Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"LIF" For Life, Or How The DOE Snookered The UFT Again At The Teachers' Expense


This is another investigative article on how the October 2005 contract that the UFT rammed down our throat has adversely affected the teaching profession. In this case we are talking about the infamous "Letter To The File" or "LIF". As we all know, The union gave up the grievance protection when an administrator dumps a "LIF" into a teacher's personnel file. However, the union claimed the teachers won a more significant gain in having "LIF" removed from the teacher's file after three years, unless it was used in a 3020-a hearing, a "U" rating, or in a discontinuance proceeding. However, what seems to be an inadequate tradeoff is much worse than you think.

In a January 31, 2006 letter by Joel Klein in the Principals' Weekly he explained exactly how the "LIF" works.

"Teachers or other UFT represented employees who wish to have a letter removed from their file pursuant to the new agreement should follow the current procedures for viewing their personnel file by making an appointment with the principal or his/her designee when the principal or designee is available. The employee will be permitted to view his/her personnel file in the presence of the principal or designee. Employees may identify any letter that has been in the file 3 years or longer. The supervisor shall remove the letter from the file if he or she knows that the letter has not resulted in further disciplinary action, such as 3020a charges, a discontinuance, an unsatisfactory rating, or a suspension and confirms that it is 3 years old or more. Copies should be made of all the documents to be removed and the employee should be given the originals. The records will be kept in a central repository and maintained under the control of the New York City Law Department. They will be used solely in defense of the Department of Education or the City of New York in litigation or administrative actions and as otherwise required by law, and DOE supervisors will not have access to them. The records will be destroyed 6 years after an individual retire, resigns, or terminates. if the records are accessed the UFT will Be notified".

Let's take this statement apart and see what it means.

"Teachers or other UFT represented employees who wish to have a letter removed from their file.....

The above statement means that unless a teacher formally requests to review their personnel file to see if unwanted or dated material is in it. The principal is not obligated to take them out. Since most teachers don't want to take the time before or after school hours to review their file and some are unaware of their rights, unwanted or outdated items can remain in a teacher's personnel file indefinitely!

Copies should be made of all the documents to be removed and the employee should be given the originals. The records will be kept in a central repository and maintained under the control of the New York City Law Department.


That means that even when unwanted and dated material are removed from a teacher's personnel file, a copy is sent to the New York City Law Department for deposit!

The records will be destroyed 6 years after an individual retire, resigns, or terminates. if the records are accessed the UFT will Be notified".

The records are not eliminated until 6 years after the teacher leaves the system? Notice how the UFT must be informed when these records are accessed? Obviously, the UFT knew about the contract provision and agreed to it.

Let's see how this works. The teacher on his/her own time must request that the principal, when available, oversee the review of the teacher's personnel file. Any unwanted or outdated material the principal agrees to remove from the teacher's personnel file must be copied and sent to the New York City Law Department for deposit. The records can be accessed at anytime for litigation or administrative hearings and, of course, the UFT will be informed of this. In other words, any "LIF" given to a teacher will always be available to New York City even if the "LIF" is removed from the teacher's personnel file.

The DOE snookered our wonderful union again. The result for teachers? It's "LIF" for life!

5 comments:

17 (really 15) more years said...

Back in the day when I was the constant victim of a hateful principal, I was written up for all sorts of crap. I never asked that they be removed simply because I am certain that my current principal doesn't know what's in my file, and I don't particularly want to draw attention to anything negative. Maybe I'm wrong, but if they're saving copies somewhere anyway, what the hell is the point?

Woodlass said...

17, I totally agree with you. I think I have something from 1988 in my file which never materialized into anything serious. Do I want my current principal looking it over with me? Not really.

I will, however, ask for anything SHE put in my file to be removed after 3 years. I'm sure she'll remember whatever she wrote herself, so who cares. No need to leaf through the earlier pages.

The negotiators made too many mistakes in the last contract. If they can't be fined, criticized, removed, or thrust into early retirement, maybe their names should be made public.

Chaz said...

I did look in my file and found 4 things that did not belong. I made my principal remove all of them. Since he was aware of them, I took satisfaction in watching him reluctantly remove the unwanted items.

black_hat said...

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