changing of the guard

Randi Weingarten resigning today from city teachers union

Randi Weingarten testifying at a mayoral control hearing in February.
Randi Weingarten testifying at a mayoral control hearing in February. (<em>GothamSchools</em>)

Ending what might have been one of the city’s worst-kept secrets, Randi Weingarten this afternoon is announcing her plan to resign as president of the city teachers union at the end of next month.

Weingarten is making the announcement to members of the United Federation of Teachers right now at the union’s Lower Manhattan headquarters. Before today, she had not confirmed her intention to step down, even after news of her impending departure leaked to the media. Beginning in August, Weingarten will be devoting herself full-time to the presidency of the second-largest national teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers, which she assumed last summer.

A union press release (posted in full after the jump) contains praise for Weingarten’s 23-year tenure at the UFT from a host of prominent figures, including Gov. Paterson, Mayor Bloomberg, and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

One name that doesn’t make an appearance in the press release is that of Michael Mulgrew, the union vice president who is widely assumed to be next in line for the presidency. Anna just posted a profile of Mulgrew in which she calls him “the new power broker you probably don’t know.” From the profile:

Mulgrew also couldn’t be more different from Weingarten. Tall and apple-cheeked, he has the physical presence of Mr. Clean (both shave their heads) and a quiet charm. “Women seem to like him,” noted one union member.

Still, he’s often bullish and he gained renown in the union for being one of a small number of people to stand up to Weingarten.

Read the complete profile. Below the jump, read the union’s press release announcing Weingarten’s resignation:



United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten is announcing today that she will step down from her role as the union’s president effective July 31st, in order to devote full time to her role as the president of the 1.4 million-member American Federation of Teachers. Weingarten will make the announcement in a speech at the union’s June Delegate Assembly meeting this afternoon. She has been serving as president of both the UFT and the AFT since July of 2008.

Randi, who was elected UFT President in 1998, came to the union full-time in February, 1986 from the law firm of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP. During her time as UFT president, Randi has made unprecedented progress in promoting teacher professionalism, improving teacher quality and attracting and retaining teachers through a series of landmark accomplishments. She also navigated the union into a position of growth and strength when the labor movement has been struggling.

“Randi Weingarten has been a tireless advocate for public education in New York,” said Governor David A. Paterson. “She is an innovative leader, a no-nonsense reformer, a tough negotiator and someone I am proud to call my friend. During her tenure at the United Federation of Teachers, she has led the effort to forge strong ties between parents, communities and teachers, and she has broken new ground on major reforms. While this is certainly a loss for the UFT, Randi will continue to fight for excellence in education on behalf of New Yorkers and educators across the nation as she now focuses on her role as head of the American Federation of Teachers. I applaud Randi’s advocacy and tenacity, and I look forward to continuing to work with her to help give all of our children a better education.”

“Randi has been a big part of many of the reforms we have implemented over the past seven years – and a big part of the incredible turnaround our schools have made,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “She’s a tireless champion of her members, and her leadership has benefited not only our schools, but our entire City. I look forward to continuing to work with her as she partners with the Obama Administration to replicate our reforms all over the country.”

“Randi is a progressive leader and a dynamic figure and a symbol for what is possible,” said Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch. She will be missed but she will be remembered in New York for the leadership that she provided during a critical reform era.”

“When it comes to labor leaders, Randi is the gold standard,” said Denis Hughes, President of the 2.5 million member New York State AFL-CIO. “She has an innate ability to lead. She knows how to bring people together, forge consensus and most importantly, get things done. Randi’s contributions to her members, the labor movement and all working men and women throughout this city and state go beyond words. We’re sad to see her go, but so very proud of the indelible mark of leadership, caring and commitment that she leaves behind.”

City Comptroller William Thompson said, “During her tenure over the last decade, Randi Weingarten has exemplified the true meaning of ‘fighter.’ She has fought for smaller class sizes, for higher standards, and for safer schools. Randi has been a fierce – and downright tireless – advocate for our city’s educators, for parents, and for students. She has stood up to City Hall and the Department of Education when classrooms have swollen with too many students, when day care workers have not been paid properly, and when spending has spun out of control. Through it all, she has always viewed her role as a partner with a vested interest in improving our schools. We need more leaders like Randi Weingarten, who focus their energies on yielding better transparency and greater accountability in our system. I wish Randi the best of luck; our loss is the nation’s gain.”

Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum said, “Randi Weingarten is a great, progressive labor leader, very much like my husband Victor. Over the course of her tenure, she has tirelessly stood up for the interests of teachers and has been a leader on education reform. I am grateful for her tremendous commitment to making our school system the best it can be and giving teachers a stronger voice in the decision-making process. I know her work will have a lasting impact on New York City public schools and I look forward to her continued strong and visionary leadership at her new post.”

“For the last decade, Randi Weingarten has been the leading voice for 80,000 New York City public school teachers,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “While we her departure from the United Teachers Federation is a huge loss for New Yorkers, the 1.4 million members of the American Teachers Federation will benefit from the vast experience and numerous achievements she has made here at home. Randi has been a true friend to this City Council and a true friend to me. We wish her the best of luck as she continues on in the fight to keep our country’s teachers strong and our schools even stronger.”

“Randi is without question one of the greatest human beings I have had the privilege to know,” said George Anthony, a UFT representative at Susan E. Wagner High School. “A lot of what she does is subtle and behind the scenes, and I’m not sure people fully appreciate that. Earlier this school year, my attempts to get permission for a class of students to speak at the United Nations were stuck in bureaucratic limbo. We had literally tried for months, and I was just about to give up when I sent her an email asking if there was any way the UFT could help. She got right back to me, made a few calls, and the very next day, the trip was scheduled. My students will never forget that trip, and I have Randi to thank. I have met some extraordinary individuals in my life, but Randi’s fearlessness and relentlessness on behalf of teachers and students only makes you try that much harder in your own job. She has devoted her life to this work, and I admire her for that.”

“Ms. Weingarten was always focused on making us better individuals,” said Chris Cassagnol, a former student of Randi’s at Clara Barton High School and now a SAPIS Counselor (Substance Abuse Prevention & Intervention Specialist) at Brooklyn’s PS 109. “She was very generous with her time and really took an interest in our lives and our dreams. She pushed us to try harder and think bigger, and I owe her a lot for that.”

“During the winter months of 1991-1992, a team of Clara Barton High School students from my AP Political Science class and I spent long evenings at the Grand Army Plaza library and in a Congressman’s local office in Brooklyn, perusing Supreme Court cases, preparing for the City and later State-wide Championship Rounds of the Fifth Annual Bicentennial Competitions on the Constitution and Bill of Rights,” said Tamika Edwards, former student and now Director of Legal Education of Legal Outreach. “Ms. Weingarten was a phenomenal teacher and fine example of a legal advocate. Not only was she the first female attorney I had ever met, her passion for the law and young people coupled with her teaching prowess inspired me to pursue a career in law and serve New York City youth as well.”

Randi is the fourth president of the UFT in its storied 49-year history, following Charles Cogan (1960 to 1964), Albert Shanker (1964 to 1986) and Sandra Feldman (1986 to 1998).

Weingarten holds degrees from Cornell University and the Cardozo School of Law. As a teacher of history at Clara Barton High School in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, from 1991 to 1997, she helped her students win several state and national awards. Randi is a vice president of the national AFL-CIO, and served ten years as head of the city’s Municipal Labor Committee, an umbrella organization for some 365,000 city employees in 100 city employee unions. She also served as a vice-president of the New York City Central Labor Council of the AFL-CIO, chairperson of the Health Insurance Plan (HIP) of Greater New York and as a board member of the N.Y.C. Independent Budget Office.

Today’s announcement means the union’s executive board will meet in the coming weeks to nominate and vote on candidates to fill the vacancy. The person elected by the executive board will serve out the remainder of Weingarten’s term, which ends in the spring of 2010, at which time the union is scheduled to hold an election for its entire slate of officers.

The United Federation of Teachers represents more than 200,000 active and retired members, including teachers, classroom paraprofessionals, school secretaries, attendance teachers, guidance counselors, psychologists, social workers, education evaluators, nurses, laboratory technicians, adult education teachers and home child-care providers. The UFT also runs more than 300 teacher centers around the five boroughs as well as two charter schools.

The union’s delegate assembly meets monthly during the school year, and is made up of more than 2,500 elected chapter leaders, executive board members and other representatives.


To and Through

Newark’s post-grad paradox: More students are entering college, but few earn degrees

PHOTO: Patrick Wall/Chalkbeat
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka wants 25 percent of residents to have college degrees by 2025, up from 19 percent today.

When it comes to college, Newark faces a good news-bad news paradox.

More students than ever are graduating high school and enrolling in college, according to a new report. Yet fewer than one in four Newark students earns a college degree within six years of graduating high school — leaving many with limited job prospects in a city where an estimated one-third of jobs require a four-year college degree.

Now, city officials are promising to build on the report. They want to ramp up the rigor of high-school classes and create more early-college programs to increase the odds of students entering college and leaving with a degree.  

“How do we teach our children to perform — to graduate?” Mayor Ras Baraka asked at a press conference Wednesday to mark the official release of the report of Newark students’ college outcomes. “We got them in the door,” he said of students who attend college. “Now how do we make them stay?”

The city’s plans, to which Superintendent Roger León is lending his support, reflect a growing recognition that simply getting students into college is not sufficient — and can even backfire if they drop out before graduation, leaving them with college debt but no degree.

Until recently, the charge given to high schools in Newark and across the country was to foster “college-going cultures.” And these efforts showed promising results: On average, 51 percent of Newark Public School students who graduated high school between 2011 and 2016 immediately enrolled in college, up from 39 percent who did so between 2004 and 2010, according to the report by the Newark City of Learning Collaborative, or NCLC, and Rutgers University-Newark’s School of Public Affairs and Administration.

But entering college didn’t guarantee its completion. Of those students who started college straight after high school, only 39 percent earned a degree within six years, the report found.

As a result, educators and policymakers have begun to think harder about how to help students “to and through” college — to ensure they actually earn degrees. Toward that end, Baraka and the NCLC — which includes roughly 40 colleges, schools, nonprofits, and corporations — has set a goal of 25 percent of Newark residents earning college degrees or comparable credentials by 2025.

Today, just 19 percent of Newark adults have associate degrees or higher — compared to 45 percent of adults across New Jersey and 40 percent nationally.

Superintendent León, who began overseeing the city’s schools on July 1, said his main strategy for supporting these efforts will be to expose students to challenging work early on.

“If we don’t do something dramatically in classrooms to improve instruction and make it rigorous,” León said after Wednesday’s event, then students are “getting into college but they’re not completing it.”

Source: “Post-Secondary Outcomes of Newark High School Graduates (2011-2016)” report. Note: The four-year rate is an average of the classes of 2011 to 2013. The six-year rate is from the class of 2011. Graphic: Sam Park/Chalkbeat

For starters, León said he wants high schools to offer more college-level classes. In the 2016-17 school year, just 21 percent of Newark students were enrolled in one or more Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes — compared to 42 percent of students statewide.

He also vowed to raise the quality of instruction in the district’s traditional high schools. Only 14 percent of their graduates earn college degrees within six years, compared to 42 percent of graduates from the city’s selective magnet schools, the report found.

To do that, León said he will create specialized academies within the traditional schools modeled on the magnets, which have specialized themes such as science, technology, or the arts. The academies, which will partner with colleges, will most likely feature admissions criteria similar to those of magnet schools, which select students based on their academic and attendance records, León added.

And, for the first time, all ninth-grade students this academic year will take the Preliminary SAT, or PSAT, León said Wednesday. An additional 1,100 eighth-graders who passed at least one of their seventh-grade PARCC exams will also take the PSAT when it’s administered on Oct. 10.

Since 2016, the district has provided the PSAT to all 10th and 11th-grade students. But León said that giving the test to younger students will focus their attention on college and help identity those who are ready for advanced classes. The PSAT is designed to help students prepare for the SAT, which is used in college admissions, and to qualify for National Merit Scholarships.

The district, which was under state control for 22 years until February, is getting some assistance in its effort to improve students’ college outcomes.

For instance, KIPP, the national charter-school network with eight schools in Newark, is sharing its strategies for helping students choose the right college with guidance counselors at three district high schools.

And the higher-education institutions in the Newark City of Learning Collaborative, including Essex County College and Rutgers University-Newark, plan to create more “dual-enrollment” programs that allow high-school students to earn college credits, said NCLC Executive Director Reginald Lewis.

“We’re all going to do a better job,” Lewis said, “of making sure that once Newark residents get in our doors, that we help them persist.”

Time crunch

In victory for teachers union, Newark superintendent scraps longer hours for low-performing schools

PHOTO: Patrick Wall/Chalkbeat
Superintendent Roger León at Hawkins Street School, one of the schools that will lose its extended hours.

Newark’s new superintendent is eliminating a program that extended the hours of struggling schools, which the teachers union has long attacked as ineffective and unfair to educators.

Teachers at roughly 30 schools will no longer receive $3,000 annual stipends for the extra hours, a provision written into the current teachers contract, which extends to 2019. Instead, all 64 district schools will get extra funding for before and after-school programs, Superintendent Roger León said in an email to employees on Tuesday.

The changes will go into effect Monday, Sept. 10, resulting in new hours for the affected schools just days after the new school year began. The district is still working to adjust pickup times for students who are bused to school, according to León’s email. A few of the schools will phase out their extended hours later in the year, the email said.

“We will not continue to do the same things as before and be surprised when the results do not change,” León wrote, adding that cutting the extra hours would save the district $5 million.

In an interview with Chalkbeat Thursday, León said the move is intended to create more uniformity among schools and the services they provide. Now, all schools will get additional money to pay for programs outside of the regular school day, which schools can tailor to their individual needs, though students who are struggling academically will continue to receive “intensive” support, he said.

“Ultimately, the idea would be by October having completely different after-school and before-school programming that meets the needs of each respective school,” León said.

The extended time was first included in the teachers contract in 2012 as part of a larger improvement plan for the targeted schools, which was developed by Cami Anderson, Newark’s former state-appointed superintendent. The plan also designated some low-performing schools as “renew” schools, where teachers had to reapply for their positions and work longer hours.

Anderson also closed some schools and gave principals new hiring authority. Both actions left dozens of tenured teachers without positions, so Anderson created a fund to pay those teachers to perform support duties in schools. In 2014, that fund for “employees without placement” cost the district $35 million out of its nearly $1 billion budget, though by last year the fund had shrunk to $8 million for about 100 unassigned teachers, according to officials.

León said in Tuesday’s email that he was also eliminating the fund, which he said would save the district another $6 million. The teachers union president said he believed all the unassigned teachers now have placements, but the district did not respond to a request to confirm that.

León is also removing the “renew” and “turnaround” labels from low-performing schools, citing their “progress and student achievement,” according to the email.

“I applaud everyone’s efforts at renew or turnaround schools and acknowledge what has been accomplished,” he wrote.

Now that León has abolished his predecessors’ school-improvement program, he will be expected to create his own. Many schools remain mired in poor performance, even as the district overall has made strides in recent years.

When the teachers union agreed to the extended hours in its 2012 contract with the district, it was hailed nationally as a major breakthrough in efforts to revamp troubled schools. But even as the union agreed last year to keep the provision in its current contract, union officials have assailed the turnaround effort as a failure.

NTU President John Abeigon told Chalkbeat on Thursday that the program had been a “scam” and “nothing more than extended childcare.” He added that the stipend teachers received amounted to about $7 per hour for the extra time they worked.

In 2016, a district-commissioned survey of 787 teachers at schools with extended hours found that two-thirds of teachers at schools where the extra time was spent on student instruction said the time was valuable. But in a survey the union conducted in April, the 278 teachers who responded gave the extended hours low ratings for effectiveness in boosting student achievement.

Some teachers in the union survey praised the longer hours, saying their schools used them effectively to lengthen class periods, run after-school clubs, or allow teachers to plan lessons or review student data. But others said the extra time was squandered, leaving staff and students exhausted with little evidence of improved student outcomes to show for it. (Students’ pass rates on state tests stayed flat or declined at most “renew” schools in the first years of the program.)

The union also has complained that many teachers felt compelled to work the extra hours because those who refused to could be transferred to different schools. Under the terms of the original extended-day agreement, teachers were required to work an extra hour per day and attend trainings during the summer and some weekends.

In León’s email to employees, he said every extended-day school had set different work requirements and “none are consistent with the original design.” The longer days may also be contributing to high teacher turnover in those schools, he wrote, adding that principals of schools with regular hours told him they did not want to extend their hours.

Abeigon, the union president, applauded León’s decision to scrap the extra work hours.

“He came to the conclusion that we expected any true educator to reach: that the program was not working and was never going to work,” he said.

León said Thursday that he is now working on a new turnaround program. Once it’s ready, he promised to share the details with affected families before publicly announcing which schools are part of it — an effort to avoid the student protests that erupted when Anderson identified her “turnaround” schools.

He also said he was still considering whether he would ever close schools that fail to improve or to reverse their declining enrollments. Anderson’s decision to shutter nearly a dozen long-struggling schools continues to fuel resentment among her critics even years later.

“I think the whole idea of how much time does a school get to correct itself is a very important one and I’m going to need to be really reflective on it,” León said. “I’ve seen what closing schools does with people who do not feel that they were aware of it or a part of fixing it.”