last call

As clock winds down, talks continue but wide impasse remains

Almost immediately after UFT President Michael Mulgrew finished ripping Mayor Bloomberg’s characterization of how talks broke down between the two sides this morning, he informed members that there might still be a chance.

“Now they want to talk,” Mulgrew told members at a Delegate Assembly meeting after being handed a sheet of paper, according to several teachers who attended.

In addition to $250 million that’s on the line if a midnight deadline passes, no evaluation plan would also be a black eye for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who devised the law to withhold state funding from districts that failed to submit plans.  Earlier this month, he declared the law succeeded, touting the fact that 99 percent of districts had submitted plans.

But New York City and its 1.1 million students have remained a prominent outlier as the time wound down. Heading into this week, officials acknowledged that they were close to a deal in between lengthy negotiation meetings. This morning, the meetings broke down and both sides spent the afternoon dodging blame about who was responsible.

The slim possibility that a deal could get hammered out before its midnight deadline came just over an hour after Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Mulgrew said the chances were grim that there would be enough time.

“The time to get all the paperwork done is not there,” Mulgrew said at a press conference that took place less than an hour after he said in a statement that Bloomberg stood in the way of a deal.

 But both sides still seem far apart on the terms for a deal to get done. Education officials reiterated this evening that they would only approve an evaluation plan with no expiration date, while the union said it wanted the system to be revisited in 2015.

In either case, New York City would have a plan that’s in place for longer than most other districts. Over 90 percent of evaluation plans approved by the state so far are for only one year, something that Governor Cuomo said he would seek to change in a budget law this year.

At his press conference, Mulgrew refuted Bloomberg’s claim that the union abruptly introduced the terms of a “sunset clause” late into the negotiation process. Bloomberg also said the union had suddenly demanded that the plan include a level of hearings for teachers to challenge the evaluation procedure if they believe rules were not followed, which Mulgrew also disputed.

“For the mayor to say that that came on at the last minute — he’s just, he’s lying,” Mulgrew said.

Council of Supervisors and Administrators President Ernest Logan issued a statement that supported Mulgrew. Logan said his union and the city were close to a deal late last night, but that “moments later, the Mayor intervened, demanding an agreement for an indefinite period of time,” Logan said.

At the state level, optimism remains. In a statement this afternoon State Education Department John King said it wasn’t too late for his team of reviewers to look over a deal.

“Even at this late hour, Mayor Bloomberg and United Federation of Teachers President Mulgrew still have time,” King said. “They can still put aside what seem to be minor differences and resolve this crisis.”

On a conference call with reporters this evening, Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky was adamant that the city would not budge from its position on a plan’s timeline.

“We’ve never ever agreed to any kind of sunset clause. We have never ever agreed to that and we will not,” he said.

In a statement released late tonight, Mulgrew said that he would still listen to offers.

“We would be open to a serious proposal, but we have yet to hear one today from the Department of Education,” Mulgrew said.

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.