Friday, February 19, 2010
How To Really Streamline The Tenured Teacher Discipline Process While Protecting Teacher "Due Process" Rights.
Lately, the media and the pseudo education reformers have brought up New York State Education Law 3020-a as being too slow and costly with the average case lasting 502 days and hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, when it comes to how to make it faster and fair, these very same people are short on details or in Chancellor Joel Klein's case is unrealistic and violates State Education Law. Of course if you really want to know what Bloomberg & Klein would like to do to reassigned teachers? Just look at the pictures above. As for the State, their RTTT program in streamlining the disciplining of tenured educators is vague at best and disingenuous at worst. Therefore, the question is how would I streamline the State 3020-a process in New York City?
First, for teacher misconduct cases, there will be an independent investigator who would actually interview everybody involved in the alleged misconduct, including the teacher to determine if the teacher is a "threat to the children". If the investigator finds that the teacher committed "major misconduct" (as defined in the contract - Articles 21G5 & 6 pgs 115-117) or was criminally arrested then the teacher can be removed from the school and 3020-a charges can be filed. Otherwise, the teacher will stay in the school and the worst punishment would be a Letter To His/Her File (LIF). Incompetence cases would be handled differently and PIP+ would be changed to a more independent method where a 90% failure rate is unheard of. No longer would the teacher be subject to the corrupt investigations by the Principal, OEO, OSI, or SCI that usually results in the teacher being unfairly removed from the school. I guarantee that the overcrowded "rubber rooms" would disappear very quickly.
Second, the DOE lawyers must stop extending the hearings by charging teachers with actions that are both frivolous and outright bogus. It is bad enough that the DOE lawyers expand, twist, and embellish the incidents into something that they aren't but they then lengthen the hearings by adding additional charges hoping that some of them will stick. Many of the DOE lawyers will call in any witness that might have a bad word about the teacher even if they are not involved in the charges hoping it will influence the Arbitrator. Moreover, they will violate 3020-a law by bringing up hearsay or accusations against the teacher that are over three years old and never substantiated but claim it as fact. These tactics by the DOE lawyers is simply called "character assassination" and they will use this weapon when they realize their case is failing. The result is that a four day misconduct hearing can last four months!
Third, give the Arbitrator the right to penalize the DOE when during the 3020-a hearings a witness, be it the investigator, Principal, etc was caught lying in their testimony. Presently, there is no consequence for investigators and administrators who are caught lying. If a teacher is caught lying in his/her 3020-a hearing that teacher is terminated. Therefore, there should be serious consequences to testimony found to be untrue and action taken against witnesses that lie. If investigators or administrators knew that their lies can cost them money and even their jobs, fewer teachers would be subject to 3020-a charges and the investigations would be fairer.
Fourth, use the expedited hearing procedure that can be found in Article 21G3 of the Contract (pgs 114-115). According to Michael Mulgrew, this procedure has only been used twice since 2002. The reason the DOE does not use the expedited hearing process is that it does not allow for termination, the maximum penalty is a six month suspension, Despite the basis for a 3020-a hearing that is for the Arbitrator to determine the appropriate remedy for the accused teacher, the DOE's remedy is always termination. Hence, that is why there have been only two
Finally, give the DOE lawyers the right to rescind 3020-a charges. Especially after a teacher is acquitted in criminal court. To my knowledge once 3020-a charges are filed, the DOE lawyer cannot rescind these charges even if he/she realizes that the charges should have never been issued in the first place. Jeff Kaufman on the ICEUFT blog wrote about this only last week and is a must reading for teachers who want to understand the "rubber room" problem.
I am sure there are many other good ideas on how to streamline the tenured teacher discipline process and please put them in my comment section. However, these are the ones I found needs to be reformed.