Archive for the 'UFT Executive Board' Category



Winner-Take-All is Undemocratic

The United Federation of Teachers sends hundreds of delegates to the New York State United Teachers Representative Assembly and to the American Federation of Teachers Convention. And of those hundreds of delegates, all, every one, vote exactly the same way on every issue.

The UFT has Vice Presidents for Elementary Schools, Middle Schools, Academic High Schools, Vocational High Schools, non-DoE, Ed Issues, and Special Ed. All belong to the same caucus.

The UFT has 32 District Reps. All are appointed by the president, and belong to the same caucus.

We have a diversity of voices in the UFT, but they are stifled by electoral gimmicks and chicanery.

Each division used to elect its own vice president, but after New Action’s Michael Shulman was elected UFT Vice President for Academic High Schools in 1985, Unity changed the UFT Constitution to assure that it would not happen again. Ultimately they made the vice presidents “at large” to prevent a division from choosing its own VP.

The Chapter Leaders in each district used to elect their own District Reps, but Unity eliminated this 40-year tradition, and made the DRs presidential appointees. Who represents the voices of the chapter leaders? On April 7, 2014 the New Action representatives on the UFT Executive Board submitted a resolution calling for UFT District Reps to once again be elected by chapter leaders in the districts. Unity tabled the motion, arguing that appointment is more democratic than elections.

Our union’s strength is our membership. We rely on membership involvement. But by shutting down member voices, Unity has discouraged thousands of members from participating in the life of our union. This weakens us. New Action supports proportional representation for election of NYSUT, AFT and NEA delegates, we support a return to direct election of divisional Vice Presidents, and we support a return to election of DRs by Chapter Leaders.

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Support the I Refuse Resolution

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

 

New Action supports putting the I Refuse Resolution on this afternoon’s agenda. To be clear, the “I Refuse” speaks to supporting parents who opt their children out of State testing. It does not speak to teachers refusing to do any part of their jobs. Additionally, New Action supports widely distributing the NYSUT “Opt Out of State Tests Fact Sheet” to educate members and parents about rights and consequences vis a vis state testing.

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.

Some Urgent issues for today – Teacher Evaluation

(from an updated version of the New Action leaflet distributed at the September 2014 Chapter Leaders’ Meeting).
For a printable version click: Fall 2014 Leaflet Front and back

New Action has opposed the Teacher Evaluation System since its inception.

Rating teachers based on the Danielson model look like the “checklist” we used to decry. Tying evaluation to student test scores is inherently arbitrary and unfair.

Yet this is the system in place. What should we do?

The union worked with Fariña to creating additional observation options. The new contract reduced the number of items we are rated on. These are positive changes.

But we need more. State law linking ratings to student test scores should be amended. “Developing” ratings have consequences – including getting passed over for transfers. We need the right to appeal D’s. And we need a process for questioning the principal’s judgment BEFORE the final rating.

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.

Report from UFT Executive Board September 8 2014

This was the first Exec Board of the year.

There was no speaker for the open mike.

After minutes were approved they moved to the Staff Director’s report, as Mulgrew had not arrived. LeRoy Barr mentioned the Labor Day parade and thanked those who turned out, mentioned the ATR meetings that are happening in the borough offices all this week, and spoke about the Citywide Chapter Leader Meeting this Wednesday, at 52 Broadway, at 4:15 PM. Secretary Emil Pietromonico announced vacancies for VP- Educational Issues (Catalina Fortino moving to NYSUT) and Asst Treasurer (Mona Romain). He spoke about two meetings for members who had been rated ineffective – seventy or eighty members came to each.

Question Period:

Kate Martin-Bridge (New Action) asked for the number of current teachers in the Absent Teachers Reserve (Excessed Teachers, often referred to as ATRs). Emil said the person who answers the question was currently meeting with ATRs, and he would get back to us.

Jonathan Halabi (me, New Action) asked, what someone like Robert Jackson, who has been a hero for public education in NYC, had to do to get the UFT’s support (NYSUT endorsed his opponent in the primary). Paul Egan responded that Jackson had challenged an incumbent, and that they had equally stellar legislative records, and that state endorsements are handled by NYSUT.

Michael Shulman (New Action) asked how many probationers were discontinued or had their probations extended last year. They will get back to us.

William Goldman (New Action) asked how many Ineffective and Developing ratings there were. Jackie Bennett was called on, but said the numbers won’t be finalized for a few weeks. Emil Pietromonico reported about 650 – 700 Ineffectives and about 4800 Developings.

Presidents report (Mulgrew arrived during the question period). #1 Issue for us is contract implementation. Surveys went out to chapter leaders. Very smooth opening to the school year. Glad de Blasio is getting kudos on the pre-k. It means our kindergarten teachers will get better-prepared kids next year. Primary election is tomorrow, please vote. A big issue with implementation will be PD. When we used to do PD we didn’t like it because it was not ours. Over 6000 new teachers this year. Extra people retired in June. Speaking about the reaction in Staten Island, he said that the shirts that we’ve seen (supporting NYPD) have been appropriate.

On evaluation, the DoE offered a fourth option:  for teachers rated E: four informal observations and nothing else.

At that point he ended the president’s report, and Emil moved the agenda to vote on approving this fourth option (actually a contract change). Ellen Driessen (DR, District 20, Brooklyn) asked if, while we are it, we could get the Highly Effective 3 + open your classroom reduced to just 3 informals (answer, we asked, this was all they were offering). Passed unanimously.

Reports from Districts – Shelvy Abrams, Anthony Harmon, Vince Gaglione, Michael Freedman, George Altomare

Legislative Repor – Paul Egan

Special Orders of Business

1. Peoples Climate March. Sterling Roberson motivated. Michael Shulman (New Action) asked if literature would be distributed at the Chapter Leaders meeting Wednesday (while acknowledging that there is a conflict with a Chapter Leaders weekend, so attendance might be lower). LeRoy Barr answered positively. The resolution was unanimously adopted.

2. Endorse Zephyr Teachout for governor. Regina Gori (New Action) motivated. LeRoy Barr rose to oppose. Paul Egan rose to oppose. Jonathan Halabi (New Action) rose in support. Sandra March rose to oppose.

We will edit this section to include some of the debate.

The vote was overwhelmingly against endorsing. Yet we do not believe that every Unity Exec Board member voted.

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.

Transferring? Know Before You Go

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

Due to school closures, myriad mini-schools opening, and the creation of the ATR pool, more UFT members have needed to transfer in the last few years, including right now, than at any other time in our history. You should “know before you go.” Check the Learning Environment Survey, the Inside Schools review, any word of mouth you can find. In that spirit, New Action brought the following resolution to the May 19, 2014 UFT Executive Board:

Resolution on Identifying Schools with High Staff Turnover

WHEREAS, the Open Market period runs from the present through the beginning of August; and
WHEREAS, every year thousands of our members apply for schools to transfer into; and
WHEREAS, high turnover rates are an indication that a school may have a problematic administration; and
WHEREAS, our members seeking transfers may not know which schools have high turnover rates, but that information is available to the UFT; therefore, be it
RESOLVED, that the UFT will establish a procedure in which a member can call a borough office and learn if a school in that borough has a high turnover rate; and be it further
RESOLVED, that the UFT will publish a list in the New York Teacher which details which schools have exceptionally high staff turnover.

Unity argued that this would embarrass hard to staff schools, and voted it down.