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Chapter leaders take on challenges for the year ahead

Chapter leaders take on challenges for the year aheadMiller photographyMulgrew addresses chapter leaders. New and returning chapter leaders hit the ground running as they were welcomed to a new school year — and briefed on the pressing educational and budget issues framing it — at their Sept. 14 citywide meeting held at a packed Shanker Hall at UFT headquarters.

“My first year as a teacher was tough, but my first year as a chapter leader was even tougher,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said as he thanked the new chapter leaders for having “stepped up to a leadership role in the union.”

Mulgrew forecast a difficult year ahead: although teacher layoffs in New York City were narrowly averted last June, school budgets were axed for the third year in a row, leaving schools pared to the bone.

Mulgrew asked chapter leaders to fill out the union’s online budget survey. The results, he said, will help the union paint a picture for the public of the damage done to classrooms and student services by school budget cuts.

“It’s imperative that we start showing what austerity looks like as school budgets are cut and class sizes go up,” Mulgrew said.

While UFT members in schools have been spared to date, the broader picture is sobering, Mulgrew said, with thousands of teacher layoffs across the state while here in the city, nearly 800 school support staff are losing their jobs.

Mulgrew said that with the damage done to towns upstate by Hurricane Irene, the state budget picture could be even bleaker this coming year than last, which will put pressure on New York City to backfill where the state cuts aid to the city.

Mulgrew called the millionaire’s tax, which is due to expire on Dec. 31, the best way to keep vital funding for schools and ensure that students do not suffer. He urged chapter leaders to engage with elected officials and community allies to press for a renewal of the tax.

On the new system for teacher evaluation, the source of many chapter leaders’ questions later in the meeting, Mulgrew clarified that only teachers in restart or transformation schools will be evaluated using the Charlotte Danielson evaluation rubric this school year. In the pilot “Talent Management” schools, he said, the new rubric should be used for practice only, while evaluation during and at the end of the school year should be based on the present evaluation system in which teachers are rated either Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory. In all other schools, Mulgrew stressed, principals and staff could be using the Danielson rubric for professional development, but it cannot be used for teacher evaluation or any other purposes. The new evaluation system can only be implemented citywide once an agreement between the DOE and the UFT is reached.

Mulgrew stressed that Charlotte Danielson, the creator of the rubric, is a master teacher, and the framework she created is actually very teacher-friendly.

But the way that the rubric is implemented is crucial to its success, he said. Danielson says evaluations should be done in a cooperative, collaborative and respectful environment, Mulgrew noted.

The battle we face as a union, he told the chapter leaders, is both explaining the new system to members and confronting principals who are implementing it in an antagonistic fashion rather than in the supportive and professional manner it was intended to be used in. [See President’s Perspective column.]

At the beginning of the meeting there was a moment of silence for Annette Carlucci, a Bronx HS district representative, who passed away this summer.

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