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peace-unity-justice

This is MORE’s statement on the march with the Eric Garner’s family sponsored by the UFT

Last week the UFT announced sponsorship and support for A March for Unity and Justice.  The march, with Eric Garner’s family at the helm, is billed as a coming together and a call for transparency and accountability in the wake of several prominent cases of alleged police brutality.  A firestorm of criticism of the UFT’s sponsorship of this march has played out on the pages of newspapers, social media, and countless emails between educators, politicians, and community leaders.

There are numerous critiques and voices expressing a range of opinions from criticism of Al Sharpton, to the UFT’s democratic decision making (or lack thereof), to branding the march as anti-police.  In addition, many are questioning the UFT’s involvement at all.

MORE caucus is comprised of UFT members and community members with differing and passionate views on many issues, including the sponsorship of this march.  We agree however as dictated by our points of unity, that we are the social justice caucus of the UFT, we stand against racism and believe educators and our union, must be on the forefront of the fight for racial, social and economic justice.

MORE believes that democratic decision making and rank-and-file involvement and voice in the issues that face our members, our schools and our students is the foundation for a strong and united union.

MORE believes that issues that affect our students and their families are our issues, and it is vital that we stand with children and families whenever and wherever there is injustice.

MORE believes that due process is a right all workers should have.

We do not have the mechanism to engage in a healthy, informed and democratic debate within our union in regards to this march. However, we stand in solidarity with the Garner family, and countless families who have lost loved ones during low-level police-related encounters. Many of our members will march with the Garner family this Saturday, many will not due to the concerns surrounding the sponsorship and organization of this march.

We believe the issues of excessive force, police brutality, restorative justice practices, and the over-policing of our schools including the use of metal detectors are issues that deeply impact and affect educators and our students and we encourage our union leadership, as well as the leadership of the PBA, to engage our memberships in healthy debate, discussion, and meaningful democratically decided upon actions that will lead to the systemic changes we want to see for our children.  Rather than allowing these issues to divide us, we encourage the leaderships of the UFT and PBA, to find ways to work together and unite us.

This statement was approved by the MORE steering committee due to the timely nature in which a response was required.  We want this statement to serve as a starting point for more debate, discussion and conversation.

Please use the comments section to express your views and thoughts on the issues surrounding the march, but more importantly let us focus on the reason this march is taking place:  in the last decade hundreds of black men have died during interactions with the police.  The United States has the highest prison population of any similar nations, and a disproportionate number of those incarcerated are black men.

As educators, most of us know of at least one student who has experienced harassment, brutality, or even death at the hands of the police.  Acknowledging this does not make any one of us anti-police.  Rather, with our brother and sister officers we should seek improved practices and policies that will result in equal and just outcomes for all of our students and their families.

For Deion

August 20, 2014 — 11 Comments

candles

This is a personal statement by a member of MORE. It may or may not represent the official view of the MORE caucus.

By Julie Cavanagh

Teacher/Chapter Leader P.S.15k

One year ago I received a phone call from a former student. After a few exchanged pleasantries he interrupted me to say, “Deion is dead”.  My heart sank, a lump formed in my throat, and I listened to what is an increasingly all too familiar story of a young black man dying during a low-level police interaction.

Deion and his girlfriend swiped into the subway on one metro card. Deion was headed back to Red Hook from his girlfriend’s neighborhood. She was keeping him company on the platform, which is why she didn’t swipe a separate metro card. The police approached Deion and his girlfriend and confronted them about swiping only once. What happened next is not exactly clear, but Deion ran, was chased, eventually was caught, ended up a quadriplegic and later died from his injuries. The police reported he had been clipped by a train, but before he died, Deion told his side of the story in detail, which included no run in with a train but rather being brutally beaten by the police. The value of Deion’s life it would seem was a mere $2.50.

I have never written or taken action publicly out of respect for Mrs. Fludd who as his mother made deeply personal decisions about how to handle Deion’s death including taking time for her and her family to heal. Mrs. Fludd has since spoken publicly and has given me permission to do so.

In the last month five unarmed black men have been killed by police officers: Eric Garner, John Crawford, Ezell Ford, Michael Brown and Dante Parker

Since the start of the Iraq war 4488 American soldiers have been killed. During the same time period,  5000 American citizens have been killed at the hands of the police.

In the last decade hundreds of black men have died at the hands of the police. Today there are more American citizens in the prison system in the United States than the citizens in any other developed nation, including China.

Stating these facts does not mean I am anti-police officer. But they send a loud and clear message that there is a problem with policing in our country, a problem that disproportionately affects people of color, especially black men, and puts the freedom and liberty of every United States citizen in jeopardy.

So why is this an issue teachers, and their unions, must be vocal about?  Eric Garner’s children and grandchildren have attended, attend and will attend public schools.  Deion and Michael Brown were public school students.  If their teachers cannot be counted on to stand with them, to fight for them, who can they count on?

As educators and public servants who navigate public spaces and have an implicit stewardship over our nation’s youth, we stand positioned closest to our communities and the fight for racial, social and economic justice.  If not us, than who, if not now, then when?

A firestorm has erupted in recent days that has played out on the pages of newspapers, social media, and countless emails between educators, politicians, and community leaders about the UFT’s support and sponsorship of A March for Justice.  There are plenty of critiques and voices expressing a range of opinions from criticism of Al Sharpton, to the UFT’s democratic decision making (or lack thereof), to branding it as anti-police.  Let’s be clear:  Eric Garner’s family, his wife, children and grandchildren left behind, will be leading this march. Is any one of us prepared to look them in the eye and say, “I will not stand with you.”?  I, for one, am not.

Educators have an important place, in standing for justice for all.  We must recognize that we have a broken justice system in this country that disproportionately targets and consumes people of color, especially black men.

Our police officers have the immense challenge and responsibility to protect and serve our citizens, all of them, and the majority do their best.  Like PBA president Lynch, I believe in due process and I firmly believe our brave men and women in uniform do not leave their homes and families each day to kill, harass, or wrongly imprison their fellow citizens, but the reality is these things are happening, in alarming numbers, and we have an opportunity, due to the long overdue attention these tragedies are receiving today, for systemic change and healing tomorrow.

As I understand the march this Saturday, the demand is transparency, accountability, and an effort to raise awareness for the kinds of policing changes that are needed, here in New York City, and more broadly.  I understand the tensions and political posturing that make this issue “complicated”, but we cannot be deterred or divided from a common cause:  a better world where all of our citizens are treated equally and humanely.

At the center of many of the recent tragedies, the “broken windows” policy of policing and the conscious or unconscious targeting, assumption of guilt and fear of  black men has come into focus.

We cannot stand by silent at this pivotal moment for something good to come out of the needless deaths of countless men like Eric Garner and Deion Fludd.  Rather, we must stand together and demand change.  This is where Mr. Lynch and I diverge.

I ran against Michael Mulgrew in the last UFT election.  I was prepared to serve and represent my fellow educators as the president of one of the largest union locals in the country.  In that role, difficult decisions must be made, and sometimes those decisions must be made quickly.  Rather than blaming and criticizing everyone from Mr. Garner himself, to the medical examiner who ruled Garner’s death a homicide, to Michael Mulgrew, Mr. Lynch would better serve his members, and our city, by standing with the Garner family.  Compassion, understanding, and a commitment to improve relationships and policy is the responsibility of not only a union leader, but of all of us.

There is plenty of room for debate as to the policy solutions that will serve all of our citizenry, but there is no debate that a father and grandfather should not be left to die on a Staten Island sidewalk because, in the past, he sold loosies.  There is no debate that a seventeen year old making his way home, should not become a quadrapalegic and later die, because he and his girlfriend swiped a metrocard once, not twice.

Yes both men resisted arrest, but wouldn’t you if you felt you were being wrongly arrested?  Resisting arrest should not equal a death sentence.

This week I have the honor of driving the young man who called to tell me about Deion’s death and Deion’s brother to college.  Their journey is a light in the darkness of recent and historical tragedy.  My husband and I will return with our son on Friday, will wake Saturday morning, and join the family of Eric Garner and Deion Fludd in a march for justice and change.

I will explain to my blue-eyed white-skinned son that an injustice to one, is an injustice to us all.  I will tell him that the police, like his uncles, are here to protect us and serve us, and hopefully he will never need their help, but if he does, they will be there.  I will tell him that sometimes people do bad things, whether they mean to or not, and there are consequences for every choice we make.  I will explain that not everyone has his privilege, and with privilege comes an even greater responsibility to fight for justice, equal treatment under the law, and a better world for all.

I will tell him to look over at Karen Fludd, Deion’s mother who we will be marching with, and tell her that her son was loved, that his life matters, and our lives are best spent fighting for the promise of a better world where her pain will never again exist.

Comments are welcome, please reply with your respectful thoughts below.

To be delivered to Carmen Fariña and The New York City Panel for Educational Policy

Since the 2001-2002 academic year, there has been a 57.4% decrease in the number of Black teachers hired by the New York City Department of Education, and a 22.9% increase for white teachers hired during this same period of time.

We ask Chancellor Fariña and the Panel for Education Policy to:

• Make a policy statement that acknowledges the value of teacher diversity and the lack of such diversity in New York City public schools.

• Centrally monitor the racial demographic of hiring and firing in NYC public and charter schools. In public school data reports include the racial profile for the teachers and administrators in each school as is currently done for the students.

• Raise the percentage of Black and Latino teachers hired in the system overall, with a special focus on raising the percentage of male teachers in those groups.

• Raise the percentage of persons of color in the NYC Teaching Fellows program to more closely match the NYC student body demographic. Make public the number and racial demographic of NYC Teaching Fellows hired.

• Settle Gulino vs. Board of Education, in which a recent court ruling found that the NY State LAST certification exam was not validated yet was used in 2002 to dismiss thousands of NYC teachers who were disproportionately Black and Latino.

• Invest in a clear and distinct paraprofessional-to-teacher career path that offers qualified applicants provisional teaching licenses while completing graduate degree requirements and subsidizes both undergraduate and graduate tuition at CUNY and SUNY

PETITION BACKGROUND

In a school system that is 67.5% Black and Latino (as of 2012 – 13), the 34% combined percentage of Black and Latino teachers in the system is disappointing at best.

This lack of diversity reinforces already existing practices of segregation and leaves out diverse cultural perspectives that inform curriculum, pedagogy and practice. It also shortchanges our students by replicating and reinforcing false societal structures that devalue the contribution and perspectives of non-dominant racial and cultural groups.

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So it’s June 20th (“Regents’ Week” in New York high schools) and I’m having coffee with the most wonderfully kind teacher of my school. We’re in his classroom, talking about our wives, when he starts giving me some awesome advice about marriage. He has this beautiful baritone voice and speaks in this fabulously slow, deliberate manner so, as is my habit when I listen to his wisdom, I lean my head into my right hand and just take it all in.

At that moment -I mean at that very moment- I feel some type of bump thing under my ear. My colleague’s voice fades just a bit as I begin to concentrate my attention on this area just under my ear. I pick up my head up and touch  it with the tips of my two fingers and quickly conclude that I have a lump.

My colleague’s voice fades almost completely away now as I feel all around this lump. It’s about 3/4 inch in diameter, comes up about 1/2 an inch off of the side of my face and is planted right there under my ear. There is nothing on the other side, nothing under my neck and nothing anywhere else. I can no longer hear a word coming from my colleague. I see a face and a moving mouth but no sound comes out. All I can think about it is ‘wtf is this lump?’. It doesn’t hurt, doesn’t feel sore and isn’t accompanied by any fever or discomfort. The skin around it is not brown or discolored. It doesn’t feel like a huge zit and doesn’t hurt when I press on it. Yet there it is.

One month, five doctor appointments, an X-Ray and an MRI later and I am informed that I have a tumor in my right salivary gland. I didn’t even know I had one of those.  I’m also told that there is no certainty as to whether it is cancerous or benign (although, I’m told, it’s probably benign). Finally, I’m informed that I’ll need surgery to fix this broken gland of mine.

And just like that, I am tossed into the merry Go ‘Round that is our American Healthcare System.

I dont suppose my ride will be a long one. I have recently seen this happen to someone close and  the full cycle of death by cancer is a vicious one. There are endless appointments, countless doctors who you see but don’t know, as well as more trips for procedures, surgeries and/or scary tests than you can, or care to, count. And then there are the drugs -endless amounts of drugs. They have drugs to drain your fluids and drugs to fill you with them. They have drugs to poison you and drugs to make you feel better after having been poisoned. There are drugs to make you sleep, drugs to wake you up, drugs to make you eat and drugs to make you stop vomiting when you’ve eaten too much after injecting the poison.  Witnessing these things was one thing. But by mid-July, after just 20 minutes with my head shoved into an MRI machine, I came to realize the full scope of what I suddenly hoped I was not in store for. If it’s bad -I mean if it’s really really bad- I’ll begin this slow process where I’ll first stop being myself, then stop being able to work and finally stop being anything at all. If it’s more than what it probably it is (because it probably is just a benign tumor), I will have to consider how to navigate the terrain through these lenses.

I don’t mention this because I think it matters much for an Edu blog. Nor do I mention it because I think this extreme possibility will happen to me (again, odds are that it won’t). I certainly don’t mention it for attention or sympathy. I only bring it up because I’d like you to see the landscape from my perspective as I begin talking about my job protections.

You see, at this point in the summer, it looks as though the surgery will take place sometime after the start of the coming school year. This means that I will probably have to miss at least a few days of work. My license is not in a shortage area. ‘High School Social Studies Teacher’ is a dream job, you see. The fact of the matter is that there are ten guys who are just as smart (and five who are just as handsome) who could quickly move in and do what I do for literally half of what it costs to pay my salary and the healthcare benefits that will probably save me.

I also need to say that I have seen school leaders move to get rid of teachers for something like missing work in order to address needed health issues before. I haven’t seen this once or twice mind you (although I haven’t seen it “a lot” or “often” either), but I have seen it enough over my thirteen years in the classroom to have clear recollections of being thankful for my good health on more than one occasion. And I’ve seen it enough to count myself grateful that I do not currently work under such school leaders. Those observations make me feel grateful for having the job protection of tenure.

I know what the process for a ruthless principal is to get rid of someone with sudden health issues. A principal I worked for between 2001 and 2005, and another I worked for for one semester in 2008 both followed it well. Before the health issues, the teacher is a fine and productive teacher. Suddenly, the health issues arrive and the teacher is not able to wait until the summer to take care of it. Soon after, the administrators share concerns about the teaching practices of this teacher. Before you know it, administrators and their lackies, label this person as a ‘bad teacher’. From there, it’s a quick ride out. I’ve witnessed three teachers be forced into an early retirement, one forced into a resignation from the system altogether and just this year, heard that another was forced into a medical pension that she did not wish to take.

The principals didn’t force these teachers into these positions on the grounds that they were sick. Of course, that would be reprehensible. Rather, they forced my colleagues into these positions because they were ‘bad’ at what they did. Of course, the rub is that they were only labelled ‘bad’after they became sick. Any dimwit can tell you that that’s how things work in the real world.

I make this point because just yesterday, Whoopi Goldberg jumped on the bandwagon of ‘fire the bad teachers’. I have to admit that, at face value, it is an honorable bandwagon to jump on. No one, and that includes me, wants a bad teacher teaching. A slightly closer look will reveal that Ms. Goldberg is embracing a specific form of commentary -one that happens to be called the “Bad Teacher Narrative”. That’s the commentary that chooses to discuss only the bad apples that populate our classrooms and no others. It’s a useful narrative, in that focusing on the bad apples allows people to take hard earned privileges away from all of us.  Julie Cavanaugh, the lady who ran for president of my union last time around  once mentioned that “The ‘bad teacher’ narrative as a way of explaining what’s wrong with our school system gets really old,”. Looks like she was wrong. It’s not old for Ms. Goldberg. On her show yesterday, Whoopi seemed to imply that tenure for all teachers should be removed simply because a few of us (anywhere between 1% – 3% according to testimony during the Vergara Case) may be bad. Of course, she doesn’t consider how any one of us can arrive at the label of being bad. Some of us, like my colleagues under a ruthless principal, can be fine, but then become bad suspiciously after becoming sick. Others can befall this label for other reasons that are nothing short of dishonest and corrupt. Whoopi didn’t seem to address this. No one who embraces the ‘Bad Teacher Narrative” ever seems to address this.

At this point, I would like to point out that, should Campbell Brown’s lawsuit designed to repeal teacher tenure in New York State be successful, I, along with the ‘bad teachers’, will be an ‘at-will’ employee until the New York State Legislature acts. This may stand in opposition to some things you have read in the past. The fact, however, is that New York’s Civil Service laws do not apply to teachers and will not kick in as some sort of magical backstop should Brown’s suit be successful. If she wins, teachers throughout the state will be “at-will” until some type of new laws are passed in the legislature. That is a fact.

And it leads me to an important point.  That without tenure, I’d have a lot more to worry about this year than just this damn tumor.

This post was written by a New York City High School teacher who wishes to remain anonymous.

Reposted from http://nycurbaned.blogspot.com/2014/08/on-being-sick-without-tenure.html

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 30, 2014

Press Contacts:

Jia Lee, Elementary School teacher and Public School parent

Mike Schirtzer, Social Studies High School teacher

Media@morecaucusnyc.org

Teachers, Parents and Students Stand Strong for Tenure

Due Process Protects Teachers who Protect their Students

 

Tenure gives teachers the right to stand up for their students’ best interests, even in the face of poor leadership or poor policy. It accords those who spend the most time with students the respect and responsibility of making best decisions on their students’ behalf. Thus, recent attacks on tenure have nothing to do with improving teaching and learning. They are designed to undermine teacher’s unions and silence educators’ voices.

  Continue Reading…

In Support of Tenure

July 23, 2014 — 6 Comments

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The attacks on tenure today have nothing to do with improving teaching and learning. They are designed to undermine teachers’ unions with the goal of silencing educators’ voices.  We firmly believe that in order for public education to succeed, teachers must have tenure, a protection that allows educators to stand with parents, for children.

 

Tenure is nothing more than due process, fair hearings with an independent arbitrator where evidence can be presented in order to protect oneself from false accusations. This ensures experienced educators have job security and encourages academic freedom. These are protections all workers should have. Tenure not only empowers teachers to advocate for children and public education, but also prevents educators from becoming “at will” employees and therefore positively impacts retention of experienced educators, which research shows is a significant factor for improving student achievement and adult outcomes. Tenure also unapologetically protects teachers not only from arbitrary firing, but from being replaced by less experienced and therefore less expensive teachers as well as potential cronyism. 

Continue Reading…

Business Unionsim

By Mike Schirtzer

Teacher and UFT Delegate: Leon M. Goldstein High School

 

Like most classroom teachers, I didn’t attend last weekend’s AFT convention. In fact, few working teachers knew it was going on, or had reason to care. Our delegates represented none of what we believe in and nothing that happened there will make any difference in our classroom. There was no call for Arne Duncan’s resignation, no resolution for a repeal of the Common Core Standards, and no new strategies for increasing union mobilization or supporting our students. Actually nothing of consequence was achieved. Members will go back to their respective locals and continue the same methods: Chicago Teachers Unions (CTU) will the lead the fight against so called reform that hurts our children and profession, while the AFT/UFT leadership will go back to a style of unionism that ensures that none of my friends become any more engaged in union activities. Continue Reading…