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2012 UFT Spring Education Conference

Mulgrew: Union ‘must’ play role in shaping city’s schools

Gary Schoichet

Brooklyn educators Michelle Abdurrashid (left) of PS 91 and Shevon Lewis of PS 161 seem to be enjoying the event.

Gary Schoichet

Some 1,600 pack the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton Hotel for the UFT’s annual Spring Education Conference.

Saying that the union won’t wait for Bloomberg’s departure in 2013, UFT President Michael Mulgrew on May 12 mapped out a path for improving New York City public education built on bringing the public back into public education and ensuring that city schools work for and with the whole community.

“I want to draw a picture of what we know our schools can be and the central role that our union must play in making that happen,” Mulgrew told 1,600 members at the union’s annual Spring Education Conference at the Hilton Hotel. “Why do I say ‘we must’? Because more than any other organization, the UFT is positioned to lead the effort to make New York schools the greatest school system in the United States.”

In that context, Mulgrew announced that the UFT and the City Council would be giving out $300,000 in planning grants to schools that offer the best proposals to make themselves into vibrant and vital hubs for the communities in which they are rooted.

Mulgrew said that the “collective-impact” grants were aimed at replicating a successful community schools model that is operating in Cincinnati’s 50 public schools. The model brings schools and community services together so that student health, nutrition, tutoring, counseling and family needs are seamlessly integrated into schools [see Insight column on page 9].

“This is not a boilerplate plan,” Mulgrew reassured listeners. “Every school aligns the services to its own needs.” A workshop led by five representatives from the Cincinnati public schools was a highlight of the all-day conference [see “Workshops reflect shifts in education priorities” on page 6].

A request for proposals for the grant was released the following Monday.

While he applauded the hiring of thousands of new teachers for the first time in three years, Mulgrew decried the mayor’s threat to eliminate 16,000 child-care slots for low-income families. “The UFT and all teachers will stand with the child care providers just as they stood with us when we faced layoffs last year,” he vowed.

Mulgrew said the UFT would not let up in its fight against school closings and inequitable school co-locations. He disowned the Bloomberg legacy of closing more than a hundred schools as a “lazy man’s approach” to solving the real problems of struggling schools. He criticized the “shoehorning” of new schools into existing ones without parent approval, forcing students and teachers to compete for space and access to libraries, and gyms and cafeterias.

The spring conference took place a day after the DOE’s release, in response to a Freedom of Information request, of thousands of emails indicating the cozy relationship between the DOE and former Chancellor Klein and charter school management lobbyists seeking access to space in city schools.

Mulgrew said the mayor has misused mayoral control. “He left parents out, set up conflicts between teachers and principals, pushed the public aside and appointed dinner-party friends to office,” he said.

Mulgrew promised to work with parents and community groups to make New York City schools the best in the country and welcomed parents from the UFT-supported Parent Academy to the conference on its “first class trip.”

Chancellor Dennis Walcott, three congress members, eight state lawmakers and 20 City Council members attended the speech. Four prospective mayoral candidates — Scott Stringer, Bill de Blasio, Christine Quinn and Bill Thompson — were in the audience as well.

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