Sunday, January 17, 2016

Standing Room Only at #MORE2016 Meeting: Drilling Deep on Evals, Talking Elections

It was wall to wall people for the 50 people present at MORE's first general meeting of the year yesterday. Many regulars were away for the weekend or we would have totally run out of room. We saw a preview of the first MORE lit for the UFT election campaign. I would rather it had said VOTE the MORE slate to elect Jia Lee president so some people don't think all they have to do is check off Jia's name.

"This was the best MORE meeting I've been too," declared someone who has been critical of MORE in the past and in particular of MORE meetings. James Eterno, also a sometime critic of MORE meetings, said the same thing about a recent meeting. And I, also a critic of MORE meetings in its early days, see significant improvement.

Certainly the 50 people who attended yesterday's meeting at the CUNY grad center seemed to feel the same way.

Sometimes you have to have patience and conquer your frustrations as a people from different organizations try to mesh. I didn't always enjoy MORE meetings in the early days but over the past year the meetings have been informative and we actually get stuff done.

Having experienced pros like Kit Wainer and Jia Lee run yesterday's meeting shows experience certainly does count. One of the reasons MOREs have such fierce loyalty to Jia are due to the qualities she exhibits all the time - qualities we would want in a UFT president. As Jia's presentation on the evaluation system went on I could see some of the smartest people in the UFT nodding their heads at what a great choice MORE and New Action have made for president.

I saw faces I did not see 3 years ago when MORE was in its early stages. Some people have moved out of town and some have moved on to focus their work in other areas and new people have come in. I would say that the people doing the hard work of running MORE at this point are almost an entirely new crew who have taken a larger role in MORE. A whole bunch didn't even run with MORE in the 2013 elections.

There is a life cycle of sorts with caucuses and in past groups I saw how an election process can be harmful as people come in with unrealistic expectations of winning and then when they see the outcome are disappointed.

MORE seems more grounded than groups in the past in terms of putting the election in context and not allowing the election to totally dominate the work. Thus the Jia Lee led discussion on evaluations was a rich discussion with well-known people like Katie Lapham contributing to a discussion rich in depth and nuance.

The role of the UFT over decades in supporting high stakes testing and poorly conceived teacher evaluation concepts were explored. I pointed out that in the late 90s I brought a reso to the DA calling for limits on high stakes testing and pointing to the negative impact it had on my own school. Randi Weingarten and other Unity Caucus members led the charge against my reso claiming we must support high stakes testing. In other words, this is not new under Mulgrew but a continuation of UFT policy.

Speakers yesterday pointed to how the UFT/Unity leadership talk all the time about bad teachers and how they have to be rooted out - a basic tenet of ed deform that bad teaching was the cause of problems in education. Scratch and you will find the UFT are deformers.

Mike Schirtzer put forth the idea that it was up to us to change that narrative and move the union away from agreeing that it was crucial to engage in an expensive game to evaluate every teacher in depth. In fact, why evaluate teachers at all other than provide support? The insane attempt to root out the few bad teachers is costing a fortune and taking funds away from the classroom.

We then held an information session on the election with the timetable and  a plan for petitioning. We also pretty much solidified the Ad Com positions with the exciting news that you will find 2 people named Eterno, Mindy Rosier, Lauren Cohen and Jia Lee of course, all from MORE. We went over the rules of who can vote for which positions, not always easy to sort out. The entire list of names for AD Com and Executive Board will be made public around February 3.

We also talked about distribution of MORE lit in schools. The poster above will be the first piece of lit going to schools. During election times - which will last until almost the end of May, any UFT member can go into any school and put the lit in mailboxes. And of course every teacher can do it in their own schools. Email MORE if you are interested in doing that in your school. [Unity slugs will attempt to stop you even though the union will announce that you have the right and the DOE will issue a memorandum to principals.] Unity will use its district reps to cover schools where they don't have someone.

I will have a role in helping organize the petitions as will Ellen Fox. We've done this work over the last 4 elections but this time there is a much larger group of people assisting so I can spend more time on the couch.

Then we broke into geographical groups to plan on organizing local events which people found valuable as distribution networks were being set up, not just for this election but on a permanent basis for a regular MORE newsletter.

Then it was off to happy hour with MOREs where Arthur Goldstein and I  shared beer and cider and bowls of chile and chips. Urp!


  1. I agree with you it should say to vote for the entire slate. Is it too late to run on the MORE slate for a delegate spot? AND GO BERNIE!! Doing pretty well tonight.

    1. Still room to run if you want. I can email you a candidate form to fill out.

  2. I have it. Great. I'll try to have it in by Wed night. I want to walk around my school and try to get as many of my own signatures as possible.

    1. Great. If you can come to the Feb 3 DA to pick up the petition and also one for the officers - we need about 1000 for those and you need 100.


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