Friday, November 18, 2016
What You Need To Do When Served With 3020-a Charges?
Unfortunately, I have been contacted by and hearing from other teachers that quite a few teachers are being served 3020-a charges by the DOE for incompetence and minor alleged misconduct. Almost all of them are senior teachers with 15 years or more experience and over 50 years of age. By contrast, few teachers are being served 3020-a charges if they are under 35 years of age and less than 10 years of experience. While I can claim there is discrimination against senior teachers, the DOE will not release the age and experience breakdown of teachers served their 3020-a papers, despite the news media and the Solidarity caucus trying to FOIL the DOE for the information. If the UFT knows the breakdown, and they should, they are not divulging the information. Therefore, without any firm data, this is just anecdotal evidence. However, just be aware if you are a senior teacher you have a potential target on your back. Check my posts Here and Here.
The rest of this post will discuss what a teacher should do when he or she receives their 3020-a charges.
First, and foremost when the DOE decides to serve a teacher with 3020-a charges, they only want to terminate the teacher and for the most part, the only deals the DOE will make is for the teacher to irrevocably retire or resign by the end of the semester and then a scarlet letter will be attached to your file as a "do not hire" flag will be placed for any administrator to see if the teacher applies for another DOE position in the future. Under Mayor Bloomberg and his Chancellors the DOE's 3020-a process were used by principals to have troublesome teachers removed from the school and budget on the most minor infraction or allegation of misconduct or incompetence. Since arbitrators found only 4% of the teachers completely innocent, even a simple letter-to-file-file given by an arbitrator was enough to dump the teacher into the ATR pool and out of the hair of the Principal. However, the Office of Legal Services was overwhelmed by the almost 800 teachers in the reassignment center that they started to make deals with teachers that were willing to plead guilty to at least one of the stipulations of the 3020-a charges and ended up in the ATR pool upon their return to service.
Fast forward to the De Blasio administration with Chancellor Carmen Farina in charge and the Office of Legal Services was beefed up with more lawyers and while the number of reassigned teachers have dropped since the peak, it still is close to 400, about the average during the Bloomberg years. The only thing that changed is that the DOE does not make deals and demands termination, even for the most minor of alleged offenses. So much for Micheal Mulgrew's statement "that there's a new tone at the DOE".
Second, when a teacher is served with his or her 3020-a charges, the teacher should immediately contact the Chapter Leader who will instruct you to go to the UFT office in your Borough tso they can write an appeal to the DOE charges and demand a hearing in front of an independent arbitrator. Failure to do this could result in the DOE terminating you at the next PEP meeting. The appeal must be given to the DOE within 10 days of the teacher receiving the 3020-a charges.
Third, the teacher will be assigned a NYSUT lawyer, free of charge, to represent the teacher at his or her 3020-a hearing. If you and your NYSUT attorney don't see "eye to eye", the teacher can always hire a private lawyer to represent them.
Fourth, the hearing will usually start 3 to 6 months after receiving the 3020-a charges, it could be longer, depending on the arbitrator's caseload. The 3020-a hearing will last no more than a month and the arbitrator will usually render a decision 30 to 60 days after the end of the hearing. From start to finish it's usually less than 9 months between being served 3020-a charges and the arbitrator's decision.
Fifth, despite the often quoted myth that the arbitrators "split the baby", the truth is that if the arbitrator finds the teacher guilty of serious misconduct and/or real incompetence, especially under the new teacher evaluation system, the teacher will be terminated. The "split the baby" only deals with more minor misconduct or questionable incompetence charges that don't warrant termination..
Finally, don't be afraid to go through your 3020-a hearing. Let the DOE prove their charges since it takes 30 to 60 days for the arbitrator to send a decision, you can retire one day after the hearing and it becomes effective the next school day. That way you don't lose the lump sum and retro payments (up to $50,000 owed to you). However, if you wait for the decision and your terminated, you get no lump sum payments and retro adjustments to your pension.