Friday, April 16, 2010

The Union Did A Good Job Getting Rid Of The "Rubber Rooms"



In what is a major win for reassigned teachers and the teachers' union the sorry saga of the Temporary Reassignment Center (TRC), commonly referred to as the "rubber room" appears to be finally history as of September of 2010. No longer will "good teachers" who were whistileblowers. had issues with administrators, or were subject to "false or embellished accusations" from students, languish for years in crowded rooms with little or nothing to do but wait for their hearings. Now all reassigned teachers will rapidly go through their hearings within 60 days (with some exceptions dealing with criminal court requirements and students who graduated and can only return to testify during college breaks) of responding to the DOE's 3020-a charges. To ensure the timelines are met, the amount of Arbitrators will be increased from 23 to 39, not including additional Arbitrators to hear expedited cases where termination is not being sought by the DOE ( maximum penalty, a one month suspension without pay). Furthermore, to get rid of the existing considerable backlog in 3020-a cases, the DOE has agreed to work with a Mediator/Arbitrator to develop realistic settlement offers to teachers. After very carefully reviewing this groundbreaking "rubber room agreement" I have come to the conclusion that it is a victory for the reassigned teacher. I must congratulate President Michael Mulgrew, Chief of Staff Leroy Barr, and Lawyer Adam Ross for, their work in crafting this agreement for reassigned teachers. It appears this agreement includes the contractual enforceability that the June 2008 "rubber room agreement" lacked and was widely ignored by the DOE. While I do have some minor misgivings and questions dealing with specific issues in the agreement, I do think the elimination of the "rubber rooms" is long overdue.

If one thinks back, before Joel Klein the new reassignment procedures are similar to what was in place in the 1990's where between 80 to 90 reassigned teachers (not the 600 to 700 presently) were sent to District or Regional offices and the reassigned teachers were required to do Administrative work. During this time principals would be closely questioned by the Superintendent's office before a teacher was reassigned because the District or Regional office did not want too many reassigned teachers there. By bringing back this requirement we should see a reduction of reassigned teachers as principals, used to dumping teachers they do not like or want out of their schools, will be unable to do that since they must be sent to their "Children Fist Network" office that is assigned to the school and who must authorize the reassignment.

I must admit I am somewhat suspicious of the agreement because of the secretive nature of the negotiations, a lack of participation by the elected leaders for the reassigned teachers (liaisons), the past actions of the DOE in ignoring the previous "rubber room agreement", the expansion of that awful and abusive "probable cause" provision, and the DOE's failure to go after Administrators for "false accusations" However, on its surface the agreement seems to have solved the public relations problem of the "rubber room" for both sides. I am also heartened that Mayor Bloomberg's office pushed to end this financially wasteful practice that gave both sides a black eye and cost the City over 30 million dollars annually. Money that is badly needed to close the City budget gap.

Let's all hope that this agreement stands the test of time and will be seen as the turning point for our union to return to the strong and effective"800 pound gorilla" we once were under Albert Shanker

27 comments:

NYC Educator said...

I certainly hope you're right. I'm somewhat suspicious too, as Tweed is tricky and has outmaneuvered us in the past.

jd2718 said...

I want to examine this more closely - especially since I've read some negative comments - but I think they'll turn out to be wrong.

This looks good.

Has anyone said what will happen to the buildings?

Jonathan

Chaz said...

nyc educator:

I too am suspicious if the DOE will actually abide by the agreement. However, it does appear that since Bloomberg demanded that the "rubber rooms" be closed (not Klein as the public thinks). I do believe the DOE will not embarrass the Mayor on this issue.

jd2718:

The real problem down the road will be that the timelines will not be met or the DOE abuses the process. The union would then be forced to grieve and we all know how long grievances take if it has to go to Arbitration.

ed notes online said...

"During this time principals would be closely questioned by the Superintendent's office before a teacher was reassigned because the District or Regional office did not want too many reassigned teachers there. By bringing back this requirement we should see a reduction of reassigned teachers as principals, used to dumping teachers they do not like or want out of their schools,"

Chaz:
I believe that principals still had to get permission from above to send someone to RR. They were always supported. Now the question is what the network will do. Has anyone seen any enforcement penalties for the DOE?

WHat they did accomplish is breaking up the mass of the RR and putting individuals in more isolated places. AS one RR person said to me at the premiere of the movie last night: it will be harder to organize or get info out to people. Most RR people initially go into a real funk and the union doesn't do much for them other than to tell them to wait it out with the argument they are getting paid. So for some it will be worse.

Now we know how these arbitrators work and how someone who rules too much for the teacher is let go - see the Pakter guy Douglas Bantle who is being let go and seems like the fairest guy I've met.

By the way, what ever stopped the DOE from hiring more people all along? SOmeone should keep count and get a list of these people and when they work.

Chaz said...

Norm:

I disagree with you on two points.

First, since Administrators will have to actually interact with these reassigned teachers, rather than wharehousing them. The administrators will not be so willing to agree with the Principal in dumping the teacher out of a school.

Second, you must understand the directive to close the "rubber rooms" came from Bloomberg not Klein. If it was up to Joel Klein, the "rubber rooms" would still exist. Therefore, that is why the DOE never spent the money to hire more Arbitrators, lawyers, and investigators. The DOE under Joel Klein wated teachers to rot for years, hoping they would resign or retire.

Anonymous said...

This agreement similar to many other prior ones may reap some minor short term gains for the existing TRC members, but may end up with sever long term losses such as more teachers being suspended without pay under the probable cause clause.

NY_I said...

The agreement has said nothing about reforms of the procedures that accused teachers are subject to. They will continue to have no rights in the procedure. As I've said in a blog post essay today, After the rubber room closings: essential procedure rights issues ignored by UFT, media." The UFT must now address the denial of basic legal procedure rights for accused teachers.

Anonymous said...

DOE was embarrassed by the failure, expense, and publicity of their rubber room strategy for inducing resignations/retirements. UFT has helped them escape the emabarrassing situation they created for themselves - and exacted no meaningful concessations for their important aid to DOE.

Each and every rubber room inmate, with the active support of their NYSUT attorneys, should demand a full and fair 3020a hearing. Not the short-cut settlement notion. Full and fair hearings. If the DOE wants a streamlined shortcut process let them offer settlements that favor the teacher - not the usual 'sign this...shut up...don't sue us...and we will go after you again later' sort of settlement.

Let's go, Mulgrew...we are allowed to create tactics that will help teachers benefit from the DOE's embarrassment.

Michael Fiorillo said...

There also has to be follow-up on the union's part, so that teacher's who are back in their schools, but not teaching, are protected from harassment and humiliation by the principal.

Chaz said...

Look, no agreement is perfect and yes I agree our due process rights are still under attack However, I am told that the teachers awaiting their hearings will have a real negotiated mediation to resolve the cases. Not the DOE take it or leave it and don't sue us offer.

The real worry is how does a teacher transition back into a classroom after years of not being in one? The union appears not to have considered this.

Philip Nobile said...

As a three-year vet of Brooklyn's Chapel St. rubber room, I think the new agreement has serious pluses and minuses ON PAPER.

But looking forward, it would be wonderful if reforms went further, much further--to stop OSI and OEO
inquisitions and to guarantee fair investigations by allowing members to see and respond to all witnesses and evidence during the investigative stage, that is, when the DOE makes all the rules. And we know how that goes.

Amazing, but true, there is a white teacher in a rubber room today who is facing the substantiated OEO charge of using the word "Negro" in conversation with a black teacher. The white teacher happened to use that archaic but sometimes reclaimed term (see Stanly Crouch)
because the black teacher asked him a question with "Negro" in it.

OEO said that the fact that the white teacher was only repeating
the black teacher was "inconsequential."

And what was the UFT's role in this Philip Roth plot? Brooklyn Bor. Rep. Howie Schoor refused to play. He denied the white teacher's request for representation. Can you imagine?

The teacher said he wanted a special rep to help shape a defense posture,be outspoken at the interview, and share notes afterwards. That was too much for Schoor. Instead the teacher brought a his Ethiopian Orthodox tablemate as a witness.

What the "Negro" story tells us is that UFT needs to start defending the ridiculously accused and squeeze the mayor for reforming Klein's police organizations.

Chaz said...

Phillip:

Can you identify what you believe are the pluses and minuses? Since many teachers don't really understand the agreement.

Are they different from mine?

UnderAssault said...

There is no "victory" here, just as there was no victory when the federal government bailed out the corrupt financial system. The industry is still going unregulated, and new deals are being made. That's what happens when you don't change the players, or the system itself.

We still got Klein, we still got Bloomberg, and we still got Unity.

The first two will continue to find ways to bust the union and purge the senior and possibly more outspoken teachers, and the union will continue to let it happen. That's what it does best, and there's no reason why it needs to change course. Not with a 91% victory for Mulgrew.

We've noticed that this agreement was done behind our backs. No one knows what the UFT is cooking up with the politicians and no one knows how Klein will play it out. He's totally lawyered up, created an army of hitmen, and pruned out the more even-handed arbitrators. Apart from all that, he's obviously willing to circumvent laws and regulations, and thus immoral to the core.

Chaz said...

UA:

You are correct and everything you wrote are true. However, I am only concentrating on what this contractual agreement does....Eliminate the "rubber rooms".

Philip Nobile said...

Under Assault,
I love your attitude. You're probably the intellectual type who thinks Truman was a war criminal for nuking 200,000 Japanese civilians when the Hirohito was trying to surrender or that Clinton's apology for sitting out the Rwandan genocide a` la FDR should not be accepted.

Although your worst case analysis makes sense, there is a bright side to the UFT-forced abolition of TRCs. Klein the Terrible has been exposed again. His swiftboat campaign against reassigned teachers, the same kind he launched against Randi via the same sleazy smear tactics, climaxed in a heartless demand to cut teachers off payroll at the moment of removal. Let them twist in the wind on mere accusation.

But now, after Bloomberg shoved the agreement down his throat, he's pretending it's the best thing since the Treaty of Versailles.

The UFT has the highground. Like you, I have little to no confidence that Mulgrew will follow through as we would like. So let's lobby him.
Pressure him as he pressured Bloomberg.

Any ideas?

UnderAssault said...

Maybe later. I'm reading it now.

So far, I find it thoroughly inadequate and rife with opportunities for administrator and OCI abuse.

If Mulgrew signed it with a gun to his head - just to have those prison facilities shut down by Sept 1st - I won't fault him.

But if he thought he was gaining us much more than that, shame on him. This one is as much of a loser as the ATR Side Agreement, which got us exactly nowhere. Not to mention anything about the much touted refurbished grievance system and Open Market garbage in the last contract.

As for the political issues . . . I never like to mix those heavy, heavy decisions with our tribulations at work. At least not on a blog. Wanta go out for a drink sometime?

Anonymous said...

Right you are Chaz and Mulgrew and Bloomberg are talking/negotiating the parameters of the new contract. Klein has been left out of some discussion as was the case with the first ATR agreement which you will recall Klein wanted the ability to fire them. My educated guess on the new contract proposals.
1. They will split the baby and agree on 3% raises which will not compromise the pattern for future agreements with labor.
2. They will agree to wording in the teachers contract for Article
8D, similar to the impact bargaining agreement with the Special Education schools a few years back. This will allow 50% of staff to be hired (Must Be Hired) in closing and newly designed schools. Then after 1 year if they are still ATR status they will be bought out according to their seniority.
3. The city will offer a buyout for members and re-open the 55-25 option to allow members to opt in.
All plausible considering the rubber room agreement just announced and the ground swell over the ATR issue. Pensions are off limits after the last agreement by the UFT and city which will allow the UFT to escape that issue at present.
THE MAVEN

Anonymous said...

It seems that many of you have rapid resolution foremost in your mind: Gladstone put it most succinctly -- Justice delayed, is justice denied.

Too many are working under too many false assumptions in praising this "deal."

But underlying them all is that somewhere in the proceeding will be the underlying principles of due process and justice.

I completely differ with you on this.

First off, there are many, many perversions of "due process" in the current system, even as the process it took so long to unfold.

The agreement does not do to much if anything to correct due process problems, only to making the current process faster.

Here are a only few things to consider.

Do you really think the investigations will be better of they "completed" any faster (BTW -- Did anyone read that the number of investigators will increase as well?) Under the present system, the time from investigation to write up takes months, but it seems common that the reports was not only filled with factual errors but with logical errors and typographical errors!

In my case when the administration decided with was time to get back to me with the findings I had 20 minutes to respond to a short booklet (filled with factual errors, logic errors, and typographical errors. They took months, but I got 20 minutes.

The only thing the administrators appear to look at is the "bottom line," it is highly likely that they talked to the investigator.

Did we gain the authority to do your own investigation, or, rather have our own investigator question everyone relevant? No!

BTW -- When the investigator deems it time to question you, you get no counsel, only a UFT witness who isn't permitted to share the notes he or she takes with you. If you have not at least consulted with an attorney you don't even know what your rights are much less how important it is to know what you'll be going into.

Finally, If these cases go into rapid mode, do you really think your NYSUT lawyer is going to be able to be really prepared? Or just more prepared to tell you "this is the best you're gonna get; pay the fine or take the suspension, get out now"?

I'm sure others who have gone under aspect aspects of the process and who are far more articulate and who are far better writers than myself will have a great deal to add to further illuminate the lack of due process, an essential if not the most essential component of justice.

Good luck to ud all.

NY_I said...

This matter is far from closed. And we must publicize this as such.

Yes, "justice delayed is justice denied."
But justice hasty is flawed justice. The cliched quote, "haste makes waste" absolutely applies here. In the absence of any attention to the systematic abuses, we have a flawed settlement. "No agreement is perfect" is simply an unacceptable posture on this issue. Klein and company are aggressive; we need to match their aggression.

In all of this consideration of inquisitions/hearings we must insist on core civil liberties rights, standard rules of legal procedure. This is a constitutional issue.

Chaz said...

Anon 6:55

I do not believe the union will cave in on #2 and have a buyout for ATRs. I also believe we will get the 6% raises since the "City Pattern" is set. However, I do think that Bloomberg will offer a buyout to save the "newbie teachers.

Anon 10:03

As for due process? It does not change and the unfair & biased investigations are still a problem. However, at least for the current 3020-a backlog, the use of an Arbitrator to mediate an agreement between the teacher and the DOE brings a level of fairness in the process. Not the DOE inspired take it or leave it offer.

NY1:

I agree we do not want hasty decisions but it is ridiculous to wait years for a hearing , have the DOE bring in every person that may say something bad about you and have the Arbitrator take 8 months to make a decision.

The "just cause" standard must be used by Arbitrators and your lawyer needs to include it in the opening statement and used in the closing statment.

Anonymous said...

Everyone has missed what the UFT has given up. Do you really believe the UFT/NYSUT will double their attorney staff to accommodate the doubling of arbitrators? The result will be streamlined justice on the backs of the tenured teachers. On paper, the UFT did not give up anything. In practice, they gave up everything!!

Philip Nobile said...

As UFT members, we have licence to petition our leaders to protect our rights. There's a 10-minute open mike at bi-weekly Executive Committee meetings at 52 Broadway. All the bigwigs are there.

That's one opening. That's where we can press Mulgrew with questions about the agreement--e.g., regarding the secrecy, due process worries, hiring extra lawyers, resisting OSI corrupt practices, etc.

I used to express my complaints to the Ex. Bd. almost every bi-week. I would put Randi, Mendel, Barr, Casey, and Schoor on spot for lack of solidarity. Mendel paid me back by banning me from open mike.

According to the Nobile rule, open mike was suddenly closed to ALL MEMBERS, except FOR once appearance a term. Those UNITY know how to run a dictatorship.

I've saved up my time and I'm ready to agitate the rubber room agreement at a future meeting.

But I need to brainstorm. Let's organize. I mean you, Chaz, Norm, Fiorillo, Invictus, Under Assault, Mr. Accountable Talk, et al. Are you with me?

UnderAssault said...

PN: Yes, if I thought it would do any good. This agreement is mostly likely part of a much bigger deal they've worked out.

Fidgety said...

All of this rubber room talk is making me dizzy and I still have to report there tomorrow. I'm so glad that the UFT has finally made some changes, however this closet agreement is lacking in protecting the teachers all around. Starting from where they will report- to what type of 'clerical' work they will be assigned to do while they are 'reassigned' and awaiting a hearing. Who will be monitoring these assignments and how do we know they will be fair? 'Reassignees' will no longer have each other for support and information. Who will make sure the administrators aren't abusing this agreement? Somehow I see more opportunities here for the administrators to abuse their power.
My other thought is about the lack of a 'grandfather clause'. If I had to sit and wait eight months for my charges, shouldn't I be grandfathered into the new agreement and sent back to my school immediately?

Philip Nobile said...

Fidgety,
Welcome to the club? What brought you to our midst?

The agreement doesn't take effect until next fall when you'll be reassigned to school or office.

Then the fun begins and it will be tough to monitor.

That's why we must gear up the UFT.

Fidgety said...

I am praying that my hearing takes place sometime before then...
Or I win the lottery. LOL.

Anonymous said...

So Klein created the rubber room mess and convinced the UFT to help solve it on his terms.

Plug in ATR for rubber room in my above sentence and predict the ATR future.

Very simple idea when you look at it that way and if you see Klein and UFT as constants, not very promising for the ATRs.