On April 15, 2010, with much fanfare the DOE (with Mayor Bloomberg putting pressure on Tweed) came to an agreement with the UFT on closing the infamous “rubber rooms” once and for all. The “rubber room agreement” closed out a very embarrassing period to both the City and the teachers’ union which was made worse after Chancellor Joel Klein took over and made it much easier to remove teachers from the classroom. At its peak the “rubber rooms” citywide, had 800+ teachers and this did not include the hundreds more that were removed from the classroom but were not yet sent to the “rubber rooms” mostly due to the TRCs (Temporary Reassignment Center – aka “rubber room”) being overcrowded. For the most part, the DOE has abided by the latest “rubber room agreement”. However, in a very important area the DOE has totally ignored one of the conditions of the agreement.
The “rubber room agreement” required the DOE to charge any reassigned teacher who had been taken out of the classroom before September 1, 2010 and who were not under any criminal action and/or an ongoing SCI investigation to receive their charges by November 1, 2010 (sixty days). Failure by the DOE to issue 3020-a charges by the November 1st. 2010 date would require the DOE to automatically return the teacher to his/her school and back to the classroom position. There were no exceptions according to the agreement. However, just like many, if not all, past agreements the DOE picks and choose what they want to follow and in this case has reneged on following the sixty day time limit to charge reassigned teachers. This is not the only part of the “rubber room agreement” that the DOE has ignored but it is the most obvious and serious. On the very last paragraph of the April 15, 2010 “rubber room agreement” it states the following:
For all employees who were assigned to a TRC prior to August 31, 2010 and were not charged prior to August 31, 2010, the 10 or 60 day period to charge the employee or return him/her to his/her prior assignment, shall run from September 1, 2010. Effective September 1, 2010, the parties will implement the new timelines set forth in this Agreement, which shall apply to all cases charged after September 1, 2010.
Nowhere in the “rubber room agreement” is there an exception for the DOE not to meet the timelines. However, the DOE has apparently decided that the union cannot enforce timelines and is willing to ignore their own agreement. Remember, the DOE has time and again ignored agreements with the UFT including the first “rubber room agreement” back in July of 2008. Jeff Kaufman on the UFT-ICE blog wrote an accurate and what turned out to be a true analysis of the unenforceability of the previous “rubber room agreement”. I also wrote two posts showing how the previous “rubber room agreement” was a farce. Here and Here. Now we have another apparently unenforceable “rubber room agreement” that the DOE wants to ignore.
While we are talking about less than 50 teachers (10 in Queens) that are being affected by the DOE’s refusal to abide by their own agreement, this is only the most glaring of examples of the DOE not following the agreement. Other areas that the DOE has not abided by is the continuation of the Joel Klein/Richard Condon pact for teachers backlogged in the 3020-a process. For many teachers, that SCI recommends for terminationit, are difficult to mediate a settlement unless it is resignation and they must go through the entire 3020-a hearing process. Furthermore, the mediation process is more of a teacher extortion program where mediators are pushing the teacher to take the DOE imposed settlement or face termination. Mediators are supposed to be impartial and supportive not pressure and threaten the teacher. Unfortunately, teachers have informed me that some of the mediators are being accused of doing just that. One teacher told me that the mediator told him to take the deal or his Arbitrator will terminate him. In a few cases, the mediation requirement was ignored by the DOE and the teacher had to go through the full 3020-a hearing as if mediation did not exist. It is important that teachers subject to the mediation process read what TAGNYC wrote in the “Under Assault” blog and follow their advice.
It is unfathomable that the union did not see this coming and have a contingency plan in place to handle this situation. What the union should have done was to escort each and every affected teacher back to their building and show the Principal the agreement which requires the DOE to send back the teacher to his or her school assignment. Today would have been a good day to do it since the students were not in school and the chaos that would occur would be limited to the school Administration and Tweed. However, the union’s position is that they are studying the situation. This is just another example of our union being reactive and not pro-active when the DOE violates their agreements with the union. It was only last month that Chancellor Joel Klein reneged on the teacher data evaluation program by trying to publish the teacher names and scores after signing an agreement with Randi Weingarten not to name the teachers or use it for evaluation purposes. How many times does it take for our clueless union leaders to realize that he double-dealing DOE cannot be trusted to live up to their promises without some enforceability?
In conclusion, when you make a deal with the devil, you can expect to be burned and in this case it is the reassigned teachers that pay the ultimate price not the out of touch and uncaring union leadership that represent their own interests and not of their must vulnerable of members. Remember the old saying “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me”. How many more times will our union be fooled by Tweed? Shame on them for trusting Tweed to honor their agreements.