News stories

Delegate Assembly: President’s Report

Mayoral election on union’s radar screen

Michael Cordiello, the president of the striking school bus drivers and matrons Pat Arnow

Michael Cordiello, the president of the striking school bus drivers and matrons union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181, with Tommy Jemmott, the union’s recording secretary, thanks the delegates for the UFT’s support as his members stand up to a mayor he called a bully. The delegates unanimously passed a resolution in support of the strikers and resolved to support their rally and march on Feb. 10. “I’m humbled by the response you’ve given me here tonight,” he said.

Vote to back Seattle teachers

Delegates voted to support Garfield HS teachers in Seattle, Wash., who refused to give students the Measures of Academic Progress, because the state-mandated standardized tests were not aligned with the curriculm and take up too much instructional time. The district decided to make the tests part of Seattle teachers’ evaluations this year.

“We stand strong against the use of assessments that are imposed on our schools that have very little connection to the teaching and learning in those classrooms,” said UFT Vice President Janella Hinds in motivating the resolution.

The resolution approved by the delegates directs the UFT to join with its state and national affiliates “in support of meaningful assessment aligned with curriculum, instead of meaningless standardized testing.”

The delegates also passed resolutions in support of the re-election of Sandra March to the New York City Teachers’ Retirement Board, to endorse political candidates and in support of the Feb. 10 rally and march in solidarity with striking school bus drivers and matrons [see “UFT: Mayor guilty of ‘union-busting’ in bus strike”].

Politics was on the front burner at the packed-to-overflowing Delegate Assembly on Feb. 6. In addition to passing resolutions to endorse a number of candidates in upcoming elections, UFT President Michael Mulgrew spoke about the importance of turning out the vote of UFT members and their family and friends, particularly in the mayor’s race.

“It’s our job to make sure everybody is voting,” he told the delegates.

The union, he said, has a real opportunity to shape the political leadership of the city, with open races for every citywide office plus 26 City Council races.

“We want to help set the stage for whoever the next mayor is,” Mulgrew told delegates.

The union launched the first phase of its get-out-the-vote campaign at the DA. Delegates picked up “ivote” posters, buttons and “I pledge to vote” postcards to distribute in their schools. Each month, the message will change — next month, it will be “my family votes.”

The union also began its #UFTvotes campaign on Facebook and Twitter. To get the ball rolling, a photographer stationed outside the DA took pictures of delegates holding a sign, and the photos were uploaded to the union’s tumblr account, uftvotes.tumblr.com. Members can download one of the union’s signs (two have blanks to fill in) or create their own, take a photo of themselves holding the sign and send it to the union using the online form at www.uft.org/ivote.

The union’s message to mayoral candidates, he said to rising applause, is: “The DOE’s job is to support schools, not just hold them accountable. Closing schools is not the answer; we need a game plan for how to deal with poverty and students with disabilities. Teachers must be supplied with a curriculum with a scope and sequence. The job of principals is to help teachers inside the classroom.”

Mulgrew also used his president’s report to clear up confusion among members about the various dates and deadlines associated with the move toward a new teacher evaluation system.

Mulgrew noted that there is no Feb. 15 deadline for negotiating a teacher evaluation agreement. State Education Commissioner John King ordered the DOE to submit its plan for training teachers and administrators on a new evaluation system in approximately 350 priority and focus schools by that date, he said.

Mulgrew explained that King could opt to suspend or redirect some federal money slated for New York City schools if the DOE does not comply or if the plan it submits does not meet the commissioner’s approval.

Explaining another date, Mulgrew said that Gov. Cuomo has until Feb. 22 to give notice that he is amending the state budget to include a “date certain,” by which if no agreement is reached, he will call for binding arbitration facilitated by the State Education Department. This binding arbitration process will ensure that New York City will implement a new teacher evaluation plan by this September — and schools will not risk losing any more funding, Mulgrew said.

Despite Bloomberg’s hostility to unions — none at this time have a current contract — Mulgrew told delegates that the UFT is still in a much stronger position than unions in other parts of the country.

Having just returned from an AFT executive board meeting, he said that unions in other states face “horrendous” conditions. He pointed out that 24 states now have right-to-work — “or, as even the president has said, right to work for less” — laws and public-sector unions are being made scapegoats because of strained budgets.

Other states would like to have New York State’s evaluation law, he said, which restricts the use of standardized test scores to 20 percent.

The union’s strong position, he said, “is a reflection of the political work we have done — and need to continue doing.”

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