Archive for the 'United Federation of Teachers' 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 )

Paul Feingold, teacher, leader, activist, 1945 – 2017

Dear Friends,

We lost a true trade union giant. Our dear friend and colleague, Paul Feingold, passed away this past weekend. Paul was a great rank and file chapter leader at John Jay HS, a long-time New Action supporter, and a fighter for social and economic justice. In 1986, when I was Academic High School Vice President of the UFT, Paul was finally recognized with a Trachtenberg award. Along with Jack Sexton, Paul was given a token of union appreciation for their years of dedication to the UFT membership. I could go on but those who knew Paul know what a great human being and visionary he was.
The struggle continues and Paul will be there with us.
In solidarity,
Michael Shulman

Where we agree, where we disagree

From New Action’s May 2016 Leaflet

Where We Agree

We agree that 200 lawyers at Tweed is about 200 too many. But we need leadership that tells this to Fariña, sits down, and gets something done.

We agree that the current funding formula for schools makes no sense, that principals are forced to discriminate against experienced teachers, that schools, kids, teachers all get hurt. But we need leadership that tells this to Fariña, sits down, and gets something done.

We agree that abusive and incompetent administrators are a problem. But we need leadership that restores and expands the Principals In Need of Improvement Program, resurrects the highly successful Organizing Committee, and targets principals who go after our members, leadership that brings the abusers to Fariña, sits down, and gets them out.

We agree that arbitrary extensions of probation are unfair. But we need a leadership that tells this to Fariña, sits down, and gets something done.

We agree that parents have a right to opt their children out of tests. But we need leadership that actively informs parents of this right.

Where We Disagree

We disagree with a leadership that insists that student test scores be part of our evaluation.

We disagree with a leadership that is in love with the Common Core. We disagree with one-size-fits all in math, and we can’t believe that teachers are being stopped from teaching whole books and are limited to chapters or excerpts.

We disagree with creating separate, unequal “rights” for members in excess.

And we disagree with jobs and promotions being given out based on obedience to a caucus instead of merit.

Vote MORE/New Action

Combat Abusive Administrators – Return to Fair Funding! – Get rid of the Lawyers! – Protect Probationers

Protect ATRs – Fight for Union Democracy – End “Drive By” and “Test Score” Teacher Evaluation

Support Jia Lee, Opt Out Leader, for UFT President

Resolution on Discontinued Probationary Staff Members

New Action wrote the original version of this resolution (March 28, 2016), and supported the revised version which was passed by the Executive Board (April 4, 2016) and by the Delegate Assembly (April 20, 2016.) It does not go far enough. As long as we have abusive and incompetent principals with the power to arbitrarily discontinue we will have a big problem. But this is an important start, publicly committing the UFT to trying to help, and publicly recognizing that there is a problem with incompetent administrators. New Action’s Greg Di Stefano (MORE/New Action candidate for Assistant Treasurer) has been actively working on this issue for two years, meeting with a deputy commissioner, several times with the Secretary of the UFT, organizing a press conference, a rally, and speaking at PEPs.

Resolution on Discontinued Probationary Staff Members

WHEREAS, a number of Probationary Teachers have been discontinued over the last several years; and

WHEREAS, some of these teachers were in schools with abusive, incompetent and in some cases corrupt principals; and

WHEREAS, many of these teachers were discontinued receiving no support or mentoring, a clear violation of City and State Education Law; and

WHEREAS, New York State Law states that discontinued teachers should have the opportunity to work in another NYC district or work under another license they may have; and

WHEREAS, the last administration under Michael Bloomberg purposely prevented this from happening; therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the UFT will continue to explore all avenues for these teachers to exercise their right to have the opportunity to work in other districts in full time positions or as per diem substitutes; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the UFT will continue to work with the DOE to ensure that legal, proper and fair practices are in place with regards to teacher discontinuances and that probationary teachers be treated with respect and professionalism.

For Appropriate Supervision

New Action introduced the following resolution at the April 18, 2016 UFT Executive Board. It was tabled to allow details to be reviewed and corrected. We expect a revised resolution to be brought forward at the May 9 Executive Board.

For Appropriate Supervision

April 18, 2016

Whereas both the Danielson Framework and Teaching for the 21st Century envision consistent conversations between teachers and supervisors; and

Whereas these conversations are informed by the content of the class and associated standards, by the curriculum being followed, by the students assigned to the class, by the pedagogical orientation of the school, and by the culture of the school; and

Whereas some supervisors have more knowledge of all or some of the content, standards, curriculum, students, school pedagogy and school culture than other supervisors; and

Whereas teachers should go through observation cycles with the leader of the school or the most appropriate supervisor available; and

Whereas there exists a class of supervisors – ATR Field Supervisors – who are disconnected from students, from content, from school-specific pedagogy, from school-specific culture and who thereby are unable to engage in the rich conversations envisioned both in the Danielson Framework and Teaching for the 21st Century; and

Whereas ATR Field Supervisors perform a function that others could more appropriately perform, and could be assigned instead to productive roles;

Therefore be it resolved that the United Federation of Teachers will convey to the Department of Education our concern that some teachers are being observed by other than the most appropriate supervisor, and be it further

Resolved that the United Federation of Teachers will immediately open discussions with the Department of Education to reassign administrators who are currently ATR Field Supervisors to appropriate assignments, and be it further

Resolved that the United Federation of Teachers will feature a series of New York Teacher and website articles on the appropriate role and function of supervisors in our school system.

Paid Maternity/Paternity Leave

Last April New Action proposed that UFT members should be entitled to paid parental leave. UFT members are often shocked to learn that all they receive upon having a child is six weeks of UNPAID maternity leave. Eight months later de Blasio may be helping this to happen. But why did our union not raise this issue?

At the January 11 UFT Executive Board meeting New Action co-chair Michael Shulman asked if we could send a maternity leave resolution to the NYSUT RA. Unity’s response was that it was not up to us to make that decision for other locals.

New Action disagrees. We can take a stand for fairness and equity and decency. We need to change from the current system to one where UFT members receive paid parental leave. But we should encourage other locals to take this step as well.