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Chaz

May 7, 2022 pm31 11:59 pm

Two years and three days ago New York City teachers lost a friend, and an advocate. Most of us knew him as “Chaz” – famous from his blog “Chaz’s School Daze.”

But his name was Eric Chasanoff. Eric was an earth science teacher – and before that, a meteorologist – a weather man. His second career started roughly the same time as mine – September 1997

Chaz was hired at Jamaica High School, and became well-integrated in the school community. He taught, coached multiple sports, and served on the School Leadership Team.

Until one day there was an accusation made against him. This was the early 2000’s, and school reformers were going after teachers’ protections, unions, and livelihoods. And the gutter press was happy to oblige. Chaz was victimized, faced charges leading to dismissal, and survived. He was certainly not the only older man put in that position.

I digress: A member of Michael Mulgrew’s staff used to write attack articles against accused teachers.

Chaz survived. But he was horrified to see, in the 2005 contract proposal, that important protections were being stripped away. Teachers were to be suspended without pay on the accusation of sexual abuse. Punish first, and then due process. I “met” Chaz on line around this time – arguing over exactly this policy on EdWize – the UFT’s long-forgotten blog. Leo Casey defended stripping teachers of their rights – those of us who noticed, including me and Chaz, were incensed.

His blogging began around that time – his first post is from 2006, and continued until a few days before his passing. He wrote 1,935 times, quite an extensive assemblage.

He wrote about himself, sometimes. And he wrote about odd topics that appealed to him. We debated way back then the correct status of the planet Pluto.

But mostly he wrote about schools. He wrote about fairness. He stood up for teachers. And Eric understood how vulnerable a teacher under attack could be. After his case was over, he got moved to the ATR pool, and bounced from school to school. He stayed upbeat. He wrote about the system. He was so unassuming that teachers usually didn’t realize that Eric was Chaz.

He directed a lot of fire at the chief’s of the DoE – Bloomberg and Klein, and then Walcott, but he kept it up for de Blasio, Fariña, and Carranza. He wrote about DoE policies, major and minor. But he was most focused on things that made it hard to teach high school.

Chaz had no tolerance for bad union policy. He mercilessly went after leaders who he thought put teachers in harm’s way. Most frequently on the receiving end of Eric’s critiques: Michael Mulgrew.

Chaz used this image dozens of times. This version is from May 2016

Chaz also wrote about politics. I am a leftist. He was not. I found him middle of the road on many issues, with a slight lean in my direction. But slight. He did not vote for president in 2016. I do not believe he would have in 2020, either. We disagreed quite often. School integration. Foreign policy. Even testing.

But Chaz judged people by what they did, not what they believed. The people he treated with respect had a wide range of beliefs – but they all stood up for teachers, for fairness. For Chaz, fairness was a bottom line.

On April 26 he blogged about school budgets. He had been writing every two or three days, right through the pandemic. Super regular rhythm. Then on April 28, 29 nothing. I noticed on the 30th. On May 2 I emailed him:

No response. Next day I wrote to his former DR, and his Borough Rep. Amy answered on Monday – he was sick, family was being private. And on Tuesday his son announced on his blog that Eric had passed.

Please click through the comments. Look at that outpouring. And look what they say. About him. Look at all those “little guys” – just regular teachers who depended on Eric for straight information, or who looked to him because he told the truth, or just felt better because he gave them a voice.

Many of us memorialized him. NYC bloggers I regularly read, James Eterno, his former chapter leader at Jamaica High School, Arthur Goldstein, the chapter leader in a school Eric worked in as an ATR, me. Others. Norm Scott. NYC teacher-bloggers recognized him as one of us. Those posts, they all say different things about him. Bookmark this page, and when you have time, read them all.

The UFT was starting a memorial site, and it seemed to me that it mattered, so I filled out the form as best as I could to get the ball rolling. I think James picked up the slack – he knew Eric, personally, and I didn’t, actually.

I like this story: “I remember when I first met Eric, he ran up to me in a diner on the west side. “Jonathan!” He knew me. But I looked confused. “It’s Eric!” Still confused. We had been reading each other’s blogs for five years. And I didn’t know his first name. Hard to recognize him without his light blue background. “

The UFT Honors post for Eric is a nice one. They quoted James and me. And then the editor asked if I wanted to leave a comment. And I scratched my head. All of us had been writing about teacher-blogger Eric Chasanoff. Others had more stories, and better stories than I did. And then I remembered.

Way back when Eric was starting blogging, when he was defending Pluto’s planet status, he wrote something that stuck in the back of my mind. A girl’s basketball coach had a huge star. And against a weaker opponent, they were going to win. But the coach kept the star in, kept his team playing hard, and the final score, 137-32, is painful to imagine.

Chaz wrote:

* Don’t run up the score on an inferior opponent.

* Keep your best players out once it is a blowout.

* Never embarres another team.

* Show class and be a role model for your players.

Undefendable – Eric Chasanoff

And I shared this on his UFT memorial, and wrote “It was that same sense of right and wrong that motivated his defense of teachers. And it is that sense of class, and that dedication to fairness that I will remember.” and Eric’s son, Bryan, responded:

That is a great example of my father and one he lived by. I remember times when he coached my teams that we were up 5-0 in soccer and my father would sub out the best players, switch positions and even run 10 players instead of 11 to try to keep the game as competitive as possible. Our team always won the sportsmanship award every year whether we finished 1st or 8th place.

And everything everyone thought about how attuned he was to treating teachers with fairness, turns out he thought everyone should be treated that way.

Eric shared his choices in UFT elections for the 2010, 2013, 2016, and 2019 elections. He is not around in 2022. And everyone who is voting has already voted – it is too late to change anyone’s mind. So I think it is okay to share how I think he would have voted this time.

His issues would not have changed. But he would have added some great disappointment over how the leadership navigated the pandemic. He would be vocal in his opposition to the Medicare Advantage scheme. He knew science. No doubt in my mind where he would have stood on vaccination. And he would have been delighted that all the opposition groups had come together.

But he would have continued to frustrate me, and vote for individuals, not a slate. He voted on his personal take, on a person’s politics, but more on a person’s character, and most on what that person actually did or didn’t do for the members.

There will be opposition people on this list. But there will be Unity people. And Eric never felt a need to vote for every seat, if he did not have someone to vote FOR. There are names he never encountered before. He might have supported a few of them, but I do not presume to know, and I will not guess on an unknown quantity. But for people who’s names were previously on the ballot I will pretend to know what Eric would have done:

For President: Camille Eterno. He endorsed her twice in the past, and denounced her opponent many times.

For Secretary: LeRoy Barr. I know, right? But Eric endorsed LeRoy before, and endorsed few MORE members in 2019. And remember what I wrote just above.

For Assistant Secretary: Mike Sill. Endorsed twice, including 2019. I’m more sure of this one.

High School VP: Me. It is true, Eric endorsed Janella once. But he endorsed me all four times that he wrote about the elections. And while I complain about his ticket-splitting, in fact he split his ticket more than once to support me, though he did not support most of the people I was running with.

VP At Large Education – by my rule, I should leave this blank. But Gloria Brandman has been such a powerful leader on the Medicare issue, I think she would have won his vote.

Exec Board Functional – I’d like to believe that he would check off all the UFC candidates – but his track record here says he would vote for Norman Scott and no one else.

Exec Board at Large (all based on past performance)

  • Jay Werner (UFC)
  • Ellen Fox (UFC)
  • Mike Schirtzer (Unity)
  • Mike Shulman (UFC)
  • Greg DiStefano (UFC)
  • Mindy Rosier-Rayburn (Unity)
  • Richard Covelli (UFC)
  • Angela Artis (Unity)
  • James Eterno (UFC) – it is just a fluke that Chaz mentioned James just 3 times – in fact, Chaz showed more enthusiasm for James than for any other candidate, ever.
  • Peter Allen-Lamphere (UFC)
  • Amy Arundell (Unity)

Here is the list of everyone Chaz wrote about voting for:

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