Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Open Market System - Are All The Vacancies Being Posted?

One of the most contentious giveback of the terrible 2005 contract was the elimination of the "Seniority Transfer System" that allowed senior teachers to transfer to another school and possibly bumping a less experienced teacher. We all now know the consequences of the elimination of the "Seniority Transfer System" . The nearly thousand ATRs that now float from school to school and eat up the DOE budget. Of course the DOE and UFT knew this was going to happen and let it happen anyway. Shame on them. In it's place was the wonderful, or so Leo Casey claims, "Open Market Transfer System" where all the school vacancies must be posted, rather than half of them. No more hiding school vacancies, all vacancies must be posted! Yeah, tight and I am really the tooth fairy.

The "Open Market Transfer System" was touted by the UFT spin mister Leo Casey in Edwize last year showing how well it worked in the first year of operation. Of course it was quite obvious that even using Leo's suspect statistics you can see that senior teachers had more trouble transferring than new teachers. In fact, according to Leo Casey's statistics there were 1,202 teachers who transferred with less than five years of experience in 2005 (there were only 31 teachers who transferred in this experience group under the old system) compared to only 163 senior teachers with twenty or more years of experience. Note, this is for 2006, before the "fair student funding" program and the school budget cuts which will further limit senior teachers from changing schools. I would like to see the 2007 statistics Leo, where are they? Did you forget to post them like you did last May? What is even more worrisome is that the UFT knew that senior teachers would have a tough time finding a new school and agreed to it anyway.

As we progress into the 2008-09 school year there seems to be anecdotal evidence that many of the vacancies, especially in the new small schools and in schools that have Empowerment or Leadership Academy Principals are not being posted in the "Open Market Transfer System". Just to give an example in all of Queens, there are only six Math positions posted for the middle and high schools. The same is true for the Physical Sciences (Earth Science, Chemistry, & Physics) where only five positions are listed. These two subject areas are in great demand and subject to severe shortages. Why aren't these positions being posted? It could be the tight school budgets and the uncertainly it fosters. However, I believe it is much more than just the budget.

In the education blogosphere many teachers post that their schools have vacancies but they are not on the "Open Market Transfer System" why? One teacher blogger stated that the principal likes to hire the two year wonders from "Teach For America". These teachers sign a two year contract and usually leave the system shortly thereafter. Many other positions are saved for the "Teaching Fellows" and newbie teachers at the job fairs. It seems to me that despite the UFT spin mister Leo Casey's claim, all the vacancies are not listed on the "Open Market Transfer System". Is it any wonder that we have a serious ATR crises?

The UFT must ensure that no vacancies are left behind. In other words all vacancies must be posted or take the DOE to court on the violation of the contract. However, our union has shown to be all talk but very little action. Let's see what they dol this time.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Chancellor's Fuzzy Math

The education mayor and his sidekick, the Chancellor have done it again. They have taken a 4.5 billion dollar city budget surplus and are cutting 300 million from an already tight school budget. This budget cut is in spite of the State giving the schools additional funding. In other words, the hypocrite Mayor and Chancellor whine for more money from the State while cutting the local school budget despite a sizable surplus. If you would like, The Chancellor's budget is here.

To the casual observer, you would think that the DOE would wisely limit overhead and maximize the school budgets. However, it appears the opposite is true. Since October of 2004 the head count at Tweed increased from 1,582 to 2,350. a 67% increase at the Central Bureaucracy. Eduwonkette, has more information on the ever- increasing Central Bureaucracy at Tweed. Tweed's appetite grows larger and larger at the expense of the schools and the students. "Children Last"? you better believe it!

The most astounding information that came out of the City Council's review of the education budget was the "Fuzzy Math" that Joel Klein was using to justify the budget. When the Chancellor was giving his budget presentation, Council Member Oliver Koppel said at one point, "To tell you the truth, I don't believe you…You should hire a new accountant.” Furthermore, the chair of the Education Committee, Robert Jackson stated that "the school cuts are not 99 million dollars but was more than 180 million dollars". Just like Albany, the City Council has questioned the "Fuzzy Math" of Tweed. Here are just some of the discrepancies and lack of clarity they have found.
  • The actual cuts from the Central Bureaucracy is 21 million dollars, not 200 million dollars.
  • 24.1 million dollars are allocated for diagnostic assessment (testing programs).
  • Joel Klein's staff budget is $968,000 for his eight staffers (averaging $121,000), not the $1,117 in the budget..
  • Tweed's "Accountability Office" actually has 97 staffers, not the 18 staffers in the budget
  • An additional 154 million dollars in the budget for "indispensable initiatives" . While most of the programs are unspecified, an educated guess would include the Principals' Leadership Academy, Small School start ups, and the teacher "gotcha squad", just to name a few.
  • The City Council report states that 190 million dollars will be cut from the school budget...not 99 million dollars as the budget stated.
Finally, where does the money come from to help "Charter Schools"? It was unclear where the DOE funding was. However, in the last two years it averaged more than 100 million dollars.

In conclusion, using Tweed's "Fuzzy Math" has resulted in a misleading budget that doesn't reflect the real budget cuts. Is it an wonder that our students have not seen gains in Math education under the Kleinberg administration. Look who their role models are. The "Fuzzy Math" crowd at Tweed!

Some of the information used in this post was taken from and can be found at the New York City Public School Parents Blog.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The "Baby Boomer" Retirement Dilemma. How Much Do You Need To Retire?

The New York City Teaching Corps have many "baby boomers" among them. These "baby boomers" are fast approaching retirement age in the increasing unfriendly New York City school system where teaching in the classroom is becoming more and more difficult. This teaching burden is increased by DOE's policy of recruitment over retention, teacher disrespect, and an increased workload. Further, with Tweed's emphasis on small schools and 20-something administrators, it's difficult for the "baby boomer" teacher not to consider retirement. However, can the "baby boomers" retire comfortably? Let's see.

First, some background. The "baby boomer" generation is defined as the age group between 45 and 62 years of age. This generation has saved on the average of $38,000 in retirement savings, excluding pensions, homes, and social security. However, "baby boomers" with a 401(k) or 403(b) plan has an average retirement savings of $88,000. Not bad but not good either. The $88,000 of retirement savings comes to an annual retirement income of about $6,000 yearly. Not the type of income a retiree can live comfortably on. To get an exact amount, based on your age and retirement savings, you can use the immediate annuity link. Unfortunately, almost 25% of the people with the 401(k)/403(b)plan take ill-advised loans out of their plans. These loans average $8,000 and in many cases. are never paid back into the plan. In other words, lost savings.

As New York City teachers, we are in a much more fortunate position than most. First, many of us will receive a pension that can range from 40% to 60% of our final three years of annual salary (It could be more or less, based upon years worked and age of retirement). Further, we accumulate a modest annuity of $300 per year and averages about $1,000 annually at retirement. However, the bulk of our savings is the 403(b) plan, known as the TDA.

The dilemma for most of the "baby boomer" teachers is "when do I retire"? With the 25/55 plan, boomers can retire at age 55 with no penalty with 25 years of teaching under their belt. This gives these teachers 50% of their final three year salary for the rest of their lives or $45,000 annually. based upon the average final three year salary of $90,000. Therefore, what should my TDA have to have to keep my standard of living the same after I retire? Most financial advisors suggest 75% of the working income or $67,500 annually. Based upon the immediate annuity link, the amount in the TDA should have at retirement should be $325,000! This is about 3.7 times the average balance for all 401(k)/403(b) participants. With more and more "baby boomer" teachers retiring, it is very important to figure out "what type of retirement will I have"?

An alternative plan financial advisors use is the 4% plan. Under this plan you take out 4% of the available balance yearly. if the stock market gives you good returns your retirement savings will increase dramatically. The 4% withdrawal is conservative enough to limit any real pain during stock market downturns. However, you will need about $525,000 to get the same $22,500 return as an annuity. The nice thing about the 4% solution is you can leave a large nest egg to your children or to yourself. Unlike an annuity the money is yours, not the annuity company's. See the Trinity Study article here. A more comprehensive retirement calculator is the T Rowe Price financial calculator link. This calculator allows you to look at many retirement simulations and select the best one for you.

There are numerous alternative calculators that use many different assumptions to determine your retirement income. Some of the simpler ones are here and if you have a retirement shortfall, here. I hope you seriously consider your various retirement options. It is difficult to unretire once you make the decision to retire.

Finally, I do not believe annuities from an insurance company or bank is a good idea. The high cost fees and surrender charges can be expensive. Especially if you try to get out of the annuity within the original seven year period. However, annuities from many of the mutual fund companies like Fidelity, T. Rowe Price, and Vanguard are low-cost and have no surrender charges. Our TDA annuity fall into the later category and keeping part (10-25%) of your retirement savings in a low-cost annuity guarantees a stable flow of income.

Good luck on preparing on your retirement. I hope this information will help you in being better educated on making retirement work for you.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The DOE's "Children Last" Shell Game Is Exposed By Albany..... It's About Time

The Kleinberg administration has over the years has worked the old shell game that allowed them to use money as they see fit while starving the classrooms of supplies, teaching talent, and keeping class sizes unreasonably high, the highest in the State. No-bid contracts and highly-paid consultants are quite common at Tweed and even the alleged 200 million dollar cuts will not significantly change this cosy relationship. As for these cuts being real, seeing is believing. However, the Kleinberg shell game has been exposed and Albany is now aware of the DOE ploy. For the first time the big three of Joe Bruno, Sheldon Silver, and David Patterson have told the Kleinberg administration to forget about getting permission to change State aid rules. We know what you are doing and we are not amused. In fact here is what the Governer said:

"The lack of flexibility in State funding reflects the State's policy that Contract for Excellence funding should go disproportionately to schools with the greatest needs. If the City were not reducing its own promised spending for schools, it would have sufficient money to balance funds for other schools if it chose to do so."

In other words. You are cutting 300 million out of your budget and want the State to allow you to spend the extra 63 million dollars of State aid as you see fit? Forget about it!

To understand how well the Kleinberg administration has played the game of hide the money, the editorial and reporting staff of the New York Daily News and New York Post believe the DOE spin machine and that this hypocrisy is justified. Despite all three State leaders comments.

However, an article in the New York Sun by Andrew Wolf exposes the Kleinberg hypocrisy and writes about the Kleinberg administration's "smoke and mirrors" statements of educational progress as phony. Wolf writes about that there has been little or no progress in student test scores and a reduction in high school SAT results. Amdrew Wolf's article speaks the truth and in my opinion, the only tangable results from the Kleinberg administration has been a worsening of teacher morale, more ATRs, and an incrrease in "rubber room" teachers.

Let's see, the City is cutting 300 million from the DOE with 99 million coming directly from the schools. How can the DOE make up this artificial shortfall? Well 81 million can be saved by placing ATRs in schools before new teachers are hired. The remaining 18 million dollars can be saved by reducing the "rubber room" population by 90% (since only 10% of the present rubber room teachers will be terminated, retire, or resign). That means that of the 65 million dollars spent on the "rubber room" teachers, the DOE will have 58.4 million dollars to spend, well above the 18 million dollars needed to save any school budget cuts. Just think, instead of a 99 million dollar cut to the schools, the DOE will have a 40 million dollar surplus!

Realistically, don't look for Kleinberg to do the obvious, bring experienced teachers back in the classrooms while eliminating school budget cuts and reducing class size with the surplus. Instead, look for the DOE to keep the ATR and "rubber room" problem going and indirectly cut school programs that come from Tweed's 200 million dollar budget cuts.

In other words, Tweed's "Children Last Program" will continue until the next mayor takes office.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

DOE's Zero Tolerance For Hugs But Not Drugs

In the warped universe of the DOE a teacher is more likely to get in trouble if the teacher (especially a male teacher) is charged with hugging a student. On the other hand, a teacher arrested with drugs is more likely to find their way back into the classroom.

Hugging is a time-honored method of greeting between civilized people. However, in the bizarre world of the DOE, the DOE has made teachers fearful of hugging a student. it doesn't matter if the hug is one of consoling, welcome, appreciation, or affection. In the perverted world of the DOE it's all about sex. In many schools teachers are told "don't even touch the students" for fear of being accussed of improper touching. The "rubber rooms" are full of these poor teachers who are not only subject to 3020-a charges but a three month unpaid suspension without health benefits, not to mention the loss of reputation. Is it any wonder that when a student runs up to hug a teacher the teacher is reluctant to respond in kind? What kind of message does that send to the students? The administrators want the teachers to be more personable and mentor the students but get too close and risk removal from the school and even termination charges. Is it any wonder that students complain about their teachers being distant and uncaring? For many teachers, being accussed of being distant and uncaring is not as risky to their careers as being actively involved in their students' education.

While there seems to be zero tolerance for teachers who have physical contact with the students the DOE seems not to have the same standard for teachers accussed of drug possesion. Teachers arrested by the police for drugs are automatically removed from the classroom and sent to the "rubber room". However, if the teacher plea bargains the criminal charge to a misdemeanor or violation, the teacher is almost always sent back to their school with no charges. Many of the teachers are young and some are not even tenured. Yet they seem to be sent back to their classroom as soon as their criminal case is "Adjudicated". Despite the "DARE" program it certainly seems that the DOE tolerates drug possesion. What message is the DOE sending to the students about drugs? Drugs are cool? Maybe the DOE does this because the teachers are younger and cost less. Therefore, lets give them another chance.

While no school system should allow child predators and sexual molesters to work in the schools. Defining innocent hugs or touching by teachers as sexual in nature is a perversion of otherwise normal human interaction and needs to stop. Lumping otherwise innocent physical contact with serious sexual acts weakens and blurs the DOE justification for removing teachers.

The DOE, as usual got it wrong. It is zero tolerance for drugs not hugs.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The TRS Passport Funds - What Should You Do?

Congratulations, you have survived the school year to see the 5% pay increase in your salary. Now what should you do with it? This is as a good time as any to restructure your 403b contributions (TDA) to account for the updated choices. As many of you know the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) has upgraded their TDA choices and switching options starting July 1, 2008. While I still think they didn't go far enough, it is a start.

The TRS has renamed the six options the "Passport Funds", you can select them as of now. Why that name? I couldn't even guess why. However, here are the options.

Diversified Equity Fund: - This fund invests mostly in US common stock and is loosely based upon the Wilshere 5000 index. This fund was previously known as Variable "A".

Stable Value Fund: - This fund invests in fixed income vehicles such as bonds, treasuries, and Guaranteed Investment Contracts (GIC's). This fund was previously known as Variable "B".

Fixed Fund: - This fund allows for a risk-free guaranteed income of 8.25% and the next adjustment will be July 1, 2009. The guaranteed return on the fund cannot go below 7.0%.

New Funds

International Equity Fund: - This fund invests in developed countries outside the United States, areas such as Western Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia, and Korea. Apparently, there is little exposure to the emerging markets such as China, India, Brazil, and Russia.

Socially Responsive Fund: - This fund will not invest in companies that have a significant business in alcohol, tobacco, gambling, nuclear power, and weapons. How about oil companies who cause global warming?

Inflation Protection Fund: - This fund may have been misnamed. At first glance it seems to suggest a fund made up primarily of TIPS (inflation adjusted Treasuries) with low risk. However, it appears that the fund will also have a variety of investment vehicles such as commodities, real estate, mutual funds, etc. This makes this fund riskier than it seems. That means this fund can give you returns at a greater risk than the document suggests. Only time will tell if this fund will meet it's stated objectives.

In addition to the increase investment choices, there is more flexibility in how quickly you can change your investment mix. previously, it took twelve months to get your money out of one investment choice to another. Under the new TRS program, you have a choice of getting your money out of an investment choice in as little as three months. The time periods are 3, 6, 9, and 12 months.

The question is how much should you invest in the TDA and which investment choices? I cannot speak for anybody but me. However, I will try to give you some suggested portfolio mixes based on age and my rationale why.

Minimum TDA Contribution Rate:

The minimum amount of your salary you should put into your TDA is 10%. Remember, on the average. for every dollar you put into a TDA you save $0.35 in taxes. The more you put away, the more you accumulate, tax-deferred. Meaning your TDA grows much faster because the TDA is only taxed after you start receiving the money. For the newer teachers, every time you get a raise and or a step increase, add 1% to your TDA contribution. It is painless and increases your retirement savings. You can do your own calculations here.

20's and 30's: - 75% stock and 25% fixed

In most other retirement programs I would recommend 100% stocks. However, the 8.25% guaranteed income makes that unnecessary. This high return in a low inflation environment is equal to stock returns in an average year, without the risk! You will find nowhere else were you get a 8.25% return these days. I would take the stock portfolio section and divide it into the three funds. Diversified Equity (25%), International Equity (25%), and Inflation Protection Fund (25%). For the people who want to save the world then add the Socially Responsive Fund into the stock mix.

40's: - 60% stock and 40% fixed

Again, the fixed portion is higher because of the guaranteed 8.25% return. The stock mix should stay the same as for the 20's and 30's age group. That means 20% in each of the three stock funds.

50's: - Conservative 75%: Fixed , 25% Stocks Moderate 60% Fixed, 40% Stocks

Since the time horizon is much shorter for this age group, it is important that you have a safe return. Remember, at this time in your career you will be looking at a pension in your future (maybe at 55) so that you don't need to take on the additional risk in your investments. For the stock mix I would recommend that 15% be put into diversified stocks and 10% in international stocks. At this point I see no reason to put money into the Inflation Protection Fund.

60's and older: - Conservative: 100% Fixed Moderate 75% Fixed, 25% Stocks

I know that 100% fixed is highly conservative. However, here again getting a guaranteed 8.25% in a low inflation environment is a no-brainer where short term stock fluctuations can put quite a dent into a person's retirement funds. Until the fixed rate falls to a competitive number with bond funds (averaging 2-4% at present), it makes little sense not to take advantage of the fixed income fund. For the less conservative, keep following the stock mix that you did in your 50's.

Every teacher's needs are different. However, if you intend to retire as a teacher, it is important that you prepare for your retirement. These are only suggestions on how to allocate and the amount you should invest in your TDA. Good luck, and save hard.

By the way just some historical data to help you determine where to put your money.

Average return in the last ten years:
Fixed = 8.25%, Variable "A" =- 4.95%, and Variable "B" = 4.59%

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Principal, The Budget, The "Rubber Room", The ATRs, and the 2005 Contract

There seems to be some misunderstanding on what a Principal can do, or not do to a teacher. Let me explain it as simply as possible. A Principal can remove a teacher simply by using "false or frivolous accusations" or "phony observation reports" to have a teacher removed from the school. These "false or frivolous accusations" or "phony observation reports" are the most common procedures on how Principals send teachers they don't like to the "rubber room". Let's see how the DOE has caused the vast increase in ATRs and "rubber room" teachers.

School Budget: The "fair student funding program" puts pressure on the Principals to hire lower-paid teachers at the expense of the highly-paid veteran teacher. Many a Principal, especially the Leadership Academy Principals, would rather hire two $43.362 teachers than a $100,049 teacher. Who can blame them? With money tight and more school budget cuts on the way, it is mighty tempting to get two for the price of one and still have $13,325 to spend for other school activities.

Teacher Removal Process: It used to be that when a Principal received permission to remove a teacher, it was for some serious misconduct and that teacher stayed on the school's payroll for a full year. Now, because of the Chancellor's regulations and the anti-teacher crusades at Tweed, the Principal can remove teachers for the most minor of infractions, or for nothing at all. To make it even easier on the principal, the teacher's salary is taken off the school's payroll after only sixty days! That means, that a Principal can get rid of a senior teacher in April and know that the teacher's salary will be off the school's payroll in September. Is it any wonder the "rubber rooms" are bursting at the seems?

The ATRs: The explosion of ATRs in the last couple of years can be laid at the doorstep of the DOE and their policy of encouraging Principals to hire lower-paid and inexperience teachers at the expense of the veteran teacher. The DOE policy of closing schools and excessing these teachers added to the ATR crisis. In fact, the DOE has a new teacher job fair before an ATR job fair is scheduled. The ATR problem has resulted in the UFT to file an age discrimination lawsuit since many of the ATRs are 50 years old or older.

The 2005 Contract: We all know how terrible the 2005 contract was. However, lets go over it's contribution to the ATR crises. The 2005 contract allowed the DOE to eliminate the "Seniority Transfer System" and replace it with the "Open Market System". The UFT spin mister "Leo Casey" told us in Edwize that all jobs will now be advertised and not hidden by the Principals. What he didn't say is that the UFT knew very well that the elimination of the "Seniority Transfer System" would result in the ATR crises, as Principals would look for younger teachers at the expense of the older veterans.

Thee UFT should stop negotiating with the Kleinberg administration and prepare strategies with the next administration for eliminating the "rubber room" and ATR issues. In addition, the reinstatement of the "Seniority Transfer System" and adjusting the "fair student funding" formula should be a top prority. Finally, I would prepare a hard-hitting media blitz on how the Kleinberg administration has put children last based upon class size , teacher turnover, overcrowded schools, and flat test scores and call it the DOE'S "Children Last Program".

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What The Chancellor's Regulations Really Say About Teacher Corporal Punishment and Verbal Abuse

The Chancellor's Regulations are what all school staff is subject to and violating these regulations can get a teacher in trouble. I have decided to investigate the Chancellor's Regulations on Corporal Punishment (A-420) and Verbal Abuse (A-421). Let's see if these regulations are vague enough that just about all teachers targeted by administrators can be subject to these regulations.

Corporal Punishment- A-420. According to the Chancellor's Regulations, Corporal Punishment is defined as "any act of physical force upon a student for the purpose for punishing that student". While the Chancellor's Regulations do allow for reasonable force against a student. The statement at the end of the regulation is what an administrator can use against a teacher. In bold capital letters it states.


The key phrase is excessive fear or physical or mental distress. That means if a teacher defends herself from a student attack and restrains him which can cause the violent student to fear the teacher, that teacher can be targeted by the administrator under the Corporal Punishment regulations. Another example of this is a teacher breaks up a fight and one student claims the teacher hurt him when breaking up the fight. Guess what the administrator can do? Right charge the teacher under the Corporal Punishment regulations. Finally, a teacher doesn't have to even touch the student. He just needs to threaten the student with "you are headed for jail, the way you act" That can meet the mental distress requirement of the Corporal Punishment regulations. Seems unreal? Well if you don't believe it see for yourself. The Corporal Punishment regulations can be found here.

Verbal Abuse - A-421.

Verbal abuse is not corporal punishment but includes any language that tends to cause fear or physical or mental distress of a student. However, here again is the nasty catchall phrase.

"Nothing in this regulation, however, prevents a supervisor from counseling or disciplining an employee for inappropriate speech or conduct that is not otherwise in violation of this regulation".

What does the Verbal Abuse regulation mean? To me it can mean anything the administrator wants it to be. Resulting in a teacher getting a "U" rating and even removal to the "rubber room" while waiting for the 3020-a charges. You still don't believe it? Well the Verbal Abuse regulations can be found here.

My question is why did the UFT allow both these statements to exist? These statements gives administrators great power to discipline teachers that they don't like. What stops an administrator from abusing his or her power to punish a teacher? Nothing, nothing at all.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

An example Of The DOE Double Standard When Investigating Teachers And Principals

In my previous post I questioned the double standard when teachers and principals are investigated. In the undemocratic world of the DOE the principal is presumed innocent while the teacher is assumed guilty. An example of the DOE double standard can be found in a Special Commissioner of Investigations (SCI) report on IS 109 principal Shango Blake. Remember, it is important to understand that just because SCI said the principal did what the report claims, it doesn't mean that he did them. Only an administrative (3020-a) hearing and/or a criminal trial can determine that. The point here is that the DOE assumed Shango Blake was innocent until the DOE received the full SCI report dated August 13, 2007. If he was a teacher, he would have been removed in June of 2006 at the latest.

The SCI report about Shango Blake stated that school funds were allegedly misappropriated and in some cases were unaccounted for and the SCI report charges him with financial mismanagement of over $30,000 in school funds . Further, the SCI report recommended that the Queens County District Attorney look into criminal charges, based upon its findings. In addition, Shango Blake was accused of corporal punishment and the SCI report states that the punching and choking of a student was sustained and that he also threatened to break the student's neck. This investigation started in January of 2006 on the financial mismanagement charges and June of 2006 on the corporal punishment charges. When was Shango Blake taken out of his school? Not until August of 2007. Over a full school year after the incidents happened!

I know a teacher who has been taken out of her school for trying to restrain a violent student who attacked her. Another teacher was taken out of his school for failing to break up a fight in his class. A third teacher for touching a student's shoulder to calm her down. I guess in the bizarre world of the DOE a principal who has charges of punching, chocking, and telling the student that I will break your neck is not as serious as one of the teachers' actions I discussed in this paragraph.

While I do not know if Shango Blakel is guilty of these charges, I do know that teachers accused of simple corporal punishment are always taken out of the classroom and sent to the "rubber rooms". In this case it didn't happen to the principal until fourteen months later, Double standard? You bet it is!

Friday, May 09, 2008

The DOE's Double Standard When Principals Are Investigated

It is incredible that the statements of up to thirteen, yes thirteen teachers who filed eleven corporal punishment allegations against their principal, including a district union leader who allegedly witnessed the principal committing corporal punishment, is considered unsubstantiated and the principal is allowed to continue to run the school. On the other hand, a student's accusation against a teacher is enough to remove the teacher from the classroom. Talk about a double standard! Why is the principal presumed innocent while the teacher is presumed guilty? In a New York Daily News article a principal is being investigated in District 11 in the Bronx for corporal punishment and despite all these teachers coming forward with allegations of corporal punishment, the principal is allowed to continue in her school. The DOE response to these allegations is that the charges did not merit the principal's removal.

The DOE's disrespect for teachers can be seen both on how they dismiss a teacher's accusation against a principal but jumps all over a teacher if the same accusation is made against that teacher. The DOE's unfair approach on handling accusations against teachers and administrators is not only undemocratic but un-American. In this country everybody should have equal rights. However, under the DOE the rights of the students and administrators are more important than the rights of the teacher. This perversion of justice must change and the union must file action against this unjust and discriminatory policy against teachers.

Visiting the school is not enough. Randi Weingarten should be filling court papers showing that the DOE's policy on how they treat accusations against administrators and teachers is discriminatory and needs to be eliminated. One policy for accusations against students, teachers, and administrators need to be implemented, not different rules for different groups.

In my opinion different rules for different groups smacks of discrimination and didn't this country worked long and hard to eliminate discrimination? Maybe the DOE hasn't gotten the message.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

It's National Teacher Appreciation Day but Not At The DOE - As For The ATR's Job Security Be Afraid, Very Afraid.

Today is national teacher appreciation day but you wouldn't know it at the DOE. Tweed is too busy removing teachers from the classroom on frivolous, minor, or false accusations. While practicing age discrimination on the ATR's who cannot find a classroom position. Maybe the DOE can call today "teacher disrespect day" since their idea of a good teacher is young, inexperienced, clueless about their rights and cheap! Any teacher that questions DOE directives is a troublemaker and needs to be disciplined while automatically believing accusations against teachers, no matter how ridiculous. I guess I am used to DOE's disrespect for the classroom teacher. Because what bothers me the most is our union even entertaining the idea of reopening our contract to limit the pay status of the ATR's. Yes, I know that Randi Weingarten has stated to the ATR's that she will not agree to an ATR time limit. The problem is, based on her past performance in dealing with the DOE, can we totally trust her not to reopen the contract? On the Ice blog, James Eterno's analysis of the no layoff issue needs to be looked at before you make this decision.

I was particularly disturbed that in the April 29Th New York Sun article that the UFT did negotiate with the DOE on the ATR issue and apparently on the table was an ATR time limit. Thankfully, the negotiations were stalemated and hopefully no further discussions on the ATR time limit will occur. Why did the UFT even consider reopening the contract that would allow Kleinberg a second bite at the apple? That really bothers me and makes me suspicious of the motives of our union leaders. I said this previously and I will say it again. The UFT needs to draw a line in the sand and make sure the DOE cannot step across it without severe consequences. Give Tweed and inch and they take a mile. When will Randi and her acolytes realize that dealing with Kleinberg is like dealing with the devil and your members can only get burned by the results.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Tweed's Children Last Program Continues As DOE Is Winning The Recruitment Vs. The Retention Battle

During the administration of Bloomberg and Klein there has been a major effort to push highly-paid veteran teachers to retire or resign. In the last year there was a doubling of veteran teachers leaving the system and it appears more are to follow. Whether it is the elimination of the seniority transfer system, the "fair student funding" program, the increased time and duties in the classroom, or the 25/55 pension sweetener, it seems obvious that more veteran teachers are going to leave. While I am all for the 25/55 pension sweetener, this will further encourage many of the highly-paid "boomer" teachers to put in their papers and retire. In fact, if you try to get a pension consultation, you need to wait to October to get one. This certainly indicates that many teachers may be leaving the system at the end of the school year or after they finish summer school this year. Unfortunately, this plays right into the policy of DOE recruitment over retention.

Every right-thinking educator knows that a quality teacher is the most important requirement for student learning in a classroom. Quality teaching only comes with a decade or more experience and these teachers are the very ones that are retiring or resigning, leaving the newbie teacher who must go through a learning curve before they can be a quality teacher. However, almost 50% of the newbie teachers leave the New York City school system by their fifth year, or before they can achieve the necessary experience to make a difference in the classroom. Why would the DOE not encourage retention over recruitment? It's all about the money. The lower-paid newbie teacher doesn't qualify for a pension until five full years are completed. Further, if they leave the system in their 20's and 30's they will take their money out of the pension system. In addition, they don't qualify for lifetime health and welfare benefits unless they have completed ten years in the system and can't collect these benefits until they are 55 years old.

Is it any wonder that Kleinberg allows a new teacher job fair before excessed teachers are placed? Or that the DOE runs an intergalactic job fair rather than filling in classroom vacancies with ATR's? You would think that the DOE wants what's best for the students. Guess again, the DOE is not looking for quality teachers, just cheaper teachers with disposable benefits when they get fed up and leave the system. As for the students? It's still "children last" when it is all about the money.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

DOE Attacks Teacher Tenure After Causing The ATR Mess

The DOE is at it again. First, they tried to use student test scores to determine tenure. Next, the non-educators at Tweed sent out instructions how principals could refuse tenure to their teachers. Now, they are going after teacher tenure by putting out feelers to set a time limit of 12 months for ATR's to get a classroom assignment or be fired.

The DOE used the head of the teaching fellows program called the new teacher project,which they fund, to complain to the newspapers how 81 million dollars are wasted on the ATR's. However, what the newspapers didn't bother to print was that the ATR problem was created by the Kleinberg administration when they stopped the age-old practice of placing excessed teachers in schools before hiring new teachers. In fact, the Kleinberg administration runs new teacher job fairs before the ATR job fairs to ensure that the ATR problem will continue. In addition, the DOE's "fair student funding" program encourages the principals to hire new teachers rather than highly paid veteran teachers because of budgetary reasons.

According to the newspapers the DOE wants to either reopen or add an addendum to the 2007 contract that will allow the DOE to fire ATR's who haven't found a classroom assignment within 12 months. Even Randi Weingarten will never go for this blatant attack on teacher tenure. I believe that a line in the sand has been drawn by the UFT and cannot be crossed and that line is teacher tenure.

nyc educator and an ICE article by James Eterno explains this issue in more detail and is a must read for people interested in the teacher tenure and the ATR issues. In summary, the UFT's response to the DOE's proposal about reopening the contract should be answered in three words "dead on arrival".