Posts Tagged ‘UFT’

A NYC Teacher Speaks of His Sabotaged School

January 31, 2017

The following is the transcript of an address given by NYC Public School teacher Jim Donohue on what has happened and is happening to his school:

Hello. My name is Jim Donohue.

I’d like to start by thanking you for allowing me a few minutes to speak tonight, and I’d also like to thank Carol Harrison and Mary Atkinson from the Bronx chapter for their support in what has been a very difficult couple of weeks.

I’m an English teacher at JHS 145, where I’ve worked for the past 17 years. JHS 145 is a renewal school, and we were told (through a leak to the New York Times) that a proposal has been made to close the school at the end of the school year.

I want to share a quote with you because it precisely defines the situation my colleagues, my students, and our school community find ourselves in today. It reads as follows:

“For the past 12 years, New York City’s ‘answer’ for struggling schools was simple: warehouse our neediest students, starve the schools of support, and then close their schools if they didn’t miraculously turn around. “

As you may have guessed, that was spoken by Mr. Michael Mulgrew back in 2014 in response to Mayor de Blasio’s announcement of the Renewal school plan.

Mr. Mulgrew used the term “warehouse our neediest students.” Well, I’ve come to you tonight directly from the warehouse. How else to describe a school whose students come NOT FROM ONE OR TWO zoned elementary schools in their district, but from 94 different schools located in EVERY BOROUGH of NYC? How else to describe a school with 140 students who arrived at its doors DIRECTLY from the Dominican Republic? How else to describe a school with 53 (20% of its population) shelter students, another 50 classified as Special Needs students, and another 20 with Interrupted Formal Education? We’ve done some research. NO OTHER MIDDLE SCHOOL IN THE BRONX has demographics to match this.

Mr. Mulgrew used the term “starve the school of resources”. Well, I come to you from a place of terrible starvation. How else to describe a situation in which 140 out of 298 students are English Language Learners but had NO ESL teacher for the entire 2014/2015 school year, and only 1 this year. How else to describe a situation in which 60% of a school’s population are English Language Learners, but have NO Bilingual math teacher, NO bilingual science teacher, NO bilingual English teacher and No Bilingual Social Studies teacher? How else to describe the following absurdity: One year into the renewal program, a program that promised ADDITIONAL RESOURCES to schools like ours, the DOE allowed the Success Academy to take 18 of our classrooms, which scattered our staff and students across 3 floors of a building occupied by 4 different schools, and forced us to dismantle our computer lab in order to convert it into classroom space?

Mr. Mulgrew mentioned the closing of schools, which brings me to my true purpose tonight. After attempting to systematically starve JHS 145 to death, the DOE now calls for the school to be closed. And I say “ATTEMPTING TO STARVE TO DEATH” because we are far from dead. Despite DOE claims that our students “FAIL” the state ELA and MATH assessments, we have data that shows otherwise.

Our students come to us reading at levels between Kindergarten and 4th grade. Do they miraculously (another term used by Mr. Mulgrew) achieve grade level scores on these tests at 145? No, they do not. What they do is move, consistently, from Kindergarten levels to 2nd grade, from 2nd to 3rd or 4th, from 3rd to 5th or 6th and so on.

Despite years of neglect, our students have won the Thurgood Marshall Junior Mock Trial Competition 8 times, more than any other school in the citywide tournament.

Our students have won the BronxWRITeS Poetry Slam more than any other school in the city, recently sharing the stage with Mayor De Blasio and Ambassador Caroline Kennedy in an exhibition at Goldman Sachs.

The DOE’s 2014-2015 School Quality Snapshot tells us that “86% of this school’s former 8th graders earned enough high-school credit in 9th grade to be on track for graduation,” a number that is nearly identical to the citywide average of 87% and better than the district average of 81%.

Our kids are some of the most vulnerable in the city, living in the poorest congressional district in the country, but they are smart and capable and worthy of respect. They are not failures.

Finally, I want to use a term that Mr. Mulgrew didn’t use. That term is DIRTY POOL. Because a full 3 weeks before the DOE’s closure proposal even becomes official, and 2 months before the PEP vote takes place, and despite the DOE’s claim that the closing has NOTHING to do with the charter school, Success Academy’s website has begun advertising for applicants to its new middle school, opening in 2017, at JHS 145. In recent weeks, Success Academy staff members have been measuring our classrooms, apparently 100% confident that the PEP will rubberstamp our demise in March.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m here to ask you for 4 things:
We ask that the UFT publicly demand that the proposal for the closing of JHS 145 be pulled from the PEP agenda.
We ask that the UFT utilize its resources in the form of media, social media, twitter, etc. speak out against this proposal.
We ask the UFT to help us move the PEP from Manhattan to the school so that the community can attend, and if that proves impossible, to supply a bus for community members to travel to the PEP.
Finally, and perhaps mosti importantly, we ask that Mr. Mulgrew come to our school to witness or participate in the student march to the District Office that we are scheduling for next week.
Thank you.

Please Contact
Jim Donohue 917-318-8762 donohuenyc@gmail.com
Craig Moss 914-319-1227 poet145@gmail.com
Deidre Walker 347-869-4810 deidremw@gmail.com

Notes On NYC Labor Day Parade and the Horror of Trump Tower

September 14, 2015

success IMG_0817

So New York City’s Labor Day Parade was held on Saturday and, as a dutiful union man, I made my way up to 45th St in the morning and met up with the UFT contingent massed together awaiting our turn to march among the thousands of ironworkers, plumbers, postal workers, carpenters, laborers, nurses, and all the rest of the noble souls who collectively form the central nervous system of the city and keep the city running. The turnout among teachers was disappointing but I was grateful, as ever, to meet up with my friend and union brother, the prize winning blogger nyceducator and his delightful protégé. Together we managed to squeeze out some laughs and skillfully avoid the oily hands of various politicians – most notably the cadaverous looking Sen. Chuck Schumer, his arms seeming to multiply like the Hindu goddess Durga, desperately seeking something to shake — and walk the 5th Ave route from start to finish on 64th St.

At parade’s end we parted, the nyceducator and protégé heading east to lunch, and
I back tracking south along 5th Ave passing the parade that went on and on and on. Somewhere around 62nd St I came to a realization that New Yorkers dread: my bladder was sending me the unmistakable message that I needed a bath room, a need ridiculously difficult to fulfill anywhere in NYC, that much the more in that neighborhood of Tiffany’s and the Plaza Hotel.

I understood I had no choice but to soldier down 19 or so blocks to a branch of the New York Public Library and so, with ever increasing urgency, did I begin.

Lo and behold, not far into my increasingly miserable journey I looked right to find none other than the garish Trump Tower, with the words “open to the public” above the glass doors calling me to follow like the star of Bethlehem.
Besides, I reasoned, what better person to leave such a gift with after a Labor Day Parade than Donald Trump, no longer merely an obnoxious media whore billionaire but, crazily, the leading candidate for the Republican nomination for the presidency of the United States! So, for the first time in my life, albeit with an extremely limited mission in mind, I entered a building owned by Donald Trump; which is to say I entered into a physical space mirroring the horrifying sensibility of Donald Trump.

Before I go any further let me say that, like any more or less sensate New Yorker, even before his insane entry into presidential politics and elevation into the same, I have been forced into an awareness of the vulgar and supreme narcissist who is Donald Trump. Moreover, cycling to work from the Lower East Side to Harlem, as I do, I am reminded of his existence via his brutal phallic buildings just about any route I take. There’s a Trump monstrosity on 1st Ave near the United Nations. Another when you leave the bike path at Central Park and 59th St.. There are still others along the Hudson Bikeway on the Westside. I was also unwittingly aware, seemingly through a process akin to osmosis, of Trump’s idiot TV show, his get rich seminars, his wives and other aspects of his garish life.

That said, even with all I knew of this man, nothing prepared me for what I was to find inside Trump Tower. Being inside Trump Tower feels like being in the center of a diseased psyche. It feels like mental illness made normative. It feels like narcissism so unbounded it has a palpable presence. Inside, the image and name of Trump is as omnipresent as was that of Kim ll-sung’s in North Korea. Indeed, even in a nation as frighteningly and increasingly narcissistic as America — the land that created and perpetuates “the selfie, ” — Trump brings a horrifying new dimension to the unseen and deadly affliction.
In the ancient Greek myth, Narcissus, unable to pull away from his own reflection, or so internally fractured he could not believe he even existed without constant affirmation, drowns in a pond. The myth is instructive should one be open to instruction. Like the junkie needs junk, the narcissist must see his or her reflection everywhere they look; must hear the echo of their own voice every time someone else speaks; writhes in agony at the reality that others exist and others matter; that they are not the sun and moon and stars. It was narcissism that compelled a Michael Bloomberg to do his best to remake Manhattan Island in his gilded image of the same. It is narcissism that compels a Bill Gates to try to insidiously reduce education, and indeed all life, to a mirror image of a computer operating system. It is narcissism that compels a Donald Trump to perceive the presidency of the United States as an entry-level job and one that he, Trump is capable and worthy of.
Trump’s conceit is merely pathetic. What is deeply disturbing is that many, many Americans seem to agree with him. And that too is a form of narcissism.

Enter Trump Tower and you can feel the illness in the air. Visit one of the two Trump Stores inside. There the only “books” for sale are books “written” by Donald Trump. ( “Think Like A Champion”, Think Big and Kick Ass” , “Time To Get Tough” and more. ) There the only shirts for sale are “designed “ by Donald Trump. There one may purchase a Donald Trump tie, a Donald Trump teddy bear, a Donald Trump baseball hat, or a bar of chocolate in the form of a bar of gold labeled “Trump.”

books

If you are hungry you can find nourishment at the Trump Café while a drink can be procured at the Trump Bar. Or you can bring the kids for a cone at Trump’s Ice Cream.
If you desire the effluvium of Donald Trump — and what “winner” wouldn’t? — you may purchase one of the two Donald Trump perfumes, “Success” or “Empire.”

All of this might be darkly funny if Trump were merely continuing his pathetic pre-political lust for perpetual attention. But he is not. Americans have allowed Trump to emerge, somehow, as a legitimate political figure, indeed the front runner of his party as they prepare for another debate this Wednesday. Many, many Americans appear to love and admire this man.
And that is the place where the disturbing reality of Donald Trump merges with and reveals the disturbing reality of all too much of America.

bears

Addendum: And here is a bit of that reality. http://cnn.it/1KpyGPj

The Education of Co-Location

March 1, 2015

ACUnknown

On Friday February 27, the United Federation of Teachers held another round of forums in communities across the city to speak out against the horrific proposals of Governor Andrew Cuomo on public education. One of Cuomo’s proposals is the creation of 100 new charter schools, institutions wildly favored and completely dominated by the super rich, who shower their favorite charter brands with their tax deductable largess and have created an extremely visible two tiered school system. The two tiered system is all the more visible (and to parents it is meant to be) in what have been called “co-locations, ” or public school buildings in which public schools and charter schools uneasily co-exist. No charter brand has received more 1% largess than Success Academy, the ever-expanding empire of Eva Moskowitz, which has a public relations budget in excess of a million dollars. Success Academy began in my school as Harlem Success Academy , and has been expanding both in my school and throughout the city ever since. As a teacher and chapter leader who has dealt with co-locating with Success Academy from day one, I was asked to speak briefly on the experience at the forum held at the Church of the Holy Trinity on E. 88th Street. In the words below I did so.
————–

On the Education of Co-Location

As we all know, education takes many forms. There is, for example, the education we receive in our homes and in our communities, where we learn how to comport ourselves, how to interact with others, and hopefully, what it means to be a decent person. Then there is the formal education we receive in our schools, where we learn to read and write, solve mathematical problems, gain knowledge of history and science and, above all, learn to think and discern, which provides us the tools to make sense of our lives and our reality.

In my experience of many years of co-locating with Success Academy at PS/MS 149,
I am forced to the appalling conclusion that, due to the extremely targeted and reckless largess of the super rich, largess that could never be matched by public funding, some co-locations can be said to provide yet another form of education, and a particularly cruel form at that.
The education is all the more powerful because the lessons are unspoken and must remain unspoken, or at least disguised, for this particular education to be allowed to continue in a nominally public institution in a nominally public system.
My students at PS/MS 149, like most kids sensitive and intelligent, learn daily and silently, without words, without language, that they are simply not as good as their co-located counterparts at Harlem Success. They learn daily and silently, without words, that some children are simply better and more deserving than others. Some children deserve the newest and brightest technology, as well as brand new carpeting, brand new books, fresh paint jobs; some children deserve what happens to be laying around or nothing at all. Some children deserve music programs; others can have theirs taken away and their instruments jammed into closets and forgotten. Some children deserve block rooms in which to explore and play and others deserve to be taught in stairwells and hallways like children of a lesser God.
Some children deserve fresh food delivered daily and wheeled through the hallways for all to see; others can dine on the considerably lesser fare of the DOE.

Indeed, if you are looking for a perverse negation of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, which outlawed the separate and unequal public schools of the Jim Crow South, you need look no further than the co-location of PS/MS 149 and Harlem Success Academy.

Each day I see the Success Academy students marching through the crowded hallways and stairwells of 149, passing students from my school, children from the same neighborhoods, displaying no recognition whatsoever of their common humanity. Each day my students watch as the ephemeral teachers of Success Academy snap their fingers and bark orders at their “scholars, “ all the while behaving as if my fellow teachers and myself, in effect their co-located colleagues, did not even exist.

These things too are an education, and you can rest assured that both groups of students are learning their respective if silent lessons which, if put to words, could be rendered simply: some people count and some do not.

There is something very powerful going on here and something very wrong. It is morally wrong. It is educationally wrong. It is civically wrong and it is spiritually wrong. Such cruel disparity and militant hubris has no place at all in a public school system, no place at all in a democratic society. Such education, however well disguised, has no place in our communities, our city and our nation.

The Daily News: Carmen Farina Loses Her Mind Under Mulgrew Voodoo

February 10, 2015
The Helplessly Seduced

The Helplessly Seduced

For the past decade American public school teachers have been attacked like no legal profession in our history. None. The attacks have been particularly prevalent of late in New York due to the extraordinary ultra right wing proposals of Governor Andrew Cuomo, he who has vowed to break “the last monopoly,” formally known as the public school system. Indeed, one can scarcely pick up a newspaper these days, especially in New York, and not find some ignorant editorial or columnist pontificating about the pernicious state of American public school education, the treachery of teacher unions and the wisdom of Cuomo’s proposals: this despite the fact that the latter is nothing more than a litany of repeatedly failed or wholly discredited whims and notions — on steroids.

No matter. None of this stuff has anything to do with education anyway so…

Central to them all is the myth of the un-fire-able bad teacher who, for the sake of the nation, must be fired but can’t be. ( For a truly insidious example of this see the November 2014 Time Magazine.)

Alas! Where is Ronald Reagan with his jet black hair on his bold white horse when we need him?

No need to despair: We now have Andrew Cuomo in Albany who has moved further to the right on this stuff than Reagan ever dared.

Firing teachers has become the idee fixe of both reformers and their pals in media who, through constantly echoing this idiocy, are doing their best to insure it seeps into the skulls of the overworked and exhausted masses in a process not unlike osmosis.
This is one of the ways in which perception management works.
It might be working.

If one is to remain relatively sane under such ceaseless attacks, it is by both fighting back and finding humor in them wherever one can, even of the dark variety which invariably it is. It was dark humor, I’ve been told by friends who have survived totalitarian regimes of both the left and right, that allowed them to persevere under the constant absurdity, cruelty and indignity of related propaganda campaigns. Sometimes it’s impossible to find such humor and sometimes it’s just there, like an unexpected gift at your door. Yesterday’s Daily News editorial attacking nothing less than the “impotence” of New York City Chancellor of Education Carmen Farina who, like all knowledgable and actual educators, is dead set against Cuomo’s proposals, was one such gift.

The editorial board of the News, not an educator among them, is or pretends to be both mystified and horrified by Farina’s complete rejection of Cuomo’s wisdom, a wisdom that centers on almost completely avoiding the realities of education and focusing almost entirely on creating reasons to fire teachers, while making the as-yet-to-be-fired teachers as miserable, demoralized and powerless as possible. In short, it is slightly veiled union busting. Very slightly. After all, the man did vow to “break the last monopoly.” Under the pretense of “reforming” the public school system, Cuomo is attempting to systemically degrade the profession of teaching beyond recognition, to the place where no sane person with any choice whatsoever would ever even consider entering it and most who foolishly do will soon enough be out of it. Farina, a life long educator — indeed, the only New York City chancellor to be an educator in 12 eternal years — knows this well and, more, knows how reckless if not outright insane Cuomo’s proposals are. More: she knows what they will do — what they must do — to the students and schools who are served by such a system. The News, alas, is clueless.

Or pretends to be.

“All this isn’t just deeply depressing, it’s especially ironic,” they write. “As a principal and district superintendent, Farina became famous for turning around schools by giving bad teachers walking papers.”

What happened, they wonder, to make this former teacher-firing dynamo so wimpy and irresponsible that, in no time at all, she has degenerated “apparently to the poisonous point of giving failing educators a pass?”

What happened, The News insinuates, can be discerned in a profile in Sunday’s New York Times which ” reveals how cozy Mayor de Blasio’s Department of Education, led by Fariña, is getting with teachers union boss Michael Mulgrew.”

Hmmmmmmm. “Cozy.”

What happened, we are left to deduce, is that Farina, a 70 year old grandmother, was evidently the victim of some kind of mystical Irish super whammy voodoo by evil Michael Mulgrew, president of the UFT, and under his diabolical spell the woman has completely lost her values, her ethics, indeed, her entire sense of reality. In the process she has completely sold out the children of New York City whom she vowed to educate. How else to explain how this once child protecting educator has become little more than an adult protecting Mulgrew zombie ?

The Vile Seducer

The Vile Seducer

How else to explain her bizarre and “dumb” rejection of Cuomo’s “smart” proposals?

Further evidence of Farina’s descent into Mulgrew- induced madness is cited in the letter signed by Mulgrew and Farina and sent out to the 1200 NYC school principals obliging them to cease harassing teachers by collecting their lesson plans. Of this the News writes thunderously: “Two unnamed high school principals “chafed” upon reading the directive.

That’s right, two principals. Of 18,31. So what if that’s even less than 1% of the 1% who own 40% of the nations’ wealth, many of who have bankrolling “education reformers” like Cuomo for years. So what if they were unnamed. So are the editors who wrote the editorial. That alone doesn’t make them wrong. And, like Campbell Brown, don’t they need to protect themselves against the wrath of uber-violent teachers? And you better believe those two principals were seriously chafing.
And why wouldn’t the two principals chafe, coming to terms with the chilling realization that it is perhaps only the editorial board of the News, Governor Cuomo, Meryl Tish, Wall Street, President Obama, the richest people and the most powerful politicians on earth and themselves who are trying so desperately to hold adults accountable and stand up for the kids against the ungodly and evidently irresistible maneuvers of Michael Mulgrew and the teachers’ union ?

Thus Spake The Daily News: “Over to you, Governor.”

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani Uses the Death and Aftermath of Eric Garner to Bash the Teachers Union.

December 8, 2014

Giuliani Discusses State Of U.S. Security 10 Years After 9/11 Terror Attacks

These days few things seem to energize and enrage former mayor Rudy Giuliani more than protests over police brutality that lead to the death of unarmed black men. To be sure, the protests seem to disturb the former mayor far more than the actual killing of an unarmed man at the hands of the NYPD. One of the things that might enrage the former mayor more is the existence of the United Federation of Teachers about whom, in a desperate search to blame anyone for Garner’s death except the people who actually killed him, Giuliani made the following insane comment:

“He then turned his fire on teachers unions, claiming they are to blame for the problem of poor schools in black neighborhoods.
“Maybe all these left-wing politicians that want to blame police, maybe there’s some blame here that has to go to the teachers union, for refusing to have, for refusing to have schools where teachers are paid for performance, for fighting charter schools, for fighting vouchers, so we can drastically and dramatically improve the education situation. Maybe they should be talking about and holding rallies about the problem of black fathers taking care of the children they fathered,” he said.”

Question: what kind of mind uses a situation such as the death of Eric Garner and the non-indictment of those responsible to union bust and parrot idiotic education reform propaganda ?

Sometimes I think it a miracle nearing the level of the virgin birth that, after eight years of this mean spirited, myopic and divisive man followed by twelve years of the maniacal, spiteful, corrupting Mike Bloomberg, New York City is still standing.