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Archive for June, 2011


New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is conducting an investigation into the finances of the Believe Charter School Network and the exorbitant management fees it charges its three Williamsburg based schools, Williamsburg Charter High School, Believe Northside High School and Believe Southside High School.

Edwize readers will recall that in 2006 the founder of the Believe Charter School network and its three schools, Eddie Calderon-Melendez, fired an excellent and loved teacher of English from Williamsburg Charter High School because she had circulated a copy of the salary schedule for New York City public school teachers to her colleagues, and then slandered her in an attempt to justify this deed.

At the time, Andy Rotherham of Eduwonk, Joe Williams of Democrats for Education Reform and Sara Meade [then at The Quick and The Ed] all agreed that the firing was wrong and deplorable, but argued that the New York charter law had remedies built into it for such misdeeds. But the authorizer of Williamsburg Charter High School, the NYC Department of Education under Joel Klein, did absolutely nothing. And the New York State Education Department then rewarded Calderon-Melendez’s behavior by chartering two new schools for him, Believe North Side and Believe South Side.

Now we are beginning to discover the consequences of charter authorizers turning a blind eye toward anti-teacher union busting.

Is Dignity Cost-Effective?

An editorial and a “straight news story” in the New York Post are “six of one; half a dozen of the other.”  The publisher’s opinions that should, according to Journalism 101, be restricted to the editorial page, infest their reporting, sometimes in ways as subliminal as they are insidious.

The opening paragraph in a June 22 piece concludes that charter schools are “innovative” when it comes to pensions for its teachers. Why? Because “just 28 percent of the state’s charter schools participated in the state or city TRS in 2008-9.”

Being reactionary whilst being creative is a form of innovation too, apparently. It’s a rip to see these moral Luddites turn “progressive” when the concept is skewered to mean “progressing” back to a time before comforts were available to the rabble even if they paid for it with their labor.

But more egregious than this particular specimen of Post bias are two cited paraphrases of remarks allegedly made by city charter-school operators to the Post reporter, who says he was told that charter school “retirement packages aren’t just more effective, but they also better reflect the needs of the current crop of educators, who are less likely to commit to a lifelong teaching career in one city.” More »

Strengthening the School Community

New Teacher Diaries contributor Nick James writes about how his wish for a school-branded necktie led to a “School Culture Initiative,” which established new school colors, a mascot, and a logo. School t-shirts were distributed to students and faculty, and the initiative culminated in a pep rally that was “the first time in our school’s history that the entire school was in one place.”

After teaching for a couple of years, and especially since my high school glory days, my perspective on many things in education have changed substantially. Two years into my current position it struck me that the symbols, mascots, colors and various other school spirit pieces are incredibly important for many students and teachers to feel as though they are part of something larger — a community. Hopefully our rebranding is just the beginning of a major shift in the way our students view their school and school community. Hopefully the momentum that’s been started carries us into the next major stage in our school’s history.

Join DC 37 in Welcoming Scott Walker to New York

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will be in NYC today to speak at a GOP fundraiser, and DC 37 plans to welcome him in style:

Gov. Scott WalkerLet’s welcome Governor Walker to New York the way that only New York can!

Join your sisters and brothers in welcoming Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to New York City! He’ll be in town to keynote a fundraiser for the Republican Party – let’s let him know he’s truly welcome in this proud union town. Wear your union colors and join us.

Tuesday, June 28
4 p.m.
Grand Army Plaza Park
5th Avenue between 58th and 60th Streets
(Across the street from the Sherry Netherland Hotel)

Here’s the Facebook event »

When I Retire

[Editor’s note: Mr. Foteah is a third-year teacher in an elementary school in Queens. He blogs at From the Desk of Mr. Foteah, where this post originally appeared.]

I recently wrote about how having friends at work was never a priority. However, the fact of the matter is I have made some close ones — people I really respect and enjoy being around. That makes work pleasant, as we’re all dealing with similar challenges together, instead of battling alone. Of course, it makes you want to go to work everyday, knowing that you’re going to a place where you are liked and like the people around you.

Now, I’ve heard anecdotes recently from a variety of schools about colleagues not being so supportive of each other, saying nasty things behind others’ backs and the like. I hope no one is doing this to me, and if any of my colleagues have any kind of issue with me, that they can bring it to my attention and we can work it out.

Like everyone else, I want to be recognized for my positive attributes, and I want those to be my hallmarks and form my reputation. More »

Budget Deal Removes Teacher Layoff Threat

An agreement reached by New York City and the UFT will ensure that no New York City public school teacher will be laid off in the next  year, Mayor Bloomberg, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and UFT President Michael Mulgrew announced on June 24.

The agreement with the UFT includes financial savings to the city generated by redeployment of teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve pool and a one-year suspension of study sabbaticals, along with additional resources from the City Council and the Department of Education.

The agreement forestalls the possibility – raised by Mayor Bloomberg in both the January Financial Plan and the Executive Budget  in May – that the city budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2011 would require the layoffs of more than 4,000 teachers.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said:  “I want to thank all the parties involved in this agreement for their willingness to come together to prevent the harm that would come to our students from a massive loss of public school teachers.  In particular I’d like to cite the key role played by Council Speaker Christine Quinn and her members and staff, along with Chancellor Dennis Walcott and the DOE officials who worked with us to find ways to prevent what could have been a disaster for our schools.”

The UFT has agreed to procedures that will make it possible for the 1,200 teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool to be used more efficiently to fill long and short-term vacancies in their school districts. Such use is designed to save much of the money the DOE now spends on “per diem” substitutes to fill these vacancies.

The one-year suspension of study sabbaticals – which will take effect in the 2012-13 school year – will save the DOE the cost of teachers on these academic leaves. Teachers on one-year approved study sabbaticals receive 70 percent of their regular salaries.

Read The New York Times story for more details.

Layoffs Could Set Back Schools For Years — Public Advocate

When New York City laid off 15,000 teachers in the 1970s in response to a fiscal crisis, most never returned, even when they were called back.  Class sizes swelled, and then became the “new normal.” Even after the economy recovered, the school system found it difficult to recruit new teachers, who were fearful about job security.

Now the city administration is poised to repeat the error-scarred past, according to a new report [PDF] released today from Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s office.  Only a week remains until the city adopts its next budget, de Blasio warns. We should heed the lessons and not endanger another generation of students.

“[I]t is essential to remember how difficult it will be to shield future students from the damage of those cuts, even well after the onset of a strong economic recovery,” according to the report, “How Teacher Layoffs Could Set Back Schools for Years to Come.” When the city eventually recalled 9,000 teachers in 1978-79, only 2,360 actually agreed to return. The “vast brain drain” meant the city for years afterwards had a disproportionately inexperienced teacher workforce, much larger classes than the rest of the state and in many ways a second-class public education system. Is this what we’re facing, again?

New York Teacher

New York Teacher, June 23, 2011Highlights from the June 23 issue of New York Teacher:

Following their dreams
250 graduating seniors head to college with help from UFT

“I can’t stop smiling, I’m really happy!” said Kimberly Belgrave, of Manhattan’s Urban Assembly Academy of Government and Law, talking about the UFT Albert Shanker Scholarship Award she will be taking with her to Wheaton College in Massachusetts next year. Belgrave is one of this year’s 250 UFT scholarship winners.

Victims of co-locations
District schools make educational sacrifices as charters move in

A community dental clinic in a South Bronx school must shut down. An award-winning robotics program in a Harlem school has to give up its room. These are among the sacrifices that district schools are being forced to make to free up room for charter schools in their buildings, say a team of UFT and NAACP representatives that recently visited the schools.

The physics of fun
Brooklyn teacher leads students on “learning expedition” to design best playground

Put together Newtonian physics with clinical psychology, sustainable materials and industry experts — and kids are going to have a blast in Scott Hendstrand’s class.
Witness the teenagers engaged in the science suite at the Brooklyn School of Collaborative Studies, planning, building, experimenting, discussing, laughing, pondering.

UFTers march over Brooklyn Bridge to protest cuts
About 1,000 members of the UFT and 1199 SEIU marched across the Brooklyn Bridge on June 14 to join a thousands-strong labor rally at City Hall, protesting Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed budget cuts and layoffs. One of several public-sector union leaders to speak at the rally, UFT President Michael Mulgrew condemned the mayor’s plans. More »

Real Stories From School:
Students’ Award-Winning Talk About Their Teachers and Their Lives

Edgar Lopez was a self-described slacker during his 8th grade year at a small Manhattan 6-12 school. When the school took his grade on an early college visit, he saw the three-day trip as an opportunity to flirt, hang out and roll his eyes at all the advice he was getting. But something one of the college student guides said snapped him to attention: the guide said the hardest thing for him about going to college was not having teachers who were close to him.

Edgar quotes the guide’s warning to the group: “I went to a small school in Manhattan like you guys, where all the teachers were supportive and gave students that extra push to succeed. They don’t do that here. All they want is their tuition money.”

Edgar tells his story in Real Men, an anthology of high-school writing that just won the prestigious Association of Educational Publishers award earlier this month for best curriculum. More »

Look in the Mirror, You Might Like What You See

[Editor’s note: Mr. Foteah is a third-year teacher in an elementary school in Queens. He blogs at From the Desk of Mr. Foteah, where this post originally appeared.]

Recently, I took the opportunity to do something I’ve never done before. I brought out the students’ writing folders, with all their published pieces from the school year. I called their attention to their non-fiction writing, and I asked them to pick the one they thought next year’s teacher should see. This forced some serious consideration and observation. Students were, maybe for the first time, attending to a tangible representation of how their work has evolved for the better since September. They recalled each book, and I was amazed at their ability to read them almost perfectly.

Most pleasant for all of us, especially me, was the way they reacted when they reached the very backs of their folders. There, they could see a writing sample from the very first day of school, replete with summer rust and lacking many conventions. The simplest words that they take for granted now were misspelled. People were drawn as sticks, some with legs coming out of their heads. For some students, a single letter represented a word. For others, pictures did all the storytelling. They could not believe the difference between September and June. More »

Edwize Named “Best Blog” by NYC Labor Communicators

Edwize took first place in the “Best Blog” category at the annual awards presentation of the Metro New York Labor Communications Council, held this year on June 17 at the Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies. This is the third year in a row we’ve received top honors from Metro — in 2009 and 2010 we were named “Best New Media.”

The judges wrote: “Edwize is the best education union blog we’ve ever seen. True to the blog format with its personal tone of powerful and moving member-written features that present authors as both teachers and union members. Regularly updated with diverse contributors — both staff and members. The blog is a pleasure to read.”

UFT.org was awarded first place in the category “General Excellence — Web.”

Thank you to Metro, and especially our writers, readers, and commenters.

Tweed Job Fair For Lawyers

All the DOE seems to care about is hiring MBAs, lawyers who are good at producing more work for themselves, and designing systems to generate data that supposedly measures this and that, yet they never talk to educators. If they want to make work better, they’d better talk to the people who do the work.

Those observations, in slightly different words delivered with a tone of satire and indignation, had a powerful impact on audience members gathered at a recent UFT-sponsored event. They recognized themselves as victims of the DOE’s fixation on data that perpetually begets reports and more reports in an agonized dance of paperwork, a surrealistic nightmare that undermines morale and the integrity of the educational process.

This absurd phenomenon is an underlying theme in a number of movies, books and plays. “Brazil,” anyone? Please identify which work, regardless of genre, most accurately, in your opinion, captures the madness of the current bureaucratic landscape with all its tyrants and ideologies and scenarios. Share your comments with us.

And while you’re deciding, consider this blockbuster statistical revelation which may have an indirect bearing on the grim inanity of things: 1 percent of the population in this city of Bloomberg controls 44 percent of its wealth.

“The Truth About the Economy” in Just Over Two Minutes

From MoveOn.org, Robert Reich connects the dots for the short-attention-span crowd.

Where Did the Year Go?

[Editor’s note: Bronxteach is a fourth-year elementary school teacher. He blogs at bronxteach.com, where this post first appeared.]

Is it really June already? It seems almost impossible to believe. The school year always has its ebbs and flows, its points where you can’t see an end in sight and points where it seems the year is flying by. In mid-June, it feels like a little bit of both.

At this point in the year, teachers and students are literally counting the days to summer. Meanwhile, teachers are in a rush to get final assessments and all sorts of clerical work completed. On top of that, it’s our last chance to cram in a couple of projects, rush through that last one (or two) math units and get our kids ready for next year. So we’re in the awkward position of wishing the year was over, but wishing we had more time left. More »

Yo, Miss: Drawings from the Trenches — Jasmine’s Story

[Editor’s note: Lisa Wilde is an English teacher at John V. Lindsay Wildcat Academy, a second-chance charter high school in Lower Manhattan. “Yo, Miss” is a graphic memoir she is writing and drawing about her experiences at the school. From time to time Edwize will post images from her forthcoming book, which tracks the eponymous Miss and eight of her (fictionalized) students over the course of a school year. Click on the image for a larger version.]

Jasmine's Story