Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly When It Comes To The Unity Leadership.

I have been highly critical of our disconnected union leadership and rightly so.  Our union leadership has given us inferior contracts that are short on money and loaded with "givebacks".  They agreed to allow the DOE to impose a school-based "Fair Student Funding" (fsf) formula that forces schools to "hire the cheapest and not the best" teachers for their schools.  Agreed to reduce our TDA interest from 8.25% to 7% and forcing Tier V and VI teachers to have 15 years of service to receive retiree health benefits, and let's not forget how they conspired with the DOE to make ATRs second class citizens. I could go on but you get the message.  In complaining about our disconnected union leadership under "Unity caucus"  there are some real benefits to have a union representing your rights.

The Good:
Our union can collectively bargain to retain our due process rights and influence legislative action that benefit our profession.  By collectively bargain we are stronger together.  Just imagine if we didn't have a union to protect us against Mayor Bloomberg assault on teachers like the elimination of "First in, last out" , there would be no class size limitations,  forget our "due  process rights", and tenure would be replaced by an arbitrary and capricious dismissal policy that the DOE uses for untenured teachers and "U" rating appeals.  Moreover, our union supplies NYSUT attorneys and advocates to represent our interests and gives us guidance when confronted by the corrupt investigators.  Finally, having a strong union makes it harder for their members to be bullied or abused by vindictive administrators.

The Bad:
Our dues continue to go up, year after year, as the "Unity" bureaucracy continues to expand and a new group (25 or more) of high salaried friends of our Unity leadership has been established, I believe they are Chapter Leader advocates (how are they different from District Reps?).  Is it any wonder that our dues are increasing yearly?  Besides the bloated bureaucracy, all members must sign the "Unity oath" and provide a $75 dollar check to stay as a member in good standing as well as to blindly vote how the leadership tells them to, even when its against the best interests of their members. Let's not forget about COPE that is used for political action that's supposed to be on behalf of the members but seems to be used for actions that have no member input, benefit, or agreement?

The Ugly:
The union's treatment of the ATRs is ugly.  Our disconnected union leadership allows the DOE to sic field assassins on the ATRs, which has led to a rise in 3020-a termination cases and ignore the hiring of 5,700 new teachers this year while more than 1,300 ATRs languish in a rotation pool while also refuses to allow them a functional chapter to represent their interests.  No other Municipal union allowed their excessed members to be treated the way our union has allowed the DOE to abuse the ATRs.    Then there is Michael Mulgrew's continued "love affair" with Chancellor Carmen Farina while she goes from school to school and tells principals her top priority is to get rid of their "bad teachers".  Finally, the union's involvement with racial arsonist like Al Sharpton and giving priority to Bill de Blasio's interests which results in continued large class sizes, inadequate funding  and  inferior instructional time (Science) , over their own membership requirements of lower class sizes, full funding, and adequate instructional tine for the students.

The bottom line is that I rather have a union than not have one but it would be nice if we had a union that was more responsive to their members than to their favorite political causes.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

How Is The ATR Financial Inicentive Working? Not Too Well So Far.

At the beginning of October the DOE informed principals they can hire ATRs at a steep financial discount for the next three years. The schools get the ATR for free this year, at half price the second year, and at 75% the third year.  Of course, the ATR is at full price thereafter and must be placed into their rightful seniority rank in case of school excessing. Since that time, two weeks later a grand total of 20 ATRs have been snapped up by the schools.   That's right out of 1,304 ATRs only 20 have been offered permanent positions for the mathematically challenged only 1.5% have obtained permanent employment. Of course, there is no guarantee that the 20 placements came from the 1,304 rotating ATRs, some may have been provisionally assigned and were converted to a permanent position so the percentage may be even less than 1.5%.

There is no secret that the schools have hidden vacancies and for one reason or another failed or deliberately decided not to fill them while waiting for the perfect candidate.  Now its October and schools have found that they must fill their vacancies and cannot hire from the outside until the second semester.  Moreover, especially in the Bronx and the many high poverty struggling schools, they find themselves desperately seeking teachers to replace the recently hired who have already quit and getting no nibbles.  Add that to a shortage of teaching candidates as more college graduates are abandoning teaching as a career and a looming teacher shortage is just down the road.

One would think the DOE's ATR incentive would have schools falling all over themselves to hire ATRs but the truth be told the DOE has done such a wonderful job demonizing ATRs as bad and unwanted teachers that with their encouragement, have enlisted the education reformers and media  to push for  an end of  "last in, first out", for New York City teachers while demanding a time limit for ATRs when they know quite well that the DOE$'s own hiring policies penalize schools that hires a veteran teacher. Without a stick the DOE's carrot has no consequences for the schools if they reject the DOE's offer.

As more of the recently hired "newbies" quit or are terminated due to hostile classroom environment, student discipline issues, and more respected and lucrative employment elsewhere (about 50% quit within five years) maybe, just maybe, the ATR financial incentive might gain traction but I'm not holding my breath since 25% of the schools have Leadership Academy principals and they are brainwashed in believing that ATRs will contaminate their younger and untenured teaching staff and don't even bother to interview ATRs, least not hire them.

Will the ATR financial incentive reduce the ATR pool?  Only time will tell but only if the DOE also employs a stick with the carrot.

Note:  The ATR incentive is for teachers only and not for other UFT members.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Renewal Schools Are Sucking Up Money Thanks To Amiee Horowitz's Bloated Bureaucray.

The New York Post has an article that details the bloated Bureaucracy that runs the Renewal school program.  Astonishingly the DOE pays $12.7 million dollars annually for questionable administrative support with little or no significant impact upon the students and the classroom. The "college and career readiness" rates are stuck in the low teens.

Lead by Chancellor Carmen Farina's hack, Amiee Horowitz who I have written about previously Here, Here, and Here, the Renewal schools have been a disaster, with many of them losing students, have low attendance rates, and poor academic results. For more about Amiee Horowitz  you can read it Here, Here, and Here as well.

Teachers who are unfortunate enough to work in these Renewal schools are under tremendous stress as these bureaucrats demand accountability while not being held accountable themselves.  Teachers have no real prep periods as they are required to meet and plan with colleagues and are pressured to work an extra period whether they want to or not.  Class sizes have risen, despite the loss of students as the Renewal schools continue to lose or excess teachers. How these Renewal schools can attract academically achieving students and quality teachers is beyond comprehension as the Renewal Bureaucracy sucks up scarce resources while providing little in the way of classroom improvements to the "high needs" student populations of the Renewal schools.

Reading the New York Post article about the bloated Bureaucracy does not surprise me one bit.  The schools are destined to fail unless they can attract better students and teachers and not blow money on their bloated Bureaucracy as they continue to do.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

To The UFT. You've Got To Be Kidding Me!

Believe it or not, our UFT leadership is in collusion with the DOE when it comes to the ATR issue.  Both the DOE and UFT pretend that they want to get ATRs placed permanently in schools.  Yet, as they go through the fiction of how to place ATRs in the schools, both agree to harass the ATRs by giving then field supervisors (assassins) to "U' rate them and come up with the useless rotation system that makes the ATR "a stranger in a strange land."  The result is that the ATRs are glorified babysitters until they become demoralized and resign or retire.

Over the last couple of years the DOE would pretend to help ATRs land permanent positions by giving them no-credit workshops like resume writing, Common Core lesson planning and other useless and worthless clinics that resulted in a complete waste of time as none of them helped ATRs  land permanent positions.  Now our disconnected union leadership has joined the DOE in providing  a no-credit workshop for high school ATRs called "Success Strategies for ATRs"  The UFT workshop promises to maximize the talents, best practices, and communication skills to increase your chances of landing a permanent position and for all this the ATR only has to pay $10 for this privilege.  The entire UFT workshop is listed below.

Thursday Oct 20High school teachers in the Absent Reserve pool are invited to a workshop  "Success Strategies for ATRs."  The event will be held from 4 to 6 pm at UFT headquarters, 52 Broadway.  Participants will explore ways to obtain a permenent position that will maximize their talents and interests.  Best practices will be shared for effective communication, resume writing, and interviewing techniques and for navigating temporary assignments.  A $10 fee is required to participate.  Members will not receive CTLE hours for this workshop.  

This UFT workshop is not only a waste of time but to have the audacity to charge a $10 fee is over the top in providing false hope that it will land a veteran ATR a permanent position.  Because of the DOE's school-based fair student funding formula and Principal autonomy, the chances of a veteran ATR landing a permanent position, is like a one legged man winning an ass kicking contest.

If the UFT really wanted to get ATRs permanently back in the classroom they should force the DOE to stop hiring outside the District until all excessed ATRs are selected in their content specialty and if that means spending money for commercials showing how an experienced teacher helps student academic achievement and/or filing a lawsuit due to age discrimination or violations to PERB, that's what's necessary to get the DOE to resolve the issue not these useless workshops that accomplishes nothing and only gives ATRs false hope that.the light at the end of the ATR tunnel is not an oncoming train.

To the UFT leadership, Leroy Barr, Amy Arundell, and Janella Hinds, its an "urban myth" to believe that this UFT workshop will actually help high school ATRs get a permanent position. If you truly believe that then I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The DOE's Claim They Are Draining The ATR Pool Is Really A Slow Leak.

The DOE finally published the October ATR pool total of 1,306 and it was much higher than the September value of 1,167.  This is a 12% increase over the beginning of the school year after the schools had to complete their excessing of staff last week.  Moreover, this number does not include ATRs who are covering provisional and long-term leave replacements that probably number in the many hundreds.  Despite the DOE claim that they are draining the ATR pool, It's a very slow drain at best and is not based on ATRs finding positions but due to retirements, terminations (thanks to the abusive field supervisors), and resignations.  If you take away the 97 ATRs who took the 2014 buyout, the DOE's claim of a 21% reduction in ATRs since 2013 is much more like 16%.

The reason the DOE is unable to eliminate the ATR pool is of their own making, steeped in the Bloomberg/Klein ideology of getting rid of veteran teachers and their "education on the cheap" program.  Since the Civil Service laws of the State requires the DOE to layoff based on total seniority under "first in, last out".  They cannot simply impose a time limit on the ATRs who average 23 years of experience and are immune to be laid off if such a mass layoff was required by the DOE.

Instead the DOE and their media allies, along with the education reform organizations will continue the fiction that ATRs are "unwanted" or "poorly-performing" teachers when the real reason is the school based "fair student funding" (fsf) formula that penalizes schools who hire veteran teachers and forces principals to "hire the cheapest and not the best teachers" for their schools.  To make matters worse, the DOE only funds the schools at 86% of their fsf. and will only rise to 92% next school year. Add that to the ever increasing number of Leadership Academy principals (~25%) running the schools and you can see that their staff consists of untenured or "newbie" teachers for the most part.

It would be nice if our disconnected union leadership would explain to the media why ATRs are not being picked up for permanent positions because of the policies the DOE employ that discourage schools from hiring veteran teachers.  Instead our union leaders stay quiet and let the general public believe that the ATRs are "bad teachers" and that's just not right.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The DOE Motto, Out With The Old And In With The New.

The DOE has made it virtually impossible for veteran teachers to transfer from one school to another by their continued use of the "fair student funding" fiasco.  Now that the Open Market Transfer System (OMTS) is history this year and principals, who are not savvy or crooked enough to play the game, must hire an ATR for their vacancies or long-term leave replacements.   Let's see how the new ATR hiring process works out?  I hold little hope that principals will hire them permanently, even at bargain basement prices, due to the seniority and institutional memory issues. Instead the principals will be spending this school year trying to find ways to get rid of their veteran teachers and replace them next school year with inexpensive "newbies:".

Look for principals to continue to give many "ineffective" observations to their senior teachers and those who ended up with a "developing rating" will be observed frequently to ensure their Teacher Improvement Plan (TIP) will be stringently followed. Already I am hearing too many highly experienced teachers complaining that they are being picked on and set up for failure. People at the 3020-a hearings are telling me there has been an uptick of senior teachers (20 or more years of experience) who are under termination charges.  Whether that is true or not, its a perception that seems to be going around the New York City education community. Interestingly, I have seen and heard about too many of my colleagues who have either been terminated, charged, or in their 3020-a termination hearings in the last two years and this leads credence to what I have been told.

I would just love for the DOE and UFT provide the OMTS statistics of who transferred from one school to another by age, experience, and tenure status.   However, we all know what it would show and even if somebody would FOIL the information, I believe the DOE would stall, delay, and claim its unavailable or protected since they want to avoid the embarrassment of being accused of discrimination in their "out with the old and in with the new" policy in their "children last" program.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Why I'm Not Voting For President.

Over the last two months I have been wrestling with my decision on who to vote for.  Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?  After watching the two terrible debate performances by the both of them and the obvious character flaws both have, I have decided to vote for neither one of these unworthy candidates. Listed below are my reasons why.

Hillary Clinton:

She is untrustworthy, a liar, and  her track record shows a pattern of deceit and denial when caught in the act. Examples are the leaked transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs in which she said she must show a public face to the general public but privately can have a different point of view when supporting her donors.  In other words, she is deceitful and untrustworthy.  Then there is the private email server and the deleted emails some classified.  Least one forgets her Clinton Foundation, which apparently used a  "pay for play" scheme to reward donors, (see the Haiti article) many of them foreign, to get influence to the State Department through Secretary Clinton.  Finally, she flipped flopped on trade and lied about not calling the Pacific Trade Pact the "gold standard" for trade agreements.

Donald Trump:

Where do I begin?  He shoots from the hip and is short on specifics, acts like a teenager like his locker room banter, (high school sports team). Then there is his failure to focus on his opponent as if he is in a boxing ring and focuses on the crowd not the other boxer (Gold Star parents, Miss Venezuela, etc).,  His ever lengthening enemies list in his own party and instead of making nice and listening to advise, he attacks everyone of them as if he has a scatter gun and ends up damaging his party and himself as well,  Calling Donald Trump a demigod would be an appropriate description of hm and he is unfit by temperament to be President.

Past History:

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump has a checkered history to say the least. Hillary's go back to her support of her husband thru his many affairs and blaming the Monica Lewinsky affair on the Republicans and not her husband.  Who can forget Benghazi?  When she falsely blamed an anti-Muslim video for the spontaneous uprising and didn't have enough protection for the American Embassy. to repel the planned Answar al-Sharia attack.  Let's not forget Whitewater as that scheme almost led to a criminal indictment for both Bill and Hillary Clinton back in Arkansas in 1992

 As for Donald Trump?  There were multiple bankruptcies, two failed marriages, alleged cheating, a history of disrespecting women, and his abuse of the tax system to pay little or no taxes.  Let's not forget that his treatment of his employees was far from exemplary.

Other Candidates:

What about the third party candidates?  Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party supports private schools, wants to starve public schools of money, eliminate Social Security, and worker rights.  Add that to his failure to articulate a foreign policy, what is Aleppo? and you have a candidate that is not presidential and does not get my vote.  That leaves Jill Stein of the Green Party.  Unfortunately, she believes vaccinations causes Autism, is a member of the anti-Semitic BDS movement, and has no real understanding of the economy. Not getting my vote either.

The bottom line is that I will not be voting for the presidential candidate since all of them are not worthy of my vote.  Please don't tell me that one is the "lesser of the two evils".  As far as I'm concerned they are all unqualified to be President of our great country.

For the record I am an independent voter who, as a teacher, voted for Bill Clinton 1n 1992 and 1996, George Bush in 2000, and 2004, and Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.