Archive for October, 2014

Abusive, Incompetent Administrators – What can we do?

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the October 2014 Delegate Assembly).
For a printable version click: October 2014 Leaflet

There are plenty of good principals in our system. But under Bloomberg the number of inexperienced and poorly trained principals soared. Abuse of members was encouraged; it became a systemic attitude, an epidemic. Carmen Fariña, counts over 300 incompetent principals. However, in 10 months as chancellor, Fariña has not made a priority of removing incompetent and abusive administrators.

The UFT is not using the Principals In Need of Improvement program. And when we had PINI, Unity Caucus did not use it where members were afraid to fight. This needs to change. We need to organize in schools with administrators who terrorize our members, and who destroy their schools. The union might provide assistance to an individual member, which is good. But we also need campaigns against the abusers, including pickets in front of some schools. We need to stand together. Two examples:

PS 3 on Staten Island…is a school that has had many problems with their principal. Both tenured and probationary teachers have been harassed. Senior teachers have been forced to retire. A probationary teacher who received all S ratings her first year suddenly receives all U’s the second. She is discontinued and cannot work. How does this happen? Who was rehired to replace her?

The District Representative put letters in mailboxes to survey the staff – but the letters disappeared. The principal denied any knowledge, but what else could it have been? This principal has not been disciplined. Our union has not protested in support of the members in PS 3. They need our support.

The Baychester Middle School…has an outrageously high staff turnover rate. Just this past June, on the last day of school, 20 minutes before dismissal, with no prior warning, the principal discontinued four probationary teachers. Their careers were ended, without even a chance to say goodbye to many of their colleagues. In a school with just two dozen staff members, nine did not return this September. And in each of Baychester MS’s first three years, about a third of the staff have left.

The principal, with only five years teaching experience, has picked up some pretty shady habits. There are allegations he phoneyed up mentoring logs, and provided new teachers with little or no support. For two years he had no School Leadership Team, raising the question: who exactly signed the CEP?

Principal Shawn Mangar boasted “I’ve been investigated a lot of times. Nothing has ever come of it.”

What else can the UFT do? Bring the problems to the Chancellor: The UFT leadership should be bringing each case of an abusive administrator directly to the Chancellor. Many should not be running schools. The Chancellor can act.

What can you do: Contact your District Rep. Contact New Action.

Send us your story –let others know what is going on, and that we are not alone.

Report from UFT Executive Board October 6, 2014

This was the third Exec Board of the year.

Francesco Portelos was the only speaker for the open mike. His main point was that there are many members who need assistance who are coming to him, but the union should be providing better service so that members go to them instead. I didn’t follow much more as he rambled a bit. I was surprised he didn’t share his story of being observed in an Italian class (he’s in excess, an “ATR”).

After minutes were approved they moved to the Staff Director’s report, as Mulgrew had not arrived. LeRoy Barr reported on upcoming events including for UFT Disaster Relief (10/13), Making Strides (10/19), Teacher Union Day (11/2, new location, NY Hilton), and a reception at the next DA for those with 100% attendance from last year (10/22). He also mentioned the Chapter Leader training weekend.

In the question period Bill Goldman (New Action, CL Tottenville HS) asked what response the UFT has had or will have to the report out of UCLA from a few months ago that showed NY to have the worst segregation in the nation. Emil Pietromonaco indicated he would get back to Bill. (later Michael Mulgrew said we should do a new resolution)

Jonathan Halabi (me, CL HS of American Studies at Lehman College) asked if the DoE’s past practice of needlessly our arbitration dates through (here I asked for help – the chair mentioned class size, but there is another category, possibly para terminations?) has continued under the new administration. (Has the bad practice been undone). Emil’s response was that “only time will tell.”

Michael Mulgrew then gave his report. Listening to Fariña is like listening to a teacher. No more single letter grades. Culture. Curriculum. Training. Cooperation. Parent Engagement.

We are not looking to “undo” but to change the DoE. (This may have been in response to me).

The problems with professional development are coming from people not knowing how it should work. We don’t want pre-canned PD, “like a faculty conference” or “told me to keep a log.”

There are problems in Special Ed, problems with ELLs, with struggling schools. How do we move 1831 schools in the right direction at the same time? Trying to change the culture of the school system.

Michael reported on the events in Philadelphia. He described this as a political maneuver by Corbett, and pointed out that two of the votes in favor of voiding the teachers’ contract came from appointees of the former Democratic mayor. We will monitor Philly carefully, and continue to send in retirees to work on the governor’s race.

Our focus on the elections will be the State Senate. Key races everywhere, except NYC (only Schneiderman and Di Napoli). There is an independent expenditure committee (?) trying to retake the senate for the Republicans.

There was no political report, and the only report from districts came from George Altomare about the Italian American history group.

Leroy Barr reported on upcoming vacancies on the Executive Board (nominations to be offered next meeting). He also explained that the issue of unfairly terminated probationers was being dealt with by assuring that, if a principal wants to hire a discontinued probationer (in a different district, or under a different license) that we will assure those who are offered a second chance will be able to take it. This does not require a resolution.

New Action Caucus has ten seats on the UFT Executive Board – the only ten seats that do not belong to Unity Caucus.

Ten is not enough to win anything – but it allows our voice to be heard, it allows us to put forward resolutions, and when there is agreement, to put forward resolutions the leadership signs onto. It allows us to offer amendments. It allows us to bring issues to the leadership.

At Exec after Exec, Unity members sit and listen. Some never speak. Most rarely speak. But New Action usually has questions, comments, resolutions, or amendments.

This year we will publish reports – sometimes on the entire Exec Board, sometimes just on New Action’s contribution.

Abusive, Incompetent Administrators – Overlapping Problems in our Schools

(from an updated version of the New Action leaflet distributed at the September 2014 Chapter Leaders’ Meeting).
For a printable version click: Fall 2014 Leaflet Front and back

The number of incompetent principals in the system, according to Carmen Fariña, is over 300. Many are the same principals who are abusive of our members, other staff, or students.

The UFT has a PINI Program – principals in need of improvement. Unfortunately, PINI is not utilized as much as it should be, and Unity Caucus will not use PINI in the hundreds of schools where members are too afraid to fight.

Campaigns against these abusers are especially needed. Can you imagine conditions so bad that your colleagues are too scared of reprisal to complain? These are schools where the union should be going in to organize, where the leadership should be addressing the problem principal directly with the Chancellor. But instead, our leadership may provide some individual support to the teachers involved, but does not challenge the abuser.

What do do: Contact your District Rep. Contact New Action. Read “A Primer on School Changehttp://www.uft.org/news-stories/primer-school-change. (New York Teacher)

Some Urgent issues for today – Funding

(from an updated version of the New Action leaflet distributed at the September 2014 Chapter Leaders’ Meeting).
For a printable version click: Fall 2014 Leaflet Front and back

Which costs more: hiring a brand new teacher, or placing a teacher whose salary is already being paid? Clearly, it is cheaper for the City to place the teacher whose salary is already being paid.

Fair Student Funding (FSF), though, perversely “charges” the principal pretend money, and leads most to avoid placing the teacher who is already on payroll!

Fair Student Funding leads to discrimination against experienced teachers, and costs the City more money!

Excessed teachers in the ATR pool will not be part of this calculation – but principals have become used to avoiding them and will continue to discriminate.

This can be easily fixed: School budgets should be charged the Citywide average teacher salary for each teacher, not school average.

Some Urgent issues for today – Teacher Evaluation

(from an updated version of the New Action leaflet distributed at the September 2014 Chapter Leaders’ Meeting).
For a printable version click: Fall 2014 Leaflet Front and back

New Action has opposed the Teacher Evaluation System since its inception.

Rating teachers based on the Danielson model look like the “checklist” we used to decry. Tying evaluation to student test scores is inherently arbitrary and unfair.

Yet this is the system in place. What should we do?

The union worked with Fariña to creating additional observation options. The new contract reduced the number of items we are rated on. These are positive changes.

But we need more. State law linking ratings to student test scores should be amended. “Developing” ratings have consequences – including getting passed over for transfers. We need the right to appeal D’s. And we need a process for questioning the principal’s judgment BEFORE the final rating.

Press Conference Held to Highlight Unjust Discontinuances

New Action /UFT held a press conference on Sept. 2 , the first day of school , to highlight the unjust firing in recent years of probationary teachers in schools with abusive administrators. Teachers spoke of their situations and letters were left at the security desk to be delivered to Chancellor Farina . More than 25 UFT members were present consisting of both active and retired members. Chancellor Farina has yet to respond to these letters. A resolution was brought by New Action UFT at the UFT Executive Board on Sept. 22 calling for the UFT to meet with Chancellor Farina and restore these teachers eligibility to work. Any Probationary teacher who was fired unjustly should contact Gregory  Di Stefano at 718 757 4552 to participate in further actions.

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Content of signed articles and comments represents the opinions of their authors. The views expressed in signed articles are not necessarily the views of New Action/UFT.
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