Bloomberg fails on public schools: UFT head

Photo by Rich Bockmann
By Rich Bockmann

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew may have just gone through a rough few days following the publication of teacher data reports, but on Leap Day he said there were only 22 months and one day left in the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whom he criticized for 10 years of mismanagement of the city’s schools.

“Why couldn’t we get a leap year in 2014?” he asked a packed auditorium at PS 69, at 77-02 34th Ave., Feb. 29 during City Councilman Daniel Dromm’s (D-Jackson Heights) “The Real Deal” town hall meeting.

Dromm, who was a UFT chapter leader for 16 years and a delegate for nine, introduced Mulgrew as “your best friend in the business” to deafening applause from the teachers and parents who attended the meeting to discuss the management of the public school system, notably the recent release of the city Department of Education’s teacher evaluation reports.

“I say shame on [Bloomberg] for releasing these scores,” Mulgrew said, and he characterized the move as an act of desperation from the mayor after a decade of unsuccessful polices he said included failing to build more classrooms, closing schools, alienating parents and stifling educators.

Sonya Gimondo, a teacher at PS 234 in Astoria and a UFT chapter leader, said the evaluation reports of some of her colleagues were plagued with clerical inaccuracies. She said parents already have a way to measure how effective their children’s teachers are.

“Report cards serve that purpose,” said Gimondo, who lamented the loss of physical education and the arts in schools.

Mulgrew and Dromm said the mayor’s bureaucratic, business-minded educational polices that threatened school closures based on quantitative measures of schools, teachers and students had incentivized cheating, narrowed curriculum and demoralized teachers.

“The focus on testing is madness,” the councilman said. “Stop this obsession with testing!”

Dromm, a member of the Council Education Committee, said the solutions to fixing a broken education system should include decreasing class sizes, focusing on early childhood education and care and addressing the factors that lead to family homelessness and poverty.

Mulgrew said Bloomberg had created a relationship of broken trust and claimed that education policy could never be changed under “these people.” He said the union was working to negotiate a new teacher evaluation system, 60 percent of which will be based on classroom observation, 20 percent on testing and 20 percent to be decided between the UFT and the DOE.

He said evaluations should take into account things such as students’ homework and research papers and conceded that there must be a way to identify teachers, no matter how well-meaning, who fail to help students progress.

“If someone can’t get better, they have to leave the system,” he said.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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