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UFT Executive Board Takeaway December 4th, 2017

Executive Board meetings are getting more interesting, though I'd hesitate to call that a good thing. First of all, Unity is clearly hijacking the questions period to spread the word about how wonderful they are. Predictably, they're not doing a great job.

Full disclosure--I know and like Carlos, the first speaker. Alas, he was far from persuasive about PD. PD is what you make it, and the experience I've had with it is that it's 99% a waste of time. I have heard others sing the praises of useful PD, and I'm all for it if it can be delivered. But theory and practice are two different things.Until and unless you're part of great PD sessions, no speaker on this earth will persuade you it's worthwhile.

There's also the issue of CTLE, which means many educators will recoil at PD regardless of the quality. When the geniuses in Albany declare the PD has to be accredited or you'll forfeit your teaching credential, it's hard to sit and focus on how useful something is. You're thinking, "Holy crap, I  need a hundred hours in five years or I'm gonna be working at Walmart." If you don't meet that challenge it won't matter how good PD is.

The next speaker was a better story, but it was brought by a district rep who could easily have done so during reports from districts. Disgraceful though it is for Unity to hijack the very little time allotted for lowly members, it was inspiring to see a paraprofessional bold enough to take the position of chapter leader. It was great that they were able to fight back an abusive principal who wanted to dump her for doing the job.

We then went to questions. Mike Schirtzer got up and spoke of class sizes. The ones in his school were "equalized" only days ago, in December. (For those unfamiliar with the term, equalize does not actually mean we make class sizes equal. It means only that we come into compliance. So while you have 34 students, another teacher could easily have 25.) He said that students were crying when they found their programs changed so late in the term. The fact is we give them ten days to come into compliance. Many principals can't be bothered, waiting until the day of arbitration to fix things. I once sat at the arbitration until 5:00 while my administration worked on the program.

I've been writing and thinking about the Committee of 300. I had a question about it, involving several factors. One, of course, is the observation process that makes members crazy, which I'd like to see addressed. I brought a resolution about it to this committee and they took it down with blatant strawman arguments. Every single person in the room, aside from the high school reps, went along with this logical fallacy. I wanted to know why I should suppose that the committee of 300 would be run any more democratically or reasonably than the Executive Board. I wanted to know why we could not make robust public demands like PSC was doing.

I was in for a surprise. I kind of expect them to give a flimsy response, or no response at all. But this time, in a flagrant display of anti-democracy, they did not even allow me to speak. They're deeply offended when you refer to the fact that every single one of them votes alike. That's because it directly implies they've signed a loyalty oath and would support a piece of cellophane-wrapped processed American cheese for President of the United States if anyone on the dais instructed them to.

Given that I wasn't allowed even to speak, they managed to answer my question much more thoroughly than they generally do. The Committee of 300 is a sham, designed to persuade members that there is democracy involved in contract negotiations. There will be no representative democracy, however. Leadership will do any damn thing they please, and there will be 290 rubber stamps doing whatever they're told to do. There will be some token voices of opposition but they will be outvoted, shut out, shut down, shut up or all of the above. The top down mandate is alive and well in the United Federation of Teachers and, facing Janus, leadership revels in it.

Another factor in this I can't help considering is how out of touch they are with working teachers. I teach every day, and every day I have to deal with difficulties in my classes. The whole, "sit down and shut up" thing is about the last I'd consider. I try to get kids to work within the framework of the class, to find something they can do. If I ran my classroom the way leadership runs the Executive Board, it would be chaos. (Of course, I haven't got the luxury of making 95% of my audience sign a loyalty oath to support me no matter what.) 

Mulgrew appeared for five minutes and gave us a pretty gloomy view of the contract, saying DC37 was eagerly negotiating and asking for very little. At least it isn't us this time imposing a crap pattern on the entire city. It was certainly us last time, and as far as I can determine, the pattern we imposed, 10% over 7 years, is the lowest ever. However, if DC37 imposes a crap pattern on all of us they can put a thousand people on the 300-member committee and it won't make a golly goshdarn's worth of difference.

UFT Unity thinks they are the beginning, the end, and the total package. They have hundreds of patronage employees ready to nod, pat them on the back and tell them what a great job they're doing no matter what. In the era of Janus, by steadfastly refusing even to hear member concerns, they are doing favors to no one, themselves included. 


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