By James Eterno
Teacher/Chapter-Leader Jamaica HS
Instead of my usual complaints about how one sided debate was at a UFT Delegate Assembly, I have to admit right from the start that UFT President Michael Mulgrew made a real attempt on Wednesday to play by the rules by focusing on having both sides heard during debate. It didn’t hurt his majority Unity Caucus, who have the votes to pass just about anything at the DA, but it feels good not to have to report about how he spent the entire meeting only calling on one side. It wasn’t perfect but it was much better than usual.
19 people were stabbed by a student at a school in Western Pennsylvania. We are watching this terrible situation closely.
Los Angeles: There is a lawsuit fighting teacher tenure by saying it is an infringement upon student civil rights. We are helping to fight this. It is the same right wing groups: Student’s First, American Legislative Exchange Council and Democrats for Education Reform (our enemies) that are behind so many of the attacks on teacher unions and public schools. Make no mistake about it, they want to privatize public education.
Philadelphia: There is a “reform” commission that has gone to court. They are trying to have teacher seniority and due process rights taken away. 90 out of 290 schools in Philly are now charter schools. Basically they are trying to end the union contract. Same groups are behind this case as the LA case.
Chicago: Our same enemies are behind legislation that would lower future pensions of in service people by around 30% and force public employees to pay 2.5% more in pension contributions.
Former Mayor Bloomberg worked with the same people to run well financed campaigns against us here in NYC but we have survived. It’s all about politics.
We are in a state election cycle and our enemies just spent $ 5 million on a campaign for charter schools in NYC. New mayor wants to work with teachers and parents. Former news reporter Campbell Brown is starting another astro-turf group to lobby locally against our contract.
New campaign by our enemies against the new promotion policy that deemphasizes standardized testing. They will also try to change the evaluation system to make it more about standardized test scores.
Under Bloomberg’s promotion policies, where only the test results mattered for students in grades 3-8, fewer children were held back. Bloomberg replaced social promotion with social graduation which is why so many students need remedial classes in college.
Politicians think about the next election. We think about the long term. Our enemies have been emboldened by their success with the new charter school law.
A good lobbying effort produced a mostly successful budget agreement.
-There was a 5.2% increase in school aid from the state to NYC. This is up from what we originally were looking at.
-There is $300 million in additional funding in the budget for pre-kindergarten.
-There is a moratorium for high stakes Common Core testing for students; we don’t yet know about the tests being used for teacher evaluation as the Legislature is still in session.
-In Bloom (the data collection company) is gone. Commissioner John King could not guarantee privacy of student information. We are glad to see Rupert Murdoch will not get student information.
-There will be no standardized testing for grades pre-K -2.
-There will be audits of charter schools in NYS including in NYC for the first time.
-On the down side, the charter school lobby took advantage of a political opportunity to guarantee colocations and force the city to pay their rents. We think this provision will end up in court for years.
NYSUT: Karen Magee was elected NYSUT president. There are three other new officers who have been elected. Our own Andy Pallotta will continue as Executive Vice President.
the President repeated his remarks about social promotion and reiterated that more students will probably be held back now that teachers have a say in who will be promoted.
There has not been much immediate relief for our members yet under the new regime but Chancellor Carmen Farina at her meetings with teachers has heard from us about bully principals and excess paperwork.
Artifacts in New Evaluation System
1-Teachers decide on whether or not they want to hand in artifacts and the teacher has the option on which artifacts to hand in.
2-Teachers can turn in artifacts up until Friday, April 11 if we want to but we can also bring artifacts in at the summative conference if we want to because so much of John King’s ruling is contradictory.
3-Artifacts were a good idea that John King and the DOE turned into a bad idea.
4-Artifacts only make up a small percentage of our final rating (3 points) so teachers should ask the principal what he/she is going to give on the artifacts score.
5-People need to chill out on artifacts.
During the question period this came up again, so we will put the answer here.
Question: If principal doesn’t rate us on certain domains, is it an automatic ineffective?
Mulgrew Answer: No, the teacher would get a NA in that area. Some schools will have an artifact party on Friday and submit so many artifacts and demand that they be rated.
OT’s and PT’s-We won the arbitration. They will be getting paid in May.
Staff Director’s Report
Leroy Barr announced the dates for some events including the April 26 Spring Conference at the NY Hilton.
Question: The first question concerned Absent Teacher Reserves being evaluated.
Mulgrew Answer: ATR evaluation is still under the satisfactory or unsatisfactory system. We’re not sure how it will work for someone who was placed in a school in the middle of the year. We can’t talk about contract negotiations but hopefully this will be our only year under the current system.
Question: As many ATR’s are reading specialists, how can we see that they are placed in schools?
Mulgrew Answer: We know that there is an untapped talent pool that could be utilized better. We can’t talk about this right now because it is in contract negotiations.
Question: Shouldn’t we be insisting on certified teachers for the new pre-K programs?
Mulgrew Answer: The state will be reimbursing at a rate of $10,000 if certified teachers are used but only $7,000 if a Community Based Organization uses uncertified teachers. Those teachers will have a maximum of three years to become certified. UFT will help them get certified and that should help in organizing.
Question: Some UFT members are going into disciplinary conferences without UFT representation. What are the ramifications?
Mulgrew Answer: They can be dire and no one should go in without UFT representation.
Question: Principals asking for lesson plans and doctor’s notes unlike in the past. What can we do?
Mulgrew Answer: The administration could always ask to see a lesson plan but they cannot dictate format or collect them ritualistically. We are not publicizing what we are doing behind the scenes but we are working on reigning in onerous administration. We are also waiting for a decision on the lesson plan arbitration.
New Motion Period
UFT Secretary Emil Pietromanaco introduced a resolution to support the UPS drivers who were fired for supporting a co-worker who was dismissed. The resolution was added to the agenda and later passed unanimously. (The drivers were reinstated yesterday.)
Special Orders of Business
A motion to fix problems of the New York State Alternate Assessments carried unanimously.
A resolution on the May Day rally produced the most controversy. The rally is to support labor rights, immigrant rights and jobs for all. Unity’s Paul Egan put in an amendment to make it a little stronger and MORE’s Megan Moskop introduced an amendment to make it a more massive rally with specific slogans including a $15 an hour minimum wage, full retroactive pay for city workers and more. Mulgrew called on people on both sides of this issue and there was a decent debate. The MORE amendment failed; the Egan amendment passed as did the resolution.
The final resolution was to support President Barack Obama’s call to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. Mulgrew asked if somebody wanted to speak against this resolution and Joan Heymont did by saying it should be $15 per hour. The resolution carried.
That’s all for this month. Enjoy Spring Break and may all your artifacts be rated highly effective if you choose to hand them in!