Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Friday, April 17, 2009


May 14, Thur 3 - 7PM

Gather at Battery Park (Trains to Bowling Green)
& Walk to the Dept. of Ed. (Chambers & B’way)
Protest TWEED & the Mayor!

Fully Support Neighborhood Schools - Restore Teacher Seniority Rights -
No Mayoral Control - Smaller Class Sizes - Stop High Stakes Testing -
The UFT Contract MUST address these demands!

Sponsor: Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) for public education
Independent Community of Educators, New York Collective of Radical Educators, TAGNYC, Teachers for a Just Contract, Teachers Unite
For info: 718-601-4901

media contacts

To GEM defenders of public education:

"Fired up, can't take no more". A rally is being planned for May 14th to protest the destruction of public education through the closing of schools, creation of ATRs, ending of teaching as a long term career, use of Reassignment Centers to remove competent (but high paid or vocal teachers) from the system, and creation of charter schools.

Outreach to media is being handled by Angel Gonzalez and Angela de Souza. Please send any media contacts you have to A. de Souza. Press releases are in the process of being worked up.

Please respond as quickly as possible. MAY14TH is going to be a good day for those who are 'fired up".


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

GEM Meeting Notes Apr. 7 2009

submitted by Gloria B.

Grassroots Education Movement for Public Education

April 7, 2009

Agenda: Introductions, Summary of last meeting, Purpose of this group, Break Out Sessions- Rally and Charter School Forum, Report-Backs, Announcements

Money Raised at meeting- $93

I. History of this group:
Brief history of how this group was formed was presented - ICE did work on School Closings & ATRs and NYCORe was working on High Stakes Testing (Justice Not Just Tests). The two groups joined together and organized the March 28 Stop School Closing Conference. Other education groups and individuals have joined and this current loose coalition has been formed.

II. Purpose/name/organization of the group-
What is the purpose of this group? To counter the attack on public education – merit pay, charters, testing, etc. and to defend public education.

Discussion of basic points of agreement occurred. Budget cuts must be fought. Gustavo: Charters are put into buildings which takes money away from the public schools that are already in the buildings. Sean: School closings are the main cause of the ATR situation. The rally at Tweed was the beginning of this group. Need to include community groups, especially those that are loosing their neighborhood schools to Charters. We need to unite teachers, students and parents. Shelly: A friend of hers was unable to graduate due to inability to take a summer school class. A charter was put into her schools and there was no room/money for summer school classes to be given. Norm: Is this group inclusive of parents? Or is it an educator aimed group that might be able to make alliances with parent groups? Angel: Questioned how to structure the group and suggested name Grassroots Education Movements. Need to acknowledge the groups that originated this current loose coalition. Suggested that a description flier be developed that explains the formation. Antoine: Important to clarify and publicize principals of this group. Emily: Most people are already in an education-related group: No need for organizing another organization. Suggests that this group be a coalition of groups organizing around actions to support public education.

Name of group- Angel suggested GEM- Grassroots Education Movement. Suggestions were made to clarify the purpose of group. Final name: Grassroots Education Movement to Defend Public Education was adopted. GEM is a coalition of groups/individual who work together on issues.

Discussion continued regarding need to combine all the list serves that have been used so far into one master list for internal communications of GEM. A Blog will be developed to include announcements, articles, internal communication, etc. Only some people (authors) will have access to post or make changes. Invitees will have Read Only access.

III . Rally-
The Rally will be May 14.
Logistics: (All are tentative)
Route - Begin at Battery Park –Walk on Broadway- Stop at UFT- Continue on to Tweed for a Rally.
Time: Gather Between 4-4:30 PM, Stop at UFT at 5, Rally at Tweed at 5:30.
Permits: Sound permit not necessary when using bullhorns. No permit needed for a march with fewer then 1-00 people. If we have more then 100, we might march in separate contingents of 100. There was some confusion regarding the need for permits; will be further investigated by Norm and Seung.

Strategy regarding how to approach UFT was discussed. Question was raised regarding the possibility of alienating parent groups if this march is perceived as being anti UFT. Should we even stop at UFT? We should not be divided as this is what the Mayor wants- division within the UFT. Teachers should be taking a stand against the mayor, not the UFT. Do we appeal to the UFT to join with us?

Angel: We should stop at the UFT. With statement that our leadership is not doing enough to fight against the mayor and his anti public school policies.
Final agreement was made that we will briefly stop at UFT and try not to be too antagonistic but call on UFT to join with us in our demands.
Permits: Norm
Publicity: A flier will be made by Angel and Seung_________
Outreach: A master database will be developed to assist in outreach
Media: Angela
Banner: Signs, etc will be produced and organized by _____________
Security: Gloria
Visuals at Rally: John and Sean will organize guerilla Theatre-like activities at the March (Tombstones representing school closures, etc. 0
Speakers for rally:____________
Contact Chicago Group: How did they approach their union? ______
Buttons; Coordinated by Gloria. Please forward ideas for Button Slogan. Also, need a graphic designer to design button. Any volunteers or ides, contact Gloria

IV Forum on Charter Schools-
Speakers: In formation. Will include Parent, Teacher, and Charter School Expert
Outreach: Will be advertized widely, through the master list serve that we are developing, to all CEC’s, Schools, Colleges, etc. Suggestion made to reach out to alumni associations from closing schools.

V Report from Recent Events-
Boys & Girls HS Meeting on April 5- Angel, Lisa and Gloria attended. Main purpose seemed to be anti Mayor Control. Contacts made with individual teachers and the organizers of the meeting.

AL Sharpton Conference – National Action Network, Education Equity Project- Pro Mayoral Control with support for privatization of the schools. One panel included Sharpton, Klein, LA Mayor, Spellings, etc. There were 30 people present who opposed the purpose of this conference. Charles Barron spoke as an ally to the anti privatization forces. A side panel was offered but did not occur.

Additions to these meetings are to be forthcoming.

Respectively Submitted by Gloria Brandman

Thursday, April 9, 2009

"Emerging Principles/Goals of GEM (recommended):

Democratic functioning.
Members participate in and take up the work of a sub-committee.
Educate, Mobilize, Organize around our three issues and those adopted in future.
Create a structure and organization to develop political muscle/pressure over time to win demands related to our issues.
Build the broadest base of support that will unite teachers, parents, students and community around our issues.
Build the organizational power of teachers inside and outside of the UFT to promote our demands, rights and interests. We want the UFT to be an active force that will take up the issues and demands decided democratically by its rank and file who comprise the majority.
Promote a UFT contract that includes our positions on these issues."

Monday, April 6, 2009

STOP NYC Public School Closings! Build the May 14 Citywide Protest at the DOE

Proposed: to be discussed at Apr 7 meeting

STOP NYC Public School Closings! … Build the May 14 Citywide Protest at the DOE

Many public schools across the city have been targeted for closing this year. From Red Hook, Brooklyn to the Rockaways to Harlem to the Fordham neighborhood of the Bronx, all doomed by School Report Card grades of D or F, which are based on a single year's achievement scores. The decision was made unilaterally without hearings or community input.

This new round of closings affects hundreds of teachers and more than three thousand students. It follows six years of school reorganizations under Klein and Bloomberg that have directly affected tens of thousands of students and left close to 1700 teachers still without positions. Teachers in the targeted schools lose their school communities and the relationships they forged over years. Practical knowledge that school veterans have developed is discarded as new schools are established all over again.

The drama of school condemnation only obscures the deteriorating conditions of learning. Class sizes have increased. Buildings are overcrowded. The Daily News recently reported that 17,000 lack access to a school library. Dozens of overcrowded schools are using their libraries as classrooms. Others have librarians working as teachers. Such dismal lack of the basics is not accounted for on school report cards. It must be obvious by now that the DOE's obsession with accountability is more about controlling people than the improvement of anything.

Grading schools with yearly achievement scores stifles creative and relevant pedagogy. It leaves no room for setting long-term educational goals. The growing ranks of teachers in excess are part of the need to keep educators on the defensive, uncertain and in fear. It's time that we joined in an effort not only to resist more closings but to take back our schools for our students and the community.

The Independent Community of Educators & the New York Collective of Radical Educators are forming a coalition with other school activists to address the plight of our teachers, students and parents in the communities of targeted schools for closings. We will explore school closings in relationship to:

* the City's failure to provide viable alternatives for poorly functioning schools and schools with high need students

· our loss and further threats to teacher seniority, due-process and tenure rights

· the scapegoating and discrediting of competent educators

· navigating the morass of the open market hiring system and the new counter-incentives for hiring ATRs

· valid evaluation of teacher quality and performance (e.g. teacher data reports)

· threatened termination of competent ATR educators and their impact on quality services

· high stakes testing

· the accelerated push for charter schools and other forms of privatization

· the need for democratic governance; not mayoral dictatorial control.

May 14 “Citywide Protest to Stop School Closings” Organizing Committee

Meeting: Tues, April 7 - 5 to 7PM CUNY Grad Center – Rm 5409

34th Street and 5th Ave. Bring I.D.

Tel. 718.601.4901 or

Meeting Notes from Organizing Committee Meeting April 1, 2009 at CUNY

Our next meeting: Tues Apr. 7 at 5pm at CUNY, Rm 5414 - or 5409

Meeting Notes from Organizing Committee Meeting April 1, 2009 at CUNY
Any additions or comments leave a comment.

About 20 people present, with reps from ICE, TJC, ISO, NYCORE, TU plus independents

1. Introductions
2. Debriefing from March 28 conferences: what worked and what didn’t.
3. Rally/march up Broadway to Tweed
Main principles of agreement of this coalition
3. Charter school conference
4. Address 3 core issues of conf at this meeting. (No time to address in depth.)
5. Name of this group (some disagreement at to necessity of this – tabled.)

Bill facilitated
Norm took notes

Conf. Debriefing
People felt the conference went well.
Opening presentations went well and students were excellent and had a positive impact.
A suggestion we should have broken the closing schools group into 2 sections because it was so crowded. People wanted to speak and not enough time for all. Strategies for fighting closing schools were not well developed. One of the goals was to get reps from closing schools together in a strategy session and that was weakened.

Need to tighten up control of media. It was an error that we did control and authorize folks who filmed our conference. We need to ensure that agreements for conference/events are adhered to (e.g. tabling fees for literature).

This took the bulk of the meeting.
A discussion of whether to make demands of UFT: oppose high stakes testing, restore 2005 sellout contract, oppose mayoral control. Suggestion to use next 2 Del Ass. With informational pickets – pro-testing UFT has misled. Mayoral control being used to push privatization which would not have been possible if there were local school boards.

Some opposition to trying to get UFT to do anything, referring it to a drain on energy and fact the leadership might try to take it over and undermine it. People disgruntled about UFT.

Lots of responses, with most disagreeing.
-the issue is how best to approach union than either or. Can reach some people. Go to DA with demands and a strategy on how to get people behind it. Ask for endorsement of rally. Apr 22 has open mic on contract where we can present demands on testing, merit pay.

-It is our rally and UFT are welcome to join it but not lead it. We need PR with a clear, unified message instead of a laundry list. Use UFT Spring conf on May 9 to promote.

We need to try to bring in more than teachers to rally to be effective. Make sure parent issues are part of that. Maybe students too.

Question of whether this group is broad-based beyond educators. Argue for educators. We have commonality and are coalescing. As identity forms we can build alliances with other groups. [Some discussion about other groups like mayoral control commission and other groups protesting Klein/Sharpton event at Sheraton on Friday Apr. 3. Feeling we need to build these contacts.]

Not a rally at Tweed alone but a march up Broadway which is more active and militant.
We would stop at UFT and make demands of the union around our issues (e.g. take strong positions against all school closings & high stakes testing, restoring seniority rights transfer, & aggressive push for hiring freeze until ATRs are placed.)
Let’s make a list of demands – outreach, tasks – so everyone has things to do. If not we will lose steam.

We need to address neo-liberal agenda and attack on union rights.

What are goals of rally? To change policy, which policies, get people to do what?

We need some winnable goals. In Chicago they stopped 6 schools from closing. Get UFT to oppose closings, get ATRs hired before new teachers. Mayoral control.
[Side note- since meeting recent UFT/NYCLU suit “stopped” school closing but DOE is undermining by urging parents to keep kids away from schools.]

Who is target? Who do we want to meet with? Shape message, outreach. Sugg to form committees to break down work.

The process of building something is often more of a key than outcomes in building a core of activists. This rally should not be viewed as a one-time event but possibly in a series of events that help build an activist core.

Goals/demands suggestion: equitable schools. End mayoral control is not enough. We need a vision of what kind of schools we want. Central theme is students and how they are affected if we want to build this beyond teachers. All of the factors we are talking about are detrimental to students. [Sidebar: Neo –liberals always talk about how schools are too much for adults and not students. This concept allows us to reverse that argument].

Need more targeted goal: stop closing schools. Target Tweed and UFT. Would DOE meet with a delegation of teachers from closing schools?

Focus on specific schools. But be more positive in demands. Rather than stop closing schools, keep schools open, fix our schools, don’t close them. Start our campaign with a press conference.

A List was generated as we spoke:
Neo-liberal, privatization
Curbing Principals power
School closing
High stakes testing
Mayoral control
Lower class size – use atrs

One of goals – to oppose business union, lack of democratic process, lack of promoting teacher/student rights, democratic quality education.

Reachable goals. How did they stop school closings in Chicago? Basic movement building.

Philosophically, a success if we put a dent in mayor’s armor and get into consciousness of people.

We should not stop at school closing. In JNJT highs takes testing petition almost everyone signs whereas closing schools issue may not affect many people. Suggest high stakes testing and mayoral control. Make connection to how these affect kids.

On PR: We need a leftist journal to write about what we are doing. A New Republic reporter came to our conf and wrote something negative.

Many of these issues can go to committees. The broad idea of this group is addressing the attack on public ed. What are demands of specific rallies? A need to see a road to victory.
School closings drew people to conference.

A way to link 3 concepts of conf: If we were to put the concepts graphically, think of 3 boxes with closing schools in middle, In is high stakes testing and output is Atrs, amongst many other things.

If we bring people from closing schools together even if a smaller rallies, that would be successful. Focal point of outreach should be the closing schools.

Let’s build a movement and this is the embryonic stage. Points of struggle to build a movement. We need to build specific actions and need a focus for each action. One point of struggle at a time.

Focus seemed to be narrowing down to closing schools with high stakes component and possibly ATRs.

Suggestion for committees: General demands of this group/specific goals/name, demands for rally, outreach, after the rally, press/get message out, media, finances, logistics, literature/propaganda, charter school forum.

Charter School forum
First a discussion of a group of teachers meeting with parents in Hamilton Hts on Monday Apr 6 to discuss charter schools. A few people will be going.

Conference date discussed. Should it be on a Saturday? Would conflict with Teachers Unite 4-week workshop. Decision to keep April 27. Location needs to be found.

Two committees formed:
Charter school conf

Broke into brief sub-committee meetings.

Next meeting, Tues, Apr, 7 at CUNY. Room 5414 or 5409
Will meet in sub committee from 5-6 and meet as bigger group form 6-7.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Next Meeting: Tues, April 7, 5 pm at CUNY, Rm 5409 or 5414

May 14th Rally Committee

Internal communication for us to organize the rally.