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UFT on School Governance: the second (and stranger) of two debates

March 24, 2013 pm31 4:40 pm

…that topic – who had voted which way – replaced the rest of the debate on Mayoral Control. Shame…

[the MORE rep] voted no on one of the 8 proposals. This is not the same as voting no on the recommendations as a whole

Last Monday, at the UFT Exec Board, I rose to speak against the recommendations on school governance. They were approved by that body, seventy or so to 3.  I posted about the meeting (click here for account), and promised to write up my notes (click here for the write up).

On Wednesday the recommendations, now approved by the Exec Board, were introduced to the Delegate Assembly. There any chance of debate was obscured by a tertiary question:  did the MORE reps on the committee vote, and if so, did they vote against. (I discuss, below.)

Let me start back at the Exec Board on Monday. When Michael Mulgrew reported, he thought that all caucuses had participated in the Governance Committee. When he learned that New Action had not (we declined to serve) he modified what he was saying – all caucuses were welcome to participate (True).

By the way, here was New Action’s reasoning:

NEW ACTION HAS ALREADY CONCLUDED THERE’S BEEN ENOUGH “TINKERING” WITH MAYORAL CONTROL.We call for an end to mayoral control of the school system. We should not place our faith in the next “friendly education” mayor. We are calling for an end to mayoral control!

We do not oppose the call for another Task Force. They may come to the same conclusion. HOWEVER, New Action will not participate in yet another Task Force.

We wrote that October 2012, five months ago.

Michael Mulgrew also mentioned that the vote was unanimous. Ho hum. But wait, all caucuses (‘sides us) had served? At another point he thanked the committee, and asked members to raise their hands, and wouldn’t you know it? A regular MORE guest at the Exec Board, Joan Seedorf, raises her hand. She’s one of the two, it turns out. And when Mulgrew is saying “unanimous” no reaction from Joan. Not that that actually means anything, but I’ve been thinking about it. We don’t usually talk, just say hi, so you can’t read into not having a conversation about it, either. Especially since I ran out quickly at the end. Even though it looked like a few members might have wanted to speak to me about my vote and statement against the recommendations to modify Mayoral Control.

In any case, I walked away wondering whether MORE had supported modifying, and not ending, Mayoral Control. And I blogged my question (third bullet from the end, here)

So a side note here – whoever wrote Mulgrew’s talking points included “unanimous” and “all caucuses” – and they got at least one of those wrong (all caucuses). Fast forward to Wednesday’s DA to discuss, the other –  “unanimous”:

AT THE DELEGATE ASSEMBLY

Mulgrew motivates during the President’s Report, and then Emil Petromonico motivates in detail. Mulgrew brushed aside a premature attempt to call the question…a member of the committee spoke, a Unity person, and then Gloria Brandman spoke, and that’s where the debate on the recommendations began… and ended… and a very strange, very different debate started.

Gloria supports MORE. She was the other MORE person on the Governance Committee. She made some remarks about giving voice to parents and the community, and noted that the vote had NOT been unanimous. And that topic – who had voted which way – replaced the rest of the debate on Mayoral Control. Shame. (I would have repeated my remarks, more or less, probably a bit less, from the Exec Board. Never got called on.)

Mulgrew grilled her. Maybe, she offered, hands weren’t seen. That sends up everyone’s radar, not being a direct answer. Mulgrew calls on other members of the committee. They don’t recall Gloria voting no. Finally someone reports that Gloria was not at the last meeting, when the vote was taken. This is looking surreal. No politics are being discussed, not even pretend. Gloria’s trying to get a point of personal privilege since she is being contradicted (point’s not in order), but finally when someone launches an ad hominem attack and Gloria actually had the right to a point of personal privilege, James Eterno is standing next to Gloria, yelling something (I think at Carmen Alvarez, Special Ed VP who co-chaired the committee with Emil), drowning out anything Gloria might be saying.

Finally, Peter Lamphere in back, standing next to Joan Seedorf, attempts to use a “Point of Information” to gain the floor. He wanted the delegates to hear HIM say that JOAN would say that she voted no. Now, that is not a “Point of Information” (Roberts has renamed it a “Request for Information” to reduce the occurrences of exactly this), and even if it were, Mulgrew was not having it. He called Peter on trying to take the floor on behalf of a non-delegate. The “debate” had degenerated into an embarrassing circus.

It ended with an 85% yes vote, no substantive debate having had occurred.

AFTERMATH (yes, this continues)

James Eterno posted a report on the ICE Blog (ICE supports MORE) on Thursday. And Gotham Schools linked it. And Unity supporters showed up, anonymous and aggressive. Some of the discussion was nasty. (and then it drifted into why two top MORE candidates do not regularly attend the Delegate Assembly… I’ll touch that another time, if at all…)

A day later, James posted Gloria’s response on the ICE Blog. Seems that Gloria voted against one of the seven proposals the week before, but did not attend the deciding meeting of the Governance Committee, which had been scheduled against elementary school parent-teacher conferences. There was also some back and forth with Unity supporters in the comments on that post.

Unity supporters drifted over to MORE’s blog, and continued the attacks. Now they are using their real names (Stuart, Delores) and now pretty much dropping governance, and just going after Julie Cavanaugh’s fairly regular (is this correct?) absence from the Delegate Assembly, where she has not spoken (ever?)

CONCLUSION

At the next to last Governance Committee meeting, Gloria (and presumably Joan) voted no on one of the eight proposals (they later became seven) – the one to do with the composition of the PEP. This is not the same as voting no on the recommendations as a whole, the package that goes to the Exec Board and the DA. Gloria did not express this clearly either at the DA or on the ICE blog.

Gloria did not go to the last Governance Committee meeting. It was scheduled during Elementary School Parent-Teacher night – and attendance there is part of the regular duties of a teacher. The meeting should have been scheduled outside of teachers’ working hours.  Gloria protested, but did not raise the issue of her vote.  I don’t think that there is any evidence that Gloria lied. But by raising things such as “maybe a hand wasn’t seen” and by not mentioning initially that she was not at the final meeting, and by writing “voted NO to the governance plan regarding the PEP” without pointing out that this was not the final recommendation, Gloria gave the impression of evading a direct answer. That was unnecessary.

We never heard from Joan about her vote, though Unity people on the committee say that she did not vote no, and MORE people not on the committee say she did vote no. When Joan heard the initial report at the Exec Board on Monday March 18, she did not seem to react. But Mulgrew reported that the committee voted unanimously, and that all caucuses were represented. He got at least half of that wrong.

There is not enough information to decide, based on what the principals are saying, what happened. But I know this:

When I vote no on the Exec Board, that vote is not likely to change the outcome, but it represents my voice, and my caucus’ voice. I speak with the recording secretary to ensure that my vote is reflected in the minutes. I have objected to approving minutes where a minority NO vote has not been recorded. This is my responsibility.

Neither Joan nor Gloria took steps to have NO votes recorded. This we can be certain of, and this, if they meant to vote no, is what they should have done.

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