The election of Bill de Blasio and the appointment of Carmen Fariña opens the possibility of correcting 12 years of Bloomberg’s destructive policies. The damage done cannot all be repaired overnight. However, some important advances can begin now. High on the list is negotiating a good contract with retroactive pay. New Action/UFT proposes some additional priorities.
Abusive, Unqualified, or Both?
New Action has always acknowledged that there are many collaborative and professional administrators. But unqualified principals, often with no or little teaching experience, are running too many of our schools. A principal can avoid a conversation by saying, “I have to run this past Legal” knowing full well that these Bloomberg appointed lawyers tell principals to deny everything. Those with who never were decent teachers, or with inadequate experience can feel threatened by our members’ knowledge, and treat suggestions as insubordinate. Many become petty dictators. Their orders are sometimes arbitrary, sometimes nonsensical. They don’t discuss issues with members, because they cannot. And some target Chapter Leaders.
Work together to resolve issues of abusive admins
IT IS TIME to press this issue with de Blasio and Fariña and modify the behavior of all of these abusive administrators, and long overdue that the Unity leadership demand an end to the harassment of chapter leaders. The leadership has targeted problem principals in schools where the entire chapter is ready to fight back. But this is a drop in the bucket. In most of these schools members are scared, intimidated, not ready to stand up on their own. We must help them at the school, AND bring these cases to the new administration. And we have progress already: Carmen Fariña has announced that all new principals will need to have at least seven years experience.
We can work with Mayor De Blasio and Chancellor Fariña, and at the same time help our membership to become active at the school level to tackle these and other issues.
De Blasio Compromise on Co-locations – an Error
On charters and co-locations de Blasio sent a badly mixed message. He declared a moratorium, while he and Fariña examined the 45 proposals that Bloomberg rushed through last fall. But late last month they approved 36 of them, including some charters. This was not what we wanted; this was not what New York City needed. They thought that they could play nice with the private charter operators/ hedgefunders. But Eva Moskowitz, who lost one expansion, and two new schools, organized a demonstration in Albany, where Andrew Cuomo lent his support, and has been blasting de Blasio. His administration has been taking a beating in the media. Compromising with the charter operators was a mistake.
No New School Closings – a big step forward
But there is good on co-locations as well: this is the first year in memory when there has not been a single school closure. Several charter collocations were denied. We should stand with de Blasio against Moskowitz, and against the NY State Senate’s current proposal to allow charter management companies unfettered, free access to New York City’s school buildings.
There is also potential progress on a contract. The UFT’s Negotiating Committee met last Thursday, and while those discussions are confidential, the major media are reporting that there have been real conversations in the last few days. Given our desire to have a contract done by June, it seems that the process is moving at the right time. A hopeful sign: The New York Times reports that chief factfinder, Martin Scheinman, is now acting as a mediator between us and the City.
We need to get our membership involved – getting out there to support those good steps de Blasio and Fariña have taken – and pushing on our contract issues. There are stalwarts, UFTers who come to any rally, anywhere we ask. But to bring the full weight of our union to bear, we need to engage the majority of our members, and that means in school, and in front of school. School-based actions will show how serious we are, and they will give us a stronger, united voice.