Monday, May 30, 2016

What's Next for MORE/New Action?

So the elections are over. MORE/New Action scored a victory by winning the high school seats and Mulgrew and and Unity used their machine and our money to once again monopolize their power. Now what?

Some takeaways:

MORE/New Action has shown what can happen when there is cooperation between two caucuses.

Now that MORE/New Action will be there twice a month for exec board meetings no longer will things be done in secret and Unity now must explain, justify, and go on the record for it's actions.

With over 10k people voting for MORE/New Action there can now be true open executive board meetings twice a month. (Much more food will need to be ordered!)

MORE/New Action has laid a great foundation for the 2018 chapter elections as well as the 2019 UFT elections.

MORE/New Action can now show it is a force to be reckoned with.

The members of the high school exec board are above reproach and will work in an ethical and moral manner.

But as always there is work to be done.

During April vacation I handed out MORE/New Action fliers at two 6-8 Math scoring sites. I stood outside during their lunch and was able to engage the members. This beats just stuffing fliers in mailboxes. The personal touch is always the best.

There is still too much ignorance an apathy out there, particularly with the younger, fresher members. One member told me she voted, but when I asked for whom she said, "Oh, I checked Unity." Why I asked. "Because we just got the raise." Yeah, so did I, $89 a check.

Or you get "I like my CL," or "I don't want to get involved." Stuff like that. That is what we are fighting against.

Or here was one of my favorites from last week. A teacher told me she voted for Unity and when I explained the what Unity hasn't done she told me, "Yeah you are right, but sometimes you get to go with whom you know." Geez!

Worse, who, unless you have been active, knows Unity or MORE/New Action? There should be, not just ads in NY Teacher, but with the ballots should come a page explaining who is who.

This is not a time to relax for MORE/New Action. It is a time to continue to persevere and to build the brand. We have the foot in the door and a stool at the bar. MORE/New Action has a lot to be proud of and let's bask in it but know we have a lot of work ahead. It can be done.

My two cents. MORE/New Action should keep a "shadow union" and be there ready to answer back and to fight back when it disagrees with the path of the UFT. 

Oh. One more thing. No more voting from retirees!!!

One suggestion for the future exec board meetings.. Would it be too much to ask for a omelette station as well as a carving station?

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The UFT Needs to Speak Against the Termination of All Paid Fire Fighters in Port Chester NY (READ WHY!)

There is a great disturbance in the public service employees force. And it's emanating from Port Chester NY.

Earlier this month in the next town over from me, Port Chester NY, the village board  wishing to reduce an $800k budget gap laid off the 8 professional fire fighters that service the village and left the protection of the village to about 300 less trained volunteers. Mayor Dennis Pilla is a voting member of the board as well as the catalyst in this thuggery. This also negated the agreement the village had with neighboring Rye Brook in which Port Chester supplied one paid overnight fire fighter (Rye Brook has had it's issues with firefighters in the past. In the 90's they privatized and went with a publicly traded company for fire protection, Rural-Metro. It was a disaster).

There is talk that the village board did this because the paid fire fighters filed a labor complaint claiming the volunteers mishandled a house fire in March.

Port Chester can afford these fire fighters. The village population is almost 30k, but is almost 60% Hispanic. The Justice Department had to get involved several years ago because no Hispanics were being elected nor nominated to run for the village board.

Twenty years ago, heck even 15 years ago the only reason to go to Port Chester was if you were drinking in Connecticut in which closing time for bars was 2 AM and you wanted to continue drinking until 4 AM. Today, restaurants dot Main St left and right, the resurgent Capitol Theater is becoming a stop for the likes of Jackson Brown and Ringo Starr and there has been much waterfront development along the Byram River. 

A dad of a son my son has played baseball with just retired from the Port Chester Fire Department. He is lucky. He has a pension. For now.

The professional fire fighters of Port Chester are in same boat us teachers public service employees being blamed for the incompetence of politicians. Ironically, Rye Brook is where the Westchester Hilton is in which the UFT holds all it's "retreats." Wouldn't Mulgrew not want to worry about fire protection? In fact the closest house to the Hilton is in Port Chester, not Rye Brook (The Rye Brook fire house is near Westchester County Airport).

And guess what the Journal News reported today? Three Democrat board members who were elected in March have been removed because they;
 "failed to sign legal paperwork following this year's election wins."
This is another attack on public service employees. Port Chester is yet another municipality that can't keep it's finances in order and decides that the scapegoats must be it's public service employees and the the public it's victims.

Each and every time I get into a conversation with a sanitation worker, a parks workers, a cop, a fire fighter, etc... and share that I am a teacher and what is happening to us I tell them that they are next. Well guess what? The professional fire fighters of Port Chester have been the next ones nailed.

Our union, it's leaders, the caucus that runs the UFT has been silent. It has paid thousands to the Westchester Hilton for years to have it's retreats as well has paying hotel tax to the Village of Rye Brook (Rye Brook and Port Chester are both in the Town of Rye...not to be confused with the City of Rye)

We here at SBSB are calling for the UFT to immediately cease doing any business with the Westchester Hilton and any other businesses within the Town of Rye and the villages of Rye Brook and Port Chester until the eight professional fire fighters have their jobs restored as well as the appropriate back pay.

I have run into some really good people at the UFT in the last several months. This does not negate me from my support of MORE/New Action. But sometimes a word of support can go a long way.

God forbid if someone were to die due to inadequate fire protection. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Teachers are Lucky to Have Betsy Combier

I first met Betsy Combier almost 10 years ago during my time in the RR during the time of Numb Nuts. I remember her showing up every now and then, placing her stuff down on a desk, sitting down, and watching a line form to see her as if people were lining up to get Mickey Mantle's autograph.

Betsy at the time was working for the UFT. She was the liaison, or something like that, for the people of the Rubber Room to the outside world. She was the friendly face, or more importantly, she was the only face that seemed to care.

With the changing of the guard at the UFT, soon Betsy was not employed by them. She was now a free agent. In my opinion this was a blessing for Betsy and the teachers she sought to help. Betsy was now a free agent. There was no stopping her now.

Betsy along with her blogs, NYC Rubber Room Reporter, and Parent Advocates, has been att the forefront of removing the sheath back over the mess that the NYCDOE has created over the years. Betsy has been, and still is, the leader in assuring those damaged by the NYCDOE that they will be heard and that their rights will not be trampled on.

I recall back in the summer of 2013 when I and several teachers in my school had our careers trampled on. I contacted Betsy to meet with us and without hesitation she did. We met at a diner on 2nd Ave and spent a couple of hours not only soaking in her knowledge of what we can do, but more importantly, having that sympathetic ear that we were missing for so long. This is what Betsy is about.

Betsy is about someone who will be with you and advocate for you from the very beginning to the very end. Betsy is about once her work is done with you will be a friend for life. Someone that you can call day or night when you have that feeling of helplessness and need someone that you can be assured will be there for you.

Betsy fights for you. She fights for us. Betsy is persistent, never gives up. When her path forward in fighting for a teacher is blocked that does not stop her at all. She dusts herself off, rolls her he sleeves and finds a new path to go down. Ceaselessly fighting and advocating until she gets the results that she wants, or better, demands.

There are many times that I called Betsy, especially in the last 3 years, in which I was in a panic or needed to here her knowledge about something. At no time had she ever turned me away, not returned a phone call, or was unable to help me.

I consider Betsy a true friend, a trusted friend. I'm not the only one that does. There are many she as helped. Many she has rescued from the abyss.

Betsy is a lifeline. When you are sinking, when you feel desperate, when you feel alone in your fight there is no one better than Betsy to have on your side.

Betsy has been there for many teachers and I hope she will continue to be there for us for many years to come. You can't go wrong with Betsy.

Monday, May 9, 2016

UFT Solidarity: Introduces the Straw Man

One thing that keeps me going is my somewhat belief in God. I go back and forth quite a bit. I have never been an atheist, but I have been, or at least have had, a foot in the agnostic camp at times.

I have in the past dabbled with Mormonism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Christian Science, and I think once, Christianity. I even considered Judaism an ethnicity and not a religion and would claim that my religion is eclectic. A little from column A, column B, and so on.

My wife, who is much more attuned to God and spirituality than I, during my 3020-a would tell me that God will see what is right and put me in my right place. It kind of worked, but the logical side of me had a tough time with that kind of belief at times.

But I believe that when all is said and done with this election that MORE/New Action did all they can do to be in the right place at the right time when the results are announced to be in the place that MORE should be.

Now I am not saying that there is some type of deity behind MORE/New Action rather I am pointing out the Humanistic wind blowing into the sails of MORE /New Action how everyone associated with MORE/New Action as comported themselves throughout this vigorous campaigning to have a union that works for the stake holders instead of the other way around. Win, lose, or partial win, MORE/New Action has ever tried to intimidate or use subterfuge.

The following has been sitting on the desk of The Crack Team for about a week. We have had many discussions, workshops, all night benders on whether or not to share this. After many a ballot tonight (54 to be exact!) we finally got a majority to approve the sharing of our find (Click if you need to enlarge).

The above is an email that UFT Solidarity presidential candidate sent to Scott Boswell, the American Arbitration Association's Director of Elections, last week in effect a poor attempt at intimidation and an even a poorer attempt to start looking for, as well as blaming, scapegoats if and when Francesco Portelos is not elected UFT president as he has so vociferously has promised.

Let's give Portelos the benefit of the doubt for a moment and believe he is not trying to find a Straw Man for his failure, OK? Just my sending this email, just the intimidating tone in the email, is at best rude, but at worst, extremely unethical.

But this is par for the course with Portelos. Intimidation and bullying is all he knows. Think about it, we do want someone as UFT president that fights for the teachers, for the students, and for the communities. But do we want someone whose first inclination is to burn bridges right out of the chute? God forbid if that happens. It'll be another 3 years of nothing and spinning our wheels.

But there is something more happening here and The Crack Team is aware of other Straw Man methods that the followers of Portelos are using. When one fails as a leader, find a scapegoat.

Portelos has put whatever it is of his reputation on the line with these elections and he is now flailing for excuses at what is coming down the pike. What better why to divert attention from his what he did not do than find somewhere else to shine the light?

Fortunately, there has been chattering that the Straw Man will not work with a growing number at UFT Solidarity save the truly indoctrinated.

What we need at the UFT is level headed thinkers that are have the emotional maturity to be in charge. We can't replace what we have with the same thing.

Think about it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

MORE Cool Stuff MORE Has Done

Wow! It has been some time since I last posted. Three weeks in fact. Almost a month since an
original posting by yours truly.

I had scored the ELA exams for two weeks in April and was too beat to blog when I came home and the little free time I had was devoted to doing whatever I couldn't do during the week. Plus, baseball season has begun and my son, soon to be 15, is on three teams for the spring. That involves constant juggling of schedules and schlepping him to games and practices.

So it has come to my attention that there is the typical whining that MORE doesn't look out for teachers who are facing discontinuance or have been discontinued.

We know that is bullocks. See, MORE does help, does fight for teachers. But just because it does not wear what it does on their sleeves doesn't mean MORE is not at the forefront of the fight.

Let me share a story.

About 2 1/2 years ago, just about the time I got sent to the Rubber Room, a received an email from a minor, yet well known, NYC celebrity. He shared with me that his brother, who happened to be in his mid-60's and a career changer, was being harassed and threatened with termination if he did not resign. Now mind you, this is in September 2013, this teacher whom I shall refer to has Bob had only a few weeks on the job.

Bob was put into the wrong setting with the wrong classes and the wrong kids.  He was was hired to teach math, (Tripline/Algebra) but forced to teach science as well (Molecular Genetics). Apparently, on Friday the class was out of sorts and he went to lesson plan B instead of what he was planning on teaching. Sadly, the principal walked in on this and saw the difficulty he was having. At the end of the day she asked for him to resign or face an evaluation/observation that can result in his termination and loss of certification.

Having not been a chapter leader I sought out those from MORE who have experience. Peter Lamphere (Who is running for executive board at-large) rode in on his white horse. And flowing hair. But I digress.

Peter told Bob that under no circumstances should he resign immediately. This will ruin his chances of ever being re-hired by the DOE. Peter's response, and if memory serves, was the principal must give a teacher that is to be discontinued 30 days notice and in the meantime seek another position within the DOE.

Based on Peter's advice, the principal wrote a "mildly" positive letter of reference and Bob was able to transfer out to a school where he has thrived. Thanks to Peter Lamphere, Bob has a job.

Now, Bob would not have had a job if he took the advice of someone who chimed in upon reading his plight on the MORE listserv. This person, who shall remain nameless, shared....

 "He should call her bluff and wait for post observation. Then ask principal "can you model a lesson for me?"

Call her bluff? Ask for a model lesson. This coming from a teacher several weeks on the job? If Bob took that advice he would be selling pencils in Staples.

But again, I digress.

Not once has Peter gone around "bragging" what he did to help Bob. In fact, IMHO, it is just par for the course for Peter.

This is what you get with MORE. You get a level of knowledge and maturity in handling a situation. A sense that whomever you are dealing with is looking for a solution not from a micro perspective but the macro perspective that it should be.

MORE doesn't just want to put Bactine on the DOE boo-boo. It wants to get to the root of the boo-boo and make sure it is cured, not treated.

When you get your ballots in the mail, be sure to check of the box for the MORE/New Action slate. You need no worry about going through pages and pages to vote.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

What Opting Out Means for a 15 Year Old

Kathy Perez has been an activist and a friend of MORE for some time. I have a great deal of respect for Kathy and glad that I can call her a friend.

Kathy took the lead herself several years ago in opting her children of testing. In fact, Kathy's daughter Elizabeth, who is now 15, has refused to test since 5th grade and in fact was the first student to opt out ever in the Baldwin, LI school district.

With that in mind, Elizabeth now 15 and a freshman at Calhoun HS in the Bellmore-Merrick school district, is still a leader in the opt out movement. She can see clearly through all the BS.

Elizabeth took the time to share her thoughts with The Crack Team on what opting out has meant, and still means, for her. We need to hear from more student leaders like Elizabeth and take comfort that we know that we who advocate for opting out are passing our beliefs and core principles down to a younger generation.

We here at SBSB wish to thank Elizabeth for sharing her words and are proud to share them here on these pages.

For the first few years that I opted out of the New York State tests, people looked at me funny, asked me why I wasn’t taking them, and I was pretty much the only one to be reading a book rather than filling in a scantron, being sure to not make any stray marks. But as the years went on, the number of kids not taking the tests increased, and we eventually were taken into the cafeteria while the tests were being taken. I almost looked forward to testing week, even though everyone else was stressed. I got to spend a few hours taking naps, reading, or doing homework rather than sitting in class. All throughout elementary school and middle school I opted out of the tests, turning in my refusal letters on the first day like it was routine, and never did my parents or I think it affected my grades or my chances of getting into college, as some people claim it does. 

Now, I’m an honor roll high school student, with a plan to go to college, become a psychiatrist and an advocate for human rights, and I’ve refused the New York State exams. So, I’m pretty sure that my opting out of the tests hasn’t taken a toll on my education. I never really understood why these tests were even administered in the first place, considering the fact that they hold no benefit to anyone who takes them, and all they do is somehow display a teacher’s effectiveness through a student’s test grade. I know that I’m more than an ID number or test score. I don’t need a rigged exam to tell me what I’m capable of, or how effective my teachers are and hopefully, when I’m older, I won’t have to write refusal letters for my children at all.

Great words from a future leader.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

This is What MORE Does

Over the course of the course of the last week or so there has been a tiny, whiny background noise asking "what does MORE do?"

In reality it's an insignificant noise more akin to the buzz of a gnat flying around your head. You want nothing other than to swat at but you know that will give the gnat the attention it wants. Soon, the gnat will lose it's energy and drop to the ground where it will soon be back to serving it's purpose. Just being walked over, no one knowing it's there.

But we know MORE is there. We know what MORE does. Yes, MORE doesn't send a bunch of people to protest a principal on a side street somewhere in Brooklyn or Queens where there is no foot traffic or cars driving by. MORE doesn't send threatening or intimidating emails to principals. MORE doesn't habitually send text messages or emails obsessively to other UFT members. Or go to PEP meetings to kvetch, alone, about some injustice (I did this twice. It was a waste of my time. I might have just as well read The Great Gatsby).

I mean I guess this stuff can be considered being "active" but it doesn't accomplish anything. If you think about it nothing changes. Nothing has been accomplished. This stuff is all on the micro level. What about macro?

Last night on WNBC-4 news we saw what MORE does, how MORE operates, what MORE believes in. Three teachers, all MORE members, all teachers with true core beliefs appeared on the 6 PM news and shared what they did, what they are doing to affect change when it comes to testing.

Jia Lee, Lauren Cohen, and Kristen Taylor drew a line in the sand and dared Chancellor Fariña to cross it. Basically they told parents to opt their children out of the state tests.

According to the WNBC website;
“Parents should definitely opt out,” said Jia Lee, a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher at The Earth School in Manhattan. “Refuse. Boycott these tests because change will not happen with compliance.”

“I want to tell parents that I’m not going to get anything out of the test. Their kids aren’t getting anything out of the test,” said Lauren Cohen.
Kristen Taylor added that the tests are “fundamentally harming the education system”.

Think about this. Is this not what, and whom, we want as teachers and leaders? The energy that Jia has put into the Opt-Out movement shows how much of a leader she is. What she can bring to the teachers and communities of New York City.

There are no gimmicks or illusions such as some app that sends a form letter (and probably exists just to gather email addresses. I mean, seriously, how is that helping the cause? It's nothing other than just a bogart of the Opt Out movement. Micro.

Another gimmick is sending out an email to the Chancellor that one will not participate in proctoring or anything when it comes to the tests. Yeah, big whoops. It's all micro.

Just this past Sunday, Jia was featured in the New York Post as a teacher that has...
"...been sending emails to parents the past week encouraging them to boycott the state English and math Common Core exams being administered citywide starting Tuesday."
Oh, and while we are at it, a contingent of MORE members were out in Chicago on April 1 to support our CTU brethren in their one day strike. This is bridge building, not bridge burning.

Thin about it. From Chicago, to Long Island, to Upstate and Western New York Jia Lee and MORE are not only recognized as leaders, but game changers as well.

Watch the last few seconds of the report. Chris Glorioso says;

"They are members of the UFT and vying for leadership positions"

MORE builds. MORE looks long term. MORE leads.