Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Shaking the UFT/Unity Tree

The mantra: One school at a time.

At MORE UFT Presidential candidate Julie Cavangh's school, PS 15 in Red Hook, almost the entire staff signed the letter below. And the number of people from PS 15 running on the MORE slate in the UFT elections keeps growing.
"We as UFT members strongly oppose any deals regarding teacher performance evaluations.  We believe that they are based on faulty high-stakes testing data and subjective performance reviews.
As union members we expect the UFT to support us in a positive direction rather than settle for a deal that would undermine the integrity of our profession and is not in the best interest of any student.

It is alarming and disheartening that we have been working without a contract for the last four years.  Our dissatisfaction with the trends of this current leadership is the reason so many of us are considering voting for an alternative caucus, such as MORE.  We demand leaders who support us as professionals and who will negotiate a contract that is in the best interest of New York City teachers and students alike."
Given that Julie is in the school a letter like this is not all that surprising --- we find that wherever MORE has strong people representing the caucus, the staff often lines up with them. Just as where there are strong Unity people the staff often lines up with them.

The issue is what is happening in schools around the city? A great post a few days ago from Reality Based Educator at Perdido St. School gave us an idea.

Anger At The UFT Leadership Is Building In The Rank And File

The UFT leadership are a smug bunch.
They've been in power for a long time and the swagger they exhibit whenever they deign to come and talk to the rank and file makes me think that they think they're going to be in power for a lot longer.

Now I wouldn't bet against the Unity caucus staying in power in perpetuity or at least until the neo-liberals complete their privatization job on the NYC public school system, but I got an eye-opening look into something this week that I haven't seen much of in my 12 years as a UFT member - genuine outrage, anger and frustration aimed at the UFT leadership.

I graded Regents exams this week with teachers from a dozen different schools around Manhattan.

Many of them expressed outrage over the DOE, anger at Bloomberg and Walcott, and frustration over the latest ed deforms that are wreaking havoc across the system.

But there was also a lot of fire and brimstone aimed at Mulgrew and the UFT leadership for their collaboration with the deform movement and the DOE.
It seems that sending teachers to mark regents out of their schools and into shared space with other schools often turned into gripe sessions.
One teacher said, as we were talking about all the ways the UFT has caved to Bloomberg and the DOE since the infamous 2005 contract, "I can't think of one thing that they've really said no too that ended up really being no."
And it's true - they say there's too much emphasis on high stakes testing, but then they help develop the APPR system; they give the okay on the Teacher Data Reports with the assurance that the numbers will never see the light of day in public and when the DOE decides to publish them in the media, they half-heartedly fight that with ineffective lawsuits and the TDR's end up in the papers with names attached.

One teacher, now working in high school but then working in a middle school said "I can't tell you how angry that made me, when they published the Teacher Data Reports - angry at Bloomberg for doing it and angry at the union for not stopping him from doing it."

Someone else told a story about working in one of the SIG schools and how unhelpful and indeed toxic the union people were, almost as unhelpful and toxic as the DOE and network people were during the turnaround battles.

"All they wanted to do was sell us on the Danielson rubric and tell us how great it was.  But we were telling them that the administration was using it as a weapon against us and they didn't want to hear it.  They only wanted to hear how great the Danielson rubric was."

Someone else concurred.  "Yeah, the union people never really want to hear from you.  They want you to listen to them, not the other way around.  And that makes me really, really angry.  Why am I paying union dues?  What am I getting out of this?"

Someone said "Dental insurance?"

And everybody laughed. "Yeah - and shitty dental insurance at that!"
Someone else complained about all the perks the core UFT people get and wanted to know why they were getting those when so many rank and file members are fighting for their jobs. 
But to hear this same anger, outrage and frustration toward the union leadership in person from a whole swath of people from a dozen different schools was very informative for me. It means that the swaggering bullies in the UFT leadership had better watch out.

There is a huge amount of anger, outrage and frustration out there already and we haven't even gotten the APPR system yet with the official use of the 57 page Danielson rubric which you had better do well on or you're "I-Rated," and the Student Learning Objectives that require 170 folders with a dozen pieces of Common Core work graded per semester which you also had better do well on or you're "I-Rated," and the value added measurements based upon test scores which you had better show growth on or you're "I-Rated," and the additional meetings and paperwork that are going to come as a result of the APPR system.

Just wait until that stuff comes to fruition.
Yes, just wait. I always say that it is not in the DNA or in the guts of Unity leaders to really lead a fight back to save public education. To really do that you need a democratic union that would give the members a voice and the UFT cannot do that or risk losing even a share of their privileges. Did you know that even if MORE won a majority of the teacher vote in elem, ms and hs they would only get 23 out of 101 seats on the UFT Exec Bd? That is almost astounding to think of but they have so structured things to assure they can keep power. Don't get me wrong -- if this were ever to happen it would be cataclysmic and shake the teacher union movement to its roots.

RBE speculates on the future.
Now I hear this kind of anger, outrage and frustration toward the union leadership in the blogosphere all the time and I express this kind of anger, outrage and frustration myself toward the union leadership on this blog all the time.

My sense is that Mulgrew and his Unity hacks think they can bullshit their way through the APPR fallout just the way they have bullshitted their way through the odious '05 contract and the '07 extension to that, just the way they bullshitted their way through all the closings and the turnarounds, the TDR reports and the naming of names in the papers, and now the evaluation negotiations.

Experience says the UFT leadership are correct - they will be able to bullshit their way through APPR no matter how bad it is and maintain their power and privileges and double pensions.

But the anger, outrage and frustration I saw at the grading sessions this week leads me to believe that the UFT leadership will have a harder time bullshitting their way through the APPR fallout than they have over the other stuff in the past.

First, because all this stuff has built up - the odious '05 contract, the TDR's, the school closures, the co-location fights, the increase in "U-Ratings," the SIG mess, the Leadership Academy principals and the horror that is the ATR pool.  There is a lot in the pit already and when the APPR fallout hits, the pit is going to be close to overflowing.

And second, because we are now seeing anger, outrage and frustration aimed at the UFT leadership from teachers who used to be pretty apolitical folk but have found themselves politicized by the crimes perpetrated on them by the Tweedies that the UFT either ignored or couldn't do anything about.

Somebody mentioned MORE today during this discussion (not me, btw) and everybody at the table said they would be open to hearing from someone new, someone who would be willing to stand up for teachers rather than sell them out, somebody who would be more interested in political issues that mean something to teachers rather than just public relations opportunities to aggrandize themselves and further their own careers.

I'm not naive enough to think the Unity people won't win this coming election - Mulgrew will probably win another overwhelming "victory" that will put a smirk on his face and the double "g's" in his swagger.

But the same person who mentioned MORE at the grading session mentioned how Julie Cavanagh is an appealing leader who really could give Mulgrew a run for his money in the future.

I think that is right with one qualification - the future is farther off than this next UFT election.

We haven't hit bottom yet in the NYC system.

There is more horror to come, as Bloomberg attempts to go out causing as much chaos and destruction as he can.

And the state has some horrors up its sleeve too with APPR and the VAM.

I think after a year or two of that kind of devastation, the anger, outrage and frustration at the smug, swaggering Unity guys is going to be at a fever pitch and that will give some new blood - hopefully MORE - a real opening to do to Unity what CORE did to the entrenched CTU leadership.

If that happens, I will remember what I heard today from those teachers from a dozen different schools as they told their Tweed horror stories. 
I hope RBE is right but I have been so long at this game and always see the UFT leadership manage to send out its hordes to bullshit its way through these type of times. I saw it when the 95 contract was turned down and in the battle over the 2005 contract. The initial enthusisasm when ICE formed in late 2003 certainly fooled me. But maybe we messed it up. And given the way things move and the fact that we are 8 years behind the Chicago story which began in 1995, maybe we are on course. But unless MORE builds an effective organization all will be for naught. The power vacuum in the schools is what allows Unity to control. Challenge that and the game changes.

That is why I left this comment on Perdido St.
I can't stress enough how important it would be to get names and schools and recruit people to hand out MORE election lit to break the Unity monopoly.

Our best chance to win seats on the Ex Bd is in the high schools where Unity and New Action team up against MORE. 15,000 HS teachers did not vote in the last election. If we can get out this vote for MORE we can win at least a share of the Exec Bd but we need a mass of people to reach into every high school.

Email me offline with any names and schools and contact info. The election starts on Feb. 6.
I got some responses from this comment, including one from a large high school.

Been following you as well as other bloggers for a long time. I teach at ---- High School where I would say the overwhelming majority of teachers have very little knowledge to what is happening with the new evaluation or any other aspect of ed deform. I would be interested in distributing any literature about MORE personally to as many teachers as possible in my school.

 So, this teacher right now is interested in leveling the playing field and informing teachers who are not really aware. Not be an active MORE person in a school that seems to be Unity controlled. In a follow-up conversation I was told that they never heard of Unity or MORE and have little knowledge of the kind of issues you read about every day on the blogs. This reader is educated due to the blogs and wants to share with the staff. A very good start.  To challenge Unity we need MORE --an active person who challenges the Unity line.

If RBE is right, that day is coming as conditions worsen and the UFT leaders flail helplessly, trying to pass the blame and telling people let's just wait out the mayor -- Beat Lhota -- in 2021.

 Here are some more comments from the blog:
Our school's DA will be voting down any new evaluation deal that uses flawed data and utilizes DOE "gotcha" hit squad tactics. Also, every teacher in my small school will be voting MORE. (I have personally spoke to each and every teacher and they are fuming mad at Mulgrew.
  1. That's great to hear - We're trying to do the same in my school. And I certainly saw that this week at Regents grading.


Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure union dues have nothing to do with our dental benefits, but don't let facts get in the way of your's or RBE's reporting. You guys are too funny!

ed notes online said...

Who said they did? A lousy dental plan is a lousy dental plan.