Saturday, December 27, 2008

What I Would Like The Union To Work On For 2009

We all have New Year's resolutions. Some are kept, some are wishful thinking. Here are the ones I would like the union to try to keep. I have found that our current union leaders have been unresponsive to the rank and file and have abandoned the reassigned teacher. Further, their lack of democratic transparency has resulted in secret agreements with the DOE that either had no input from or went against the wishes of the teachers affected by the agreement. Examples of this are the 2005 contract, the rubber room and ATR agreements. However, here is what I would like the union to do for the teachers in 2009.
  • A new contract that have no givebacks whatsoever. Even if it a two-year 4% first year and 0% second year raise. Under no circumstances, no pension or health benefit givebacks!
  • Any negotiated agreement that must include teachers affected by the negotiations.
  • An agreement that all ATRs will be placed in their subject area before a Principal can hire a new teacher.
  • Allow classroom teachers to determine the best method to teach their students. " Let teachers teach".
  • Allow teacher discretion on how to discipline disruptive students without the threat of the teacher being removed. In other words. Give back teacher rights in the Chancellor's Regulations.
  • Have an independent investigative process for Chapter Leaders and Administrator accusations that are paid for by both sides. Not the unfair and biased OSI and SCI investigations that assume teacher guilt and administrator innocence. Teacher removals should also be determined by this same investigative process.
  • Limit SCI investigations to felony issues such as stealing of funds and serious sexual misconduct.
  • Lower class sizes to the average in the rest of New York State.
  • Give us back the right to grieve Letters To The File.
The bottom line is it is time for the union to fight for our due process rights and a safe environment in the classroom for the teacher.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Betsy Combier Is A Real Heroine Who Helps Reassigned Teachers In Their 3020-a Hearings

Many of the UFT officials, especially, the "Unity Faction", has been slammed in my posts and rightly so. Starting with the terrible 2005 contract, the ATR mess, and the terrible morale in the classrooms. However, I will point out one heroine who works long hours in support of teachers. Her name is Betsy Combier.

Betsy Combier who is a parent advocate became involved in the reassigned teacher plight and vowed to help any teacher as they prepared for their 3020-a hearing. Betsy has attended many of the 3020-a hearings as a guest of the teacher and her valuable insight in the 3020-a process is important for any teacher facing their hearings. By attending the teacher 3020-a hearings she provides the teacher and his/her lawyer an extra set of eyes and ears and helps them spot discrepancies in the DOE testimony. She is quite friendly with many of the arbitrators and can help the teacher and lawyer in their argument in front of these arbitrators. Further, she is a sympathetic voice to traumatized teachers, especially, in the Brooklyn and Manhattan TRCs, where she is the authorized UFT representative from headquarters.

Betsy Combier spends the majority of her day in teacher 3020-a hearings. To Betsy's credit she does what she is asked by the union and still has time to help the reassigned teachers at their 3020-a hearings. It is a pity that a union that has abandoned it's reassigned teachers has a jewel in their ranks at headquarters who have these teachers' trust and does not support her wonderful work.

In my book Betsy Combier is a real heroine and should be recognized as such by our union leaders.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

How The UFT Is Abadoning Their Teachers To The Abusive DOE Termination Process

I have previously commented on how the UFT has allowed their teachers to be subject to ridiculous misconduct and incompetence charges by sleazy administrators . Further, the union has allowed the DOE to initiate biased and unfair investigations by calling on OSI or SCI investigators that presume teacher guilt (Here). The result is teacher fines, suspension, resignation, and termination. What follows are two stories about how the UFT abandoned their duties to protect these two teachers. Obviously, the names of the two teachers and the individuals involved are not named.

Case #1: Untenured Chapter Leader Targeted By Her Principal:

This untenured teacher reluctantly had taken the Chapter Leader's position after no other teacher in her school would take it. The previous two Chapter Leaders were targeted by the school's "Leadership Academy Principal" and were no longer in the school (they lasted one year each). The only reason this untenured teacher took the position was that the union rep told her that they would protect her from any Principal actions. How hollow that assurance was. The teacher had worked with a group of her students as an advisor, as is common in small schools and was falsely accused of sexual misconduct. The Principal called in SCI and as usual they found that 2 + 2 = 6 and substantiated the accusation without any witnesses and despite the accusation being denied by all parties involved. At this point you would expect our union to come to her rescue and point out to the DOE the absurdity of the investigation and that the teacher should be given a chance to prove herself in another school, away from this vindictive Principal. However, despite Randi's assurances the union allowed the teacher to be terminated and did not file a PERB complaint of improper practice.

Case #2: Teacher Resigns After Union Tells Him To Resign:

A 20-year teacher with satisfactory ratings was in a school when a new Principal arrived. The Principal did not like the teacher and "U" rated him for the year. After taking PIP and found to be a good teacher, he was still "U" rated for his second year. At the beginning of this school year he was forced to take the DOE supported and fraudulent PIP+ and was given a "U" observation. The Principal of the school with the support of the Chapter Leader and District Rep urged the teacher to resign. If the teacher would resign, the teacher would have his "U" ratings changed to "S" and he could get paid until the end of the school year. Otherwise, they would file 3020-a charges for incompetence and go after both his City and State license. Without getting proper advice from the union and pressured to take the deal he signed the resignation papers under duress. Only a week later when he talked to a knowledgeable teacher did he realize that he was railroaded by both the DOE and the UFT in resigning when he should have fought the incompetence charges at the 3020-a hearing.

Shame on the UFT for not only abandoning their teachers but aiding and abetting the DOE in terminating teachers.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Santa Claus, The DOE, And The 3020-a Hearing

Have you wondered what would happen if Santa Claus was a teacher in today's DOE? Well it is quite obvious that poor old Santa Claus would never survive the classroom and the allegations that go with it.

Let's take a peek at Santa Claus during his 3020-a hearing.

The DOE lawyer asks Santa Claus why he kept telling the girls in the class that they are Hoe's? Santa Claus responds by saying "I said Ho, Ho, Ho. Not that they are Hoes". The DOE lawyer states that Hoe and Ho are the same and the girls complained that they believed he was calling them Hoes. The DOE lawyer then brings up why did he threaten them with coal in their stockings if they didn't act nice? Santa Claus responds: "That is my way to encourage them to do the right things in life". The DOE lawyer states that sounds like you are scaring them. Santa Claus responds. "I was trying to get them to be good". The DOE lawyer then ask haven't you asked the students to sit on your lap? Santa Claus responds. "Yes". The DOE lawyer then asks didn't you tell the children that you will break into their house when they are sleeping? Santa Claus responds. "Yes, but only on Christmas Eve". So you admit to threatening them with breaking and entering into their homes? Santa Claus responds. "I guess so". Finally, is it true that you tried to bribe the children with presents if they sat on your lap?
Santa Claus responds. "I was not trying to bribe them".

In his closing statement the DOE lawyer states the following. The DOE has proved his case that Santa Claus is guilty of the following offenses.
  1. Sexual misconduct of a verbal nature in calling the girls Hoes.
  2. Sexual misconduct of a physical nature by forcing the children to sit on his lap.
  3. Corporal Punishment by threatening them with a lump of coal in their stockings,
  4. Verbal Abuse by threatening them with no presents for being naughty.
  5. Felony criminal charge of "breaking & entering" and "bribing" the children.
Since Santa Claus was already off the payroll because of "probable cause". Thanks to the 2005 contract. He was already broke and without health benefits. Unfortunately, the Arbitrator believed that the DOE lawyer proved his case and terminated poor old Santa Claus. Even old St. Nick could not survive in the NYC classroom.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

According To The DOE The Sports Mascots Would Be Subject To An SCI Investigaton & Termination Because They Hug People

I previously wrote a serious article on how Tweed's bizarre policy on hugs and drugs made little or no sense. However, I decided to write a tongue in cheek story about what would happen to the mascots if they were teachers in the NYC school system. In the perverted world of the DOE the sports mascots like the Phillie Fanatic and yes, even Mr. Met would be considered sex offenders since they love hugging people. Even Barney, the purple dinosaur would fall into the DOE's sex offender category. None of these mascots would ever survive in Tweed's teaching world as they would be removed from the classroom for improper physical contact under section A-420 of the Chancellor's regulations and subject to a SCI investigation. I can just imagine what it would be like for the Phillie Fanatic as he goes through his 3020-a hearing.

Phillie Fanatic's 3020-a hearing: Mr Fanatic, the DOE lawyer said, the SCI report found that you engaged in sexual misconduct and corporal punishment with numerous students and staff, you are even accused of improper actions by your administrators. The SCI report specifically states that you hug people is this correct. Mr. Fanatic: Yes, I do hug people, I do it for fun and entertainment. I do it to make people laugh. So you do admit to improper hugging? I guess so. Is it true that you have on occasion touched a person's backside? Yes. Is it true that you sometimes shove or trip people for laughs? Yes. Further, you are known t0 stick out your tongue to administrators and not follow their direction. Yes, that is correct.

To the arbitrator: I hereby have proved the DOE's case that Mr. Fanatic has engaged in sexual misconduct, corporal punishment, and insubordination to his administrators. Therefore, I recommend that the Phillie Fanatic be terminated from employment at the DOE. The arbitrator terminates the Phillie Fanatic.

Barney, the Purple Dinosaur's 3020-a hearing: Mr. Dinosaur, the SCI report states that you have a habit of hugging students and propositioning them by singing love songs about you and them in the classroom. How do you respond to these accusations? Mr. Dinosaur: I do hug students because they like the affection and it shows that people care about them. So you admit to improper hugging? I guess so but it is not improper. Mr. Dinosaur how about the love songs you sing to your students, like "I love you and you love me". Why are you sexually soliciting these students? It's just a song that shows I care, there is nothing sexual about it. So you admit to singing love songs to the students? Yes, I do sing songs to them.

To the arbitrator: I hereby request that you terminate Barney, the Purple Dinosaur for sexually hugging and propositioning the students. You have heard that Mr. Dinosaur admits to the charges and should be terminated from DOE employment. The arbitrator terminates Barney, the Purple Dinosaur.

Note: Both the Phillie Fanatic and Barney the Purple Dinosaur were already off the payroll for three months and without health benefits because of the "probable cause" provision of the 2005 contract.

I am so happy that Tweed is protecting our children from the likes of these characters in our schools. Children last continues.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

With The DOE In Retreat Because Of The Budget Crises - It Is Time For The Union To Get Back Teacher Rights

While I am no fan of the budget meltdown that has affected the world and New York City, it has finally caused the DOE to stop attacking teacher rights, at least temporarily. First, there was the July 2, 2008 flawed agreement that allowed some reassigned teachers to pay exorbitant fines of $5,000 to $25,000 dollars not to go through a 3020-a hearing. Then there was the ATR agreement that allows Principals to hire some ATRs at little cost to teach in a classroom. These negotiations were not due to our union fighting for teacher rights but it was due to the $145 million dollars the DOE was shelling out annually for non-classroom teachers. The DOE could no longer justify the outrageous cost in a budget crises.

While Tweed is in retreat the union should demand the following actions.

  • A truly independent investigation of administrators and Chapter Leaders. No longer should either group be investigated by the DOE supported Office of Special Investigations (OSI) and the Special Commissioner of Investigations (SCI) who presume administrators innocent and teachers guilty. Further, this same independent group should be used to determine if a teacher should be removed from a school.
  • Reestablishment of teacher input into the SBO decision-making process. This should also include the SBLT group as well. Currently, the Principal makes the decision and doesn't need approval from the group
  • Bring back the grievance for Letters-To-The-File (LIF). This will stop Principals from arbitrarily dumping LIFs in teacher's files as is happening with increasing frequency.
  • Limit SCI investigations to those teachers subject to felony arrest. Not the witch hunts that are going on presently.
  • Let teachers teach as they see fit in the classroom. The bottom line is that only the teachers know what is best for their students.

If the DOE needs to practice "education on the cheap" the least the union can do is to improve teacher morale, respect, and protect their rights.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The DOE'S Circuit City Model Is Destined For Failure

The DOE's mindless policy of encouraging Principals to hire "newbie" teachers at the expense of more experienced and better-trained teachers suffered a temporary setback with the ATR Agreement. However, once the budget crises is over, look for those non-educators at Tweed to go back to hiring the "newbie" teacher as they try to emulate the failed Circuit City Model.

If you are unfamiliar with what Circuit City did, let me enlighten you. Last year Circuit City fired all their experienced sales help and replaced them with inexperienced, and lower paid, sales force. Circuit City stated that the replacing the sales staff will result in significant cost savings. However, the result was massive customer dissatisfaction as frustrated shoppers could not get proper service and they left the stores, never to return. Finally, facing lower sales and fewer customers, Circuit City declared bankruptcy and closed many stores thorough the country.

Let's see the DOE is trying to replace experienced teachers with "newbie" teachers and the result is that the student scores have been flat (NAEP) or worsened (SAT) as the inexperienced teachers have classroom management issues and curriculum problems. The frustrated parents, who Tweed has given no input into the schools, vote with their feet by taking their children out of the schools. Finally, the schools close down as the DOE tries to reinvent themselves in the form of small or Charter schools.

Does this have similarities with the Circuit City model? You bet it does. Tweed's "children last" continues.

Note ednotes online brings this point out as he describes the closing of PS225 in Rockaway, Queens,

Friday, December 05, 2008

It's Good To Be Friends With The Chancellor When You Do Wrongdoing

Tweed's double standard on investigations just keeps on showing up. Now it is the Deputy Chancellor, Christopher Cerf who did some serious wrongdoing and received a slap on the wrist from our glorious Chancellor. A Daily News Article by Juan Gonzalez reported how Deputy Chancellor Christopher Cerf had violated the City's Conflict-Of-Interest-Law by pressuring executives of his former company. Edison Schools, in giving $60,000 to the DOE supported Wilderness Program. The Conflict Of Interest Board gave Cerf a confidential letter admonishing him for using his City position to benefit the Wilderness Program.

The Board's letter was based upon an SCI investigation and report. However, neither SCI or Tweed advertised the report and hoped that nobody would notice. Interestingly SCI Chief, Condon, who is never shy about announcing investigations of low-level school employees, sent an 11-page report on Cerf to Chancellor Joel Klein in August 2007, but never made it public. Can you guess why?

The SCI report found the following about the relationship between the Deputy Chancellor Christopher Cerf and the Edison Schools. Cerf relinquished 6,000 shares of Edison stock in February 2007, only hours before he was to be questioned about his ties to Edison by the DOE's parent advisory council, Condon concluded. Cerf also renounced any interest in a 10-year consulting contract with another Edison-connected firm - a contract that could have been worth $2.5 million.

When SCI investigates a teacher and substantiates anything, no matter how frivolous, they always demand termination and the DOE proceeds with 3020-a charges and a full-fleged attempt to terminate the teacher. However, if you are the Chancellor's friend, a confidential letter to "cut it out" is all that is required.

By the way the heavily-edited SCI report can be found on the Gotham Schools Blog Here. Further, information on the Cerf investigation can be found on the NYC Public School Parents and Ednotes Online blogs as well.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Why Doesn't The UFT File PERB Complaints Against Those " Principals From Hell"?

I am truly sick and tired about how the UFT propaganda rag, The New York Teacher, complains about an occasional "Principal from hell" but does little or nothing about them. If a teacher misbehaves, watch how quickly the DOE acts to remove that teacher and dump 3020-a charges on them. However, when it comes to the Principal, nothing is done about it. This double standard must stop and the only way for Tweed to take the union seriously is for the UFT to take action such as filing a complaint with the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) for improper employer practices.

Presently, only a handful (if any) Principals are disciplined for their behavior toward parents, students, and teachers. The reason for Tweed's lack of will in disciplining Principals is that there is no pressure by the union to put the DOE's feet to the fire. In other words there is no consequences to a Principal that abuse students and staff. Therefore, it is time for the UFT to challenge these "Principals from hell"and their DOE masters by filing complaints of improper employer practices with PERB.

While I cannot say how successful this strategy will be. It should be part of a union strategy that will put the DOE on notice that if they fail to clean up their administrative mess by not disciplining Principals, the union will tie up valuable resources as the DOE would have to defend itself and the Principal for their failure to curb abuses.

Remember, a pro-active union is an effective union.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Chapter Leaders Who Are Targeted By Principals Should Have An Independent Investigation To Determine If Their Removal From The School Is Required

Being a Chapter Leader (CL) at a school is probably the toughest job a teacher can have and the good ones spend more time preforming their duties then the time allocated by the contract. It is very common for CLs to spend an hour or more beyond the school day taking care of business. This does not include disciplinary hearings, grievances, school committees and union meetings. The election of CLs is the last democratic process in the UFT, where all other union leaders (except the President) are appointed by the head of the union. The CLs are elected by the direct vote of the school staff. Therefore, the CL is usually the liaison between the Principal and the school staff. Unfortunately, many of the CLs become targets for the Principal, especially the more effective CLs.

Time and again I hear stories of CLs confronting the Principal with issues and being retaliated against by being harassed, investigated, and in some cases removed from the school. This creates a chilling effect not only at the school but in other schools where both the Principals and CLs know how the game is played. Is it any wonder that in some schools nobody wants the CL position? Further, especially in the elementary schools, the CL seems to be closer to the administration then the staff that they are supposed to represent. In some schools the CL position makes the teacher a target and every year a new CL must be voted on as the previous CL either quits, transfers, or is removed from the school. Being a CL is probably a thankless job except for those teachers who want to move into high union positions and the rest of the CLs, unless they kiss the Principal's butt, are the real heroes of the union. Inadequate compensation, long hours, and a possible target for insecure Principals.

To ensure that Principals no longer retaliate against the CL I propose the following investigative process. First, any CL being investigates will have a real independent investigation. No, not the unfair and biased investigations by OSI or SCI. This special investigator will be selected by both the union and the DOE and this person will hold an in-house interview with all parties involved. including the CL and make a truly independent judgement to determine if the CL gets a LIF or is removed from the school. This will stop Principal harassment and retaliation of CLs. Second, the same investigator can be used to determine if the administrator should be penalized for unprofessional actions against the CL, including a LIF and removal. Finally, the independent investigator can be used as a witness for and against the CL in disciplinary hearings, including 3020-a proceedings.
While all teachers should have such protections, a good start would be with the CL and this protection should be included in any new contracts signed by the UFT.

P.S. I am not a Chapter Leader but I have seen and heard enough of these incidents that a real investigative process is necessary for them.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The ATR Agreement, The Open Market Transfer System, & The Appointed Teacher

There is some talk about the provisional nature of the ATR Agreement and it is a cause for concern. Just to clarify how it works. A Principal from school B needs to pick up an ATR with a Chemistry license. For the first year the ATR is a provisional and if either the Principal or ATR believes that the fit is not good, the ATR is released from school B and the Principal does not receive the $22,500 bonus for the ATR. I can see where those "Leadership Academy" Principals who hire only newbie teachers could abuse the process by releasing ATRs each school year and pick up others for the next school year, only costing the Principal the $45,000 for a newbie teacher for each ATR. However, I believe this will be an uncommon occurrence (I hope) and most Principals will want an experienced teacher running their classrooms.

On the other hand, look for the ATRs to dominate the "Open Market Transfer System". Since Principals can pick up an ATR for a newbie teacher salary, why would a Principal select a $85,000 per year appointed teacher when they can get an equally experienced ATR for $45,000 per year? It is interesting how quiet Leo Casey of Edwize has been on how many senior appointed teachers received jobs through the "Open Market Transfer System" last year and I don't expect him to give us those statistics because of the obvious results, few senior teachers were moved. With the ATR agreement look for little if any senior appointed teachers to be successful using the "Open Market Transfer System" since the ATRs are much cheaper.

While the ATR Agreement is a victory for the union and a defeat for the DOE it will also restrict any chance of appointed senior teachers from using the "Open Market Transfer System" to change schools.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The ATR Agreement Shows That The DOE Lost The Tenure War - For Now

The Memorandum of Agreement between the DOE and UFT appears to be a rare win as the DOE has apparently conceded defeat and will encourage Principals to hire ATRs for any vacancies starting immediately. This agreement puts to an end, at least temporarily, the Kleinberg attack on tenure. The financial crises has forced the DOE to cry uncle and put to an end the ATR crises. According to the New York Times, the ATRs would cost $155 million dollars for the next three years. Money that the DOE does not have. Therefore, Tweed has slowly realized that continuing the insane policy of encouraging Principals to hire newbie teachers while making experienced teachers ATRs were not good for the budget in a time of need. An example of how it will work is discussed below.

A vacancy opens in School A for a middle school Math teacher. The Principal will have a list of ATRs with a middle school Math license and interview them to see if they fit the school culture. The selected ATR, who makes $85,000 will only have $45,000 charged to the school, or the salary of a newbie teacher. To further encourage the principal to hire the ATR, the DOE will not only pick up the $40,000 difference in salary but give school A $22,500 dollar one-shot fee, or half a newbie teacher salary for picking up the ATR. Tweed will continue to pay the difference in the ATR salary for the first eight years, or until the the fictitious newbie teacher reaches step 8b. How could any Principal not take advantage of this windfall and getting an experienced teacher in the process?

Finally, this Agreement sunsets on November 16, 2010 and the November date ensures that Principals do not hide vacancies at the beginning of the school year.

Reading the Agreement I cannot find any negatives in it. However, I can't guarantee that there are not any hidden understanding between the two parties and based on past negotiations I will remain suspicious. For now it really appears to be a total win for the union and therefore a win for the children and parents who will once again have experienced quality teachers back into the classroom. .

Saturday, November 15, 2008

How Principals Mainipulate The Phony High School Report Card Grades

The DOE continues to waste precious funds on their ridiculous "Accountability Program". According to the Daily News, the "Accountability Program" wastes $352.8 million dollars. Money that could be better used to reduce classroom overcrowding, increase classroom supplies, and bring better technology for the classroom. Part of the "Accountability Program" are those phony school report cards that do not reflect the real conditions of a school. Tweed spends almost $3 million dollars annually on these phony report cards. In this post I will concentrate how high school Principals can "play the system" and improve their school's grade.

An example of how it works. A principal can improve their school's graduation rate by simply changing grades of seniors, against the teachers' wishes or knowledge, to push them out of the school. Pissed off mentioned how her ex-Principal, Suit, secretly passed 300 Math students to get his pensionable bonus and improve the school report card. Unfortunately, high school Principals know how the game works to improve their school's report card and do what is necessary to keep their job.

The most common ploy the high school principals use is to artificially increase the school's graduation rate. This can be done by two methods. The first method (motioned previously) is for the Principal to change student grades, without teacher approval or knowledge, and graduate them. Unfortunately, what Suit did is probably quite common throughout the school system. The other way is to push otherwise failing students into the "credit recovery program" that can give them full classroom credit by simply writing an essay or two. Imagine, a student fails to show up all year or sleeps in the class and can get credit for that class by doing a simply project or two! Finally, many devious Principals have instructed their staff not to report incidents to outside authorities. One high school Principal in particular has been cited by Tweed and NYPD about the failure to report incidents. However, the Principal's failure to report incidents in the school worked to the school's advantage when it came to the school's report card. Go figure.

It is a pity that real accountability is not practiced at the schools or at Tweed where non-educators continue to waste money on their pet projects. "Children Last" continues.

update: please list all the tricks that principals use to raise their school's grades other than real progress. Pissed off already commented on one.

Monday, November 10, 2008

How The DOE Explots Frightened Reassigned Teachers By Threatening Them With Termination

As many of you know there are over 800 teachers that have been reassigned from their classroom duties. Most of them are assigned to the Teacher Reassignment Centers, commonly known as "rubber rooms". These reassigned teachers are removed from the classroom because of arrests, alleged misconduct, or accused incompetence, including time & attendance issues. The DOE claims that the teacher's removal from the classroom is required because they are a " threat to the children" and Tweed begins 3020-a proceedings to terminate the teacher. However, increasingly the DOE will truncate the termination process if the teacher is willing to pay Tweed a significant monetary fine.

Yes, you read this right. Many teachers can magically be sent back to the classroom and be no longer a "threat to the children" simply by paying the DOE a monetary fine. Is this because the teacher is really not a" threat to the children"? Or is it because the DOE knows that only about 10% of the teachers actually get terminated by the 3020-a arbitrators? Regardless of the reason, the DOE is exploiting reassigned teachers by obtaining fines of $5,000, $10,000, $20,000 dollars and more from frightened teachers before moving them back into the classroom. The DOE exploitation of reassigned teachers is disgusting and hypocritical. If a teacher is really a "threat to the children" the DOE should never be making deals with the teacher. On the other hand, if the DOE is making deals with a teacher, that teacher should never have been removed from the classroom in the first place!

It is very obvious to the educated observer that the DOE exploitation of reassigned teachers by charging them significant fines to stop their 3020-a charges is repulsive and brings into question why was the teacher removed in the first place? If the teacher warrants removal, the DOE should not be making settlements. Either a teacher is a "threat to the children" or they are not. Giving Tweed a significant monetary fine should not determine if the teacher is a "threat to the children". To me this is simply a cynical ploy by the DOE to exploit reassigned teacher fears by getting a significant monetary fine rather than have the teacher face the 3020-a hearing process.

Only in the bizarre world of Tweed can a teacher no longer be a "threat to the children" by simply paying DOE a monetary fine. "Children last" continues.

Friday, November 07, 2008

A Message To Barak Obama - Don't Make That Phony Education Reformer, Joel Klein, Your Secretary Of Education

News reports have said that New York City Chancellor, Joel Klein, is on the short list for Secretary of Education. This is a terrible choice since Joel Klein has shown that his tenure as the Chancellor of the New York City Public Schools have been a disaster for the students, parents, and teachers of the school system.

Under Chancellor Klein's phony school reforms the New York City Public Schools have seen little change in student achievement when the gold standard of testing, the NAEP is used. In addition, there has been a decline in SAT scores at the High School level and continued overcrowding of classrooms despite State mandates to reduce class size.. Furthermore, parent involvement in the process is almost non-existent as Klein has made parent organizations impotent. Finally, Joel Klein's deliberate policy of encouraging temporary and inexperienced teachers to be hired by Principals under the "fair student funding" formula has resulted in 1400 ATRs, mostly veteran teachers, are wasted on non-classroom duties, while the students must be taught by teachers that have not mastered either the classroom management or the curriculum.

In Joel Klein's administration there are only two long-term educators out of a staff of 20 that surrounds him. Furthermore, he has developed a "leadership Academy" for Principals and many of them get schools with little or no classroom experience. Moreover, under Joel Klein's leadership we have seen the destruction of the large traditional academic schools, with a variety of programs and activities into small and charter schools, with limited programs and high teacher turnover.

In conclusion, Barak Obama please do not select a non-educator like Joel Klein as your Secretary of State. He has demonstrated that he does not respect teachers, ignores parent organizations, and has not shown improvement in student achievement, while maintaining overcrowded classrooms during his tenure as Chancellor of thew New York City Public Schools.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Why Mayoral Control Is Bad For NYC Public Schools

There is a battle going on whether Mayoral control should continue as is or be modified. Mayor Micheal Bloomberg wants to keep total control while his critics want some changes according to the Daily News. To me changes to Mayoral control is a no-brainer. Under Bloomberg, Mayoral control has been a disaster for the NYC Public Schools. Flat test scores, overcrowded classrooms, no parental involvement, poor teacher morale, and an ever increasing bloated Central Bureaucracy at Tweed. However, Randi Weingarten, who made a big mistake not opposing Mayoral control in the first place, has seemed very reluctant to oppose a continuation of Mayoral control. Therefore, it is time to remind everybody who cares about NYC Public School education why Mayoral control has been bad for the school system.

  • Testing under the NAEP and SAT scores have remained flat or drifted downward since the beginning of the Bloomberg Administration. No "smoke and mirrors" can hide that fact.
  • The elimination of Parent Organizations that had real input in how their schools are run.
  • Tweed has imposed their every-changing "flavor of the day" teaching method on the classroom teacher which results in poor teacher morale and a "one-size-fits-all" mentality that is not conducive to individual student learning.
  • Overcrowded classrooms and many of them in so-called temporary trailers. See the Daily News article at one public school.
  • The transparent Kleinberg policy of favoring the hiring of "newbie teachers" by using the "fair student funding" formula and encouraging principals to hire teachers from alternate certification programs.
  • The equally transparent policy of favoring recruitment over retention of teachers, which the UFT leaders has bought into to the shame of our union.
  • The ever-increasing ATR problem that has risen to 1400 this year. This problem is a cynical move by Tweed to get rid of senior teachers by any means possible.
  • The overcrowded "rubber rooms" with 800+ teachers, many of them removed from the schools based upon a Principal's dislike of the teacher.
  • The selection of unqualified Principals to run schools when they have little or no experience in the classroom.
  • The doubling of teachers leaving the system in 2007. This is before the 25/55 pension system was in effect. I wonder what it is for 2008 with 25/55 in effect?
Finally, it is no secret that the bureaucracy at Tweed has increased significantly since Bloomberg took over the school system. In addition, the no-bid consultant contracts and high priced non-educators are strangling school budgets as money for the classroom is diverted to Tweed at the expense of the students. I won't even get into the "Charter/Small schools" that cost money and hurt the more traditional schools in the system.

Why is Mayoral control bad for the NYC Public Schools under Bloomberg? Just take your pick of the items listed above.

Tweed's "children last" and "education on the cheap" continues.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The DOE Keeps Wasting Money On Themselves & Keeps The Classroom Overcrowded

Tweed continues to waste money on their bloated central bureaucracy, paying out 5 million dollars on expensive private courier services rather than use emails or other online services for free. I wonder what they don't want us to know? Is it because they are afraid to leave a paper trail behind that might identify the DOE intent In some of the anti-school policies born deep in the offices of the Tweed building? I can only speculate why Tweed continues to waste money at a time of budget cuts. In a New York Daily News article by Juan Gonzales points out that a large part of these costs come from the controversial and bloated Office of Assessment and Accountability which accounted for 2 million dollars alone! Further, the article points out how $50 million dollars have been spend on consultants and private contractors, not to mention the $80 million dollars on IBM's useless AIRS computer system that still hasn't worked properly.

However, DOE does pinch pennies when it comes to the classroom. In another Daily News Article more than half of the high school students (59%) were in overcrowded classrooms and that in the first six years of Bloomberg's tenure less classroom construction was completed than was done in the last six years of the Giuliani administration. In addition, many of the overcrowded schools have classrooms in trailers that, in some cases are barely fit for human habitation, least not an effective environment for learning.

As the DOE's Central bureaucracy spends more and more money on themselves, the schools are increasingly asked to shoulder the burden of ever increasing budget cuts. DOE's "children last" just continues.

update: The Daily News appeared to remove a story about the outrageous salaries and perks some Tweed educrats were receiving. The Gotham Schools blog reported this story and is worth checking out.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The SCI Investigation Of Teachers Is Almost Always One-Sided And Biased. Especially When The Principal Pushes It!

One of the more serious investigations conducted on teachers, short of police detectives coming to arrest you, is a group of ex-police detectives hired by the Special Commissioner of Investigations (SCI) to investigate teacher and administrator misconduct that could lead to criminal charges but in many cases don't. These investigators are usually brought in when an accusation is made of serious misconduct. These investigators have the power to arrest the school employee and in a few cases do just that. However, in many cases SCI is called in by the Principal, who may rightly or wrongly suspect that an employee committed serious misconduct. Unfortunately, the Principal can also use SCI's services when they target a teacher and falsely claim that teacher committed major misconduct.

One of the first questions SCI asks the Principal is how he/she feels about the employee. If the Principal does not like the employee, you better believe that SCI will go out of their way to substantiate even the most minor incident as a cause for termination. The SCI investigators assume teacher guilt and their job is to to collect enough evidence to substantiate their assumption. No matter how flimsy or ridiculous the evidence is.

Unlike the OSI investigation, the SCI investigators show up unannounced and try to trap the teacher in incriminating themselves. They can show up at the school or your home and they have the right to seize your home computer. The SCI investigators travel in twos and in suits and will ask seemingly innocent questions to the naive teacher and use whatever the teacher said against them. Before, SCI interviews the teacher, they have already have put their story together. Therefore, once the tenured teacher speaks to the SCI investigators it only helps SCI firm up their story against the teacher.

Important: "If two people in suits ask to speak to you, do not speak to them, Ask for their business card and contact your Chapter Leader who will arrange for a lawyer to represent you"!

Once SCI substantiates even the most frivolous charge, assuming the Principal wants you out, expect their recommendation to be termination and you will be removed to the Teacher Reassignment Center, commonly known as the "rubber room". In almost all cases the DOE will file 3020-a charges and in an unwritten agreement between Joel Klein and Richard Condon of SCI, no settlements can be made. Only teacher resignations or retirements are allowed. Therefore, the accused teacher will need to go through the entire 3020-a hearing that can take up to three years to complete between the time the teacher is removed until a decision is made by the arbitrator.
The good news is that the 3020-a arbitrators are aware of how SCI conducts their investigations and require DOE to provide witnesses and other evidence to determine the innocence or guilt of the teacher. The bad news, if SCI substantiates anything of a sexual nature, even if there wasn't anything sexual, the teacher could face a "probable cause" hearing and a 60 to 90 day unpaid suspension, without health or welfare benefits.

The SCI investigation is a serious thing and is usually unfair and biased against the teacher. However, in many cases they embellish, twist, pervert, or even invent incidents in their zeal to prove teacher guilt. This may lead to SCI's own undoing at the 3020-a hearing, where real evidence and witnesses are required. So if you are innocent, don't despair, the truth always comes out at the end.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Should We Care About The "Teaching Fellows" ATRs?

There seems to be some disagreement within the UFT if we should fight for the "Teaching Fellows" ATRs. If the 240 "Teaching Fellows" can't find jobs they can be fired in December by the DOE. With the budget problems, look for Tweed to terminate these "Teaching Fellows".

I personally disagree with my many blogger friends and I do not believe that our union should protect these "Teaching Fellows". In my opinion the union should first make sure all ATRs are placed in the classroom before we worry about people who are only not tenured but not even fully certified as a teacher! If the Union had any "guts" they would have challenged the DOE in both the media and the court of public opinion on how the DOE is dumping inexperienced teachers into their child's class. Further, the union could show how many of the small schools have few if any experienced teachers and many of the teachers in those schools are either "Teach For America" or "Teaching Fellows".

How does a staff of inexperienced teachers work with their students? Badly, for the most part. Our union needs to retain their experienced teachers not helping the DOE to recruit uneeded newbie teachers who aren't even fully certified.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Tale Of Two Teachers - Which One Would You Want For Your Child?

This is a true story. The names of the teachers, the principal, and the school have been changed to protect the reputation of the individuals involved.

There are two teachers, lets call them Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones both teaching at Dominica High School. Mr. Smith is a very popular teacher whose classes are always full and students are always trying to get into his class. Mr. Jones, on the other hand, has an half-empty classroom and students are always trying to transfer out. In fact it was because of Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones that the Principal of Dominica high school was forced to stop the teacher shopping by refusing all student requests for schedule changes.

What made Mr. Smith popular? Simple, he taught at the level of his students. Lessons were simple and explained. Demonstrations were applied to real world situations, and his lessons included applications with other subjects. Everybody who knows Mr. Smith knew that he really cared about his students. Mr. Jones, on the other hand, simply taught the subject and abbreviated many terms which were over the heads of his students. Mr. Jones only cared about his paycheck. The result was that Mr. Smith had twice the Regents passing percentage than Mr. Jones.

You would think that the Principal, Snidley Whiplash, would appreciate a teacher like Mr. Smith. Wrong! The Principal was a very insecure person and felt threatened by Mr. Smith and his questioning nature to some of he Principal's decisions that were not in the best interest of the school. Further, the Principal didn't care to get to know the students in the school and ignored many of the students' issues. The Principal targeted Mr. Smith time and again for "desperate treatment" compared to other teachers. Finally, the Principal was able to have Mr. Smith removed to the "rubber room" on frivolous charges resulting in the school's Regents passing grades to plummet by 50% in the next two years. Did the Principal care about the collateral damage he did to the students? Not one bit. As far as he was concerned, it was more important to remove an effective teacher on "trumped up charges" then what was good for the students. In time the Principal was removed from the school for "just cause" and forced to retire.

What happened to Mr. Jones? You guessed it, he continues to teach and fail the vast majority of his students who he despises and receive a minimal "S' observation from the AP while Mr. Smith the quality teacher every student wants, sits in the "rubber room" for years waiting for his 3020-a hearing to finish and be sent to another school as an ATR....and the DOE's "children last program" continues.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Slow Destruction Of Jamaica High School By The DOE

There was a report in the New York Post that showed how few students selected Jamaica High School as one of their 12 schools of choice. Only 1,433 students listed Jamaica High School compared to 12, 602 students who selected nearby Francis Lewis High School. This figure for Jamaica High School was the lowest for all traditional schools in New York City and was almost twice as low as the next lowest school, New Dorp High School in Staten Island with 2,619 selections.

It was only 20 years ago when Jamaica High School was a great school with a top-notch student population and staff. However, demographics changed and more lower income and working class families moved into the area, many of them immigrants, and the higher income families chose other schools for their children. However, in the early 2000's Jamaica High School was slowly improving, despite some poor administration, primarily because of an experienced teaching staff and a variety of programs. In fact, many students who had shunned Jamaica High School for other schools gave it a chance and the academics of the school was better than many of the schools in the Borough. However, in came Joel Klein and his non-education managers who started to close many of the failing high schools to the south of Jamaica High School. First it was Far Rockaway High School, next it was Springfield Gardens High School, then Franklin K. Lane. Next, Klein and company allowed many of the other high schools schools to exclude the level 1 8th graders, especially those with behavior and attendance problems. Further, the small schools did not have to take these "not ready for promotion 8th graders" as well as special education and ELL students for the first couple of years. The result? Many of these needy students were dumped into Jamaica High School which caused an increase in student discipline problems and a lowering of both student and staff morale. It didn't help that the school suffered from a weak administration and lacked a backbone when confronting Tweed. Further, to ensure the school's demise, Tweed dumped almost all the students that were released from jail into the school in the Fall of 2006, claiming the school had the space for them. You can imagine what happened next. Right, the school made the most dangerous schools State list. Coincidence? Yeah right. Finally, the final nail in the school's coffin was giving a small Gates school almost a third of the school's space.

While the school is still functioning and has the best damm chapter leader in the City, starving the school of good students and an ever-continuing exodus of experienced teachers is the beginning of the end for a school that should be one of the best in the city.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The DOE Layoff Dilemma

There are rumors going around the education world that New York City may be setting up a layoff list and that layoffs may occur as soon as the Spring semester. It is obvious that the first to be laid off would be school support staff. Teacher's aides, secretaries, school safety, etc. However, for laying off teachers, DOE's dilemma is how to protect the newbie teachers that Tweed has gone out of their way to hire. Unfortunately, for Kleinberg New York State Civil Service & Education Law is quite specific how tenured teachers are to be laid off and there is no way for the DOE to protect the newbies, no matter what they do. To the best of my knowledge the layoff procedure for teachers are as follows:

First, all nontenured teachers are all laid off. No exceptions are allowed.

Second, the most recently tenured teachers are next to be laid off. For example three year tenured teachers are first, then four year tenured teachers, etc, etc. Therefore, the longer the teacher is in the New York City Public School System, the more secure their job is.

It is my understanding that the teacher layoff procedure is not by subject license but by total seniority. Therefore, there could be an over abundance of gym teachers and a shortage of chemistry teachers once the layoffs are finished. That may be unfortunate but that is the way it works. Layoffs by total seniority in the New York City Public Schools.

As you can imagine, this will not go over well with Tweed as they want cheap, newbie teachers who don't question authority over experienced, highly-paid teachers who question idiotic administrative dictates. Therefore, what can we expect from Tweed before they must follow the layoff procedure.

ATRs & Reassigned Teachers: Look for Tweed to start a media blitz complaining how they waste money on ATRs while they must cut the budget. It matters little that the DOE caused this problem and can simply solve it by placing ATRs in the many vacancies that occur during the school year. Spearheading this media blitz will be the Daily News and New York Post with editorials and articles showing the cost of ATRs. As for the reassigned teachers, you can bet that the DOE will propose yet again to put them on unpaid suspension without health benefits. This of course will be rejected by the union as it implies that the accused teacher is presumed guilty and this is not only unfair to the teacher but is un-American and anti-democratic.

Shortage Areas: The DOE will whine about the lack of Math, Science, and Special Education teachers if they follow the layoff procedures. That is just too bad, if the DOE had treated their experienced teachers better, maybe there wouldn't be a shortage of these teachers in the first place.

Union Self-Interest: Klienberg will yell loud and long how the union is unwilling to share the pain by allowing Tweed to get rid of experienced teachers by eliminating tenure, supporting a vastly inferior Tier V pension, and pay more for our health benefits. Of course the same cannot be said at Tweed where the head count and payroll just keeps on increasing.

I can only hope that the Wall Street panic eases and layoffs are not necessary. However, if they are it should be very interesting how Tweed handles it as they are forced to layoff the newbie teachers they spent their time and effort to recruit on their "education on the cheap" policy and "children last" program.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Wanted: OSI Investigators To Send More Teachers To The Rubber Room

In today's Chief , the Civil Service Newspaper, there is an advertisement for investigators for the DOE's Office Of Special Investigations (OSI). I guess it is important to remove more teachers from the classroom. 800+ teachers are just not enough for Tweed. I have taken the liberty to slightly alter the DOE advertisement for OSI investigators below to what the DOE really wants.

Minimum Selection Criteria: To be an OSI investigator the successful applicants must be a high school graduate who has benefited from the DOE's "credit recovery system" and holds grudges against their teachers. Further, ex-law enforcement personnel that were accused of false arrest and fired are especially sort after and the DOE will waive the college credit requirements for these investigators. Documented bias against teachers are a plus.

Duties And Responsibilities: The successful applicant must be able to develop a case, based upon a lying student statement or a vindictive administrator's "false accusation" and not let the facts interfere with a good story that substantiates teacher misconduct. The OSI investigator must be able to twist, embellish, and pervert innocent teacher actions into serious misconduct that results in termination charges against the teacher. To be selected the potential OSI investigator must show the ability to lie about the teacher and sleep soundly at night. Most importantly, the applicant must show that all teachers investigated are presumed guilty while all administrators are presumed innocent. Finally, the OSI investigator must be able to ignore student or administrator inconsistencies that could hurt the case against the teacher and ask leading questions to solicit the proper responses. Most importantly, the successful applicant must show how well he or she disregards a teacher's statement and believes the student, regardless of the past history of lying and bad behavior.

Salary Requirements: The salary range is $54,267 - $70,395 and promotions are based upon how many teachers are found guilty and terminated. Reports that are accurate and finds the teacher at no or little fault are not encouraged and can lead to the investigator's dismissal.

DOE is an equal opportunity employer and the only requirements for the OSI investigator is a driver's license, fake or real, and a dedication to get the accused teacher terminated regardless if the charges are true or not.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The DOE's "Education On The Cheap" Just Results In Hurting The Students

Tweed continues to starve the classrooms with their budget cuts while spending ungodly sums of money for highly-paid consultants, non-education managers, and programs that are best sent to the junk heap. Even before the 7.5% additional budget cuts have been determined by Tweed, the New York City Public Schools already suffer from tight budgets, inexperienced teachers, limited parental involvement, and large class sizes.

Under Kleinberg, the New York City Public Schools have the largest class sizes in New York State, an over reliance of inexperienced newbie teachers due to the "fair student funding" formula that penalizes principals if they hire experienced teachers, and a "one-size-fits-all" learning program that should be sent to the junk heap. Yet Tweed's media puppets see no wrong with this deteriorating system of educational neglect where more and more experienced teachers are leaving the system, only to be replaced by poorly-trained newbie teacher wanna-bees but most never will achieve the status of being a quality teacher. They even ignore the declining SAT scores and flat NAEP results and trumpet the bogus State test scores that everybody knows have been dumbed-down.

Tweed has manufactured the ATR crises and the overcrowded "rubber rooms", most of them over 40 years of age,which has resulted in 2,200 teachers not in the classroom or a waste of $123 million dollars for this school year. Instead of having a hiring freeze to place these experienced teachers in the classroom, the ATR crises is expected to get worse as Kleinberg will not agree to this reasonable cost-cutting measure that would help the students. Further, the DOE has already reneged on reviewing the charges that land teachers in the "rubber room". My previous post mentioned the study done in one of these "rubber rooms" and the dismal results.

Tweed's "education on the cheap" program continues as the goal of the Kleinberg administration is to fire their way to a successful school district, which of course results in the opposite effect. Lower standards, poor morale, and even manipulation of statistics. The final product is that "children last" will continue until the Kleinberg administration is removed.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The UFT/DOE "Rubber Room" Agreement RevisitedThree Month Later

The UFT, with much fanfare and against the wishes of the vast majority of teachers in the "Teacher Reassignment Center" made an agreement with the DOE that expedites the 3020-a process by adding 8 new arbitrators and having them deal with the complicated teacher incompetence charges. This UFT/DOE agreement which the teachers in the "rubber room" had no input or say in, was to make the 3020-a process fairer and bring teachers back to the classroom sooner. However, the reality is quite different in the three months since this agreement was signed.

I wrote in a previous post how the UFT failed the "rubber room" teachers and that the DOE has, time and again, refused to keep their promises. Lets look at what the UFT/DOE agreement promised and see if they were kept.

  • The DOE would review charges against reassigned teachers and see if they could be sent back to school. One of the leasions at a borough reassignment center did a survey of all reassigned teachers under 3020-a charges as of June and found that not one teacher had their 3020-a charges reviewed and sent back to school during the summer. In the three months after the signing of the UFT/DOE agreement, no teacher under 3020-a charges had their charges dropped and sent back to their school, not one!
  • Principals are still reassigning teachers to the "rubber room" without telling them why they are being reassigned. Another clear violation of the agreement.
  • To my knowledge, no administrator has been brought up on charges for making "false allegations" against their teachers. I don't expect that to change despite the UFT/DOE agreement to do so.
The DOE needs to do what the rest of the State does. Only remove teachers that were arrested and subject to felony charges and those teachers that had mental breakdowns that affected their capacity to teach in the classroom. Presently, the DOE removes any teacher the school administration doesn't like. Whether it is salary, ageism, racism, or personality differences. The UFT should demand an independent investigation to determine if a teacher should be taken out of the classroom. Is it any wonder that the "rubber rooms" remain overcrowded? It is difficult to understand why the UFT allows teachers charged with minor infractions to sit side-by-side with accused felons in the overcrowded "rubber rooms". It is like putting a Jaywalker in jail and subject that person to the same charges as a serial killer. No right-thinking person believes the two should be subject to the same punishment. However, the DOE does by painting all reassigned teachers with the same broad brush. The pity of this is our union agrees to the DOE approach.

As for the ATRs? Randi Weingarten is now making the ATRs a priority item for negotiating with the DOE . This is scary. Based on how well she has negotiated for member rights in her previous negotiations with the DOE, if I was an ATR, I would be afraid, very afraid!