Brooklyn Principal Challenges Cathie Black Face to Face on Unions and Seniority
Thanx to Norm Scott of the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) for his video and commentary
Principals, 80% (according to scuttlebutt) of whom have been appointed under the Bloomberg regime, are increasingly becoming a Trojan horse for Black & Bloom as they see the favored charter schools inundating their neighborhoods with flyers and expensive ads while their schools are cut to the bone. Black came to a Williamsburg District 14 Community Education Council meeting on February 28 at a particularly sensitive time. The entire neighborhood has been inundated with Harlem Success Academy fliers, ads at every subway stop and on every doorknob while public schools are starved. There are many charters in District 14 but as usual Eva has pushed the buttons a bit too far. She doesn't know just what she is in for and it will be fun to watch this develop as Eve puts young children into the IS 33 building in the middle of one of the most dangerous areas - a point people made at this meeting (video of this in a few days.)
Many of the old guard people who have worked and lived in the district for years are outraged. Not only at the charters, but at the attack on seniority and LIFO. I worked in the area for over 35 years and saw many old friends at the meeting at IS 71. Many teachers and supervisors were neighborhood people and they came out in force.
Here is a video of principal and community leader Brian De Vale going one on one with Black over seniority rights, all while holding a Teddy Bear. Black tried to make a joke - "Don't I get the bear" but when De Vale came up to offer it to her she refused it, saying "give it to a child." What a humanitarian she is - most likely she was afraid of touching it.
I'm including a letter to parents from another Brooklyn principal from another district as another example of the outrage.
We can’t help but comment briefly on the debate about teacher seniority that is all over the news. I remember my mother, Rose Barr's stories of pre-union teaching. Behind closed doors, and with a promise to keep her salary a secret, each year she negotiated her contract. She could not be hired for one position because she would have been a second Jew, and the quota allowed only one per school. She could not wear shorts in public, could not be pregnant and could not ask about her colleagues’ salaries. Most schools don't teach much about labor history and many Americans seem to have no notion of how unions have improved the quality of life for generations of Americans. My father, an early 20th century labor organizer, spent many months of his life in prison, fighting for the rights we are now expected to silently surrender.
Over and over we read about countries where students out-perform Americans. What we need to ask is how educators and education are regarded in those countries. Are teachers vilified or venerated? Are students sent to school with the message that schools, teachers, and educational leaders are to be respected, that education is of great value? Read our newspapers and see what is said about our teachers, people who have committed their professional lives to helping young people learn. Today's New York Times provides an excellent example of the effect of such negative publicity on our profession.
Seniority is a complex issue. First and foremost, there is a big difference between the city cutting positions throughout the city and cutting budgets at the school level. A citywide cut of positions would be unconscionable and should not under any circumstances occur. As bad as cuts to school budgets are, it is much better when we at the school level decide what to cut.
But what about this seniority question? There is no doubt that our system for teacher tenure could use a little tweaking and it would be great if the UFT and the DOE could agree on some changes to this system. But make no mistake about it, it is a dangerous thing when it is said that the difference between a brand new teacher and an experienced one is irrelevant. It takes time to develop your teaching practice and one of the wonderful things about the profession is that you can always learn more as a teacher. There is so much to learn and know when it comes to supporting others in the learning process. When we think back to our first years of teaching, we remember our energy and our commitment, wonderful qualities for new teachers. But when we recall later years, we remember our wisdom and how much we could do for both our students and our newer colleagues. That’s part of what makes teaching such a rewarding profession. We need both the experienced and learned teachers and the thoughtful, new and energetic teachers. In fact, you can’t have one without the other!
Let’s remember to keep on thanking these teachers for their intelligence, integrity, commitment to young people, and love of learning.