Chris Wierzbicki for Assistant Secretary
I began teaching in 1987 in District 24, when our Union was strong, and teaching was respected as a profession and career. I have watched as top down educational policies have slowly eaten away at our profession. I have been a Chapter Leader and Superintendent Consultation Committee member in the past, and I am looking forward to working with a team of other educators who want to bring about real changes that every day classroom teachers will see and feel in their classrooms.
What issues do you feel are most critical for our union?
Two issues that I feel very strongly about are properly funding schools and teachers, and evaluating teachers fairly. The changes to both systems in recent years has been a complete failure. When the budget responsibilities were transferred to the principals, decisions on what teaching staff to hire became a matter of who is least expensive, as compared to who is most qualified to do the job. That is wrong for the students and for the senior educators who are often times being driven out of their schools because they are too expensive. When teachers are spending hundreds of dollars out of their own pockets for supplies or relying on the generosity of strangers through Donors Choose type organizations, there is something very broken and very wrong with the current funding situation. Secondly, tohave teacher evaluations linked to test scores has proven to be a complete failure. In my school, there are dozens of teachers whose ratings dropped from effective to developing because of ELA or Math test scores for students in the school that they never even taught! I understand it takes a village to raise a child, but if I taught 95 students last year, why should a portion of my evaluation be tied to the Math scores of all 1200+ students in my school? Administrators are spending hours checking off boxes and recording details on observations so that they appear to be completely objective, but the end result is very little actionable feedback is being provided to teachers. And the fear that permeates a building as the next round of informal observations begin is doing nothing to raise the instructional quality in the classrooms.
How would you engage the membership in implementing the changes that are needed in our union?
Our members TRULY do have a voice. Their voices have just fallen on deaf ears with the current leadership. Regular meetings with the teachers and UFT leadership in the boros on a rotating school to school basis will help individual teachers to be heard. While it is true that Chapter Leaders meet every month, their voices are limited by who the present UFT leadership allow to speak out at Delegate assembly meetings. The UFT has just sent out DL’s to schools when there is an issue that arises. The most current example would be when the recent contract was up for a vote. The leadership came not to ask for opinions or answer honest questions, it was to sell a yes vote. That is not fair to the thousands of teachers in the classroom on a daily basis. Their voices need to be heard AND counted.