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Community schools discussion highlights first meeting
by Cara Metz | November 1, 2012 New York Teacher issue
Constitutional amendment passed to add VP for non-DOE titles
By an overwhelming majority, delegates passed a resolution to increase the number of vice presidents of the UFT from six to seven in order to give greater representation to members of chapters who are employed by an entity other than the Department of Education.
The resolution was motivated by Howard Schoor, the Brooklyn borough representative, who said it would “enfranchise more than 10 percent of our membership,” including members of the Federation of Nurses/UFT and the Family Child Care Providers chapter.
Other resolutions passed were:
- To endorse Andy King for City Council in District 12, the Bronx, in the special election on Nov. 6 to replace ex-City Councilman Larry Seabrook.
- To mobilize support for Barack Obama for president and work tirelessly on his behalf with phone banks and trips to battleground states by in-service and retired members.
- To support public financing of election campaigns in the state of New York, modeled after New York City’s system, and to join coalitions, including Citizens Action of New York, to support this reform.
Welcoming an overflow crowd filled with many new delegates to the Oct. 17 Delegate Assembly, the first of the school year, UFT President Michael Mulgrew thanked them for stepping up to a leadership role at a critical juncture for public education.
Noting the union’s role in creating new models for educational success, Mulgrew shared details of his recent trip to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he, City Comptroller John Liu, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and delegates from the UFT’s six community learning schools in its pilot program spoke to Cincinnati educators about the unique community schools model they have pioneered.
“Whoever is the next mayor of New York City, we want to see this program going forward,” Mulgrew said.
Mulgrew praised the union’s political action efforts by both in-service members and retirees in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 elections, which he said would have a huge impact on the future of students, educators and the entire country.
AFT President Randi Weingarten came to the Delegate Assembly to discuss the elections. She said that she has been meeting with educators across the country, including those in states where collective bargaining is under assault.
“What this race and this fight is all about is our way of life,” she said.
Mulgrew reported on the challenges facing the UFT Charter School in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The K-12 school is divided into two campuses, which are in different locations, but receive one School Progress Report grade. Even though the elementary school is doing well academically, low test scores by students at the upper school have hurt the school’s grade, Mulgrew noted.
Unlike most charter schools, he said, “We take every child who comes to our doors, we don’t turn anyone away. We’re proud of the fact that we don’t test and expel students like some charter schools do.”
He added that the school also takes in new students midyear, which many charters do not. But suggesting that the upper school has turned a corner, he said that it is on track for a 95 percent graduation rate.
In response to a question from a delegate about the Chicago Teachers Union strike, which led to a successful contract, and the UFT’s current, long-running contract battle, Mulgrew contrasted the circumstances faced by educators in Chicago and New York City.
“The main difference is the Taylor Law, which protects us by keeping our contract terms in effect even after it has expired, but the bad part is we are not allowed to strike,” Mulgrew said.
Chicago teachers not only do not have the equivalent of the Taylor Law, but they are also at-will employees, he said. If a school closes, he noted, Chicago teachers have 10 months to find a job or be laid off. “They were trying to get half of what we have,” he told the delegates.
There was a moment of silence at the beginning of the Delegate Assembly for three dedicated UFT members who passed away: John Krzemien, the former chapter leader at Co-op Technical HS; Maureen Sulecki, the chapter leader of PS 196 in Brooklyn; and Nelson Serrano, the head of the Teachers’ Retirement System.
Dr. Annie B. Martin remembered
Miller Photography Calling her one of the best friends the UFT has ever had, UFT President Michael Mulgrew motivated a resolution honoring Dr. Annie B. Martin, the longtime president of the New York City NAACP, posthumously for her work in the labor and civil rights movements over her long, activist lifetime.
“She worked with every single president of this union, from Charlie Cogen up until me,” Mulgrew told the delegates. “She was always there for us, up until her death,” he said.
Hazel Dukes, the president of the New York State Conference of the NAACP, discussed Dr. Martin’s more than three decades as president of the organization, saying that “until the last breath left her body, she was faithful to and loved the rights of all people.”
Mulgrew recounted how Martin stood with the UFT at rallies against school closings near the very end of her life. “She always told me, ‘All you have to do is pick up the phone and you know I will be there,’” he said.
The resolution, which passed unanimously, calls for making Dr. Martin an honorary member of the UFT posthumously and for the union to donate $1,000 to the Dr. Annie B. Martin Scholarship Fund administered by the city’s NAACP branch and to continue its support for the organization.
Speaking in support of the resolution, Anthony Harmon, the UFT director of parent and community outreach, who served as an NAACP vice president and a board member under Dr. Martin, called her a “true unionist to her heart.”