Reasons to Vote ICE-TJC from John Elfrank-Dana


    As you enjoy your break consider finding that pink envelope the American Arbitration Association sent you. If you do, I recommend you vote for the ICE/TJC slate.

    (As a disclaimer, know that I am running for one of the at-large positions, my name is buried deep in there somewhere, but if you vote the slate it will count for me).

    My reasons for joining ICE/TJC are the following:

    1. ICE/TJC are for democratic unionism. Unity is machine politics and back room deals with the mayor. Now that the mayor has spit in their faces they are in a state of shock.

    2. ICE/TJC have a vision for democratic schools where teachers have rights as professionals. Unity believes in nothing other than more dues, double pensions for their staff and patronage jobs.

    3. ICE/TJC are for digging in and preparing for confrontation. Unity has been the "if you can't beat 'em join'em" party. Randi was way too cozy with Bloomberg. Mulgrew is all chest-beating. HE HAS NO PLAN.

    Unity has painted us into a corner with one accommodating contract after another. We cannot postpone the day of reckoning, for every year we do our position only gets worse and worse.

    We need to call these so called ed reforms like Charter Schools and NCLB and Race to the Top for what they are: UNION BUSTING. And union busting is CLASS WARFARE.

    We must show other working New Yorkers that our fight is theirs. That, if they want a future for their children with rights on the job and a decent standard of living, the fight must start now. We are the standard bearers. If we collapse there will be no organized group out there to replace us.

    Voting for ICE/TJC is taking that first important step to moving forward.

    For more information about ICE/TJC and James Eterno, candidate for President of the UFT, go to:

    John Elfrank-Dana
    UFT Chapter Leader
    Murry Bergtraum High School

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Reasons to Vote ICE-TJC from John Elfrank-Dana

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Klein appears ready to defy court order! What's Mulgrew's Next Step?

    Exposing the fault lines of the UFT/NAACP law suit:

    From Leonie:

    The video on Fox News makes it sound like the battle won at least for next year and schools will remain open.

    The stories below, however, from GS and Brooklyn Eagle, sound like once again, Chancellor Klein is unchastened and is ready to take the law in his own hands; starting today and tomorrow, he will send out HS acceptance letters as though the court ruled in his favor, assigning not a single student to any of the closing schools. Instead, there will just be a note in the letters that students may later be able to switch later to these other schools, depending on the outcome of the case.

    Schools Chancellor Klein said in a statement late Friday, "Beginning tonight and continuing through the weekend, we will be sending out high school acceptance letters to students’ homes. We anticipate that by mid-week all students will have received their letters.

    No students were initially matched to schools that were slated for phase-out," Klein said. "Depending on the outcome of the appeal of the judge’s decision, those schools might accept new students. As a result, students who applied to those schools will also receive a letter stating that, should the schools remain open, they may select one of them."

    Thus if this accurate it makes a fait accompli that the schools will be empty of students in the fall. Mulgrew says they will ask the court to bar this from happening.

    This is even worse than when Klein lost the lawsuit about closing the neighborhood zoned schools, without approval from the CECs, and subsequently sent letters to all the parents to take their kids out of these schools anyway.

    Also see this:

    From Gotham Schools: What happens to the new schools that were supposed to open and replace the closing schools?

    City officials are confident they will still open. Fifteen new schools, including four new charter schools, were set to be co-located in buildings with schools that were going to be phased out.
    Department of Education officials said many of the buildings are already so underutilized that it is likely there will be room for the new schools to open in those buildings anyway.

    “We’re telling them that we’re evaluating, but we expect that there will be room for the new schools next year,” said DOE spokesman Danny Kanner.

    But that ignores the court decision that says these co-locations are illegal, since DOE violated the required process!

    The judge should call Klein in contempt of court, and throw the guy in jail!

    Leonie Haimson

    Dee Alpert called on action against the State Ed Dept., which is controlled by the state assembly. Again, the UFT with its influence has allowed the state ed dept to let BloomKlein run rampant without censure. Here is what Dee wrote:

    On many issues, one must legally first ask NYSED, or petition NYSED, to do something about the problem before one can litigate. Unfortunately, that's the way the public education system in NYS is set up and governed, or in this case, not governed. It's a procedural requirement - if you don't do it, you can be thrown out of court. Essentially, when you go to court, you're appealing a NYSED administrative decision. (And that's why NYC folks got screwed re class size reduction in the C4E process. NYSED probably told Klein to do whatever he wanted and to hell with the law.) Personally, I would never give NYSED authority to enforce any education-related law because enforcement will become a political decision, and NYSED virtually always decides things the wrong way. You can thank Shelly Silver for that, since he selects the Regents.

    While the NYS Comptroller audit didn't mention the NYCDOE, it establishes that NYSED has a pattern or practice of not enforcing its own regulations re p.e., and one could gather some information about the lack of p.e. in a sample of NYCDOE schools to show that while the audit didn't cover NYC, NYSED's pattern of nonenforcement is the same inside and outside of NYC - pervasive and statewide, including the NYCDOE.

    "An action against NYSED to enforce the regs in NYC ..." would involve something called a "writ of mandamus," which is a legal move to coerce/force a governmental entity into doing something it must, according to law or regulation, do ... but isn't. (Or something it is doing which it has no authority to do, in reverse.) Mandamus are not necessarily easy to get, but given the vast amt. of public health data showing the harm - palpable - to NYC's public ed. system's students, who need p.e. in order to avoid obesity, Type II diabetes, etc. - might not be so hard to get. Obviously, you all need to speak to practicing attorneys to see what the current law and precedents are, but it's certainly worth exploring in depth. And get a few public health goo-goos to sue as co-plaintiffs.

    NYSED has more complicated and bizarre regulations than you can shake a stick at, and the NY Education Law is similarly incredibly (and often uselessly) detailed. Some review of the entire set of regs. and laws, including for ELLs and special ed. kids, should be made and a Baker's Dozen of biggies which the NYCDOE is violating, at least in part because of miseries inflicted by co-location and school closings, should be developed. And then, after asking NYSED nicely to enforce ... these kinds of actions can be brought to bring both NYSED and the NYCDOE to heel.

    F'rinstance, the NYCDOE's credit recovery scams - I've looked long and hard and prior to Oct. '09, it was illegal, and NYSED had no authority to approve the NYCDOE allowing this anywhere, any time, and ... to have done anything about this after the regs were passed would hurt kids who were inappropriately given diplomas because they were given (notice I didn't say "earned") these credits. It could have been stopped flat, bigtime prior to passage of those regs.

    Both NYSED and the NYCDOE typically do whatever the heck they want because the laws and regs are so intentionally over-complicated that it's almost impossible for anyone to understand all of what they require. Nevertheless, a targeted review of the laws and regs. can provide potent weapons to bring both NYSED and the NYCDOE to heel - almost on a daily basis.

    The underlying problem, which you're all dealing with, is that the system of governance for NYSED, and thus the entire NYS public education system, is appallingly corrupt. It needs to be revised and, frankly, reamed out. For starters, we need a truly independent Inspector General with a big budget and subpoena authority to review everything NYSED does, from school corruption to regulation of the NYCDOE's co-location program. Right now, there is actually no entity in NYS which has this authority - the system is governed in the dark, behind closed doors, and often from under some rock. We need an independent, powerful IG with authority to bring in some transparency, and then we can see what else is needed to get genuine accountability. The fish rots from the head and the head in NYS is NYSED.


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Klein appears ready to defy court order! What's Mulgrew's Next Step?

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Rabbit Stews: It's Over

    No, this is not about the UFT election campaign being over. I'll post about that later.

    My marathon of reading all 4 novels in John Updike's Rabbit Angstrom series has ended. It's been a year, or more, since I decided to read the entire series when Updike died last year and once I got ahold of it I was like a dog with a bone. I stuck with it despite there was no character I really liked. But I couldn't let go. One woman told me recently she never read Updike because of his attitudes towards women. Once you start following the arc of someone's entire life it isn't easy to stop. Starting in 1959 and ending in 1990, each book covered a decade, with lots of backtracking. Lots of stream of consciousness. Deep descriptions of characters and scenery and politics and sports. I'm far from a literary critic so I won't go further. I didn't love it but Rabbit, it was nice knowing you. Sorry there wasn't a 5th novel to take us into the 21st century. I guess Updike got tired of Rabbit and his world too.

    Here's the list:
    Run, Rabbit, Run c. 1960
    Rabbit Redux, c. 1970
    Rabbit is Rich, c. 1980
    Rabbit at Rest, c. 1990

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Rabbit Stews: It's Over

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NYC Educator Trashes Gotham Schools Election Coverage

    I'm cross-posting this from NYC Educator. I had a conversation the other day with Anna Philips who wrote the piece. I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt as this is part of a series. But it is troubling to have her say that the UFT is in trouble of the opposition vote rises when the exact opposite is true. A rising tide will lift the UFT boat, not sink it.

    GothamSchools Trashes UFT Opposition, Determines 22% Voter Turnout Not "Too Apathetic"

    I was kind of amazed to go to GothamSchools yesterday and read " If the population currently teaching in the city’s classrooms starts to stray to opposition groups, or is too apathetic to vote, the union could be in trouble."

    First of all, the article itself states only 22 percent of working teachers voted three years ago. Doesn't a 78% lack of participation already indicate apathy? Or is the accepted standard 79%? I haven't been to journalism school, but perhaps it's written in some highly regarded textbook somewhere.

    Be that as it may, I'm also astounded by the contention that the union could be in trouble if too many working teachers stray to opposition groups. Despite what Unity sources may have told the Gotham reporter, we too are union, we believe fervently in union and we think the union is already in trouble. We think many of our troubles began when the UFT/ Unity aristocracy ignored James Eterno's advice and decided to go to PERB in 2005.

    Or perhaps GothamSchools simply thinks we are trouble. Maybe Unity told them we were trouble and they're simply reporting it unattributed. Hard to say, since they didn't see fit to explain.

    This piece could well have been written by the Unity propaganda team, already up to its elbows in cutesy and blatantly unfair manipulation---and this on the even of the election. ICE/ TJC presidential candidate James Eterno just commented here that today is the very last day to persuade people, and the preposterous contention masquerading as news at Gotham is neither welcome, accurate, nor helpful.

    The Unity dynasty, propped up by chapter leaders who've signed away their free will for a couple of trips to conventions, does not much need Gotham's help.

    Why don't members vote? Because they've given up. Because they think the election is in the bag and it doesn't matter what they do. The more I read things like that column, the better I understand why they get that feeling.

    Perhaps in part two of the Gotham-Unity interview, they'll ask why high school teachers can't select their own VP. Probably they won't. In any case, taking the choice away from high school teachers is not without precedent. The technique of widening the pool to make sure no former slaves got elected by mistake was used with some success after the Civil War. Doubtless when Unity does it to unpredictable high school teachers, it's pristine and pure democracy.

    I look forward to the next installment. Perhaps we'll hear not only from the Unity folks who signed the loyalty oath, but from New Action folks as well. We can learn how New Action props up the facade of democracy with fake opposition blatantly and cynically designed to divert folks from troublesome activists who stand up for what they believe, as opposed to what Unity tells them to believe. Maybe they'll express it some other way.

    "We believe it's the responsibility of an opposition to support the status quo candidate so we can get jobs and political positions." Perhaps they won't say it that way either.

    Whatever they say, I can't wait to see what comes next. I love hearing both sides of an issue, and it's particularly riveting when both sides are spoken out of the same mouth.

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NYC Educator Trashes Gotham Schools Election Coverage

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Patrick Sullivan on PEP highlights from Tuesday on Staten Island:

    The mayoral bloc + Staten Island had nine members so they swept all the votes easily.

    Chancellor's report --

    All about grad rates. I asked about abuse of credit recovery, discharge rates, cheating/regrading on Regents. Chancellor dismissed all these concerns, said they'd be happy to disclose whatever data is relevant but said they don't can't measure the extent to which credit recovery is used.

    Changes in utilization, co-locations and closures --

    These items drew extensive public comment:

    * Move of University Heights HS to the South Bronx
    * The Eagle Academy siting in IS 59, Queens
    * Charter school in Goldie Maple School, Queens
    * New school in Washington Irving HS building, Manhattan

    Anna Santos from the Bronx was in a car accident and could not attend. She is doing fine. A large contingent of people from the University Heights School community protested the move of their school off the Bronx Community College campus and the failure of DOE to find them suitable space nearby. In Anna's absence, I read a statement on her behalf stating opposition to the move of University Heights HS and closure of the construction trades program at Alfred Smith HS.

    Washington Irving HS community protested the siting of another school in their building which will curtail their growth and recovery.

    Goldie Maple Academy community opposed the insertion of a new charter school in their building. In a very moving public comment, the daughter of Goldie Maple explained how she had been asked to come defend the charter school but having heard the testimony of the parents, students and teachers from her mother's school was torn about what should be done.

    There was some excellent statements from the public. Monica Ayuso was great. Unfortunately, there were few people left when we finally got to the Panel discussion and vote.

    With regard to charter schools and co-locations, I argued that it was clear from the night's comments and from the Chancellor's extensive correspondence with Eva Moskowitz that decisions about schools were being made by the Chancellor, his senior staff and charter operators without input from or consultation with the community. Klein and I had some back and forth until Chairman Chang cut off the debate.

    All the votes on the above schools as well as the co-location of Democracy Prep in Manhattan's PS 92 passed with 9 "yes" and with 3 "no" votes or abstentions.

    There was a bitter debate from public commenters over Eagle Academy. Members of the IS 59 community complained about the lack of consultation and about how the do-over vote was rescheduled at the last minute. Queens, having obtained significant concessions on the co-location, supported the proposal. Manhattan and Brooklyn abstained.

    Regulations --

    All passed with little comment. I thanked Mike Best for the improvements to the A-655

    Contracts --

    I asked about the use of Title II funds for training non-public school leaders and Kathleen Grimm assured me they had no prerogative to spend the money otherwise, that it was a required pass through.

    I complained about the lack of process and disclosure for the bus contracts.

    Bus contacts passed with my one vote against, all other contracts were passed unanimously.


    Dee made this comment:

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Patrick Sullivan on PEP highlights from Tuesday on Staten Island:

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"The UFT, Then and Now" by Yelena Siwinski

    I was downstairs when I heard what Yelena describes here. John Yanno's resolution, followed by Leroy Barr's scare tactic (Fiorillo often says that in most unions it is the boss who uses scare tactics but in the UFT it is the union leadership), the voting down of Yanno's resolution overwhelmingly, followed by Altomare's description of the early days of the union and the guts it took to build it. I thought I was hearing Altomare supporting Yanno. But it was a different resolution- to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the UFT. And it passed overwhelmingly. Yelena came out spitting fire at the outrageous contradiction. Here is the result.

    The UFT, Then and Now

    by Yelena Siwinski
    Chapter Leader, PS 193k

    On my father's first day on the job he was on strike. It was September 1966, he had three young children and a wife who wasn't working. He had a mortgage, no car, and he never went on vacation. He was a New York City public high school teacher and it was because of him, and others like him, that the UFT has gained many of the rights and benefits that teachers have today.

    During the new motion period at the March 24 UFT Delegate Assembly, John Yanno proposed a motion for next month's agenda to mobilize the membership for our current contract fight. He included the dreaded words," job actions" in his resolution.

    Leroy Barr, UFT Staff Director, immediately jumped up to oppose it (as he usually does for any type of mobilization such as a rally) because he claimed that if we chose to engage in a job action, which he intentionally interpreted to mean a strike (there are other types of job actions), we could lose the contract we already have.

    Those present overwhelmingly voted with Leroy to defeat the motion.

    Immediately after the motion was defeated, one of the UFT's founding fathers, George Altomare, rose to motivate a resolution celebrating the 50th anniversary of the UFT. He spoke of the courage it took for him and Abe Levine, and many other early UFT members to go out on strike all those years ago when they could have all been fired; how conditions were worse than they are today.

    Maybe he didn't know my father, but by unanimously passing the resolution to celebrate the UFT's 50th anniversary, our assembly honored him as well as George and the other early members.

    Did no one in the Delegate Assembly notice the hypocrisy of these two actions just minutes apart? While applauding the courage of our predecessors the Unity dominated DA clearly chose not to follow in their footsteps. Does Michael Mulgrew encourage those he leads to be unquestioning followers devoid of any passion or courage?

    Earlier in our meeting he tried to rally those present to fight the education cuts that the New York State legislators are planning. I guess our group is able to do things like make a phone call, fax our senators, and meet with them cooperatively. Just don't ask us to do anything too strenuous, anything that takes too much guts. That's pretty much reserved for a bygone time that we can romanticize about and drink cocktails over as we celebrate the hard work of those who are not us and will never be unless there are drastic changes to the thinking of our leadership.

    Yelena Siwinski is running for Vice President of the Elementary Schools on the ICE-TJC slate. John Yanno is running for Executive Board at-large.

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"The UFT, Then and Now" by Yelena Siwinski

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Two questions for Michael Mulgrew from John Lawhead, Chapter Leader, Tilden HS:

    (1) On February, a Daily News reporter asked you about the UFT charter school’s practice of enrolling lower percentages of ELL and IEP students than the neighborhood schools. You told her, “That’s why we recommended the [Charter] law, because we know we aren’t serving the neediest students.” (New York Daily News, 02-24-10) Why does the UFT need a law to force it to serve the neediest students?

    (2) Earlier this month when New York was named a finalist in the competition for Race to the Top grants you praised the state’s application for its “dedication to innovation, improving teaching and learning, curriculum and the issues that really make a difference inside the classroom.” You didn’t offer a single word of qualification with regard to the application’s commitment to wholesale school closings and linking teaching evaluations to test scores. Did you actually read the application?

    Lawhead is a candidate on the ICE-TJC slate for HS Executive Board. Vote ICE-TJC and out him on the Exec. Bd. so he can ask Mulgrew questions like these regularly.

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Two questions for Michael Mulgrew from John Lawhead, Chapter Leader, Tilden HS:

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    •To small schools that can offer the same range of services as large schools
    •To large schools that strive to offer students and teachers the same intimacy of small schools
    •To protecting teachers from reactionary principals
    •To effectively organizing school chapters
    •To building strong alliances between teachers and parents and students at the school level.
    •To strong chapters that cannot be built in isolation
    •To teacher autonomy, control and power without which strong chapters cannot exist
    •To declare class size reduction a priority contract demand supported by parents and community
    •To a democratically run union where power emanates from the schools and chapters, not from a narrow top down decision making body.
    •To organizing teachers at the chapter level so they feel they have real power to influence union policy instead of being asked to follow a pre set line dictated from the top.
    •To fully protecting UFT members in the schools from the kinds of vicious attacks those with abusive principals face
    •To an end to all power to the principal
    •To a massive fight back in every school that has a charter inserted like a growing cancer– including the UFT charters – so the UFT can take a stand against the privatization of the public schools.
    •To a fightback against school closings on all fronts including massive organizing and not just court cases that complain that procedures weren’t followed this time, impying it is ok to close schools if they are
    •To progressive change in the union and the school system
    •To a contract that goes beyond money and impacts on classroom and working conditions
    •To a serious fightback against paperwork overload and No to phony paperwork reduction committees that do nothing
    •To a seniority system that preserves teaching as a career and an end to ATRs

    So the next time Unity or New Action slander ICE as the party of NO, think of all these YESES. Unity (with New Action’s support) are the ones who have said NO to these reforms.

    The ICE-TJC candidates are amongst the most progressive teachers in the system. People who have been for the kinds of reforms that will make the NYC schools work for teachers, students and parents. They are writers and thinkers and fighters for change.

    There are 3 days left to get ICE-TJC leaflets into your school.

    Don’t let Unity be the only voice heard.

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UFT Election Update: Unity Caucus Gets to Redo NY Teacher Ad

    It's nice to be king. Unity Caucus owns the NY Teacher. All caucuses get to put a two page ad in two consecutive issues of the paper. We were told we had to have a camera ready ad in by Feb. 22. But Unity gets a second chance to answer the ICE-TJC ads in the current edition. We would protest - if we thought anyone actually reads the NY Teacher.

    On another affront. Unity district reps feel free to go into any school with an ICE or TJC chapter leader and stuff mailboxes with Unity/Mulgrew material during the school day on union time. When we call Michael Mendel to complain about schools that do not let us in during the day, Michael always comes through - except that he tells us he can only guarantee us entry before or after school days. Since Unity sends out packages to every chapter leader to stuff mail boxes, it is fun to observe the UFT's increasingly narrow interpretation of our rights. The union FINALLY sent out a letter to schools affirming the right to place materials in mail boxes- people began receiving them in the last few days. But the letter was dated March 8. That US postal services is sooooo slow, you know.

    Most principals don't seem to care one way or another. But Unity chapter leaders often take umbrage with the whining, "You should have had the courtesy to inform me you were coming." Sure I told one. I hit 20 or 30 schools a day and don't exactly have time to call you with a heads up. He actually turned out to be a nice guy, though he was quaking in front of his principal, who had insisted he be present while I stuffed the boxes, even sending up a teacher to cover his class. I was astounded when he told me he doesn't put even union material in the boxes without asking the principal. This is the party in power yet.

    But our long term strategy is to develop contacts in as many schools as possible who will not only distribute our materials but become active promoters of what we have to say. Yesterday I was asked by one of our young activist teachers to come to her small high school to meet with the teachers after their own faculty meeting which ended at 4:15. I was surprised at the number that stayed until after 5. Some even voted for ICE-TJC right there. They did not listen because of our ads or out election material but because they have enormous respect for our representative, who is in her first year at the school, is running with us and has the kind of enthusiasm about building a democratic union from the bottom up. I learned a lot yesterday about the climate of small schools and was thinking about how that climate could be created in a large school without breaking it up. (There was an interesting debate on Leonie's list serve yesterday involving Deb Meier in defense of small schools and others who were critical.)

    Last week I made an appearance at an elementary school where one of our 5 year activist teachers work. Having them work with us and build strong chapters has been the best part of this campaign. But I will point out that both work in schools where teachers feel they have a strong voice and are happy with their principals. They put in a lot of hours very willingly and that is an issue that we have to address at some point. One of the high school teachers, who had left a large high school with an awful principal 5 years ago, was pregnant and I wonder how things will shake out for her when she has to head home after school to see her baby.

    After the meeting I went to CUNY to join the GEM meeting where Puerto Rico teacher union (FMPR) president was the guest speaker. The meeting attracted about 50 people. Afterwards about 20 of us went out to eat.

    The response to the election has been much higher than expected, though I don't know if that translates into votes. I finished working on our main leaflet less than two weeks ago, the day before ballots went out. We printed an initial run of 20,000 and by the end of the weekend most of them were out of my hands. Almost every day last week I had to order another box. We are up to 40,000 and that isn't counting the number of people who went out and printed their own copies. Since we are only distributing for 10 days ending this Friday, that seems pretty amazing, compared to previous years. But again, I don't think all these leaflets necessarily translates into votes. In the last election I can't tell you how many people said they voted ICE-TJC but the totals were far below one would have thought. My guess is that people fill out their ballot and just forget to mail it. And then there were those 2 thousand invalid ballots.

    That was why we focused on getting people to vote correctly (Unity copied us in their latest ad) and also to remind them to send in their ballots. If you are an ICE-TJC supporter don't just accept it when people tell you they voted for us. Make sure they send in their ballots. Unity chapter leaders are actually holding raffles for people who bring in their ballot to be mailed. Not wanting people to forget who hand-picked Mulgrew, the winners get a print of the famous Klein-Randi (Remember her?) cartoon in Ed Notes.

    NOTE: I have not been doing much analysis on the election and what it means but will do a lot more next week and after the results are announced on April 7.

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ICE, TJC, GEM, CAPE Rally for Public Education on March 4

    Pics by John Lawhead

    As usual, this guy is facing the wrong way.

    Where was Unity Caucus and New Action? Missing inaction.

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ICE, TJC, GEM, CAPE Rally for Public Education on March 4

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Unity/New Action Relationship a Model for Russia

    A Sunday NY Times article titled "Russian Protests Seeking Ouster of Putin Fall Short" contained this nugget:

    Two mainstream opposition parties, considered to be under Kremlin control, did not take part.

    Clearly, Putin has gone the Unity Caucus policy of having its very own opposition party as a pet one better by owning TWO opposition parties. Maybe New Action should split - call one NEW and the other ACTION. Then they can run two slates that endorse Mulgrew. Just as they endorsed Weingarten for president. Twice. Now explain again exactly where they oppose Unity policies?

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Unity/New Action Relationship a Model for Russia

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Peninsula Preparatory Academy moved to land owned by Malcolm Smith contributor, Benjamin Companies

    I'm taking a brief break from posting on the UFT election to get this one from Leonie up - this is my own neck of the woods. The charter school outrages continue:

    Meredith and an investigative team at Daily News untangle the tangled web that is the Peninsula Prep charter school story.

    Still some unanswered questions. One: what political deal was behind the city’s promise to donate $31 million to build a facility for this charter school, considering its shaky history?

    Two: if private developers realize that providing schools give them an advantage in selling properties, why doesn’t the city recognize the economic value of building more public schools to sustain and strengthen the city’s economic future?

    Peninsula Preparatory Academy moved to land owned by Malcolm Smith contributor, Benjamin Companies

    BY Meredith Kolodner, Barbara Ross and Greg B. Smith

    Peninsula Preparatory Academy Charter School in Averne By The Sea,   Far Rockaway.

    Gabel for News

    Peninsula Preparatory Academy Charter School in Averne By The Sea, Far Rockaway.

    The phalanx of drab trailers ringed by a chain-link fence in a desolate corner of Queens looks more like a prison than a charter school.

    The cramped Peninsula Preparatory Academy Charter School has no science lab, no gymnasium, no playground and no on-site kitchen. Hot meals are trucked in from 3 miles away, and the school's 300 students dodge cars just to reach the front door.

    Only two years ago, the charter school founded by Senate President Malcolm Smith was housed inside a spacious public school 3 miles away in Far Rockaway.

    The official reason for the relocation was "increased enrollment" - but the Daily News has learned Peninsula Preparatory Academy was moved to land owned and under development by one of Smith's top campaign donors.

    Queens developer Benjamin Companies is in a partnership building homes near the school - and started using Peninsula as a selling point to hawk the seaside residences.

    While the move may benefit the developer, it certainly didn't help students wedged inside the too-small trailers - with no end in sight.

    "We should really have the building that was promised to us," Principal Ericka Wala said last week. "That's why they moved here."

    Its "gym" is a room inside a trailer with bars on the windows; the space doubles as an auditorium and cafeteria.

    Yet it's barely big enough to serve even a single purpose. At a recent schoolwide parent meeting, the 150 grownups who showed up couldn't fit inside.

    One linoleum floor is split down the middle, and the sidewalk outside the entrance is so narrow, students must press against the fence to avoid cars on the busy road.

    "It's not good for the children," said Modupe Lawal, the mother of 6-year-old first-grader Tolulope. "When you're in kindergarten, first grade, you need that experience. You need to go outside."

    Officials at Peninsula - once housed comfortably inside Middle School 53 - say they moved "due to increased enrollment." Wala said there were "issues" about placing elementary school students inside a building with middle-schoolers.

    In a statement, the Department of Education said the school "opted to move out of the building and asked for temporary space," which was donated by the Benjamin Companies partnership. The department said questions "regarding the rationale for the move are best directed to the school itself."

    Peninsula officials did not answer a long list of written questions from the Daily News. But The News found there may be another reason for the move.

    Benjamin Companies' employees and several affiliates have contributed $144,500 to Smith's campaign and political action committee, Build New York PAC, since 2002, records show.

    The Benjamin Companies is a major builder of affordable housing projects operated by Smith's former boss and political mentor, the Rev. Floyd Flake.

    And the relationship doesn't end there. A member of Peninsula's board in 2004 and 2005 is a real estate broker whose clients include the Benjamin Companies' partnership developing the Far Rockaway site.

    The FBI has seized documents in an ongoing probe of nonprofits tied to Flake, Smith and U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, who was also a Peninsula board member through 2008. Peninsula is a nonprofit, though it's not clear if the school is part of the probe.

    Smith founded Peninsula in 2004 and served on its board through 2006, when he claims he cut ties with the school after becoming Senate president.

    Yet the DOE recently noted "the school continues to publicize" its links to Smith and Meeks, and this year Smith sponsored a $100,000 legislative "member item" for Peninsula.

    Smith said Friday he had no role in selecting the trailer site and that the contributions played no role in that selection.

    "They're like any other contributions to the senator or his PAC from people who value his leadership and vision for the state," said Smith's spokesman, Austin Shafran.

    In October 2004, Smith joined Flake, a Meek staffer, schools Chancellor Joel Klein and other officials to proudly tout the opening of Peninsula.

    The charter school had just opened in MS 53 with plenty of space, a gym, a cafeteria, a playground and a new science lab officials said was built for Peninsula.

    Cost to taxpayers: $500,000.

    By September 2008, Peninsula and its 300 grammar-school students were transplanted into two trailers crammed into a tiny vacant lot and hemmed in by a chain-link fence.

    The trailers sit amid a large construction site with mounds of dirt all around, across the street from where the new Peninsula Charter School is supposed to be built.

    A January 2009 Department of Education report found "sufficient classroom and office space" but noted students studying at a large table that blocked the rear exit of one trailer.

    While 90% of Peninsula's students showed "proficiency" in math and 65% in English last year, the school repeatedly received poor grades on its

    DOE "report cards" - an "F" in 2007 and a "C" in 2008 and 2009, putting it in the bottom 1% of elementary schools in New York City.

    Coralanne Hunte, whose 9-year-old son, Chandler, is in fourth grade, fondly recalled when the school was in MS 53.

    "They had the opportunity to share the gym; they had an outside area that was really large. [Now] they're missing out on that," she said. "It wasn't clear to me why they left MS 53."

    There is no target date for the new school to open.

    The agreement with the city Department of Education stipulates that the city pay 74% of the expected cost of building the school - up to $31 million - and the developer pays 22%, with a grant from the nonprofit Charter School Institute for the difference.

    The Benjamin partnership bought the land from the city for a reduced amount under an urban renewal program, according to Gerard Romski, project manager.

    The city could not provide the purchase amount.

    Though sources say the new school likely will not open before 2014, it appears Peninsula has already spent $559,211 in taxpayer money for "construction in progress."

    Romski says the building is in the "design phase." Nevertheless, the "new school" is a top selling point in advertisements for housing at what the developer calls Arverne by the Sea.

    So far, about 850 of an expected 2,300 units have been built and all have been sold, Romski said.

    Victory Schools, a for-profit company, manages the school for a fee of 18% of what the school brings in per student from taxpayers.

    Last year, that amounted to $866,485. Victory's founder, Steven Klinsky, donated $12,000 to Smith in 2006-2007.

    An April 2008 DOE review found "a continued and growing negative net balance" that "poses a threat to school's stability."

    Peninsula officials say in reports filed with the DOE that the school is solvent.

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Peninsula Preparatory Academy moved to land owned by Malcolm Smith contributor, Benjamin Companies

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Public Education’ Defenders Win Detroit Teachers Union Election

    Remember that Randi Weingarten called the Detroit teachers contract, branded as the worst in AFT history by many, a good one.

    Maybe just a drop in the bucket of the UFT dominated AFT, but this message from Detroit's Steve Conn is an early warning sign for Randi Weingarten and the AFT that their collaborationist policies are causing a counter reaction. Now let's understand this: In the current UFT elections, Unity will win 750-800 delegates to the AFT convention in Seattle, July 2-4 this summer. Check your ballot to see if your chapter leader is on the list and you will get an idea of why you are seeing Mulgrew literature flooding your mailboxes. This is not something Unity people like to talk about in their schools. That you are paying for their little junket. But Steve Conn and a merry band of delegates will be there to greet them. Steve and I have spoken and he wants the dissident NYC crew to join them to make a statement. If we go it will be just like the DA - maybe we can bring back video of all your favorite Unity Caucus members eating, drinking and partying ala the famous wine and cheese party used to try and scuttle the ATR rally a year and a half ago.

    For those who think Mulgrew is not Randi, watch his votes in Seattle this summer. I guarantee 100% agreement with Randi. As will all the other 800 Unity Caucus revelers.

    Press Release!!

    Public Education’ Defenders Win Detroit Teachers Union Election

    A group of Detroit teachers who vigorously campaigned against the recent contract that their union negotiated with DPS Financial Manager Rob Bobb have swept all 20 positions in union elections held this week for delegates to their union’s national convention scheduled for this summer in Seattle.

    “With this vote, teachers in the schools have spoken loudly and clearly that they want a sharp change in union policy at the national level and an aggressive defense of public education against the charter schools and privatization plans of US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan,” said Cass Tech teacher and long-time activist Steve Conn, whose 1507 votes placed him first in a field of 63 candidates.

    The teachers group, known as Defend Public Education / Save Our Students, last week got the Detroit Federation of Teachers to begin mobilizing for the April 10th National March to Defend Public Education, in Washington DC. Buses will leave from the DFT headquarters on West Grand Blvd. Friday night, April 9th.

    “As the rising new leaders of the DFT, we will take our message from the Department of Education building in DC to the convention center in Seattle – the future of American society depends on strengthening, not dismantling, efforts to provide every young person with an equal, quality, integrated public education experience,” said Conn. “We plan to get the Seattle convention to build a Million Teacher March on Washington this fall. “

    The Defend Public Education group also plans to help lead DPS union in a march this Tuesday from the DFT Building to Rob Bobb’s headquarters at the Detroit New Center‘s Fisher Building in order to stop Bobb’s plans for massive school closings, layoffs, and union concessions. From the Fisher Building, they will march down Woodward Ave. to join cityworkers protesting Dave Bing’s Sate of the City Address at Orchestra Hall.

    The group opposes a mayoral takeover of DPS,pointing out how much damage was done to the city’s schools by the 1999-2004 state / mayoral takeover.

    contact 313.645.9340

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Public Education’ Defenders Win Detroit Teachers Union Election

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Don’t Forget to Vote by Arthur Goldstein

    Guest columnist

    It’s UFT election time again, and we’re all pretty busy.

    In schools, that means a whole lot of flyers telling us who to vote for. Basically there are three slates—Unity, New Action, and ICE-TJC, a coalition of the Independent Coalition of Educators and Teachers for a Just Contract. And election time is now, so I’ve read all of them. They’re not much different from the things you get in the mail when your friendly local politicians want jobs.

    Who are these folks? No one denies Unity is the big dog in this race. Every UFT President has been a member of Unity, and the invitation-only Unity Caucus has dominated the UFT, well, forever. New chapter leaders are offered free trips to conventions and recruited. They then sign an application, which specifically states that members will “express criticism of caucus policies within the Caucus” and “support the decisions of Caucus / Union leadership in public or Union forums.” Critics call it a loyalty oath.

    In his book The Teacher Rebellion, former AFT President David Selden writes, “Its decisions must be followed by the members in every detail. Several members have been expelled because the opposed the Vietnam War or were not supportive enough of the union’s opposition to community control.” Albert Shanker, the UFT’s first President, was one Tough Liberal indeed.

    There are tangible benefits to joining Unity. On the lowest rung of the ladder, you could go to conventions. When I became a UFT delegate a few years back, a teacher told me, “You know, I’d like to become a delegate.”

    “Really?” I asked. “I’m surprised. I didn’t think you were interested in union politics.”

    “I’m not,” he said. “I just want to go to the conventions.”

    That wasn’t the best way to earn my support, but at the time, he may have known union politics better than I did—he’s got Unity buddies.

    The oldest opposition party is called New Action. When I started teaching I voted for them. Their pamphlets made it clear they were outsiders, and that appealed to me. Unity put out particularly nasty flyers, calling them “No Action,” which I found juvenile. From what I heard around the lunchroom, they had no chance of winning anyway, so I figured what the hell, and voted for them. They did have a few seats on the UFT’s policy-making Executive Board, mostly representing high schools, and for a while even junior high schools.

    Soon after I started teaching (in 1984), they surprised everyone and took the High School Academic Vice Presidency. After Mike Shulman won, Unity forced a revote in which Shulman won by an even larger margin. After Shulman failed to be re-elected in the next election, they forced a rule change. High school teachers no longer select the High School Academic Vice-President. Now, not only all teachers, but also home day care workers, the administrative law judges and other non teachers, including retirees living it up in Boca Raton, vote for all vice-presidents. It’s kind of like having Oklahoma and Texas help New York choose representatives—the results became much more predictable.

    In 2003, New Action made a deal with Unity. They would no longer oppose the Unity presidential candidate, and Unity would no longer oppose them for the six high school seats on the UFT Executive Board, seats New Action had won by narrow margins time and again. They couldn't resist this sure bet. Also, New Action leaders, for the first time, were given union jobs.

    Some members of New Action, disenchanted with this move, left to join a group of non-affiliated activists to form the Independent Community of Educators, or ICE. In 2004, they teamed up with another caucus, Teachers for a Just Contract (TJC). They defeated New Action and took high school seats that Unity had not opposed. This resulted in the unspeakable—unapproved minority representation in the UFT Executive Board. Though this represented only 6 seats of 89, even that was unacceptable. The Unity Caucus didn’t want to be pestered by Executive Board members James Eterno and Jeff Kaufman—as they vigorously opposed things like the 2005 contract, merit pay, and mayoral control. It’s so much easier to run an organization without meddlesome dissenters—ask Mayor Bloomberg.

    To make sure this wouldn’t happen again, Unity cross-endorsed New Action candidates in the 2007 election. Though ICE/ TJC outpolled New Action 3 to 1 in high schools, New Action won several Executive Board seats representing high schools while ICE/TJC got none. Clearly, the Unity cross-endorsement had paid off.

    ICE/TJC is running a slate including presidential candidate James Eterno, Jamaica’s UFT chapter leader, and former UFT executive board member. (Full disclosure—I’m running for the UFT’s Executive Board representing high schools.) ICE/ TJC now seems to receive the all the love that used to be reserved for New Action, largely characterized as perpetual naysayers. It’s true we oppose the appeasement of anti-teacher, anti-union demagogues like Mayor Bloomberg and Joel Klein—but that’s because it’s been repeatedly proven not to help us.

    Still ICE/ TJC supports a lot of things—a fair contract, placement for teachers whose schools close, democracy in NYC as well as the UFT, and a driven chapter leader named James Eterno for UFT President. We support transparency. We support teachers, guidance counselors, secretaries, and paraprofessionals. We support working people and the future of the teaching profession.

    We support union, a strong union that stands up and fights those who baselessly attack us in the media. We support fighting fire with fire, speaking truth to power, and using the power of the UFT for something more productive than creating cute little cartoons that air during the Today show.

    We are writers, thinkers, and doers. We are real live activists, who don’t need to organize an advisory committee or ask permission before demonstrating in front of Mayor Bloomberg’s house. When there’s a fire, we’re not on our Blackberries emailing Randi Weingarten for directions before we evacuate. We act in the interests of working teachers, and we don’t fret over whether or not it will get us invited to the next convention or gala luncheon. We are proactive, not reactive.

    We don’t believe in buying dear and selling cheap. We don’t believe in giving up everything but the kitchen sink for an extra point. We don’t believe in selling out new teachers by promising three percent of their salaries to Mayor Bloomberg for an extra 17 years. We don’t believe in dumping every gain we made over twenty years for a few points above the pattern. Nor do we believe in negotiating a ten percent compensation increase for ten percent more work and calling it a raise.

    We hope teachers vote, and we hope they think carefully before doing so. The machine is getting a little creaky.

    It’s time for new blood.

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Don’t Forget to Vote by Arthur Goldstein

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Are Charter School Operators Klingons?

    Norm Scott in The Wave, March 19, 2010

    I mean the evil 1960's version of Klingons, not the benign 80's version. But then again you can spell it with a "C" but I won't go there (but if you have the stomach, check your wicki). If you go to any charter school hearing, the operators who show up pushing their pet schools into public school space seem to be reading from a script. They don't intend to infringe. It will be a wonderful for the two schools to work together. They know you have a wonderful school but shouldn't people have choice? Isn't it an American right? I mean, you get choice of corn flakes in the supermarket. The DOE told them how much space there is in the school - even if special ed has to be taught in a closet. They don't want to steal your best kids, despite the glossy brochures the top scoring kids' families are receiving over and over again. And best of all, they don't want to take your building – this is just temporary – ground is already being broken for their own building – in western China.

    What they don't say is that they intend to grow at least to 8th grade, maybe 12th grade (and possibly cradle to grave) and can be assured of getting the building eventually because all requests by the public school to grow will be denied by the DOE. They may even take away a grade or two from the public school to make sure the often politically connected charter will have lebensraum.

    And then there will be those charter school ads. Did you see the Harlem Children's Zone ad on the Academy Awards telecast? THE ACADEMY AWARDS. And Eva Moskowitz' Harlem Success is bombarding kids with brochures and even is advertising on TV. Don't you wonder why all these schools with supposedly massive waiting lists of people dying to leave the public schools have to spend so much money advertising?

    I missed the hearing at the Goldie Maple Academy where Challenge Preparatory Charter was making its case because I was taping a parallel hearing at PS 92 in Crown Heights, where the Lefferts Garden charter promised to take their kids to nearby Brooklyn Botanic Garden every day and fly them to the moon once a week. So I am relying on Miriam Rosenberg's excellent report in last week's Wave. As she quoted one charter school leader after another, I felt I was there because I had heard it all so often.

    Well, maybe not the building part. It seems they were offered their own but turned it down. Here is a link to its application, which was approved by the Regents (which includes our own Geraldine Chapey:

    The lead applicant, Rev. Dr. Leslie Mullings, is the executive director of the Rockaway Center for Community Development. Reverend Mullings is also employed as a substance abuse counselor and youth development specialist by the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE). He is the Senior Pastor of the Far Rockaway Community Church of the Nazarene.

    The School has also received letters of support from the following community leaders and organizations: Michelle Titus, State Assembly Member representing the 31st Assembly District (Queens), James Sanders, City Council Member representing the 31st Council District (Queens); Helen Marshall, Borough President (Queens); Malcolm Smith, State Senator; Jonathan Gaska, District Manager Community Board #14; Kevin Alexander, Executive Director, Rockaway Development & Revitalization Corporation; and from Congressman Gregory Meeks, House of Representatives – 6th Congressional District.

    Shame on each and every one of them. With Helen Marshall supporting the charter what can we expect from our Queens Rep Dmytro Fedkowskyj when he votes at the PEP on March 23 in Staten Island where the issue has already been pre-decided by Bloomberg's majority appointees?

    UFT Election Ballots Due by April 6

    I've been pretty busy with the UFT election process, currently going school to school stuffing fliers in teacher mail boxes for the ICE-TJC slate I an running with. I will probably stop by a bunch of Rockaway schools by next week, so look for me (and inform your security guards and principals we have the right to do this because it is an election period). We have the right to stuff boxes because the Unity caucus which has run this union for 50 years gets all the chapter leaders to put literature in the boxes - time and again. Exactly how many Mulgrew ads have you gotten? It's nice to have big bucks. ICE-TJC feels like Bill Thompson or Tony Avella vs. Bloomberg. The principal of one Rockaway school denied me when I tried to put leaflets in his school because he didn't know an election was going on. He didn't notice all those Unity ads flooding the mail boxes, I guess. I notified the UFT and he got a call from the DOE telling him the score. Next, I'm having Timothy Geithner call to tell him there was a financial crisis last year.

    Schwach on Ravitch

    I loved Howie's [Schwach, Wave editor] piece - Diane Ravitch – My Education Hero - last week, but have a few points of contention. But I'm off to stuff mailboxes, so I'll leave it for another time.

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Are Charter School Operators Klingons?

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Elfrank-Dana Letter to Bergtraum Staff

    It’s that time again- the UFT elections. You should get your ballot in the mail.

    Only about one quarter of us will vote if trends continue. It’s a problem I brought up to the union leadership (including Mulgrew); this lack of participation. They were at a loss as to why or what could be done about it.

    It’s one of the reasons why I joined the ICE/TJC opposition. We need strong democratic unionism to move us forward. The Unity Caucus (Randi Weingarten and Michael Mulgrew’s political machine) may have gotten us more money from contracts, but have given so much away in terms of rights that sticking around long enough to enjoy the benefits seems impossible.

    The days of accommodation, we want to be on your team, approach must end. We can’t rely on the strategy of the benevolent mayor (dictator) to save us; which has been Unity’s approach. We need to stand on the fundamentals of democratic unionism. We must organize for confrontation. However, we must be smart, patient and brave about it.

    I think the ICE/TJC slate, with James Eterno for President, is our best hope. I know James personally. He’s been a valuable source of information for me. He’s an experienced chapter leader and man with principles. He gets it.

    You can see James and what the ICE/TJC ticket stands for at:

    Please feel free to pass this message along to any other UFT members you know.

    In solidarity,


    John Elfrank-Dana
    UFT Chapter Leader
    Murry Bergtraum High School

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Elfrank-Dana Letter to Bergtraum Staff

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The Dreaded "D" and the UFT

    Yes. D for Discontinuance. Once you get it on your record you cannot be hired. Any principal it seems can doom you for life. If someone offers you a job and asks for your records, the DOE will not release them. Why? Because they require a letter that you have a job offer which no one will give you without seeing your records. Yossarian would be left scratching his head at this one.

    Now on to the UFT. If you find you are blacklisted by the dreaded D and ask the UFT for help you will get 12 different answers. The most common is: Don't worry, that is only for your district. You can be hired by another district. NOT.

    How shameful that the Unity Caucus/UFT just lets people hang out to dry like this. In purgatory forever. A fighting union would make a big deal out of this. But the people with D's are the nontenured and the few, so why bother?

    One word of advice people get is to resign before they get the dreaded D and get re-certified in another license. Some choice.

    Distribution update:
    ICE-TJC leaflets are going like hot cakes. People have been making copies and putting them out in their schools without even letting us know. It would help to know so we don't duplicate but if people get the stuff twice we are still behind the Mulgrew murder of entire forests. The latest is a letter from your Unity chapter leader and the district rep telling you to vote for Unity.

    I finally got into Fort Hamilton yesterday where the Unity CL had told the school aide at the desk not to let me in. The principal invited me into her office and we had a lovely chat.

    I spoke to two lunch hours at an elementary school with a Unity CL, who was not the one to invite me. A few younger teachers and we had a good chat about numerous issues beyond the election. Very invigorating - for me at least.

    Some Unity hacks are telling teachers who want to invite me it is not allowed. Pretty funny when the entire Unity machine waltzes into schools at will. "No electioneering" they tell ICE supporters, another Catch-22 for Yossarian.

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The Dreaded "D" and the UFT

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