Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Repost (10/09/16) : 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.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Bigger Picture



     There's been some good news coming from, of all people (!), Gov. Cuomo. Free tuition at state and city colleges. If you are a parent to a college bound teenager you know what a big deal this is for many of us. Some of us may actually be able to retire before we drop dead. Let me briefly explain - college tuition has skyrocketed over the past decade. I know many young adults who have hundreds of thousands of dollars in college loan debts. I know many more exhausted middle-aged, middle-class ( making under $125,000) parents that are working two jobs to help their children.
     There are many ways one can look at this - a boon or a potential bust. If tuition is free, can all children of families that make under 125k attend, even the vast number that are graduating NYC public high schools woefully unprepared for college? When they start retaking all those classes they took in high school and passed, for zero credits, will they presist and catch up or drop out? How long will they be allowed to take those remedial classes and/or attend college? Will the college professors be expected to pass them regardless of real learning, just like their high school teacher counterparts? Will the colleges be held accountable by the city and state if there are low graduation rates from their NYC public hs grads - now 'free' students? (Or will it necessitate real change from the high schools to prepare their graduates?) Will those students value their education because it's free, or throw it away like free lunch at a food fight?
     I don't believe anything of value should be given away. It devalues it in the eyes of the giver and recipient. All students, including my children and students, should work part time at whatever college they attend for free. It could be helping other students, library work or something of benefit to the college. I think it's very important to instill values - I don't see that happening at all on the high school level. It's important that young people not grow up feeling they are entitled to everything they want, especially those things that require hard work and sacrifice.
   Free college is wonderful. I thank Gov. Cuomo and the NYS legislature that signed it into the budget. It is my fondest hope that all students that can benefit from free tuition will take advantage of a higher education and respect it as a magnificent opportunity.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Repost(5/7/16): After Bloomberg, Should Any Mayor Have Sole Control of the Schools?


    How was your experience as a teacher under the mantle of Sir Michael Bloomberg http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/11143702/Michael-Bloomberg-knighted-by-the-Queen-just-dont-call-him-Sir-Mike.html ? Mine went from wonderful to abysmal after the 2005 contract, in which we got a big raise for selling our seniority rights. Then came the hundreds of school closings. Then, the replacement of veteran teachers with totally inexperienced white kids from the mid-west. Then, leadership academy principals indoctrinated with a business management approach to school leadership. Then, the ATR pool for teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, and APs that were too highly paid and couldn't be molded into a sniveling bureaucrats.

   Bloomberg is gone! Fantastic, Mulgrew regained his voice and gave DeBlasio a big check before the contract. Not a bribe, because we got the worst contract in the history of the UFT. It was more or less a house warming gift. I don't have a problem with it. We all had big hopes for Bill. A smiling mayor and a humanitarian. Two years later, not only hasn't anything changed, everything has become progressively worse. That's not what I expected when I heard him toot his horn claiming to be progressive. Students have cellphones in schools and classes, restorative justice has allowed criminal behavior to go unchecked, principals who have no business running schools (according to Chancellor Farina) are still in charge, principals who have made unethical choices for their staffs and students are unchallenged, teachers are evaluated in an insane manner, and veteran teachers who are overwhelmingly middle-aged and people of color are still languishing in the ATR pool. The last contract gave them second tier status and was announced with UFT President Mulgrew as a beneficial way to help these teachers find a career outside of education- the implication being ATRs are unsuitable for actual teaching. Mulgrew says things are great with DeBlasio. What do you think?

   Mayoral control of the schools end in June. A monarchical system that started with Sir Mike, that is  simply terrible. It's also being used as a political manipulative tool by both parties. We live in a democracy. Schools are not businesses, they are social institutions. All constituancies should have a voice in the decision making of education - parents, teachers, neighbors, taxpayers, students and the mayor. No one person should have sole control of the schools, bring back the Board of Education.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Harry from Boca with ATR News


  This is a post from my best friend, Harry, from Boca. He taught for thirty one years and was an ATR for his last three years. Harry is a great guy and I have no reason to doubt the veracity of the following post. I don't know why Mulgrew would casually answer his questions or if Mulgrew's answers to those questions are true. Check your Magic 8 Ball.

   ' I went to a retiree meeting on March 30th, in Boca, in which Mike Mulgrew preceded over. At 61 years old, I was the youngest person there by at least ten years. When Mike took the podium, the old folk started to elevate out of their chairs, like errant helium balloons at a country fair. For safety, he listed his litany of oncoming disasters slowly- thus allowing the air to escape gradually as they slowly deflated back down. Even so, I'm sure he had an ambulance or two waiting by the doors. He started off by reiterating the political climate. Trump, DeVos and all the deformer groups looking to capitalize on charter school money. He mentioned a Fredrichs type case that could come back to the Supreme Court. He said there were huge cuts on the horizon. He mentioned that after school programs. summer school and evening school will have to be cut. He mentioned it was due to the cuts that would be coming from the federal and state governments, as well as the possibility of fines for being a sanctuary city. Mulgrew also mentioned that these charters schools are not being scrutinized the way they should; some of them may be funneling money into foreign countries. Mulgrew also brought up a severe teacher shortage. He then greeted us individually and asked for questions, so I asked,
 You have a couple of thousand of teachers babysitting, why don't you use them?
 Mulgrew: There's not a couple of thousand, it's less than a thousand. The ATR pool will be over as
of September 1st. They will be force placed. The city can no longer afford the expense. It's a done deal, I'm signing off on it next week.
Me: Forced placed into teaching positions or babysitting?
Mulgrew: Teaching. Anyone else have a question?
Me: Just one more thing, what about teachers that have business or other hard to place licenses?
Mulgrew: There are enough vacancies for all ATRs to be placed in their content area.
I then tried to get another question in and was elbowed in the ribs by a ninety year old retiree. She said, "You've asked enough questions from President Mulgrew, just shut up!" She then asked Mulgrew, "How long do we have to wait to vote for you again? You're the best UFT president we've ever had!" She was looking at him like a starving man would look at a corned beef on rye sandwich  in Katz's. Everyone was in awe of him. He made a quick exit saying he had a very important meeting that evening in NY. The audience was cheering wildly like they were at rock concert.'



Sunday, April 2, 2017

It's My Way or Norway!

 
      I recently heard Norway is the happiest country in the world http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/norway-ranked-   happiest-country-world-u-s-falls-14th-article-1.3003355
For me, having a say in anything I'm part of - a union, school, church or country is one of the most important criteria for happiness. I have no real say in the UFT and I have no school, being an ATR. I do have a say in my church and country. I can get a group together and protest or write articles or make phone calls. Trump, as much as he'd like to say, "It's my way or Norway", can't. Ruth, forget about moving to New Zealand - this is our country, as well as all those who disagree with us (including Trump). Great, that's the way it should be.
      I got a wake up call that reminded me of that criteria for happiness. It was cathartic in that it made me realize how fortunate I am to be living in the United States. Most of us take many things for granted - from turning on electricity, running water, television, Internet, phones and the English language. Visit a poor country and carefully look at how the average person survives. I visited Cuba recently and it opened a wellspring of love for the United States that I have never felt before. Never have I been so happy to be back in the USA. The Cuban people are highly educated and very likable. The country itself is a nightmare. Two currencies - one for the enslaved Cubans and one for the tourists. The cab driver that picked me up at the airport was highly educated in a very specific field (I won't say what) and would be a millionaire here. He was just one of many intellectuals I met there and became very friendly with. Engineers, artists, musicians, doctors and architects all doing menial work. Most of them spoke fluent Russian and were educated there as well. I also visited some wealthy Cubans I got to know. Die hard communists who insisted on trying to prove to me the supremacy of Cuba over the evil United States. They are totally brainwashed, but are kind, respectful people. Wealthy there, is borderline poor here. Extremely hospitable and living with very limited resources. They owned old Soviet cars that looked and ran like the old bumper cars in Rye Playland - my teeth are still chattering. Mansions that are falling apart and can't be fixed because there's no cement. Cement is recycled from the crumbling buildings because cement is very difficult to get. We had simple dinners that were generously shared. I felt guilty eating their food. The debates were wonderful. I also visited a school that was doing excellent work with very limited resources. The principal was afraid of me - another clue I was in a topsy-turvy world. She didn't know what to make of me. The students have chores, have fun and learn - but what good is a great education, if you can't do anything with it?  The DOE would love it, different equation with the same results. The government there is a dictatorship, and the people have no rights. Simple things like dominoes are very difficult to get and are passed down father to son, like all those late fifties cars (running on diesel tractor motors). The people get the bare essentials and little else. There's very limited internet access and two channels on the TV. Many of the people are bored out of their minds and love conversation. A country of ATRs. I haven't spoken my Spanish in twenty seven years. It came back like riding a old rusty bike, but I found myself craving English like my cats crave catnip. It made me feel for all immigrants. If I lived in Cuba I would build a boat or swim off that island, even if it killed me. It's a diesel filled time capsule and changing rapidly. It's very safe because of that dictatorship, but it comes at too high a cost. Elderly parents crying to me that they haven't seen their children in decades because they fled to Florida. Churches that are unused antiques because the people have no religion other than the hero worship of Fidel and Che. Che everywhere, on everything. Displays of anti-American propaganda and dozens of flagpoles placed in front of the American embassy to block the beautiful views. Communism does not work and I believe it can destroy everything that makes us individuals.
   If something is wrong, protest. If someone isn't representing you correctly - tell them and vote them out. Question everything and have empathy for those less fortunate, even the illegal immigrants that may be fleeing places much, much worse than we could ever imagine.