Thursday, June 22, 2017

Michael Mulgrew's Danielson Rating Sheet.

Since our UFT President, Michael Mulgrew, believes the Charlotte Danielson rubric is a good evaluation tool for teachers.  Therefore, its only fair if we rate Michael Mulgrew the same way, using the Charlotte Danielson Rubric on how he treats the members.  I took into account his 2016-17 actions, like the negotiations with the DOE on the ATR Agreement, his usual lateness to the Executive Board meetings, and his undemocratic control of the Delegate Assembly. Below are the 8 standards and how he rated on each, including his final grade.

1a - Demonstrating knowledge of content and pedagogy. - Ineffective

How much Michael Mulgrew really knows is uncertain or is he simply a mouthpiece? Since he fails time and again to include the rank and file in any decisions and how he arrived at them.  Moreover, he severely limits information to the members.  Is this on purpose or is it because he doesn't know himself?.

1e - Designing coherent instruction - Ineffective

Fails to completely identify issues and sows confusion by making deals behind the back of the members. All negotiations are secret and does not include affected members. Example, the ATR Agreement

2a - Creating an Environment of Respect & Rapport. - Ineffective

Mr. Mulgrew does not care to hear or entertain dissenting opinions and never runs a democratic meeting. Pester him with complaining emails and he will ignore you completely.  Further, his agreeing to make ATRs a second class citizen and allowing for forced placement shows his lack of respect for dues paying members.

2d - Managing student behavior - highly effective

Michael Mulgrew totally controls the process at meetings and bad behavior is not tolerated, except when its in support of him.  Remember, he will punch you in the face if you touch his beloved Common Core?

3a - Using questioning & discussion techniques - Ineffective.

Questions and discussions are frowned upon and only those questions are allowed that are closely controlled to come up with one correct answer, Mulgrew's.

3c - Engage students in learning - Highly Effective

Dissidents learn quickly that discussions are one-sided and the outcome is predetermined.

3d Using assessments in Instruction - Ineffective.

Mulgrew needs no damn assessments on the issues.  He is always right, even when he's wrong.

4e - Growing and Developing Professionally - Ineffective.

There is no critical thinking or independent thought under Mulgrew. In fact, critical thinking skills and independent thought is frowned on and can result in the loss of perks, if Mulgrew so wishes.

Final grade "Ineffective".   

Due to Michael Mulgrew's rating of "ineffective",  Mr. Mulgrew will need a teacher improvement plan that includes but not limited to::

  •  Obtaining kindergarten skills on how to get along with others

  • How to include different opinions in discussions and  instruction

  • Encourage critical thinking and higher learning skills in questioning techniques and assessing the results.

  • Be inclusive and allow for dissenting opinions and effectively lead the search for the truth.

Maybe Mikey can file an appeal of his rating with the DOE and see how useless the process is for the rest of us.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Will There Be An ATR Incentive For The 2017-18 School Year?

In the new ATR Agreement there is no mention of continuing the ATR incentive of the 2016-17 school year and the DOE is tight lipped about their plans to offer one.   Just to jog your memory, the ATR incentive would give schools financial relief if they hired an ATR permanently and was placed on the seniority table of the school.  The financial relief was that the school received the ATR for the first year free, half price the second year, and 25% the third year. However, few Principals took the DOE up on its offer.  The last number the union gave the Executive Board of ATRs who took a permanent position due to the incentive was only 125 after the first semester and certainly the final number is less than 200.  Since there were over 1,300 ATRs, this means that only between 9% to 15% received a permanent position. Not a success by any means.

Presently, the DOE has shown no indication of continuing the ATR incentive. at least until the results of the ATR buyout is tabulated.  Then and only then will the DOE decide if they will offer an ATR incentive.  If the buyout results in significant retirements and resignations, then I believe the DOE will not offer an incentive and if they do, only for ATRs who are on the excessed list due to closing schools or programs.  However, as I strongly suspect that the ATR buyout offer will result in less than a 10% acceptance rate, then look for the DOE to either re-offer the ATR incentive in its present form and maybe sweeten the pot a bit to Principals by giving them more financial relief.

 Of course nothing will significantly change while the 800 pound gorilla in the form of "fair student funding" stays in effect.  Since it penalizes schools who hire veteran teachers and incentivizes principals financially who hire "newbies". Moreover, until the ideological Bloomberg era managers are swept from the DOE, the students will continue to suffer from large class sizes, high teacher turnover, and low teacher morale while the Central Bureaucracy remains bloated with useless programs and a "gotcha mentality" in the form of accountability and legal departments that's only goal is to eliminate teachers, especially veteran teachers.

Finally, I see little support from the DOE in placing ATRs in schools.  I keep hearing how schools are either excessing or not replacing teachers who are leaving their schools.  Principals are claiming that their already tight budgets are being squeezed further by the contract raises and DOE pressure to maximize class sizes to the contractual limits.Placing the ATRs in vacancies seems like a pipe dream and except for shortage areas like Math, Science, and Special Education, I believe that the ATR pool will remain essentially unchanged.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Townsend Harris High School Places A Private Advertisement For A Cheap Social Studies Teacher.

It has come to my attention that Townsend Harris High School is looking for an inexpensive Social Studies Teacher.  This is the #1 rated high school in Queens and the school has a reputation for hiring veteran teachers with a minimum of five years or more classroom experience since experienced teachers is what makes the students reach their academic potential.  However, there is a new Principal and either the Principal and/or the Social Studies Assistant Principal has decided to go in a different direction and hire "cheap" by advertising the position on a private hiring website called  "indeed".  Listed below is the school's advertisement.

 Found on           

High School Social Studies Teacher Townsend Harris High School - Flushing, NY 11367
$50,000 - $80,000 a year
2017-2018 Full Time Teaching Position--September Start
  • Seeking a creative and energetic social studies teacher who can teach diverse learners and has interest in project-based learning
  • Audio/video expertise and/or interest in teaching law is a plus
  • New York City High School 9-12
  • U.S. News & World Reports ranks Townsend Harris as the #1 school in NYC, the #7 school in NY State, and the #44 school in the USA--a top 50 school in the nation
  • New York State Permanent, Professional, or Initial Teaching Certification 7-12 required
  • Job Type: Full-time
  • Send cover letter and resume as soon as possible.
Job Type: Full-time
Salary: $50,000.00 to $80,000.00 /year

1 day ago - save job
» Apply Now
Please review all application instructions before applying to Townsend Harris High School.

Apply Now
Why would the school do this, unless they have no intention of hiring within the system?  While the vacancy is also listed on the Open Market Transfer System (OMTS), its obvious to me that they rather hire outside the OMTS, if possible.  Moreover, the school is also trying to hire an inexpensive teacher with minimal or no teaching experience, based upon the salary and qualifications advertised in the listing.  Finally, its also obvious that veteran teachers and ATRs need not apply since they are not wanted and the private listing points to that.

For those veteran teachers and ATRs who believe the DOE will place them in a school, teaching their content specialty.  Well then I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you because the truth is that nothing will change and Principals will do as they please and that means the cheaper the better, even if means advertising on private websites.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The New York Post Blames Teacher Benefits For Student Failure, Rather Than The Real Reason - The Socialeconomic Factors.

I read today's New York Post article on how much the City spends on each student and they questioned why student academic achievement doesn't match the money spend?  Of course they blamed teacher salaries, fringe benefits, and pensions as the major reason that students are not showing significant improvement.  For some reason they believe there is a direct one to one relationship between the two.  Nothing is further from the truth.  There is little correlation between the two.  Admittedly, they did mention how the DOE lacks transparency and awards questionable contracts.  However,  the article primarily blamed the teachers contract and our benefits for the lack of student achievement.

Nowhere in the article did the paper mention how the schools are only funded at 89% of their proper funding, nor did it mention that New York City class sizes are the highest in the State, or that the perverse "fair student funding" formula forces schools to hire "the cheapest and not the best teachers" for the students. Finally, the article totally ignored the social-economic factors that studies showed account for 80% of a student's growth. By contrast, teachers make up between 1% and 14% of a student's growth.

Blaming teacher benefits for the lack of student academic achievement is simply scapegoating the teachers when the problems lie with the family, community, and peers.  Moreover, when schools are not fully funded, and students are exposed to a merry go round of "newbie" teachers who lack classroom management skills and strong curriculum knowledge, and are subject to high teacher turnover.  Who's fault is that?  The teachers? Or the policies and ideology that find over a 1,300 veteran teachers being used as babysitters rather than providing students with effective teachers and significantly lower class sizes?

While our salaries have improved over the years, its also true we have given the City extensive "givebacks" a longer day, senseless professional development, administrative micromanagement, and our TDA was reduced by 1.25%. Furthermore, Nobody believes that a 10% raise for seven years is considered excessive. While we have slightly closed the salary gap with the suburbs, we still are at the bottom when it comes to the salary scale and the City classroom is a much more stressful environment than the smaller class sizes of the suburbs.

Unfortunately,  scapegoating teachers and ignoring all the other factors that negatively affect student academic achievement is plain wrong.  Eliminating deep poverty, homelessness, and keeping families intact would go a long way in improving student academic achievement.  Moreover, fully funding schools, eliminating  "fair student funding" and reducing class sizes would also help improve student educational outcomes.  Finally, reducing the bloated DOE Bureaucracy and transfer the funds to the schools will ensure that the schools are fully resourced and that students, especially Special Education students, would be provided with the services they need to succeed academically.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

DOE Incompetence Strikes Again.

As the week ends the DOE was supposed to give the over 1,000 ATRs their end of year rating.  According to the DOE the rating would be available during the week of June 12-16 in their DOE email.  However, it wasn't until the afternoon of the 16th did the ATRs actually receive the DOE email to log into for their rating.  However, there was a snag, when the ATRs put in their user id and password an error code came up.  Despite numerous calls and complaints, the incompetents at the DOE failed to fix the error.

Of course, the DOE, later on, claimed that the bug will be resolved on Monday and maybe it will be but one would think that they would have tested the program and resolved any problems before sending out the flawed version that simply frustrates the ATRs who would very much like to be treated like every other professional in the system.  Then again, it's simply another example of the DOE treating ATRs as second class citizens and their is no consequences for their alleged incompetence.

Note:  Error bug was fixed late Saturday however, your final rating sheet can only be accessed by disabling your ad-blocker and using the Chrome browser, it still does not work on the Mozilla Firefox browser.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Did Michael Mulgrew Blurt Out The Demographics Of The ATR Pool At The Delegate Assembly?

One of the more closely held secrets that the DOE and UFT keep from the members is the number and demographics of the ATR pool.  While its common knowledge that the ATR pool is usually composed of senior teachers of between 1,100 and 1,500 members, getting real and accurate numbers out of the two organizations is like getting water from a rock in the desert.  Next to impossible.  The last number the media was given was 822 ATRs in the pool.  Of course this did not include the ATRs who are provisionally placed and will be excessed at the end of the school year.

Last night, UFT {President, Michael Mulgrew, at the Delegate Assembly, blurted out that after a year and a half of secret negotiations, they came up with an ATR buyout incentive that made 962 of the 1,100 ATRs eligible for up to $50,000 that's not pensionable and still get their retro payments by retiring.  While, its possible that few of the 962 are not of retirement age , I suspect most are.

Sure, some of the 962 ATRs are leaving the system due to either being under 3020-a charges, or moving out of the Metropolitan area, but not many. The vast majority of eligible ATRs are 55 years of age and over, is it 70%, 75%, 80%?  Whatever the percentage is, let's say that every three out of four ATRs are of retirement age in the eligible ATR pool.  What we now know the 822 figure is a phony number that tries to fool the media by falsely showing the the DOE and UFT are succeeding in reducing the ATR pool, when the real numbers have remained relatively stable over the years.

Finally, and most interestingly, Michael Mulgrew failed to mention how the union negotiators, without ATR participation, rolled over like a trained puppy dog and agreed to let the DOE to continue to abuse the ATRs by doing the following:

  • Allowed the DOE a second bite of the apple by keeping two ATR lists, one for ATRs excessed from closing schools or programs and the other who won their discipline hearings and only hire from the excessed list.
  • Agreed to "force place" ATRs in vacancies or long-term leaves without mutual consent.
  • Agreed to let the DOE keep their "Scarlet Letter" on ATRs who had substantiated OSI or SCI investigations only to have those charges found to be untrue at the 3020-a hearing.
  • Allowed the DOE to move Elementary and Middle school ATRs to other Districts in the Borough. 
  • Ignored the DOE practice of not offering per session grading for ATRs.
  • Supported the DOE in making ATRs second class citizens.
Next time a Unity slug shows up from the union or a Chapter Leader tells you how they have your back by protecting your job.  Remind them of the above issues that the union allowed or agreed to that makes the ATR a "stranger in a strange land" and a second class citizen.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Unity Caucus Oath Pledge Exposed!

 This just in.  The secretive Unity caucus oath has finally been reveled and must be memorized by all preferred Unity members if they want those high paying union positions, double pensions, and all expense paid travel to cities throughout the country.  The Unity oath pledge goes as follows:

"I pledge allegiance to the Unity caucus and will always vote for issues the way the union leadership directs me to, even when the issues are detrimental to the interests of the rank and file.  If I fail to vote as directed by our union leaders I will be excommunicated and lose all the perks and privileges afforded me by the Unity caucus. 

I also pledge to keep my opinions to myself and not leak out any information, confidential or not, to the rank and file. As whistileblowing will result in automatic excommunication from the Unity caucus and revocation of all benefits awarded to Unity caucus members.

Finally, I pledge to defend the union and the leadership positions at all protests, conventions, and committees, even when it runs counter to the members concerns"  

Of course there may not really be a Unity oath pledge but if there is one it would very much resemble my best guess of what it would be.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

COPE And The Constitutional Convention.

Our union leadership is pressuring the Chapter Leaders of the schools to push their members for increased COPE contributions.  They are telling the members, somewhat falsely, that the COPE funding will be used to  fight the upcoming vote on the New York State's Constitutional Convention, which, in theory, can see some of our benefits, like our TDA fixed option (7%) and even possibly, but not likely, our pensions being reduced.  While I am all for stopping the Constitutional Convention and would donate my time and effort to this cause, I must take into account the history of how our union used COPE funds.

Over the years our union leadership has claimed that all COPE funds go to advance member goals.  However, the union has used COPE funds for some very questionable causes that don't serve member interests.  Remember, our union was going to supply buses to transport picketers to Staten Island to support an Al Sharpton organized march against fellow union members of the NYPD, only to withdraw the offer when a backlash by members developed?   Read the article Here.  Then our union sees no problem allowing our COPE money to be liberally spent on Quail and Booze for selected friends in Albany and Boca Raton while the rank and file are served crappy cookies and soda.  Over the years our union leadership has treated the COPE funds as their own personal piggy bank to support favored causes and organizations that has little or nothing to do with member issues without member input or approval.  When was the last time the union leadership reached out to ask your opinion about how COPE money is spent?  The answer is never!  The union leadership does not care what you think, only what they and their friends decide is a worthy cause to donate to.

When it comes to having my already inadequate paycheck, thanks to the inferior contracts our union leadership has negotiated since the turn of the Century,  to be further reduced by giving the union leadership the right to deduct COPE from it.  Well I stopped contributing a long time ago when our disconnected union leadership treated the ATRs as second class citizens with no real representation and refuses to reach out to the 1,400 ATRs who simply wanted their voice heard when negotiating with the DOE.  Add to that how our union leaders will use COPE money for questionable causes and if reading this post you still continue to let the union take out for COPE, I have this old saying that you need to read since it applies to you..

"Fool me once shame on you  Fool me twice shame on me".

If you want to remove COPE from your paycheck then read my COPE article Here.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Did The Union Sellout The ATRs?

By now we all know that the union leadership secretly negotiated a new two year ATR Agreement, without ATR input or participation, along with an inferior and insulting buyout incentive.  However, the new ATR Agreement doesn't spell out many of the issues that ATRs experience during the year.

First, will there be field supervisors and how will their duties change with the new ATR Agreement?  The information supplied by the union and the DOE makes no mention of the field supervise issue.  I suspect that the ATR field supervisor responsibilities will be similar to this school year.  However,  its possible the actual rating officer will be the school Principal, assuming the ATRs are placed in a school for the long-term.

Second, will the rotation end?  Or will those ATRs who won their 3020-a termination hearings be rotated while the ATRs from closing schools and programs will be "forced placed"?  It certainly appears that is what the DOE has in mind by reserving the right not to place ATRs who were disciplined.

Third, why did the union leadership agree to allow the DOE to place elementary and middle school ATRs into other districts in the Borough?  Why didn't the union ask those ATRs for thewir opinion?

Finally, why didn't the union negotiate the right for ATRs to have mutual consent and reject a "forced placement"?  The reason is that the union leadership knew very well that given the vote, ATRs would overwhelmingly reject the "forced placement" and the ATR Agreement.

The main reason the union leadership did not consult the ATRs and refuse them proper representation is that the ATRs remind all teachers how the union sold the ATRs out back in 2005.  When then UFT President, Randi Wiengarten, and her propaganda minister, Leo Casey, told the members that the DOE would never pay for ATRs salary without a classroom and would push principals to hire them. How wrong they were.  Moreover, they said the newly created Open Market Transfer System would allow all teachers to sell themselves to desperate schools who needed veteran teachers.  Of course, the opposite is true.  In fact the UFT lie about how successful the Open Market System is still echoed by Gene Mann in his online newspaper, The Organizer, who claims that 4,000 teachers transfer through it every year.  Of course he fails to mention few, if any veteran teachers, get positions through it.

As for the Chapter Leaders?  While the union will still occasionally, in their Chapter Leader newsletter,  mention to the Chapter Leaders to welcome the ATRs to their school and make sure they have a bathroom key, an elevator pass, and a  safe place to store their belongings?  Most ATRs  never meet the Chapter Leaders unless the ATR actively seeks them out to complain about not being treated like other teachers at the school.  In this semester, I have been sent to three schools and have not met any of the Chapter Leaders.  Only one school offered me an elevator pass and a bathroom key.  None of the schools offered me a safe place for my belongings. No wonder the UFT newspaper never mentions the ATRs or their issues it just reminds the teachers of how shabby the ATRs are treated.

The union leadership can continue the fiction that the ATR is a temporary condition but some senior ATRs have been one for over a decade,  that is not temporary and depriving them of their own chapter and Chapter Leader is a disservice to the ATRs since the school Chapter Leaders and the ATRs are, as South Bronx blog points out is like two ships passing in the night when it comes to properl representing the ATRs.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

DOE Wastes Money On Questionable Mandates And Ignores Student's Educational Needs.

Its no secret that the DOE puts pressure on school administrators to meet questionable metrics rather than have students meet real and relevant academic goals that best represent actual academic achievement.  The DOE's pursuit of the "holy grail" of meeting the questionable metrics has resulted in administrators committing academic fraud, be it "credit recovery", grade changing, or pressure on teachers to pass failing students. Presently, the average school  is funded at between 89% to 92% of their fair funding and as the DOE's budget increases year after year and the City has a 6 billion dollar budget surplus, schools are still underfunded as if the recession still exists. To appease their DOE overloads, school administrators resort to sacrificing real student learning to meet the questionable goals that the DOE demands.

For example, the DOE places great emphasis in the graduation rate of a school.  To the DOE it doesn't matter what tricks are played to achieve that goal, as long as they meet it.  Sure enough, every year the school graduation rate inches up and the Mayor and Chancellor proclaim that the schools are improving.  However, the real educational metric is the "college and career readiness" metric has shown little improvement and every two out of three New York City graduates are not ready for the adult world.

Another example of the warped DOE priorities is how they give schools credit for enrolling students in Advanced Placement courses.  To the DOE it matters little if the students eventually fail the test and get no college credit for the course.  The more students taking the Advanced Placement courses the higher the DOE grades the school.  Passing or failing is irreverent.  The result is that school administrators stuff 34 students, many of them not capable or uninterested in being in the Advanced Placement courses just to get a higher school score from the DOE.

In Science, the DOE gives a higher grade to schools who emphasis the harder Sciences of Chemistry and Physics.  Then again, the DOE cares little if the students actually pass or take the Regents for these two Sciences.  Just taking the course gives the school a higher grade by the DOE.   Therefore, quite a few schools force struggling students to take the harder Science courses, knowing full well, that these students will probably fail and certainly not pass the Regents.  While Earth Science and its Regents is the perfect Science course for students who struggle, schools rather get a higher grade from the DOE than do what's right for these students.  Bayside high school is a prime example of this flawed thinking.

In Math, far too many struggling Math students are forced to take Algebra II (Trigonometry) because the DOE gives the school a higher grade.  Here again, it matters little if the students pass or fail the Regents.  Just taking the course gives the school the higher grade from the DOE.

The bottom line as schools suffer from tight, recession like budgets and school administrators try to meet the questionable metrics imposed on them by the DOE, real student academic achievement is sacrificed but then its children last...Always at the DOE.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Mayor Bill De Basio, Its Time To Make Changes At The Dysfunctional DOE.

 It seems increasingly clear that Bill de Blasio will be reelected as Mayor of New York City.  That means we can expect the Mayor to make significant personnel and policy changes as the second term starts in 2018.  Hopefully, many of these potential changes will be at the dysfunctional DOE and here is a list of some of the changes I hope comes to pass.

First, Replace the disappointing Chancellor, Carmen Farina, and let her retire for good to Florida.  The new Chancellor should have a reputation of collaborating with school staff and is highly respected by real educators. Not target veteran teachers like Farina has done throughout her career.

Second, immediately replace the 80% of Bloomberg holdovers that Carmen Farina kept in policy making positions and bring in more educators into these important positions. Her real failure was that she never "cleaned house" at Tweed.

Third, eliminate Fair Student Funding and bring back the unit based staffing out of DOE Central that does not take into salary.  Presently, the DOE policy penalizes principals who hire veteran teachers and forces principals to hire the cheapest and not the best teachers for their school.

Fourth, ensure that all schools get 100% of their funds, based upon the student population numbers and cohorts, no winners or losers as they do now.  P fair funding. presently, most schools receive between 89% to 92% of their fair funding.

Fifth, Eliminate the ATR pool by bringing back the excessing rules before the imfamous 2005 contract.  This would require schools to hire the ATRs for their summer vacancies before they could  hire outside or "newbie" teachers.

Sixth, Reduce class sizes to the State average or the goals set forth in the CFE winning lawsuit that the DOE and New York State refuses to implement.

Seventh, dramatically reduce the administrative bloat at the DOE, especially the legal and accountability divisions.  Moreover, cut contracts by implementing a needs test to see if the contract is necessary.

Eighth, no school should be given permission to have an uncertified teacher instructing students in Core or Regents subjects.  All teachers should be licensed in their content specialty that they are  teaching in, especially at the high school level.

Ninth, Drastically reduce screened high schools and promote academic integration by having all high schools become zoned schools.  This will allow the schools to recruit academically proficient students back to their neighborhood schools.

Tenth, let school staff evaluate school administrators, especially principals and the ones that are given failing grade two consecutive years should be immediately removed and replaced.  Moreover, all new administrative appointees must be approved by school staff and not the Superintendent before the DOE removes the intern acting title.

Is my list wishful thinking?  It certainly is but even if a few of my suggestions become policy, it will make for an improved school system and better prepared students when it comes to academic achievement.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Our Disconnected Union Leadership Tries To Justify The New ATR Agreement.

I read with amusement the reporting of the UFT Executive Board hearing on the various blogs  (ICEUFT, nyc educator, Ed notes online) on how our disconnected union leadership tried to justify the new ATR Agreement.  However, they failed to convince the many skeptics at the Executive Board that the new ATR Agreement was what ATRs wanted.  In fact, the "Unity"caucus got their loyal troops together and spoke nonsense and outright lies to defend the undefendable ATR Agreement.

The union leadership claims that they negotiated with their DOE counterparts in "good faith" and came up with an agreement that gives ATRs a choice of either taking a buyout or remain an active member in the ATR pool.  Moreover, the union leadership stated that the ATRs are excited about the new ATR Agreement.  Finally, the union claimed that no vote was necessary since they were appointed to represent the members when negotiating changes.  Let's break down each of the union's claims and see why they don't hold water.
First, the union leadership kept the negotiations secret and failed to include the affected members, the ATRs, This, to me, shows "bad faith" and the omission of any ATRs in the negotiations was proof positive of how badly they treat ATRs.  Remember, the UFT was a willing participant in the creation of the ATR pool back in 2005 and their treatment of ATRs has been as if they would like the ATR headache to go away and if that means stabbing ATRs in the back, so be it..

Second, I have personally spoke to over two dozen ATRs and not one found the new contract to their liking.  In fact the Elementary and Middle school ATRs are quite upset with the possibility of being "forced placed" outside their District and finding themselves in strange neighborhoods and schools across the Borough.

Third, the union's failure to allow a vote is not only undemocratic but is not in the American tradition of good unionism where every member has a voice and affected members get to vote their approval or not.

Finally, the new ATR agreement allows the DOE to continue to discriminate against ATRs by not allowing for "Mutual Consent" and making ATRs who won their 3020-a termination hearing second class citizens by giving the DOE the right to refuse them vacancies,

The bottom line  is that the ATRs continue to be unrepresented by our union and abused by the DOE.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

When Should You Take Social Security?

Most baby boomers are at or fast approaching retirement age and the question is should I be taking Social Security?  The answer is somewhat complicated.and depends on a few factors.
  • How long do you expect to live?
  • How much do you need the money?
  • What retirement savings do you have?
  • Does your spouse work and has income?
Without knowing the above questions, its difficult to come up with an exact age to take Social Security benefits. However, I can provide you statistics on the age distribution that men and women take Social Security benefits as of 2016.

Age - Men.......% Taken............Age-Women......% Taken

Almost half of all people take Social Security at 62 years of age and suffer from reduced benefits of between 25% and 33%, depending on the retirement date.  Interestingly, few people wait to 70 to take the maximum Social Security benefits, despite the fact that you get a 8% increase in the benefit for every year you delay taking it which could add up to a 32% increase between 66 and 70 years of age.

The average Social Security benefit is $1,310 per month and the maximum, assuming you worked 35 years and waiting to age 70 to claim benefits is $3,538 per month.

 Since most educators make over the Social Security threshold of $34,000, when you include the pension and TDA, expect to pay taxes of up to 85% on your Social Security benefits.  This means that if you are in the 20% Federal tax bracket, then 85 cents of every dollar you receive from Social Security will be taxed as income at the 20% Federal tax rate.

If you reach full retirement age, usually 66 years of age for the older baby boomers and up to 67 years of age if your generation X, you can make as much money as you like and not have any reduction in your Social Security check.  However, if you take Social Security benefits and are still younger than your full retirement age, you will have your Social Security check reduced by $1 for every $2 you receive over $16,920.

What age should you take Social Security?  That depends on you. Please feel free to read my blog on Social Security and New York City educators.

Note:  If you still owe a college loan or alimony.  The government has the right to garnish your Social Security check, even if you're on disability. 

Monday, June 05, 2017

The Secret DOE/UFT ATR Agreement Is Little Changed From The 2014 Contract.

 The secretly negotiated ATR Agreement, without ATR input or approval, appears to be similar to the disastrous 2014 ATR Agreement.  The only improvement with this agreement is the elimination of a few of the second class citizenship issues like the one day expedited 3020-a , the two day voluntary resignation requirement when not showing up to an assignment, and the vaguely worded "unprofessional conduct" clause.  Then there is also the inadequate and insulting ATR buyout incentive. Otherwise, the 2017 ATR Agreement is similar to the 2014 ATR contract.

First, and foremost the DOE will still be allowed to have two lists of ATRs.  The first list for ATRs who came from closing schools or programs and the other for ATRs who survived their 3020-a discipline hearings.  Based on past placements, the DOE only recommends hiring from the first list and only when there are no ATRs left on the first list will ATRs who won their 3020-a termination hearings be offered a vacancy. To ensure that ATRs who won their 3020-a hearings are not offered a position, the Scarlet Letter (red flag) remains on their file for principals to see, even when the ATR was found not to have committed the charge..

Second, for teachers in Districts, they can now be "forced placed" anywhere in the Borough once again,  This is a major loss for elementary and middle school teachers who have always preferred staying in their District schools and not travel across the Borough to strange schools and neighborhoods.

Third, "forced placements" of ATRs are still in effect, there is no mutual consent for ATRs, despite how our union presents it in the ATR Agreement.

Finally, the union leadership will still allow the DOE to continue to discriminate against ATRs for per session activities like Regents grading and school based activities.

The 2017 ATR Agreement that will stay in effect until the end of the 2018-19 school year can be found on the ICEUFT blog Here.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Stop Blaming Teachers For Student Issues Beyond Their Control.

Personally, I am sick and tired of being blamed for student academic issues, misbehavior, and their poor choice of friends that I have no control of.  Yet, under Barack Obama's misguided Race To The Top, all teachers must be evaluated on student growth factors using "junk Science".  In New York State, 50% of a teacher's evaluation is based upon the useless Value Added Method (VAM) which has been found to be invalid in a court case.

In fact, a most quoted study by the American Statistical Association found that a teacher's impact on a student ranges from as little as 1% for middle and high school students to 14% for early elementary school students who stay with one teacher during the school day.  Other studies show that schools make up approximately 20% of the growth of a child.  The remaining 80% of student growth is based upon social-economic factors that schools have no control of and include the following.

  • Family
  • Community
  • Peers
  • Role models
Yet, child advocates and their media and political allies ignore the non-school growth factors and concentrate on the schools, especially the teachers.  These same advocates tell schools to stop suspensions and arrests and instead, give out "warning cards" or restorative justice and dump these students right back into the classroom to disrupt academic learning and hurt the classroom's academic achievement, which of course, is then blamed on the teacher.

Ask school Deans about the problem students in their school and you find there is a common factor like that few have a father that is part of the family. Moreover, they have friends who are known troublemakers and may be part of a gang.  Finally, many of them have developmental issues and are usually placed in Special Education classes.  The child advocates will loudly proclaim that school discipline is "racist" because most suspensions and arrests are Black or Latino boys.  Duh, the New York City Public Schools have a majority of Black and Latino students and boys of all races are usually associated with more serious school incidents then the girls.

Yet, student social-economic factors and poverty are ignored simply because its too hard and complicated to cure.  Therefore, a convenient scapegoat is needed and since you cannot blame the dysfunctional family or a community who's male role models are hanging on the street corners, day or night, selling drugs, gambling, or  participating in other illegal activities, just blame it on the schools, especially the teachers for student academic problems!

We have a progressive Mayor and a union that is part of the problem by ignoring the social-economic factors that affect student growth and while I understand the Mayor's ideology that its better to place the blame on society's failure to improve the social-economic conditions of the City on Donald Trump and the schools, while ignoring the highest class sizes in the State, use of uncertified teachers, and pushing out veteran educators by the flawed 3020-a discipline process, our union gets no such pass.  Our union should be loudly and clearly pointing out the city's failure to correct the social-economic issues that plague far too many students and interfere with student academic achievement.  Yet, our union remains passively silent as the City and the DOE continues to blame teachers for student issues beyond their control.

Friday, June 02, 2017

The ATR Buyout Incentive Is Inadequate And Insulting.

Once again our disconnected union leadership secretly negotiated an ATR buyout incentive, without any ATR input.  While the complete ATR agreement has not been published, UFT President, Michael Mulgrew's letter to ATRs has given us the general details of the ATR buyout.  The buyout incentive is short on money and is not pensionable.  That alone makes the ATR buyout incentive inadequate.

According to the UFT, ATRs who accept the buyout and retire or resign, have two options.  Option 1 is to receive a lump sum of $50,000 or option 2 is to receive $35,000 and get six months of health benefits.  However, if the ATR resigns to take the ATR buyout, they will no longer be eligible to receive the four lump sum payments of their retro money owed from 2009-10, which is 87.5% of the total ump sum payout and the 2% raise owed to them next June.that would cut deeply into the money received in the ATR buyout.

The major problem with the ATR buyout incentive is that the money is less than a half a year's salary for a 20 year teacher.  Moreover, teachers who want to participate in NYSUT's attractive Catastrophic Major Medical (CMM) plan would not be able to since you must be an active member as of January 1, 2018 and the ATR buyout incentive is only for the time period between June 5 to July 14, 2017.  Finally, many ATRs who are retiring at the end of the school year may have already put in their retirement papers and may not be eligible for the ATR buyout incentive since, according to Mulgrew's letter,  they must submit their retirement papers between June 5 and July 14.

Based upon the failure of the previous ATR buyout in 2014 that saw just 8.5% of the ATRs take the incentive, I suspect that the DOE will be fortunate if 10% take the inadequate and insulting buyout.  Honestly, I cannot see an ATR willing to resign for the buyout, maybe a few ATR retirees who haven't already put in their retirement papers might take advantage of the buyout but not many. 

By the way, if you're an ATR assigned to a District, the new ATR agreement for the 2017-18 allows the DOE to place you in any District in your Borough.  Another loss for the ATRs.  Then again, our disconnected union leadership doesn't have to worry about what school they will be "forced placed" in.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Will There Be An ATR Buyout As Well As An Incentive In The New ATR Agreement?

There appears to be a rumor going around in the ATR community that the DOE and UFT are talking about an ATR buyout as well as an incentive.  Just to be clear,  my sources did not mention to me that an ATR buyout might be on the table.  However, if the rumors are true and there is an ATR buyout as part of the 2017-18 ATR agreement, what will it be?

My best guess is that the ATR buyout, if one is actually agreed to, would be similar to the failed ATR buyout back in 2014.  In that ATR buyout, ATRs who took the proposal received one week's pay for every complete year of service up to 20 years.  The average payout was a measly $16,000 and only 97 of the 1135 ATR teachers actually took the buyout or only 8.5%.  Moreover, the vast majority of ATRs who took the buyout were  retiring anyway or were subject to 3020-a termination charges.  Finally, the average payout was only about 20% of a year's salary and few ATRs who were not in trouble were tempted by the inadequate buyout offer.

If there is going to be an ATR buyout, what should it include?  There are two buyouts that would interest ATRs.  First would be a buyout that includes a 2 week salary for every year completed with no cap.  This allows a 26 year teacher to receive his or her full yearly salary.  The second would be giving a 2 year pension credit like the Tier I people received to get them to retire.

The bottom line, if the rumors are true and the DOE and UFT are really negotiating an ATR buyout, it needs to be significantly improved upon the inferior ATR buyout of 2014.  Otherwise, few ATRs would be willing to take the offer as shown when the DOE and UFT agreed to an inferior ATR buyout in the last contract.