Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mr. Talk Plays Negotiator

Some view Mayor4Life's 2% contract offer a strong arm tactic, but I'm not so sure I agree. It's likely that M4L knows that PERB will give us the 4% we are asking for because they have always insisted on following the pattern. So I think the mayor is trying to offer us a nice shiny carrot in the hope that we'll grab it before PERB rules in our favor.

That 2% means a lot to the mayor. If he gets it, it will show him as a tough guy and fiscal watchdog, and possibly set a pattern for the next set of negotiations. So I say, let's give it to him.
In exchange for givebacks FROM HIM, of course. I'd be happy to accept the 2%. Here's what I'd ask for:
  • 2% for teachers at all salary steps, not just up to 70K.

  • Restoration of seniority transfers and the elimination of the open market. (This would effectively end the ATR crisis by allowing ATRs to "bump" teachers with less seniority. This move would help teachers and save the city 80 million a year--a fiscal win for Bloomy and a real win for teachers).

  • An end to "Fair" student funding that makes principals want to fire senior teachers.

  • The elimination of potty patrol and lunch duty.

  • Restoration of the right to grieve letters in file.

  • An agreement that teachers in the rubber room must have a hearing within 90 days or be returned to the classroom.

I'd ask for the elimination of 37.5 minutes, too, but I'd be willing to give that up in favor of all the above. Bloomy wouldn't ever surrender 37.5 because it would look like a big loss for him, especially since parents would notice their kids coming home earlier every day. But the other points above would hardly matter to the public at all, but they'd be a big win for teachers. M4L could claim that he saved the city millions, which would be true, and Mulgrew could claim that he got a raise while eliminating the most egregious points of the 2005 contract.

I don't think this will happen, because Unity would never want to admit what a mistake the 2005 contract was after humping it for five years. Still, you never know. This could be Mulgrew's chance to seize the reins once and for all from Randi's continued grasp and take us in a new direction. If Mulgrew has the cojones, I'd vote for such a contract. Would you?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Duncan Duh-Nut

People can legitimately disagree on the best way to fix schools. Increasingly, the solutions have been more "nuclear" in nature--closing down schools instead of fixing them, firing teachers, eliminating tenure, and so forth. I agree with none of these solutions, as I believe schools can actually be fixed relatively easily given the political will.
As much as I disagree with the education deformers, none so far has suggested blowing up the schools and starting over. It seems that this is where we might be headed, as Arne Duncan placed his stamp of approval on Hurricaine Katrina as the catalyst of improvement in the New Orleans schools system, saying:

"I've spent a lot of time in New Orleans and this is a tough thing to say but I'm going to be honest. The best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina. That education system was a disaster. And it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the community to say that we have to do better."

Good thing Duncan wasn't education secretary during 9/11, or he might have said that Osama Bin Laden didn't do enough to really wake up the NYC school system. Good ole Arne probably sees the earthquake in Haiti as an opportunity to improve the schools there as well. I'd suggest sending him there but those poor people have suffered enough.
It's time for this clown to go.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Mayor4Life Has a Small Bone...

...and he threw it to us today in the form of media negotiation of the teacher's contract. Bloomberg offered us 2% raises in each of two years, citing the fiscal crisis as his reason. He threatened to lay off 2500 teachers if he doesn't get his way. There are some problems with this offer:
  • It really isn't 2% if you make over 70K. For any amount over that, the 2% doesn't apply. So if you're at top salary of 100K, you'll get the same $1400 that someone making 70K will. That is a 1.4% raise. That, pardon my French, is shit.
  • There is no guarantee of any sort that accepting the 2% means the mayor won't ask for givebacks anyway. He's notorious for asking for the moon. Sometimes, like under Randi Weingarten, he also got the stars thrown in for free.
  • He accepted 700 million dollars for the reduction of class sizes, which have only gone up. Laying off 2500 teachers would further increase class size. Let's dare him to try it.
  • Bloomberg sees no fiscal crisis when it comes to rewarding his buddies. Just the other day, he spent 2 million of your tax dollars to hire some of the cronies who helped him get elected. He is paying most of them more than top teacher salary.
  • He is still willing to pay 53 million dollars a year to keep the rubber rooms open in the hopes of getting teachers to resign before they ever get a hearing.
  • He has worsened the ATR crisis by closing 19 more schools. ATRs cost the city over 80 million dollars last year, and will cost even more once these newly sentenced schools shut down.
  • Bloomberg has insisted on pattern bargaining throughout his entire reign as mayor. We always had to settle for whatever pittance the other unions had to settle for, even in good economic times. Now, he wants us to break that pattern--to our detriment. All the other unions got 4% and he wants us to settle for less than half that.

The answer should be a plain and unequivocal NO. Let's say no to his small bone and his gigantic balls.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Worst Name Ever

I'm a big fan of Windows, as you recall if you were in the debate about PCs vs. Macs that started on NYC Educator's blog and spilled over here. So I wasn't exactly expecting to be blown away by Apple's unnamed tablet PC (yes, Virginia, Macs ARE PCs). Which is good, because I wasn't.

The new device is basically a big version of the IPhone. That means its too large to carry around when a phone would do, and too underpowered to use when you need a real laptop. I won't be buying one.

So what did they call this amazing device? The IPad.

The first thing I thought of when I heard that name was--and excuse me for sharing--sanitary pads. I'm sure I can't be the only one who thought that. With all the resources Apple has at its disposal, surely they could have thought of a better name.

On the other hand, maybe they chose that name on purpose. Maybe the Ipad gets cranky once a month. Or perhaps it has an extra period key. It could be that they're trying to rebrand the Iphone as the I-Tampon (the I-Pon?), which you carry around on days you don't really such a big screen.

I'm just glad Apple finally came up with something with a worse name than Microsoft Bob.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mr. Talk Wields his Ax

Mayor4Life doesn't like the budget cuts from Albany, so he decided the best thing to do would be to get rid of some teachers. Whenever anything ticks the mayor off, the first thing he thinks of is laying off teachers. Oh, sure, he enjoys threatening to layoff police officers and close fire houses too, but threatening teachers really makes his day.

Personally, I kind of like teachers and not having my house burn to the ground, so I'd look for savings elsewhere. If the budget were up to me, there are a few things I'd cut before I even thought of getting rid of teachers. Here, off the top of my head, and in no particular order, are some things I'd prefer to ax:

  • The ARIS system (and I mean I'd like to literally take an ax to it)
  • Joel Klein
  • The bajillion Acuity tests we have to give every year
  • Subsidies to sports teams whose payrolls are larger than some small countries
  • Quality review
  • Chart paper
  • Small schools in large buildings (think of the cost per administrator)
  • Professional development
  • Joel Klein (I'd hire him back and ax him again just for fun)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Adding Insult to....Insult

After whining that the Assembly bill to restrict charter schools was " insult to parents and children and Dr. King and his legacy", Mike Bloomberg approved of the bill by signing off on the NY Race to the Top Application.

In related news, Bloomberg kept his promise to switch department heads for three weeks, swapping, for example, the deputy commissioners of the Parks and Education departments. The idea behind the switch is for city officials to learn about things they know little of. The mayor himself offered to work for the Department of Human Services in an effort to learn what it's like to be human. Aides quickly dissuaded him by informing hizzoner that it would involve working with actual poor people.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Besmirching Dr. King

One of the reasons Dr. Martin Luther King accomplished so much was that he spoke right to the hearts of the American people and appealed to their hopes and aspirations. I can't remember a cynical word ever proceeding from his lips. That's why it is so disturbing that Mayor Bloomberg chose today of all days to invoke the name of King to help him push his slimy agenda of creating charter schools and making a grab for the RttT funds.

In describing a bill in the legislature that would take charters largely out of city hands, Bloomberg said, "Dr. King told us that a right delayed is a right denied and this bill would continue to deny those children the quality school options that they deserve. The bill is really an insult to parents and children and Dr. King and his legacy."

The only insult is that Bloomberg would think that he could co-opt Dr. King's heartfelt words and use them for his own political ends. Exactly whose rights would be delayed or denied under this bill? The "right" of Bloomberg's rich pals to open charter schools for fun and profit? The "right" of people like Eva Moskowitz to earn 400K a year off charter schools while siphoning off space and resources from public schools? The "right" of the mayor and chancellor to close down neighborhood schools that serve the most needy of our children so they can push their small school/charter school agenda down our throats?

Here are some real rights that Mayor Bloomberg has delayed and denied to New York City school children:

  • The right to a reasonable class size that gives them an opportunity to learn.
  • The right to benefit from the proceeds of the CFE lawsuit that was supposed to help level the playing field.
  • The right to attend an effective public school no matter what neighborhood they come from.
Instead, Bloomberg has increased class sizes, cut the school budget even as the CFE money came in, and closed or attempted to close neighborhood schools like Jamaica HS rather then work to improve them.

It's disgusting that the richest man in New York thinks he can invoke the legacy of one of history's greatest champions of the downtrodden for the sake of political expediency. As Dr. King also said, "A lie cannot live." If that is so, surely Bloomberg's own legacy will soon be on life support.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

On Parole

Followers of this blog know that my last school was a disaster, with a jackass principal and a bunch of heartless admins who thought nothing of trying to ruin a teacher's career. They had little use for senior teachers involved in union activities. As such, I amassed a couple of letters in file and a U one year as they tried to pressure me into leaving the school. At least 4 others I know had their careers ruined, and a few managed to barely avoid the rubber room. I was one of the lucky ones, as I found a new and much better school.

Today, I finally got to see my file and get rid of some of the foul crap in there. It was a relief, and a fairly painless process, but let me emphasize one thing: it should never have happened. If not for the 2005 contract, I would have been able to grieve those LIFs and phony evaluations, and so would the other teachers I worked with. Remember when the Unity hacks told us it didn't matter if we had LIFs, because we rarely got them removed at step one grievances? What they forgot to tell you is that admins didn't write very many LIFs until the 2005 contract gave them a free hand. And does anyone recall Randi's promise that we'd reopen the grieveance issue if there was an increase in LIFs? Yeah, right.

Anyway, I feel like I've been paroled. For three years, I've known that the lies in my file could be used against me. I wasn't really fearful of it happening, as I am respected in my current school, but a change of leadership or a budget crunch could have changed all that. Now it can't.

The best part is that now that those letters are gone, I've finally managed to shake the last bit of my former school's dust from my feet. It feels good--they are history. Still, I can't help feeling resentful that they were allowed to run amok over a bunch of hard working teachers. And while I've finally been paroled, some of my friends were executed and others still languish in that dungeon of a school.

If a Unity person tells you that some new agreement won't have any effect on you, run screaming away.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Michael Mulgrew vs. Mark Sanchez

I'm a long time Jets fan. Today, my team plays the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round of the playoffs. Jets fans know the drill. We approach the game with both hope and apprehension, knowing that the Jets have found creative ways to blow big games for the last 40 years. Despite the fact that we gave the Bengals a drubbing just six days ago, the Jets are 3 point underdogs. No one believes they can end their run of bad plays and stupid decisions.

To win today, all the Jets have to do is follow the game plan. Rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez needs to hand the ball off about 75% of the time, and execute a few short passes to keep the Bengals' defense off balance. Sanchez has to control his emotions and keep from getting rattled, which leads to mistakes. I think he can be a great quarterback if he learns to, in sports parlance, "stay within himself".

Rookie UFT President Michael Mulgrew faces the same challenge. He's faced with an expired contract and a mayor who wants to drive him face first into the turf. Mulgrew's first challenge is to avoid mistakes. Randi Weingarten, his predecessor, fumbled the ball on seniority, ATRs, the rubber room, extended day, the open market, and a bunch of other issues. She turned to ball over so often you had to wonder which team she was playing for.
So far, I like Mulgrew. He has the potential to be the quarterback the UFT needs. He's pleaded his case in a calm but forceful manner with the public. He's shown no sense of urgency to sign a contract at any cost. He's stood firm for ATRs and the rubber room teachers, and has kept tenure off the table.

Mulgrew also seems to realize that you can't win with just a good defense alone. He's gone on the offensive on a number of issues, including actively fighting the proposed lifting of the charter school cap and suing the city for failing to use the CFE funds to reduce class size.

Both Mulgrew and Sanchez have shown the guts and poise needed to be good leaders. Whether they can hang on to that in the face of high pressure situations remains to be seen. The Jets face their test at 4:30 this afternoon. Mulgrew's challenge is ongoing.
I hope both are up to the task. Let's go Jets! And the UFT!

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Solution to School Closings

It seems to me that if we want to stop BloomKlein from closing schools, we have to think like them. So follow me, if you will, with about 10% of your brain, which is about what they use.

What we need to do is build a one foot wall of snow around schools that the chancellor intends to close, like Jamaica HS. Now, such a tiny wall won't keep even troll sized people like the mayor out, but that's not the idea. Once we build the wall, we have Michael Mulgrew demand that the schools be closed due to snow. The one thing that BloomKlein will NEVER do is close the schools with less than two feet of snow on the ground, and sometimes not even then. Viola--the schools stay open.

I know this won't last beyond the winter, but the next solution will have to wait because I can't think like BloomKlein for even a minute longer. It'll be hard enough to get the drool stains out of my clothes as it is.