Archive for the 'Abusive Administrators' Category

New UFT Contract Passes: New Action Sees Many Gains, Yet Has Many Reservations

Members voted for a contract that has some very important gains. At the same time, it does not deal with some very important issues. While receiving an 80% vote from almost all units it was rejected by OT’s and PT’s. It is our obligation to stand in solidarity with the OT’s and PT’s. They will need our support.

We Have Serious Concerns

The most troublesome feature is health care givebacks, including the introduction of a two- tier health system. The contract promises to save the city a purported $1.1Billion over 3 years. This alone is cause for concern. We are very wary of the details, only some of which have been released. We do know that first year UFTers will no longer have the right to select their health plan – they will be automatically enrolled in an HMO, HIP. We need to stand vigilant against the real danger that the next go-around the city will demand a three-year two-tier, or a two-tier that lasts through the period of probation.

The membership should have been involved in the discussion… BEFORE DC37’s contract. Why did our membership not vote on this package BEFORE our representatives agreed to it at the MLC? Agreements at the MLC that bind us during negotiations, must be brought to the UFT membership first. We must guard against future incursions on our health care. The issue of Unity making deals with the City and the other unions, and presenting them to us done deals is very serious. We must end this anti-democratic practice.

Another concern is that the money is not great (2%, 2.5%, 3% over 3½ years). These raises do not keep up with inflationary for most titles – they do not miss by a lot, but they do not keep up.

The process was egregiously rushed. People like the idea of an early contract… but Delegates were notified to attend a meeting (Friday 10/12) the day after the agreement was reached (Thursday 10/11). Delegates were asked to vote on a document they could not have possibly read. By the way, there was a regularly scheduled DA Wednesday 10/17.  Unity clearly did not want serious discussions taking place in the schools. Why else was there such a rush?

Some Positive Aspects

The Negotiating Committee, including some rank and file members, actually did some of the negotiating this time – that’s a step ahead, although it falls far short of having meaningful engagement at the chapters.

Due process for paras. Before this contract, paraprofessionals could be suspended without pay based on a single allegation. This contract establishes elements of due process for paraprofessionals.

Easy route to resolve a range of school-level problems. The contract allows complaints to be brought to consultation, and if not resolved within five days, go to the district level. Five new classes of complaints do not require members to file an individual grievance. The categories are: Paperwork, Workspace, Workload, Basic Instructional Supplies, Professional Development, and Curriculum. Still there is no route to resolve unfair or inaccurate disciplinary letters. The right to grieve letters in the file, surrendered in 2005, must be restored.

More Arbitration Days. We get more arbitration days by agreeing to use existing days better. Class size grievances will be heard earlier, and resolved more quickly. In practical terms, arbitrators will handle 6 in a day (instead of 1). Salary, LODI, and religious observance arbitrations will be scheduled 5 per day, instead of one per day. The Grievance Department estimates that we will get an additional 140 days that we can use to arbitrate matters that are critical to us. Bloomberg’s Department of Education intentionally forced us to waste arbitration days, and de Blasio’s DoE had continued the practice. Now that should end.

Two observations. For most teachers (with an HE, or two consecutive E’s) there will be two observations per year. Unity Bigwigs wanted as many observations as possible (yes, many members of Unity Caucus argued for this – but the members wanted the numbers cut). And we did get the number of observations reduced. We still have a long way to go: Students’ test scores still factor into our observations, and our ability to challenge bad observations is blocked by current state law.

Anti-Harassment Language. We won language prohibiting retaliation, with a process that leads to arbitration. Enforcing it will not be easy – but this is the first time we will have such language:  This does not come close to solving the problem of the abusive administrator, but it is a step in the right direction. We’ve got all these new arbitration days – we have to press Unity to use them to push back on abusive administrators. New Action’s plan to deal with abusive administrators is much stronger. Contact us if you want further details.

ATRs – placed in vacancies Day 1 (instead of weeks later.) Salaries won’t count against the school.

Key New Action Contract Demands were Ignored

Fight abusive administrators. We need to keep pressing the union to respond to members in schools with abusive administrators who attack our members and go after UFT Chapter Leaders. · Reduce Class Size. Expedited procedures are one thing, but reducing class sizes should be the goal. We need to end the false dichotomy between raises and reducing class size. We should target lower grades, and we should target higher needs districts. · Restore the Right to Grieve Letters in the File · Reduce caseloads of counselors, psychologists, and other support staff · End Fair Student Funding/Return to Unit Costing · Ensure real due process for probationary teachers.

Conclusions

This tentative contract has good new provisions, especially due process for paras, reduced observations, and some repairs to our grievance machinery. It also has disappointing salaries, and a dangerous change in our health care. There are issues (class size, abusive administrators) that we need to continue to deal with outside of the contract. And we must challenge Unity’s practice of making deals at the MLC without membership oversight. Finally, a union that fails to involve the membership at every step of contract negotiations is making a catastrophic mistake.

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Janus – It Takes a Fight to Win

This year the UFT and membership may face the most difficult year in our history with the adverse U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Janus case. We are convinced Chapter Leaders and activists in our schools will rise to the occasion and support our union by convincing every member to pay union dues. New Action is committed to make that happen.

But much more needs to be done to make this a reality. While the union has made considerable efforts to inform members about the benefits they derive from being members (specifically their efforts to set up committees in each school; sending activists to go door to door knocking, and using the NY Teacher to publicize the importance of the union to its members) they have missed the boat in key areas. UFT members want and need a more pro-active, militant response from our union. There is no simple solution but New Action offers a few for your consideration:

COMBAT ABUSIVE ADMINISTRATORS – Principals who harass our members and single out chapter leaders are a persistent problem in too many schools. The union needs to go after these abusers and let the membership know we will not tolerate this behavior. We have helped some members find support by appealing to the leadership at the UFT Executive Board. But members are too often rebuffed before they get there. The union, at every level, needs to take on abusive administrators.

INVOLVE MEMBERS IN A REAL CONTRACT FIGHT – The secret negotiations must end. Members should be involved any contract fight. What are the issues? We must ask school chapters to meet and hear reports on any progress! We must have them engaged in a real struggle.

UPHOLD THE CONTRACT – Principals are doing an end run around the contract. The union needs to consistently show it is there for us, has our backs. Too many administrators ignore our rights on programming, class size, professional assignments, etc. These should be challenged aggressively, individually and collectively. We must restore the right to grieve letters to the file.

ADDRESS THE PROBLEMATIC EVALUATION SYSTEM – Members have the right to challenge technical problems in APPR, but not the AP’s mistakes. And we know that administrators are often wrong – members need the right to challenge supervisory judgment. The number of observations is unnecessarily high: teachers who are year after year satisfactory need not be observed more than twice a year. But fundamentally the problem is deeper – ratings based on student test-scores are arbitrary and unfair. We need to repeal the State Law that established this.

END PATRONAGE – Hundreds are given part time union jobs based on membership in Unity Caucus. All they have in common is the agreement, when there is a vote, not to make up their own mind but to vote as Unity tells them. This system undermines members’ confidence in our union.

EMPOWER LOCAL LEADERS – Chapter Leaders (CLs) are volunteers. They are directly elected by their members. They should be the backbone of our union. But their representatives, the District Reps (DRs), are appointed by the President. They are responsive to 52 Broadway first, and issue directives to CLs. We should return to a system where DRs are accountable to CLs; we should return to the long-established practice of direct election of DRs by Chapter Leaders.

(from the September 2018 New Action Chapter Leaders Meeting flyer )

Where we agree, where we disagree

From New Action’s May 2016 Leaflet

Where We Agree

We agree that 200 lawyers at Tweed is about 200 too many. But we need leadership that tells this to Fariña, sits down, and gets something done.

We agree that the current funding formula for schools makes no sense, that principals are forced to discriminate against experienced teachers, that schools, kids, teachers all get hurt. But we need leadership that tells this to Fariña, sits down, and gets something done.

We agree that abusive and incompetent administrators are a problem. But we need leadership that restores and expands the Principals In Need of Improvement Program, resurrects the highly successful Organizing Committee, and targets principals who go after our members, leadership that brings the abusers to Fariña, sits down, and gets them out.

We agree that arbitrary extensions of probation are unfair. But we need a leadership that tells this to Fariña, sits down, and gets something done.

We agree that parents have a right to opt their children out of tests. But we need leadership that actively informs parents of this right.

Where We Disagree

We disagree with a leadership that insists that student test scores be part of our evaluation.

We disagree with a leadership that is in love with the Common Core. We disagree with one-size-fits all in math, and we can’t believe that teachers are being stopped from teaching whole books and are limited to chapters or excerpts.

We disagree with creating separate, unequal “rights” for members in excess.

And we disagree with jobs and promotions being given out based on obedience to a caucus instead of merit.

Vote MORE/New Action

Combat Abusive Administrators – Return to Fair Funding! – Get rid of the Lawyers! – Protect Probationers

Protect ATRs – Fight for Union Democracy – End “Drive By” and “Test Score” Teacher Evaluation

Support Jia Lee, Opt Out Leader, for UFT President

Resolution on Discontinued Probationary Staff Members

New Action wrote the original version of this resolution (March 28, 2016), and supported the revised version which was passed by the Executive Board (April 4, 2016) and by the Delegate Assembly (April 20, 2016.) It does not go far enough. As long as we have abusive and incompetent principals with the power to arbitrarily discontinue we will have a big problem. But this is an important start, publicly committing the UFT to trying to help, and publicly recognizing that there is a problem with incompetent administrators. New Action’s Greg Di Stefano (MORE/New Action candidate for Assistant Treasurer) has been actively working on this issue for two years, meeting with a deputy commissioner, several times with the Secretary of the UFT, organizing a press conference, a rally, and speaking at PEPs.

Resolution on Discontinued Probationary Staff Members

WHEREAS, a number of Probationary Teachers have been discontinued over the last several years; and

WHEREAS, some of these teachers were in schools with abusive, incompetent and in some cases corrupt principals; and

WHEREAS, many of these teachers were discontinued receiving no support or mentoring, a clear violation of City and State Education Law; and

WHEREAS, New York State Law states that discontinued teachers should have the opportunity to work in another NYC district or work under another license they may have; and

WHEREAS, the last administration under Michael Bloomberg purposely prevented this from happening; therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the UFT will continue to explore all avenues for these teachers to exercise their right to have the opportunity to work in other districts in full time positions or as per diem substitutes; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the UFT will continue to work with the DOE to ensure that legal, proper and fair practices are in place with regards to teacher discontinuances and that probationary teachers be treated with respect and professionalism.

For Appropriate Supervision

New Action introduced the following resolution at the April 18, 2016 UFT Executive Board. It was tabled to allow details to be reviewed and corrected. We expect a revised resolution to be brought forward at the May 9 Executive Board.

For Appropriate Supervision

April 18, 2016

Whereas both the Danielson Framework and Teaching for the 21st Century envision consistent conversations between teachers and supervisors; and

Whereas these conversations are informed by the content of the class and associated standards, by the curriculum being followed, by the students assigned to the class, by the pedagogical orientation of the school, and by the culture of the school; and

Whereas some supervisors have more knowledge of all or some of the content, standards, curriculum, students, school pedagogy and school culture than other supervisors; and

Whereas teachers should go through observation cycles with the leader of the school or the most appropriate supervisor available; and

Whereas there exists a class of supervisors – ATR Field Supervisors – who are disconnected from students, from content, from school-specific pedagogy, from school-specific culture and who thereby are unable to engage in the rich conversations envisioned both in the Danielson Framework and Teaching for the 21st Century; and

Whereas ATR Field Supervisors perform a function that others could more appropriately perform, and could be assigned instead to productive roles;

Therefore be it resolved that the United Federation of Teachers will convey to the Department of Education our concern that some teachers are being observed by other than the most appropriate supervisor, and be it further

Resolved that the United Federation of Teachers will immediately open discussions with the Department of Education to reassign administrators who are currently ATR Field Supervisors to appropriate assignments, and be it further

Resolved that the United Federation of Teachers will feature a series of New York Teacher and website articles on the appropriate role and function of supervisors in our school system.

Defend Chapter Leaders

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the March 2016 UFT Delegate Assembly).
For a printable version click: Leaflet 2016 March 

Chapter Leaders are on the front line in our schools. Members vote for them, know them, rely on them. When principals go after the chapter leader, they are sending a message to every member “No one is safe.” The union needs to step to the defense of any and every chapter leader under attack. If you are a chapter leader in this situation, contact your DR, your Borough Rep. And if you are not getting the help you need, contact us.

New Action explains: We can no longer run with Mulgrew/Unity

Since the early 1980’s, New Action/UFT was the main opposition to Unity Caucus. In 1985, New Action leader, Michael Shulman, won the UFT High School Vice-Presidency, and served until 1987. New Action continued in opposition until early 2004. Perhaps our greatest achievement was making pay parity the number one issue.

The Bipartisan Years

In the Fall of 2002, the UFT came under siege by the Bloomberg administration. The attack by Bloomberg was part of the “education reformers” full- scale assault on teachers and their unions. In NYC, this followed years of attacks by the Giulliani administration (remember his threat to “blow up” the Board of Education). Recognizing the greater threat to our union and the “blame the teachers” atmosphere pervading the country and NYC, New Action decided to form a bipartisan relationship with then UFT President Randi Weingarten.

New Action/UFT had five basic demands before entering into this new relationship:

  1. Unity must establish an Organizing Committee composed of Unity, New Action members and independents to go into schools to build stronger chapters.
  2. Unity had to agree to establish a bipartisan Action Committee to build for actions in defense of members and to organize campaigns against the wave of anti-union policies on the local and national level.
  3. Unity agreed to establish an Economic and Social Justice Committee.
  4. New Action secured a promise by President Weingarten to investigate undemocratic internal union issues.
  5. Unity agreed to cross-endorse 8 New Action seats on the UFT Executive Board where we could bring up resolutions in defense of educators. In exchange, New Action endorsed Randi Weingarten for UFT President.

We, at all times, remained independent and willing to criticize the UFT leadership. The committees were established. However, Weingarten reneged on her promise on union democracy. But New Action continued the relationship.

There were many accomplishments during those years.

  • New Action and Unity teams of retirees (the Organizing Committee) helped Chapter Leaders and staff in over 230 schools.
  • Establishment of the PINI (Principals in Need of Improvement) program which exposed abusive administrators and listed 41 steps to get rid of them.
  • The establishment of a UFT Social and Economic Justice Committee led to support for the NYS Dream Act, defense of the Puerto Rican Teachers Union, union action addressing the “disappearing teachers of color” and most recently, a powerful move to combat climate change: the divestment of pension funds from fossil fuels.
  • Resolutions brought up by New Action at the UFT Exec Board including the Campaign to Defeat Bush for President that sent scores of UFT members into battleground states, an end to Stop and Frisk, which led to a powerful march, etc.

Bipartisanship Falls Apart

  • UFT leaders, going back to Weingarten, refused to send bipartisan Organizing Teams into schools where they were needed unless DR’s requested them. Mulgrew/Unity refused to mandate Organizing Teams be sent into schools where new chapter leaders needed assistance.
  • In 2010, Mulgrew/Unity agreed to President Obama’s Race to the Top that tied teacher ratings to standardized tests. New Action/UFT immediately opposed that decision. In fact, since we distributed a leaflet “A Train Wreck Waiting to Happen” New Action has issued 14 pieces attacking Race to the Top.
  • In 2014, Mulgrew/Unity ended the Principals in Need of Improvement program.
  • In April 2015, The UFT Executive Board tabled a New Action Resolution to restore the selection of UFT District Reps back to an election by Chapter Leaders.
  • In the spring of 2015, President Mulgrew and Unity Caucus decided to end the successful Organizing Committee.

There were an increasing number of other areas of disagreement including Mulgrew/Unity‘s failures to place ATR’s based on seniority, to repair the grievance machinery, to mobilize educators at the schools, and to protect unjustly fired probationers.

Why MORE?

In late summer, 2015, New Action decided to form an alliance with MORE because our policy positions were similar. Like New Action, MORE had taken principled positions against standardized tests and tying teacher rating decisions to those tests. Both caucuses supported the Opt –Out movement. Like New Action, MORE supports mobilizing the membership to fight for improvements on contractual rights and working conditions. And like New Action, MORE embraces social justice issues.

In the upcoming UFT citywide elections held this spring 2016, New Action urges UFT members to help take back our union and run with New Action. We urge all members, in service and retiree, to vote the New Action/MORE slate for a leadership that will fight for all members’ rights.