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UFTers protest mayor’s ‘Decade of Disaster’
Disrupt PEP meeting with signs, chants, whistles before storming out
by Micah Landau | February 2, 2012 New York Teacher issue
Enraged at the mayor’s threat to close 33 “persistently lowest achieving” schools and remove half the staff in each school, more than 1,000 UFT-represented educators descended on a Jan. 18 meeting of the city’s Panel for Educational Policy at Brooklyn Technical HS, disrupting the proceedings with whistles and chants before walking out in protest.
Carrying signs that read “Mayor Bloomberg: Master of Educational Disaster” and “Parents Excluded on Purpose (PEP),” the protesting educators included chapter leaders and other union members from the 58 schools now targeted for closure as well as hundreds of union delegates who proceeded directly from their monthly Delegate Assembly to support their embattled colleagues at the meeting.
Speaking on behalf of the union, UFT Secretary Michael Mendel blasted the city panel, the DOE and the mayor for walking away from negotiations with the union over a new teacher evaluation system for 33 restart and transformation schools — and then blaming the union and using the breakdown to justify closing more schools this year than ever before.
“How do you people live with yourselves?” Mendel asked the members of the panel, which is widely viewed as a rubber stamp for the mayor, as the crowd chanted “You walked out!” He continued, “You have made education into a new political game. You are dishonest people and should be removed from office.”
The protest came in the wake of the mayor’s Jan. 12 State of the City speech in which he said that, in addition to the 25 schools already targeted for closure this year, he will move to close an additional 33 schools identified by the state as “persistently lowest achieving” and remove half their staffs before reopening them to serve the same students.
Those plans have angered parents and local politicians as well as teachers.
“Do you believe, Mr. Chancellor, that, as the mayor has stated, what we should do is fire half the teachers and double class sizes?” asked Queens Councilman Daniel Dromm, a former teacher whose district includes Newtown HS, one of the schools now on the mayor’s chopping block.
David Goldsmith, a parent leader from Brooklyn’s District 13, which has two closing schools, told the panel that there is no reason any school should fail.
“The existence of scores of successful public schools in the New York City school system proves that the ‘how to’ on what it takes to make a school excel is known,” Goldsmith said. “If schools ‘fail’ in our district, it is a reflection of the failures by the central Department of Education.”
At the meeting’s culmination, UFT Vice President Leo Casey slammed the panel before leading educators and parents in a massive walkout.
“The people of the city of New York entrust our children and our schools to the care of those of you onstage,” Casey told the panelists. “When you walked out of those negotiations, you walked out on the students and the schools of New York, and that is why we walk out on you now!”