Skip to content

M & M 2014 Goodbye

October 25, 2013 pm31 2:33 pm

Two months in the fall of 2014. Two retirements I’m glad I witnessed. Of course I am writing about Mariano Rivera and Michael Mendel.

Both Yankee fans (one in pinstripes).

Both ended long careers

Both in New York.

And I was at both of their goodbyes. (In fact, I was at Mariano Rivera Day at the Stadium, and then at his last game. I was there when Jeter and Pettite took Mariano out for the last time, which is probably my #1 all time Yankee Stadium moment)

I did not get bobbleheads for either of the 2014 NYC Goodbye M & Ms (I chose to skip the Rivera bobblehead game, and Mendel apparently did not have a bobblehead day. I might have gone.)

I liked both of them from the first time I saw them – Mariano as a shaky starting pitcher. Do you remember – unhittable until the first hit, and then he would collapse? Mendel as a regular at UFT stuff.

I sat in the front rows at their goodbyes. With Fran Miller who got the guards to let her sit in the handicapped seating at the top rail (because her hip was painful), and with Michael Shulman who was friends with people at the friends of Mendel table.

Both got standing ovations, and I stood and applauded. A lot.

But I never met Rivera. I met Mendel. Spoke with him lots of times.

Rivera’s a baseball player. A star. He got paid a lot of money to play a game. He did play it well. But we cheered him on as he entertained us, and as he benefited. We are no longer talking about similarities.

If you don’t know who Michael Mendel is you’ll probably never know who he is. He was a teacher. And he worked for the members (paid by the union.) Now, I might say about lots of people at 52 Broadway that they work for the union, and that would be true. It’s not insulting. Could say it about Michael Mendel. But some people, you always know they are working for the members. Mendel was one of them.

At his retirement dinner,  Amy Arundell and Adam Ross emceed. They were really good.

Larry Becker, DoE Human Resources, he killed. Made fun of Mendel for claiming knowledge of rules that were only written down on cocktail napkins or pages torn form desk calendars, and eventually pulled out an actual agreement, framed, written on a page torn from a calendar, with about five more stories and anecdotes in between. The audience howled. You listened to that, and you knew, this guy respected Mendel, he liked Mendel. Not only was delivery sharp, but he must have spent hours writing and revising that speech. You don’t that for just anybody. You prepare for something that matters. For Larry Becker, Mendel mattered.

Weingarten, Mulgrew, and Howie Solomon also spoke. And then Michael spoke.

There were times over the years that I loved what Mendel was saying. He was a lion with the DoE, when he had to be. He got indignant when members were wronged. It offended his sense of decency.

But we belong to different caucuses. There were times he agreed with what I said. And he told me so – and I appreciated that. It is such a nice thing when someone goes out of their way to say something nice. And there were times we disagreed. I remember one time I spoke quite clearly, and opposed to the direction our leadership was trying to take us. Many people were angry at me that day. But the next time he saw me, Mendel came up to me and said “Jonathan” and he may have been wagging his finger a little, “Jonathan, I disagree completely with the what you said, but I wanted you to know that you spoke very well.”  Mensch.

And it wasn’t just me. He knew we are on the same side. He knew how to disagree, but also how to say a kind word. He even knew how to apologize, a rare enough skill these days. Remember his last DA?  Megan (don’t know if she was TJC or MORE at the time) had presented a resolution a year or two earlier that Unity did not like, but also that was riddled with errors. Mendel took the floor to oppose it, and though there was no danger of losing the vote, he went entirely over the top in attacking and mocking it… And at the last DA he apologized, publicly. Not for opposing the resolution, but for expressing himself in an unfraternal sort of way. Mensch.

There were times he just got it wrong… but even then, he was doing what he thought was best for the members. Even when Mendel raised his voice at me (he thinks he didn’t, but he did), even then, he was “animated” because he thought what I was proposing was bad for the members. I never minded that. I wanted to change what he thought, of course. But how can you mind when a leader is passionate because he cares about the members? I’d rather get yelled at by Michael Mendel then be politely addressed by some of the snakes slithering around the system.

I liked Mendel’s speech.

He defended teaching – as a profession. “I don’t like it when people tell young people not to be teachers” I applauded nervously, because I myself have been waffling on my own advice-giving lately. The teaching part is wonderful, but I worry about how awful the system has become.

He wished for the day when teachers will again decide what to do and how to do it in their classrooms.

He told stories. Funny. Silly. He could have told about going head to head with some of the bozos at the DoE. But the story he chose to highlight is one about a member, a weak man who needed some help, and how Mendel yelled (yelled) at a Board of Ed guy, yelled at him to do the right thing by his employee, and how the Human Resources guy did just that.

Mendel standing up for someone too weak to defend himself.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    October 25, 2013 pm31 3:18 pm 3:18 pm

    There are other sentiments about Mendel, including those held by thousands of career teachers, social workers and guidance counselors who were sold out by the ATR agreement. It is ironic that 2 “mc’s” who lauded Mendel formed the triumvirate who conceived, drafted and implemented the obscene ATR agreement in July, 2011.

    • October 25, 2013 pm31 3:39 pm 3:39 pm

      I have no doubt that Mendel thought the ATR agreement helped excessed teachers. But he was wrong.

      I chose here to emphasize nice things – it’s his retirement, right? But I disagreed with much he did. For one, you know how adamantly I oppose the evaluation system he supported.

      If you want to discuss Amy, Chaz has a whole post devoted to her. Go right ahead.

  2. chaz permalink
    October 25, 2013 pm31 9:50 pm 9:50 pm


    I think if Mike Mendel and Larry Becker had any real decency they would get rid of the awful ATR rotation travesty that does not help anybody and their failure to hold principals accountable for hiding vacancies and turn a blind eye to teachers teaching in areas that they are not certified in.

    As for Mike Mendal telling us that we shouldn’t tell young people not to go into teaching? When was the last time he actually was in the NYC classroom? In the 1980’s?

    Sorry Jonathan I agree with anonymous

    • October 25, 2013 pm31 10:18 pm 10:18 pm

      No need to be sorry, we just disagree here. I think he was doing his best to ameliorate a horrible situation that he did not create. What needs to be done is the return to unit costing, seniority and SBO transfers, and the placement of teachers in excess into vacancies in their district. But that’s not in my power, or your power, or Michael Mendel’s power to effect.

      Like I wrote, I think he was trying his best to protect people given a very difficult situation. But my vision may be clouded because I like him.

      • October 25, 2013 pm31 10:21 pm 10:21 pm

        Let set the record straight about the UFT contracts during the era of Michael Mendel.

        To bargain in good faith is not a flaw in any form and shape. Yes Mendel was one of those in the UFT squad who negotiated the ATR agreements designed to reduce the growing number of the ATRs and to a great extent such effort should be applauded by all of us.

        While the freezes were put into place thru side- agreements with the UFT leadership, Joel Klein and Tweed officials were concurrently issuing waivers to hiring principals of new and existing school who claimed they could not find qualified educators at the various job fairs to support their school visions in the ATR pool.

        Tweed used all means to fire the ATRs until they were made aware in part by the Union, court system and Albany that the ATRs are tenured educators that can not simplistically be removed from the payroll.

        Tweed and its agents have been sabotaging the Collective Bargaining Agreements dealing with excessing and transfer that would virtually eliminate the ATRs as such. Bear in mind, it takes two to tango but Tweed was determined right from the start to fire the educators from the closing schools as suggested by some reformers including Bill Gates instead of enforcing the terms of the contracts.

        Throughout all of this Michael Mendel worked conscientiously within the leadership of the Union to handle the many challenges posed by the Bloomberg administration every now and then referencing this matter. It should be noted that one of the warriors has just retired and it is rather fitting to thank Michael Mendel very much for serving so many of our professional educators for so long. The challenges are now ours to deal with.

  3. chaz permalink
    October 26, 2013 pm31 10:32 pm 10:32 pm


    It reads like revisionist history with enough spin to make one dizzy. To you he was a hero, to others he was less so. I don’t think the 2,000+ ATRs would agree with you.

    • October 27, 2013 am31 2:05 am 2:05 am

      Article 18 was written to prevent the ATR thing from developing but Tweed under the leadership of J Klein, a lawyer, began a campaign not to enforce it so that the teachers could walk out, resign/leave or retire.
      The sabotage of Article 18 of the contract started when waivers were issues upon simple request to hiring agents of the DOE in our public schools. UFT grieved the violations of Article 18 every way possible but the Chancellors hearing officers did little to enforce the provisions of the contract. We won some of the cases but others went to Arbitration (which is time consuming).
      Some of the cases re Art 18 went to courts as well. The grievance department of the UFT was overwhelmed. With respect to the ATR issue, New York media engaged in yellow journalism, that is, a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers. Well, it is a way to decry any journalism that treats news in an unethical fashion.
      As the ATR pool became a crisis, Tweed learned from the Courts, Albany and UFT that those career educators being tenured have to be handled otherwise. Then came again the publicized freezes, on the one hand and on the other hand, the hidden deceptive practice of issuing waivers to DOE hiring agents to employ beginning teachers as opposed to excessed educators.
      Hope that by Dec. 31, 2013 the nightmare will be over.

  4. fsmeduwp permalink
    October 29, 2013 pm31 3:09 pm 3:09 pm

    Article 18 has the potential to prevent the ATR pool from developing into what it is today.
    However, Tweed has been subverting the process by issuing waivers to principals to hire anyone they want to.Well, I submit, even the cave man can figure out how the ATR pool became what it is currently.

    The Board and the Union recognize the need to maintain both staff stability and an
    equitable balance of experienced and inexperienced teachers in the schools. To meet this
    need, and to provide opportunities within this framework for teachers to transfer from one
    8 Placement rights of teachers excessed from District 79 Closing Programs are set forth in Appendix I,
    paragraphs 3, 4 and 5.
    school to another, the Board and the Union agree that transfers shall be based upon the
    following principles:
    A. General Transfers
    Effective school year 2005-2006, principals will advertise all vacancies. Interviews
    will be conducted by school-based human resources committees (made up of pedagogues
    and administration) with the final decision to be made by the principal. Vacancies are
    defined as positions to which no teacher has been appointed, except where a nonappointed
    teacher is filling in for an appointed teacher on leave. Vacancies will be posted
    as early as April 15 of each year and will continue being posted throughout the spring and
    summer. Candidates (teachers wishing to transfer and excessed teachers) will apply to
    specifically posted vacancies and will be considered, for example, through job fairs
    and/or individual application to the school. Candidates may also apply to schools that
    have not advertised vacancies in their license areas so that their applications are on file at
    the school should a vacancy arise.
    Selections for candidates may be made at any time; however, transfers after August
    7th require the release of the teacher’s current principal. Teachers who have repeatedly
    been unsuccessful in obtaining transfers or obtaining regular teaching positions after
    being excessed, will, upon request, receive individualized assistance from the Division of
    Human Resources and/or the Peer Intervention Program on how to maximize their
    chances of success in being selected for a transfer.
    B. Hardship Transfers
    In addition to the vacancies available for transfer pursuant to Section A of this
    Article, transfers on grounds of hardship shall be allowed in accordance with the
    Transfers of teachers after three years of service on regular appointment may be made
    on grounds of hardship on the basis of the circumstances of each particular case, except
    that travel time by public transportation of more than one hour and thirty minutes each
    way between a teacher’s home (or City line in the case of a teacher residing outside the
    City) and school shall be deemed to constitute a “hardship” entitling the applicant to a
    transfer to a school to be designated by the Division of Human Resources which shall be
    within one hour and thirty minutes travel time by public transportation from the teacher’s
    home, or City line in the case of a teacher residing outside the City.
    C. Voluntary Teacher Exchange
    The Chancellor shall issue a memorandum promoting the exchange of new ideas and
    methodology and encouraging teachers to share their special skills with students and
    colleagues in other schools. To facilitate achievement of this goal, the Board and the
    Union agree to allow teachers to exchange positions for a one year period provided that
    the principals of both schools agree to the exchange. The exchange may be renewed for
    an additional one year period. For all purposes other than payroll distribution, the
    teachers will remain on the organizations of their home schools.
    D. Staffing New or Redesigned Schools9
    The following applies to staffing of new or redesigned schools (“Schools”)
    1. A Personnel Committee shall be established, consisting of two Union
    representatives designated by the UFT President, two representatives designated by the
    community superintendent for community school district schools or by the Chancellor for
    9 The rights of teachers to staff the New Programs in District 79 are set forth in Appendix I, paragraph 2.
    schools/programs under his/her jurisdiction, a Principal/or Project Director, and where
    appropriate a School Planning Committee Representative and a parent.
    2. For its first year of operation the School’s staff shall be selected by the Personnel
    Committee which should, to the extent possible, make its decisions in a consensual
    In the first year of staffing a new school, the UFT Personnel Committee members
    shall be school-based staff designated from a school other than the impacted school or
    another school currently in the process of being phased out. The Union will make its best
    effort to designate representatives from comparable schools who share the instructional
    vision and mission of the new school, and who will seek to ensure that first year hiring
    supports the vision and mission identified in the approved new school application.
    In the second and subsequent years, the Union shall designate representatives from
    the new school to serve on its Personnel Committee.
    3. If another school(s) is impacted (i.e., closed or phased out), staff from the
    impacted school(s) will be guaranteed the right to apply and be considered for positions
    in the School. If sufficient numbers of displaced staff apply, at least fifty percent of the
    School’s pedagogical positions shall be selected from among the appropriately licensed
    most senior applicants from the impacted school(s), who meet the School’s
    qualifications. The Board will continue to hire pursuant to this provision of the
    Agreement until the impacted school is closed.
    4. Any remaining vacancies will be filled by the Personnel Committee from among
    transferees, excessees, and/or new hires. In performing its responsibilities, the Personnel
    Committee shall adhere to all relevant legal and contractual requirements including the
    hiring of personnel holding the appropriate credentials.
    5. In the event the Union is unable to secure the participation of members on the
    Personnel Committee, the Union will consult with the Board to explore other alternatives.
    However the Union retains the sole right to designate the two UFT representatives on the
    Personnel Committee.

  5. Anonymous permalink
    October 31, 2013 pm31 1:30 pm 1:30 pm

    Michael Mandel is a waste of space.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: