Archives For March 2013

Mollie Bruhn

A Teach for America alumnus who has been an early childhood classroom teacher at PS 106 in Brooklyn for the past five years after spending two years teaching at another public school in the Bronx. She began teaching with a year at a charter school but was let go for questioning the charter school leaders about their policies.

“I am running with MORE because I am increasingly dissatisfied with the Unity leadership. I want union policy and action to reflect the will of the members. I want our union to take a strong stance against budget cuts, privatization and the overuse of high stakes testing. MORE has the power to take our union and our profession to a better place.”

MollieMOD

vote_more UFT elections are right around the corner. A MORE leadership of the UFT will mobilize the members through educational campaigns, school-level organizing and member-driven activities such as pickets, rallies and job actions to win:

  • An end to use of student test scores to evaluate teachers. We are opposed to basing any portion of our evaluation system on standardized tests. The results of these tests have been shown to be wildly inaccurate. Furthermore, these tests narrow the curriculum and the test scores serve as an excuse to close more schools.
  • A good contract. We will unite our members to pressure the city to agree to a contract with reasonable pay increases, smaller class sizes, lower caseloads for guidance counselors and social workers, and no givebacks in working conditions or job security. The Mulgrew/UNITY team has failed to organize the membership and we’ve been working without a contract since October 2009.
  • The right to regular positions for all ATRs. We will fight for an end to the ATR crisis and to force the DoE to offer positions in schools to all of our members. The UNITY team helped create this crisis when they bargained away the rights of excessed teachers in the 2005 contract.
  • An end to the wave of school closings, charterization, and co-locations. We will mobilize our members in alliance with parents and community members to force the city to properly fund and support all schools. The current UFT leadership has failed to build a city-wide movement to support schools and stop closings. In fact, the Mulgrew/UNITY team has barely tried. Although union lawsuits have temporarily blocked some closings, the Department of Education closes more and more schools each year, excessing more senior teachers and adding to the ATR crisis. Mulgrew does not have a strategy to stop this and under his leadership we are losing the war.

VOTE MORE! Join our campaign. Together we can transform the UFT into an
organization that can defend our rights and our schools!

http://www.MOREcaucusnyc.org | MORE@morecaucusnyc.org | (347) 766-7319
Facebook.com/MOREcaucusNYC | Twitter: @MOREcaucusNYC

By Julie Cavanagh

Wow. While having breakfast with my husband and almost nine month old son (who is finally on the mend after more than a week of a fever ranging 102-104 every day, during the same time my best friend’s 18 month old daughter was in the hospital, who by the way, is also a teacher and a single mother of two young children), I picked up my phone to see a mention on Twitter from Arthur Goldstein (teacher and chapter leader in Queens). I frankly couldn’t believe what I was reading. Usually a mention from Arthur has me in stitches. Not this time.

Now instead of relaxing while my baby takes a nap, I am writing this in response to comments on the ICE and MORE blogs attacking my commitment as a unionist and chapter leader and questioning my worthiness as a candidate for UFT President. All of this because I, and the caucus I represent, had the nerve to insist that Michael Mulgrew engage in a forum or debate with me so that our members can be fully informed and engaged when it comes to their voting choices in the upcoming election.

First let me say that I do not feel I need to defend my role as a chapter leader. Nearly every UFT member in our school, signed my petition for UFT President, and many of my colleagues are actually running in this election with MORE.

Second, I certainly do not need to defend my attendance at Delegate Assemblies. While I do attend, often, DAs are not a democratic forum. As I am sure the commenters on the ICE and MORE blogs know, and as all Unity folks know, the room is not even large enough for all of the CLs and delegates to be seated and when you do go and sit, you listen to Mulgrew practice his stand up routine for an hour or so, after which you *might* have the chance to ask a question or bring a resolution to the floor if Mulgrew recognizes you. Regardless, it is an effort in futility because it really doesn’t matter what you say, ask or bring to the floor; the ruling Unity caucus will disagree with it or vote it down, since they control the DA. If the UFT leadership actually held Delegate Assemblies each month that were informative and provided fair and ample time for discourse and discussion, I would be there in a New York Minute. As this is not the case, I attend as many Delegate Assemblies as I can, but sometimes other events such as a childcare issue, my son being ill or an important meeting in my community to bring a new partner into Red Hook to service children and families with disabilities will take precedence. I do not need to go to the delegate assembly to prove who I am or that I am committed to my union; I act every day in a way that highlights why I should be president of the UFT.

I am a mother and a teacher. I have been a teacher for thirteen years, and have been working with children with special needs and their families for even longer. I have stayed in the same community and school since moving to NYC in 2001, because I am committed to the process of leading school change and improvement from the school level. I became chapter leader at the request of my colleagues a few years ago and have worked hard with them, our parents, and our principal to make sure our children and our teachers have the best learning and working conditions possible. I fought for my school during the dictatorship that my union handed to the mayor, during a co-location of a charter school in my building that my union didn’t adequately help fight (which is difficult since the UFT leadership chose to co-locate its own charter), while our class sizes rise steadily and our budgets are slashed, while teacher’s choice was eliminated and insultingly reinstated to cover no more than a few boxes of pencils, while ATR’s rotate in and out of my building- some of whom  have approached me on the brink of tears desperate for someone to listen to their struggle, during a time of a tidal wave of assaults on our children, our schools, and our profession.

Throughout this time, I not only worked in my own school community, I worked with parents and union members across the city and the country to fight back. You can find links to some of my work here, but I will list a few highlights: I co-wrote/edited/produced/and narrated a film that stood up to corporate education reform, a film that has been seen by hundreds of thousands of people in every state and on every continent (except Antarctica); I have appeared on several TV and radio programs and written several articles where I have spoken out forcefully against corporate education reform and for the schools our children deserve – and I was invited or asked in every single case to participate, so while those in Unity caucus pretend to not know who I am or what I have done (but yet “know”, falsely, that I am not at DAs) apparently the national media does; I have also worked with other union members in the city and nationally  I helped organize a conference, and attended and facilitated, in Chicago in the summer of 2011 with other teacher union members; I helped lead the solidarity efforts with Verizon workers at the end of that same summer. I have sued, with a parent and a student, Mayor Bloomberg for the right to protest school closings and co-locations on his block and successfully organized and co-led that protest. I was the only teacher petitioner in the effort to stop and overturn the appointment of Cathy Black and also recently the only teacher on record to join with parents in sounding the alarm of student and teacher data privacy issues regarding SLC/inBloom data systems (Randi Weingarten, by the way, sits on inBloom’s advisory board). I say all of this not because I think anything that I am or that I do is so special, I share this information to highlight the outlandishness of the attacks from people whose usual line is there should be no attacks on union folks because we are under attack from outside forces and therefore need ‘unity’. I also share this because these are the things the president of a union should do.

Beyond of all of this, if Unity caucus can attack me for the number of times I went to the DA (this year I believe I have been to four DAs), the number of grievances I have filed (none), the number of UFT trainings or committees I have attended (none), then I wonder why they nominated Randi Weingarten as their presidential candidate, since she never attended a DA as a chapter leader, was never a chapter leader, and therefore never filed a grievance, attended the trainings, etc.

I personally do not think any of those things are what makes someone qualified to run our union. What matters is leadership. What matters is vision. What matters is the philosophy by which one will govern and represent the membership. I believe in a union that is member led and member driven. When I, or a candidate from MORE caucus, become president of the union, you will not have to attend a DA and sit idly and listen. The DA will be yours. When we take over leadership of our union, we will organize, support and build fighting chapters at the school level with elected district representatives who are trained organizers.  When we run the union, leadership and staffers will make salaries equivalent to the teachers we represent — there will be no extra perks, no double pensions.  When we lead our union, you will not go more than three years without a contract, at least not without organized job actions and a fight.

When Unity’s stranglehold of the leadership of our union ends, the members will have representation that believes in solidarity with other unions and in the power of our collective action. You will have a union that educates, mobilizes, and organizes our members and the public and who organically partners with parents and young people. You will have a leadership that truly understands that our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions, that a harm to one is a harm to us all, and that we must stand side by side with deep roots in the communities we serve to fight for social, racial and economic justice in our schools, in our city and across the country.

I am more than ready to share who I am with the members of the UFT and I am happy to answer their questions. In fact, that is precisely the reason I sent the email below to Michael Mulgrew. I believe a union membership with a less than 30% voter turnout needs to be engaged and exposed to open discourse and conversation between the two people who seek to represent them.

Mr. Mulgrew, I am still waiting for a response.

***

Sent: Mar 14, 2013 8:01 PM

Michael,

I hope this email finds you well.

While we have differences and disagreements concerning education policy and union democracy, we both are committed to our union and the children we serve. In that spirit, we should be able to engage in an open conversation during election season so we can ensure our fellow members are informed and engaged.

To this point you have ignored outreach regarding your participation in a debate or question and answer town hall with me. I would like to directly and formally ask you to participate in such an event.

I believe that our members deserve the opportunity to ask questions of their presidential candidates and I strongly believe this kind of open and honest discourse strengthens our union: an educated and engaged membership that is listened to and participates makes us stronger.

There is precedent for an event such as this between presidential candidates during election season.  As you know, Randi has participated in presidential debates in the past: one in 1999 and again in 2001.

I am open to a debate format with a third party moderator or a town hall question and answer event with the membership. My only specific asks are that the event be filmed and/or livestreamed so that we can maximize member participation, that the date, which I am open to any, be agreed to a few days in advance, so that I can secure child care and that the date be as close to April 3rd as possible, so that we provide a fair amount of time for members during the election timeframe.

I look forward to your response.

In solidarity,
Julie Cavanagh

The MORE caucus has requested several times, through several means that there be an open debate between our UFT presidential candidate Julie Cavanagh and Michael Mulgrew who represents the Unity/New Action caucuses. Repeatedly Mulgrew and his caucuses have ignored our invitations.

This constant denial to debate should be of concern to all our union brothers and sisters, as well as the communities we serve.

In order for our union to remain open and democratic all UFT members should  be encouraged to cast ballots in the union elections and provided forums that would give them meaningful insight into the very different visions for leadership of our union. It  is our firm conviction that as in any democratic election the voters must hear from candidates they are asked to choose from so they can make an informed decision.

The UFT is one of the largest local educators’ union in the country, is the controlling force of national union AFT, and the decisions of our union leadership affects the daily lives of millions of children and their parents around the city and the nation. The leadership of this union directly impacts educational policies through-out the country,  therefore this is a vital election and it is in everyone’s best interest if the two candidates engage in a debate.

Mr. Mulgrew speaks once a month to only the delegates and chapter leaders of the UFT, MORE has called for a debate that can be viewed by all our UFT members through-out the city.  In the true spirit of fairness and and solidarity we call on Michael Mulgrew to join Julie Cavanagh in a debate moderated by an independent third party moderator that can be live-streamed via the Internet, so that members can ask questions of both candidates.

We anxiously await His reply.

New Video Ad

March 19, 2013 — 4 Comments

Help us take our 2nd video viral. Share on your social media, blogs, and email to all your friends and family. Ask your UFT colleagues to check it out and share it too! The ballots will be sent out April 3rd by USPS. The time is now to expect MORE from our union. We have a choice for a new positive leadership of the UFT which will build a strong union movement along side parents, students, community groups, and other workers’ groups.

Here is the video link to watch and share http://youtu.be/mN5cSbD4TTw

MORE believes that Unity co-signed on to government policies which are leading to the deterioration of our student’s learning conditions; Mayoral control, privatization of schools, over reliance on high stakes exams, and evaluation schemes based on testing which does not take into account our children’s socio-economic conditions, are just some of the harmful polices that Unity caucus has agreed to.

MORE’s UFT Presidential candidate Julie Cavanagh states;
“For more than fifty years, one caucus and one caucus only, has led the UFT. In the last ten years, in a departure from the roots of our union’s founding, the leadership has failed to organize and mobilize the membership at the time we have needed their leadership the most. The tidal wave of unprecedented attacks on our profession, our schools and our children will not stop with a new mayor. It is time for change. It is time we demand MORE from our union.” MORE believes that a democratic, member-driven union will better address the needs of students, parents, educators, and the communities we serve.
 
In addition to running in the UFT elections, MORE organizes events ranging from educational forums and protests to social gatherings. For information about MORE visit www.morecaucus.orgwww.facebook.com/MOREcaucusNYC www.twitter.com/MOREcaucusNYC

This is must watch video! You will hear an alternative vision for how to organize and mobilize an educator’s union in defense of  our public schools. MORE shares this vision with President Lewis and the CORE caucus of Chicago Teacher’s Union.

Want to learn MORE about MORE?
Meet some of the candidates running in the UFT election?
Meet other educators in the area?
Build a stronger chapter?
Help us win the UFT election?
Need a drink before Spring Break?
Please join us:
Friday, March 15 
 

BROOKLYN/QUEENS BORDER / District 19:

3 – 5 PM:
Boulder Creek Steakhouse
355 Gateway Drive, Brooklyn,
Exit 15 off the Belt Parkway
 
Friday, March 15 
SOUTH NASSAU
5 – 7 PM:

Cannon’s Blackthorn 

2 for 1 drinks and a free buffet

49 N. Village Road, Rockville Centre

one block north of Sunrise Highway, next to the LIRR station

 
Thursday, March 21st 
Manhattan
5-7 Pm
La Nacional Tapas Bar
reservation made for back of bar
(239 West 14th Street between 7th & 8th Ave)
This Saturday 3/16 is the NYCORE Conference 
Featuring Chicago Teacher’s Union President Karen Lewis of the CORE caucus
Pres. Lewis is an authority on social justice unionism and public education.
Our own UFT Presidential Candidate Julie Cavanagh will be hosting a workshop with many MORE of our candidates.
This conference is the premiere NYC event on education and social justice with incredible guest speakers.
Check out the line-up, there’s still time to register for all the amazing workshops

As reported by Reuters on March 4th, New York and eight other states are planning to hand over the private, confidential data of NY public schools students to a Gates Foundation-funded corporation (inBloom, inc.) that will share it with for-profit vendors. The student’s data will be vulnerable to misuse, hacking and theft, as the company states that it “cannot guarantee the security of the information stored … or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted.”

The database will contain students’ names, addresses, phone numbers, along with test scores, disciplinary and health records, special education and economic status. In some cases it will contain information on students hobbies and career goals. In other words, it’s a treasure trove of data for marketers, advertisers and edu-preneurs of every stripe who are looking to strike it rich in the Big Data gold rush in education. According to Reuters, over $425 million dollars in education-related venture capital deals were transacted in 2012; 84 deals, up from just 15 in 2007.

To make matters worse, the operating system for inBloom is being built by Amplify, the Rupert Murdoch/Joel Klein education for-profit. Murdoch’s News Corporation, the parent company of Amplify, is involved in an ongoing scandal regarding wiretapping and hacking into personal computers, even having gone so far as to have hacked the voice mail of murder victims. Amplify executives openly use terms like ‘mining” student data, and Murdoch has personally spoken in direct terms about getting a piece of the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on K-12 education in the US every year. Can parents trust their children’s personal and confidential information to companies of this character? In this free-for-all, information is a commodity for sale to the highest bidder, raising unprecedented privacy issues that officials in New York State have refused to address.

This digital eye-in-the-sky also poses many threats to teachers. The consolidation of test and other data, combined with the junk science of VAM-based evaluations, will make teachers even more vulnerable to digital surveillance, micromanagement, absurd and wasteful mandates, harassment and abuse. Additionally, the data storage is to be integrated with “vetted” content aligned with the corporate-spawned, un-researched and un-piloted Common Core Standards that are being imposed nationally, intensifying the mania for high-stakes tests and further restricting the curriculum and teacher discretion.

Rubbing salt in this wound is the presence of AFT President Randi Weingarten on the Advisory Group of inBloom, inc. That a teacher union leader would be involved in this clear and present danger to student privacy and teacher autonomy is outrageous.

MORE insists that our union immediately withdraw any connection to this dangerous folly, and direct its efforts toward placing vigorous public oversight – with accountability and real penalties for negligence and misuse – of student and teacher data, and that public and elected officials not permit confidential student information to be shared with private corporations without parent consent.

Protest School Closings

March 10, 2013 — 5 Comments

On Monday March 11th the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP)
will meet at Brooklyn Technical High School at 6 PM to vote on the closure of 26 schools.
They will also vote to replace and co-locate many of the schools with charters schools.

Join members of the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE), students, parents, and community members

Rally and Action
5:00pm 

Protest Against Senseless School Closings and Rally In Support of our Fellow Teachers, Faculty, Students, Parents, and Communities

6:00pm 

PEP meeting

Join the rally, stay for the hearing to speak against school closings and co-locations!

From Chicago, to Philadelphia, to right here in New York City, the fight against senseless school closings has reached a fever pitch. The communities are coming out by the masses and standing together as one against the corporate “reform” forces. Everyone now knows the truth, closing schools is not about helping our children nor is about better serving our communities; it’s about privatizing education and turning our children into profits. Closing schools is meant to make wealthy individuals wealthier while having no consideration for our children. We are calling on all educators, parents, students, and community members to join us and protest further harm to our students, our city, and our future. The puppet panels making these decisions have no regard for the city they supposedly serve. A mayor, who has no mandate, received less than 51% percent of the vote, appointed these members. He is serving an illegal third term after the citizens of New York voted for term limits, with less than a year left in his term, he has no right to close our schools. The time is now to halt this process, which has not resulted in better schools for our city. Many of the schools that will be closed will be replaced by charter schools where a CEO makes millions, while low paid, in many cases non-union teachers have tremendous turn-over rates. Children in charter schools are routinely exposed to less experienced teachers and there is no substantial evidence that there is any improvement in their education. Instead of filling the pockets of private individuals with public funds, let’s reinvest that money where it should be, with our children in our public schools.

The governor in speeches through-out the state has spoken of wrap-around services, we say why wait? Let’s offer this immediately and not a second later to all the schools that have been targeted for “reutilization”.  Let’s provide our children more after-school programs, more one to one services, and offer them a real chance to succeed by giving them the full resources of the state and city. There are excessed teachers and guidance counselors who are shuttled from school to school each week; we demand that these highly trained and experienced professionals be placed in schools targeted for closing immediately. This will allow class sizes to be reduced and students to receive more services. This is reform, this is helping our students, and this is truly serving the community.

The Mayor, DOE, and puppet panels must come out and say the truth, closing schools is racist policy. As our candidate for UFT treasurer Camille Eterno stated “there are never schools that have significant white populations that are targeted for closure but rather it is in places like Southeast Queens, a mostly African American neighborhood and in other predominantly African American or Latino areas where schools are closed.” The government must have a full examination of this policy. In a city as diverse as New York the people deserve an answer as to why only schools in communities with African-Americans, Latinos, and immigrant communities are continuously closed. Until we have answers there must be a moratorium on school closings.

Furthermore, we must oppose the “soft closing” of schools by strangling them slowly with colocations. This process inevitably hastens the decline of neighborhood comprehensive high schools as it decreases their enrollment and forces them to compete for scarce space and resources with new colocated institutions – often privately-run non-union charters.  This process is being repeated across the city at schools the Bloomberg administration is too politically timid to close, like Clinton and Lehman High Schools in the Bronx or P.S. 132 in Washington Heights.

The DOE under chancellor Walcott must put aside its anti-teacher campaign and work with our union to empower our communities. Let’s work together to rebuild the schools by sitting down with parents, students, and the educators of targeted schools to find real solutions to real issues. The answer is not to bring in consultants that cost millions with ideas they read in some education journal, the answer is to use those funds to better serve our students by adding classes, staff, and services that directly affect pupils.

The School Leadership Teams (SLT) which are voted in and represent all constituents of the school; parents, staff, and students need to be given power in this process. They should be consulted in any decision that affects the school. Bring in new administrators that are chosen by a procedure that best serves the interests of the entire community, not a superintendent or network leader sitting in an office that has never visited the school. The current C-30 process is a fraud and is for show only. The parents and staff have no voice and they know it. This must change, the people in charge of a school have a real impact and the process for choosing them must seek to be as democratic as possible to ensure students are getting the right person for the job. If the C-30 and SLT have been turned into shams how can we expect the schools to succeed. This was all done on purpose so that the mayor and patronage lackeys could close down schools and bring in their millionaire friends to steal from our public funds. Let’s change this now instead of closing schools, let’s empower the members of our schools to make changes that best serve everyone.

MORE demands an immediate end to closing schools; we will not rest until this demand is met. We stand in solidarity with all community members everywhere that are fighting to preserve public education against forces of reform that seek to fatten their bank accounts NOT serve our community. Join us this Monday; join every school closing hearing, every PEP (3/11 and 3/20 at Brooklyn Technical High School, and 4/17 at Prospect Heights Educational Campus), to have your voice heard, and most importantly to protect our children’s future.

Listen to Julie on The John Gambling Show explain why the UFT needs to change and why MORE should lead the way.