Tuesday, April 12, 2022

The Endorsements (Part 2: Unity)

For the Unity Caucus, this campaign has been a real watershed. Before this season, Unity was a sprawling organization filled with people who really weren't very well connected with one another -and they weren't very disciplined. Whereas some understood the subtleties involved in the internal politics of the union, there were others who did not and were so direct as to look like a bull trampling through a china shop. They could not communicate the medical coverage transition for retirees in any way that made any sense. Small groups of loyalists would devise "talking points" all on their own and attend online Zoom meetings with the specific intent of redirecting (ie controlling) the conversation. Unity members would share harsh tones with members, both online and in-person when they disagreed -and almost none of it was sanctioned by the 14th floor.  There were whole swaths of Unity who were not in any meaningful contact with other whole swaths of the same caucus -and it showed. When they acted, they weren't always on the same page. When they spoke, they didn't always strike the same tone. They were a disorganized mess. They looked weak and any politically minded unionist could clearly sense that weakness and smell electoral blood in the water.  This was a group that was ripe for defeat. 

But, as Yogi Berra once said; 'It ain't over till it's over'. Somewhere along the line, the Unity Caucus woke up and most certainly rose to the meet the challenge they were facing. 

By the time the official season got underway, they had all been tightly organized under one slogan, "We Do The Work". Suddenly, they were celebrating their members with videos and in visual banners shared all over social media. And, when they spoke via social media, they had their rank and file members -their superstars from the classroom- do most of the talking. Those superstars stole the show. When the UFC lodged a complaint that a paid Unity member was putting leaflets in mailboxes during "work time" the new Unity showed its true colors: It had been another member, an unpaid superstar teacher, who had volunteered her time to do it. The wins kept coming for Unity: A Moderator of one of NYC's largest Facebook NYC  teacher groups came out in favor of Unity. The city's most beloved edu blogger came out in favor of Unity. And, to a person, every single Unity loyalist was speaking from a position of good; of defending good work and of celebrating good solid members who work with them. That's all you heard from Unity after it pulled itself together. 

At the beginning of this campaign, Unity looked like the 1962 Mets. By the end, they resembled 1927 Yankees.  If they lose any divisions this year, it will be because of the early hole they found themselves in. It won't be because they didn't pull themselves together. That crew pulled themselves together plenty.  I have never seen the Unity Caucus more together than they are right now and if this election were in May instead of April, they would almost certainly clean the UFC's clock. As it stands, I think they'll pull out a victory (but more on that in another post). 

And my picks reflect that togetherness and singularity of effort and mindset. 

LeRoy Barr gets my endorsement for Staff Secretary. 100%. The Staff Secretary is the person who helps run the day-to-day operations of the union. He has helped build the Unity Caucus into what it is today and he has reached out to oppo for years hoping to be able to engage in some good work with them.  He has an even tone. He considers all sides in any discussion and he knows the membership. He is an excellent leader of professionals. 

Speaking as a progressive rank and file teacher, LeRoy has invited me to the table just so he could hear what I had to say. This blog is not a space for attacking and is usually a space devoid of all negativity. But leadership spots are important and this is matter of being inclusive. In 2018, it was his opponent from oppo who employed false accusations about my personal integrity and purged me as well as several others from her caucus. The reasons for this were later described in an internal ISO document: I and my colleagues were not far left enough for them. The actual phrase used in the internal document for ISO's national convention was "far right" (and they were very relieved to have gotten those 'far right' voices out of their caucus). Like I said, this is not personal. It is a simple matter of being inclusive. One leader has proven that he is and one leader has displayed the opposite. It's just that simple. I'm voting for LeRoy (and, frankly, I have only a benign fear of being purged from the UFT if he loses. Nothing a little swig of wine can't handle).

Janella Hinds gets my endorsement for VP of academic high schools. Janella is a transformative leader. Simply transformative. She has both style and grace and leads in a kind and supportive manner. Her tone is never harsh and her staff have always been just a phone call away from offering whatever help I needed. Her opponent once attacked her (in the past) and her response was purely her: She exuded her usual positive approach and tried to engage him in discourse. She apologized for not having his support and invited him to share a better path forward for her future Zoom meetings. Pure class. Janella is pure class. And my understanding is that she still teaches (Janella teaches in a place where good teaching greatly matters on an urgent day-today level) and is still loved at all of her colleagues and students. It's Janella and her team for the win. The whole union needs to lead in the manner that her and her team lead. 

Speaking as a progressive rank and file teacher, under Janella I have been asked to edit resolutions that would help teachers and have been called for quick brainstorm sessions from time to time. It is in her DNA to involve rank and file members. That's why I endorse her. Her opponent has been a member of the opposition for years. He has attacked me on Twitter, has implied that I am not a real teacher and has literally told me to shut up when I contributed to a discussion (that's here, if you're interested. I disagreed with him attacking someone else and that's what I got in return). Like I said, this blog is not a space for attacking and is usually a space devoid of all negativity. But past is usually prologue and the experiences I have had with her opponent (which are shared here with no malice and with no spite whatsoever) does shed light on the type of leadership we might expect with a UFC victory in that spot.  Please know, I would not be the only teacher to experience this level of pedantic abuse if her opponent were to win. Word has it her opponent recently filed a formal complaint about this blog with the union because I used the UFT's logo in a few of my posts. I think that's what we would expect with a regime change in academic high schools.  It's actually nothing personal. I just prefer the other path. Look, folks pick up their own unique styles along the way. Her opponent is a hard charger with a  'take no prisoners' approach. Janella is a once-in-a generation transformative leader who has a 21st Century style and skills. I'm not endorsing Janella because she has never attacked me and has worked with me whenever possible.   I am endorsing her because she is the type of leader who will never attack a regular teacher and will work with regular teachers whenever possible. That's what we want from our leadership. That's what people like me want from the real teachers of this union. A win for Janella would ensure that kindness and tone matter to teachers. 

Amy Arundell is a candidate for the UFT Executive Board this year. I would have gladly petitioned for her in my school but she had more than enough support without me (of course). But that's how much I endorse her. I think we all know Amy's contributions to the union at this point. She answers questions on Facebook groups. She connects with members whenever possible. She keeps her victories and struggles quiet and tries more than anyone else to connect with as many members as possible. But this is all because she believes in building and growing chapters and teachers and because she believes in the dignity of a professional saying "thank you for your feedback. I like my bulletin board the way it is" to an abusive administrator (she has said these words in the past. But I am asserting to you that she deeply believes in every sentiment behind those words and isn't slow to work toward it). Amy Arundell is a walking, talking theory of action.  In my opinion, she is the best organizer the UFT has, period. The work (of building) that she has done in Queens will, I think, add to the amount of votes that the Unity caucus will win this year (more on that later in the week when I publish my picks for who will win).  But, for now, it's Amy. 

Mindy Rosier - Mindy was once an oppo person herself! She now runs with Unity and has never been more widely respected (and, frankly, loved) than she is now. To know Mindy is to love Mindy. We like that about our union leaders. We like trusting the members of our Executive Board and we like being able to depend on their kindness. But that kindness should not be mistaken for anything less than toughness. Mindy hast taken on Eva in her own school. She has taken on the governor at his own Manhattan office.  She is a Bernie Sanders delegate with a gentle presence but she is every bit a fighter.  Mindy is the bomb; period. Find Mindy's name on the ballot. Vote for Mindy. 

Arthur Goldstein - Has been defending teachers since 2005 -since before I was ever active. I'll have more to write about Arthur later in the week but since being a member of the  Executive Board, he has connected hundreds of teachers to their union and has established a forum for thousands more to understand just what the heck is happening in their union. Arthur Goldstein on EB will be a plus for working teachers, just as his blog, his many newspaper column articles and his presence has been in the past. This is a no brainer. 

Mike Schirtzer - In a surprise to absolutely no one, the doenuts blog endorses Mikey no-shirt. I won't say more than I already have, but Mike is true teachers' teacher -and a complete ham. He has proven his expertise to me about the contract on more than one occasion and we all know how he has helped teachers in the past. People call him "Mr. UFT" because that's all he thinks and talks about. He has brought winning issues and winning people into the union and has ensured that they are part of it. When he speaks, he speaks as though unionism is cool and you feel as though you are the uncool one for not recognizing how cool unionism is. Mike is a force of nature and, as he continues to refine his leadership style and approach, I hope to see his name and his work find a more prominent place inside of the UFT.  Find Mike's name. Vote for Mike. 

Mike Solo - I have met Mike Solo exactly once in my life -for all of five minutes- but many of us know his story. As a chapter at John Dewey High School, Mike Solo pushed back hard against an abusive principal. I won't tell the whole story here but his actions were adroit, smart, brave and, ultimately victorious. Most importantly, this is the person who ensured that you and I will never have to record, keep and track data about our DO NOWs and Exit Tickets. That, to my understanding, was his fight and that precedent (which protects us all today) stemmed from his work when he was under direct assult. I know this person only by reputation. I am running to find his name so I can vote for him. Some would try to convince you to not vote for individual people on the ballot and just close your eyes and "check the box". But the things that protect us are the product of the effort of individual people who, under attack. fought back and, in their victory, protected us all. I choose to honor Mike Solo this year and I'm going to give thanks for his work by directly voting for him and for people like him.  

I have one edit from my last post: Sally Bean is running against Mike Sill for UFT assistant Secretary. I like Mike Sill but Sally Bean is a brilliant bundle for smart positive energy. I realize this is Unity's part, but the doenuts blog endorses Sally Bean or UFT Assistant Secretary. How great is she? She is so great I endorse her over one of the coolest people in Unity. She's that great. Find Sally's name. Vote for Sally.

Friday, April 8, 2022

The Endorsements (Part1: the UFC)


Don't even think about it, pal. I'm plenty authorized. It's my union. 

I think this is where I'm supposed to say that anyone who runs for a UFT office is a set apart and deserves our respect, right? Not gonna happen here. I've seen both sides engage in actions that surprised me in their lowness. As Ginsberg opened, "I saw the greatest minds of my generation driven to madness" (I prefer nuts, but, hey....) Let's just say that both sides went a little bonkers this time around.  This election had too much toxic. Too much bitterness and just too much damn ugly. Frankly, I think it is time for some folks to think about exiting the stage. This is true for the Unity folks but this is especially true for oppo. The new generation should take it from here. 

I'd like to thank the Unity Caucus, however, for never attacking my reputation, for their professionalism and friendships -and for always listening to what I had to say. Those are all very gratefully appreciated!

I cannot say the same for members of the UFC. From them, I have experienced very public attacks, very private whisper campaigns and a very healthy dose of that toxicness that they are, by now, well-known for. Hell, I even lost a few friends along the way this season (achimony stemming from a damaging lie peddled by a person who gave them all hope and commanded their attention). I wish I could say I'm the only one who was attacked or mistreated. Alas, I am not. It's just how they rolled through whole swaths of their campaign this year (more on that after the voting ends).

And then there were the mistakes. Instead of combining all players, they opted for a left-only slate, with a center leaning Solidarity being the only non-left sign-on.  Instead of crafting a vision and selling it to members, they put all of their efforts into making their opponent look bad whenever possible. Instead of reminding members that no whole-sale changes could possibly be made if they won (that this was a challenge for leadership and for the direction of the union) they opted for an attack approach  (repeating the same mistakes oppo has made year after year since as far back as anyone can remember). 

And instead of uniting the union, they chose to embrace a message and strategy that united only themselves. This made then all resemble a power strip that has been plugged into itself. They then proceeded through their campaign as though  that power strip had been giving them an electric kind of energy. It really hadn't. The energy they felt was only their own excitement over finally being united with each other -with other people who share their world view and see agency in their union. Unfortunately, if history is any guide, what they achieved will probably move them about as far as the next few stops on the subway. You know how that goes over there. Look for them to be not speaking again in a year or two. The leaders really blew a chance to win it all this year. Like, really. 

But some of the folks who had little or less to do with any of that are on the ticket this year and they are just amazing. I mean, beyond amazing.  I think you should look all the way down the ballot and vote for them. I think you should find these names and vote for them before you look at the remaining parts of the ballot. 

Camille Eterno. I have already written about Camille here and here so I won't go over it again. But checking her name will bring a new direction to the UFT. Whatever they want to say over at the UFC about how they will burn the house down and blah blah blah is just nonsense (the truth is they wouldn't be able to find enough qualified individuals anyway without turning to Unity people). Camille's presence as the president would change the course and direction of the union, period. 

Gloria Brandman My understanding is that Gloria is running on the retiree slate. I have never known a more committed activist than she. She is wise, she is experienced and she is patient. And Gloria is a builder. You will find many different types of people in the UFT oppo, but there are very few  in that world. Gloria is one of them and her integrity and reputation as a committed activist are both beyond impeccable. If you can see her name on the ballot, you should vote for her. 

Norm Scott is another name that is worth the extra time to find and to vote for. Norm has been at the center of the UFT oppo for decades. He knows every player - and he knows most of the plays. Norm is one-half brilliant strategist, one-half grinder and one-half Groucho Marx-like intellectual muse. That makes him worth more (by half) than almost any unionist out there. I think of Norm as a Groucho Marx because of Groucho's famous line ("I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member"). Norm is a perennial outside and he has turned being an outsider into an insider's game. This whole union is far far better off with him. He is just what they need to hear for the next three years in whatever capacity they are able to hear it. Find Norm. Vote for Norm. 

Lydia Howrilka is the voice of the Solidarity Caucus. She has played an essential role in uniting the several members of the vocal opposition and has dealt with, well, a lot in the name of uniting. If you ask anyone in oppo today, they will tell you that Lydia has really come into her own. The truth, however, is that Lydia came into her own three years ago when she finished second to Michael Mulgrew in the vote. Not only did she gain more votes, she spent three years doing her level best to keep them. It took three full years for some people in oppo to realize that Lydia had kicked their ass. The best they could muster from that realization was a 'Lydia has really come into her own' meme. That's rich, as she has been here for years. She is running for the UFT Executive Board on the high school slate this year and her presence will be a benefit to every single rank and file teacher in the City of New York. She'll be great to work with when the powers-that-be are reasonable and she'll be hell to deal with when the powers-that-be aren't. That's Lydia. Lydia is perfect for us. Find Lydia's name. Vote for Lydia. 

I don't know too much about Ibeth Mejia, other than that she is a newly elected chapter leader from Queens (Aviation HS) and has been s a formidable organizer within her school. She also has  James Eterno as an advisor and a friend and that is someone whom I have a great deal of respect for. She's running on the Solidarity ticket and I'll be voting for her as well. 

Edit: I just learned that James Eterno is, in fact, on the ballot this year. I haven't the time to write a blurb about James, but if you don't know the name, then you should learn it. If he's on the ticket, I'm sure it's as a delegate or some other position where it is nigh impossible for vote just for him, but James is the best organizer in the UFT. If you can, vote for James. 

I've met the candidate for VP of CTE High Schools Eric Severson. I know him to be a straight forward unionist who is dedicated to making teachers' lives' easier. In a non-bizarro world, that would be all that anyone would need to know. So I'll just pretend I live in a non-bizarro world and vote for him. If you want a good unionist, you should as well. 

There are some other names from Solidarity that I think you should consider.  I know no one from the New Action slate but I do hear great things about Nick Bacon (and I think he is a great writer). I am able to recommend absolutely no one from the MORE Caucus but one name, Ronnie Almonte, has popped up several times as a transformative leader, organizer and unionist. I'll be voting for him. Another name to look out for is Matt Driscoll (although i'm not sure if he is on the slate). These names pop up as possibly the future over there at "the movement" (and, man, I hope so. That outfit needs to go back to the future (in their processes) where they belong and needs to drop the dead weight -asap).  Finally, I like Yvonne Reason for Middle School Executive Board from the eonyc banner. I don't know this person but I saw this colleague on teacher chat travel to her students' homes over one summer to welcome them to middle school because she knew many may be on remote the following year, and because she wanted them to meet their teacher. She did this during an international pandemic, before there was a vaccine.  I've never met this person but anyone who does something like that will represent regular teachers beyond fine. 

I'm ending with Peter Zucker! Peter has known the players and has been affecting the game for well over 15 years now. No one has been knowledgeable, more public in his defense of teachers, including individual teachers, than has Peter. I once saw Peter call around and pull out the big guns for a teacher he barely knew. Her story was horrible (just horrible) and that was all Peter needed to hear, The teacher received a more fair deal because of his defense of her and Peter, for all his his tongue-in-cheek writing, never bothered nor cared to brag. The victories are quiet that way and that's fine with Zucker.  This is an essential unionst, with more experience and institutional wisdom  than many many others. So it would make sense that they put him for Executive Board right? Wrong! Peter is an AFT delegate candidate. 

There are new names which I do not know and can't speak to. And there are still other names (names who read this blog) who I will not speak to (hell, those names are probably calling Carl right now to complain about me using my banner in a blog post. But the names listed here are worth the time to carefully search for on the ballot and check the vote box.

Monday, April 4, 2022

A Note From Mike Schirtzer

The following is a statement by Mr. Michael Schirtzer, veteran UFT Executive Board member and candidate for reelection. 

Why I’m Running With Unity in the UFT Leadership Elections

By Mike Schirtzer

The UFT election for our president, officers (VPs, treasurer etc) executive board and representatives to national and state conventions is arriving in your mail this week. I urge you to fill it out and vote. I’m running for re-election as an independent on the Unity slate (one of the two choices on your ballot) for the 102 member Executive Board to represent all DOE high schools. The executive board is similar to the senate or parliament. At these meetings we vote on union policies and endorsements and we report on challenges and successes within our schools and districts. The Unity slate is led by UFT President Michael Mulgrew and Vice-President of High Schools Janella Hinds.

Our union led by Unity caucus has fought for us and our students since the very first fearful days of the COVID pandemic up until the recent surges. When Mayor Deblasio first closed Broadway shows, but tried to force schools to stay open at the start of the pandemic, our union fought publicly to get schools moved to remote to keep our students and members safe. When we reopened in September 2021 and that same mayor tried to do so without any safety precautions from covid in place, our union prepared us for a strike and we won, we got some of the best protections and testing in place provided by the city. The union leadership fought for everyone who needed a medical exception to get one, they made sure almost no one was denied. Most of our members were able to work from home, earning their full salaries. UFT ensured every teacher and student that needed a device had one. Our union made sure those that wanted to be first for vaccines could get it, while other New Yorkers had to wait weeks. This is what leadership looks like. We reopened schools in September 2021 better and faster than other big cities across the nation thanks to the fierce advocacy of our union against politicians who never had our school’s best interests at heart. Then during the latest COVID surge, again the union stepped in. When we came back from the holiday break we had take home covid tests for every member and student, while others in NYC were lined up for hours. We were provided kn95 masks and increased PCR testing, again thanks to union action. We kept our schools open safely. We kept our children in the classroom learning and in their schools receiving the social emotional support they need. We kept our children with their friends, and the educators that support our students day in and day out.

Graphic added by the blogger
As a member of our union’s executive board I have been able to help our school and others around the city. When our school could not secure the correct PPE when we opened in September 2020, I was able to take our case straight to top and get that fixed in a day. When our school had budgeting issues and there were threats of excessing, having teachers and counselors beloved in our building having to find employment elsewhere, I worked with our union leadership to make the case to the chancellor that our school deserve additional funding and we received it. When we were preparing to schedule our return to live classes I was able to set up a listening session with our union President and VP with programmers and teacher from our school and across the city to discuss the support we needed to make that happen. For my colleagues across the city that work in tough situations where they have combative principals, I’m able to connect them to the people in the union that work to get the situations resolved. I hope to be able to continue this work with your vote.

As an independent candidate that was elected on the Unity slate I have brought many causes to UFT meetings on behalf of members of different political beliefs and opposition groups within our union. I work hard to bring together our members in order to ensure the strength of our union. I am a dad, a teacher, a kid from Brooklyn who grew up in poverty, and graduate of of our public schools and CUNY. I bring that background to my teaching and union work. A few times I have been the lone voice of dissent at executive board meetings, losing votes 101-1, but still there to voice a minority opinion. Most times I agree with our union leadership, just recently I worked with our Vice President of High

Graphic added by the blogger

Schools Janella Hinds to make it union policy to advocate for Regents scoring to be done in our home schools so we don’t have to be sent out to other places. It’s working relationships like this that make our union stronger than all others. We have great benefits and a good salary, especially compared to those elsewhere. Our contract is expiring and we will negotiate a new one. I want to continue to bring your concerns, no matter your politics, to our union leadership on a regular basis and ensure our new contract has good raises for all our members. With your vote I will still be able to bring my independent, class room voice to the union at executive board and delegate assemblies.

I have many good friends from this school and across the city running on the other slate United for Change, led by my friend Camille Eterno. I really hope you take a few minutes ( or more) to do your research and choose a slate (candidates) you agree with and most importantly mail in your ballot. We want to keep our union strong and that only happens with your participation.


I'm voting for Schirtzer this month. I think you should too.