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UFT won’t endorse Bloomberg – that’s not good enough

February 16, 2020 pm29 6:56 pm

The United Federation of Teachers has created a convoluted rationale for not making an endorsement at this time in the presidential race. Given their history of endorsements, I am surprised anyone is upset.

In short, the national federation, the American Federation of Teachers, has given the green light to locals to make an endorsement. But the UFT has said they are so influential, that if they made an endorsement it would prejudice the whole open process. Well….

In the meantime, Michael Mulgrew is running to become a Biden delegate. I guess the UFT president plumping for a candidate is not an endorsement. Huh? Can you make sense of that? Not likely. In any case, I guess it seemed a lock that Mulgrew’d be going to the DNC as a Biden delegate when he signed up, but with Joe choking in Iowa and New Hampshire, maybe Mulgrew will lose. It’s harder to run in elections where the outcome is not predetermined.

UFTers for Bernie is pushing for the UFT to endorse Sanders. Unlikely with AFT President Weingarten knocking Bernie on Twitter for having loyal supporters and championing universal healthcare.

In the meantime, the UFT leadership remembers who Bloomberg is, and Mulgrew makes it seem like he won’t endorse Bloomberg. Though, perhaps not strangely, the AFT’s Randi Weingarten seems to take a deferential tack towards Bloomberg. The sliver-tongued billionaire often manipulated Weingarten with flattery when she was UFT president, much to our members’ detriment.

Would it really be so bad if the UFT just sat out the primary?  Well, yes. Not endorsing someone seems neutral, but leaving the door open for Bloomberg is not neutral. And the UFT leadership has played this game before.

In 2009 when Bloomberg and his sidekicks changed the law to allow a third term as NYC mayor (which the UFT did not oppose), and with a close race – though with Bloomberg in the lead – going into the final weeks of the campaign, the UFT leadership sat it out. I brought it to the Delegate Assembly, tried to do the right thing, but Mulgrew and Barr wouldn’t have it. Result: a five point win for Bloomberg.

This can’t happen again. The UFT on the sidelines means a tacit ok for voting for Bloomberg – or worse, for supporting Trump. UFT leadership needs to be clear, loud, and strong against both billionaire anti-public education, racist oligarchs running for president. Silence would equal complicity.

NYC Schools are Segregated

February 2, 2020 pm29 1:04 pm

New York City schools are segregated. That is context.

I am not writing about how they became segregated, or how segregated they are (very).

I am reminding us, all of us, of the context.

The Chancellor’s proposal to integrate the specialized high schools was rolled out poorly. He caught allies off-guard. He angered opponents. State Senators (including mine) blasted him for not holding hearings before sending the proposal to Albany (where the state government 50 years ago assumed direct control over preventing integration in NYC). But the context?  New York City schools are segregated.

The School Diversity Advisory Group’s recommendations were blasted in the media. I read their recommendations, overall a great report. They made 28 recommendations; the media focused on one. The context?  New York City’s schools are segregated.

Several Districts have begun discussions about integration. There have been angry conversations. Some parents have said pretty cringe-worthy stuff (the worst, from PS199 in District 3 from two years ago, it looks like the video has been everywhere-deleted). The Chancellor has inflamed the situation. He’s walked out. He’s been abrasive. But the context is not an honest give and take over policy. The context: New York City’s schools are segregated.

The Chancellor and his team have been unresponsive to allies. They have stonewalled. They have failed to share information. In one case I am aware of, they have shut down a promising proposal. I am not pleased with their behavior or performance. But the context? They are fighting (perhaps not very smartly, not very well) segregation. And New York City’s schools are segregated.

Way back when I started this blog, back when I wrote regularly, I contributed to this: (line four is from me) https://thejosevilson.com/howl-the-jose-vilson-version/ and I posted this (enlarge the photo, look at the etching).

And I still believe it. There are two sides in the fight to end segregation. On our side are people who make mistakes, who are rude, clumsy. But also people who are bright, thoughtful, considerate, and passionate. On the other side are clever people and clods, dedicated people, lightweights.  Both sides are comprised of many individuals. There is variety on both sides. There are arguments on both sides. We can make things complicated. Or we can understand that fundamentally it is simple.

There are two sides. Those who are opposed to segregation. And those who are for it. If you object, we will all know why.

Goodbye 2019

January 2, 2020 am31 1:11 am

I could open with a lame resolution to write more. Writing, when you are in the habit, can become predictable. I am not going to pretend that a resolution will make any difference. Instead, I’d like to look back at the year that just passed. I think it marks part of an ongoing transition for me – from something – I could describe that – to something – I’m not sure I know what that will be.

How was 2019 a transition?

It was the first full year in which I gave no tests. I’ll write about that. It’s a big deal. A kid made a documentary film about it (small scale, just in the school).

I spoke about not giving tests at LImaçon in March – and math teachers at two other city schools showed interest. I spoke about it again at New3 (New Cubed)  at Siena in July.

It was a big year for union work for me – I lost a seat I had held on the UFT Exec Board for a decade. I’ve freed up some time, and reinvested it in some personal projects, and politics, and in school.

And I am slowly making my way closer to retirement.

In January we wore Red for Ed. I like wearing Red for Ed. But we need to think about doing more.

Hiked in Sterling Forest.

In February I suspended my attendance at caucus meetings.  A welcome break. Don’t know when I’ll go back. Hiked Cold Spring.

March was Limaçon. And I put on my third school play. Kind of produced. Really stayed out of the way so that the pros (kids) could do everything. I did book the theater. We went years without theater at my school. Someone had to get it started. Hiked Taurus

.

In April I helped organize my school’s 3rd annual career day. We went years without a career day…  Hiked part of Macedonia Brook State Park (Kent CT) Want to go back.

In May I got talked into not only visiting the Adirondacks, but at looking at land.  I’ll be spending more time up there, starting soon.

Hiked Schunnemunk.

In June I attended my last UFT Executive Board. I asked one more time about the School Diversity Advisory Group report. And I talked about leaders who only fight for members who are strong enough to fight for themselves. We need to stand up for those who cannot defend themselves. The weird thing was that was it. I sat down, then left. In June I hiked West Mountain, in Harriman. And to Pine Meadow Lake, in Harriman. And back in the Adirondacks I explored more. I went to Clara Hemphill’s retirement. And went to a celebration for one of our Peace Officers (recognized by the UFT). I watched a friend’s kids, and got them to eat sauerkraut, drink the sauce, and ask me to buy them more (Clearwater).

July was the math conference at Siena. And I visited Olanna Historic Site, which was fascinating. Protested ICE in Philly. Hiked Sleeping Giant with my sister. Walked through Mt. Auburn Cemetery.

Marched and shouted for Ricky to resign. Twice. And he did.

Scrambled around Great Barrington and Cornwall CT with my uncle and cousin.

And back to the Adirondacks.

Opened August with beautiful walks in Van Cortlandt, and back to Sleeping Giant with my sister.

 

And climbed a hill just south of East Rock with my aunt and uncle. And then… Road Trip with Alan! Eastern PA. Antietam. Harpers Ferry WV. The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. And then Kentucky. Louisville. A distillery. A horse farm. And the Mohammed Ali Center. Drove to a Reds game. Then southeast to the Cumberland Gap. Hike. Then Harlan County and Mingo County and finally east to Beckley (Coal Mine) and the New River Gorge. Last vacation day we caught the Pulaski Yankees of the Appalachian League.

                           

Got back. Hiked West Mountain again. Hiked further northeast in Harriman. Hiked to Pine Meadow Lake from the other side.

September school opened. Our push for Discovery has started to reintegrate our school. Very cool. We want to do more. It’s frustrating to get stonewalled by people who you think are allies. But we will keep going. I was back in Harriman, and back in the Adirondacks.

October brought another hike in Harriman. And another trip north.

And then a 14-hour emergency room visit (unrelated to hiking, and I’m ok).

And another Red for Ed day. Love those, but…

In November our after school program really got going. We do enrichment and test prep for 7th graders from local middle schools. Our students do the teaching, and with guidance, the planning. This year we more than doubled the program from about 25 to almost 60. (we run classes with 12 – 15 – no shortage of junior and senior volunteers. And yes, I went up to the Adirondacks. And back to Sleeping Giant with my sister and her husband and his bad knees (ouch).

In December I hiked with microspikes for the first time (Minnewaska).

And for the first time in my career I’m the target of some disciplinary something or other (I don’t know what, yet. I can’t imagine it’s horrible, but it sucks not knowing).

I got back to the Adirondacks.

And just 3 days ago, to close the month, to close the year, I saw my mother walk. Maybe fifty steps. No walker, no wheelchair, no cane. For the first time in over two years.

Your grade is based upon…

November 25, 2019 pm30 4:20 pm

What factors into the grades we give students?

I teach mathematics. High School mathematics. So that’s what I’m thinking about first. But it’s a question for all of us. All levels. All subjects.

What do you count? Tests? What else?

Quizzes?  Do you grade them like mini-tests? How do they differ from tests?

Participation? Do you try to quantify it? Give points for particular actions? Judge it qualitatively?

Homework? Do you grade the problems? Do you even collect homework? Do you spot check problems? Just check for completeness?

Papers?  Do you have kids write any sort of papers?  I guess in science classes, there are lab reports. In English, essays. In social studies, essays. Term papers? Research papers? Research papers in math or science? Investigations?

Projects? What sort? In what subjects do we do data collection?

Presentations? From power points, or from posters, or from notes?

I am assuming at this point that most of us do not directly assess attendance – but anyone?

Practical assessments (kid demonstrates that they have the skill) – are these just tests in a different form?

What else am I missing?

Which of these do you do? How?

In praise of Michael Bloomberg

November 24, 2019 pm30 7:37 pm

Nah, I’m not nuts. I’m not voting for the guy. Neither should you. I don’t support him. Never have, never will.

The worst thing about him? So many choices. But I focus on education. His legacy in education is disorganisation and destruction, and we are still suffering the consequences.

So, actually, this praise is very short. There’s just two things I will mention.

In 2012, while mayor, Bloomberg came to my high school’s graduation, and delivered an address.

Before I go further, you might be wondering, did I just sit back when Bloomberg invited himself to our graduation? Some days before graduation a Unity stalwart discussed the matter with me, and afraid I might disrupt the ceremony said “But Jonathan, you have to be reasonable” “No,” I replied “no I do not.” And that’s important. But I did not disrupt the ceremony, as good as that might have made me feel, because it would not have made the kids feel very good, and because it would have been an individualistic act. Teachers in my chapter proposed and produced UFT colored lapel stickers saying “Respect Teachers” which most of us wore (I know the two who did not), and which were clearly anti-Bloomberg, and which students and parents remarked on after the ceremony.

Back to Bloomberg’s address. Our valedictorian in 2012 was headed to Johns Hopkins. Bloomberg is an alumnus. He said something nice about our student, and about the institution, and then remarked “I won’t say how I did at Johns Hopkins, beyond mentioning that the top half of the class would not exist without students like me.”

Praise point #1 – Michael Bloomberg told a self-deprecating joke that was genuinely funny.

While mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg presided over a disgusting police program of randomly intimidating youth, especially Black and Hispanic boys. His Stop and Frisk policy targeted others, but the focus was clearly young Black men.

Last Sunday, Bloomberg apologized. The apology, some said, was late. It was almost – almost – beside the point. Maybe five million apologies, personally delivered to each of his victims – maybe that would cut it. But then he wouldn’t have time to run for president, which may be the only reason he apologized at all. Maybe some sort of reparations fund? I like that. He can afford it, and the precedent it would set…

For the last almost three years, racism has been getting worse in America. Trump has fomented it. Republican leaders have supported it, or remained criminally silent. No question.

But where’s Buttagieg’s apology for the events in South Bend? And let me keep going – we have Hillary’s apology for using the term “superpredator” – but how many Democrats have apologized for Clinton crime bill? (1994, that accelerated mass incarceration). Biden helped write the bill, and issued a non-specific semi-apology last January, but still defends the bill. Sanders voted for it, and defended his vote, but I heard that just last week Danny Glover, speaking as Bernie’s surrogate, said that he was ready to apologize for it. Here’s the clip (starts at 4:50) – it doesn’t sound to me like an apology is in the works. And hey, apologies are apologies, but where’s the repeal?

Trump’s presidency has been disastrous for hate crimes. Far right groups have become bolder. Roll back your memory to 2016. The Black Lives Matter movement had momentum. Shouldn’t we expect a leader of BLM on stage during the debates? Instead, I fear, momentum has been lost. The “moderate” candidates side-step the issues. I have been told on several occasions that defeating Trump is so important that race needs to take a back seat – as if they should not be tightly linked.  So here goes:

Praise point #2: Vile Michael Bloomberg, whom I would never support, put the mistreatment of young Black men front and center, if only for a moment, which is more than most of the “field” has done.

Just a thought

November 23, 2019 pm30 9:00 pm

I avoided watching the impeachment hearings. I’m not a big theater guy, especially boring theater. But I broke down today, sometimes watching, sometimes playing in the background, hearing after hearing. Left me thinking.

Both major US parties, and many individual US politicians have on many occasions bought, threatened, cajoled, broken foreign laws, subverted foreign governments, etc.

That others have committed crimes similar to Donald Trump’s crimes does not unmake his crimes.

If after they get Trump, they want to go after Biden, that’s fine with me.

I know many who react  “Corrupt?” “but not illegal” “so let’s move on” rather than “Corrupt?” “but not illegal” “let’s be outraged!”

And what wrong? As a minimum he has traded on an implicit promise of influence with a major US politician to gain positions for which he was otherwise unqualified.

The drive to bring down Trump for corruption is weaker when some of those leading it are ok with other corruption.

Eight years ago

October 26, 2019 am31 11:34 am

I was a high school representative on the United Federation of Teachers Executive Board from January 2009 to June 2019, just over 10 years.

The first resolution that I wrote, that passed, was “Dignity for All Teachers” – we were concerned that the campaign to marginalize teachers in excess (ATRs) was affecting how our members, CLs, and Reps were handling issues involving ATRs in schools. The resolution was edited down by the leadership, passed by the Exec Board in October 2011, and adopted by the Delegate Assembly that November. Over the years “Dignity for All Teachers” was reduced to “greet the ATRs in your school and make sure they have a bathroom key.” More recently it was removed from the UFT website.

The resolution (the adopted version comes first, followed, if you are interested, by the original) is worth a look, it is officially still UFT policy. If you don’t want to read so much, I like the last “Resolved” from the original version. The leadership did not include it in the final version

This is the version adopted by the UFT Delegate Assembly. It is still UFT Policy:

Dignity for all Teachers Resolution

WHEREAS, the UFT members in the Absent Teacher Reserve have been subject to a campaign of media vilification, falsely claiming or implying that teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve are less able or are bad teachers, and intentionally conflating them with teachers facing disciplinary proceedings; and

WHEREAS, the UFT members in the Absent Teacher Reserve have been targeted for layoff or termination several times over the last several years, including by the Department of Education during contract negotiations; the anti-union group Educators for Excellence in its seniority reform proposal last spring; and the Mayor during his campaign to undo Civil Service law in Albany last spring, thwarted each time by the United Federation of Teachers, and its leadership; and

WHEREAS, the UFT members in the Absent Teacher Reserve often are made to feel like outsiders in the schools where they work; and

WHEREAS, the UFT members in the Absent Teacher Reserve, in too many instances, are forced to perform inappropriate work in the schools where they work; and

WHEREAS, the UFT members in the Absent Teacher Reserve, to the extent they are made to feel like outsiders or feel vulnerable to being moved, are often reluctant to seek appropriate relief; and

WHEREAS, the new budget agreement allows UFT members in the Absent Teacher Reserve to be moved from school to school multiple times each term; and

WHEREAS, the United Federation of Teachers values the dignity of all our members; be it

RESOLVED, that the United Federation of Teachers will direct its chapters and Chapter Leaders to reach out to members of the Absent Teacher Reserve who are assigned to their schools, to welcome them, and to support them; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the UFT demand that the DOE create a protocol for Principals so that UFT members going into a school for the first time will be treated professionally and given the information for that particular school necessary to perform their duties; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the United Federation of Teachers will continue to educate Chapter Leaders about the rights of teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve, and continue to direct its chapters and Chapter Leaders to proactively protect those rights, and to intervene if those rights are being infringed upon by administration, as the ATR may be justifiably reluctant or fearful of speaking up; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the New York Teacher will run an article on teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve, including how teachers became part of the ATR; and be it further

RESOLVED that the United Federation of Teachers has always and will always stand for the dignity of all UFT members.

This was my first draft – it was not adopted in this form:

Dignity for all Teachers – Resolution for the Exec Board

Whereas each year for the last several years a significant number of our members have been assigned to the Absent Teacher Reserve; and

Whereas most teachers who are in the Absent Teacher Reserve arrived there as their schools were shut down; and

Whereas the teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve have been subject to a campaign of media vilification, falsely claiming or implying that teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve are less able or are bad teachers, and intentionally conflating them with teachers facing disciplinary proceedings; and

Whereas the teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve have been targeted for layoff or termination several times over the last several years, including by the Department of Education during contract negotiations; the anti-union group Educators for Excellence in its seniority reform proposal this spring; and the Mayor during his campaign to undo Civil Service law in Albany earlier this spring, thwarted each time by the United Federation of Teachers, and its leadership; and

Whereas teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve often are made to feel like outsiders in the schools where they work; and

Whereas teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve, in too many instances, are forced to perform inappropriate work in the schools where they work; and

Whereas teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve, to the extent they are made to feel like outsiders or feel vulnerable to being moved, are often reluctant to seek appropriate relief; and

Whereas the new budget agreement allows teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve to be moved from school to school multiple times each term; and

Whereas the United Federation of Teachers values the dignity of all our members;

Be it resolved the United Federation of Teachers will direct its chapters and Chapter Leaders to reach out to members of the Absent Teacher Reserve who are assigned to their schools, to welcome them, and to support them; and

Be it further resolved that the United Federation of Teachers will educate Chapter Leaders about the rights of teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve, and direct its chapters and Chapter Leaders to proactively protect those rights, and to intervene if those rights are being infringed upon by administration, as the ATR may be justifiably reluctant or fearful of speaking up; and

Be it further resolved that the United Federation of Teachers will designate a representative or committee Centrally, or will designate a representative in each borough to handle Absent Teacher Reserve issues; and

Be it further resolved that the New York Teacher will run an article on teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve, including how teachers became part of the ATR; and

Be it further resolved that the United Federation of Teachers has always and will always stand for the dignity of all teachers, including our most vulnerable: probationers, teachers under investigation, and teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve.