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City Plays “Gotcha” With Teachers

On the same day that the city’s scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed no progress between 2003 and 2007 in three of four categories, the city revealed that it has hired a team of lawyers and former principals to help principals build cases against tenured teachers who they believe are incompetent. It is unfortunate that at the first sign of bad news, the preemptive response by this administration was to blame the teachers.

There comes a point in time that recycling old arguments no longer works. School reform is tough. It takes a lot of different initiatives working in tandem to get results. It takes qualified teachers; it takes working conditions that foster real progress; it takes an accountability system that’s fair and accurate; it takes engaged parents; and above all it takes collaboration between teachers and principals.

The blame game should stop and people should be rolling up their sleeves and working together to help this city’s kids. The mayor should apologize to the teachers and use the $1 million this unit will cost on something else.

It’s time to shift the responsibility back to the school system. This union is not against accountability. We are against “gotcha” and scapegoating and shifting blame to teachers who are working as hard as they can.

Please join us on the evening of Monday, Nov. 26, for a candlelight vigil at the Tweed headquarters to protest the establishment of this unit and call for respect for city teachers.



  • 1 NYC Educator
    · Nov 16, 2007 at 11:08 am

    It’s unfortunate that you came to this realization so late. This was entirely predictable, as were most of the actions of this administration.

    Perhaps giving up seniority transfers, days in August, and the right to grieve letters in file did not satisfy them after all. Perhaps allowing teachers to be suspended without pay based on unsubstantiated allegations did not quench their desire to scapegoat working teachers.

    Maybe it was not such a good idea after all to give in to reorganization number three, the one that made it even more difficult for ATR teachers to find employment, when the mayor’s PR, for once, was on a downward scale after the bus fiasco.

    Perhaps, in retrospect, enabling mayoral control with no checks or balances was not in our best interests after all. Maybe it was not, after all, the best idea to allow time for money swaps in lieu of real raises. After all, when people work extra hours in Burger King, they get more pay, and few interpret that as a raise.

    Perhaps it was not such a good idea to wave our arms in victory when a toothless class size agreement (with no consequences for the mayor violating it) was enacted. In fact, Tweed is not even bothering to release class size statistics, despite a legal obligation to do so.

    In my school, where I teach in a trailer behind a building that regularly exceeds 250% capacity, no one is surprised anymore when class sizes hit 38 or 40. No one is surprised when 48 new kids arrive in one week.

    Maybe, considering this mayor’s approach, it was not such a good idea to enable and support him every step of the way leading up to this.

    Though the UFT’s actions have earned us the admiration of Rod Paige, and the editorial pages of virulently anti-union anti-teacher tabloids, perhaps they were not in the best interests of working people after all.

  • 2 When All Else Fails - Blame Teachers! | Edwize
    · Nov 16, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    […] story release, with great fanfare, he announces a new DoE initiative to fire tenured teachers! The UFT is vigorously protesting. In the letter, he [Klein] urged principals to help teachers improve but added, “When action […]

  • 3 Paul Schickler
    · Nov 18, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    Klein tries to mask the clear purpose of his teacher hit squad by also creating a “counseling” service that will at the same time it is supposed to be helping the targeted teachers be gathering evidence to use against them. How helpful and supportive is that? And how honest is the service’s effort? Klein could have instituted the counseling by itself; here it’s a smokescreen for axing more teachers.

    And Klein is still urging principals to fire more untenured teachers. The chancellor’s quality improvement plan is a one-note, one-word song: Fire’em. In a city where about 50% of new teachers leave of their own accord anyway within five years of hiring, we need better ideas than a prosecutorial hit team. We need a leader, not Tony Soprano.

  • 4 Mike R
    · Nov 19, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    So what are they gonna call these guys…”The Ream Team”?

  • 5 Teacher News of the Day | Edwize
    · Nov 19, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    […] Join us tonight for a 5 p.m. candlelight vigil to protest the “teacher gotcha squad.” […]

  • 6 TUDA and the DOE Response | Edwize
    · Nov 19, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    […] and his DOE have chosen the leadership model of negatives, and his latest move against the city teachers will do far more harm than good. It will exacerbate the culture he’s created of systemic […]

  • 7 phyllis c. murray
    · Nov 19, 2007 at 10:24 pm

    How do you measure a teacher?
    By Phyllis C. Murray

    How do you measure a teacher? The students know because the students are the direct recipients of a teacher’s work. And in most cases it is the hard work of the teacher which produces the best results.There are many tangible as well as intangible markers of child’s growth and development. One of the best that I have seen was crafted into a poem by students in a tribute to their teachers. Perhaps the Mayor should listen to a child. Because as Educator Art Linkletter once said, “Out of mouths of babes often times comes gems. ”

    > Written by Bibana ~Ashanti ~~Jamal~~Ellenah
    > ~~Diana ~~John Henry ~~and Mohammed
    > A teacher is a symbol of learning: a leader of learners
    and a miracle to education.
    > A teacher is an educational god that leads us to goodness
    > while caring for our learning spirits.
    > A teacher is the captain of our educational journey; Exact
    > about everything.
    > A teacher has the courage enough to teach; And knows
    mostly all the answers.
    > Teachers become our heroic inspiration.
    > Teachers educate us with all of their knowledge. Smart and
    > spirited, teachers can make our brains work like computers.
    > Yet, our teachers can also hold our hands when we need it.
    > Teachers reach to the sky to get what we need; And exit a
    > subject just at the right time.
    > A teacher possesses the academics and grace that we all
    > love. Teachers care for us in every imaginable way.
    > Our teacher is the hero in our learning lives.
    > Education is the key to success. That is what our teachers
    > have taught us.
    > Teachers are a class struggle in liberty: Believing in
    > kids; Reaching out to kids; And instilling pride within
    all of us.
    > Our education is important to our teachers. Therefore our
    > teachers struggle hard to teach every student: Checking
    > exams after school; explaining things so they are easier;
    > And reading to us or teaching us how to read.
    > Each one of our praises we give. And for everything our
    > teachers do, we will thank them today, tomorrow and always

    The Mayor must realize that the responsibility for educating a child is placed squarely in the hands of the teacher. Teachers in the inner city are aware of this fact. And once the teachers have rolled up their sleeves…the process begins with commitment, dedication, care, and concern for a human soul. For the students who have found teachers who are there to support them on their educational journey, I say, press on! These students are the fortunate ones because it is their teacher who must dream for them before they can dream for themselves. It is the teacher who prepares children for a future which is not his/her own.
    These exceptional tenured teachers are fortunate because for every ounce of energy that they use to invest in the child, they will see the rewards of their investment in the child’s continued growth and development throughout the year.
    Last year, I asked these students to define the word “teacher.” This was not a difficult task for them because after years benefitting from instruction by master teachers, they knew what being a “teacher” was all about. And of course the genre used was sheer poetry.

    Phyllis C. Murray

    UFT Chapter Leader

    District 8

  • 8 Teacher News of the Day | Edwize
    · Nov 21, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    […] candlelight vigil outside DOE headquarters (52 Chambers St.) on Monday, Nov. 26., to protest the “teacher gotcha squad” . . […]