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Norman Scott, Editor Publishing since 1996

Dec. 2009 917-992-3734

Historical Perspective of Education Notes

I began publishing Education Notes in 1996 at Delegate Assemblies because I was frustrated at the process
that allowed the chair, usually the UFT president, almost total domination of the procedures. If you wanted to
get the floor to make a resolution they had total control over who got to speak and if you were too outspoken
on issues not liked by the leadership, you could easily get shut out. By distributing Ed Notes before meetings,
I got to say my piece, whether I was called on or not. Ed Notes grew in size from one sheet to a 10-14-page
booklet and then in 2002 when I retired, it became a full-sized 16-page tabloid published 4 times a year.
Having come out of the opposition player and so often seemed to throw a the late 90’s - opposition to high stakes
movement to Unity Caucus in the 70’s blanket over the Caucus. testing and the ridiculous accountability
(I was mostly inactive in the union from it engendered, unbridled principal power,
the mid-80’s through the early 90’s) I Thus I figured the only way to create drastic reductions in class size, support for
became active again when I replaced a some change in the union was to appeal chapter leaders under attack, a stronger
Unity Caucus chapter leader in 1994 at to what I felt had to be a progressive grievance procedure, total opposition to
my elementary school, which had a “my wing of Unity. At that time, Randi merit pay, a broader curriculum not based
way or the high way” principal for over Weingarten was about to take over the on standardized tests began to attract
15 years and we had butted heads all union and presented herself as leading that some of the few independent delegates not
the time. My becoming chapter leader progressive force. She reached out to me, affiliated with the other opposition groups.
freaked her out and I began publishing a claiming she agreed with me on so many People like Michael Fiorillo.
school newsletter, often once a week. That issues, sometimes through late night email
freaked her out even more and I began to exchanges. Her people whispered that she The New Action Sellout
understand the power of the press, even at was going to make changes in the union For activists in the union, the dirty deals
the most local level. to democratize it and even make changed made between Randi and New Action
to liberalize Unity. But absolute power --- Caucus in 2003 whereby they wouldn’t
I took a look at the opposition groups you know the drill. run a presidential candidate against her
and didn’t find much that appealed to me. in the 2004 elections and she wouldn’t
New Action was the major opposition By 2001, it was becoming clear that Randi run Unity Caucus candidates against their
caucus and was fairly ineffective though was not only not liberalizing the union, 6 high school Ex Bd candidates was a
it did win support in the high schools by but also making it more undemocratic than seminal event. Dissidents in New Action
winning the 6 high school Exec Bd seats ever. As a small example, the new motion who opposed the deal contacted me. James
on a regular basis. Six out of 89 gave period ever since I became a delegate in and Camille Eterno, Ellen Fox and Lisa
them little leverage and after leading the 1971, took place immediately after the North. They were outraged at the sell-
successful battle against the first 1995 question period. Suddenly, if Randi didn’t out, especially over the fact that all of a
contract to be rejected by the membership, like a resolution I was proposing, she sudden, New Action members were on the
they started fading. PAC, a smaller either eliminated the time altogether or union payroll.
opposition group was totally focused on pushed it to the end of the meeting. She
the teachers who were losing their licenses became more and more of a demagogue. Eterno, who had been serving as a New
when they didn’t pass the teacher exams. In 2001, I became increasingly restive as Action Ex Bd member for years, turned
Teachers for a Just Contract took positions she started supporting merit pay schemes down that guaranteed opportunity. We
I agreed with, but I thought they focused and mayoral control, and I became called a meeting of the New Action
too much on a narrow range of issues. increasingly critical of her and Unity dissidents and the independents I had been
Caucus, seeing that whatever progressive meeting through Ed Notes. Incredibly
I would attend UFT Exec Board meetings wing there might be (and I had plenty of impressive people like John Lawhead
and was so frustrated at the way New conversations with people who came off (now chapter leader of Tilden HS), Sean
Action would deal with Unity, so often that way) was cowed by Unity Caucus Ahern, Jeff Kaufman and Julie Woodward.
cowed into submission. There didn’t seem discipline. It became clear that the caucus Added to that were some of the people
to be enough fight in them, though a few was like a black hole. Once you went in who I had been active with in the 70’s:
like Marvin Markman and James Eterno you never came out. Loretta and Gene Prisco, Paul Baizerman
were at times effective. But New Action and Vera Pavone.
leader Michael Shulman was the dominant Many of the positions Ed Notes took in
Continued on the back
Out of that meeting on Halloween 2003 charter schools - you name it, they have Goldstein HS in Brooklyn for many years,
came the Independent Community of been wrong. In response to New Action’s was the ICE/TJC presidential candidate
Educators (ICE), which decided to run a contention its qualified support for Unity in 2007. Every time I hear him talk at a
slate in the 2004 elections and challenge has helped the union, I ask them to show meeting, he makes complete sense and says
New Action for those 6 high school seats, us where. By abandoning its historic role it in an amazingly impressive manner.
which given the fact that Unity was not opposing Unity, no matter how weak that
running for those seats, we had a chance. was, it left a vast vacuum that ICE and TJC Marian Swerdlow, who was a long-time
have struggled to fill. delegate from FDR, has been a stalwart
In the meantime, TJC was emerging as of the opposition for almost 20 years. She
another group willing to challenge the ICE/TJC Candidates for HS Ex Bd is as good as anyone I’ve met in breaking
Unity/New Action alliance. There were There is a superb slate running for all down an issue and analyzing it. For years
some differences and some ruffled feelings positions, but for now I’ll focus on the six Ed Notes published her awesome DA
at the time but TJC and ICE united to run high school candidates, who if elected will minutes, which she is still producing. They
one group for those 6 seats, and surprise, have an impact: are not to be missed. If for nothing else, it
surprise, we knocked New Action out of the is worth seeing her on the Ex Bd for those
box by getting more high school votes than Michael Fiorillo is an ICE founder, when delicious minutes. Imagine the impact
they did. This put Jeff Kaufman and James Michael speaks or writes on the educational Swerdlow, with her ability to think on her
Eterno, along with some strong people from issues of the day, people sit up and listen. feet, would have when Unity tries to pull its
TJC on the Board. For the first time, I saw He was the chapter chairman at Newcomers shenanigans.
some fight at these meetings, as Eterno now HS and is now the delegate.
out from under the New Action blanket, Peter Lamphere, chapter leader at Bronx
teamed with Kaufman to run Randi ragged. Arthur Goldstein was recently elected as High School of Science, has been engaged
The schlep into the meetings every 2 weeks Chapter Leader of Francis Lewis HS, one in an epic struggle with a horror story of a
now became worth it. of the most overcrowded in the city. Widely principal. Peter was one of the leaders of
published in numerous newspapers and a the 20 math teachers who filed a complaint
By the 2007 elections Randi was desperate regular at the Gotham Schools blog, Arthur over harassment. He is as impressive in a
to get Kaufman and Eterno out of her hair has established a national reputation as a public forum as anyone I’ve seen.
at these meetings and took her alliance witty and incisive commenter. In his short
with New Action one step further. She ran time as Chapter leader, he has led the battle Formation of GEM
a joint Unity/New Action slate for 8 seats, to address the overcrowding issues. His I must conclude with an account of the
including the 6 high school seats. Thus, commentary on the conditions in the trailer origins of the Grassroots Education
every Unity vote would also be a vote for he teaches in has embarrassed Tweed on Movement (GEM), which has been leading
these New Action candidates. Shulman, numerous occasions. the battle against charter, schools and
like a porno salesman with dirty pictures school closings. GEM emerged out of an
approached one of the former New Action John Lawhead, now chapter leader at ICE committee addressing the ATR issue in
members who was with ICE and offered Tilden high school, was an ICE founder. Jan. 2009. Spearheaded by John Lawhead
one of these positions. He was turned down. He contacted me when he found a copy and Angel Gonzalez, a recent retiree
Thus, New Action, which actually tells of Ed Notes in his mailbox at Bushwick who had been part of the FMPR group
people they have these 8 seats on the Ex HS and wrote some articles. His depth supporting the teachers in Puerto Rico and
Bd without telling them how they got them, of knowledge on educational issues, had come to ICE for help and joined, the
tries to claim they are independent. But particularly on the high stakes testing, is committee began to address the issue of the
dare them to declare their independence astounding. I went with him to a conference roots of the ATR issue by bringing together
by running directly against ICE/TJC and of activists opposing NCLB (remember NYCORE people who were fighting high
without Unity support and see what they the UFT/AFT was supporting it) in stakes testing and people from closing
will tell you. Shulman actually has the Birmingham Al, back in early 2003 and schools (it was Lawhead who put these
nerve to brag that he refuses to take the hobnobbed with the national resistance concepts into a neat package for us). GEM
double pension from the UFT he could get to NCLB and high stakes testing. There held a conference and a march from Battery
for his job. is not one ICE meeting that goes by that Park to Tweed last spring and during the
John doesn’t say something that puts things summer worked up in Harlem to support
In the upcoming UFT elections, ICE/TJC together in a way that makes me say “Aha!” the teachers and parents being invaded
are running a full slate for the officers by Eva Moskowitz’ Harlem Success
and Exec Bd, with an outside chance to I’ve known the TJC candidates for years, schools. In a short time, GEM has become
win back those 6 high school seats as but I’ll leave it to them to provide more recognized throughout the city as the group
a beachhead on the Ex Bd to force the details in their campaign literature. to go to for support, since the UFT has left
leadership to examine its disastrous policies such a vacuum.
on mayoral control, testing, closing schools, Kit Wainer, chapter leader of Leon

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