Archive for the 'New York CIty Department of Education' 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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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?

Retroactive Pay and Fairness

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the October 2015 UFT Delegate Assembly)
In a disheartening turn, after unusually harsh commentary by a teacher who is employed by the union,
the Unity leadership, followed by its caucus, voted en bloc against letting the delegates debate the issue.
For a printable version click: Leaflet 2015 October

Many members are happy to find the first lump sum payment from the 2014 contract in our checks. There are a flurry of questions – as is expected. When money is involved, we want to get it right.

The contract left out some groups of UFTers. People who have been discontinued are not entitled to the pay. Nor are people who resigned. Nor are people who left before age 55, waiting to retire when they turned 55. And people who died in service – their survivors are not entitled to the money they should have earned from 2009 – 2011. There is, unfortunately, nothing we can do to correct this unfairness.

But we can help another group. UFTers on maternity leave are not receiving the money due them this week. The City intends to pay them next round, in October 2017. There is a proposed resolution to get our folks the money they are due now. We urge you to vote to put this resolution on the agenda.

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.

Is it time to put large schools back together?

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

On June 1, 2015, New Action introduced a resolution (here) to consider the circumstances of campus high schools. In the last 15 years many of large high schools have been replaced with campuses of mini-schools, with swarms of administrators.

In swaths of the City, large high schools are gone. Middle schools, 6 – 12 schools, and even elementary schools share space with high schools. Science labs and music rooms are converted to classrooms in one school, while other schools teach chorus in regular rooms and science without labs rooms.

In many campuses there is little interaction between the staffs of mini-schools. School spirit often did not translate well to the campus. Some mini-schools have few tenured teachers – many chapters are weaker, many members do not know their rights, or are afraisd of excersing them. Yet there are positive exceptions.

The resolution called for the UFT to create a committee to look into these circumstances. How can cooperation between schools on a campus be increased? How can a greater sense of community be developed? How can some of our large academic, comprehensive high schools and CTE schools be reconstituted? The resolution also called for the committee to make recommendations to strengthen chapters and support chapter leaders in campus schools.

The resolution was tabled by Unity Caucus.

School Budgets – Return to Unit Costing

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

Before Joel Klein, schools budgeted for a certain number of teachers (units).

The DoE under Bloomberg/Klein deducted actual teacher salaries would be deducted from school budgets, encouraging principals to actively discriminate against teachers with more experience.

This system is insane. It does not save the DoE one dime, and it discourages schools who need experienced educators from hiring them.

New Action introduced the unit costing resolution on tonight’s agenda. Please support it.

Tripod Surveys – Don’t Count, Won’t Count – but Fariña Won’t Let Go

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

In the new new evaluation law, there are no student surveys of teachers. But there were in the old new law, which is why the DoE prepared “tripod” surveys and sent them into the high schools. This year was supposed to be a pilot that doesn’t count. There is no “next year” because of the change in law. And the surveys take half an hour of class time – while students are preparing for Regents exams (which count in MOSLs)

New Action brought this issue to the UFT leadership, who were rebuffed when they asked to pull the surveys. What is Fariña thinking?