Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Trial of Steve Conn: Is Attack on Detroit Union President a Randi Coup?

I've always said that if Unity and its ilk lose an election they will try to steal it back any way they can. If the opposition in NYC were ever to win or even get close they would undermine the UFT before yielding power. When Steve Conn won the presidency over Randi's gang in Detroit, his days were numbered.
“This is nothing but a political attack on my leadership by the remnants of the old defeated leadership of the DFT,” Conn said. “They lost at the ballot box; so now they are trying to win with a coup.”
We commented the other day on EIA's report of the Randi/AFT takeover of a Florida local - Randi's Joke About Democracy as AFT Deposes another union leader.

Here is Mike Antonucci's report from EIA on the trial of Steve Conn:
The Detroit Federation of Teachers executive board put president Steve Conn on trial this morning for conduct detrimental to the union.
Conn called on members to show up at the hearing. “I know that many, many of you will be as upset as I am at this news, and I would like to offer my time to talk with you,” he wrote on the union’s web site. “I am still hopeful that, even at this late hour, we may be able to reach a settlement — especially if you and other members are willing to help us early Monday morning.”
“Many, many of you” turned out to be about 50 people. Conn also knew that the hearing was to be held in executive session. His supporters were not admitted and the police had to be called to clear them from the entrance.

I have to find my video of Steve Conn heckling Randi at her public appearance in Detroit at the AFT12 convention. Steve is part of BAMN - By Any Means Necessary -- the only group that has run against Randi in the last few AFT elections.

I met Steve's lawyer, Shanta Driver - also of BAMN, at the SOS summer event in 2012 - she is no lightweight. This should be fun to watch.

Here is the more detailed report from the Detroit News.

DFT’s Conn goes to union trial on misconduct charge

Detroit — Detroit Federation of Teachers president Steve Conn went on trial Monday on internal charges of union misconduct as a split within the union intensified.
Union executive vice president Ivy Bailey first announced the charges in a June 25 letter to members posted on the DFT website.
About 50 teachers showed up outside the office of the Detroit Association of Education Office Employees, 115 W. Willis, where the proceeding conducted by the union’s executive board was being held. Conn had urged supporters to show up.
The union members were denied entrance to the hearing, and police were called.
About six Detroit Police cruisers, including a K-9 unit, swarmed the parking lot after Conn and his supporters tried to gain entry into the closed meeting.
The board was holding a trial involving internal charges of union misconduct.
The teachers and other supporters chanted and clapped their hands while several men, who refused to identify themselves, barred them from entering.
“We are the union, the mighty, mighty union,” the union members chanted.
One unidentified man in a dark suit and tie barred entry saying, “All these people can’t be in here.”
Shanta Driver, a lawyer representing Conn, countered, “Then we will be prevented from properly presenting our case. You should get a hall big enough so all our witnesses can be represented.”
The police officers stood around, talking briefly to Driver, then one of them ordered everyone — except for 10 witnesses finally allowed inside — to leave the parking lot, because it was on private property.
A Conn supporter took names and phone numbers of people in the parking lot. Driver suggested they not go far if they leave, because they could be called as witnesses later in the day.
Driver told Conn’s supporters they still could protest on the sidewalk outside the parking lot, which they did.
Bailey barred reporters from the trial, saying it was a closed meeting. She said the board could make a decision Monday.
Tension has been growing in the DFT since Conn was elected president in a runoff over Edna Reaves, who was executive vice president, in January.
In her June letter, Bailey alleged Conn committed “violations of the DFT constitution and bylaws and conduct detrimental to the union.”
Bailey said members charge that Conn has attempted to cancel regular meetings and failed to preside over them; has improperly called “special mass meetings”; and has conducted meetings without agendas, without allowing members to speak and without proper and valid votes.
The letter also accused Conn of allowing local members “to be threatened and abused at meetings” and failed to pay the union’s per capita dues to the American Federation of Teachers and AFT Michigan.
Katarina Brown, a teacher at King High School, called the proceedings a witch hunt.
“Instead of us fighting each other, we should be knocking on doors to get more students enrolled in DPS,” she said. “Steve Conn has done nothing wrong. He’s done more for us than any other union president and he fights for the rights of all of us. All of us will be jobless if we don’t fight for our rights.”
Teacher Regina Dixon of Coleman Young Elementary School said she was there to support Conn.
“These are horrible charges,” she said. “The executive vice president is trying to take over as president and it will not happen.”
Teacher Sharon Jamison of Mann Elementary School called the charges “bogus.”
“They want (retired DFT president) Keith Johnson’s agenda, and to put Ivy Bailey in to continue it,” she said. “We need to fight what is going on, and we can’t do it with Keith’s agenda or we’ll lose everything.”
Conn addressed the crowd before they converged on the building entrance.
“This is nothing but a distraction,” he said. “They want to crawl into the pocket of the emergency manager (Darnell Earley) and stay there. I am determined to fight for the teachers and students. I was elected to do a job to defend your rights, and no one is going to stop me in that fight. There shouldn’t be backroom meetings. People of Detroit will stand with you as long as you stand up for yourself.”
Bailey contends the trial is proceeding because Conn failed to attend a meeting she requested.
“Many members have brought forth serious charges against DFT President Steve Conn,” she wrote in an undated message titled “Monday’s trial” to members on the DFT website. “The constitution and bylaws require me to attempt to resolve the matter through an informal conference. Steve Conn chose to not attend the conference. After Conn failed to show up for the hearing, the matter was referred to the elected executive board, as required by the constitution and bylaws. The executive board unanimously voted to go forward with the charges.”
Conn steadfastly maintains it is an ongoing effort to unseat him, calling the trial a “kangaroo court.”
“The accusations against me by the executive board are baseless and false to the core,” Conn said in a statement. “This is nothing but a political attack on my leadership by the remnants of the old defeated leadership of the DFT. They lost at the ballot box; so now they are trying to win with a coup.”
He continues saying the DFT executive board opponents do not have a strategy for the union and its members, other than “resurrecting the losing ideas of my predecessor about cooperating with the governor’s emergency manager as he methodically dismantles Detroit’s public schools.”
In a statement, Conn countered that he still has not been allowed to see anything beyond Bailey’s summary of the charges against him.
“That is just one of many blatant constitutional and procedural violations, he said in the statement. “The executive board is completely unfit to act as a jury. They are the initiators and instigators of nearly all the allegations, and they have been witnesses to many of the events. There is also evidence that they have already met and decided the trial’s outcome ahead of time.
“I posted a lengthy initial response to Bailey’s statement on the union’s website (www.dft231.com ) several weeks ago, which is still there.”
East English Village Preparatory Academy math teacher Nicole Conaway called the trial “an extremely divisive and dangerous distraction” in a statement.
“We are at a key turning point in rebuilding the power of the DFT, especially with the fight now to defend our health care against a massive assault by the governor and his emergency manager,” she said. “This trial will only serve the purposes of our union’s enemies.”
(313) 222-2296

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Substance celebrates its 41st year, Influence on Ed Notes, 1994 EdWeek Article

With the publication of the August Home Page here at substancenews.net, Substance begins our 41st year of publication. Substance began as a mimeographed newsletter, produced on a Gestetner mimeograph machine, in August 1975.
August 1 was an historic day for Chicago-based George Schmidt and Substance, the model for the print edition of Ed Notes. One of the things I find very funny about the accounts of the Chicago union miracle from many groups, including MORE during its "Lessons if  Chicago" summer series over the past few years, is how the role of a monthly well-read newspaper played in capturing the union by the CORE caucus is ignored. (Substance also played a role in the victory of the opposition led by Debbie Lynch in 2001.)

Substance influence on Ed Notes

My groups in the 70s had been getting Substance but then lost track. At an ed tech convention in Chicago in 2000 I ran into George at an anti-testing workshop where Substance, by that time a full 20-30 page monthly tabloid, was distributed. We connected and I subscribed.

I began Ed Notes in 1997 as a UFT delegate assembly only monthly that grew from 1page to 16 letter size pages by the time I retired in 2002. I was
producing up to 1500 copies for the DA since people asked me for copies for their schools. It was clear that I couldn't continue growing a newspaper that had to be hand printed on any machine I could borrow and then stapled by me. George's model of a cheaper to produce in bulk tabloid began to make sense. One of the reasons I retired in July 2002 was to give me the time to turn Ed Notes into a tabloid that could reach tens of thousands of teachers. It would cost me a couple of thousand dollars a year but that seemed like the biggest bang for the buck. (And people did want to contribute.)

That July 2002 George was in NY and I invited him out to my house in
Rockaway to meet with some people who were Ed Notes supporters - a group that over a year later turned into part of the nucleus that formed ICE in October 2003. He wowed us with his stories and inspired us in ways to spark activism. I had already started writing and soliciting articles and laying out the tabloid ed notes and the first issue with a print run of 12,000 copies came out in September 2002. The lead article was:

Coming Soon to a School Near You: Mayoral Control 

Ed Notes was the first to go after the concept, which the UFT supported and also go after Joel Klein from day 1.

Below is an embedded but poor copy for you to peruse. You can read a clearer version at scribd: https://www.scribd.com/doc/273300755/Ed-Notes-Fall-02-ID

Here is a report from George on the anniversary:
Consider the story below, that we will be reporting on August 1. It is an example of how the owners of Chicago's media, the same corporate plutocrats who have imposed "school reform", choke off the history that we need to know -- and that the working class needs to know. As we've discussed, the ruling class has blacklisted Substance (and George Schmidt) for a long time. Think about it...

3. AUGUST ANNIVERSARY AND THE ED WEEK ARTICLE. "...Substance is a throwback to the in-your-face underground newspapers of the late '60s and early '70s..." The article below was published in Education Week -- more than 20 years ago! Since then, the blacklist has expanded to the point where reporters from Chicago's corporate media are forced to deny the existence of Substance -- even as they read and utilize the materials we publish. Read below what the national weekly Education Week reported long long ago:

The Muckrakers (Originally published in Education Week)
August 1, 1994


Sunday With Susan (Ohanian)

Yummy - new content from Susan. Her comments are what make these stories so yummy. Click on the links.
Nancy Bailey hit to the bone with 'Common Core and Close Reading: Shouldn’t College Work Stay in College?' I put her piece up on Twitter and it was passed on. A lot.

There's actually a Good News item, one that pulls at the heartstrings: Good boy, good adult mentor, good world sharing books.

I am not religious but every year I donate  to Camp Agape VT. Their mission is to provide a week of Christian camping to children who have a parent locked up in the Vermont correctional system. My understanding is that they give each camper a pack of books of high interest, a Bible, and a fishing pole. Who could top that?

Of course we have a couple of new cartoons. Check out:




On to the Revolution,

For the sake of the children, REFUSE!

To the editor
Susan Ohanian
New York Times

The New York Times film critic is more observant of kindergartners' needs than is the editorial board.

Who's In Charge?
Kate Taylor with Ohanian comment
New York Times

Dirty money goes with dirty pedagogy.

Groups That Back Bloomberg's Education Agenda Enjoy Success in Albany
Kate Taylor
New York Times

Although this article is about the big money influencing New York City education policy,the story--and the money--certainly is not unique to New York.

Utah boy reading junk mail gets thousands of books after mailman's plea goes viral
ABC via Publishers Weekly

Here's a nice story about a mailman who noticed a kid needed some books.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

UPDATED - Randi's Joke About Democracy as AFT Deposes Florida Local President & Board Over Lack of

I missed Perdido Street's more extensive coverage of this story, a must read. 

Randi Weingarten Engineers A Putsch In A Florida Local Union

Over the years Ed Notes and Mike Antonucci have reported on Randi's takeovers -- just too much in a rush to get you the links.

Here is my original post from earlier focused on Antonucci's story.

In the name of “holding sacrosanct the democratic rights of its members,” the American Federation of Teachers removed from office the duly elected officers and representatives of the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association (OCCTA) and placed a national administrator in sole charge.... Mike Antonucci, EIA, Intercepts Blog

Mike can be a jokester -- this one is a real knee slapper:
In an e-mail to OCCTA members, AFT president Randi Weingarten specifically named OCCTA president Diana Moore as the cause of “repeated and deliberate anti-democratic violations of local bylaws and governance policies,” particularly those “to protect against the concentration of power in any one individual.”
Poor Diana Moore, getting chopped by Randi for concentrating too much power is like Cuomo charging de Blasio with abuse of power.

Back in June Mike commented:
The Florida Education Association believes local president Diana Moore and her supporters are “coalescing control of the union in themselves at the unfortunate cost of a democratic union.” If that’s the standard then there will be an awful lot more trusteeships to come.
Hmmmm --- the UFT? If Moore goes to court she might as well cite the union Randi ran for a decade. You know Moore's mistake? Not creating a faux opposition party to give the illusion of bi-partisan democracy.

Mike's full report with links:

AFT Deposes Florida Local President & Board

Thursday, July 30, 2015

DOE Gags Dewey Teachers Whose Ratings Were Reversed -- Let's Look at the Entire System of Principal Retaliation

I know that the UFT supposedly helped the Dewey teachers -- but I also know how they didn't seem to have the same sense of urgency the teachers had. What of the Discontinued under Elvin? What of the forced retirements? What of the years of misery so many teachers suffered?
Those teachers had to sign a confidentiality agreement not to discuss the changing of their ratings.... NY Post
Yes, they don't want these people to talk about it. Where was the UFT in protecting the rights of these teachers to talk about their own cases? Where is the UFT calling on more investigations of cheating and other abuses as scores of schools with monster principals? The UFT is best friends with the DeB/Farina regime and also with the CSA which represents principals so don't expect much from them.

The problem is there are hundreds of principals like Elvin who retaliate against teachers, many of them removed for numerous reasons, yet the ratings are allowed to stand. And that happened going back to the old U rating system -- I could see that in the 3020a hearings I attended -- the Peter Zucker case was an example - and he is losing 4 months pay on suspension over what was clearly a set-up.

One MORE member - a chapter leader - received 2 U ratings for union activity under a lunatic and was about to get a 3rd and be fired but she was mercifully removed and replaces by a benign principal - yet the history of these U ratings remain - and that school is now a renewal school and the CL may have to find a job with that history training behind.
The UFT should call on every teacher with a poor rating in a school with a suspect principal be reviewed. I would go back to the early days of BloomKlein.

NYSED Acknowledges Principals Can Use APPR As Weapons Against Teachers -
Given an "ineffective" rating for refusing to participate in fraudulent behavior involving grade-fixing.

Gee, that doesn't sound like an "objective" evaluation system to me.

And NYSED admits as much by overturning at least four of the "ineffective" ratings of tenured teachers who appealed them.

There may be more overturned ratings - we don't know the exact number because of the confidentiality agreements

But what we do know is this - if Elvin and her assistant principals used APPR as a weapon against teachers to perpetrate their fraud, other principals and assistant principals can use APPR as a weapon against teachers for other reasons as well.

Had Elvin not been exposed in the grade-fixing scandal, these teachers at Dewey would still be working with "ineffective" ratings on their records.

You can bet there are other administrators elsewhere who have handed out "ineffective" ratings for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with the effectiveness of the teacher.

We learned from Chancellor Farina this week that APPR is a sham when she acknowledged that "effective" teachers can have their ratings adversely affected by switching schools and going to teach  in a school with high poverty/high homelessness demographics.
Even the noted anti-union Post reporter, Carl Campanile, given the Post claims an exclusive on the Dewey story -- too bad they don't read Ed Notes -- takes a - sort of - pro-teacher position. Here is Campanile's story:


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Farina and DOE Often Operates in Bloombergian Manner

I know I have asked it before on this list, but it bears repeating, until we can answer it:  at what point does doing the same thing- enacting the same discriminatory admissions policies - that result in such disparate impacts on schools, families and students- constitute active discrimination that must be addressed and reversed? --- Lisa Donlan, District1, NYCEDNEWS Listserve
I saw Lisa's response below on the listerve which supplements my earlier post this morning,

On Class Size, VAM, Renewal Schools Is Farina as Bad as Joel Klein - OR Worse because we expected better

UFT All In with Farina
Before I get to Lisa's comments I want to make the key point that the UFT is all in with De Blasio and Farina and blasts their critics - sometimes using Leo Casey tweets to go after them - groups like MORE and people like Leonie Haimson.

Lisa is an astute an observer as there is on the NYC ed scene:

Yes this seems to be a total blind spot in the administration's lens: 
that racial, economic and ethnic segregation, resulting often in high concentrations of high needs students in some schools, while other schools serve very few at-risk students,  is not an urgent, systemic  problem we need to address if we hope to improve the NYC public school system.

When CEC 1 launched a year long diversity workshop initiative
 (see results here:
https://cecdistrictone.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/school-diversity-workshops-report.pdf) at a Town Hall w/ the Chancellor last September we presented a ton of data about the segregation and stratification of our local schools- 
see here:
which we have demonstrated is in large part due to the open market, unbridled choice system for stunt enrollment in place since Bloomberg was given Mayoral control of the schools and dismantled our controlled version of choice that looked to increase equity of access and improve school diversity, with the goal of all of our neighborhood schools serving all the children n the community equitably.
see here:

The response we got was called 'Bloombergian' by the media:

On Class Size, VAM, Renewal Schools Is Farina as Bad as Joel Klein - OR Worse because we expected better

Of course Carmen gained her reputation as principal of PS 6 – at that time the wealthiest student body of any public school in the city and probably in the entire US. The attitude reminds me of what Ann Richards said about George Bush:  born on third base and thought he'd hit a triple... Leonie Haimson
 Leonie sent this to her listserve:
See article in Capital NY here: http://t.co/x59F8UCfCu

Ames, the new superintendent of District 8, which encompasses a swath of largely low-income neighborhoods in the Bronx …a former network leader in prestigious District 2, the same Upper East Side region where Fariña spent years as principal of P.S. 6, came prepared for her meeting with the chancellor, whom she has known for years….Ames recently led several principals of Renewal Schools in her district on a tour of District 2’s Salk School of Science, one of the city’s best middle schools. Fariña praised the idea of the Salk tour…

Amazing to me that they are  having principals of D 8 renewal schools in the Bronx –visit Salk MS in D2 for tips on how to improve their schools; with hugely different student populations.

Salk has a primarily wealthy or middle class student body:  64% White; 21% Asian, only 9% Hispanic and Black. With 0% ELLs, and 11% free lunch.

Contrast that with the 4 D8 renewal middle schools:

The Bronx Mathematics Preparatory School – 95% free lunch; 26% special ed;  10% ELLs; 95% black or Hispanic.

Hunts Point School – 91% free lunch; 28% special ed; 25% ELLs; 99% Black and Hispanic.

Urban assembly Academy of Civic Engagement: 79% free lunch; 96% Black and Hispanic ; 30% special ed and 13% ELLs.

M.S. 301 Paul L. Dunbar:  83% Free lunch: 27% special ed; 24% ELLs, 97% Black and Hispanic.

Of course Carmen gained her reputation as principal of PS 6 – at that time the wealthiest student body of any public school in the city and probably in the entire US.

The attitude reminds me of what Ann Richards said about George Bush:  born on third base and thought he'd hit a triple.

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011

A survey of our blogging pals covers a lot of ground so I won't repeat.

NYC Educator
Perdido--Fariña Unwittingly Admits VAM Is Invalid for All - Perdido Street School nails Carmen Fariña to her own words. Fariña thinks there should be an asterisk to so called highly effective teachers who move into...

Monday, July 27, 2015

Unity, Cadre, Democratic Centralism/Loyalty Oaths, UFT, Mass Organizations and Democracy

Unity Caucus Cadre at AFT Convention
What to do about an opposition party like MORE, even if it is the mildest of threats? If you can't buy them, undermine and destroy them.
  • a nucleus or core group especially of trained personnel able to assume control and to train others; broadly : a group of people having some unifying relationship
  • a cell of indoctrinated leaders active in promoting the interests of a revolutionary party
Unity Cadre in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYQzoDy_ocA

How Unity Caucus is like the Bolsheviks, not the Democratic Party

I'm doing a series on the UFT, Unity Caucus and the opposition. I'm putting forth the thesis that Unity Caucus is modeled to some extent on the Leninist concept of a party with its own version of cadre whose main purpose is to promote the interests of Unity Caucus and to steer the mass organization it created and controls (the UFT) in the direction decided upon by the Party. Behind Unity from its early days was Shanker's Social Democrats USA - SDUSA, led by Shanker ally Bayard Rustin at one point.

Unity Caucus in the early days was a sort of front group for SDUSA for its national and international policies - like support for the Vietnam war. (Under Weingarten the ideological reigns become looser.)

Here are some recent related posts.
I talked about loyalty oaths in this piece --- How Unity Caucus Uses the District Reps to Control... - which is really democratic centralism -- where an ostensibly democratic group whose majority votes everyone is bound to support even if they are in the minority -- sometimes on threat of expulsion when they violate this on an essential issue.

How democratic in reality are these groups given that they almost always have a hierarchy of leaders and followers. Does anyone think that Shanker, Randi, Mulgrew, Lenin, Stalin did not make the basic decisions and pass them down to be voted on by 100%. People tell me Unity Caucus internal votes when they're held are basically a joke.

Let me be clear- while Unity operates under Democratic Centralism, the UFT does not, despite attempts by Unity to make it so. In other words, upon joining Unity you must agree to abide by decisions of the group even if you disagree. Upon joining the UFT (a mass organization) you make no such agreement. But if you dissent they make it seem you are anti-union and a traitor. That is what they tell their cadre to say to the rank and file teachers in their schools.

Organizations run under DC principles are in theory democratic -- 

Let's go back to our analogy between Unity and a Leninist party - both are made up of - cadres - (an organized revolutionary vanguard). Unity Caucus has its own version of cadres -- not all are super active, but the most active will be out front defending Unity policy in every quarter - from their schools on up to the DA, Ex bd, NYSUT and AFT conventions. If you go to these events you see them doing the work of the Unity Party in every quarter. 
(See frequent commenter and Unity defender Paula Washington as an example - Paula lost her election as CL due to her defending the interests of Unity over her own members - but she will be going AFT/NYSUT RAs as one of 750 Unity delegates after next year's UFT election to rep not you but Unity while Arthur Goldstein who represents 300 UFT members in his school will get no voice for his members.)
While not a perfect analogy, clearly Shanker had some experiences with Leninist parties - through his mentor Max Shachtman - a Trotskyist turned right wing social democrat - SDUSA - was the founding mechanism of Unity and the UFT - and almost every member of the top leadership of Unity and UFT was also a member of SDUSA - until Randi - though we don't know for sure if she was too late to that party. (Leo Casey would be considered the left of the right.) Before Randi, key Unity was a bit more exclusive and top people seemed more ideologically pure to SDUSA principles. Randi has no principles so Unity became more open to anyone. At this point I don't think people like Leroy Barr give a crap about the ideology of SDUSA.

Shanker modeled Unity on a Leninist-type Party as a mechanism to control the mass organization - the UFT.

What is the difference between a party and a mass organization?

A party (Unity, Bolsheviks):
Lenin, leader of the Bolsheviks, argued that a revolutionary party should be a small vanguard party with a centralized political command and a strict cadre policy....The Menshevik faction, however, argued that the party should be a broad-based mass movement --- in other words, open to all people who would not have to take a loyalty oath.
The Menshiviks were social democrats - which is where I pretty much stand -- but SDUSA is also SD - but right wing.

Mass Organizations (UFT).
As the membership of a Communist party was to be limited to active cadres in Lenin's theory, there was a need for networks of separate organizations to mobilize mass support for the party. Typically, Communist parties have built up various front organizations whose membership is often open to non-Communists.
The UFT is just one of the mass organizations controlled by the cadre of Unity Caucus. History shows that relatively small numbers of cadre have the ability to control mass organizations with thousands of members - even nations with millions  of people. This control is impossible without the cadre.

Unity Caucus uses its cadre - recruited through many channels - to control a major segment of the national teacher movement through the UFT, NYSUT and the AFT, and even internationally, where it often functions hand in hand with the interests of American government policy (see George Schmidt: The AFT and the CIA).

In other words - how to explain their concurrence with so much of ed deform? They are partners -- the so-called seat - or stool - at the table.

The leadership is incredibly competent at maintaining their control and will stop at nothing to maintain it. There is a lot more at stake for them than just what happens in the schools of New York City.

Almost sixty years of power have validated that they have the wherewithal to do so and will stop at nothing - including:
  • buying off so-called oppositions
  • encouraging loose cannons to split the opposition
  • undermining the biggest threat
  • stealing elections at the chapter leader level to maintain as much control of the schools as possible
  • selling out whole areas of membership that might turn against them
  • making deals with enemies of the rank and file
Maybe they are going to be happy to let the agency fee payers if they are dissidents grow in size by leaving the union and giving them even tighter control even if smaller.

What to do about an opposition party like MORE, even if it is the mildest of threats? If you can't buy them, undermine and destroy them.

More on this in future posts.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Memo from the RTC: Guys and Dolls Reports Plus Selected Pics

Some recent columns in The Wave on the show. And some photos.

Liverlips Louie

Add caption

My Texas wife - married for 30 seconds

One of the casts leads

The other

Nicely Nicely, Bennie Southstreet

The Hot Box Dancers - take off those minks

Nathan Detroit, Big Julie

The Gamblers

The kids

Mimi and friend

Tokyo Mo

Memo From the RTC: The Kids Are Alright 
By Norm Scott
July 24, 2015

The beautiful Guys and Dolls set has been struck and building the set for the upcoming “Little Shop of Horrors” (opening on August 21) has commenced. G&D ran for 10 sold-out performances over 3 weekends. As the fame of RTC productions with its immense talent pool has grown even some long-time patrons had difficulty getting tickets. People lucky enough to see both casts were wowed. My wife saw it 3 times and said the show topped itself every time even as she had to suffer watching me try to dance with the mostly 20-something Guys in all 4 knock-out numbers. The Dolls kept up in their fabulous costumes in their Hot Box routines, especially when they threw down their minks and pearls and just about everything else – leading to howls of delight from the audience. The Guys and the Dolls did come together in the amazing Cuban café dance/fight routine culminating in the breakaway beer bottle smashed on the head of dancer Atsushi Eda who then goes careening all over the stage. Since there had been a few mishaps with the bottle in earlier shows, the cast broke out into applause when it worked perfectly the final weekend, especially since Producer Susan Jasper had been reminding us the props cost $7 a piece. Supposedly made of sugar, some intrepid cast members picked up broken pieces and tried to eat them. They shall remain nameless.

The double cast, mostly ranging in age from 13-mid-twenties, and production crew is so large that trying to talk about everyone would fill up the entire Wave. So let me focus on the impressive teens. You know you hear too many negative stories about today’s youths – or Yutes in the parlance of My Cousin Vinny. Well, just hang around the RTC and see Yutes in action: responsible, team players, considerate, and most of all, incredibly talented.

Thirteen year olds Steve Wagner and Andrew Feldman, who were amongst the stars of RTC’s Lost in Yonkers and vets of the RTC children and teens program, returned to play a variety of roles, at times having to add little mustaches.  These kids are totally into the theater with already large resumes and an awareness that makes me see what I missed as a kid.  And they are so reliable in every way and interact with the adults of all ages so naturally. Andrew travels all the way from Woodmere to be in the shows.

There is no room to talk about all the young lady teens, ranging in age from 15 to 19. When Director John Gilleece entrusted the key role of Adelaide to an 18 year old college freshman, Caitlin Byrne, for half the performances, some people doubted him. Her bravura performance validated his casting choice. She is a grad of LaGuardia HS where she studied voice and playwriting.

Over a few shows I’ve gotten to know some of the other teens. Leigh Dillon, who will be a junior at Fort Hamilton HS in Bay Ridge, has been in RTC shows for years, coming all the way from Brooklyn. She was accepted at the famed LaGuardia HS  but chose Fort Hamilton. Leigh is a quadruple threat. She can sing, dance, act and is a mean trumpet player. And is a delightful young lady.

I’ve been in a few shows with Kayla Ann Healy, Casey Stabiner, and Kacie Reilly, all of whom have an extensive knowledge of the theater and bring so much charm and grace with them, onstage and off. Casey just finished her freshman year at SUNY Purchase studying theater and performance. Kacie just graduated from Scholars and will be attending Marymount Manhattan College in the BFA Acting program. Kayla will be a senior at Professional Performing Arts School in Manhattan where she is majoring in drama. All of then are from Rockaway, Broad Channel of Howard Beach.

I’m just about out of room and will talk more about the next age group, the twenties next week and I will post links to some of the video from the show and the boys doing the girls and girls doing the boys dances at the cast party.

RTC has taught me, a lifetime teacher, the value of theater work as an educational activity. The RTC, so influenced by current and retired teachers, is like one big classroom. If I were teaching now I would forget the curriculum and just do play after play in my class. From set design and building, to performing, the kids would learn everything they needed to know about functioning in society. The test would be the performances. But of course I would be in a rubber room for not testing kids to death. And goodness, how could they try to fire me when my salary got too high if they didn’t have tests? Wait a minute. This is an RTC column, not School Scope.

Norm rants on education and other issues at ednotesonline.org

Memo from the RTC: Many Guys, So Many Dolls and Some Cats and Dogs Too
By Norm Scott
July 17, 2015
The Rockaway Theatre Company wrapped up the 2nd weekend of sold-out performances of Guys and Dolls with the proceeds of the July 12 Sunday matinee going to the North Shore Animal League shelter in the Carol Jasper Memorial Benefit performance. RTC Producer extraordinaire Susan Jasper has honored her late family member over the past decade with this generous donation.

The actors kept sneaking out during breaks to the trailer to check out the animals, with one dog making its acting debut by being carried across the stage cuddled in the arms of one of the Dolls, prompting a comment from one of the Guys: I wish I were a dog. I saw at least 3 cats I wanted to take home but I called and Bernie and Penny said they don’t need any more siblings.

This is the final weekend  where we do 4 performances – Thursday, Friday, Saturday evenings at 8PM and Sunday matinee at 2PM - I hear there are lots of seats available for the Thursday and Friday shows while Sat and Sunday may be sold out. The cast party will follow where we know the Dolls will be dancing the Guys’ musical numbers and some Guys will try the Dolls (not me). Can’t wait to see them do “Take Back Your Mink” as they remove their clothes. Could be an ugly sight.

There has been a lot of comment on the double casting of the major roles due to the enormous talent pool. Last time I talked about the blow me away 4 performances of  Adelaide (Nicole Mangano/Caitlin Byrne) and Nathan Detroit (John Panepinto/Matthew Smilardi) roles.

The other leads – Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown (Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons in the film) were also double cast. Michael Whalen, who shared the role of the Devil with John Penipento in last year’s “Damn Yankees”, brings the right touch of  mature charm and danger to Sky while the younger Danny Cruz  (Joe Hardy and Damn Yankees) adds a classic matinee idol flash to the role. As singers and actors their slightly different interpretations makes seeing the show with both casts a must. They both bring top notch singing and acting to the roles and dance with the crap shooters when not in the lead.

And the same goes for the Sarah roles, played by Maria Edwards (with Mike) and Renee Steadman (with Danny). Renee, originally from Trinidad and now residing in East NY Brooklyn, made her RTC debut in Godspell and with her operatic voice is fast becoming an RTC mainstay. If you were just passing by the theater not knowing a play was on and heard her singing you would stop dead in your tracks. Many people coming out of the theater after the show came over to her to say how extraordinary her singing was. So the next night when Marine Park resident Maria Edwards, making her RTC debut,  went on in the role I snuck into the back of the theater. Holy Cow. Oy, oy, oy! How can this little production company known as the RTC attract such awesome talent time and again?

Listen, I can go on and on about the show. The young ladies – the Dolls - from high school juniors on up – are not to be missed. And the Guys – from junior high up to – ME – get wild audience reactions as they dance their way in and out of trouble shooting dice – and also try not to rock the boat in the bring down the house number. Some people coming out actually told me I finally learned how to do the box step – thanks to choreographers extraordinaires – new mommy Nicola DePierro-Nellen (whose mom Phyllis plays a noticeable role in her mink) and Gabrielle Mangano, who I keep pestering with questions about which foot I have to move during “The Oldest Establishment Permanent Crap Game in NY.” We’ve watched Gabby and sister Nicole grow up on the RTC stage.

I’ll close with kudos to an often overlooked the major role played by chief Costumier Kerry O’Conner, who also shares the role of General Cartwright with Cathy Murfitt. Kerry is a den mother to the enormous cast and the numerous costume changes. She helps everyone find the proper costumes and even for a low-end performer like me took so much time in getting me shirts, suits, ties, cowboy boots, string ties, etc. Imagine doing this kind of work for 40 people? I blanched in horror when she found me a green double-breasted suit – I have never worn a DB and didn’t even know how to button it. But the suit grew on me, especially when so many of the Dolls commented on how nice it looked and some Guys told me they had dibs on it for a future show.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Is Unity a Democratic Organization: Unity Caucus and Democratic Centralism

I'm following up on my recent post: How Unity Caucus Uses the District Reps to Control.

I have much more to say about this as a way of explaining how Unity Caucus and other groups operate. On the surface, groups that operate under democratic centralism are democratic internally but all agree upon joining to adhere to the decisions of majority rule. Not outrageous - except when Unity considers itself the UFT and tries to force everyone else in the UFT who are not Unity members and did not sign on to dem cent to follow that in the mass organization - the UFT itself -- and that has been a tactic of smaller groups controlling larger mass orgs - stifle dissent by labeling it undemocratic - we voted, the majority won, not shut up and follow along. Except that they manipulate democracy in the UFT.

I also maintain that Unity itself is not a democracy but top-down -- there are votes but people vote the way they are supposed to. Shanker, Feldman, Randi - make basic decisions and people follow -- Mulgrew may be allowed to make a few of his own. Then they use the Unity cadre to impose those decisions on the rest of the UFT.

Here is a comment sent to me by email:
Democratic centralism seems to be a very idealistic principle. It claims to resolve an apparent contradiction of opposites. A diversity of perspective, emphasis of thought and idea wonderfully coalesces into an agreed upon unity of plan for collective action. But doesn't this idealistic principle ultimately morph into an actual reality on the ground that is far more specific and commonplace? 

Doesn't idealistic democratic centralism morph into either majority rule and/or consensus democracy (more or less what MORE does), or in the case of UNITY and some groups, rigid democratic dictatorship for either left or rightest policy? With the latter, you can forget the nice centralism. It's absolute conformity or be socially excluded, eliminated or demonized, and, in its extreme form, bodily assassination. 
Politically divergent dictatorial, totalitarian and subversive organizations have morphed into democratic dictatorships from socialist democratic centralist idealism? Meanwhile it amazes me how organizations manage to put group-think blinders on their followers. 
Actually ICE is a consensus group while MORE is a majority vote group - and I think not just a simple majority vote but something more than a majority for important issues. I think simple majority rule can cause deep splits in groups when the minority just misses.

Friday, July 24, 2015

How Unity Caucus Uses the District Reps to Control the Membership and Narrow the Growth of the Opposition

CORRECTED: Changes in green

One thing people have to understand about the Unity Caucus on the city, state and national (called Progressive Caucus) is that only 100% control is acceptable - not 60% or 75% or 95%. But 100%. When there are voices of opposition, they are attacked as being disloyal and anti-union.

How does the UFT/Unity bureaucracy keep track of pockets of opposition in so many schools? Through the middle management employees, the District Rep. Every school in the city has a district rep who communicates through the chapter leaders but when there is a strong opposition person in the school, is willing to go around them - sometimes by actively recruiting someone in the school to challenge them.

They track dissident voices and call out reinforcements when a school seems to be going off on an anti-Unity track -- for instance, the district rep informing the teachers at the dissident PS 8X that Mulgrew was coming to see them - soon - certainly before next year's elections -- to try to put out the fire. And to some extent a visit by Mulgrew will move some people on the fence.

Unity works hard to get some of these people into Unit to shut them up.

Remember the Unity Caucus loyalty oath - or what it really is -Wiki says - democratic centralism - the name given to the deontological principles of internal organization used by Leninist political parties, and the term is sometimes used as a synonym for any Leninist policy inside a political party.

Yes, Unity is a Leninist party. Leo Casey in debates with people in MORE likes to defend the Unity loyalty oath by raising the issue that some people in MORE are in organizations that have their own version of democratic centralism -- another diversion by Leo since MORE itself doesn't operate under DC - and if it did I would quit immediately. But I have been pretty open inside MORE that I have reservations about people who subject themselves to a loyalty oath - or democratic centralism - since they are bound to each other and their organization and in a mass organization like MORE that can cause problems - and at times it has. (I'll get more into this in a separate post).

The same thing goes for Unity - they are bound more to Unity than to the people in the schools. Just look at Paula Washington's comments on ed notes defense of everything Unity - which caused her to lose her recent chapter leader election.

In some cases, Unity woos a dissident with promise who they deem ambivalent -- first they say that being associated with an opposition is not a problem -- it is but they are hiding that. Then they entice them with offers of joining Unity and getting to go to conventions with a hint at after school jobs and even the big enchilada - a full-time union job that will get them out of the classroom. I have seen numerous people go that way -- I can't tell you how many people who used to hand out Ed Notes in their schools ended up in Unity - they were targeted to shut down the ability to reach the rank and file. Recently a MORE supporter underwent heavy Unity recruitment and finally succumbed, not totally surprising to me since I detected some game being played -- like guarantees that MORE lit was going into boxes and others in the school saying they never say any MORE lit. Call it playing the double game - using a connection to MORE to make them a more attractive Unity candidate. Once they join Unity they start avoiding saying hello to me -- and other slimy stuff. Reports often come in that they become amongst the worst - they entered Unity in an unprincipled manner and begin to function that way. After all, they were once a critic who felt the union was letting people down and then suddenly go silent and start selling the Unity line. What does that say about their believability - and honor? To me they are the least trustful people in Unity.

(Does anyone think that the same offer could have been on the table for people like James Eterno, Julie Cavanagh, Kit Wainer and even me, who was being recruited into Unity in the late 90s before I went rogue? No job offer would ever tempt us.

There are 32 K-8 district reps and 6 high school districts but they are divided up amongst more than 6 district reps -- the number is fuzzy as some handle small schools - with the proliferation of small high schools, the union added DRs. There are also Drs for paras, special ed district 75 and other special districts. (Yes, it is a job machine for around 40-45 people). Monthly meetings are held where the UFT propaganda is laid down for CLs to follow -- these are not meetings to share problems and issues in schools and come up with solutions.

By the way - every district rep is supposed to teach one period a day - they are on DOE salary but the UFT reimburses the DOE for the time they don't teach during the day and the get additional compensation for the hours from 3-6 plus any other time they put in. Every one of them makes a 6-figure salary.

In all the years before 2002, every district rep was Unity Caucus except for Bruce Markens who was elected by the most dissident group in the union - the Manhattan High Schools chapter leaders. Bruce was re-elected for a decade from 1991-2000 despite Unity attempts to dislodge him. After he retired, Tom Dromgoole, his successor was also in Unity and was independent and followed in Bruce's footsteps from 2000-2002. After Randi made it an appointed position, fearing a backlash from the still strong Man HS CLs -- big schools still dominated - she appointed Tom. But some felt over the next few years with the sword hanging over his head as large schools disappeared and his base disappeared with them, he was forced to adhere more to the Unity line in order to keep his job. And to make it worse, some of Bruce and Tom's former supporters actually ended up joining or supporting Unity with one now having a full-time job. Unity is relentless in undermining any opposition.

As I said, even 1 person not in the Unity fold is unacceptable to the Unity machine.

So in 2002, Randi eliminated district rep elections because she never wanted to see another Bruce Markens. They created a bogus process of interviews but the UFT leadership really makes the choice of this crucial position.

Over the years, some top-notch opposition people have gone through the process just for the hell of it because they know they have no chance. James Eterno applied for the Queens HS DR position at one time. He was clearly the most qualified candidate. Yelena Siwinski applied for the District 22 position - no one is more qualified than she is. And I believe another top-notch MORE candidate is currently applying for a vacancy he will not get.

Even I applied for the position in District 14 before I retired with an understanding that my voice, like Bruce, would remain independent. Top union officials came to my interview to enjoy the fun - and we had a blast - when they asked me to produce sample of my newsletters I had Ed Notes - everyone broke up. Believe me, the guy they chose is tepid at best. If there were an election I believe I had a shot at winning because I was so aggressive in dealing with my principal when I was CL - and many CLs liked that. Also even some Unity people who are there for the conventions wanted an independent voice - it was pre-ICE and I wasn't with any caucus.

At least an election for DR forced them to be somewhat responsive to the chapter leaders - unless these CLs were also Unity and had to follow the party line from above - which was true in most cases. So elections are not an end all until the Unity dominance of the CLS is broken -- part of my strategy of organizing from bottom up instead of making the UFT elections the big deal.

Unity has a machine and that machine pervades most schools with little opposition at the school level except for a relatively few. There are signs of some breaks in that - witness the 60 people who came out for the MORE CL training recently - and new people are in contact regularly. So something did break in the schools to some extent. Unity will try to recruit these people into Unity through the district rep and at their 3 training sessions in the fall -- these are important to Unity in an election year in that they can shut down opposition lit in schools with Unity CLs controlling the gate - unless the opposition has a contact willing to stand up to them in the school. Unity can only be broken by going after them at the school level day by day, month by month, year by year. Election outcomes reflect that work and if an opposition ever had people in hundreds of schools who could organize a serious block at the Del Ass, Unity would be facing a loss of control from below.

District Reps have a major function -- to stop this from happening.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Today - MORE Summer Series: How To Build an Opt‐Out Movement in Your School

While the UFT fights the opt-out movement, MORE works to help build it in partnership with parents.

For those of you not paying attention -- opt out is a defense of teachers under the gun of the testing movement which is designed to undermine our public schools and profession. See the reports of teachers being forced to reapply for their jobs at renewal schools and face deployment into the ATR pool.

Did you know that over 175,000 New York State families opted their students out of high stakes tests this spring?

Come to our discussion about how to build this movement in your school, this Thursday

THURSDAY, July 23rd How To Build an OptOut Movement in Your School
The Dark Horse, 17 Murray St. NYC, Near City Hall, Chambers St, WTC
Drink specials: $4 drafts, $6 well drinks & $7 wine

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!