Sunday, July 26, 2015

An Open Letter To Amiee Horowitz From A Discontinued Teacher.

 In my previous posts I have written about Superintendent Amiee Horowitz and how she has protected school administrators while going after whistle blowers.  If you need a refresher you can find the posts Here, Here, and Here.  Moreover, as Superintendent of the Renewal schools her mission is to terminate as many teachers as possible and replace them with "newbies" as these school will continue to struggle.  Now with the permission of the discontinued teacher, I will post that teacher's letter to Amiee Horowitz to appeal for his job.  Maybe Ms. Horowitz will do the right thing and overrule the Principal and give the two teachers a second chance but her history shows otherwise.  In fact, the new Solidarity caucus will be picketing her office at the end of August due to her anti-teacher bias, especially for whistle blowers.



July 19th, 2015


Dear Ms. Horowitz,


Hello Ms. Horowitz I am making one final request that you would kindly find some time in your schedule either this month or next where we would have the opportunity to briefly meet in your Staten Island office and discuss my situation. If you are unwilling to meet with me, or if I don’t hear back from you, then I’m not going to pursue this matter. I am in the process of moving on with my life, and my career. I am making this request to hopefully meet because I am in a somewhat depressed state as I look back at the four years that I’ve been teaching in the DOE at Richmond Hill, and all the experiences that I’ve had. I had initially planned on spending the rest of my teaching career in the city schools, and it’s very hard for me to accept the fact that’s it’s ended on a note like this after only four years of service. I just got married so it’s also been a disruption to the life of my spouse as well.


Ms. Horowitz as I mentioned to you in the last email, I understand that you are/were in the unfortunate position where you felt that you had to discontinue a certain number of teachers. I do not believe that the high volume of candidates up for tenure and the number of discontinuances that you had to grant and/or look over in a relatively short time allowed you to spend adequate time evaluating each person’s portfolio and statistics in their entirety. Ms. Horowitz I always look for the best in people, and I hope to believe that you are a decent person, and that you will do what’s fair and proper. This is why I believe that a visitation is so essential. Even if you are unwilling to reverse your decision on my behalf…at least you will have all the facts. 


With this letter I have attached a letter of recommendation that Mr. Ganesh wrote for me last year. I have also attached my observation reports from 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. I have attached my observational ratings under the Danielson system from last year 2013-2014. My overall score last year under this new system was a “77” I was “effective” in all three categories of local and state measurement.  I had wanted to achieve tenure very badly and (although most of us were granted extensions at the end of last year) I was willing to work all the more harder this year. 

Ms. Horowitz, the final piece of documentation that I have attached is my initial rating from this year where I scored a “2” out of “60” points. Ms. Horowitz with all due respect you must have questioned the gross inconsistency and believability of this score when evaluating my performance this year as compared to the last three years as something would appear seriously wrong. 


Ms. Horowitz at this point in time I have nothing to gain or lose by being truthful about my situation, and I am not going to misrepresent the facts or tell somebody simply what they want to hear. It is the very strong opinion of myself and others) that this year Mr. Ganesh felt that he needed to give a certain number of teachers poor ratings in order to increase the school’s statistics as well as for the protection of his own job security. Whatever the reason may be, my colleague and I were chosen as teachers to be targeted with poor ratings consequently leading up to both of our discontinuances. (Just like me, my colleague was also an effective teacher with a previously unblemished pedagogical record prior to the arrival of Ms. Peterson.) On numerous occasions Mr. Ganesh and Ms. Peterson (mostly Ms. Peterson) were dishonest in their accounts of what took place in my classroom during the observations. (I can very easily substantiate this claim by offering numerous sources of evidence.)

*I also want to make the point that I am not somebody who is oppositional to receiving poor ratings or feedback from supervisors. Perhaps one of my greatest strengths that I have always valued is being able to grow and self-evaluate based on collaboration and support from staff and supervisors. Unfortunately it was extremely obvious to me and everybody else who was aware of my situation that neither Mr. Ganesh nor Ms. Peterson had any intention of offering that support since their agenda seemed to be focused in precisely doing the opposite.


My next point goes to the heart of my initial argument. *Even if Mr. Ganesh were to see my situation differently which I’m sure would be his first line of defense, then may I offer that there was absolutely no support that was initiated by him and offered to me or my colleague this year.

If Mr. Ganesh truly was of the opinion and had a good faith basis to believe that somehow under very mysterious circumstances I went 180 degrees from being this “dedicated outstanding and fabulous teacher” in which he wrote a glorifying letter of recommendation for..to suddenly mysteriously turning into this incompetent horrific teacher just a short time later….than what measure of support has he offered? The answer is none.
 

*At no point this year was I ever questioned or conferenced in a meeting initiated by Mr. Ganesh regarding “his” perception of the drastic turn that the quality of my lessons were allegedly taking.  *There was never any discussion had between myself and Mr. Ganesh over the possibility of discontinuance. *Every email I sent him addressing my concerns pertaining to my observations was completely ignored by him. *When I complained about the lack of support that I was receiving, and the way that I was being treated by Ms. Peterson, Mr. Ganesh did absolutely nothing nor even acknowledged that he got my complaint. *Other than observations, there was never any classroom visitations conducted by Mr. Ganesh or Ms. Peterson for the purpose of improving instruction. *There was never any modeling or demonstrations done by either of them despite the fact that I asked for this many times throughout the year. *Mr. Ganesh was hardly in my classroom this year. He spent a total of approximately 35 minutes in my classroom this entire year for two observations (one formal and one informal.)  *For the formal observation he spent a total of 15 minutes out of the 47 minutes of the period that he was in my classroom. Yet he spent the entire period in the classroom of other teachers when their formals were conducted. 


Most importantly, the timing of the observations and lack of feedback in a timely manner was a serious issue this year. When you started reviewing our portfolios towards the end of April there were only two observations that were conducted at that time for most people. For me and just about everybody else in my department, the observations themselves only started being conducted in the second half of the school year beginning in the late part of December and concluding by  mid- May. The first observation was written up as entirely “ineffective” but then feedback was given one month later. The second observation which was the formal was conducted at the very end of March and the feedback was again given to me about a month later. The patterns of allowing so much time to elapse absent teacher support in which Ms. Peterson and Mr. Ganesh chose to conduct these observations were in my view extremely unprofessional and non- conducive to any form of growth. *This of course assuming that their opinion about the quality of my lessons is correct.

The last and final point that I wish to make is the working relationship that the ISS department has had with Ms. Peterson this past year. I do not wish to sound slanderous or make any personal attacks, but Ms. Peterson’s attitude towards her staff, lack of knowledge, and unprofessionalism revealed to us all somebody who was highly unqualified to serve in her respective position as AP of ISS. Her substantial lack of knowledge of special education, vindictive nature, and her lack of empathy and abrasiveness towards her staff became the subject of great discussion amongst many staff members as well as students. Richmond Hill has its’ share of problems and the department was/is in need proper and professional leadership to ensure that we “as one” progress in a forward direction. (Not regress.) I say that because you might as well know that half the department is leaving specifically because of her. And the ISS department was a rather large one with close to 20 people. It was of very poor discretion of Mr. Ganesh to appoint her as AP when she had no immediate experience as AP of ISS prior to her appointment which was quite evident to us all in seeing how the department was being so severely mismanaged. 


What really hurts the most about this whole experience is the length that both supervisors were willing to stoop down to when creating this false case against my colleague and me. Never was there any single moment in time this year when either Mr. Ganesh or Ms. Peterson offered any sort of support or guidance. As responsible and dedicated teachers we were the ones who attempted to go to them for support and it absolutely sickens me that our efforts were used against us by them.

Both Ms. Peterson and Mr. Ganesh were well aware of the consistent initiatives that my colleague and I often took when seeking to get support, and right after my first “ineffective” observation that was conducted in December, I became extremely concerned over the arbitrariness and dis-alignment to Danielson that the initial observation contained. Nevertheless I “initiated” weekly support meetings with Ms. Peterson for two purposes. Number 1: to cover my basis, and number 2: to improve instruction. Ms. Peterson ignored my request for several weeks and then finally one month later up until the end of the school year we met for a total of 9 times. I became concerned because despite the arranged visitations there was no feedback of substance being given, and the “ineffectives” just continued coming.  I find it unlikely that the support sessions would have even been offered to us if we had not requested them in the first place considering how late in the year and sporadic the observations were when they were given. Perhaps if we hadn’t made this request, then the discontinuance would have been harder to grant.


It was absolutely disgusting to me beyond believe when I saw attached with the discontinuance letter  Ms. Peterson’s log sheet detailing “her” version of what took place at the meetings which was riddled with inaccuracies and misleading claims (which can easily be substantiated by me) used as evidence against me by her and Mr. Ganesh making it appear as though they offered support but we were just so horrible that their effort was in vein.  *My colleague and I both had several years of nothing but positive records and observational reports. We suddenly and unexpectedly started receiving nothing but ineffective ratings. As far as I know my colleague and I were the only two teachers in the entire ISS department who made arrangements to get weekly support. Despite our weekly visitations we were continuously and consistently rated “ineffective” and subsequently were the only two teachers in the department to be discontinued.

What are the chances of that happening? 


I’m sure Ms. Horowitz that you can appreciate our perception in that there was clearly an ulterior motive had here, and that we see something seriously wrong with what took place this year. I personally am having a tremendously (tremendous is a gross understatement) hard time believing that the actions of Mr. Ganesh and Ms. Peterson were undertaken in good faith.

I’ll even entertain the benefit of the doubt for a moment. Even if there was no wrong doing here, perhaps our scenarios are a testament to and speak volumes about the levels of incompetence displayed and inability in the proper coaching and mentorship of those in need exhibited by Mr. Ganesh and Ms. Peterson this entire year that just passed.


Ms. Horowitz, in conclusion I just want to mention that despite this very bad year, my experiences in my school have been positive for the vast majority of the time in the last four years that I’ve been there. I have had the pleasure of working with very good people. I have a tremendous respect for the majority of those in my line of work who are genuinely interested in changing the lives and minds of young people. Although my experience this year was not good, I am absolutely convinced that I consistently acted and displayed a level of professionalism, dedication, willingness to learn and grow, and deep commitment to my students and staff of whom I work with. Unfortunately this was not reciprocated. Of course I feel that my rating this year should be erased from my record (I am presently fighting to have that happen) and I should be re-appointed with tenure. Assuming that’s not going to me case, I would like to at least be granted another year of probation. This will make the process of leaving Richmond Hill and securing a position elsewhere exponentially easier. I also think that there should be at minimum an inquiry directed at Mr. Ganesh for his role and compliance in this situation. When examining all of the evidence we all just can’t help but believe that Mr. Ganesh knowingly and deliberately violated his position of power by intentionally misusing the Danielson framework to achieve personal gain. Ms. Peterson was complicit in his act. What has me deeply concerned, is that if he was willing and able to do this to us, then I see no reason why they’re not willing to do it to other teachers in the future.


If none of the above happen, than I may as well mention that my conscience is absolutely clear in knowing that I was discontinued due to circumstances beyond my immediate control and that I did absolutely everything that I possibility could to protect myself in such unfortunate times. I am happy to report that I have the love and support of those who knew of my situation, and unfortunately I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Ms. Horowtiz, I sincerely hope that you are able to say the same. 


Thank you for your time in reading my letter,


Just a final note.  Richmond Hill has a history of using teachers uncertified in the subject they are teaching in.  The school has over 25 Earth Science classes with no certified Earth Science teacher on staff and many other teachers assigned to subjects that they are not certified in.  How can anyone believe things will get better at this school?

21 comments:

Philip Nobile said...

Nice job with this letter. There are many, many similar stories to be told about DOE evils. How about an essay contest--first person stories on corruption at the top.

Anonymous said...

I am 100% convinced that there is some type of "quota" in the DOE to discontinue a certain amount of teachers each year. I know of 4 teachers who have been discontinued in the past two years. In 12 years of teaching I have never, ever seen even ONE teacher get discontinued. However, it is now quite the norm. The bigger question is what is the next phase? Will principals now been going all out to get rid of veteran teachers via 3020A or is that too expensive?

Pogue said...

Didn't Mulgrew and Unity leadership claim these new evaluation systems were the greatest thing since sliced bread?

What part does he/they play in all of this?

Anonymous said...

10:28,

The goal is to eliminate teachers period. I am a veteran teacher in Newark and my experiences of the past year bear remarkable similarity to those of the discontinued teacher above. I was forced to teach outside of my certification in three different roles and received absolutely no support. My annual evaluation was partially effective with a heretofore unblemished record. In short order, schools will be staffed by a revolving door of inexperienced teachers.

Abigail Shure

Anonymous said...

After the first ineffective, it should have been clear enough that something was amiss. At that point I believe we are entitled to tape our observations. It's a lot harder to lie when there is a tape.

Set up a tripod and recorder every morning. Make sure its in a corner and has a view of the entire room with no obstructions. Get all necessary permission slips in advance. Practice a few times so that the kids get used to it.

Also, I would think that after the first ineffective, all further meetings with administrators be audio taped, secretly of course.

Additionally, after the first ineffective, all correspondence with administrators should be in writing.

As nontenured teachers, I understand that the due process is very limited, however, there is no reason to damage someone"s reputation from future employment.

Disgusting!

Anonymous said...

This is absolutely disgusting!!!! This person should sue the DOE and the principal and assistant principal for emotional distress and slander!

Anonymous said...

I am an administrator in the bronx. the first time she got all district administrators together she told us " we have over 90 percent teachers rated at least effective but only 11 percent students reading on grade level in the district. How we rate teachers has to change".

Anonymous said...

QUESTION: How does videotaping observations work? I do know that teachers have the chance at the start of the year to request that they can have their observations videotaped. However, I do not know how the process works. If a principal comes in on an unannounced iNFORMAL observation does she or he do the videotaping or does the teacher do it? I would think that during an unannounced observation that is requested to be videotaped, the teacher has a major advantage to "get ready" via setting up the camera. Any info is appreciated.

Anonymous said...

In response to Anon 6:13,

Do we do this to oncologists? If an oncologist specializes in lung cancer which has a 5% cure rate or 5 year survival rate, do we fire him/her because 95% of the patients died?

Do we blame the accountant if our tax bill is too high?

Do we blame the dentists when people have bad teeth?

If I'm a dentist and someone comes into my office that never brushes his teeth, should I be blamed if the guys teeth fall out?

If a parent puts their kid in front of a television or computer game from the time they are born till they go to school and at the age of 5 has a 40 word vocabulary, should the teacher be expected to have the child reading on grade level?

I am not responsible for society's ills or for other people's laziness!

This is false logic and we don't do it to anyone else.

And Im not responsible for having a fourth grader reading selections that are for sixth and seventh graders!

What does reading on grade level mean any more? If children were judged in a fair manner, then more of them would be "on grade level".

And that doesn't consider all the people that show their intelligence in other ways.

Maybe its time to fire some politicians. Maybe its time to tax the wealthy so they can threaten to leave the country and take their money with them. In which case I will tell them good riddance!!!

Mizannthrope said...

This letter is indicative of the trend that has continued under our " friendly" mayor and chancellor. Those of us who do not inform ourselves about the issues and do not bother to vote in elections big and small are getting what we deserve. Unfortunately, those of us who do try are stuck in the same boat with the same onerous consequences with you. So let this letter be a warning. There but for the grace of God (and zip code) are we all.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 6:13- our principal and one of our APs said the exact same thing. They then proceeded to give ineffective rating to people they wanted to get rid of.

Anonymous said...

Im 6:13- we didnt give out any ineffectives. The previous year we gave out 1 but after the MOSL scores it turned into a developing. This supe is the worst. Just google rafaela espinal. How can they make someone like this in charge of schools.

She doesnt want to talk about the 23 percent of parents who are educational neglecting children. Just that instuction must be bad if students are not performing.

Anonymous said...

And Farina gave her the job?

http://www.plainsite.org/dockets/jimbfswu/new-york-eastern-district-court/blythe-v-city-of-new-york-et-al/

QueensSpedTeach said...

I am the "other " teacher this article is referring to and I did all that you say. I am still going to be discontinued though except I have a PERB hearing. I idiot recorded observations, meetings, I have student statements from observations and para statements as they were there for 2/4 observations.

Anonymous said...

I heard some discussions about quotas and if anyone still has any doubts about quotas then consider this fact for a moment: In mid March of this past year Mr. Ganesh excessed a non tenured department AP simply because that person was not meeting thier quota for the number of ineffectives that they were supposed to be giving out. The AP suppossedly stated to Ganesh that they were not going to do that because of the obvious ethical concerns. Shortly thereafter that person was excessed. Unlike mant current and former administrators at Richmond Hill this person was admired and respected by many and absolutely has my respect.

Incidentally this AP had the highest number of student passage rates and Regents pasage rates in their department.

Francesco Portelos said...

Today we were denied the permit to really in the grounds issue her office. We will just have to rally by the sidewalk on the main road.

The people united will not be defeated.

Anonymous said...

Aimee (the correct spelling) Horowitz (also known as Aimee Horowitz-Mizrahi) is no slouch!

www.linkedin.com/pub/aimee-horowitz/4b/964/427

She has a Doctor of Law degree from Southwestern Law School (formerly known as Southwestern University School of Law) in Los Angeles.

It goes without saying that to impress her, the letters of rebuttal concerning discontinuances must contain citations to New York State Education Law, the Regulations of the New York State Commissioner of Education, the Regulations of the New York State Board of Regents, Federal judicial decisions, New York judicial decisions, decisions of the New York State Commissioner of Education, and the New York City Charter.

Teachers and supervisors need to become aware that observation reports do not contain "facts" or "statistics," but are "opinions."

www.leagle.com/decision/In%20NYCO%2020110201256/MULGREW%20v.%20BOARD%20OF%20EDUC.

Judge Kern's decision was upheld by the First Appellate Division.

www.leagle.com/decision/In%20NYCO%2020110825273.xml

Good luck to the teachers who are fighting discontinuances and adverse ratings!

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

To Anon 3:53. To clarify on a few points that you raised. First, I can't speak for other people, but personally Aimee's resume does not impress me in the least nor do I care about her resume. I don't believe that most of the people reading these articles here do either. As history has clearly shown us, some of the most ineffective incompetent people holding leadership positions have gone to some of the best top tiered schools. To me it says nothing about the person or the person's ability to render good judgement as (we have already seen in Aimee's case) I'm half Aimee's age and hold two Master's degree's and am in pursuit of a doctorate. I would venture to say that a good number of the many people that were discontinued by her also have gone to even more distinguished programs than Aimee.

Secondly this was not a legal argument, this was more of a common sense argument as well as a moral argument, so the citations and applications of the various components of law, and judicial decisions as you pointed out would have been irrelevant. Even if the letter was full of citations and numerous evidence indicating a solid legal basis to overturn the discontinuance, I highly doubt that Aimee would be compelled to act as this person is nothing more than a number to Aimee.

Third, you are partially correct where you state that the observations are based on "opinions." Opinions as you know are subjective and the whole idea of the conversion of the S and U rating system to Danielson was to evaluate teachers from a less subjective standpoint because of the rubric involved. Unfortunately the down fall here is that many administrators have a tendency to abuse and misuse this system. To some supervisors as Chaz has mentioned, that means using the system as a sword to keep the teachers that they like and axe the ones that they don't.




Anonymous said...

Whoever wishes to challenge his or her discontinuance by Aimee (or by any other superintendent) may choose to file a formal appeal with the Commissioner of Education:

www.counsel.nysed.gov/appeals/general

One must pay attention to the short Statute of Limitations for commencing the appeal. ("...within 30 days of the decision or action complained of...")

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:53
You an idiot!