by James Eterno, Chapter Leader, Jamaica High School
[The following is a compilation of two different reports, originally posted at the ICE blog, about Wednesday's DA]
President Michael Mulgrew opened the June Delegate Assembly by talking about California. He said the decision of the judge to get rid of tenure and seniority rights because they violate the California Constitution is very troubling but we are confident about the appeal. We knew once the case was assigned to this particular judge that it would be difficult to win.
The premise of school reform is that public education is failing but this isn’t true. Judge said students were having their civil rights violated because of bad teachers. The judge is wrong because the problem is poverty and teacher retention and not subpar teachers. We expect copycat lawsuits in New York State from front groups like Students’ First.
We also anticipate a deluge against us from the so called reformers who own the media outlets. Tenure does not hurt children. We have no tolerance as a union for people who can’t do the job. All tenure means in New York State is that we get due process and can’t be fired at will. That’s it.
The President updated Delegates on the situation in Albany. In the State Senate, we believe one party should all sit with each other. The Governor has revitalized talks on teacher evaluations tied to testing. Five days are left in the session. We are not sure what the results will be.
On specialized high schools, we have legislation on opening admissions to multiple measures and not just a test. Schools like Harvard do this.
New York City-Contract
President Mulgrew said this was a good school year. We have a new Mayor, a new Chancellor and a new contract. (Was it a good school year? Do you feel any different inside the schools compared to last year? Please let us know
We set a record with 90,459 people voting on the contract. 77% voted to ratify it. We now have a great deal of work to do. Mulgrew asked if everyone set up Professional Development Committees. (Some had and some had not.) Central Functional Chapter (non-teaching) Committees have met.
Many UFT members want to talk about horrible things done to us in the past. We have to shift into talking about what we actually want. The alternative is to hire more consultants for $100,000 to do Professional Development. The UFT has asked Chapter Leaders to submit names of people on the Professional Development Committees.
We believe educators inside school buildings provide the best professional development. Central union needs to know if principals reject valid idea for professional development. Chancellor Carmen Farina has told principals that they need to collaborate.
Teacher leadership positions have been posted. They will be in 120 schools.
We need to form more committees.
Even though the deadline is passed, we are still accepting School Based Options. There have been 530 SBO’s so far. 236 were on changing the time. That means 1,564 schools will go to the default time schedule or they are multi-session or District 75 or 79.
Hiring restrictions have been lifted. There never was a real hiring freeze. Central Department of Education must approve all excesses. The hiring restrictions prevented paraprofessionals from moving up to teacher positions and teachers from going to guidance positions. This has stopped.
We took on a very dangerous arbitration by taking the lesson plan grievance to arbitration. If we lost, lesson plans could’ve been dictated by administrators. UFT completely won on the lesson plan arbitration. Administrators cannot grade a lesson plan on its own. It must be graded in the context of the lesson. Teachers decide on the format. We own the lesson plans. Principals can look at lesson plans; they always had that right. Mulgrew thanked the people involved in the case including Ellen Procida who heads the Grievance Department. A group of teachers took on the DOE lawyers and we prevailed.
Mulgrew maintains his “Most Likely to Interrupt” status at the DA
As soon as there was the slightest hint of controversy at the June Delegate Assembly, UFT President Michael Mulgrew gave up any hint of required chairperson impartiality. Instead, as usual, he treated someone who disagreed with him in an unfair and inappropriate way. This month’s target was the Movement of Rank and File Educator’s (MORE) Megan Moskop.
The issue up for discussion was democracy, a subject our President is not too well acquainted with at DA meetings. During the ten minute new motion period, Joan Heymont from the Progressive Labor Party had introduced a resolution saying the following: “Resolved that we, as educators will join our class brothers and sisters at a rally sponsored by Congregations for Justice and Peace calling for welfare benefits and food stamps adequate for workers to live.”
Since the resolution was for this month’s agenda, no debate was allowed and 2/3 of the Delegates needed to vote to add the resolution to the agenda. After Joan read the resolution, which had been properly disseminated before the meeting, there was a vote. It looked from where I was sitting that most people didn’t vote but that a significant number of people who voted wanted to add the resolution to the agenda. It did not look like it was the 2/3 necessary but someone could have reasonably made a motion to divide the house (ask for an actual count).
Ms. Moskop rose and stated that the vote on the last resolution looked awfully close. Mr. Mulgrew, instead of being an impartial chair, said the vote wasn’t close and then added, “You’re out of order.” Megan responded, “You’re interrupting me.” To which Mulgrew replied, “I can interrupt you because you’re out of order.” She never had the chance to make a motion for a count. Democracy at its finest again as a Delegate who was seeking clarification on what looked like a close vote was instead put down by our chair. But wait, it gets worse.
Later in the meeting, there was a resolution on political endorsements that the leadership forgot to put on the agenda so they had political director Paul Egan ask the Delegates to add it during the new motion period. Here is the language: “Resolved, that the United Federation of Teachers’ Delegate Assembly authorizes the Executive Board to consider, make or modify endorsements that will be recommended to NYSUT during the summer in order to have a timely impact on any such campaigns.”
NYSUT does make our recommendations for state offices but there is no reason why the UFT can’t have our picks ready for endorsements by June for most State Assembly and State Senate seats in NYC. Instead, our political team just expects the Delegates to defer to the much smaller, mostly elected at large, Executive Board. Megan objected to this resolution as an affront to democracy.
She made a passionate plea that the Delegates should not cede their authority to make endorsements to the Executive Board. She wondered aloud why this resolution was added at the last minute and thought maybe this was done so people wouldn’t have time to think about it.
Rather than being an impartial chair and just listening, once again Mulgrew interrupted the speaker to say that Paul Egan made an error (in not bringing this resolution up sooner) and was a “bad boy” but he also cut in because Megan made a remark about how we are making back room deals exchanging money for support (routine stuff in Albany’s pay to play culture although we do it in a more sophisticated way). Mulgrew responded by acting as if he was shocked by such an assertion. He should have kept his mouth closed and just let Megan finish. He has no right to circumvent Robert’s Rules like this. Megan declared that we should be discussing endorsements out in the open. She called for a special DA in the summer on endorsements or electronic voting (very possible in 2014).
The head of Unity Caucus, Leroy Barr, followed Megan and said something about how this is what democracy looks like. UFT democracy maybe, but not a real one. The resolution was rubber stamped by the Unity Caucus majority but a minority including me voted no. Megan made some very valid points.
It was troubling seeing how she was treated but heartening to watch her persevere in spite of the difficult time given to her by the Chair for just having an opinion different from his. At least he is asking for speakers against each motion but his new method of killing debate is to just interrupt anyone when they say anything he does not like (read the May DA report for further details). A sad ending to the school year at the DA. I will have a more thorough report on the routine items later.
Staff Director’s Report
Leroy Barr reported on the UFT giving out 410,000 books on May 31 and the Secretary Luncheon on that same day. He also thanked Anthony Harmon for Monday’s Albert Shanker Scholarship Award ceremony. The UFT will be giving out $1 million in scholarships again this year. (Congratulations to all the recipients including Adriana Vega from Jamaica High School!)
Question: How do we bring collaboration to fruition especially in large chapters?
Mulgrew Answer: If principals are not interested in collaborating, we need to use outside intervention. We also want to have borough based Principal-Chapter Leader meetings.
Question: District 64 non-public schools down from 27-7 support staff. How do schools get back what we need?
Mulgrew Answer: It is very difficult to do what is needed in non-public schools. Every school needs at least one mental health professional. It is by far the greatest need in the schools.
Question: Principals in many schools know nothing about committees in the new contract. What should we do?
Mulgrew Answer: Contact us and we will contact deputy chancellors who are understaffed right now.
Question: How can we get a fair distribution of parking permits system in place?
Will student test scores be used to evaluate us this year?
Mulgrew Answer: People are being told they are ineffective but that is premature because we don’t have the student test score results in that are part of our ratings. Albany could change how student performance is impacted in our ratings.
Parking is up to the Department of Transportation. Legally, only they can issue parking permits. The old DOE issued parking permits were illegal. We are looking to negotiate for more spaces.
Special Order of Business
Four uncontroversial resolutions were passed. One called for a $15 per hour minimum wage; another called for retirement security like we have for every working person; a third was on expanding parking for UFT members and a fourth was on boycotting Staples because they hire non-union people to do work that US Postal Service Workers do.
All of the resolutions carried and after the meeting there was a raffle. Irony of all ironies was when I was told the raffle papers were printed on Staples paper.
That’s all from the DA for this year. Will I miss this after I am no longer a Chapter Leader? Proof that I am completely insane is that the answer to some extent is yes.