Sunday, October 27, 2013

Was Michael Mendel A Hero Or Villain? It Depends On Who You Ask.

Long time UFT leader and insider Michael Mendel has retired and the union leadership, probably using member dues or COPE money, gave him a grand sendoff.  In an invitation only event, speaker after speaker sung the praises of what Michael Mendel meant to the union and its members.  Interestingly some DOE members were invited such as head of Human Resources, Larry Becker, or should I say his co-conspirator on the secretive ATR committee?  Absent from this event were the over 2,000+ ATRs who's invitations must have been lost in the mail.  This list of lost invitations included the countless teachers guidance counselors, and social workers who were forced to retire because they couldn't handle the weekly rotations and the uncertainly associated with going to different schools on a weekly basis. My fellow blogger and friend JD2718 wrote an interesting post that put Michael Mandel in a very good light and would consider him a "hero". However, many others might have a very different opinion and some may even consider him a "villain".  What is the legacy of Michael Mendel?  It depends on who you ask.  Let's look at some of the issues that bring into question Michael Mendel's legacy.

First, he was a major factor in the union's terrible 2005 contract that was laden with "givebacks", a reduction in "due process rights", and more time for a raise that barely kept up with the inflation rate at the time.  While Leo Casey and Randi Weingarten were publicly criticized for the horrible 2005 contract and took much of the heat. Mr. Mendel was part of the negotiations and must shares blame for it.

Second, he was a stern defender of the very same 2005 contract that resulted in the ATR crisis, elimination of seniority transfer rights, and Civil Service bumping rights, reimposing lunchroom and hall duties, and the elimination of the right to grieve letters to the file.

Third, he failed to fight the DOE's flawed "fair student funding" that swelled the ranks of the ATRs with senior teachers and was insulted when people would ask why the union allowed such a travesty to happen.

Fourth, Mr. Mendel, it turns out, was the primary UFT representative in the DOE/UFT secretive ATR committee (Amy Arundell was the other UFT member).  However, few beyond the leadership knew of his role on the committee and when ATRs wanted to know who was on the committee and who to send comments or complaints to it was referred to the District Reps. Why were the people on the ATR committee and their decisions shrouded in secrecy with no input from the affected ATRs?.  Did Mr. Mendel talk to any of the ATRs to get their opinion?  I know of no one, including myself, that he ever reached out to find out what the problems were.  It has only become known recently to some of the ATRs that Mr Mendel and his DOE co-conspirator who was the DOE Human Resources Director Larry Becker, were on the ATR committee and who jointly came up with the ridiculous and failed weekly rotation that has disillusioned many an ATR.

Finally, where was Mr. Mendel when reports of principals using teachers who were uncertified in the subject area that they were teaching in were coming to him from various Districts?  How about the many unfilled vacancies that when reported by ATRs and Chapter Leaders that were not responded to?

Michael Mendel was an advocate and a loyal union man but when it came to the "teachers in the trenches" and especially the ATRs he had some serious shortcomings.  A "hero"?  No way.  He was secretive, unapproachable to the members, and didn't reach out to the ATRs but he certainly was not a "villain".  Have a very nice retirement and a long life Mr. Mendel.


Anonymous said...

Concerning the email that atrs received last week - couldn't the atrs bring up the issues unequal treatment and discrimination within our own ranks if only some atrs are subjected to the awful field supervisors - how can some atrs be observed and some not be?? Couldn't that be a basis to make all of the bogus observations subject to a grievance ?? If I get observed and my friends don't and they just get their invisible S which we should ALL get, couldn't I grieve unequal treatment?? Any thoughts.
Wish I could retire Mendel - good luck - this is not the profession that i signed up for

James Eterno said...

Michael Mendel is a decent guy who treated the members of Jamaica High School, including me, with the utmost respect and decency.

I always had civil conversations with Michael even when we disagreed totally on various issues.

Is he one of the people responsible for Unity Caucus policy that is taking our profession and union down? Yes, without a doubt.

However, within the constraints of what this union is now, Michael Mendel did his best to support the membership. He worked for us with every ounce of energy he had.

He really believed the various ATR agreements would help get ATR's placed and he often would complain about the lack of good faith on the part of DOE officials.

As for my particular school, Michael advocated strongly for Jamaica High School throughout the last few years. When he visited the school, he knew we were a strong union school and he respected us accordingly, even acknowledging our political differences.

At the last PEP meeting he attended as UFT Secretary last spring, Michael mentioned one school exclusively that was mistreated by the DOE: Jamaica High School.

I already miss his presence at UFT meetings.

If we are going to have a debate about Michael Mendel on the blogs, I will be on the front line defending him as a person of integrity who worked diligently for UFT members throughout his career.

Chaz said...


I have the greatest respect for you and yes, Mr. Mendel did try his best to help Jamaica HS. However, the facts are that he kept his participation secret to his involvement on the ATR committee, he never reached out to the ATRs to get their input and his failure to handle the uncertified teacher issue who were teaching in subjects they shouldn't have.

I'm sure you have fond memories for his advocacy but as an ATR, I feel very differently.

Anonymous said...

chaz, I don't know if you speak for all the atrs but I feel the same way as you do.

James Eterno said...

It is more than just Jamaica. Michael Mendel actually listened and respected other points of view in many different UFT forums.

When he was working on UFT Elections, he would always answer my calls and then have DOE officials direct principals to let us stuff mailboxes with caucus literature. Mendel has a sense of fairness lacking in too many UFT leaders including President Mulgrew.

Anonymous said...

Why would anyone sing the praises of someone who was directly involved in the cycles (rotations) of hell we atrs are subjected to. Good riddance to bad rubbish. I'd like to see Randi sometime, so I can thank her personally.

Chaz said...

James, I think you are missing the point. Mr. Mendel never bothered to talk to the ATRs about the terrible rotation system he agreed to with the DOE and imposed upon us. In fact, he wouldn't tell any of us that he was on the secretive ATR committee.

Why don't you ask the ATRs how they feel about Michael Mendel agreeing to the rotation system. He may not be a villain but he is certainly no hero.

Anonymous said...

I was very happy when assigned to one school. Maybe the Principal couldn't hire me because of FSF but I had my own classes and administrators that treated me as part of the staff. Furthermore, I had the Principal and Assistant Principal's appreciation and could use them as references.

Now I find myself a stranger in a strange land and ignored by the administration and staff. If Michael Mandel agree to this then I'm glad he's gone.

Anonymous said...

How about the 5+ hour rounddtrip I must go through every day as an ATR to get to work? What has the UFT done? Nothing. The principal refused to release me knowing full well they are breaking the law. Grievance filed, nobody cares.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know that Michael Mendel was the UFT representative on the ATR committee. He deserves the criticism he's getting on your blog.

Anybody that came up with and agreed to this weekly rotation nonsense without talking to the members affected by it is no hero.

James Eterno said...

What about the entire UFT Executive Board, including I believe your buddy Jonathon, who voted for the ATR rotation? Oh and the vast majority of the UFT Delegate Assembly that voted for it? Who was the only one screaming to speak out publicly for the ATRs? Oh that would be me.

Blaming that whole rotation problem on Mendel exclusively is ridiculous.

Chaz said...


He was the lead UFT person on the secretive ATR committee and it was Mr. Mendel who brought this cockamamie weekly rotation proposal to the DA in the first place.

Yes, Michael Mendel is the blame because he kept his participation on the ATR committee a secret from the ATRs and he never bothered to ask the ATRs for their input and we have suffered for it.

Why don't you poll the over 50 Jamaica High School teachers how they fell about the weekly rotation system?

To you and Jonathan he may be a hero but to me he has shown to be an secretive "know-it-all" who didn't bother to ask the very members affected by his terrible decision, the ATRs!

Anonymous said...

The real villain is Mayor Bloomberg and the DoE. Let's not forget that. said...

James is right (except for misspelling my name). I voted for the agreement that included ATR rotation.

It was part of a deal (buried in VB that was packaged as a "no-layoff" agreement.

I believed at that time that the threat of layoffs was real. And I still do.

However, I should have objected to the rotation.

If we allow one group of our members to take a hit, if we ask them to take a hit, it should be members most able to do so. Not members under fire. Not probationers. Not ATRs.

Dropping sabbaticals was a fair concession. Rotating excessed teachers (ATRs) was not.

Anonymous said...

Looking back at blog of fall, 2011 we see that Mendel was endorsing the observation of ATRs while in rotation.

This is another aspect of how it is unfair that huge decisions for our lives are made without elected reps.
Consider also the cellphone factor. Half the kids have them in use in high school classes. They think that putting the phone away is resting it on the desk without using it. Essentially teachers in schools where the admins tolerate them (even before de Blasio or Lhota officially roll out a cellphones OK policy) is asking the teacher to be more entertaining than anything in the smartphone.

And we're being judged with our lesson performance in these conditions.

Ms. Tsouris said...

And how about the rank and file, including some of your fellow bloggers, who voted for that heinous 2005 contract? They rationalized their own actions by saying how they were going to retire soon and the money looked good, never caring about what it did to other teachers or the profession. What hypocrites!!

Anonymous said...

Mendel received assistance in this horrific scenario from the arrogant UFT General Counsel, Adam Ross who drafted the July 2011 document for the DA meeting.

Neither Mendel or Ross give a dam about NYC DOE educators.

Their sole concern was pacifying Bloomberg and protecting TFA teachers who would have been subject to the LIFO rules.

I would not be surprised if they received compensation from Bloomberg in his desire to destroy public education.

facts regarding how this agreement

Anonymous said...

Ya know, all this political bullcrap we have endured from bloomshit and other phoney politicians reminds me of a video we have all seen in the past, i.e. saddam hussein being trapped in a fox hole and eventually hung and khadafy being dragged on the ground by a moving vehicle. Is this what happens when the people unite against sick demented rulers?? I hope for this countrys sake it does not come down to that.

Chaz said...


Everybody knew that the Bloomberg threat was a bluff. He would have never laied off the "newbies" once he lost the "last in, first out": battle in Albany.

All this did was make the life of the ATR a living hell while Principals continued to hire the "newbies".

To me. Mr. Mendel is no hero just a hack who sacrificed over 2,000 senior teachers to purgatory without never bothering to reach out to them.

Anonymous said...

I can't understand how anyone can call Mr. Mendel a hero. If chaz is right and he never spoke with the ATRs about the weekly rotation proposal that he apparently spearheaded and rammed through the DA then he deserves the criticism that chaz has identified.

If I was an ATR I would be angry too.

James Eterno said...

How about putting some blame on Adam Ross, our chief lawyer who I think negotiates the language of agreements? Everyone who voted for this agreement deserves some responsibility. Putting it all on Mendel is just plain wrong.

Anonymous said...

Chaz, I need your advice. I am an ATR in an elementary/middle school and I feel mistreated. I been getting many days of six teaching periods (I know elementary teachers have six periods). But some of this was a mixture of upper and lower grades on the same day. My district rep tells me to seek the chapter leader. However some chapter leaders are helpful and some are not. I have saved almost all of my schedules since the start of the year. How can an ATR handle this? How can an ATR file a grievance if necessary?

Chaz said...

James: Okay the entire DA is the blame and Adam Ross gets a greater part of the blame. Still Michael Mendel deserves the lion's share of the blame since it was his baby.

Anon 7:59

Really the CL or DR should be filing a grievance on the sixth period outside the elementary school. However, you might want to call Amy Arundell at UFT headquaters and pick her brain about the issue.

Anonymous said...

I heard from my district rep. ATR's can be given a sixth teaching period because we do not have a circular six.

Anonymous said...

anyone who assumes where the money for Mendels send off party came from, I do not listen to. especially when I know that people paid their hard earned money to attend. that's how much he was respected!

Chaz said...

Yeah right! He is so respected that he kept his involvement secret on the ATR committee and didn't even bother to ask them what was best for them. The result? We have the travesty of a weekly ATR rotation that does nobody any good.

You may respect him but ask the ATRs how they feel about him?

Chaz said...

Anon 6:56

Your DR is wrong! They cannot give you a sixth period in the secondary schools instead of a circular six assignment. They can inly give you a circular six assignment that other teachers do.

Anonymous said...

Hey anon 9:45 are you an atr? Why don't you ask the atrs that travel weekly through your school how they feel about Michael Mendel?

Are you even in a school or are you one of those union people who will be getting a double pension?

Anonymous said...

I guess if you work for the union Michael MEndel is a great and caring person but if you're an atr the opposite is true.

To one he is a hero to snother he is less so