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Executive Board Takeaway, September 11, 2017

As you can see from my headline, I was very happy we were able to agree on supporting DACA. As an ESL teacher, I'm highly prejudiced in favor of newcomers. As an American, I'm well aware that our country is mostly made of newcomers, and that diversity is a huge part of what's good about us. Of course, the worst thing about us is Donald Trump, a national disgrace, and you never know just what awful thing he's gonna try next until he up and does it. Trump often says he has sympathy for dreamers, but as Norm Scott always says, "Watch what they do, not what they say."

What he's done is an abomination. It turned out that we and Unity had the same thought at the same time, and the resolution we passed used wording from both. Hopefully we'll be able to do more things like that.

Then, of course, there are differences. We proposed letting prospective teachers know about turnover rates in schools. That's an important factor, and in fact we heard firsthand about a school whose turnover reached 85%. Several Unity voices opposed it, including LeRoy Barr. Barr said that this was not the only factor we had to consider. If that's the case, I'm confident that my high school Exec. Board colleagues would be happy to release all relevant data.

This notwithstanding, an 85% turnover rates suggests to me, at least, that holy crap something is very wrong indeed. I wouldn't want to work there on a bet. We often criticize charters with high turnover rates. If Moskowitz Academies are so fabulous and wonderful, and little Disney birds are tweeting sweet songs as the kids pee their pants, why do teachers leave in such great numbers? Isn't there something wrong if a public school does even worse than a Moskowitz Academy? And if there is some great rationale why the school is worth working in even though 85% of the staff didn't think so, shouldn't we know why?

I was pretty surprised to see NYSUT finally taking an unequivocal stand against APPR. I have heard no such talk from UFT leadership. I know that they attend the NYSUT conventions, I know that they have the very largest voting bloc in NYSUT, and I find it extremely hard to believe that NYSUT could pass resolutions to that effect without UFT support. In fact, if there were any doubt, the article says the resolutions were "approved unanimously."

Yet when I asked whether or not UFT supported these positions I could not get a straight answer. They'll get back to me, they said. For my money, the worst part of APPR is the possibility that teachers have the burden of proof on them at 3020a. In our justice system, you're innocent until proven guilty. Thus, the mind boggles as to why, when teachers are twice rated ineffective, likely as not on junk science, they are compelled to prove they are not guilty. Ask a lawyer how easy that is. Ask Shari Lederman how valid those scores are. Ask Stacy Isaacson.

It would certainly be better to work out something that's, you know, not insane. Could our union leadership manage such a thing with a re-elected de Blasio administration? Would term limits free de Blasio to dump the Bloomberg leftovers sitting in Tweed? If Carmen goes could we work out a system to support and retain teachers rather than fire them?

Can we somehow leverage Andy Cuomo's desire to look like Sanders lite rather than Bloomberg redux? Could we, at the very least, lessen the number of required observations to two? Moves like that would go a long way toward fewer anxiety attacks and meltdowns among working teachers.

I'm an optimist. Whenever Unity wants to talk to us about making real progress for real teachers, I'm open. And with Janus coming up, moving in that direction looks like nothing less than a win-win.

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Open Mike
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