Monday, July 6, 2015

I'm Joining Yelena and Kit in Presenting at MORE's "The Nuts and Bolts of Leading Your Chapter" This Thursday

I am honored to join Yelena Siwinski, long-time elementary CL and Kit Wainer, one of the deans of CLs at MORE's upcoming summer series event from 4-6PM. I was one of the people pushing for MORE to do this training as soon as possible early in the summer since so many new chapter leaders were elected and might have some anxiety over the task they have undertaken. We will do another at the end of August to help people get ready for the new school year.  Mike Schirtzer will moderate. And then we drink and party

I was only CL for 4 years, one of which was a sabbatical. And that was near the end of my career. So I had a long view of that role and thought long and hard about how to build a chapter in a school with a domineering my way or highway, though not abusive, principal. And also as a CL who is critical, yet often dependent, on the union hierarchy. Yelena will talk about working with them from that perspective, especially since she is one of the few, if any, opposition people who has a part-time staff position at the Brooklyn Office.

I think I did a lot of interesting and innovative things as CL - which I will share on Thursday. I hope there is room as the response had been large. If you are a current or former CL come on down and provide support for these new CLs who have taken on quite a task.

The Nuts and Bolts of Leading Your Chapter
Open to all newly elected or veteran chapter leaders, delegates, consultation/SLT committee members, para-reps, and anyone interested in getting more involved in their chapter.
This Thursday July 9th 4pm-7pm
The Dark Horse Pub
17 Murray St. NYC (downstairs)
Near City Hall, Chambers St., WTC
 Experienced chapter leaders will provide workshops on:
Getting your members involved
Enforcing contractual rights
Planning chapter and consultation meetings
Fighting back against administration
Building allies in PTA/SLT
Filing grievances
Working with your District/Borough Representatives

Facebook link here
For those that can not make this session we will have another one on August 20th, same time and location

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Can Unity Caucus Take Over the NEA? Over Their Dead Body - Plus - What Role for Stronger Together?

July 5, 2015, 9AM
Control of NYSUT could be even bigger than you think. It doesn't look likely to pass, but NEA will vote on a constitutional amendment that would give NYSUT (and the other merged affiliates) full representation at the NEA convention. Were that to happen, NYSUT could send twice as many delegates as California - and California wags the NEA dog on a lot of things currently. NYSUT would gain a huge amount of influence in NEA - which explains why they're low-keying their involvement in this and why there will be a big campaign to vote it down... Mike Antonucci in email to Ed Notes, June 21, 2015
Mike A will be reporting today or tomorrow on this AFT attempt to embed the NYC Unity machine in the NEA. Don't bet that the larger NEA will allow the smaller AFT shark to chew them up.

With the NEA convention wrapping up in New Orleans we hear words of the Lilly/Randi lovefest. Lilly spoke at the AFT convention last year and Randi did the same this year at the NEA. But don't look for a merger of the two national unions. Maybe more cooperation, but merger, no. Remember - Lilly is term-limited as all NEA presidents are. Randi is a monarchical system of NYC Unity Caucus controlling NY State Unity Caucus (over 650 thousand of the 1.5 million member AFT) which controls the national version of Unity, Progressive Caucus (unlike Unity NYC in that there is no loyalty oath - even I'm a member for $25.)

But the almost 100 year war between the NEA and AFT has underlying reasons and the NEA will never accept the AFT distorted version of democracy. Shanker's idea of merger at the state level as a way to force Unity troops into the NEA was thwarted by poison pill like restrictions on merged state unions. Thus the merged NYSUT cannot just pile in its 800 Unity NYC delegates to take control. There is a limited formula.

Apparently Randi and Mulgrew are trying another end run at the NEA convention to create the Unity machine there and it will fail once again.

The wrinkle Mike didn't report on was the revolt inside NYSUT by Stronger Together in 2014 with many small locals signing on to ST - many of them pre-merger NEA locals - the historic divide between the AFT big city vs the NEA smaller towns. None of the big city teacher unions in NY State have deserted state Unity - which was briefly known as Revive - or Revile as we prefer to call them.

Funny stories emerging from inside NYC Unity about how annoyed they are about ST and actually blame MORE for it - Mike Schirtzer was elected to the ST Exec Board as a MORE rep -- but the reality is that the people who began ST contacted MORE first in the fall of 2013 - and since then a strong alliance has grown. At Monday's ICE meeting we informed people of the backroom stuff we can't talk about in public - in fact I had to ask certain people to leave temporarily due to concerns about leaking to Unity.

I posted commentary on June 21 EIA's Mike Antonucci's piece The Growing National Teacher Union Militancy Movement (earlier today I posted sections of another piece he wrote at Ed Next Teacher Unions and The War Within.)

I emailed Mike because he didn't cover the Stronger Together and he wrote back.
I had actually written several paragraphs about the last NYSUT election, but I cut them before posting because it was too much of a tangent to explain about Iannuzzi and Mulgrew and Magee. It doesn't fit neatly into the box I created, though I think NYSUT is ripe for a similar contest between establishmentarians and militants.

The hurdle, as you well know, is UFT. It's hard to imagine anyone upending Unity under the rules in place. Probably would take a corruption scandal involving Mulgrew and his entourage to topple the structure.
Or maybe a Supreme Court decision abolishing the agency fees.

[See Arthur Goldstein July 4th special: Baby, Baby, Where Did Our Union Go?]

Antonucci on Teacher Unions and The War Within Plus NEA Convention Coverage

When union challengers upset incumbents, however, it is almost always because the challenger successfully painted the incumbent as too accommodating to the education powers that be.
The problem for the unions’ establishment wing is that the internal message leads their devotees to believe that such compromises, collaborations, and accommodations are selling out the movement. They are not always wrong about that.
One faction, existing in both unions [AFT and NEA], wants to man the barricades, fight over every inch of territory, and take no prisoners. It sees education reformers outside of the union sphere as either corporate privatizers seeking to grasp some of the $640 billion this country spends annually on public schools, or their tools. The most identifiable leaders of this militant faction are Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, Alex Caputo-Pearl of United Teachers Los Angeles, Bob Peterson of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, and Barbara Madeloni of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.....
The militant wing is mostly hostile to CCSS, seeing the standards as part and parcel of the corporate education-reform agenda. The establishment wing has been forced to triangulate by defending the standards but attacking the way they have been implemented.
The split between the two factions was illustrated at the 2014 AFT Convention. The delegation from Chicago introduced a resolution to place the AFT in full opposition to CCSS, but it was handily defeated in committee, a committee dominated by New York City’s United Federation of Teachers, the backbone of the AFT’s establishment wing.
Instead, AFT delegates passed a resolution stating the union would “continue to support the promise of CCSS, provided that a set of essential conditions, structures and resources are in place.”
Antonucci in Ed Week, Winter 2015
Mike is on his annual jaunt to cover the NEA convention and issued the a bunch of reports so far:

Embedded in one was a link to an in depth article he wrote for ed deform mouthpiece Ed Next. As always read him with the understanding that he is not a friend of teacher unions -- and backed by ed deform and anti-union elements. But I'm still a fan due to his level of analysis and good reporting. In fact he is the only one to report on the various factions in the unions.

As the Supreme Court takes up the issue of agency fee dues next year, this chart included in Mike's Ed Week piece is worth checking out. Imagine what it will look like if the Court rules against us.

Here is a pertinent section getting into the weeds of why Randi speaks from both sides of her mouth - and making a rational reason for her doing so. Read it all at:

Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, addresses a crowd during a rally in September 2012
Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, addresses a crowd during a rally in September 2012

To avoid becoming losers in the game of “more teacher-protective than thou,” the leaders of the national teachers unions have to co-opt the militant message without alienating the education world at large, or the general public. This is a tricky dance, and it’s not uncommon for NEA and AFT executive officers to make conflicting, if not contrary, statements depending on which ears are listening.
When union officers address an audience of union activists, the world is described in Manichaean terms. Standardized testing is not just misused, it is “toxic.” Opponents are not just opponents, they are adversaries “who want to destroy our democracy and our public schools”—for money. These enemies are identified by name: the Koch Brothers, the Cato Institute, Americans for Prosperity, Pearson, Inc., Democrats for Education Reform, Michelle Rhee, and Arne Duncan.
The only force standing in their way is the teachers union—“the champions of equity,” who “define solutions that drive excellence and success for all students,” as described by former NEA president Dennis Van Roekel in his keynote address to the Representative Assembly in July 2014. Union activists, in the words of John Stocks, spoken two years earlier, are “social justice patriots” who “put the power of our soul to work to defend democracy, to fight for equal opportunity, and to create a more just society.”
That plays well with the troops, whose enthusiasm and commitment are needed to advance the agenda. Unfortunately for the teachers unions, the wider world is not an echo chamber of their beliefs. To the general public, many of whom have little idea what the NEA and the AFT actually do, it sounds more than a little hyperbolic and self-congratulatory.
The external message cannot be so bellicose. Both the NEA and the AFT need allies, including those who might not sign on to the totality of the unions’ vision for public education and American politics. Even with their opponents, they cannot escalate every confrontation to Armageddon. Compromises occur.
Union officers are also aware that it is detrimental to their cause to be constantly saying “no” to so many proposals for school reform. Thus the external message is devoted to depicting an organization that is forward-thinking and innovative when it comes to operating the nation’s schools.
The problem for the unions’ establishment wing is that the internal message leads their devotees to believe that such compromises, collaborations, and accommodations are selling out the movement. They are not always wrong about that.
While both national unions decry the corporate influence on education, they have partnerships with large corporations on many levels: sponsorships of union events, discount arrangements and credit cards as part of member benefits packages, funding for joint projects, etc. The NEA even went so far as to team up with Walden Media on a book-buying initiative for needy children. Walden Media produced Waiting for Superman, a documentary about families trying to get their kids into charter schools. It was especially critical of teachers unions.
Union activists often depict the Gates Foundation as the mastermind behind corporate education reform. But in 2009, when the foundation announced it would award $335 million to a number of school districts and charter schools to promote teacher effectiveness, the union response was a far cry from the anticorporate rhetoric it regularly delivers to its internal audience.
“These districts, working with their unions and parents, were willing to think out of the box, and were awarded millions of dollars to create transparent, fair, and sustainable teacher effectiveness models,” said AFT president Randi Weingarten.
“Collaboration and multilevel integration are important when it comes to transforming the teaching profession,” said then NEA president Van Roekel. “These grants will go far in providing resources to help raise student achievement and improve teacher effectiveness.”
The NEA’s own foundation received $550,000 from the Gates Foundation to “improve labor-management collaboration.” The AFT accrued more than $10 million from the Gates Foundation, until internal pressures forced the union to end some of the grants. And of course, the Gates Foundation helped bankroll the development of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which both unions continue to officially support (see “Teachers Unions and the Common Core,” features, Winter 2015).

Is the Public School System Toast? - Norm in the Wave

My final School Scope column of the school year for The Wave.

Is the Public School System Toast?

I hate to close the school year on a down note, but the long-term prospects for the survival of publicly run and managed urban public school systems is not good. Oh it will not happen overnight but the concept of putting the education of our nation’s students in the hands of private interests is trending up. The new state law was a win-win for the charter lobby, more non-unionized charters under private management, charters increasingly allowed to cream the highest performing kids or push out those not performing. And they will be allowed even more uncertified and unqualified teachers, even allowing up to 15% of the students to come from the faculty – a major incentive to keep teachers from jumping off the charter ship due to lousy working conditions – just check the attrition rate in charter, not only of the kids, but the teachers too. Yes, Virginia, having unionized teachers in schools actually protects kids in addition to teachers.

But not all the blame must go to the privatizers. Public schools have been run in an authoritarian top-down manner forever, leaving teachers and parents out of the loop in terms of essential decision making. Giving the mayor control only makes the situation worse.  Thus the Cuomo chop at de Blasio by giving him only one year of control is not a bad thing. The privatizers loved mayoral control under Bloomberg. Not so much under deB. But they are just waiting for deB to be gone to go back to it full blast. It is easy to privatize when the mayor is running the system in ways that undermine public education and cause the public to lose confidence in the schools and clamor for charters or vouchers or ed tax credits.

Donavan Richards pointed out that Bloomberg had starved the public schools and de Blasio was attempting to reverse course at the recent meeting with parents from Arverne-by-the sea who were clambering for a charter school of their own so their kids would not have to go to the Hammel Houses loaded PS 193. That meeting was a stark reminder of how we are headed for a dual system. One parent told me – “let the Hammels have their school.” When I suggested that if the ABTS people put their kids in that school it would turn it around. “Why should I have to sacrifice to help people who won’t help themselves,” she replied. I get that people should not feel they are sacrificing their kids.

But the idea of schools for different students was the essence of segregation in the south. Now we have social/economic segregation.

Strong neighborhood public schools are the essence of a strong democratic society. We are heading in the other direction.

Norm blogs at

Saturday, July 4, 2015

WTF: Is Baraka a Naive Pup or Selling Out Education in Newark?

[Baraka] had made a deal–he called it a “settlement” or an “agreement”–with Gov. Christie in which the mayor agreed to allow Cerf to become the Newark superintendent if Christie would agree to help bring about  eventual local control. “It wasn’t a quid pro quo. It was more like us coming to a settlement, an agreement that they’d pick a superintendent and help us get local control,” Baraka is quoted as saying....Cerf has promoted the privatization of public education for decades and has worked for and maintained ties with American and foreign corporations seeking to make a profit from privatization–in Newark and elsewhere.
Just before he was named to be Newark superintendent, Cerf was named to the board of directors of national organization promoting charter schools. He later quit.  He was part of an effort to help former Mayor Cory Booker make Newark the charter capital of the nation.
..... Has Christie divided Newark opposition to Cerf and state control?, Bob Braun's Ledger

Wait, let me get this straight. Baraka made a deal with CHRISTIE? To accept that crook Cerf as Newark Supt because Cerf will help get local control back? Give me a break. Privatizers like Cerf take direct aim at local control. If Cerf helps get control of Newark schools for an independent school board I'll eat his hat.

Is there something under the table going on here?
The mayor’s comments in his interview might surprise some critics of state control who, like Rice, are demanding that the state school board reject Cerf because Cerf himself hired Andserson and determined the policies under which she closed public schools and opened new charter schools.  The Alliance for Newark Public Schools, an organization that has worked hard against state control for more than a year, has called for a rally at City Hall Tuesday to protest Cerf’s appointment and to demand immediate local control of the state’s largest school district. The alliance called for a “`March of Dignity’ to restore full local control of the Newark Public Schools and reject the appointment of Christopher Cerf as the next Superintendent.

So, is Baraka turning out to be a JUSP - just another sleazy politician? Sadly, methinks YES.

Before the agreement between Baraka and Christie, the opposition to Anderson and state control had been building and unified. Now that Baraka has accepted Cerf as superintendent, it’s difficult to know how that opposition could continue at the level it had been in the last two years.
Christie, who just announced a presidential bid, may have managed with his alliance with Baraka to quiet Newark as he tries to portray himself as someone who can reach agreements with opponents. The agreement indicates it will be at least a year before a date can be set for local control–and that’s a year Christie can use to run for  president without major controversies in the state’s largest city.
So, let's make a deal with Christie to assist his campaign for president. Oy, Ras!
The elected school board last week voted to choose assistant superintendent Roger Leon as  the next Newark superintendent. Baraka was present at this meeting but he has insisted he won’t focus on anything but local control, a position he repeated in his interview.
The board’s action rejecting Cerf’s appointment in favor of Leon—along with the continued opposition of the alliance and Rice to Cerf’s appointment—creates a potentially awkward and divisive situation in what had been for years a solid front of opposition to state control. In his interview with NJSpotlight, Baraka would not criticize either Cerf or the governor.

Baraka repeated his criticism of those who disagreed with his decision to reach an agreement with Christie and create a 9-member “Newark Board of Education Success” that would play some sort of role in bringing local control back to Newark after 20 years. Christie appointed a majority of the members and rejected some members recommended by Baraka. The mayor has criticized this site specifically for its opposition to Cerf’s appointment and blamed that opposition on “paternalism” which he called “pathetic.”
It’s unlikely Rice would consider his own consistent opposition to Cerf’s nomination a matter of “paternalism.”  The senator attached to his letter a long history of the legal and ethical problems Cerf created for himself both as a private entrepreneur, a New York City official,  and as New Jersey commissioner of education. Cerf has promoted the privatization of public education for decades and has worked for and maintained ties with American and foreign corporations seeking to make a profit from privatization–in Newark and elsewhere.
Just before he was named to be Newark superintendent, Cerf was named to the board of directors of national organization promoting charter schools. He later quit.  He was part of an effort to help former Mayor Cory Booker make Newark the charter capital of the nation.
Right Ras, paternalism. I call it sell-out.

Analogies to Ed Deform - Greece is the Word 2: Krugman, Galbreath -- If the left falls, can neo-nazis be far behind?

8. A “Yes” vote will save Europe. “Yes” would mean more austerity and social destruction, and the government that implements it cannot last long. The one that follows will not be led by Alexis Tsipras and Yanis Varoufakis – the last leaders, perhaps anywhere in Europe, of an authentic pro-European left. If they fall, the anti-Europeans will come next, possibly including ultra-right elements such as the Greek Nazi party, Golden Dawn. And the anti-European fire will spread, to France, the UK and Spain, among other countries..... James Galbreath, Politico
If you think the world is a dangerous place now, just wait. When Michael Fiorillo sent around a Galbreath piece on  9 myths, I noticed 8 - which makes this exact point.

Tomorrow is the referendum in Greece and the rest of the world has tried every means to force a YES vote, which would lead to the fall of the Tsipras party. I've been thinking about what that would mean and went back into post WWI history for an analogy. Germany was saddled with such horrific reparations that a crippled unstable economy was guaranteed. And we know where that led.

Greece argues that imposed drastic austerity - like blood letting until you die - is unsustainable without debt relief (Yes screw those hedge funds). Europe says no -- keep paying us those billions and eat out of garbage cans. In fact they finally admitted that the plan they offer to Greece  will never remove the debt. So this is in perpetuity. Greece might as well bite the bullet now.

What does Greece have to do with the assault on public education? Well, given that this assault is taking place world-wide by some of the same forces - note the hedge fund involvement in both Greece and Puerto Rico as just one chip in the attack -- I see analogies. Starve the public schools to degrade them to the point where privatization - the removal of controls over public monies - becomes the only option.

Austerity for schools, removal of unions (or buying them off, alla Gates and the AFT and NEA) as an obstacle - which they haven't been too  much of -- "freeing" teachers to be contract workers, etc. -- and why we need a more activist union - and sorry you guys, a social justice oriented leadership has the political analysis that leads to activism - especially in its core value of bottom vs top down of the current leadership.

Take Greece under a leftist government that fights more for the common man than the bankers (again an analogy to the UFT) and make a decision it must be smashed and that government removed (also an analogy to Chicago where a left-leaning union must be undermined - see the 1400 layoffs a year before the Chicago union election). They do this by using an economic squeeze play since they can't do it externally - well they can just by having America invade -- or use the CIA to overthrow the government -- and by the way, there is some history of America instigation in Greece since WWII.

I wrote about Greece and the Paul Krugman column last Monday: Greece is the Word = Ed Deform Agenda, Krugman Endorses Leaving Euro, Why We Need Tsipras Party Running UFT.

On Friday, Krugman once again touched on Greece and the general austerity "solution" imposed by European leaders - and advocated by the conservative/tea party wing here in the states.  See: Europe’s Many Economic Disasters which opens with:
It’s depressing thinking about Greece these days, so let’s talk about something else, O.K.? Let’s talk, for starters, about Finland, which couldn’t be more different from that corrupt, irresponsible country to the south. Finland is a model European citizen; it has honest government, sound finances and a solid credit rating, which lets it borrow money at incredibly low interest rates. It’s also in the eighth year of a slump that has cut real gross domestic product per capita by 10 percent and shows no sign of ending. In fact, if it weren’t for the nightmare in southern Europe, the troubles facing the Finnish economy might well be seen as an epic disaster.
Holy shit: Finland too? The bastion of education nirvana?
Why are there so many economic disasters in Europe? Actually, what’s striking at this point is how much the origin stories of European crises differ. Yes, the Greek government borrowed too much. But the Spanish government didn’t — Spain’s story is all about private lending and a housing bubble. And Finland’s story doesn’t involve debt at all. It is, instead, about weak demand for forest products, still a major national export, and the stumbles of Finnish manufacturing, in particular of its erstwhile national champion Nokia. What all of these economies have in common, however, is that by joining the eurozone they put themselves into an economic straitjacket.
Krugman feels the Euro was a major mistake, given that there was no political alignment to go with it.

Given that today is July 4th, let's think about the 13 original states in 1781 from 1787-9. The same kind of debates took place - the US could have been separate states and we would be like Europe -- and there still might be slavery in the south. Imagine New Jersey money - Christie could be president of New Jersey. Oh, what a world we missed out on.

I am a Krugman fan, and he is proved right so often - like his call in 2009 for much higher spending not austerity to kill the depression -- and Obama went only halfway which is why things are taking so long. An interesting piece yesterday by The Daily Howler pointed out how mainstream media acts like Krugman doesn't exist as they feign ignorance -- I'll do a follow-up later with the points The Howler makes as he castigates so-called commentators like Chris Matthews.
.....there are many European officials and politicians who are opposed to anything and everything that might make the euro workable, who still believe that all would be well if everyone exhibited sufficient discipline. And that’s why there is even more at stake in Sunday’s Greek referendum than most observers realize.

One of the great risks if the Greek public votes yes — that is, votes to accept the demands of the creditors, and hence repudiates the Greek government’s position and probably brings the government down — is that it will empower and encourage the architects of European failure. The creditors will have demonstrated their strength, their ability to humiliate anyone who challenges demands for austerity without end. And they will continue to claim that imposing mass unemployment is the only responsible course of action.

Krugman is the possibly the only mainstream commenter urging a NO vote.

What if Greece votes no? This will lead to scary, unknown terrain. Greece might well leave the euro, which would be hugely disruptive in the short run. But it will also offer Greece itself a chance for real recovery. And it will serve as a salutary shock to the complacency of Europe’s elites.
Or to put it a bit differently, it’s reasonable to fear the consequences of a “no” vote, because nobody knows what would come next. But you should be even more afraid of the consequences of a “yes,” because in that case we do know what comes next — more austerity, more disasters and eventually a crisis much worse than anything we’ve seen so far.
Now on to the Galbreath piece, which does a little wiffle waffle.

The citizens of Greece face a referendum Sunday that could decide the survival of their elected government and the fate of the country in the Eurozone and Europe. Narrowly, they’re voting on whether to accept or reject the terms dictated by their creditors last week. But what's really at stake? The answers aren’t what you’d think.

I have had a close view of the process, both from the US and Athens, after working for the past four years with Yanis Varoufakis, now the Greek finance minister. I've come to realize that there are many myths in circulation about this crisis; here are nine that Americans should see through.

1. The referendum is about the Euro. As soon as Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced the referendum, François Hollande, David Cameron, Matteo Renzi, and the German Deputy Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told the Greeks that a “no” vote would amount to Greece leaving the Euro. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, went further: he said “no” means leaving the European Union. In fact the Greek government has stated many times that – yes or no – it is irrevocably committed to the Union and the Euro. And legally, according to the treaties, Greece cannot be expelled from either.

2. The IMF has been flexible. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde claims that her institution has shown “flexibility” in negotiations with the Greeks. In fact, the IMF has conceded almost nothing over four months: not on taxes, pensions, wages, collective bargaining or the amount of Greece’s debt. Greek chief negotiator Euclid Tsakalatos circulated a briefing on the breakdown that gives details, and concludes: “So what does the Greek government think of the proposed flexibility of the Institutions? It would be a great idea.”

3. The creditors have been generous. Angela Merkel has called the terms offered by the creditors “very generous” to Greece. But in fact the creditors have continued to insist on a crushing austerity program, predicated on a target for a budget surplus that Greece cannot possibly meet, and on the continuation of draconian policies that have already cost the Greeks more than a quarter of their income and plunged the country into depression. Debt restructuring, which is obviously necessary, has also been refused.

4. The European Central Bank has protected Greek financial stability. A central bank is supposed to protect the financial stability of solvent banks. But from early February, the ECB cut off direct financing of Greek banks, instead drip-feeding them expensive liquidity on special “emergency” terms. This promoted a slow run on the banks and paralyzed economic activity. When the negotiations broke down, the ECB capped the assistance, prompting a fast bank run and giving them an excuse to impose capital controls and effectively shut them down.

5. The Greek government is imperiling its American alliance. This is a particular worry of some US conservatives, who see a leftist government in power and assume it is pro-Russian and anti-NATO. It is true that the Greek Left has historic complaints against the US, notably for CIA support of the military junta that ruled from 1967 to 1974. But in fact, attitudes on the Greek Left have changed, thanks partly to experience with the Germans. This government is pro-American and firmly a member of NATO.

6. Alexis Tsipras called the IMF a “criminal” organization. That was, charitably, an overheated headline slapped by Bloomberg onto a very moderate parliamentary speech, which correctly pointed out that the IMF's economic and debt projections for Greece back when austerity was first imposed in 2010 were catastrophically optimistic. In fact, every letter from Tsipras to the creditors has been couched in formal and respectful language.

7. The Greek government is playing games. Because Finance Minister Varoufakis knows the economic field of game theory, lazy pundits have for months opined that he is playing “chicken” or “poker” or some other game. In Heraklion two weeks ago, Varoufakis denied this as he has done many times: “We're not bluffing. We're not even meta-bluffing.” Indeed there are no hidden cards. The Greek red lines – the points of principle on which this government refuses to budge – on labor rights, against cuts in poverty-level pensions and fire-sale privatizations – have been in plain view from day one.

 8. A “Yes” vote will save Europe. “Yes” would mean more austerity and social destruction, and the government that implements it cannot last long. The one that follows will not be led by Alexis Tsipras and Yanis Varoufakis – the last leaders, perhaps anywhere in Europe, of an authentic pro-European left. If they fall, the anti-Europeans will come next, possibly including ultra-right elements such as the Greek Nazi party, Golden Dawn. And the anti-European fire will spread, to France, the UK and Spain, among other countries.

 9. A “No” vote will destroy Europe. In fact, only the “No” can save Greece – and by saving Greece, save Europe. A “No” means that the Greek people will not bend, that their government will not fall, and that the creditors need, finally, to come to terms with the failures of European policy so far. Negotiations can then resume – or more correctly, proper negotiations can then start. This is vital, if Europe is to be saved. If there ever was a moment when the United States should speak for decency and democratic values – as well as our national interest – it is right now.
 James K. Galbraith holds the Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr. Chair in Government/Business Relations at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, the University of Texas at Austin. He has followed the Greek drama in Greece, Brussels, Paris and Berlin since January. His most recent book is “The End of Normal: The Great Crisis and the Future of Growth.”

Friday, July 3, 2015

Can Restorative Justice Be the Key to School Discipline Reform?

In January, I facilitated a 90-minute post-suspension circle to repair the harm following a fight involving three Bronx Lab students. Community-building sometimes involves restoring relationships through conflict resolution. Participants in this circle included six staff members, three students, and four parents, and it delivered as promised. By the end, one parent expressed that she felt like she'd "been to church," and the parents told all three students that any of the kids could reach out to any of them for support.... by Sarah Marcy, principal of South Bronx Lab School May 18, 2015, Gotham Gazette
This is written by a principal, so I am always wary. And I imagine the
school is a small high school. I want to see how this would work in a large high school. But through my long-term connections to Teachers Unite I am a supporter of the concept of restorative justice. 

At the recent ICE meeting the subject of restorative justice came up. Yes discipline in schools is often chaotic and the only choice seems suspension - but those kids don't change and they come back. Some admins just blame the teacher - well, maybe most admins. There is little support for teachers and often defense of students. Some use phony restorative justice to make it look like they are trying something but in reality don't put any real resources into it.

Teachers Unite helps set up real and functioning RJ systems where the issues that create friction between teachers and students are worked out in some orderly fashion.

Mike Schirtzer who was at the meeting gave a passionate defense of RJ - he is even leading a Teachers Unite workshop in a few weeks. He cited stats in schools that had high suspension rates and saw them drop drastically. He also pointed out that there is punishment for transgressions - some of it meted out by decisions of peers.

I know that in my own classrooms I was pretty good at discipline and one of the reasons was that I held no grudges - a kid did something, was punished and we start over. I also used peer pressure and even trials with witnesses. I like the idea of a circle better than a trial and would be an advocate of RJ today.

I was being fairly reasonable - I never had a child suspended or asked to have one suspended. I tried not to call admin for help as I thought it showed me to be weak - as an activist I was engaged in a struggle with admin so why give them something to hold over me? I think most of my kids would say I was fair -- in fact I can think of maybe 4 or 5 that I felt I lost - and probably due as much to my actions -- though some of them seemed to be sociopathic and no matter what you do it won't help.

I get that things have changed. But when I heard someone at the ICE meeting who I won't mercifully name, go after RJ because it "coddles" kids I was disgusted - and not the first time at this individual who has used his travails as a teacher over the past decade to engage in bombast verbal attacks on students - despite that some people say he was once a good teacher. How many times did I hear people come into the teacher room and say "they're animals?" I get the frustration but to me that attitude is revealing. What I miss about teaching is the kids and that will never change for me.
Restorative Justice is Key to School Discipline Reform

Since the founding of Bronx Lab School in 2004, "student discipline" has been an ongoing topic of discussion. Students, staff, and parents are continually debating the merits and efficacy of suspensions, detentions, and mediations in addressing the realities of student conflict and non-adherence to school policies and values. What we know for sure after more than a decade of these conversations is that there are no simple answers. What we have learned is, though, is that Restorative Justice supports our community's mission and values, and offers a humanizing approach to the ever-present "discipline" question.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Greece is the Word = Ed Deform Agenda, Krugman Endorses Leaving Euro, Why We Need Tsipras Party Running UFT

This is, and presumably was intended to be, an offer Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, can’t accept, because it would destroy his political reason for being. The purpose must therefore be to drive him from office, which will probably happen if Greek voters fear confrontation with the troika enough to vote yes next week.
Greece should vote “no,”[on July 5] and the Greek government should be ready, if necessary, to leave the euro.... Paul Krugman
This Krugman comment was surprising - understanding that a political, not just an economic game is being played to drive the left that defends the working class over the hedge funds out of office. But it makes sense even though today it looks like the squeeze play is working and the leftist government will probably be forced to capitulate. And never mistake that this is about the threat of having a government so far left and the intention to make it fall.

Did Greece live beyond its means?
...most — not all, but most — of what you’ve heard about Greek profligacy and irresponsibility is false. Yes, the Greek government was spending beyond its means in the late 2000s. But since then it has repeatedly slashed spending and raised taxes. Government employment has fallen more than 25 percent, and pensions (which were indeed much too generous) have been cut sharply. If you add up all the austerity measures, they have been more than enough to eliminate the original deficit and turn it into a large surplus.
So why didn’t this happen? Because the Greek economy collapsed, largely as a result of those very austerity measures, dragging revenues down with it.
And this collapse, in turn, had a lot to do with the euro, which trapped Greece in an economic straitjacket. Cases of successful austerity, in which countries rein in deficits without bringing on a depression, typically involve large currency devaluations that make their exports more competitive. This is what happened, for example, in Canada in the 1990s, and to an important extent it’s what happened in Iceland more recently. But Greece, without its own currency, didn’t have that option.
I see similarities in the European austerity assault on Greece and the ed deform austerity assault on public schools, both aimed with a destructive political agenda. And our union has played the role of the old Greek governments in capitulating to the ed deform demands -in actuality since the early 80s - am I making the case for a leftist Tsipras like party with a deep understanding of the game that is being played to run the UFT and resist? Hell, Yes.

Paul Krugman's June 29 column struck a note.
It has been obvious for some time that the creation of the euro was a terrible mistake. Europe never had the preconditions for a successful single currency — above all, the kind of fiscal and banking union that, for example, ensures that when a housing bubble in Florida bursts, Washington automatically protects seniors against any threat to their medical care or their bank deposits.
Leaving a currency union is, however, a much harder and more frightening decision than never entering in the first place, and until now even the Continent’s most troubled economies have repeatedly stepped back from the brink. Again and again, governments have submitted to creditors’ demands for harsh austerity, while the European Central Bank has managed to contain market panic. But the situation in Greece has now reached what looks like a point of no return. Banks are temporarily closed and the government has imposed capital controls — limits on the movement of funds out of the country. It seems highly likely that the government will soon have to start paying pensions and wages in scrip, in effect creating a parallel currency. And next week the country will hold a referendum on whether to accept the demands of the “troika” — the institutions representing creditor interests — for yet more austerity.

But they shouldn’t, for three reasons. First, we now know that ever-harsher austerity is a dead end: after five years Greece is in worse shape than ever. Second, much and perhaps most of the feared chaos from Grexit has already happened. With banks closed and capital controls imposed, there’s not that much more damage to be done.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Blah, blah, blah.....Norm. I just want a union to protect me

This was a comment on my piece which talked about caucus history and connections to social justice union work: On ICE and Why MORE: History of 40 Years of Failures of Multiple Caucuses in the UFT
Blah, blah, blah.....Norm. I just want a union to protect me. What you are saying is part of it but we need to have the teachers believe in the union again before we can do anything.... anon
Chaz chimed in too:
Norm: You almost had me convinced but then there goes that "Social Justice" issue that muddles the message. Until all teachers are treated correctly, I don't have the ability to solve the world's problems.
My response to Chaz:
I'm not looking to solve the world's problems just try to help find solutions to the problems your students and their families face. That is not the world's problems - we're not talking about Greece here. That is the problems sitting before you every day on your job. try to tell me you don't care about them and only about your problems as a teacher, many of which are connected to the issues facing your kids. If race and poverty affects your kids it affects your working conditions - not muddling the message but making connections between working conditions and Social justice. The very idea of unions is a social justice issue - defense of worker rights is a social justice issue. You choose to define social justice in the narrowest sense as "solving the world's problems." we can't even solve the problems of toilet paper in the teacher room sometimes - as caucuses without power we can't solve much of anything - all we can do is raise the issues and try to inform our fellow workers. If you think that the attacks on teachers by ed deformers who claim these attacks are needed and turn these attacks into social justice issues by stealing the rhetoric then you are ignoring a major way of fighting back by recapturing the issues to our advantage. Opt out by parents is a social justice issue which in the long run helps teachers fight back against an unjust rating system. People don't give a crap about what happens to teachers unless we shape things in ways that link our rights to the interests of children. 
At the ICE meeting on Monday, the same social justice/trade union discussion came up - as it does time and again. Mike Schirtzer made a passionate statement that the very concept of union organizing and the protections thereof emerged from a social justice movement.

I echoed Mike in this response to the blah, blah, blah guy (or gal).

Many of the newer teachers come with an anti-union bias because they have been brainwashed. Someone at the ICE meeting told me that many new teachers in his school are Rand Paul libertarians. Then they see the UFT/Unity inaction and that only confirms what they believe. Finding the fine line of crit the union leadership and feeding into this anti-union bias is tricky. Yesterday some people came to the ICE meeting who said they had no idea about the union until they got in some trouble. They are not new. But they had no sense of union consciousness until it affected them personally. That is partly the fault of the leadership which does little work or any at the school level in raising this consciousness about the history and importance of unions. The building of unions was all about being a social justice movement for workers' rights. What was won through a social justice political movement is being lost and you want to ignore the very means by which we gained those rights in the first place by terming it blah, blah, blah. Shame on you.
The majority of people who vote apparently still believe in Unity enough to keep him in power. I find it funny how the newer activists think social media is an alternative to gut level school to school organizing. They count likes and clicks as success. I count a real body in every school who will stand up against Unity as success. New Action - the combo of TAC and New Directions in the mid-90s had enough people to help defeat the 1995 contract the first time around -- the clear advantage when the 2 leading opposition caucuses merged into 1. Soon after a self-serving meglomaniac started yet another caucus because I wanted to run for president. That caucus lasted for about 5 years before disbanding -- just as ICE came on board. Then it was ICE and TJC with their own brands from 2004-2010, which led to MORE - one caucus, with a broad enough perspective to understand the political struggle it will take to protect you, not bombast and personality cults.
Related: I headed back into the city on Tuesday to Union Square for a 2:00PM meeting with a batch of MOREs to plan our upcoming retreat. I was sort of shocked to see so many people show up on a beautiful afternoon. So many people who I love and respect. Almost everyone a leader of some sort in their school. People trusted by their colleagues. We occupied 3 small tables under an umbrella. Present was Gloria Brandman who retires officially tomorrow and will be able to join me in retiree actions next school year - like lunch on the first day of school. Some of us stayed around to chat until after 6 and I remained to read the chapters of the novels from people in my writing group which was meeting at 7 in Park Slope. Crazy -- I sat in a chair in Union Square -- rhymes and has a beat -- from 2 to 6:30. Not a bad way to spend a lovely summer day - except for the occasional drizzle.

Julio for UFT President, Bernice and Penny Lane for UFT Secretary and Treasurer

A lot of people are expressing doubt about the upcoming UFT election. Should I vote for Mulgrew? Should I vote for MORE? They haven't even proposed a candidate, and who can sit around waiting for something like that? It's always tough to make important decisions like those. That's why it's so important for us to have another alternative, someone who isn't sociopathic or megalomaniacal, somene who isn't making backdoor deals, someone who not only won't punch your face out for opposing Common Core, but also someone who wouldn't remotely consider opposing Opt-out... I wasn't going to make an endorsement so early, but I know the field, and I think it's time we broaden it. We need a leader who won't sell us out for political expedience. We need a leader who we can count on and trust. We need a leader who won't take any crap from the likes of Cuomo, Flanagan, or whatever tinhorn politician comes down the pike.
.....NYC Educator,  Julio 2016
While I'm not happy that NYC Educator endorsed his dog Julio for UFT president rather than opening things up to a democratic process where a cat would have a chance, I will defer even though I am pissed I hadn't thought of throwing one of my cats into the ring first. It makes prefect sense to me given that I consider UFT elections a basic farce and have been urging people to boycott. But now that we have as viable a candidate as I've seen I have to rethink my position. I'm adding Bernice and Penny Lane to the Julio slate for UFT officer positions.

Bernice for Secretary

Penny Lane for Treasurer
UPDATE: Lauren Cohen and Mike Schirtzer add their dogs to slate.

Lauren Cohen Emmie's candidacy has been in the works for awhile

Monday, June 29, 2015

On ICE and Why MORE: History of 40 Years of Failures of Multiple Caucuses in the UFT

Unity wants as many opposition caucuses around as possible to divide people.
Today ICE, the group founded out of Ed Notes in late 2003 is meeting. (Tomorrow I'm meeting with a group of MORE people to plan the summer
retreat.) ICE is comfortable. MORE is not always. But we bite the bullet and keep trying to build a unified opposition caucus.

ICE is an uncaucus - we have withdrawn from taking part in UFT election battles and became a founding member of MORE because we did our own caucus thing  a dozen years ago and saw ultimately how it worked out  - not great - which was why most of us decided to join with people from other groups to form MORE - and that ain't been easy after having our own little group that could function the way it wanted.

I have learned from 45 years in this business that having multiple caucuses, even if they come together every 3 years to run a unified slate but then go their separate ways leads to failure.

Unity wants as many opposition caucuses around as possible to divide people. In the old says we used to assume that if a caucus didn't get the petition signatures to get on the ballot Unity, which runs the election, would put them on anyway. And so they will again.

Randi bought out New Action. Does anyone think she and Mulgrew are unhappy to see yet another caucus out there? They knew that the merger of various groups into MORE in an attempt to forge one identity for the opposition is the real threat to them. Thus they attack only MORE in their leaflets (64 Teachers at PS8X Sign Open Letter to Mulgrew).

Thus Randi would be glad to lend moral support to anyone who wants to start yet another opposition caucus, even taking them out for coffee.


MORE is a combo of many different groups and people - a synthesis because many of us have tried it the other way - our own little caucus where we can be the big fish in the small pond - oh how heady at times when you are new to this to have the president of the UFT emailing you at midnight to get your opinion. Almost everyone in ICE has come to see that no matter how difficult it can be working with people you might disagree with at times, the only way is to forge one caucus. Bite the damn bullet.

Many of us have come down a bit from our egos and have a little more humility about things. Or maybe it's the lowering of testosterone with age.

New Action
I have even been tempering my views regarding New Action - Julie and I told them at our meeting in Nov. 2013 that we welcomed them once they publicly announce they will no longer be taking their deal with Unity -- they don't have to end New Action - keep doing what ICE is doing - but move to becoming one caucus. After all, New Action learned its lesson in 1995 when 2 caucuses, TAC (begun in 1968) and New Directions (1976) became one after 20 years of relative futility running in the NAC coalition (though they did win some victories). But they say they were marking time. Then shortly after they merged, along came the old divider, Marc Pessin (who did the same thing with New Directions in 1976) to create yet another caucus (PAC) to divide people. And of course, Marc's ego required that he run for president in the 1999 elections - he did the same thing in the 1977 and 81 elections.

When ICE became a caucus in late 2003 it was with the intention of running in the 2004 election and then disbanding. But we won the HS exec bd seats with TJC and stuck around. But it became clear by 2007 that ICE did not have a long shelf life. By 2010 it was more than obvious. TJC was around for 20 years before disbanding into MORE. ICE kept meeting but in essence did the same. And I must say that after all those years of a tenuous relationship, working with Kit Wainer is a joy - and having Kit and James Eterno, both of whom who ran for UFT president, on the same team is like putting together an all-star rock band.

Yes, multiple caucuses have been tried for ages - there are always calls for them to unite for the elections and then go back to doing their big fish in a small pond. It finally dawned on many of us that ultimately this is helping do Unity's dirty work of divide and conquer - playing one group off against another - even offering people from one group enticements.

Though mostly MORE, we still feel that ICE identity even if we will never divide the opposition - ICE stands for the Independent Community of Educators -- a true social justice group of people who also fought for teacher rights with roots going back to the community struggles of the late 60s and 70s.

Some of the newer MORE members have come to the ICE view of things - we were the only ones to go after mayoral control, ed deform, high stakes testing - all the hot button issues from today - back in 2003 when we began - and Ed Notes was touching on these before then.

How did we see that these issues were important? Through open, non-ideologically driven discussions at loooong meetings. No one at an ICE meeting has been cut off or denied the chance to speak due to time - no one every leaves an ICE meeting feeling they were shut down. Time is not a factor -- the meeting ends when one person is left talking to himself.
I have never left an ICE meeting not feeling good and not having learned something.

Not a formula for efficiency or even building an opposition - but certainly a much needed space for people to talk to each other -- and I would say the single most important thing missing in MORE. I rarely leave a MORE meeting feeling that way. The MORE - Summer Series Workshops is a way to fill this gap.

People have asked me numerous times how come Mulgrew and Unity can get away with what they do for 60 years - how come there is so little effective opposition in the UFT.

The leadership focuses a lot of energy on potential trouble spots - this is where they are truly competent and effective - controlling, defusing, obfuscating, dividing, etc. I posted an example on Ed Notes recently about PS 8x which is a school in revolt against the leadership, led by a former Unity Caucus chapter leader -- see
The district rep - the key people in how they control the membership - told the CL that Mulgrew is coming to the school to talk to them -- I've been invited to come that day too.

They track every place where there are opposing voices -- making deals with their friendly principals to keep people under control is not off the table either.

But beyond all that, there are the internal divisions in the opposition - I have seen the same issues come up since I first got involved in 1970 - and in the 70s and then again in the 90s we had another version of him doing the same thing - to me this is so deja vu.

Egos, sectarian politics, and who knows what else can lead to so much frustration and angst.

A number of people who were union critics and used to distribute Ed Notes in the 90s and early 2000's ended up joining Unity - they might as well take the free trips and other perks because there was no other place to really go.

They go to Unity because they see a divided opposition. It may not be easy, but one voice, one name is the only answer. That will not happen as long as people refuse to check their egos at the door.

MORE - Summer Series Workshops + Join Us

I am helping with the chapter leader training training on July 9th and August 20th and also working on the August 13th election event where I will make a case for MORE not running in the election and spend more time doing the real organizing we are doing below. I think if we did these throughout the school year we would be performing a real service instead of racing around with petitions for an election only Unity can win. Until there is one caucus with one message instead of multiple groups racing around trying to organize their own little groups - and thus confusing the membership who rightfully say - why can't you all get together in one opposition group - Unity always wins.

Please join MORE caucus UFT 4th Annual Summer Series.  It’s a great chance to Discuss, Debate, and Organize!

Thursdays this summer, 4pm-7pm
All are welcome!
The Dark Horse, 17 Murray St. NYCNear City Hall, Chambers St, WTC
Drink specials: $4 domestic drafts, $6 well drinks and $7 wine.
Please click on the blue links to RSVP on Facebook
July 9th
Hardcore MORE Chapter Leader Training: The Nuts and Bolts of Leading Your Chapter – Part I
Open to all newly elected or veteran chapter leaders, delegates, consultation/SLT committee members, para-reps, and anyone interested in getting more involved in their chapter. Some of the topics include: Getting members involved, Enforcing contractual rights, Planning chapter & consultation meetings, Fighting back against administration, Building allies in PTA/SLT, Filing grievances

July 23rdHow To Build an Opt-Out Movement in Your School
High Stakes Testing and the Teacher Evaluation System are suffocating public education. As Diane Ravitch states – the only way to save our schools is to starve the data beast. That is the mission of the opt out movement. Find out how teachers around the state are working together with parents to organize against high stakes testing and fight for the schools our students deserve!
Are you wondering what the teacher union is all about and what it means to you and your students? Is it something you should be active in?  Can unions be vehicles for social justice? What is a caucus? How has the UNITY Caucus kept control of the UFT for over 40 years? Why did MORE form?   Meet with new and veteran teachers to discuss these questions and more in this introduction to the inner workings of the UFT.
What should a 2016 grassroots UFT election campaign look like? Does MORE have the resources and activists to mount an effective campaign? How can we use new tools and lessons learned to ensure that organizing  for the election will build MORE? Come learn election nuts and bolts, brainstorm creative election strategies, and plan ahead for how we’ll build a campaign that builds a better union.
August 20th
Hardcore MORE Chapter Leader Training: The Nuts and Bolts of Leading Your Chapter – Part II(See Part 1 Above)

Our goal is to have a mobilized, active union that can effectively fight for our rights by giving all members a voice in the UFT. We believe in building stronger chapters that connect members with others around the city who believe our working conditions are our students' learning conditions. We encourage all NYC educators to join us in challenging the UFT leadership and transforming the union into one that can lead the fight in advocating for a fair and equitable education for all our children while ending the profit-driven testing policies that harms teachers, students, and schools. Public schools are under attack, that is why we need a new union leadership that will lead the fight back. Each educator experiences the attacks on our profession differently: for some, the testing frenzy has dramatically changed their work lives for the worse. For others, the new evaluation process and life under a weak contract are the main concerns. Many of our members work under horrific and abusive administrators and that reality overshadows everything else. A strong, member-driven union that stands together with our communities is the only way to have the public schools we all deserve. The time is now to revitalize the teachers union here in New York City!
Any member of the UFT can become a member of the caucus by making a minimum annual donation of $25 ($10 for paraprofessionals and secretaries)
If you would like to make an on-going monthly donation to help sustain MORE's activities, consider becoming a MORE sustainer.

Weekend Update: Two Weddings and Avoiding a (Performing) Funeral in Guys and Dolls

People who know me understand that I generally expect things to turn into a disaster. And this weekend had the potential. Starting with opening night of Guys and Dolls and ending with a wedding on Long Island on Sunday late afternoon with potential traffic nightmares and predictions of bad weather through the weekend - and we had company Saturday for dinner as our friends came over to see the Sat night performance. So I was on edge, worried that, even though I play as minor a role in the show as possible, I would screw something up, especially in the numbers where I have to do some light dance steps in synch with others, especially the "Oldest Established Floating Crap Game" number early in the show where there are not that many guys I can hide behind.

But it all turned out exceptionally well. For the 2nd time in the past month, the second one of my wife's cousin's sons to get married - I wrote about the wedding of Jared and Margo in Turks and Caicos (Destination: Wedding in Turks and Caicos). We stayed an extra day and caught our last hour on the beach before leaving and ran into their photoshoot - right.

That (one month) old married couple were there last night for Steve and Katherine's wedding in Bayville - even though not my family they are also Scotts - Steve is the son of my wife's cousin Laurie and her husband Skip, a professional jazz drummer who played with his trio at the wedding. And note how this wedding was also on the beach. Here are a few pics. I find it fascinating that she is a divorce lawyer, leading to my endless and tasteless jokes at passover dinners.

As for the show, what a weekend. I actually hit my steps on the whole. And of course I had to miss the Sunday matinee due to the wedding, but I did go over before I left to give my replacement, Joe Hagopian -  one of the most popular and likeable young people I have met - some instruction on what he had to do. I stayed to tape the opening and Joe - who is 25 - looked so much better on stage than I do, I hope I still have my role.

Take back your mink - but not yet - Dolls with Nicely Nicely Johnson (Chazmond Peacock)
Seeing these young women dance is a major treat of the show.

Guys in Luck Be a Lady, lead by Sky (Danny Cruz) - see if you can find me
I'm writing something for The Wave - here is a draft.

Guys and Dolls played to sold out audiences for all 3 performances this past weekend. Everyone felt great about how things went, despite some of the usual snags. Due to the enormous talents vying for roles at the RTC there are two different casts for the four major roles and some other significant roles (meaning people should see the show twice - at least twice) makes this a special achievement.

It is hard to single out individual performances - something I can't judge from being backstage for most of the show. The powerful performance of 18 year old Caitlin Byrne as Miss Adelaide on Saturday night perked my ears up. Later people I knew who saw the show said Caitlin blew the place away.

Matthew Smilardi, one of my favorite actors at the RTC of all time, playing her boyfriend engaged for 14 years, Nathan Detroit, said her enormous energy fed his performance which in turn fed back to her. What a pleasure it was for the audience seeing these two RTC vets (Matt is in his early twenties and has been with the RTC since he was a teen) and Caitlin, who just finished her freshman year in college, comes out of the RTC Teen Theater Workshop. Oh what a voice - and Caitlin is also a devotee of Anita Ruderman's Hot Yoga classes on Beach 116th Street.

And here's the rub. On Friday night, the amazing duo of Nicole Mangano and John Panepinto played these same roles to perfection but for those who see both performances, with their own twist. Their voices don't take 2nd place to anyone. I'll get into the other dual cast leads, Sky (Danny Cruz/ Michael Whelan) and Sarah (Maria Edwards/Renee Steadman), played by 4 performers with exceptional voices, next time.

Matt and John as Nathan (the Frank Sinatra role in the movie) and Caitlin and Nicole as Adelaide carry immense responsibilities to make the play work and whichever cast you see you won't be disappointed. On the alternate days, they assume other roles as the drunk and as crapshooters - for veteran actors like them, like a day off.

We refer to the different casts as the Danny and Mike casts. Here are their performance dates:
Danny Cast: July 10, 12, 17, 19.
Mike Cast: July 11, 16, 18.
So if you saw one, come and see the other.

If I tried to talk about everyone who should be talked about in the cast and backstage, the Wave would have to give me the entire paper. I will try to follow up in the upcoming week with more on the awesome talent at RTC. For me, being in a play with Chazmond Peacock (Nicely Nicely), who I believed is a major talent who should be on Broadway since I first saw him in Oliver is such a special treat. He can do anything on stage, but just watch him do his stuff in "Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat" and try to tell me I'm not right.