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.

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.


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, and ask for the March 4 leaflet.


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 Annaïse 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.
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.
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.