Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Last Minute Decisions

                                                      Mike: Well Amy, it's been an eventful year! My reelection is a big vindication of my hard work.

Amy: You deserve it, Mike.

Mike: Any last minute items to do, before I'm off to the Hamptons?

Amy: Let me see ... Actually, yes. The ATR agreement is up for renewal.

Mike: Do we actually have any ATRs left?

Amy: Yes, quite a few (pauses) I think.

Mike: So if I extend it, one day terminations and monthly rotations?

Amy: Yes. If you don't, its weekly and no expedited hearings.

Mike: (Looking puzzled) Decisions, decisions. (He then takes a gold krugerrand out of his pocket) Call it.

Amy: Is that a gold coin?

Mike: Yes. Andy told me to always have gold on hand in case of emergencies.

Amy: You better tell Bill.

Mike: Oh, don't worry about him. He has a speed boat at the pier that reads Fidel #1. Call it.

Amy: (Chukles) Heads you renew it, tails you let it go.

Mike: (He flips the coin high in the air.) Ah. (They both look at the fallen coin.) I'm exhausted, wait until September to announce it. Have a great summer.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Big Bronx Cheer for Mayoral Control of the Schools!

Bill: "Please no autographs."
    Ah, yes - another year of Mayor Bill as head of the schools! What can we look forward to? (There will first, of course, be a long speech from Bill and the presumptive victory cry from the UFT.) Every action will be countered with a counterintuitive reaction. Increased violence in the schools - pull out metal detectors. Out of control classes - blame the teacher and reward the student. Inattentive students- let them have cellphones. Drug use and sales - ignore it. Failing schools- hire inexperienced administration and staff. Teacher shortage - create more ATRs. The list goes on and on. (The one good thing about him, and it's a big one, is that he doesn't want more charters. This has gained him the animos of Eva and her biggest fan Andy.) He has good intentions, poisoned by naïveté - but you know what they say about good intentions.
Andy:"I'll be watching you, Billy." 
    It seems like everywhere I go in NYC there are totally inexperienced people in charge. From the classrooms, to schools, to our union, to cab companies, to hospitals, to every facet of daily life here - you have to question putting your trust in anyone's hands. When I was young and inexperienced no one would hire me. There was an implicit obligation of those in charge to be responsible stewards of their chosen professions. No way was an inexperienced teacher going to be put in front of a class. No way were you going to be a cab driver without knowing how to drive(!). No way was a doctor going to diagnose and prescribe medication without meeting you and giving you a thorough examination. And no way was the UFT going to sell out their own members. Greed, a lack of ethics and the business model has severely damaged our quality of life. What's really scary is that those growing up in this generation don't know what they're missing, and that fact is a 'HUGE' part of the undermining of our society.

(Bronx Cheer: a sound of derision or contempt made by blowing through closed lips with the tongue between them; a raspberry. - Google)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Why I Have to Vote for Hillary

Reality is always stranger than fiction.

  Bernie is done. That's it, we all have to get over it. It's Trump vs. Hillary. The prospect of Trump becoming president should scare you. The man is completely unprepared and unacceptable. (The only example that's even close is DeBlasio becoming mayor of NYC. DeBlasio, at least has good intentions, Trump doesn't.) I have to vote for Hillary, in spite of Randi's endorsement. (The dual thought of Trump/Christie or Hillary/Randi is nightmarish.) How have I come to this decision?

    First there's Trump's arrogance. It's there all the time. It's different from confidence. He believes he's better, smarter and will take you for a fool if you let him. Many years ago, I was at a Beach Boys concert in one of his casinos in Atlantic City. He was sitting at the next table with Marla Maples. Brian Wilson asked everyone to stand and give Trump a standing ovation. I said to my wife, "No f--king way, just because he's rich?". We were the only ones that didn't stand and he noticed it! He glared at me for the rest of the evening. I felt a little bad, because I hadn't meant to offend him. At the end of the concert, I thought about going over to shake hands with him, but saw him refuse to do so with one of the idiots that stood. I later heard that he's a germaphobe. I just read that he would have his casinos lavishly furnished and then refuse the contractors payment (and everyone else's) because of some minor flawhttp://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/06/trump-didnt-pay-his-bills-for-decades.html . Then there's his Trump University. Anyone that would fleece trusting students in that manner should be in jail, not the White House http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/trump-university-bogus-curriculum-real-scandal-article-1.2678867. It's a prime example of what's wrong with education, business and ethics.

  Finally, there's Hillary. Am I overjoyed with the prospect of her in office? No, I'm not. Her connection with Obama (and his betrayal of teachers) and her endorsement from Weingarten give me acid reflux. I'm afraid of another four years of Obama - a repeat of that and I'll OD on Prevacid. She is however, experienced. She knows what she's doing. Yeah, I know - what about her emails? I don't give a shit about her emails or about her husband's affairs. Actually, having him advise her is a big plus. Bill was far, far from perfect, but most of the country was working and many people were doing well financially. The country had a surplus! I also liked him and still do, but she's the one running. Yes, I'll vote for her and yes, I still believe Trump will be elected.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

ATRs are UFT Members

Get back in the pool and stay there!

     It's June, the month of weddings, graduations and the end of the ATR agreement. Chaz has reported on his blog that it's been extended. If so, how and with what changes, if any? Were your opinions asked for? Mine weren't, nor any ATR I know of. Were any ATR groups asked? No. So how is this decision being made? We weren't permitted an ATR chapter because this would 'solidify a temporary group', but the UFT would continue its existence, regardless of the effect on ATRs, schools and students? We have a designated representative whom I've never met, but from many accounts is a pleasant and fair person. Wouldn't it have been prudent to call a general meeting to get input from us? Some seem to want to be an ATR until they hit 99 years old and others are popping Xanax like M&Ms. Heck, just letting people have their say would go along way towards giving the appearance that the UFT is actually a democratic union. Even if the majority of ATRs' needs and wants are disregarded, at least they would have been vocalized. Most of us feel completely isolated, ostracized and completely excluded from the union we support. To read that this decision has already been extended, (with no official proclamation from the union and no input from us) only fosters those feelings, like a festering boil.
Update: The UFT has done the right thing and let the provision expire.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Thoughts at the End of the School Year


  Where to begin? So many thoughts, experiences and emotions are swirling around me. I feel like I'm on the Steeplechase ride at Rye Playland - the one that looks benign, but is anything but(t). I had two friends call me today to say that they were excessed from their provisional positions. Both these guys are great teachers. They swore to me they would be hired permanently, when I warned them at the beginning of the year of their impending doomed tenure.

     Some other friends have retired, also great teachers, that have been relegated to the position of subs in the ATR pool. No one even knows their names at the schools they are in, and could care less if they dropped dead (as long as it doesn't happen inside the school). Thirty odd years teaching and not even a thank you from the UFT or DOE. I used to spend the entire month of June going to retirement parties. Fare thee well, old friends.

    I also got a call this morning from a friend that said he heard a report on 1010 WINS that seemed to be blaming all ATRs (that couldn't find a position immediately) of incompetence. It referenced Mr. Mulgrew's recent statements to that effect. I haven't been able to verify the 1010 WINS story, but Mulgrew did indeed make such a statement recently. How can a union president make such a discriminatory statement about his own members? I believe it's to lay the groundwork for more discrimination. Perhaps, he'll have us go to every school building and drink the water. We've already been subjected to the torture of listening to mind splitting rap music all year long. The only thing worse is listening to a speech from Mayor DeBlasio. He has an opinion on every mundane topic and will voice it on every radio news channel, usually as I'm dodging a pot hole and/or slowing down to a crawl because of the ever present speed cameras (the teacher on the bike always beats me to school first - a modern, 'Tortoise and the Hare').

    June is a lovely month. Enjoy your summer.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Anti-Vocational Education and 'College For All' Ideological Harvest


     Back in the early 1990s, I was enrolled in Lehman College working on my Master's degree. During one of my more interesting classes, I had a professor who became very angry with me when I told her I disagreed with her. She had stated that all vocational high schools in NYC should be closed. She had asserted that vocational schools were racist facilities that were being used to keep minority students out of college. She maintained that all students should be sent to college. I, of course, said that was ridiculous. She asked me how old my son was (3, at the time) and said, "So it's ok for your son to go to college, but not the Black or Latino kid?" I replied if my son had the inclination toward the trades, I wouldn't stop him and that tradespeople can make very high salaries. (There is and was a subtle snobbery with many intellectuals that view skilled labor as a demeaning way to make a living. My son did end up going to a vocational high school. I should mention that this professor was a very attractive, nice Jewish lady.)
    As the years went by, I saw a lot of chipping away at the notion of vocational schools. First, as I've mentioned, from education professors; then from teachers and administrators, and finally from our beloved Mayor Bloomberg. Right after the No Child Left Behind Act, my AP went around to all the CTE teachers in our school and told us we had to get another license. She explained that the increased push to get all students into college and the end of zoned schools would mean the demise of vocational schools. The kids had to take newly required classes and tests. These classes left very little to no time for vocational classes. Most kids in the school were now taking 9 to 10 periods a day with no lunch. (We had to have the parents sign a waiver allowing it.)
    Next came massive amounts of kids being placed in our school with no interest in vocational classes. These kids used to go to their zoned schools, (and we used to send the ones that showed no aptitude to those schools). These students were now destroying every CTE class. The final nail in the coffin was of course, the completely diabolical 2005 contract. It allowed failing schools to be closed down and the veteran staffs to be turned into babysitters. Vocational schools were sent high need students and the resulting falling stats used as evidence for their closing.
    Now all students are being sent to college, regardless of academic readiness. (The Regent exams were supposed to ensure this.) Many former public school students can not pass an introductory class. Some spend all their financial aid on remedial classes. They then go into the world with no skills and no degree.
    I was recently at a play at SUNY Purchase. During intermission, I started talking with a semi-retired lady that seemed very familiar. She was telling me horror stories of the students she was teaching in a community college, as a adjunct English professor. "They're all so entitled! They expect me to spoon feed everything to them. They have no social skills, no vocabulary and can't write. Why don't they go out and learn a trade?!" Yes, you guessed it - my former professor from Lehman. I reminded her of our former conversation so many years before  - which had left a lasting impression on me, but none at all on her. She eventually did however, admit that she did feel that way once upon a time - but had been wrong. The crop of anti-vocational education and "college for all" ideologies, sown so long ago, is now being harvested by the very same people and institutions that planted it.