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by Cara Metz | February 2, 2012 New York Teacher issue
Executive Board expands to reflect union's growth
Miller photography “We are a union that is growing — we are huge and getting bigger,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in introducing constitutional amendments for approval to the Jan. 18 Delegate Assembly.
For starters, there are 21,000 new family child care provider members since the union last ammended its constitution in 1989, he said, and they — like all members — need representation.
Functional chapters in general are also growing, Mulgrew said, including paraprofessionals, nurses, family child care providers and retirees.
He proposed adding 12 seats in all to the union’s Executive Board. The addition of six seats at large (elected by the entire membership) would bring the number of at-large members to 48. Additionally, he proposed adding six divisional seats with proportional representation from each division: elementary; junior high/intermediate/middle; high schools; and functional chapters. This would bring the total number of divisional seats to 42.
Since the retiree chapter membership has more than tripled in the last 20 years and now stands at 57,000, Mulgrew proposed raising the cap for the retiree vote in union elections from 18,000 to 23,500.
He praised retirees for their active involvement in union issues, including traveling to Wisconsin and Ohio to counter anti-union initiatives there.
After a spirited discussion, the constitutional amendment passed by more than two-thirds majority. — Cara Metz
In an intense Delegate Assembly on Jan. 18, UFT President Michael Mulgrew explained to delegates the competing visions of teacher evaluation held by the UFT and the city Department of Education that have resulted in the union being in Mayor Bloomberg’s direct line of fire.
“We believe if we have a teacher evaluation system that focuses first and foremost on supporting teachers throughout their careers, you get a better system,” Mulgrew said. By contrast, he said, the DOE is primarily looking for a way to remove educators deemed “ineffective” by their principals as quickly as possible with no recourse to appeal unfair ratings.
Even though the 2010 evaluation law requires that the appeal process be based on the substance of the rating, he said, DOE officials have told the union straight-out that they would “never overturn a rating by a principal based on substance.”
“We will not accept the current broken appeals process,” Mulgrew said.
Under the current system, which he characterized as “corrupted,” Mulgrew noted that DOE-employed hearing officers have overturned only 10 of the last 2,000 U-ratings appealed by members.
Mulgrew remarked that Gov. Cuomo’s intervention — giving school districts and their unions one year to reach a compromise on an evaluation system or lose their share of the state aid increase — should put pressure on the city to return to the bargaining table. (On Jan. 24, talks resumed.)
Mulgrew pointed out that members’ introduction to the new evaluation system, which is based on the Danielson Framework for Teaching, has been fraught since the DOE has not done its work training staff in the educational principles underlying the system.
“We’re committed to an evaluation system using the Danielson framework if it’s done properly and not twisted,” Mulgrew said. “We have to build a mass of people who know how to do this work.”
The UFT, in concert with the Danielson Group, is conducting training citywide. Two hundred principals and chapter leaders showed up for a session in Queens on Jan. 17, he said, even after the DOE, miffed that the union would no longer work with the city on the trainings, sent out notices to principals telling them that the session had been cancelled.
Mulgrew warned that the mayor was trying to split the union with the merit pay proposal in his State of the City address. He noted that Bloomberg made a similar effort last year to divide new members from more experienced ones over seniority layoff provisions.
“Did we allow that to happen?” he asked. “No. It made us stronger.”
Mulgrew next motivated a constitutional amendment to modify the union’s governance and then adjourned the meeting early so that delegates could get to the Panel for Educational Policy
meeting in Brooklyn that evening to protest the mayor’s plan to close an additional 33 schools and remove half the staff in each school [see UFTers protest mayor's 'Decade of Disaster].
The Delegate Assembly opened with a moment of silence for longtime Teacher Center program coordinator Riva Korashan, who Mulgrew said “did everything in her power to help teachers.”