Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year's




    The end of another calendar year. Not really a big deal for a seasoned member of that strange and endangered tribe called Teachers. Our year ends on or about June 28th and our New Year's Eve is Labor Day. That said I drove down to the Bronx today. I walked around, enjoyed the sunshine and visited some of the places of my youth. I try not to worry about the things I have no control over - which is almost everything. I don't really watch much TV or read much of anything but random stories that seem to come to me out of nowhere. (Today I came across the name U Dhammaloka https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/U_Dhammaloka . Fascinating story of a man that is still revered in Burma and that history tried to erase, that I knew nothing about.) I often see articles that seem to have no relevance to me, this time period or place. Of course everything and everyone is connected. Seeing that connection and becoming attuned to it is what has happened to me over the past few years. I think deeply about connections that don't seem to go together. Try it. Meditate. Talk to the kid that projects all that anger towards you. I throughly enjoy the art of conversation. It is a dying art. People are becoming more self centered, introverted and losing much of what it means to be human. Today I watched a brief snippet  on a gorilla, Koko, that was raised by humans and taught sign language. Koko sentences were brief, beautiful and innocent. Koko seems more human than many people I come across. I don't say that as an insult to people or a compliment for Koko. We have no control over what the future may hold, but like Dhammaloka or even Koko, we can control how we act and react to it. Happy New Year's.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Art, Sanity and the Bronx


Joyce Kilmer Park 

   This may surprise many of you, but after being rotated all over the Bronx, I've discovered many unusual and beautiful places. Parking is almost always a tremendous problem so I'm usually parked a mile or two from wherever I've been placed. The exercise clears my head in the mornings and afternoons. I can walk very quickly and cover a good distance. Last month, we had some brutally cold days that I wasn't dressed for. (As an ATR, I'm forced by practicality to travel lightly - there's no place to safely leave my belongings and I have to lug them everywhere.) I found myself parked on the Grand Concourse, the great vista of my youth. (Modeled after the Champs de Elysees, it was incredibly beautiful when I was young. It took a nosedive in the 1970s, but I'm happy to say it's returning to its former glory.) The wind was fierce and when I could no longer feel my nose or feet, I found myself in front of The Bronx Museum of the Arts. Free admission everyday, so I went right in. I wandered around and found myself in a stark room, lined with chairs, on which directly opposite me a film was playing on a white wall. There was no soundtrack, only natural sounds accompanying a film of the world outside the artists' window. The Cuban artist, Quesqueya Henriquez, lives in Santo Domingo and I became mesmerized. http://m.bronxmuseum.org/exhibitions/collection-spotlight-quisqueya-henriquez  As I was warming up, I actually felt I was there in the Dominican Republic. It was very meditative, and all I could do to break away and drive home. I returned twice during the week. The film is on a loop that lasts about 45 minutes. I usually viewed about ten minutes each visit. I must say it's the best contemporary art film I have ever experienced. The walk and the meditative aspects of the art refreshed me greatly. It had me thinking about the benefits of exercise, meditation and art for students and teachers. I believe it could benefit us all. Try to make the best of whatever circumstances you find yourself in. There can be beauty and peace wherever you go. Happy Holidays.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Indicators and Schools



   Lately, I've been hearing about some horrible schools. Not really the schools precisely, but the administration of these schools. Can administration cause an entire school to fail or succeed? I would have to say, yes. Before Bloomberg's regime there were checks and balances in place - UFT consulation meetings, experienced principals and staffs, teacher cafeterias/ lounges and cohesive one building school entities with a shared focus. All that is gone. Each school is now its own fiefdom with their individual kings and queens ruling benignly or maliciously. When I was a kid and a big fan of the newly rediscovered Alexander Hamilton, I was shocked that his preferred form of government was a monarchy. I suppose he's not the only one who believes in them.

  After being in well over fifty schools, I can quickly tell the good from the bad. One of the first indicators is the name. There is an inverse relationship between the length and complexity of the name of a school and it's true nature. If it has one or more long syllabled adjectives, you know you're in trouble (i.e. The Extraordinary High School of Excellence for the Examination of Elipitical Exercise). Another indication is the civility of the staff. If no one answers (or even acknowledges your presence) or makes eye contact, you can bet the staff is pretty much demoralized. Teacher absenteeism is another big clue. I've been in schools where 60% of the staff was absent on any given Monday and Friday. Another clue is seeing a half dozen or more pregnant teachers, not all of them women. (I'm joking of course, some of them may have been hysterical pregnancies brought on by gas, stress and despair.) Another H-U-G-E indicator is students with cell phones.
 
     Since the cellphone ban was lifted by Mayor deBlasio, I've seen a marked decline in the discipline level of many schools where the phones haven't been reigned in. Teachers there are unable to teach and students are unable to learn. I've been to only one such school this year  - last year it was seven out of my nine schools. The schools that allow them have severe observable behavioral problems. If I was a media, UFT or DOE statistician I could correlate phone use to bad behavior - but that would be a flawed assumption. It's partially correct, but incomplete. You see the phone use isn't the only or most important correlation I see - it's the fact that many schools don't collect those phones at the door. What does it say about the administration of that particular school? What does it say about the administration's attitude toward the students and staff? At best it's indifference, at worst incompetence. There's the correlation. If they don't care about cell phone use in school, what else don't they care about? Usually it's discipline, bullying, teacher contractual rights, and basic civility. If the UFT and DOE want to quickly ascertain which schools have a baseline indicator of competence, just walk in the front door. Then again does anyone really care? Other than fools, like me, who care about kids?
 

Extraordinary HS of Excellence for the Examination of Elipitical Exercise mascot 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The UFT is Correct to Endorse deBlasio



   This may surprise many of you but I believe Mulgrew is correct in leaning towards an early endorsement of deBlasio. It's a situation we have been backed into because of Randi Weingarten's early endorsement of Hillary, which precipitated the loss of Bernie in the primary and which catapulted Trump into the White House. We now have a Republican President elect, Republican controlled House of Representatives, Senate, Charter school Education Secretary, anti -worker Secretary of Labor and anti-union tie breaking Supreme Court judge to look forward to. People don't seem to understand what's coming down the pike - the severe curtailment of public education, massive layoffs of public sector employees through privatization, as well the end of unions.

     Some may say we should play a wait and see because he may be indicted. DeBlasio will not be indicted - he was just fined. A carefully orchestrated fine in order to get him flustered and combative in front of the media. Get him to do or say something which will call his support into question. Have things been great for teachers under deBlasio? No, they have been much worse than when Bloomberg was mayor. Actually, you wouldn't know Bloomberg left. All the same people ruining the schools, massive gotcha schemes, no discipline, inexperienced teachers in the classroom and experienced ones treated like pariahs. Lets not forget the "raise" and health care costs. All of this because Mulgrew saw a sympathetic face in Bill and Carmen. Bill's job was to ask for the moon and Mike's job was to negotiate it back down to Earth. Mike was in a enviable position of strength for those negotiations, but he just handed Bill everything that he asked for. Do I blame deBlasio for that? No, that falls on Mulgrew.

    Many are saying, myself included, that we should get a consensus and negotiate terms for this early endorsement. I agree, but this negotiation is from a position of weakness. Bill doesn't need our endorsement - most of  us (75%) live outside the city. Now when we're backed into a corner, the UFT will attempt negotiations? It's worth a try.

  The real problem with the AFT/UFT is with Randi Weingarten and her dictatorial leadership style, of which Michael Mulgrew is part and parcel of.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Andy Puzder Will Hunt the Middle Class into Extinction

       
The Middle Class is Next

      If you feel a little depressed this holiday season, you aren't alone. I know there are many that are scared and miserable over the recent election, and you need to prepare yourselves for a fight. We are not alone in facing uncertainty. Many professionals are facing displacement because of a variety of causes - technology, out-sourcing, and foreign competition. Technology will have a devastating effect on the American worker (and there should be a national job retraining iniative to counteract it). Not many occupations will be left unscathed.  http://nypost.com/2016/11/21/this-home-building-robot-will-take-your-construction-job/ The American worker and our rights as workers, union members and human beings should be protected and respected, especially as the future looks so troubling. Unions, minimum wage, unemployment insurance, and overtime pay are all things many of us take for granted. This is at the heart of the middle class. The same heart that was won by Trump and is now being staked as if it was Dracula's.
     The person Trump has picked for Secretary of Labor, Andy Puzder, doesn't take our rights for granted - he doesn't believe in any of them.http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/12/08/in-andy-puzder-donald-trump-makes-the-worst-possible-pick-for-secretary-of-labor.html He's a fast food tycoon. He will help run our country the same way leadership academy principals have run and ruined our schools. The infamous business model at work again. I believe he is a much more troubling and dangerous choice, for our respective ruination, than DeVos. DeVos at least seems to want students to succeed - Puzder wants us replaced with robots and slave labor.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Copy of a Copy of a Copy or the Leadership of the UFT

 

   What happens when you make a copy of a copy of a copy? Strange question and concept. It can be an artistic, scientific or social experiment. Andy Warhol did some interesting art work based on it. I remember working at a temp job in the 1980s and having a conversation about this concept with an art lover. We decided to take a very detailed print and make a hundred Xerox copies. Each copy became slightly less detailed. The hundredth copy was blurry and very subtly different. Not the same and technically inferior. Cloning mammals in the 1990s brought out some interesting findings. It seems that the clones were unfortunately also inferior to the original. They had many problems. On a social front we can look at the UFT. Albert Shanker being the original president, a great union leader. He chose Sandra Feldman as his successor. She was a little less effective, but still very good. Sandra chose Randi who started out good but sank to rock bottom with the 2005 contract. (She left to become AFT president and has basically destroyed us with her preemtive endorsement of Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.) Her pick for UFT president was Mike Mulgrew. How has this copy of a copy of a copy been for us? Well we are facing a Republican president, Senate, House of Representatives and tie breaking Supreme Court Justice. Mike's answer is a letter of displeasure that refuses to name president elect Trump. His reason being he doesn't want to alienate Teachers for Trump. Ridiculous on so many levels, but insulting because of the implication of our stupidity.
   Just to cover all artistic fronts here's a little bit of the lyrics of a great song by Nine Inch Nails, A Copy of A Copy of A -
I am just a copy of a copy of a copy
Everything I say has come before
Assembled into something into something into something
I don't know for certain anymore
I am just a shadow of a shadow of a shadow
Always trying to catch up with myself
I am just an echo of an echo of an echo
Listening to someone's cry for help

Look what you had to start
Why all the change of heart?
You need to play your part
A copy of a copy of a
Now look what you've gone and done
Well that doesn't sound like fun
See I'm not the only one
A copy of a copy of a
  And here's a funny little video with the song playing in the background

Monday, November 28, 2016

Poseurs - Randi, Mike and the Guy with the Drum


Vintage 2016 - Bitter Grapes  
  Many years ago I watched a movie called Tales of Terror with Vincent Price and Peter Lorre. One story, The Cask of Amontillado, was hilariously enacted by Lorre and Price. Price played a dandy wine connoisseur at a wine tasting exhibition who is interrupted by an almost blindly drunk Peter Lorre looking for free alcohol. Lorre challenges him to a wine testing. The upright gentlemen there are about to throw him out when Lorre calls Price a 'Poseur'. A poseur is playing a part, not the real thing. The term silences the room and Vincent accepts the challenge. (That is my favorite scene from Vincent Price, who has always been my favorite actor.) https://youtu.be/ZgnBhqJJFo8
   What has me thinking of all this? The term 'Poseur'. The entitled and many of us, have our 'knickers in a twist' over Trump's winning the election. Many of us are outraged. Ok, get over it. How are we going to help those who will be targeted - the poor and the illegal (or undocumented, if you prefer)? Well, we are a sanctuary city that will be heavily fined. I don't believe we should be breaking up families and those fines are not going to be paid for by those protesting. It's going to be paid for by the city's poor and their children. Child protective services, subsidized housing, etc. I watched some protesting Poseurs in front of Trump Tower. I imagine many took mojito breaks in Fidel's memory. Forgive me if I am underwhelmed.
    Poseurs are not only to be found at Trump Tower, but are encamped at 52 Broadway and similarly encapsulated at the AFT headquarters in Washington D.C. Lots of tough talk and letter writing after a life changing mistake by Randi Weingarten in her endorsement of Hillary, (after denigrating Sanders supporters as a bunch of thugs). Why did we allow her to do this in our collective names? Randi in her recent indignant posturing seems tougher than Mike, in that she names Donald Trump in her letter of protest. Randi and Mike, you are both Poseurs - prove me wrong.

Friday, November 25, 2016

What Will a 7 Billion Dollar Federal Reduction Do For NYC?

   

     As NYC is a Sanctuary City (one that is a safe haven for illegal immigrants), Trump has announced a 7 billion dollar reduction in federal funds http://comptroller.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Federal_Budget_Vulnerabilities_Memo.pdf. Most of those funds go to the most vulnerable populations in the city http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/11/nyc-has-usd7-billion-on-line-over-trump-sanctuary-city-vow.html . Subsidized housing would be drastically cut, causing the shelter population to skyrocket. Free and reduced breakfast and lunch programs would be cut; child protective services and counterterrorism policing would also be greatly curtailed. The city will become a much more difficult place for the poor to live and could become much riskier for potential terrorism. Some I have spoken to say there will be a reduction in the general police force and teachers. Realistically, that could happen. If AFT=Randi Weingarten wants to write a letter of criticism, she should write one about this - instead of antagonizing those who have the potential to make our lives miserable.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Trump Smiles





Trump: Ivanka, how the f-ck am I going to stop the media from attacking me over all this fraud nonsense? 25 million! What else do they want? They need to shut up!

Ivanka: Dad, just wait and give them something else to talk about. Then Tweet about it.

Trump: Thanks. You're right. Twitter is the best thing invented since I invented the red power tie - and I was nice enough to give Mike Wallace credit for it.  I'd be lost without you honey, I wish I could have you as my VP. I'm surrounded by idiots. Where is Pence?

Ivanka: Thanks, Dad. He's gone to some musical. I have to get back to finding you a Secretary of Education. Just stay in today and interview a few people for maids and cabinet posts.

Trump: I couldn't leave if I wanted to. DeBlasio's got a bullhorn downstairs and a thousand dancing liberals.

Ivanka: Well, just stay in and watch some Celebrity Apprentice - that always cheers you up. I'll check on you later.

Later that evening, the news breaks that Pence is publicly chastised by a cast member at Hamilton. Trump falls off his plush golden couch when he hears it. He races to his Twitter account and demands an apology. The media is all over it. Trump smiles to himself .




Friday, November 18, 2016

Oh, Hello, I'm Eva


Fill in your own caption. 


     I've been reading of Trump's meetings with Eva and his planed redirection of large chucks of  school funding to school choice. So what does this mean to public school education in NYC? It means that many parents will have a choice of marginal/failing/receivership schools or charter/ private schools. Charter/private schools that have plenty of funding. Which would you choose for your child? This will effectively close many public schools due to low enrollment. These schools would then close and reopen as charters. What will happen to those public school teachers? Well, I guess we can apply to work in the charters - for far less money, less benefits, no job protections, a longer work day and year. You will be lucky if you are hired, as many charters view public school teachers (not just ATRs) as sub-par teachers. Realistically many of us may find ourselves on the unemployment line. There's always the future hope that the charter schools (that could replace 50-80% of the public schools, especially in the Bronx) could become unionized. President elect Trump will of course, place a Supreme Court judge that will make Justice Clarence Thomas and the former Justice Scalia look like wild and crazy liberals. Goodbye mandatory dues and we know what that would mean for the UFT. All of this could have been avoided if Randi Weingarten legitimately polled  AFT members. (If she did poll anyone - as is claimed, she should release the statistics, the sample population and how that population was chosen. It was probably a sample of two, Mulgrew and herself.)  I believe most of us would have endorsed Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders would have beaten Trump. There needs to be major changes at the AFT and UFT, if they are to survive - which is extremely doubtful. The 'they' in the previous sentence has to become 'we'. The one saving grace we have is Mayor deBlasio, don't forget that at election time. He has my full support - at least he stood up. The UFT seems afraid to utter Trump's name while writing a manifesto condemning him, but I believe it's worse than that - they are trying to minimally irritate him so as to cause the least negative reaction from 'the president elect' while appearing strong and ethical to it members.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Trump's Election Will Get deBlasio Re-elected

 

  deBlasio has become the self appointed spokesman for liberal angst in NYC following the aftermath of Trump's victory. Bill counterintuitivly encourages Trump protestors in midtown Manhattan at the start of the holiday season and is completely smitten with the sound of his own voice, emboldened with the righteous tone of indignation. To that I say, bravo! Billy boy, if I were a city resident, I would vote for you. I believe you will now be re-elected, you didn't have a chance before the Trump debacle.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Advice for Herding Cats and ATRs


Please don't compare me to an ATR.
     I'm happy to hear that MORE/ICE are having a meeting with ATRs. Many of us are very frustrated and in different places emotionally, pragmatically and in a variety of surreal ways. Some of us are social workers, guidance counselors, school psychologists and teachers. Some of us just became ATRs, while other have started their second decade in the pool. Some have been targeted. Some are are angry, while others are complacent. Some want to be permanently placed, while others prefer to rotate. Some of us became ATRs via 3020a hearings, while most became ATRs via school closings. I remember a quote from Norm likening organizing ATRs to herding cats. Well, we are all very different, but have some important similarities - just like cats.
   The vast majority of us are seasoned professionals, middle aged and have never been rated negatively. We have not been adequately represented by the UFT in an open and transparent manner. We have never been asked for input into negotiations that may have a major affect on our working conditions. Indeed, we aren't even notified of negotiations and only hear it second or third hand. We are an after thought. We are ignored - or when pressed, lied to and openly discriminated against. There has been a highly effective marketing campaign that branded us as sub-par teachers. The demographics that would prove the veracity of that branding has not been released, even after a suit by the NY Post. An easy fix for Mulgrew- release the info from the UFT. Instead he put provisions into the 2014 contract that made it much easier to terminate ATRs. When commenting he said these provisions would make it easier for those who shouldn't be teaching to find a different career. When ATRs attempted to start a chapter we were refused, the UFT saying that this would solidify a temporary group. A group that is over a decade old, with no end in sight. These are the items we have in common. The most egregious items however have not been listed. Rotating from school to school (we haven't  been told how long this year), subbing in classes out of our license area and sometimes out of our grade level. We are treated like defacto homeless babysitters. Often no place to put our belongings, no restroom key, no rights to school parking and often we are treated with an undisguised level of distain by everyone.
   My advice when herding cats or ATRs is to find common ground and get consensus from that starting point. Thank you MORE/ICE for taking this iniative.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Resign, Randi, Resign !


Never! You need me more than ever!
   If Randi Weingarten had a trace of decency she would resign. She is a complete incompetent, mutes those who have differing viewpoints and has consistently made decisions that have threatened individual teacher's careers as well as that of teaching as a profession. From her constant capitulations, accommodations, and self serving interests - she as proven herself to be spectacularly destructive for us. The shit storm that will reign down on all of us could have been stopped by the AFT's endorsement of Sanders. Remember this while you're watching Trump, Christie, Guliani and Gingrich gleefully privatizing schools, dismantling unions, raising Social Security age, and drafting your kids. The only problem is she would hand pick a mindless sycophant, like Mulgrew, that would continue her dismal legacy of failure.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Media - A Profound Misunderstanding of the American People and Statistics


  I was certain Trump was going to be elected shortly after he announced his candidacy. Many people said I was wrong, crazy and delusional. The media vilified and mocked him, while their constant statistics proved he couldn't win at each juncture. I knew he would win because I have no faith in intelligent people to use common sense. That, reality TV and the constant need for entertainment won Trump the election. What sealed the pure certainty that Trump would win was the AFT/UFT  endorsement of  Clinton - a veritable kiss of death. Make no mistake Trump as president will profoundly change our lives.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Future Scenarios - Trump and Hillary

Former Teacher for Trump supporter, 2020
   I just received a pathetic plea from Mulgrew, for Hillary. Many have told me it's impossible for Trump to win. These are the same people who have continually told me Trump would be finished a month after his announcement to run, that this current contract is great, that our dues pay for medical, that the ATR pool is temporary, deBlasio is fabulous and that Mulgrew has our best interests at heart. Tonight while studying American history my daughter asked me to imagine our country's future. This is the frightening or wonderful scenario I foresee if Trump is our next president. (I know you're still planning on writing in Bernie Sanders, but that's nothing but a waste of time.) What will President Trump mean for us? Well, he has said he'll disband the DOE. What will replace it? Charters, of course. Look for the privatization of many civil service jobs and the end to most pensions. I do believe he will cut taxes, but most middle class people will be paid much less than they are now, as most states will continue to become right to work states. Many of us will lose our jobs. There will be cuts to everything including Social Security. Say goodbye to your 7% TDA. There is a very good chance we will have an economic collapse and climate change will accelerate with very crazy weather. Trump will continue to deny it. To end the economic collapse the military will be bulked up and the wall will be built. Immigration will come to a halt, except for those who are highly educated and trained in highly specialized fields.There will be a big push to revamp our infrastructure. There will also be at least two wars. Cyber terrorism will continue to grow. There will be some of us that will go off the grid - no technology. Russia will become a close ally. There will be a begrudging recognition that we have an empire and that we have to manage it to our advantage. There will be tremendous technological innovation. There will be continued massive displacement of workers because of it. Virtual  reality will change human interaction in a profound way. There will be a new drug developed that will replace marijuana and alcohol with no side effects and it will be legalized to keep the masses passive.That and Bitcoins will take the place of our devalued currency for a short time. There will be several attempts made on Trump's life from foreign countries. Pence will succeed Trump as president. Our country will be radically changed in every way imaginable. Trump's Supreme Court nominees will stop abortion, affirmative action, and effectively end gun control. We will have a much more conservative nation, the media will be actively controlled, and there will be no privacy.

    My daughter then asked me to imagine what will happen if Hillary wins. Most things will remain marginally the same, with charter schools very slowly growing and Obama care revamped. There will be an accelerated push to impeach her, but it will not succeed. Stronger gun control will be put into effect. Supreme Court nominees will keep the status quo. Bill will actively advise her, as she did him while in office. There will be an economic downturn and Hillary will stop immigration out of necessity. Her health may take a down turn and Bill would take defacto control, not Keane. Overall it's much better for all of us if Hillary gets in. 
     Just my dark musings on what could happen. The choice is scary or boring. I prefer boring to living in a tent in the park.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

What Do ATRs Want?

    Next week will commence the start of the annual UFT informational dog and pony shows with ATRs. This year promises to be more than we're "working hard for your restroom keys", "you have to be your own advocate", and my favorite, "you're lucky to have a job". There have recently been new ATR negotiations, so if logic dictates (it usually doesn't with the UFT) we should get some new information at these meetings. If some of you are scratching your heads wondering why new negotiations, you're not alone. The discriminatory provisions of the last contract were allowed to sunset. Why the UFT felt it had to go into new negotiations, instead of leaving things the way they are, is a matter of conjecture because we haven't been informed. (That's nothing new if you're an ATR - we are always an afterthought, an elephant in the room that is never to be discussed or mentioned, especially in public or the UFT paper.) So exactly what do ATRs want?
    First and foremost ATRs want and need crucial information in a timely fashion. We shouldn't have to ask janitors at 52 Broadway if they overheard Mulgrew talking on the bowl.
    Secondly, we need the truth. The UFT should release the demographic information on ATRs which will prove we are not "sub-par" teachers. The UFT should advertise this fact. It seems to have stopped its negative branding of us, but that's not enough- the damage has been done. Even though we are offered for free, who wants a sub- par teacher?
    Lastly and most importantly, this bullshit has to stop - it's been 11 years! I've been seeing totally clueless teachers trying to teach, while we sub and are treated like absolute garbage by everyone. If the UFT wants us out then negotiate a decent buyout. For those who want to be ATRs, let them have input into what they want and for the rest of us, LET US TEACH.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Everyone Knows What's Best for African American Children, Except the NAACP



   The NAACP recently came out with an intelligent statement concerning charter schools - "We are calling for a moratorium on the expansion of the charter schools at least until such time as:
(1) Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools
(2) Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system
(3) Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and
(4) Charter schools cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious."

    I can't objectively find fault with this, but the Secretary of Education John King has and has publicly stated, any arbitrary cap on the growth of high-performing charters is a mistake in terms of our goal of trying to improve opportunity for all kids.” http://nypost.com/2016/10/22/standing-up-for-civil-rights-against-the-naacp/

   One would think that the Secretary of Education under the nation's first African American president would show a little more respect for the NAACP or at least for common sense logic. Is Mr. King interested in helping children or in pushing the charter school ideology? This is in direct opposition to the NAACP, "The NAACP’s resolution is not inspired by ideological opposition to charter schools but by our historical support of public schools – as well as today’s data and the present experience of NAACP branches in nearly every school district in the nation,” said Cornell William Brooks, President and CEO of the NAACP. “Our NAACP members, who as citizen advocates, not professional lobbyists, are those who attend school board meetings, engage with state legislatures and support both parents and teachers.”

    The media has heaped praise on Mr. King and distain on the NAACP. It seems incredibly arrogant and insulting that the NY Post, the Obama administration and the Charter School Movement has the gall to chastise the NAACP and tell it what's best for African American children. The Charter School movement doesn't care about children- it cares only about profits. 

Can Trump Still Win the Election?


  As some of you may know, I am not a fan of either candidate. (I forsee nightmarish scenarios no matter which one gets into office. If it's Clinton, we have the prospect of Joel Klein re-entering our lives or if we're real lucky (!) Randi Weingarten. Public charter schools will then find their way to NYC. If Trump gets in, charter schools will replace public schools at a much more accelerated pace. We may pay less taxes but will pay more for everything and there will be a marked decline in the quality of life for everyone. That will be the first year. Trump would likely resign after making sure all obstacles, to his multiplying his fortune a hundred fold, were eliminated. Pence would then be president.) Can Trump still be elected? Not only do I think he can, I believe he will. There are tremendous amounts of people that are cautiously silent on their plans to vote for him. Many are affluent and well educated - not the Hillbillies we've heard about. Hopefully, I'm incorrect or maybe Clinton will contest the election and win on appeal. Whatever the outcome, we're all the losers.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Cyber War - Not a Bullet Fired

                                                                       


    We are under attack in cyberspace. (Hillary may be more acutely aware of this via WikiLeaks.) There was another attack today -http://fox59.com/2016/10/21/some-of-internets-most-popular-websites-brought-down-friday-after-cyber-attack/.      Some of these attacks appear to be coming from governments that are putting their resources into disrupting our economy. This has the potential to affect each and everyone of us https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyberwarfare . From monetary value, bank accounts, credit cards, mortgages, power grids, water - everything possible. It has the potential to damage our nation as much as a nuclear bomb without the immediate  physical damage - the physical damage will eventually occur however. (There's a great show from the USA network called Mr. Robot, which gives a picture of life after such an attack. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4158110/ )      Some are afraid that if Trump loses, certain nations that have an intense dislike for Obama and Clinton will up the stakes. President Clinton or Trump will need to put more of our resources into the protection of our infrastructure in cyberspace, and in building civil relationships with China, Russia, the Philipines, North Korea, and the Middle East. There needs to be public and private awareness that terrorists can use the internet to attack us.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Beginning of the Fall - Sunday Night's Debate




   Sunday night's disgusting spectacle was emblematic of everything that is wrong with this country. The media, fame, dirty politics, sexism, racism, self interest, and capitalism - all tied together with lies. Two people, presumably the best we have to offer (after an extreme vetting process via their individual party's nomination), went at each other like two coked up roosters. The moderators were a joke. Anderson Cooper should be relieved of any future position in the news media as a moderator after displaying what can only be called unbridled bias (time to throw out those Gloria Vanderbilt jeans you've saved since college) and Raditz only nominally so. I really don't think I can vote this year. A raging asshole (excuse my language) or a bought bureaucrat - and yes, I still think Trump is going to win.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Atlas ponders, 'What ATR Scenario Would Mulgrew Deny the City?'



  Two weeks ago we learned that there were renewed ATR negotiations via Mr. Mulgrew's announcement that they didn't go well. What does the city want that Mulgrew would have denied!?Atlas asked some friends their opinions:

Tony: Probably weekly or daily rotations in different boroughs.

Atlas: No, Bloomy tried that. The UFT won the court case.

George: I think they want the ATRs to drink the water in each school to test for lead.

Atlas: No, ATRs don't drink any liquid during the day. This is to minimize their need to urinate based on the frequent absence of a restroom key. Mulgrew would have readily agreed to this.

Harry: Place all ATRs as the sole staff in receivership schools and allow the staff to be fired when the school doesn't improve.

Atlas: Two thoughts about that - one a deformer group has FOILed the DOE to get the info on ATRs sent into these schools. If the info is released, then it proves ATRs are superior, not inferior - and also that ATRs are being sent to these schools. If the UFT agreed to this scenario then this would come out and the UFT could not be seen agreeing to termination of these ATRs.

Harry: So you think this is the case?

Atlas: Perhaps. Anymore ideas?

Pat: I think they wanted a time limit. Get a permanent position or be terminated.

Atlas: No, the system is set up to insure ATRs don't get permanent positions. State law, LIFO, states last in first out. The UFT and DOE would lose that battle in court and in the court of public opinion.

Jean: I think the DOE wants to give up and put all ATRs back in the classroom permanently.

Atlas: Very interesting. If the UFT agreed to this they would lose the dues for 2,000 new UFT members that wouldn't be hired. This may be what the Mulgrew referenced when he said a new agreement couldn't be reached and there was no new agreement.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Petty Media Attacks Trump

 
Shocking!
   As some of you may know I'm not a Trump fan nor will I vote for him, but this current attack on him is so rotten and low down I felt I had to comment on it. The same media that attacks teachers, our salaries, our interest rate on our TDAs has decided that Trump's unguarded and recorded comments from 11 years ago should be publicized. http://nypost.com/2016/10/07/trump-says-he-tried-to-f-k-a-married-woman-in-2005-video/ I don't know if you've ever had the experience of saying something privately and hearing it back - taken out of context and used against you. That happened to me some years ago and is happening to Trump on a whole different level now. It's worse than a betrayal, it's a petty vindictive way to hurt him. This election is a bizarre, nasty horror show. Hillary should not use these comments against him, as it will open a feeding frenzy on her husband's peccadilloes. The next debate is on Sunday.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Ascent of Technology and the Descent of Education

                                       
                         


   Are you surrounded by students that are completely hooked into their cell phones? If you are, you're not alone, especially if you teach in a NYC public school. (Mayor DeBlasio, to my dismay, lifted the cell phone ban that was wisely put into effect during Bloomberg's regime.) Chances are you've been filmed many times without your permission or knowledge. This is especially true if you've done something unusual or you've been in an altercation with a student. (If the altercation was physical there's a 100% chance it was filmed and shared.) Additionally, when the students don't have something interesting to film (think violent or sexual) - they will take constant selfies. Don't even get me started on mind numbingly loud Bluetooth speakers that blare the most offensive 'cursing to a beat' possible. These behaviors are not to be solely found with students. They exist in society as a whole.

     Do you like your cell phone? Do you love your cell phone? Could you go a day without your phone, without discomfiture?  I've come to the realization that cellphones are an addiction. Ask any question an addict must ask themselves and you'll probably get the affirmative, if you're honest. Is your behavior affecting relationships negatively? Are you spending an exorbitant amount of time and/or money on your addiction? Is it affecting your health? (Think eyesight and driving accidents.) Is it affecting your performance at work?  I could go on and on, but you get the idea. http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/25/living/10-signs-smartphone-addiction-digital-life/

    Now back to our students. If we see students engaging in behavior that is counterproductive to their health and well being, as well as their education - don't we have a moral imperative to call it out and attempt to stop it? I, personally as a caring adult, parent, teacher and (yes) UFT member would like to see a careful reconsideration of the cellphone policy in all NYC public schools.

     

Monday, October 3, 2016

Class Divide - A Story of Two Children from Chelsea

 

    Tonight there's a program on HBO that tells the tale of two children from Chelsea. http://www.hbo.com/documentaries/class-divide/synopsis/about.html One is wealthy and one is poor. Chelsea is an interesting neighborhood that I'm well acquainted with. I have a friend that still runs a soup kitchen there.  I know of few places in the world where you will can see the destitute and billionaires living side by side in the same neighborhood. Back in the 80s, it had one of the highest AIDS and HIV rates in the world. The Highline was boarded up; you could just stroll in and have the entire place to yourself. Big apartments were relatively cheap and the ever present housing projects were there for those poor and those lucky(?) enough to get in. Jump ahead 27 years and Chelsea is upscale, hip and beautiful. The Highline is packed around the clock. Luxury buildings abound, but the projects are still there - as are the poor. How do the poor fare in such an environment? Are there equal opportunities for children? I imagine that there is not. We live in a capitalistic society. It will be interesting to see if this program touts for profit charter and private schools as the answer for poor children. Or will it say improve public schools for rich and poor? Check it out tonight at eight. Happy Rosh Hashanah.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Understanding What's Important in Life or "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F-ck"


    It's amazing how uncommon common sense can be - which is why a self help book called "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F-ck" strikes a chord with so many. Basically the author is saying care about the important things in life and understand the difference between those things. http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/f-king-self-help-book-buy-article-1.2813477
 
     I've found through experience it's best not to have any expectations in most situations, especially those in which you have no control. Doing so allows one not to suffer disappointment or the emotions that can accompany it. Some may go further and intentionally distance themselves from personal relationships. (This is a survival mechanism for many teachers and ATRs. It's easy to get pulled into negativity and gossip.) This is especially true if you are someplace temporarily, and aren't we all here on Earth temporarily? Try to remember what's important in life and be kind to one another.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Who Won the First Debate? Rosie O'Donnell!

It's Rosie's fault!
   The debate went fairly well for both candidates. I felt Lester Holt showed bias against Trump, especially in bringing up the birther movement to counter Hillary's mea culpa over her private server - hoping to elicit an apology from the Trumpster to mitigate those vanished emails. Holt also hammered him over 'Stop and Frisk', saying it's been proven unconstitutional. Trump rightly answered it would have been overturned if deBlasio appealed it. Clinton answered NY City's numbers are way down without Stop and Frisk. Trump should have added those numbers are down statistically for a reason (and it's not because crime has gone down). She could have, at that point, brought up gun control.
    Overall, Clinton did well in not getting rattled. She wisely brought up his obvious bias towards women. Trump blamed it all on Rosie O'Donnell. Rosie, if he loses its because of you!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Hillary vs. Donald - The End of the World Debates

                                                   
               
   As most of you know tomorrow will be the first in a series of debates against the two best candidates our country could muster for the presidency of the United States. If you're a football fan and like to head to the nearest pub for Monday night football - forget about it - it's Hillary vs. Donald.
The anticipated audience is expected to beat the Super Bowl's. Don't look for Beyoncé to blow out the electricity at half time, but there should be plenty of fireworks. This is a snippet from my twisted imagination:

  Hillary takes the stage wearing a navy Trump University tee shirt. Upon reaching the podium she points to her shirt and there are loud boos from the audience.
   Trump takes the stage and blows a kiss to Gennifer Flowers (former Bill Clinton girlfriend) who is sitting in the front row.
    The moderator Don Rickles, flips a coin. It's tails, so Trump gets to speak first. Rickles tells them the rules - there are none, just start. Trump begins:

Trump: Well, they said it couldn't happen, but here I am! Hillary kiss my ass!

Hillary: You're a complete asshole and I'm going to demolish you faster than one of your bankrupt casinos.

Trump: Crooked Hillary, you couldn't even manage Bill and you want to run the country! I don't blame Bill, do you Gennifer?

Hillary knocks the podium over and begins to pummel the Donald. Her hands quickly take on an orange hue from his sprayed on tan. Then the unimaginable happens - she rips off Trump's hairpiece, sending it flying onto Gennifer's ample bosom. (The audience is shocked, realizing Trump has lied all along about his hair. It may be the turning point of the election.) Security finally breaks up the melee and the debate is over.

Don't forget to tune in, tomorrow night.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Andy and Atlas: A Conversation


               
Andy
Atlas

             Andy: Atlas, you old fool, are you still working?

             Atlas : I am, are you?

             Andy: You know it, baby! Did you see my performance yesterday with the media?

             Atlas: Are you referring to your indignant diatribe against Anthony?

             Andy: That's right! Weiner's timing was wonderful! It detracted all the buzz and
                        buzzards from my associates' troubles.

              Atlas: Preet seems to have you in his sights, Andy.

              Andy: It'll never happen. I'm smarter than him, and as you've seen the only group more
                         gullible and less intelligent than teachers is the media.

              Atlas: What DO YOU you plan on doing with us?

              Andy: After deBlasio is Preeted and his reelection Preemted, I will give it all to Eva!

              Atlas: You really are diabolical.

              Andy: I'm really hurt, Atlas. This ATR business must be getting to you. You really
                         should be working for me. I'm much kinder than the DOE, and with Trump in
                         office you may need a fallout shelter, and I got the best one in the state!

              Atlas: Yes, the end of the world as we know it.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

What's it Like to be a Sub, Teacher or Student?

The NY Post has an interesting article http://nypost.com/2016/09/17/this-account-of-being-a-substitute-teacher-will-make-you-fear-for-our-future/ relating to a new book concerning what it's like to work as a substitute and teacher's helper. The incidental observations of what goes on in the classroom seems to fascinate and horrify. Neither I, nor any ATR in their right mind, have any interest in reading it - having lived and seen it ad neauseum for years. Perhaps Randi and Mike would be interested in a copy?

Who are You Going to Believe? Me or Your Lying Eyes!?


Mike says :  ATRs are at an all time low. - ( F-ck you, ATR and the walker you slid in on.)
                    School openings were smooth. - ( Ignore the rumors of massive vacancies.)
                    We're working hard to reduce class sizes. - (It can always be higher.)
                    No teacher should be developing scope, sequence or curriculum maps.(Wink,wink)
                    New teachers should be allowed to use the restrooms. (Let the ATRs use diapers.)
                    First graders should be suspended. (But not any other students.)
                    There are SAVE rooms to remove unruly students. ( I know there's at a least one.)
                    We all like raffles. So let's have one. (This is a heck of a fun job!)
                 

                   
                 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Message Sent and Delivered

   


     What is the universe trying to tell Mayor deBlasio, when, on the first day of school, a fifteen year old student brings a loaded gun into a school? A. This was a bizarre aberration; B. This was a ploy committed by an underage actor hired by the NY Post; C. This is a sign that there will be a terrible disaster if metal detectors are removed. After hearing the news, Mayor deBlasio said, "Our schools are getting safer and safer." How does a 29% decrease in school crime correlate to a 25% increase in school weapon confiscation? Taking metal detectors out of schools will certainly make the schools statistically safer, but do New Yorkers finally understand the illusion of statistics? I understand how the Mayor feels.  He must feel as I do - that it's revolting for kids to have to go through metal detectors to get into school, but that's what our society has devolved into. Safety has to come first.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

It's Labor Day Again




    As some of you may know this is the weekend I enter my annual US Open trance in preparation for the upcoming onslaught of the coming school year. This year I did something I have never done before - I actually went to the US Open. I drove to Flushing, Main Street, parked and took the train one stop. I got to the stadium early and hung out. Sitting way up high in Arthur Ashe stadium, I watched Serena. I felt a little strange being there. I knew Arthur from when I managed a video store during my college years. He was a very refined, polite person. At the time I didn't know how to play and knew nothing about tennis. One day someone I knew, who seemed awe struck, mentioned to me that he was a famous tennis player, but I didn't believe it. After graduating and moving on, I read of his health problems and was saddened by his death. Well Arthur, I finally got to your stadium. Sorry it wasn't sooner. It was great. Tennis has become popular with everyone, even former kids like me from the Bronx. Has anything else changed for me since last Labor Day weekend? I'm a year older and hopefully a little wiser. I'm grateful to God for my health and ability to support my family. I try not to take anything for granted. Enjoy your Labor Day, a day of rest and recognition.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Would you like to play ATR Russian Roulette?

 
                                                                 
                                               

    Last week several friends called to say there were 6 schools listed on SESIS. Some were concerned that those would be the only schools we would be rotated to for the semester or for the year. One friend told me only one school was decent; another was making out her last will and testament.  Since the sunsetting of the ATR agreement, we are supposed to go back to weekly rotations. There was another possibility, perhaps in some other dimension. ATRs used to get to pick one school out of 6 to stay for the entire year. ATR Russian Roulette, but at least you got to pick the school. I seriously doubt we would ever be given that amenity, therefore I believe it's back to whichever rotation is precieved as most uncomfortable. Have a wonderful year and focus on the important things in life.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Tech Gurus Do Not Send Their Kids to Schools That Allow Electronic Devices



   There's an interesting, somewhat frightening article in the NY Post concerning a parent who allowed her child early access to electronics.  http://nypost.com/2016/08/27/its-digital-heroin-how-screens-turn-kids-into-psychotic-junkies/   It describes a child spiraling into what can only be described as addiction - with all that goes along with it. I felt for the parent because she bought into much of the nonsense that was being spouted, not so long ago, about how great it is for kids developmentally to have early access to electronic devices. Her child went from a healthy kid who liked playing baseball to something from a Stephen King novel.

   These devices are rewiring not only children's brains, but ours as well. The pleasure center of our brains light up when we turn on our electronic activity of choice. For the child in the article, it was Minecraft; for you it might be Facebook or Instagram. Sex and cocaine give the same rush.

    Dr. Kadaras, the author of the article writes, 'Many parents intuitively understand that ubiquitous glowing screens are having a negative effect on kids. We see the aggressive temper tantrums when the devices are taken away and the wandering attention spans when children are not perpetually stimulated by their hyper-arousing devices. Worse, we see children that become bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.' 

    It also appears that the people who make and sell these devices don't follow their own advice when it concerns their own children. Their children's schools ban electronic devices. My children went to and go to public Montessori schools. These devices were and have always been banned, as they should be in all schools.


Friday, August 26, 2016

The Summertime Blues

 


     We have a week left; that's like a day during the summer. (After a few weeks of work, you'll be praying for a week off.) Have you done everything you planned to do this summer? I haven't. All those friends I was supposed to get together with, I didn't. It was to damn hot. I'm blaming it on global warming. They did predict that this summer would be the hottest on record (by 3 degrees) and I'm sure it's well on its way. Have you noticed no one wants to talk on the phone anymore? It's only texting.  If you leave voice mail, it's proof you're over sixty. Everyone is totally addicted to social media - Facebook, Instagram, etc., etc.. The art of conversation has taken a real hit. If trapped in a conversation they will talk over you, not make eye contact, pull out their phones or take a selfie - and those are the people that like me. Between being an ATR and all this non-stop technology BS, I feel like Rodney Dangerfield.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Best Commentary on Charter Schools Ever




  Today a bunch of us got together to hang out. We went to see Ben-Hur in 3D. The acting was poor and everyone had a British accent. Afterwards, we went over to one of my buddies and he put on John Oliver on HBO. I never heard of him, (I don't watch much TV other than tennis and art documentries), but was immediately irritated when I heard his British accent. I thought to myself another Brit commenting on American politics, in addition to them getting every role playing Americans to ancient Hebrews. I was shocked by the honesty that he exhibited in his show concerning charter schools. I didn't really find it funny because it was so truthful. It is simply the best thing I've ever seen, read or heard concerning charter schools. John Oliver, you da man! http://youtu.be/l_htSPGAY7I

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Marijuana - Soma for the Poor




  For those of you who haven't read 'A Brave New World', by Aldous Huxley, Soma was a drug that was dispensed to the masses. It kept them passive, unquestioning and in a content state. Marijuana is quickly on its way to become just such a drug for the poor. THC is the component of Marijuana that gives euphoria to its users. That level, in the genetically modified Marijuana of today, is incredibly high (no pun intended). Different strains can give you different effects, but all guarantee bliss. There's an article in today's NY Post  that chronicles the effect this drug is having on the poor. It also notes that those who are pushing for legalization aren't really the ones using it. I don't believe people should be locked up for it, but I certainly do believe it shouldn't be legalized or its use tolerated with teenagers.http://nypost.com/2016/08/20/legalized-pot-is-making-americas-lower-class-poorer-and-less-responsible/

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Woodstock Generation and Today's Youth

     I watched the concert film Woodstock last night. A 45 years old concert that was in many ways the epitome of that era's ideals. I'm well acquainted with the film. When I was in college I managed a video store on 72nd and 2nd and I would play it every Sunday on all the screens simultaneously. All the former hippies in the neighborhood would come in and hang out with me. Most were at that time wealthy, living in luxury high rises, but still idealistic - looking back at their youth as if it were a fleeting dream. The views of  the Woodstock youth from just 15 years prior was remarkably different from my generation. We were all trying to get rich fast and there were no business ethics - just don't get caught. There was very little spirituality. (The hottest club at the time was the Limelight, which I wouldn't step foot in.) The Woodstock generation wanted change, a better life and harmony. The Civil Rights Movement was also an integral part of it.
    Today's youth wants a change. They are looking for someone to lead them. First Bernie and then the false prophet Trump. Bernie dropped out and Trump imploded. There is no leader for them and many are left feeling lost. They want a better life and a peaceful one. Black Lives Matter harkens back to the Civil Rights Movement, just as the Occupy Wall Street protests did to the many protests of the 1960s. Today's technology is changing our lives in a profound way. It's displacing many jobs, as are the cheap imports and unethical treatment of uneducated and/or foreign workers. Many people don't seem so apt to ignore abusive, selfish behavior - even though by speaking out it may get them hurt, arrested or killed. That young people have that kind of courage is a powerful impetus for change. This generation may come to the realization that it may never find a leader and will have to generate that change one person and one protest at a time.      
                                       

Monday, August 15, 2016

Pokemon Go - UFT Style

52 Broadway


George, Tony, Anne, and Shelby are all teachers in danger of losing their licenses. All have been on the hunt for advice and representation. George, a tech wiz, has customized a Pokemon Go App into a UFT Rep Go App. Each rep has a different point value based on their level, status and rarity in the UFT.

George: I got hold of a Chapter leader yesterday, but he refused to represent me because I'm an ATR.

Tony: Well, it's still a hundred points, try for borough rep - they're a thousand points.

Anne: Good luck!

Shelby: George, how does this work?

George: Delegates are a point a piece. Chapter leaders are 100 points. Borough reps are a thousand. Executive board delegates 5,000 points. Special representatives are 100,000 points and the president is a million points.

Anne: I'm going to get them all!

Tony: Yeah, and maybe one will help you!


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Mulgrew Takes a Stand! Against Problem 6 and 7 Year Olds



For those of you who haven't heard, Mr. Mulgrew has taken a tough stand against Mayor deBlasio's new discipline policy banning suspensions of 1st and 2nd graders. This outrage has forced him to write a letter to the NY Daily News denouncing it. Not a word against the lifting of the cellphone ban, the defacto end of suspension for all students (except 1st and 2nd graders), the proposed removal of metal detectors, or a host of indignities heaped on educators and students alike that are simply too long to list. Why and why now? It's comical, in that it is the least egregious act from deBlasio in his well intentioned, ill devised discipline policies. We teachers are simply terrified of 6 year olds! Watching Problem Child sends shivers up the collective spines of all teachers. Mulgrew hears our cries and delivers for his members! Don't forget that and Bill please, please, please don't get too miffed by Mike.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Murphy's Law - The Man With the Gold Makes the Rules

 

I've just been reading how Facebook wunderkind Zuckerberg has instituted his new ideas and technology into the classroom yet again.  http://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2016/5/5/fresh-start-the-chan-zuckerberg-initiative-and-the-new-era-o.html (His iniatives failed in Newark.) Zuckerberg's plans are part and parcel of a large crazy quilt stitched by numerous well intentioned (?) billionaires  https://www.thenation.com/article/the-superrich-have-found-a-new-way-to-wield-political-power-philanthropy/  . Gates' wanting small schools; federal money from billionaires tied into testing; education corporations setting the dispersal of facts to be used in their subpar textbooks and setting the goals of professional development; and a billionaire mayor working for a single dollar facilitating those goals. Is it really philanthropy, if there are strings attached? Why should someone who has billions be given more credence than experts? Education is a public institution and should not be sold or tampered with, without any regard to the consequences. Murphy's law should not be applicable in regards to public education, but it most certainly is. Zuckerberg's iniatives are in charter schools for now, but I'm sure they will be making a visit to all of us in the near future.

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Inexcusable Lack of Art Education in NYC Public Schools

 
What are the stakes?

During my prolonged odyssey around the Bronx as an ATR, I have been in many schools that offered no or very limited art classes. Most troubling, some of them had Art (in one of its varied forms) as its main focus (and often included in the name of the school) and was the reason many of the students enrolled there. I was recently in a school where I came across many such students. The kids were complaining about not being able to express themselves so I talked them into making a presentation to the principal for the creation of a mural. He agreed and the kids were happy. I brought in drawing lessons and we would work on drawing during their lunch period. Many of the students were eccentric, eccentrically attired, very attuned to the art world and I throughly enjoyed them. They were frustrated and angry at being lied to and being stuck there for the rest of the year . Many were discipline problems for their regular academic teachers, but not for me (Thank God). They were genuinely happy to have an artistic outlet. I was shocked at how talented many of them were, especially for being primarily self taught. It seems that Art is always considered the least important class and as such is cut for almost any reason. Budget constraints, lack of available room (because of a lack of space from co-locations - often from charter schools) and the prioritizing of academic subjects. I'm referring primarily to visual Art, but this also pertains to all the arts - Music, Dance, Theater, Film and even writing. We have some amazingly talented kids out there that are being thwarted in their desire to learn. Having these programs creates a positive outlet for adolescence and is uplifting to them and society. If we don't expose students to the cultural richness of our shared humanity, those cultural aspects that enrich us all will start to disappear. We have only one classical radio station left on the radio, no more NYS opera, and a lack of art galleries and museums in many areas. It's time to change this. I can't find up to date stats on this problem. This is the most recent I could find - http://gothamist.com/2014/04/07/arts_education_crisis_nyc.php . Let's all push for change  - tell your UFT reps, write emails and support the arts where and whenever you can.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Back to School Supplies

 

    Yes, it's that time of year again. Time for our annual notice and celebratory letter from LeRoy touting our victorious Teacher's Choice amount. They're not sure how much it is this year, but you can bet it will be less than the $250 a year we used to get. The city has a surplus, but hey that's not for our Teacher's Choice or the money owed to us from the last contract or health care or smaller class sizes. I digress. The mayor has just recently down graded the suspension policy again - no suspension for first or second graders and principal's can ask for the removal of metal detector's at their discretion. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/de-blasio-school-metal-detection-suspension-rules-article-1.2721066  I don't really have a problem with not suspending first or second graders, why should they be the only ones in NYC public schools being suspended? My problem is with metal detectors being pulled out of schools. Would a principal be so naive as to make that request? Would the city honor that request? Come to your own conclusions and preview Gregory Floyd's, the head of the Safety Officers union, remark in the above referenced article : “Unfortunately this is going to lead to more children bringing weapons to schools,” Floyd said. “There could be a mass shooting. The mayor is making schools less safe.”
    The first item on your Teacher's Choice list should be a bullet proof vest. They are perfectly legal to own, but are usually quite expensive, but look at the alternative - how much is your life worth? The cheapest I could find is BulletSafe at $299   http://www.bulletsafe.com/bullet-proof-vest.html?gclid=CjwKEAjwiYG9BRCkgKG45S323oSJABnykKAV872cQxCd1sBz9xk0vz5Z2kg19CJxyi_V_6Ojg-uAhoCohDw_wcB                           
That leaves nothing for actual supplies, so perhaps the UFT could waive a couple of months of union dues to make up for the deficit?