Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Doing what it does best, which is nothing, the State Assembly is poised to give Mayor Bloomberg a public pantsing when it fails to renew mayoral control by midnight tonight.
This is a real embarrassment for the billionaire mayor, who couldn't even get a legislative body as weak and corrupt as the state assembly to do something for him.
To add insult to injury, a party is planned to celebrate the sunsetting of the mayoral control law at Tweed at 4:30 this afternoon. I would attend, but I am afraid to go out into the streets due to the inevitable rioting, looting, and chaos that will ensue when Mayor Mike has his crayons taken away.
Monday, June 29, 2009
In yet another bonehead move that shows quite clearly why he should not be in sole charge of NYC schools, Mike Bloomberg threatened to give out the phone numbers and addresses of state senators who are stubborn enough not to jump at the mayor's command to immediately extend mayoral control.
Quoth the mayor:
"We'll give you the numbers of the senators assuming everybody promises to call them at 3 in the morning," said the mayor. "I can do one better. We should give you their addresses so you can stand outside their houses. That would really make a dent."
I find it very disturbing that the mayor would encourage citizens to harrass and stalk anyone, even state senators. In case he has forgotten, Hal Turner, conservative wing nut talk show host, was recently arrested for posting the pictures, home addresses, and phone numbers of three federal judges. He was arrested for "threatening to assault and murder three federal judges with intent to retaliate against them for performing official duties." And Bill O'Reilly recently got himself into hot water for fanning the flames of hate against Dr. Tiller, an abortion doctor whom O'Reilly mentioned 28 times on his show and called "Tiller the baby killer". Tiller was murdered on May 31.
It is unbelievably reckless and stupid for Bloomberg to make his offer and to encourage citizens to harrass people. But it does show what kind of man he is--a bully willing to do anything to get what he wants.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Is it just me, or does it seem that everyone is dying younger these days? First went the ultra-beautiful Farrah Fawcett, then MJ, and now my favorite pitchman, Billy Mays. I'm not one of those Mays haters; I thought he was great. I do a mean impression of him that I wish you all could hear. (If you act now on mayoral control, you'll get chancellor Klein for another four years absolutely free! Just add shipping!)
Farrah had cancer, of course, and MJ was just waiting to happen, it seems. But Billy Mays? He and MJ were both 50, and Farrah was 62. Does this spate of realtively young deaths mean the start of a trend? It's got me worried, because I'm not too far away from the big 5-oh (which should be called the big 5-oh no!) Is 50 the new 80?
Of course, Ed McMahon, another famous pitchman, made it to 86. What did he have that Billy Mays didn't? I hope it wasn't the Budweiser, because I don't drink. Though maybe I should start.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Mayor Bloomberg must have enjoyed being part of a reading passage on the English Regents this year. Apparently, he enjoyed it so much that he is now endeavoring to become part of test prep. Personally, I intend to use Mike's daily statement on mayoral control as a way to teach hyperbole next year. Here's what he said:
Changing one word of the current Assembly bill on mayoral control would "resurrect the Soviet Union" and "bring back chaos."
Pretty good, huh? I'm going to challenge my students to create an even wilder exaggeration for class. Here are some of the teacher created models I came up with:
Changing one word of the current Assembly bill on mayoral control would end life as we know it.
Changing one word of the current Assembly bill on mayoral control would cause hunters in Alaska to club more baby seals to death.
Changing one word of the current Assembly bill on mayoral control would melt the polar ice caps.
If anyone has any better ideas, I'd love to hear them. If no one comments on this post, the rotation of the Earth will change and send us careening into the Sun.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Michael Mulgrew, who will succeed Randi Weingarten as UFT president following the latter's resignation today, is already being positioned as the anti-Randi. This is reminiscent of John McCain's attempt to paint himself as the anti-Bush, the Maverick, while everyone knew that if you scratched that paint, you'd see the Bush beneath (which sounds somewhat like a porno movie title).
Gotham Schools gave Mulgrew a fresh coat today, saying that Mulgrew also couldn’t be more different from Weingarten. Tall and apple-cheeked, he has the physical presence of Mr. Clean (both shave their heads) and a quiet charm. “Women seem to like him,” noted one union member.
Well, OK. He looks not a bit like Randi. But my fear is not that he is Randi's physical double, but her philosophical Doppelganger. It seems unlikely that Randi would groom a successor who was not in her own image. Only time will tell, but with a new contract looming, I'm not terribly sanguine. I say we give him the summer to establish himself as something other than Randi's puppet.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Basically, the agreement will establish a new retirement tier for new hires that will force them to pay 4.85% of their salaries into the pension fund for life, instead of the current ten years. In return, they will get to retire at 55/27 instead of the 62 years agreed to by two other city unions. But there are two problems with declaring this a huge victory.
First, Randi gave away the store in 2005, including the peddling of seniority, lengthening the school day, sending us back to the lunchrooms, etc., for the mere promise of support for a 55/25 retirement. Despite all the givebacks, few teachers actually qualified for the 55 year retirement and we ultimately settled for two more years of work for most members. That 57/25 has been retained, but don't ever forget what we gave away to even get it in the first place.
Second, comparing us to other unions makes no sense. Those other unions were under threat of massive layoffs, and we were not. They agreed to the new Tier 5 in exchange for no layoffs. There is absolutely nothing mentioned in this agreement about a no-layoff clause for school workers, so Bloomberg can get out his ax anyway.
Also, we agreed to lower the fixed rate of return on TDAs to 7%, down from 8.25. Allegedly we did this because the pension fund lost a lot of money gambling in the market (and yes, stocks are gambling). Personally, I put all my money in fixed more than a year ago, so people like me will have to subsidize the poor pension decisions of the pension fund. I did a rough calculation in my head, and it seems likely that I will lose at least $15,000 by the time I retire due to this reduction. Good going, Randi!
Of course, in exchange, we got the two days before Labor Day back. What the UFT failed to mention was that they gave away those two days in the first place. If they'd gotten rid of those two days AND 37.5 minutes, there might be reason to celebrate, just a little.
But that darned bar is so low, high fives seem in dubious taste.
Monday, June 22, 2009
I am writing to let you know that the UFT today concluded negotiations on an agreement that restores the traditional post-Labor Day school start for our members, leaves intact the pension and health benefits of all current UFT members in active service or retired, and preserves our hard-won age 55 retirement benefit in the face of enormous political pressure to roll that back. We have agreed to support legislation to modify pension measures for newly-hired UFT members, which will provide the city with much-needed cost savings during this severe economic downturn.
In every respect, this agreement is a win for everyone. We are all very concerned about the heavy losses our pension system has incurred during this economic crisis and the looming cuts for schools. No only does this deal help shore up the city budget with new savings, which will hopefully be used for schools, it also maintains the age 55 retirement benefit that we fought many years to achieve and returns us to the tradition of teachers and students starting school after Labor Day, something that our members, particularly those with families, very much wanted.
As a result of the worst economic crisis in the United States since the Great Depression, public services – including public education – have been subjected to draconian budget cuts, public sector workers have been laid-off and public sector unions have come under pressure to diminish the salaries, health benefits and pension benefits of their members.
From the start of this economic crisis, the UFT has identified two primary objectives which have guided our response to this crisis: protecting the quality of the educational services provided to New York City public school children and securing the economic livelihood and professional status of our members.
The UFT has rightly rejected efforts to raise the retirement age of New York City public school educators and otherwise reduce their pension benefits – efforts that have grown in intensity since two large state public employee unions earlier this month negotiated agreements which included such measures.
How the agreement affects current members
- Employees who have been required to report to begin work on the Thursday before Labor Day will report back to work the Tuesday after Labor Day because the two days have been restored, effective immediately.
- All of their pension and health benefits are intact.
- The 55/25 and 55/27 early retirement benefits are preserved and there will be no changes in contributions for in-service members.
- All UFT members will continue to receive the 7% guaranteed annualized rate of return for the fixed investment option in the voluntary Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA) programs for BERS and TRS members. The additional 1.25% rate above the state-guaranteed 7% will no longer be available, a modification that reflects the downturn in investment income after the stock market collapse last year.
How the agreement affects future hires
- New UFT-represented employees in titles where employees have been required to report to begin work on the Thursday before Labor Day will report back to work the Tuesday after Labor Day.
- New UFT-represented employees will enjoy the 55/27 retirement benefit, which remains intact.
- New UFT-represented employees will continue to have the same pension benefits as current members, but they will make additional contributions for these benefits. Breaking it down, under the 55/27 retirement plan, new employees will make a 4.85 percent pension contribution for 27 years and 1.85 percent thereafter, up from the current 4.85 percent contribution for 10 years and then 1.85 percent through 27 years.
- New UFT-represented employees will become vested in the pension plan after 10 years of service, rather than the current five. The impact of this change is modest since most UFT-represented educators can elect to withdraw their pension contributions as a lump-sum payment if they quit during their first 10 years on the job.
- New UFT-represented employees will be eligible for retiree health insurance coverage after 15 years instead of 10 years. That change will reward educators who choose to make teaching a career.
- New UFT-represented employees will receive the 7% guaranteed annualized rate of return for the fixed investment option in the voluntary Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA) programs for BERS and TRS members.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Sorry for the inconvenience to anyone.
As a result, my posts don't show up on the blogrolls of my fellow bloggers unless I temporarily switch back to blogspot. This is madness. Blogging didn't start last week--you'd think they'd have it right by now.
If anyone knows the solution, please let me know.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
The New York Times reports that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has become obsessed with golf. He began playing shortly before becoming mayor and the article reports that his game really didn't improve much for a while. Mike scored over 1o0 most of the time, but his scores began to drop shortly after he became mayor. "These days, he still hits more bogeys than birdies, but Mr. Bloomberg now routinely shoots between 80 and 90, say those who play with him. “The improvement in his game is amazing,” said Mr. Donovan (a DA from Staten Island).
I decided to investigate this improvement in light of the similar advances in city ELA and math scores under the mayor's tenure. A source with close ties to the mayor, who requested anonimity mostly because he doesn't really exist, told me that after a particulary bad round in 2001, Bloomberg bought the links at which he regularly plays and declared it under mayoral control.
Shortly after, the mayor began implementing golf reforms that have improved his game tremendously. According to the source, some of the changes under mayoral control included:
- Shrinking the dimensions of the course. Holes that had been 500 yards were shrunk to 500 feet. "Yards, feet--what the difference?" snapped the mayor, and because his caddy graduated from a city school he didn't know the answer.
- Changing the rules. For example, the mayor implemented a no-peekie rule. After any shot, the mayor is allowed to yell "No Peekie!" and everyone has to close their eyes for ten seconds. "I can't even tell you how the No-Peekie rule has helped the mayor's game," said the source. "Balls that used to be in the sandtraps now end up in the middle of the green. It's uncanny."
- Widening the holes. On some greens, the holes have been widened to such an extent that homeless families have been evicted from them.
- Hiring caddies who have graduated thanks to "seat time". Since none of them can count to 100, Mike's scores rarely break triple digits anymore.
Of course, not everyone thinks mayoral control of the golf course is working. Diane Ravitch, who is a scratch player and who has won several major tourneys, questions the mayor's success. "If he makes the course any smaller, he'll be able to play 9 holes in a shoe box. We need national standards. If he played at Augusta National, I don't think he'd be shooting his current 65."
The mayor pooh poohs such concerns. "What matters is improvement in scores, and the data shows great improvement."
Arne Duncan, current secretary of education under Barack Obama, has called for these reforms to be implemented across the country. "Our country lags far behind small countries like Scotland in median par scores, and I think they mayor's far sighted thinking will once again make American number one."
Randi Weingarten, soon to be ex-president of the UFT, at first opposed mayoral control of golf, and then supported it by carrying the mayor's clubs for him.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
I talk a lot about good teachers and bad admins on this blog, but I do recognize that there are many fine admins and some not so hot teachers. So while I have met many more incompetent admins than incompetent teachers, I think it's time we explored that issue, especially as I brought the topic up myself by complaining about my child's Diva teacher.
Obviously, the current system for evaluating teachers stinks on ice. Tyrannical administrators, of which there are far too many in New York, can manipulate the system to harass and rid themselves of senior teachers who make too much money for their budgets, or to quash union activities. Also, far more scrutiny is placed on English and math teachers because their students are tested.
Now, I don't want incompetent teachers working with my child, and I don't want them working in my school (or even in my city). I honestly believe that most teachers feel the same way, but the current system places a target on the back of every teacher. So what to do?
KitchenSink (who got me started thinking about this) posted in the comments section that "School leaders should have real data at their fingertips (I'm talking qualitative observations and feedback and rubrics about performance here, not test scores), and should have the freedom to remove the chaff for the benefit of kids." That sounds like a lot of administrative double talk to me. Who decides what quality means? Who creates the rubric? What stops a vindictive principal from using these tools to drive out teachers he or she doesn't like?
I have a couple of ideas:
1. Reinforce the idea of tenure. Principals have three years in which to decide whether a teacher is acceptable. I could tell you in three days who belongs. If principals change their minds after three years, they better be damn well able to prove a teacher incompetent.
2. Create a meaningful curriculum with the input of teachers (this is done at my school, and you'd be amazed how much teachers want to do justice to the curriculum when they have a hand in creating it). If any teachers fail or refuse to teach the minimum skills agreed upon by their respective departments, they should be put on the hot seat. Divas would be no more--they would have to teach certain units at certain times just like everyone else.
3. We all know that a principal can get his or her admin buddies from other schools to do so-called "impartial" observations, which is nothing more than a way to bolster a case at a 3020 hearing. How about we create "observation teams" of highly qualified teachers to observe teachers outside their own schools instead of admins? These teachers, who truly have no stake in the outcome other than justice and the education of children, would be a better barometer of the truth than the principal calling his friends in to give U ratings to people being targeted.
So, what are your ideas? How do we ensure the highest teacher quality while protecting the rights of teachers who are doing their jobs?
Friday, June 12, 2009
If you've been around the schools any length of time, you have met them. The Divas. They are the teachers that administrators love because they shine light back at the admins. In other words, they are flashy, showy, and yet almost totally lacking in substance. Everything a Diva teacher does is important, and everything everyone else does is much less so, at least in the Diva's mind. There are several characteristics of typical divas:
- They are generally given the best classes either because they whine for them or convince the principal that they need the best kids in order to do their wonderful projects.
- They do wonderful projects. The projects look wonderful, at any rate. Some Divas put on plays that could make a successful off-Broadway run. Some decorate their rooms more lavishly than a Turkish whorehouse (not that I've ever seen one, of course).
- Most have the kind of handwriting that tips off their anal retentive upbringing.
- They will never share anything, even a piece of chalk, because they will need it for whatever it is they are doing, and God forbid they get caught with less than 78 pieces of chalk. Not that I am bitter.
- And worst of all, most of them rarely teach anything. They just make it look like they do. A Diva will spend four months on the third grade musical version of Death of a Salesman, complete with car crash finale and chorus line. Other teachers wonder how they get their kids to do such wonderful stuff.
It's pretty easy, really. They give up math and reading. Science and SS? Tush! They didn't teach those meaningless subjects anyway, darling.
I'm annoyed about this because my child has had a Diva teacher all year who has decided to move up with the class. That means another year in which I will have to teach the skills the Diva jettisons in favor of making stained glass letters for her bulletin board. I have no more room in my attic for scale replica Taj Mahals made of fusilli.
I've had it. I don't have any choice but to take my own child out of public school, which sucks more than I can tell you. But I think the fat lady has sung.
Monday, June 8, 2009
After spending 20 million dollars on his re-election campaign so far and showing up in more ads than Waldo, Mayor Bloomberg has learned one thing: Money can't buy him love.
According to a NYT/NY1 poll, despite a high approval rating, a whopping 55% of NY voters say they want someone else to be the mayor. Unfortunately, a lot of those people have no idea who Bloomy's opponent, Bill Thompson, is.
In Randi's apparent quest to be on the winning team, she recently gave her tacit approval to mayoral control. Now, it appears, there is a real opening for the democratic nominee, if only people learn who he is.
So the question is: will Randi now jump ship and endorse Thompson, the man she should have been supporting all along? Or will she now attempt to bolster the campaign of the man who brought us ATRs and Joel Klein and rubber rooms bursting at the seams by throwing her support behind Bloomberg?
My guess is that while money can't buy you love, it just might be able to sway a powerful union leader or two. But I sure hope I'm wrong. This is the moment, Randi. Seize it.
You wouldn't think the Unity crew would be so happy these days. As I blogged the other day, noted Unity hack Ron Issac, AKA Redhog, advised us all to party the night away while the union goes to hell in a handbasket.
An alert reader notified me that Redhog was the author of one of the most disgusting posts in EdWize history (and that ain't easy). It was a relentless defense of the disastrous 2005 contract. You can read the whole ugly thing here. It was so disgusting that the already anyonymous Redhog didn't even post it under his real pseudonym. Here's some of the lowlights, with my own comments in parens:
Our proposed Contract is a landmark for the labor movement. (Much as Hiroshima is a landmark in the nuclear age)
Randi Weingarten has preserved not only the structural integrity of our Contract’s edifice, but raised it to new heights. (I'd say the 2005 contract was more of an orifice than an edifice)
The UFT blew out of the water the DOE’s stubborn call to empower principals to excess teachers without regard to seniority and to force them to find their own jobs within a stipulated time or be fired. (Can anyone say ATRs?)
Circular 6 suffered some superficial abrasions but is fighting fit. (Never mind that potty duty)
We have strengthened the grievance machinery by jettisoning the fluff of the past. (If you considered steps 1 and 2 of the grievance process 'fluff')
Finally, Redhog finished up with this gem: I have neither sought nor been given any perk or sweetheart deal in exchange for bought loyalty. That goes for both the DOE and the UFT.
Hmm. I dunno about that. My source tells me that Redhog retired just a year after this POS contract passed, thus grabbing the money without having to do the work. Furthermore, I'm told he got a job writing for New York Teacher, which kind of seems like a perk to me. Apparently, he's still working for the UFT, unless he's now writing his drivel on EdWize for free.
And that, my friends, is how hack is done.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
I don't know about you, but I am certainly looking forward to a staff development day in 95 degree heat right before summer vacation. Does anyone have any insight on this newest infringement on our school year?
Ron Isaac, who used to post pro-Randi love letters under the pseudonym Redhog (perhaps on our dimes) has finally come up with a solution to the problems of city teachers that we can all get down with. Let's have a party!
Yep. While Randi is busy explaining the way she dumped our past rights and pledging away our remaining rights by supporting mayoral control, Redhog thinks we should all put on party hats and ring in the summer. Here's his take on it: Celebration of human solidarity at school has devolved into an obscure concept in recent years, seemingly in relation to the decline in morale and the status of the profession as rendered by the DOE.
Actually, I believe it was the UFT, and specifically the Unity Caucus in charge, who eviscerated the teachers' contract. They are the ones who sold out seniority rights, allowed an explosion of letters in file, expanded the school day, gave us potty patrol and lunch duty, and so on. I don't think ATRs who have been jobless for years are ready to celebrate just yet.
So forgive me, Redhog, for not believing that teachers need to party. It's hard to feel the joy that Unity hacks obviously feel when we spend our days dancing to the BloomKlein beat: Doing the conga to cafeteria duty, the rhumba to the rubber room, and the Elecric Slide to Extended Day.
It must be nice doing the Loco-motion to your second pension, while working to perfect the Hustle you pull on teachers with each new contract. About the best we can muster is a little Achy-Breaky Heart about the way things used to be.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
In this city, telling the future of teachers is more like reading the writing on the wall. But still, in the spirit of being able to say I told you so when this all happens, here are some predictions for the near future:
Tier 5 is coming to NY teachers before you know what hits you. After negotiating the 25/55 that was really a 25/57, and not getting it done until years after they said they would, the city and UFT will eliminate it and jump on the tier 5 bandwagon that the state has embraced. Good luck, young teachers! You'll now get to pay 3% of your salary in perpetuity for the honor of retiring 7 years later than me. The city will blackmail the UFT into accepting this with the threat of layoffs, and Randi will trumpet the new tier as a major victory.
The new charter school that pays teachers $125,000 a year, and which currently has only 8 teachers chosen from a pool of 600, will become a "model" of how to do things in the city, despite the fact that there aren't 600 candidates for every 8 jobs in the city and that the city will never agree to pay teachers anywhere near $125,000. Mayor Bloomberg will use this school as a way to "prove" that only teacher quality matters, and not class size. He will, accordingly, raise class size but fail to do anything to attract teachers to NYC. Teachers will be roundly criticized when this experiment fails. Tenure will be severely eroded or eliminated in an attempt to emulate that one tiny charter school. Randi will hail this as a major victory.
The currently unfunded Teacher's Choice program, which gave teachers neither enough money nor enough choice, will be replaced by a new initiative called the Supplies Aplenty Program. Under the SAP. teachers will be required to buy all their own supplies for their entire careers, but the total will be pensionable for the new Tier 5 program. Due to the elimination of tenure, however, no teacher will ever receive their pension. Randi will be pictured on the front page of New York Teacher, a Mussolini like tilt to her head and a fistful of rubber bands thrust in the air, with the headline declaring "VICTORY!"
Mayor Bloomberg will win his third term along with mostly unchanged mayoral control of schools. He will fire Joel Klein as schools chancellor and hire Caroline Kennedy, who will be essentially the same with a much more attractive exterior. Bloomy will groom Caroline to be the next mayor of New York following his third, or possibly fourth, term (even I can't predict that one) on the theory that only the filthy rich deserve to be mayor. Regardless of whether it's Caroline in 2013 or 2017, Randi will hail her election as a major victory for teachers.
Pissed Off Teacher will rock the house in her prom dress. Randi will not hail this as a major victory for teachers, but will begin showing up in red everywhere she goes. Teachers will hail this as a major turn-off.
At least one administrator at your school will continue to be a dick. (OK, that was easy).
UPDATE: POed really did rock the house, so I am 1 for 5 so far. The other predictions are just a matter of time.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
The other side of mayoral control gets little press, given the cozy relationship of the billionaire mayor with the NY media. I haven't had a chance to read all of this book, but I have gotten started, and there's a lot of good stuff. Click here to read about it and get your copy.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
The lead sentence in the Daily News is enough to make you throw up a little in your mouth:
The fight over mayoral control of the schools has gone from slugfest to lovefest - at least between Mayor Bloomberg and the city teachers union.
Don't count me among the greased up bodies slithering in this menage a trolls of Bloomberg, Klein, and Randi. I sure don't have any kind of lovefest going with any of them, and I sure hope my colleagues don't either. And the News should get at least this part right: Randi is NOT the same as the city teachers' union. She is a sell out through and through. She saw an opening to hump the city's hyper inflated math and ELA scores, and she wasted not a moment climbing aboard. "What we've seen in the last seven years is a cohesion and a stability and resources that we did not have beforehand, and a lot of that was because Mayor Bloomberg said, 'I'm taking responsibility,'" Weingarten said.
Come again? Isn't this the mayor who just cut out Teacher's Choice funds? Isn't this the mayor whose chancellor received a failing grade from city teachers? Hasn't this mayor gone after senior teachers, filled up rubber rooms, left ATRs in limbo, stuffed students into classrooms and trailers, and turned education into a test prep mill?
And now our union leaded tacitly endorses mayoral control, essentially giving him a rubber stamp to do more of the same?
Yes, NYC teachers, you are now officially up Shit Creek, having been speedboated there by an ambitious union leader and left to try to get to shore without your paddle. But don't worry, teachers, as you can rest assured that Mayor Mike, man of cohesion and stability, will be along shortly to toss you an anvil.