We’re back in school and the UFT called for a Chapter Leader meeting on Wednesday at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriot. Great cookies and lots of soft drinks were an enticement to listen to President Michael Mulgrew give one of his lengthy monologues. After listening to him for over an hour, here are my quick views on what he said or at least implied:
1. The UFT will abandon Bill Thompson’s mayor campaign in a hurry soon to achieve Democratic party unity and hope for the best opportunity to elect a Democrat as the mayor.
2. Mulgrew wants to tweak the new teacher evaluation system but we are stuck with it and the UFT will continue to promote it. However, judging by the reaction from the Chapter Leaders, it seems like the rank and file aren’t buying.
From listening to Mulgrew’s remarks, at first it looked like the UFT would be sticking with Thompson. He said that Thompson only missed the runoff by around 700 votes. (That number was disputed by some people around where I sat.) However, then Mulgrew stated that after twenty years of Republican mayors and the damage they have done to the school system, it is imperative that we elect a Democrat in November as our top priority. (Translation: We don’t need a three week runoff where two Democrats bloody each other and Republican Lhota could possibly sneak in.) Mulgrew even stated that we don’t want a split Democratic party. He then told us there might soon be a special Delegate Assembly on an updated endorsement. (Translation: We will be supporting deBlasio hopefully.)
Mulgrew was not humbled by the results (Thompson lost by around 14%) at all and took a victory lap by noting that Comptroller candidate Scott Stringer, who beat Elliot Spitzer in the Primary on Tuesday, specifically thanked the teachers for getting him in. Mulgrew then reported on how UFT candidates won 42 out of 47 races on Tuesday and a couple of others are still too close to call.
During the question period, the Chapter Leader from Dewey High School questioned the Thompson endorsement and Mulgrew responded that it was done democratically and the Chapter Leader must not like democracy. (I am just reporting folks; please don’t gag when UFT Presidents stand up for democracy.)
Mulgrew also reported that the outgoing mayor would be trying to collocate and even close as many schools as possible before he leaves office at the end of the year. He also noted that we would be going to the Panel for Educational Policy to urge them to have teachers, not test scores, be the final judge on which students get promoted.
NEW EVALUATION SYSTEM
President Mulgrew ceded very little ground when he talked about the state imposed new teacher evaluation system. While members of the Movement of Rank and File Educators were handing out leaflets with a petition on the back urging for a moratorium on imposing the new system, Mulgrew was inside telling us that the UFT disagrees with the implementation of the new system by the current Department of Education administration. Specifically, he emphasized how there is a state Public Employees Relations Board case going on and a Union initiated grievance. He also told us that there are 150 new arbitration slots thanks to the new system so we can have many problems that can’t be worked out by October 25 taken to this expedited process. He once again insisted that we have stronger due process under the current system than we had in the past.
He then argued that the increased observations under Danielson’s framework could be positive if they are handled in a collegial way by administration but if administration plays hardball with teachers, Mulgrew recommended that teachers respond in kind by holding them to the letter of the law.
Mulgrew did admit that he was troubled by the Measures of Student Learning (MOSL) portion of the new “Advance” evaluation system, where we are judged on student test scores, but he insisted that changing and expanding what can be used for our MOSL scores would be a priority in contract negotiations.
During the question period, Mulgrew addressed lesson plans. He told the Chapter Leaders that the Danielson framework leaves the lesson plan format up to the teacher but the DOE disputes this. He said that our contract is still in effect in terms of freedom of lesson plan format and prohibition against ritualized collection of lesson plans by administration so we are in grievance in these areas.
Mulgrew summed up the evaluation system by predicting that two years from now, many more schools will be doing evaluation right than wrong and that teachers need to get over their fear of having other adults in their classrooms. He also told us that we must report it to the UFT if we need questions answered on the evaluation system, if don’t have curriculum or if we have problems such as oversize classes.
The President briefly touched on the national scene when he declared that the situation is dire in cities around the country for public education. He told us how 35% of the teachers had been laid off in Philadelphia by a Democratic mayor who was turning over much of the system to charter schools. He then stated that 52 schools were closed in Chicago despite the valiant fight against it there and those teachers only had five months to find a new job or they were laid off. He then stated that Los Angeles and Houston were also in bad shape.
He followed this by noting that we are not in such a bad position in NYC but that over the next couple of years we may have the opportunity to turn NYC into a model public school system. He told us we might have to change from fighting to a different mode of operation in the near future.
(Translation: Expect more Newark/DC style contract concessions in the future in NYC. Get used to being judged on junk science and constantly observed. It will make you a better teacher!)
UPDATE-I came home from Brooklyn to eastern Queens, where I live, around 7:30 pm last night. My wife and I ate, played some games with our four year old daughter (the fun part of the day) before helping to get her to bed. I was exhausted so I went to sleep without checking the news and woke up before 5:00 am to write this piece. I didn’t know that Thompson was fighting on. Is the UFT really considering holding out on this?
Note- James Eterno will be filing reports for MORE after each UFT Delegate Assembly during the 2013/14 school year. These are his thoughts and may/may not represent the official position of the caucus