Monday, February 22, 2016

Exercise in Democracy: MORE New Steering Takes Office March 1

MORE has a new steering committee! The current steering committee gathered nominations of eligible members after the announcement went to our listerve between January 22­January 20th. Because exactly nine nominees accepted it is not necessary for there to be an election. The new committee will take over from current steering on March 1 for a six month term that will run through August 2016.... John Antush for MORE steering to MORE membership.
I was going to post this a few days ago. So I'm glad to see some thinking along the same lines from The Doenuts Blog,
MORE's New Steering Committee:
Strike a chord for a democratic way of doing things. As of March 1, The MORE candidate for UFT president, Jia Lee (whom I wholeheartedly support), is not part of the leadership Steering Committee of the caucus. This means the caucus' decision making processes aren't directly connected with the candidate who we would all like to preside over the UFT. 'How can that be?' you may ask. 'Doesn't a presidential candidate call all of the shots?'Not exactly. Democracy doesn't always require a cult of personality type in order to function. Hearing all voices means that it doesn't really matter who steers the caucus: The caucus members steer it. We all know what the caucus stands for because, well, we're the ones who are standing. That's a pretty cool way to do things and it's the kind of rank-and-file driven leadership that Jia will bring to the whole UFT.
DOENUTs is right. If you want to run the union one day damn well make sure you don't run your own caucus the way Unity does.

Call MORE one big experiment. For all my years I've been involved in unstructured organizations and caucuses in the UFT with not many rules or responsibilities. As a leftarian/semi-anarchist I view rules with suspicion. And in the early days of MORE I argued for a least restrictive environment. But as the group began to grow it was clear that some guidelines were needed. Certainly a steering committee of some sorts. But we know full well that a steering committee can become a permanent group of insiders who control the organization even if nominally democratic. Thus our 6-month terms and one year term limit.

In Chicago, CORE, the caucus in power, holds steering elections every 2 years and Karen Lewis, the president - or any successor, gets an automatic position on steering. I love Karen Lewis but if I were in CORE I would object to that automatic position. I think the people running the union at the top should not also be running the caucus. That is what happens in Unity.

MORE evolved a least restrictive ability of a standing steering committee by holding elections every 6 months and having a one-year term limits rule (one can run again after 6 months off). If you get a bad apple, as we've had in the past, the damage can be limited.

I also believe that how the caucus operates internally is a blueprint for how it would run the union if it should one day win. I love the revolving steering committee and this new one is a fascinating in the number of people not only new to MORE but new to the DOE. There is a good blend of people to address bread and butter and social justice issues as MORE moves forward toward melding what is viewed by some as contradictory concepts into a unified field force.

With this steering committee after 3 years and 6 terms I estimate over 30 people have spent time on steering. Some come back, some didn't find it their cup of tea at this time (like me).

As you meet the new MORE steering committee taking over March 1 - in the midst of a UFT election campaign, which is quite daring, I want to make a special mention of Cayden Betzig, a first year teacher who is running on the MORE slate. I know Cayden since his freshman year at NYU when he got involved in some of our activities and was quite impressive. Cayden is an experienced facilitator and organizer and brings a lot to the table for MORE, especially in terms of helping plan and facilitate meetings.

Mike and Peter are the only returnees from the current steering. Janice, Kevin and Mindy are returning from a hiatus. I don't see much of Janice but every conversation we've had has been enlightening. Her background and knowledge are fascinating.

Kevin is one of the great chapter leaders in this city and managed to put himself out there as CL at a time when his principal was a known menace. His political skills and popularity were too much for her and she retired.

Mindy of course is very busy working in the Bernie Sanders campaign. The rest are new. I'm glad Roberta Reid has signed on since she is a long-time teacher who has retired and brings her wisdom and experience to the committee.

Ashraya, who is fairly newly active in MORE and has impressed people, has volunteered to be one of MORE's candidates for high school executive board, a possible winnable position, which means she would have to attend meetings every 2 weeks at the UFT and listen to more Mulgrew spoutings. She and the other candidates for those positions -- Schirtzer and Arthur Goldstein are others - deserve medals.

Meet the new MORE­UFT Steering Committee:
Cayden Betzig ​is a first year teacher at Eagle Academy in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Prior to beginning his lead teaching career this school year he spent five years working in NYC and DC public schools as a teacher’s aid. As a student at NYU he campaigned vigorously for educational justice. He coordinated a campaign demanding that the university prioritize financial aid over real estate expansion. He also founded the NYU Public Education Project­ a group of pre­service teachers dedicated to social justice. He is passionate about moving MORE and the UFT to be a truly democratic organization that represents all teachers­ especially teachers of color and the untenured.
Erik Forman ​is a second­ year ESL and Social Studies teacher and current Chapter Leader at the High School for Language and Innovation in the former Columbus High School building in the Bronx. He has worked as an educator for nearly a decade, teaching Adult ESL, substitute teaching, and teaching at a university in China. Before his life as an educator, Erik spent seven years participating in groundbreaking campaigns to unionize the US fast food industry with the Industrial Workers of the World. He wants to build the schools students deserve and the union teachers need.
Ashraya Gupta: UFT Delegate and Chemistry teacher at Harvest Collegiate High School, Manhattan. “We deserve a democratic union, representative of our members. For too long, teacher interests have been cast as oppositional to student interests. But our union should make it clear that our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions. Let’s be the union we wish to see.”
Peter Lamphere ​Teaches math and robotics at Gregorio Luperón HS in Manhattan. During four UFT elections since 2004, he has learned the need to prioritize building a strong base and organization through our campaign. Throughout the fall he has focused on developing literature, fundraising and outreach plans, including a strong fall conference and membership drive. Also, he will continue to develop MORE’s organizing committee and the database of thousands of contacts we maintain, and contribute to local organizing in Washington Heights. He has a long record as a MORE/UFT activist, Chapter Leader and Delegate. But more important is a commitment to MORE’s social justice unionism model. This means that we can’t win against the deformers without broader support from families, communities and working people generally. We need not only parent and community support of our demands but also to support wider working class fights against budget cuts, for #BlackLivesMatter, and so on.
Janice Manning​ is currently a fifth grade Special Education Teacher in an Integrated Co Teaching Classroom at P.S. 503 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. She started her teaching career as a fourth grade teacher in Fort Worth, Texas. After teaching in Fort Worth for a year, she taught English as a foreign language in Znamenka, Ukraine as a Peace Corps Volunteer. She is passionate about working with other educators to organize ways to improve education for ALL students. 
Kevin Prosen​ is chapter leader at I.S. 230 in Jackson Heights, Queens. He campaigned as part of MORE’s slate for the executive board in the 2013 UFT elections, and has organized mass grievance campaigns at his school involving up to 35 members of his chapter. He has been active in the MORE chapter organizing committee and has been organizing outreach to other chapter leaders in the city. His writings on UFT issues have appeared in Jacobin and Socialist Worker
Roberta Reida native New Yorker, presently resides in the Bronx. She made a mid-life career change, returning to study and complete her Bachelor of Art degree at Lehman College of the City of New York to go into the Education Profession. Her service with the Department of Education of the City of New York commenced in 1991 as a Common Branch teacher, first, at CS 198, then at the Mohegan School, both schools in District 12 in the Bronx. In 2008, she ran unsuccessfully for Chapter Leader at CS67, Bronx. Roberta's career covered a span of 22.5 years until her retirement in June 2014. In May 2015, she made a first time run for the Delegate Assembly of the UFT Retired Teacher Chapter as an independent, garnering an impressive 151 votes.  She has always viewed social justice and equity as vital components of what the profession represents. 

Mindy Rosier ​is a native New Yorker who graduated from Marymount Manhattan College with a B.A. in Psychology and Elementary Education and Fordham University with an M.S. Ed in Early Childhood Special Education. She has been a teacher for 17 years, including 3 years at the NY Foundling Hospital and currently 8 years with the Department of Education in a District 75 school. After seeing the hardships that her school has endured and after researching the education system itself, she became active to promote an improvement in the quality of education for all children. 
Mike Schirtzer:​ UFT Delegate and Social Studies teacher at Leon M. Goldstein High School, Brooklyn: “We Need New Leadership!” “Classroom teachers need a voice in our union and we will be that voice on the UFT Executive Board. Our leadership negotiated a poor contract, worse than other city unions. Micromanagement, Danielson, and 1% raises with delayed retro is not what teachers want or need.” 

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