UFT Members Name Administrators in Need of Improvement (ANOI)
by Eric S.
India’s first woman prime minister, Indira Gandhi, was fond of saying that “there are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.” In the 56 years since the United Federation of Teachers’ founding, rank and file members and opposition caucuses have done the work while the ruling Unity Caucus has taken the credit. Unity Caucus has shown time and again that they are about preserving their own power and position through loyalty oaths and patronage. They only join the real fight for teacher’s rights when those who are part of the daily struggle of working New York City teachers force their hand.
Nowhere is this more true than in the decades-long battle against administrative abuse and incompetence within the Department of Education system. Principals throughout the city have a free hand to harass and intimidate their staff, and thanks to Bloomberg’s initiatives – which De Blasio has failed to reverse – the DOE has a legion of lawyers ready to defend administrators when UFT members file a complaint. NY state law as it relates to schools only recognizes racial, age related and sexual harassment as grounds for legal action, so principals are free to employ any other methods they wish with the tacit approval of the DOE.
The oldest opposition caucus still in existence, New Action, fought to do more on this issue for years. Finally after years of insistence, the UFT’s leadership agreed to create a Principals in Need of Improvement (PINI) list. A list of abusive administrators was made, but no action was taken to push back against harassment and abuse of educators. A quick search for PINI on uft.org will reveal that the UFT has not even posted about the issue since 2009, when then UFT President Randi Weingarten brought it up at the deleate assembly and in typical fashion did nothing.
The UFT’s long history of inaction and neglect on the issue of educator/administrator relations was a major reason for the creation of educator advocacy group Don’t Tread on Educators (DTOE). DTOE and its affiliate UFT caucus, Solidarity took the initiative to create our own ANOI (Administrators in Need of Improvement) list in Winter 2014. The ANOI list allows UFT members and parents to submit their comments regarding the actions of any administrator with a pattern of abuse and harassment toward the staff they are supposed to be leading. A glance through the comments will show that many principals have the same pattern: they will target veteran teachers for constant scrutiny and write them up for things that they’ll ignore in younger and lower-salaried teachers. Also in the comments section, you will see mentions of “termination,” “targeting,” and “discontinuance.” The process of discontinuance is arbitrary and when a teacher is discontinued they are effectively terminated not just from their current school, but from the entire NYC Department of Education’s public school system, vendors who utilize DOE money and facilities, and several charter schools. The DOE is complicit in this since they prefer to pay for lawyers rather than for experienced staff to educate our great city’s young people.
UFT Solidarity has made this issue a top priority because our members, our Council and our candidates in last month’s UFT election are all made up of people who know the toll that administrative abuse can take. Harassment, intimidation, and divide and conquer tactics are not leadership. They are practices which take a measurable toll on the health, well-being and effectiveness of educators, which has a demonstrably negative effect on the children those professionals are charged with educating. The UFT’s leadership is now finally talking about sending out surveys to update the PINI list. This time around we must be tireless in our struggle and insist that the list is published and legal and political action be taken against abusive principals. Anyone in UFT leadership who fails to fight for us on this issue should be held accountable. We of UFT Solidarity know that getting the work done for rank and file teachers is more important than taking the credit, which is why we choose to push for the issues that matter to those hard-working professional educators who are not treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. Join us. Hope is Here!