Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mulgrew Profiled in Times, With Quote from Eterno

As James Eterno says in Jennifer Medina's profile of UFT leader Michael Mulgrew in today's Times.

“We’re not expecting any major change — it’s still the same machine that is running the U.F.T.,” said James Eterno, who is making a long-shot bid to challenge Mr. Mulgrew. “In some ways, it does not matter who the head is, you know that they are going to toe the line and not fight for many changes for teachers.”

Give Medina some credit for talking to James. The press generally ignores the fact that there is internal opposition in the UFT. I don't know why she didn't include this great photo of James and Camille Eterno and two month old daughter Kara Teresa, who will be running against Leo Casey for HS VP in the UFT elections, the youngest candidate in history.

Oh, I forgot. The story was about Mulgrew.

There certainly will be some cosmetic differences beyond the obvious ones in the transition from Weingarten to Mulgrew.

Medina touches on what I would term the all around Weingarten fatigue from within and without the UFT (have fun you guys over at the AFT in DC), even in her own Unity party:

Mr. Mulgrew cuts quite a different figure from those who came before him... And the distinctions are not just physical. His predecessor, Randi Weingarten, was known for her work-around-the-clock ethos and frequent news conferences, and seemed to relish rising to the balls of her feet and shouting to make a point.

Internal sources at 52 Broadway, commenting on the immediate differences between them at last week's Delegate Assembly, made the point that Mulgrew came down to the meeting on time (Randi would have traipsed in at 5pm with no worries about keeping a thousand people waiting and would have talked for another hour) and got the business done. Of course, the usual business was introducing politicians who get more speaking time at DA's than people who disagree with the members.

One education official who spoke only on the condition that he not be identified for fear of angering Mr. Mulgrew — or his predecessor — contrasted the two by saying that Ms. Weingarten often seemed to be calculating several moves ahead when she spoke. Mr. Mulgrew, the official said, says exactly what he is thinking. Asked to respond to the comparison, Mr. Mulgrew gave another belly laugh: “I can’t answer that one without getting myself in trouble — maybe it’s a good idea people believe you say what you’re thinking.”

Pretty funny for a guy being touted as someone who says what he is thinking to say, "I can't answer that one without getting myself in trouble." Go ahead, Mike. Get in trouble. Say what you're thinking. Randi was a pain in the ass.

Of course, the same Unity machine mob mentality still exists (when Randi took over she promised major reform and turned out to be more undemocratic and more of a demagogue than either Shanker or Feldman) and it took a point of order by Eterno at the DA to get the floor.

Eterno got to say his piece but with numerous interruptions by Mulgrew. Weingarten was notorious for never letting people finish as she interrupted repeatedly with points she disagreed with and Mulgrew must feel he has to show his muscle to the Unity hacks by doing the same.

There were Unity Caucus and full time staffers hooting and hollering as they guarded the isles. We actually have a copy of the floor plan of action they lay out before each meeting.

The crazy mob scene and truly dumb increase in security in the lobby (with one sumo wrestler type with shaved head standing with arms folded blocking the stairs) and hallways of 52 may be a sign that Mulgrew's lauded attention to detail failed him in this first major test of running a DA. Changing from a chapter leader to a DA at the last minute and holding a meeting in a room that holds 850 when there are over 3000 delegates (the reality is that between 1000 and 1200 were expected to show was not a good introduction for the 350 new chapter leaders and countless new delegates.

If we at least get some straight shooting from Mulgrew instead of Weingarten's whining, that will be an improvement. But as James Eterno points out, Mulgrew will be stumped on the big issues because he is running a union structure with an ideology that just cannot win improvements for the members and the children of NYC (and for you troglodytes out there, yes I am linking the two).

Medina quotes Leo Casey:

Leo Casey, the vice president of high schools for the union. “Leaving aside the huge budget gaps, he also has to figure out how to mount a response to the charter school movement that accepts the best of what they should be, but really turns back the attempt to use charter schools to privatize education.”

Gee, Leo, ya think? Casey is one of the architects of the failed UFT policy on charter schools (and the open market system, atrs, rubber rooms, seniority, etc), with two UFT charters occupying space in public schools, leaving teachers in school being invaded by charters on their own to fight back school by school.

Here's a simple prediction: Mulgrew will not be able to turn back the use of charter schools to privatize education and the Unity Caucus leadership is a major obstacle in organizing teachers and parents to be able to do so.

Casey rose on the tails of Weingarten (he was her chapter leader at Clara Barton HS for the 10 minutes she taught). Will he fall now that she is gone?

Hey Mike, tell us what you really think of Leo Casey.

See Anna Philips' profiles of Eterno and Mulgrew at Gotham Schools.


Anonymous said...

I decided to count the photos of Mulgrew in the latest issue of the NY Teacher:
Total: 27. + 4 (all on one page) in the state edition.
One page had 5 of him!
3 pages had 3
2 pages had 3.
In the competition of ego-mania, I think Mulgrew wins. and he's just started his reign.

Anonymous said...

Hi Norm,
regarding your post about how Mulgrew didn't interrupt James.. Did you watch what Mulgrew did while James was speaking??Oh, wait, were you even inside the room?? He made annoyed-looking faces, cleaned his glasses on his jacket,, looked around the room and generally tried very hard to look bored and uninspired. Obviously rude, I think using the NY Teacher for toilet paper would be more useful.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer Medina has a crush on him, from the opening paragraph:

"This is not the kind of man who walks into a room unnoticed. Michael Mulgrew’s stature — six feet tall, 230 pounds, size 48 — demands attention. His voice, trained in years of childhood theater, booms from his chest. He is just what central casting might expect when searching for the part of union president."