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Nov. 20th Executive Board Takeaway--Happy Talk from Unity and Recycled Class Size Issues

The other night several Unity members told some happy stories about people getting together and standing tall against administration. It's good to hear, but the song remains the same. Everything is good news and sunshine. I sat before the meeting with a distraught adult ed. teacher who was fired because a Principal Felt Like It. Alas, she had spoken to the board once so she can't do so again until next year.

I was not clear why they did this during the speakers portion. In the past, when they had good news, they would invite people to speak during the meeting. I kind of thought this space was reserved for members as opposed to union employees, but what do I know? I guess it's important to get the word out. However, I later received an email stating the following:

Frederick Douglas Academy occupies the 3rd floor of my building. Their principal, as far as I know, is still abusive and the staff has turned over each year. It has an abysmal record with safety and their school report card shows they are academically far behind. Sanchez has spent some time their but the turnaround, if true, is the best kept secret in our building. 

That's a horse of a different color. Of course, I'm not there so I can only report what I hear.

Jonathan Halabi had a delicate approach to a disturbing issue, asking exactly what teachers at DeWitt Clinton and Flushing had done wrong to be placed in the disturbing position of having to reapply for their jobs. Janella Hinds gave probably the best answer that could be given, under the circumstances, but Jonathan isn't happy. Yesterday, he commented:


Our leaders agreed to remove teachers from a school without cause. They did it at other places, and now Clinton and Flushing.

Once upon a time this union would have struck to stop that. This time our leaders negotiated the process - and our leaders will sit on the committee deciding who stays and who goes into the ATR pool.

These are vastly different times. I'd say for better or worse, but it's tough to identify the "better" part. I'm thankful not to be expert on this topic. I think they've closed or reorganized every comprehensive high school in the Bronx. I don't have anything to add to Jonathan's comment. I kind of wish I did.

I know a little more about class sizes, and I addressed the board directly on it. At my last class size hearing, another genius arbitrator ruled, as a "plan of action," that each teacher who had an oversized class would receive one day off a week from their C6 assignments. This is a blatant cop-out, a giveaway to any principal who feels like leaving classes oversized rather than following the contract. A contract is a two-way thing, but sometimes I feel like ours applies only to teachers.

I told the board I've taught oversized classes, and an extra prep is absolutely no help to a teacher. You don't need 40 minutes a week to plan for what can ensue when you face 45 teenagers. You need help, right there in the classroom, to deal. Furthermore, giving the teacher one additional weekly prep has absolutely no value for the students in the classroom, haplessly vying for the teacher's attention, or tuned out due to the chaos of an oversized class. It's nothing short of disgraceful that an organization which claims to place, "Children First, Always," would even ask for such a thing.

I also requested that leadership meet with us to try to come up with an actual plan to deal with this. I know they have some top-secret committee that contains no elected representation from high schools. At some point, Schoor asked who was here from the high schools. A bunch of people raised their hands. However, there are only six of us who actually represent the high schools. The others were rejected by high school voters and elected "at large." And every single one of them votes lockstep as told or they wouldn't be there. I have no idea what any of them contribute to our group beyond calling the question so Unity can vote us down.

In any case, when trying to solve a problem, consulting with the Stepford Reps is of no value I can discern. Since their opinions are restricted by loyalty oath, and therefore whatever leadership dictates them to be, they carry no particular importance, let alone any independent voice. I watched them sit in Minnesota and be told how to vote. I've watched them sit at 52, over and over, and wait until they are cued to support whatever.

I can understand how leadership might feel more at home by adding a few rubber stamps to the table, to say yes to whatever. Why should they listen to uncomfortable realities when they can simply recruit a dozen people to tell them everything is wonderful and this is the Best of All Possible Worlds?

I will try to set up a meeting, and we'll see where it goes. It would be best if we could agree on a substantive improvement. We have a considerable standing impediment in that we're told anything related to contract negotiations must go to the sacred and top secret Committee of 300. I cannot imagine a more unwieldy way to do anything, even if 98% of the committee members had not signed loyalty oaths. If I recall correctly, the last committee of 300 voted up the MOA without having ever seen it.

But if things go south, we can always let them vote down another resolution about class size. There's no doubt in my mind that the class size guarantees, as practiced, are virtually worthless. Why we and NYSUT haven't mobilized a march on Albany to enforce the C4E ruling is beyond my imagination. One thing I regularly tell this board is that we are the true advocates for the children of New York State.

Like everything else that does not originate from the Unity Spin Machine, it seems to fall on deaf ears.

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