By Arthur Goldstein -UFT Executive Board HS Division, MORE
Previously published at NYCEducator
It was remarkable to once again see CPE 1 out in force trying to save their school. Can you imagine what the school system would look like if we were all 50% as activist as they are? People told stories of outrageous abuse and irresponsibility. This is not simply a neighborhood school, but rather one in which the community has a tremendous stake. It’s nothing short of disgraceful that Tweed holds that concept in such low esteem and demands they just sit down and shut up while they steamroll the entire concept of a community-driven democratic school.
Activism is not expected of the NYC school community, or even the UFT. It seems like a hot potato that no one knows exactly how to handle. At the request of CPE 1 teachers, we asked to take the resolution full of real problems and real solutions off the table. That request was unanimously denied by the loyalty oath signers, who outnumber us 95-7. It’s hard for me to understand why we can’t simply say an abusive principal is abusive, explain why, and then demand she be replaced with someone who isn’t abusive. It just happened in Townsend Harris, so it’s not impossible. Of course, that was also a result of student activism. It’s not really reasonable to expect such activism from six and seven year olds.
So now we see there will be a lawsuit and a restraining order. That’s positive, but we also know the problem has been quite clear for over a year. This means that until a very public stink was made, there was no lawsuit, no restraining order, and not even a MORE/ New Action sponsored resolution to vote down. The given justification for voting it down, that the UFT cannot negotiate once it takes a position, continues to puzzle me.
We are also looking at the shredded remnants of JHS 145, steamrolled so that Eva Moskowitz could take it over. UFT says it will help excessed and displaced teachers by assisting with resumes and applications. This is helpful, but more helpful still would be saving the school, or even the pre-2005 system in which they would be placed. I’m working at a viable school only because I took advantage of the UFT transfer plan. UFT leaders can tell me from now until doomsday that the current plan is better because there is a larger number of transfers, but had I stayed in John Adams High School I’d almost certainly be an ATR even as we speak. It’s positive that newer teachers can transfer more easily, but leaving teachers with years of experience entrenched in the ATR is no victory.
Howard Schoor, who as secretary runs the meetings, prides himself on answering our questions, and once told us that the panel answered all of our questions. This they do, but simply giving an answer is not necessarily tantamount to giving a satisfactory or reasonable response. Here’s a case in point:
Arthur Goldstein—MORE—Much to my surprise and delight, Francis Lewis, Hillcrest, Flushing and Forest Hills High Schools all got reasonable rulings about class sizes this semester. The arbitrator ordered, on March 28th, that all schools come into compliance or create classes so as to enable compliance. However, actual compliance is another issue. I know in my school, absolutely nothing has been done pending something called a compliance call, which was supposed to happen last week but did not. A full month has now gone by. I worry the DOE can wait us out five weeks and the ruling will be meaningless. In other buildings, there is simply no space to place new classes. This is problematic, to say the least.
At my school, thanks to the welcome intervention of Elly Engler, we should have some substantial relief in three or four years. In the others, who knows? Mayor de Blasio just asked what would happen if all teachers were to openly criticize every educational policy they disagreed with. I think our schools would be much the better for it, and I think that’s a large part of our job. Our numbers plummeted under Bloomberg, and we’ve just endorsed the sitting mayor. Considering complex issues like class size compliance and DOE gaming of the rules, and that we’re now expanding PreK for 3-year-olds without even counting the cost of new seats—how can we work with him him to not only hire an adequate number of teachers but also provide adequate space for our students, both current and future?
Schoor—Will work with them just like in preK program.
Not being a mind-reader, I can’t say whether or not Howard understood my question. However, I can say with 100% certainty that I didn’t understand his answer. Who are they going to work with? What exactly did they do with the pre-K program? How will that help them find seats when there is no budget to do so? If there are no new seats, which old ones will be taken away?
While I did indeed mention pre-K as part of an expanding class size issue, I fail to see what that has to do with the main thrust of my question, which regards high schools. My school and others have finally gotten a strong and unequivocal class size ruling. Four weeks have gone by, five more remain, and none have come into compliance. In fact, it may be physically impossible for some to do so. If that’s the case, isn’t there another problem altogether? How will working “work with them just like in preK program” begin to resolve it?
In my school I believe there are ways to come into compliance. Yet nothing has been done, and nothing will be done pending something called a “compliance call.” When is that going to happen, and what’s to keep the DOE from delaying it until the year is finished? And if they can do that, what on earth is the point of class size regulations at all?
I’ve sat in the principal’s office more times than I can count with UFT members accused of violating one rule or another. Sometimes they get letters in file. Sometimes they get counseling memos. Sometimes they are fired. I may or may not agree with these consequences, but they are consequences nonetheless.
UFT leadership is free to reject resolutions we introduce on class size. They’re free to pay tribute to those who placed limits in the contract 50 years ago, when virtually none of us were teachers. I certainly share their respect for those who introduced them. Yet, if DOE is able to weasel their way out of them because they haven’t provided enough space for students, or worse, by simply delaying meetings, what’s the point of these regulations?
I’m glad we’re there, and UFT should be glad too. We’re facing a right to work nation, and we now have a chance to show members our relevance. Leadership can jump on that train any minute. We’re ready and willing to work together.
I can only imagine what went on in the Executive Board before we arrived. My best guess is nothing.