Archive for the 'Abusive Administrators' Category



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.

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Overmanaged, Underappreciated, Stonewalled and Harassed

New Action/UFT congratulates the schools and Chapter Leaders working with collaborative, member friendly principals. Unfortunately, Chancellor Farina’s call to principals to work collaboratively with their staff is not being followed at many schools. At the January 2016 Delegate Assembly a Chapter Leader asked UFT President Mulgrew how we should deal with non-collaborative principals who respond to concerns with the phrase “I’ll have to check with Legal.” The principal inevitably responds by saying “No.” The response? Raise the concern through the District Rep to the Superintendent.

Since September 2015, New Action has received reports that some principals have:

  • Mandated detailed lesson plans with “multiple points of entry”
  • Done “drive-by” “check list” observations
  • Mandated curriculum maps from teachers to be done on their own time
  • Refused to give the Galaxy budget to Chapter Leaders
  • Targeted older teachers
  • Refused to sign off on professional development if it exceeded 50 hours
  • Refused to give Highly Effective ratings to anyone who is “not collaborative” (doesn’t agree to everything the principal wants)
  • Refused to hire subs, claiming no money

Why do Mulgrew/Unity refuse to forcefully address these issues? Why do we hear these complaints from our members over and over again? We need a UFT leadership that doesn’t bury its head in the sand, but rather acts directly to stop these demoralizing practices.

What happened to Principals in Need of Improvement?

At the November 12, 2015 Delegate Assembly a member asked how the union could help his school from an abusive administrator.

President Mulgrew answered saying it should be raised in consultation at the school level. If there was no relief (and how could there be!) the issue should go to the Superintendent (of course the DR already knows about it by this time!). If that didn’t resolve the abuse the Central UFT will bring it up at the Chancellor’s level.

Now here’s the kicker. He stated that after that the union would employ the PINI (Principals in Need of Improvement). But the fact is PINI, which was a bipartisan campaign to target the worst of the worst was dropped by Unity Caucus well over a year ago. It was dropped shortly after the election of Bill de Blasio and the appointment of Carmen Farina. President Mulgrew knows this full well.

This was a major disagreement New Action/UFT had with union leaders. It was the cause of New Action/UFT pulling out of the UFT Action Committee—a major component of the bipartisan relationship started between then President Randi Weingarten and New Action. A serious question is why is President Mulgrew invoking a program that he himself dropped?

In the same question period, Mulgrew mentioned helping members whose principal gave them 0 out of 60 on the observation portion of their evaluation. 0 out of 60?!? How is that possible?  If there were still a PINI, that principal would have been a candidate for the top of the list. But the answer only addressed helping the members – not consequences for incompetent who abuses his authority to harm teachers.

New Action/UFT has a comprehensive plan to deal with abusive administrators. Want answers? Contact New Action.

Renewal Schools – Some Questions

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the October 2015 UFT Delegate Assembly).
For a printable version click: Leaflet 2015 October

This school year we have a new group of schools targeted for intervention. There are 94 Renewal Schools, mainly in poorer neighborhoods, chosen because of lower test scores.

The Renewal program calls for 1) transformation into a Community School, 2) creating extended learning time, 3) ensuring effective leadership and rigorous instruction, 4) performing needs assessments, and 5) “Bringing increased oversight and accountability including strict goals and clear consequences for schools that do not meet them.”

We understand the payments for extended time are being fixed. We have more questions:

  • What curricula are being used in Renewal Schools, and how is “teacher voice” being recognized in selecting and implementing them?
  • Some renewal schools are in shared buildings (“campuses.”) Is the scheduling flexible enough to work with the inherent challenges of sharing a building that was not designed to be shared?
  • Has Fariña assigned experienced, collaborative, successful administrators to the Renewal Schools? Some names stand out for lacking experience. Is this the exception, or the rule?
  • How does the UFT communicate with members in renewal schools?

New Action Proposals and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision for NYC Schools

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the September 2015 UFT Citywide Chapter Leaders Meeting).
For a printable version click: Leaflet 2015 September

In his first day back to school remarks “Equity and Excellence” Major Bill de Blasio laid out two goals for our schools and school children. First was to increase the graduation rate, which stands at 68.4%. Second was to make sure those graduates have the skills to make it to the next level. His initiative to provide free, full-day pre-kindergarten is already a major accomplishment. His commitment to work with educators and not against them is a great advance over his predecessor, Mayor Bloomberg.

He laid out six measures 1) giving educators the preparation and support they need to teach Common Core standards; 2) for teachers to work collaboratively with one another; 3) for schools to be safe and supported; 4) to make parents welcome and to open lines of communication; 5) to have school leaders with a strong vision and to open to feedback from the school community; and 6) to develop a sense of real trust throughout the school community. New Action applauds many of these goals, with the obvious exception of Common Core.

New Action would add several points to the Mayor’s list. Reduce class size. Remove the threat of being rated ineffective due to standardized test scores (See Sherri Lederman of Long Island). On trust the Mayor and Chancellor must do much more – administrators need to act collaboratively with staff – not just give feedback. Too many administrators still go after outspoken staff members, rate them unfairly, and target veteran teachers. Administrators should be held accountable for training probationers, and arbitrary discontinuances should be questioned. Schools in New York have become the most segregated in the nation – the Mayor needs to address issues of diversity. The City must also correct the sharp decline of teachers of color in NYC. We welcome much of Mayor de Blasio’s vision and sincerely hope he is receptive of several of New Action’s suggestions.

New Action 2015 – 2016 Priority Issues

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the September 2015 UFT Citywide Chapter Leaders Meeting).
For a printable version click: Leaflet 2015 September

Abusive Administrators – Identify them, retrain them, work to remove them

Teacher Evaluation – mitigate the effects, seek to repeal the State law tying ratings to test scores

Probationers and ATRs – protect vulnerable members from arbitrary and vindictive administrators

Discontinued Probationers

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the June 2015 UFT Delegate Assembly).
For a printable version click: June June 2015 Leaflet Front

This year New Action/UFT members have been meeting with discontinued probationers, UFT officials, and representatives of Chancellor Farina to discuss unfairly discontinued probationers. We made some progress: under Klein, these teachers could apply to work under another license or in another district, but when a principal offered them a position, the DoE would start a lengthy investigation – most schools hired someone else. These investigations now take a day or two; some probationers get new positions.

But there is a much larger problem – abusive and incompetent administrators. New Action/UFT has been in the forefront of this fight. Where a principal has repeatedly shown questionable judgment, it is in our mutual interest, the DoE and the UFT to challenge that judgment. This is not happening.

When an administrator is abusive – and there are too many absuive principals and APs out there – part of that behavior included bullying new teachers. We need to have the offenders’ bahavior corrected, or need to have the offenders removed. Reviving the “PINI” – Principals In Need of Improvement campaign would be a good first step. Unfortunately, there has not been progress on this front.