Friday, June 3, 2011

Does the UFT Bury Stories Exposing How Weak It Really Is When It Comes to Defending Chapter Leaders?

Updated: Friday, June 3, 11pm

Should the UFT warn potential chapter leaders of the pitfalls?

My latest fad is reading Philip Kerr Berlin Noir novels featuring Bernie Gunther, an anti-Hitler detective/policeman in Nazi Germany. Taking place in 1936 and 1938 the first two novels provide some interesting insights into what it might have been like to be living in Germany in those years. I will go into other details another time, but the point I want to make has to do with the heart of "The Pale Criminal" where young girls are being horribly murdered by a serial killer. Rather than warn the populace, the Nazi regime keeps everything under cover so as not to appear weak or suffer a propaganda defeat over the inability to solve the crimes. Thus, without being warned, parents allow their children to go about and face the danger. The official reason they give to anguished parents is that they want to prevent copycat crimes.

Thus it is with chapter leaders in some very dangerous situations. I will be reporting more on the IS 216Q situation where the UFT recruited a very competent teacher to run for chapter leader because the principal had chopped up every previous CL and promised to have her back. They didn't. She has been removed from the school and faces 3020a dismissal charges.

A longtime chapter leader who gave up the position last fall sent me the email below on May 21. The story told here goes well with some of the stories Jeff Kaufman is telling on his new ed law blog - see side panel. I have so many stories of how teachers are being railroaded. But the worst are the chapter leaders who have been attacked due to their defense of teacher rights. You will hear none of these stories in UFT commercials defending LIFO and seniority rights. Why? Instead of blasting these stories out, the UFT unable to protect the basic lifeblood of the union, chooses to keep them undercover. If you ask them you might get a similar answer the parents of the dead girls got -  in this case to prevent copycat principals from feeling free to engage in nefarious activities. It might make sense but we know that principals don't need this spelled out since they have a much better network than teachers. The other reason is to keep the membership from understanding just how far the situation has slid. The lack of publicity - see Peter Lamphere* case at Bronx HS of Science - leaves people "out there" with little preparation for what might be coming when push comes to shove. Sort of like the parents in the Phllip Kerr novel who never knew there was a serial killer due to press blackout for the express purpose of "good news" propaganda. Go forth and read the NY Teacher and all the wonders of the UFT.

Hi Norm

I sent the below to teachers at my school and Cc'd mulgrew....

Dear Teachers:

Please carefully consider the following.  And please take the time to email Michael Mulgrew to tell him what is important to you.  If you could just take 5 minutes per week to send emails, we may just get our message across to UFT leadership.  Feel free to forward this to any NYC teachers you know.

There are many battles one can choose to fight in Bloomberg's war against teachers.   Consider the following comments made by Bloomberg and his minions....

"They're just trying to create the maximum havoc and disruption and fear among parents," Bloomberg said. (regarding teachers objecting to his policy of routinely shutting down public schools in order to make room for his corporate charter school buddies)

About teachers' unions: "It is symptomatic of an organization that is invested in the failed status quo. That is true across the board," (Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson) 

But the quote that really got me was…

"According to DOE internal analysis, the average NYC teacher works fewer than seven hours per day, 185 days per year and costs the city $110,000-$71,000 in salary, $23,000 in pensions, and $16,000 in health and other benefits." This has been stated over and over again by many of Bloomberg's lackeys.  This false claim is one of their key talking points yet UFT leadership has failed to expose it for the lie that it is. 

Your average New Yorker sees us as working less than 7 hours per day for only 185 days per year for too much money and we wonder why everyone seems to hate us. 

UFT Leadership has failed to adequately inform the public about all of the paperwork and lesson planning we do before and after school and on weekends.  And we, collectively as teachers, have failed to press UFT leadership to speak up on our behalf. The unions for NYC firefighters and police took out full page ads in major newspapers.  It was a two column spread.  One column contained Bloomberg's lies about them and the other column exposed the truth.  Where is our ad?  Why are we not exposing the lies about teachers?  Why hasn't UFT leadership asked chapter leaders to collect ideas for such an ad?  Does Michael Mulgrew truly have our best interests in mind?  I think not.  But even if he does, he is not demonstrating the competence to get the message out to the public at large.  It really doesn't matter what his intentions are if he isn't saying the words we want him to say.  

I know that only a handful of you have emailed Michael Mulgrew to urge him to fight for what we believe in.  Exposing the Bloomberg lie that teachers only work during contractual hours while inside their school building should be a top priority for Mulgrew and his staff.  I am sure that this is something that hits home for you since I know how much paperwork you have to complete on a regular basis.  I know it angers me because as soon as I finish writing and sending this off to you, I will be looking at the material our administration received regarding next year's curriculum.  I too work on weekends.
Now I know what some of you are thinking; sure, some teachers manage to skate by---they don't really do much work after or before school hours.  The work done with their students reflects this lack of effort.  And in order to inform the public truthfully we must admit that upfront. But we must also insist that we not be lumped in with those teachers and we must ask why those teachers received the same satisfactory rating as the rest of us.  Unsatisfactory teachers receiving satisfactory ratings are the result of poor management - not the result of teachers fighting to protect their incompetent colleagues.   I've always maintained that no one despises a bad teacher more than a good teacher.  But please do not take this as an endorsement of the new evaluation system.  These same "skaters" will exist as long as DOE management continues to fail at managing. 

I know first hand of good teachers who were railroaded and falsely accused of misconduct.  One teacher in particular (not from our school) lost her entire career because she had to choose whether or not she attended her hearing or her new job outside of education.  She simply could not keep her new job and take the day off.  I bring this up because if a good teacher can be railroaded and lose her job, then I cannot buy the argument that it is impossible for administrators to get rid of truly bad teachers.  The DOE has made teachers the scapegoats for their managerial failures. 

If you are a dedicated, hardworking teacher then I urge you to write to Mulgrew ( and ask him to speak up on the issues you deem important.  Without your involvement, teacher apathy will put the final nail in our coffin.  So please take the time every week…just 5 or 10 minutes to email Mulgrew.  You can Cc our Bronx rep as well ( And if you would like to forward your emails to me I would be happy to read them. 

By remaining silent we will allow the public to continue to believe that we each cost the taxpayers $110,000 while basically working part time.  This will be the argument for longer school days and a longer work year.  We either expose this lie now or we enable it now.   Our silence will allow the image of "lazy, greedy part-time teachers" to be the only image the taxpayer imagines when Bloomberg calls for lay offs, increasing our contractual day/year and stripping us of pension and medical benefits. 

If you're doing school work on this beautiful sunny Saturday, let Mulgrew know!  Express your outrage and insist that he start exposing the real conditions under which we work and the real amount of time we spend at home on school work.  That snow globe commercial didn't really do all that, did it?  That's because the UFT leadership has completely lost touch with what is important to those of us on the frontlines in the classrooms day in and day out.  Which is why I claim they do not have our best interests in mind….and even if they do….they are failing miserably. 

Cc: M. Mulgrew
       J. Vargas

Peter Lamphere's essay "Arbitrary U-Ratings" at Gotham Schools describes what happened to the math dept at his school when admin went on the attack. Excerpt:

"I was unfortunate enough to have witnessed this process firsthand at the Bronx High School of Science. In the fall of 2007, the math department welcomed a new assistant principal, Rosemarie Jahoda. Soon, however, we found that the newer teachers in the department were being subjected to a level of scrutiny and paperwork that was excessive. As soon as I spoke up about the issue, which was my responsibility as a member of a UFT consultation committee that met with the principal, I immediately began receiving unjustified disciplinary letters.  These were quickly followed by groundless unsatisfactory lesson observation reports. I had had a spotless teaching record for my entire previous career, including at Bronx Science.
I was not alone. My newer colleagues were warned against speaking to their more senior coworkers. They were reduced to tears in meetings with the AP, and yelled at in front of their students. One was fired; others soon left. Senior teachers were not spared the abuse — one was called “disgusting” by AP Jahoda after speaking up in a department meeting.
As a result, 20 of us (out of a department of 22) filed a harassment grievance in 2008 against our AP and Principal Valerie Reidy. After spending eight full hearing days over the span of one school year, a neutral fact-finder substantiated our complaints, concluding that the “the totality of Jahoda’s treatment of teachers … constitutes harassment.”
The DOE, however, completely dismissed her findings . . .  "


wife of NYC inner-city teacher said...

My husband, an almost 10-year veteran teacher (the last 6 in a remedial high school), is going through the same kinds of things that are documented above at Bronx Science. And yes, he is one of those who puts in hours and hours of evenings and weekend time on behalf of his students, doing the paperwork, perfecting lesson plans, etc., etc., etc.

Some of what is being done to him, and what we've now heard about happening to other teachers in the system, reminds me of the KGB!

We have (at our own expense!) hired a lawyer and another advisor to help him through the alternate reality of going from appealing his first U rating in his whole career, to initiating and writing many of his own grievances (since the UFT is often too busy hobnobbing with politicians -- sending them way too much of his dues money -- to do this for him, much to the chagrin of the school's able faculty UFT representative), to writing attachments to the growing number of spurious letters being added to his file, to drafting an Article 78, to anticipating 3020a proceedings, etc., etc., etc.

The list of what's being done to my husband even includes students reporting to him that they are being pumped and bribed for "dirt" on my husband by the administration! (Fortunately, the results are laughably paltry!)

This school's administration has even gone so low as to reschedule most of his students to first period -- at a school that has about a 75% tardy rate on a daily basis.

Mid-second semester, they suddenly rescheduled a substantial number of students into his course, without these students having passed or taken the first semester of the course!

And it was even reported by a visiting graduate that she did not show up the previous year for the Regents exam for the subject my husband taught her, because the administration got to her during the days before the test, telling her she might as well not show up for the exam because my husband's competance was "questionable," and she might not be allowed to take the exam even if she did show up.

We presume this one student was not the only one the admin. got to, because only about a third of those signed up for the exam showed up, and most of those were not his better students. You can imagine what this did to my husband's students' Regents outcomes.

To add insult to injury, he was one of those hired from outside the teaching profession when the city was hurting for teachers a decade ago. He worked like a dog, while also teaching in a sink-or-swim environment, to take the education courses and state exams needed to become certified.

He is an excellent, hard-working teacher, as documented by all of the "S" rated observations and final ratings for all of these years. The students respect him tremendously -- maybe the admin. is jealous???

The corruption, lying-with-statistics, and cronyism at my husband's school is off the charts.

And, I'm sorry to have to say this but: the UFT is like the Keystone Cops at best, and simply AWOL at worst.

I theorize that the reason more teachers don't do something to make the UFT more accountable, is that they have been co-opted by the improved salaries over the last ten years [still not competitive with the 'burbs, however] and their benefit packages. Most don't realize that UFT leaders traded away a lot of our job protections in exchange for those nice salary/benefit packages; that is, until they're on the receiving end of the DOE-endorsed teacher-torture techniques now being employed to the unlucky ones like my husband.

Anonymous said...

What a minute!! The UFT is running an SOB vote in MS 216Q because the chapter leader was removed and involved in 3020a proceedings. This is totally against our contract and should not be allowed.

The UFT is weak and does not stand up to the DOE!!

Anonymous said...

Weren't all of the warning volleys heeded bo people when this was happening at Lafayette High School in Brooklyn?

Now, we all know that what happened to teachers at Lafayette then was just the opening of the floodgates and the war on education by this Mayor. And, everyone is suffering the consequences.