Friday, June 1, 2012

On Anna Phillips, Fiction Writing, MORE Chapter Leaders, My Dad's Apartment

NY Times misses the boat on Anna Phillips

I ended a long day by racing over to catch the tail end of ex NY Times reporter Anna Phillips' going away party last night at Half King Bar on 23 St and 10 Ave. Last year around this time Anna said goodbye when she left Gotham for the Times. Now she is saying goodbye again as she heads down to Tampa where she will get to work for a real newspaper, the St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay Times.

Why a real newspaper? They were smart enough to hire Anna for a full-time job with full benefits, while the the NY Times missed the boat. Imagine the Tampa Bay Times getting our top notch ed reporter (Anna will be covering everything including the Republican convention --- people at the party offered to chip in to get her a gun since people packing will be allowed into the convention ---but no hand grenades) --- while the Times has to shift a guy who covered the NYPD to education (well maybe totally appropriate in the police/militarized schools under Bloomberg. Another guy who will take years to understand what the hell is really going on in education. Well, at least Anna took me to lunch on the Times expense account. Instead of ordering a tuna on rye I should asked to go to Peter Lugers.

The Times is showing what a joke they are when it comes to covering education with a revolving door of people who have to learn the ed beat.

Anna is one of the best reporters who was such a quick learner and had as much experience and depth of knowledge as anyone in the business. When she started with Gotham 3 years ago she offered to take me to dinner in exchange for my sense of how the UFT works. Three hours later, she staggered out of the restaurant and I had barely grazed the surface. But she is such a quick learner she did get the nuances, something even reporters with years of experience ----I'll be nice today and not mention them --- never get.

That the Times didn't recognize Anna's talents is a sign of their decline.

I had tried to take a cab from the east side but 23st was closed for resurfacing --- amazing how choked the traffic was at 9PM and I ended up walking. I ran into David Bloomfield on the way and he said there was still a remnant left at the party and I was glad to see a bunch of NYC ed reporters --- there were also a few stray UFT slugs (always courting the press to cover what sellouts they are) and some charter school people who never let an opportunity to schmooze the press go by.

I was happy to reconnect with Gotham leading lights Elizabeth Green and Philissa Cramer. We had a very nice chat. You know I have been critical of Gotham's coverage at times, in particular the attention given to E4E while ignoring other activist groups. It is good to have face-to-face chats so you get the other point of view. Obviously fund-raising is a major issue for Gotham --- if they had loads of money to pay reporters Anna could have remained --- and I think she did her best work there due to the freedom she had vs the straight jacket at the Times. Elizabeth and Philissa weren't aware of the new caucus MORE (though I gave Anna and Elizabeth a heads up on what was coming well over a year ago) ---- they said don't assume they know everything going on given their limited resources and invited me to pitch stories to them, as I imagine many groups do, especially the low-life charter lobby (sorry). But I am never comfortable selling stuff while I am willing to give certain reporters leads. We parted with good feelings (I hope) on the subway.

I did pick up one tidbit -- that Michael Winerip is leaving the Times. Or was pushed. Another blow and sign of their downfall. Many people have been predicting that given the quality of his writing on the side of real reform. How tempted am I to cancel my sub?


 Cleaning out my dad's apartment
Anna's party was the end of the day and with subway service being what it was didn't get home until after midnight. I'm still trying to fully sort out an 11 hour piece of my day yesterday once I left my house around 1pm. I started by spending an hour working on cleaning out my dad's apartment which was sealed by the police because he lived alone when he died last week. It took me a week to get it opened. It is a large apartment with two bedrooms and two baths and a very big living room and dining area. My dad took over the apartment when my aunt died. He was living with her and taking care of her. Every cop who was there marveled at the size -- especially when I told them he paid $1200 a month. I'm sure that will triple. One new thing I learned about my dad is that he loved to use shoe trees. There are tons around, so if anyone needs a shoe tree.... well, 2 shoe-trees, guaranteed a right and a left.

MORE Chapter Leaders and Delegate meeting
Then it was up to the MORE meeting at 4:30. I got there early and sat at a small table, figuring how many people are going to show on a late Thursday afternoon? Well, as more and more people drifted in, the tables kept growing. Almost all of them had been elected, some over entrenched Unity Caucus people -- one guy with about 75% of the vote. Some are still running. The tables kept growing until they extended all across the room. We had to break into two groups. I know he is internet shy but it was so great to have the support of the always awesome Bruce Markens, one of the heroes of the UFT for being the only district rep elected repeatedly despite Unity attempts to unseat him --- until Randi finally got so fed up she eliminated district rep elections entirely.

With so many new people, we had a great session sharing advice on chapter organizing, communication, etc. Bruce and I and Kit Wainer laid out how the consultation committee should work -- it isYOUR meeting, not the principal's and YOU set the agenda and decide who should attend. (More on this another time.)

I'm excited that this group is shaping up as a support network for chapter leaders and delegates. You might think the UFT would offer this but the reality is that they do offer some good training, it is limited to chapter leaders --- and they use these trainings to recruit people into Unity, people who really have little idea as to what Unity is. But that closes them off to the alternate groups like ICE and TJC were (both are working with MORE and will not run in UFT elections again). The District Reps are the key gatekeepers and manage the CLs to make sure there is little voice of opposition, holding "support" over their heads. These are mostly young teachers who are jumping into the union so some kind of support network from experienced CLs like Kit, Bruce, James Eterno, Jeff Kaufman, etc will be very useful. This group will get together again I think on August 16. I urge anyone who is a current or future CL or delegate to come on down.

Fiction Writing

Then it was off to my 7PM fiction writing group which I have been part of since its inception 6 years ago. We read 3 pieces each session in advance of the meeting and critique them. Now other than Ed Notes (which the UFT and Tweed consider fiction) I haven't really been writing much for this group. There are some very talented people in the group, with a couple of novels and self-help books published. Mary Hoffman who I recruited to the group, used to teach with me and is a high level and serious writer with a published book of short stories and some novels hopefully on the verge. That meeting ended at 9 when I headed over to say goodbye to Anna.

The opinions expressed on EdNotesOnline are solely those of Norm Scott and are not to be taken as official positions (though Unity Caucus/New Action slugs will try to paint them that way) of any of the groups or organizations Norm works with: ICE, GEM, MORE, Change the Stakes, NYCORE, FIRST Lego League NYC, Rockaway Theatre Co., Active Aging, The Wave, Aliens on Earth, etc.


reality-based educator said...

Don't consider canceling your Times subscription - actually cancel it, then post WHY you are canceling it and make sure the words "NY Times" "Winerip" and "Pushed" end up in the title of the post.

Sorry to hear about your Dad, Norm. It's been a rough year for deaths.

Anonymous said...

a good fictional writing piece would be a psychological thriller on how diabolical principals go after teachers...I am sure there are tons of stories that could work for a best seller...

Also, I am very sorry to hear about the loss of your father. Norm, my condolences.

Anonymous said...

You don't need a fictional piece abour diabolical principals. There are plenty of non-fiction stories out there to fill volumes.