James Eterno, Jamaica's representative to the teachers' union, has been portrayed in the news media as a man who cares more about preserving jobs than - as the mayor never tires of saying - "putting children first." That is not how Kevin Gonzalez sees it. For Kevin, Mr. Eterno is the United States history teacher who stayed late to tutor his students, helping Kevin earn a top score of 5 on the Advanced Placement test.(And let me remind people that James has a little 2-year old of his own at home.)
Doreen and Gerard definitely feel put first. Jamaica had no college adviser this year - until October, when Mr. Eterno stepped in. "Before Christmas break he stayed late to make sure everything was perfect to send to the colleges," Gerard said. "Mr. Eterno went way beyond." After Doreen was accepted to Columbia, she spoke with people at the admissions office. "They told me how Mr. Eterno kept calling them about me and faxing them stuff," she said.
Here is a video I shot of Doreen Mohammed speaking at a press conference at Tweed in support of the NAACP/UFT suit about how the DOE denied her school resources - and she also talks about James who was there) and the other teachers at the school who supported the students. Many of these, James included, will soon be ATRs vilified by the DOE and Educators $ Excellence. Children first indeed.
One of the myths perpetrated by ed deformers is that being a strong union rep is incompatible with being a strong teacher. Mike Winerip in today's amazing article on Jamaica HS with the above paragraph on James Eterno (who I should point out was the candidate who ran for UFT president against Michael Mulgrew in the 2010 UFT elections) certainly punches a whole in that myth.
I've been working with James Eterno in ICE for the last 8 years. Everyone knows James is an outstanding union Chapter Leader and a passionate defender of his school. But while I pretty much assumed James was a great teacher, he was often too modest to talk about things like that he was the teacher of the year at Jamaica HS a few years ago.
I have always thought that union activists should merge their defense of teacher rights with their defense of children. I always used to criticize James for separating the two. In the campaign for president of the UFT, if James hadn't been forced to spend all his time defending his school, I had hoped he would have brought in the experience of working with students and how it informed his activism. I met with a young 2nd year teacher/activist the other day and we both could agree that the kids were the best part of the job. I still think so.
Some conspiracy theorists might surmise that this comes out on July 4 when nobody is around to read it. Not I. Wait - on second thought.....
Here is Winerip's must read piece.
One of the things I liked about the way Julie Cavanagh framed the issue was that having strong teacher rights made her strong in advocating for the kids and parents in her school. Now that she has become chapter leader we will see people like her and Eterno bringing these issues to the fore.
After Burn2: James Liebman returns for a class fool performance
As James S. Liebman, the Columbia law professor who developed the city report card, wrote in an e-mail: “Good high schools aren’t satisfied when just a few kids get into strong colleges. They aim for all kids to do so.” Education Department officials point out that the graduation rate at Jamaica has stayed at about 50 percent for years.---------
But it is also possible that the deck has been stacked against Jamaica High, that the 15 “worst” high schools have been packed with the students with the worst problems. According to an analysis by the city’s Independent Budget Office, these schools have more poor children (63 percent versus 52 percent citywide), more homeless students (6 percent versus 4 percent), more special-education students (18 versus 12). For 24 percent of Jamaica High students, English is a foreign language, compared with 11 percent citywide.The “worst” high schools are sent the eighth graders who are the furthest behind: their average proficiency score on state tests is 2.6 out of 4, compared with 2.9 citywide, and more of these students (9 percent versus 4 percent) are over age, suggesting they have had to repeat grades.
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