RUMORS OF MY DEATH HAVE BEEN GREATLY EXAGGERATED

Happy New Year

My self-imposed internet exile is over. Despite all of the important developments in the education world in the latter part of 2012, I needed to take a breather from it all. All of the talk of evaluation deals, UFT elections and charter co-locations got tiresome when my priorities revolved around rebuilding my life. I needed a place to stay and found one thanks to the help of a guardian angel to whom I am forever indebted. Thanks to the help of some more guardian angels, I acquired and moved the necessary things to get settled into my new place. (Thank you to Christine, Ant and D’Vaughn and a big “up yours” to U-Haul for charging me up the wazoo.). I am now based in a penthouse studio in Astoria, Queens overlooking the Queensboro Bridge and Manhattan skyline. It was not hard for me to decide to forgo the cable service in favor of the fastest internet connection western civilization will allow, complete with Netflix and Hulu accounts. I spent my Christmas break in my recliner watching any and every documentary ever made in an attempt to forget about the fact that this was my first ever family-less holiday season. Finally, I reached a realization that there was important work to attend to. I got tired of sitting on the sidelines and slowly rolled up my sleeves, readying myself to join the fray.

And here I am. So, let’s join the fray, shall we? I think it is best that the contours of this fray be described by our fearful union leader Michael Mulgrew himself in an email sent tonight:

From: Michael Mulgrew [mailto:noreply@uft.org]
Sent: Monday, January 14, 2013 10:25 PM
To: xxxxxxxxx
Subject: A status report

Dear colleagues,

Monday marks the third straight day and night of intensive talks with the Department of Education over a new teacher development and evaluation plan. Although our negotiating team has been able to make progress on some matters, there are still many key issues that remain unsolved.

We will continue to negotiate around the clock in an effort to break the stalemate and reach an agreement that gives you the support and time you need to give students a great education. As of now, the DOE will not commit to such a plan and is once again putting politics above children. However, we will persevere.

We continue to plan for two possible scenarios. If we are not able to reach an agreement, we will have to quickly engage with parents and the community. We will need to make sure New Yorkers understand that it was the mayor and his disrespect for teachers and the work that you do that undermined negotiations.

However, if we are able to reach an agreement and the Delegate Assembly approves it, our priority will be getting clear information out to all of you so that we can combat the fear and misinformation that are bound to come with a new teacher development and evaluation system.

We will keep you updated.

Meanwhile, I personally want to thank the thousands of members who participated in Monday’s leafleting to parents and commuters across the city as we continue to put pressure on the mayor to do the right thing. School-based efforts like these are critical to the work that we do.

Sincerely,

Michael Mulgrew

I think this correspondence needs some filtering lest the true meaning of what our union leader is saying is lost. Let’s start from the first paragraph:

Monday marks the third straight day and night of intensive talks with the Department of Education over a new teacher development and evaluation plan. Although our negotiating team has been able to make progress on some matters, there are still many key issues that remain unsolved.

Translation: We have been locked in some God-forsaken antechamber deep in the bowels of the Tweed building for the past 72-hours with Dennis Walcott and company negotiating a new evaluation plan for teachers that will completely overhaul the face of public education in NYC. We agree with the DOE on most things, including the urgent need to placate Michelle Rhee lest she bludgeon us with a media-wide smear campaign. However, we are still working on one or two cosmetic face-saving agreements that will enable us to market this deal as “not so bad” to you the teachers, parents and children of NYC.

We will continue to negotiate around the clock in an effort to break the stalemate and reach an agreement that gives you the support and time you need to give students a great education. As of now, the DOE will not commit to such a plan and is once again putting politics above children. However, we will persevere.

Translation: We shall not leave this antechamber until standardized test scores become the end-all, be-all of teaching and learning in NYC. We promise to have it done before this Thursday’s deadline so we can implement it for the upcoming Spring 2013 school semester in order to enable the DOE to fire as many teachers as possible before Bloomberg’s term as mayor expires. If this does not get done Michelle Rhee will pour billions of dollars into a media campaign that will destroy our reputation. Knowing this, the DOE is playing hardball in an attempt to prevent even the most cosmetic of concessions from being worked into this evaluation deal. We are completely toast.

We continue to plan for two possible scenarios. If we are not able to reach an agreement, we will have to quickly engage with parents and the community. We will need to make sure New Yorkers understand that it was the mayor and his disrespect for teachers and the work that you do that undermined negotiations.

Translation: If by some miracle a deal is not reached, I will give a press conference filled with the usual platitudes that we’ve all heard before. At several points during the conference I will be sure to yell into the microphones while furiously waving my hands in the air so that NY1 can play the clips out of context in an attempt to make me look like a crazy union hack who only cares about protecting lazy and incompetent teachers. Meanwhile, Michelle Rhee will run ads with sad-looking children in dilapidated classrooms put to sad music with the headline: “The UFT Did This.” To reiterate: we are completely toast.

However, if we are able to reach an agreement and the Delegate Assembly approves it, our priority will be getting clear information out to all of you so that we can combat the fear and misinformation that are bound to come with a new teacher development and evaluation system.

Translation: Once we work out a deal with the DOE we will quickly bring it to a vote at this Thursday’s Delegate Assembly. Since we, the Unity Caucus, control the DA it will be no problem at all getting it through . Once approved, we know the MORE Caucus will attack it because they have some silly notion that incessant testing is bad for children and teachers. They will probably point out that teachers will no longer want to work with the neediest children and myopically teach to the test as a matter of survival.  This will subject our children to mind-numbing rote memorization disguised as education. They will probably also point out that the deal was agreed to without any input from classroom teachers and foisted upon the membership in the most hurried way imaginable. Because all of these criticisms are true, we will take to Edwize, Shanker Blog, Gotham Schools, Facebook and Twitter in a massive propaganda campaign to make it look like MORE is a pack of unreasonable lunatics bent on bringing the education system to its knees for their own myopic gain. In fact, we have already started this propaganda campaign.

We will keep you updated.

Translation: The next email you get from me will inform you of the new evaluation deal and how it is the best deal that could have been gained considering the circumstances, even though we helped create those circumstances by agreeing to the framework in the first place.

Meanwhile, I personally want to thank the thousands of members who participated in Monday’s leafleting to parents and commuters across the city as we continue to put pressure on the mayor to do the right thing. School-based efforts like these are critical to the work that we do.

Translation: Thank you Unity Caucus for faithfully toeing the party line. Thank you for transmitting the propaganda from us on down to the membership. A union works best when the small cadre of fat cats at the top lay down the talking points for the members to unquestioningly swallow hook, line and sinker. Don’t believe that this is our philosophy? Check out this internal email sent by one our District Representatives to the peons he supposedly “represents”. This is not a democratic union. This is a corporate union where you do as you’re told. Thank you for helping us keep a stranglehold on power.

Sincerely,

Michael Mulgrew

Translation: As some kids might say, “‘F’ the haters!”, Michael Mulgrew (your boss).

It feels good to be back in the saddle.

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11 responses to “RUMORS OF MY DEATH HAVE BEEN GREATLY EXAGGERATED

  1. great to have you back. you’ve been missed.

  2. welcome back, missed your voice.

  3. You have been sorely missed. Welcome back and what a wonderful post to begin with.

  4. I am so pleased to see you back and that your life appears to have regrouped; your ‘penthouse studio’ sounds idyllic

    of related note: in the UK the government is floating that ‘competency’ measures and procedures be grafted with ‘performance management’ measures and procedures because, as it was floated in our school, it is in the schools’, teachers’ and parents’ ‘best interests’ that the ‘moving on’ procedure does not take too long; also, with ongoing performance management there is now endless opportunity to question any aspect of a teacher’s performance on competency levels because it is all part of your development now. There was a consultation, everyone I talked to didn’t like it, and guess what …? I submitted a paper as part of the discussion (http://ghostteachers.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/the-future-of-teaching-performance-or-capability-oh-not-teaching-then/) and was ‘thanked’ for my contribution

    I am currently on my FOURTH period of extended sickness because I cannot function in the toxic environment of work, a breeding ground for the humanomanagerialasphyxia virus, against which I have no defence …

    • Good to see you again my friend from across the pond. I love that link you posted, especially this part:

      This current proposal is the epitome of wrong management, of either people or public service. It is demotivating. It is mechanised only to identify the lack (or even just the ‘satisfactory’), it absorbs the good and immediately takes it for granted, rather than seeing how it works and cultivating it. Teachers work hard now to cover their backs and stay out of hassle rather than culture their practice. Lazy management just demands over recognising or understanding or nurturing; it doesn’t bother working out how to meet (and therefore manage) the demands itself. It narrowly pre-defines success criteria – extracting from the whole community that is communication – reducing education to a process rather than a growth.

      Very well said. If the “British system” under which so many of my Caribbean friends were educated with much praise is going down the tubes, then what hope do we have? It seems all of the English-speaking countries (U.S., Britain, Australia, etc.) are bent on turning education into a corporatized mediocrity factory.

  5. I am so happy that you are back…proud of you…to be lifted from the belly of the beast and jump right back in-like you never left. Your interpretation of Mulgrew’s letter is fabulous. For once, wouldn’t we all just love to hear these people tell the truth and stop molesting words. Awesome job-welcome back. Also, no thanks were necessary. You already thanked me months ago. But, it was nice to see my name in print-without a ridiculous Facebook story attached. So, thank you, my friend.

    • Thank you Chris. It is good to be back, if anything just for the sake of distraction. What a time you “choose” to be reinstated. Now you will be measured in junk science. Out of the frying pan into the fryer.

  6. I have come to the realization….that..this battle will go on…and of course, Math people..love JUNK SCIENCE…it’s about as good for a teacher as JUNK FOOD. See you soon….keep em coming. Reinstated…me? I don’t know about that! YIKES….this is as long as puberty.

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