Thursday, February 9, 2012

Occupy and Stay! Don't Walk Away as UFT Changes Plans (Again)

The skinny on what's happening today (info coming in all day). This is last call: 3:30 PM

The overall agenda inside the PEP:

-          Set up the People’s Mic (ignoring the DOE’s electronic ones and
speaker set up)

-          Introductions and explanation of the People’s Pep and process;

-          Roll call of affected schools and communities;

-          Vote of No Confidence;

-          Public Comments via the People’s Mic – school by school,
initially led by a few speakers from each - including elected and other
officials should they so choose;

-          People’s Pep roll call vote on each of the school closings and
charter co-locations;

-          Additional public comments

-          Adjourn

UFT Foments Pissing Contest by not going in
FROM LEO BARR around 2:45PM

Michael Mulgrew will do a press conference at 5:30pm outside of Brooklyn Tech on DeKalb Ave. WE ARE NOT GOING IN TO THE PEP AT BROOKLYN TECH! We will gather on the park side of DeKalb Ave. and begin to march at 6pm, led by Mulgrew, politicians and community people. Look for the UFT feather (vertical banner).

Leo Casey will go inside with 10 people from each borough to pass out a letter from Michael Mulgrew inviting people to come over to PS 20K.

DR’s, we need you to reach out to your people and let them know of the change in plans so that we have a large crowd marching with Michael Mulgrew. Thanks everyone!

LeRoy Barr
Director of Staff

In or out? The UFT plays a divisive game that benefits Bloomberg by walking out and not disrupting.
  •  Live steam
  •  Media Advisory: Occupy the Department of Education Will Occupy The Panel for Educational Policy to Stop the Vote on School Closures and Co-Locations
  • DOE plans for tonight: vote behind stage in gym or hold meeting Feb. 13.
  • UFT will not go in en masse but send 10 reps from each borough in to urge people to leave
  • Our chapter leader is passing out UFT neck straps and big bright laminated badges that say "People's PEP" and the name of our school. He says the plan is to enter the auditorium after the rally & then walk out & assemble at the other location (with a small auditorium).
  • Coalition of groups: We are not leaving but will use the people's mic to vote to keep all schools open. Each school will be able to send reps to speak their piece not to the PEP but the real public. 
  • There will be no storming of the stage, no blocking of the aisles, no chaos. Just a well-organized demonstration of the People’s will and voice and, we hope, a mass movement toward demanding systemic change.
  • Coalition does education campaign to public: what PEP is, how decisions are made in advance no matter how you pour your heart out, etc. ( and
  • Ultimate goal it to build support to shut down mayoral control.
  • Following to be distributed today to all schools urging them not leave the PEP. 
Tweed has a plan: hold vote in gym
Given the expected disruption and use of people's mic tonight to hold an alternate meeting within a meeting, the DOE has a few choices. One is to come down with a heavy hand and threaten people. How this would play out in front of the press and public may not be very good for the massive PR team at Tweed to manage. More likely to happen is this:

We have heard that the DOE has made contingency plans on how to hold the vote to close 23 schools at the PEP at Brooklyn Tech. One source says an alternate space is being set up behind the stage in the gym behind the auditorium. Another that they have reserved Brooklyn Tech for February 13 to redo the meeting if necessary. One would expect very heightened security no matter what but if they decide to redo look for them to restrict access in some manner to prevent a repeat. One of Tweed's strategies may be to let the disruption play out tonight and then use the attack dogs in the Murdoch controlled press to blame the UFT and justify heavy police presence on Feb. 13. All this is still speculation.

Walcott blames UFT for Occupy, further proof he doesn't have a clue

Gotham Schools reports:
But Walcott said he would not let tonight’s meeting be driven off course by protesters and accused the union of masterminding the Occupy protest in addition to its own.
“There are important proposals up for discussion tonight and my hope is that we will have a respectful process where people can be heard,” Walcott said in a statement. “But if all the UFT wants to do is bus in Occupy Wall Street to disrupt public meetings — which provides absolutely no benefit to students — then we will just have to work around that.  We are prepared to move forward even if there are disruptions.”
UFT was not sure what to do - stay or go--but decision to walk will lead to blowback.
Like Walcott, the press attack dogs will blame the UFT for whatever happens tonight. That is far from what has really been going on. Given all the activist groups the opportunity for the UFT to play Big Dog is not as operative as it has been in the past. In fact the UFT has resisted the push from ODOE to stay and hold a meeting within the meeting. They are still sending out mixed signals, telling different schools different things.

The UFT will not send people into the meeting other than 50 reps urging people to leave and head over to nearby PS 20 where the auditorium holds 600 people. The UFT's original plan for tonight was to pack the PEP with people from all the closing schools after a pre-PEP rally, disrupt the PEP for a time and then stage an elaborate walkout and march to the alternate space at PS 20 where political allies would be waiting for s series of speeches. Mulgrew will go in and try to lead the walkout by using a megaphone, which he will sneak in by hiding it in his pants. (OK, skip the last part.)

They tried mighty hard to get all the other groups on board so the Tech auditorium would be an empty shell when the PEP votes. They expected a chunk of the press to be at PS 20. But the push back from the organized groups and the schools themselves has caused the UFT some problems, though we can assume that the UFT muscle may prevail, as the email just sent out indicates.

There is an uprising in the making and many are staying.
Will the UFT get an empty auditorium, which would make the PEP very happy --- see Afterburn below on what happened last year when the UFT walked and Tweed heaved a sigh of relief.

Gotbaum sets up coalition
Over a month ago, Noah Gotbaum (son of famous labor leader Victor and step-son of former Public Advocate Betsy) is an active parent on the CEC in District 3 and a passionate defender of public schools called all parties together to formulate a united plan for tonight and beyond. I attended the first meeting with about 50 people, including 2 major players, the UFT and CEJ (Coalition for Educational Justice) -- an Annenberg Inst. backed parent/student organizing organization that has focused on targeted schools and has demonstrated an ability to bring people out --- they have been the only group to actually shut down a PEP (Aug. 16, 2010 --- the first day we shot footage for the ITBWFS at that event.) Noah has been tireless in racing from group to group to try to hammer out something everyone can agree on. Believe me, it has not always been easy and even at this late date there are still negotiations going on. I'm still not sure if CEJ is going in --- they are marching to Tech for a 5PM rally. UFT press conf is at 5:30.

The rise of ODOE as a force
About a month after OWS began, came ODOE, an amalgam of activists from many teaching groups (GEM, ICE, NYCORE, Teachers Unite, TJC) along with individuals from parent/community groups (CPE, ICOPE) came together informally as Occupy DOE which has in its brief life since October shown an amazing ability to organize and mobilize people for action --- the first time a group outside the UFT has developed the muscle to actually put a stop to a PEP. (ODOE meets every Sunday in an open and democratic forum

The UFT tried to sway this coalition --- towards the walk-out or not go in. But there was pushback, with ODOE taking a strong stand that "we won't leave but use the people's mic to allow the schools to make their statements, not to the PEP puppets by pleading, but to the public, which will vote to keep the schools open.

The UFT has been very reluctant to actually try to stop the PEP tonight --- or really at any time in the past for a number of reasons--- - see Sam Anderson below. They will get hammered in the press and probably in polls no matter what they do, though the latest shows that more people trust the UFT than Bloomberg --- yes, even me.

The UFT has been sending out mixed messages. We reported (Walcott Turns Tail at Town Hall in Bronx A..) .that the UFT has been concerned about the new game in town -- Occupy DOE, which insiders say concerns the UFT leadership because so many opposition to Unity people are involved, with a bunch being behind Saturday's State of the Union Conference.

Here is a missive about tonight's plans from Noah. There is amazing organizing going on, a lot of it by some amazing new gen teachers that would warm the cockles of your hearts.
Noah issues call to activists

Things are falling into place, thanks to the hard work of so many –
especially the folks at Occupy the DOE (ODOE), the New York Communities for
Change (NYCC), and the Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ).  The plan
for a well-organized, law abiding, democratic and community-based People’s
PEP inside of Brooklyn Tech has taken hold.

Programs explaining the People’s Mic process and People’s Pep agenda - as
well as voting cards and seating arrangements by school - are being prepared
for distribution.  Please arrive by 5:30 – or earlier if you are helping out
- and look for these being handed out by ODOE and other members as you enter
the Brooklyn Tech Auditorium.

Support for our People’s Pep is increasing by the hour. There is unity in
the view that our efforts should not be a public venting of anger, but
rather a clear and sustained call for systemic change.  It is also a strong
sign that despite Wadleigh’s middle school having been given a last minute
executioner’s reprieve by Lord Chancellor Walcott, the Wadleigh community
will be attending the People’s Pep en masse to protest the Success Charter
invasion which is still slated for their school, and to demand real changes
from one-man rule and supports for our public schools.

In answer to legitimate concerns of some regarding the risk of intervention
by DOE security officers, we can securely say that we have done, and are
doing, everything possible to minimize that risk.  There will be no storming
of the stage, no blocking of the aisles, no chaos.  Just a well-organized
demonstration of the People’s will and voice and, we hope, a mass movement
toward demanding the systemic change noted above.  Such change should ensure
that our communities play a key decision-making role in the most important
decisions affecting OUR schools, OUR communities, OUR classrooms, and OUR
children including, at minimum, a change to the Mayoral Control law
requiring Parental/Community sign off on any contemplated school closings,
“truncations”, and charter co-locations.
As regards the UFT, we are grateful that they will be bringing many of us
and our fellow community members to the meeting from all corners of the

As a reminder our overall plan/agenda is as follows:
Sam Anderson from Coalition for Public Education (who plays a strong role in our film) comments has a take on the UFT's refusal to participate in a people's mic at the PEP, choosing instead to try to rebrand it for their use --- in a school blocks away from the action:
Unfortunately the Union leadership would rather find the mythical middle ground so as to maintain ties with Billionaire Bloomberg and his cohorts. Their move will draw a significant number of educators and parents out of Brooklyn Tech tonight. 

This reality means that we need a Plan B in place. May I suggest that we have a flyer that says some variation of  "The People's PEP Is POWER from the 99%!" "The People's PEP is the foundation for a People's Board of Education!" "Education Warriors don't walk away from a Fight They Can Win!"

In addition, there should be at least 10 ODOE folk at their meeting vocally raising the demand for a People's Board of Education instead of trying to find a way to negotiate the nonnegotiables... trying to find the middle ground when there is no middle ground.

I am confident that the vast majority of the parents and students will stay at Brooklyn Tech and will participate in a seriously historical moment of democracy-in-action. But, we should not let the UFT labor aristocracy seize the media moment and obscure what happens at Brooklyn Tech!

in Struggle,

Sam Anderson
Janine Sopp on Using the People's mic


In the past the UFT held disruptions and then walked out. They did that at the January meeting after a Leo Casey shout-out "you walked out on us on the evaluation issue, now we walk out on you."
Many of us were quite perturbed with their actions at the closing schools PEP in Feb. 2011 when they held a great rally before the meeting and then stopped the meeting dead in its tracks and could have actually prevented a public vote but took the entire crowd out to walk once around Brooklyn Tech before letting it dissipate (we used footage from that in our film). To see the energy in that room --- and the concern on the faces of the DOE and PEP puppets, followed by enormous relief after the UFT pulled almost everyone out --- like Tweed had managed to complete a tough bowel movement.

All it turned into was a demonstration of what the UFT could do --- maybe a threat for the future. Fine. But if you have a gun how many closed schools will it take to make you use it?

So this year, we have a new element --- the Occupy movement, in particular the ODOE that has been meeting every Sunday at 60 Wall St and attracting 50 people to each meeting. ODOE led a takeover at a Walcott event on common core standards, forcing him to scurry upstairs (PEP Meeting OCCUPIED! A NEW DAY DAWNS!)  followed by actions at the PEP in December
Video:  The PEP is trash- at Los Sures Feb. 7, 2012

Leonie's blog:

For some other headlines on the blog, see below:

·         Lawsuit filed today vs. Cobble Hill Success Academy charter school

·         Joel Rose of the School of One returns...with a ruling that ignores the city's conflict of interest rules

·         High school students tell Mayor Bloomberg why he should not close their schools

·         A teacher's story: Why the DC Impact system Bloomberg wants NYC schools to adopt caused me to leave teaching

·         Regents agree to give NY student data to limited corporation run by Gates and operated by Murdoch's Wireless Gen
Lindsey Christ NY1 report:
It's usually the largest and most contentious education meeting of the year anyway, but when the Panel for Education Policy meets on Thursday to vote on closing dozens of schools, the protests may be the most combative yet. NY1's Education reporter Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
When it comes to protesting school closures, there is a new kid in town this year. For months, an Occupy Wall Street spin-off called "Occupy the DOE" has been organizing against the Department of Education policy of closing struggling schools. While there have been major protests against school closures in the past, the Occupiers say they hope to stop the closure votes from happening at all.
It's the third year that state law has required the Panel for Educational Policy to hold a public meeting and a public vote on plans to close schools. Each meeting has stretched into the early morning hours, with thousands of protestors attending.
But since the panel is controlled by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, when it comes time to vote, it has always approved the proposals.
"Occupy" Protesters May Disrupt Major Vote For Public School Closures
Many of the protestors are teachers, organized and bused in by their union. Education advocates rally the parents and students, and this year they will be joined by the Occupy group. "The mayor continues to try to impose his failing agenda and shut down schools and we intend to shut down the panel," says Justin Wedes of Occupy the DOE.
Only 23 schools are on the chopping block Thursday, after the DOE took two off the list Wednesday afternoon. Another 33 schools are to be voted on later this spring.
The Occupy group plans to interrupt the meeting and then let each of the schools do its own presentation. They are asking for volunteer to sit near the aisles to, in their words, "protect" the protesters. They say they hope it will be peaceful but some are prepared to be arrested if it comes to that.
"We are ready to do what needs to be done," says Wedes.
In October, Occupy the DOE forced Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott to move a parent meeting, but this is the first time it is trying to stop an official vote from taking place.
Meanwhile, the teachers' union has reserved space for 600 people to gather at P.S. 20, a school down the street. Sources tell NY1 at some point, the union crowd may just march out of Tech to hold an alternative meeting at P.S. 20, celebrating the 23 schools.


Anonymous said...

Just returned from Tech. Just read your blog above that the UFT wasn't even there for the REAL protests, but I'm not surprised. I am a teacher. And I am so proud of the young people, teachers, students, parents, civilians, who chanted with The People's Mike . . . "The DOE IS RACIST !...Yes...the genocidal act of committing the unlucky kids to human warehouses known as another closing school is inherently racist. I stood with the Occupy People for two hours. At one point a large group of apparent students with their teachers started a call to leave the auditorium. Some of the students said "they would get arrested", but the man in charge, I guess a teacher, engineered a call to leave the auditorium. There had been a rumor of imminent arrests, but I knew that wouldn't happen then. People started to drift out into the lobby. They massed and started back into the auditorium. This went on for about 10 minutes or more. Finally, they allowed people back into the place. About an hour ago, as I left, about 30 cops marched in full arrest gear-the plastic cuffs, etc. I had to get home. I really doubt there will be arrests.

What I do know is that I saw people who I used to work with as a teacher,now working for Bloomberg's side. Strange being once colleagues, and now awkward acquaintances, at best...the lines are being drawn my friends...I can say a lot more, but won't . . . amazing experience though !

Anonymous said...

Same poster here...just looked at the videos from the event at much passion! And what do you get from the UFT...? A cold best. People...the UFT is our ENEMY . . . !!!