Archive for the 'NYC' Category

UFT High School Executive Board asked for endorsement of the anti-IDC Challengers

Primary Endorsements; Primary Elections

There was no meeting to decide who the UFT would support at the NYSUT endorsement conference in August. And there were hot races for the NY State Senate – in the wake of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory, progressive challengers, including Robert Jackson who the UFT awarded the John Dewey Award for his work for education, were organizing strong primary challenges.

So we wrote to UFT President Mulgrew, all seven of us: KJ Ahluwalia, Arthur Goldstein, Ashraya Gupta,
Jonathan Halabi, Marcus McArthur, Kate Martin-Bridge, and Mike Schirtzer. By the way, we are the only UFTers elected directly by the High School Division. We urged support for challengers in the races against the IDC (the group that ran as Democrats but caucused as Republicans, enriching themselves while blocking legislation we needed). The challengers we wanted to support were: Alessandra Biaggi, Robert Jackson, John Liu, Zellnor Myrie, Jessica Ramos, and Jasmine Robinson.

And then, since we didn’t really get an answer, we wrote to ask who the UFT leadership were supporting. The response was that there was “a neutral start” to each discussion.

NYSUT’s Endorsements were Embarrassing

At NYSUT, only one challenger, Zellnor Myrie got the endorsement. The UFT blocked the endorsement of Biaggi. Worse, two IDC members were endorsed (with UFT concurrence): Jose Peralta and Marisol Alcantara. Endorsing Alcantara meant working against Robert Jackson, a true champion for public education. What a shame.

But the Challengers Still Won

Despite the NYSUT mistakes, five of the six challengers in NYC won, including Jackson and Biaggi, who defeated IDC kingpin Jeff Klein. UFT members, despite the NYSUT mistakes, worked on the challengers’ campaigns, and were part of the successful grassroots mobilizations. These members are showing the way forward, away from backroom deals, towards progressive, participatory activism. Our union’s political action needs to follow suit.

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

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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 )

In Support of Opt Out

In New York State our children are being inundated with Common Core exams that determine their teachers’ ratings (even gym, art and music teachers!) and narrow the entire school year to a rigid “teach to the test” agenda.  We stand in solidarity with parents who want to opt their children out of this needless overtesting. We call for an end to the discredited practice of tying teacher ratings to high-stakes tests that serve no purpose for students.  The “test and punish” agenda of the Cuomo administration is very good for testing companies like Pearson and extremely bad for all the real stakeholders in education: teachers, parents and students.

We applaud the statement by NYSUT President Karen Magee supporting Opt Out. New Action/UFT supports the opt out movement, and we recognize the hard work of the NYC parents and educators who are spreading the word.  In just one case, the Brooklyn New School, 84% of parents chose to opt their children out.  It is time for our union leadership to get on board.

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.

Funding

The current teacher funding formula is another Klein leftover. It encourages principals to avoid hiring experienced educators. It punishes schools that hire them. This hurts principals, teachers, schools, kids. Shouldn’t Mulgrew and Fariña be ending Fair Student Funding?

Abusive, Incompetent Administrators – What can we do?

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

There are plenty of good principals in our system. But under Bloomberg the number of inexperienced and poorly trained principals soared. Abuse of members was encouraged; it became a systemic attitude, an epidemic. Carmen Fariña, counts over 300 incompetent principals. However, in 10 months as chancellor, Fariña has not made a priority of removing incompetent and abusive administrators.

The UFT is not using the Principals In Need of Improvement program. And when we had PINI, Unity Caucus did not use it where members were afraid to fight. This needs to change. We need to organize in schools with administrators who terrorize our members, and who destroy their schools. The union might provide assistance to an individual member, which is good. But we also need campaigns against the abusers, including pickets in front of some schools. We need to stand together. Two examples:

PS 3 on Staten Island…is a school that has had many problems with their principal. Both tenured and probationary teachers have been harassed. Senior teachers have been forced to retire. A probationary teacher who received all S ratings her first year suddenly receives all U’s the second. She is discontinued and cannot work. How does this happen? Who was rehired to replace her?

The District Representative put letters in mailboxes to survey the staff – but the letters disappeared. The principal denied any knowledge, but what else could it have been? This principal has not been disciplined. Our union has not protested in support of the members in PS 3. They need our support.

The Baychester Middle School…has an outrageously high staff turnover rate. Just this past June, on the last day of school, 20 minutes before dismissal, with no prior warning, the principal discontinued four probationary teachers. Their careers were ended, without even a chance to say goodbye to many of their colleagues. In a school with just two dozen staff members, nine did not return this September. And in each of Baychester MS’s first three years, about a third of the staff have left.

The principal, with only five years teaching experience, has picked up some pretty shady habits. There are allegations he phoneyed up mentoring logs, and provided new teachers with little or no support. For two years he had no School Leadership Team, raising the question: who exactly signed the CEP?

Principal Shawn Mangar boasted “I’ve been investigated a lot of times. Nothing has ever come of it.”

What else can the UFT do? Bring the problems to the Chancellor: The UFT leadership should be bringing each case of an abusive administrator directly to the Chancellor. Many should not be running schools. The Chancellor can act.

What can you do: Contact your District Rep. Contact New Action.

Send us your story –let others know what is going on, and that we are not alone.