2008-03-07 / Columnists

School Scope

Tweed Announces Closing of UFT: Will Be Replaced By Six Smaller Unions
Commentary By Norman Scott

Norman Scott Norman Scott Some Wave readers have told me that I should never use satire. But here goes, anyway.

The NYCDOE announced at the Tweed Courthouse that the UFT would be phased out over a 4-year period due to its failure to protect members. Six smaller unions will be opened, each headed by a potential successor to Randi Weingarten. Teachers will have a choice as to which union to join.

The announcement was made by Mayor Bloomberg and Joel Klein with a beaming Randi Weingarten at their side. "We know this closing may surprise some," said Bloomberg, "but we need a union that appears to be representing the members' interests while convincing them our reforms are best for them."

Each union will have a different theme.

Eyeglasses Are US will concentrate on frames with a separate enclosed mini-union focusing on lenses. A sunglass unit will open in 2010, in time for the next union election. "We're saving Armani for that time as it will bring in a lot of votes for Randi," said a UFT spokesperson.

A Dental Plan for You will be a theme-based union that will address issues teachers might have with brushing and flossing. All union members will get a free brush, some floss and a tube of toothpaste. Unity Caucus members will get teeth whitener in theirs.

GHI Joined at the HIP will provide guidance on how to take out loans to pay medical bills that will not be covered by the soon to be merged and privatized GHI and HIP. "Don't' worry," said a union spokesperson. "Randi Weingarten and Artie Pepper will be on the Board at HIP and will be able to find out the lowest interest rates."

Avoiding Grievances will address concerns of teachers who may feel the need to file a grievance. Special counseling will be offered at nominal expense until the urge disappears.

Collaborators UNITE is expected to attract teachers who want to work closely with their administrators. Special departments will be set up covering nodding correctly to express interest while keeping eyes wide open.

Meeting Efficacy will be a mini school to assure that those who choose this option can handle attending meetings and professional development without blinking once.

Head for the Hills will be for the 83 percent of Teach for America teachers who plan to do their 2 years and head for the hills. Special units on writing a book about their experiences and how to become Ed policy wonks will be set up.

Seriously, folks -

Helen Marshall, Where Are You when it comes to appointing a Queens rep to the Panel for Educational Policy?

Facts:

• Queens goes unrepresented for 3 months;

• The February PEP meeting was on the capital budget. With Queens needing so many more schools, the borough had no one on the panel;

• Wave columnist throws hat into the ring.

Who is Helen Marshall? She is the Queens Borough President whose responsibility it is to appoint a member of the PEP, the rubber stamp replacement for the old Board of Education. Since Bloomberg gets to choose the majority of members, the only chance for any representative voice on the Panel comes from the five borough president choices. Most of the borough presidents use their appointees as political footballs to curry favor with Bloomberg, i.e. Brooklyn's Marty Markowitz who wants to run for mayor and has been currying Bloomberg's support. Marty's rep used to be Martine Guerrier, for a while a decent choice (she voted against Bloomberg on 3rd grade retention at the Monday Night Massacre), but ended up being appointed to the $150,000 a year job as CEO of Parents, or something like that.

The lone exception has been Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who showed major guts in choosing Patrick Sullivan to bring the voice of parents, children (and teachers, too) onto the Panel. ANY 1 story talks about how the Manhattan rep was the only member of the PEP to raise questions about the budget cuts.

Marshall has exhibited the spine of a political hack by refusing to give Queens a voice on the Panel for the past 3 months, a time major issues have been discussed, like the capital budget that is so crucial to the severely overcrowded schools in Queens. A perfect example of how the system of mayoral control without oversight has continued the use of the schools as political footballs. She is term-limited and will be stepping down at the end of 2009. Her successor should NOT be given the power to choose reps on whatever governance plan is put in place.

I have decided to throw my hat into the ring for Queens PEP rep. I know, borough reps (though not the Bloomberg appointees) must have children in the schools. Anyone got an extra kid to spare? Or I'll just adopt.

PS 106 Redux

Will the PS 106 story ever die? Guess not. There's so much going on - much of which we can't write about to protect people from retaliation. To summarize: My February 8 column (Queen Bee Meets Queen Bee) talked about Randi Weingarten's visit to the school where she was not given the warmest welcome by principal Marcella Sills, who has created a war-like atmosphere in the school between her and many teachers and teachers and parents. We also reported the charges by teachers that she forged their names to observations that never took place.

A week later, The Wave printed a story about a parent protest over some things Weingarten supposedly said at the meeting (PS 106 Parents: UFT Says 'Sabotage Test Scores'), which was looked at as a vote of confidence in Sills, though few parents attended the protest (the PA president pointed out the low turnout was due to the short notice given to parents who have to work.) Some teachers feel the "protest" had Sills' fingerprints all over it.

Teachers report that many the things Sills did upon taking over the school, was drive out the old PAand put in her own brand, but this is standard operating procedure for many principals in schools without a very active parent base.

In that same February 15 edition, Michael Catron, a learning leader/certified volunteer - what exactly is that - wrote a letter castigating me for my column, even calling me a moron. My joke response on February 22 that I was a moron -

more-on than off - GET IT - about events at PS 106 - apparently gave the wrong impression I was agreeing with Catron. Teachers have said it is not clear what exactly Catron does at the school. But they raise the same questions about others in the building who are close to Sills and seemingly have duties that are hard to pin down.

The story continued last week in The Wave's "My Turn" column with teacher M. Baum, a reading specialist at PS 106, taking both Catron and the parent protest to task with a scathing critique of Sills, a very gutsy thing to do. Baum is an 18-year vet who teachers say has been sitting in the school without being given an assignment. Our independent inquiries are that she is a very caring, extremely capable teacher who is on the wrong side of the political tracks.

Here is a brief section from her extensive report:

Mr. Cantron refers to Ms. Sills being covered with tears, snot and vomit during the course of a day. This is so absurd, it's actually funny. Ms. Sills spends most of her day in her office with minimal close contact with the early childhood population who might possibly get to soil her suits, however with a school nurse on premises, this is highly unlikely.

There has been an awful lot of mud-slinging going on of late. Our teachers have been "bad mouthed" and slandered before the parent body. Spreading false rumors about professional hard working staff is hitting me and my colleagues below the belt as well. Sending letters to parents claiming teachers are abusing students (unproven and undocumented) is not only underhanded and deplorable, it is pure slander. This is a way to initiate a riot and negative impressions and it is not reflective of an interest into an honest investigation to seek the truth.

Sills is a graduate of the dreaded Leadership Academy, where prospective principals are trained with an attack dog mentality to go after experienced (higher salaried) teachers using certain techniques that may include water boarding. Baum better wear a scuba mask.

You know the drill: immediately target some teachers for harassment, mostly senior, to put fear into the rest of the staff and start forcing people out. If you have to use forgery, go right ahead. Bring in younger, inexperienced teachers who will be easily intimidated.

Make sure to purge the former parents association, which might have allegiance to the old principal and set them against those "horrible" teachers.

It is only a rumor that LA people are given a pet animal which they must kill before they are allowed to graduate.

Word is that the Wave stories have sparked some interest from the higher ups, who couldn't give a crap until stuff gets into the press. They want people to cool it, but this will not happen without an olive branch from Sills, whose future career cannot be helped by these revelations.

Sills is not without her supporters amongst the teachers - the very same newer people she has brought in. Word to the wise: when all the older teachers have been purged, watch out! Your turn will come.

I've posted all stories on PS 106 in chronological order on the ednotes online blog. Look for the link in the sidebar.

Will GHI/HIP Merger and Privatization Raise Costs?

Get the dope at http://ednotesonline. blogspot.com/2008/03/will-ghihip-mergerand privatization.html.

Norm's email: normsco@gmail.com Norm'sBlog: http://ednotesonline.blogspot.com.

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