Monday, June 27, 2016

The DOE Abuses The ATR Agreement And Our Union Allows It.

If you have been following the ICEUFT blog, James Eterno effectively dissected the section of the 2014 contract that pertains to the ATRs which reduces their "due process rights" and the section in the contract is included below:

This Rule 11(A) with respect to the absent teacher reserve (referred to above as the “ATR Program”) shall run through the end of the 2015-16 school year. At the end of that term, the parties must agree to extend the ATR Program and absent agreement, the parties shall return to the terms and conditions for ATR assignment as set forth in Rule 11(B).  

What is Rule 11(A)?  This is the rule that allows the DOE to start an expedited 3020-a on ATRs who are in a long-term vacancy or leave replacement position, among other issues that reduce ATR rights.  The expedited 3020-a is a one day hearing and a 15 day decision that was not supposed to affect ATRs in rotation.  However, many ATRs are getting temporary provisional positions only to find themselves covering different classes.  The result is that any ATR assigned to a temporary provisional position is subject to Rule 11(A) and any ATR that exhibits the ill-defined "problematic behavior" by two Principals in any two consecutive years will end up in an expedited 3020-a hearing.  The definition is below.

 If, within a school year or consecutively across school years, an ATR has been removed from a temporary provisional assignment to a vacancy in his/her license area by two (2) different principals because of asserted problematic behavior, a neutral arbitrator shall hear the expedited 3020-a . 

 You can read the passage on page 134 of the contract now found online.  

Already the DOE is trying to terminate rotating ATRs by using the above statement under Role 11(A).  If you don't believe me then read this below as it was sent to a rotating ATR by the teacher's NYSUT attorney.

This proceeding is being scheduled pursuant to Article 17(B), Rule 11(A)(3) ("Rule l l(A)(3)") of the collective bargaining agreement between the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and the Department regarding Education Law § 3020-a procedures for the Absent Teacher Reserve ("ATR") program.

Under Rule ll(A)(3), your § 3020-a proceeding will be extremely expedited, and the Department must prove to the Arbitrator that you have demonstrated a pattern of problematic behavior." Therefore, your hearing is likely to begin as soon as the next several weeks, and time is of the essence. For your convenience, I have enclosed a copy of Rule 11 and Article 21 of the collective bargaining agreement effective from 2009 to 2018. I specifically refer you to Rule 11 (A)(3) and Article 21G. 

Article 11(A) is supposed to sunset this year but my sources tell me that it will be extended to the end of the contract and that means the union has agreed to give the DOE the right to continue to abuse the ATRs. I guess the DOE and UFT love affair is only between Carmen Farina and Mikey Mulgrew not the members, especially the ATRs who they fail to even bother to consult with.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

How High Schools Hurt Students In The DOE's Education On The Cheap Policy.

Sometime during the tenure of Joel Klein, a nameless bureaucrat at Tweed realized that high schools could save on Science teachers by reducing Science instruction from 5 days to 4 days a week by making the laboratory requirement part of the 5 day instructional week instead as a extra period.  At first, many high schools resisted this approach as they realized that the loss of a month's instructional time would result in a significant reduction in the school's Regents passing rate which is based upon a 5-1 program.  However, as the recession deepened and schools saw their budget cut by an average of 14% (86% of fair student funding with some large comprehensive schools only at 82%), gradually and somewhat reluctantly schools adopted the 4-1 Science program.  First, it was only for Living Environment and Earth Science but eventually many schools extended it to Chemistry and even Physics.  The result was, as expected, a much lower passing percentage on  the Regents.

Some schools have resisted this trend and keep the traditional 5-1 Science program such as Hillcrest, John Bowne, and Goodard high schools but they are in the minority.  However, as the schools are expected to get more money (92% of fair student funding), maybe the schools will realize the importance of  going back to a 5-1 program and hire Science teachers to fill these positions while improving student academic achievement.

Over the last few years principals would dole out a "sixth period" to Science and Special Education teachers since DOE Central would pay for the "sixth period" class since these subjects were considered a "shortage area".  Schools soon realized how DOE Central would end up paying for all the "sixth period" classes by giving a Science or Special Education teacher an elective course or making a Math or Social Studies teacher a Science class or ICT class.  According to my sources, the DOE has finally gotten wise to what the schools are doing and starting next school year, the DOE will no longer fund a "sixth period" class, forcing Principals to either pay for them out of their own budget or hire more teachers.  Some but not all schools will opt to do the right thing for the students and hire more teachers certified in the subject rather than dump a "sixth period " on other teachers.

Maybe the idiots at Tweed and our disconnected union leadership will realize that the ATR pool contains many qualified teachers in both Science and Special Education and they would be a valuable addition to schools who are trying to improve student academic achievement rather than continuing the destructive "education on the cheap" policies. However, I'm not holding my breath.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Connecting The Dots Of Bad Principals.

In yesterday's New York Daily News there was an article about parents protesting against the new Principal Monika Garg.  You can read the article Here.  You can even read more about the situation Here. Where did Monika Garg came from?  Well it seems that Monika Garg was the Assistant Principal under the infamous Minerva Zanca  at Pan American International High School.  That's right, Monika Garg was the protege of the alleged racist Principal.  If we take this back a step further, ex Principal Minerva Zanca was the Assistant Principal for the career killer Jose Cruz.  Interesting how bad principals seem to be linked to each other.

Then there is the linkage between principals Namita Dwarka (40% trust factor) and Howard Kwait who were once romantically connected when Ms. Dwarka was an Assistant Principal. How about Principal Melissa Menake (43% trust rating) of Cambria Heights Academy? Then there is the unpopular  Judy Henry (23% trust factor, worst in Queens High Schools) who was installed as Principal bypassing the C-30 committee recommendation. Moreover, in her previous post, she ordered all but one bathroom locked. You just can't  make this stuff up. All of them seem to be connected to one person, that's right, Superintendent Juan Mendez, who either appointed and/or protected them in their administrative positions in Queens.  For your information here are the Queens High Schools with the lowest Principal trust ratings.

Interesting, how the DOE appoints people who have major character flaws and are career killers to positions of authority.  Is it any wonder that the DOE is such a dysfunctional organization and parents and teachers have such little faith in their decisions concerning the students?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Where Is Minerva Zanca Working Now? You Won't Believe It.

Ex Principal Minerva Zanca, who was removed from the troubled and struggling Pan American International High School was charged by the U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara with a civil rights lawsuit of racial discrimination.  The lawsuit claims "systematic harassing and demeaning of black teachers" at her school.  The lawsuit also accused Superintendent Juan Mendez of protecting Ms. Zanca's actions and retaliating against an Assistant principal who refused to go after the teachers.  Eventually, Minerva Zanca was removed, due to the school's poor academic performance and disappeared in the DOE.  However, it is now known that Ms. Zanca was placed as a guidance counselor at a majority black school (83% black) in Brooklyn, the Fredrick Douglas Academy IV Secondary School.

Believe it or not, a Principal who was accused of racial discrimination against black teachers was quietly sent to a majority black school to work with black students.  Only in the DOE would this be acceptable and reasonable.  What were they thinking of at Tweed?  To read about other posts about Minerva Zanca read them Here and Here.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case.  Remember, the Robert Wagner Principal, Annie Schmutz Seifullah, who was charged with sexual liaisons at the school?  She was quietly sent to Automotive high school to teach a mostly male population until some of her students blew the whistle who then fled the classroom and back into DOE Central.  Then there was the infamous James Brown who was convicted by a jury of his peers to sexual harassment and other charges against a female subordinate that cost the Long Island school district over one million dollars and ended up .as Principal of Flushing High School shortly after Chancellor Dennis Walcott claimed "zero tolerance" for sexual misconduct allegations against,  teachers. After a year as Principal, he was removed and disappeared into DOE Centra as well.  Finally, let's not forget some of the Principals who are still running their schools despite numerous allegations against them Here Here, and Here.

The bottom line is that there is a "double standard" when disciplining teachers and principals and under the DOE, its simply business as usual.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Why Cellphones In The Classroom Is Like Distracted Driving. Both Are Dangerous To Students And Their Teachers.

I have written how Bill de Blasio's ill-advised decision to allow students to bring cellphones into the schools have resulted in more unsafe schools.  More importantly, far too many school administrators refuse to discipline students who use there cellphones in the hallways and classrooms of the schools.  Instead they demand that teachers enforce the almost unenforceable cellphone policy without direct administrative action. The result is that most teachers eventually give up trying to seriously discipline the students when given no support by parents, students, and school administrators.  Finally, the revised student discipline code makes it just about impossible for schools to suspend students who refuse to turn over or put away their cellphones and be insubordinate to teachers.

Student cellphone use in the classroom is educational neglect as students are distracted by looking and/or using their cellphone in class instead of taking down notes or listening to the teacher.  Moreover, here are some of the major problems that students with cellphones in school cause.

  • Bullying or harassing other students, or simply distracting students and teachers, with text messages or calls 
  • Cheating by sending, getting, or taking pictures of test questions or answers
  • Taking inappropriate pictures of themselves, or secretly taking pictures of others, and sending them to classmates 
  •  Involvement in various kinds of crimes, such as gang-related activities or buying or selling illegal drugs
  • Setting up teachers by antagonizing them and recording their reaction for potential firing. 
Finally, using cellphones in the classroom is like distracted driving as one causes an unsafe educational environment and the other a potential traffic accident. Both are dangerous to student education and safety in and out of the classroom. Read my previous post on how Bill de Blasio's cellphone policy has lowered student academic achievement and made teaching with the cellphone distractions a living hell.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Unity's Spin Zone Strikes Once Again. With Lies And Fabrications.

Reading the various opposition blogs, I was surprised that the Unity caucus actually criticized MORE/NAC and Solidarity for their support of the "opt out" movement and falsely claimed that caused the State to remove some schools from the rewards program of up to $75,000 (most got far less and most schools received nothing).  At the Delegate Assembly the Unity caucus distributed a flyer criticizing the opposition for supporting the "opt out" movement and costing reward money to some public schools (8 in all last year).  I would like to remind our disconnected union leadership it was last year's "opt out" by parents and students that caused Governor Andrew Cuomo to see his poll numbers plunge and to change course on his punitive teacher evaluation system.  Not union pressure. Moreover, combined with another year of large "opt out" numbers, the State Education Department and Regents have promised to radically change the teacher evaluation system, especially the secretive testing items.  Finally, with the NYSED loss of the Lederman lawsuit, look for a the Value Added Method to become more realistic, I hope.

Back to the misleading Unity caucus flyer.  An uninformed teacher might actually believe the spin that the Unity leadership was behind the scene in getting Governor Cuomo to change his position and that the "opt out" movement hurts the students and schools, both lies and fabrications. The "opt out" movement was the reason for the four year moratorium on the high stakes State testing for 3-8 grades, not the union pressure.  Remember, Michael Mulgrew threatened to punch you in the face for opposing his Common Core tests, does that sound like someone fighting for our rights or parroting the education deormer policy?  You pick.

For more information on the Unity caucus flyer, read Ed Notes online, NYC Educator, and the ICEUFT blogs for what the Unity spin machine actually states..

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Why Bill De Blasio's Cellphone Policy And Other Issues Are Resulting In Lower Academic Achievement.

One of the most damaging policy directive by the Bill de Blasio Administration is allowing students to bring cellphones to school.  Unfortunately, for many classroom teachers that adds to their classroom management problems and results in less instructional time and more time in getting students to put their cellphone away.  Defenders of the Mayor's misguided policy will claim that allowing students to have a cellphone at school does not mean they condone their use in the classroom.  However, unless the school administration does what Lehman High School in the Bronx did once the student brings the cellphone to school it will end up being used in the classroom.  The bringing of a cellphone to school results in student distractions and a lowering of student academic achievement.

Once the Mayor's ill-advised cellphone policy took effect in April of 2015, classroom teachers immediately saw an increase in classroom management problems.  Students who listened to the instruction and took notes started to see their focus wander as  friends and family, including parents, started to text message the student during class time, who of course, must text back.  Instead of focusing on the lesson, the students became more focused on their cellphone.  The school administration is of little help since they refuse to discipline students for cellphone use and demand instead that teachers take action.  Without administrative backing and the required "scholarship"  requirements, few teachers could reasonably take any real action except to constantly call parents who  couldn't or wouldn't discipline their children.

Add the disruptive nature of the cellphone with the school accepted (certainly tolerated)  student lateness and this combination results in lower student academic achievement as precious instructional time is lost day in and day out.  This is especially true for the first period of the day but is also common throughout the school day.

In Regents Science, you can add the shortened instructional time to factors that lower student academic achievement.  Only in New York City does the DOE allow for four rather than five instructional days plus a lab period.  The policy causes over a month of instructional time being lost when the Science Regents requires a five day instructional week to reasonably cover the full curriculum. The result is that their is little or no time to review for the Regents and lower Regents test grades are the final product for New York City schools that adopted the four day instructional program.  This is an example of the DOE's "education on the cheap" policy that shortchanges schools of their fail student funding (averaging 89% in 2015-16 school year) and reduced the amount of Science teachers needed to staff.the school.

When you combine the distracting cellphone policy, tolerating excessive student lateness, a permissive student discipline policy, large class sizes, reduced science instruction time, and scholarship requirements, is it any wonder that student academic achievement is a major issue?

"Children last"........Always.