Archive for February, 2022

2-28-2022 UFT Executive Board Minutes

Nick Bacon (open mic): Seeks support from and consultation with UFT leadership for his school. Speaks on the need for a robust PINI program and organizing committee, so that schools in need can rely on a real targeted response from the UFT when chapter organizing or district/borough conversations fall short. This is important for morale in chapters that have done everything but seen no results. If we do the work to build–really rebuild–our city-wide organizing infrastructure, we can co-organize with schools in need and show solidarity. Says he would sign up to picket with another school in need any day, and knows other members across the city would do the same. Also speaks on the importance of giving real say to teachers in the C30 process to prevent foreseeable issues. Thanks executive board for hosting him.

Leroy Barr: Thanks Bacon for coming and notes that staff will be in contact for next steps for school issues. 

Motions to approve adcom minutes are approved unanimously. 

Michael Mulgrew: (president’s report): Says he hopes everyone took advantage of the break. Says March is the busiest month in terms of union activity, as every weekend is full of events. 

Masks: working closely with the AFT to push the CDC to come out with some sort of criteria with areas to look at for schools. We’re in NYC, but imagine at the AFT level where some parts of the country are all political. It gets ugly. That’s the reality for AFT work. Thankfully, the CDC listened and came up with a color coding. If you’re green, you may start looking at lessening restrictions on masks. Important because we plummeted in positivity in New York. 

We decided before the break that we wanted everyone to have test kits, then continue to do the surveillance program. We’re going to take this week and see if the numbers continue to get lower than look at possibly lessening some of the restrictions. 

Brings up graph: discusses the omicron spike, which turned out to be less serious (but is still serious), then we had a much more rapid decline than expected. It was like we ‘stepped off a cliff.’ But are there other variants? The variants out there of omicron are less serious than omicron, so our doctors are telling us that we can start looking at loosening restrictions – that’s how we get out of a pandemic. Keep your monitoring in place, but you can start loosening your restrictions. So we’ll do the testing – another 85,000 tests done in schools this week – people can still report the at-home tests.

To be clear, if that decision is made, it’s not our decision, but our doctors have said that if that data remains steady, if there’s no spike after break, then we can loosen restrictions. All of our other safeguards will stay in place (masks, testing, etc) if that happens. If we loosen up restrictions and we get to Spring Break and see nothing in our surveillance, we could maybe–cross your fingers–be getting there. But if something happens, you’re gonna have to move in a different direction. Our doctors are telling us we should not fight the administration if the city decides to unmask. But you should be able to wear a mask if you have a situation. We had teachers being disciplined for wearing masks before the March shutdown. We’re not in that situation anymore.

The state mandate will be lifted on Wednesday, after which we’ll be talking to our mayoral administration. We have members who like masks and don’t like masks. The majority of members who communicate with me tell me as long as the data is there and the doctors are ok with it, they just want to know about the particulars. 

That’s it on the masks. I’m apprehensive and optimistic at the same time. I have way too many conversations in my life about this – takes up a lot of my work time. Two other times before we thought we’d be leading our way out of this, and that didn’t turn out to happen. So we’ll do the surveillance and look at the data and go from there. Possible that on March 7th we’ll have an optional mask program in the schools. But you can see the drop there on the graph. 

Negotiating committee, first meeting is on March 30th.

No one is talking about the socio-emotional problems that came out of the pandemic, but I keep talking about masks. Reality is there was a lot of damage. As a workforce we’ve also been damaged, and if they would listen we’d love X, Y, and Z so we can ‘do the work.’

Ugliest negotiations we’ve ever had with NYU. A lot of work went into it and we were highly active throughout the entire practice. Last Thursday, they were able to get their contract ratified, but it was a difficult negotiation.

Mulgrew – Question Period:

Mike Schirtzer: (1) We passed the resolution at EBoard and it never made the floor at the DA, the resolution on distributive scoring being kept in home schools. Need to move that up because it’s about to happen. What’s the protocol, can we move that up here at Eboard?

Mike Mulgrew: Not sure, might be called out of order, which seems to happen a lot lately. But, assuming we as an executive board – we can make a motion to move that up the agenda at the next DA. 

Schirtzer: Makes motion to move up the aforementioned resolution at the next DA. Seconded, no debate, question called, motion passes.

Mulgrew: this is how the agenda gets set, so it was appropriate to do it that way. 

Schirtzer: (2) Speaking as a social studies teacher, social studies is under attack all over the USA. We have great committees here. How do we go about making a resolution to teach history as it already happened, especially with all the laws being passed across the country to the contrary?

Mulgrew: That resolution was already passed at the AFT level, but we can take that resolution and go from there.

Janella Hinds: Happy to work with Mike. We love writing resolutions so let’s make it happen. 

Mindy Rosier-Rayburn: Vacation days and 683. Can they be used during 683?

Mulgrew: Think so. The arbitration says we can, so don’t as questions for things we think we already have. 

(Missed name): On masks, hearing diverse opinions, but in schools where vaccine rates are low and maybe a teacher has an immune problem, nervous about this. 

Mulgrew: That’s one of the conversations I’m having. But this decision will not take away your ability to wear a KN95 mask. Vaccination rates are highest in Manhattan, there’s a map out there, it’s public now. So let’s have a campaign to get rates up, because some schools have extremely low vaccine rates (which tend to mirror the neighborhoods they’re in). But, NYC has reached the threshold for herd immunity. But your ability to wear your mask and get your test is still there.

Rashad Brown: Does AFT have a resolution yet on the Florida Parental Rights and Education Bill

Mulgrew: There’ll be some debate at the AFT, but we’ll make sure we put in our own input, but we can do it the opposite way – do our own resolution and bring it to the AFT.

George Geiss: ENL coordinator – any numbers citywide for students who are Ukranian? Can we pass a resolution in solidarity with Ukraine?

Mulgrew: Don’t have that data at this time. Assuming we’ll get an influx of Ukranian students rather quickly. Will work with you.

Camille Edy: Teachers in district 16 are worried about masking. We have low vaccination rates. We’re wondering what the relaxation of the masking guidelines will have on encouraging vaccines. We think the opposite will happen – if they see masking relaxation, parents won’t think there’s a need to get students vaccines. 

Mulgrew: Hear that fear. But there’s a lot of misinformation about the vaccine that you hear in the AFT debates. I’m concerned about 7 districts, including District 16, but remember – members, wear the masks – the 95s. 

Camille Edy: CLs are brainstorming ways to get the students vaccinated. 

Mulgrew: Thanks everyone and closes. 

Leroy Barr: asks for reports from districts. 

Janella Hinds: 4th Herstory celebration this Friday, 4-5:30 – theme is strength, courage, and women. Virtual event. 

Karen Alford: March 19th (saturday) early childhood conference, first time in person in a few years (hybrid event). CTLE hours offered and ask your school for a purchase order if you don’t want to pay for it. 

Leo Gordon: March 15th, CTE awards. First time in person in a while.

Rashad Brown: March 3rd at 4:00 PM, Dr. Monique Morris ‘Pushout’ documentary about criminalization of black girls. 

Motion to adjourn carries. 


Teachers need actual say in the hiring process

Over the years, I’ve worked with scores of principals and assistant principals who have had remarkably different management styles. While I firmly believe that teachers are overmanaged even in many positive working environments, I’ll be the first to admit that I have nothing but respect for good administrators. Luckily, the lion’s share of DOE administrators are decent. More than a few, however, are utterly incompetent and abusive (characteristics that seem to go hand in hand). My experience has led me to a basic truism: bad principals will have a very difficult time making long-term positive changes to a teacher’s instruction (or a student’s learning environment), but they can completely destroy a school or department in no time at all. This is why it’s so important that teachers, parents, and students have a real say in how principals and assistant principals are hired. Right now, as it stands, they have none. 

So, what is the C30 Process and how is it abused?

Sure – ostensibly, UFT and community members get a say in who leads their school. There’s a whole process set up–the C30 process–whereby representatives from parent, pedagogue, student, and administrative groups evaluate candidates for principal or assistant principal. However, that process comes with some serious limitations. Retirees and more experienced Tier 4 teachers may remember a time when member input sort of mattered on these C30 committees.Tier 6 teachers, on the other hand, have only seen it in its current state–a Potemkin Village to school democracy masking an authoritarian reality: whoever the superintendent or principal originally hired to get the interim acting (IA) position will get the full position.

First of all, superintendents and principals choose the candidates. Outside hires without much experience are becoming the rule in many districts (I imagine because superintendents find them easier to control). Thus, before C30 committees even meet at all, beloved in-house candidates are often knocked out of the running. From the outset, it is clear that the hiring administrator has all the power over who comes in. Once the short list of top candidates is presented – often a cherry picked list of win-win possibilities for the superintendent or principal (or alternately, a list of candidates so bad that the intended candidate looks good), the voting begins. Very little deliberation is involved in meetings. There is no discussion, only submission of scores for pre-selected questions. In any of these scenarios, the house always wins. 

Despite this, principals and superintendents prefer when a C30 committee meeting looks democratic. It’s better optics when the IA gets the top average score.  Many of the suspected tactics used by our CSA colleagues to inflate/deflate scores so the IA looks like they are the choice candidate have come to light in the age of Covid (now votes often take place via Zoom chats!). CSA members have been witnessed giving arbitrarily low scores to non-IA candidates and arbitrarily high scores to the IA. Coaching–sometimes subtle, sometimes not–has also been a concern. One New Action member saw the respected CSA member of a committee announce deflated and inflated scores before everyone else voted, thus signaling how everyone else should vote. Teachers, students, and parents sometimes nevertheless vote against the IA, but more often than not, they also give the winning scores to the IA – even when they prefer another candidate. Most teachers have been through enough of these to realize that C30s are a farce. Therefore, the prudent move becomes going on record to support the person who will almost certainly be signing one’s observation reports. This is because C30 committees are only advisory. Principals and superintendents can always overturn committee scores. And routinely, if they have to do so to get the IA hired, they do. 

So what’s the point of even sitting on a C30? After all, the C30 process happens after the contractual workday and teachers aren’t even paid to sit on the committee. At schools where principals or superintendents listen, I think it’s a beautiful thing that teachers participate. However, in schools or districts where we know from experience that the C30 process will be a ruse, I’d suggest that teachers’, students’, and parents’ time is too valuable; we shouldn’t be throwing it away to help the DOE pretend we have a say. Of course, the answer isn’t to just sit it out. The answer is reforming the C30 process, so that we do have a say. As part of its platform, United For Change–the coalition of caucuses (including New Action) running in the UFT election against the incumentent Unity caucus this year–supports dramatic reforms to restore/expand democracy in the C30 process. Here are a few reform ideas that could help:

  • Allowing hiring committees to have a greater say in the selection of ‘top’ candidates. 
  • Giving hiring committees the power to exclude lowest-scoring candidates, including the IA, from final selection. 
  • Auditing scores by C30 members, especially members from CSA, to prevent them from routinely inflating/deflating scores to select the IA. 
  • Respecting highly rare votes of no confidence by teachers (or parents/students) in the period before a principal gains tenure. 

I’m not naive. Making even one of these changes would certainly take work. I don’t see any of these reforms being something that a DOE Chancellor would make on their own. But, our students deserve environments where teachers aren’t being incompetently micromanaged or abused. With enough teacher, student, and parent buy-in & advocacy, we can fight to make the types of changes we need to prevent schools from getting abusive and incompetent administrators in the first place.

Have your own ideas of how to reform the C30 process? Drop them in the comments below or shoot an email to one of our chairs

Unpacking the February DA

The February DA was a farce, but not for the reasons our leadership would have you think. 

United for Change has a problem: we haven’t been called on during a Delegate Assembly since November. The November DA was an unprecedented victory for the opposition, and a good sign that the many independents out there have views more in line with our version of the union than with Unity’s. It was no surprise when we weren’t even given a chance to speak during the following DA. But we realized the problem was more serious when we didn’t get a chance to speak during the questions or new motions period in January either. 

Clearly, Unity doesn’t want us to pass resolutions that they don’t like. But, given that we’ve shown that our resolutions can be popular to the wider public, surely they should give us a chance to raise them – just as they give their own caucus many chances to raise their own (mostly symbolic) resolutions. But they don’t, and they’re able to do so for two reasons:

  1. The President’s report is far too long. Generally it goes on for about 45+ minutes. In December, it was so long we didn’t even get to a motions period. That means, Michael Mulgrew spends so much time talking, that delegates who sacrifice their time (and parking money) to be there, don’t get a chance to deliberate motions for very long (if at all). And really –  in the age of email and UFT town halls (where basically the same presidential report is given as in the DAs), why are we spending so much time listening to Michael Mulgrew? Why is so little time given to democratic debate?
  2. When there is time for resolutions to be introduced, the rule is that opposite sides should alternate. The chair must be impartial, and during debate for instance “the chair should let the floor alternate, as far as possible, between those favoring and those opposing the measure.” But the minutes of previous meetings show that this is not happening. We aren’t being called to introduce resolutions, and often during the debate period for specific motions, only known Unity members are called on.

As a result, the only time most people hear from people affiliated with United for Change is when we make a simple ‘point of information’ or ‘point of parliamentary inquiry.’ As we’ve seen our union democracy crumble over the last several months, with Unity completely monopolizing the DA, we’ve started to make more of these requests or inquiries. 

In tonight’s DA, UFT Presidential, Candidate Camille Eterno made–or at least attempted to make–an important inquiry: why exactly is the presidential address so long? Why is so little time left for us to ask questions or introduce/debate motions? Why is it that Unity is allowed to monopolize the DA? But instead of allowing Camille to speak, Unity shut her down. Mike Sill made the absurd attack that Camille hasn’t been to prior union meetings, even though she has more union leadership experience than Michael Mulgrew (and not to mention that we have hybrid meetings now and Camille’s husband James live blogs the DA’s minutes on the ICE-UFT blog every single month). Mulgrew tried to paint Camille, and other UFC members, as trying to obstruct official business. He bordered on campaigning, continuously using the Unity slogan, saying things like ‘you’re keeping us from doing the work.’ But Camille–and the rest of us with UFC–were trying to point out that the DA is structured so as to keep non-Unity members from doing any of the work. And that’s bad news for our union democracy. 

Later, I raised a parliamentary inquiry regarding the rule of alternating sides. Indeed, opposing sides were not called on during the debate period that ensued after Camille raised her own inquiry. If you look at the minutes, you’ll see that Michael Mulgrew exclusively called on Unity members, mostly members of Adcom. There were dozens of UFC members with their hands up, but we weren’t called on. The rule of ‘alternating sides’ was clearly not respected. Rather than answer my inquiry, Michael Mulgrew ruled me out of order. 

In the end, the DA went by without a single resolution heard from UFC . We had more than one printed, among them motions we’ve been holding onto since December. To make our union democracy work, there’s really a simple solution: let delegates other than Unity members speak, Mr. Mulgrew. There’s an easy way to do this: (1) shorten the Presidential report (and/or post an extended version elsewhere); and (2) respect the rule of alternating sides. 

To hear author and New Action co-chair, Nick Bacon, speak more about the February DA, check out his interview on the “Professional Development” Podcast with Noah Teachey.

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February 2022