Sunday, March 31, 2019

School Scope: What are we willing to rally for? - Thoughts on shelters

Published in The WAVE - March 29, 2019 -

School Scope:  What are we willing to rally for?
By Norm Scott

I’ve been following local stories and hysteria regarding the incoming shelter on Beach 101St. My initial reaction was to join the fray of protests. There certainly are very legitimate concerns as Rockaway has been screwed over time and again and landlords often get away with outrageous profits. Would the intensity of the reaction be the same if the shelter were further downtown instead of in what is considered a gentrifying area? Is this just a simple case of NIMBY or are the issues more complex than that?

The reality is that no one wants shelters in their neighborhood. Even the people in shelters don’t want to be there. Are there any solutions at all?

I was struck by the It’s Our Turn article last week by Rockaway Revolution (RR): Homeless shelters aren’t the answer, but neither is hating on the most disenfranchised members of our society. Rockaway Revolution asked a number of pertinent questions that everyone should be asking even if against the shelter. They call for us to be solution oriented instead of just reacting. The call for investment in permanent housing seems to be an excellent idea. But then I think of NYCHA permanent housing, with so many here in Rockaway, and some of the catastrophes visited upon NYCHA residents around the city. Have you noticed any of our local politicians leading rallies to improve NYCHA housing? I would bet every person in a shelter would take even the worst NYCHA housing over a shelter.

RR points to other cities around the world as examples but that may not be an apt comparison. Many other nations have an extensive safety net and in our version of vulture capitalism getting something done is problematical. Free marketers support landlord rights to make as much as they can get. We need better controls. Let’s focus on the real estate industry which controls politics in this city. How about putting a shelter in one of those luxury multi-story towers going up in Manhattan which are getting tax breaks? Anyone for a batch of shelters in the brand new Hudson Yards? Ooooh, the thought is so delicious. I would go to a rally for that.

What do we think about holding a rally led by Councilmember and future mayoral candidate Eric Ulrich at the home of the DHS commissioner? That’s entering dangerous territory. What if a group of anti-Amazon protesters decided they didn’t like Eric’s pro-Amazon position and turned up at his house? I was thinking about the connection. Did Eric ever considering asking Amazon for a shelter on their brand new property? Or that the housing pressure created by Amazon would have led to more people needing shelters? Politicians need to think things through and come up with solutions instead of playing the blame game. If anything, I could see a protest at the business of landlords profiting from these deals.

One argument against the shelter is that there are so many schools with thousands of students nearby. I was thinking about that as I drove by recently through a noxious odor from the waste treatment plants, also so close to the schools. Whose house do we go to protest that?

There are so many issues people are NOT leading protests against.

The local Democratic and Republican politicians certainly don’t seem to be offering very much other than NIMBY. Well, I gotta run. I’m heading off to a meeting of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) where maybe I can find some solutions on addressing the housing crisis through political activism.

Norm nimbly blogs about education and politics at


Saturday, March 30, 2019

Memo from the RTC: A Comedy of Tenors Opens March 29 for Three Weekends

The WAVE - March 22, 2019

Memo from the RTC: A Comedy of Tenors Opens March 29 for Three Weekends
By Norm Scott

One hotel suite, four tenors, two wives, three girlfriends, and a soccer stadium filled with screaming fans. What could possibly go wrong? It’s 1930s Paris and the stage is set for the concert of the century – as long as producer Henry Saunders can keep Italian superstar Tito Merelli and his hot-blooded wife, Maira, from causing runaway chaos. Prepare for an uproarious ride, full of mistaken identities, bedroom hijinks, and madcap delight.
… Samuel French web site, “A Comedy of Tenors”

The Rockaway Theatre Company opens its adult season with the Peggy Page/Mike Wotypka directed Ken Ludwig play, “A Comedy of Tenors,” his follow-up to the hilarious “Lend Me a Tenor,” which Peggy and Mike directed a few years ago. I dropped by to a Sunday afternoon rehearsal and saw part of the second act and laughed out loud at the shenanigans. And in these metoo times I won’t mention how hot all the ladies in the play are. The cast includes RTC veteran actors of all ages from 17 to 76 who know their way around the stage. I will focus on them in future updates.

I worked with Tony Homsey’s crew to help build the set and the painting crew led by Cliff Hesse, who also has a major role in the play, along with his able assistant Frank Verderame, are just finishing up and the theater will be ready to go for the March 29 opening night.

Performance Dates:
March 29, 30, 31 April 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14
Fridays & Saturday @ 8:00 PM, Sundays @ 2:00 PM
visit to reserve your seats.

Paul Egan Sex Scandal Breaks in DN - Ed Notes broke the original story

See also my latest post on April 2: The Paul Egan Story, Redux: Commentary

This has been edited with some updated information:

Another reason to vote Unity in the elections? Not. There are a lot more reasons to vote against Unity.

Look at the ballot and you won't see Paul's name - which means they knew before the ballots were printed.
Rumor: Paul Egan Out at UFT - Everyone is Mum,” read the headline of an item published March 19 in city education blog Ed Notes. “It would be a funny time to remove Paul,” the blog post mused. “Maybe someone will contact Ed Notes with the full story.”
.... The Daily News
The subheadline was
When Paul Egan wasn't at last week's UFT Executive Board meeting we never got the latest updates on the Chelsea soccer team.
Well, today the story is finally out -- Good reporting Ben -- and thanks for the mention - but how about a hot link?

Now all we need is the other names of the UFT staffers who ratted him out. Are they out too? And holy crap - Paul threw away 200 grand - he should have taken some testosterone suppressors. And by the way -- not the first sex scandal at the UFT - remember Jerry Goldman who was fired for some shenanigans at a NYSUT convention at the Hilton?

Come on guys at 52 - send me some leaks.
Some clues:
Notice that Mulgrew announced these replacements at the Ex Bd meeting:
New Director of Grievance—David Campbell
New Political Director—Cassie Pruh
New Attorney—Beth Norton
Thanks people who took new positions. 

Here is the DN story.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Unitymustgo: Here’s why I say no to MORE

Voting in the 2019 UFT Elections
I'm postponing publishing my list of people I voted for to publish this.
Unitymustgo! -- Here’s why I say no to MORE. Currently there are several posts/ads from MORE on my Facebook stream. Not one of them speaks of fighting for me. They all speak about social justice issues. That’s all well and good, but I believe the primary purpose of a union is to fight to improve the working conditions and benefits of the people who pay them. Period. Do I care about social issues? Sure I do. Are there tons of social issues that affect our students? Yup there are. They affect many of our members to. Do I believe a teacher’s union should speak up about the social issues that affect members and students? Yes, yes I do. But, and here’s the thing, if you think, I think, the real issue(s) I have with our union is that Unity just doesn’t focus enough on social issues, well then you are really woefully out of touch with your fellow members. Perhaps, even more so than Unity. Not to go off on a tangent, but I actually think Unity isn’t so much out of touch with the real daily, grinding, piercing travesties members have to deal with. I think they have made a conscious calculated decision not to do much about any of it. MORE’s messaging makes me think MORE doesn’t get the simple idea, that members who don’t vote aren’t not voting because they are just so frustrated that the UFT just isn’t doing enough about social justice issues. Nor, does MORE seem to get the even bigger and even simpler idea that those members who are out there actually seeking alternative leadership are most definitely not doing so because of social justice issues. HEAR ME Unity. HEAR ME MORE, HEAR me anybody that wants my support. I want my union to focus on me. Period. There is plenty to do to improve the working conditions and benefits of our members. Can someone? Anyone? Just do that. ....comment on "UFT Election Update: I Vote Thrice": 
There's one point about MORE and the reason you don't see the kind of angst from them about the way teachers are treated in schools. Most of them have found "safe" schools and they bring other MOREs in so we have a few clusters of people working in some of the better schools in the city - which allows them the luxury to focus on social justice instead of the fight for daily survival.

Yesterday I published another comment from Unity Must Go, a longtime anti-Unity chapter leader who has supported the opposition for a decade - he seemed somewhat reluctantly to decide to vote for Solidarity:  UFT Elections: Solidarity Picking up Defections from MORE

The problem with Solidarity is that its main boast is a web site, not a presence in the schools. Now if people like Unitymustgo who is a CL with his own constituency goes beyond voting for Solidarity, they might yet become a real caucus with real people doing real things.

Fighting Unity requires being in the schools --  as you can see from the ballot they have 750-800 running -- while many are retirees and staffers for the UFT, many are also chapter leaders and delegates and have constituencies in their schools. The total of 3 caucuses is less than 150.

Is there a life for the opposition after this election? Let's see how many people see things the way Unitymustgo does. I heard a rough straw poll in what has been a strong opposition and pro-MORE school until now where there were a number of people who had voted for MORE now voting for Unity, and not one vote for Solidarity with one vote for New Action.

While UnityMustGo resisted in 2013, he decided to run with MORE in 2016.

When I met with him in his school and we went for lunch during the last election he mentioned that in his district CL meetings everyone seemed to be Unity or Unity supporters. I pointed to a chapter leader in his district who had always been an ICE supporter and ran with ICE - he hadn't realized that. I've always maintained that anti-Unity CLs should use the monthly CL meetings as an organizing tool. But that hasn't happened, even among the so-called militants.

In my mind, he is a prototypical rank and filer any opposition would want to organize as a backbone of challenging Unity in the schools. But - and this is not an accident - MORE doesn't want people like him precisely because of what he said in his comment -- he wants a union to fight for HIM, not social justice. And MORE doesn't want these type of people.

I don't quite agree with him since I feel there needs to be a balance of SJ and teacher rights.

That was the essence of the internal struggle in MORE from day 1 when it was organized -- I felt we - mostly the ICE people - we were SJ people too - and some allies - kept some balance between SJ and bread and butter --  but ultimately we lost the internal battle.

And we lost because an non-elected faction of MORE vigilantes decided to take drastic action against what they viewed as the opposition to their plan to morph more away from a broad tent - the ICE core. I still think there are a number of MORE supporters who have no idea what really occurred. But they seem perfectly happy to not have the rancor internally even at the expense of democracy -- an analogy to what we see generally in politics.

--- but Unity Must GO is right about the MORE messaging. It is purposely designed to not attract him or the mainstream of the UFT but a particular slice of young social justice oriented teachers - it's a dog whistle and the entire election for MORE in not running to win anything in a limited campaign was to have the opportunity to put out those dog whistles in the hope of attracting the left in the UFT. And they have been successful to a limited extent with new people who are fundamentally clueless about the UFT - some still call me for info.

A key event for MORE is the monthly happy hours with teachers from the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) before the MORE meetings -- this has become the main organizing tool of MORE.

So for those who think MORE may be going away, don't bet on it -- there will always be a left in the UFT who will go along with the program put out by MORE. Expect them to operate the same way in the 2022 UFT elections. The problem with the MORE plan is that it actually makes Unity stronger and gives them even less influence - but they don't worry about that -- MORE is about recruitment, not influencing real change.

I wouldn't be shocked to see the exact same scenario played out in 2022. Which is why I advocate throwing in the towel in terms of a formal opposition to Unity - just don't run in elections. And why I support Arthur, Mike and Mindy for running with Unity where they are at least free to advocate - in a limited manner --- but given the alternative what else is there to do? My problem with them is voting the straight Unity slate, endorsing a caucus that has made Unity Must Go so disgusted - and a betrayal of loyal supporters of our blogs like him. At best it is insensitive politically.

I may organize a post-election forum which I will call: What is to be done? (ref, intentional).

Thursday, March 28, 2019

UFT Elections: Solidarity Picking up Defections from MORE

Unitymustgo! has left a new comment on your post "UFT Election Update: I Vote Thrice":

From reading yours and a few other blogs my decision is to just check off Solidarity. As a long time reader I know of whom you speak. My understanding is that person has been minimized. Solidarity seems like the best choice if you want to send a message to Unity. What that message is I have no real idea. Any vote not for Unity is more like one water drop making a ripple in the ocean. Not gonna even be felt by ocean liner Unity. I'm not naive, but I also refuse to give up on the dream of a vital, responsive, open minded union that is actually interested in what it's members have to say. I would never had thunk it, but I'd recommend Solidarity to your readers.
Unity Must Go is a chapter leader in an elementary school who has supported ICEUFT and MORE in the past. In fact he ran with MORE last time. In one of my last attempts to bring some rationality I talked to some of he ideologues about this guy and how people like him are the backbone if we have any hope of changing the UFT. They looked at me like I landed from outer space and shrugged.

This is the kind of activist rank and filer MORE has tossed away. I define an activist not as someone who goes to rallies but as someone who takes on the job of chapter leader despite having a young family and supports the opposition.

I went to his school in 2016 to drop leaflets and to have lunch with him. Assume his school went for MORE last time. This time it will go for Solidarity.

James Eterno urges support for Lydia as president:  VOTE FOR LYDIA HOWRILKA FOR UFT PRESIDENT.
Did he endorse Solidarity outright?

I am going to publish my list of who I am voting for tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

UFT Election Update: I Vote Thrice

Hi Norm - I just got my UFT ballot in the mail. I've never received one, and today was perfect timing, because I had it out with someone in the UFT office. They have not responded to my email sent in October, despite me following up every month or so. I may need to start advising young teachers to save their dues for getting their own personal champion rather than have faith in the UFT's ability to even respond to an email within 6 months....
What do you recommend I do with the ballot? Did you have a falling out with MORE?
People have been asking me for UFT voting advice. I am flummoxed. This is where the long-term dangers lie for the UFT - arrogance and ignoring the pleas of people under assault. And I certainly won't tell anyone to vote for MORE. But.....

My teacher friends and neighbors are in California for 6 months and I am taking care of their house and mail. I asked what to do with their ballots -- we forward all their mail - and they told me to decide who to vote for since they usually ask me who to vote for anyway.

This time things are a bit more complicated since there is no slate I would recommend.  However, it does give me a chance to have one of my friends vote for New Action and the other for Solidarity while I in essence toss away my ballot and vote for individual candidates from all 4 slates - Unity too.

Why am I throwing away my ballot? The individual votes are counted -- they have to tear the booklets apart and feed them through the machine and this process delays the count by hours. But they only give us the slate vote totals and that is what gets reported. So those individual votes, which are usually around a couple of hundred people, don't count for much. But this time I have to do it on my ballot.

So, I'm going through the pages of the ballot and voting for people from all caucuses that I like or respect or know. It is tedious work. We have to pick out 48 names from the at-large Ex Bd candidates. Then 750 at most from the AFT/NYSUT convention list - which is easy to do since Unity has 750 running and MORE, Solidarity, New Action COMBINED have less than 150 -- that is why even a combined opposition can't come close to Unity. (The only time I can remember matching them in numbers was around 1980, but I hear from Ellen Fox they did match a few times -- but certainly not close since I became involved in elections again in 2004.)

Well, anyhow -- I will do a follow-up with a list of some of the candidates I voted for and why. I did manage to find a few MOREs that I still like and respect to vote for plus every New Action candidate even if I didn't know them. Plus every Solidarity candidate I know - minus a few that I have had some bad blood with in the past.

Mayoral-Control Hearing Sparks Divergent Views - The Chief Leader

Shino Tanikawa, co-chair of the Education Council Consortium and Vice-President of District 2’s Education Council, said that the parent advocates were “vehemently opposed to mayoral control as it stands right now. I think one thing we learned from the former Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg is that this system does not work. A system that depends on the individual temperament of the Mayor is not a good system,” she said..”

Class Size Matters founder Leonie Haimson said that there were no effective checks and balances on the Mayor at the local level.

Deliver Them From Eva
“If we got the worst Mayor in the world, would our schools be protected the maximum extent possible?” she asked. “If Eva Moskowitz was elected Mayor, literally she could close every non-zoned school in the city and put a charter school in its place.”

Recently-elected Public Advocate Jumaane Williams called for other elected officials, including his former fellow Council Members, to have a stronger voice in running schools.
“I believe that local government is best to bear this responsibility. However, this does not mean I am in unequivocal support of mayoral control,” he said. “The responsibility and power are too great and the consequences are too far-reaching to rest on one person.”
Mr. Williams, who has criticized Mr. de Blasio for not doing enough to reform the Police Department and address housing issues, noted that his belief wasn’t about one particular Mayor. “This is about a system that is open to abuse,” he said.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Randi's Choice: Kamala Harris - Make it so democratically

New York noted that “the union’s executive council could theoretically endorse someone against the majoritarian wishes of its rank and file.” I’ll go a step further. If Hillary were to run again in 2020, AFT would endorse her again.... Mike Antonucci

When Randi Weingarten announced a new "democratic" process for the AFT to choose its presidential candidate I laughed out loud (I've been doing a lot of that lately). Practically simultaneously came the big news from candidate Kamala Harris as reported by James Eterno:

Monday, March 25, 2019

UFT Election Predictions: I Have Become Comfortably Numb

....the entire MORE strategy is to issue dog whistles to the left as honey with little interest in the mainstream of the UFT - that explains MORE's election strategy.
Did you hear? UFT election ballots are on the way today. We saw the ads from all the caucuses in the NY Teacher - I laughed out loud at some of them. We know from past results that 70% of UFT members don't give enough of a shit to vote though I've always thought that they have no incentive to vote given the options and the fact that there is nothing at stake. For the first time in 20 years I am not voting slate, but will vote for individuals from all the slates who I like. This in essence invalidates my vote since we only tally slate votes.

I read all sorts of clueless comments from anti-Unity people about how we need to replace the union leadership and how if all the opposition groups united they would defeat Unity. I will be kind and call that dumb.

It really behooves the anti-Unity crowd to educate themselves on the realities. Past performance is an indicator. You don't just over turn decades of voting patterns in one election cycle - unless something so major has happened that the 70% who don't vote suddenly take notice. And despite some hysteria out there in opposition circles, nothing major has happened.

This year, due to 3 tepid opposition groups fighting over some crumbs, there is even less incentive to vote. Plus the 87% YES vote on the contract compared to the reaction to the 2013 contract is a factor in Unity's factor.

Of the 30% who return ballots, about 45-48% are retirees. They are the most satisfied and vote 85% for Unity. Assume about 22,000 of the 60,000 retires vote. Thus we begin the election with Unity: 19,000, Opposition: 3000. Unity got over 40,000 votes in the last election. The opposition around 12,000. Both numbers should drop. It would take an economic crisis threatening pensions to ever get them to go against Unity.

Only 25-27% of non-retirees vote. Unity will win every position with no challenge. Mike and Arthur who helped lead the opposition to victory in the high schools in 2013 are running with Unity - so expect Arthur's school with 300 UFT members to vote Unity, or not vote at all. A major win for Unity. Mike's school has a long history of opposition to Unity and 4 people there are running with MORE, so I still expect this fairly small school to vote for MORE. Mike might get some votes for Unity there, but not many.

There is some irony here. Unity has not been able to win the high schools on its own since 1993 - in 1991 Unity lost both the high schools and middle schools. But even though Unity loses the high schools, it has always been by a slim margin. Unity has been weak in the high school back to the Al Shanker days in the mid-80s. Actually, the high school teachers have pushed back against the school system going back to the 50s and they were the key to organizing the UFT in 1960.

In 2007, 2010, 2013 Unity needed a deal with New Action to win the high schools. When New Action joined with MORE in 2016, Unity lost once again. And if all the opposition had united this time, Unity would have lost the high and possibly the middle schools and I bet the opposition could have made a dent in the elementary schools. The actions of MORE killed that opportunity.

Expect voting for all groups to drop.

The question is by how much.

Unity, knowing the outcome, has barely bothered to campaign - in 2016 they inundated the schools with glossy lit worthy of Eva Moskowitz.

I watch the divisionals - elem, ms, hs. Last time Unity got around 2150 in the high schools, a big jump from their 1585 in 2013. Remember there are 20,000 high school teachers. And the party in power has an enormous number of Unity chapter leaders, so their numbers in HS are pathetic. But they tried harder in the HS and jumped their numbers by about 500 votes. But the MORE/NA votes topped them. And if you toss in the Solidarity 150 the HS are roughly 55% anti-Unity. Imagine if the totals from the 3 caucuses top them again this time. MORE will wear the Scarlett D for Defeat.

In middle schools in 2016 Unity had about 1800 out of a potential 12,000 - the opposition totaled around 1500. Also pathetic -

In elementary they had about 7,000 and the opposition I think did around 2000 -- out of 36,000 potential votes.

Unity will certainly win the functional chapters by a lot - especially the paras. There are over 40,000 functional chapter members and they get around 20 ex bd seats -- all Unity. But Unity will not win the OT/PTs which will go to MORE which jumped on their bandwagon when they voted NO. I hear MORE is putting resources into a mailing to the member of that chapter for the election.Typical limited vision - go for the narrow slice rather than the big enchilada.

A very weak New Action had pinned its hopes on an alliance with MORE but split internally on willingness to run with Solidarity but is now left with a spirited but very limited campaign with about 40 candidates but no officers. They have tried to get their leaflets into schools -- probably the most extensive by far of anyone running.
Given that they are mostly retirees with few people in the schools, their totals from working UFT members will be in the 1000 range - and add another 1000 from retirees who remember New Action from the past. I am tempted to vote for them because I like many of them - especially since I had decades of hostility with them. And they never stop trying what they see as the right thing to do. Post election some of us will sit down and talk though I worry that their strategy might be to make nice with MORE hoping they will take them in next time. I will vote individually for every NA candidate I can but not slate because I want to vote for some people on other slates, including a few Unity - I will list all the candidates I am voting for in a future post. But no candidate for president sends a message that resonates with me. I would have liked to see Jonathan Halabi run and I would have voted for him despite political differences in the past.

Solidarity is viewed as a pariah in some areas of the opposition. I used to see them that way but have changed. But they have not shown very much since the last election but are making a valiant attempt this time. They had about 65 candidates but lost over a dozen-20 candidates due to invalid petitions and defections, not a good sign. They have shown energy in this campaign and ambition but they too have few people in the schools. Last time Portelos had about 1400 votes for president while not running on a slate. But his energy fueled that campaign. This time he has been quieter which may cost votes. Lydia has put a lot of effort in running for president. Given her tenure situation, being willing to take on this task is very brave. I like Lydia but experience does count in UFT politics as it does in the classroom. I said at the ICE meeting that if Jonathan Halabi ran for president - which I thought he might - his knowledge and experience would have made him the best choice.

Can Solidarity build on those 1400 votes - their outcomes in the divisions were around 200-300 though they did better %wise in the middle schools. This time they have slate status so they should do better. But we know votes come based on school contacts. I would be surprised if they get much more than 3000. Doubling the 2016 vote would be a victory.

MORE has the most people in the schools - and they are young and politically active on a number of fronts. Ready to take part in every social justice movement. UFT elections however are not all that exciting. And also given the purges, splits and pushouts, MORE has lost almost all its experienced people who did a lot in the last election. They had no mass leaflet distribution to schools this time. Last time I and a few other retirees did tens of thousands. James alone did 5000.

But I never believe this tactic made a major difference.

But expect their 10,700 vote total -- which included New Action last time - to drop. By how much will be interesting. Some are predicting they will get half the total of last time - but no matter what, the MORE leadership will interpret the outcome as a victory for their strategy - I can't wait to read the spin cycle.

Subtract the New Action factor but add what may be an enthusiastic OT/PT factor -- give them 1000 votes from that chapter. Expect a big drop in the high schools where last time the efforts of Arthur Goldstein and James Eterno brought in hundreds of votes that made the difference in winning the high schools. For a guess, I'll give them 1350-1550. If they get less than 1000, they will look pathetic since most of their members are in the high schools and should at the very least get their own colleagues to vote for them.

In middle schools, there is not much there other than Kevin Prosen - if they come close to the 1200 last time I would be shocked. Probably less than 1000. Same deal in elementary schools -- we had a few strong places last time but not much more. We had a big push in Julie Cavanagh's school with lots of people running. This time I hear nothing. Say 1500 votes in elem.

MORE was the key villain in blowing up the possibility of making this election serious for its own narrow interests. There was less enthusiasm for the elections than the faction in control of MORE believed - the newer and younger members who had not taken  part in elections were I believe manipulated into supporting a strategy of running not to win -- and using the election to get the word out on its strategy of talking about strike preparation by pushing examples of other cities. They think they can strike a spark for future organizing. I think not in the UFT no matter how much they huff and puff - they missed an opportunity though by not uniting instead of dividing people.

I had pushed back against that strategy and I think some in MORE heard my points -- I saw genuine shock on the faces of the MORE election pushers when the vote was 15-10 with 2 abstentions and when the next month even more people said they would not have chosen to run -- this lack of enthusiasm, a threat to the MORE leadership - enough of a threat that they used my blogging about this lack of enthusiasm as an excuse to suspend me for 6 months from meetings and listserves to shut down my voice. What they can't control is MORE members reading Ed Notes - though the idea of them issuing a ban on that would not shock me.

The opposition can never win it all but it could have won a piece

It is clear that Unity had set the rules in such a way that they can't lose by making the Ad Com and the majority of the Ex Bd at-large - meaning even retirees and the 13 functional chapters, which Unity dominates, vote -- other than OT/PT which will vote opposition this time - MORE since MORE has focused on them. This will inflate MORE and may help them cover up their weakness in the rest of the union.

My goal in opposition politics was to hold on to the high schools, take a shot for the middle schools which was very feasible based on the 2016 election and to build a stronger force in the elementary school. Ignore the retirees and functional chapters for now. Show we could win all 3 teaching divisions divisions where retirees can't vote -- win the 7 HS, 5MS, 11 Elem school Ex Bd seats which would give us 25% of the ex bd and a real base to build from.

After MORE blew up this plan I realize that I have wasted my political life in the UFT trying to accomplish this. It will never happen even if MORE reversed itself and tried to unite the opposition. Too much bad blood all around. (I would never work with MORE again as long as the same people are in charge.)

Unity will not just be in power for ever but will also not have even a smidgen of serious opposition. It would take years. I experienced how ICE was founded in 2003/4 and began to fade almost immediately but continued through the 2010 election before giving up the ghost. In essence, what MORE has done is make Unity stronger and more dominant, something they will never own up to.

Teachers for A Just Contract comes back to life to haunt MORE
Many of us who have been active over decades were reminded why when given the option to join TJC in 2003/4 or start a new caucus  - we opted for the latter and formed ICE. We didn't want to be in the kind of restricted and ultimately undemocratic environment TJC offered and is now offering in MORE.

I ran into a guy at the DA last week who was active in the opposition in the 90s and knew TJC very well. I'll paraphrase: "I heard that so and so TJC people are running MORE. They are poison and will destroy MORE." Funny thing is that there is early scuttlebutt that some of the enthusiasm of newer members who bought the TJC bill of goods is waning due to this tepid election where they realize they are running for nothing and with no purpose.

TJC, began in 1993 and finally gave up the ghost in 2012 - I could tell in the 2010 elections they were so weak. Yet the same crew that ran TJC (into the ground) have come back to do the same thing to MORE. They are pulling the wool over the eyes of the recent recruits who are excited but will come to see the same strategy that let to TJC's demise will operate inside MORE.

If you want an example of the dumb decisions, based on ideology not reality, the MORE leaflet at the DA last week took its entire back page to put together a resolution condemning Mulgrew's signing a letter urging Amazon to come back.

I agree that making nice with anti-union Amazon is problematic -- but to think that that issue in any way takes priority over all the other issues in the schools is an example of how out of touch the MORE leadership is with reality. It is an example of naked opportunism -- a dog whistle to try to attract the left in the UFT, not an organizing tactic. In fact, if some left UFT members who were anti-Amazon get attracted they will soon see the sectarian control over MORE and won't stay around for long. In fact, the entire MORE strategy is to issue dog whistles to the left as honey with little interest in the mainstream of the UFT - that explains MORE's election strategy.

And MORE presidential candidate Dermott Myrie's choosing to use the question period to ask Mulgrew about the Amazon issue over all other issues in the UFT is an example of MORE Folly. I feel sad for Myrie who I used to like and respect when he first came to MORE but has fallen into the trap of ideological frenzy.

It's a sad day in the UFT when Mulgew looks like the best candidate for UFT president.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The WAVE: SRO at Jackson Heights Education Forum with Ravitch, AOC and others

Published March 22, 2019,

(See videos at: Videos: Jackson Heights Ed Forum - From Michael Elliot.)

School Scope: SRO at Jackson Heights Education Forum with Ravitch, AOC and others

By Norm Scott

A star-studded education forum organized by the Jackson Heights People for Public Schools was held on March 16. Among the speakers were Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents the district in Congress, NY Senators Jessica Ramos and Assembly member Catalina Cruz, who represent the district in the Legislature, as well as Senators Robert Jackson and John Liu. Among the terrific education advocates who spoke were Johanna Garcia of NYC Opt out, Maria Bautista of AQE, Carol Burris of Network for Public Education, the great education true reformer Diane Ravitch, Kate Menken of the NYS Association for Bilingual Education and Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters.

What would be a normal educational forum turned into a major event due to the star power of AOC and Ravitch. The Jackson Heights People for Public Schools were among AOC’s first supporters. Their mission is: “We work to educate the community about the public schools in Jackson Heights and to support parents and members of the community who wish to make our schools even better.” How great to see grassroots groups springing up to organize resistance to ed deform and offer a progressive alternative.

One of the founders and leaders of the group is parent activist Amanda Vender, currently a NYC high school teacher. I first met Amanda over a decade ago - I think she was working with the newspaper Indy Kids and I was distributing some of them to some people in the schools. Eventually Amanda became a teacher and parent. I distinctly remember her bringing her few weeks old child to some forum we were running. She and her group are bringing a pro-public school, pro opt-out, progressive vision of education to her own community. Thinking about her work made me realize that the work inside a union opposition I’ve been doing begins to look meaningless compared to the organizing work Amanda and others have done in their communities. If I had done similar work in Rockaway - (and of course if I had kids I might have), I would have been much more useful than I was pushing the boulder uphill in UFT opposition politics. Maybe next life. Amanda Vender is a model for educational organizing. Amanda not only talks the talk, she walks the walk.

Last week I wrote about the March 9 Parent Action Conference sponsored by NYC Kids PAC, Class Size Matters and Community Education Council District 2 (CECD2) which was attended by progressive politicians. There were workshops on class size, how to opt out of testing, how to run for office, advocating for children with special needs in English and Spanish, protecting student privacy, school integration, fighting charters. We also watched a film called Testing about the culture around taking the controversial SHSAT for specialized high schools like Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech and Bronx HS of Science. NYC Kids PAC and Class Size Matters have formed their legislative agenda for 2019 around these and other issues: Amending mayoral control to provide for more oversight over the dictatorship over the schools held by the mayor, funding for class size reduction, a moratorium on new charters and stronger accountability and transparency, fees on developers to go into a fund for new school construction, a pied-a-terre tax for homes worth over $5 million, and an explicit law giving parents the right to opt out of 3-8th grade standardized tests. Politicians who want Kids Pac endorsement are being asked to sign on to this agenda. I wonder how many Rockaway politicians would agree: Eric, Stacey, Joe, Donovan, Michele, James, Melinda? Lou?

Music recommendation: Good Citizen by Mighty Sparrow -

Norm blog mindlessly about education and politics at

Friday, March 22, 2019

Videos: Jackson Heights Ed Forum - From Michael Elliot

Michael Elliot sent these videos out.

Let's "turn the ship around" on education policy | Eclectablog

Part 1
Amanda Vender, Jackson Heights People for Public Schools

Part 2
Robert Jackson, NY State Senator
Johanna Garcia, NYC Opt Out & New York State Allies for Public Education

Part 3
Maria Bautista, Alliance for Quality Education

Part 4
Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters

Part 5
Kate Menken, New York State Association for Bilingual Education

Part 6
Carol Burris, Network for Public Education

Part 7
Diane Ravitch, Network for Public Education

Part 8a

Part 8b

Part 8c

Part 9a

Part 9b

Part 9c
Q&A III: “Diane Ravitch, what changed your mind?”

Part 9d

Part 9e

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

MORE Fallacies, E4E Inspire Caucus

From Ed Notes at the March Delegate Assembly:

MORE Fallacies: Beg UFT leaders to Organize and Mobilize, divide opposition and run not to win

In the current UFT election the MORE Caucus talks a lot about how much educators have won through striking in red and blue states. They point to the seminal and inspiring 2012 Chicago teacher strike and the recent strike in Los Angeles where the union leaderships organized, mobilized and prepared the membership for strikes, gaining over 90% support of the members. A keys to these strikes were alliances with community forces outside the union which MORE talks about – but only rhetorically.

Can you talk strike when you are not a serious threat to take power
What MORE won’t tell you is that the current progressive social justice oriented leadership in those cities formed broad-based caucuses and coalitions in Chicago (CORE) and LA (Union Power) to oppose the former timid top-down union leaderships and ultimately WON their elections in 2010 and 2014 respectively. If they hadn’t run to win, there would never have been strikes. The Unity Caucus leadership will NEVER strike or be pressured by the rank and file to strike. Only defeating them will lead to a union MORE envisions. And MORE is running NOT to WIN.

The way to change the UFT is to not urge the leadership to change but to present a credible threat to their overwhelming power and control by building the machinery of a massive rank and file movement with deep roots in the schools. UFT elections are only a piece of the mechanisms but they do demonstrate the ability to get support in the schools. In 2016 I helped run the MORE election campaign with a focus on winning a piece of the Ex Bd, which we did by winning the 7 high school seats. The hope at the time was to continue this building process by challenging in the middle and elementary schools. But the faction that took control of MORE blew that plan up.

Instead of following in the footsteps of CORE and Union Power, MORE has chosen an opposite approach of running not to win by refusing to unite with other progressive caucuses and independents and purging and pushing out those who resist this approach, using undemocratic methods and purposely not running divisional candidates where they could actually win. And to build an opposition, demonstrating an ability to win anything is part of the process.

A recent MORE election leaflet proclaimed: Collective Action Gets the Goods! Only a stronger base of rank-and-file teachers, counselors, paras and all education workers, knit together in a common organization that can share strategies and mobilize our coworkers can push the union leadership to alter its approach, and eventually lead the union in a different direction entirely.

I laughed out loud when I read this. As one of the founders of the MORE Caucus in 2011 I’ve watched with sadness (and some amusement) how MORE morphed from what began as an inclusive progressive big tent opposition group to Unity Caucus into an exclusive, divisive, narrow ideologically driven and fundamentally undemocratic organization that has driven out many progressive former members who way outnumber those who remain. There are even three former MOREs running on the Unity Caucus line, two of whom were elected to the UFT Ex Bd as MORE candidates in 2016 but have grown alienated with the actions of MORE. How can MORE boldly talk about knitting together rank and file UFT members when it has done the very reverse? Witness the current UFT elections where MORE’s refusal to knit together a coalition to attempt to make a dent in Unity power has led to a divided opposition where three weak caucuses are running limited election campaigns with 40-50 candidates.

I actually don’t disagree with many of the policies MORE puts forth but cannot go along with the tactics used internally and a program that not only has no chance of moving the UFT in a more progressive direction but by its divisive tactics actually has helped strengthen the control of the ruling Unity Caucus. MORE leaders talk about lack of democracy in the UFT while suspending members without due process and exhibiting a level of control that makes Unity look democratic in comparison. Instead of becoming a serious and inclusive caucus as a threat to Unity, MORE has become an ideologically driven exclusive club of self-proclaimed “activists” with loads of rhetoric but little action.

Still, I expect MORE to finish with the highest vote totals of the three running against Unity because New Action and Solidarity have their own problems. I will have more on the elections at the April 17 DA, the day the votes are counted when I will take a break from the count to hand out Ed Notes.

UFT Election: Inspire, E4E-based Caucus, new kid on the block

You might be seeing leaflets for the independent campaign of Michael Loeb, a CL in the Bronx. Michael is running under the UFT Inspire Caucus line. Educators for Excellence, funded by many ed deformers, has been viewed as an anti-union group but over the years has modified its tone and put forth a strong social justice agenda and through Mike has begun to engage in the UFT, mostly in calls for more democracy. Some teacher unions around the nation have vilified E4E, but not here. There has been some signs of cooperation between Unity and E4E. Is this a precursor of a future E4E caucus that might at some point contend with MORE for the title of THE SJ Caucus? Don’t sell such a well-funded group with full-time employees short. Mike serves on the national board of E4E and I have had some excellent conversations with him about unions and policy. He seems to have helped push E4E in a more positive direction towards unions and has been open to my criticisms. Whereas E4E used to throw me out of meetings, Mike has now invited me. Just in case, I will bring a food taster.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Rumor: Paul Egan Out at UFT - Everyone is Mum

When Paul Egan wasn't at last week's UFT Executive Board meeting we never got the latest updates on the Chelsea soccer team. Preferring Manchester United, who really cared?

We've had a lot of fun with Paul over the years. So when I received a tip Sunday night that Paul Egan, whose official title is (was?) Political Director; Director of Chapter Organizing and Development was fired, it was a bit disconcerting. It seemed pretty weird for this to happen with Monday being lobbying day in Albany. Who knows what goes on in the inner circles of the UFT?

There have been political purges in the past.
Paul was not present at lobbying day on Monday. He is an elected AFT/NYSUT delegate and it will be interesting to see if he appears on the Unity slate when ballots are sent out in a few days. If he's gone that is a clue this was not sudden. If he's on the ballot then this may be more immediate. It would be a funny time to remove Paul for not doing his job well so soon after all the bragging the UFT did about taking over the state senate with their political operation led by Paul.

Maybe someone will contact Ed Notes with the full story. Personally I always liked Paul even if not always agreeing with his political strategy. At the AFT 2016 convention Arthur, Jonathan Halabi and I ran into him in a restaurant and had some fun. (I didn't even order the quail.) If the story is true does that mean he gets to go back to teaching after being gone for so long? I can see all those young people holding pep rallies for Chelsea.

nysut board of directors

Paul Egan

E.D. 33 (UFT)

    • Political Director & Director of Chapter Organizing & Development

      – Present 3 years 10 months
      52 Broadway, New York
    • Director of Legislation & Political Action

      6 years 2 months
      Responsible for the development and execution of our organization's government relations, inter-union relations, and electoral plans.
      Coordinate our political strategy with our state and national organizations.
      Oversee our PAC with the responsibility for our political contribution strategy, increasing voluntary contributions and ensuring compliance with city, state and federal reporting requirements.
      Design and implement plans that provide opportunities for members to engage in the political process through advocacy and the electoral process.
    • District Representative

      2 years 11 months
      Bronx, New York
    • Special Representative

      1 year 9 months
      Greater New York City Area
  • Image for Teacher


    NYC Department of Education
    10 years 5 months
    Greater New York City Area

Monday, March 18, 2019

Jackson Heights Queens Ed Forum: Ravitch, AOC, Liu, Jackson plus others

Leonie reports:  There was an amazing education forum yesterday with standing room only. Thanks to Jackson Heights People for Public Schools for organizing it. Among the wonderful speakers were Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents the district in Congress,  NY Senators Jessica Ramos and Assemblymember Catalina Cruz, who represent the district in the Legislature, as well as Senators Robert Jackson and John Liu. Among the terrific education advocates who spoke were Johanna Garcia of NYC Opt out, Maria Bautista of AQE, Carol Burris of Network for Public Education, Diane Ravitch, Kate Menken  of the NYS Association for Bilingual Education and me.
Fred and AOC- to the left (pun intended)
What would be a normal educational forum turned into a major event due to the star power of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez- and don't forget Diane Ravitch plus all the important politicians plus of course Leonie Haimson. And don't forget Fred Smith, my fellow 2019 Skinny Award winner, who always gets the money shot. I'm sorry I missed it but I spent the day doing a movie with some friends (and we actually shot the whole thing in one day.)

150 people SRO on a Saturday afternoon ed forum is not light.

Leonie has a report on her blog: Queens forum with AOC on how our schools must make every child feel like they matter

Chaz, who is not to the left, actually has some nice things to say about AOC --with the usual right wing trolls leaving comments attacking her. 
Chaz's School Daze Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) Supports NYC Public Schools - I know a hell of a lot of old white guys like me who love her work.

But I want to make special mention of the organizing group behind the event:  Jackson Heights People for Public Schools whose mission is: We work to educate the community about the public schools in Jackson Heights and to support parents and members of the community who wish to make our schools even better.

One of the founders and leaders of the group is currently a NYC high school teacher, Amanda Vender. I first met Amanda over a decade ago - I think she was working with the newspaper Indy Kids and I was distributing some of them to some people in the schools. Eventually Amanda became a middle school teacher and had kids -- I distinctly remember her bringing her few weeks old child to some forum we were running.

Someone posted on FB:
Thanks goes out to Alliance for Quality Education, NYC Opt Out, Class Size Matters, The Network for Public Education & NYS Association for Bilingual Education.
But especially to Amanda Vender & Jackson Heights People for Public Schools for pulling it all together!!!
Amanda Vender at forum
Amanda never got deeply involved in the work of union opposition politics though she was a supporter. She focused on her work as a parent and actually did local community organizing where she lived, whereas groups like MORE just talk about community organizing in theory.

She and her group are bringing a pro-public school, pro opt-out, progressive vision of education to her own community. I realized that the work inside a union opposition begins to look meaningless compared to the work Amanda and others have done in their communities. If I had done similar work in Rockaway - (and of course if I had kids I might have), I would have been much more useful than I was pushing the boulder uphill in UFT opposition politics. Maybe next life.

Amanda Vender, one of the first AOC supporters is my model for educational organizing. Amanda not only talks the talk, she walks the walk.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

School Scope: Parent Action Conference: Opt Out Yes, Charters NYET!

Published in The WAVE, March 15, 2019

School Scope: Parent Action Conference: Opt Out Yes, Charters NYET!

By Norm Scott

The annual Parent Action Conference sponsored by NYC Kids PAC, Class Size Matters and Community Education Council District 2 (CECD2) took place on March 9 at the Peck Slip School in lower Manhattan, attracting some of the leading parent activists in the city. Kids PAC is the only lobby group focusing its attention directly on the interests of the children in public schools. The opening session was a discussion with state legislators:
Alicia Hyndman, Queens NYS Assembly Democrat 29th District, Jo Anne Simon, Brooklyn NYS Assembly Democrat 52nd District, Robert Jackson, NYS Senator from Manhattan. They were asked to respond to questions on a number of issues.

They all supported parent rights to opt out of standardized tests, opposed attempts to punish schools when numbers of parents opt out and opposed lifting the cap on charters in New York City, which has been reached. There are still over 90 slots open in the rest of the state and the charter industrialized complex has been pushing to get those added to our oversaturated city. It was pointed out that Republican state legislators support charters but few if any charters exist in their districts – they love them from afar as long as those charter bucks role in – but otherwise, NIMBY. They were also asked about the upcoming renewal debate on mayoral control. They all called for more limits and oversight.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Forest Hills High School, Ben Sherman Update: parents rip principal

This story won't go away until Principal Ben Sherman is gone and buried away at a DOE safe haven for principals where he will probably end up being a mentor -- maybe he's learned - he can tell them how to treat teachers like shit without getting outed.

The UFT has finally jumped on board with an article in the NY Teacher written by Francis Lewis HS CL Arthur Goldstein: the struggles at Forest Hills High School.

Eterno at the increasingly disturbing ICEUFT blog (due to the numbing comments) gives Arthur and the UFT grudging credit for finally putting up an article on a school with a lousy principal. Arthur has been up front on his blog in posting about FHHS. NYCEducator is the most widely read and respected blog not only locally, but nationally.

I had to put up this comment:
Forest Hills HS teachers contacted bloggers like James, Arthur and myself and we put up their views. The little dig at Arthur as a "former dissident" and the claiming of credit here is disingenuous. And when they came to the Ex Bd meeting last spring they were supported by Arthur, Mike and Jonathan from New Action. Arthur has taken on this fight as much as anyone and asked follow up questions on Monday at the Ex Bd. We complain when the NY Teacher doesn't cover but when it does it is reported begrudgingly. There are clear signs that the UFT did work behind the scenes in this case - they never do enough - but there would have been no massive vote of no confidence without their working behind the scenes. Our job along with Arthur and Mike is to keep the pressure on whether publicly or behind the scenes.
Some teachers at the school came to we bloggers late last spring and we encouraged them to come to the UFT Ex Bd meeting and some did -- that always seems to wake up the union leadership. 

But let's give credit where credit is due - Sue Edelman from the NY Post - her articles exposing principals have had more impact than any blog.

Clearly if you read the NY Post article, the DOE will jump over hoop after hoop without removing Sherman. 

I have a contact on the PTA who has slammed Sherman.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Tony Thurmond - A Lesson on Democrat Backstabbing - UPDATE - Tony Calls Diane

Here's a quick update on this post from Diane:

California: Tony Thurmond Called Me

I'm impressed that he called her.
The conversation is interesting in that Tony never says how the task force came to be chosen - and I'm going to venture a guess that Gov Gavin Newsom is the culprit and Tony is covering for him. Which emphasizes the point -- too many Dems are still ed deformers even hiding in plain sight.
UPDATE: In response to posting this on listserves I received the following from Diane confirming that Newsom packed the committee with charter people:
A contact who works in the State Capitol in Sacramento contacted me last night to say that Tony Thurmond did not name the committee: Gavin Newsom did.  --- Diane
Back to the original post:

Monday, March 11, 2019

TWTW: KidsPac, Face to Face With T. Rex - and I Didn't Bang a Gong

The Week That Was -- The past week was busy and intense.

Saturday - Mar. 2 -- the big Bernie rally at Brooklyn College after my early morning yoga class. It was good to be back on campus where I spent so many years - tuition free as an undergrad. How could we afford it then but not now? Bernie's speech was excellent.

Sunday, Mar. 3 - My 74th birthday. The day began with the Frank Caiati acting class at the Rockaway Theater, followed by heading into the city for a matinee of Kiss Me Kate, followed by dinner at a Greek restaurant nearby on 7th Ave and 57th St.

Monday - A free day of reading and hanging out.

Tuesday - Media event at the Museum of Natural History for the preview of T. Rex which included a panel with the curators, spending time at the exhibit - seeing those cute feathers on the baby T.Rex. Followed by a private one hour tour upstairs where they prepare the fossils. Always my favorite museum and the dinosaur area was a must see for everyone of my classes. I took each class there 3 or 4 times a year -- I never tried to see the entire place in one shot - I focused each time on a different area. They had worksheets for the dinosaurs and had to look for specific displays -- not the heaviest lifting but it provided some focus. I learned this time how much new info there is on dinosaurs.

Sunday, March 10, 2019


I was at KidsPac/Class Size Matters all day parent conference Saturday and John Liu was there - he was my choice for Mayor in 2014. Good to have him back. I have some video of him which I will put up later. There is a move to reform mayoral control - not end it. Lui was asked how he would deal with the charter lobby attempts to tie mayoral control to lifting the charter cap. He said he's heard nothing so far. The NYC cap is full but there are still over 90 slots open around the state and the charter people want to be able to make those available to NYC. Every charter costs the UFT jobs - and dues. So expect them to fight tooth and nail on this one and the good will towards charters is fading fast.

Albany, NY - The Senate Majority announced today that they will hold a public hearing on school governance and mayoral control in New York City. Senator John Liu, Chair of the Senate’s NYC Education Committee, will lead this hearing, to ensure that legislative activity in 2019 addresses the needs of New York City students. 

“Schools are the most important priority of state and local government, and how they are governed and operated are of the highest public interest.” Said Senator John Liu, Chair of the Senate's NYC Education Committee. “Our hearing seeks to engage all stakeholders in the city to inform the way forward, including any changes that should be enacted."

The hearing will be on Friday, March 15th, at 10:00AM, in the Senate Hearing Room, 250 Broadway, 19th Floor, New York, NY 10007.

If you would like to testify at the hearing, please RSVP to

Follow on Twitter at
New York State Senate | | 518-455-2415