SOUTH BRONX SCHOOL

Monday, May 25, 2020

Mike Mulgrew, Please Follow the Example of Ron Swoboda

This blog post is dedicated to my friend, James Eterno. James is a great guy and true blue
Mets fan.

In my blog post of May 20, I kind of lamented how the town hall question and answer period has become somewhat predictable. There about 14,000 callers and probably a few thousand people waiting in the que with questions. Maybe, just maybe, questions should be emailed ahead of time. Perhaps questions can be selected to answer by Mike Mulgrew or he can pick the questions randomly out of a drum.

I know what you are saying, "But wouldn't Mulgrew just pick the softball questions?" That is a possibility, unless he follows what Ron Swoboda did in 1975.

I was 11 years old in 1975. I was on Tracey's Shoe Shoppe in the Ardsley Little League. Our annual father-son dinner was being held at the Glen Island Casino in New Rochelle and Ron Swoboda was to be our guest speaker.

This was the first time that I was to seat alone with the team. I talked my dad in sitting at my brothers table. My reasoning was that it was my brother's first year in little league (He was 8) and that my dad was co-manager. I would not have to worry about my dad all night.

The dinners always had a question and answer period of the player (Unfortunately, it was always a Met as the guest. I had to sit through Ray Sadecki, Jim McAndrew, and Bob Apodaca to this point). It was always mayhem hundreds of boys raising their hands at once. Except 1975 was the year of the new Q&A format. We would now write our questions on a piece of paper which would then be collected and given to the guest.

Now mind you, at this time in my life I only knew of Ron Swoboda of having played for the Yankees, having come over in a trade during the 1971 season for Ron Woods. And frankly, in the 2 1/2 seasons Swoboda played for the Yankees he kind of sucked. The Braves even cut him during spring training in 1974. Again, I did not know of his 1969 World Series heroics. I am sure some of the more mature readers he do.

I decided on a question. Of course me being me I wrote: "Were you a scrub?"  The boys, and even the fathers, at my table said there is no way that Swoboda would read the question.

Guess what? He did!

Swoboda is up at the dais and going through the questions and just blurts out, "Were you a scrub?" He pauses, and decides to give a life lesson. He tells us how the 25th man on the team is just as important as the 1st man on the team and yada, yada, yada. Looking back on that answer it makes sense. Hey, he got to play Major League baseball and be a hero in a World Series.

About 10-12 years ago he was at a card show at the Westchester County Center. I took my son with me and he got an autograph. I also took the time to apologize to Ron Swoboda and, he graciously accepted (He had ZERO memory of that night).

But you know, looking back I was impressed that he didn't take a softball question. He faced that obnoxious question by an ADHD 11 year old and he met it head on. Sometimes answering the hard questions, the questions that people might not like the answer for is the way to win converts and have people come to your side.

Next UFT Town Hall Q&A let's keep on wishing for less ""What gave you the idea for Flat Stanley?" questions and more questions, to use a baseball parlance, that are knuckleballs.

We are in this together. UFT should always be aware that actions are better than just words.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Are We Getting Reality or Perception From the UFT?

"There is no such thing as reality. There is only perception." - said by so many


Since all this Corona Virus hazerai has gone down since March I have noticed that the UFT has been (at the very least) in a more proactive manner, as well as being a bit more forceful.

Speaking for myself I hope the town halls are permanent and once we are off restriction will becomes more of a traveling town hall with smaller audiences but more frequently across the boroughs, or once a month in each borough. But there is still work to do.

It was pleasing to read about Mulgrew in the Post last month ripping the bloated bureaucracy at Tweed as has been reported on these pages.

It was also not unpleasant to read how and hear from Mulgrew how pissed he was about spring break being cancelled.

And though the UFT was fashionably late to the party, it was at the forefront of the pressure on the DOE to close the school buildings and pivot to remote learning even though some fruity little caucus thinks they were the influencers.

Right now, I am giving the benefit of the doubt that the UFT will continue being proactive. We have been down this road before. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame of me. Once bitten, twice, shy. The devil is in the details. You catch my drift, no?

Maybe, just maybe, Mike Mulgrew is having a Pat Lynch moment(s), but without being the asshole that Pat Lynch is.

There is still more the UFT can do. Not only grab the DOE by the proverbial testes but give a good tight squeeze whilst twisting.

How about this? Leak the names of all CSA and non-UFT useless wastes of space in Tweed with their salaries and perks. That's a good start.

And go after the lawyers. How many lawyers are there working for the DOE are there to make teachers jobs and lives miserable? I think Solidarity came up with 300. Say these 300 lawyers average a salary of $85k. Getting rid of them all can save $25.5 million.

What's sad is this going after the lawyer thing could've and should've been done years ago when teachers were being sent to the Rubber Rooms for carrying a Coca-Cola.

Mike Mulgrew said at either a town hall or a DA recently (I conflate the two sometimes) that we won the teacher war. Well, to the victors go the spoils and the writing of history. Let's do it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Will Flat Stanley Be at Tomorrow's UFT Town Hall?

Sometime in the late 90's I had been teaching third grade. The author of "Flat Stanley", Jeff Brown, came by the school and the third grade came to meet him in the library. He gave the story of how he created Flat Stanley and about writing and reading and all that important stuff. The kids really enjoyed it.

Then came the Q&A part. We practiced with the students on what questions to ask Mr Brown. If memory serves, they had a list of questions to choose from. The kids raised their hands, and Mr Brown picked a student. I remember the question vividly.
"What gave you the idea for Flat Stanley?"
Mr Brown shared Flat Stanley's genesis, and the kids were really into it. He asked who else had a question. The hands shot up. He picked another student with a question.
"What gave you the idea for Flat Stanley?"
This went on for the rest of the time with Mr Brown. Every kid asked the same question while Mr Brown's teeth were grinding---politely. 

There is a reason I bring this up. A method to my madness.

I do appreciate the town halls. I do appreciate Mike Mulgrew standing up and putting the effort to at very least show that he is attentive to the needs and concerns of the rank and file. This can be a very good start.

One thing irks myself and The Crack Team.

I feel like I'm back in that library in 1998 and Mulgrew is Jeff Brown and the teachers asking the questions are the students asking the same questions abut Flat Stanley.

I am not blaming the teachers. They, we, all have pertinent questions that need be answered. I get it.

The screeners did better training. Too often, the same question is asked. Now I can be wrong, but it seems that way. I don't know if this is done by design or just a repeat of the Flat Stanley Debacle of 1998.

So for tomorrow's town hall, please, let's mix it up a bit. If Mulgrew mentions something in his opening remarks, questions pertaining to what he said could be put off. Or if a question is asked having already asked, we skip over that question to something that is completely different.

I am hearing rumors that the questions and questioners are not pre-screened. We are giving the benefit of the doubt. A wide variety of everything is best for all involved.

Let's head down this positive path together. Variety is the spice of life.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Teachers Lives Matter

With no plan, nor even a speculation of a plan, in sight, no one knows what to expect come
September. But one thing has been on my mind for some time now which was alluded to in yesterday's exec board meeting.

As per Arthur Goldstein's blog and last nights minutes...
Q:Members with pre-existing contditions--can they work remotely? 
A: On the table.
Yeah, what about it? What if schools reopen, or even partially reopen? What safety measures will be taken?

I have Type 2 Diabetes. My A1c is quite low (can be lower), my blood pressure is normal, my weight is good. Cholesterol, kidneys, everything is good. Knock on wood. But I am still diabetic and that is on the list of people who are susceptible to Covid-19.So what is a diabetic teacher to do?

In 1997 I had really bad strep throat. Had 104 degree fever. Was on anti-biotics. Knocked out my immune system. After I got better from the strep, I developed Shingles.

Should teachers walk into the belly of death?

How about teachers with lung problems to begin with? A little over 30 years ago my dad had pleurisy. It made him much more susceptible to pneumonia.

So should teachers with lung issues risk their lives? 

Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease. So is Lupus. What about any auto-immune disease? What then?

A teacher getting chemotherapy is sometimes well enough to work between sessions. What then?

A simple cold can whack someone's immune system.

Asthma? Being on certain medications? Anyone with a chronic illness?

A dead teacher is not a good thing.

I believe I can say that not one teacher is willing to die for Chancellor Carranza. One too many already have.

The city and the DOE are dicking around. But the devil is in the details.

This is time for the UFT to shine.

To truly protect its members.




Thursday, May 7, 2020

Governor Andrew Cuomo is Still a D**k

You can't change the spots on a jaguar. A scorpion is always going to sting. You can't
change the stripes on a tiger. You can't make shit from shinola. You can't make chicken salad from chicken shit.

And you can't keep Andrew Cuomo from being a dick.

He just can't help himself. Must be in his DNA. He didn't get it from his father. Maybe he is adopted or was dropped on his head as a boy.

Compared to the 5 year old, we have as a president I was giving kudos to Cuomo in the job he was doing the last 6-7 weeks. Yes, he was slow in coming around. He fucked up with the nursing homes, but he came across knowledgeable and compassionate.

He was earning rock star status. I know many people who were like, "Ohhhh, he's so kewl. He's the best." I did everything I could to throw cold water and saying that yes, I will give him credit for doing something undickish, let's go over what he has done in the past in which he was a dick, especially to teachers. He basically wanted to destroy our profession and destroy education in New York State.

But maybe, just maybe, he would rest on his laurels of the last 6-7 weeks. Maybe he would say to himself, "Self, I have rock star status, I don't need to be a dick." No he couldn't help himself. He is a wolf in sheep's clothing, a dog that can't be taught new tricks.
"I want to work with Bill Gates to re-imagine education in New York State."
Dear God, he said that. Why? After all we been through, why? And why now?

Oh yeah, remote learning so he says has changed how we should see learning. Where's the facepalm emoji on this blogger thing? (Read Arthur for a more detailed and mature take on Cuomo's dickiness.)

I agree with what Mulgrew said at the most recent UFT town hall that this remote stuff is here to stay. It is. But how is it going to stay?

If it is replacement. Bad. If it supports and supplements learning, then no problem. But Cuomo can't do that especially when he's reenlisting his partner in crime, Bill Gates.

Why Gates? Please, hasn't that ship sailed? Look at Cuomo's task force for the Corona Virus task force....
  • Linda Lacewell, Department of Financial Services, Superintendent
  • Dr. Howard Zucker, Department of Health, Commissioner
  • Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor
  • Beth Garvey, Special Counsel
  • Gareth Rhodes, Department of Financial Services, Deputy Superintendent
  • Simonida Subotic, Deputy Secretary for Economic Development
  • Kelly Cummings, Director of State Operations and Infrastructure
  • Michael Kopy, Director of Emergency Management
  • Patrick Murphy, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Commissioner
  • RoAnn Destito, Office of General Services, Commissioner
  • Pat Foye, MTA, Chairman & CEO
  • Rick Cotton, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Executive Director
  • Dan Fuller, Deputy Secretary for Education
  • Sandra Beattie, Division of Budget, Deputy Director
I'm not going to get into the competency of any of the above mentioned people, but looking at their job descriptions one can adequately surmise that each brings knowledge of their area of expertise to the larger undertaking of this virus. That's what is needed.

If I am going to get advice on how to run a bakery I am not going to ask a gardener.

So why is Cuomo going back to what has failed in the past, what we are seeing now was never needed and a complete waste of money?

Want to re-imagine education in New York State, Andy? Go to the stakeholders. The teachers of New York State. Not the E4E types, not the charter school type, the real teachers. The teachers that work for a living. Heck even retirees. And NO EVA MOSKOWITZ!!!!!

What about parents? Why can't they help out Cuomo? How about high school and college students. Maybe a gardener or two?

It really doesn't take that much to re-imagine education. It's quite simple. Use the words I said to my son when I dropped him off at college, "Don't be stupid." That simple.

 This is all about money, power, and Cuomo being a dick because he is not happy with his dick. Just leave well enough alone Chris' brother.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

RIP and Thank You Chaz the Blogger

Earlier today I found out my fellow blogger and friend Eric Chasinoff passed away at the age
of 69 due to COVID. Today is a sad day not only for myself, but fellow bloggers and the scores of teachers over the years that Chaz selflessly helped, supported, and sometimes (when needed) just lent an ear.

For me Chaz was always the go to guy for almost any questions I had concerning my rights as a teacher. And when someone reached out to me, when I was stumped I sent them to Chaz. In fact for years, I wouldn't give Chaz's number without checking with him first, but eventually I asked Chaz if I could give his number without asking. He didn't blink an eye and said yes.

I would say it was around 2008 when I became of Chaz and his blog. That's about the time I started mine and I enjoyed Eric's straight to the point style of writing. Chaz didn't suffer fools gladly and was always quick to call bullshit.

It was also during this time that Chaz had been exiled to the Rubber Room for a quite innocuous comment he made to a student. His high school lost a great Earth Science teacher (Read more here), the kids and the community suffered, all for something that should've been just a letter to the file.

But I am sad not just for losing a friend, but for someone who kept me from losing my mind.

Chaz (And this is not taking away from others who were there for me), kept me sane when I was in the Rubber Room for two years and going through my 3020a. I can't count the number of times I would call Chaz in a panic and he would explain things to me and calm me down. Even though he wouldn't sugar coat anything, he know how to deal with me. For three years Chaz stuck by me, didn't give up on me, and kept me focused.

I met Chaz once or twice. The first time was at a diner in Queens right off the Clearview. I bought my accordion style folder with me for my 3020a and he looked over the papers. Better yet, he go my mind away from everything, and we enjoyed a good breakfast.

My heart goes out to his family. Thank you for sharing him with all the teachers of the NYCDOE that needed Chaz. Thank you for sharing him with me. My thoughts are with the Chasinoff family tonight.

I am grateful Chaz had played a part in my life.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

The New York Times Goes Full Snark On Teachers

Last week I stopped at Stew Leonard's in Yonkers to pick up a few things for dinner. There
was about a 30-45 minute line to get in. A few minutes after I got on the line Stew Leonard's employee shouted, "All essential workers (first responders, health care workers, etc..) can go enter." I turned and asked, "What about teachers?" She said to go on ahead.

But thanks to the this New York Times article from April 21, some might be thinking we are no appreciative of what we have, think we are complaining too much, or both.

Off course the Times has to begin the article with snark.

According to the Times, teachers... work under meticulously negotiated contracts that detail their work hours and break times, and the rules for how they engage with administrators — contracts that now seem all but irrelevant with students and teachers confined to their homes.

Uh, yeah. We do. There is a reason we do. Just like First Responders do, just like MTA workers do, just most healthcare workers do (At least in New York City owned hospitals), even nurses in private hospitals. Sanitation workers are unionized, highway workers as well. But of course the Times must make it out to seem that only the teachers are hiding behind a collectively bargained contract. 

Irrelevant? So the contract goes out the window because we are working from home? We are therefore not entitled to a 50 minute lunch? A six hour and fifty minute day? A prep? Sick days? 

Administrators must not follow rules? Mustn't supervisors in NYPD follow rules? FDNY? Any other essential workers that work under a CBA (For those that aren't aware the C in CBA stands for COLLECTIVE which is an adjective meaning "done by people acting as a group.") The UFT collectively enters into a contract with another party, the City of New York."

 But some of these teachers are working longer hours without being compensated. According to the Times...Unions in some of America’s largest school districts have called for restrictions on the number of hours and days that teachers would be required to work from home during the pandemic.

That's because some of these teachers, many in fact, are working longer hours. All the time from home while juggling taking care of their own children.

Maybe they just want to be compensated for their extra time, or what is known as OVERTIME. NYPD cops are still afforded OVERTIME, In fact the plan is if 5k cops call in sick NYPD will go to 12 hour shifts which will include OVERTIME. Does the Times have issues with other public service employees taking advantage of the fruits of OVERTIME?

Is it possible that teachers, due to our CBA also wish for relief from supervisors that break the agreed CBA, go against agreements negotiated by the UFT and the chancellor?

From yesterday's UFT Delegate Assembly (courtesy of Arthur Goldstein) during the Q&A...
Q.How much work can principals mandate, now being told to record voice over PowerPoint. Pushing us to be onscreen as much as possible. In Kindergarten.
A--If they're mandating you be live, go to operational complaint form. Chancellor not requiring it. Why are they changing things all of a sudden? Perhaps being directed. I will check what's going on in your district. If this goes to my consultation with chancellor, will be inconvenient for AP
That's just an example.

Of course the Times has this; New York City has seen perhaps the most drastic display of unions pushing back against the new expectations placed on teachers.

Yeah, because we have been shat upon for too long and we don't trust those making decisions even though the teachers of NYC put together remote learning for 1.1 million students in 3 days.  

Think it's easy for us? How does one think it is for an average 7 year old? How does one think it is for any child old whose only escape from their home is that time spent in school? How does one think it is for four school aged children under one roof with only one laptop or just an iPad or iPhone? We know. We feel it. 

We push back because we are not generally supervised by competency or even have a background in education. I'll guarantee that any cop is supervised by someone who has been a cop and has more than 3 years of service. I will also say the same that one can't become a health care professional with only 50 hours of training. And I know if I walk into McDonald's tomorrow morning that the manager has experience working for McDonald's.

But the Times went full snark with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that spring break, scheduled to begin in early April, would be canceled for schools across the state. (Many other places did the opposite, keeping or even extending their breaks.)




New York City’s teachers’ union, the United Federation of Teachers, held out hope that educators could still take off for Passover and Good Friday — and was furious when Mayor Bill de Blasio kept them on the job for those religious holidays.

Why did Cuomo do what he did? Because we are babysitters. What did DeBlasio? Because him and Cuomo are battling to see who has a bigger schlong. But I think the bigger reason is this: Both were afraid of too many teenagers of color with nothing to do and out on the streets. Their donor class and Wall St whispered in their ears and asked told them to do something. 

I want to be compensated. Cops are keeping their vacations. Firefighters. Transit workers. Sanitation. School Safety. School custodial workers. Why not us?

I get it. We, as well as other professions mentioned here, are lucky we are still getting paid. I am grateful. Yes, I know people who aren't. I know people who are struggling. I wish for a speedy recovery and that the grownups will take charge soon. But it is time to stop making teachers scapegoats and having this illusion that we have it damn good.

And I know that the cops, firefighters, EMS, grocery workers, health care workers are busting their asses, and risking their lives every day. They're all doing great jobs. In fact there is so much good going around. But it just seems that it is always open season on teachers.

And even though we have a no layoff clause in our contract I fear that many teachers will be discontinued this year under false pretenses just to save money. 

Oh, one more thing. Let's get past this thing, "Oh, teachers work only 180 days and get paid in the summer for doing nothing." That's a misnomer. Our September-December pay has money pulled back for our July check and January-June for August. OK? 

And, Cuomo is still a dick.