Monday, March 27, 2017

The Secretive C-30 Selection Process - The Reason Why We Have So Many Terrible Principals.

I have written about the bad principals I have encountered, read, or heard about, mostly in Queens and in the high schools. I also discussed the weakest link in the system, the Superintendents selected by Chancellor Carmen Farina to run the school districts. Far too many of them were awarded their position, based on cronyism and not competence.  Just read about these two Superintendents, Juan Mendez and Amiee Horowitz, The question is how can so many terrible principals land their position without the school staff and the community having any meaningful input in the selection?

The answer is the secretive and unaccountable C-30 selection process.  First, the Superintendent selects the five candidates that the C-30 selection committee will interview.  That's right, the Superintendent makes the decision on who to interview not the selection committee.  How the Superintendent selects the five candidates is also clouded in secrecy but I would guess its primarily based on favoritism and cronyism and not educational excellence.

If that is not bad enough, the C-30 committee's selection is only advisory and the final decision is made by the Superintendent.  In fact, Principal Judy Henry was ranked fourth out of five candidates by the Gateway To The Health Sciences C-30 selection committee but Superintendent Juan Mendez selected Judy Henry as Principal of the school anyway.  More about Judy Henry can be found Here.  For many of the Superintendents, the C-30 selection process is simply a fig leaf for the unaccountable Superintendents who put their favorites in charge of the schools.  Just look at this post! Further, just read Ed Notes Online about the disaster Principal Monika Garg has made of CPE1 in Manhattan.  Read what she has done to the staff at the school. What Superintendent allowed this to happen?

.By contrast in Russia and many other countries the school staff selects the Principal by a democratic vote.  This allows for more effective collaboration between school leaders and staff and  leads to better student academic achievement. That's not the case when it comes to the New York City Public Schools.

Unfortunately,  in the New York City Public School System the Chancellor and her cronies are more interested in protecting each other and scratching each others back then in selecting the best administrators for the schools.  Please read the Daily News Opinion piece by the Queens Borough President Melinda Katz about what's wrong with the C-30 selection process for principals. In the New York City Public Schools its children last....Always when it comes to selecting the best administrators to run the schools.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Anoither Case Of The DOE Double Standard When Disciplining Administrators - Santiago Taveras.

In today's News York Post, embattled Principal Santiago Taveras of Dewitt Clinton High School in the Bronx has officially lost his position as Principal due to academic misconduct but will still earn $149,826 as an academic support specialist at the DOE's Bronx field office.  If Mr. Taveras was a staff member, he would have been charged under 3020-a and the DOE would ask for termination.  Another case of the DOE's "Double Standard"when disciplining administrators for misconduct.

Santiago Taveras has been accused by a school source in his SCI report of changing grades of up to 900 students, foam failing to passing, without the approval of his teachers.  Apparently, SCI only reviewed four cases from the accusation and dumped the rest back into the DOE's lap who did not confirm or deny the accusation.  However, they did remove Mr. Taveras as Principal so there apparently is some credence to the accusation.   The SCI report did substantiate the four cases of grade fixing and recommended the following:

“very serious.” He recommended that “appropriate and significant disciplinary action be taken against Mr. Taveras, and that he be advised that similar administrative failures on his part, in the future, may lead to suspension or termination of employment with the D.O.E.”

Mr Taveras has been involved in other unseemly actions. He was the point person in closing many of the large comprehensive high schools as Deputy Chancellor under Michael Bloomberg,  Next, as Principal of DeWitt Clinton High School he built a personal shower that the DOE first found to be appropriate than under media scrutiny, quietly had the shower dismantled and removed.

Finally,  Mr, Taveras targeted teachers, especially veteran teachers,. during his time as Principal at DeWitt Clinton.  He was known to harass teachers and gave 8% of his teacher "ineffective".  Compared to the 1% ineffective grade citywide.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Charter Sector High Schools Are The Stepchildren Of The NYC School System

One of the little known issues in the New York City schools is how terrible most of the charter sector high schools are when it comes to receiving a quality education. This post will discuss the many shortcomings that the New York City charter high schools suffer from.

Student Body:
Many of the students have previously struggled in public schools and see the charter high school as a "second chance" to continue their education.  In far too many cases these charter high schools are more like the "transfer schools" than a traditional public high school.  In talking to teachers who work or have worked in charter high schools, they tell me that the students have academic problems and many of them have some sort of disability. Academic achievement is simply a joke in many cases.

Teacher Turnover:
All the charter high schools suffer from extremely high teacher turnover.  It is not unusual for students to have had three or more teachers from the beginning to the end of the school year.  In one charter high school, I was told that five different teachers were used last school year for a Math class.  It's not unusual for many of the charter high schools to have uncertified teachers instructing students, especially in Math and Science.  In one school I was told that a 22 year old "newbie" English teacher, fresh out of Teach For America, was hired to teach a Regents Science course.

Unstable Administration:
Many of the charter high school administrators are new to their administrative role and hiring and firing is a common occurrence, even during the school year. At best, administrative quality is uneven and at worst incompetent. Is it little wonder that poor administration goes hand in hand with high teacher turnover and poor academic student achievement.

Funding Uncertainties:
Contrary to what many of us think, charter high schools suffer from tight budgets, lack of resources, and technology issues.  This is especially true for profit-making organizations that run the school.   These private charters must turn a profit for their hedge fund sponsors or risk being closed.  Therefore, the bottom line must be met and its not education.  Moreover, the people above the school administration are usually business people and have no experience in education so there is almost always a disconnect between the school academic goals and the profit obsessed board that oversees the school, usually with disastrous results.

Lack of Community Roots:
Almost all charter high schools have no roots in the community they reside in and many of the students do not live in the community.  Without the community support and a reason to embrace the school by the neighborhood, it makes it very difficult for the school to be able to survive long-term and almost impossible to thrive as an educational entity.

The bottom line is that the charter highs schools are the stepchild of not only the New York City charter schools but the entire educational system and the joke is on the students who end up at these schools looking for a quality education..

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

UFT Members And The Cumulative Absence Reserve.

There seems to be some confusion about our Cumulative Absence Reserve (CAR) and how school administrators try to dictate how they are used.  This post will try to clear up the many misconceptions about our CAR.

First, all UFT members get ten sick days a school year, or one per month credited on the 16th of the school month.  Up to three of the days can be used for personal business but must be approved by the Principal. Teachers, Guidance Counselors, and Social Workers can have a negative CAR of up to 20 days but must reimburse the DOE if they are still negative at the time they retire, resign, or get terminated.

Second, a common misconception is that if you take three consecutive sick days, you must have medical documentation (a doctor's note) proving you were ill.  The truth is that you do not need any medical documentation for the absences and in fact, the UFT won an arbitration that allows the UFT member to take ten consecutive days without providing medical documentation. Yet, school after school, the administration insists on doctor's note for an absence.  My take is that if you have one then humor them and give it to them, if you don't, that's too bad,  they cannot insist on one.

Third, if you exhaust your CAR and go over negative twenty, it is leave without pay.  Moreover, you must notify your school of any long-term absence over 20 days.  Otherwise, the DOE will assume you have voluntarily resigned and getting your position back is extremely difficult.

Fourth, if you use your CAR days as terminal leave and decide not to retire before you exhaust them, you will be sent to the ATR pool, unless your Principal wants you back.

Fifth, ATRs who take ten or more sick days will automatically be given an "unsatisfactory" rating by the field supervisor.

Finally, CAR days cannot be cashed in except at retirement and at a two for one basis.

You can read my previous post on the Cumulative Absence Reserve Here.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

What Do The DOE And Silicon Valley Have In Common? Hiring Cheap.

Tonight, CBS's 60 minuets will have a story how the many Silicon Valley technology companies abuse the H-IB visa that allows companies the ability to hire foreign Engineers and Scientists who have a specific skill set that Americans don't have.  However, the truth is that the Silicon Valley Tech businesses has hardly bothered to seek out Americans when there are thousands of foreign workers who are willing to fill the positions at a much lower salary and less benefits.

The DOE does not significantly participate in the H-IB visa program.  However, the DOE has their own version by forming policies that encourage the hiring of cheaper teachers.  These policies are the school-based "fair student funding" and the "Open Market Transfer System".  Moreover, the results of these two failed programs has caused a pool of excessed educators of approximately 1,500 annually, with the average age in the 50s and salary close to $90,000. They are known as ATRs.  Finally, the DOE encourages school administrators to harass and push out veteran teachers, through resignation, retirement, or termination through 3020-a charges. Every veteran teacher that leaves is replaced by a much cheaper "newbie" with a lower salary, and an inferior Tier VI pension, assuming they make it through their vesting period.

Obviously, the Silicon Valley tech companies and the DOE have similar hiring policies and that is the cheaper the better.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Trump's Preliminary Budget Takes A Bite Out Of Public School Education.

The Trump administration sent a preliminary budget to Congress with massive cuts in education, environment, and foreign aid.  Smaller cuts are proposed for most other domestic programs except for the entitlement programs of Medicare and Social Security.  By contrast, major funding increases are proposed for the military, homeland security, and the veteran administration.  This post will concentrate on the education cuts.

Donald Trump's preliminary budget cuts 13.5% or $9.2 billion dollars from the education budget.  However, the federal education cuts are actually more massive for public school education as it's 16% since there will be an increase in private school vouchers and charter school funding.The biggest cuts will be to before and after school programs, summer programs, and teacher training.  In addition, twenty departmental programs are also being either frozen or eliminated. Finally. Title II funding will be adversely affected as well. Check the NYC Public School Parents Blog for how the cuts will affect thee NYC classroom.

By contrast, the preliminary budget increases by $1.4 billion dollars for private school vouchers and Charter school funding.

Interestingly, the preliminary budget actually increases Title 1 funding but with a catch.  The Title 1 funding would follow the student rather than the school.  The result would be that both private and charter schools would try to pick off as many Title 1 eligible students who don't have major disabilities and leave the rest to the public schools.  The public schools would experience a significant funding shortfall and staff layoffs due to the budget crunch.

The passage of the preliminary education budget is uncertain at best and final passage will probably result in minimal increases for the non-public sector and significant reductions in add-on programs to the public schools.  The bottom line is that its tough times ahead for the public schools.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Are You On Track To A Comfortable Retirement?

One of the nice perks being an educator in the New York City Public School system is that, if you can last to full retirement age, you will get a generous pension and Social Security.  The question is that enough to have enough income in retirement?

If we take the average educator pension of $43,701 and for teachers at maximum salary, Social Security of about $30,000.  The total retirement income is $73,700.  Excluding any other savings from the TDA, IRA, annuity, etc.  The question is, is that enough retirement income?  The short answer is yes, but with some caveats.

If we assume that the teacher's work history was 35 years, in and out of education, retired at maximum teacher salary and was 66 years of age.  Its safe to say that the above scenario of $73,700 of annual retirement income is a reasonable guess. The table below shows, based upon age, the amount of retirement income needs to be saved, at any given time, to achieve the goal of living comfortably in retirement.

Age...............Salary Saved Multiplier


For example the maximum teacher salary at the end of this contract is $119,472, using the chart above the retirement savings necessary is $119,472 x 10 = $1,194,720  assuming that the lifetime of a teacher is 16 years after retirement at 67 years of age and using the $73,700 figure the retirement income for the 17 years would be $1,232,900 or a little more than ten times the $119,472 salary. Consequently, without any other investments, educators should be able to have enough retirement income to live comfortably, according to the chart.

The caveats I mentioned previously are as follows:

  • Teachers at maximum salary
  • Educators reaching full retirement age for Social Security
  • Educators living to at least the average lifespan
  • No pension loans outstanding at time of retirement
The chart above is simply a guide where an educator should have saved for retirement, based upon the age of the educator.

From the chart above and the caveats used in my analysis , educators who make it to full retirement age and retired at maximum salary should have a combination of the pension and Social Security to act as a floor of reliable and steady retirement income for comfortable living and any other investments are simply surplus income that the retired educator can use as they please.