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Teaching for fun: Set Theory

October 19, 2021 am31 1:22 am

Part of my schedule this term is an Intro to Set Theory. Just once a week, lunch time for the kids. I have a nice paper, An Introduction to Elementary Set Theory (Mathematics Association of America). We are reading the document, every line, and doing every exercise. It is reading/seminar style.

I like that the authors spend time connecting Set Theory to its history, and to Cantor and Dedekind. I added in some additional historical background – what was happening in math in the 19th century. I’d like to read more of the history. I get the feeling that the reexamination of Euclid and the development of set theory and the axiomatization of arithmetic and the development of logic are all part of a movement – but I don’t really know that, and I would like to learn more.

It is a great opportunity to introduce notation, to dwell on correct language. It is also their first heavy dose of proof by contradiction (indirect proof). And that is useful.

Today we were looking at subsets, and of 6 exercises, 4 were best answered with a proof by contradiction. A kid asked, a bit sadly, if they were ever going to be allowed to do direct proofs again.

It’s just 10 kids. At least 6 of them are there so that they can study Arithmetic with me in the spring (“Axiomatic Arithmetic”) – which I will describe some other time – but I insist that they do at least one proof-based course first. In the spring there will be a heavy dose of induction. I can imagine a kid asking, sadly, if they will ever be allowed to do proof by contradiction again…

In any case, today we were playing with subsets, and proving some basics. A \subseteq A but A\not\subset A. And we talked a little about the empty set. And we had the annoying discussion about the empty set being a subset of another set.

Here’s the talk. One set is a subset of a second set if everything in the first set is also in the second. But we like stating this backwards. The first set is NOT a subset of the second if there is something in the first that is not in the second.

  • A = {p, q, r, s}
  • B = {q, r, s}
  • C = {q, r, s}
  • D = {s, t}
  • E = {}

OK, so B is a subset of A. Everything in B is also in A. Or, there is nothing in B that is not in A.

B is a subset of C. Everything in B is also in C. Or there is nothing in B that is not in C.

D is NOT a subset of A. Why? Because t is in D, but not in A. (see how that works?)

Now, is E a subset of A? Is everything in E also in A? Hmm, that might cause an argument. Let’s look at it the other way. Is there something in E that is not in A? Nope. Then E is a subset of A

One part of this that’s fun and annoying is that while the concepts can seem slippery, we are doing them with all new notation.

t is in D? t \in D

t is not in A? t \notin A

B is a subset of C? B \subseteq C

A is a subset of B is equivalent to saying that everything in A is also in B? A \subseteq B \iff  \forall _{x}, x \in A \rightarrow x \in B

A is not a subset of B is equivalent to saying that there is something in A that’s not in B? A \nsubseteq B \iff  \exists _{x}, x \in A \land x \notin B

The kids seem kind of into the notation, and the notions. One that caught their attention today was the distinction between a subset, and a proper subset. See how the subset symbol looks a little like “less than or equals”? Like ≤? Well, if we take the line away, then it means a “proper” subset, and it must strictly be smaller than the set, or be missing something that is in the set.

Looking at the examples above, B is a proper subset of A (there’s nothing in B that’s not in A, AND there is something in A that’s not in B), but C is not a proper subset of B. It’s true, C is a subset of B, but there is nothing in B that is not in C, so C is not a PROPER subset of B.

In symbols, B is a proper subset of A, B \subset A

C is not a proper subset of B, C \not\subset B

At this stage, if students start to “get it” they are prone to argue almost philosophically.

Today was no exception. I sent them to lunch as they debated whether the empty set is a subset of itself AND a proper subset of itself.

This is teaching for fun. Every student is here voluntarily. They have chosen to suffer. We sit and read, and talk and debate, and I jump out of the circle to run to the board. One by one the kids are getting tough ideas or tricky language.

I’m assigning homework, and taking attendance. But the homework is for class discussion. I am not checking it. I am not grading it. I am not giving tests or quizzes. I will grade my students on the quality of their discussion, which has been uniformly high.

Hanging out and talking about math with kids who want to talk about math. This is teaching for fun.

Stories from week 5

October 17, 2021 pm31 11:58 pm

I teach once-a-week sophomore propositional logic. We are looking at categorical propositions. This week we examined “obverses” – if we change the quality (negative to positive or vice versa) and replace the predicate with its complement, we get a logically equivalent statement (ex. Some birds are not flying animals is equivalent to Some birds are not non-flying animals, or All cows are herbivores is equivalent to No cows are non-herbivores.) As I asked for questions and explanations a boy began explaining how complementary colors work – right word, wrong context. I began correcting the misunderstanding but he dug in, and finally he realized the mistake, and he was mortified. Note: I have only met this group five times and barely know them. Later he saw me in the hall and said something about enjoying the class or understanding it so well or some such – he didn’t realize that he was giving me a second chance to reassure him, an opportunity I’d missed in class, and which I eagerly took this time. He was trying to make himself feel better, but he ended up making us both feel better.

A new math teacher asked me about the new student I transferred into her Matrices class. New student? No, there were no new students. Turns out a boy, an athlete actually, preferred taking unnecessary math quizzes over showing up to PE class. used a pseudonym. Got a 100. Won’t happen again.

An alum, college sophomore, showed up after school Thursday. Anthropology / Archaeology major. Great dual major I think. “Great Dual Major! In fact…” I stopped a student of mine “What did we learn about in class today?” “Matrices” “No, besides, math” “Oh, right, if a skeleton was cannibalized, how to tell if it was ritual cannibalism, or for survival” “Thank you…. See, I taught about your major today!” I stopped another student, same question “About how if someone was eating a body for food they would break open the phalanges for the stuff inside” “See!” and over the alum’s objections I stopped one more “What did we learn about today, besides math?” “Nothing. I don’t know” “No, don’t you remember, there was land use in southwest Wisconsin…” “No, we didn’t talk about that” I’d picked a kid from the wrong class.

“Combinatorics” is my favorite class. And it’s more fun when the kids like it, too. We meet four times a week. Three days this week I had to tell the students to leave more than once….

Groveling gets you nowhere

October 16, 2021 pm31 11:03 pm

On Wednesday the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) endorsed Eric Adams for mayor, after vigorously opposing him in the primary. Of course our union was going to need to work with him, but the leadership’s insistence on an endorsement was a mistake.

Unity stage-managed the process, making certain that Marv Reiskin gave the clinching argument. Marv thundered, or as close to thundering as his voice could get, but the content was lacking. “Adams took a civil service exam!” he kind of roared. I took a civil service exam, too, and so did most of my neighbors. But good for Marv, for trying. It didn’t really matter, as Unity only allowed one voice in opposition.

But to what end? An endorsement wasn’t going to make Adams like the UFT. He doesn’t need it to win. He won’t need our phone banks. And if we offer him cash – did you know he is already turning down matching funds? Any cash the UFT leadership hands him will be surplus, that he will pocket, and could fund his reelection campaign, when, you know, we might not be supporting him. I’d say “pathetic” except it’s my money too. I’m not happy about this.

And since we can’t deliver any votes that Eric Adams needs, and the cash is for next time, this looks like nothing less than a feeble attempt to curry favor, even to bribe the man.

I warned:

A bribe is insulting. A tiny bribe is insulting. Thinking it will buy anything but contempt is naïve. Instead of treating us as formidable partners in education, Adams will likely regard us as weak, detestable mutts.

https://jd2718.org/2021/10/09/permission-to-bribe/

And then the UFT leadership got him endorsed anyhow, and he treated them like weak, detestable mutts. Here’s the story:

The UFT leadership has negotiated, as part of the Municipal Labor Coalition, a move from Medicare to a private plan for our retirees. It is an unpopular move. Retirees are upset. They are angry at Mulgrew in particular, because he seems to have kept the fact of negotiations secret. Mulgrew and Unity have spent months and months in damage control mode.

Me? I think privatizing health care is, big picture, wrong. I am against privatizing schools too. I am against privatizing social security, and the post office. I think the UFT leadership has badly lost its way on this one.

(I am not writing about what individual retirees should do. You have to make the decision that is best for you and your family, even if you don’t like the choices being forced on you – unless there is a way to change those choices – which I do not think there is at this point.)

Adams? He’s not against privatization. Ideologically he’s probably fine with what Mulgrew and his mob are doing to retirees. But Wednesday Mulgrew had us endorse him, even though we don’t like him. Mulgrew groveled. And Adams treated the UFT as if it were weak and detestable. He went after Mulgrew’s Medicare Advantage scheme, and kicked Mulgrew in the teeth:

“When you start talking about cuts in health care, they’re my cuts,” said Adams at a campaign event in the Bronx. “I know what people are going through, and so we’re going to take a close examination of this because it’s going to traumatize our retirees. Some of the stories I’m hearing about increases in payments, you’re on a fixed income — this is devastating.”

By staying in Advantage Plus, retirees wouldn’t have to pay a fee, but they’re concerned that under the new plan, they’d lose their doctors and be forced to get time-consuming pre-approvals for costly tests and procedures that might be needed on a tight time frame.

Union leaders like UFT President Michael Mulgrew and DC 37 honcho Henry Garrido have both assured retirees that they wouldn’t lose their current doctors under Advantage Plus, but when Oliveri asked his doctors about it, he said “they never heard of it.”

“You don’t become a civil servant to become a billionaire. You become a civil servant to have stable health care, a stable pension and a stable life, and we cannot destabilize it after they retire,” Adams said. “Right now, after serving your city, we should not do any type of bait and switch. When you retire, you retire with an understanding, and we need to make sure we live up to that agreement.”

Eric Adams calls Mayor de Blasio’s NYC retiree health care shift a ‘bait and switch’

Most of Adams fire, to be fair, was aimed, by name, at lame duck de Blasio – but the content was a slap at Mulgrew.

Does that mean Adams will undo the deal? Unlikely. He likes private stuff. The article closes:

But he admitted that, if he’s elected, he’s unsure how much power he’ll have to undo de Blasio’s proposal.

“We need to, at a minimum, extend the deadline so people can have a better chance and opportunity to understand the real impact of this,” he said of the Advantage Plus shift. “I have to really look at it and see what are my powers.”

Nope. Eric Adams took a cheap shot at Michael Mulgrew, undermining him, making him look bad, not to stop Medicare Advantage, not to help those who oppose privatizing healthcare, but as payment for Mulgrew’s groveling endorsement.

When Mulgrew’s confident

October 15, 2021 pm31 11:53 pm

He jokes. He interacts with people. He throws speakers off by asking them how they are as they begin to speak. And he interacts with a variety of people.

When Mulgrew feels shaky he sticks tightly to a script.

Wednesday afternoon’s Delegate Assembly was tightly orchestrated. Mulgrew was not confident.

And the way things are going, expect Mulgrew to continue to closely follow his script at Delegate Assemblies.

President’s Report

Mulgrew motivated the Adams endorsement during his report.

This is from Goldstein’s notes:

As CL I had three principals. Greeted with open arms when they came it. ‘Worked with two, failed with one. Happy we have good plans. Want to move ahead. We need a partner to help us with Tweed. If we want to have a partner, we have to ask if you want one. This delegation will make that decision. We can say we don’t want a partner but I don’t recommend it.

http://nyceducator.com/2021/10/uft-delegate-assembly-october-13-2021.html

This is from Eterno’s notes:

We give mayors open arms. As chapter leader, it worked out twice and once it did not. We are happy we have a Bronx Plan. We need a partner to help us with Tweed Courthouse. Do we want a partner? Up to this Delegation but wouldn’t recommend it.

https://iceuftblog.blogspot.com/2021/10/live-blogging-from-october-da.html

Speaker for, speaker against? That’s not how it happens at the UFT.

Approaching the new mayor, offering to work together, that’s one thing. And it would be the right thing to do. But endorsing him goes further. The endorsement allows Unity to give COPE money to Adams, money Adams does not need for this campaign. I wonder how big the attempted bribe will be? And what happened to our solid reasons for opposing Adams in the primary?

Mulgrew also addressed healthcare. In fact his strategy was to prevent anyone else from speaking about healthcare, and if they attempted to, to answer with anger and invective and shut them down.

Medicare Advantage Plus–This year in service plan comes up. We have a health care crisis in this union. Fight is to keep what we have and try to expand. Nothing is free. Will be a struggle for entire MLC. 

I know the name Medicare Advantage is bad thing. Most are horrendous. Not recommending Joe Namath plan, which is terrible. We knew, within three years, we’d be looking at major retiree premiums. We don’t like premiums. We don’t want to pay for things we’ve earned, and it’s used against us in contract negotiations. 

We tried to work with them, but hospitals ripping us off. We got surprise billing legislation in NYS. I have to argue with people who charge 500$ to take temperature. We found out that a group can form its own Advantage plan. Not like anyone else’s in country. Three years from now, will be seen as nothing but a success. People yelling at us about it will take credit for it. –

NYCEducator

In-service health plan coming up. We have a healthcare crisis in this union. Fight to keep what we have and expand it. Kick relatives who say we have free healthcare. The entire MLC does healthcare together. Medicare Advantage is usually a bad thing but we are not recommending Joe Namath’s Medicare Advantage. He was a great quarterback. We knew we were looking at major premiums for our retiree healthcare. It is used against us. Unions can’t talk about wages because there’s been a 10% increase on premiums. Hospitals ripping us off. We’re in a medical crisis. Nobody considers costs. $500 to take someone’s temperature. Hospitalization costs keep going up. The entire workforce of NYC formed our own Advantage plus plan. In three years, people will all like it. Keep writing as that friction keeps the system going in a bitter place just like with the operational complaints.

– ICE Blog

He was rebutting arguments that he had no intention of allowing to be made.

Question Period

The Question Period can be tricky for Mulgrew. He does not want to be seen to be calling on only his people. Too obvious. But he’d really prefer questions he knows in advance, or that are friendly.

This time, most of the questions were seeking information. Real questions. MOSL, Regents, Observations, all real questions. Someone took a swipe at de Blasio, and Mulgrew joined in. Could have been a planted question – or not. Taking shots at de Blasio is a common recreation.

But two hard questions slipped in – one about the New York Health Act (NYHA) – one about School Nurses.

The NYHA is New York State’s version of single payer. We supported such a move, on paper, until it looked possible, then swiveled to oppose it. Mulgrew and the insurance lobby fought hard against it this year. And that’s what the questioner asked – why if we used to support it did you now oppose it? Not a friendly question, but a serious question that deserved a serious answer. Instead Mulgrew raised his voice in anger, and claimed the NYHA would cost UFT members money. Our lawyers told us so, he said. And he ended with a fascinating rhetorical flourish – demanding that his opponents supply facts, not rhetoric, while himself spewing rhetoric without facts. In any case, Mulgrew’s supporters got the message – answer questions about healthcare with anger.

The school nurse question was not hostile, but it was hard. Nurses are being split between schools. There are 400 schools without nurses. What can we do to get more nurses hired? Mulgrew was caught without any sort of answer – but he changed the question. He raised the division between UFT and DC37 nurses (but where have we been addressing this division?). He mentioned how positive Eric Adams has been on this issue (but nothing specific, and once again motivating the endorsement resolution that was coming up later). And then he talked about safety agents. All interesting, perhaps, but the member asked what we can do to get more nurses hired. Mulgrew elegantly diverted the body from the question that he was not prepared to answer.

New Motion Period

This is tough. This period is time-limited at 10 minutes. So what? So this is the only time that members who are not on the Exec Board get to bring new business before the Assembly. When Unity is confident, they let stuff come up. And keep it off the agenda, or put it on, as they choose. They control enough of the DA that they usually get their way. But Unity was not confident.

The New Motion period is 10 minutes. Mulgrew can play this to limit it to 2 proposals coming up. Other times he’s let it get to 4, or even 5. At the other extreme, we saw Mulgrew limit it to just 1 reso last November. I was #2 on the agenda, and Mulgrew milked item #1 for 7 minutes, then rambled for 3 more, just to prevent me from addressing the DA.

This Wednesday Mulgrew was feeling very shaky about healthcare. The motion he did not want the delegates to debate would have required that changes to health care be discussed by our membership before our leadership supported them at the MLC. The motion had been widely distributed in advance – everyone, including Mulgrew, knew the content. And there were dozens of delegates ready to introduce the motion.

So Mulgrew avoided calling on them. And because he does not know everyone at the DA, he called on people he knew. There was a resolution to support a woman for City Council speaker. Not only did Mulgrew know exactly what that resolution was when he called on Carmen Romero, when the reso came up, he spoke in favor. And then he called on a delegate who motivated celebrating 9/11 even when it falls on a weekend.

Peter Lamphere raised a point of order, that Mulgrew was calling just on Unity people, and Mulgrew angrily ruled Lamphere out of order. Mulgrew slow-walked the 9/11 resolution, and declared the New Motion period out of time – which was of course his plan from before the DA. Peter once again spoke out, asking to extend the motion period. Mulgrew shouted him down, and ruled the motion out of order (it was not) without allowing the body to decide.

If I had been there, I would have walked out at this point, along with dozens of other delegates. But I was not there. I stayed on the line, listening.

Special Orders aka Resolutions for Voting

With healthcare safely off the agenda – Mulgrew motivated an implicit “we did good going to Medicare Advantage” in his report (though there has never been a Delegate Assembly vote). Mulgrew was angry and hostile to a hard question about our healthcare policy. And Mulgrew prevented a healthcare resolution from being debated – with healthcare off the agenda, Mulgrew could focus on endorsements – especially the tricky one – getting the UFT to back Eric Adams after this spring when the UFT had bashed the guy.

A unity speaker motivated. Followed by Three Unity speakers in favor. One speaker against. I thought Ilan did a fine job, but I also had pressed the button to speak against, so I was surprised to hear them announce that there was one speaker against (there were at least two). But letting me speak was not part of the plan.

And there was a plan. Each of the four speakers – Elizabeth Perez, Brooklyn Borough Rep, Seung Lee, Unity Exec Board Member, Kenny Achiron, retired, longtime Unity supporter, and Marv Reiskin, former Political Action Director – each was a reliable quantity. And each was speaking from prepared remarks. This was orchestrated, planned to go off smoothly. They weren’t confident, they were worried. And they clearly did not want anyone to talk about the money $$$ Unity plans to give to Adams to make him like them.

Who is Choreographing Unity’s DA Plans?

Back in June I asked:

How tightly will Unity control the discussion? In May, every resolution had Unity Speaker for, Unity Speaker for, one independent delegate against, Unity Speaker then vote. Someone orchestrated every word. Unity has always controlled discussion, but after losing that vote in April they were full-throttle paranoid. Was that a one-time, and they will relax? Or has Unity assigned a DA Choreographer as a new category of patronage job?

https://jd2718.org/2021/06/16/todays-uft-delegate-assembly-what-to-look-for/

Same pattern Wednesday: Motivator, Unity Speaker, Opposition, Unity, Unity (that’s 4:1, not exactly Roberts Rules on attempting to alternate)

Mulgrew lost a big vote in April. Why? Pretty clearly because Mulgrew’s behavior was bothering delegates. He was shutting people up, and congratulating himself about how clever he was – Mulgrew behaved like an annoying ten year old boy, and delegates responded by voting no on stuff that they may not have cared about,. That “no” vote was a referendum on Mulgrew’s behavior and and demeanor.

But Unity seems to have drawn, at least in part, the wrong lesson. The right one was to say “Mikey, stop being a dick.” But instead they are responding by demanding much tighter control of exactly who speaks at the DA, and what they say.

I don’t know who the Unity choreographer is. But it’s pretty obvious that the choreography is happening. And like Unity planting questions during the question period (I’m not sure who runs the “speaker group” anymore. It used to be LeRoy) it is frustrating for me as a sometimes opponent of the policies being pushed, but more importantly, embarrassing to me as a proud UFT member.

Healthcare is a hot issue

It looks like healthcare is a tough issue for Unity. When the PSC and the Chief reported on the negotiations for Medicare Advantage, and Unity had not even told retirees that such negotiations were underway… Unity has been on half a year of damage control. People are getting booted from Unity-run websites, and blocked from following Unity accounts on Twitter. They are on a war footing. They lost 30% of the Retired Teacher Chapter vote, highest ever. And they have clearly decided that they will shut down any attempt to discuss health care at the Delegate Assembly.

For those who trust Unity, it means that they will stay silent on this issue, and vote not to allow debate, even if they feel a bit queasy about messing with Medicare.

For those who don’t trust Unity, it means much more digging into the Emblem Advantage plan, and reporting facts, not rumors or propaganda sheets. It means reviewing the conduct of the negotiations.

Besides the bigger political questions, there are smaller, personal questions: join in, or opt out. These deserve a close look as well. It is possible that the plans are horrible, that Unity is perfidious, sneaky, vile, but that a retiree may be better going with Emblem Advantage. I don’t know. What I am saying is that it is worth looking closely.

There is also the New York Health Act, which must be carefully dissected. It was not all roses, clearly not. But how is our leadership not working to shape the bill? And instead siding with big insurance to block it? That needs a much closer look.

And?

When Mulgrew let the Medicare Advantage negotiations hit the news before the UFT Leadership told retirees, well, he kind of guaranteed that this would be a huge issue. Which is not going away. And when Mulgrew screwed up a simple DA endorsement he kind of guaranteed that Unity would want assurances, perhaps in the form of a script, that he would not screw up again. And the combination means that we will continue to have scripted DAs, and that part of those scripts will be a Unity commitment to prevent discussion of health care.

Which only means that people who think this can be a better union should seek every opportunity to raise the health care discussion.

A Sailboat Ride

October 11, 2021 pm31 4:04 pm

I’m not sure where the East River ends and Long Island Sound begins. By Connecticut it is the Sound, even just Greenwich it is definitely the Sound. Rikers and LaGuardia are East River. Is it Throggs Neck? Further? And what is a “Sound”? Looks more a like a huge trough to me – open on one end to the Atlantic – but that’s far, far from Orchard Beach and Little Neck – and open on the other side to – well, probably the East River, right? And the “East River” – not a river at all. It doesn’t flow, it sloshes, back and forth, with the tides. Estuary. The East River is an estuary.

We were on David’s sailboat – in the water off City Island – whatever that water is called. We may have reached Mamaroneck. We may have passed Edgewater. I don’t know – Dave was navigating. Me, Annette, and Cathy, we just sat back and enjoyed the breeze and chatted.

This was July 7, 2009.

David was the former United Federation of Teachers Bronx High School District Representative. He had retired in 2003. His successor, Lynne Winderbaum, had just retired, days earlier, July 1 2009. Annette and I were candidates to replace Lynne. Cathy was a secretary at my first school, and friend to Annette and Dave.

In the old days we would have been real candidates – running for election – with the chapter leaders in the district voting. But Randi Weingarten threw that system out several years earlier. Lynne, who would easily have won an election, was instead appointed. And in 2009, if there’d been an election, I would, likely as not, have won. But there was a process.

Me and Annette had met through Dave and Cathy several years before. We would go out to dinner after Delegate Assemblies and other union meetings. And then Annette, a secretary, was elected Chapter Leader at Grace Dodge. Annette was a knowledgeable secretary, who provided information and ran workshops for other secretaries. But chapter leader was new. I had been a delegate, but chapter leader was new for me, too.

And so Annette offered me a ride to new chapter leader training. It was at a convention center/hotel in New Jersey. Spring 2003. Dave was still there. I met a bunch of people. There was another new chapter leader, smart, Mary Atkinson. I sat at the bar with her and her DR late one night. Today Mary is the Bronx Borough Representative. It was a fun weekend. They gave us a game, let us think it was zero-sum, when it was not, and waited to see how long it took us to figure out. There was dancing at night, which I don’t normally do, but I did, and I met someone met someone – though that didn’t go far. But the best part? The long car rides, in both directions, with Annette.

We talked and talked, and traded stories. We had enough in common, knew enough people in common, that there was that thread. But we had been raised in different places and different circumstances, which meant we also had tales for the other that seemed a bit foreign or exotic. (I know, Fordham Road vs Connecticut suburbs, but still, it worked).

Now, Annette was a Unity member, and I was – well, not a Unity member, not ever. But I have never been unalterably opposed to working, at times and on particular issues, with Unity. And Annette was not hostile to oppositionists. In fact, when the 2005 contract came up for a vote at the Delegate Assembly, Annette voted with the wishes of her chapter (she had held a chapter wide discussion) and against her caucus. She voted no. (which was absolutely the right thing to do, even if her caucus scolded her harshly for acting honorably). Despite the political affiliations, we were two union people, in agreement about the importance of our union.

Annette started offering me rides. After every union meeting. Downtown. Across the Bronx. And we talked. And talked. I rode everywhere with her. When my life got more interesting, or her life got more interesting, the conversations lasted longer than the ride. She parked in front of my apartment, or in front of her apartment, and we talked for hours, and hours.

When Lynne announced her retirement, me and Annette knew that both of us should apply. Annette was a secretary. That was going to be tough. We weren’t even sure it was allowed (it was). I worked in an opposition caucus, New Action, and against Unity, the leadership caucus. For an appointed position, an opposition person was going to be a long shot. But me and Annette did not care. We talked and talked and prepped each other. We made up interview questions, and critiqued each other’s answers. I remember parking around the corner from my apartment, longer than usual, maybe two hours, from daylight to dark, and peppering each other with situations, scenarios, questions. We argued, we agreed, we suggested, we praised. We were making each other as ready as possible.

The biggest obstacle would not be our preparation. The biggest obstacle would be the UFT leadership. The borough office and full-timers downtown saw the DR as an important job – important to the career advancement of friends and allies. They did not understand or care about the importance to the chapter leaders and members in the District. And they conspired to prevent a Bronx HS Chapter leader from taking they job. They had someone else. A favorite. Without what should have been the minimum qualifications. High School people, unbeknownst to me, fought this, and stopped it. Me and Annette only had a chance, it turned out, because there were those, behind the scenes, who were willing to insist on what was right, even when powerful forces in Unity wanted to do something wrong.

Years later Unity eliminated even the policy that DRs should come from among the CLs in the district. They want control, and they want jobs to be awarded for loyalty, and they do not want to be constrained by fairness, or by what is right. And they have the votes to make these changes official. But back in 2009, they were glad that they stopped elections, and had not yet realized how much more damage they could do.

In any case, Annette and I applied, and prepped. There were maybe 10 – 15 candidates. We nailed the first round interview. Me, Annette, and one more, at least two of the three unlikely friends and unlikely District Reps, we were sent downtown for the second stage.

And before that round, we got on the boat.

David had been a bit out of touch since he retired, 6 years earlier. He had been passed over for High School VP, despite being the best candidate. But Unity was shifting more and more to filling positions with yes-people – and avoiding independent thinkers who spoke up. David was also the Bronx HS DR when Randi and her deputy conspired with the Department of Education and Bill Gates to destroy the Bronx’s High Schools. Weingarten and Casey and Nadelstern promised members one thing – but delivered destruction instead – destruction of schools, destruction of chapters, destruction of professional autonomy. They told us one thing, and did something else. But they also told Dave one thing, and did something else – and Dave proceeded to pass on the lies to chapter leaders, not knowing that they were lies. He was duped. But Chapter Leaders, at least back then, didn’t necessarily see it that way. And it took a few years to repair some of those relationships.

As a side note, a few years after this story happened I helped bring some of those (former) chapter leaders back together with Dave so that they could begin talking again – that was a good thing.

But David was not completely disconnected. Far from it. He still had many friends in the UFT, and many, many others who he might speak to from time to time. He knew the politics, at least from a few years earlier. He knew most of the major players. He knew many of the Bronx Chapter leaders, though there was rapid change with the creation of scores of cookie-cutter mini-schools.

So there we were. Picking Dave’s brain. Chatting. Wanting to know how he saw it. He thought we were both unlikely, even impossible choices, but that it would go to Annette. He was right. And it was a beautiful day. Warm, light breeze. We were no sailors, but David was. We were in good hands, with good company.

The second stage interviews were later that week. Where we met another committee. There were no chapter leaders on this committee of three. I had no friends. None had taught for years, and one had never taught. I still did well, but not as well as in the Bronx. Annette did better. But I didn’t do that badly – the two of us advanced to the final interview. It was going to be a pain-in-the-ass oppositionist, or a school secretary.

I found a note I wrote to Lynne a few days later:

Me, Cathy, and Annette went out sailing with your predecessor last Tuesday. It was relaxing, and interesting. Dave still has that absolutely magnetic personality. Me and Annette have been talking regularly, sharing ideas, helping each other, comparing notes. We even spoke yesterday, after the interviews downtown…

And then Annette did get the job. I got the call while I was in East Texas. And I immediately called Annette to congratulate her. I wanted to be the first. And I was. I got offered a job, three afternoons a week. But I didn’t like the terms (they wanted me downtown, to leave the Bronx). And I said “if I can stay in the Bronx…” and they never said no, the offer just evaporated…

So why am I telling this story? This small story? Today? Because these last days I have been remembering Annette Carlucci, and I have been remembering David Shulman.

Annette became the District Rep. And then she got sick. But her spirits were good, and it looked like she’d beaten it. When she called to tell me that the cancer was back, that it had spread to her brain, I was standing in the kitchen, and I slipped to the counter. She died soon after that, 10 years ago this summer, July 11, 2011. I organized a gathering of activists and retirees – across caucuses – to remember her. And then I kept organizing the gatherings. I’m not sure who else remembered why we started – but I sure did. And it’s been almost two years since we’ve met up, but this is the 10th anniversary, so it is on my mind…

I was friendly with David when this story took place. But after that David and I talked more and saw each other more. We met for food. He joined those gatherings I just mentioned. I joined a club he helped run. And once the pandemic started, while we did not meet up, we spoke fairly regularly by phone. And this summer the Bronx High School District Rep job became open again, and David submitted a letter in support of my candidacy (spoiler – I didn’t get the job). We last spoke in August. When I called in September one of his daughters answered. David Shulman, friend and mentor, died a few days later, October 3, 2021.

I feel both losses. But today I am feeling instead the sun and the spray from that warm July day.

Some Bunny Board Notes

October 10, 2021 am31 10:04 am

For all of my career I have been posing off-topic problems to students. And for most of my career Ghost the Bunny has been my favorite.

Laura’s pet bunny, Ghost, hops up a flight of 12 stairs. Ghost can hop up one or two steps at a time, and never hops down. How many ways can Ghost reach the top step?

I just offered the problem to a class – but it was a little close to some regular work on a skill that could be applied here – so I got – boring – mostly one solution – a solution that was practical, but not the most interesting. I made groups try for a second solution, and most stumbled on the usual first solution. It was ok, but not very satisfying.

Friday the class had a game day (3-D tic tac toe with visualization challenges and embedded combinatorial questions, and sequence issues, it’s still a math class, even if they love it). And I walked over to the board, and sketched some solutions from previous years, solutions that emphasized an interesting and important (says me) aspect of Ghost. And I interrupted their game play (they were all spread out) and made them come over and take a look, and a few saw something they found interesting, but no one found anything as interesting as 3-D tic tac toe, which they quickly returned to….

By the way, that solution on the right, I am pretty certain that three freshmen, maybe 6 or 7 or 9 or 10 years ago, they drew that solution all the way out to 12 steps…

Permission to Bribe

October 9, 2021 pm31 3:46 pm

Eric Adams will be the next mayor of New York City. I would cite opinion polls, but the pollsters aren’t bothering. It’s that clear. Predictit has him at 98¢ to win 2¢. Why is there any money at all against him? Maybe some calamity, some horrible scandal, is possible. But it’s at the point where – if a story broke saying that he had molested chickens – voters would say “Ewww! Groooosss! – But Sliwa? I’ll still vote for Adams.” In fact, if there were polling, it would probably show Adams leading among every demographic group, in all four major boroughs, and among every subgroup except, perhaps, chicken molesters and unvaccinated Trump supporters.

Is there any doubt that Eric Adams will be our next mayor? No. None.

And the whole world has endorsed him, right? Almost. But not quite.

DC37 has. And PEF. And TWU 100 (bus and subway). But other unions are missing. The teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) is missing. We’ll get back to that.

Lots of politicians have. And more politicians have not. No progressives, as far as I can tell, have signed on. My State Senator, Jamaal Bailey, mainstream, has. The neighboring State Senators, Biaggi and Rivera, have not. Diane Savino, last IDC republican-posing-as-a-democrat still standing, er, sitting – has. Andrew Yang – has. Bill de Blasio – has. Andrew Cuomo, disgraced and corrupt former governor – has.

Mulgrew got “No Vote for Adams” right, and everything else wrong

The UFT leadership made a mess during the primary. They could not figure out ranked choice voting. They did not consider Kathryn Garcia a serious candidate. And when Scott Stringer imploded, the leadership was unable to think on its feet. This will go down as perhaps the worst UFT mayoral campaign ever – and given how poorly the UFT has performed in the past – that’s bad.

But one thing the leadership got right was absolute opposition to Eric Adams, and to his former opponent, and today supporter, Andrew Yang.

Eric Adams was a one-time Republican. He is socially conservative. He supports businesses over working people. He supports big real estate interests over small landlords and tenants. And – and this matters for public school teachers – he is a major supporter of charter schools. The UFT position – “Not Adams” – was a good one.

But Adams won. A better ranked-choice strategy may have helped defeat him. Maya Wiley was a viable candidate. But Adams won. So what now?

Option 1 – talk to Eric Adams like a grown up

Option 1: Talk to Adams. We didn’t support him, but we will work with him, and despite our differences we believe we will find many areas of agreement, and we will find ways to work together where we don’t agree, including negotiations and compromise as necessary.

Option 1 is sensible.

Option 2 – grovel

Option 2: Endorse Adams. That is what Michael Mulgrew wants. This is what the Unity leadership of the UFT is pushing. And they always get what they want. (Except this spring when Mulgrew behaved like a smug annoying middle schooler at the Delegate Assembly, pissed off the delegates, and lost a full slate of endorsements. Expect him to be on best behavior this time.)

What are the effects of a UFT endorsement? And why not just go with Option 1 – having a sensible conversation with Adams?

Disadvantages of Endorsing Eric Adams

  • It makes the UFT look 2-faced in front of our membership
  • It makes it seem that the UFT leadership does not take the threat posed by charter schools seriously
  • One more (see bottom)

Advantages of Endorsing Eric Adams

  • Publicity. Public fawning over Adams might win him over to like us. (Yeah, right)
  • Phone banks. UFT volunteers could phone bank at UFT offices, and eat UFT snacks, while taking a slam dunk campaign and getting maybe no one extra to vote for Adams. But like a student, we would be keen to show how hard we are trying. And public fawning over Adams….
  • Money. Without an endorsement, COPE, the UFT’s political action fund, cannot give Adams money. With an endorsement, they can. And they will.

Let’s talk about money. Adams is refusing matching funds. His coffers are overflowing. Why? Lots of endorsements. Why else? Lots of endorsements from rich and powerful donors with deep pockets. Hedge funds? The Real Estate Board? Other people who are Not Teachers Friends?

UFT money won’t put Adams over the top. He doesn’t need it. The lack of UFT money won’t hurt Adams’ campaign. He doesn’t need it. UFT money will be a gesture. Maybe handing Adams some cash will make him like us? (Yeah, right)

Now, I need some help here. When a campaign has more cash than it needs, there is surplus. I think – but I’m not sure – that candidates hold that money for their next campaign. I think that Adams supporter Andrew C____ was being looked at for using that money as a private slush fund – maybe to employ friends? perhaps paying some defense costs? Or promoting a book? I found a list of what excess cash can be used for:

But here’s the bottom line – giving money to Adams that won’t make a difference for this campaign, that he doesn’t need for this campaign – that’s cash in pocket. It’s a pathetic attempt at a bribe. And asking delegates to the UFT Delegate Assembly to endorse Adams this Wednesday, October 13 – when Adams has no need of the endorsement – that’s asking us for permission to attempt to bribe the candidate.

One More Disadvantage of Endorsing Eric Adams

  • A bribe is insulting. A tiny bribe is insulting. Thinking it will buy anything but contempt is naïve. Instead of treating us as formidable partners in education, Adams will likely regard us as weak, detestable mutts.

Do No Harm

October 3, 2021 pm31 11:16 pm

Vaccine mandates are legal. That was well-established before Sonia Sotomayor said so. We have them for measles and mumps and maybe 10 other shots. There is nothing illegal about New York City’s vaccine mandate for school workers.

But there is something unwise about how New York City’s vaccine mandate for school workers. And there is something unfair about New York City’s vaccine mandate for school workers.

Start with how this works. Anyone who was not vaccinated Friday is being put on unpaid leave. They can stay there for a year. They continue to have health benefits. They cannot enter their buildings. As soon as someone gets vaccinated, at least as of today, they can come back.

Numbers. About 5500 teachers remain unvaccinated (I’m not sure how many teachers we have today. 70,000? 75,000? So that’s 7% or 8%). About 10,000 other school workers remain unvaccinated. I’m assuming most are paraprofessionals. There’s about 1000 school safety agents – I don’t know if that is part of the 10k, or in addition.

Who? Some Black and Latinx educators. There is some distrust of the system, born of years of the system treating Black and Latinx people poorly. And there is some religious fatalism. But I think these numbers have fallen significantly.

Who else? White Trump-y anti-vaxxers. There’s a lot of them, and they are motivated to behave poorly. They are also concentrated in relatively few parts of the city, especially parts of eastern Queens and much of Staten Island. And – and this matters – our school staffs are fairly segregated by school – so they are concentrated not only in specific neighborhoods, but even in specific schools.

Are there enough substitutes to replace them? Absolutely.

Will there be enough substitutes, for the right positions, in the right schools, who show up? Absolutely not.

Am I making that up? Nope. That’s what principals and their union are saying.

And that’s a problem. A badly short-staffed school cannot run correctly. There will be crowding. There will be poorly-planned reorganization. There will be some confusion. The teachers who show up will be saddled with extra work in an already stressful situation. Students will be left at higher risk for exposure.

And there is no quick solution in sight. Because the problem schools will be concentrated in relatively few places, and because the number might seem small – what, 5% of the schools? – 10 seems too high – but in NYC 5% of the schools is almost 100 schools! – the immediate staffing issues will drag on. The losers? Our vaccinated colleagues in those places, and, even more, the students.

The vaccine mandate is perfectly legal. But it will lead to our (vaccinated) colleagues in those places, and our students, being badly burdened and placed at risk. This is unwise.

When a medical treatment is available – but it causes harm to another part of the body, we think twice, and if the damage outweighs the good sometimes we might pass on that treatment. Likewise, a wiser mayor would have passed on the mandate, in this way, at this time. But de Blasio is not that wiser mayor.

Am I expressing sympathy for the Trump-y anti-vaxxers? No. No sympathy. I think they are idiots. I think they are actively putting themselves and others at risk. But if punishing them puts some of our schools/students/teachers at risk, I say no.

If not a mandate? Make them test, on their time, twice a week. Make them ineligible for per session. Put up hoops and obstacles. Knock yourself out. See how none of those things would harm students or our colleagues?

And de Blasio? Acting for public safety? But ignoring the cops? Nope. He’s a bully. And a coward. They go together. He’s terrified of the police, so he’s beating on teachers. That’s unfair.

You want a mandate today? I’m pretty sure I don’t. But if you want it, ask de Blasio to make it a blanket policy. Or better, Hochul. Or even better, Biden. Shouldn’t he be the one? No squawking about states’ rights, please.

For tomorrow, at least 90% of our schools should be okay. Let’s hope it is closer to 100%. And for those that are not okay, let’s find ways to step in to protect our members and our students. And let’s continue to remind de Blasio that these are HIS employees and New York City’s children and that he has an obligation, which he is violating, to keep both groups safe.

The Wrong Fight

September 26, 2021 pm30 10:30 pm

People should get vaccinated.

Writing that is easy. Making it happen may not be.

Bill de Blasio is attempting to create a crisis in schools, starting this week. That is how he plans to get people vaccinated.

de Blasio’s plan is counterproductive. Dangerous. He has decided that by provoking mayhem he can force unvaccinated people to vaccinate, or perhaps, that he can get support for more draconian measures.

Plan

Everyone who works in a school must have at least the first shot by _________ or be removed from payroll for a year. That blank was this Monday, tomorrow, until an injunction. Now it might still be this coming week, but later. Or not.

Why is de Blasio dumb?

I can’t answer that

What’s wrong with de Blasio’s plan?

The unvaccinated minority is large. It will not be bullied into compliance, not likely. Some of it still thinks Trump won the election. And de Blasio is behaving like a bully – a cowardly bully. When his bluster fails, if it gets that far, a huge number of school workers – principals, teachers, but even higher numbers of paras, secretaries, school aides, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, etc, will not be there. There are not enough subs, not enough trained workers, to keep schools functioning. It is a predictable crisis. But it will be a full on crisis.

Who are the unvaccinated?

Sizable chunks of the Black community, of some Spanish-speaking communities. But also a lot of white Trump voters, especially in Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island.

So am I saying that they should not have to vaccinate?

No. They should vaccinate. All the unvaccinated, unless there is a medical contraindication.

Months ago, someone who was slow to vaccinate, perhaps they were being cautious. In communities that have been poorly served or mistreated by this country’s medical establishment, a level of distrust is more than understandable. But literally millions have been safely vaccinated. There’s more than enough evidence. And for those not vaccinating because Trump really won the election? I’ve got no sympathy for people who choose to do and say stupid things. Hate Hillary, hate Joe, just get the damn shot.

There should be positive campaigns to convince people to vaccinate (ok, those exist, there should be more). There should be ways to exert pressure. No gym access without a vaccine? That got thousands of NYers to get the shot. There should be more pressure. There should be more efforts to get prominent spokespeople who are trusted among low-compliance groups to speak out.

But fire tens of thousands? Little Bill, they are ready to call your bluff.

Which I wouldn’t necessarily care about, but the size of the crisis you are going to generate is schools will be monumental.

Is it all de Blasio’s fault?

I don’t really want to answer that. Not honestly. Because I want to blame de Blasio. It’s in large part his fault.

He waited until way way late to set the mandate. Set it July 4 for Labor Day, and let people argue themselves out of breath all summer. But he set it on August 23.

Did I call him a bully already? I did. And a coward. Where is the mandate for cops? There’s the coward. He came after a union that is majority women. He’s afraid of the cops. Most bullies are cowards, and there’s nothing special about ours.

Did I say he set it way too late? Did I mention not giving principals time to plan for what to do on the showdown day? That too.

And pulling people off payroll? That’s the wrong inducement. It corners people, gives them no way out, sets them up as martyrs for refusing, which is what some of them want. It creates a fight. The wrong fight.

Not all

Look, should it be up to each town, each county, each city, each state? That’s ridiculous. In any modern country this would be a joke.

But there is only loose direction from the federal government.

The continued existence of semi-autonomous states, based on long-forgotten shared histories, based in turn on the origin of the first group of European residents… And semi-autonomous counties and towns and boroughs and municipalities. With authority vested in a local strong man or a local bully. I could be describing the US or Afghanistan, but either would be better served with a modern form of government.

And in this backwards system of federal, state and local governments, we have a scarecrow bully. Bad luck for us. But is it really being handled better in Peoria? or any big or middle-sized city in the US? Blame de Blasio all you want, and you should want to, a lot, but this is a national issue, and where’s that leadership? Right.

And Mulgrew?

I don’t know. He’s pro-vaccine, right? But I haven’t heard him yell at people for not getting vaccinated. They’re supposedly his people, right? The Staten Islanders? Then he’s arguing for religious exemptions, which most people don’t buy. His latest email is entitled “temporary delay in implementation of the mandate” as if the mandate is a done deal, and we accept it. Even at the town hall, it sounded like he was talking both ways.

Say something clear, and stick to it. That would be better.

Me

Everyone eligible should get vaxed (absent medical reason not to).

People may have had reasons to be reluctant – but those reasons have evaporated – now they are being stubborn – or worse.

People should be convinced to vaccinate. There should be incentives. Both positive and negative. In the end, some people may need to be compelled to acquiesce.

Taking thousands, including thousands of low-paid workers off payroll to make a point is a bad way to do this. It will fail. It will create a crisis, and a backlash, and create a mess in schools.

Crisis

If de Blasio does not blink… and that is a big if. The big oaf blinks, a lot. But if he does not blink, we will have a problem.

Let this drag on another week or two, and there may be a rush among workers who cannot afford to lose a check to vaccinate.

But there is a core, a very large core, that will hold out. D-Day comes, no matter if it is Wednesday, or Friday, or in two weeks, and there will be schools missing large numbers of teachers, especially in Queens and Staten Island. There will be huge shortages of School Safety Agents in many schools. There will be missing cafeteria workers. There will be critical shortages of bus drivers.

Schools will make do. That’s what we do. But with broken routines, the last vestiges of social distancing will slip away. Discipline (not in the rowdy sense, but in the regularity sense) will break. Groups that should be separate will mix. And COVID will spread.

Staying on Message

September 20, 2021 pm30 11:53 pm

“We’ve got this” “we will figure out/ we figured out remote” “we will lead the way back to in person” “schools/teachers/NYC/NY State will lead the way” “We are reopening NYC”

The “we”? New York City public school teachers. Me. Probably you. Other public school workers.

The authors? The United Federation of Teachers “communication shop.” Reporters. Media people.

And they have done an excellent job staying on message. Versions of the message came out even as schools were closing March 2020. They kept running through the spring and summer, and into last school year.

“We got this” “We are reopening NYC” represents a UFT officer’s marketing campaign that does not speak to teachers, and is frankly, alienating.

Here’s the thing. Some teachers don’t love this message. It wasn’t, I don’t think, designed for us. It is a media play, a press strategy, a public relations campaign.

Since Wednesday I have opened almost every conversation with a teacher the same way. “I love being in the classroom. Zoom? Never. I won’t go back. But being in school, in the hallway, around so many people, with so many safety questions – I am stressed and exhausted like never before” And the responses – teachers are relieved that I get it, that I am articulating it, that someone understands what they are experiencing. They open up. They appreciate the empathy.

Which is what is missing from the UFT statements.

Today’s e-mail

Today de Blasio increased testing from 10%, only of unvaxxed, and only if they agree, from once every other week, to once a week. A little better. But still inadequate. There needs to be a lot more, and more frequent.

de Blasio also dropped quarantining requirements further. Most students who may have been exposed to COVID in school will remain in school.

A small win and a big loss. What did teachers talk about? The loss of quarantining. What did UFT Communications do? They put out an email “Mayor agrees to weekly COVID testing in schools”

They stayed on message. They are talking to the public (or whoever they think the public is). They are not addressing teachers.

The New York Teacher

In the latest “The New York Teacher” there is an article entitled “Bridging the post-pandemic learning gap“. It is not clear to me where the problems with this article originate. It is a Teacher Center piece, and Teacher Center values often align more closely with DoE values than teacher values. Or was this Mulgrew’s media folks? In either case “learning loss” is fictional stick that anti-public (school reform) advocates use to push their agenda and club teachers over the head with. And “Post-pandemic?” Is that where my union thinks we are? With masking and testing and quarantining. Well, maybe quarantining.

Can you imagine your reaction if someone walked up to you tomorrow and asked how you liked teaching post-pandemic?

Thanks to James Eterno for finding and publicizing that one.

Balloons and Confetti and Smiles

I just got another email today, that was addressed to me, but not really addressed to me. It was from Meisha Ross Porter. She was celebrating “Homecoming” and even mentioned a pom pom rally. These things happened and are happening – that is true. But a little flash doesn’t cover up the anxiety and stress we are feeling; the nervousness about safety, concerns about teaching through a mask; general angst about this very iffy year. Arthur calls this “toxic positivity” as he points his finger at the DoE’s deaf ear.

But read his blog a few days earlier, and what do you read? UFT Exec Board, and UFT Officers expressing a similar positivity. Keep to the message? Or speak directly to teacher needs, hopes, fears? Which was it? They kept to the message.

On Message, Not Talking to Us, a Year and a Half

After 18 months of this, people are getting used to it. And it really is 18 months. Here’s the first piece I wrote about an insulting Mulgrew email. Check the date – April 1, 2020. Schools had been out for less than three weeks.

And they continued, and continued. DoE, de Blasio, Cuomo directives were all shared with the members, mostly with fanfare, over Mulgrew’s signature. Many were followed by clarifying emails that walked back the tone, if not the content.

There’s a price to all this – maybe not a price to Mulgrew – but a price to you and me. The level of cynicism about the union (and most members see the leadership as the union. That’s not right, we, in the schools, are the union, or at least we should be. But that’s often the perception) – the level of cynicism about the union has never been this high. I hear distrust coming from people who’d never paid attention in the past. When something goes wrong, a significant number of our members now blame the UFT as their first assumption. I am very worried about the damage that’s being done.

Questions

Each one of these deserves in depth examination.

How did we end up with the “We got this.” “We are leading the way to reopen as quickly as possible” message? It was never put up for a vote, in any body AFAIK.

How much is the failure to empathize with teachers a problem of Unity Caucus? And how much does it belong to this current Communications Team, and their boss?

And how is this team different from previous teams?

To change the message entirely, or to drop it, that would probably require a change in leadership – and even if you think that the leadership should be changed – you probably know that that cannot happen until the end of the year, and that is unlikely to happen even then.

But what about modifying the message? Can the leadership elevate the concerns of members over the media/marketing messaging? Today’s email – how hard would have been to give it an appropriate title, and to put the issue that MEMBERS are worried about before the issue that the OFFICERS have focused on?

Am I wrong about this? Was there another time when the UFT’s President (and they were all Unity Caucus) failed to connect with members to this extent?

The End – For Now

So that’s it.

This last bit is for people who won’t read this, but I need to say it anyhow.

Tone down, or eliminate the marketing strategy. It is alienating members. Write the emails TO members, not for public consumption. Your primary audience should be US, teachers and other school workers.

Teachers are nervous and even scared. We never were trained for remote work, and survived a year with very little support, and we know it – and now we may have to do remote again. We are worried about safety. We are worried about lack of quarantines. We know that social distancing is not at the 3-foot level, and that worries us. Crowded hallways stress us. We do not trust the DoE to tell us when we are at risk.

Learn this for yourselves, if you don’t know it, and begin each conversation by acknowledging it. Show us some empathy.

A very long four day week ends with good news

September 18, 2021 pm30 11:46 pm

Saturday morning, 8AM, the email I don’t use for regular stuff dinged. I followed the link, and followed the result. Undetected. COVID test was negative. I am relieved, but without the energy to celebrate.

The three biggest crowds I have been in since March 13 2020 were this week, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, in school.

Friday, 3 PM, I slowly walked north, away from school. I had no energy left, but the stress! How could I not get tested and find out. The wait wasn’t too bad. The tests are easier than before – I remember my first nasopharyngeal swab with that huge stick at the drive-through in the Fordham University parking lot in July 2020. Yesterday was quick, and kind of tickled. And then I slowly wandered home, just stopping to pick up some take-out. No energy to cook.

Friday itself was a strange day. After only a three day week, with a one-day break (for those of us not observing yontif), you’d expect the day to feel light. And I do, in fact, have a lighter teaching load on Friday (comp time, programmer, unbalanced schedules with heavy and light days). But the exhaustion from earlier in the week had not dissipated. My conversations were slow; I avoided some. Union talk was a drag.

Thursday, a day off without obligation, should have been the perfect recovery. But one free day, when I hadn’t had time to plan anything, when mind and body were a mess, was like a drop of water on a fire.

Fire? Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. These were tough, tough teaching days.

It was good to be back in the classroom. Fantastic. No more Zoom. Never more Zoom. Please. Teaching, even with a mask, was teaching. What a pleasure. What a joy. But I was shot, one afternoon worse than the next. It was a blur. Every “normal” year the first days are tough on the body, it takes getting used to getting back in the swing.

But nothing as exhausting as the first three days of this year. Never. Last year, Zoom year, was brutal. Soul-crushingly brutal. But it sapped our energy and our souls, a bit at a time. September 13 – 15 were a tidal wave.

I read this on a NYC teachers’ group, where 600 agreed, and 500 left their own comments:

This type of exhausted is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. I’ve NEVER felt like this at the start of a school year. I constantly feel dehydrated and short of breath.. Anyone else feeling like this?

For some of them it was physical, the body. For many, the voice. In case you don’t know, tons of teachers lose their voices for a couple of days each fall. All that talking. But in the first three days? I think they were yelling to be heard through their masks and over the fake DoE purifiers. (Air cleaning – semi-fake. Noise – very real.)

But I think for most of us, it was the stress. Space is tight, and social distancing is an aspiration, not a fact. In some schools it is hopeless. In others it is possible to maintain, just not all the time. My school’s on the border in the classrooms. Maybe we are just ok at the 3′ – but I think we usually come close but fall short. But the hallways? Wow. And I’ve seen pictures from elsewhere – worse.

Stress. In 18 months I have never been around, not for 15 minutes, the number of people I am around at any class change in the school, or at dismissal, or before the first class. I feel the tension when I step into the building. It’s palpable. It drove me to a COVID test on Friday. It sucked out all the energy, every day.

I will learn to bear it. In my mind, I have to. And then I won’t be so tired.

How Long Did Hilbert Speak?

September 16, 2021 pm30 1:06 pm

What’s a good source with more details about the 23 Problems? Were the delegates amazed? Or did the talk become famous later on?

Was it a hot day? Who was in the hall? Did someone disagree?

He only included half the problems in the talk, and the rest were published in the proceedings, right?

I have “The Honors Class” (with a note inserted, by one of the partial-solvers, Yay!) but it doesn’t say much about the speech itself.

I am talking to bright high school students about set theory and logic, and I want to dig in for a little general background, and besides “there was this famous talk” I am falling short.

Can anyone offer some assistance?

New Year Starting Today – Kafka High School

September 9, 2021 am30 7:55 am

Across New York City – we are back.

It’s our first regular September since 2019.

See what I did there? I called it a “regular September.” And that is what is happening across the City.

Yeah, there’s masks, not clear what the rules are. But most schools are going back. Same rooms. Same class sizes. Same first day meetings. Remind me why we sit together for faculty conferences that can be done via zoom from multiple rooms? I know. We are back, and this is a regular September.

Last September (and late August) were different. We – and now I’m mostly talking about teachers – were up in arms. Safety. Planning. How would this work? Why had the DoE and UFT pushed hybrid on us? Why weren’t we remote? There was strike talk (wisely withdrawn, I believe, by the union leadership). There were meetings and seminars. There were petitions and campaigns. COVID had ravaged us in March and April, and was preparing to take a second swipe.

Today? Not much. People are worried, upset, angry. But the fight, at least for now, is not there. We have been exhausted, fatigued. We are walking into our buildings. Regular September.

The New York Times wants us back. They wanted us back last year. There is science, quickly shifting, but the Times, the DoE, Biden, the UFT leadership, Trump, they all want the schools open. There is a vaccine now. We were safe last year. It has to be a regular September.

In today’s Morning Edition the Times argues that Delta is like the flu. Get over it. They are channeling Trump, dressed up with some science. Schools were safe last year – with most kids staying at home. There is a vaccine, but none of the little kids can get it, and not all of the big kids got it, and in some schools, not so many adults got it. “After navigating this pandemic,” someone wrote for Mulgrew this morning “we know we can handle anything.” The arguments are silly, but they make them, without shame, because they help describe a regular September.

And we know – there are far more cases today than a year ago. It’s worse in other parts of the country – but in vaccinated New York – much higher numbers in September 2021 than there were in September 2020.

There is resistance. Parents, politicians, advocates. There needs to be a remote option. There needs to be a real testing program. Ventilation needs review. Class sizes need to be reduced. Social distancing should not be optional. There are op-eds and petitions and City Council resolutions. None of them are saying that remote is better than learning inside actual schools. But they know – this is not a regular September.

And, as we walk into our first regular September faculty meetings, we know they are right.

 

 

 

Did We Just Agree to Rules for Remote in NYC?

September 1, 2021 pm30 7:04 pm

I am not sure:

  • This document is dated, I believe, incorrectly
  • There are no signatures
  • This could be a draft
  • It could be one of the sides’ negotiating positions

Or it could be the actual deal. Take a look.

Notice a few things about set up.

  • Digital platform set up in advance (by October 1)
  • One Day of Emergency Remote Lessons to be uploaded in advance (by October 1)
  • We get paid an extra $225 for doing this work. (Is it pensionable? Probably not)
  • Nothing else has to be uploaded in advance

Some more things about using the platforms

  • Use them for parent teacher conferences
  • Use them on snow days (synchronous)
  • Use them if the classroom or school is shut (synchronous)
  • Use them to create asynchronous lessons for quarantined students
  • use them for synchronous instruction if the teacher is quarantined but able to work remotely
  • There is also an office hours requirement for quarantined students

If I’m reading this correctly, no simulcasting.

Have at it. Tell me what you find.

And remember, I have no idea if this is the agreement, a rejected agreement, a draft… but it sounds like the sort of things they might come up with.

NYC Public School 2021-22: Subs and Preps

August 21, 2021 am31 12:03 am

Listen folks, September 2021 will not be a rerun of September 2020. The problems will be bad, but new.

Differences:

  • Percent vaccinated was 0%. Now it is higher.
  • COVID was scary, but seemed to be fading. Now we have gone through several variants, and Delta is rising in NY (while surging elsewhere)
  • One quarter of the kids (25%) were going to come to school in person (de Blasio said 3/4, but we all said he was wrong, and we were right). Now everyone is coming to school (with people leaving New York, and others just holding their kids home, call it 85%)
  • Many teachers were going to work from home. Does anyone know how many had remote accommodations? 20%? 30%? Now, there are just about no remote accommodations.

The Federal Government wanted all schools open. Well, some things have not changed.

These differences have some direct consequences. I’m thinking of substitute teachers and mass preps.

Will teachers be out? Yup.

  • Every time a teacher gets COVID, even if it is a mild case, that teacher will be out of school. Anyone know how many days?
  • When a teacher is exposed, I believe they will be quarantined (anyone know the details? Or are they changing?)
  • And when morale is low, and exhaustion is real – and both of those conditions exist at higher levels, by a lot, than usual – when morale is low and exhaustion is real teachers who do not feel good are more likely to play it safe and stay home – even when it is not-COVID or COVID-related.
  • And a perhaps surprising fact: New York State guidance says that students who are exposed by wearing a mask do not need to quarantine. But the teacher, if unvaccinated, will need to.

Let me throw in one more question: teachers left in June – were they all replaced? Are staffing levels low?

In any case, there will be teachers out. There will be classes uncovered. Do schools have enough subs?

One option that is no longer an option: in elementary, splitting the teacher’s class and sending it into other classes in the same grade. Social Distancing would go out the window.

Another unavailable option: sending groups of classes into the auditorium. “Mass preps” I think they used to call it.

Remember, last year schools were over half empty. This year they will almost be full. What to do when teachers are out – especially since COVID can lead to long absences, is a real issue. Is your school ready with subs?

This post was motivated by a comment from yesterday:

You are missing a BIG point. The NYS back to school regulations state that students who are exposed to a confirmed covid case while social distancing and wearing a mask do not need to quarantine. However, if their teacher is unvaccinated, he or she will have to quarantine. Thus, you will have quite a few teachers quarantining at home while the rest of their classes will still be in the school building. Who is going to supervise that class while the teacher is in quarantine?

Bill

How Will NYC Kids Do School While on Quarantine?

August 19, 2021 pm31 10:29 pm

NYC Public Schools are opening in person in three weeks. Like it or not. It’s been in the works since June. There’s no surge that is huge enough to derail these plans.

NYC Public Schools will not have a remote option in three weeks. Unless the mayor caves. But he has such a strong backbone… Well, what do you think? He might cave. He might not. As of today, no remote option. I’m guessing that there won’t be a remote option when school starts.

NYC Public Schools will have schools, classrooms, and individuals – mostly individuals – quarantined, within days of the opening. Like it or not. New cases are doubling every 10 – 15 days. The layers of protection in NYC Public Schools are uneven school to school, and weak in many. And this Delta variant is forcing anti-quarantine states to quarantine school children and teachers. Today’s headlines include 5% of Mississippi school children are already under quarantine, after just one week of school. (the video is interesting – over 3 minutes, but worth watching

There are questions about what will trigger a quarantine. Interesting, but outside my scope, today. Although there is policy to be analyzed. There is a large contingent that, as part of their “keep schools open no matter the risks” agenda, are arguing against quarantining in most circumstances where one would expect them to be required. There will be a big push from City Hall and keep-schools-open advocates such as the GOP and the NY Times to ignore or downplay cases in schools, and avoid quarantines and closures.

But closures and quarantines will happen. If they can’t avoid them in Mississippi, they won’t be able to avoid them in New York City. Four syllables, four syllables. Hmmph.

To put us on the same page, a quarantine is not what you do when you are sick. It’s what you do when you may have been exposed to someone who is sick. It allows you time to monitor to make sure you are not sick, or to develop symptoms and get help. Either way, when you quarantine you feel ok (except for the anxiety) but you stay out of public life, or in this case, public school.

So frame the question: a group of children who feel ok may have been exposed so we are keeping them out of school for a week or so while we determine that they are in fact fine, or we determine that some are sick, and get them treatment. But they feel ok now, but are not in school.

Options

Do nothing. This is de Blasio’s current plan.

  • Advantages: It is cheap. In fact, it costs zero. Nothing. It is easy. It requires no planning. de Blasio is fully capable of no planning.
  • Disadvantages:  Bored kids, climbing the walls. Being out of school, after 2020-21 may not feel like vacation.
  • Hidden motive: de Blasio is worried that having a quarantine plan is a slippery slope to having remote schooling. I know, dumb, but you know, de Blasio.
  • What it looks like: Nothing. Until a bunch of quarantines hit an anti-mask neighborhood, and we get insane protests, or until a bunch of quarantines hit gentrifier neighborhoods, and we get insane writing miscategorized as news and printed by the New York Times.

Set up a centrally run “Quarantine Academy

  • Advantages: Enough central staff have teaching licenses that this can be staffed pretty easily. Engages kids who are stuck on quarantine.
  • Disadvantages: In many cases the centrally run Quarantine Academy will not be on the same page (literally) as the student’s school. There will be a math lesson, but it may be a topic the child already engaged with this year, or one her class has not yet reached.
  • Hidden disincentive: although this seems relatively simple to set up, DoE Central’s capacity for planning is so limited that they are probably terrified by the prospect.
  • What’s it look like: “Teachers” can probably grab materials that the Virtual Content Specialists created last year. They can work from their existing DoE offices (maybe some shuffling to get quiet spaces). The DoE would need to supply zoom links to kids as they get assigned quarantine, and then the kids sign on.  Would there be attendance?  And for the kids? You are stuck home, but you get assigned grade-appropriate remote work, meet a bunch of new people virtually, and don’t get graded?  I can think of worse things to do for a week.

Tell Principals to Make Arrangements. Wink, wink. Or just drop hints.

I am terrified that this is what is in the works. Here’s my bad version: de Blasio says “We have no remote. Quarantine is short. Kids will be fine. They will be back soon. But schools can make their own arrangements.” Principals will take that to mean that they must make arrangements.  And in many schools principals will order teachers to keep two classrooms – one live, one virtual.  The UFT will say “principals should not order teachers to keep two classrooms” – but there will be no enforcement mechanism. And then, when kids are sick, we will be ordered to teach both remote and in-person, simultaneously. I hope I am wrong.

I taught remote all last year. I hated it. The kind of interaction I need as a math teacher wasn’t there. I could not read body language. I had trouble generating questions. I could not always see students’ faces (which is so much more important than asking “any questions?” which is a question that is designed to get silence as the answer – especially when I can read faces and know that there are or are not questions). I could not see student work in real time. I could not interrupt my lesson, walk over to the far board and take up an interesting tangential question that popped into some kid’s head. I could not give credit for board work. I barely could do group work. I hated it. It was not the teaching I love.

But this summer I taught five lessons in my school’s Discovery Program with a mixed remote/in-person class. If I were asked to do that again, I would turn in my retirement papers the same day. It was a far worse experience than remote teaching. Much of my work was doubled. But that’s not what I minded. Although it is true that I had to do about 50% more preparation. I hated things turned in remotely last year. Turns out I hate a mix of turning in the paper and turning in remotely even more. But in class – I move around – but the camera is fixed. If I spoke with remote kids, live kids didn’t hear me. When I was speaking with live kids, remote kids had problems. Parts of the board were invisible. Groups – we were in person so we could form socially distanced groups – operated totally differently. Conversations are best live, but I can run them remote – but I could not engage across modes. It stressed me out. It was frustrating. It was ineffective. I was one small part of our Discovery Program, which strives each year for 100% success. And the in-person part was close to 100. The remote was around 50.

Now, there are teachers who teach in the front of the room, and they talk, take a few questions, and write on the board. I have heard from some History teachers who are certain they could simulcast. But I cannot. I cannot imagine elementary. I couldn’t imagine most of my colleagues, or most high school teachers.

Could I post my homework assignments, and any readings? Sure. And if the demand stopped there, I think most of us would be ok. I just don’t think it would stop there, absent a strong UFT response.

  • Advantage (for de Blasio and Porter): They don’t actually tell principals to violate the contract or teachers’ rights or reasonable workload or decency. They just suggestively hint at it. And they don’t take on any responsibility at all. That’s the sort of responsibility he is willing to take.
  • Disadvantage (for teachers and students): the remote aspect would interfere with the live lesson. Or if the camera was on but the teacher did not modify the live lesson, the student would miss huge chunks – and missing mid-lesson is frustrating. And for teachers, the additional workload and stress would be significant.
  • What would this look like? For me? The beach. Because if it happens I’m retiring on the spot. For most of us? We are geared to bounce back from the last 17 months – instead getting this laid on us? pretty high burn out rates. Lousy atmosphere for students and teachers.
  • Wildcard: the UFT. The union has the right to stop this before it starts. And I hope that’s exactly what would happen. But the last year and a half do not inspire confidence.

In February, it is true we got this:

“It is not humanly possible to engage kids in person and online at the same time with the attention that is needed,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “Teachers are very, very, very frustrated by this.”

But what will we get in September?

And look, it’s not just me. From the same article:

In Minnesota, an October union survey found that educators teaching concurrently were reporting soaring stress levels and considering quitting. The following month, Gov. Tim Walz (D) issued an executive order saying schools should not require teachers to provide instruction simultaneously to students learning in person and remotely.

but it’s not just teachers. This is from last fall, from Florida, of all the places:

Students attending class in person should have the benefits of interactive lessons, and students learning online need more attention from teachers to stay engaged. The solution is to separate these unique classrooms. Having separate teachers focused solely on online instruction or teaching in classrooms would allow them to figure out the most effective methods to teach their students during this time of uncertainty. 

Some brief thoughts on Afghanistan

August 16, 2021 pm31 1:43 pm

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is horrible for the people there.

The US military presence in Afghanistan, for 20 years, has been a foreign military presence. Some of us may have forgotten that.

Without US troops, the Afghan government put up little resistance. In many cities the Taliban just walked in.

The Taliban entered Kabul a day earlier than they had announced – to prevent crime. Sounds like a made-up excuse, except there were on the ground reports from locals about armed men, not Taliban, stealing and looting.

The US left Bagram Airbase July 2. The Taliban swept through the provinces and took Kabul in the intervening six weeks. This is comparable to the time it took Germany to conquer Poland, for an area 6 times as large.

Twenty years of US presence in Afghanistan built up no popular support for the Afghan government. That’s clear.

Twenty years of US presence cost roughly $850,000,000,000. That’s 850 billion.

Could 850 billion have extended/improved unemployment benefits? Built new roads and schools? Rebuilt bridges and tunnels? Bailed out small businesses? With all those zeroes at the end, it can be hard to fathom. But know this: 850 billion could have paid for a lot of stuff we need.

Twenty years of US presence cost Afghanistan – who knows?  100,000 dead. But what sort of damage to the country? And it also cost almost 3000 Americans their lives.

The United States under Ronald Reagan armed Islamic guerrillas in Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight against the then Afghan government. That government was pro-Soviet. The United States constructed and supported the forces that would later develop into the Taliban.

The Taliban takeover is horrible for the people there. A solution needs to be found – but as the last 40 years have shown – the US is part of the problem – and keeping us out is part of the solution.

Map shows areas controlled by Taliban in orange. (AP)

What is Three Feet?

August 13, 2021 pm31 1:44 pm

One yard? Thirty-six inches? Something like that.

But in the language of the pandemic, three feet is the current social distance that we are trying to maintain in lots of places. I am writing this because those places include schools.

The New York City Department of Education says that schools should try to create social distancing at three feet. But Wednesday they added, if a school cannot create social distancing at three feet, add more kids to the room, but call it three foot social distancing anyhow.

Karin Goldmark signed the memo, which asks principals to play “Let’s Pretend” with public safety at stake.

If they cannot meet three feet, the DoE says, go ahead and exceed three foot social distancing by up to 25%, but continue to call it three foot social distancing.

Layers of Protection

There are many things we can do, as individuals, as institutions, as society, to protect against the spread of disease. Here we are focused on COVID-19. using multiple approaches has been called “layering” – the more layers, none of which on their own provide complete protection, the more protection. Vaccination is one very important layer. Masking, done correctly, is another. Better masks provide a better layer. So is washing hands – although we now know this thing is airborne. Limiting the number of contacts is another; in schools this is being called “cohorting” or “podding” – and it might work in lower grades, but is awkward at best in middle school, and only possible in some high schools. Social Distancing is another layer.

Medieval Authority

Let me say up front, the existence of 50 fiefdoms, with autonomous duchies and city-states beneath them, is medieval. We have a government whose political organization belongs to an era before epidemiology. Authority in our schools rests with the Department of Education, which is run by a Chancellor, appointed by a Mayor, weakly overseen by a CEC, regulated by New York State Education Department which is not empowered to actually make decisions. All of this is under a Governor, who had emergency powers, but now does not, and has a week and a half left anyhow. The federal government cannot dictate local school policy, but it can deny funding to states for not following federal demands, and it provides a lot of funding.

CDC

And the CDC can provide guidance. Once upon a time the CDC was an organization of doctors and scientists who did their jobs. Today the amount of political interference in the CDC is obvious. It played out, on live tv, as the CDC dueled and ducked and duked it out with Donald Trump, sometimes standing firm, often bending, and occasionally yielding completely. It plays out, for us today, in the political decision – schools should be open – driving medical and public safety recommendations.

But once the CDC sets guidelines, makes recommendations, they don’t become law. It is still up to the other layers of government to duel and joust over who makes decisions.

CDC’s current guidance

is to use lots of “layers” in school. They recommend three feet for social distancing (with caveats and details), but add, if that’s not possible, do your best, and make sure to have lots of other layers, like podding.

New York State’s guidance

The Health Department, under demonic Howard Zucker, who should be immediately removed by Kathy Hochul, told schools that they would provide reopening guidance – right up to the week before the guidance was due, when they claimed that they would not provide guidance because the governor’s emergency powers were gone. But those powers had expired a month before, and they were still promising guidance after. It’s not the first time Zucker has lied, and this lie did not cost lives as his lies in 2020 may have, but it is still annoying.

Stepping into that void the New York State Education Department issued a document. It is a guide, recommendations. And it follows the CDC guidance pretty closely, with some added stuff.

What the New York City Department of Education is doing

The City DoE told principals to meet 3 feet social distancing if they could. They left open the possibility that 3 feet might not be possible, and left it at that.

NYCDoE identified schools that could not meet 3 feet, and ignored them, except for the worst few. They are talking about 50 schools (out of 1800). The real number of schools with distancing problems is probably over 300.

Shifting the blame onto principals

The NYCDoE has set very loose guidelines. They are far from specific. And they give principals autonomy to run their schools.

Actually, that last part, about autonomy, is a lie. The DoE micromanages much of what principals do. But when there is something tricky, or immoral, or illegal, the DoE gives principals “discretion.” “Discretion” is in quotes because it is really blame-shifting onto principals, it is plausible deniability, it is ducking responsibility.

The DoE knows that beyond the 50 schools it is examining, there are at least a few hundred that will not meet three foot social distancing. But that, they say, is up to the principals to plan for.

The NYCDoE Planning and Development Spreadsheets

Late spring 2020 Planning and Development sent out spreadsheets giving principals the maximum number of students they should put in each room. I wrote about it here. They overcalculated how many kids would fit at 6 feet social distancing. And then they gave a range, where the already overcalculated number was now the minimum. In the classroom where I usually teach, that number as THEY calculated it was 11. But they told my principal 11 – 15.

What is a maximum?

When there is a bridge, and it says “Clearance 9′ 6″” that means a vehicle taller than that should not attempt to go through. Why don’t they say “Clearance 9′ 6″ – 10′ 2” “? The answer is obvious. A maximum is a maximum. An elevator may give maximum weight 1450 lbs. They don’t write 1450 – 1790, again, for obvious reasons.

When Planning and Development calculated 11 as the maximum, and then wrote 11 – 15, they asked principals to use the higher number, which exceeded the maximum. Their boss, who signed her name, was playing roulette with our safety, and hoping that she has adequately shifted responsibility/blame onto principals, in case something went wrong.

New spreadsheets

In March of this year Planning and Development sent out new spreadsheets, since social distance in lower grades was being dropped to three feet. Those spreadsheets contained only one number. That number was calculated by taking the area of the room in square feet (perhaps over-reported – that’s certainly in the case in my school and in any room with fixed furniture), multiplied by 0.04, rounded, and subtracted 2 for the adult.

I was surprised that the obvious dishonesty was not present.

Newest spreadsheets

In the face of a few hundred schools that cannot meet three foot social distancing, Planning and Development issued new spreadsheets. They reported the old maximum as the lower number in a range, and increased room capacity, on a spreadsheet, by pushing a button, by 25%.

What about layering?

I don’t see where the City actually discusses it, but maybe it is there. The CDC does mention it. And NYSED refers to that part of the CDC guidance. If social distancing cannot be maintained, claims the politicized CDC, then a layering approach will help. But some of the key layers are not available in New York City schools. Little kids cannot be vaccinated. Older kids cannot be mandated to be vaccinated. Kids in some D75 schools cannot wear masks. “Pods” don’t work in most high schools and many middle schools.

The Goldmark memo

was written to justify this approach. Goldmark tells principals to use three foot social distancing. And if they cannot, she continues, go ahead and exceed three foot social distancing by up to 25%, but continue to call it three foot social distancing.

I do not know why such a person, with no education experience, is allowed to be in a position to do this.

Here’s her memo:

Dear Principals,

As you know, physical distancing is one of many measures the NYC DOE is taking to ensure the health and safety of our school communities. Our multi-layered approach puts health and safety front and center and follows all the latest guidance from local, state, and federal bodies.

In response to requests, attached please find updated room-level capacity reports for your school. This includes an estimated physical distancing capacity range for each full-size and half-size room allocated to your school that maximizes the ability to program classrooms safely while still maintaining three feet of distance, in line with latest CDC guidance. We know that most of you have already programmed your instructional space and do not need to make adjustments. For the small number that may benefit from additional capacity, these reports should help guide the final touches of your planning.

These estimates apply to all elementary, middle, and high schools and reflect the total capacity of each room including students and staff.     

The low end of the capacity range aligns with the capacities you received in March, and includes buffer zones in each room, such as along the walls. The high end of the range still safely allows for three feet of distance between individuals. Please keep in mind that in order to maintain three feet of distancing using the high end of the range, the following may be necessary: 

·        Desks may need to be placed along walls 

·        Desks may need to be staggered 

·        If the unique configuration of a given classroom is such that the high end of the range cannot be accommodated with three feet of space between each seat, please plan accordingly and do not go up to that capacity   

Additionally, please note that contractual maximums must be honored, even inlarge rooms where the number of students that can be served may exceed them. In these cases, please adhere to the lower of the two numbers, which is the contractual maximum.

These reports are based on 2020-2021 room allocations.  If you believe your room allocations will change during the 2021-2022 school year, please reach out to schoolplanninganddevelopment@schools.nyc.gov for an updated room report.

A cross-functional team has been working all summer with the small number of schools that may face challenges due to physical distancing guidelines. We will continue to provide intensive support and to mobilize resources for each of these schools in the lead up to September 13th.  


Executive Superintendents, Superintendents, and Directors of Operations will continue to work closely with you to ensure that workable plans are in place and that you have the support you need to ensure a safe, smooth opening this September.  As always, if you have questions or need assistance in addressing a space challenge, please contact your BCO Director of Operations and/or Superintendent for support. If you are the principal of a District 75 school and have questions, please reach out to Patricia Klebanov at PKlebanov@schools.nyc.gov for support.

You are also welcome to join one of the weekly support meetings organized jointly by the Office of Space Management, the Division of Operations, and the Division of School Planning and Development.  More information is forthcoming. We appreciate your continued dedication to your school communities and our continued partnership in this work. We look forward to a safe, joyful, and enriching return to school buildings in September.

Sincerely,

Karin Goldmark

Deputy Chancellor, School Planning and Development

Aftermath? US Life Expectancy Falls Sharply

July 21, 2021 pm31 11:03 pm

Is this over, or almost over, or almost over here? Maybe it is to soon to say “aftermath”.

But not good.

The National Center for Health Statistics (I think they are part of the CDC) updated its life expectancy numbers for the United States. They are down.

Average life expectancy for all Americans declined by 1.5 years. For men it declined 1.8 years, for women 1.2 years. For the Hispanic population the decline was 3.0 years, for Blacks 2.9 years, and for non-Hispanic whites 1.2 years.

The overall number of 77.3 years is the lowest since 2003. Depending on subgroups, the numbers match those from 2000, or 2003, or 2005.

This report is based on preliminary numbers, which may be adjusted. But no adjustments could possibly make these numbers look good.

Feeling Congested? Pricing’s Not the Answer

July 20, 2021 pm31 11:22 pm

If all the major politicians in New York agree on something, it’s either a very good idea or a very bad one. Congestion Pricing is a very bad idea.

It has been played up in The New York Times. Cuomo has signed on. De Blasio is a proponent. Adams wants to hurry it up. All the defeated democratic candidates for Mayor supported it. There is pretty broad consensus among politicians.

New Jersey has an issue. And Sliwa doesn’t like it. Melinda Katz once opposed it – but I’m not sure if she still does. Residents of NYC had a pretty negative view until recently, but I think it’s closer to 50/50.

The idea is to charge drivers for entering Manhattan below 60th Street, with the amount of the charge varying depending on how crowded the Zone is. Result – fewer cars, less pollution, and a shitload of money to be used, at least in part, on mass transit. Let’s take the two big ideas – Reduce Congestion and Raise Revenue separately.

A Familiar Problem

Reduce Congestion

I once worked, perhaps a few of you know, in transportation planning. I got curious when I saw Sam Schwartz speak at Brooklyn Polytech. Average Vehicle Speeds on Manhattan Avenues and Streets. I was immediately hooked. And while my actual work eventually involved mostly private bus lines that no longer exist, I never lost my fascination with traffic. I’ve read a bit more than a normal person should. Actually, more than a bit more than that.

Short version: You can cut down the number of cars entering the Zone. But you cannot cut down how bad the traffic is.

Longer version: People tolerate only so much delay. Make the delay worse, and some people will stop taking their vehicle in, until the delay is restored at the level the community tolerates. Reduce the delay, and more cars will flow in until the delay reaches the level the community tolerates.

Example for those of you annoyed by how counterintuitive this is: Recall when a road was straightened, or had a lane added. Recall how traffic moved better for a bit. And recall how other traffic found your spot, and filled it up. And how the delays returned to what they had always been.

Another example: Lane saturation was studied in England, and was the subject of an intelligence report from The Economist, drawing the same conclusion – add lanes? traffic will find them and congest them to the level that congestion existed before. Here’s a brief paper from Canada about this “rebound effect”.

Corollary: Remove lanes, and traffic will drop until congestion reaches the previous level. Great study from the EU – click here to look it over (other links here are brief – but this one is 50 pages)

Conclusion: To reduce Manhattan traffic, remove lanes. Make more streets pedestrian only. Add consistent bike lanes. Add restaurant/commercial space (created from street space). The cars will still be delayed, but there will be many fewer of them.

Who will be affected? Well, everyone in the Zone will face less direct pollution from cars. Quality of life will be up. More walking. More outside seating, dining, etc, etc. Drivers? Those who most need access to Manhattan will deal with the worse delays. But those whose need is more marginal will opt for public transit, or not to take the trip. If the trip takes a long time, drivers will decide if it is worth their time.

Wrong conclusion: Congestion Pricing. Fewer cars will enter the Zone, it is true. But instead of those who really need access coming in, we will see those who can afford it. In fact, we will see an overall drop, but as part of that, wealthy drivers will replace middle class and working class drivers. Very Bloombergian. Zone residents might see nicer looking cars, but that is not a reasonable public policy goal. Plus, Congestion Pricing requires hardware and monitoring devices. Congestion Pricing draws an arbitrary line in Manhattan, and places an arbitrary boundary between one part of the City and others.

And a simpler and more effective method is available to reduce the number of cars traveling in Midtown and Lower Manhattan. Just close some streets, and remove some lanes. Nice story here about traffic “evaporating” when a popular link was removed from the London street system.

One Sort of Solution

Side note, since I mentioned lanes. American lanes are wide. Wider than most other places in the world. Do you know what that means? It makes it easier to stay in your lane. Sounds good, right? Wrong. When lanes are narrower, drivers are forced to focus more on their position. They go SLOWER. Fat American lanes produce FAST American traffic speeds. And that contributes to this country’s horrible vehicle accident record, including a bad pedestrian vs car fatality rate. One of the most significant road safety reforms we could enact would be to narrow lanes. Google this if you want to learn more, or click this link that popped up when I searched.

Increase Revenue

Revenue? That’s money the government takes from some of us, and uses. If we are lucky, that money gets used for something that benefits society, maybe benefits us personally.

Taxes. We are talking about taxes. And who they come out of, and who they go to, those are very important questions.

it makes sense that taxes from car use go to fixing roads that cars use. Or does it? Maybe taxes from car use should go to making alternate forms of transportation better or more viable. Or maybe, just maybe, our taxes get jumbled together and repurposed as society needs them.

That last one, taxes don’t get used based on how or where they were collected, is the right answer. Taxes on parents do not pay for schools. We do not tax disaster victims to pay for fire service. We do not tax anyone based on how much trash they generate.

And in fact, this discussion (well, my discussion) is not about what taxes get used for. It’s about how they are assessed. And here we have choices.

Wealth taxes and luxury taxes – good. They are coming right from those who can afford them most.

Income taxes, graduated, with higher rates for higher income, and with a bottom below which no tax is assessed – very good. Progressive taxes. Done right, those at the bottom do not pay, those in the middle pay little, and those at the top pay a lot.

Sales taxes – regressive. We all buy “things” and so get taxed pretty equally, even while some people make much more than others.

Use taxes – even more regressive. This Congestion Pricing business might fall into this category.

Sin taxes – also very regressive. The paternalistic idea that cigarette taxes are to benefit people’s health is bs. Those least able to pay are also the least likely to feel the sort of daily control over their lives that would allow them to quit. These are regressive taxes, and bad taxes. Perhaps because of pollution some NY Times readers would categorize Congestion Pricing as a sort of sin tax.

Lottery – jeez – just rob the people least likely to be able to afford, thank you Andrew Cuomo. And some of those payoffs should be illegal.

Conclusion

Want to reduce the number of cars? Take away roads, take away lanes.

Want to increase revenue? Raise wealth taxes, luxury taxes, and marginal income tax rates on top earners.

Want to avoid bad policy? Stop this Congestion Pricing nonsense before it starts. Opt for solutions that work, and for fairness, instead.

With a Straight Face

July 19, 2021 pm31 1:28 pm

It happens every year, in every class, lots of times. I’ll get a question. It might be silly, or off topic. Maybe it is irrelevant. And instead of saying “that is off topic” “silly” “irrelevant” I tease. I give a fabulous answer. And outrageous answer. A ridiculous answer. How old am I? As if it mattered. 89. With a straight face. Wait, no? That’s not true! And I keep a straight face. Well, almost straight, as a smirk elbows its way into the corners of my mouth. And they make a fuss and laugh, and so do I, and we move on.

I taught last Tuesday. In a room. With kids. Rising 9th graders. Our Discovery Program.

It was great teaching in a room. I got to respond to questions. I tailored discussion to things kids said. No cameras were on. No cameras were off. The kids were just THERE. I could see their reactions. Sort of. I could see who understood well, who wasn’t following, who was distracted. I could generate excitement. I could play kids’ answers off of each other. It was teaching. I had missed it.

It was mildly not-so-comfortable teaching in a mask. But it was ok. And it interfered, somewhat, with reading kids’ faces. That’s a real issue. But still much better than little boxes on the zoom screen.

When I signed up for Discovery I missed some things. A few kids are remote. It does mean I have to have a screen on. I wasn’t so happy about that. But it was minor, and only happens in one of the two sections. And I don’t know all the stories, but one is a local kid who has to babysit for her family – and she’ll be a good student. I understand the necessity. Also, teachers are assigning work on Google Classroom. I completely stressed out when I heard that. I went along with it… but I’ve shifted to collecting work, on paper, in person, as much as possible. I really want to get as far away from March ’20 – June ’21 as I can, as soon as I can.

Anyhow, it was fun being in class, and at the board (even though this room has white boards instead of chalk). And I got to listen to the answers, and to encourage good thinking, even when it wasn’t completely correct, and gently correct quick thinking that was way off course.

And then I got a silly question, and I gave an outrageous answer. These kids never had me before, so they weren’t expecting me to make stuff up. And my straight face, and then my almost straight face, were hidden by my mask. My shtick flopped.

Much better than Zoom. But still, one of my favorite parts is still missing.

Best / Worst Breakfast

July 18, 2021 pm31 11:23 pm

Today I had the most delicious breakfast – but it came with the worst service I’d experienced in a long time.

After breakfast I went for a long ride, which gave me a lot of time to think. I thought about how lousy the service was (this isn’t just a teaser – I’ll tell you further down what got me so bothered) – but I it got me mostly thinking about the nature of serving, and of service work.

This was a diner, far from any big city. The cooks are regular, maybe one is the owner. White men. One server, mid-20s? I think has been there. The other two servers seemed younger. All women.

Is serving by its nature a temporary job? Were these high school kids, who needed some summer money? If that’s the set-up, are we devaluing both service work AND our young people, by treating this work like it is worth a few bucks, and that’s it? Do we send the message that this work doesn’t matter much? And neither does the worker?

If we think that serving is important – and I do – don’t we need to send a different message?

It’s true – astronaut, ballerina, cowboy, doctor, server – which one do kids NEVER say they want to be when they grow up?

Clearly one thing we can do is pay servers more, pay all service workers more. The drive to raise the minimum wage to $15 completely necessary, and, frankly, completely inadequate. (Think about $2400 a month, and then tax taken out, and then pay for housing, food, transportation – include all fares, car payments, gas. Is there anything left?)

And remember, this is serving. There is a LOWER minimum wage for servers. This whole “tip” business is unfair – servers should be paid correctly, and not have to rely on the sometimes unpredictable or arbitrary whims that go into tip calculations (or non-calculations). Here’s something interesting on the subject. I am not an expert, but I am convinced. And, by the way, yes, I considered not tipping this morning. Probably the first time ever I seriously considered that. But I did tip. Just shy of 20%.

But back to the minimum wage – raising it seems like the right way to go. Abolishing the lower minimum for servers? Clearly. But things may be more complicated.

This was a small business, in an area where there’s not a lot of money. People walk in and out of service jobs (not sure if that is true of this place – hadn’t been there since before COVID). But between various sources of assistance, including stimulus unemployment – there are ways to get some money. And these jobs are around – there is seasonal tourist industry, so there’s cycles of employment.

Now, after COVID (I hope “after” is true), there are fewer businesses around. Bigger companies got the stimulus money, and lots of little guys got shut out. Chains got treated as separate businesses, and each got a check. But my diner and the businesses like it in these poorer communities that are dependent on tourists? Didn’t do so well. And those businesses that made it through are, many of them, hurting.

So the point: minimum wage. What good does it do to raise it if these small businesses can’t afford to pay it?

Don’t forget, bigger businesses can afford to pay it, and should.

But we need some sort of cushion for small businesses. They should not be forced out of business in our attempt to help poor workers, service workers.

Some sort of guaranteed income might help. And some sort of payroll assistance to small businesses?

Ok, this morning. Place was about 1/3 full. “Take any table” and I did. Server shows up, asks for beverage, I ask for coffee with whole milk (this is half and half territory). Tell her I’m ready. “Classic Breakfast” (their #1): “2 eggs scrambled well, home fries, sausage, dry rye toast.” “Rye?” – “Rye, no butter”

Back with the coffee, I ask again for whole milk. I wait, fidget with phone. A few minutes (not moments) later, look up, see her chatting with other server. I try to get her attention – she doesn’t see the room (which is small). I try more. Nope. Finally get her – I say “whole milk” and exaggerate the words so she can lip read as well. A minute later she shows up – with coffee. I ask again for milk, she returns. I pour, and realize that my coffee is now luke warm.

Server appears a few minutes later with my plate. This place makes tasty stuff, but the portions are a bit small. I look, portion looks nice. But the bread, on the plate with the eggs/meat/potatoes – is buttered. I send it back, and ask for more coffee (and water). And then I eat. And the coffee comes. And I ask again for water, and it comes, and actually the food is tasty. And I am thinking about how minor these annoyances have been, as I enjoy the flavor.

And she takes everything away, and I wait a little too long for the check (again I see the server schmoozing, not watching the room, and not making eye contact with me), and when the bill finally comes it is for almost double what I expected.

“You got three eggs” – I didn’t ask for three eggs “Yes you did” – She brings over the senior server. “What did you ask for?” “2 eggs scrambled well, home fries, sausage, dry rye toast” “Did you eat what came?” “Yes. But wait a second, even if I had 3 eggs, not two, the upcharge for an extra egg is $2, not $6” “Let me check with the manager”

The senior server returns. “You ordered three extra eggs”

So, ladies and gentlemen, no. And wtf?

Here’s the story, what probably happened. I said “classic breakfast: 2 eggs scrambled well…” and the server, paying little attention, took that as a classic breakfast PLUS 2 eggs scrambled, and then somehow thought 3 instead of 2 because, well, who knows? Maybe an earlier order. Maybe this was her third shift.

And then it came out, and the eggs didn’t look short, like they’ve seemed before in this place, and maybe they looked a little more than a regular 2… could have been 3. But 5? no way. And anyway, I was focused on the buttered toast when I’d said not buttered and she’d repeated it, and I’d repeated it.

Back to my little friend. Someone gets a breakfast with eggs, and then orders extra eggs, and you don’t say “so you want 5 eggs altogether?” (or four, if you were listening only half as badly).

Manager/cook came out – asked what happened. I explained. He said they’d been busy (maybe yesterday. Not while I was there) and said they’d take it off my bill.

I don’t need this tension, and I’m glad it’s over, and wait for the new bill. And wait. And wait. Over five minutes, pushing ten. The servers are chatting amongst themselves. The place is just about empty. I finally get the senior server’s attention, ask if I should come up or if they’re bringing the ticket to me. She runs back, they huddle and decide to make me a new check, and she brings me it. And then she brings my credit card back, fast. And I think, and I tip. Still have to tip, no matter how bad the service. And this was bad. Out of extreme indifference.

Good food. But an hour fifteen (too long!) of pretty awful service.

So no excuses for my server. She didn’t give a fuck, and not in the cool way. Inattentive, indifferent, that’s not right.

But look at the set-up. She’s got a temporary gig – this is not her life, her career. The pay is lousy. And the message all over the place is that serving is a no-skill job that doesn’t matter, and neither do servers.

We need to change that – the entire set up.

But in the meantime, if you are headed way upstate, Essex County, message me, and I’ll tell you the diner and the server you have to avoid.

UFT Endorsement Mess

June 26, 2021 pm30 3:01 pm

The UFT has had bad political evenings before – but June 22, 2021 may go down as their worst ever.

(Now that the school year has ended, it is time to breathe. Part of that, for me: I will try to return to semi-regular writing. I’m going for a variety of topics: education, math, teaching math, fun math problems, science and the pandemic, other science, politics, New York State politics, New York City politics, the United Federation of Teachers and its politics, the New York City Department of Education., and other stuff that surprises or amuses me).

Mayor

UFT endorsed: Stringer

Winner: not Stringer (probably Adams, outside chance for Garcia or Wiley)

The UFT leadership tried a new process, and chose Stringer. They ran a “final” round with Adams, Stranger, Wiley, and Yang – but failed to anticipate Kathryn Garcia and her pro-charter campaign would take off. They poured four million dollars into Stringer’s campaign, and once that tanked, that sat pat.

Their strategy for ranked choice voting was Yes on Stringer, No on Adams and Yang, and to acknowledge that RCV exists. At two Delegate Assemblies in a row Mulgrew quickly mumbled about the ranked choice being hard to figure out, and we’ll have to wait and see what happens. They must have tested the line and realized that it sucked, but had nothing else to say. Only choosing one IS a real strategy. If, for example, it was clear a progressive would win, ranking one and leaving the others off might be an effective strategy. But not here.

With Stringer non-viable, and no recommendations on the rest of the ballot, any UFT impact was lost. UFT votes were likely widely divided. The lack of any word on Garcia probably led to many UFT Stringer/Garcia or Garcia/Wiley ballots.

And the last word, for now, on how ineffective Mulgrew was?  Weingarten ranked Stringer first, Adams second.

“You had a lot of billionaire money — $16, $17, $18 million. That money coming from the labor movement was very eclipsed from money coming from the billionaires,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who said she ranked Adams second, after city Comptroller Stringer

Comptroller

UFT endorsed: Corey Johnson

Probable winner: Brad Lander

The UFT’s Unity caucus fought hard for the Johnson endorsement, losing the first vote because of Mulgrew’s smug antics at the DAs, and winning the second despite being challenged. But no one discussed Lander, a popular City Council member, clear progressive voice, and strong advocate for public education.

Bronx Borough President

UFT endorsed: Vanessa Gibson

In the lead: Vanessa Gibson

She has a five point lead on homophobic scumbag and Bronx non-resident Fernando Cabrera. A lot will depend on how ranked choice plays out. Did voters just choose their number one, and stop? That would help Gibson. Did they choose their number one, and put familiar names on the ranked list? That would hurt her. Did some voters vote their self-identification/race/ethnicity?  The other three candidates have Hispanic surnames. That would definitely hurt her. Or did voters research policies? In that case, from left to right, Fernandez, Sepulveda, Ravelo… that’s also the order of their vote totals (14, 10 and 2%), would seem to favor Gibson.

Brooklyn Borough President

UFT endorsed: Joanne Simon

Probable winner: Antonio Reynoso

Again, Unity endorsed against the progressive, and lost. Simon is in third place.

Manhattan Borough President

UFT endorsed: Brad Hoylman

In the lead: Mark Levine

With just a 3% gap, (28.7% to 25.7%) this could change with later choices being added. I don’t know a thing about the candidates.

Queens Borough President

UFT endorsed: Donovan Richards

In the lead: Donovan Richards

This one is even closer, 41.5% to 40.2% over Elizabeth Crowley, but as they are closer to the magic 50% mark, any lead is meaningful

Manhattan District Attorney

UFT endorsed: Alvin Bragg

In the lead: Alvin Bragg

Another 3% gap. Bragg has 33.9% and Tala Farhadian Weinstein has 30.5%

Next time I’ll talk a little about City Council. They picked more winners in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens, and did really badly in Brooklyn and Staten Island.

And someone needs to talk about Unity and political action. Even for them, this was horrible.  They consistently endorsed centrists over progressives, without strong results. They either completely failed to grasp ranked choice (isn’t that what paid political staff is paid to do, figure things out?), or strategized that going with one candidate per race would produce better results (isn’t paid political staff supposed to have better ideas than that?)

And there was paid staff. They brought in an outsider, Cassie Prugh, to run political action. We always had teachers as directors of political action. If going professional means losing more, maybe they’ll go back to the amateurs.

Mayor, failure. Public Advocate, sat out. Comptroller, embarrassing mess. Brooklyn Beep – embarrassing. Other three Beeps, lead in two, trail in the last, but all too close to call. And most of the calls made not on principal, but on who cuts deals without rocking the boat. Bad job guys. Really bad job.

 

Casualties, Central States, and Stabilization

June 17, 2021 am30 11:16 am

When I was a kid I heard the news. It seemed like it was always on. I understood lots of words, but not all of them, not close to all of them.

Part I

I think I was 5 or 6 when my mom showed me Viet Nam on the globe. Cool. And why when it was day there it was night here. I remember where we sat, and I remember that sun beam…

Expressways of Vietnam - Wikipedia

I’m not sure if that was a separate conversation, or if she was deflecting. Because I knew from the news that Viet Nam was a place. And I knew it had really cool low-numbered highways. Highway 1. Highway 9. Highway 13. Not the awkward Eye-91 and Eye-95 that we had. And I knew that there were lots of things along those highways. The news said. But I did not know what these things – “casualties” – were. I must have asked. And I may have gotten a distracting lesson on the rotation of our planet instead.

Part II

I recall hearing about teamsters. I didn’t know what a teacher was. I didn’t know what a pension fund was, but I knew that ‘fund’ meant there was money. Central States! That was cool. I knew every state on the map. Some states came in groups. My state was part of New England, though that was just a name, and didn’t really mean we were connected to England. I had heard of the Midwest, though I’m not sure I knew what states were in it. Iowa? Pennsylvania? Ohio? I’d have to wait to be an adult to be truly confused about that one. But “Central States” – that was new to me. Again, the cool short name. Central. Which were in the center?

Even when I was a bit older, and learned about Jimmy Hoffa, I didn’t really understand. Turns out that the employers contributed to a big pension fund, but did not administer it, and that gangsters used influence in the IBT (International Brotherhood of Teamsters – “teamster” is someone who drives a team of horses – like a horse drawn wagon, and later since it’s the same job really, who drives a truck) – gangsters used influence in the IBT to “gain control” over the Central States Pension Fund. I still don’t know exactly what the mechanism was, or how much control. The Times has us afraid of mobsters. It’s the accountants who will kill us.

Part III

Today I hear a lot about a “Stabilization Fund.” Stable is a cool word. I don’t like when things that affect us are in crazy flux. Stable is good, right?

Retirees get some reimbursements from this fund, so it makes them more stable? Is that where the name comes from? (answer – no)

The City (I think it is just the City, New York City) contributes money into a Stabilization Fund. I do not know who administers the Fund. Do the municipal unions, including the UFT, administer this fund? Money from the Fund is used to reimburse retirees for some of the costs not covered by Medicare. Do I have that right?

When Mulgrew and de Blasio talk about “health care cost savings” I know they are not talking about savings for you – or for me. “Health Care Savings” is when I pay more, or a procedure is not covered, or a doctor is no longer in network.

When we lose health care, or doctors or procedures, that’s “Health Care Loss” for members but Mulgrew / deBlas call it “Health Care Savings.”

Who is saving that money that we, members, are losing? Is it the “Stabilization Fund”?

Who works in the Stabilization Fund? Is it a source of patronage jobs?

I want some answers. About Stabilization, not celestial mechanics.

Today’s UFT Delegate Assembly – What to Look For

June 16, 2021 pm30 5:01 pm

Mulgrew will talk for a long, long time. Few delegates will get a chance to speak. Every vote will go as Unity Caucus wants it to.

That’s all given. But what specifically will happen?

1. Will Unity really win every single vote? They lost their endorsements in April?

1. They lost their endorsements in April because Mulgrew was being a dick, and not allowing people to object to candidates they didn’t like. A little less dickish in May, and they all passed easily.

2. Will there be any real discussion of the NYC Mayor’s race?

2. Wow. So much here.

  • Why did Unity refuse to consider Ranked Choice Voting? Will they consider it today?
  • Stringer looks dead in the water. We spent one million dollars on him (with the AFT throwing in another three mil). How much money do we have to toss around?
  • Will we endorse, or co-endorse, or rank Maya WIley?
  • The UFT consistently says No Adams, No Yang. But Mulgrew has been silent on Garcia, less noxious, but more corporate and dangerous than the other two. Will he say No Garcia, or is this a stealth endorsement.

3. Will there be any real discussion of the Unity Plan to Privatize retirees’ health care?

3. Delegates are trying to get this discussed. Will Unity allow discussion? They might let it come up, and just vote it down. But they might also use Mulgrew-style procedural objections to stop anyone from even asking “can we talk about this?” This is a huge deal.

Privatizing Medicare is bad for future retirees (Unity is making sure that current retirees keep the same level of benefit)

Privatizing Medicare opens the door to what Mulgrew says he wants to do next – renegotiate health care for in service members. I don’t trust Unity with the future of my health care.

Maintaining benefits for current retirees might require taking money from current teachers (additional savings – but those savings are for the City and Unity Caucus. Where doe the money come from? You and me). At a retiree meeting a perceptive retiree suggested that more savings could come from keeping new teachers in HIP, no choice, for 5 or 10 years (it is currently 1 year). Mulgrew said “that’s interesting, we will take a look”

Unity’s approach to healthcare is working AGAINST the New York Health Act (kind of medicare for all / MFA for New York State). At this point there is much support for the New York Health Act. The opposition? The Trump people, joined by Weingarten, Pallotta, and Mulgrew. On health care, Unity are honorary Trumpies.

The NY Health Act, by the way, carves out protections for us. When Mulgrew says that the act will hurt us, he is not being honest.

4. How tightly will Unity control the discussion?

4. In May, every resolution had Unity Speaker for, Unity Speaker for, one independent delegate against, Unity Speaker then vote. Someone orchestrated every word. Unity has always controlled discussion, but after losing that vote in April they were full-throttle paranoid. Was that a one-time, and they will relax? Or has Unity assigned a DA Choreographer as a new category of patronage job?

5. How will next year’s DA function?

5. Mulgrew will be proposing hybrid Delegate Assemblies – remote and in person. Motions and fun stuff? Only in person. Voting? Everyone, remote and in-person.

There are delegates who are saying that remote delegates will be disenfranchised, and that is undemocratic. Others will say that if you want to make a motion, come in person.

Unity will get it’s vote to pass. There will be people speaking against. There is a question what percent votes no. 5% vote no on everything. 50% + 1 would defeat it. What’ll happen? Not sure what delegates will think – but I’m guessing about 20% vote no. It’ll pass.

But here’s the bottom line. My first reaction is to distrust this proposal. Not because I necessarily buy James’ argument 100% (I have to think about it). No, I distrust the proposal because Unity has been manipulating process badly, baldly, blatantly during this pandemic.

Unity got caught cheating last month – 10 resolutions were submitted, but Unity did not place them on the agenda in the order they were submitted, they put the ones they didn’t want to talk about at the bottom. Someone found the receipts. Proof. I would distrust any proposal Unity made about procedure.

Sorry for not ending on an optimistic note. After a year of fighting against hybrid, and blended, and instructional lunch, and “flexibility” in the contract(s?), which all seem to emanate from Unity, I’m not feeling generous.