Tag Archives: Bill de Blasio

How Do You “Professionalize” Teaching Within the Context of a Collective Bargaining Agreement?

Two months into his term Mayor de Blasio’s approval ratings have nosedived, and the “tale of two cities” is the sharp disparity between white voters and black/Hispanic voters.

The mayor’s approval is 47 – 32 percent among men, 44 – 36 percent among women, 60 – 22 percent among black voters and 47 – 28 percent among Hispanic voters. White voters give him a negative 39 – 45 percent approval rating.

Is he viewed as abandoning white voters, or, as an astute friend suggests, it’s the weather.

The beginning of the year is a bummer for many — the combination of dark days, no more holidays to look forward to and never-ending bad weather make this time of year ripe for Seasonal Affected Disorder or clinical depression … The major symptoms of SAD and clinical depression are the same … You’ll experience an enduring sadness most of the day every day for at least two weeks … You’ll also experience a loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy.

Aside from snow, and more snow, freezing day after day, your colleague in the Governor’s Mansion in Albany has created a new kind of democrat: pro-choice, pro-marriage equality, tax-cutting, small government, pro-charter school, anti-immigrant, a combination of Rand Paul and Kirsten Gillebrand

The Albany Hydra, whose “poisonous breath and blood so virulent even its tracks were deadly,” seems to have defeated the wanna-be Hercules, the mayor of Gotham.

de Blasio needs a victory.

On September 11th, the day after the Democratic primary, the questions began – how would the new mayor deal with public employee unions – all of whom have not had contracts since 2010, and teachers since 2009?

Would he cave and open the city coffers, stand firm and continue the Bloomberg obstinacy or negotiate a contract fair to union members and fair to the city?

The goal is that the New York Times, Governor Cuomo, the Citizen’s Budget Commission, the national press, the “talking heads” praise the agreement. The unions are faced with the dilemma, a clock is ticking, if they can’t negotiate a deal by the end of the fiscal year, June 30th, de Blasio may take the Bloomberg route, walking away from negotiations, a dangerous route, a risky route, a route that Bloomberg and Cuomo have taken without dire political consequences.

A weak mayor is a disaster for the union, a mayor pushed by the winds will ultimately seek out deep-pocketed so-called friends.

On the other side of the table the unions need a contract that passes membership scrutiny, i.e., contains sufficient dollars both in retroactive pay and the rate going forward, as well other non-budgetary issues attractive to union members.

The City-UFT negotiations heated up over the last few weeks and both sides “leaked” the direction of the negotiations – a finger in the air for both sides – which way are the political winds blowing – are negotiators on both sides moving in the right direction?

Retroactive increases:

Retroactive 4% raises for the 9-10, 10-11 years would cost the city $3.4 billion, if you add in a rate for the next two retroactive years and rates going forward, how would the city fund the raises? The two principles are “pattern bargaining” and “ability to pay.” The pattern at the conclusion of the prior teacher agreement was 4%; however, as the nation moved into the recession the city’s “ability to pay” clearly enters the equation. Once a sum is agreed upon both sides have to determine a method of payment, it is commonplace to spread retroactive raises over future budget cycles.

Rates in the new contract:

All New York City public employee contracts are long-expired – how do you apply a pattern if there is no pattern within the city? Do you look to the pattern in the state among non-teacher contracts? Cuomo negotiated contracts had meager raises. Due to the 2% property tax cap many teacher unions have negotiated interim agreements with freezes to prevent layoffs. Suburban teacher pay scales are substantially higher than pay scales in the city.

Health Plan Savings:

Health plans for city employees cost over $5 billion a year and are increasing at 10% a year. In the past increasing co-pays transferred health plan costs to employees, requiring all prescriptions are mail order is a saving for the city (removes the pharmacist as the ‘middleman”). “Early” retirees, those who retire before eligibility for Medicare have been treated as active employees, Health plans are extremely complex and whether substantial saving can found within the system without simply transferring costs to members or limiting access to services is a difficult issue.

Increases Going Forward:

The rate, the increase over the future length of the contract is also based on the pattern and the ability to pay principles. There is no pattern within the city. The union has just released a report pointing out that the exodus of teachers from the city, including a new category, mid-career teachers, can be “corrected” by increasing salaries in the city.

Each year the New York State Comptroller issues a February Report which includes an in-depth review of the New York City finances. See pages 20-23 of the NYS Comptroller February 2014 Report on NYC finances re labor negotiations, health plans and pensions: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/osdc/rpt12-2014.pdf

Selling the Contract (non-budgetary issues):

Teachers are both professionals and work under the provisions of a collective bargaining agreement. Teachers frequently ask to be “treated as professionals,” the ability to make professional decisions, which also means being responsible for the outcomes. How do you “professionalize” teaching within the context of a collective bargaining agreement? The current system is rigidly proscriptive. The 2013-14 Instructional Expectation document drives instruction in every Network, in every school, in every classroom. ADVANCE, the teacher evaluation system is also incredibly complex; principals must enter details of every observation into a database, a couple hundred thousand observation reports in the system.

In too many schools teachers feel like well-paid assembly line workers.

The requirements of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and APPR result in a formulaic instruction. Once again, not all schools, some principals have shielded teachers from the distasteful elements, too many simply push the worst aspects into every classroom.

“Professionalization” does not mean “leave me alone and let me teach,” it means working within a team of teachers, making decisions that impact students, and, being responsible for the decisions.

For teachers near retirement I hear, “Who cares about the professional items, I want money, my pension can’t be changed.” I have one word: Detroit.

The irony is the money part of the contract may be the easy part.

Eva for Mayor in 2017: The Race is On …

For twenty years Republican mayors called the shots in New York, for the last twelve a pro-choice, pro-LGBT, environmentalist and pro-health mayor, a strange combination for a Republican in the era of the Tea Party. While New Yorkers tired of Mayor Bloomberg during his third term, aside from his education policies he had favorable ratings among New Yorkers. Bike lanes and parks circle and crisscross Manhattan, crime rates have plunged, visitors from around the world spend their dollars and immigrants from across the nation and the world flock to the Apple.

In the big picture New York thrived, in spite of 9/11 and in spite of the 2008 national economic meltdown, high-rise luxury building after building filled the skyline around Manhattan and Brooklyn, high end restaurants proliferated, wine bars charging sixteen dollars for a glass of cabernet with smokers puffing away in the smoking section, the streets outside of the bars.

Across the East and Harlem Rivers the economic gap widened, unemployment rates remained high, the city was moving in different directions.

New York City is “managed” by a combination of real estate developers, bankers, hedge fund managers, political elites, the same types who always run cities. One of our most famous citizens, Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the island of Nevis, from a single parent household, married Elizabeth Schuyler, from the Rensselaer family, “one of the richest and most politically influential families in the state of New York.”

In the Harvard Club or during breakfasts at the Regency or the Mandarin Oriental plans are being hatched.

In the spring of 2013 seven Democrats battled for the slot on the ballot, the Republicans battled among themselves, without a viable candidate. The elites, the power brokers were not unhappy, Christine Quinn and Bill Thompson; the two leading contenders were middle of the road democrats, not too far from the core of the Bloomberg ethos.

When the dust cleared Bill de Blasio motivated voters across the city – his “A Tale of Two Cities” campaign, his anti-stop and frisk rhetoric grabbed the attention of New Yorkers, well, enough New Yorkers.

de Blasio won the Democratic primary with 40% of the primary vote: 256,000 votes out of about 3 million registered Democrats; less than 10% of the registered Democrats voted for de Blasio. In the November election only 24% of all registered voters came to the polls.

The campaign for 2017 has begun.

de Blasio is simply too far to the left for the power brokers.

While his policies may reflect the views of most New Yorkers: more affordable housing, protecting rent control, raising the minimum wage, appointing pro-tenant members to the rent guideline board, and on and on, it may not translate into re-election. Melissa Mark-Viverito, the leader of the City Council is even further to the left – the City Council is dominated by the Progressive Caucus.

The de Blasio administration threatens the domain of entrenched old guard.

Campaigns never start too early and the 2017 campaign has began: Eva Moskowitz funded TV ads smacking de Blasio over his reversal of three charter school co-location decisions effecting only 194 students. The TV commercials were ready to go before the de Blasio decision was made!

Eva may be the perfect candidate.

New York City has never had a female mayor and 60% of voters are female.

She will be richly funded.

She is creating a voter base of charter school parents and wannabe charter school parents, primarily parents of color.

She is smart and aggressive.

Her supporters have four years to tear down de Blasio and four years to build up Eva’s resume.

About two years or so down the road Eva will leave the leadership of the Success charter school network and move on to another job to prepare for her run.

The NY Post will be relentless, slamming away at de Blasio every chance they get, the Wall Street Journal will join in on the editorial side. The Manhattan Institute has already begun the attack on the mayor. See Heather McDonald here and a sharp criticism of pre-k here.

In Albany the Republicans are in New York City attack mode, they passed a bill to undue Mayor de Blasio’s co-location reversals, in effect, reversing elements of mayoral control.

Parents from around the state are outraged by the impact of the Common Core State Exams and they have expressed their anger by encouraging candidates to oppose the four Regents up for re-election. The legislature ignored the parents, replaced one of the Regents with a candidate who had never applied for the position with an embarrassing lack of qualifications. Until parents can convert outrage to power at the polls they are not “players.”

Jerry Skurnik runs PrimeNY , the premier provider of election data: lists of prime voters, by district, by gender, by race, voting patterns, new voters, all the data needed to design a campaign. In the September 10, 2013 Democratic Primary election the teachers union endorsed Bill Thompson, spent significant dollars, made very attempt to bring the troops to the polls, and were not successful.

Bloomberg, virtually unknown in 2001 opted out of the NYC Campaign Finance system and spent many tens of millions of his own dollars; he repeated the efforts in 2005 and 2009.

Dollars determine elections, foot soldiers are nice, helpful, and nothing beats dollars.

Public school parents have yet to prove that they can influence the outcome of an election.

Teachers and public school parents will sneer – Eva Moskowitz can never get elected, au contraire, a well-funded, well run campaign can burnish any reputation, the TV ads of the last few weeks has shown what dollars can do. Governor Cuomo has suddenly become a fan of charter schools, the Senate Republicans, with Democratic support have jumped on the charter school band wagon. For the sans culottes, thousands of charter school kids have been driven onto the streets – in reality, 194 kids will have to either attend local schools or the charter school will have to rent space.

Dollars change minds.

de Blasio has two or three years to recover from his stumbling first few months, the battle is on … will de Blasio continue his “Tale of Two Cities” course, fighting to align the needs of the rich with the wants of the larger New York? Will de Blasio moderate and make peace with the power brokers?

The 2017 campaign is on, and, the big boys play for keeps.

Andrew Cuomo Loves Frank Underwood: The House of Cards Plays Out in New York State

A longtime political sage tells me, “The governor in his remarks yesterday at the Moskowitz rally said he long supported charters or he is beholden to the hedge funds who contributed to his campaign since 2010,” and, I would add, neither or both.

In the Netflix series House of Cards Kevin Spacey plays Frank Underwood, the demonic, amoral politician lusting after power, masterful in moving human chess pieces, more suited for the Ninth Circle of the Inferno than 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Cuomo is inaccessible to the press, only managed media events, he has no public schedule, and no effective opposition on the Republican side. One of his first actions as Governor was to move the State of the State speech from the majestic Assembly chamber to the 2,000 seat convention center; from reporting to the legislators to reporting to the people, and demeaning the legislators.

The Governor led the marriage equality bill through the legislature and derailed the women’s equality agenda. With a nod to the conservative democratic primary voters in 2016, Cuomo places the responsibility for passing the Dream Act on the Republicans. After a handful of states pass medical marijuana legislation he edged the bill forward.

Somewhere a large bulletin board is counting votes – in Iowa, in New Hampshire in all the early primary states.

The 2% property tax cap has essentially frozen teacher salaries around the state, school districts are cutting courses, laying off teachers and dipping into reserves, conservatives applaud.

Geoff Decker in Chalkbeat tells us,

By one tally of the 2014 filings, Cuomo racked up at least $800,000 in donations from 27 bankers, real estate executives, business executives, philanthropists and advocacy groups who have flocked to charter schools and other education causes in recent years.

Quoting from a New York Times 2010 story, Diane Ravitch relates,

Hedge fund executives are thus emerging as perhaps the first significant political counterweight to the powerful teachers unions, which strongly oppose expanding charter schools in their current form.

After hearing from Mr. Cuomo, Mr. Williams arranged an 8 a.m. meeting last month at the Regency Hotel, that favorite spot for power breakfasts, between Mr. Cuomo and supporters of his committee, Democrats for Education Reform, who include the founders of funds like Anchorage Capital Partners, with $8 billion under management; Greenlight Capital, with $6.8 billion; and Pershing Square Capital Management, with $5.5 billion.

The blue ribbon Cuomo Education Reform panel met for over a year and faded away, the final report barely reported.

The Governor may have made a crucial error, he may have underestimated the anger of those amorphous public school parents scattered around the state. On Tuesday a joint meeting of the state legislature is scheduled to re-elect four Regents members – the votes are always pro forma – except this year. The anger over the implementation of the Common Core, the impact of the Common Core-high stakes testing has not abated; parents are badgering their electeds, demanding that their legislator not vote for the incumbents. The Assembly passed a sweeping bill calling for a moratorium on high stakes testing and a data-mining initiative. The Senate is hesitating, and may pass a similar bill. The Governor blithely ignores the bill and appoints an eleven member task force who has held two meetings at which acolytes rambled.

The Governor’s recent affaire d’amour with charter schools may very well alienate parents from Buffalo to New York to Montauk.

Dollars drive elections and Citizen’s United allow unfettered dollars to flow from the Koch brothers, from hedge fund billionaires, from the rich and therefore powerful to candidates either of their choice to oppose candidates they despise.

Bill de Blasio ran a brilliant campaign, reactivated the left, motivated the middle class, Afro-Americans, women, the outer boroughs, he was a throwback to days of yore. He is currently under vigorous assault, from the Governor who is “defeating” the Mayor, who is putting the Mayor in his place. The Governor’s other “friend,” Eva Moskowitz, is spending over a half million dollars to blanket the screen with pro charter school, anti-de Blasio TV ads.

de Blasio may end up as a one term mayor as the Cuomo-Moskowitz pas de deux destroys him, to use a House of Cards analogy, push him under a train, Cuomo’s path to the White House may be littered with unionists and parents, or, the people may rise up.

Year 3 of House of Cards may be playing out in front of us.

A Virtual Look at Contract Negotiations: A Long Spring for the Negotiators on Both Sides.

Contract negotiations are multi-faceted and complex.

Different teams sitting in different rooms mulling over printouts, offers and counteroffers; distressing amounts of time is spent caucusing with your team plotting/creating responses, crafting arguments supporting positions and waiting, waiting, waiting for a response/counter offer from the other side. The process is laborious and incremental, with many trips down the wrong path, with frequent dead ends.

As the sides close in on a settlement the negotiations tend to become round-the-clock, pushing for that last comma and semi colon in the right place.

Years ago I served on the negotiating team – the final, lengthy session, the presentation to the union executive board, the delegate assembly … I think we went fifty-four straight hours.

Under the previous administration negotiations never began, our former mayor chose leaks to the press and unkind op eds in lieu of actual negotiations.

In the “money” room the sides have to decide on the numbers – what would each percentage point cost in each year? How much would each percent from 11/1/09 until 6/30/10, and each subsequent budget cycle (7/1 till 6/30) cost out? Is the time pensionable, and, if so, how much would this add to the cost? Remember: the city contributes a rate determined by actuarial calculations each year; if teachers retired between 11/1/09 and the date of the new contract are they entitled to retro pay and a recalculation of their pension? If the answer is “yes,” how much would it add to the dollar cost of the agreement?

Before you can reach a resolution you have to agree to price tag of each negotiated segment.

The union numbers people parse past city budgets, current budget proposals, revenue and expense projections, tax receipt projections and on and on … How many new buildings are in the pipeline and how much in taxes will they generate? Can we anticipate increasing tourism and place a price tag on the anticipated additional revenue?

In another room the health plan negotiators representing the Municipal Labor Coalition (MLC) are engaged in the enormously complex discussions. It is a three-way discussion: the city, the union and the feds. How does the Affordable Care Act impact health plans for NYC active and retired employees? Are current active and retired employee health plans “Cadillac” plans, and, if so, are elements of the plan taxable?

How will retroactive salary be paid out? All at once? Over two or three budget cycles?

In another room the “non-budgetary” issues are on the table.

Management is wary about relinquishing managerial prerogatives; unions defend what has been previously embedded in the contract.

Once the parties have an agreement the union has to “sell” the settlement to the membership and the mayor has to “sell” the settlement to the media/the elites and the broader public.

Will the headline praise or pan the settlement?

Teachers have told me, “Who cares what the settlement costs, that’s not a concern of the union, the city will just have to figure it out, we’re entitled to a raise, we earned it, and the city just has to pay it?

My answer is: Wisconsin.

Scott Walker, the Governor is Wisconsin, and a cooperative legislature, effectively ended collective bargaining in Wisconsin. Public employee unions in Wisconsin are beyond life support – they are moribund.

Read the frightening story: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/23/business/wisconsins-legacy-for-unions.html?hpw&rref=business

Some of you may have gone to Wisconsin to support our brothers and sisters, participated in recall elections for state senators who voted on “the wrong side,” all to no avail. The public was not sympathetic to the unions, and, Scott Walker is now mentioned as a possible presidential candidate.

The “unofficial” voters on any contract settlement are the people of the City of New York.

The teachers union has spent years working with communities across the city: parents, civic associations, and other unions, block associations, electeds on the local level, faith-based leaders, in the parlance of labor, an “organizing model.” Thousands upon thousands of union members participating in local campaigns, from volunteering to spending time in Louisiana after Katrina, to working right here in New York City on Hurricane Sandy relief, from going to Haiti to work on field hospitals to trekking with parents to fight for a stop light on a corner or to prevent a school from closing or to fight against co-locating a charter school in a public school building.

The work of the union has paid off, Sol Stern in the Manhattan Journal (Special Issue, 2013) wrote,

according to a poll of city voters commissioned by the Manhattan Institute and conducted earlier this year by Zogby Analytics … New Yorkers now trust the oft-maligned teachers more than they trust the mayor’s office: almost half of all respondents said that teachers should “play the largest role in determining New York City’s education policy,” compared with 28 percent who thought that the mayor-appointed schools chancellor should.

The public is fickle, to continue the support of the populace union leadership has to craft a contract that is viewed by the public as fair to teachers and fair to the city.

Mayor de Blasio’s State of the City speech addressed affordable housing,

“In total, we pledge to preserve or construct nearly 200,000 units of affordable housing – enough to house between 400,000 and 500,000 New Yorkers — to help working people by literally putting a roof over their heads” … Mr. Bloomberg invested heavily in affordable housing, but Mr. de Blasio won office promising to do more. He has said he would require major residential projects to include units for low- and moderate-income residents. He has also said he would invest $1 billion of city pension funds in creating lower-rent units.

Decisions on the investment of pension funds are controlled by the trustees of the funds and require the approval of the union-appointed trustees who have a legal fiduciary responsibility. While there is no connection whatsoever between the contract negotiations and the pension fund trustees the enthusiastic support of the investment by the union could resonate well with New Yorkers.

In 1975 as the city was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy Al Shanker supported a plan in which the Teacher Retirement System purchased city bonds to avert default, a default that could have freed the city of all contractual responsibility, a la Detroit today.

In one room a team is discussing the teacher evaluation plan.

The elements of the plan are set in law and regulation and a final plan must be approved by the state commissioner. The current New York City plan is a mess – the plan was written by the commissioner and basically is much too complex. Both management and labor want to simplify the plan; however, the plan must be approved in Albany.

Yes, complex with many, many moving parts.

At the same time the negotiators are engaged the city budget plans are moving forward. The mayor’s proposed budget is silent on dollars for collective bargaining. The City Council will hold hearings, the fifty-one council members will argue for projects for their districts, Community Planning Boards will support or oppose budget initiatives and in the waning days of June a budget will be agreed upon.

The unions and the mayor want to reach an agreement – there are no guarantees – the economy impacts negotiations – so – don’t spend that retroactive salary just yet.

Midnight Oils Burn at Tweed as the Rollout of Policies Begin: The Beginning of a Road to the White House?

The midwinter recess is a pause, a week to decompress, to catch a flight and lay on a beach with an adult beverage in hand, sleeping late, reading that pile of books that have been gathering dust, movies, movies, movies, and the nightmare that wakes you up sweating at night, the upcoming state tests.

At Tweed the lights are burning late, Carmen Farina, Tony Shorris, Dorita Gibson, Phil Weinberg and Ursulina Ramirez, the new team, are creating a new Department of Education, a phoenix rising from the ashes, an opportunity, a few brief months to place their stamp, to rebrand sixteen hundred schools and 1.1 million children. An awesome task.

Across the courtyard in City Hall the spinners are working on the media campaign, The Post will savage the decisions, the Eva Moskowitz corps, the Manhattan Institute, the Fordham Institute, even Bill Gates will be plotting how to respond, how to both undercut and derail the initiatives.

Bill de Blasio is bucking the tide, a progressive in an era of rampant conservatism, a mayor who opposes charter schools, committed to public schools, a mayor with one leg in the sixties and one in the future.

The conflict with Governor Cuomo over pre-k will resolve itself – both leaders, the governor of one of the most influential states in the nation and the mayor of Gotham City – the two most powerful politicians in New York State – politicians who need each other.

The co-location of charter schools in public school buildings will only impact a couple of dozen schools; it will also send a ringing message across the political stratosphere. The upcoming reorganization of the school system – networks, geographic districts or a hybrid will impact every school, and only create a ripple.

Charging rent to charter schools will flash around the internet.

The negotiation of the teacher contract can move teacher negotiations in a new direction. The major issues for teachers are back pay – retroactive pay back to November 1, 2009, the expiration of the last contract and “respect.” Will the contract simply increase salary with a few fillips for teachers, or, will the contract move in a new direction? And, if so, what direction?

The highly touted Baltimore teacher contract (2010) replaced step increases, increases based on longevity to increases based on “achievement units,” including teacher evaluations into the salary schedule. The contract was widely praised by Arne Duncan and other reformers and undoubtedly would not fly in New York.

Can de Blasio and UFT President Mulgrew carve out a new path – a de Blasio path – a path not praised by Arne Duncan or Gates, a path in the new urban philosophy addressing the tale of two cities.

Governors and mayors are under the thrall of elitist education reformers, from Arne Duncan to the billionaire faux soothsayers who claim to foretell the future, ignoring inequality, pampering the one tenth of one percent, the widest gap in income since the 1920s, Bill de Blasio stands alone. Over the months, over the years the Mayor of New York can emerge as the leader of a new left, a revival of the tarnished liberal reputation with roots leading back to JFK and Lyndon Johnson.

The route is rocky with gaping potholes, the chancellor and the mayor cannot afford the disaster of the last snowstorm, with snow falling at two inches an hour, with hardy winds blowing, the chancellor blithely chirped,

“It has totally stopped snowing. It’s absolutely a beautiful day out there right now,” she said at a morning news conference in Brooklyn with Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Asked to elaborate, Farina said, “Coming down the stairs, the most obvious thing is it stopped snowing. The second thing, it’s getting warmer – which means that theoretically the snow will start melting.”

The mayor cannot afford missteps, cannot afford ridicule – the stakes are too high.

Andrea Elliot was just awarded the prestigious Polk Award for local reporting for the five-part “Invisible Child” – the story of the life of a middle school student living in a homeless shelter frames the de Blasio agenda. The shelter is surrounded by glittering high raise rental and million dollar condominiums. A perfect example of the tale of two cities. Whether de Blasio can build thousands of units of affordable housing is years down the road. Whether he can impact the education of the public school children of the City of New York will be decided in upcoming months.

Big city mayors around the country are under assault, Rahm Emanuel is at war with the Chicago Teachers Union, and the new mayor in Los Angeles has retained the extraordinarily unpopular superintendent of schools, John Deasy.

Don’t think that Bill isn’t thinking about a run for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue down the road – and path begins with education policies … winning over suburban moms and voters of color converts to electoral votes.

Advice to deB from a Career Teacher …

(Marc Korashan is a frequenter commenter on this blog, a career teacher of students with emotional disabilities and a union activist.)

The entrenched leadership of the school system is all about test scores and little else. The Danielson frameworks are being turned into checklists and the “talent coaches” are pushing hard for the “gotcha” mentality that is the hallmark of all educational reform since No Child Left Behind. (See the NYTimes piece on the Bumpy Start for the New Teacher Evaluation system where only the talent coach is critical of a minor detail in practice that may or may not be applicable to the students in that class).

The real issue as Ed in the Apple points out is changing the culture. This requires reform above (changes in the evaluation process) and reform below. Principals should be empowered and required to begin working with teams in their schools to rewrite the Danielson rubrics to make them more objective and clearly focused on teacher behavior and not so much on student responses. Principals need to be required to provide SAVE rooms and establish meaningful discipline policies in every school so that we can reach the students who are failing and acting out in class. Guidance services need to be in place for students as well as families that are struggling.

The best way to shake up the culture in the schools may be to disempower principals. We can move away from the nineteenth century model that currently describes principals as all knowing and all powerful and move to a professional system where schools are run at the local level by a team of parents, teachers, and administration who must work together by consensus and receive help from the central bureaucracy. This is what SLTs were supposed to do before Klein imposed his corporate model (Every principal a CEO, see William Ouchi, “Making Schools Work“). Empowering school teams also empowers parents and teachers and brings more expertise to bear on the problems in an individual school than any top down management system can.

The question is does deB have the courage to try a truly progressive approach to remake the system?

How Will deBlasio and Mulgrew Dance? The Complexities of Changing School and School District Cultures

Gotham Schools reports that Mayor-elect Bill will not make his chancellor selection until next week. The rumors that the Commissioner of Education in Finland is taking a crash English course are unsubstantiated.

To date the appointments of deBlasio have been vanilla, solid, professional choices; a police commissioner who knows New York with a sparkling resume and other choices that upset no one – no more Sandinista supporters.

The talking heads, the newspapers, the blogs all speculate: why the delay? Is it Farina? And on and on … Just remember: when Mayor Bloomberg selected Joel Klein the response was, “Who?”

After deB defeated Thompson, the union’s first choice, union president Mulgrew and deB bonded. Perhaps bonded is too meek a word- it was a lovefest, Mulgrew praising deB to the sky and deB praising teachers.

After January 1 the dance begins.

The mayor-elect must get off to a good start.

The somewhat stumbling beginning, not selecting a chancellor for weeks has led to endless idyll speculation. Why the delay? The delay has led to suspicions.

The soon-to-be mayor must consolidate/invigorate his core supporters: parents and teachers.


deB: “I am imposing an immediate freeze on co-locations of charter schools in public school buildings. I am asking the chancellor to establish guidelines outlining a co-location process that includes parents, establish a period for public comment- we hope to have regulations in place within sixty days.”

deB: “I am directing the chancellor to enter into discussions with the union – the Absent Teacher Reserve – called the ATR pool – 1200 pedagogical employees who rotate from school to school each week is a waste of taxpayer dollars. We will return these employees to full time teaching positions within license as expeditiously as possible.”

The Department of Education is a $24 billion corporation with 120,000 employees – making changes is like changing the direction of the Titanic – it takes miles to slow down and make changes in direction, and, beware of icebergs.

The new chancellor, whoever she is (don’t assume anything from the use of “she,” I use it to make up for decades of female deprecation), will have to change a culture (Read “How to change school culture,” here)

In the last decade, the education standards movement has taught us that policy change without cultural change is an exercise in futility and frustration.

The greatest impediment to meaningful cultural change is the gap between what leaders say they value and what they actually do. Staff members are not seduced by a leader’s claim of “collaborative culture” when every meeting is a series of lectures, announcements, and warnings. Claims about a “culture of high expectations” are undermined when school policies encourage good grades for poor student work. The “culture of respect” is undermined by every imperious, demanding, or angry e-mail and voice mail coming from the principal [or superintendent or chancellor]l. Leaders speak most clearly with their actions. When staff members hear the call for transformation from a leader whose personal actions remain unchanged, their hope turns to cynicism.

How many school and school district leaders stand on the stage and lecture teachers about making their classes more interactive? How many leaders warn about change, or else, i.e., school closings, staff changes, etc?

The next chancellor must both reflect the views and feelings of parents and teachers and well as lead. I was a guest at a School Leadership Team meeting – a teacher made a proposal that the team, parents and teachers, thought was a good idea. The principal responded, “I don’t think this is going to work, obviously I’m in the minority, convince me I’m wrong, make it work.”

I worked in a school-based management, school-based budgeting district, school budgets required signoffs from the principal, the parent and union leaders. The superintendent’s mantra: you can do whatever the school SLT thinks will work, if it doesn’t, it’s my way.

de Blasio, the new chancellor and the union president must work to create school cultures that both lead and respect the views of all stakeholders.

Sometimes we will “agree to disagree,” sometimes we will reluctantly agree to go along, other times we will all be on the same page. As long as we live in a culture of respect we can prosper.

Moving from a culture of conflict, a culture that encouraged grenade tossing to a culture of collaboration is akin to moving from a Yankee fan to a Mets fan – not impossible – really, really hard.

It was far easier to blast away at Bloomberg in meeting after meeting, to rip the soon to be ex-mayor in TV ads and union meetings, than to slow dance with the new guy.

Maybe we all need dance lessons.

Whispering in de Blasio’s Ear: Running a City Versus Winning an Election: Who is Advising the Mayor Presumptive?

The day after Bill Thompson conceded the folks who ran de Blasio’s campaign packed up their laptops and moved on to the next race. They earned their fees.

600,000 Democratic voters selected a mayor for eight million New Yorkers, the de Blasio team knew how to push the right buttons. The TV commercial featuring his son’s Afro, the constant drumbeat on “stop-and-frisk,” the “tale of two cities” scenario carried the day for the 270,000 voters, the 40.3% who “elected” Bill de Blasio.

With a forty point bulge in the polls Bill de Blasio will be swept to victory on November 5th – his opponent’s chance of winning is about the same as the Mets winning the World Series and the Jets winning the Super Bowl.

The team that won the election is not the team who will run the city and the mayor presumptive is faced with a pre-election dilemma. How does he go about assembling a team that can satisfy his campaign promises? How does he address the long line at the Gracie Mansion door wanting to be paid back for their support?

Bill has to be careful; friends he trusts may not be giving him the professional advice he needs.

In the Carter administration I was having lunch with a “mover and shaker,” a partner in an important law firm that had guided national policy on a wide range of issues – he was bemoaning the selection of Carter’s fellow Georgians as his inner circle.

“This Carter guy told me, ‘You think only the Northeastern elite can run the country, only the Harvard/Yale crowd?’ to be perfectly honest, yes, we are the only ones.” BTW, the nine members of the Supreme Court come from, yes; you guessed it, only Harvard and Yale.

Carter felt “comfortable” with his good old boy pals, and he turned out to be a one- term president.

The two most important appointments to de Blasio’s administration, appointments that will frame his administration will be a new police commissioner and a new chancellor for the school system.

The speculation about the police commissioner was featured in the NY Times,

“For a change-oriented mayor, there’s a benefit to bringing in somebody from the outside,” said Jeremy Travis, the president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who has discussed policing policy with Mr. de Blasio. “The next police commissioner faces two equally compelling imperatives: first to continue to bring crime down, and second to help the city navigate its way out of the current conundrum about the stop-and-frisk tactics.”

There appear to be a number of highly regarded candidates ranging from Bill Bratton to others both in and out of the current police hierarchy.

On the school front the choice is far more complex, there is no obvious candidate; there are many suitors.

Rumor has it that a former superintendent, Carmen Farina is the “whisperer” in the presumptive mayor’s ear.

A mistake.

Farina had a long career: principal to superintendent to regional superintendent to deputy chancellor, she left under a cloud. (Read details here)

Sources tell parent advocates’ reporters that Ms. Farina placed the daughter of former Brooklyn Technological High School Principal Lee McCaskill in PS 29, a violation of NYC BOE policies (McCaskill lived in New Jersey). Special Investigators were angry with Mr. Klein for permitting Mrs. Farina to retire before she was convicted. Farina, as well as Chancellor Joel Klein, have no contracts with the NYC DOE, and there’s the rub: How Do they get away with this?

While it may be comfortable to sit down with someone you know critical decisions must be made with the advice of the “wise men,” the city fathers (and daughters) who understand both the complexities, the skills required to govern as well as the politics.

De Blasio should listen to Randi Weingarten, Bill Thompson, Dick Parsons, Diane Ravitch, Mathew Goldstein, David Steiner … the best minds in the city.

His high profile campaign pledge, full day pre-kindergarten appears “dead-on-arrival” in Albany. In an election year, all of Albany is up for re-election, the Republicans on the Senate side and the Governor are openly cool to any increase in taxes to fund anything; by the 4th week in March the budget will be done – does de Blasio “fight the good fight,” and lose – or is there a way to “save face?”

Police commissioners and chancellors must support the policies of the mayor; earn the support of the public and the employees they lead.

The mayor needs a chancellor who can navigate Scylla and Charybdis, who can steer around the whirlpools and eddies and not be tempted by the bewitching song of the sirens. The chancellor, learning from Odysseus may have to bind himself tightly to the mast, his men blocking their ears with wax to avoid the alluring seductive melodies that would bring him, and the administration to doom.

Enough Greek mythology, although we can learn a great deal from the Greeks; listening to the guy next to you on the bar stool will empty your wallet and chase away your girlfriend.

Finding sages who have “been there and done that,” who have a vested interest in your success, crafting polices that are morally, ethically and politically attainable is the path a mayor must follow.

Musing on a New Chancellor and the Quandary of the Mayor, Experienced or Brash?

Henry IV was twenty-six years old in 1076 and Gregory VII was over fifty when at long last he came out from behind the scenes and became Pope.

“Early in his papacy, Gregory VII attempted to enact reforms to the investiture process; he was met by resistance from the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV. Henry insisted that he reserved the traditionally established right of previous emperors to “invest” bishops and other clergymen, despite the papal decree.

Henry renounced Gregory as pope; in return, Gregory excommunicated and deposed Henry. He stated furthermore that, one year from that day, the excommunication would become permanent and irrevocable.”

Henry feared he would lose his kingdom if he did not come as a supplicant to the pope and receive absolution from the ban on receiving the holy sacraments.

“Dressed in woolen garments and with bare feet he traveled across the Alps to the papal castle in Canossa in the height of winter blizzards and told the pope that he cared much more for the celestial than the earthly kingdom; and offered to accept humbly whatever penance the pope would inflict.”

Today, “Canossa” refers to an act of penance or submission. To “go to Canossa” is an expression – to describe doing penance, often with the connotation that it is unwilling or coerced.

Will Shael “Go to Canossa” to seek absolution from the new pope, Bill de Blasio?

(Thought a little Core Knowledge and Common Core would raise the standards of the blog)

Over the last few weeks Shael announced that he was piloting a new accountability system not based solely on test scores, exactly what the union has been espousing for years.

• Measures of the quality of student classwork (e.g., research papers, extended essays, art, and science projects);

• Measures that are based on other student outcomes, including student course outcomes, especially at the elementary and middle school level;

• Measures that quantify elements of our school Quality Reviews (e.g., the quality of classroom instruction, student engagement, supports for teachers and families); and

• Measures of student academic behaviors and mindsets that are associated with college and career readiness (e.g., persistence, ability to work in teams, effective communication, and organizational skills).

On a panel on Tuesday Shael chastised the mayor and the union for negotiating an extended instructional day in 2005 rather than using the time for staff collaboration, again, basically a long held union core belief.

Has Shael “Gone to Canossa?”

Will the new pope “lift the ban” and select Shael to lead the school system? Unlikely.

The burdens are too great: was Shael an architect of the ATR pool, fair student funding, the enormous emphasis on testing, the training of principals and on and on, or, was he the voice of reason within the administration who was the “good soldier” who carried out orders with which he did not agree?

It is more likely that “Pope” Bill will want to break with the past, a new face.

Will he seek another large city superintendent, like Josh Starr (Montgomery County) or Andres Alonso (Baltimore)? Starr, after a few years in the classroom moved to Tweed and on to Stamford, Connecticut as superintendent. Starr had a rocky six years, rigid, battling with the NEA union local and the community. In Montgomery County he has become an outspoken opponent of high stakes testing, however, he’s an avid data-phile. Alonso was never more than a few steps away from Joel Klein and in Baltimore followed the (de)form playbook, although he did work closely with the union.

Neither is a break from the past although both appear eager to please their boss.

There are a number others hovering in the wings.

Betty Rosa was a superintendent in the South Bronx is currently a member of the Board of Regents and has been an expert and lifelong advocate for English language learners. Kathleen Cashin, a highly successful Regional Superintendent under the early Klein years, and, also a member of the Board of Regents, a professor at Fordham University, has been an outspoken critic of the Duncan/King game plan. Irma Zadoya, also a Regional Superintendent under Klein is currently leading the department leadership Programs. Carmen Farina, an advisor to the presumptive mayor has made it clear she is retired.

Maybe a superintendent in a high performing school district: Paris, Seoul, Helsinki?

Will Bill want to keep the “trains on the tracks,” or, like Governor Jerry Brown in California directly challenge the “Duncan Rules?”

I think the time is ripe to challenge the decade of (de)form, to pick a chancellor not tied to Arne in DC or John King in Albany, to pick a chancellor who is amenable to the wishes of parents and professionals, a chancellor to lead us back to sanity.

Who Will de Blasio Appoint to the Panel for Educational Priorities (PEP), the School Board?

The original concept of “mayoral control” did not abolish school boards; the governance structure was envisioned as the mayor and the borough presidents appointing a school board that would set policy for the school district. New York City has always had appointed school boards. Prior to 1970 school boards were appointed from a list approved by a screening panel. After 1970 the school board consisted of members appointed by the borough presidents (one each) and the mayor (two members).

Mayors, if they choose, could always round up sufficient votes if the issue was important enough. Rudy Giuliani was masterful; he used the school board to fire and hire chancellors of his choice, claimed credit for successes and flailed the school board to deflect criticisms.

Mayor Bloomberg chose to directly control education, initially he basked in the apparent successes of Joel Klein policies, and, as the public began to reject his policies he squirmed as his approval rating plummeted.

Sol Stern, in the City Journal points to a recent poll,

The public, for its part, remains dissatisfied with Gotham’s schools, according to a poll of city voters commissioned by the Manhattan Institute and conducted earlier this year by Zogby Analytics. Sixty-four percent of respondents rated school performance as either fair or poor, … New Yorkers now trust the oft-maligned teachers more than they trust the mayor’s office: almost half of all respondents said that teachers should “play the largest role in determining New York City’s education policy,” compared with 28 percent who thought that the mayor-appointed schools chancellor should.

From a political perspective Mayor Bloomberg’s legacy is deeply tarnished as he leaves office – education moved from his crowning jewel to dross.

Bill de Blasio, the presumptive mayor, has the opportunity to move back to the goal of the 2002 mayoral reform law – to appoint well-respected citizens to set educational policy within the broad goals of a de Blasio administration.

The current law establishes a thirteen member board – eight appointed by the mayor and one by each borough president. The current mayoral appointees are completely anonymous and come and go. In the single instance that mayoral appointees voted against a policy the mayor replaced the members.

The PEP meetings are not open discussions of policies, they are a succession of 3-minute speeches from the public opposing whatever policy is on the agenda ending in a vote in which all eight of the mayoral appointees affirm the issue. Patrick Sullivan, the Manhattan Borough President appointee has been the only board member who has consistently challenged Bloomberg agenda items.

Sadly, while the PEP members commonly have impressive resumes in fact they are Pinocchios manipulated by Geppetto, the mayor.

It would be an important signal to the city if de Blasio appointed a highly respected board – a broad spectrum of New Yorkers with the expertise to work with a chancellor to create policies that support children and families.

Some have argued for board members who represent constituencies – I disagree. Parents are represented by the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Committee (CPAC) and similar organizations represent English language learners and children with disabilities. Unions represent employees.

I would suggest people of the caliber of David Jones, Community Service Society, James Hennessy, Dean of the Graduate School of Education at Fordham University, Mary Driscoll, Dean of the School of Education at CCNY, Dick Parsons, Senior Advisor, Providence Equity Partners, LLC, Michael Rebell
Co-Founder; Executive Director, Campaign for Educational Equity, Ronald F. Ferguson
Senior Lecturer in Education and Public Policy, Harvard University, Mathew Goldstein, former Chancellor of the City University of New York, Luis O. Reyes Research Associate at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies/Centro De Estudios Puertorriqueños of Hunter College, CUNY, Kim Sweet, Executive Director, Advocates for Children, Joe Wayland, Simpson, Thatcher, LLP, Diane Ravitch, Historian, New York University, as examples. The city deserves an educational leadership that is immune to petty politics and can withstand the editorials in the NY Post.

Bill de Blasio is currently under attack from the right, his opponent points to support for the Sandinistas in the 80s and a honeymoon trip to Cuba. Sol Stern in the City Journal predicts the left, the far left, will be “feeding at the public trough,”

No group or individual will be deemed too far to the left as long as they jump on the de Blasio bandwagon. Lining up to receive their fair share of the spoils will be the old Acorn organization, now renamed New York Communities for Change; the far-left Working Families Party; the United Federation of Teachers and other municipal unions; the radical Service Employees International Union, including the former Communist-led health-care workers’ union Local 1199; the civil liberties and homeless lobbies; and, of course, the onetime racial arsonist Al Sharpton, now posing as a wise elder and political power broker. To varying degrees, each will have a place at the municipal trough. Meanwhile, at the other end of City Hall—thanks to the successful efforts of the Working Families Party in many local races this year—the newly elected city council will tilt further left and will dole out even more cash to radical and activist community groups.

A few months into his mayoralty the left will begin bashing de Blasio, he’s moving too slowly, why hasn’t he created the Socialist nirvana that they thought he espoused, or, ended “stop and frisk” and crime, why isn’t soma being handed out on street corners?

de Blasio needs the real estate developers, the investors, the Wall Street magnets, he needs the 1% to continue and invest and create jobs.

If the economy continues to improve, if tourists and their dollars continue to flock to the Apple, if some sense of sanity returns to Congress, the new mayor will have the dollars to address his “tale of two cities” campaign punditry.

If the gods are kind the next mayor can address the economic inequalities, if not, the city and the mayor will stumble.

A glittering panel of mayoral appointees can provide the new mayor with cover – can act as the “wise men (and women),” supporting policies to improve the lot for children and families.

The school board of the 70s, 80s and 90s were riven by petty politics, much more concerned with carrying out the political contracts of their patrons, the borough presidents, than reading scores or graduation rates. A school board with credentials, similar to the CUNY, SUNY and the Board Regents can serve as a true policy board engaging and supporting mayoral policies, as well as, on occasion, telling the mayor he should consider moving in a different direction.

And, BTW, does the current Board realize that barring a Weiner-esque disclosure they will be gone in three months?