Archive for the 'new teachers' Category

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.

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Unfairly Discontinued Probationers

Probation is a training period. Principals, APs and mentors work with beginning teachers. But during the probationary period, teachers can be discontinued at any time. Under Bloomberg weak, abusive, or incompetent principals used probationers as scapegoats. They did not try to help these teachers. And in many cases these abusive administrators unfairly terminated new teachers.

Probationers who have been discontinued have the right to be rehired, either in another district or under another license. But the DoE has effectively blocked principals who want to hire them. September 2, 2014 New Action organized a press conference for discontinued probationers who had been offered positions by other principals, but who the networks or the department blocked.

This school year New Action/UFT members have been meeting with discontinued probationers, UFT officials, and representatives of Chancellor Farina to discuss the issue. We are cautiously optimistic that principals will once again be allowed to hire previously discontinued probationers. But this is not enough.

New Action/UFT has been in the forefront of the fight against abusive and often corrupt administrators. Where a principal has shown questionable judgment, it is in our mutual interest to challenge that judgment. We support the Chancellor’s vision for collaborative schools for NYC students. But the school system the Chancellor envisions cannot happen as long as hundreds of capricious, arbitrary administrators lead schools.

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.

Report from UFT Executive Board September 22 2014

This was the second Exec Board of the year.

The agenda was compressed, to accommodate a 6:30 visit by Carmen Fariña.

There was no open mike. After minutes were approved they moved to the Staff Director’s report, as Mulgrew had not arrived. LeRoy Barr responded to questions from two weeks earlier: We still don’t have the number of discontinuances from last year. We know of 261 extensions of probation (these are the probationers who contacted their borough offices). There were approximately 650-700 Ineffective ratings, and 5500 – 6000 Developings. There are approximately 1600 excessed members (often called ATRs).

LeRoy encouraged us to return our Smallheiser ballots, and announced a new location for the November 2 Teacher Union Day (the Hilton).

There were no questions during the question period.

George Altomare made the only report in Reports from Districts, and spoke of the successful Climate Change march.

Michael Mulgrew then gave his report. The joint Mulgrew-Fariña letter on lesson plans needed work because DoE legal kept getting it wrong. Principals are getting wrong info from the networks; they complain that they have been instructed by the networks to do things that are clearly illegal.

Only 350 schools are missing from the contract implementation survey, but we want to get all of them. most committees are in place. Curriculum is lagging. For professional development, there are principals who, instead of collaborating, are dictating. There is clear alignment between “us” and the DoE on beginning the conversations.

Special Orders of Business

Carmen Alvarez nominated Evelyn DeJesus for VP Educational Issues. There were no other nominations, and LeRoy Barr cast one vote, electing her. Mel Aaronson nominated Thomas Brown for Assistant Treasurer. There were no other nominations, and LeRoy Barr cast one vote, electing him. New Action did not make a nomination for VP Educational Issues. We disagree with Unity on many of the major educational issues (testing, evaluation, curriculum, etc). However, in ouor discussions before nominations were do, our supporters indicated that we find Evelyn DeJesus to be open, collaborative. We know we can talk with her. We can work with her. We decided, unanimously, not to offer an alternate nomination.

Michael Shulman (New Action) moved a resolution raising the issue of unfairly discontinued probationers. It resolved that the  UFT will contact all recently fired probationary teachers, determine those who were unjustly terminated, and  present a case to the chancellor requesting that these unjustly terminated teachers be given a second chance. Michael Mulgrew got up to agree with the sentiment, but wanted the promise of who we would reach to be defined, and not to be “all.” And then discussion continued, including members of the Executive Board who do not frequently speak, making suggestions to alternately broaden or sharpen the language. The motion’s maker, Shulman, indicated several times that these proposals were in line with the intent of the resolution. Speaking a second time (I think it was a second time, my notes were scribbled and fast), Mulgrew suggested focusing on probationers who had appealed their discontiuance, Finally, VP Anne Goldman pointed out that the comments and suggestions were moving this towards a finished product, but that in fairness we should not vote before the best language had been reached. The body voted unanimously to refer the resolution to the next Executive Board, October 6.

The meeting was adjourned. Fariña arrived, spoke for about 3 minutes, followed by dinner.

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.

Discontinued?

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

During the last decade under the Bloomberg / Klein administration principals have been given much greater power and autonomy. As we know too well, many principals have abused this power. One form of abuse was the unjust discontinuance of probationary teachers. In some cases principals replaced probationers with hire friends or relatives. In others, incompetent principals erratically and arbitrarily fired young teachers, without reason.

There are discontinued probationary teachers who have other Principals willing to hire them but they are barred by the NYC Department of Education. The Unity leadership of our Union has not intervened. New Action / UFT calls upon our Union to press the new City Administration to reopen these cases. Let’s support our most vulnerable members.

The Real Reason So Many New Teachers Quit

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the December 2012 UFT Delegate Assembly).
For a printable version click: Leaflet 2012 December

Our leaders have told us repeatedly that a lousy evaluation system causes teachers to leave the system. A recent study by Peter Youngs and Ben Pogodzinski of Wayne State University finds something different. The following is excerpted from a piece by John Tierney at The Atlantic, dated November 16, 2012.

The researchers found that the most important factor influencing commitment was the beginning teacher’s perception of how well the school principal worked with the teaching staff as a whole. This was a stronger factor than the adequacy of resources, the extent of a teacher’s administrative duties, the manageability of his or her workload, or the frequency of professional-development opportunities.

In the case of the novice teachers, poor relations with principals come through in disagreements over school or district policies, evaluations of teacher performance, and expectations that teacher work beyond their contractual requirements. The atmosphere of distrust is often magnified as the teachers discuss their complaints with one another. And it’s not just novice teachers whose work lives are affected by the school’s head….

Diversity and Teach for America

by Jonathan Halabi
(documents from Seattle battle with TfA are at the bottom, below the fold)

Last Monday I tried to amend an Exec Board resolution about increasing diversity in the workplace. I was concerned about how the resolution handled Teach for America.  I’ll explain:

For the last 10 years, as alternate certification through the New York City Teaching Fellows and Teach for America has gone up, the number of new Black and Hispanic educators has gone down. Decades of progress has been undone. New Action helped get the Economic and Social Justice Committee working on this. A report was generated; a resolution crafted. The final statement read:

Be It Further Resolved that the UFT through its own efforts and in conjunction with the Department of Education persuade the Teach for America program to expand its pool of potential teachers to include more teachers of diverse backgrounds and advocate that both Teach for America and the NYC Teaching Fellows actively recruit more African-American and Latino teachers.

Now, the rest of the resolution says that we will “demand” of the DoE or use “all of [our] resources to compel…” But here we were going to make nice with them, and persuade TfA? Just an objection to tone, right?

More seriously, the resolution misunderstands what Teach for America is.  TfA is an ideologically-driven, anti-union club. It draws, mostly, from elite colleges and universities. Its recruits in the majority teach only for two years, not because they can’t hack it, but by design. They move on to education policy, education administration, charter schools, foundations, etc, etc, by design.  With a two-year career, they also model burnout-pace test-prep, sometimes boosting scores, always adding instability, often cheating real learning.

AND THEY DISPLACE LOCAL RECRUITS, far more likely to make long-term commitments to our students and their schools, and far more likely to be Black or Hispanic. Teach for America whitens the teaching force by design. We have numbers in New York City that support this point. In 1990 new teacher recruitment was under 30% Black and Hispanic. From 1994 – 2001 it was up over 40%. But under Klein it fell immediately back down to 1 in 4. This coincides with TfA coming to NYC, persuasively.

Teach for America was part of a discussion about teacher shortage. Districts, including NYC, pay a bounty of thousands of dollars for each TfA (temporary) teacher. But TfA has been muscling into districts with no shortage of teacher. Sacramento just turned them down, good on them. But the latest is Seattle, where a very public debate occurred before the district agreed to pay Michelle Rhee’s corps $4 thousand per teacher to reduce minority hiring.

My amendment (to remove the above-quoted resolved) was defeated. There may have been some confusion with the Teaching Fellows, my fault. We may have some leaders who mistakenly want to engage TfA. But the problem remains in front of us: We should not be discussing with Teach for America how to recruit better, we should be planning how to keep them out of New York. Our commitment to our schools, to our students, and to diversity demands that of us.

A few Seattle documents, the union reaction, a teacher’s reaction, a parent’s reaction, and a link to a long discussion, are below the fold: Continue reading ‘Diversity and Teach for America’