Sunday, June 6, 2010

Report of CEJ/AQE UFT political action day on Saturday June 5, 2010

Special to Ed Notes by a 10 year teacher

I attended the CEJ/AQE UFT political action day on Saturday June 5, 2010.

First person I saw, and was surprised I did, as I got up the stairs on the second floor was Michael Mulgrew. He was talking with some senator and a few people were gathered around.

It was a bit after 2pm so as always when I arrive late I ask someone if they could fill me in and if I missed anything important. I was told I had not missed much-----while glancing over the refreshments- they served fruit, chocolate cake and drinks.

When I entered the event room I was also surprised to see so few people ---- maybe 60 - 100 people there tops. (Roughly about what we had turn out at Tweed June 4,2010).

What really perplexed me was seeing so many UFT staff. Along with the UFT President was the Treasurer, Assistant Secretary,VP from Middle schools,VP for educational issues and many other representatives.

It felt strange. Mostly because I have been bothered by the fact that this event was not posted on the UFT website. But I guess I should have realized with important senators expected there it would only be natural the UFT officials would be too.

I mingled a bit and when I was introduced to the Queens reps Mr. Sanchez and Mr. Smith I asked them about why so little publicity on such an important event with all that is going on in public education.

Mr. Smith wanted to know how I found out about the event and he said they deliberately did it the way they did. I had no doubt it was deliberate but I wanted to know why. Why wouldn't you want to post on website and invite everyone? I never did get an answer as to why. I also asked which senator was there to represent Far Rockaway. I was told Malcolm Smith had already been there and left. I asked if there were people from his district to talk with him. The two reps said yes but oddly I never did get to meet anyone from the district. I guess these folks left along with the senator.

Ok so---the event itself had its weirdness. There was no agenda. People were offering personal stories and it became apparent most were parents and very few teachers-----as senators one by one would arrive they would announce who and what district and send those folks out to a room to talk and ask questions.

After a while of this-- the room became quite empty ---when about a dozen people were left I asked if anyone knew why International HS in Bensonhurst had so much money and were able to have such small class sizes ( I had 16 HS students in the Gym) but PS 104 in Far Rockaway was desperately struggling to get by with 23 kindergartners in a class and lost positions last year including their librarian. And why a public school would have a board of directors. ( see for yourself: )

Hoping to raise the issue of vast discrepancies across the city depending on area, neighborhood, what have you etc...Aminda Gentile said International HS is a model school throughout the country and they get some sort of grant funding.This I knew---- what I wanted to know was why such vastly different scenarios from one school to the other-- and what does this mean for NYC----- she said that this International school type of funding is not what you want.

This next part is where it really got interesting:

After awhile the room filled back up because senator Sampson was introduced by President Mulgrew.

The senator began with and repeated several times----Please don't let one vote determine our relationship. Sampson apparently voted no on budget. Then twice he said he was happy to be here to hear from the rank and file. Of course--I'm confused here looking around knowing there were few to none rank and file in the room---I guess he just assumed he'd be talking with the teachers and UFT school staff. Mulgrew, I guess, knowing the rank and file were not invited, quietly interjected and said communities are here too. But Billy Easton (AQE) who was MC for the day repeated we have people from the community as they opened the floor for questions for Senator Sampson. A sweet spoken elderly women stood up and introduced herself as Mother Edith Davis who works on Title 1 committee--Region 2-- she first commented on

#1) the fact that she had just found out about this meeting last night
#2) she and her committee had been traveling to Washington to advocate for title 1 parents (mr frier?) they are very upset that the parents are not being put in the November bill Blueprint for Reform and wanted to know what the senator would do to help.

I watched as Mulgrew said into his mic to please keep it short since the senator had to leave for a meeting with the public (at this comment I began scratching my head I thought I must have been imagining this but it seemed as if he was mocking the women) as I found it difficult as to why he would say that at that time --she really did not say too much or speak very long-- it was as if he was jumping in anticipating she would go on and on.

The next guy wanted to discuss the proliferation of charters and how they are hurting the union.The senator said he had previously spoke to the gentleman and said we can talk anytime. He said he wanted to give someone else a chance to speak. The man insisted on making his point though he did not get the senator to respond much publicly. I have his contact info he's a community organizer. I also met 3 teachers, chapter leader and delegate from 332. One of the schools on the closings list.

The UFT staff were becoming frustrated at the line of questioning at this point and asked folks to focus their questions on the budget cuts. Then a teacher, who was sitting with UFT special representative asked the perfect budget question and they ended the Q and A.

Well, that's my summary of the day --I'm wondering if Anyone knows Mother Davis or suggestions how to reach her-- I was on my way over to say hello and as happens at these events got held up talking and never did get the chance, but would love to make that connection.


  1. I'm sure the union did not want teachers there. They might have embarrassed the union on their sellouts.

  2. To the 10 year teacher :

    At the beginning of the meeting (you missed that) it was explained that senators were invited and as the invitations were accepted, the union, cej and acorn reached out to the members, the parents and the community to attend. When your senator showed up (which you missed) a large group of consitunets met with him in a break out room.

    This event was for engaging the senators in a conversation specific to the schools in their area.

    Your question regarding schools in Far Rockway and Bensonhurst was not posed as one that questioned the differences in resources in differing areas. In fact, it was not clear what the question was.

    Perhaps that was because you lost your LIRR ticket and we were all busy looking for the stub.

    Oh well.

  3. To Anon above:

    You write:

    "as the invitations were accepted, the union, cej and acorn reached out to the members, the parents and the community to attend."

    Are you serious? Really? What exactly does reach out mean? Could you clarify this for me please?

    Thank you.

  4. Dear Anonymous who wrote:

    "This event was for engaging the senators in a conversation specific to the schools in their area."

    Exactly the reason why it is so troubling for the members to learn that they were not given the opportunity to attend or even told about the event.
    What is even more troubling is that at a time when we need a strong leader and union solidarity we have more of the same secret back room deals with a facade union.

    Still, much appreciation for helping me find my train ticket.


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