Friday, December 17, 2010

The UFT Non-demo at Tweed, Ad Hoc Committee to Fight School Closings to Hold First Meeting Dec. 21

Friday, Dec. 17, 2010

I'm sorry if the Lehman teachers were looking for magic bullets to keep them open but we must link the fightbacks to the political intention of school closings, something the UFT refuses to do as they too fall into the data trap of defending the schools' numbers which are so manipulated based on the kinds of kids the school is sent and the number or lack of resources. - see my comment below
Did you know the UFT actually held something or other at Tweed on Wednesday? At least there was a rumor that they would end the Delegate Assembly early on Wednesday and march over to Tweed. I couldn't be there, thank goodness (Promises, Promises).

Were they worried that a resolution on closing schools was going to be sponsored by a variety of groups? Probably not but more a sign that they are feeling some heat from the members. Thus a pipsqueak show of force. Apparently they are saving their big one-shot show of force for the Feb. PEP meeting where closing schools will have their fate sealed.

Chapter leader John Powers, who has been sending emails daily to the UFT leadership sent this to ICE-mail:
SSSSShhhhhhhhhhh. Did you hear? There is a UFT protest outside of Tweed tonight. CL's received the news. How about the rest of our membership who toils every day under the dictates of a billionaire mayor and his puppet and soon to be puppet: Klein and Black? Did they receive the news?

SSSShhhhhhhhh. There is a protest tonight. SSSSShhhhhhhh. Don't bring anyone. It might get crowded.




No action alert on UFT homepage. No e-alert to all members.

Big Mike wants it to be a quiet affair.

Apparently John shamed them into actually posting something on the web. And there's a rumor they actually held some kind of rally. They even have a video. From the UFT web site:
Hundreds of UFT members gathered in the bitter cold on Dec. 15 outside DOE headquarters at the Tweed Courthouse to rally against the city's plans to close 25 struggling district schools.
Hundreds? You mean they actually got hundreds out? We got 500 last year at the rally at Bloomberg's house. How pathetic - there are over 3000 delegates and .....jeez, I won't go on.

There were some interesting posts on ICE mail regarding the UFT and how they are reacting to closing schools and I highlight two of them from Marjorie Stamberg and Ellen Fox at Norms Notes.
Here are a few excerpts but head over and read all of it.
Unity caucus is trying to pick up the opposition verbiage; their motion talks of "building a grassroots movement" to stop the closings and a lot of militant talk, for them.  I also think the word got out that many of us were organizing to bring signs and present a motion at the D.A. for a UFT citywide rally, to bring together the local school-based protests against the school closings. The bureaucracy wanted to get in front of the train, before it left the station without them.- Marjorie
The original resolution calls for the DA to vote on the following final RESOLVED: THAT     in recognition of the outrage this Delegate Assembly, representing the educators of all NYC public schools, feels about the proposal to close 25 schools, we hereby adjourn this meeting and reassemble for a mass protest [emphasis mine] at City Hall and the central offices of the NYC Department of Education. 

It's fascinating to see that, at least originally, our leaders were thinking of the number of Delegates and Chapter Leaders who manage to show up on Wednesday to constitute a mass protest.  I forget what the quorum number is, but the actual number of people in attendance rarely, if ever, exceeds 1,000.  Some mass protest!  I see London, I see France!
The words of the resolution sound militant, until you realize that, once again, the UFT "leadership" is putting the onus on individual schools, rather than formulating some sort of unified response that would apply to, and draw a connection between, all of the affected schools; and would also draw all UFT members into support of the threatened schools -- not just at the February "doomsday" PEP meeting, but in some sort of sustained way.  They've had the gall to suggest, at a variety of meetings, how they're going to "offer help" to the newly attacked schools just as they "helped" the threatened schools last year.- Ellen
Read both of their full posts at Norms Notes where they also discuss the attack on large schools as part of the weakening of the union by breaking down big chapters, though Ellen points out that while the union at the school level is weakened the top leadership actually benefits from small schools because the opposition has to work harder to do outreach.
I'm fairly sure that the closing of these schools would bring Unity leadership a bit of secret joy along with just the tiniest bit of angst about losing overall union strength.  On the whole, small schools are much easier to control, and keep within the Unity fold.- Ellen

I gave a presentation at the Lehman high school's UFT meeting a week ago in which I pointed to the failed policy of the union regarding the ed deform mania for closing schools, the main purpose of which is ideological, political, economic, even a real estate grab, with Children First being Last.

No matter what is said, the very idea of charging a school with being a failure comes down to blaming the teachers and then tossing them into an ATR pool where they will be vilified (the UFT honcho in the room made sure to say at least they still have a job and that we could have had a contract if the UFT were willing to give up the ATRs.) I pointed out that it is often a job in hell and these jobs only exist because of the 2005 contract.

I pointed to the UFT "victory" in the law suit last year that kept 19 school open temporarily (15 are on the new list) because the DOE had been sloppy in following procedure. In other words, the UFT was not opposing the concept of closing schools, which they have supported since the idea gained hold almost 2 decades ago, but making sure procedures are followed.

When the Far Rockaway HS closing was announced, I got a call from a disgruntled teacher who was upset that the UFT District HS Queens rep Rona Freiser (now Queens boro rep) had come down not to help them fight the closing but to inform them of their rights (which weren't all that much). Of course Howard Schwach, my editor at The Wave and I immediately began to predict that Beach Channel HS, the other large HS in Rockaway would be next because the small schools opening at Far Rock would not take the most difficult kids. And so that has come to pass. The UFT PR machine could have made a big deal about this intentional domino effect but didn't.

I told the teachers at Lehman that if they followed the pattern of Bronx school closings the arrow would lead right to them and that the UFT should have been exposing this and using its resources to forestall the inevitable instead of rushing in with too little too late. I didn't have time to mention that the DOE intentionally sends in principals as "closers", some sharp and ambitious who know exactly what they are there for and others clueless but clearly lacking people skills that would turn so many people off the school community would have little fight left to battle. I pointed this out in my blog the other day about Murray Begtraum and Lafayette HS. (Is Murray Bergtraum Principal a "Closer?")

I'm sorry if the Lehman teachers were looking for magic bullets to keep them open but we must link the fightbacks to the political intention of school closings, something the UFT refuses to do as they too fall into the data trap of defending the schools' numbers which are so manipulated based on the kinds of kids the school is sent and the number or lack of resources. To the DOE, resources means coordinators, watchers, trainers.

What can we do?
I have no easy answers other than to get out the word and try to organize and activate people as a force within the UFT that can become strong enough to either force the leadership to do the right thing (which you know I doubt since I consider them Vichy) or even stronger to threaten their control. I will post separately on how my point of view differs from other activists opposing Unity.

An ad hoc committee to fight school closings is in the process of forming. It is holding its first meeting on Tuesday. Come on down.

Fight School Closings

NO School Closings!
NO Charter Invasions!
All are welcome to join an
Ad Hoc Organizing Meeting
to fight back against:
-school closings
-charter invasions and privatization
-school transformations/restructuring 
Tuesday, December 21st
4:30 pm
CUNY Graduate Center
(34th St and 5th Ave)
Room 5409

You are invited to help build this major campaign. 
Bring your ideas to this planning meeting.  
We will plan mobilizations to the Mayor's PEP meetings, to DOE hearings to close schools and to invade with charters, and to pressure City Hall and the Mayor.
The campaign will involve letter writing, petitions, media blitzes, talks, workshops, forums,videos, cultural presentations, fight-back Fridays, and much much more. 

With your involvement we can build this campaign and movement to promote quality education and stop the drive to privatize.

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