Sunday, February 12, 2023

NYSUT News: Going - Pres. Andy Pallotta, Coming - Melinda Person Who? Has Never Been a Teacher - Succession or Coup?

Putin Cites Mulgrew/Randi Takeover of NYSUT as Inspiration for Crimean Invasion
I admire the Unity Caucus operation tremendously. I only wish I had such control....My next invasion will be Brighton Beach to protect the Russian speaking population in Brooklyn.... I am looking for a condo in Brooklyn as a base of operation but the real estate prices are crazy.... Vladimir Putin 
Ed Notes, March 4, 2014
Sunday - February 12, 2023  - Happy Birthday Abe

Ok, so Putin lied about his next invasion. The breaking news Friday night of a coming change in leadership at NYSUT brought up memories of the last change of leadership in 2014, one of only two times where there was a contested election. But lots more on 2014 later in this post.
UPDATE 7:30: Trusted source says Pallotta just retired. No drama. Also - no signs of early resistance to the move to Person.
Traditionally, the top levels of NYSUT have been occupied by former teachers and local union leaders, not by bureaucrats. Even Randi, who was a lawyer first when the top level oligarchs chose to make her the next president, did a quick teaching hit job to give her creds and meet UFT constitution requirements. NYSUT doesn't seem to have a similar requirement that officers had to teach.
Thus, we see a change coming with the announcement of candidacy for NYSUT President by Melinda Person, currently NYSUT Executive and Political Director - an appointed position, seemed sort of strange less than three months before NYSUT Delegates meet to elect its officers in late April. 

By all reports, Melinda Person is well-liked but it is interesting she shows no teaching background in her resume (see below), though she says she wanted to be a teacher. But all you have to do is look at her salary over the past 15 years (below) for a reason she did not teach. Even Randi seems to have had more teaching experience than her.

I was confused when I first heard of the announcement Friday night. 
She announces she is running while Andy Pallotta is still president? My first thought was she is running against him. But how could that be since she is running under the Unity line? This came across like she woke up in the morning and decided to run for NYSUT president but we know she was chosen by the hierarchy. 
I wondered. Who is Melinda Person and what is going on with Andy? Is he being forced out? Another coup in NYSUT?  (See 2014 story below). 
What forces in the UFT/NYSUT/AFT sphere are behind Person?

We got our answer shortly after with this twitter announcement by Andy Pallotta:
The order of announcement seemed strange. How mixed were his emotions? A change in leadership at that level involves some preparation. Some introduction around the state to the rank and file of someone no one except maybe the insiders know. Apparently Unity/NYSUT had a meeting the other day and the change was made. Did Andy decide to retire or was he pushed? Most probably, the former. (He must have noticed how much I've been enjoying my 20 years of retirement.) Usually, there are rumors in advance.
One thing we noted was that Person has been the NYSUT political director since October, 2014 and was assistant director of legislation for 6 years from 2008-2013 with a gap of a year, right in the middle of NYSUT turmoil over the 2014 election. She occupied the same position at the state level that Cassie Prugh, who recently left the UFT, had. Prugh replaced the popular (with soccer fans) Paul Egan after a fuzzy type scandal. She had been a somewhat shadowy and unpopular figure who came directly out of the Cuomo administration to the UFT. Some saw Prugh as the Cuomo plant in the UFT or vice versa. It is not clear who is replacing Prugh in the UFT. Sources say that she’ll still be working for the UFT on retainer. And who is taking Person's place as political director of NYSUT? Might as well let Cassie do both jobs for a double retainer - I'd love to what the retainer pays.

The UFT/NYSUT/AFT hierarchy is fundamentally run like a monarchy where the people at the top chose the candidates and then the actual vote is pro forma. Randi's power and control of the AFT emanates through the Unity/UFT/NYSUT nexus since NYSUT members make up about 30% of the AFT and Unity/UFT make up over 30% of NYSUT. Naturally, all 700 Unity/UFT delegates will vote as one. Think Hasidim voting in a block. Person and the entire top four slate will run unopposed.
In the 50 year history of NYSUT, there has almost never actually been a competitive election - except 2014 -  more on that below.
NYSUT President, a figurehead of sorts? Exec VP was real power position
The thing to understand is that NYSUT, the brainchild of Albert Shanker, was created in the 70s from a state merger of the AFT and NEA and has always been under the control of the UFT Unity Caucus which has been extended to the state level through an expanded version of Unity and the national AFT through the Progressive Caucus. Unity/UFT through the massive membership controls the state and national unions. NYSUT has over 600 thousand members, about a third of the AFT.
Shanker set it up politically in a way that gave the non-NYC people the presidency, while the UFT controlled the money machine through the elected Executive VP, a position occupied by Shanker himself for over a decade while Thomas Hobart was president. Power sharing with the real power in the UFT. After Shanker, a top UFTer, the popular Alan Lubin, rumored to be Sandy Feldman's successor - until Randi Weingarten moved into the picture in the late 80s, was moved to the key NYSUT position of Ex Director. Many of us in the oppo liked Lubin - we used to kid him about having to move from Brooklyn to Albany and offered to get him a parka - the last time I saw him was at the 2010 AFT convention in Seattle.

When Lubin retired around 2009 or 2010, Andy Pallotta moved from a Bronx District Rep into that position with Dick Iannuzzi as president. But the money position was in Pallotta's hands. The deal where the upstate/Long Island people had the presidency and the UFT the Ex VP worked - until ----
The 2014 coup
Dick was a bit too independent for the Unity machine and in 2014, a coup of sorts was executed when an entire slate of alternate officers except for the Pallotta position was put up against the Iannuzzi slate with Karen McGee as a figurehead president. There was outrage from many small locals. This power move broke the agreement for some of these locals - I report more on that below.

2017- UFT/Pallotta takes NYSUT Presidency for first time, Ex VP goes to non UFT for first time
Three years later, 2017, McGee was out and Pallotta moved up to replace her as president, the first time in the 40 year history of  NYSUT that a UFTer occupied that role. By all reports, Pallotta tried to work well with some of the forces that had opposed him even when counter to some UFT positions. He doesn't get bad grades from some non-UFT people. Probably sensitive to the remnants of the opposition from 2014, especially the heavy test opt-out districts of Long Island.
The new Exec VP in 2017 replacing Andy was not a Unity person for the first time after over a 40 year run (Shanker/Lubin/Pallotta). Jolene T. DiBrango
was elected Executive Vice President. She spent much of her career teaching 6th grade in Pittsford, outside Rochester. She served three terms as president of the PDTA, then got promoted within NYSUT. Well liked and competent. But did she have the same level of power and control as Shanker/Lubin/Pallotta? I bet not. Read an interview she did here.
And sure enough:
2019- Person expands role
In 2019, Melinda Person, who was NYSUT political director, assumed an additional title of Executive Director, an appointed position, which seems to echo the elected Ex Director.  Did they remove the power/money position from Exec VP elective office held by Jolene and hand it to Melinda?
Melinda Person is not from the UFT, but neither does she represent the upstate/Long Island interests, but essentially a long-time NYSUT bureaucrat (since 2008), the first time in NYSUT history the presidency was not occupied by a real teacher. She's never been elected to any union position anywhere.
In other words, just having a non-UFTer does not restore the original Shanker/Hobart agreement. Would they leave the second position occupied by Jolene alone? 
Given the history I couldn't imagine Unity/UFT not being in control of that position and started asking around if Jolene is running again and sure enough Jonathan Halabi came up with BINGO. Despite not being of retirement age, Jolene is out and being replaced as NYSUT Ex VP by a UFT Teacher Center person, Jaime Ciffone, thus putting the NYSUT Ex VP is back in the hands of the UFT. 
Jaime was actually a teacher but for quite some time has been working as a teacher center person, recently in seemingly management position (see bio below). I don't know if she was ever an elected chapter leader or delegate. 
Are the top two NYSUT positions going to be occupied by people running in their first union election? The increasing bureaucratization of our unions is not a healthy thing. I'd like to see people who spent serious time in the classrooms and in school or local union leadership positions running our unions, just as we would like to see principals with practical experience (there was a time when almost every supervisor had at one time been a UFT member). We think schools and unions are better run by people with hands on experience. 
Though Mulgrew seems to have the most hands on of any UFT leader, so maybe not.

Detailing our involvement in the 2014 NYSUT coup
Iannuzzi and his allies didn't go quietly into the night as a slate called Stronger Together emerged to support him and the other NYSUT officers against the attempted coup.
And many of us in MORE at that time were involved. 
MORE was approached to run candidates for the NYSUT Board of directors from the NYC districts (see current list below) and statewide slate called Stronger Together emerged. There was some disagreements internally in MORE as to whether to go ahead - it was pointed out that we would be supporting Unity incumbents - but that was finally settled and we ran 5 candidates for NYSUT Ex Bd in the local Ed Districts plus Arthur Goldstein ran against Pallotta for Ex VP. Arthur campaigned all over the state and did an amazing job of reaching out. We knew it was a battle the Unity machine would win but Stronger Together got between one third and over 40% of the votes. 
Aside from a lot of resentment towards the UFT from smaller locals, the big 5 cities stuck with the Unity machine. Testing and the opt-out movement, with a lot of support from parent groups on Long Island and upstate had garnered some support from the Iannuzzi crew. The UFT has been firmly opposed to opt-out and supportive of testing -  (makes me think someone owns stock in the testing companies). But probably it was just a power play to gain total control of NYSUT by the UFT Unity machine.


 Melinda Person

Though she currently makes over $240K she is in for a raise as NYUST Pres makes around 350k.


Salary Breakdown (2019)

  • Gross Salary: $219,807
  • Allowances: $0
  • Official Business: $19,256
  • Other Compensation: $3,916
Our local UFT elects people to the NYSUT Board of Director UFT Members, both individual districts and at-large - I think there may be some compensation involved and it reads as a who's who of the leadership:

 Individial districts
nysut board of directors

    Karen Blackwell Alford

    E.D. 24 (UFT)
  •  Carl Cambria

    Carl Cambria

    E.D. 25 (UFT)
  • Mary Vaccaro

    Mary Vaccaro

    E.D. 26 (UFT)
    Executive Board Member
  • Amy Arundell

    Amy Arundell

    E.D. 27 (UFT)
  • MaryJo Ginese

    Mary Jo Ginese

    E.D. 28 (UFT)
  • Mary Atkinson

    Mary Atkinson

    E.D. 29 (UFT)
  • nysut board of directors

    Anthony Harmon

    E.D. 30 (UFT)
  • nysut board of directors

    Michael Mulgrew

    E.D. 31 (UFT)
    Executive Board Member
  • nysut board of directors

    Elizabeth Perez

    E.D. 32 (UFT)
  • photo not available


    E.D. 33 (UFT)
  • richard mantell

    Richard Mantell

    E.D. 34 (UFT)
  • nysut board of directors

    LeRoy Barr

    E.D. 35 (UFT)
    Executive Board Member 
    • nysut board of directors

      Debra Penny

      E.D. 24 & 25
    • michael sill

      Michael Sill

      E.D. 26 & 27
    • Sean Rotkowitz

      Sean Rotkowitz

      E.D. 28 & 29
    • Thomas Brown

      Thomas Brown

      E.D. 30 & 31
    • nysut board of directors

      Janella Hinds

      E.D. 32 & 33
    • Leo Gordon
     Leo Gordon
    • nysut board of directors

      Shelvy Y. Abrams

      SRP At-Large
      Executive Board Member 
      nysut board of directors

      Anne Goldman

      Health Care At-Large 


Melinda Person - Candidate for NYSUT President

Dear NYSUT Members,

I’m writing to you with great hope for the future of public education, for our students and those we serve, and for all of the amazing NYSUT members working in service to our communities. It is the difference our classroom teachers and school related professionals; our higher education, healthcare and public service professionals; and all NYSUT members make every day that strengthens my confidence in the future of our union.

In just the last few years, we have faced historically significant challenges — a global pandemic, violence in our schools, non-stop extremist attacks on education and unions, school staffing shortages, chronic underfunding, and threats to our economic and retirement security. Public education is truly at a crossroads.

So, why am I hopeful given all we’re up against? Educators have always been my heroines and heroes, and I know firsthand what they can mean for students and a community when they have the support they deserve. Educators are called to this profession by a singular purpose: an unwavering, unequivocal commitment to our students’ learning, well-being, and potential. Our members do these jobs because they want to make a difference, contribute to their communities and, if all goes well, change the world. This is the spirit that is driving me to take this next step to help lead our union in the years ahead.

New York is routinely ranked the best state to be a teacher, and that’s because of our strong unions and what we’ve won over decades. In my time at NYSUT, we’ve modernized our advocacy and member engagement, built out powerful regional political operations, and fought back against politicians trying to destroy public education and our union. Through our Pipeline Project we’ve elected NYSUT members to all levels of government including the State Senate and Assembly, propelling educators directly into seats of power. And as I write, state leaders are poised to implement the NYSUT-supported funding formula that will put more than $2.7 billion in additional funding to work in schools across our state this year, finally fulfilling the promise of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. 

We won these things together. I’m proud of our victories to date and eager to keep fighting to continue accomplishing our goals alongside so many of you. I’m ready to put my more than two decades of experience in education and advocacy to work on behalf of NYSUT members, as a fierce advocate and dedicated public school parent with a strong track record of results in my roles as Executive and Political Director of our union. 

I have a vision for education here in New York State, pre-k through post-grad, built through conversations with so many of you. I’m focused on creating workplaces where students and educators can thrive, ensuring our professions are enticing and sustainable career choices, and growing NYSUT’s power because the more powerful we are, the more we can win together. Here’s how we achieve that vision: 

Creating workplaces where students and educators can thrive: To foster success, we need to build an environment where all staff have adequate resources, strong support and a baseline of respect. That means improving our working conditions, providing professional autonomy for educators, focusing on school safety, and tackling long-standing issues like a counterproductive overemphasis on high-stakes testing. Moreover, every student deserves a safe, welcoming and affirming learning environment.

Ensuring our members’ professions are enticing, sustainable career choices: NYSUT members have dedicated their lives to the service of our communities and deserve respect, dignity and economic security in return. Fostering a pipeline to and through a career in education means addressing staffing shortages, fixing Tier 6, guaranteeing retirement security, and ensuring all our members are backed by strong contracts with good pay, benefits and protections.

Growing NYSUT’s power, because the more powerful we are, the more we can win together: NYSUT’s strength lies within our membership, and I’m committed to growing the strength and size of our union through deeper member engagement using both current programs and new tools to expand member outreach, coupled with expanded organizing to form new units. We’ll keep our political program strong and send more NYSUT members and education champions directly into the halls of power. And with our Public Schools Unite Us campaign, we’ll continue driving forward public education as a solution to what divides our nation–because through high quality public education for all, led by our trusted educators, we can build a stronger future for all of New York.

For all the challenges that our state and nation are working through, I firmly believe that we are a big part of the solution. Public schools bring students together from all backgrounds, incomes, races, and religions–and it’s in our public schools where they socialize, play, learn and grow together. Our divides are not unbridgeable. People can disagree and still see each other’s humanity. We should be moving not left, not right, but forward.

I hope that I can continue to earn your support in this election. Over the coming months, I look forward to many opportunities to engage directly with you about the future of our union and of public education in New York State. We’re facing major headwinds, to be sure, but I am confident that together we can accomplish anything.

In solidarity,




Nick Bacon said...

Thank you for this, Norm. We routinely and rightly criticize politicians for making decisions about education despite having no teaching experience. It is absurd to endorse a non-teacher to lead NYSUT and make decisions on behalf of teachers.

Bronx ATR said...

It most assuredly is ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is the fact that it seems to be par for the course, and not an unusual experience for the UFT. Of course, it reminds us all of Randi Weingarten’s pre-inaugural activities and harried scampering for education credentials. (I believe she may have successfully talked to several hundred teachers in leu of experience - waiver granted.) Then, of course, there was/is Mulgrew - an English teacher, who showed workshop videos - a disgrace to all English teachers, workshop teachers and CTE teachers everywhere. It would be interesting to compile a list of all current and past Uft hierarchy and see how they ‘got’ their positions. I would say the majority, if not the vast majority received it through pointed (Unity) succession and not through even a perfunctory democratic process.

Laura Genovese said...

Wow!! I've been trying to catch up on the facts and this is an excellent account of what's happened through the years with AFT and where we're heading for, if we don't stop them! Huge Thanks Norm!!

Anonymous said...

In your history I think you could have sharpened the narrative. It appeared that Iannuzzi and his allies on LI were far more inclined to be anti-Common Core and pro-opt out of testing, influenced by huge LI opt out movement.

So he was replaced by Karen McGee because at that time, Mulgrew was pro CC and pro testing, but when McGee turned out to favor opt out of and esp. oppose rating teachers w/ test scores, they replaced her with Pallotta who would reliably parrot whatever was the UFT line at that time.


Eventually NYSUT moved against the untenable rating system – despite the fact that Mulgrew had originally supported it. Unfortunately, the media including Chalkbeat got the narrative backwards and reported that UFT replaced McGee b/c she was too supportive of rating teachers with test scores!

Martin I Haber said...

Well done,as always, Norm! "The Amazing Randi" was betting on being the National Education Secretary under a Hillary Clinton White House, but obviously all that went to hell...I think that would have caused a major re-shuffling of the deck of "usual suspects"...another thought: living upstate now as I do, and having subbed locally in the Onteora School District (i'm in Woodstock), there is a real disconnect with the city's concerns,even here where there are lots of former city-ites...teachers I worked with seemed really dedicated as a group, but from what I could tell,much lesspolitically involved as union members...just my impression, though...

Anonymous said...

You didn't credit Andy on fighting for improving Tier 6. UFT did nothing, Andy did the work, Mulgrew took the credit.

And on teacher ratings during the pandemic they didn't publicly battle - but they were arguing in opposite directions.

Anonymous said...

Hey— thanks for referencing Hasidim in a post about a conspiracy to undo NYSUT from within. That’s a great look for our Union. Maybe we should build a wall around UFT or storm NYSUT HQ with flagpoles.

Anonymous said...

Hasidim, Unity - voting block lemmings.

Anonymous said...

Good job on promoting anti semitic ideas Norm. Hasidim as a voting block? Like there's no other group in the world that votes based on common interests. Way to go.

ed notes online said...

You didn't teach in Williamsburg and watch the Hasids load the school board, fuck the public school kids and steal $8 million bucks. They are Jews to me.

Anonymous said...

I don't care where you taught or what you saw. This blog post is anti semitic. Your bullshit promotes hate of Jews.

ed notes online said...

I call busllshit on your bullshit. I consider the actions of many Hassidic group as anti-semitic. See how they undermined public schools in Lawrence and upstate. Shame on public school teachers who are OK with that. And their voting based on what a rabbi tells them is also antidemocratic. You probably support the attacks on democracy in Israel -- You support breeders of anti-semitism.

Anonymous said...

Hasidic Jews are the most visible members of the Jewish community. When anti semitism rises in this country, they are always the first to be attacked. Your blog, and subsequent comments give comfort, and justification to hate filled people. Your comments were anti semitic and propagate hate of Jews at large. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Anonymous said...

Norm Scott promotes hate of Jews.

Anonymous said...

Typical. Anything related to Jews can’t be criticized. Most Jews I know are really pissed at harmful political behavior that hurts society at large. And Jews in general. As a Jew I felt I learned to think independently and chsllenge. The Jews in my school were often the ones to stand up. Let us know what you feel about Ilan Omar. As secular Jews we learned how to stand up for us and others. In my school it was often jews who stood up. The Catholic Church seemed to teach obedience to authority.

Anonymous said...

Not the first time I’ve been called a self hating Jew. You ought to check how secular Israelis who serve in the army feel about that community.

Anonymous said...

Hey Norm
This guy is just a loser Unity guy who can't stand the exposure.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 9:24 Norm. You expose the crap going on in Unity on the city and state level in this article and this guy picks out a one word joke which I wouldn't have used because it gives this Unity apologist an opportunity to distract and smear you and cover up what you are reporting. That's the tactic of the right wing. This guy is probably fine with tearing down Palestinian homes to build settlements and if you said something about it you would be a self-hating Jew.

ed notes online said...

You remind me of the time an Ed Notes cartoonist did one of Randi and Joel Klein and Tom Murphy came up to me after and said the cartoon was anti-semitic. How I asked and he said look at Randi's nose. I told the cartoonist and he said her nose is her nose.

Anonymous said...

Where's the anti war movement?

ed notes online said...

Check the demo of right wingers in DC on Saturday. But there is a left wing anti war movement too.

Anonymous said...

The push to put Melinda in power has been in the works for almost 2 years. It's all been very carefully orchestrated. You see, two years is the minimum length of NYSUT membership required by the NYSUT constitution for all officer candidates. No, Melinda is not a teacher, and she holds no teaching certificate. She has been quietly "double dipping" as a substitute teacher for the past two years. Becoming a substitute allowed her to become a NYSUT member. So, even though she holds two titles at NYSUT and earns 220k, this is what she's been doing on the side. All while Andy has also been parading her around the state, and putting her name on initiatives , letterhead, emails, etc. And all of this while seemingly ostracizing the awesome Jolene DiBrango, a well respected, hard working officer. I'm not sure how well liked or respected Melinda is, but word is that the NYSUT staff do not care for her, referring to her as a "power whore." And, be aware of the timing, everyone. Andy announced his retirement and Melinda announced her candidacy on Feb 10th for a reason. This date is the deadline for officer nominations. So, anyone upset with all of this has no time to make sure Melinda would have an opponent. Feb 10th was also the deadline for anyone to submit proposed constitutional amendments, like, for example, an amendment that says officer candidates must hold an actual teaching certificate, or have real classroom experience. Personally, I'm disgusted with NYSUT. I will NOT be voting for her, even if she is the only candidate and doesn't need my vote.

Anonymous said...

Jolene DiBrango should be the next NYSUT president.

ed notes online said...

Are there any public records of Person's teaching or license? It looks exactly like what they did with Randi.

Anonymous said...

Not sure.