war of words

UFT outlines legal strategy to combat Bloomberg's SIG plan

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew responded forcefully to Mayor Bloomberg’s plans to circumvent a collective bargaining requirement, saying union lawyers had a multi-pronged approach to push back against the city’s tactics.

First, the union said it would petition a state labor board to force the city to accept a mediator in talks over new teacher evaluations. The union suggested arbitration two weeks ago when evaluation talks broke down, but the city has rejected the request.

And regardless of what the board decides, Mulgrew indicated today in a press conference that he would sue over the gambit the city has proposed to get around the evaluation requirement. That plan would switch the status of 33 schools in a federal improvement program and require half of their teachers to be replaced.

“If the Department of Education tries to implement changing these schools from their current status, we will be taking appropriate legal action,” Mulgrew said.

The city can not move forward yet without approval from the state education department, which administers federal funding attached to the school improvement strategies. Walcott detailed the plans in a letter to Commissioner John King yesterday but King has yet to respond.

In the meantime, Mulgrew ratcheted up rhetoric against Mayor Bloomberg, who took the UFT head-on several times during his education-centered speech.

“What I saw yesterday inside of his state of city speech was so sad,” Mulgrew said at a press conference where he announced that the UFT officially submitted an impasse petition to the state’s Public Employee Relations Board. “What I saw was a man who is trying to set up a smoke screen about the decade of disaster that he has  put upon our city schools.”

“He would rather start a fight with us so people will stop talking about how bad his legacy on the schools has been during his mayoralty,” Mulgrew added.

PERB can only be roped in on collective bargaining issues, not other conflicts between the city and union. Settling on new teacher evaluations does require collective bargaining, and that’s why the union is asking for PERB’s intervention.

But the city is arguing that its decision to switch the 33 schools to a federal improvement strategy that doesn’t require new evaluations, turnaround, makes the union’s PERB appeal moot. “PERB has no jurisdiction in this matter,” Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement.

In addition, the DOE is acting hastily to establish that the 33 new turnaround schools no longer require teacher evaluations to secure the federal funding. Walcott distributed parents letters explaining the current situation to each of the schools today.

We are proposing to convert your school from its current model to a model called “Turnaround.” This will allow for a school-based committee to measure and screen existing staff using rigorous standards for student success, and to re-hire a significant portion of those staff. We believe that the Turnaround model can enhance the quality of teaching learning in your school.

The letter was apparently produced so quickly that the DOE didn’t have time to translate it into different languages for homes where English is the second language. Only English versions were issued today, with translated copies to be ready on Tuesday, a DOE spokeswoman said.

Mulgrew responded to the letter by writing one of his own to union members working in the 33 schools that received Walcott’s note.

Dennis Walcott’s letter home to parents of Banana Kelly H.S. regarding the status of SIG schools.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.