Saturday, December 10, 2016

Be Warned, Avoid This School At All Costs. - William Cullen Bryant High School

One of the worst schools for teachers to find themselves in is William Cullen Bryant High School in Queens.  This school has one of the lowest Principal trust factors by teachers in the city at 28%.  Furthermore, this school has seen all but one Assistant Principal leave the school since 2013 and I have been told of the 176 teachers on staff when the current Principal, Namita Dwarka came in, only 37 are left or 21% have survived her oppressive four year leadership.  This unusually high teacher turnover is more reminiscent of a small deep poverty school or a charter school than a large comprehensive high school. The school has suffered from low morale and both student and teacher walkouts as well as protests, yet the DOE ignores the administrative caused problems at the school.

The current Principal Ms. Dwarka, has seen her school's "college and career readiness" rates keep dropping during her tenure to a low point of 34% in the latest school snapshot, despite a student body.that draws from the middle to working class communities of Astoria and Long Island City and has a diverse student population.  Interestingly, a Principal favored  Assistant Principal who was accused of a sexual relationship with a student and was removed by the DOE has somehow reappeared at her old position back at the school this school year.  Was she cleared and found innocent of the accusation or was it substantiated but covered up?  The issue should be clarified on why she got her job back.

Back to Principal Dwarka.  She has found herself under various investigations for grade fixing, financial fraud, and retaliation.  Moreover, Ms. Dwarka has been accused of academic fraud and she is instrumental in pushing teachers out of her school even if it means filing 3020-a charges against these teachers for otherwise frivolous actions. Rather than go over each accusation against Ms. Dwarka you can read my previous posts on her Here.  Better yet, the show Crime Watch had  a major piece on Principal Namita Dwara and you can watch the entire show Here. Then there were front page headlines of a student who never attended her class but was passed and graduated anyway.

The bottom line is that any teacher who want to work in the school should have their head examined.  There is no parking, an abusive and untrustworthy school administration, and accusations of academic fraud that has resulted in high teacher turnover and an unstable school climate.  Stay away from William Cullen Bryant High School.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

More Terrible Principal Selections For Two Great High Schools.

I must say that I am perplexed how Chancellor Carmen Farina selects Superintendents?  Be in Juan Mendez, Amiee Horowitz, and many others.  These Superintendents continue to hire principals that have questionable credentials and is it any wonder that students and staff are suspicious of the DOE's commitment to put children first?  Since I am only familiar with Queens High Schools, I will discuss two of them who have seen a change in leadership.

The first school is Townsend Harris, one of the top high schools in the city.  This year they were given a new Principal, her name is Rosemarie Jahoda, a refugee from the Bronx.  Want to know about her you ask?  Well here goes.  Rosemarie Jahoda was the Assistant Principal of Math at Bronx High School of Science and was a villain, according to the Math department teachers.  20 of the 22 Math teachers in the department signed a complaint of harassment in 2009,  Teachers accused Ms. Jahoda of verbal abuse by being admonished in front of their students and threatening their jobs.  You can read the article Here.  Moreover, you can read a first hand account of Ms. Jahoda's handiwork by ex-chapter leader Peter Lamphere, who won two "U" rating reversals by her.  His account is Here.

Now it seems that Ms. Jahuda has made enemies of the students and staff at Townsend Harris as she has told the teaching staff not to drink coffee or water in class and discourage the students as well.  Furthermore, she has demanded that the teachers assign more homework to the student's already heavy workload.  Finally, she threatened to cancel the senior trip if she doesn't get her way.  Today the students struck back by walking out of class and organized a "sit in" in the hallways.  The Superintendent showed up and pleaded in vain for the students to return to class. You can read the article about it Here.

Ms.Jahoda is trying to change the humanities  culture of the school by imposing a specialized test for admittance to the school and changing the school's mission to that of a STEM school.  Townsend Harris is an elite high achieving school in the city and is a school that has a reputation to graduate well-rounded Ivy League caliber students.  What idiot would change that successful approach ?  It appears Ms. Jahoda does.  A petition to not appoint Ms. Jahoda as permanent Principal has over 3,000 signatures consisting of students, staff, and alumni and is being sent to the DOE. let's hope they listen.

At Forest Hills High School Anthony Cromer took over as Principal on December 1st.  Who is Anthony Cromer?  He was the Principal at August Martin High School until he was pushed out in April of 2012 as he oversaw the continued academic decline of the school, as he hired and relied on uncertifed teachers to teach Regents caliber courses with disastrous results.  Mr, Cromer's claim to fame in my book, was when he forced the Living Environment teacher to teach Earth Science and the Earth Science teacher to teach Living Environment and then "U" rated them both for poor student performance.  "U" ratings under Principal Cromer  was not an isolated action, it happened far too frequently at August Martin.  Now he is Principal of Forest Hills High School and that is unfortunate for the students and staff of this great school.

Great schools need great leaders and not these two flawed educators who have harassed and "U" rated staff far too frequently if you ask me.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Beware Of The ATR Field Supervisiors Baring Gifts - A Plan Of Assistance.

By this time of the school year most rotating ATRs have met and have been observed by their field supervisors.  For the unfortunate many, who either have had a "U" rating the previous year or was given a poor observation report this school year, the field supervisors bring with them a gift called the " plan of assistance".  This plan of assistance is really not much of a plan to help the ATR's pedagogy but is used to go after some weaker ATRs with a second consecutive "U" rating and the ability to fire them with 3020-a termination charges due to incompetence.

The DOE claims the right to file 3020-a termination charges against any educator who has had two consecutive negative ratings.  The UFT claims that any ATR that gets two consecutive "U" ratings for incompetence, based solely on the filled supervisor's observation will not be subject to 3020-a charges.  However, I wouldn't trust the DOE to continue to follow that approach and it would not surprise me one bit that they start serving ATRs with 3020-a charges for incompetence, starting this school year since they have failed to significantly "trim the ATR herd".

It is unfair that the DOE is using field supervisors to evaluate rotating ATRs since the ATRs have little or no knowledge of the student's academic capabilities and have no ownership of their grade.  The union leadership should demand an end to the field supervisors not ignore the unfairness of the observation process and start listening to the most vulnerable of their members the ATRs.

Note:  I must say I was disappointed that at the UFT's Executive Board on Monday, MORE and New Action did not bring up the ATR incentive and whether the DOE is telling principals not to permanently hire ATRs who won their 3020-a termination hearings.   I would think that our opposition caucuses, whom have previously advocated for the ATRs, would thoroughly question the union leadership on what they are doing about it since its becoming increasingly clear that DOE Central is interfering with principals who want to hire an ATR with the incentive.  While I do not expect "Unity"  to advocate for the ATRs, I do expect MORE and New Action to represent our interests and in Monday's session they did not.  Maybe they will bring it up in January.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

The ATR Incentive And The Problem Code.

The DOE has tried in various ways to terminate the ATRs.  First, they changed the hiring and bumping rules, thanks to our UFT leadership, in the infamous 2005 contract.  Next, our UFT leadership failed to challenge the DOE when they imposed the "fair student funding" formula on the schools that encouraged principals to "hire the cheapest and not the best teachers" for their school.  Then Tweed tried to demonize the ATRs by publicly calling them "unwanted" or "bad" teachers as Bloomberg closed 162 schools and excessed thousands of teachers into the ATR pool.. However, only the cheapest and untenured teachers were hired as the "fair student funding" formula discouraged principals from picking up the experienced teachers, especially the senior teachers who could have been role models to the influx of "newbie" teachers that the schools were hiring to fill their vacancies.

As the recession hit the schools in 2008 and deepened for the next four years, the school budgets were slashed to 78% of their fair funding.  Hiring of experienced teachers was the exception not the rule.  This was especially true at the Bloomberg small schools with Leadership Academy principals.  Eventually, the DOE tried different  half-hearted attempts to drain the ATR pool by either giving schools an incentive to hire an ATR, a buyout, or by imposing different rules on the ATRs.  However, neither the carrot or stick approach in dealing with the ATR issue made any real significant impact on the ATR pool as the numbers stayed relatively constant of between 1,000 to 2,000, depending if you include ATRs assigned to provisional or leave replacement positions.

Now the DOE sees that there is a looming teacher shortage on the horizon and has already hit the Bronx.  For the first time in my memory, the DOE has told Bronx schools they could hire discontinued teachers from other Boroughs.  Moreover, the DOE has come up with yet another incentive for principals to hire ATRs for their school, as if their decade long demonization of ATRs had no effect on principals who have continually heard how bad these ATRs are.  Except for the Bronx and some of the worst schools in the other Boroughs, the new ATR incentive has not been a success.  So far only 125 ATRs have been permanently placed, many of them already provisionally placed for the year at the school.   Considering there were 1,304 ATRs in rotation and approximately 500 more placed in a long-term assignment, the 125 ATRs permanently placed is a drop in the bucket.

Interestingly, and most disturbingly, I have been hearing from a numbers of ATRs telling me that they could not get a permanent position at their school they were provisionally assigned to because the principals informed them that DOE Central told them that they don't recommend hiring the ATRs because they were previously charged under section 3020-a.  While principals have the sole right to hire staff, many principals still follow what DOE Central tells them and if DOE Central does not recommend hiring a teacher coming out of discipline, then why get them mad by ignoring that recommendation?  Moreover, I have been told that Tweed has made two lists of ATRs.  List one are for teachers who were excessed due to closing schools or downsized programs (approximately 75%) and the other who won their discipline hearings (approximately 25%).  Apparently, DOE Central is telling principals not to hire from the second list.and to check the file for a problem code or as I call it a Scarlet Letter.

The UFT will claim that the ATR imitative is for all ATRs but as long as DOE Central objects to the hiring from the second list, the teachers who survived their 3020-a termination hearings will have little chance to be permanently placed unless the teacher is in a severe shortage area with no other candidates.  If the DOE and UFT claim otherwise, then let them publish the statistical breakdown of the ATRs given permanent positions.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Queens High Schools Where College Ready Scores Are Dropping.

In June 2016, the Common Core Algebra Regents cut scores were dropped to allow for a higher passing percentage as well as an increased "college readiness" percentage.  You can find it Here. However, despite the significant drop in the Math cut scores, the citywide "college and career readiness" scores only slightly increased by 2% to 37%.  Therefore, it was not surprising that many of the Renewal high schools met this metric, the very low bar of a 1% increase in the "college and career readiness" scores.

This post is about those unscreened Queens high schools who, despite the lower Math cut scores and a far too easy English Regents, actually had a lower "college and career readiness" scores then the previous year.


Queens Collegiate..................46%.........33%.........-13%  
Cambria Heights Academy......22%..........9%..........-13%
Academy of Medical Tech........20%..........8%..........-12%
Queens Preparatory Acad........28%........24%..........-4%
Hillside Arts & Letters.............28%.........24%.........-4%
John Bowne............................37%........34%.........-3%
Rockaway Collegiate...............14%...,....13%..........-1%
William Cullen Bryant..............35%........34%..........-1%
Pathways to College................21%........20%.........-1% 

The biggest and most disturbing drops occurred at Queens Collegiate (-13%) at the Jamaica campus, Cambria Heights Academy (-13%), and The Academy of Medical Technology (-12%) at the Far Rockaway campus.  If I was the DOE I would be thoroughly investigating what's going on in these three failing schools.

 The schools on the list above has a lot of explaining to do on why their college ready scores declined despite the State gaming the system to show improvement in their college ready scores.  Of course, I take these numbers to mean only one thing, the students of the schools are not getting a quality education at these schools.  Furthermore, many of the schools listed suffer from high teacher turnover, poor school administration, and a student body that includes many academically struggling cohorts. If I was a parent of a Queens middle school child, I would keep my child far, far, away from these schools.


Thursday, December 01, 2016

Beware Of The OSI And SCI Investigators. They Are Out To Terminate You.

Since Michael Bloomberg became Mayor of New York City and selected non-educator Joel Klein as Chancellor, teachers have been targeted by corrupt investigations by The Office of Special Investigations (OSI) and the Special Commissioner of Investigations (SCI).   These investigative agencies have changed little under Mayor Bill de Blasio and his Chancellor Carmen Farina.  You can read their stories Here.

The two investigative agencies are called when potentially serious allegations are brought against an educator.  If the allegations involve criminal, sexual, or financial issues then SCI are called in.  However, if the accusations are for corporal punishment or verbal abuse based upon discrimination, then OSI will investigate.

Unfortunately, both OSI and SCI are biased against school staff and by the time either investigative agency interviews the staff member, the investigators have already determined the member's guilt or innocence.  Therefore, if you already know that the Principal wants you removed from the school, because you are a senior teacher, a whistleblower, or a person that knows the contract, the investigators will always substantiate the most trivial of actions and recommend disciplinary action, up to and leading to termination, despite the fact that the investigators have not even bothered to talk to you.  Therefore, its best to keep quiet and wait for a more fair venue, like the 3020-a hearing to defend yourself.  Too many educators believe that if they just explain what really happened to the investigators they would see that the allegations are false or frivolous. What really happens is that by talking to these corrupt investigators you are giving them just enough rope to hang yourself.  This is especially true of SCI, who can arrest you on the spot if they believe that you told them enough to warrant your arrest.  Just ask the educators who find themselves in a police holding cell for up to 72 hours before being released by a judge.

My recommendation is to NEVER TALK TO SCI WITHOUT THE PRESENCE OF A LAWYER GIVEN TO YOU BY THE UFT.  Just take the SCI investigator's card and tell them that your lawyer will contact them   Talking to SCI is never a good idea and the SCI will use the information you supply against you, not for you.  As for OSI?  wait for the union to arrange a union advocate to represent you at the hearing and answer simply yes or no.  Unless the union advocate tells you to explain, don't.   Again any information you supply to OSI will be used against you in any disciplinary hearing. Best to answer simply and with as few words as possible. Remember both agencies assume the educator is guilty before ever meeting with the accused.

South Bronx Schools has a post about a former OSI investigator who advertises her services for educators who face OSI investigators and claims she can help the educator gain an advantage.  I am highly skeptical of this claim since OSI has already decided the narrative of the educator's guilt or innocence before the meeting with the educator ever takes place.  However, if you have loads of money to waste, believe in the tooth fairy, and think the OSI investigator is fair and balanced, good luck to you and by the way, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I would like to sell you.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

At The DOE Some Teachers Are More Equal Than Other Teachers.

You would think that all teachers are treated the same by the DOE.  However, we all know that excessed teachers are not treated the same as appointed teachers but in the bizarro world of the DOE, teachers are treated very differently.    Welcome to the DOE's version of Animal Farm. If you're not familiar with George Orwell's book the animals rebelled against the human farmer and took over the farm,  At the beginning all the animals were treated equally but as time passed the pigs gradually took over and became the overlords of the rest of the farm animals.  Lowest on the pecking order were the cows and hens who were liquidated when their food producing days ended.

The DOE, with the complicit agreement by the UFT leadership, has developed its own Animal Farm pecking order when it comes to teachers simply by their policies.

Pigs:  Young and preferably untenured teachers who have low salaries and inferior Tier VI pensions which few will ever last long enough to obtain.  The DOE's school-based "fair student funding" formula ensures that almost all the 4,500 teachers hired annually are these teachers. They get the DOE's " Hero First Class" Award.. Furthermore, most of the Open Market System transfers come from this group.

Dogs: Tenured but hired under Tiers V or VI and with less than 8 years of experience. They are the gate keepers for the Bloomberg small schools and are still young and cheap enough not to be targeted. These teachers get the DOE's " Hero Second Class" Award.  The remaining transfers of the Open Market System occur in this group.

Horses:  Experienced teachers and used by the DOE to implement good teaching practices.  However, while they are getting on in years and becoming expensive, they are still needed since these are the top teachers in most schools..  These teachers between 8-15 years of experience are the role models and mentors for the "newbies". They are the work horses that make the schools run until they wear down and are eventually enter the final two groups and are targeted.

Cows:  Veteran teachers , usually over the age of 40 and 15+ years of experience.  They are used by the DOE to milk their vast experience until they are of little use to the DOE.  These teachers will be forced to pasture by retirement or termination once they have been squeezed of their best milk producing years.

Hens:  Senior teachers who have the most seniority and accumulates the most pension credits.  The DOE policies force them to lay eggs and then terminate them to feed the DOE's ever increasing monetary appetite while starving the schools. Targeting senior teachers is the top priority in their "education on the cheap" policy since they posses the "institutional memory" of what its like to run a peaceful classroom and that is a threat to the ever increasing "Leadership Academy Principals"..

In the DOE's version of Animal Farm its always "newbie teachers are good" and "senior teachers are bad".