Happy Summer

Wishing our members a wonderful and relaxing summer and best wishes to our newly retired members!  We will be taking a little while off from the blog unless there is major news that breaks.  However we will be back later in the summer as we ramp up for the 2015-2016 school year.

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MORE Raises Resolution of “No Confidence” in Elia… Unity Caucus Votes it Down

Jia Lee raises “No Confidence” reso at the UFT DA.

Via the MORE Caucus…

Jia Lee, Chapter Leader of The Earth School and a member of MORE, brought a MORE-sponsored resolution before the Delegate Assembly (DA) calling for a statement expressing opposition to the appointment of recently appointed state education commissioner MaryEllen Elia pointing to the lack of transparency and democracy in the process of her appointment which took place under a veil of secrecy. UFT High School VP and Unity Caucus member Janella Hinds spoke in favor of Commissioner Elia, calling her a “friend to teachers unions and someone we can work with”.

Ms. Lee explained that the UFT’s support of the new commissioner  is a mistake because, “In the day after her appointment, Elia stated strong support for the Common Core Standards and high stakes testing, while criticizing parents who opt their children out of these tests.”

In supporting the sentiment of Regent leader Meryl Tisch, to Elia it is just a matter of re-packaging rather than fundamental change. Elia has been a supporter of using student test scores to rate teachers. “We have an opportunity to harness and galvanize the experiences of teachers to proactively call for what students need in our schools and for our working conditions,” Ms. Lee said. “These things can no longer be compromised”.

The DA, dominated by Unity Caucus chapter leaders and delegates, voted against the resolution.

Resolution: No Confidence in New State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia

Whereas, the top down education policies under No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and high stakes accountability tied to Common Core Standards have had disastrous effects on whole child education and democratic, school-based decision making in New York State

Whereas, there was no transparency in the selection process, no public vetting of candidates, no .opportunity for public input in the appointment of the new State Education Commissioner, Mary Ellen Elia

Whereas, Ms. Elia’s record makes it clear she is a strong supporter of the Common Core State Standards (even though Florida has pulled  out of Common Core) and high-stakes testing; she was an early proponent of using test scores to evaluate teachers, complete with $100 million in funding from the Gates Foundation. She also negotiated a merit pay system and supports school choice

Whereas, last January, the Hillsborough Board of Education voted 4-3 to dismiss her. Members who voted her out have been on record as criticizing her for board-superintendent tension, her salary and benefits, and constituent complaints about too much high-stakes standardized testing, some said her tough disciplinary policy disproportionately affected black students and employees who said her management style was heavy-handed.

Whereas, she failed to notify the district immediately that a 7-year-old girl had stopped breathing on a school bus and died later; she said she didn’t know the scope of the tragedy until the family sued the district.

Be it Resolved that UFT will hold a press conference and issue a press statement of no confidence in the appointment of Ms. Elia, because it does not serve the best interests of our children, educators, or public schools

Resolved that the educators of the UFT seek public vetting and member discussion before the leadership of the largest local in the state supports the appointment of any state chancellor

Resolved that our union leadership will organize meetings at the beginning of the 2015/16 school throughout the boroughs, for working UFT educators to discuss this appointment, state educational policies and develop our own vision of statewide educational policies that will best serve all our children

Be it further Resolved that the the UFT will fight for a renewed statewide emphasis on the arts, music, libraries and physical education for all of our children.

So Unity Caucus thinks that a commissioner who says that opt-outs are no good, who wants to “repaint” the Common Core narrative so that people like it, who has been accused of trying to cover up her former district’s complicity in the death of a seven year old, and who promised the Gates Foundation that she’d fire the “bottom” 5% of teachers every year is a “friend to teachers unions and someone we can work with”?!?!  With friends like MaryEllen Elia, who needs enemies?!

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Reactions to the New NYSED Commissioner

As you have surely heard by now, the Board of Regents unanimously elected MaryEllen Elia as the new state education commissioner.  Elia, who supports the Common Core, high stakes testing, test based teacher evaluation schemes, voucher programs, and charter schools, was a predictably disastrous hiring.  She recently was fired as a superintendent in Florida where she was accused of trying to cover up the district’s complicity in the death of a 7 year old and was also accused of racial discrimination regarding her disciplinary policies.  That’s only the tip of the iceberg too.  Basically, the regents decided that Florida’s trash was New York’s treasure.

The hiring of Elia (or “EVILia” as she was dubbed in Florida) is nothing short of a slap in the face to the hundreds of thousands who opted-out of state tests and to public school teachers.  To be clear, a teacher with the track record of Elia would never be hired again.  Yet Elia essentially got a promotion.  This coming from the people who like to preach about accountability.  The regents decided that they’d ignore the parental and teacher outcry against the reform agenda and double down on it instead.

Over at the Perdido Street School blog, Reality-Based Educator ran a great series on Elia.  You can check out his posts…

“Reign Of Chaos” For Ten Years At A Hillsborough Middle School Under MaryEllen Elia’s District

LeadershipAllegations Of Racial Discrimination In Hillsborough Schools Under MaryEllen Elia’s Leadership

Parents Wanted MaryEllen Elia Out After Deaths Of Two Special Needs Students

New NYSED Commissioner: We’ll “Repaint” The Common Core Narrative So People Like It

Reactions from union “leaders” were typically awful…

STCaucus had a decidedly different take.  In a statement released yesterday they said…

Members of the ST Caucus Executive Committee were present at the May 18, 2015 Board of Regents’ meeting and had meaningful discourse with various Regents about APPR and high stakes testing. Ms. Elia’s track record does not align itself with the ST Caucus’ stance on these issues. In light of these discussions, the ST Caucus was surprised with the appointment of Ms. Elia to the position of Commissioner.

Ms. Elia’s track record does not align itself with the ST Caucus’ stance on these issues as well as positions shared with us by the Regents. It is the hope of ST Caucus that Ms. Elia will reverse her past positions on CCSS, HST, charter schools, and teacher evaluations. Further, the ST Caucus calls for the inclusion of each of the stakeholder voices related to decision-making in all aspects of the public education system in the state of New York, as well as demanding the process be a transparent democratic process that is representative of the great state of New York and the people it serves.

 

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Organizing STCaucus at the General Membership Level

Norm Scott over at Ed Notes Online published a piece this morning with some great news on rank and file teachers organizing around the STCaucus.  Norm reports that PS8 teachers in the Bronx, and UFT members, have submitted 61 membership forms to STCaucus.

Here is the letter to the STCaucus leadership that accompanied the membership registration forms…

May 21, 2015

Dear ST Caucus Leaders:

Enclosed you will find sixty-one membership forms and checks from teachers who work at PS 8 in the Bronx. We are still collecting forms and money and will hopefully have some more to send as we continue to reach out to the staff in our school. Some teachers contributed more than the $10 membership fee. Use the money as you see fit.

We are all members of the United Federation of Teachers and NYSUT. We thank you for your earnest support and your willingness to stand up for NY teachers despite the fact that Unity-Caucus-controlled NYSUT and UFT leadership are working against you.

We are not blind to the failures of our union leadership. Nor are we blind to the fact that they willingly fail us in order to serve their self-interests.

We serve no masters but we will support any caucus or group within our union(s) who are like minded.

We are independent thinkers whose allegiance is to truth, fairness and transparency. We believe we do not have to hide behind children while fighting for our dignity.

We reject the premise that the best interests of teachers are diametrically opposed to the best interests of the children we teach. We believe it is time to demand the respect we deserve and to challenge those who attack us with their lies, manipulation and obfuscation as well as challenge those within our own union(s) who have allowed for these continued attacks on their watch. We appreciate that a group of unsung heroes has our back, and we sincerely thank you for it.

Yours in solidarity,

Roseanne McCosh – PS 8 UFT Delegate and NYSUT Member

Cynthia Pacelli – UFT Chapter Leader and NYSUT Member

Lori Matta – UFT Delegate and NYSUT Member

Cc: Michael Mulgrew – UFT President

Karen Magee – NYSUT President

Similar organizing efforts have been taking place within other local schools across the state.  I know many members of the PJSTA are submitting forms as well.  James Eterno mentioned several other UFT members doing the same last week.  This all continues to point to the development of STCaucus as a rising force within New York State and possibly beyond.  Unlike UFT Unity Caucus, which has always been invite only, and the NYS Unity Caucus which has historically been open only to NYSUT delegates, STCaucus is a caucus organized by rank and file teachers, for rank and file teachers, for the purpose of pushing for a more democratic union that fights for the schools that our students, teachers, and communities deserve.

Once again, here is the registration form.  You can submit that with a check for $10 to the address at the bottom of the form.  Print them out, distribute them in your schools.  Encourage your colleagues and friends who are teachers to join the caucus.  If you have questions I know that caucus representatives in every region of the state are happy to visit with general membership to address those questions.

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New York State Opt-Out Map

Pretty cool visual here, courtesy of Adam Stabb…

 

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