if at first you don't succeed

On second try, de Blasio secures teachers union endorsement

BUemAtbCMAI4HiMThe city teachers union formally endorsed Democratic mayoral nominee Bill de Blasio this afternoon, putting a finishing touch on a delicate post-primary process that included a secret meeting at the the union’s headquarters over the weekend.

The endorsement comes two days after de Blasio’s closest rival and the union’s original pick, Bill Thompson, conceded in the Democratic primary. Made with little of the fanfare that accompanied the union’s decision to back Thompson in June, the endorsement also shifts the focus of the mayoral race fully onto the race between de Blasio and Republican nominee Joe Lhota.

De Blasio spoke to teachers who make up the union’s Delegate Assembly at UFT headquarters shortly after they voted on a resolution to give him their endorsement. He then appeared with President Michael Mulgrew and about a dozen supporters at a staid press conference in a building next door.

De Blasio credited Mulgrew for brokering the concession agreement with Thompson, which took place at UFT headquarters on Saturday night. Mulgrew said the conversation between the primary rivals was not contentious.

“In the end, the decision was made that what was in the best interest of the city was to unite the Democratic party to make sure that a Democrat becomes the mayor of New York City and not the Republican nominee,” Mulgrew said.

“On Monday, you saw a result of that conversation,” he added.

De Blasio aggressively sought the union’s endorsement earlier this year but was passed up in favor of Thompson, who was seen as having a clearer path to victory.

In the lead-up to the primary election, the union focused most of its campaigning efforts on supporting Thompson, spending $2.6 million on communications and advertising for his candidacy.

But occasionally, tension with de Blasio surfaced as he shot to the top of polls in August. First, Mulgrew mocked de Blasio’s unsuccessful pursuit of the union’s endorsement after de Blasio made comments about being unencumbered by union interests when it comes time to negotiate new labor contracts. De Blasio compared himself to Mayor Bloomberg to characterize his independence to bargain with the teachers union.

Mulgrew, in response, said, “I am surprised he would have found our endorsement such a potential threat to his independence, particularly since he was on my calendar so many times earlier this year, many of our staff members thought he had an office in our building.”

Mulgrew also joined Thompson’s supporters in criticizing de Blasio’s plan to fund universal pre-kindergarten, a proposal that would require approval from the state legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Today, Mulgrew signaled that he remained skeptical of de Blasio’s plan to raise taxes, even as he said he appreciates de Blasio’s promises.

“It’s getting it done is really what the vision and the goal here is,” Mulgrew said of de Blasio’s proposal. “We’ve been hearing about all day pre-K for 40 years and no one’s figured it out and he is saying he is completely committed to getting it done.”

A lot of attention was placed on the union’s failed endorsement, with suggestions that it would hurt its relationship with whoever occupied City Hall next. But de Blasio suggested that it would be water under the bridge moving forward.

And Mulgrew said that even though the union did pick the winning candidate in the primary, it had influenced the election results and would do so in the general election as well.

“The members know that where we endorsed Mr. Thompson and where he ended up was … very positive,” he said. “He moved up quite a bit and I was very proud of the work our union has done.”

De Blasio said that as a parent whose two children attended public schools (his now-famous son Dante attended M.S. 51 in Park Slope and now goes to Brooklyn Technical High School) the support from teachers meant more than a political notch in his belt.

“Chirlane and I have just the deepest appreciation for the dozens and dozens of teachers who took Chiara and Dante by the hand over the last 14 years and supported them, uplifted them, were there for them in so many ways,” de Blasio said. “We have had an extraordinary experience just as parents seeing just how good the teachers of this city are in every sense.””I think this support today strengthens our political coalition that will allow us to make the changes we need.”

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

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.”