Sunday, June 17, 2018

Repost: 11/23/17 The False Narrative of the UFT and DOE on ATRs

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The False Narrative of the UFT and DOE on ATRs


   I read Arthur's blog on the last UFT's Execution (as in what group of teachers will be executed - it was Clinton High School's teachers) Board Meeting was surprised to read that Mike Sill said  that the buyout had an impact on the ATR numbers, the number of ATRs were down and he hoped to get the numbers. The numbers that took the buyout were, if I remember correctly around 135. The number of newly minted ATRs in June were never released - but you can bet your keister they were significantly more than 135. If they release numbers that show a reduction they will be false. This is to silence the critics of the ATR pool that want us regarded as losers with the help of a highly publicized campaign from the DOE and the UFT. (I think they may be regretting that ploy.) We were told that we were to be forced placed into positions where there were vacancies as of October 15th. (This was meant to strike fear in as many ATRs as possible and get them to retire.) I currently know about 50 ATRs and know of only one that was provisionaly placed this fall. That guy is a friend of a friend. This is much different than last year when at least 20 ATRs I know were provisionaly placed. So not only are there more ATRs, there are more being rotated as babysitters. This is in sharp contrast to last spring's announcements from Mulgrew, Farina and Mr. Asher. What happened?
     First, I think that Asher really intended to do what he said, but certain things got in the way. Unfair Student Funding made all ATRs too expensive for any school (and there may have been a push to end it, that was not entertained by the powers that be)- so all principals scrambled to hire teachers before the cutoff date. The charter groups also want teaching to be a temporary job and if experienced professionals are allowed back into the classroom, this is a real threat. Therefore they got (paid?) some charter school parents to picket against ATRs being placed back into public schools and had the tabloids cover it. (How is this affecting charter school parents? ATRs are much more qualified than their children's teachers and they weren't being placed in charter schools.) So instead of Farina and Mulgrew defending us, Farina said no ATR would be placed in a renewal school. Good. Good for us. Who the hell wants to be placed in one anyway? So many of us waited to be placed in our subject area as teachers. Instead, what we got were placements outside our licensed area grade levels and rotations into hellish warehouses. Many ATRs frantically called and emailed Mike Sill. He did help several I know get into the proper school settings for their licensed grade level, but did not help relieve anyone's travel hardships or dangerous placements. All have told me he has a Mr. Raj return calls and placate them with false hopes.
     As Janus appears on the horizon I would hope that the UFT would start to represent ATRs fairly and with transparency. Step #1 - end UnFair Student Funding.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Meandering Thoughts Before the Meteor Hits

     It's almost the end. I've been contemplating that as basketballs whiz through the air en route to their expected target. Sometimes the orange projectile hits it's target and other times it doesn't. Last week I got hit so hard in the back of the head by a weighted (who knew such things existed!) basketball that I thought my teeth fell out. I don't wear dentures. I was furious, of course, but the kid didn't intend it for me and has to be the worst basketball player I've ever seen. He was aiming for the hoop and missed by a mile. He apologized profusely and I let it go. That's the thing - sometimes the aim is true and the target is reached. Janus is definitely aimed at unions and the protections they should offer. As such it is a meteor that can devastate a union. If I was a frail, sickly person  that basketball in the back of the head could have ended me. Being in relatively good shape (and having a hard head), and if I had known the kid was aiming for the hoop, I could have stayed out of the way or blocked it - and even though I didn't see it coming, I survived it. The UFT knows it's being aimed at by something much worse than a basketball. The question is, 'Is it a frail sickly organization or a strong one'? I believe it's about as sick and frail as a union can be and still call itself a union. Some say our contract was never printed, but it was and it puts Charmin to shame for its cottony softness and absorbency. The contract we have is being used by many principals as toilet paper. The protections that our contract are supposed to afford us are not being enforced and if I'm to be perfectly honest, most teachers don't know these protections exist. (This is the real reason veteran teachers are being kept out of the classroom.) These new teachers work extra periods, after school and weekends without extra compensation. Some have forty plus students in their classrooms. Some have been assaulted, robbed and even sexually harassed. This is nothing new. It was the same way twenty five years ago when I started. Yes, believe it or not things were horrible back then too. There is however one big difference. When I began and for most of my teaching career, the teacher could go to the UFT and get help. The principal and APs were straight out afraid. We considered an affront on one teacher to be an affront on us all and we stood up for one another. That recourse is no longer present in most schools. The teacher, apt to be untenured and new, is afraid and doing their best to survive. They don't know their rights and the UFT is not coming to anyone's rescue. They will however pick your pocket for $1400 in dues per year. The question you should ask yourself is - are you more afraid of the Koch brothers or surviving in a career, that has deteriorated so swiftly and markedly, that many teachers are just getting up and walking out never to return? The Koch brothers are a potential threat - whereas the complacent UFT is an immediate threat, that has allowed substantial, long term, avoidable suffering to continue unabated. It has the opportunity to change its course and block that meteor by fighting the good fight for its members. There are currently contract negotiations going on that can help us all. A fair buyout or a return to the classroom for ATRs (before any new hires), an end to Fair Student Funding, an S/U evaluation system, an end to the mindless PDs and paperwork, a fair discipline policy that will keep everyone safe, integrated schools, and a transparent UFT that actually works for their members. I remember the UFT the way it was - it still has the power to achieve its inherent greatness. That is the UFT I loved and profoundly miss. If it works towards that, Janus will turn from a meteor to a minor distraction and loyality will not be an issue. This has to be a fight for the respect of the teaching profession or it will no longer be a viable career and the poor children of this city will be relegated to a permanent underclass.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Fair Student Funding = ATR Pool + Veteran Staff

    Today, I read Arthur Goldstein's excellent analysis in the Gotham Gazette concerning the use of trumped (excuse the word) up charges by principals to rid themselves of bothersome teachers. These teachers are apt to get a fine and be turned into ATRs for the rest of their careers. Mission accomplished for the irritated principal. What about the teachers who have done nothing to irritate the principal, are loved by students and are on top salary? Well many of them have found their way into rubber rooms awaiting trial on totally fabricated charges. Some of these principals see this as nessesary to balance their budget, as their school's population has exploded and they can rid themselves of three vets and get seven newbies in return. Now these principals are acting in what they feel is in the best interest of their schools. They feel they are pragmatic and have no choice in traveling this route - rationalizing it with the fact that the few may need to be sacrificed for the many. The many being children, their students. They may see their obligation to them as paramount and simply not care about protecting the beloved old fart, in Room 227 (that's the UFT's job), who will now either retire or be turned into an ATR until he/she quits or has a heart attack. Now some reading this may say this simply couldn't happen, but it is happening and nothing is being done to stop it. It's being done because of Fair Student Funding (an accounting scheme that gives each school 90% of their allocated individual budget to run each individual school), which the UFT agreed to and has done nothing to change all these abysmal years later. Why is that? Who does the UFT work for? I read in South Bronx's blog that Mulgrew in Yankee Stadium (of all places) said that the UFT has no control over how the DOE funded it's schools. (Infering no action on FSF) So why, when several years ago Ms. Hinds brought up a resolution to go back to unit funding, was it ignored? Why did Klein have to ask the UFT for permission to use Fair Student Funding and why did the UFT agree to it? These and many more questions should be asked as the UFT screams, 'The sky is falling, the sky is falling!'

Why Isn't the UFT Doing Something to Stop Fair Student Funding?

   I just got home and the monthly UFT propaganda rag was awaiting my perusal. My cats were also waiting for it, as it is their favorite reading material when doing their 'business'. I couldn't help myself and glanced through it. Lots of articles concerning Janus. Lots of feel good stuff about how the UFT is a caring organization for students, family and teachers. There was even an article about CTE (Career and Technical Education). There wasn't a word about ATRs - even in the published letters. No openly critical letter is published that may cast a light on any of the embarrassing inactions of the UFT. The CTE article made me cringe because Bloomberg closed almost every vocational school down in the Bronx and all the CTE teachers I know have been ATRs for close to ten years. The one or two schools that are open are very small and sharing space with charter schools, but enough about the Mulgrew Monthly.

   I said farewell to several Fellows today that have been teaching here for almost a year. Wonderful group, very nice, enthusiatic, briefly trained (4 weeks), free workers that aren't UFT members. They  get lots of help, but there's a part of me that questions this training, as it thwarts the hiring of a licensed teacher. The average age of the staff here is about 27 years old. The guys I'm closest to are all 25 and I'm older than their fathers. We hang out together and help one another. Problem is I'm a teacher without students or classes - I'm a babysitter ATR. The principal tried to hire me but couldn't because of my salary. You see, even though the city is paying all our salaries, Joel Klien instituted something called Fair Student Funding - an oxymoron if there ever was one. He presented it to the UFT expecting they would reject it, but the UFT agreed to it! (What exactly does this infer? Klein and Bloomy are gone for years, but it still remains.)  What this does is it creates an individualized budget for each school, just like a corporation creates a budget for its retail spaces. The average teacher at this school makes $57,000 and I make $119,000. Hiring an experienced teacher means hiring a higher priced one, which is a stab in the heart for the bottom line of every public school in NYC. So almost every teacher here is straight out of college or from a program that pays them a small stipend. It effectively stops principals from even considering an experienced teacher for a prospective position. I love the kids here and would like to spend my final years teaching. I hate being an ATR. It is the most demoralizing, humiliating job I've ever had, and 'No, I don't feel lucky'. I will not quit because I have a family to support and I have earned my right to teach via tenure, education and experience. So why isn't the UFT pushing for an end to Fair Student Funding so principals can hire the candidates they want? The money all comes out of the same pot. I'm sick of hearing about the Janus Meteorite about to hit 52 Broadway and how we have to support the UFT. I'm tired of Mulgrew implying , 'Ask not what the UFT can do for you, but what you can do for the UFT'. It's time for the UFT to start taking some meaningful action for its members, or the only people left when that meteorite hits will be Mulgrew and his cronies.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Repost: UFT Meteor. (Ever feel like you're living in a time loop?)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

UFT Meteor 

   First enjoy your weekend, but remember why we're off on Monday. Many people don't stop and give pause for all those who sacrificed for our ideals. Most teachers I meet seem to truly hate their jobs. Some were actually running to their cars this afternoon. It was like a meteor was about to hit the area and it was a matter of life or death to escape as quickly as possible. I never saw traffic like I did this afternoon - it took me one hour to go four miles. Unfortunately, for most of us, the thought of being off far outweighs the reality. Personally, I had a lot of fun with the kids this week. I had the same classes and was teaching literature. No excerpts, the entire book. I tricked the kids into learning, despite themselves. Old teaching tricks that I learned long ago. It hit me how much I miss teaching. Actually teaching classes, having kids listen and do work felt wonderful. When I teach, I get a feeling of elation that is unlike anything else. That that joy was taken from me, and so many others, for no other reason than we are at the higher end of the pay scale is maddening. The UFT has been more than disappointing, in that it doesn't seem to be willing to support us, even minimally. That it went so far as to agree to put in discriminatory provisions in the last contract (that have since expired) was a profound betrayal. It now openly lies and/or ignores us and tells us how lucky ATRs are to have a job. The truly fortunate group is the UFT. It is lucky that dues are still mandatory. Things may change for all of us. I will continue to support the UFT, despite my anger and disappointment, but I hope that the UFT starts to respect its veteran members. The UFT should carefully consider what it is agreeing to in its representation of us. It hasn't asked for our input. It hasn't informed us or kept us informed. That fact, at the very least, should imply strong representation on the part of the UFT. Let's hope that a darkly imagined meteor doesn't strike ATRs or the UFT.

Monday, April 30, 2018

More Than a Million Teachers Can't Receive Social Security at Retirement


       Several years ago I spent a week in Kentucky. The people there are friendly, religious and I had no negative experiences. If you like bluegrass, bourbon and beef - you'll be in a much better place than NYC. If you happen to be a teacher in Kentucky, you may need to leave heaven and come here. I came to that conclusion while recently speaking to a Kentucky teacher. She wanted to move up here and needed some advice. I asked her to explain the situation and what she told me I had trouble believing - I had to verify it. She told me as a high school teacher working in Kentucky, she's not eligible to receive Social Security upon retirement because the state has a teacher pension plan. This retirement plan was being underfunded and could have seen retirees getting nothing from their pension or SS. The governor there wouldn't help, so for that and other reasons, the teachers were forced to strike. In learning all this, I couldn't help but think this may spread in a variety of disguises. Many in positions of power want to do away with Social Security. There are many attacks by the wealthy elite on teachers and it all centers around money - teachers, students and education mean nothing to them. I told her the grass is always greener on the other side, but none is bluer than Kentucky's. I urge everyone to research Social Security and the current issues that could affect it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Janus - The God of New Beginnings

    There is a terrible fear of Janus by many that are enshrined in their unchanging, unchallenged roles in the UFT. I believe Janus is the best possible remedy for what ailes us. It is making the rank and file question how they feel about how they are and have been represented. Janus is the Roman god of new beginnings can be a truly pivotal moment for the UFT. If they want to ensure loyality, they can change. They can listen to their members and work with them. That means protecting new teachers from discontinuance, ending Fair Student Funding, stopping oversized classes, stopping the targeting of veteran teachers because of individual school budgets, working towards unit funding for schools, working with the mayor for a safe and fair discipline code, ensuring that vindictive school leaders are not given carte blanche over their fiefdoms and that teachers have a fair evaluation process that isn't unnessarily odious. Respect is what most people want in their dealings with others - that doesn't exclude the UFT. If we are paying dues, we shouldn't be discriminated against by those we have entrusted to represent us. That means there aren't different rules for teachers because one came from a closed school and one did not. It does mean if we are berated in the media, the president of the UFT, Mr. Mulgrew, utters something in our defense. The UFT wants the rank and file to continue to pay dues. Most of us want a union that is responsive to our needs and wants. Show us something of substance to indicate that our voices are heard.  The app, discounts and door knockers are mere pleasantries that intelligent people recognize as such  - substantive action is now required - with it a new beginning of hope and a stronger union can be reborn.