Friday, March 28, 2008

Why Did The UFT Agree To Suspend Teachers Without Pay & Health Benefits?

We all know how terrible the October 2005 contract was to the classroom teacher. However, from my point of view the worst part of the 2005 contract was the UFT agreement of the "probable cause" section for teachers subject to the 3020-a process. To refresh your memory the "probable cause" section of the 2005 contract allows the DOE to suspend teachers without pay or health benefits for up to three months simply on hearsay testimony. Hearsay testimony is as simple as one student accusing the teacher of misconduct and getting his/her friend to agree it happened without the friend being there. that is all it takes for a teacher to spend the next three months without pay or health benefits. Do you think this is fair? I don't.

Randi Weingarten told the delegate assembly that the only teachers subject to the "probable cause" provision of the contract are ones that are arrested and subject to felony charges. Her stooge Leo Casey has commented on Edwize that the union agreed to the "probable cause" section because the union does not protect perverts and pedophiles. I fully agree with Leo Casey that there is no room in any union for perverts and pedophiles. However, how about the teacher unjustly accused by vindictive students and his/her friends of misconduct that did not rise to even a police investigation? According to Randi Weingarten & Leo Casey those teachers will not be subject to the "probable cause" section and it's associated unpaid suspension and no health benefits. Were they telling the truth? Or was it that the DOE expanded the definition to include incidents that did not result in criminal action? As much as I want to blame the DOE on expanding the alleged misconduct subject to the "probable cause" section, there is a smoking gun that shows that the UFT was a willing participant in what misconduct is subject to "probable cause". Listed below is "Appendix H" that explains all.

Teacher Contract 6/1/2003-11/12/2007


On October 2, 2005 the following understanding was reached regarding probable cause hearings:

"The UFT will conduct a meeting of lawyers who represent UFT members in 3020-a proceedings to inform them about the new procedures regarding offenses involving sexual misconduct with a student or minor not a student. During that meeting there will be a discussion of what would constitute probable cause including that we agree that in a probable cause hearing the hearing officer may accept hearsay as evidence of probable cause, and that a criminal complaint and corroborating affidavit of the SCI report is sufficient evidence to create a rebuttable presumption of probable cause".

The key statement from the above paragraph is " We agree that that in a probable cause hearing the hearing officer may accept hearsay as evidence of probable cause". What happened to Randi's statement to the delegate assembly that only teachers subject to criminal felony action would fall under the "probable cause" section? Did she lie to the delegate assembly or was she deceived by her flunkies? Regardless, she misinformed the delegate assembly to push through a very unpopular contract that has put the teachers in a very dangerous position in and outside the classroom.

Yes, there are many disagreeable givebacks in the 2005 contract but nothing affects a teacher as much as the UFT agreement with the DOE in the unreasonably low burden of proof to remove a teacher under the "probable cause" section of the contract.

Shame on both the UFT and DOE for allowing the use of hearsay testimony to affect the livelihood of innocent teachers.

P.S. By the way Leo how come in your October 23, 2005 (3:25 pm) comment on Edwize about sexual misconduct, you chose to overlook discussing Appendix H? I could only assume you knew that simple hearsay can get a teacher a 90 day unpaid suspension without health benefits. Shame on you most of all for deceiving the members by omitting that hearsay is evidence enough under the "probable cause" section.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Holy Cow! The DOE Continues Their Anti-Teacher Crusade

The day before "Holy Thursday" the DOE instructed principals that they can deny Religious Observance (RO) days to teachers who want to take "Holy Thursday" and "Easter Monday". The DOE instructed the principals that if the teachers insist on taking the "RO" days that they can either dock them pay for those days or issuing a Letter-To-The-File. Historically teachers never had trouble taking "RO" days and while principals can say no, they rarely ever refuse. However, this is the new DOE, populated by non-educators who seem to think that they know best.

Luckily, Randi (I am shocked again) and gang were alerted to the DOE directive to the principals and went to court and received a restraining order prohibiting the DOE from refusing "RO" days for teachers who requested them. The DOE was outraged. The restraining order took discretion out of the Principal's hand and was a violation of the contract. Too bad DOE, you got greedy. When you are given an inch and you try to take a mile, you can expect consequences for your actions. Of course the judge slapped you down and for good reason.

You would think this crises is over, right? Wrong, the DOE has appealed the restraining order as a violation of the DOE's right to determine if the "RO" would not affect the school. If the DOE wins the appeal then all teachers who took off for "Holy Thursday" and "Easter Monday" can be docked pay or receive a Letter-To-The-File if the principal claims that they would have denied the teacher permission to take the two "RO" days off.

I can just laugh how Tweed always states they want quality teachers but when it comes to "sticking it" to the teachers, they always find a way. Teacher disrespect is the slogan from these non-educators from Tweed.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Have the UFT & DOE Weakened Our Due Process Protections Under the State 3020-a Laws?

There is little question that more and more teachers are being removed from their classrooms (315 in 2003 to 757 in 2007) and many of them are charged under State education law 3020-a. These teachers are removed from the classroom and eventually reassigned to a Teacher Reassignment Center, commonly known as the "rubber room". Some of these teachers are removed from the classroom for serious felony charges like having sex with a student, hitting a student, selling drugs, or stealing school funds. However, these serious charges are probably 5% of the total number of teachers in the "rubber rooms". Approximately 50% of these teachers are there for incompetence and the rest for minor or frivolous misconduct issues (of course some teachers are there under false accusations), primarily due to an administrator who doesn't like that teacher.

Regardless of why, the teachers find themselves in the "rubber room", most of them can expect 3020-a charges to be filled against them. The New York State Education Law allows tenured teachers to have an impartial arbitration hearing to determine the remedy of the alleged charges against them. The remedy can range from an acquittal to termination. However, over the years the UFT and DOE have weakened these teacher due process protections that tenured teachers enjoy under New York State laws. How were they weakened? Let me count the ways.

First, The NYC version of the 3020-a process has selected 20 arbitrators who hear all the 3020-a cases for the New York City Teachers. To keep their jobs, their decisions can be influenced by the UFT and DOE who pay them. Therefore, these arbitrators will tend to "split the baby" when it comes to the remedy. The result is very few aquittals or terminations but fines or suspensions are likely. Under the State 3020-a outside New York City the arbitrator is only allowed to hear one case every two years. Therefore, they do not rely on the income and are more likely to come up with the proper decision.

Second, Under State 3020-a the teacher is allowed to reject an arbitrator. based upon the arbitrator's record. However, no such teacher choice is allowed under the UFT & DOE agreed process. The teacher is stuck with whatever arbitrator is randomly selected for the case.

Third, with teacher incompetence cases, the State 3020-a process allows for a three arbitrator panel. No such three arbitrator panel exists under the NYC 3020-a process.

Fourth, under State 3020-a, there must be a pre-hearing conference to ensure that a list of witnesses are exchanged and the charges are finalized. However, under the NYC version of 3020-a there are cases where there are no pre-hearings and the case is started without the teacher or attorney aware of the witnesses until the last minute.

Fifth, in the NYC 3020-a process the arbitrators are teamed up with a NYSUT lawyer and a DOE lawyer. This trio will be together for up to three years. That to me, is an uncomfortable familiarity at the expense of the teacher. The State 3020-a has nothing like this approach.

Finally, only in the NYC version of the 3020-a process can teachers be suspended without pay or health benefits, for non-felony issues. In fact, in some cases hearsay is only needed to suspend a teacher for up to three months. This "probable cause" section of the contract has resulted in many teachers being suspended based upon hearsay evidence.

Presently, there is a lawsuit filed by that is trying to address some, if not most of these issues. However, this lawsuit is in it's early stages and whatever comes of it will be in the distant future. I can only hope that this lawsuit will result in the teachers regaining their due process rights under the State 3020-a regulations.

Have the UFT & DOE weakened our due process rights under 3020-a? You better believe they have!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The 8th Grade Social Promotion Problem

The Kleinberg administration has rammed through a vote that stops the social promotion of 8th graders. While I usually disagree with the DOE position. Here, I reluctantly agree that 8th graders should not be automatically promoted to the high schools. As a high school teacher I have seen too many of these not-ready-for-high school 8th graders fail academically and drop out. While I understand that as many as 18,000 8th graders may be "left back". The alternative is worse, social promotion.

Presently, only 1,200 8th graders are not promoted to the high schools. I am shocked that we have that many 8th graders "left back". Why? Because the middle school principals are always trying to push as many not-ready-for-high school 8th graders into the high school, knowing they are unable to academically succeed in the high school setting. Time and again I hear stories from middle school teachers how the principal will pressure them to change failing grades to passing, just to get the student out of the school. The most common statement by the principals is "do you want 17 year old boys with 12 year olds?" Therefore, many of the not-ready-for-high school 8th graders are promoted anyway. Let the high schools handle them.

The supporters of "social promotion" have only themselves to blame for this new policy. Many of these supporters don't see the big picture and insist that with extra help, the students can catch up to their peers. The problem with this outlook is that it is not realistic. Yes, if there was in place an intensive program in a self-contained, small class structure, some of these students may eventually succeed. However, in the real world of the DOE this transitional program does not exist in the high schools, except in special education programs. The transitional program necessary to assist the not-ready-for-high school 8th graders cost money, lots of money and we all know that the DOE will not be funding programs like this anytime soon.

Realistically, the Kleinberg either or proposal pits social promotion supporters against the grade retention groups and since there is no money allocated for the programs necessary to help the not-ready-for-high school 8th graders. I find myself reluctantly agreeing with the DOE in this case. Ugh!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

DOE's Children Last Program Continues - Stops Elementary School's Pizza Day

The micromanagement by the DOE just continues. Now those wonderful non-educators have told PS 193 in Whitestone Queens that their twenty year tradition of "Pizza Day" is a violation of the DOE regulations on what type of food can be used in the school.

The PTA has been using Pizza Day as a fund-raising tool to supplement school supplies, teacher grants, and after school activities. Pizza Day generates $200 a month to fund these activities and this money is even more important as the schools suffer from budget cuts. Pizza Day is done once a month and the children give $5.00 to participate in it. The DOE first told the school in January that Pizza Day violated the nutrition standards of the DOE, then the DOE changed that reason by claiming that it violated the Chancellor's regulations on the sale of food inside the school. However, when the New York Post reporter interviewed a DOE official. That official claimed that the PTA is not allowed to have more than two fund-raising events in a school year. What nonsense! To understand what these parents went through, just see what the Vice-President of the PTA said about the DOE.

"They (DOE) were not nice about it," Tortora said. "They were obnoxious and nasty and condescending, over a pizza party. They told us we were getting away with it for way too long. It's a joke."

Even the local politician is outraged. Here is what City Councilman Tony Avella said in helping the parents fight the pizza ban.

"It's just plain stupid," he said. "This is just one more example of the bureaucratic red tape that comes out of the DOE. It's bizarre . . . It's amazing that they're focusing on an issue like this rather than cleaning up the waste and inefficiency and making sure the kids are getting a good education."

Let's see what the DOE did to hurt the children.

First, they took away a 20-year-old fund-raising event that gave the school $200 a month for school supplies, teacher grants, and after school activities.

Second, they took away an activity that the school's students looked forward to.

Finally, they showed the students that their wants and needs are not important when it interferes with the bureaucracy of the DOE.

Is it any wonder that I call it the DOE's children last program?.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Yet Another Nasty DOE Surprise & Randi Is Shocked

In the New York Daily News today was an article that talked about how the DOE will cut their budget by 5% for the 2008-09 school year. Apparently, two of the three options concern the Joel Klein supported "Fair Student Funding" (FSF) program.

For you readers that are not familiar to the FSF program. The FSF program assigns money to each student and allows the principal to control the school budget, based upon the FSF program. The good part of this program is that more money is attached to high-need students and schools. However, less money is assigned to high preforming students. Therefore, school budgets in the better schools will be reduced under FSF. The use of the FSF program puts budget pressure on the schools, especially the better schools, and has many deficiencies. However, the real cost under FSF will be the elimination of highly-paid, experienced teachers in many schools.

A deal that Randi Weingarten worked out with Joel Klein would allow schools to hire highly-paid veteran teachers without penalty to the school budget for the 2008-09 school year. However, for the 2009-10 school year and beyond the school budget would be penalized if too many highly-paid veteran teachers were on that school's payroll. Why worry? That's when Kleinberg will be a lame duck and a more teacher friendly DOE will soon emerge. Surprise, surprise, the DOE is seriously considering reneging on the deal with the UFT. What else is new? This blog has pointed out how almost on a monthly basis Randi is shocked by the agreements the DOE has worked out with the UFT, only to have Tweed ignore or renege on those agreements.

If the FSF program is implemented without the UFT negotiated agreements, look for an explosion of highly paid ATR's. Why would a principal hire a highly paid teacher when he could get two newbie teachers for the same price? Further, by not hiring these highly paid teachers the principal will have more money in the school budget to fund his/her pet projects. What about the children? Wouldn't a quality teacher in the classroom be the most important item for student learning? Most educators would think so. However, in this DOE it is all about the money.

Remember it is not children first, it's children last in the Kleinberg DOE.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Disciplinary Letter-In-File (LIF) , Is It Subject To A 3020-a Hearing?

A little noticed event happened a while ago when four Brooklyn teachers received disciplinary letters in their files (LIF) for not reporting on another teacher who may, or may not have improperly touched students. The four teachers sued in court since the UFT negotiated away the right to grieve LIF. The NYS Supreme Court judges agreed with the four teachers that since disciplinary LIF cannot be grieved, the teachers should have their LIF's expunged or brought before an arbitrator under the state 3020-a regulations. The judges rightly determined that the teachers due process rights were violated. The DOE has appealed the judges decision to the NYS Appellate Court and if they lose, the consequences can be earth shattering.

Why are the judges decision significant? Because if it stands, the DOE and UFT will need to pay arbitrators to hear all disciplinary LIF's if the teacher demands it. Can you imagine the cost and chaos that will occur if all teachers appeal their disciplinary LIF's? As is, there are not enough arbitrators to hear the existing 3020-a cases, which is why there are two year waits by teachers presently in the 3020-a process. Many of us were slow to realize the implications of the four teachers winning their disciplinary LIF lawsuit. However, it is now becoming clear the havoc it will do to the 2005 contract provision of ungrievable LIF. In other words it looks like the lack of a grievance for a disciplinary LIF, agreed by the UFT & DOE, has backfired. The ICE-UFT blog has reported on the lawsuit previously but seemed not to realize the implications if the DOE loses the appeal. The article can be found on the link below.

The destruction that the 2005 contract has had on the teachers is well documented by many education bloggers, including myself, and I will not rehash it here. However, the judges decision may be the first significant step in reversing these terrible and punitive provisions of the 2005 contract. One can only hope that the DOE appeal is shot down and with it, the ungreivable LIF.

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Ideal DOE Teacher - Young, Inexperienced, & Clueless

During the Kleinberg years it has been increasingly obvious that despite their emphasis on test preparation at the expense of a full educational experience, the federal test scores have shown little change since they took over in 2002. The question is why haven't the test scores improved despite the almost single minded emphasis on test preparation? While the answer seems complex to some, for me it is simple. It is the quality of the teacher.

Under the Kleinberg administration the ideal teacher have the following characteristics.

1. Inexperienced and lower paid.

2. Less than 50 years of age.

3. Thankful about having a job.

4. Unaware of his or her rights under the union contract.

5. Never complain about working conditions or the classroom environment.

6. Just teaches the students and let somebody else handle their problems.

7. Follow blindly all dictates by administrators, even when they make no sense.

8. Clueless to what good teaching techniques are.

In my mind the above characteristics are of a mediocre teacher, the type of teacher that will never make a difference in the lives of his or her students. However, this is the type of teacher that the DOE wants teaching the children.

Gone are the days that teachers can challenge the student academically without that teacher endangering his or her career. Remember, a student accusation, however, ridiculous, will get a teacher removed and investigated. If a teacher even tries to get into the student's face about his or her classroom behavior, you can be sure that the student will retaliate and since the DOE always will side with the student, guess what happens to the teacher? Right, the "rubber room". Is it any wonder that the number of reassigned teacher goes up every year? Therefore, as the DOE pushes older teachers to retire, whether due to administrator harassment, deteriorating classroom conditions, or teacher disrespect, they will be replaced by younger & inexperienced teachers who, for the most part, are clueless on what quality teaching is. Is it any wonder that the test scores don't improve?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

What Happened To Our Children's Social Skills?

I read an article in my local section of Newsday about how little today's children play with each other and it reminded me of my preteen, tween, and teen years. Presently, the boys seemed to be always playing video games while the girls are usually on their cellphone or on the Internet. With the heightened awareness of strangers trolling after our children has resulted in adult supervised play. Soccer, Dance, sleepovers, basketball are all adult supervised activities. Gone are the days that the children will come home, drop their books, and go play with the neighbourhood children. Now it is going on the Internet, watching TV, talking on the cellphone, or playing video games. There is very little social interaction, except by electronic means.

During my preteen and early teen years in the Bronx, I used to drop off my school books and meet my friends to play outside. At times, I would take my little sister along and she would always run into people she knew in the park. My friends and I would play a range of games such as box ball, stoop ball, skully, punch ball, and stick ball. We always found other children at the park to play with or against. We learned to negotiate when choosing sides, auguring plays and know when to stop teasing so the teased child wouldn't cry (or not cry so much). Were there fights and loud arguments? Of course there were, that is how we learned our social skills. With no adults around we had to work it out ourselves.

During nights with no school and in the warmer weather all the kids in the neighborhood would play hide & seek, Ring-a-leveo, or capture the flag. In this case I can proudly say we practiced "no child left behind" No thought was given to what might happen to us and nothing did, except for an occasional older teen giving us a hard time. Were we naive? Probably, however, this is how we played in the city. These social skills were necessary and evolved in even the shyest children, as they learned that they would be selected and be part of the group and feel important.

As a tween I was very much into stick ball and played it almost all the time on schooldays. The stick ball court (a wall with a box drawn on it) was about two blocks from my house and everybody in the neighborhood would hear my mother yell from the sixth floor kitchen window "Eric it's time for dinner". The stick ball game was over and the kids playing in the park knew it was 6:00pm, time to go home. Yes my mom had a very loud voice, you can hear it for three blocks or about 600 feet into the park, including the playground. Who needed cellphones when my mom was the the best communicating device in the neighborhood!

Now we watch our children get together in adult supervised organized play with the adult doing the picking and telling the children what to do. Where are the games that the children play in which they can develop their social skills? Is it any wonder that cooperative learning is a tough concept for the student to handle? You must have social skills if you want the students to work together. I find these social skills sorely lacking and worry about this generation as they approach adulthood.

By the way, most of my punch ball games were played in the school yard during recess and lunch. The school yard now has trailers in it and the students are stuck in the cafeteria or their classroom. See a problem?