it's that time of year again

UFT bargaining in "bad faith" over teacher evals, city charges

The United Federation of Teachers has not been bargaining over teacher evaluations in good faith, the city Department of Education charged in a labor complaint today.

The complaint comes a week after UFT President Michael Mulgrew announced he would halt negotiations until the department presented an implementation plan that satisfied the union. It also comes nearly a year to the day after the city called off a different round of teacher evaluation talks.

Filed with the Public Employees Review Board, the complaint accuses union officials of refusing to reach an evaluations deal unless the department promised to limit school closures, reduce paperwork for teachers, and award “economic credit” toward a future contract.

Under state law, those issues do not have to be discussed in order to devise a new evaluation system, which the city and union are under pressure to agree upon by Jan. 17. That’s the deadline that Gov. Andrew Cuomo set early a year ago for districts to adopt new evaluations or forgo increases in state school aid.

City and union officials had been locked in talks until last week, when Mulgrew announced that any further talks would have to focus on how the city planned to roll out the new system once it is settled. The city’s complaint says that demand, too, shows that the union has not really intended to try to reach a deal.

“We remain prepared to negotiate all outstanding issues required to get to an agreement on teacher evaluation but unfortunately, Mr. Mulgrew’s failure to bargain in good faith and insistence on including issues unrelated to teacher evaluation is unacceptable and illegal,” Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement. “The city will not let him hold these negotiations hostage.”

Mulgrew said the complaint’s characterization of the union as recalcitrant was inaccurate and risible.

“I’m kind of laughing at it, to tell you the truth,” he said in an interview. “‘We will be happy to meet with you [to discuss implementation]. We await your communication.’ That’s the last communication we’ve had with them on this. … I’m sitting in my office, and the DOE has not called.”

The city is asking PERB — which last year ruled that the city’s plan to “turn around” 24 struggling schools violated its contract with the union — to force the union back to the bargaining table.

It is unlikely that any intervention by the board could come in time for the city to meet Cuomo’s deadline. That means the city’s complaint is “just a publicity stunt” designed to make the union look bad when the city loses about $250 million in state funds, Mulgrew said.

But if the department agreed to discuss implementation on its own, Mulgrew said, Cuomo’s deadline might still be met. He said, “My team is ready, willing, and able to go.”

The Department of Education’s PERB complaint is below:

race in the classroom

‘Do you see me?’ Success Academy theater teacher gives fourth-graders a voice on police violence

Success Academy student Gregory Hannah, one of the performers

In the days and weeks after last July’s police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, teachers across New York grappled with how to talk about race and police violence. But for Sentell Harper, a theater teacher at Success Academy Bronx 2, those conversations had started long before.

CNN recently interviewed Harper about a spoken-word piece he created for his fourth-grade students to perform about what it means to be black and male in America. Harper, who just finished his fourth year teaching at Success, said that after the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed, he wanted to check in with his students.

“I got my group of boys together, and I said, ‘Today, we’re going to talk about race,'” Harper told CNN. “And they had so much to say. They started telling me stories about their fathers and their brothers, and about dealing with racism — things that I never knew that these young boys went through.”

Inspired by their stories, he created a performance called “Alternative Names for Black Boys,” drawing on poems by Danez Smith, Tupac Shakur and Langston Hughes.

Wearing gray hoodies in honor of Trayvon Martin, who was killed while wearing one, the boys take turns naming black men and boys who have been killed: Freddie, Michael, Philando, Tamir. The list goes on.

Despite the sensitive nature of the subject matter, Harper says honesty is essential for him as a teacher. “Our kids are aware of race and want to talk about it,” he wrote in a post on Success Academy’s website. “As a black male myself, I knew I wanted to foster conversation between my students and within the school community.”

Click below to watch the performance.

Half-priced homes

Detroit teachers and school employees are about to get a major perk: Discount houses

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is announcing an educator discount that will allow employees of all Detroit schools to buy houses from the Land Bank at 50 percent off.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is getting ready this morning to announce a major effort to lure teachers and other school employees to the city of Detroit: Offering them half-priced homes.

According to a press release that’s expected to be released at an event this morning, the mayor plans to announce that all Detroit school employees — whether they work for district, charter or parochial schools — will now get a 50 percent discount on houses auctioned through the Detroit Land Bank Authority.

That discount is already available to city employees, retirees and their families. Now it will be available to full-time employees of schools located in the city.

“Teachers and educators are vital to the city’s future,” Duggan is quoted as saying in the release. “It’s critical to give our school employees, from teachers to custodial staff, the opportunity to live in the communities they teach in.”

If the effort can convince teachers to live in the city rather than surrounding suburbs, it could help a stabilize the population decline that has led to blight and neighborhood deterioration in many parts of the city.

For city schools, the discounts give administrators another perk to offer prospective employees. District and charter schools in Detroit face severe teacher shortages that have created large class sizes and put many children in classrooms without fully qualified teachers.

Detroit’s new schools superintendent, Nikolai Vitti, has said he’s determined to make sure the hundreds of teacher vacancies that affected city schools last year are addressed by the start of classes in September.

In the press release, he’s quoted praising the discount program. “There is an opportunity and need to provide innovative solutions to recruit and retain teachers to work with our children in Detroit.”

The Detroit Land Bank Authority Educator Discount Program will be announced at an event scheduled for 10:45 this morning in front of a Land Bank house in Detroit’s Russell Woods neighborhood.

The Land Bank currently auctions three homes per day through its website, with bidding starting at $1,000.