Thursday, July 30, 2015

DOE Gags Dewey Teachers Whose Ratings Were Reversed -- Let's Look at the Entire System of Principal Retaliation

I know that the UFT supposedly helped the Dewey teachers -- but I also know how they didn't seem to have the same sense of urgency the teachers had. What of the Discontinued under Elvin? What of the forced retirements? What of the years of misery so many teachers suffered?
Those teachers had to sign a confidentiality agreement not to discuss the changing of their ratings.... NY Post
Yes, they don't want these people to talk about it. Where was the UFT in protecting the rights of these teachers to talk about their own cases? Where is the UFT calling on more investigations of cheating and other abuses as scores of schools with monster principals? The UFT is best friends with the DeB/Farina regime and also with the CSA which represents principals so don't expect much from them.

The problem is there are hundreds of principals like Elvin who retaliate against teachers, many of them removed for numerous reasons, yet the ratings are allowed to stand. And that happened going back to the old U rating system -- I could see that in the 3020a hearings I attended -- the Peter Zucker case was an example - and he is losing 4 months pay on suspension over what was clearly a set-up.

One MORE member - a chapter leader - received 2 U ratings for union activity under a lunatic and was about to get a 3rd and be fired but she was mercifully removed and replaces by a benign principal - yet the history of these U ratings remain - and that school is now a renewal school and the CL may have to find a job with that history training behind.
The UFT should call on every teacher with a poor rating in a school with a suspect principal be reviewed. I would go back to the early days of BloomKlein.

NYSED Acknowledges Principals Can Use APPR As Weapons Against Teachers -
Given an "ineffective" rating for refusing to participate in fraudulent behavior involving grade-fixing.

Gee, that doesn't sound like an "objective" evaluation system to me.

And NYSED admits as much by overturning at least four of the "ineffective" ratings of tenured teachers who appealed them.

There may be more overturned ratings - we don't know the exact number because of the confidentiality agreements

But what we do know is this - if Elvin and her assistant principals used APPR as a weapon against teachers to perpetrate their fraud, other principals and assistant principals can use APPR as a weapon against teachers for other reasons as well.

Had Elvin not been exposed in the grade-fixing scandal, these teachers at Dewey would still be working with "ineffective" ratings on their records.

You can bet there are other administrators elsewhere who have handed out "ineffective" ratings for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with the effectiveness of the teacher.

We learned from Chancellor Farina this week that APPR is a sham when she acknowledged that "effective" teachers can have their ratings adversely affected by switching schools and going to teach  in a school with high poverty/high homelessness demographics.
Even the noted anti-union Post reporter, Carl Campanile, given the Post claims an exclusive on the Dewey story -- too bad they don't read Ed Notes -- takes a - sort of - pro-teacher position. Here is Campanile's story:

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Farina and DOE Often Operates in Bloombergian Manner

I know I have asked it before on this list, but it bears repeating, until we can answer it:  at what point does doing the same thing- enacting the same discriminatory admissions policies - that result in such disparate impacts on schools, families and students- constitute active discrimination that must be addressed and reversed? --- Lisa Donlan, District1, NYCEDNEWS Listserve
I saw Lisa's response below on the listerve which supplements my earlier post this morning,

On Class Size, VAM, Renewal Schools Is Farina as Bad as Joel Klein - OR Worse because we expected better

UFT All In with Farina
Before I get to Lisa's comments I want to make the key point that the UFT is all in with De Blasio and Farina and blasts their critics - sometimes using Leo Casey tweets to go after them - groups like MORE and people like Leonie Haimson.

Lisa is an astute an observer as there is on the NYC ed scene:

Yes this seems to be a total blind spot in the administration's lens: 
that racial, economic and ethnic segregation, resulting often in high concentrations of high needs students in some schools, while other schools serve very few at-risk students,  is not an urgent, systemic  problem we need to address if we hope to improve the NYC public school system.

When CEC 1 launched a year long diversity workshop initiative
 (see results here: at a Town Hall w/ the Chancellor last September we presented a ton of data about the segregation and stratification of our local schools- 
see here:
which we have demonstrated is in large part due to the open market, unbridled choice system for stunt enrollment in place since Bloomberg was given Mayoral control of the schools and dismantled our controlled version of choice that looked to increase equity of access and improve school diversity, with the goal of all of our neighborhood schools serving all the children n the community equitably.
see here:

The response we got was called 'Bloombergian' by the media:

On Class Size, VAM, Renewal Schools Is Farina as Bad as Joel Klein - OR Worse because we expected better

Of course Carmen gained her reputation as principal of PS 6 – at that time the wealthiest student body of any public school in the city and probably in the entire US. The attitude reminds me of what Ann Richards said about George Bush:  born on third base and thought he'd hit a triple... Leonie Haimson
 Leonie sent this to her listserve:
See article in Capital NY here:

Ames, the new superintendent of District 8, which encompasses a swath of largely low-income neighborhoods in the Bronx …a former network leader in prestigious District 2, the same Upper East Side region where Fariña spent years as principal of P.S. 6, came prepared for her meeting with the chancellor, whom she has known for years….Ames recently led several principals of Renewal Schools in her district on a tour of District 2’s Salk School of Science, one of the city’s best middle schools. Fariña praised the idea of the Salk tour…

Amazing to me that they are  having principals of D 8 renewal schools in the Bronx –visit Salk MS in D2 for tips on how to improve their schools; with hugely different student populations.

Salk has a primarily wealthy or middle class student body:  64% White; 21% Asian, only 9% Hispanic and Black. With 0% ELLs, and 11% free lunch.

Contrast that with the 4 D8 renewal middle schools:

The Bronx Mathematics Preparatory School – 95% free lunch; 26% special ed;  10% ELLs; 95% black or Hispanic.

Hunts Point School – 91% free lunch; 28% special ed; 25% ELLs; 99% Black and Hispanic.

Urban assembly Academy of Civic Engagement: 79% free lunch; 96% Black and Hispanic ; 30% special ed and 13% ELLs.

M.S. 301 Paul L. Dunbar:  83% Free lunch: 27% special ed; 24% ELLs, 97% Black and Hispanic.

Of course Carmen gained her reputation as principal of PS 6 – at that time the wealthiest student body of any public school in the city and probably in the entire US.

The attitude reminds me of what Ann Richards said about George Bush:  born on third base and thought he'd hit a triple.

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011

A survey of our blogging pals covers a lot of ground so I won't repeat.

NYC Educator
Perdido--Fariña Unwittingly Admits VAM Is Invalid for All - Perdido Street School nails Carmen Fariña to her own words. Fariña thinks there should be an asterisk to so called highly effective teachers who move into...

Monday, July 27, 2015

Unity, Cadre, Democratic Centralism/Loyalty Oaths, UFT, Mass Organizations and Democracy

Unity Caucus Cadre at AFT Convention
What to do about an opposition party like MORE, even if it is the mildest of threats? If you can't buy them, undermine and destroy them.
  • a nucleus or core group especially of trained personnel able to assume control and to train others; broadly : a group of people having some unifying relationship
  • a cell of indoctrinated leaders active in promoting the interests of a revolutionary party
Unity Cadre in action:

How Unity Caucus is like the Bolsheviks, not the Democratic Party

I'm doing a series on the UFT, Unity Caucus and the opposition. I'm putting forth the thesis that Unity Caucus is modeled to some extent on the Leninist concept of a party with its own version of cadre whose main purpose is to promote the interests of Unity Caucus and to steer the mass organization it created and controls (the UFT) in the direction decided upon by the Party. Behind Unity from its early days was Shanker's Social Democrats USA - SDUSA, led by Shanker ally Bayard Rustin at one point.

Unity Caucus in the early days was a sort of front group for SDUSA for its national and international policies - like support for the Vietnam war. (Under Weingarten the ideological reigns become looser.)

Here are some recent related posts.
I talked about loyalty oaths in this piece --- How Unity Caucus Uses the District Reps to Control... - which is really democratic centralism -- where an ostensibly democratic group whose majority votes everyone is bound to support even if they are in the minority -- sometimes on threat of expulsion when they violate this on an essential issue.

How democratic in reality are these groups given that they almost always have a hierarchy of leaders and followers. Does anyone think that Shanker, Randi, Mulgrew, Lenin, Stalin did not make the basic decisions and pass them down to be voted on by 100%. People tell me Unity Caucus internal votes when they're held are basically a joke.

Let me be clear- while Unity operates under Democratic Centralism, the UFT does not, despite attempts by Unity to make it so. In other words, upon joining Unity you must agree to abide by decisions of the group even if you disagree. Upon joining the UFT (a mass organization) you make no such agreement. But if you dissent they make it seem you are anti-union and a traitor. That is what they tell their cadre to say to the rank and file teachers in their schools.

Organizations run under DC principles are in theory democratic -- 

Let's go back to our analogy between Unity and a Leninist party - both are made up of - cadres - (an organized revolutionary vanguard). Unity Caucus has its own version of cadres -- not all are super active, but the most active will be out front defending Unity policy in every quarter - from their schools on up to the DA, Ex bd, NYSUT and AFT conventions. If you go to these events you see them doing the work of the Unity Party in every quarter. 
(See frequent commenter and Unity defender Paula Washington as an example - Paula lost her election as CL due to her defending the interests of Unity over her own members - but she will be going AFT/NYSUT RAs as one of 750 Unity delegates after next year's UFT election to rep not you but Unity while Arthur Goldstein who represents 300 UFT members in his school will get no voice for his members.)
While not a perfect analogy, clearly Shanker had some experiences with Leninist parties - through his mentor Max Shachtman - a Trotskyist turned right wing social democrat - SDUSA - was the founding mechanism of Unity and the UFT - and almost every member of the top leadership of Unity and UFT was also a member of SDUSA - until Randi - though we don't know for sure if she was too late to that party. (Leo Casey would be considered the left of the right.) Before Randi, key Unity was a bit more exclusive and top people seemed more ideologically pure to SDUSA principles. Randi has no principles so Unity became more open to anyone. At this point I don't think people like Leroy Barr give a crap about the ideology of SDUSA.

Shanker modeled Unity on a Leninist-type Party as a mechanism to control the mass organization - the UFT.

What is the difference between a party and a mass organization?

A party (Unity, Bolsheviks):
Lenin, leader of the Bolsheviks, argued that a revolutionary party should be a small vanguard party with a centralized political command and a strict cadre policy....The Menshevik faction, however, argued that the party should be a broad-based mass movement --- in other words, open to all people who would not have to take a loyalty oath.
The Menshiviks were social democrats - which is where I pretty much stand -- but SDUSA is also SD - but right wing.

Mass Organizations (UFT).
As the membership of a Communist party was to be limited to active cadres in Lenin's theory, there was a need for networks of separate organizations to mobilize mass support for the party. Typically, Communist parties have built up various front organizations whose membership is often open to non-Communists.
The UFT is just one of the mass organizations controlled by the cadre of Unity Caucus. History shows that relatively small numbers of cadre have the ability to control mass organizations with thousands of members - even nations with millions  of people. This control is impossible without the cadre.

Unity Caucus uses its cadre - recruited through many channels - to control a major segment of the national teacher movement through the UFT, NYSUT and the AFT, and even internationally, where it often functions hand in hand with the interests of American government policy (see George Schmidt: The AFT and the CIA).

In other words - how to explain their concurrence with so much of ed deform? They are partners -- the so-called seat - or stool - at the table.

The leadership is incredibly competent at maintaining their control and will stop at nothing to maintain it. There is a lot more at stake for them than just what happens in the schools of New York City.

Almost sixty years of power have validated that they have the wherewithal to do so and will stop at nothing - including:
  • buying off so-called oppositions
  • encouraging loose cannons to split the opposition
  • undermining the biggest threat
  • stealing elections at the chapter leader level to maintain as much control of the schools as possible
  • selling out whole areas of membership that might turn against them
  • making deals with enemies of the rank and file
Maybe they are going to be happy to let the agency fee payers if they are dissidents grow in size by leaving the union and giving them even tighter control even if smaller.

What to do about an opposition party like MORE, even if it is the mildest of threats? If you can't buy them, undermine and destroy them.

More on this in future posts.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Memo from the RTC: Guys and Dolls Reports Plus Selected Pics

Some recent columns in The Wave on the show. And some photos.

Liverlips Louie

Add caption

My Texas wife - married for 30 seconds

One of the casts leads

The other

Nicely Nicely, Bennie Southstreet

The Hot Box Dancers - take off those minks

Nathan Detroit, Big Julie

The Gamblers

The kids

Mimi and friend

Tokyo Mo

Memo From the RTC: The Kids Are Alright 
By Norm Scott
July 24, 2015

The beautiful Guys and Dolls set has been struck and building the set for the upcoming “Little Shop of Horrors” (opening on August 21) has commenced. G&D ran for 10 sold-out performances over 3 weekends. As the fame of RTC productions with its immense talent pool has grown even some long-time patrons had difficulty getting tickets. People lucky enough to see both casts were wowed. My wife saw it 3 times and said the show topped itself every time even as she had to suffer watching me try to dance with the mostly 20-something Guys in all 4 knock-out numbers. The Dolls kept up in their fabulous costumes in their Hot Box routines, especially when they threw down their minks and pearls and just about everything else – leading to howls of delight from the audience. The Guys and the Dolls did come together in the amazing Cuban café dance/fight routine culminating in the breakaway beer bottle smashed on the head of dancer Atsushi Eda who then goes careening all over the stage. Since there had been a few mishaps with the bottle in earlier shows, the cast broke out into applause when it worked perfectly the final weekend, especially since Producer Susan Jasper had been reminding us the props cost $7 a piece. Supposedly made of sugar, some intrepid cast members picked up broken pieces and tried to eat them. They shall remain nameless.

The double cast, mostly ranging in age from 13-mid-twenties, and production crew is so large that trying to talk about everyone would fill up the entire Wave. So let me focus on the impressive teens. You know you hear too many negative stories about today’s youths – or Yutes in the parlance of My Cousin Vinny. Well, just hang around the RTC and see Yutes in action: responsible, team players, considerate, and most of all, incredibly talented.

Thirteen year olds Steve Wagner and Andrew Feldman, who were amongst the stars of RTC’s Lost in Yonkers and vets of the RTC children and teens program, returned to play a variety of roles, at times having to add little mustaches.  These kids are totally into the theater with already large resumes and an awareness that makes me see what I missed as a kid.  And they are so reliable in every way and interact with the adults of all ages so naturally. Andrew travels all the way from Woodmere to be in the shows.

There is no room to talk about all the young lady teens, ranging in age from 15 to 19. When Director John Gilleece entrusted the key role of Adelaide to an 18 year old college freshman, Caitlin Byrne, for half the performances, some people doubted him. Her bravura performance validated his casting choice. She is a grad of LaGuardia HS where she studied voice and playwriting.

Over a few shows I’ve gotten to know some of the other teens. Leigh Dillon, who will be a junior at Fort Hamilton HS in Bay Ridge, has been in RTC shows for years, coming all the way from Brooklyn. She was accepted at the famed LaGuardia HS  but chose Fort Hamilton. Leigh is a quadruple threat. She can sing, dance, act and is a mean trumpet player. And is a delightful young lady.

I’ve been in a few shows with Kayla Ann Healy, Casey Stabiner, and Kacie Reilly, all of whom have an extensive knowledge of the theater and bring so much charm and grace with them, onstage and off. Casey just finished her freshman year at SUNY Purchase studying theater and performance. Kacie just graduated from Scholars and will be attending Marymount Manhattan College in the BFA Acting program. Kayla will be a senior at Professional Performing Arts School in Manhattan where she is majoring in drama. All of then are from Rockaway, Broad Channel of Howard Beach.

I’m just about out of room and will talk more about the next age group, the twenties next week and I will post links to some of the video from the show and the boys doing the girls and girls doing the boys dances at the cast party.

RTC has taught me, a lifetime teacher, the value of theater work as an educational activity. The RTC, so influenced by current and retired teachers, is like one big classroom. If I were teaching now I would forget the curriculum and just do play after play in my class. From set design and building, to performing, the kids would learn everything they needed to know about functioning in society. The test would be the performances. But of course I would be in a rubber room for not testing kids to death. And goodness, how could they try to fire me when my salary got too high if they didn’t have tests? Wait a minute. This is an RTC column, not School Scope.

Norm rants on education and other issues at

Memo from the RTC: Many Guys, So Many Dolls and Some Cats and Dogs Too
By Norm Scott
July 17, 2015
The Rockaway Theatre Company wrapped up the 2nd weekend of sold-out performances of Guys and Dolls with the proceeds of the July 12 Sunday matinee going to the North Shore Animal League shelter in the Carol Jasper Memorial Benefit performance. RTC Producer extraordinaire Susan Jasper has honored her late family member over the past decade with this generous donation.

The actors kept sneaking out during breaks to the trailer to check out the animals, with one dog making its acting debut by being carried across the stage cuddled in the arms of one of the Dolls, prompting a comment from one of the Guys: I wish I were a dog. I saw at least 3 cats I wanted to take home but I called and Bernie and Penny said they don’t need any more siblings.

This is the final weekend  where we do 4 performances – Thursday, Friday, Saturday evenings at 8PM and Sunday matinee at 2PM - I hear there are lots of seats available for the Thursday and Friday shows while Sat and Sunday may be sold out. The cast party will follow where we know the Dolls will be dancing the Guys’ musical numbers and some Guys will try the Dolls (not me). Can’t wait to see them do “Take Back Your Mink” as they remove their clothes. Could be an ugly sight.

There has been a lot of comment on the double casting of the major roles due to the enormous talent pool. Last time I talked about the blow me away 4 performances of  Adelaide (Nicole Mangano/Caitlin Byrne) and Nathan Detroit (John Panepinto/Matthew Smilardi) roles.

The other leads – Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown (Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons in the film) were also double cast. Michael Whalen, who shared the role of the Devil with John Penipento in last year’s “Damn Yankees”, brings the right touch of  mature charm and danger to Sky while the younger Danny Cruz  (Joe Hardy and Damn Yankees) adds a classic matinee idol flash to the role. As singers and actors their slightly different interpretations makes seeing the show with both casts a must. They both bring top notch singing and acting to the roles and dance with the crap shooters when not in the lead.

And the same goes for the Sarah roles, played by Maria Edwards (with Mike) and Renee Steadman (with Danny). Renee, originally from Trinidad and now residing in East NY Brooklyn, made her RTC debut in Godspell and with her operatic voice is fast becoming an RTC mainstay. If you were just passing by the theater not knowing a play was on and heard her singing you would stop dead in your tracks. Many people coming out of the theater after the show came over to her to say how extraordinary her singing was. So the next night when Marine Park resident Maria Edwards, making her RTC debut,  went on in the role I snuck into the back of the theater. Holy Cow. Oy, oy, oy! How can this little production company known as the RTC attract such awesome talent time and again?

Listen, I can go on and on about the show. The young ladies – the Dolls - from high school juniors on up – are not to be missed. And the Guys – from junior high up to – ME – get wild audience reactions as they dance their way in and out of trouble shooting dice – and also try not to rock the boat in the bring down the house number. Some people coming out actually told me I finally learned how to do the box step – thanks to choreographers extraordinaires – new mommy Nicola DePierro-Nellen (whose mom Phyllis plays a noticeable role in her mink) and Gabrielle Mangano, who I keep pestering with questions about which foot I have to move during “The Oldest Establishment Permanent Crap Game in NY.” We’ve watched Gabby and sister Nicole grow up on the RTC stage.

I’ll close with kudos to an often overlooked the major role played by chief Costumier Kerry O’Conner, who also shares the role of General Cartwright with Cathy Murfitt. Kerry is a den mother to the enormous cast and the numerous costume changes. She helps everyone find the proper costumes and even for a low-end performer like me took so much time in getting me shirts, suits, ties, cowboy boots, string ties, etc. Imagine doing this kind of work for 40 people? I blanched in horror when she found me a green double-breasted suit – I have never worn a DB and didn’t even know how to button it. But the suit grew on me, especially when so many of the Dolls commented on how nice it looked and some Guys told me they had dibs on it for a future show.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Is Unity a Democratic Organization: Unity Caucus and Democratic Centralism

I'm following up on my recent post: How Unity Caucus Uses the District Reps to Control.

I have much more to say about this as a way of explaining how Unity Caucus and other groups operate. On the surface, groups that operate under democratic centralism are democratic internally but all agree upon joining to adhere to the decisions of majority rule. Not outrageous - except when Unity considers itself the UFT and tries to force everyone else in the UFT who are not Unity members and did not sign on to dem cent to follow that in the mass organization - the UFT itself -- and that has been a tactic of smaller groups controlling larger mass orgs - stifle dissent by labeling it undemocratic - we voted, the majority won, not shut up and follow along. Except that they manipulate democracy in the UFT.

I also maintain that Unity itself is not a democracy but top-down -- there are votes but people vote the way they are supposed to. Shanker, Feldman, Randi - make basic decisions and people follow -- Mulgrew may be allowed to make a few of his own. Then they use the Unity cadre to impose those decisions on the rest of the UFT.

Here is a comment sent to me by email:
Democratic centralism seems to be a very idealistic principle. It claims to resolve an apparent contradiction of opposites. A diversity of perspective, emphasis of thought and idea wonderfully coalesces into an agreed upon unity of plan for collective action. But doesn't this idealistic principle ultimately morph into an actual reality on the ground that is far more specific and commonplace? 

Doesn't idealistic democratic centralism morph into either majority rule and/or consensus democracy (more or less what MORE does), or in the case of UNITY and some groups, rigid democratic dictatorship for either left or rightest policy? With the latter, you can forget the nice centralism. It's absolute conformity or be socially excluded, eliminated or demonized, and, in its extreme form, bodily assassination. 
Politically divergent dictatorial, totalitarian and subversive organizations have morphed into democratic dictatorships from socialist democratic centralist idealism? Meanwhile it amazes me how organizations manage to put group-think blinders on their followers. 
Actually ICE is a consensus group while MORE is a majority vote group - and I think not just a simple majority vote but something more than a majority for important issues. I think simple majority rule can cause deep splits in groups when the minority just misses.

Friday, July 24, 2015

How Unity Caucus Uses the District Reps to Control the Membership and Narrow the Growth of the Opposition

CORRECTED: Changes in green

One thing people have to understand about the Unity Caucus on the city, state and national (called Progressive Caucus) is that only 100% control is acceptable - not 60% or 75% or 95%. But 100%. When there are voices of opposition, they are attacked as being disloyal and anti-union.

How does the UFT/Unity bureaucracy keep track of pockets of opposition in so many schools? Through the middle management employees, the District Rep. Every school in the city has a district rep who communicates through the chapter leaders but when there is a strong opposition person in the school, is willing to go around them - sometimes by actively recruiting someone in the school to challenge them.

They track dissident voices and call out reinforcements when a school seems to be going off on an anti-Unity track -- for instance, the district rep informing the teachers at the dissident PS 8X that Mulgrew was coming to see them - soon - certainly before next year's elections -- to try to put out the fire. And to some extent a visit by Mulgrew will move some people on the fence.

Unity works hard to get some of these people into Unit to shut them up.

Remember the Unity Caucus loyalty oath - or what it really is -Wiki says - democratic centralism - the name given to the deontological principles of internal organization used by Leninist political parties, and the term is sometimes used as a synonym for any Leninist policy inside a political party.

Yes, Unity is a Leninist party. Leo Casey in debates with people in MORE likes to defend the Unity loyalty oath by raising the issue that some people in MORE are in organizations that have their own version of democratic centralism -- another diversion by Leo since MORE itself doesn't operate under DC - and if it did I would quit immediately. But I have been pretty open inside MORE that I have reservations about people who subject themselves to a loyalty oath - or democratic centralism - since they are bound to each other and their organization and in a mass organization like MORE that can cause problems - and at times it has. (I'll get more into this in a separate post).

The same thing goes for Unity - they are bound more to Unity than to the people in the schools. Just look at Paula Washington's comments on ed notes defense of everything Unity - which caused her to lose her recent chapter leader election.

In some cases, Unity woos a dissident with promise who they deem ambivalent -- first they say that being associated with an opposition is not a problem -- it is but they are hiding that. Then they entice them with offers of joining Unity and getting to go to conventions with a hint at after school jobs and even the big enchilada - a full-time union job that will get them out of the classroom. I have seen numerous people go that way -- I can't tell you how many people who used to hand out Ed Notes in their schools ended up in Unity - they were targeted to shut down the ability to reach the rank and file. Recently a MORE supporter underwent heavy Unity recruitment and finally succumbed, not totally surprising to me since I detected some game being played -- like guarantees that MORE lit was going into boxes and others in the school saying they never say any MORE lit. Call it playing the double game - using a connection to MORE to make them a more attractive Unity candidate. Once they join Unity they start avoiding saying hello to me -- and other slimy stuff. Reports often come in that they become amongst the worst - they entered Unity in an unprincipled manner and begin to function that way. After all, they were once a critic who felt the union was letting people down and then suddenly go silent and start selling the Unity line. What does that say about their believability - and honor? To me they are the least trustful people in Unity.

(Does anyone think that the same offer could have been on the table for people like James Eterno, Julie Cavanagh, Kit Wainer and even me, who was being recruited into Unity in the late 90s before I went rogue? No job offer would ever tempt us.

There are 32 K-8 district reps and 6 high school districts but they are divided up amongst more than 6 district reps -- the number is fuzzy as some handle small schools - with the proliferation of small high schools, the union added DRs. There are also Drs for paras, special ed district 75 and other special districts. (Yes, it is a job machine for around 40-45 people). Monthly meetings are held where the UFT propaganda is laid down for CLs to follow -- these are not meetings to share problems and issues in schools and come up with solutions.

By the way - every district rep is supposed to teach one period a day - they are on DOE salary but the UFT reimburses the DOE for the time they don't teach during the day and the get additional compensation for the hours from 3-6 plus any other time they put in. Every one of them makes a 6-figure salary.

In all the years before 2002, every district rep was Unity Caucus except for Bruce Markens who was elected by the most dissident group in the union - the Manhattan High Schools chapter leaders. Bruce was re-elected for a decade from 1991-2000 despite Unity attempts to dislodge him. After he retired, Tom Dromgoole, his successor was also in Unity and was independent and followed in Bruce's footsteps from 2000-2002. After Randi made it an appointed position, fearing a backlash from the still strong Man HS CLs -- big schools still dominated - she appointed Tom. But some felt over the next few years with the sword hanging over his head as large schools disappeared and his base disappeared with them, he was forced to adhere more to the Unity line in order to keep his job. And to make it worse, some of Bruce and Tom's former supporters actually ended up joining or supporting Unity with one now having a full-time job. Unity is relentless in undermining any opposition.

As I said, even 1 person not in the Unity fold is unacceptable to the Unity machine.

So in 2002, Randi eliminated district rep elections because she never wanted to see another Bruce Markens. They created a bogus process of interviews but the UFT leadership really makes the choice of this crucial position.

Over the years, some top-notch opposition people have gone through the process just for the hell of it because they know they have no chance. James Eterno applied for the Queens HS DR position at one time. He was clearly the most qualified candidate. Yelena Siwinski applied for the District 22 position - no one is more qualified than she is. And I believe another top-notch MORE candidate is currently applying for a vacancy he will not get.

Even I applied for the position in District 14 before I retired with an understanding that my voice, like Bruce, would remain independent. Top union officials came to my interview to enjoy the fun - and we had a blast - when they asked me to produce sample of my newsletters I had Ed Notes - everyone broke up. Believe me, the guy they chose is tepid at best. If there were an election I believe I had a shot at winning because I was so aggressive in dealing with my principal when I was CL - and many CLs liked that. Also even some Unity people who are there for the conventions wanted an independent voice - it was pre-ICE and I wasn't with any caucus.

At least an election for DR forced them to be somewhat responsive to the chapter leaders - unless these CLs were also Unity and had to follow the party line from above - which was true in most cases. So elections are not an end all until the Unity dominance of the CLS is broken -- part of my strategy of organizing from bottom up instead of making the UFT elections the big deal.

Unity has a machine and that machine pervades most schools with little opposition at the school level except for a relatively few. There are signs of some breaks in that - witness the 60 people who came out for the MORE CL training recently - and new people are in contact regularly. So something did break in the schools to some extent. Unity will try to recruit these people into Unity through the district rep and at their 3 training sessions in the fall -- these are important to Unity in an election year in that they can shut down opposition lit in schools with Unity CLs controlling the gate - unless the opposition has a contact willing to stand up to them in the school. Unity can only be broken by going after them at the school level day by day, month by month, year by year. Election outcomes reflect that work and if an opposition ever had people in hundreds of schools who could organize a serious block at the Del Ass, Unity would be facing a loss of control from below.

District Reps have a major function -- to stop this from happening.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Today - MORE Summer Series: How To Build an Opt‐Out Movement in Your School

While the UFT fights the opt-out movement, MORE works to help build it in partnership with parents.

For those of you not paying attention -- opt out is a defense of teachers under the gun of the testing movement which is designed to undermine our public schools and profession. See the reports of teachers being forced to reapply for their jobs at renewal schools and face deployment into the ATR pool.

Did you know that over 175,000 New York State families opted their students out of high stakes tests this spring?

Come to our discussion about how to build this movement in your school, this Thursday

THURSDAY, July 23rd How To Build an OptOut Movement in Your School
The Dark Horse, 17 Murray St. NYC, Near City Hall, Chambers St, WTC
Drink specials: $4 drafts, $6 well drinks & $7 wine

High Stakes Testing and the Teacher Evaluation System are suffocating public education. As Diane Ravitch states ‐ the only way to save our schools is to starve the data beast. That is the mission of the opt out movement. Find out how teachers around the state are working together with parents to organize against high stakes testing and fight for the schools our students deserve!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

UFT Election Musings: What Can Be Won and Is it Worth it to Try?

The Eternos and I at Tues Nite Yankee game
The other day I posted some thoughts based on the recent MORE retreat:
MORE Doesn't Retreat at Retreat Plus Some of My UFT Elections Thoughts - Don't Kvetch, Organize!

ICE, MORE, New Action get together at Yankee game: a precursor of things to come?

James and Camille, joined by Ellen Fox and Ed Beller talked about some of this election stuff at the Yankee victory-- NORM SCOTT, CAMILLE AND JAMES ETERNO PLOT ELECTION MOVES
- they were happy even though Camille, James and Ed are Mets fans because the Mets won too. Other than Ed, we are all UFT political junkies - we tried to talk between innings or during pitching changes.

All of them were in New Action until the 2003 sellout. Ellen and the Eternos left to help form ICE while Ed remained in New Action. Ed, James and Ellen were all elected and re-elected as high school executive board members repeatedly during the 90s through 2001, getting over 3000 votes each time.Ed is no longer active in union politics.

I pointed out in my blog piece that the 7 high school UFT exec bd seats were winnable by MORE in the upcoming election based on the 2013 numbers. They are winnable because retirees don't get to vote in that portion of the election. And neither do any of the high school non-teaching staff like secretaries, paras, guidance, social workers get to vote for these 7 positions. Classroom high school teachers only. This used to be the case for the HS VP position - until Unity lost in the mid-80s and changed the rules in 1994.

Unity is used to changing the rules when they lose. After New Action once again won the then 6 HS ex bd seats in 2001 - with over 3000 votes - Randi figured out a clever way to prevent this from happening by buying New Action and offering to hand them these seats by not running any Unity candidates against them. All they had to do was let Randi run unopposed. And so they did - except ICE and TJC threw a monkey wrench into the scheme by running and winning these 6 positions.

James and Jeff Kaufman for ICE did such a powerful job for 3 years, Unity - and New Action were mortified and thus made sure that no independent voice (non-Unity endorsed) representing classroom teachers without conditions would get on the Ex Bd. In 2007, for the first time, Unity put New Action people on the Unity slate so they could win -- and they split the HS Ex Bd seats between them. (When they raised it from 6 to 7, the split was 4-3, Unity.

New Action would ask some questions, maybe raise a reso or 2 and then make sure everyone got to go home on time. They are the loyal, well-behaved "opposition", so unlike the aggressive Jeff and James were. Everyone goes home happy - when James and Jeff were there, Unity did not go home happy.

New Action high school vote totals dropped from 3000 in 2001 to around 700 in 2004 - and 450 by 2014 - so how did that work out? Pretty good for them I guess since they are handed 10 ex bd seats and some jobs. Not so good for rank and file teachers.

So, let's get back to the 2016 elections.
To beat Unity + New Action + any other vagrant caucus running would take an extraordinary effort and require MORE to focus most of its resources on the high school election, probably ignoring other areas like elementary and middle schools and functionals - all areas where retirees don't vote.

To win 7 out of 100 Ex Bd seats - for what purpose? To make some noise? To take us to where New Action was 15 years ago? Their focus on these seats never led them to build much more of a base outside the high schools. And what do you do if you win? Go to meetings like ICE did every 2 weeks to support your people in a total Unity environment?

On the other hand, a win would show that Unity can still be beaten and it would restore an independent voice.

On the other hand, if MORE intends to go much beyond where New Action was before the dirty deal with Unity, it needs to reach deep into the schools. A focus on winning the high schools could distract MORE from that goal.

On the other hand, MORE could use the actions at the Ex Bd to raise issues of concern - it is easier to do there than at the DA since once you get 5 Ex bd people to sign on a reso must be dealt with.
And given that nothing else can really be won, why not go for this?

On the other hand, how exactly do you sell people on getting involved in an election that can win only such a small sliver of 7% of Ex bd and no officer or AFT/NYSUT delegate positions?


While touching on some of these issues at the retreat, MORE did not get into the discussion in depth and is still far from getting deep into election stuff, focused more on supporting people in the schools.

Should MORE go for these seats even if the other parts of the campaign suffer? Given that MORE got almost 5000 votes in the 2013 election, can even 5-10% of these people be activated in a way to take part in the campaign beyond just voting - like becoming a spokesperson for MORE In their school and making sure people vote?

As for me, I am still not committed to getting deeply involved in yet another election but would appreciate any of your thoughts either in the comments section or by email.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Leo Casey Attacks Leonie Haimson Over Class Size, Defends UFT Inaction on Issue as Roseanne Takes Him Head On

What's Leo Casey's response to Haimson calling out the UFT on not fighting to lower class size????  He actually tries to defend the UFT's inaction by insinuating that parents don't want lower class size. .... Roseanne McCosh, PS 8X
Leo, the gift that keeps giving
Roseanne on the case. I can't wait for Mulgrew to visit PS 8.
Mr. Casey,
And your mean-girl antics continue...Leonie Haimson fights for lowering class size.  She has also been vocal against high-stakes testing and vocal in support of parents who opt their children out of state tests.  It's bad enough that the Unity-controlled UFT is on the wrong side of all of these issues but now you seem hell bent on attacking Leonie Haimson for merely pointing out where the UFT stands on class size.  You guys have done nothing, own it. 

More disturbing news on the UFT.....The arrogance and snarkiness continues from Leo Casey of the UFT.  Leonie Haimson's organization, Class Size Matters, understands the detrimental effects of large class size.  What's Leo Casey's response to Haimson calling out the UFT on not fighting to lower class size????  He actually tries to defend the UFT's inaction by insinuating that parents don't want lower class size.  We know they do, but my question is... why doesn't the Unity-controlled UFT care that we, the dues paying teachers they work for, want lower class size? The MORE caucus of the UFT supports lowering class size.  The Unity caucus led by Mulgrew does not. (The line in the sand gets clearer and clearer, doesn't it? MORE=GOOD for teachers, UNITY=BAD for teachers. As always---please share this with whomever you want. See Unity-UFT Casey's tweets below :

@leoniehaimson @pfh1964 @TeacherArthurG @lanecindy1234 @rweingarten @UFT Just curious Is there one real parent in school who has criticized?

@leoniehaimson @TeacherArthurG @pfh1 @rweingarten Would be nice if you actually talked to parents before deciding what they want.

Monday, July 20, 2015

MORE Doesn't Retreat at Retreat Plus Some of My UFT Elections Thoughts - Don't Kvetch, Organize!

After last week's MORE retreat where UFT elections were discussed for the first time this cycle, it looks like I have lost my battle to keep MORE out of the UFT elections -- though I will not concede I lost my debate with Schirtzer (The Great Scott-Schirtzer Debate: Boycott UFT Elections) until I see a slate put together. I'm sitting on the fence as to my level of involvement if such a slate is put together.

My vision of an election is that it must be part of the long-time work a caucus does, not an end all and be all where the focus shifts from that work into "election year" mode. I would have to believe that MORE won't fall into the election trap where it takes short term shortcuts. In the past that approach has never helped a caucus grow and in fact I've seen the outcome of elections help shrink groups as people who actually believed they could win drop out after the election.

That is why I am trying to impress on MORE that they must be honest with people and tell them what can be won in an election and what cannot be won - like the presidency and other officers, 80% of the Executive Board and all 750 delegates to the AFT/NYSUT Representative Assemblies. Anyone telling you Unity can be beaten in these areas is either lying or deranged.

I will admit I am intrigued at the challenge of helping MORE get enough high school votes to defeat Unity and New Action and any other caucus. On the surface it looks impossible but the numbers in 2013 put the 7 high school exec bd seats in play (more details in the future). MORE finished within 150 votes of Unity but the 450 or so New Action votes went to Unity. If New Action were to team up with MORE I have no doubt they would beat Unity in the high schools and elect people not endorsed by Unity for the first time since ICE-TJC won those seats in 2004.

What astounded me last time in 2013 is that Unity only got 1575 votes out of 19,000 sent out - and despite a massive and expensive campaign. Imagine that - Unity couldn't even get 10% of the high school teachers to vote for them. They have put some effort into outreach since then so it wouldn't surprise me to see their votes go up. The wild card is still New Action - despite some of their members telling us there is some disagreement over continuing to support Mulgrew I don't believe they will give up their 10 guaranteed Ex Bd seats and the jobs. But I believe that if MORE matched the 3000 votes New Action without Unity support got in 2001, MORE would win those seats. In essence it needs to double the high school numbers from 2013. Not easy but possible.

Could MORE win the 11 elementary school and 5 middle school Ex bd seats? They weren't even in the ballpark last time -with about 20% of the vote so I don't expect that to happen. But once again the Unity totals in elementary school were in the 5500 range out of 36,000 elem ballots sent out - around 15% of elementary UFT members. MORE would have to quadruple its totals from last time to have a shot. And with other groups out there splitting the vote, it is very unlikely.

MORE addresses 2016 election for first time

Last week MORE met in what was termed a "retreat," a term I dislike because it is used in such a phony manner by so many in the NYCDOE. A retreat is basically a very long meeting focused on the long and short range goals of an organization. At my age long range is about 10 minutes, so I am not always at my best at these meetings - er - retreats.

This was MORE's first retreat since last July - 2014 - when things in MORE were somewhat different. Since then there has been a degree if reorganizing and shifting priorities internally and externally. I won't go into the weeds on this but people who have been active know there was some struggling over a bunch of political stuff in MORE - messaging, what audience to appeal to, etc. MORE pretty much marked time last fall cutting back on activity until some of the issues could be resolved. In December there was some stirring and in the winter and spring, MORE began to perk up by focusing in issues related to the chapter leader elections and chapter leader training, work in the opt-out movement and in support of ATRs - despite some sturm and drang from people who have been activists for about 2 weeks, MORE/ICE people have been in the battle for ATRs for over a decade but do a lot of the work behind scenes so as not to use the ATRs as a political football.

About half the time at the retreat was spent discussing regular MORE organizing and half the UFT elections. There does not seem to be the same urgency I saw in 2013 - a good thing - MORE will take its time and let things work organically. Normal local organizing will go on. I imagine choosing candidates will take place in November.

I liked what I heard - A less intense and more relaxed view of UFT elections. There is no concern as to how many caucuses are running -- MORE just has to do its stuff - don't kvetch, organize.

People recognize that the recent chapter leader elections have more impact on the union than the 2016 elections - a good sign was the 60 plus turnout at the CL training -- and look for a Unity response by intensifying its recruitment efforts and disparagement of MORE.

MORE, recognizing that the battles are not just local, is also involved with Stronger Together on the state level and UCORE on the national level.

So people are busy bees - the MORE summer series continues this Thursday with building the opt out movement. The astute among you understand that a parent led opt out movement is the biggest threat to ed deform - which is why the deformers are trying every dirty trick to derail it - and having the UFT/AFT working to undermine the opt out movement doesn't help us.

THURSDAY, July 23rd How To Build an Opt‐Out Movement in Your School
The Dark Horse, 17 Murray St. NYC, Near City Hall, Chambers St, WTC
Drink specials: $4 drafts, $6 well drinks & $7 wine

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Et Tu Bernie - Reveals Himself as Deformer, Shrinking Distance with Hillary

it comes down to this--On the one hand, you have Democrats. Top down, Test-and-Punish, privatization in the inner city, and the Common Core corporate scam. On the other hand, you have Republicans. Who want to destroy public education entirely through charters, vouchers, and privatization. Honestly, when it comes to policy, there doesn't seem to be a lot of difference.... Daily Kos
How interesting that Republicans seem less deformy than Democrats?
Of course, closet deformers at the AFT/UFT like Leo Casey go on the attack over our opposition to deformy stuff by branding us tea party supporters.
Beware the Strawman

@rubinsteindds @NTampio @mma718 @MOREcaucusNYC You don't want to discuss Common Core, where your position is aligned w/Republican far right.

Leo Casey @LeoECasey
@NTampio @mma718 @MOREcaucusNYC Or maybe you would like to join Walker, Jindal, Cruz, etc. campaigns, becuz they oppose Common Core.
Poor Leo, Randi, et al -- stuck with the deformy Democratic Party for life.

Really, over time, what does it matter who the AFT endorses? It is about the process. I would support Bernie and probably will - but I have a hard time backing people with ed deform tendencies.

See Eterno at ICE blog for some interesting points and links to Ravitch pieces on the Murphy Amendment. WHERE TO NOW EDUCATION PROGRESSIVES?

Harris Lirtzman left an important comment:
Never underestimate the power and moral suasion that the mainline civil rights groups have on the Democratic Party--for good and historic reasons. We all know that there are many local and state civil rights groups that have come out against the testing and accountability regime because they see, on a day-to-day basis, the harm that is being done to children-of-color in our public schools. Never forget that Dennis Walcott was president of the National Urban League before he became Bloomberg's education puppy and then Schools Chancellor.

The national civil rights organizations had a reasonable case to make in the days before NCLB was enacted that children-of-color were overlooked when school accountability was an aggregate statistic, if it was measured at all. Urban schools were never held accountable for their performance and, despite Title 1 funding, were often abandoned by school boards and administrators. I would think that ten years of NCLB might have disabused them of the belief that annual accountability testing ensures that children-of-color get the support and interventions they need in their schools but old fears take a long time to die and I don't believe that people who say that the mainline civil rights organizations have "been bought off by Gates and the reformers' are being fair though I'm not naive and don't doubt that the funding they get is part of it all.

NEA said that it would use the vote to score Senate members. The AFT took no position.

I am not a man who usually bites my tongue but I have nearly bitten it in two the last few weeks as I watch many of my colleagues transform the long-time debate about pushing back the reformistas and opposing the authoritarian structures in our unions into a litmus test about whether someone supports Hillary Clinton or the sainted Bernie Sanders. The arguments are couched in terms of "process" but the real conversations and the most scalding comments now are about a particular political endorsement which I, at least, don't think will make that much difference in the long run. I don't support the early AFT endorsement of Hillary Clinton--I think it was a cynical undertaking which, importantly for me, violated a pact among the members of the AFL-CIO not to endorse any candidate before July 30. So much for labor solidarity and "we shall not be moved."

I have pretty much taken a vow of silence on any of this union political endorsement outrage because I am agnostic about Bernie Sanders and pragmatic about Hillary Clinton. Agnosticism and pragmatism turn out to be verbotten among teacher activists who easily lose track of the fact that they, in aggregate, represent a relatively small number of teachers nationwide and who need to maintain some humility in face of the challenges that all of us fighting the reformistas, at large, and the authoritarians, in our unions, face every day.

I think that there will be some long term damage, in terms of trust and credibility, so long as teacher activists call out "process" when they really are upset that a particular candidate was endorsed. Many teachers do support that candidate. Could the endorsement have been delayed and a more open process used to come to a decision? Of course. But the tenor of the debate is disproportionate to the harm done and seems to me to indicate a certain naivete about how the political process works and how our unions have played this game for many years. Perhaps we've reached a point of "no mas." I hope so but let's be honest about why, now, the "no mas" has taken on such a personal edge to it. 
Hey there - don't rely on politicians - organize and one day show up at their door with thousands.

Daily Kos
Bernie Sanders Just Broke A Promise 

Well, he and almost every other Democrat in the Senate. Why, oh why can't they get it right on education?
The Senate was going through its vote-a-rama on amendments to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act when the Murphy amendment came up for a vote.

What is the Murphy Amendment, you ask?
Short answer, it's a continuation of the same Test and Punish policies of the failed No Child Left Behind.
The 12-page text of Murphy’s SA 2241 reads more like No Child Left Behind (NCLB), with its detailed prescription for reporting on student test results, for “meaningfully differentiating among all public schools” (i.e., grading schools), including publicly identifying the lowest five percent, and, among interventions, potentially firing staff and offering students the option to transfer to other schools and using part of the budget to pay for the transportation.” This amendment would have enacted tough, federal-mandated accountability, akin to setting up an “achievement school district” in every state.
Almost every Democrat voted for this. This was co-sponsored by Elizabeth Warren. 
She even released a statement expressing her disappointment.
[In her statement, she says the ESEA as passed] “eliminates basic, fundamental safeguards to ensure that federal dollars are actually used to improve both schools and educational outcomes for those students who are often ignored.” That sounds good until you realize what she means. “Educational outcomes” mean test scores. She’s talking about test-based accountability. She is against the ESEA rewrite because it doesn’t necessarily put strings on schools’ funding based on standardized test scores like NCLB.
She continues, “Republicans have blocked every attempt to establish even minimum safeguards to ensure that money would be used effectively. I am deeply concerned that billions in taxpayer dollars will not actually reach those schools and students who need them the most…”
She is upset because Republicans repeatedly stripped away federal power to Test and Punish schools. The GOP gave that power to the states. So Warren is concerned that somewhere in this great nation there may be a state or two that decides NOT to take away funding if some of their schools have bad test scores.
And Bernie said he was going to "End No Child Left Behind" yet he voted for this extension of the same. Right now, Democrats seem to be under the impression that the only way to tell if a school is doing a good job is to engage in high stakes testing and only use the test scores as a guide.
Which is utter bullshit. The only thing a test score shows is parental income.
Real school accountability would be something more akin to the original vision of the ESEA – making sure each district had what it needs to give kids the best education possible. This means at least equalizing funding to poverty schools so they have the same resources as wealthy ones.
But today's Democrats won’t hear it. The Murphy Amendment seems to show that they’re committed to punishing poor schools and rewarding rich ones.
So it comes down to this--On the one hand, you have Democrats. Top down, Test-and-Punish, privatization in the inner city, and the Common Core corporate scam. On the other hand, you have Republicans. Who want to destroy public education entirely through charters, vouchers, and privatization.
Honestly, when it comes to policy, there doesn't seem to be a lot of difference.