Attack mode

A defiant Mulgrew says union won't wait for Bloomberg's exit

Mulgrew and NYU Professor Pedro Noguera discuss the city's education policies in a morning forum.

After more than a decade at war with Mayor Bloomberg, the UFT has increasingly seemed to be looking forward to the day his successor takes office.

But in a 30-minute speech to members at their annual conference on Saturday, UFT President Michael Mulgrew said the union couldn’t sit back until January 2014. Instead, he said he would move forward on new initiatives that he said were central to the union’s values, with or without financial or political support from the city.

“I want to draw a picture of what we know our schools can be and the central role that our union must play in making that happen,” Mulgrew said. “Why do I say ‘we must’? Because more than any other organization, the UFT is positioned to lead the effort to make New York schools the greatest school system in the United States.”

Mulgrew announced in his speech that he would be giving out $300,000 in planning grants to a school that offered the best proposal to transform itself into a one-stop community shop. The “collective impact” grant is meant to help bring in an array of services that would be available to the larger school community and go well beyond the traditional K-12 classroom education.

In announcing the grants, funded by the UFT, the City Council and the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, Mulgrew said he didn’t care if the Department of Education was on board or not.

“It doesn’t matter to me if the city and this current administration does not want to engage in this process,” Mulgrew said. “We are moving forward.”

Mulgrew’s vision for the grant is based on visits to Cincinnati, which has turned all of its more than 50 district schools into “community schools” that rely on partnerships with businesses and non-profits to provide an array of services in their schools. The school buildings stay open until late into the night and on the weekends, providing early childhood centers, adult education, open-gym basketball, translation services, SAT tutoring, and food bank centers to the general public. Local hospitals embed fulltime nurses in the schools to provide free health, dental and vision services.

“It’s an amazing thing to walk into a school and to see so many different services, seamlessly aligned,” Mulgrew said of his visits to Cincinnati.

Each Cincinnati school program employs a resource coordinator and costs millions of dollars, but they are funded almost entirely through the partnerships groups that operate in the community. They come as at a limited cost to city taxpayers, said a Cincinnati official who presented at the conference.

“The entire community has taken responsibility for the schools,” P.G. Sittenfeld, a Cincinnati councilman.

Union officials said a request for proposal for the grant would be released on Monday.

Mulgrew’s speech was the highlight of the conference, which included a education expo and a workshop with Charlotte Danielson. Three congress members, eight state lawmakers and 20 city council members attended the speech. Four prospective mayoral candidates, Scott Stringer, Bill De Blasio, Christine Quinn and Bill Thompson, were there as well.

The UFT Mulgrew also hosted dozens of parents from the union’s new parent leadership academy, formed recently to help parents learn more about the school system and get more involved in education policy decisions.

Mulgrew again criticized the city for its failure to launch its own parent academy, first promised in 2009.

“There’s a big group of parents here today, they waited three years for the parent academy of New York City to be started,” Mulgrew said. “Well it never happened. They never did it.”

Sitting just a few feet away from Mulgrew during the speech was Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who declined to applaud with the rest of the hundreds of other parents, teachers and elected officials in the audience. Walcott managed to sidestep any personal criticism from Mulgrew, however, and even drew applause for his prolific school visits.

“He is constantly in the schools,” Mulgrew said.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.