Sunday, May 31, 2009

You think YOU work in a bad school?

Well, maybe you do, but it's gotta be hard to top the level of awfulness at JHS 8 in Jamaica. That's the school that got so honked off at their principal, John Murphy, that teachers and parents alike marched outside the school every day for 44 days until the principal resigned. You have to give them their props, although it's a shame that they let the UFT co-opt this victory at the delegate assembly as shown in the video below. It's also a shame that the UFT can't figure out how to move people to action against Klein and Bloomberg.

You'd think their troubles would be over for a while, right? Wrong. This turns out to be the same school where a female teacher was recently arrested for rape and sexual abuse. These teachers just have to be looking forward to a long summer without any protests or reporters.

Think you can top this school for awfulness? I'd love to hear about it.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Fighting for a pittance

Your $150 Teacher's Choice money is gone. And I say, good riddance.

I thought TC was a joke back when we got $260. It was a bigger joke when the UFT "fought" the city and got us a $110 reduction to the current $150. Now they UFT has fought some more, and we are down to zero.

Maybe it's because I used to work in private industry that I find TC so stupid. I can't think of another single industry where workers are supposed to bring their own supplies. Imagine Doctor's Choice, where physicians would get a small stipend from the hospital and decide whether they buy bandages or sutures, but not both. Hospitals would be sued for malpractice and be rightly fined or closed for such shenanigans. But in schools, it's the norm, and we have to fight to get it.

Heir Apparent to Randi's tarnished crown, Michael Mulgrew, used a chart to show that "“90 percent of our classroom teachers spend more than $100 on classroom needs." I'd sure like to meet the 10% who don't even need a single benjamin a year. The article goes on to state that when we used to get $260 dollars, it cost the city 20 million. What he should have said is that had Klein forced the hiring of ATRs, as he is relucatantly doing now, the city would have saved $40 million a year, giving us enough to cut a check for $780 for TC without costing the city an extra penny.

Instead, what will most likely happen is pretty predicable. The UFT will announce, with much fanfare, that they have managed to restore $75 of TC money through their tough negotiations with the city. Randi will plaster her picture on the front of NY Teacher with her fist in the air and the headline "VICTORY!" In the meantime, you'll be borrowing rubber bands from your brother in law who works at IBM.

What the UFT should do, right now, is start a campaign shaming our mayor for cutting funds to schools. Randi and Mulgrew should shout from the rooftops that no teacher should spend even a single penny on supplies until teachers are given adequate tools to do their jobs, which costs a lot more than $150 a year. They should send district reps in to convince teachers to seal their pocketbooks in protest they way they sent the DRs in to sell us the phony 2005 contract that was more of an anal probe than a legal document. Point out that Bloomberg has already spent more on his power grab of a re-election bid than the entire TC budget for 80,000 teachers.

If we don't start asking, we'll never receive.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Two More NYers Hit the Jackpot

Mayor Mike recently made the following statement, "In some senses, if you have H1N1 [virus], you should consider yourself lucky because it so far seems to be a milder flu than the garden variety."

Two more NYers, who would be considered lucky by Bloomberg's standards, have died of H1N1 flu. One was 41 years of age, and the other 34.

In more puzzling gobbledygook, the city continues to actively deny that any of the lucky victims worked for the school system. Even if true, let's not forget that there are over a million students in the system, all of whom come into daily contact with adults. I think it's pretty likely that the swine flu incubators known as the NYC public schools may be involved in some way.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Good News

As much as the Daily News acts as a mouthpiece for BloomKlein, you still have to hand it to them when they get one right. They published a great Op-ed piece (which they call a Special to the News) that exposes mayoral control for what it is: a rubber stamp in the hands of a megalomaniacal mayor.

What makes this piece different is that it was written by a teacher, one Arthur Goldstein, who rips into the mayor for overcrowding, crumbling school infrastructure, and abuse of power (especially the PEP, a joke of a panel that must vote the mayor's way or face termination.

I especially love the first line: "As a teacher in an A-rated school, I believe mayoral control has been an absolute disaster." Most schools get As or Bs, and far too many teachers are content to let it ride at that. The dirty little secret of the NYC public schools is that the schools have improved little, if any. Yes, the test scores have improved because the tests themselves are dumbed down and we are forced to spend months teaching students how to take them, but that doesn't mean that education has improved one iota.

This is a mayor who is buying his way into a third term because he controls the media with his powerful pursestrings. Kudos to the News for putting the opposing view out there, and to Mr. Goldstein for having the courage to say it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Inside Klein's Brain

I found a link on Gotham Schools, intriguingly titled "A Times columnist gets inside Joel Klein's brain". My first thought was, that must be a really teeny Times columnist. After reading the piece however, my thought were absorbed by this chilling speculation:

If the State Legislature renews the 2002 mayoral control law, which expires in June, and the mayor wins a third term in November, and no one has anything left to lose, it will be fascinating, at a minimum, to see which of the pie-in-the-sky visions Chancellor Klein has been keeping to himself are translated into action.

At a minimum. God help us.

The Impossible Dream

A lot of people are pissed at the mayor and the chancellor for sitting on their hands during this entire flu epidemic. I know that neither of these guys is interested in mending fences, but there's an easy thing they could do to help patch things up.

My next door neighbor teacher went home with flu symptoms yesterday. She is at least the 20th teacher to catch this bug. Just so you know, this teacher never takes off. For as long as I've known her, which has been several years, she been out maybe two days, tops. So when she takes off, I know she must be deathly ill.

The point is that the flu started going around my school almost immediately after it spread through St. Francis Prep, which is quite a few weeks ago now. My fellow teacher got the flu because she is far too dedicated to take off, and for many weeks came into contact with obviously sick kids. Ditto with hundreds of teachers across the city.

Then there are those teachers who dragged themselves into school because they didn't have days in the bank or were afraid of getting LIFs for excessive absences if they took off. Many were truly sick but didn't stay home, as per the Mayor's grudging advice, because they knew they could be hammered for it. In the meantime, they helped the epidemic spread.

So my idea is that the mayor should grant amnesty to anyone who took off for a documented case of flu in the last three weeks by restoring the days in their sick banks. This would encourage truly sick teachers to stay at home where they belong when they are genuinely ill from a disease that clearly was spread through the schools. It would slow the spread of any future outbreaks of new strains of flu. The mayor could make clear that this is an exceptional case, and that for known flu strains, you should just get the flu shot. But in this case, teachers had no options. It's nothing they could have prevented.

Also, it's just plain not fair that teachers whose schools were closed got to stay home, healthy or not, but teachers whose schools were open had to go in or lose days, despite being sick or risking sickness.

I know this will never happen, but it should. It would buy the mayor much needed good will at almost no cost. It would encourage teachers to take off in the future when truly sick and prevent further spread of disease. But I know Mayor Quixote and Sancho Klein will never go for it.

Hey, I can dream, can't I?

(In the interest of full disclosure, I have not had the flu so this wouldn't affect me one bit)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The New Centurion

This is my 100th blog post, or so claims Blogger. It doesn't seem like I've been at this so long, but I guess I have. I thought about some ways to celebrate, but as all of them involved heavy drinking, I thought I'd just do something I haven't done at some random thoughts.

This flu epidemic seems like one long, endless snow day. The flu cases keep piling up and piling up, and we sit by the TV hoping to hear that the schools will close tomorrow as good sense dictates, and good sense takes another one on the chin.

Blogging is like being a meth addict. You're always looking for another fix. Any time anyone mentions schools in any context, I wonder how I can blog about it. There should be a 12 step program.

That centurion really isn't me. I am much cuter. Still, I wish I had a hat like that.

No one I know in real life is aware that I blog here, not even my wife. It's like having a secret identity, which is about as cool as I get these days.

Despite a few faults, I like my admins a lot. They are light years better than the morons in my previous school.

It's a bummer to get no comments when you work hard on a post. (Don't feel compelled to comment--I didn't work that hard on this one)

I actually think that Joel Klein may be, in fact, Professor Moriarty.

Randi Weingarten, on the other hand, is just Randi Weingarten. In response to a news item that a principal had punched a union rep at a corporal punishment hearing (oh, the irony), Randi said, "(Principals) have no right to harass or bully teachers, much less physically assault them." Attagirl. Take the tough stands.

The union rep reportedly did not fight back. Sayeth the CL: "Even though he's out of his mind, he's still my supervisor."

If I make it to 200 posts, I promise to think of something better. I'll try not to punch anyone.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Nothing to Sneeze At

What we really need in this swine flu epidemic is leadership. I think Mayor Mike and Joek Klein should go every school in which 15% or more of students are home sick. That would show how minor this outbreak really is, which is what they keep telling us from a podium at least 12 feet away from other humans. If they come to my school, I've prepared a little welcome ditty for them, which will be performed by the three students remaining in my class.

Sung to the tune of Dear Old Donegal:

It seems like only yesterday, I was bustin' with good health,
But I was forced to go to school by a man of massive wealth.

And so, to show my gratitude, I'd like that man to see,
The child who coughed up half a lung and gave the flu to me.

Shake hands with Mayor Mike, me boy,
and sneeze on Chancellor Klein,
Show 'em the smile beneath your mask, before you got the swine.
Make sure you thank the both of them and kiss the mayor, too.
There's nothing at all to worry about,
with H1N1 flu.

(Spit up phlegm, then Repeat Chorus)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Staying on Top of Things

Mayor Bloomberg, showing once again his great compassion for New York educators, commemorated the passing of Assistant Principal Mitchell Weiner by calling him "Michelle" at today's news conference to introduce the city's new health commissioner.

I'd like to express my own condolences to the family of Mr. Weiner.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

By the Numbers

Apparently, if you're Joel Klein, you can decide what teachers to fire by the data. Or which principals to fire. Or even which schools to close permanently. But when it comes to safety of the students and staff, numbers seem to mean nothing. Klein did not close the schools when it snowed a record 26 inches in 2006, and he has no standard as to when to close schools due to the swine flu.

This afternoon, it was announced that 5 more schools in three Queens school buildings will close tomorrow. Joel Klein, when asked about the city's guidelines for closing schools, would only say that "I don't think you can do this by numbers."

Why can't you do this by the numbers? I know that I've had 20% of my students out sick for extended periods of time while the flu runs through my building. Isn't that enough? How many more people need to get sick before Klein takes real action?

Sucking Face with Joel Klein

The UFT, in another spectacular display off half-assedness, has placed 18 schools on a list to determine whether they should be closed due to swine flu, yet refuses to name the schools.

Apparently, these schools had a LOT of kids out last week due to illness, much like my school. So far, 6 schools have been closed.

Ron Davis of the UFT said that releasing the names of the schools would create a panic. Which begs the question, why would you create a list that you have no intention of using? Isn't it going to scare everyone to know that there are 18 schools out there that may well be spreading infection and not telling us which ones?

This is the usual modus operandi of the UFT. Remember when we were all asked to grade Joel Klein on the last day of school last year, when the results of the poll would be least effective? What ever happened to that poll? Has Randi demanded that the failing Chancellor be removed for the D- he received? No, she's too busy swapping spit with Mr. Klein to do that.

And remember, if you must swap spit with the chancellor, always use mouthwash afterward, as this is a potential means of spreading swine flu. And you can bet that your school won't be closed if you catch it. At most, you'll get on a list.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Must be that ole paranoia kicking in, but I'm suspecting a major cover-up over this swine flu mess. The city has just announced the closure of three schools following outbreaks of the disease. One AP is in critical condition and on a ventilator. According to the Times: Swine flu has been documented in four other students at I.S. 238, at 88-15 182nd Street, and more than 50 students with flu-like symptoms have been sent home from the school since May 6, the mayor said.

I don't know about your school, but in mine (also located in Queens), far more than 50 students have been sent home for flu-like symptoms in the past two weeks. There have been days when almost a third of my students have been out sick--and these are classes that normally have 100% attendance, or at most one or two students out at a time. These students were ill for an extended period of time--many of them for more than a week. Some had not missed a single day of school prior to this outbreak.

I'm not terribly worried at this point, because the worst seems to be over, and I've single-handedly boosted the bottom line of the Purell company. Still, I don't like this feeling that we're being lied to, and that this virus is far more widespread than any of us know. For a short period of time, when the students at my school were concerned about the virus, they stopped the usual teenage habits, such as kissing and hugging in the hallways. Many brought their own hand sanitizers, and students were suddenly concerned about covering their mouths when they coughed. That's all over now, and students have been dropping like flies.

So is there a cover-up, a Swine Flu-Gate, if you will? I don't know. But I sure don't trust the Bloomberg administration to close schools, not when they refused to close them after the biggest snowstorm in NY history.

Any flu stories out there? Has your school's attendance been affected, and what have you been told?

This is the Stip-End

You're psyched because you just landed that dream job at Bloomberg, LLC--the one you spent all your college years hoping to snag. You're given a corner office and put directly in charge of 35 employees. Life is good. Your first assignment is to get your employees to work on a report on Widget, Inc. You figure it's a snap. You plan out exactly what you want each employee to do, and you set them to work. They do a great job. Your planning is paying off.

Mr. Bloomberg stops by himself to see how you're doing. "How's the report coming?" he asks.

"Great!" you reply. I'll have it on your desk tomorrow morning."

"I knew I could count on you," says Mike. "By the way, I'll need a copy of what each employee has done. Put their work in file folders, collated and stapled.

"Yes, sir. Where is the copy machine?"

"Right there, down the hall."

You collect your employees' work, and trot down the hall. The copier is out of paper. You laugh at the silliness of it all. This would have to happen on the first day.

"Mr. Bloomberg, sir, where can I get copy paper? The machine is out."

"We don't give copy paper. We have Employee's Choice. EC for short."

You don't remember hearing about this in grad school. "EC?"

"An innovation of mine. All our executives get $150 a year to buy supplies."

"$150? I guess I can buy some paper with that," you reply.

"Good man," says Bloomberg, even if you're a woman. "And don't forget, each report needs to be in a folder."

"Where are the folders?"

"They come out of your EC money," said Bloomy. "And don't forget to collate and staple them."

"Where do I get the staples?" you ask, noticing that your 1930s stapler is empty.

"At Staples," snaps Bloomy.

Of course, this scenario has never happened, at least at Bloomberg, LLC. Mayor Mike knows that to run a business effectively, you need to give your employees the tools to get the job done. Unless those employees are teachers. Then you're on your own, except for the paltry $150 Teacher's Choice stipend you get each year. Except it looks like you're not going to get it anymore. TC is not in the city's budget.

TC was always a stupid program. Who ever heard of employees having to buy their own supplies? But that's been the agreement between the UFT and the city for about 20 years. And the union brags about it.

The stipend used to be $250. When it got cut to zero and then restored to $150, the union claimed a major victory. Perhaps this time they'll fight for us again, guaranteeing us a box of chalk and some Crayolas. What a victory that would be!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Head for the Hills!!!

Generally, I'm not a superstitious guy, but one thing today really gave me the heebie-jeebies. Remember this picture? If you recall, Klein planted a big juicy one on Randi to seal the disastrous 2005 contract. You remember that contract--the one that gave us 37.5 minutes of extra work for no extra pay, that allowed principals to write LIFs at will, that put us back in potty patrol, that took away seniority transfer rights? You know--the contract that was so awful that Unity had to send salespeople into schools to foist it to the unwary? Well, it has happened AGAIN.

The kiss, I mean.

Randi proposed a partnership between the UFT and the city to help struggling schools stay open, calling for a new chancellor's district, like the one we had under the Guliani administration. Of course, the Guliani policies were very successful. Rudy managed to give teachers 0 percent raises for two years, so it's no wonder Randi wants to return to those halcyon days. She said, "Because we were trying to turn schools around rather than close them down - in some ways what the government and the UAW are doing with Chrysler today - we were able to build on the strong parental community support in our city's toughest neighborhoods."

Uh, yeah. The UAW agreed to extensive givebacks in order to help keep Chrysler afloat. Given Randi's track record for givebacks, she should stay away from such references.

Then Joel Klein kissed her. Is it the kiss of death? I don't know. What I do know is that a kiss between the two faces of evil did us much harm last time, and I'm not betting on anything better this time. All I know is that if Klein and Randi ever French kiss, I'm headed for Tibet.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Cry Me A River

In an article that appeared for a while as the main piece on the home page of the New York Times, Javier C. Hernandez writes about the poor teachers in training who had their hearts set on dedicating their lives to the children of NYC public schools, only to have those hopes dashed by Bloomberg's hiring freeze. Of course, none of these individuals are teachers yet; they are career changers who lost jobs in the economic downturn, or TFA or TF hopefuls.

Excuse me, but just who promised these people that they'd get the exact job they wanted whenever they asked for it? One hopeful said: “Suddenly, overnight, I am rethinking my entire career,” said Ms. Patel, 30, a student at St. John’s University who left a job in the digital imaging industry to work as a substitute teacher and pursue an education degree. “It’s a very bleak point in time. It’s forced me to sort of look in a new direction.” The article is very sympathetic to Ms. Patel, and those like her. But if she's going to give up her new 'career' before she's even started, how long would she have lasted in a real classroom environment, where things rarely go as you'd wish?

Even more disturbing is that the article reads as if the ATRs, who will finally get justice and their jobs restored, are the ones to blame. Hernandez doesn't come out and say that, of course, but the sympathy with which he discusses aspiring teachers and the disdain he shows for ATRs is evident. He goes so far as to say that many of the ATRs were rated unsatisfactory. Really? How many, Mr. Hernandez? Do you know or is this all coming out your ass?

Why doesn't Mr. Hernandez have any sympathy for they teachers who have ALREADY earned their degrees, their certification, their positions, and their battle scars? Clearly, they should have been placed first from the get-go, and only the bumbling negotiating skills of Weingarten prevented that from happening.

I'm tired of so-called reporters like Hernandez dressing up op-ed pieces as news. This isn't a news article; it is another in a series of tirades against senior teachers. Why does Mr. Hernandez feel more pity for aspiring teachers than he does for teachers who have spent decades of their lives working for kids only to lose their positions through no fault of their own?

Ironically, both Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd wrote real Op-Ed pieces today on the inevitable collapse of the newspaper industry. Mr. Hernandez is rather like the ATRs he villifies--he has a job now, but may not for much longer, through no fault of his own. I wonder who he will pity then. Maybe he'll end up on the unemployment line with a few teachers. What goes around....

Friday, May 8, 2009

Tweed Syndrome

The Stockholm Syndrome is the name of a psychological phenomenon in which hostages identify and bond with their kidnappers, sometimes going to court to testify on their behalf. I think it's time we identify and recognize a new mental illness, which I propose calling Tweed Syndrome. In this mental malady, individuals who are utterly screwed by another party in a contract negotiation end up praising said screwer in return for some ridiculously small crumb in order to save face.

In this case, the screwee is Randi Weingarten, who said the following regarding the ATR situation:

We often criticize the Mayor and the chancellor when we think it is warranted. Now they deserve credit for trying to find permanent positions for these dedicated educators who are much better utilized as full-time teachers.

Let's not forget that Randi is the one who idiotically allowed the whole ATR mess to occur in the first place when she gave away the store in negotiations. Let us further recall that her alternate plan--giving principals monetary incentives to hire ATRs--likewise did a belly flop. Now Randi is actually giving credit to the mayor and chancellor for choosing to force principals to hire ATRs.

The questions is, why the turnaround? Did Klein suddenly say to himself, "What are we, idiots? Why are we allowing highly qualified teachers to languish as subs? I gotta change that right now!" No, it wasn't anything like that. As always, it was about money. Randi explains it herself:

With shortfalls in school budgets, it is imperative that every dollar be spent wisely and to best effect. This policy will avoid a waste of talent and money and get these skilled educators back into the classroom.

Hey....wait a minute. Wasn't it imperative before the shortfalls that every dollar be spent wisely? Couldn't the 80 or so million dollars the ATR situation flushed down the toilet have been put to better use? Or was it only a waste of money and talent after the city's economy started to tank?

We may never know. At least not from Randi. She has Tweed Syndrome, and she has it bad. Before you know it, she'll be thanking the mayor for 37.5 minutes, eroding seniority rights, and lunch duty. Let's hope this disease isn't terminal, lest we're all terminated.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Everyone Outta the Pool!

It seems that the DOE will soon be emptying the pool--the ATR pool, that is. A hiring freeze has been imposed, and principals have been instructed to fill vacancies through the ATR pool. Why the turn around? Very simple. Money.

We are now in a fiscal crisis, so Bloomberg has had an epiphany: it is NOT good policy to pay 1,100 veteran, experienced teachers to be subs. Why Bloomie, the self-proclaimed financial whiz, couldn't figure that out before will remain a mystery forever.

Naturally, Randi stepped in to claim victory: United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten took credit for "calling for these measures since last October....We are gratified that the Department of Education is... taking steps to fill school vacancies with veteran educators who lost their jobs through no fault of their own," she said in a statement.

Just as predictably, Randi neglected to mention that she created this situation by trading away our seniority rights for a pittance in the 2005 contract.

In a display of shoddy reporting worthy of the Post, the New York Times claimed that the majority of ATRs are "subpar" teachers according to an "independent report". This report is by Tim Daly of the New Teacher Project. One of the projects they work on is New York Teaching Fellows--the very group who won't be hired to make room for those "subpar" teachers. How independent of them. In the very same article, the Times tells us that in 2008, about 2,000 were hired from TFA and Teaching Fellows. In September 2009, that number may drop as low as zero. So, we can see that the New Teacher Project may have a tiny stake in this after all.

So, despite the usual crappy education reporting we've come to expect in NY, at least two good things come out of this:

ATRs will finally find positions, and Joel Klein will have to choke on it as another plank of his festering "Children First" initiative rots away under his feet.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Invisible Teacher

I really enjoy working on this blog. It's been very rewarding, and I've (virtually) met a lot of great teachers. The only thing I really don't like about it is the anonymity.

I have to scour each post to see if there are any traces of my identity in them, because I truly believe that the Stalinist regime of BloomKlein would find a way to fire if they knew I was doing this.

I tell the truth here, so technically I should have nothing to fear. Even when I voice opinions, they are genuine and my own. But I remain the invisible teacher, nipping at the heels of the higher-ups, hoping that if enough people read blogs like this (and the many fine blogs you'll find on my blogroll) then things might change.

And the real shame of it is, I now work at a school that I truly like, where the admins are generally quite good and the school is effectively run. And I really can't even talk about that, either, because it would link me to my previous school which was a model horror show. And that school would make for some interesting blogging.

I've got stories about who was in bed with whom and I could tell you what act was performed to get what perk. I could tell you the incestuous relationships between just about every admin in an entire district and how jobs were given only by applying severe upper labial pressure to the ass of one very powerful person who still rules the system. I could tell you about the made up allegations made against teachers by admins who had no compunction about ruining a teacher's life and reputation just to tighten their grip on the staff. And best of all, I could tell you the names, because I witnessed all these things. Those people are all still in the system.

Still, I'll stay quiet for now. When I retire in a few years, I'll be able to tell all. I can't wait to become visible again.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Randi Needs Your Help!

Randi is in trouble, and we all need to rally round more than ever. You see, Mayor Bloomberg has decided that he doesn't have the support to ask city workers to pay 10% of our health care, as he had planned. He also says that he won't layoff any teachers.

So what, exactly, does Randi have left to give back in the next contract? She has said that tenure is off the table, and she's already given away everything else. A 4% increase is a virtual lock, thanks to other actual unions who set the pattern. So what's left?

I sure can't think of anything. But I do have faith in Randi. I bet she'll think of something.