Friday, December 24, 2010
The DOE Leadership Wish List Sent To Santa Claus And Why They Ended Up With A Lump Of Coal In Their Stockings.
It was only last year that Santa Claus was terminated as a teacher, based upon the biased and unfair DOE investigation process. You would think that Santa Claus would be pretty upset with these naughty non-educators at Tweed that runs the DOE. Despite suffering from the DOE's witch hunt that lead to the false, embellished, and outrageous accusations against him and subjected him to the 3020-a process, Santa Claus did not hold any malice and still tried to meet the needs of the DOE leadership wish list because that is what he is. Of course we all know that the DOE leadership was "naughty" and far from nice when it came to the parents, students, and staff at the schools under their thumb. During their failed leadership, over 90 schools have closed or are closing and who cares about what the community wants. Even ex-Chancellor Joel Klein stated he didn't go far enough in destroying teacher due process rights and community input during his eight year tenure that saw teacher morale plummet, paperwork explode, and teacher control of the classroom eliminated by top-down mandated programs, just to name a few.
Let's take a peek what the DOE leadership wish list looks like.
Ex-Chancellor Joel Klein: A heart and managerial skills.
Future Chancellor Cathie Black: A masters degree and a clue about what goes on in a public school classroom.
Head Of Legal Services Michael Best: The power to suspend teachers without pay & health benefits when accused of misconduct or incompetence.
OSI & SCI: More investigators that can do biased and unfair investigations against school staff, when the Principalcalls them in. Here was one such advertisement for OSI investigators.
Tweed Leadership: The right to hire and fire teachers as they please and the elimination of those inconvenient "due process" rights. This is what Tweed wants. Moreover, an increase in their already-bloated headcount to achieve these aims and to further spin statistics and the fuzzy math that is the hallmark of Tweed.
"Leadership Academy Principals": The power to remove staff from their schools and budgets as they see fit. Furthermore, they want the authority to ignore building & layoff seniority rules without being questioned. Are they not the CEO of the building?
Santa Claus read the outrageous demands from the DOE leadership and realized how very naughty and unaccountable they were this year. Therefore, Santa Claus did the only thing possible. He gave every last one of them what they deserved. A lump of coal in their stockings.
I know, I forgot Mayor Bloomberg. However, Mayor moneybags is a mufti-billionaire and does not need a gift from Santa Claus. He just uses his money to change the rules and then he simply buys what he wants, like a third term as Mayor.
This is my last post until 2011. Everybody have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
The Schools Face A Second Semester Budget Cut But Don't Look For High School Principals To Target Their Parent Coordinators.
The New York City Public Schools face an additional budget cut starting on February 1, 2011. Where will the cuts come from in the schools? The teaching staff? School Aides? Guidance counselors, Paraprofessionals? After-school programs? Or per-session activities such as sports and clubs? Probably a combination of all of them. However, one place the Principal will not cut is the near-useless position of parent coordinator at the High School level. The parent-coordinator serves at the whim of the Principal and can be eliminated by a simple Principal directive. This is because the parent coordinator was usually selected due to his or her friendship with the Principal in the first place. For example, one parent coordinator got her job because she was the Principal's hairdresser, I kid you not and remember how the Parent Coordinator got and lost her job at the Columbia Secondary School? Here.
The Parent Coordinator title was created in 2003 and was a reward to DC37 for their willingness to accept the lousy contract that resulted in the terrible 2005 contract that brought us the ATR crises, lose of seniority transfer , and eliminating the grieving of a Letter-To-The-File among other reductions in the teaching profession . While the Parent Coordinator does serve a useful and sometimes necessary purpose in the elementary schools when used properly. However, in the secondary schools, especially in the high schools, they seem to be just another layer of bureaucracy that insulates the Principal from the parents. Many of these Parent Coordinators are near useless when it comes to helping the school's children. Furthermore, they seem to be only answerable to the Principal. If the Principal needs to reduce personnel for the second semester, let's start with the near-useless position of Parent Coordinator.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
The Phony Graduation Statistics Are Apparent In An Increase In Students Who Need To Take Remedial Courses In The City's Community Colleges.
We now have even more evidence that many of our high school graduates are not ready for college as the percentage of high school graduates needing remedial course work has increased 3.2% to an astounding 74.4% and this would be even higher if CUNY used the national average of 45 passing rate on entrance exams in math rather than the "dumbed down" 30 used for determining if an entering student needs remedial course work. The New York Post, of all the media outlets reported on the disappointing numbers in an article that further puts to rest any real academic achievement during the failed Bloomberg/Klein Administration. In fact, shockingly, the New York Post Editorial Board actually blamed the New York State Education Department for "dumbing down" tests while giving the Mayor and the ex-Chancellor a free ride from the blame that allowed for this educational travesty.
This is just another result of how both the State and the City has cheapened academic achievement and are graduating students that are not capable to do college course work and even hold a white collar job. The failure of the City and State to provide a solid and well-rounded education for the students under their authority seems to be generally ignored by the majority of the media and should be called what I really think it is, a "junk education" .
Now as these students graduate and have graduated with suspect diplomas, due to phony credits and "dumbed down" tests what will happen to them in the real world? Furthermore, as these people become adults and have children themselves, will the next generation of students fall into the same trap of limited academic achievement and graduating with a diploma that is not worth the paper it is printed on? I hope not.
At one time New York State and City set the gold standard for educating their students now both the City and State Education Departments have lowered these standards to the point that both the New York State tests and the New York City High School diplomas are a joke. It is a real pity on how both the City and State has weakened academic achievement to the point that it really is "junk education".
Friday, December 17, 2010
"Dare To Be Remarkable" Part 2: The Saga Continues AsThe Union Gets Involved But The Teacher Is Excluded From The Meeting.
If you remember back in November I wrote an article about my friend the ATR who was required to teach out of license as a teacher who had the class and went out on a long-term illness. A parent didn't like the fact the teacher was not certified in the area of instruction and made his life a living hell as the "C rated Principal" failed to take the proper action, urged by everybody, to remove the student from the teacher's class. The result was the Principal decided to make the teacher a day-to-day-sub. However, the best laid plans often go astray, especially when it comes to the DOE. Therefore, my friend the ATR saga continues.
Josh came to school thinking he was finally rid of the student and the parent only to be told that the "C rated Principal" could not find an ATR in the certification area and she could not get another ATR since they are no longer free to the school. This concerned Josh since he knew that nothing good will come from his continued interaction with the student and the out of control parent. Just as Josh started to despair, he found out another teacher took a long-term medical leave in his certification area. "What luck"! Josh could teach in his certification area, get away from the student who is causing him trouble, and hopefully lead to a permanent position. Sounds logical right? Wrong! This is the DOE where up is down and right is left. Sure enough the "C rated Principal" gave the only other ATR in the building the schedule and she is not certified in the subject! Why would you not have Josh teach in his certification area (remember he was and is an excellent teacher)? However, this "C rated Principal" is known to make decisions that defy reason and this is just another example of her poor leadership.
Josh decided to make the best of the bad situation and tried to find common ground with the student and went out of his way to engage the student in conversation. Wrong move. You guessed it. The student told his parent about how Josh was paying interest in him which resulted in the paranoid parent calling the Superintendent's office and yes, even the police, by claiming Josh was harassing her child. The police dismissed the complaint after contacting the "C rated Principal" who assured the police that Josh was just trying to find common ground with the student and did nothing wrong and the parent is out of control. Thankfully, the "C rated Principal" finally did the right thing this time. She called Josh in and warned him not to engage the student in any conversation that does not concern the classroom. Unfortunately, for Josh, the nightmare with the child and the parent is not over. When he realized that the situation was untenable he finally reached out to the union leadership for help. He took it to the Borough Representative who bucked it down to the Special Representative, who dumped it on the District Representative. Josh was not pleased with the union's "buck passing". However, he figured maybe if the District Representative went in with him to meet with, the "C rated Principal", this could be resolved. The District Representative did show up to meet the "C rated Principal" but excluded both Josh and the Chapter Leader. Once the meeting was over, the District Representative left the building without talking to Josh or the Chapter leader about what was said and agreed upon at the meeting, To date Josh has not been told anything about the meeting and he is still teaching the very same schedule that could result in further harassment by the student and his parent.
Here is another case of our union's secrecy that only seems to have negative consequences when it comes to the teachers they are supposed to represent. I can only hope in this case I am wrong and my friend Josh's saga comes out with good results.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
It Is A Good Idea For The Schools If Principals Were Required To Teach At Least One Class In Their Certification Area.
I was reading the article in the New York Daily News about how some principals make time to teach classes despite their Administrative responsibilities. I previously wrote an article that said that it was a good idea for principals to teach a class back in October of 2006, Here. In the secondary schools the Principal would be required to teach in his or her certification. While in the elementary schools the Principal would be required to teach an agreed upon period, maybe the school's Chapter Leader's class since the CL does get an extra period off for union business.
Having the Principal teaching a class in his or her certification area is good in many ways. First, the Principal will be connected to the students and see first hand what the issues are, assuming the class represents the school and not a "gifted and talented" class for example. Second, the Principal can be evaluated using the same evaluation standards that are being developed for the teacher and make the Principal more sensitive to the teacher evaluation process. Third, it could save money as ever deeper budget cuts affect the school. Finally, the Principal can better understand and direct the scarce resources the school receives and Professional Development Programs to what actually works in the classroom.
Unfortunately, many of the newer principals come from the "Leadership Academy" and some of them are not even tenured as a teacher! Therefore, teaching a class is even more important to these "Leadership Academy principals" since it gives these principals valuable experience in not only teaching a class but to better evaluate other teachers when doing observations. Moreover, these principals will connect not only with the trials and tribulations of the teachers but better appreciate the issues affecting the school's students. This can only help not only the Principal understand the school's issues but bring collaboration with the teaching staff and help make a better school.
There are too many principals that hide in their office and hardly interact with students and staff. When they do interact it is usually for negative issues such as discipline and behavior problems. The result is distrust between the Principal and the school population. By having the Principal teach a legitimate class it brings the school population closer together and allows for a free flow of ideas that can only improve morale and help the students to achieve academic success. That is what makes a successful school.
Friday, December 10, 2010
When I was a "newbie teacher" I must have broke up numerous fights between students in my High School. As you can figure out I was young and clueless of the consequences in breaking up student fights. At the time nobody informed me of the danger in intervening in a physical altercation between students. Not the Principal, not the Assistant Principal, or even the Chapter Leader. I just thought that it was part of the job as a teacher to breakup student fights. Luckily, I never was hurt nor did the students complain to the Administration that I used excessive force or touched them inappropriately. Of course that was then, when teachers were looked upon with respect. However, this is now.
As I became more experienced as a teacher and the Klein Administration took charge of the schools and teacher disrespect became the norm, we were told by the Chapter Leader that a teacher should never break up a fight because of the danger to the teacher. First, you can be injured yourself. These students, especially in high school are strong and in fighting the students become stronger as adrenalin flows through their bodies and if they accidentally hit you, it can not only hurt but can cause long-term and lasting damage to you. Just look at what happened to "newbie" Spanish teacher Lissindia Batista when she tried to break up a fight. Second, it only takes a student or his/her parent to accuse the teacher of using excessive force when trying to break up a fight. In some extreme cases female students can falsely claim that the teacher touched them inappropriately when the teacher unwisely intervened in the altercation. This is very true if the female student holds a grudge against a male teacher. It only takes a female student to claim that she was touched sexually to have the hapless male teacher arrested and fired. On the other hand teacher complaints of being sexually harassed by students and Administrators are routinely dismissed.
In other words teachers have a target on their back and the less they get involved in student altercations the better. What should you do if two of your students are fighting? Simple, yell "stop, stop right now" and call for help. If your location does not have a communication system then send a student to get school safety or to the Dean's office for help. Finally, both the DOE and union will tell you that if you get physically involved in a student fight and need medical attention, you may not be covered by the medical plans! Think twice when you want to break up a student fight.
Remember, "no good deed goes unpunished" when it comes to the DOE.
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Now that the unqualified Cathie Black is expected to become Chancellor on January 3rd we can expect her to follow in the footsteps of Joel Klein and be a strong supporter of the ever increasing Charter Schools as an alternative to the local public schools. This means more neighborhood schools will have reduced funding as Tweed allocates more of their scarce resources to the Charter Schools at the Public school's expense. What is very interesting are that Charter Schools have very serious problems that they hide from the general public. Some quite serious and are ignored by the pro-Charter School education reformers. Let's look at some of these issues closeup. A must read is what Smart Money published, an Article called "10 Things Charter Schools Won't Tell You". Many of the statistics come from the article.
Many Teachers Are Inexperienced And Not Certified:
Believe it or not, many teachers who are offered teaching positions in Charter Schools are not certified. Furthermore, once they achieve certification they leave for the local school district teaching positions.
Saturday, December 04, 2010
The "ATR agreement" has expired in which smart and savvy principals can pick up an experienced teacher for the cost of a "newbie teacher" on their school budget. Imagine, picking up a veteran teacher who already has classroom management skills and understands the curriculum without paying the full salary. What principal would not jump at the chance? Apparently quite a few principals did not take Tweed up on their offer and unbelievably the school system still has 1,232 ATRs. Why would principals not want to pick up experienced teachers at bargain basement prices? Simple, the principals are not doing what is best for the students but what is best for themselves. This is called "Principal first and children last" The primary reasons that principals did not want ATRs in their schools is based upon three factors. Principal control of their schools, funding options, and discrimination associated with the ATR label. Let's look at the three issues in more detail.
Control Of The School:
Under the Joel Klein Administration, the principals were treated as the CEO of their schools and given independence on how to spend the money allocated to the school. Unfortunantly, for the parents, students, and staff, many of the principals did not allocate the school funds wisely. This especially true of the "Leadership Academy principals" who seem to think that funding their "pet projects" was more important then class size considerations. Tweed publicly stated that the principals are doing what's best for their schools. However, Tweed allowed the principals to ignore targeted money to reduce class size and use the scarce funds as they saw fit and it was in many cases what was best for the principals and not what was best for the schools.
It is no secret that the schools have seen significant reductions in school funding and in some cases, up to 12% less than two years ago and further reductions are expected This has resulted in many schools cutting out after school programs and many clubs due to lack of funding. To further hamstrung the principals, Tweed came up with the "fair student funding fiasco" that severely limited principals from hiring highly qualified teachers due to their high salaries. Instead many principals hired cheaper and inexperienced teachers because of the budget limitations imposed by the "fair student funding fiasco". One frustrated Principal told me a story about how he wanted to hire a Math teacher who he worked with as the Math AP in another school but could not carry his salary on his payroll due to the "fair student funding fiasco". When I asked him why he just didn't hire a Math teacher from the ATR list, he just frowned and said "that the ATRs are failed teachers". That brings me to the ATR discrimination issue.
Even the union leadership knows that there is discrimination when teachers are ATRs. How many times did we hear Tweed claim that the ATRs are "lazy, unwanted, and are failed teachers" that nobody wants. What is not said is the ageism issue. Many of the ATRs are older teachers and if you don't think they are being discriminated against due to their age? I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. Remember, the age discrimination lawsuit against the DOE was dropped by Randi Weingarten as a condition of the "ATR Agreement". Nowhere does Tweed bring up the fact they have closed hundreds of schools, starved others by reducing funding and discouraged good students from going to "targeted schools" (See Jamaica High School) and Here, allowed principals to file frivolous charges to remove teachers from their schools, and stopped the Districts from placing excessed teachers in schools before "newbie teachers" can be hired. The ATR crises is entirely the creation of Joel Klein who wanted a cheaper and expendable teaching staff at the expense of students and experienced teachers.
What Happens Now?:
The union leadership is trying to negotiate an extension of the "ATR Agreement". However, Tweed shows little interest in doing this. Since it will take the rest of the school year for Chancellor-elect Cathie Black to come up to speed on this issue, I see an extended period of uncertainty on any resolution of the ATR crises. I predict that the existing ATRs will just be moved next year to another school. Hopefully, the "ATR Agreement" is renewed and principals will realize that they must hire the ATRs since the hiring freeze will continue through the 2011-2012 school year. Otherwise, nothing will change for the ATRs.
I take my union leadership's word that they will never agree to an ATR time limit and believe that the union will not negotiate on such a time limit since this would result in the erosion of teacher due process and start the teachers down a slippery slope in eliminating seniority and tenure protection, a third rail for union issues. Just see what happened in Chicago and Washington D.C. when the leadership fails to protect their members. Regardless, look for Tweed to demand a time limit and their media mouthpieces echo it. However, our union will easily resist such attempts to reduce tenure protections, backed by all the unions. Yes, if it was just our union, maybe they would cave but it is all of NYSUT and the other Civil Services unions who supply the backbone on this issue. Therefore, look for Tweed to eventually surrender on the ATR issue and given the recession and budget problems, force principals to select ATRs for all vacancies.....I hope.
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
Why Is The DOE Allowing Principals To Be Insubordinate By Refusing To Allow Teachers Back Into Their Schools And Their Rightful Teaching Positions?
One of the more interesting results of the April 15th 2010, "rubber room agreement" is that Tweed has decided to allow teachers who have not been charged under section 3020-a or are not terminated after their 3020-a hearings to reclaim their teaching position in their old school. This apparent reversal of policy by the DOE appears related to the existing and future budget cuts and Tweed does not want these teachers on their payroll. The Tweed policy change has forced principals and teachers to be reunited when they thought they would never see each other again. Worse for the Principal is that the teacher is immediately put back on the school's payroll and this is a real hit on the school's already reduced budget and with further reductions projected for the rest of the school year and next the Principal's ability to meet a budget becomes a real problem.
While most principals are reluctantly abiding by the DOE policy change, a couple of principals have refused to accept the teachers back. In fact, in one case a high school Principal refused to even let the teacher into the front door of the school. This Principal had a School Safety Officer hand a letter to the teacher at the front door to go to his CFN. The CFN's are caught in the middle since they are simply a messenger service and cannot assign these teachers to another school since they are not ATRs. Presently, there has been no resolution of this issue.
To me,the principals should be charged with insubordination by refusing a lawful order by the DOE to allow the teachers back to their rightful positions. However, presently no disciplinary actions have been taken against these principals for willfully disregarding a DOE order to reinstate the teachers in their rightful position. I have no idea whether the union is actively involved in resolving this mess but they should be by sitting down with the DOE about how to get principals to follow the rules. To date, the union has not taken any real action, except to encourage the teachers to file a grievance that can take up to a year to be heard. Filing a grievance is only a first step. A more important step would be to take these insubordinate principals into PERB for violating the teachers rights if the DOE fails to take the appropriate action against them. I do not blame the union since this is really a DOE problem. However, our union can certainly "nudge" Tweed in making sure their employees follow their own directives. If a teacher was insubordinate, the DOE would waste little time in holding a disciplinary hearing against the teacher for refusing a lawful and reasonable directive. Why is it different for these principals?
The more things change, the more they stay the same when it comes to the "double standard" when disciplining teachers and principals.