Saturday, February 18, 2012

PEP Popping: The Play’s the Thing Plus Jones/Casey Pre-PEP Debate and Mulgrew on Mic Check

Casey claims Ed Notes criticisms of the UFT leadership is reason for UFT refusal to go along with the coalition.
Below is my column in the Feb. 17, 2012 edition of The Wave: (modified from the original) along with a short video demonstrating the UFT double or triple switch before and during the PEP.  It begins with me following Leo Casey handing out leaflets to Occupy DOE activists urging them not to go in to the PEP but to join the UFT in a march to an alternate location and a debate between Brian Jones and Casey about what seemed to be a change in the UFT position that they would go in initially to support the People's mic and then walk out and march to the other school. Instead there were rumors the UFT was using scare tactics to tell people that there might be violence and arrests which Brian alludes to but Casey denies. Also that buses were being diverted away from Tech. It ends with Mulgrew using the People's mic and the buses coming back an hour into the meeting. Honestly, people truly cheered the UFT on its turnaround at the end of the day, me included. I'm a wus. 

Gotham Schools' Goeff Decker also shot some of the same footage from a different angle and put up about a minute of it

I'm working on a more extensive video that shows how I confronted UFT officials and how they reacted plus the ODOE folks directly challenging the UFT with union songs. And a video that captures the intensity of that evening inside the PEP. You also should check out the video Darren made of politicians trashing Bloomberg at the UFT press conference across the street. Check the post below this or

Don't get me wrong. In fact ODOE in the end did decide to walk out and so in some ways the UFT and ODOE came together. 

I need to do an analysis of exactly what went on that day but the fact that Casey attempted to blame me was a blatant attempt to get my fellow activists to use a decision by the UFT for a number of reasons (like they wanted to separate themselves from ODOE as a way of showing Bloomberg they were "reasonable") that have nothing to do with me to pressure me to tone down my critiques of Unity. Actually, he has tried this with a bunch of people I know (sort of how can you hang with that lunatic type of stuff) and in fact I have tried to bend over a bit in their direction when I'm told I am going too far. 

All day on Feb. 9 as I heard that they were going to work with ODOE I was giving them creds --- until they changed position in a memo from Leroy Barr at 2:45. You should read that post if you haven't to get the feeling on the ground at 3:30PM: Occupy and Stay! Don't Walk Away as UFT Changes Plan...

Ok, enough of that --- here's the column.

PEP Popping: The Play’s the Thing
By Norm Scott

Setting:  Thursday, February 9, 2012, 5-11PM
Brooklyn Technical HS, housed in an 8 story fortress like building in Fort Greene on Dekalb Avenue. A very tall antenna sits on the roof – a landmark you can spot from far away. There's a double level balcony in the auditorium, one of the largest in the city schools. The Panel for Educational Policy will be meeting to vote to phase out 23 schools. Over 2000 people will fill the space to say “no” to school closings.

The Players
Tweedie-Dees and Tweedie-Dums:  Anyone connected with the NYCDOE.
Panel for Educational Policy (PEP):  Bloomberg puppet dominated board of education with 8 mayoral appointees and 5 borough president appointees. 
Occupy DOE (ODOE):  a coalition of forces and offshoot of OWS aiming to take over the meeting by holding its own meeting using the people’s mic to give people from closing schools a chance to speak on their terms by drowning out the audio from the amplified sound. The ultimate goal is to force the Panel to hold the vote in such chaos they violate the open meetings law, provoking a possible court case to invalidate the vote.
Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ): an Annenberg Institute backed coalition of community organizations, organizing parents and students at a number of closing schools. They will march to Brooklyn Tech and join ODOE in the use of the people’s mic with students from closing schools playing a major role.
UFT (playing the role of Hamlet):  To go or not to go into the PEP or march instead  to an alternate site, that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of those ODOE and CEJ people who enter the PEP to challenge the forces of the vassals of King Bloomberg or to take arms against a sea of closing schools and by opposing end them. Unlike Hamlet, the UFT takes a halfway position. At first they say they will go in with ODOE and CEJ and then walk out en masse with the hope everyone else goes with them four blocks away to an alternate site where they have 600 seats reserved. ODOE, CEJ, the NAACP and other groups allied with the UFT are balking, saying they don’t intend to leave. The UFT will flip-flop – more than once as the evening goes on.
Dmytro Fedkowskyj: Queens borough rep appointed by Borough President Helen Marshall who has was often silent on the ed deforms under Bloomberg but has been increasingly vocal.

The Action
5PM: The UFT, which originally was supposed to enter the PEP and join ODOE in making  noise and using the People’s Mic, changes policy.  Rumors circulate that they are diverting the buses from the closing schools away from Brooklyn Tech and sending them directly to PS 20 four blocks away where they would get to make statements about their schools to politicians. The UFT holds a rally across Dekalb Ave. from Tech in front of Fort Greene Park. Many schools on the school closing list  are there and some have mixed feelings between following the UFT lead in not going in or joining ODOE inside the PEP and using the People’s mic to have their say.
Occupy DOE sets up with their signs directly across Dekalb and starts serenading the people at the UFT rally with union songs. Some cross the street to lobby people to join them inside to help disrupt the meeting. ODOE distributes palm cards saying, “Occupy and Stay, Don’t Walk Away.” There is a mixed reaction as some say they would go in if the UFT said it is OK. At this point the UFT sticks to its guns and officials, including HSVP Leo Casey start passing out leaflets urging people affiliated with ODOE to not go in but go to PS 20 instead.  [See video of GEM/ODOE Brian Jones having a conversation with Casey about the actions of the UFT.
5:30: CEJ marching from Flatbush Ave along Dekalb arrives with masses of cheering students and everyone starts entering the auditorium past a massive police presence. The UFT is supposed to send in HSVP Leo Casey with 10 reps from closing schools in each borough to get to a mic and urge people to leave. It doesn’t happen.
6-8PM: The orchestra fills up and people are making lots of noise. “Whose schools? Our schools.” “What does democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like.” As the meeting starts, ODOE people and the students start shouting “mic check” and begin the people’s mic where one person makes a short statement and everyone repeats it. The space is so big much of what is said gets lost. Lots of people are not really clear on how to use this technique. Politicians get to speak first and when they use the amplified mic they are shouted down with chants of “use the people’s mic.” Some work their way through the crowd and join in with ODOE. 
Once it is clear that no one is leaving, the UFT reverses direction again and decide to stay. UFT sends emissaries to ODOE to say UFT President Mulgrew wants to use the people’s mic. They welcome him with cheers. The UFT sends the people back from PS 20 to Tech. Many in the upstart ODOE group feel they have won a pissing contest with the UFT Goliath.
Things get increasingly chaotic. The DOE cranks up the decibel level of the amplified sound which begins to drown out the people’s mic. People begin to speak at the regular mic. ODOE is in some retreat. Students decide to walk out and meet in the lobby where a student led people’s mic takes place with passionate statements defending their schools. They decide to go back in and continue the battle. Police block the doors. There is much pushing and shoving with charges that a lockout constitutes a violation of the open meeting law. Police stand aside. Students flood into the left aisle. 
Some in ODOE are getting worried the extremely volatile situation might lead to police overreaction and a decision is made to have one speaker use the amplified mic with a speech urging people to leave, an ironic twist given ODOE had been urging people to stay ‘till the bitter end.” But staying and listening passively to each 2 minute plea to save a school, only to know that the PEP will vote to close them anyway is just not in the DNA of many ODOE people. Most people leave with just a few hundred left to harass the PEP as they vote to close the schools. The meeting drones on for hours with speakers pouring their hearts out in 2-minute segments about why their schools should not be phased out.

The finale
Before the meeting ends at 11PM, the panel members from the boroughs force Dennis Walcott and other DOE officials to justify the closing of schools. It is here that Queens rep Dmytro Fedkowskyj comes up big, real big. Fedkowskyj questions DOE officials Dennis Walcott, Marc Sternberg and Shael Polokow-Suransky with an intensity and seething anger not seen before, forcing them to defend the concept that closing schools is a solution. Fedkowskyj makes a passionate statement ( , joining the Bronx, Brooklyn  and Manhattan reps who also stand firm in defense of the schools in their boroughs.  In the end all four vote against the closing of every school. Only the Staten Island rep stands with the eight Bloomberg panel members. The remnants of ODOE heckle and boo as the vote is taken.
As the audience files out, James Eterno, union rep from Jamaica HS, who sat through the same kind of vote to close his school a year ago, says, “No matter how many times I come here and see the PEP vote to shut down schools, it never stops the hurt. It’s like watching a death in the family.”

Postscript: Monday, February 13
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall (who has often supported Bloomberg or been mostly silent on education issues) and Fedkowskyj host a hearing at borough hall for the eight so-called “turn-around” schools in the borough faced with closing in the next round where at least 50% of the teachers will be replaced, vowing to push back against the DOE, which has been accused of holding these schools hostage to force the union into agreeing to a plan to evaluate teachers based 40% on one test score a year. Gotham Schools reports, “Marshall often clapped and cheered as she listened to dozens of teachers and families defend their schools. Occasionally she even interjected to describe how her respect for teachers developed over years of working as an early childhood educator.” Is it possible the message is seeping through? That handing total power over the school system to one person is a very dangerous thing?


  1. I think I may be the only person who does not feel and empathize with Mulgrew's voice from the people's mic. Since Thursday's sell-out, I have no sympathies right now.

  2. How were you sold out?? This is going on across America.....just a heads up! If we are not part of the conversation...we become the conversation.

  3. You must mean that vaunted "seat at the table." Done you so much good.

  4. We are all getting by.....I believe your problem is you have no problem. Retired??? Right? Somebody who looks for trouble....but If you WAR all the time......WE LOSE! Your strategies (let me guess strike) would have gotten all teachers the MEGA SHAFT many moons ago!

  5. I'll bet you don't have a problem either. Either retired or some union job. If you were actually working a full schedule in a classroom you would have a problem. The major difference between us is that I haven't forgotten my roots. And as someone who went through 3 strikes I would say that my solution is not a strike so you guess wrong. My solution is a democratically run union that would never have made the disastrous mistake you guys have for your tiny seat at the table. Remember NCLB? And supporting RTTT? For the peanuts that pay consultants etc. but don't help teachers? Boy, you guys sell out for the prize in the cracker jack box.

  6. Unity robot. Seat at the table. How many times is that mantra voiced aloud. There are other ways of having a voice at the table. How about a firggin vision of education. How about being proactive instead of reactive. Hypocrites.

  7. Did UFT vp Leo Casey say what I heard him say? The UFT changed their plans because norm Scott attacked them on a blog? Holy mother of god. Our union is done. That was an unbelievable statement. The UFT each day looks more and more impotent.

  8. My War all the time would lead to mega shaft? Have you checked the schools lately? You are doing the slow drip and without any guts. Even if me war all the time didn't win (they could run the system with a union at war with them) -- imagine a boycott of paper work and all levels of cooperation -- not a strike but in reality a slowdown. Instead you lose anyway and also lose your balls. Really a pathetic "I give up" attitude. You should be living in France. But then again you are Vichy -- and we're the resistance.

  9. You wouldn't make it in my school...yes I do teach a full program. I teach my a closing school to boot. My teaching speaks for itself! I don't walk around like I am owed something. Maybe; instead of always pointing the finger, give some "Good, Sound, Advice". It always easier to criticize from the outside...then being locked on...within shooting distance. What's your answer...Peter Lamphere.....lame Chapter Leader...but can lead. Again if you are always at war...eventually you lose. Being a former G.I.........look what is happening to this country which has been at war for over 10 years.....did we win?? I do believe that Mulgrew's intentions are for the better of this profession.

  10. I worked with teachers with best intentions who couldn't teach. Let's give him the best intentions award. I don't think Mulgrew wants schools closed in such numbers but is trapped by decades old ideology and a union hierarchy that kills debate. Everyone is guaranteed 2 minutes of speaking time at a PEP but can barely get the floor at a DA. I'm amazed that here you are supporting a union that has not gone to war and yet the results are awful. How do you discount that? DO you support the 2005 contract, the merit pay, the uFT charters that are co-located in public schools, mayoral control, the common core standards the UFT supports, the alliance with Bill Gates? All of that and more? Remember, until 2 years ago the UFT supported closing schools as a solution, an idea posed by Shanker 30 years ago when clearly the very idea is an attack on the teachers in that school. Your school is closing only because of the DOE? You don't think that if the union had taken a stand a decade ago to convince the political forces that the idea is a disaster we might have had a chance?

    Of course you misunderstand because you are trapped in a Unity web of thinking. I am not offering up substitutes for Mulgrew -- you know very well it is impossible for him to ever lose. My solution is to build a strong school-based operation that will be instrumental in building a democratic union where decision-making is not done in a back room by 3 people.

    Would occupying schools by parents reverse things? Has anything else worked?

    If not war all the time how about even once?

    And Yes I would make it in your school as I made it for 30 years teaching teaching a full load (except when I was CL for 3 yrs) with almost 20 in a self-contained classroom teaching all day except for lunch and a prep in a 98% free lunch school in a UFT/Unity controlled district where the SUpt and Dist rep approached my AP suggesting he give me a U rating because I was outspoken. My solution was to fight for my rights and for the interests of my kids. What is your solution?

  11. One more thing: We are at war declared on teachers and parents and students by the massively funded ed deformers. Does the UFT want to play the role of Neville Chamberlain? Sorry but we need a Churchill at this time. You ask for solutions? How come it took a amsll group like GEM to come up with a film that is universally acclaimed (except by the UFT) as a way to fight this war?

  12. My solution is together.....all I read on your blog is critisism after critisism....getting bland! Again, you seem to believe your solutions would be easily digested by the enemy. They would slice and dice you 1,2,3! We are dealing with cut-throat, ax-men who are heartless! Don't you get it. No, I am not a Unity slug...but remember Unity is together. It shouldn't be about seperation...which is what you preach. Don't leave yourself out there. There is no magic wand to this crisis that is facing the teaching profession. I do agree with you on one thing, that it is about the kids.
    This union has gone to war...where have you been. Just one example...I know your BLOG blasts the deal to avert lay-off's...and I know; Bloomberg was just bluffing.....but what if he wasn't......3500 layoff's would have sat good with you. Scary! Again, easier to critisize. There are people with families that must be thought about...roughly 1/3 of my family. Thanks!

    1. I don't have time like yourself to play with a camera and video games etc.....I have a life.

    2. Are you saying you are Churchill........c'mon man!

    3. Just like you are Chamberlain (and I don't mean Jaba). Of course I am Churchill. I smoke cigars and fight them on the beaches.
      At least you do have time to read this blog. Thank God.
      Maybe you should get a hold of a camera and film the dissolution of the public school system as aided and abetted by your union leadership.

    4. And claim you can do better.......I doubt that! You smoke cigars and I don't think you have ever seen action...especially on the beaches! Enjoy your retirement thanks to your UNION!

    5. You are far from Churchill my man; not even miles have probably never seen any type of action...especialy on a beach! You call what your doing fighting...I call it more propaganda and pot-stirring. Thank your Union for your job and retirement. You worked luckily during much different times. Wake up....times are changinging. We must evolve or become extinct! I do read your blog because it's as entertaining as the POST. In fact I read it everytime I take a ......! Good stuff.

    6. Well I must say that seeing this blog gets you so excited gives me some joy and incentive. I certainly did more fighting in my years for myself and others than you can ever hope to do as an apologist for policies that have helped Bloomberg destroy the schools. Go forth and support mayoral control (again.)

    7. My fighting was done for this country in Iraq Norm. On a battlefield, not behind a computer and camera. You have points...but every comment is the selfish side of yourself....kudos. Keep up the propaganda.....never responding to the questions I have laid out. You can't ....because you are just a finger pointer.....wake up everyone.

    8. I seen more war and fighting then one would unfortunatley want. More than your selfish views could stomach....for sure our company would have suffered deeply.......then again we would have done what needed to be done. Again where is your thanks.......your out of the thankful.......keep pointing the finger...but again what is your solution???

  13. Norm you must understand that you will always be under attack because you speak the truth. I think debate is what makes life interesting. There are no easy answers life is not black and white. There are many shades of grey. All I hope is that when the teacher evaluation system is finalized the UFT will build in time to score the Performance assessments. The doe is putting more and more test taking time in out schedules ,but no time allotted to score! The entire thing screams cheat! The kids are caught in the middle of this. 3500 layoff? We must have that number in ATR's. Granted they are employed.....


Comments are welcome. Irrelevant and abusive comments will be deleted, as will all commercial links. Comment moderation is on, so if your comment does not appear it is because I have not been at my computer (I do not do cell phone moderating). Or because your comment is irrelevant or idiotic.