 years to write, grants, hire people, get them out to schools, start projects, etc. I mean doing this was hard enough on a district level ( I used to cover 7-9 schools a week) but doing it at the region level was pretty messy, yet beginning to have an impact - spotty - but an impact (I was working part-time for one region and we got robotics started in every middle school and a bunch of elementary schools.)

Then they ended regions and made borough heads. Can you imagine trying to get a handle on the entire borough? They focused instead on the schools involved in the federal Title II D grants, which by the way, required them to include parochial schools – another Bush legacy? (I also worked one year for Region 8, having been hired to do one job which they morphed into taking care of the 20 religious schools in the region that were part of the grant. I didn't last long.)

Well, the latest came on the heels of an internal announcement of a $1 billion cut and they are folding the boroughs into Liebman's Office of Accountability. Eric Nadelstern gets all the LSO's reporting to him. Marcia Lyles will probably be given a Do Now.

There's an emergency meeting tomorrow with Leibman. His droning on should make it a fun event.

Thirteen New ATRs at John Dewey HS

Yesterday, teachers at Dewey, based in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, were told that 13 people would be excessed as of Feb. 1. This is only the tip of the iceberg of what is to come. Thus, the massive creation of Absentee Teacher Reserves (ATRs) continues.

The UFT will do little unless forced. ICE has formed an ATR/School Closing committee (ASC-ICE-UFT) to address these issues and is working with the Ad Hoc ATR committee to create pressure on the union. One of our goals is to get the UFT to take a stand against closing schools - no, not by passing a useless motion at a Delegate Assembly, but to hold rallies and pressure politicians and educators, especially in the closing schools' districts, to support us. We have been in touch with teachers at some of the announced closing schools with the idea of holding a meeting so they can take action together. We are meeting on Wed. Feb 4 at 5PM the Skyline Diner on 34th St. and 9th Ave. Join us. There is also a listserve you can join. Email

Back to our announcer

Those of us who remember the NYC budget crisis of 1975/76 (15,000 layoffs) can testify to the long-term negative impact of the cuts to come. Teachers were given the choice by the city and the UFT of tossing a good deal of the contract in the garbage - rising class sizes, cuts in preps, frozen salaries, closing schools, and more – in order to prevent more chaos. The UFT's Al Shanker even loaned the city part of the teacher pension funds to help with the bailout. Sort of like holding the knives while they cut your limbs off.

In 1975, there was a seniority system in place that, while wrenching, at least provided an orderly procedure. Thus career teachers of, say, 10 years, would not be facing the prospect of seeing first year teachers who are 50% likely to leave within a few years (maybe tempered this time by the lack of jobs anywhere) in their places.

We assume that at least the seniority rules are still being followed in each license area, but who knows for sure? Some ATRs will remain at the school doing day-to-day sub work and at some point, some will be moved out to other schools. In the pre-Klein era, there would a system-wide procedure for placing them into other schools based on seniority.

This orderly seniority placement system, much vilified by Randi Weingarten and Joel Klein, has been replaced by the Open Market system, which throws many veteran teachers on the mercy of the whim of principals, many with little experience in education.

While on the surface, the old system of bumping seemed inefficient, in fact it bought stability to the system. The anti-teacher market-based ed reformers, unfortunately joined by the UFT, have used the seniority system as the whipping boy for failures in education. But there is not one iota of data, in the world of data munchers, to show this is true.

Before going on in defense of the seniority system which will open Ed Notes up to attacks as being an old "the union is right at any cost" troglodyte, I want to point out that I have been urging reform of the education system and the UFT since 1970. Believe me, I saw some of the evils of seniority up close and personal, but given the alternatives, I feel it still works out best for schools and, yes, even students, over the long haul. It seems to work in Scarsdale and other top performing school systems in Long Island and we don't hear too many complaints.

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Human capital in the sense of dislocation and fear among teachers is not conducive to good teaching or learning. I don't know why people think having teachers constantly on edge builds good learning environments. From personal experience, no matter how much I tried to hide it when I was anxious, it would seep into the classroom. Maybe just a bit less patience with a student's behavior. Maybe a little more time in reacting before doing something stupid that would lose a student forever when I was relaxed.

A friend who once came to my class, said I was the most relaxed teacher she has ever seen. She must have caught me on a really good day. But I always was conscious of how much more effective I was when I was feeling good about things. Luckily, I am a fairly optimistic person and always felt free to let my instincts work, especially when it came to dealing with behavior issues, always using humor where possible to deflect issues. And to a great extent it worked. I can't imagine succeeding in a time when nothing is funny.

The UFT will advise these brand new ATRs of their right to remain silent and will hold workshop sessions teaching them how to write resumes, how to dress for success and how to apply makeup.

Help pass out the ASC-ICE leaflet in your schools. If you can't download it, email me and I'll send you a pdf. Remember. Everyone is a potential ATR. Ich Bin Ein ATR. No one is exempt. ACT NOW TO DEFEND YOUR RIGHTS, WHATEVER RIGHTS YOU STILL HAVE .

Download the ASC-ICE flyer.

The Ad Hoc ATR committee is doing important work by focusing on monitoring the recent UFT/DOE ATR agreement, handing out a survey to schools. See a report of their last meeting and their survey at Norms Notes.

LAUSD board votes to possibly lay off 2,300 teachers