The City Needs To Bargain With Us In Good Faith
We Are Fighting For Ourselves And Our Students By Mark Cannizzaro
Chancellor Carranza’s glowing rhetoric about school leaders in recent P-Weeklies is discordant and incongruous with the inertia that he, Mayor de Blasio, and their teams have been bringing to the bargaining table. We have been out there fighting all summer for a fair contract that addresses your working conditions, salaries, benefits, school safety and ultimately, helps our students. The fact that the city and the DOE are allowing you to return to your buildings without a contract is disrespectful. For most of the negotiations, our energy has been met with a frustrating inaction that belies his flattering verbiage. Here is the chancellor: “Being a principal is one of the most rewarding careers, and it is also one of the most complex and challenging in our society. You are the difference makers, the leaders, the dreamers, and the doers. You make joyful learning happen, and you expand the worlds of what is possible for the children we serve.”
Excuse me? There is a total disconnect between these words and what is happening at the table. To say nothing about your impossible workload, which despite promises continues to expand.
Remember when the chancellor solicited your input on the mountains of paperwork that you are expected to climb from dawn to dusk, when you need to be focusing on culture, climate and instruction? At the start of the last school year, he vowed to take things off your plate and then said that yet another “task force” would address the issue. By June, the task force hadn’t even been convened. Today, you look up and see an even higher mountain of paper.
This brings me to the so called “streamlined” CEP that the DOE rolled out, against CSA’s recommendation, in May, when everyone was distracted. As we predicted, there were major problems. Navigating the portal was cumbersome, drop-down menus weren’t working properly, and printing a hard copy of completed work was impossible. After hours online, many of you discovered that the entire plan had been erased. The decision to move forward with this CEP suggests complete indifference to you.
In too many ways, the chancellor’s listening tour amounted to nothing. No reduction in unnecessary paperwork, no changes to FSF, an inept rollout of a poorly constructed CEP, and no new resources to effectively implement the proposed changes to important Chancellor’s Regulations A-831 and A-832.
As school leaders, your beginning of the year planning time is essential to a safe opening. So last year, when principals were pulled from their buildings twice during the first week back, we voiced concern and were subsequently promised that it wouldn’t happen again. However, you were instead directed to plan and conduct new teacher training on August 27. I’m sure that each of you had set up ongoing new teacher support anyway and this level of micromanagement is inconsiderate of those prior – and likely more effective – plans.
Why is it that this famously progressive administration has not been honoring you in the day-to-day or in negotiations? Don’t they understand that you have done everything that has been asked of you despite the obstacles they place in your way? Do they not know, deep down, that the improvements in test scores and graduation rates they tout were earned on your backs? Perhaps, they simply underestimate our strength and resolve.
It’s worth noting that other unions as well have been frustrated in their negotiations with the city. CSA is certainly not alone in facing a city government that claims to be pro-union but in practice is frequently unsupportive of the people who do the hard work of making the city function.
When CSA wins a contract that is worthy of you, it will be thanks to you. You will exhibit the same tenacity you brought to the 2014 negotiation, when the administration tried to withhold lump sum retroactive pay from our members who had been promoted from teaching positions. They called them “leavers” and refused to honor their service. But as CSA members, you stood up for them and won.
This was no small victory for unity, but the war, as it turned out, wasn’t entirely over. Later, the City decided to save nickels by denying any lump sum retroactive payments to the families of CSA members who had passed away while in active service to the students in this city. They viewed them as the ultimate “leavers.” It was outrageous and disgraceful.
Now, as you can see from the related story in the September issue of CSA News, we won this victory. And we are going to go on to win others.
If I have to go public about the stumbling blocks to the new contract, I will do so when the time is right. I know I can count on you to make your voices heard through letters and calls to elected officials, in the media, and on the steps of City Hall. I know that you will continue to honor your commitment to students everyday by always acting in their best interest, and I also know that you won’t be shy about demanding that the chancellor live up to his words: “I have kept my focus fixed on you, the school leaders who are on the ground every day driving equity and excellence throughout our 1,800 schools.”
You will make sure he does the right thing.
Mark Cannizzaro is president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators.