Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Do Both Sides Feel Like They Got Screwed?

If you aren't happy with the new contract I think it's safe to say most of us get your point. 
If you whipped out your calculator at Kleinhans and did some nifty figuring then planted yourself in front of a mic to castigate Phil Rumore I think it's safe to say most of us get your point. 
If you don't like the language of the extra 25 minutes and you happen to work for one of our more famous control freak narcissist Principals who will monopolize the 25 minutes and force you into grieving it -- if your faculty isn't too scared of him to do so -- safe to say most us get your point. 
And if you are angry that you didn't get your steps back it's safe to say most of us get your point. 

To a point. 

It occurs to me that an alarming number of teachers didn't seem to realize the step recovery case went to court and the court ruled against us. Phil Rumore is not known for losing in court. This one didn't go his way or our way. We lost. It happens. It happens so rarely I have to wonder if that's why we seem to have so many colleagues living in a state of denial believing if they pound their podium hard enough the steps will materialize out of the ether. To show up at Kleinhans on a night when it's been all but guaranteed we are there to vote on a contract and throw a tantrum about steps we've known for a long time we weren't going to get is ridiculous. Sorry, I didn't get mine either but I kind of knew that. 

I learned how our national union affiliates operate during the 2016 presidential campaign. It was decided a long time ago that NEA and AFT were both going to endorse Hillary Clinton. The only question was how to manipulate the votes and skew the assembled souls to get the numbers they needed to create the illusion that union people supported Clinton. I see a small handful of default Johnny Come Lately Hillary shills among the teacher ranks mostly because the alternative amounts to electing a human tire fire. There never was any fire for Hillary and truth be told there still isn't. The union power brokers felt no Bern. The candidate most of my teacher friends and acquaintances supported was never given a thought. They went out of their way to outmaneuver a contingent of Bernie supporters in their crusade to anoint HRC. You can read about it in Podesta's emails and those of that bald faced rank and file betrayer Randi Weingarten. I must have been naive at the time but I was infuriated that the rank and file were excluded from the process. And now that some of these same rank and filers are feeling screwed, disenfranchised and kept at arm's length from the workings of their union I have to ask in all honesty Why did you expect anything else? Weren't you paying attention to the way Hillary got those endorsements?  

Before I get too carried away on this theme though I think anyone who has an axe to grind with BTF, NYSUT and their various players needs give some thought to last May's Board of Education election that essentially gift wrapped a contract for Buffalo teachers. If you think the current Board majority simply fell down out of the sky because the 9% of Buffalo who vote in Board elections suddenly realized they'd had enough of Jay McCarthy and Jim Sampson, you need to look a little closer. For all of my grumbling and bitching about NYSUT and their inscrutable ways I am here to give the devil his Deely. They said they were going to use an organizational strategy to bring out the voters we'd need to vote in our people and vote out the Friends of Carl and Lars. It involved banging on doors and talking to people. Certain people. You can't argue with the results. It worked. Scoreboard. 

While there was more to the strategy I can only say for sure that I know that their guys got the boot and our guys (gals?) took their seats on the Board. Sampson and McCarthy almost failed to make it onto the ballot if you recall. They limped into the election bruised and battered -- a day late and a dollar short. And all of the drinks Carl bought at Docs were barely enough for him to squeak out a win over a teen ager still in high school. Think that happened in a vacuum? Like it or not, agree with NYSUT or not, if we didn't have a board to vote yes on that deal we'd be talking about 13 years. And if not for the efforts of this non representative, top down, undemocratic union affiliate there'd be no talk of what bonus we were getting or how we're going to use those 25 minutes. We'd be reading about the cosmetic rider in the Buffalo News and listening to Larry Quinn complain that teachers injured by students are taking too long to return to work. 

Like the contract I'm sure this post isn't perfect. It's an attempt to take a fair long view through my Step 27 eyes that should have picked up a few things by now. We got something. Be nice if we got more but we got a step in the right direction. The fact that the Board's two union hating millionaires pouted and went home in protest tells me we made out even if it could've been and should've been better. If you're still pissed off run for delegate. If you're really pissed run for Executive Committee. I did. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Strangely Selective Poverty in BPS

Remember when the former Board Majority -- who? -- voted to fire Rashondra M. Martin as General Counsel and bring in Edward A. Betz to replace her? Yeah you know, the guy who managed Larry Quinn's campaign when Lars ran for the Board of Education. He's also the guy fresh outta law school who was appointed as a "receiver" by disgraced State Supreme Court Judge John Michalek at the prodding of disgraced political bagman Steve Pidgeon who then turned around and demanded a $5000 baksheesh from Barrister Betz.  Michalek admitted in court that the attorney Pigeon advocated for was a recent law school graduate who had not been approved by the state courts as a qualified receiver. Nonetheless, Michalek gave him the assignment. Lacking experience and required credentials as Betz was, Michalek told Pidgeon : “We pushed it through anyway … have to give them a spec reason etc. … will figure it out … John,” Michalek emailed to Pigeon in May 2012. (Bflo News) 

In the end, Ms. Martin, who was hired by then-Superintendent Pamela C. Brown, was fired effective immediately and Cash was given the green light to negotiate a contract with Betz to take over the position at an annual salary of $160,000, which is $33,000 more than Martin was making. For those of you scoring at home, that's African American female fired by 5 white Board members 4 of them males and a politically well connected white green horn hired and handed a raise of $33,000.00 simply for showing up. I don't want to get too far off on a tangent with the racial breakdowns here but it's a bit puzzling that the African American Superintendent was in such a hurry to tuck an extra $33,000.00 into the shirt pocket of an inexperienced white guy hired to replace an experienced black female. Can you say the Good Old Boy Network is alive and well as long as you are a boy not a girl? I wonder too if this is why Board member Patti Pierce inexplicably asked if men and women were paid differently...Based on what she's seen around City Hall I can see why she'd be asking. Add to this the outrageous 4% ($11,000 or so minimum) pay bump tucked inside Kriner Cash's shirt pocket after one year and virtually nothing to brag about accomplishment wise. Consider the revelation that minority female Board members gave Cash much lower scores in private than what they'd admit to publicly and you have another case of an anti-meritocracy seemingly flinging significant amounts of cash at people who've done nothing to deserve a dime of it -- then turning their empty pockets out and making a sad clown face when it's time to pay teachers.  

Behold the flaccid rhetoric from certain "stakeholders" about teachers needing to increase test scores and get every B-Lo kid into the Ivy Leagues before they'll ever be worthy of a pay raise and you've got  enough public hypocrisy and good old fashioned political bullshit to gag an ox. Eddie Betz Esq. gets $33K for being the right guy with the right friends and Kriner Cash gets a 4% raise after ONE YEAR when he's already the highest paid urban Superintendent in New York State. Allow me to digress... When Kriner Cash was foisted on the Board by his old Ed Reform cronie Mary Ellen Elia, the minority women, the majority men and Patti Pierce all thought Dr Cash'd be swell. It was unanimous though I think Carl might have been tea partying in Paris for the vote but he was with his brothers and sisters in spirit since his attempts to run Mr. Weimer and Dr. Eberle up the middle had both been stuffed at the goal line. The magnanimity and largesse of such bon vivants as Buffalo Sabre deconstructionist Lars Quinn and Diamond Jim Sampson Presiding CEO of scandalous Gateway Longview State Audit notoriety flung an extra $60 thousand at Kriner Cash pushing his salary to $275. Former Superintendent Pamela Brown was only offered $217 but as we've seen she was just a girl so that's the way things go. Ogie Oglive was only supposed to hang around long enough to rubber stamp the rough shoddery of Carl, Lars and Diamond Jim so he got what the girl got but nothing more. Good call by the boys too cause Ogie ended up crawfishing on them. He had some wacky notion of autonomy or integrity or some such fluff they teach these saps who go to school for Education. Wise of the boys to keep his salary low since he ended up reneging on the deal they thought they'd struck when they hired him. 

If you don't see a pattern here you probably think Donald Trump respects women and Hillary is going to crack down on the House of Saud too. I see men getting unmerited pay raises when they take on jobs formerly held by women. But I guess on an up note we could say there's a tinge of color blindness in the feckless generosity of City Hallers shoving thousands of dollars in each other's pockets. In spite of many claims that Buffalo is a segregated and racist little place Kriner Cash's salary increases seemed to be A-Ok with everyone on the Board of Education. Ebony and Ivory and perfect harmony all up in here. 

If you're waiting for the punchline, as well you should be, it's this: I've heard Board members fretting about bankrupting the city and saying teachers aren't doing a very good job so why should they get a raise? Please remember the way guys like Cash and Betz were showered with benefits completely out of proportion to their contribution to children's education simply for showing up with a pulse at the interview. 
Then ask yourselves how is it we are able to open up the vault and toss stacks at these guys simply for being marked "Present" yet we cry poverty when it comes time to ante up and pay the people 
who get MF'd by teen angry agers, who buy boots and hats and notebooks for little kids, 
who bust their asses every day in a siege environment in some buildings,
who correctly pronounce the names of and celebrate the lives of the child refugees of the global village 
and quietly teach hungry overtired and angry disadvantaged kids every damned with half the materials they really need.

Remember who's doing the exhausting and endless work of teaching all of Buffalo's kids before you use words like "Bankrupt the City" and "Need to Improve before they deserve a raise..."

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Nobody Asked Me Up til Now

The other night before the Council of Delegates meeting Executive Committee members gathered toward the front table to run through a few last minute endorsements. The guy running against Ranzenhofer, Brian Higgins and someone else whose name I can't recall were unanimously agreed upon. When the Presidential ticket came up I waited my turn and voted a loud nasal Nae to the surprise of nobody who's heard one thing I've said or written since this freakshow of a campaign rolled out from under whatever rock it was hatched beneath. I did note a raised eyebrow or two and one member asked me to explain in private why I voted that way, solidarity during contract talks being paramount and all.

Truth is I've been saying it since Bernie Sanders threw his hat into the ring and up until now nobody affiliated with union leadership has ever asked me what I thought. So I guess I voted against Randi Weingarten and Lily Eskelson's Machiavellian machinations as much as I voted against the beneficiary of their skullduggery. I did not vote in favor of a tax deadbeat who thinks he can grab women's crotches. Nor did I vote for a Mexican subsidized wall, charter schools, Common Core and more tax breaks for people who need them least.

I voted for Bernie Sanders.

Sadly, the only way the current system allows for a guy like me to vote for the guy I drove to Cleveland to see on a school night with my wife and kids and the guy I stood outside of Alumni Arena in the rain for nearly 3 hours with my family and our dear friend Julie -- I repeat the only way this system allows me to vote for the guy I believed in and still believe in -- is to vote nae in an Executive Committee endorsement less than a month away from election night. If anyone's concerned about me disrupting solidarity you can rest easy since Phil Rumore his own self laughed and said something to the effect of I know why you did that. To which I said I did it for Bernie and Phil answered Aren't you glad he ran? I am but I only wish he'd have had at least a fighting chance. If you haven't seen the wikki dump emails illustrating NEA President Lily and AFT President Weingarten treating all of us as dummies to be out maneuvered I suggest you google them and see for yourself. I believe my local is working hard and looking out to get us a fair contract. I only wish I could say the same for the national affiliates. Start here on Norm's blog  to see how unions were punished for endorsing Bernie and how Weingarten said she was going after NNU a nurse's union that actually believes in democracy for endorsing Bernie. If you're not pissed off I really can't help you. If your biggest professional concern is a lack of paper towels in the faculty lounge you are making it verrry easy for the Randis and Lilys to screw you over before you even know what hit you. Read the link above to Norm's blog and get a look at who doesn't give a shit what you think. Hint, it's not David Coleman this time.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Keep Your Friends Close and Your Friends Who Aren't Really Your Friends Closer.

Sometimes the sheer volume of bullshit is enough to jostle a bloggist out of semi-retirement. I am not saying this is one of those times. But in the inimitable words of Preet Bharra. Stay Tuned. 

“It’s a fair proposal because what the district is attempting to do is to provide the teachers with excellent compensation for the hard work they do without bankrupting the district, because there’s a really delicate balance,” Hope Jay said. “The teachers need to be fairly compensated, but we can’t bankrupt the district because it’ll hurt the children.

Anyone else not buying this for one second? 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

No Time Like the Present

It's time for a new adventure. I flipped a coin between this clip and one of Forrest Gump announcing his long run was over. Hard to go against Peter Jackson. Until we meet again.


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Can We Just Cut the B.S. and Drop the Charges, for Starters?

So two of five Riverside teachers who were put on leave last June have had their charges thrown out and are now cleared to return to work. Three teachers remain on leave and charged with insubordination. BPS Superintendent Kriner Cash believes they should all be terminated because they were told what to do but they didn't do it. Ironically and hypocritically at the same time Cash says they should have followed yet another folksy maxim he pulled out of thin air that says "work now, grieve later."
Well maybe "work now grieve later" is a good rule of thumb in a sane world and a reasonable working climate, say Bethlehem Steel's coke ovens in the 1970's. Even in some very specific educational situations it might even hold water. When the admins deliberately flooded our 15:1 Special Ed cluster in the late 80's and early 90's until we had close to 20 kids in some of them --all with significant learning and behavior issues mind you-- a simpatico A.P. advised us off the record that City Hall said overload them and let them grieve it, there won't be any new classes opening to accommodate these kids. When there's nothing you can do and an admin is at least forthright enough to tell you it's out of his hands you pretty much have to teach now and grieve for another day.

But Kriner Cash knows better than anyone that this Riverside debacle is no simple overage claim. Overages disregard the student's I.E.P.'s and are essentially illegal but they happen when someone decides they aren't willing to spend the money to follow the law. NYSED doesn't get involved.  Teachers are mollified some years down the road when their grievance results in a check that calculates a certain figure based on the number of kids in the class and the teacher's salary. It actually pays better if you have 6 kids in your class and barely pays if you have 15. So I know. 

Teachers at Riverside were essentially put on administrative leave for refusing to break State Ed Department Law. Nowhere down the line were they in a position to benefit from either correcting against the law or following the law and not correcting. There was no financial or professional incentive either way but a funereal disincentive for either option. Kriner Cash, coming from the belly of the high stakes testing and ed reform beast as he does, is part of the entrenched faction who seeks to both sanctify and weaponize these kinds of tests. On one hand he treats them like the Dead Sea Scrolls with all of the attendant deference while seeking to use them as proof of teacher malfeasance should they come back with less than gritty and excellent scores.  Bad scores mean teaching firings after all in the great ed reform manifesto. Cash and his ed reform enabler from Florida, State Ed Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia, who foisted Cash on BPS, are not inclined to take violations of test protocol lightly. 

What the Assistant Principal of Riverside told these teachers to do -- start correcting exams when close to 100 exams were still in the hands of students-- is illegal and violates the test protocols of NYSED. Any teacher dumb enough or careless enough to engage in such an act faces certain consequences, termination being chief among them. As a point of reference, a guy from another district in the program where I teach last June read exams to kids who did not have that test modification as part of their I.E.P. The day after he did this and it was discovered he was escorted out of the building, placed on leave and from what I have been able to deduce was terminated some time before this January. In less than 6 months he was toast for reading to kids who weren't supposed to have exams read. Yet Kriner Cash tucks his tongue firmly in his cheek and calls for the Riverside teachers to be fired because they didn't ask how how high when an administrator told them to jump. Told them to jump into breaking State Ed law no less. 

The fact that Riverside Assistant Principal Patrick J. Doyle ordered these teachers to break the law seems to have escaped Kriner Cash. He's got some kind of retro "Papa Knows Best" fixation on the 1950's concept that no matter what an authority figure tells you to do, you shut up and do it and ask questions later. Much later. Makes you wonder what Cash would've said to MLK in Birmingham Jail or Frederick Douglas when Edward Covey wound up to crack him with his bullwhip or to Harriet Tubman when she was rescuing runaway slaves from lives of brutality and desperation. Work now, grieve later? Do what you're told? Don't defy a direct order? I don't think so. I hope not.  As one deeply indebted to the test fetishists of American Ed Reform, Kriner Cash has to be kidding when he says these teachers should have knowingly begun to correct state exams when nearly 100 other students were still taking them. It's a case of fired if you do and damned if you don't and he knows it. Yet he plays the doe eyed ingenue and you can almost hear him in a chicken fried Blanche Dubois drawl, sighing "Why they defied a duh-reckt oadaaahhh... and theh's naught fuh them but term-in-aaay-shun!" He might as well have said Damnation while he was at it. 

Come on Dr. Cash. Cut with the coy theatrics and stand tall for a change. You know and we know any teacher who'd correct those papers before the rest of them were all turned in would be fired in the time it takes Lars Quinn to run out his jib sail. You and your reformy pals would have your Salem's Lot moment running around in a circle chanting about the sanctity of test protocol and let this be a lesson and this aggression will not stand, ad nauseam. And if the wind caught your flames just right you could all end up on MSNBC and CNN, you and Larry Quinn and Mary Ellen Elia and maybe John King his own little diabolical self would toss you a tweet or a video clip congratulating you for protecting the maidenhead of the test from those mongol teacher hordes with their coffee breath and lustfully sensible loafers. You'd have milked it for all you're worth and who knows but it might even catch the eye of a larger district looking for their Superman. I hear Pittsburgh's honeymoon with a hero is on the rocks... 

But perish the luck some teachers forced into a bad situation had the wherewithal and the stones to refuse to be bullied into breaking the law and for that they were forced to twist in the wind for an entire school year wondering if their teaching career was finished. You need to end this farce and send these teachers a personal apology. And then you need to have a short but extremely focused meeting with Patrick J. Doyle, his supervising Principal on the day in question, their union rep and the H.R. chief. We'll trust you to do the right thing. Just don't take a year to do it. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Badly Lynched Yet Well Hung.

From the Benefit of the Doubt to Doubting the Benefits

Was it last week that Carl Paladino's twitter account farted out that tweet about lynching Loretta Lynch then deleted it and came along with the rookie tweeter excuse for an explanation? Yeah I think it was last week. See it's hard to keep up with this guy. Between his damned Asians outburst aimed at the kids studying at UB and his plans to teach hygiene to inner city minorities in his boarding schools you get turned around and dis-oriented if you'll overlook the pun or better yet pretend it was unintentional.

Well Carl has now turned his attentions to his own party and is on record as telling Utah Republican convention delegate Stefani Williams in an email: 

"You should be hung [sic] for treason Stefani. There will not be a Republican Party if you attempt to replace Trump. I'll be in your face in Cleveland," Paladino allegedly wrote, according to an email that Williams shared with The Hill. 

So this time it's a Carlfecta: suggestions of violence, follow up threat and a SIC to indicate that Carl has failed to follow the rules of English grammar.

When the lynch  Lynch tweet was deleted and carlsplained as the mistake of an underling there was no shortage of eye rolling and skepticism. Most who doubted the veracity of the rookie tweeter excuse pointed to Paladino's extensive history of inflammatory remarks on various topics. Carl likes to dismiss all of that as the politically correct nattering of screaming liberal meemies who can't handle his brand of the non p.c. "truth." 

Shouldn't a guy who's just wiped the remnants of the latest dogpile from his Florsheims --or at least tried to-- maybe try to avoid more talk of hanging or lynching women he doesn't like until the odor of his most recent misstep has had some time to dissipate? Yeah, you and I might think that but Carl doesn't see it that way. This is nothing more than the latest shining example of why CEO's fail so miserably when they endeavor to work within a system -- say one running the schools or one attached to a political party. Guys like Carl have said and done exactly as they pleased and been rewarded financially for doing so pretty much all of their lives. If someone pisses him off he can fire them. If someone writes something he doesn't like he can eviscerate them on the sidewalk outside Dinosaur BBQ. If a reporter asks a question Carl doesn't want to answer on the way into a Board of Ed meeting, Carl unloads on him with a stream of obscenities. In CEO land this kind of behavior is seen as bold and fearless, as some kind of alpha dog privilege and a sure sign of strong leadership. But in the larger world where the rest of us have to mind our manners as we fill in the gap between birth and eternity that kind of talk has consequences. It gets you fined and fired; it puts letters in your personnel file and it comes back to bite you in the ass when the County Executive tries to slide you into a sweet gig.

How then has none of this expansive  disciplinary file affected the status of Carl Paladino as a member of the Buffalo Board of Education? What exactly does a board member have to say or do before anyone raises the question of his suitability to sit on a school board that makes decisions on what's best for children, especially a large population of minority children including a significant population of "Damned Asians?" At what point do we free Carl from the drudgery of budgeting and contract negotiations, of trying to put the screws to his business rival Ciminelli and of the humiliation of having to squeak out an election victory against an 18 year old kid in the belly of "Carl Country?" It's obvious Carl Paladino has bigger fish to fry. And with the incoming Board majority reducing his role and influence to that of a bit player who can strut and fret but won't accomplish anything more as a  minority block member than he did in the majority, I think it's only fair that we accept his resignation and allow him to go make America Great Again. It's only fair.