Around the UFT

Meet the president: District 31

Bruce Cotler Mulgrew (left) chats with (from second left) BASIS High School District Representative Tom Bennett, Jim O'Brien of Williamsburg HS for Architecture and Design in Brooklyn, and Staten Island Technical HS educators Christina Polizzi and Eric Olsen, the chapter leader.
Bruce Cotler District 31 Representative Sean Rotkowitz meets with PS 60 teachers (seated, from left) Diane Greco, Eileen Fields and Michelle Horan.
Bruce Cotler Staten Island Political Action Coordinator Debra Penny (standing) with Leah Cetera of the Michael J. Petrides School.

In his meeting with some 250 UFT members from District 31 and BASIS high schools on Oct. 25, UFT President Michael Mulgrew discussed many of the challenges and issues that New York City educators must deal with these days. He talked about the problems with education reform, budget cuts, rising class sizes and the emphasis on standardized testing; the continued push for individual merit pay, despite its being a proven failure; the flawed implementation of the Special Education Student Information System (SESIS); and the ramifications of No Child Left Behind mandates. Virtually nothing he discussed surprised Mary Jo Kling, a teacher of 19 years at PS 32 on Staten Island. “Things have changed so much since I started,” Kling said after the two-hour meeting and before heading back to her school for a PTA meeting. “They pull you out of class to do curriculum and mapping when all you want to do is teach.” Kling said she doesn’t mind the work if it helps her students. “But kids aren’t getting as much out of it these days,” she continued. “That spark of excitement is missing. The kids are tested out.” The concern for passing the daily math or spelling test, she said, has been eclipsed by the need to do well on standardized tests. “We used to have the right to teach how we thought was best, and we had very good results,” Kling said. “Now it’s one size fits all.”

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