Yes, it is true after 1567 days, my DOE incarceration is finally over. The DOE, while never admitting defeat, has thrown in the towel and surrendered to the inevitable truth and has put me back into a school.
The DOE really had no choice since my Arbitrator, bless her soul, found no misconduct on my part and gave me a slap on the wrist for making a student uncomfortable based upon a clumsy statement on my part that happened in a classroom of 30 students. This was more about the student then myself but as we all know the Arbitrators must give something to the DOE because that is how the system works.
What lessons have I learned during my DOE-enforced incarceration? Many
- That the SCI and OSI investigation process is biased against the teacher and is dictated by how the Principal feels about him or her.
- That teachers who had the PIP+ program will almost certainly be terminated by the Arbitrator.
- There are few acquittals and there is about a 20% termination rate if the teacher goes through the 3020-a hearings. However, many (not all) of the Arbitrator decisions tend to be more lenient to the teacher then the settlements the DOE offers if he or she takes the 3020-a hearing to its conclusion.
- There is really no matrix between what the teacher is charged with and what the Arbitrator decides as an "award". Every 3020-a case is different, and the outcome depends on many factors. Therefore, there is no way to know what the final decision will be. This uncertainty leads many frightened teachers to accept settlement terms with the DOE that includes significant fines ($5,000 to $15,000) and a course or two.
- The Union leaders believe all reassigned teachers are "guilty of something" and they should stay quiet and be clueless to the procedures until the reassignment process ends. In fact, they warn newly reassigned teachers not to talk to others about their case so as to control the flow of information to the frightened teacher.
- Many good teachers are reassigned due to vindictive and insecure principals and there is no consequences to these administrators when the charges are found to be false or frivolous.
- A majority of the charges against teachers are greatly embellished, taken out of context, twisted, and false. The Arbitrator does not look kindly to this when the DOE fails to show proof of the charges in testimony. Remember, it is hard to remember a lie but easy to remember the truth and this shows up in the 3020-a hearings where witnesses are under oath.
- The teacher is the most important witness in the 3020-a hearing. The Arbitrator always wants to hear from you. Therefore, if you handle yourself well and tell the truth, the Arbitrator will take that in account when issuing the "award". Never lie! If you are caught in a lie, none of your testimony will be credible and it can lead to your termination.
- Some teachers should never be in the classroom again. However, the DOE seems to make deals with these same problem teachers time and again and send them back to the classroom. unbelievable, but true. I will write a follow up about these people at a later date.
Finally, never go into a meeting with the Principal or an Investigator without union representation, never, never, never! Too many teachers found themselves out of the classroom after going into the Principal's office without union representation and end up hanging themselves based upon their own statements.