Sunday, March 21, 2010

Video of Teachers Unite- NYCORE UFT Election Candidate Forum



On March 5 candidates from each of the 4 caucuses in the UFT held a candidates forum sponsored by NYCORE and Teachers Unite. Here are two 10 minutes segments out of two hours. Look for more on this blog as we parse the individual questions.


The Opening Statements




The Concluding statements


Friday, March 19, 2010

A chapter leader's endorsement of ICE-TJC

[Letter from John Elfrank-Dana to Bergtraum staff. Reproduced from Ednotes.]


It’s time again – the UFT elections. You should get your ballot in the mail.

Only about one quarter of us will vote if trends continue. It’s a problem I brought up to the union leadership (including Mulgrew); this lack of participation. They were at a loss as to why or what could be done about it.

It’s one of the reasons why I joined the ICE/TJC opposition. We need strong democratic unionism to move us forward. The Unity Caucus (Randi Weingarten and Michael Mulgrew’s political machine) may have gotten us more money from contracts, but have given so much away in terms of rights that sticking around long enough to enjoy the benefits seems impossible.

The days of accommodation, we want to be on your team, approach must end. We can’t rely on the strategy of the benevolent mayor (dictator) to save us; which has been Unity’s approach. We need to stand on the fundamentals of democratic unionism. We must organize for confrontation. However, we must be smart, patient and brave about it.

I think the ICE/TJC slate, with James Eterno for President, is our best hope. I know James personally. He’s been a valuable source of information for me. He’s an experienced chapter leader and man with principles. He gets it.

You can see James and what the ICE/TJC ticket stands for here.

Please feel free to pass this message along to any other UFT members you know.

In solidarity,

John Elfrank-Dana
UFT Chapter Leader
Murry Bergtraum High School
www.Elfrank.com/UFT

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Deconstructing "nimble" union leadership with the help of Scott, NYC Educator and Fiorillo

On Norm's Notes now is the way NYC Educator and ICE candidate Michael Fiorillo countered some comments made by Peter (Probably Goodman) in a recent Gotham post called "Lost in the school closing debate."

Norm's intro goes like this:
At Gotham Schools: A worthwhile insight into the UFT/AFT thinking on the role of unions as UFT shill Peter (undoubtably Goodman/Ed in the Apple) talks about "nimble" leadership — read this as "give ground because we don't have the ability or chops to fight them" — as he apologizes for all of Weingarten policies. If anyone thinks that this ideologue and Mulgrew are on different pages you are drinking the old K-aid.

In fact, the AFT/UFT cannot fight them because they run a top-down union without rank and file participation and in fact fear such participation because an active rank and file would see them for what they are and toss them out. So, keep 'em ignorant and barefoot.

Read the full post here: "NYC Educator and Fiorillo Debate UFT Shill Peter"



Michael Fiorillo is running with ICE for a HS seat on the Exec. Board, and NYC Educator has supported ICE positions for some time.

Without articulate, experienced voices like these, union managers will continue to protect their own jobs more than they protect ours.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

ICE-TJC candidate Seung Ok also speaks out on ed deform in NYC

Not a day goes by, it seems, when one of ICE-TJC's candidates in the upcoming union elections is not writing an incisive and informative essay on the state of our schools in NYC.

Here's a paper on charter schools that Seung Ok, a living environment teacher at William H. Maxwell HS Brooklyn and delegate, sent to a listserv yesterday. Ok is ICE-TJC's choice for VP for Vocational HSS.

He is pointing to the same defect in the chancellor's thinking that ICE-TJC candidate Arthur Goldstein talked about this week at Gotham. Seung asks:
"Why is it, that the charter school has significant lower special ed and ELL students than it's counterpart — when they both seemingly draw from the same community?

The answer is that charter schools in NYC are not so much a solution for closing the achievement gap but a deceptive horse and pony show for another more ambitious agenda — and that is to convince us to privatize the whole public school system."

The full text below, and click the picture above to hear Ok speak at the Jan. 16th parent conference on the closing of Maxwell HS.



There are several important reasons why charter schools not only harm public school children, but are a direct threat to public education as we know it. The harm is not ideological in nature, it is direct. I just attended the expansion hearing of KIPP into PS 195 in Harlen this Monday - and it is heartbreaking to hear that PS 195 students have class in the cafeteria. The teacher must ask the other students who are having lunch to quiet down, so instruction can happen. And if this isn't unbelievable enough, KIPP is expanding from its current grades of 5-8, to K-8.

More than a few PS 195 teachers got up to demand that KIPP teachers stop threatening charter school students with the admonishment,"Do you want to be like them?" The lesson hammered into these children every single day in that partitioned environment is one of segregation. The public school students are made to feel less, and the charter school children learn that personal advantage gained by harm to others is not only an entitlement of their talent, but a necessity.

But let's assume the above injustices to public school students were not happening, and charter schools obtained their own space - there is still a troubling aspect to the charter school movement - and that is its endgame. If the ultimate goal is to help the vast majority of minority students; and we can believe the sincerity of the billionaires and politicians who are steering this movement, than I'll support charter schools full heartedly.

The actions of these NYC charters however tell a much different tale than the benevolent words they speak. They are invading spaces of A rated schools (examples, PS 15 in Redhook Brooklyn, PS 123, and PS 195 in Harlem, etc.) If the claim is to want to help the neediest children, then why are they choosing building with A rated public schools that are successfully helping their communities. And when you see the comparisons between the two co-located schools in the same building, why is it, that the charter school has significant lower special ed and ELL students than it's counterpart - when they both seemingly draw from the same community?

The answer is that charter schools in NYC are not so much a solution for closing the achievement gap but a deceptive horse and pony show for another more ambitious agenda - and that is to convince us to privatize the whole public school system. Imagine a city where the law limiting the number of charter schools was removed. All those years of pent up frustration by privileged parents spending thousands for private schools can be released with one great sigh of relief. We will start to see mostly white charter schools arise in neighborhoods like the Upper West Side. Let's not forget how expensive real estate is in NYC. A public school building is a million dollar gift.

And a unique and surprising thing will happen. All that private money funneling into black and Latino charter schools will dry up. The money that once surprisingly made its way to Harlem and Brooklyn, will support the charter schools that the millionaires' and billionaires' children attend. There is a finite amount of private money - and it's just a matter of practicality to ration it out if charter schools litter the educational landscape; the donors must prioritize their wads of money, and human nature being what it is - they will fund their own neighborhood's charter schools than not.

So, where will Black and Latino communities find themselves - a place much worse than they were before. Their successful public schools having been decimated - closed and phased out, their struggling schools left overcrowded, and their abandoned charter schools left under funded - all destroying the gains made in the past several decades of hard earned work by so many stakeholders.

Doesn't this have a familiar ring to it? Just think back to a recent phenomenon, that of subprime mortgages. In the beginning, it was sold to America by the likes of George Bush, Newt Gingrich, and Phil Gram as a civil rights issue of getting minorities into houses. Mortgage companies made billions making loans to people that could not afford them. If anyone could go back in time and demand these loans be stopped, they would be labeled a racist, and be ridiculed.

And now these same political characters mentioned above are pushing the charter school agenda: Now they declare that education is the civil rights issue of our times. Coincidence? And in President Obama's defense, his mother sent him to the best international private schools in Hawaii and abroad - no wonder that his knowledge of public schools seems as ill formed as President Bush's. So while Obama tries to convince the nation to curtail the worse aspects of a privatized health care system, he is conversely promoting the worse aspects of privatization to the delivery of education in Chicago, and now, the country.

So the fight to defend public education against charter schools, is more than about space, teacher unions, or a lottery system; it is to stop the manipulation of Black and Latino communities as chess pieces in a game to benefit the elite classes in our society. While the struggling parents in impoverished areas are positioned to fight each other for the scraps of space and funding that has been allotted by our society, the privileged lay waiting in the sidelines until all the energy is sapped out - and the doorway to unregulated access to taxpayer money opens.


More from Seung Ok on the CREDO Sanford Charter school study:

The Credo study on NYC Charter schools is an academic sham. Here is the proof: If you click the link at the end of this email and go to the bottom of page 4, under the heading: School Level Comparisons, it notes:

"The test for New York City schools was slightly different than the test employed in CREDO’s earlier national study. Because all the NYC schools are drawn from the same education market, there was no need to control for market differences across all the schools, as was the case in the earlier national analysis.Instead, it sufficed to use simple t-tests of each pair of schools; that is, that charter school performance against the performance of its associated comparison group. The student learning gains were averaged for each school and then compared for statistical differences.""

So, this test did not control for the fact that charter schools send out invitations to level 3 and level 4 students? It doesn't control for the fact that charter schools use a self selecting lottery system versus open enrollment? It doesn't factor in class size and building overcrowding? It doesn't factor in per pupil spending? It doesn't factor in how charters release students who they feel don't measure up to their "contract" standards?

So basically, in this study's perspective, all Black and Latino students are pretty much the same. Forget that there are talented students, strugglings students, students in shelters, students with two parents, students with one parent...etc. Wow, how can Stanford University put their name to such a flimsy piece of so called "scientific" study. Any high school science student can tell you that the experiment group and the control group must control for all possible variables except the one being tested.

So, there are two possibilities here. Either Credo/Stanford University are ignorant of these "marget differences" or they are biased supporters of charter schools. Either way, shame on them.

Seung Ok - GEM, Grassroots Education Movement

http://credo.stanford.edu/reports/NYC%202009%20_CREDO.pdf

Friday, February 12, 2010

Arthur Goldstein's latest post at Gotham

Running on the ICE-TJC slate for a HS Exec Bd seat is Arthur Goldstein, chapter leader at Francis Lewis HS (Queens).

In his latest column at GothamSchools, "The Kids Nobody Wants," he asks the question a lot of us are wondering about these days:


Who’s speaking up for those of us who embrace our most challenging kids? Schools taking on these kids ought to be rewarded. Under Joel Klein’s stewardship, they are dumped onto the scrap heap. The same could be said for these kids, left without neighborhood schools, and without Metrocards to get them wherever Tweed sees fit to send them.

These kids deserve better. Their neighborhoods deserve better.


You can read the full post and all of his other ones in GothamSchools at this link.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Read James Eterno on the Unity political machine that controls our union


James Eterno, ICE-UFT's candidate for president of the UFT, has written a new post over on the ICE blog.

Here's part of what he says, but go over to that link to read his whole statement.



Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew’s faction of the UFT) is the closed, invitation only group that has controlled the UFT since the sixties. They rule the UFT with a top-down corporate style system that one time AFT President David Selden said made the union function more like an insurance company rather than an organization that is part of the labor movement . . .

The Unity machine is one of the last huge political machines to remain potent in the US. Here is how it works. The leadership (Mulgrew, Randi Weingarten or whoever) dispenses patronage to its followers in exchange for complete loyalty. If a UFT member wants a free trip to AFT and NYSUT conventions or a UFT job, one has to join Unity Caucus or their wholly owned subsidiary since 2003, New Action. Unity makes a big pitch for newly elected chapter leaders to join them. After someone is accepted to the caucus, they have to drum up 100 signatures to get on the ballot for the UFT election to win those free trips to conventions.

A friend informed me that the leadership is asking that Unity members submit an officer petition along with their own petition. Therefore, the Unity faithful will circulate a petition for Mulgrew along with their personal one. They are able to link themselves with Mulgrew so he gets school level recognition and support. In return, he dispenses the patronage. The system works very well for Unity and it explains why so many of the Unity believers were at the DA in January. . . .

This breeds cynicism and mistrust among the rank and file in the schools as when the Unity crowd sold the awful giveback laden 2005 Contract (longer day, extra small group class, return to cafeteria and hall patrol, loss of ability to grieve letters in file, loss of seniority rights which created the ATR situation and more). Most UFT members respond by not voting in UFT elections. This is a mistake. . .

ICE stands for a democratic union with an involved membership. We will go back to union basics if elected. Our people running for office have proven track records of activating their chapters. If we had the resources of the UFT at our disposal, we know we could activate the members throughout this city. Our public relations campaign on day 1 will be much more hard hitting. No more cartoon commercials; we will show the public the protests that have been occurring at closing schools. Elected officials and PEP members will also be held accountable for what they are doing to us.

This election is too important to sit out. Please join our campaign.





Saturday, February 6, 2010

Michael Fiorillo on Duncan's Katrina statement

Teacher, historian, activist, and chapter leader Michael Fiorillo, who is running with ICE-TJC for one of the six HS seats on the Executive Board in the coming election, writes frequently about NYC schools and the state of our labor union.

His perspective on current school events is not only informative but essential reading.

The following paragraphs are in response to a post at GothamSchools after Sect'y of Education Arne Duncan remarked that Katrina was the "best thing" for the New Orleans school system.



This despicable statement by Duncan represents a common motif among Democrats and Republicans alike, and validates Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine thesis, namely, that ruling elites create or opportunistically use crises to implement policies that would otherwise be blocked. In the case of New Orleans, it’s the wholesale privatization of the school system, with the schools being turned over to large charter school chains. Teach For America — closely affiliated with KIPP — is the Human Resources Division and employment agency for this hostile takeover.

Right after Katrina, Republican House member Richard Baker from Baton Rouge said, “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did.” (Huffington Post, 9/12/05) Apparently, God favors privatization and separate-and-unequal schools, which is the current model in New Orleans, NYC and every large urban school system.

Where were these people when the urban schools were suffering from decades of neglect and under-investment? They certainly weren’t teaching in them, or sending their children to them. Why are they only now proclaiming their “passion” for education, which is based solely on their lust to dominate and control them, driven by an agenda that, PR rhetoric aside, is about their will to power and profit?

The privatization of the schools is the lead-in the the privatization of Social Security, which will be forced on the American people in the name of “deficit reduction” and “fiscal responsibility.” While working and middle class Americans will see the loss and privatization of the public domain and the public interest, Finance will continue to be be allowed to capture an ever-increasing percentage of the national income, and will continue to loot the nations patrimonial wealth. They will do this by demanding and receiving ever higher “rents” from consumers and the productive economy, by means of interest, fees, royalties, actual rents, use of eminent domain for private interests, and privatization. If you research the private interests that are funding ed deform, these rentiers are who you will find.

Obama, who received most of his campaign contributions from Finance, is the Trojan Horse brought in to bring this about; it’s Nixon Goes to China in reverse, with a purported “liberal” elected to do what a Republican never could get away with. It’s his job to impose the structural adjustment policies that the IMF has used to dominate developing countries undergoing debt crises over the past thirty years: shrinking the public sector, privatization of resources and public services (note that he just announced the privatization of the space program), elimination of subsidies that support domestic production and social welfare, etc.

Disregard Obama’s faux-populist rhetoric of recent weeks: it’s little more than a shift in his overall marketing campaign, called for by internal polls, focus groups, and his team’s failure to hit their sales targets in Massachusetts. After all, he was named Marketer of the Year in 2008 by Advertising Age magazine, and is referred to by his own people as “Brand Obama.”

While the Democrats traditional political base is frozen by cynical slogans of “hope” and “change,” Wall Street is going to smash and grab what’s left of the country.

Unless we stop them, starting here and now.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

UFT election back stories

The following post is reproduced in its entirety from Ednotes.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

UFT Election Back Stories

Gotham Schools' Anna Philips has a report on the upcoming UFT elections (ballots go out March 7 and must be returned by April 6 - count is April 7 and is open to UFT members). I left a comment.

The reason Randi got 74% in her first election was that New Action, the main opposition at the time, was still a force and able to pull a quarter of the votes. Now they have sunk to below 10%, with many of those coming from retirees.

For a comparison of voting patterns over the lst few elections, see a spreadsheet we prepared 3 years ago.

You will note that Randi's % dropped in 2007, but her vote total really dropped from 42,000 to 35,000 between 2004 and 2007 while the number of retirees voting for Unity remained constant at over 18,000 votes. Can it be that half if Unity's votes come from retirees? It's late and my eyes are bleary. But here's the skinny on the HS vote.


Elaborating on the high school executive board seats and why they are up for contention:
First of all, our 6 great candidates.

From ICE
Arthur Goldstein, CL of Francis Lewis HS, who you all know very well from his writings on Gotham. [See his latest post here.]


Michael Fiorillo, former CL and current delegate from Newcomers HS who has also commented very astutely on many issues at Gotham.

John Lawhead, CL of Tilden, a soon to be closed school. John used to be at Bushwick HS which also was closed, so he is an expert on the politics of closing schools. He is also has been an expert on the high stakes testing issue for many years and has taught many of us in ICE the implications of the high stakes testing game.
From TJC
Kit Wainer, CL from Leon Goldstein HS, who headed the ICE-TJC slate in 2007. Kit has been a long-time activist and is one of the founders of TJC.

Marian Swerdlow, FDR HS, also a long-time activist in UFT politics and a former delegate.

Peter Lamphere, CL of Bronx HS of Science, who has been active for many years.

Some facts about this particular piece of the election

These 6 high school seats have been Unity's problem for over 20 years (the high school vote always split around 50/50), as they consistently lost them to the opposition, which used to be New Action.

But in 2003/4 New Action started making deals with Randi - they wouldn't run against her if she wouldn't run Unity candidates for these 6 seats, thus ceding them to New Action. Many New Action members also got part-time jobs at the UFT.

This dirty deal led to the formation of ICE (many from the Education Notes circle) for the 2004 elections and an alliance with TJC, which had been around for a decade but had never run in an election before 2003. Both groups had a lot to learn and had to build a new infrastructure from scratch.

With Unity not running candidates for these seats, the direct confrontation with New Action led to ICE-TJC winning those seats, which placed people like Jeff Kaufman and James Eterno (who has been on the EB as a New Action rep but left them over the Unity deal) on the EB. As someone who had been attending the EB meetings for a while, they brought a breath of fresh air to the meetings over their 3 years on the board, forcing Unity to address many issues, including the rubber room (Kaufman's short trip to the RR as an Ex Bd member made some headlines and his experience there and support for his colleagues, plus his legal background, brought many issues into the light.) Their voices were loud and strong in fighting the disastrous 2005 contract.

In order to still these voices, in 2007 Unity guaranteed New Action 3 of the HS EB seats by co-endorsing - which means a Unity vote counted for New Action- and took 3 seats for themselves. ICE-TJC got 36% of the vote and could not top the combined New Action (12%) / Unity (51%) totals, though ICE-TJC outpolled New Action in every division of the union except retirees. (Since New Action sold out their vote totals have dropped consistently amongst working teachers from the mid 20% to single digits in 2007). To make it clearer. New Action got 3 HS EB seats while getting only 521 votes while ICE-TJC received over 1500 votes and got no seats. UFT democracy inaction.

You can see a vote comparison of the 2004 and 2007 elections at http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=pgxRf3gM4qtyBFmTshSW1fQ&hl=en

New Action also received 5 additional EB seats for a total of 8 as a reward for keeping the independent voices of ICE-TJC off the Board.

We assume that a similar deal will be in operation in this election. If ICE-TJC can increase its vote in the HS to 50%, not an impossibility given the conditions, then the 6 people mentioned above, although an extreme minority out of 89 EB seats, would serve on the Board and give voice to a large group of disenfranchised teachers, paras, secretaries, etc.

And it would further drive a stake through the heart of New Action's bogus claims to be an opposition. If they lose, will it threaten their jobs at the UFT? Probably not, but if you detect an air of desperation on the part of New Action, you know why. Unity will probably offer a similar deal like last time and hand them additional seats in order to make phony claims of bi-partisanship. If ICE-TJC does win these seats, just watch New Action EB members line up on most votes with Unity.

Unlike ICE/GEM people, New Action has been absent from the line of fire of closing schools and charter school invasions (they supported the UFT charter school invasion of 2 public schools in East NY). Will the rank and file be aware of these differences? While the word has been out about New Action to some areas of the UFT, we theorize that a batch of New Action votes come from people who still believe they are the old New Action.


Sunday, January 31, 2010

TJC reaches out to the membership

ICE is fortunate to be running in this election with as articulate and committed a group of educators as those over at TJC.

Follow this link for a recent article by Megan Behrent, who's running for Assistant Secretary on the ICE-TJC slate.
"THE IMMENSE outrage and anger that has erupted at these and many other hearings around the city is poignant testimony to the potential for mobilizing a real fightback against the attacks on public education that have ravaged New York City's schools. People are tired of being the victims and scapegoats blamed for the failures of public education, while the politicians who systematically underfund and undermine our schools are let off the hook."
— from "A fight for our schools in New York"



And here are some extracts from TJC's current newletter.
BUILD A MOVEMENT TO END SCHOOL CLOSINGS

The UFT leadership's strategy is a failure again. It failed to organize us to get a timely contract, and so far it has failed to organize us to end school closings. TJC believes that the UFT must build a movement powerful enough to end all school closings, for good, and win us a just contract. The announcement on Friday Jan. 22, that the State will close or restructure thirty more NYC schools, most of them large high schools, adds urgency to this need. TJC's position is explained in our latest leaflet.


CONTINUE THE FIGHT ON MARCH 4!

March 4 has been declared a "National Day of Action to Defend Education." Unions and student groups across the country will take part. Here in New York City, Teachers for a Just Contract will join a growing coalition of grassroots organizations calling for a demonstration at Governor Paterson's Manhattan office, to end school closings and cuts in educational aid, including student Metrocards. For a pdf of TJC's leaflet advertising this action, write to JustContractUFT@aol.com, and ask for the March 4 leaflet.


RALLY AT BLOOMBERG RESIDENCE GREAT SUCCESS!

A coalition of many groups, including TJC, held a citywide rally against school closings at the Upper Eastside residence of Mayor Bloomberg, East 79th Street @ 5th Avenue in Manhattan, from 4 to 6:30 P.M.

The Unity Caucus majority at the January 20 UFT Delegate Assembly refused to even entertain a motion to endorse this rally. Despite that treachery by our union "leadership," a huge crowd of over five hundred participated, picketing and chanting. Among the picketers was James Eterno, Jamaica H.S. Chapter Leader and our ICE - TJC candidate for UFT President. This action is only the beginning of the movement against school closings we must build.

TJC's next meeting will be on Friday, Feb. 5th, at 4 pm, at the HS of Art and Design, room 313, 1075 Second Ave. (nr E. 57th St.). Take the 4, 5, 6, N, R, E or V train to get there.
"School closings and the upcoming UFT elections will be among the topics of discussion. Help change our union and save our jobs."

TJC is also on Facebook with the name Just Contract.
"Friend us and check out our great pictures of our actions and events, including some of our recent fundraiser in Upper Manhattan."



Saturday, January 30, 2010

Vote ICE-TJC, and here's why

This piece just up at Ednotes, which some have called the almanac of union affairs for the past five years. Actually from before, since Scott was writing on union business in hard copy years earlier.

In this important post, he lays out the relationship between "ICE the caucus" and "GEM the movement." More than that, he talks about how alert and active these groups have been in analyzing and responding to the attacks on public education.

Had Unity more of the social conscience ICE and TJC have had, written about and demonstrated for over the past decade, not to mention the will to stand up for the integrity of our profession, union management wouldn't be having to re-set its course as it's doing today.

They continue to jump on a bandwagon they can lay no claim to having built.

Vote ICE-TJC in the March elections.


Historical Perspective of ICE and GEM: Getting the Message Out


by Norm Scott

I don't write enough about how proud I am of the role the Independent Community of Educators (ICE) has played over the years in the resistance movement.

With our large-scale petition signing event going on this afternoon and the time I have spent in helping to organize it, time I often resent because I am just not super interested in dealing with UFT elections and view it as worse than a trip to the dentist, I thought it useful to out out a few thoughts.

ICE has all too often been viewed only as a UFT caucus battling over internal UFT politics, something we have not always been too effective at doing.

But ICE was founded more as a group to analyze the state of public education and has done a great job at bringing the issues to people's attention. It was only the sell-out and collaborative policies of the UFT that forced us to get into the pit with Unity Caucus and its sell-out partner, New Action.

Since this the attack on public education began in NYC 7-8 years ago we have seen a big jump in getting our word out. Note how many speakers - even the UFT - are using our analysis. ICE began in Nov. 2003 (and Ed Notes years before that) motivated by getting the word out even to our colleagues in the opposition, people who told us mayoral control and testing were not their issues. When ICE people attended all the UFT mayoral control meetings and put out a minority position even someone as astute as Angel said he was beginning to understand the big picture. Michael Fiorillo has been sharing the "big picture" with us for years. Now Leo Casey is getting up and giving Michael's speech. We were a tiny voice but that is reaching a crescendo.

ICE has attracted deep thinkers about education, some of the highest quality people I have met. What we were missing were people who were activists with experience in organizing. When Angel Gonzalez joined us over a year ago (his retirement in July 2008 made him available) he brought that edge to ICE. Angel suggested ICE form a committee to address the ATR issue. The always amazing John Lawhead added the element that ATRs came from closing schools and closing schools came from the high stakes testing regimen.

A year ago a few of us from ICE held the first committee meeting in a diner. There were 4 of us. At that point I was attending meetings of Justice, Not Just Tests, a NYCORE group focusing on fighting high stakes tests. We invited Sam Coleman to attend our meetings. Others joined in and the concept of GEM was born. Following on the work CORE in Chicago was doing, we held a conference in March, reaching out to some of the Harlem schools under attack by Eva Moskowitz and a march and demo at Tweed in May. Somewhere in this time we picked up the GEM name.

In late June/early July when PS 123 came under attack by Moskowitz, GEM came out in force and started making contacts all over the city.

GEM has been a totally different experience from the more cerebral ICE. Most of the ICE core has jumped in. That has left ICE with less time and resources to devote to the UFT election, which we committed ourselves to a year ago. But I view it all as one movement over the long run. GEM is involved with ICE, NYCORE, TJC, ISO, Teachers Unite, CAPE and goodness knows how many other organizations involved. GEM is not a UFT caucus and is working with student and parent groups.

That TJC and ICE chose James Eterno as our presidential candidate last May has turned out to be a good thing. While James cannot campaign (Mulgrew naturally can visit numerous schools every week) due to the closing of Jamaica HS where he is chapter leader, he has risen to new heights as a fighter for his school. Despite his candidacy, he has worked closely with the UFT leadership and has in no way tried to make hay of his situation vis a vis the campaign.

What has been interesting from my point of view has been the interest of a batch of younger teachers in the election. Some have signed on to run with us and this is a major change from past years. Are there enough to make a big difference in terms of the vote? Hard to say. But in terms of organizing a core of committed activists, we are very early in the game. If the people who are praising Mulgrew as being very different from Randi are correct we will see a turn of the UFT and that would establish a different relationship between ICE, GEM and the UFT/Unity caucus.

But I believe it is due to style and over time he will "evolve" into the traditional UFT leader. In the meantime, he seems to be getting a bit of a honeymoon with even severe critics of Unity in the blogging world seemingly impressed. With people like Leo Casey getting up at public meetings and making a speech that ICE's Michael Fiorillo has been delivering for years, one would think the UFT has changed. But they have always adopted and adapted ICE and now GEM positions for rhetorical purposes.

Mulgrew has made the union even less democratic than Randi did with new restrictions on the delegate assembly. Until there is a move to democratize the UFT and add diversity to the Exec Bd (Mulgrew would have to end the phony alliance with New Action that allows them to get 8 Ex Bd seats and ICE/TJC none despite their outpolling New Action) nothing will change.

Seung Ok in the Indypendent


The latest issue of the Indypendent is providing what they're calling a "full-tilt coverage" of the battle over school closings. Included is an article by Seung Ok, who's running on the ICE slate for VP Vocational HSS.


Seung Ok fighting for Maxwell HS earlier this term.



FIRST PERSON: Stealing the Best and Brightest from Public Schools

By Seung Ok
From the January 29, 2010 issue | Posted in Local | Email this article


TAKING IT TO THE MAN: Opponents of Mayor Bloomberg’s school closings plan march Jan. 21 outside his mansion (back right) at 17 East 79th Street in Manhattan. PHOTO: SOPHIE FORBES
TAKING IT TO THE MAN: Opponents of Mayor Bloomberg’s school closings plan march Jan. 21 outside his mansion (back right) at 17 East 79th Street in Manhattan. PHOTO: SOPHIE FORBES
For all my anger, I do not believe that Mayor Bloomberg and his fellow billionaires are acting maliciously when they close public schools and replace them with charter schools.

These billionaires walk into charter schools and they say to themselves, “Oh my God, black and brown kids can learn?” They see black faces, and based the negative stereotypes that they viewed in their lives, the fact that minority students can excel at all seems a miracle. But, how much time did they ever spend in a neighborhood like East New York or Harlem? Probably no more than a matter of hours. They leave a charter school feeling exuberant, as if they had discovered something that the rest of society somehow overlooked.

However, it is not the new paint of charter schools, nor the potpourri they put in bathrooms, nor the new teachers whose energy and fortitude is burnt out within a few years. The secret of it all is the top-level students that they entice from our public schools — the core group of students in every grade level of every neighborhood that excels — those that become surgeons and engineers and lawyers.

The more years I spend as a teacher dealing with kids, the more I’m convinced that kids and adults are very much the same … people are followers. When you take the top students from district schools, you are in essence removing the positive role models of students who need that extra push to say, “Hey, this is what I should strive for.” You are removing from a neighborhood the student leaders, the positive middle class and professionals that offer a growing child an alternative to the gloom and doom of gangs, drugs, teenage pregnancy and high dropout rates.

The main argument for closing a public high school is that less than 50 percent of the students graduate in four years. But why do so many people assume that a high school diploma in four years is so much greater than one attained in five years? Do corporate interviewers ask a college graduate whether she or he took five or six years to get a degree? If a student in our public school system survives in shelters and foster homes and struggles to attain a high school diploma in five years — doesn’t that student deserve more credit than one who was expected to graduate and go to college in four years? Doesn’t she or he show even more character, drive and potential than a Bloomberg?

Seung Ok is a living environment teacher at William H. Maxwell High School in Brooklyn, which is scheduled to be phased out starting in September.

For more information see the following articles in this issue of The Indypendent:

“Taking the Public Out of Schools” by John Tarleton

“Inside Columbus High School” by Mary Anna├»se Heglar

“The Faces of School Reform” by John Tarleton

“Bloomberg’s 12-Step Method to Close Down Public Schools” by John Tarleton

“New York City Schools by the Numbers” by John Tarleton

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New flier from TJC

Our running mates at Teachers for a Just Contract are just as concerned about building a movement to end school closings as we are.

Click on the snapshot below for a copy of the flier they're now circulating, which is available on their website.

It begins:
UFT President Michael Mulgrew encourages each targeted school to try to save itself, and to protest at the Jan. 26 meeting of the Public Education Panel (PEP). But the PEP is just a rubber stamp for Mayor Bloomberg. Mulgrew’s strategy accepts that some schools must be closed “as a last resort,” and accepts the PEP decisions as final. So his strategy is just too weak to protect UFT members, our students and communities, against school closings.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

UFT Election Committee Meeting, Dec. 14, 2009

Reported by Ellen Fox, ICE/TJC Rep on the committee:

The UFT Election Committee met on Monday, December 14. Here are the salient details of that meeting.
1. Virtually nothing significant has changed since the last election cycle. Literature from the 2007 elections was distributed as examples of the way things would proceed this time around. Most importantly, it appears that the number of divisional exec. bd. members will remain the same: they're still counting on 6 HS members, 5 MS members, etc.
2. Here is a rundown of the important dates and deadlines involved:
a. January 4, 2010 -- The Election Committee will meet again to finalize details for the election.The finalized details will be turned over to the Executive Board that same evening for approval.
b. Shortly thereafter, petitions will be available.
c. January 11 and February 4 -- Notice of the election will appear in the New York Teacher.
d. FEBRUARY 11, 2010 (THURSDAY). 5:00 pm -- DEADLINE FOR RETURNING SIGNED PETITIONS.
e. FEBRUARY 22, 2010 (MONDAY) -- DEADLINE FOR SUBMITTING CAMERA-READY COPY
FOR CAUCUS ADS/STATEMENTS IN THE NEW YORK TEACHER.
f. March 4 and March 18 editions of the New York Teacher will carry the caucus ads as part of special election editions.
g. March 12, 2010 -- Ballots will be mailed to members.
h. APRIL 6, 2010 (TUESDAY), 5:00 pm -- DEADLINE FOR RECEIPT OF BALLOTS BY AAA.
i. April 7, 2010 -- Ballots counted by AAA.
3. Other important issues that came up:
a. Number of signatures needed for nomination:
i. All Officer positions -- 900
ii. All other in-service positions (Exec. Bd., Delegates) -- 100
iii. Retiree delegates (should we choose to run any) -- 25
b. Who can sign which positions:
i. ANY UFT MEMBER can sign for Officer positions and for Exec. Bd. at Large
ii. ONLY TEACHERS IN A PARTICULAR DIVISION can sign for candidates in that division's Exec. Bd. So only High School TEACHERS can sign for High School Exec. Bd. candidates; only Elementary School
TEACHERS can sign for Elementary Exec. Bd. candidates, etc.
iii. ONLY FUNCTIONALS (paras, secretaries, counselors, etc.) can sign petitions for candidates for the
Functional Executive Board.
iv. Only RETIREES can sign petitions for candidates as Retiree Delegates.
c. Once again, Chapter Leader lists will be made available to requesting parties for $10.