Sunday, October 29, 2006

To Our Negotiators - Navigate Carefully

The negotiation committee is now down to a more manageable 50. However, from my view in the classroom I am suspicious if the negotiators will really reflect the concerns of the classroom teacher or be controlled by Randi and her non-teaching educrats. Only time will tell. However, here is what's important to the classroom teacher.


Since DC37 has already set the pattern for the first 18-20 months with a 6% raise with no givebacks. The question is how much more money can we obtain? The coalition thinks they can get 7% for the next 14 months is probably wishful thinking. More likely it will range from 3-4%, without givebacks. This would give us a total raise of about 10% (compounded). This would be below the "cost of living" and well below the salaries of the suburbs.


Rather than go into detail here please read my previous blog on October 27Th. At a minimum, we should at least takeback the five priority items I listed there. Failure to obtain "takebacks" in the contract negotiations should result in a mass resignation of the negotiators and the union should not even attempt to bring it to the "rank and file" for a vote. Let DOE try to bring their list of "givebacks" to the table (like they won't anyway). If we refuse to go to PERB the DOE "givebacks" are a non-issue.

School Year Limitations:

Many of the suburbs limit the school year to 183 days and have three of those days as snow days. If all three are not used, they are used as an extended Memorial Day weekend holiday. Presently, thanks to Randi and her friends at DOE we have a 190 day school year, the most ever, and of course no snow days!

Teacher-Directed Classroom Activities:

Using the extra time negotiated in the previous two contracts into a teacher-directed activity, be it tutoring, clubs, or counseling. Further, let teachers teach the way that is best suited for both the teacher and the students. No more micromanagement and "one-size-fit-all" curriculum dictated from the DOE.

Safety & Security:

Tough and fair student discipline codes and penalties when administrators fail to take action. Furthermore, a narrowing of the Corporal Punishment regulations by eliminating the statement "and any other action as determined by the administrator".

Retention rather than Recruitment:

The previous contracts and revisions have focused on recruiting teachers rather than the retention of the existing teachers. This contract should be giving the largest raises to the 5-20 year teacher at the expense of the new teachers. "Eating our young"? Yes, if it means retaining the quality teachers we most desperately need in the system.

Increase in Per Session Pay:

The rate of per session pay should equal the pay of the ten-year teacher not the new teacher. The City has been getting away cheaply by giving inadequate per session pay. This needs to be addressed and changed.


Under no circumstances should we agree to send the contract to PERB. Our experience with PERB is an unhappy one and we already know what the wage pattern is, so what is the advantage? None!

In conclusion, remember the classroom teacher is the bulk of the union, please try not to screw them again as you navigate your way through the negotiations. No contract is better than a bad contract.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The UFT Proposed Contract - Where Are The Takebacks?

The negotiations between the UFT and the Bloomberg administration is on the fast track and it appears that the takebacks are being left behind. Why? Well, let's investigate.

First, lets look at the contract that the UFT is negotiating with the Bloomberg administration. On the surface it looks pretty good with a 13% increase for 32 months which averages 4.88% per year, almost the rate of inflation with no identifiable givebacks! However, I am confused why the Bloomberg administration is willing to give us an almost 7% increase for the last 14 months of the contract? Remember the DC37 pattern is 6% for the first 18 months (20 months if the UFT needs it's welfare fund replenished). Hopefully, this is not UFT wishful thinking and that part of the contract looks like a real winner, if it is true.

Unfortuantely, the proposed contract does not include the takebacks that devastated the soul of many classroom teachers for a salary increase less than the "cost of living" . While all the takebacks are important, the following takebacks are a priority in the proposed contract.

Prority #1: The bringing back the seniority transfer system that required that all excessed teachers to be placed in their specialty area before DOE can hire new teachers. Thanks to our union's poor understanding of the consequences of their actions we now have a 1000+ ATR's without a classroom while inexperienced teachers are given a classroom. Talking about children last!

Priority #2: Giving back the two days before Labor Day. I don't know of any school-based teacher who thinks this was a wise move by our union. If it wasn't for the ATR disaster, this would be the top priority of the union. What possessed our union to do this to us is unbelievable and shows a serious disconnect with the classroom teachers.

Priority #3: The reinstatement of the grievance process. No matter how our union spins it, the lack of a grievance procedure has empowered the principals to write more and more Letters-To-The-File (LIF) without the teacher challenging it through the grievance procedure system.

Priority #4: The revision of circular six to eliminate many of the distasteful administrative duties such as cafeteria patrol, hallway policing, and bathroom supervision.

Priority #5: The elimination of the 90-day unpaid suspension based upon an OSI acceptance of a student accusation due to sexual abuse, harassment, and physical corporal punishment (the OSI almost always find the teacher guilty until proven innocent) and except for Leo Casey and his lap dog, this unfair part of the contract has already caused much anguish to the classroom teacher.

There are, of course, many other takebacks but these are the ones we must demand if we are to regain our soul and self-respect. Failure by the union to fight for these takebacks brings into question their dedication to the very people they claim they represent, the classroom teacher.

Negotiators, just a reminder, make sure retention not recruitment is emphasised in the contract negotiations.

I will most certainly try to get more details on the contract negotiations and will report on what our final contract should include.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Bloomberg & Klein, America's Best Leaders? They Certainly Didn't Ask The Teachers!

The Center for Public Leadership at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government has chosen Mayor Bloomberg & Chancellor Klein as two of America's Best Leaders. According to the Center they were chosen because of their efforts in improving the public schools by stamping out "cronyism", reducing administrative costs, and partnering with private groups to improve the schools. Also mentioned was an improved graduation rate, streamlined learning programs, and a focus on the students, not the entrenched "interests" (teachers). Who made up this blue-ribbon panel? The panel included high-level leaders of various industries and interests. You can bet there were no teachers on it. Certainly not any teacher that has experience in the New York City schools under Kleinberg.

Let's look at what Kleinberg has really done to the New York City schools?

First, the NYC public schools have the highest class sizes in the State. In fact the Bloomberg administration is trying (and succeeding) in keeping a class size amendment from the City Charter. Is this a man who is a top leader for education? I think not.

Second, the Bloomberg administration has stated that they will not contribute a single penny to the expected windfall of billions of extra dollars for the New York City Public Schools in the CFE lawsuit. This refusal of the city to contribute it's fair share of school funds (about 25%) is unreasonable and mean-spirited and is inconsistent with a mayor that wants to be known as the education mayor.

Third, the mayor's refusal to pay a competitive salary and to treat his teachers as mere drone workers result in a lack of quality teachers in the NYC public school system. Every study has shown that a quality teacher is necessary for needy students to be successful in school.

Fourth, under Chancellor Klein, the emphasis is recruitment over retention. In other words why pay an experienced teacher when you can get two novice teachers for the price of one? So what that the new teachers have a steep learning curve of three to five years before they become an effective teacher, by then they are disillusioned and leave only to be replaced by two more newly-minted teachers. To make this point, only New York City has an intergalactic job fair where teachers from other countries and alternative certification programs can find teaching positions, while experienced teachers are relegated to day-to-day substitute teaching in their home school.

Fifth, Chancellor Klein's emphasis on not enforcing the student discipline code by penalizing schools that suspend these students due to the school's zero tolerance policy result in more chaos in the schools. Further, the DOE's policy to require violent felons to return to their own schools where they can be with their friends and terrorize the student body also is not consistent with a person who places the children first.

Finally, the micromanagement, the top-down decision making, and the disrespect of the teaching profession show how cluelees both men are about education in the terenches.

Let's see how Kleinberg policies affect education.

Class size - Failed to reduce class size and in fact opposes an amendment to reduce it.

Quality Teacher - Emphasis is on recruitment not retention of quality teachers.

Compensation - Teachers not paid competitive salaries.

Teacher Respect - Top-down decisions and micromanagement are symptoms of disrespect.

Student Discipline Codes - Failure to enforce the student discipline codes.

Do Kleinberg deserve the award? Not if you are a classroom teacher because in the real world of the classroom the Kleinberg policies represents a "children last" approach.

By the way I was able to recapture my blog as Cleo Lacey received an e-mail that some union Nazis had a key to the executive bathroom at UFT headquarters and he is now on a search & destroy mission against those union Nazis in retrieving the Holy Grail, the UFT executive bathroom key.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Stop Complaining About Our Most Wonderful Contract

Yes, it's me Cleo Lacey. I have hijacked Chaz's blog to show you the power I have, punks! Now that I have control of this blog, it's time to set the record straight.

First of all, I am sick and tired about all the classroom teachers whining about our most glorious leader, Le Gran Fromage, who gave us the best contract we ever have had. Under our imperious leader, Le Gran Fromage, you undeserving scumbags received a 33% pay increase in the last two contracts. How can you be so critical of that? We at UFT headquarters, with our double pensions, have seen our salary shoot up to $125,000 +. Wait, you say that no classroom teacher makes even $100,000? Who cares about you? We are the important ones not you.

Second, under our most wonderful leader, Le Gran Fromage, we have ensured that any teacher who wants to transfer can. In fact, we had more transfers than in any other year. Yes there are some disgruntled teachers (the ones who can't teach) who are now ATR's because the principals were smart enough not to hire them. Anyway, those ATR's don't have to prepare lesson plans, grade tests, and prepare progress reports, sounds like heaven to me. Or as we say here on-the-job-retirement.

Third, under our all-knowing leader, Le Gran Fromage, we ensured that the pedophiles and perverts in the system will get what they deserve, a 90-day unpaid suspension, until the Office Of Special Investigations (OSI) recommends their removal from the system. I'm sick and tired of hearing about due process. So what that OSI assumes the teacher is guilty based upon a student accusation. Yes, I know that many of the accusations are false and in that case they get their job and pay back. Reputation? What do I care about a teacher's reputation? That's their problem not mine! I don't have to deal with those brats.

Fourth, we agree with the administration that you classroom teachers have had it much too easy. More time in the classroom is just what is needed here. I was so proud that our fearless leader Le Gran Fromage, allowed me to develop the curriculum for those bratty UFT Charter School students who must stay extra hours in the classroom. If it was up to me there would be even more classroom time for teachers. Because of your complaints I was told that I must put in an entire extra hour in my plush air-conditioned office once a week (like I really do that, ha, ha).

Fifth, stop complaining about the extra days you work. In my days in the classroom back in the 60s, I couldn't wait to come to school and begged the custodian to let me in a week before school starts. I also stayed until sunset before I went home. Of course I walked six miles uphill to and back from home to school. Do you? Of course not.

Finally, you ignorant classroom teachers don't see the big picture. The rapes and killings at Durfur, The killing of striking teachers in Mexico (so what no actual teachers were killed at the time I championed it in Edwiz), and Wal-Mart are the real problems not class sizes, inadequate facilities, lapsed student discipline enforcement, poor salaries, and teacher disrespect. Who cares what you classroom teachers think? I would like to end this enlightened blog with how we allow Nazis in our mist. When I complained to the Anti-Defamation League about these Nazis, they choose not to take it seriously. Maybe I need to consult with Mel Gibson on what a Nazi is.

Cleo Lacey is a fictional character and any similarities between Cleo and any real person is just coincidential.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Dumb & Dumber - The Presequel Starring Tweed

The increasing clueless and remote Department of Education (DOE) finds dumber & dumber things to impose on the classroom teachers, without their needed input.

Previously, Tweed came up with this idiotic idea to have students come in the morning of June 14th, when Regents were scheduled in the afternoon (12:45 pm). The result was very few students showed up and the ones that did were there to say goodbye for the year. Despite a Tweed edict to provide instruction, very little, if any instruction was provided as teachers were preparing for the Regents and to coordinate their proctoring schedules. Anyway, there were very few students willing to show up to be instructed! Now that was dumb!

However, even dumber Tweed required all high school juniors and sophomores to take the PSAT's on a school day. Instead of holding classes in the morning and giving the test in the afternoon, Tweed gave the test in the morning and tried to hold classes in the afternoon. The result? I had 11 out of 32 students in my official class (where attendance is taken) 7 out of 34 and 5 out of 25 students in my other two classes. What a waste of time, energy, and money. Worse yet, they made the freshmen sit for almost three hours in the cafeteria and hear the administrators drone about college (fours years and an eternity away), discipline, and school spirit. The seniors, of course were savvy enough to stay home.

Tweed, instead of doing the logical thing like having a half day of classes in the morning, decided they can squeeze more money out of the state if they claimed a full school day. "Penny wise and dollar foolish" should be the Tweed motto.

I guess when they made the movie
"Dumb and Dumber" they must have had the people at Tweed in mind. I can only cringe knowing that the dumbest from Tweed is yet to come.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Should Principals Teach A Class? I Think So

One of the problems I see at the high school level is the disconnect the principal has with the student body. This lack of communication with the principal is a major issue between the students and the administration and hurts the school climate. For example many student issues never seem to make it to the principal's desk and these students then believe that the principal does not care about them or their school problems. This lack of communication can result in misunderstandings between the student body and the administration and result in a poorly-run school. Sure, the principal may meet with representatives of the student government or on school committees. However, we are talking about two to five students, hardly a representative sample of the school's student population.

My idea is to have the principal teach a leadership class for the seniors. What better way for the principal to get to know the movers and shakers of his/her graduating class. Better yet, the principal will be exposed to the issues that most affect the students and can discuss them in an informal and non-intimidating fashion. Finally, being with the class every day the principal will bond with the students and better understand why certain polices bother them and can better relate to their concerns.

The advantages for the students are very obvious. They will view the principal as more a mentor than a remote administrator. their daily access to the leader of the school means that their complaints will get a fair hearing and they will believe they have some real say in school policy when it comes to the student body. Best of all, the students will feel empowered and feel pride in being part of a progressive school.

Having the principal teach a leadership class is a win-win proposition for the school since it unifies the students with it's leader. Furthermore, it allows a continuous line of communication between the two. Finally, it allows the principal to better understand what school issues need to be solved, based upon student input.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Next Contract - Should We Settle For 6% For 18 Months?

As we enter the final year of our contract with a 3.15% increase and for the average teacher salary of $48,000 this equals $58.15 per paycheck, before taxes (about $35.00 after taxes). It is time to look forward to contract negotiations with the Bloomberg Administration.

Due to pattern bargining the teachers will receive 6% for the first 18 months of any future contract. However, any lengthening of the contract will mean givebacks for any extra raises. What are the givebacks that the Bloomberg & Klein want? Well it's not hard to guess.

First, look for the Administration to try to put a time limit on teachers excessed from the schools and placed on the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) list. They will probably demand that after 18 months if a teacher on the ATR list does not land a classroom teaching position, that teacher will be fired as is presently done in Chicago. Look for our union to resist such a proposal as an attack on teacher tenure and is probably doomed to fail despite a DOE media bliz and newspapers demanding an end to lifetime tenure for ATR's.

Second, the administration has not been shy about adding a sixth teaching period to the secondary schools and will try to achieve it by using the extra time won in past contracts and adding any time gained in this contract negotiation. This is another non-starter since the union is on record not to exchange anymore time for money. Further, a sixth teaching period has always been a "no" issue for the UFT.

Third, Klein wants the right to move the better teachers into schools that need them without compensating them for it. Good luck trying to convince the union to buy into that.

Finally, look for the Bloomberg Administration to ask for concessions in the health and pension areas that go beyond our contract negotiations and are probably a way to open up the entire city workforce to a Tier V pension and more restricive and costly health benefits in the future. However, the UFT will probably defer these concessions to the MLC For future discussions.

Obviously, the administration will ask for other outragious items. Reduced sick days, more unpaid suspensions, weaken or eliminate due process etc. However, that is part of the negotiation dance and should not be taken seriously.

The real question should we even bother to negotiate a contract longer than 18 months? An 18 month contract, with no givebacks, thanks to pattern bargining, wil end April 2009 and the Bloomberg Administration will be gone in January 2010. Therefore, we can then negotiate with a more reasonable Administration for a better contract with very little givebacks.

My vote is an 18 month contract with a 6% raise and "no givebacks"! If we can get it.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Kleinberg's Attack On Our Pensions

A teacher in the New York City School System is vested , for pension purposes, after five years. However, a teacher must still put in ten years before the city stops deducting 3% of the teacher's salary into the pension system. Further, to get maximum credit for the pension, a teacher needs to work 20 years (you get 2% a year for every year you work once you reach 20 years, otherwise you get only 1.67%). For example a 19-year teacher who retires gets 31.73% of the highest three consecutive year average salary (FAS). While a 20-year teacher would get 40% of the FAS. Of course if you worked to 30 years you would receive a 60% pension. Almost as important, after 10 years the teacher is eligible to retire on disability, which is 33.3% of your FAS and if the disability was in the line of duty, it would be 67% of the FAS. Finally, once a teacher reaches their maximum pay grade (8b), the city contributes $400 per year and this money accumlates at 5% interest. This is called the Annuity Savings Accumulation Fund (ASAF). After 20 years a teacher can expect to have nearly $8,000 in the ASAF and is used to supplement the pension through an annuity.

All of the above were obtained by hard-won union negotiations and protected (pensions & disability) by the New York State constitution that does not allow reductions for existing employees. However, this has not hampered Kleinberg from trying to reduce pension costs in the New York City School System. How are they doing it? Let's see how.

First, the Kleinberg policy of recruiting teachers over the retention of existing teachers. The recruiting of teachers is the top priority of the administration. It doesn't matter that many of the teachers come from alternate certification programs like the Teaching Fellows and Teach For America and that DOE recruits out of the country to fill other positions. Kleinberg gives a bonus, loan forgivness, and rent payments for up to two years. Further, the DOE, for the first time, allowed schools to hire new teachers rather than first hire from the excessed teacher pool. Since 50% of the new teachers quit by their third year that means many of the newbies will never benefit from the pension plan. The unfortunate part of this is my union's aiding and abetting Kleinberg in their recruitment over the retention policy.

Second, the increased work day eliminated many per session jobs, which are pensionable, especially in the elementary schools. By using the 37.5 minutes at the end of the day, many after school programs were eliminated. More importantly, night school was also eliminated. Many of the more senior teachers use night school to increase their pensions. Therefore, by eliminating night schools, they are reducing pension expenses. Further, the lower budgets for many schools mean no paid tutoring programs, which is a per session activity.

Third, many of the ATR's are experienced teachers who were excessed due to the closing down of large schools or from schools that had budget cuts. Since the DOE allowed the small schools to hire the new teachers, they did not have to take many of the teachers excessed from the schools. While these ATR's are protected by the union contract, it is very obvious that Kleinberg will want a time limit for them in the next contract. In other words, if you are an ATR for 18 months then you will be fired. The more ATR's fired, the less the pension cost.

Finally, the Kleinberg policy to privatize the school system, such as Charter Schools means that more teachers will not have union or pension protection thereby, reducing costs to the City.

What's next? Well, there are rumors that summer school will be privatized, meaning reduced pension costs and of course the administration's attempt to fire the ATR's in the next contract.
Regardless, look for the City to propose a new pension tier for the new teacher. Tier V it will be called and however it will be constructed, it will save the City money and reduce the pensions for the new teachers. An inferior pension indeed!

Friday, October 06, 2006

When Tweed Attacks - Part 2 - Rikers Prep

When last I wrote about how Tweed was angry that our school refused the wonderful DOE offer of cameras in the schools. The result was to treat our school as an impact-like school. (not an impact school but flood the area with police, and arrest the students for such major crimes as jaywalking, littering, and refusing to move quick enough). I mentioned that Tweed had put us on their radar screen and made surprise visits to catch our school unprepared. The result? They found such major safety issues as:

The cafeteria tables were inadequately washed between periods.

Too many students were late to school for first period and filled up the auditorium. it doesn't matter to Tweedie-dee & Tweedie-dumb that some of these students live over two hours away and take up to three buses to get there before 8am.

Too many teachers had pictures on their door windows.

What does this have to do with safety? Beats me. However, Tweed has come up with an age-old solution to try to show that our school has safety problems. What have they done? First some history. In the past as many high schools closed down, they designated my school as one of the schools to dump the unwanted level 1 eigth graders, 8+ students, and the student with language and/or other disabilities into. After community & political pressure this year, Tweed reversed itself and at the beginning of September, my school was 240 students short, resulting in budget cuts and six ATR's. Because our school had space, all students in the Region was assigned to my school. This included students first, moving into the region, transfers due to hardships or safety issues in their old schools, and private school students going into the public schools. This variety of students is similar to the school population. However, Tweed had their secret weapon waiting in the wings. 12 overaged felons from Rikers (Jail) were released and all, yes all were sent to my school in direct violation of DOE procedures that require these felons to terrorize their home schools. Tweed just needs to wait for these felons to do their thing and cause chaos and crime in the school and then label it an "impact school".

My school is fighting back with teachers, the community, and students contacting our representatives about how Tweed's disgusting behavior is endangering the students and staff of the school. We are in the process of getting the media involved and expose Tweed for what it is, a bully that welds abusive power and stacks the deck against schools that dare to question their flawed judgement. Children first? How about Tweed's ego first and children last!

To Tweed - Shame On You!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Good Schools Equal Quality Teachers

The New York Post, of all newspapers, in their Sunday, October 1, 2006 editorial stated that good schools have focused principals who places a premium on discipline and who supports the faculty; parents who take an active role in their children's education, and teachers who are committed and creative - and qualified. Except for low class sizes, the Post is right on the money. However, they incorrectly stated that New York City is making real progress in achieving this goal, the reality is different.

First, the NYC Department of Education (DOE) does not like strong-minded, independent principals, especially those that support the faculty. Instead the DOE is placing many of the Leadership Academy principals, who have little or no school experience, who follow the Jack Welch business model that has failed to work in schools, and worst is that these new leadership principals have little interaction with the faculty and teacher input is not asked for or respected by them.

Second, the DOE has continued to weaken the student discipline code by allowing parents to appeal to an ouside DOE administrator when a school tries to suspend the student. This is in addition to the DOE's policy of placing an overaged violent felon back into the same school he/she terrorized in the first place. Moreover, the DOE has eliminated many of the special schools that handled overaged felons, as well as the overaged 8th graders who are pushed into the large high schools rather than a more suitible setting. Furthermore, the DOE discourages schools from taking a "zero tolerance" approach since too many reported incidents could result in the school being put on the DOE radar as an "inpact" school, or a school that has safety problems.

Third, unfortunantly, the major problem in the New York City Public Schools is a lack of parental involvement. Especially the middle & high schools. The DOE aided and abetted this by eliminating the parent-dominated district councils that had the ear of the old Board of Education and rightly or wrongly nothing could get done with the council's approval. Instead we now have a powerless parent advisory committee that is largley ignored by the DOE Instead of more parental involvement in the schools, we now have less!

Fiourth, A quality teacher means a competitive salary, low class sizes, and experience. However, the DOE's policy of recruitment rather than retention makes a quality teacher in every classroom a pipe dream. The Post editorial states that 100% of the teachers in the school system are certified. However, included in the 100% are the alternate certification programs such as Teach For America & the Teaching Fellows Program - which means the teachers are certified in name only since they still have to pass the certification tests. In other words they are not certified! Based upon 2005 data that means that only 82% are really certified teachers! Finally, how many of the 82% are teaching in their subject area? Many schools have physical education teachers teaching english, math, science, and social studies. The DOE policy to allow schools to hire newly-minted teachers (some not certified) over excessed, experience teachers has resulted in a steep learning curve for these new teachers at the expense of their students. Children first? How about children last! In addition, the DOE's "one-size-fits-all" appraoach and micromanagment stifiles teacher creativeness. As for the low class sizes and competitive salaries? Forget-about-it!

Finally, under the new NCLB proposals, 65% of all money must be spent on classroom instruction. While I have no clue what the DOE spends on classroom instruction since it's accounting transparancy is very foggy. I'm sure they would include instruction-related-activities such as professional development that lacks classroom teacher input, District/Regional office personnel who work on school budgets and assignments, and DOE hearing officers that work on school grievances and other issues. Is this classroom instruction? Of course not. To me classroom instruction includes direct classroom expenses including books, supplies, salaries, school infrastrucrure, guidance and a school nurse. I believe that teacher-directed extracuricular activites (sports, clubs, honor societies, yearbook, plays, band, etc.) should be included as part of the 65%. This is opposite the NEA & AFT positions. However, these activities are part of the total student experience in school and provide positive motivation to do well in the academic environment.

The New York Post was right on everything they said. Except for one, their conclusion that New York City is making progress.