Sunday, April 10, 2016

#MORE2016: AMEM - A MORE Effective Meeting

Michael Flanagan

The new MORE/New Action joint flyer

The pizza has arrived

I attended another invigorating MORE meeting yesterday, one of the most productive I've seen.  I was sorry (almost) I had to leave early to get back to Rockaway to pick up my wife for last night's Ronnie Spector and Dion concert at the Kings theater in Brooklyn which on our first visit to that wonderfully renovated theater (my wife, an Erasmus grad, is from that general neighborhood) turned out to be so much fun. (Photos and video posted on FB -

 No, Ronnie and Dion did not perform at the MORE meeting. But we did have great musician Michael Flanagan there though sans performance. Michael will be doing a happy hour soon in the Bronx where he will perform.

The meeting was so well organized and competently run by the crew from the steering committee in charge -  Cayden Betzig, Ashraya Gupta and Janice Manning- all new to steering this time. They will be an amazing resource to MORE. I know Cayden, a first year teacher, since he was a freshman at NYU and at one meeting last fall when things seemed to slow down he told me he has a lot of experience in facilitation and yesterday he proved it. When I was speaking a little bit long (surprise) he gently said "30 seconds" and I shut up. I love taking orders from a 23 year old.

The trio worked with a more experience crew - Kevin Prosen, Megan Moskop and Peter Lamphere who facilitated the breakout sessions.

There was so much going on related to setting up distribution lists that will last beyond this election, methods for getting out the vote in their schools - with some fascinating ideas - and expanding the use of social media. I never knew what a Thunderclap was before - and still am not sure. So many people are so knowledgeable.

New people showed up. Two women who were long-time friends each discovered MORE independently - one said she was so frustrated by conditions and lack of anything emanating from the Unity/UFT leadership she started googling and found MORE.

The entire Eterno family attended and seemed to be having a good time. James and Camille who in the past had not always been enamored of MORE meetings are a sort of bellwether as to the progress MORE is making at its meetings. If you've been reading James at the ICE blog you know how positive an attitude he has.

Arthur Goldstein at NYC Educator, also a past critic at times of MORE, has been very satisfied - as you can see - Who Should Run The UFT - 

A year and a half ago heaping praise on a MORE meeting was uncommon  as MORE struggled to make the meetings more productive. MORE emerged out of the difficulties being faced at that time -- in retrospective they look like serious growing pains of a caucus that was built on so many different groups and points of view that had not quite meshed and was leading to some frustration. ICE and TJC, the 2 previous caucuses had not gotten along especially well since ICE's inception in late 2003 and NYCORE had not been involved in caucus activity before. Plus an influx of people not affiliated with any groups requires a lot of meshing. Building up trust in working with each other can take years.

Building for this election not only brought out a lot of new people but also solidified some relationships in MORE through working together.

I would mark the January 2015 meeting focused on upcoming chapter leader elections as a sort of turning point - getting meetings to focus on tasks at hand and providing useful information. There was also a push for some decentralization within MORE to allow people even if with differing viewpoints some space. The 2015 summer series, opening with a new chapter leader training workshop that attracted almost 60 people, was planned with this in mind.

Also emerging from this election is the cessation of hostilities towards New Action. I was wary at how things might work out but everyone has been very pleased to see how things are working out. The MORE committee of 3 - Kit Wainer, James Eterno and Lauren Cohen chosen to work with New Action has worked out very well. What a perfect choice MORE made here - 2 former presidential candidates, one from TJC and one from ICE and a non-affiliated younger gen chapter leader in VP Elementary School candidate Lauren Cohen who is already carving her own legacy with her slam of Unity at the 2014 NYSUT  - Lauren Cohen Stands Up to Unity Bullies - convention and her recent appearance on NBC in the opt out video.

Maybe New Action people will take an active role in MORE in some ways. I don't foresee a merger is in the near future. But I think ICE has been a model of sorts of a group that keeps its identity and voice but has the majority of people working actively in MORE.

After this election I am going to make an effort to fade away as much as I can -- but when you are addicted to the action that may be tough. I also know that things can come apart in instant. I've seen this happen all too often in the past - where someone or some organized group shows up who brings a discordant and divisive note to an organization, especially one committed to internal democracy and bottom up organizing. It is fairly easy to mis-use "democracy" in an undemocratic manner to subvert a group or try to use if for their own ends.

I may take a step back but will be forever vigilant.

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