Thursday, October 30, 2008

The DOE Keeps Wasting Money On Themselves & Keeps The Classroom Overcrowded

Tweed continues to waste money on their bloated central bureaucracy, paying out 5 million dollars on expensive private courier services rather than use emails or other online services for free. I wonder what they don't want us to know? Is it because they are afraid to leave a paper trail behind that might identify the DOE intent In some of the anti-school policies born deep in the offices of the Tweed building? I can only speculate why Tweed continues to waste money at a time of budget cuts. In a New York Daily News article by Juan Gonzales points out that a large part of these costs come from the controversial and bloated Office of Assessment and Accountability which accounted for 2 million dollars alone! Further, the article points out how $50 million dollars have been spend on consultants and private contractors, not to mention the $80 million dollars on IBM's useless AIRS computer system that still hasn't worked properly.

However, DOE does pinch pennies when it comes to the classroom. In another Daily News Article more than half of the high school students (59%) were in overcrowded classrooms and that in the first six years of Bloomberg's tenure less classroom construction was completed than was done in the last six years of the Giuliani administration. In addition, many of the overcrowded schools have classrooms in trailers that, in some cases are barely fit for human habitation, least not an effective environment for learning.

As the DOE's Central bureaucracy spends more and more money on themselves, the schools are increasingly asked to shoulder the burden of ever increasing budget cuts. DOE's "children last" just continues.

update: The Daily News appeared to remove a story about the outrageous salaries and perks some Tweed educrats were receiving. The Gotham Schools blog reported this story and is worth checking out.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The SCI Investigation Of Teachers Is Almost Always One-Sided And Biased. Especially When The Principal Pushes It!

One of the more serious investigations conducted on teachers, short of police detectives coming to arrest you, is a group of ex-police detectives hired by the Special Commissioner of Investigations (SCI) to investigate teacher and administrator misconduct that could lead to criminal charges but in many cases don't. These investigators are usually brought in when an accusation is made of serious misconduct. These investigators have the power to arrest the school employee and in a few cases do just that. However, in many cases SCI is called in by the Principal, who may rightly or wrongly suspect that an employee committed serious misconduct. Unfortunately, the Principal can also use SCI's services when they target a teacher and falsely claim that teacher committed major misconduct.

One of the first questions SCI asks the Principal is how he/she feels about the employee. If the Principal does not like the employee, you better believe that SCI will go out of their way to substantiate even the most minor incident as a cause for termination. The SCI investigators assume teacher guilt and their job is to to collect enough evidence to substantiate their assumption. No matter how flimsy or ridiculous the evidence is.

Unlike the OSI investigation, the SCI investigators show up unannounced and try to trap the teacher in incriminating themselves. They can show up at the school or your home and they have the right to seize your home computer. The SCI investigators travel in twos and in suits and will ask seemingly innocent questions to the naive teacher and use whatever the teacher said against them. Before, SCI interviews the teacher, they have already have put their story together. Therefore, once the tenured teacher speaks to the SCI investigators it only helps SCI firm up their story against the teacher.

Important: "If two people in suits ask to speak to you, do not speak to them, Ask for their business card and contact your Chapter Leader who will arrange for a lawyer to represent you"!

Once SCI substantiates even the most frivolous charge, assuming the Principal wants you out, expect their recommendation to be termination and you will be removed to the Teacher Reassignment Center, commonly known as the "rubber room". In almost all cases the DOE will file 3020-a charges and in an unwritten agreement between Joel Klein and Richard Condon of SCI, no settlements can be made. Only teacher resignations or retirements are allowed. Therefore, the accused teacher will need to go through the entire 3020-a hearing that can take up to three years to complete between the time the teacher is removed until a decision is made by the arbitrator.
The good news is that the 3020-a arbitrators are aware of how SCI conducts their investigations and require DOE to provide witnesses and other evidence to determine the innocence or guilt of the teacher. The bad news, if SCI substantiates anything of a sexual nature, even if there wasn't anything sexual, the teacher could face a "probable cause" hearing and a 60 to 90 day unpaid suspension, without health or welfare benefits.

The SCI investigation is a serious thing and is usually unfair and biased against the teacher. However, in many cases they embellish, twist, pervert, or even invent incidents in their zeal to prove teacher guilt. This may lead to SCI's own undoing at the 3020-a hearing, where real evidence and witnesses are required. So if you are innocent, don't despair, the truth always comes out at the end.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Should We Care About The "Teaching Fellows" ATRs?

There seems to be some disagreement within the UFT if we should fight for the "Teaching Fellows" ATRs. If the 240 "Teaching Fellows" can't find jobs they can be fired in December by the DOE. With the budget problems, look for Tweed to terminate these "Teaching Fellows".

I personally disagree with my many blogger friends and I do not believe that our union should protect these "Teaching Fellows". In my opinion the union should first make sure all ATRs are placed in the classroom before we worry about people who are only not tenured but not even fully certified as a teacher! If the Union had any "guts" they would have challenged the DOE in both the media and the court of public opinion on how the DOE is dumping inexperienced teachers into their child's class. Further, the union could show how many of the small schools have few if any experienced teachers and many of the teachers in those schools are either "Teach For America" or "Teaching Fellows".

How does a staff of inexperienced teachers work with their students? Badly, for the most part. Our union needs to retain their experienced teachers not helping the DOE to recruit uneeded newbie teachers who aren't even fully certified.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Tale Of Two Teachers - Which One Would You Want For Your Child?

This is a true story. The names of the teachers, the principal, and the school have been changed to protect the reputation of the individuals involved.

There are two teachers, lets call them Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones both teaching at Dominica High School. Mr. Smith is a very popular teacher whose classes are always full and students are always trying to get into his class. Mr. Jones, on the other hand, has an half-empty classroom and students are always trying to transfer out. In fact it was because of Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones that the Principal of Dominica high school was forced to stop the teacher shopping by refusing all student requests for schedule changes.

What made Mr. Smith popular? Simple, he taught at the level of his students. Lessons were simple and explained. Demonstrations were applied to real world situations, and his lessons included applications with other subjects. Everybody who knows Mr. Smith knew that he really cared about his students. Mr. Jones, on the other hand, simply taught the subject and abbreviated many terms which were over the heads of his students. Mr. Jones only cared about his paycheck. The result was that Mr. Smith had twice the Regents passing percentage than Mr. Jones.

You would think that the Principal, Snidley Whiplash, would appreciate a teacher like Mr. Smith. Wrong! The Principal was a very insecure person and felt threatened by Mr. Smith and his questioning nature to some of he Principal's decisions that were not in the best interest of the school. Further, the Principal didn't care to get to know the students in the school and ignored many of the students' issues. The Principal targeted Mr. Smith time and again for "desperate treatment" compared to other teachers. Finally, the Principal was able to have Mr. Smith removed to the "rubber room" on frivolous charges resulting in the school's Regents passing grades to plummet by 50% in the next two years. Did the Principal care about the collateral damage he did to the students? Not one bit. As far as he was concerned, it was more important to remove an effective teacher on "trumped up charges" then what was good for the students. In time the Principal was removed from the school for "just cause" and forced to retire.

What happened to Mr. Jones? You guessed it, he continues to teach and fail the vast majority of his students who he despises and receive a minimal "S' observation from the AP while Mr. Smith the quality teacher every student wants, sits in the "rubber room" for years waiting for his 3020-a hearing to finish and be sent to another school as an ATR....and the DOE's "children last program" continues.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Slow Destruction Of Jamaica High School By The DOE

There was a report in the New York Post that showed how few students selected Jamaica High School as one of their 12 schools of choice. Only 1,433 students listed Jamaica High School compared to 12, 602 students who selected nearby Francis Lewis High School. This figure for Jamaica High School was the lowest for all traditional schools in New York City and was almost twice as low as the next lowest school, New Dorp High School in Staten Island with 2,619 selections.

It was only 20 years ago when Jamaica High School was a great school with a top-notch student population and staff. However, demographics changed and more lower income and working class families moved into the area, many of them immigrants, and the higher income families chose other schools for their children. However, in the early 2000's Jamaica High School was slowly improving, despite some poor administration, primarily because of an experienced teaching staff and a variety of programs. In fact, many students who had shunned Jamaica High School for other schools gave it a chance and the academics of the school was better than many of the schools in the Borough. However, in came Joel Klein and his non-education managers who started to close many of the failing high schools to the south of Jamaica High School. First it was Far Rockaway High School, next it was Springfield Gardens High School, then Franklin K. Lane. Next, Klein and company allowed many of the other high schools schools to exclude the level 1 8th graders, especially those with behavior and attendance problems. Further, the small schools did not have to take these "not ready for promotion 8th graders" as well as special education and ELL students for the first couple of years. The result? Many of these needy students were dumped into Jamaica High School which caused an increase in student discipline problems and a lowering of both student and staff morale. It didn't help that the school suffered from a weak administration and lacked a backbone when confronting Tweed. Further, to ensure the school's demise, Tweed dumped almost all the students that were released from jail into the school in the Fall of 2006, claiming the school had the space for them. You can imagine what happened next. Right, the school made the most dangerous schools State list. Coincidence? Yeah right. Finally, the final nail in the school's coffin was giving a small Gates school almost a third of the school's space.

While the school is still functioning and has the best damm chapter leader in the City, starving the school of good students and an ever-continuing exodus of experienced teachers is the beginning of the end for a school that should be one of the best in the city.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The DOE Layoff Dilemma

There are rumors going around the education world that New York City may be setting up a layoff list and that layoffs may occur as soon as the Spring semester. It is obvious that the first to be laid off would be school support staff. Teacher's aides, secretaries, school safety, etc. However, for laying off teachers, DOE's dilemma is how to protect the newbie teachers that Tweed has gone out of their way to hire. Unfortunately, for Kleinberg New York State Civil Service & Education Law is quite specific how tenured teachers are to be laid off and there is no way for the DOE to protect the newbies, no matter what they do. To the best of my knowledge the layoff procedure for teachers are as follows:

First, all nontenured teachers are all laid off. No exceptions are allowed.

Second, the most recently tenured teachers are next to be laid off. For example three year tenured teachers are first, then four year tenured teachers, etc, etc. Therefore, the longer the teacher is in the New York City Public School System, the more secure their job is.

It is my understanding that the teacher layoff procedure is not by subject license but by total seniority. Therefore, there could be an over abundance of gym teachers and a shortage of chemistry teachers once the layoffs are finished. That may be unfortunate but that is the way it works. Layoffs by total seniority in the New York City Public Schools.

As you can imagine, this will not go over well with Tweed as they want cheap, newbie teachers who don't question authority over experienced, highly-paid teachers who question idiotic administrative dictates. Therefore, what can we expect from Tweed before they must follow the layoff procedure.

ATRs & Reassigned Teachers: Look for Tweed to start a media blitz complaining how they waste money on ATRs while they must cut the budget. It matters little that the DOE caused this problem and can simply solve it by placing ATRs in the many vacancies that occur during the school year. Spearheading this media blitz will be the Daily News and New York Post with editorials and articles showing the cost of ATRs. As for the reassigned teachers, you can bet that the DOE will propose yet again to put them on unpaid suspension without health benefits. This of course will be rejected by the union as it implies that the accused teacher is presumed guilty and this is not only unfair to the teacher but is un-American and anti-democratic.

Shortage Areas: The DOE will whine about the lack of Math, Science, and Special Education teachers if they follow the layoff procedures. That is just too bad, if the DOE had treated their experienced teachers better, maybe there wouldn't be a shortage of these teachers in the first place.

Union Self-Interest: Klienberg will yell loud and long how the union is unwilling to share the pain by allowing Tweed to get rid of experienced teachers by eliminating tenure, supporting a vastly inferior Tier V pension, and pay more for our health benefits. Of course the same cannot be said at Tweed where the head count and payroll just keeps on increasing.

I can only hope that the Wall Street panic eases and layoffs are not necessary. However, if they are it should be very interesting how Tweed handles it as they are forced to layoff the newbie teachers they spent their time and effort to recruit on their "education on the cheap" policy and "children last" program.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Wanted: OSI Investigators To Send More Teachers To The Rubber Room

In today's Chief , the Civil Service Newspaper, there is an advertisement for investigators for the DOE's Office Of Special Investigations (OSI). I guess it is important to remove more teachers from the classroom. 800+ teachers are just not enough for Tweed. I have taken the liberty to slightly alter the DOE advertisement for OSI investigators below to what the DOE really wants.

Minimum Selection Criteria: To be an OSI investigator the successful applicants must be a high school graduate who has benefited from the DOE's "credit recovery system" and holds grudges against their teachers. Further, ex-law enforcement personnel that were accused of false arrest and fired are especially sort after and the DOE will waive the college credit requirements for these investigators. Documented bias against teachers are a plus.

Duties And Responsibilities: The successful applicant must be able to develop a case, based upon a lying student statement or a vindictive administrator's "false accusation" and not let the facts interfere with a good story that substantiates teacher misconduct. The OSI investigator must be able to twist, embellish, and pervert innocent teacher actions into serious misconduct that results in termination charges against the teacher. To be selected the potential OSI investigator must show the ability to lie about the teacher and sleep soundly at night. Most importantly, the applicant must show that all teachers investigated are presumed guilty while all administrators are presumed innocent. Finally, the OSI investigator must be able to ignore student or administrator inconsistencies that could hurt the case against the teacher and ask leading questions to solicit the proper responses. Most importantly, the successful applicant must show how well he or she disregards a teacher's statement and believes the student, regardless of the past history of lying and bad behavior.

Salary Requirements: The salary range is $54,267 - $70,395 and promotions are based upon how many teachers are found guilty and terminated. Reports that are accurate and finds the teacher at no or little fault are not encouraged and can lead to the investigator's dismissal.

DOE is an equal opportunity employer and the only requirements for the OSI investigator is a driver's license, fake or real, and a dedication to get the accused teacher terminated regardless if the charges are true or not.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The DOE's "Education On The Cheap" Just Results In Hurting The Students

Tweed continues to starve the classrooms with their budget cuts while spending ungodly sums of money for highly-paid consultants, non-education managers, and programs that are best sent to the junk heap. Even before the 7.5% additional budget cuts have been determined by Tweed, the New York City Public Schools already suffer from tight budgets, inexperienced teachers, limited parental involvement, and large class sizes.

Under Kleinberg, the New York City Public Schools have the largest class sizes in New York State, an over reliance of inexperienced newbie teachers due to the "fair student funding" formula that penalizes principals if they hire experienced teachers, and a "one-size-fits-all" learning program that should be sent to the junk heap. Yet Tweed's media puppets see no wrong with this deteriorating system of educational neglect where more and more experienced teachers are leaving the system, only to be replaced by poorly-trained newbie teacher wanna-bees but most never will achieve the status of being a quality teacher. They even ignore the declining SAT scores and flat NAEP results and trumpet the bogus State test scores that everybody knows have been dumbed-down.

Tweed has manufactured the ATR crises and the overcrowded "rubber rooms", most of them over 40 years of age,which has resulted in 2,200 teachers not in the classroom or a waste of $123 million dollars for this school year. Instead of having a hiring freeze to place these experienced teachers in the classroom, the ATR crises is expected to get worse as Kleinberg will not agree to this reasonable cost-cutting measure that would help the students. Further, the DOE has already reneged on reviewing the charges that land teachers in the "rubber room". My previous post mentioned the study done in one of these "rubber rooms" and the dismal results.

Tweed's "education on the cheap" program continues as the goal of the Kleinberg administration is to fire their way to a successful school district, which of course results in the opposite effect. Lower standards, poor morale, and even manipulation of statistics. The final product is that "children last" will continue until the Kleinberg administration is removed.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The UFT/DOE "Rubber Room" Agreement RevisitedThree Month Later

The UFT, with much fanfare and against the wishes of the vast majority of teachers in the "Teacher Reassignment Center" made an agreement with the DOE that expedites the 3020-a process by adding 8 new arbitrators and having them deal with the complicated teacher incompetence charges. This UFT/DOE agreement which the teachers in the "rubber room" had no input or say in, was to make the 3020-a process fairer and bring teachers back to the classroom sooner. However, the reality is quite different in the three months since this agreement was signed.

I wrote in a previous post how the UFT failed the "rubber room" teachers and that the DOE has, time and again, refused to keep their promises. Lets look at what the UFT/DOE agreement promised and see if they were kept.

  • The DOE would review charges against reassigned teachers and see if they could be sent back to school. One of the leasions at a borough reassignment center did a survey of all reassigned teachers under 3020-a charges as of June and found that not one teacher had their 3020-a charges reviewed and sent back to school during the summer. In the three months after the signing of the UFT/DOE agreement, no teacher under 3020-a charges had their charges dropped and sent back to their school, not one!
  • Principals are still reassigning teachers to the "rubber room" without telling them why they are being reassigned. Another clear violation of the agreement.
  • To my knowledge, no administrator has been brought up on charges for making "false allegations" against their teachers. I don't expect that to change despite the UFT/DOE agreement to do so.
The DOE needs to do what the rest of the State does. Only remove teachers that were arrested and subject to felony charges and those teachers that had mental breakdowns that affected their capacity to teach in the classroom. Presently, the DOE removes any teacher the school administration doesn't like. Whether it is salary, ageism, racism, or personality differences. The UFT should demand an independent investigation to determine if a teacher should be taken out of the classroom. Is it any wonder that the "rubber rooms" remain overcrowded? It is difficult to understand why the UFT allows teachers charged with minor infractions to sit side-by-side with accused felons in the overcrowded "rubber rooms". It is like putting a Jaywalker in jail and subject that person to the same charges as a serial killer. No right-thinking person believes the two should be subject to the same punishment. However, the DOE does by painting all reassigned teachers with the same broad brush. The pity of this is our union agrees to the DOE approach.

As for the ATRs? Randi Weingarten is now making the ATRs a priority item for negotiating with the DOE . This is scary. Based on how well she has negotiated for member rights in her previous negotiations with the DOE, if I was an ATR, I would be afraid, very afraid!