Monday, May 11, 2020

Schirtzer: Our North Is Democracy

Engraved Compass - You Are My True North - Gpb26012 - PetLoveGift
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Every week, I keep up on the UFT through Arthur's blog. He posts his Executive Board notes. on Mondays. This week, something caught my eye. Teacher unionists and friend of the ol' doenuts blog, Mike Schirtzer, who has been working fairly closely with the people in the union lately, rose to urge the UFT to stay democratic.

Schirtzer--Understand reasons for motion, but we're in uncharted waters. We need to set compass north, proceed with caution. Our north is democracy. Thankful for UFT,. Let's not sacrifice what we do. Points of order can be messy and time-consuming, but we will get to the other side stronger. Best to do is start a process with emails and a clearing house. Even with the struggles facing us, we have to keep democracy in place.

This caught me as kind of odd. So I called Mike. He didn't pick up but I called around some other friends and, as it turns out, the union had put some changes into the processes of how they meet, speak, debate and vote on some of their public resos. The crisis has been tough on getting those type of things done.

The changes are detailed and, frankly, boring, but are related to changing from Robert's Rules of Order to something that may work better with the tech that is at people's disposal. Apparently, the tech can't support things like adding amendments or speakers for or against so the UFT had to make some changes.

This didn't rub fans of democracy very well (I actually can't blame them either) Challenging times are challenging exactly because doing things the right way s exceedingly difficult --during challenging times. Schirtzer's suggestion of finding other ways to set up a process of handling amendments and the like reflected a commitment to Democracy that he must have felt needed to be pointed out.

From what I heard, Schirtzer (who, I hear, was granted the floor by the Staff VP! pretty impressive stuff right there) basically said "Democracy is who we are. I'm here  on EB because of who we are and we need to find ways to remain ourselves". That took guts! And Schirtzer has plenty of those.

"We're in uncharted waters. Let's keep our compasses facing true north. Our North is Democracy". That needs to be said a lot more. It's comforting to know that one of the only places I have seen it said is over at the UFT.

Way to go, Schirtzer.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

For Chaz

One week ago, he was writing about how the DoE needed to reduce administrative costs, instead of school budgets.

Six years ago, he took the time to graciously endorse endorse me for a city-wide elected position with the union.

And over ten years ago, after being handed ridiculous accusations by a principal and spending far too long in the rubber room, he started to write one of the most widely-read EDU blogs in the city.

A villain to some, but an outright hero to many, Chaz blazed a trail for finding, then calling out malfeasance anywhere he could in the DoE. And, despite many retaliations, and an almost permanent assignment to the ATR (teachers' version of "traffic duty) his voice was a source of consistency that spoke clearly and did not mince words:  The shit-show that occurs in city schools is not the fault of teachers but the result of a system plagued by largess and terrible leaders who had no business leading places where children could learn.

You didn't have to know Chaz to be inspired by his acts. The positions he took on his blog had the effect of making almost any reader brave enough to stand and to articulate that the narrative being pushed -that all of the failures of children since the turn of the century were because of teachers- was complete bullshit. His writing made you feel brave enough to say in any arena.

Outspoken from the start, and forthright to his core, the blogger Chaz never backed away from asserting what he felt was right.

The EDU bloggers in New York City are a very small community of educators. We're all classroom teachers. not one of us is a guidance counselor or a school admin or any one of those fancy programmers. We've all spent multiple decades actually teaching. And, because we all work so hard, we see how small of a voice the actual teachers in this system have. We all approach that voice in different ways. Arthur does it with pure intelligence. Norm does it by documenting, over four decades, the comings and goings of the DoE's teacher union. Patrick, my favorite, uses a command of the language of such a high caliber that I have never seen before. I try to use Horatian Satire. Chaz' style of blogging was to call it all out. Chaz was the guy who would find a terrible caricature of whichever depart of ed figure or policy he was redressing and call it out for what it was. It didn't matter to him if he had said that the principal selection process was terrible. If he found an example of a terrible principal (and there were many) Chaz would remind you.

I understand he was an outspoken man, one who had the tenacity to stand by his convictions no matter the professional cost. I was glad to learn that he had retired and had mastered the complexities of the retirement system in the same manner he had mastered the complexities of the DoE. I was shocked to read today that he had passed. The selfish loss I feel as a blogger is far outweighed by the loss that I know all teachers have just experienced. We are just at the moment where we (teachers) really needed a voice like his -calling out BS whenever he saw it and never apologizing for it.

And in between those two gravities is a man, himself with a family and a life to be concerned with,  who helped teachers with his strong and far reaching voice for well over a decade.

The essayist Thomas Lynch once wrote, "The facts of life and death remain the same. We live and die, we love and grieve, we breed and disappear. And between those existential gravities, we search for meaning, save our memories, leave a record for those who will remember us.”

Eric "Chaz" Chasenoff left quite a record and many of us will remember him because of it.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

The Passing Of Chaz 1951-2020 Age 69

I am the son of Chaz and like to inform you that he passed away this afternoon from the COVID virus. My father passed in peace beside his loved ones. We are hoping to have a memorial service for him once we are able to, but for now we are going to have a small private family funeral. Thank you all for reading his blog, following him all these years, and the support you gave him. Thank you.