what doesn't kill you

De Blasio says UFT snub makes him tougher on contract talks

IMG_20130801_084801Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio is casting his lack of support from municipal unions — including the teachers union — as a good thing for the city, saying it’ll make him a tougher negotiator if he sits down with labor leaders to hammer out new contracts as mayor.

“I am unburdened by the support of the municipal labor unions,” de Blasio said this morning at an event at the CUNY Institute for Education Policy.

The comments are significant coming from de Blasio, the city’s public advocate, who positioned himself as a labor-friendly candidate early on in the Democratic primary. He was among the candidates who jockeyed for the United Federation of Teachers endorsement, but was passed over for former comptroller Bill Thompson.

“I know Mr. Mulgrew very well,” de Blasio said, referring to UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “He’s someone that I work well with, but he obviously went with another choice.”

Negotiating the teachers union contract is one of the biggest education issues in the mayoral election. The UFT has made it clear that one of its sticking points is securing up to $3 billion in retroactive pay for the years since the teachers’ contract expired. Back pay for more than 100 labor organizations without contracts adds up to roughly $7 billion, according to city budget estimates.

De Blasio, who was endorsed by SEIU 1199, which represents health care workers, compared himself to the current mayor to characterize his bargaining power in dealing with the city’s special interests.

“Lots of people like to say … Mayor Bloomberg had the great advantage of independence. He didn’t need anyone’s money. He didn’t need anyone’s endorsement,” de Blasio continued. “I have my own independence.”

In a statement, Mulgrew scoffed at de Blasio’s remarks. “Apparently the endorsement of 1199 does not constitute a burden for Mr. De Blasio, and I am surprised he would have found our endorsement such a potential threat to his independence,” Mulgrew said, “particularly since he was on my calendar so many times earlier this year, many of our staff members thought he had an office in our building.”

After months of trailing behind other Democratic contenders, a recent poll showed that de Blasio pulled even with Thompson for second place behind front-runner City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

“What I say to Michael Mulgrew and any other labor leader is, put on the table anything you want, I’ll put on the table our reality and I’ll tell you some of the things I need,” de Blasio said.

De Blasio called said the fact that all of the city’s labor unions were without contract “unconscionable” and indicated that he’d be willing to offer city workers some back pay from the years without a contract.

“I think it is going to be exceedingly challenging, but I think the fundamental notion that we have to get to a contract in year one is accurate. I think some recognition from the years where there was no increase, some way of addressing that, has to be found.”

Read more about De Blasio’s positions on education here.

Here’s video, courtesy of Ben Max, of DecideNYC.com:


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.