One of the most glaring issues dealing with the DOE is the "double standard" when disciplining teachers and administrators. Teachers who commit or allegedly committed minor infractions can and usually are removed from the school and subject to 3020-a termination charges. By contrast, school administrators are presumed to be innocent and few are removed from their school. A case in point is the story of 33 year old Assistant Principal Diana Rendon of Progressive High School for Professional Careers in Brooklyn, who was first caught on a cellphone apparently boozing it up on a hotel bed with some of her teachers at taxpayers expense and now she has been accused of barging into a boys locker room with some of the boys still in their underwear.
Can you imagine if a male coach walks into a girls locker room with half-dressed girls? That coach would be immediately removed from the school, be subject to an SCI investigation, and quite likely suspended without pay for sexual misconduct and terminated.in a 3020-a hearing. Yet Ms. Rendon is still an administrator in the school. As a coach of a girls soccer team, I knew better if I wanted to keep my job and always had a female team captain handle the locker room and only came in when she gave me the go-ahead to enter. Yet, apparently Ms. Rendon rather than follow the rules, believes she can do as she pleases and barge in for any reason whatsoever.
One of the metrics the DOE and politicians love to use is the graduation rate. Every year the graduation inches up and everybody praises the heavens for the apparent improvement. However, when I looked at the snapshot of the Queens High Schools, I found that there was a real; disconnect between the graduation rate and the "college and career readiness" rate. Why is that important? Its important because it shows that far too many students are graduating unprepared for high education and for good paying jobs. A recent study shows that a college graduate makes 56% more money than a high school graduate and every year the gap widens, that's why the "college and career readiness" metric is an important metric for a student's financial success.
While disappointing Chancellor Carmen Farina may keep claiming how academically the schools are improving, her policies and the poor administrative quality at Tweed and in the schools suggest otherwise. In most of the high schools in the Bronx and the deep poverty communities in Southeast Queens and Eastern Brooklyn the "college and career readiness" rates are in single digits while graduating 70% or more of the students. In other words, these schools are graduating students unprepared for the adult world.
Previously, I came up with a simple ratio to determine if the high schools are giving their students a real education or simply an academic fraud factory. You can find the list for all unscreened Queens school Here. As one can see, looking at the list, the schools located in solidly middle class neighborhoods attract a racially diverse student body and has a stable and an experienced teaching staff. By contrast, the schools with the worst numbers have a nearly 100% minority student population, suffers from high teacher turnover, and an inexperienced teaching staff. Add that to the poor quality of the school administration and the many over-the-counter- students these schools must accept to keep their school afloat and you have a recipe for educational disaster.
With the present policies implemented by Michael Bloomberg and Joel Klein still in place, like the school-based fair student funding, the ATR crisis, and student free choice at the high school level, I see little real change to our student educational needs as inequality between the haves and have nots will continue and students who are stuck in poorly performing high schools like the Renewal schools will have a dim future when it comes to financial success.
The DOE announced that the former Principal of Brooklyn Tech, Randy Asher, will get a promotion and a $185,000 dollar salary to tackle the vexing ATR problem. According to Chancellor Carmen Farina, Randy Asher will bring a fresh approach and new strategies to reduce the ATR pool that cost the DOE over $100 million dollars annually. This is proof that the DOE's ATR incentive has been a failure since if it was a success, there would be no reason to hire Mr.Asher to tackle the problem. According to the Daily News article, there are presently, 981 ATRs in rotation, down from 1,303 at the beginning of the school year. However, most of the reduction is due to provisional placements. That means once their provisional assignments ends, they will be dumped back into the ATR pool. The latest anecdotal information showed only 125 ATRs were offered and accepted the incentive for a permanent placement.
What can Mr. Asher do to reduce the ATR pool? The simple answer is to be given the authority by the Chancellor to prohibit principals from hiring outside the District until all exccessed teachers in the District in their content specialty are placed. Without that authority, Mr. Asher will be met with resistance as principals who have been indoctrinated under the Bloomberg ideology and will simply refuse to hire ATRs. Mr. Asher would need to obtain the power to penalize principals who fail to follow the new rules in hiring ATRs and get caught hiding vacancies. These penalties should include but not limited to the following:
1. Monetary penalty in the form of a fine.
2. Taking away funding for the hidden vacancy
3. Removal of the Principal.
Of course this can only happen if the school-based fair student funding program is made District based and the schools no longer have a financial incentive to hire "newbies".
However, what I suspect will actually happen is that Mr. Asher will propose an ATR time limit and a reduced "due process" proposal when he negotiates with the union leadership. Our union leadership will reject the ATR time limit but will agree to a more punitive ATR program that will once again make ATRs a "second class citizen". Of course, our union leadership will once again declare victory and convince the DOE to make an inadequate ATR retirement incentive, similar to the one in 2014 as a sweetener so that everybody wins, except the ATRs who cannot afford to retire and are subject to more onerous requirements and more harassing pressure to quit the system.
I could be wrong but I strongly suspect that the scenario I outlined in the previous paragraph will be the most likely path that Mr. Asher will take as he won't step on the toes of his Tweed supervisors and the principals of the CSA union he was a long-term member in.
Earlier this school year the DOE, realizing that there is going to be a teacher shortage in the coming years and has already hit the Bronx, offered schools an incentive to hire ATRs. This incentive would offer schools an ATR for free the first year, half price the second year, and a 25% discount the third year. Yet few schools have taken the DOE up on the deal. The reason is that the ATR comes with his seniority and institutional memory and the ever increasing numbers of Leadership Academy Principals rather not hire them. Moreover, the Bloomberg policymakers at Tweed remind schools how Joel Klein called the ATRs "bad teachers" and rather hire a "newbie" then giving their students an experienced veteran teacher.
The questions I would like answered by the DOE and UFT leadership are the following:
How many ATRs were placed because of the incentive?
What was the experience breakdown?
What was the age breakdown?
What was the salary breakdown?
What was the percentage of tenured members?
What is the breakdown by subject area?
In addition, I would also like to see the statistics for the geographic locations in the City.
Placement by District
Placement by Borough
Finally, it is clear that the DOE keeps two lists of ATRs. One list of ATRs who were excessed and a second list of ATRs who won their discipline hearings. Therefore, I would like to know how many of the ATRs were offered an incentive who came from the discipline list? 10, 20, or more likely "0"!
I am appealing to the MORE and New Action members on the Executive Board to ask these questions to the UFT leadership, the union has the numbers and maybe the union could be pressured in releasing the statistical breakdown and that we can all see how disingenuous the DOE incentive offer has been.
One of the very few improvements Chancellor Carmen Farina implemented was eliminating the useless and money sucking Children First Networks (CFN) and replaced their function back where it belonged with the Superintendents. The idea was that principals could no longer play one CFN against another and do as they pleased like hiring uncertified teachers for Regents classes and making sure parent voices were not heard if the CFN was geographically located in another Borough. The idea of giving back the responsibility to the Superintendents was a sound one in practice since principals could no longer do as they pleased and get no pushback from above. However, this policy only worked if the Superintendent was an excellent educator with good instincts that did what's right for the children of the schools under their jurisdiction.
Unfortunately, under Chancellor Carmen Farina, far too many of the Superintendents were selected not based on their educational ability but on cronyism, favoritism, and political connections. In fact, some Superintendents needed a waiver since they never achieved either the ten year teaching experience and at least three years as a school Principal required for the position. In fact, the Chancellor retained 34 of the 42 Bloomberg Era superintendents or 77% of these questionable leaders. Add that to the Chancellor retaining 80% of the Bloomberg policymakers and you can see what's wrong with the DOE. Worse, these superintendents continued committed educational malfeasance by allowing unsavory and vindictive principals to continue to harass staff and hire and use uncertified teachers for Regents courses in the subject area.
Just take a look at some of these Superintendents? Amiee Horowitz, the Superintendent of the Renewal schools that oversaw the hiring of a whole staff of"newbies"instead of recruiting the "highly effective" teachers that Chancellor Carmen Farina claimed that the DOE was going to employ at Automotive High School, The result? The school which now will be merged with another failing school. Moreover, she ignored Regents cheating and academic fraud instead of exposing it.
Let's not forget Superintendent Juan Mendez who has put in far too many questionable principals under his administration. and is under federal lawsuit for racial bias.Here.
There are many more superintendents with questionable educational ability but you get the picture. Until a new Chancellor is appointed and Carmen Farina finally retires for good, the weakest link will continue to be the superintendents appointed by the Chancellor who herself saw nothing, did nothing, and said nothing when she was Superintendent in Brooklyn during the Cobble Hill Regents cheating scandal.
Over the last couple of years and especially after the Ferguson Missouri incident. Black outrage against the police resulted in the rise of a new group called "Black Lives Matter". This group was a vocal advocate of treating the young black men with the same respect as all other people, However, the Black Lives Matter group slowly morphed into a political organization and seemed to move away from their roots. While the Black Lives Matter movement still had a focus on anti-police action when they could exploit incidents that show the police abusing their authority and rightly so. The movement has also taken an ideological slant that is quite disturbing to me.
For example the Black Lives Matter movement supports the Boycott Disinvestment and Sanction (BDS) organization against Israel, an anti-Semitic movement dominated by pro Palestinian, far left fringe groups. Can anybody explain how the Black Lives Matter movement supports an organization that tries to de-legitimatizes a Democratic country which has never discriminated against young black men in the United States?.
What bothers me the most is that the Black Lives Matter movement has been strangely silent about the escalating gang violence in Chicago that has resulted in 762 killing last year and 41 children under the age of 14 were shot. Most of these killings and the over 3,550 shootings in 2016 were black on black crime (75-80%). Instead of protesting the occasional police misconduct or abuse, the Black Lives Matter organization should be protesting against the gang violence that plague the black neighborhoods of Chicago. In fact, Black Lives Matter may have indirectly caused the skyrocketing of the crime rate in Chicago by stopping police from making stops of suspicious young black men for fear of being labeled a racist.
Back to the 41 innocent children shot who were in the crossfire of gang violence. Because of neighborhood distrust of the Chicago police, only 3 of the 41 child shootings have resulted in an arrest. According to the police, the distrust of the community makes it difficult to get witness statements even when people know who the shooter is. Shouldn't the Black Lives Matter movement be protecting these children? Try to clean up the neighborhood and eradicate gang violence? Wouldn't the movement gain respectability by helping make the communities safe for families and children to walk to school and play on the street? How about cooperating with the police to make communities safe? Instead they continue to follow an ideologically driven anti-police agenda at the expense of the very communities that they should be supporting.
The bottom line is, if Black Lives Matter wants to be relevant then they must start with fighting gang violence in the Black communities of Chicago and not simply protesting the occasional police action.
As a second career teacher I know what it was like to work in an office and now in the classroom and the difference is night and day. In an office you interact with a dozen adult personalities. By contrast, most secondary school teachers interact with the dozen adult personalities and the 150 incomplete and unpredictable teenage personalities. Add that to a hostile and crowded classroom environment due to incompetent or vindictive administrators and unruly students and almost half the teachers feel high daily stress. A high UFT official once told me that 25% of the teachers take anti-depressant or anxiety drugs to get them through the school day.
Even in good school districts 40% of the teachers leave before their fifth year and the quit rate is much higher in high poverty, minority school districts. A study showed that the primary cause of high teacher turnover was student misbehavior and the failure of school administrators to support teachers.
How to help alleviate the stress? .First, find a low poverty or screened school where the students want to learn. Second, make sure the school administration has a reputation for collaboration with teachers. Finally, find a school with an experienced teaching staff where mentoring and peer role models will help newer teachers handle the everyday insults that go hand -in-hand with teaching in the New York City public schools.
If you cannot find a school that meets all three requirements then take up meditation, you will need it if you are to make a career out of teaching in the New York City public school system.