Friday, November 28, 2008

Chapter Leaders Who Are Targeted By Principals Should Have An Independent Investigation To Determine If Their Removal From The School Is Required

Being a Chapter Leader (CL) at a school is probably the toughest job a teacher can have and the good ones spend more time preforming their duties then the time allocated by the contract. It is very common for CLs to spend an hour or more beyond the school day taking care of business. This does not include disciplinary hearings, grievances, school committees and union meetings. The election of CLs is the last democratic process in the UFT, where all other union leaders (except the President) are appointed by the head of the union. The CLs are elected by the direct vote of the school staff. Therefore, the CL is usually the liaison between the Principal and the school staff. Unfortunately, many of the CLs become targets for the Principal, especially the more effective CLs.

Time and again I hear stories of CLs confronting the Principal with issues and being retaliated against by being harassed, investigated, and in some cases removed from the school. This creates a chilling effect not only at the school but in other schools where both the Principals and CLs know how the game is played. Is it any wonder that in some schools nobody wants the CL position? Further, especially in the elementary schools, the CL seems to be closer to the administration then the staff that they are supposed to represent. In some schools the CL position makes the teacher a target and every year a new CL must be voted on as the previous CL either quits, transfers, or is removed from the school. Being a CL is probably a thankless job except for those teachers who want to move into high union positions and the rest of the CLs, unless they kiss the Principal's butt, are the real heroes of the union. Inadequate compensation, long hours, and a possible target for insecure Principals.

To ensure that Principals no longer retaliate against the CL I propose the following investigative process. First, any CL being investigates will have a real independent investigation. No, not the unfair and biased investigations by OSI or SCI. This special investigator will be selected by both the union and the DOE and this person will hold an in-house interview with all parties involved. including the CL and make a truly independent judgement to determine if the CL gets a LIF or is removed from the school. This will stop Principal harassment and retaliation of CLs. Second, the same investigator can be used to determine if the administrator should be penalized for unprofessional actions against the CL, including a LIF and removal. Finally, the independent investigator can be used as a witness for and against the CL in disciplinary hearings, including 3020-a proceedings.
While all teachers should have such protections, a good start would be with the CL and this protection should be included in any new contracts signed by the UFT.

P.S. I am not a Chapter Leader but I have seen and heard enough of these incidents that a real investigative process is necessary for them.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The ATR Agreement, The Open Market Transfer System, & The Appointed Teacher

There is some talk about the provisional nature of the ATR Agreement and it is a cause for concern. Just to clarify how it works. A Principal from school B needs to pick up an ATR with a Chemistry license. For the first year the ATR is a provisional and if either the Principal or ATR believes that the fit is not good, the ATR is released from school B and the Principal does not receive the $22,500 bonus for the ATR. I can see where those "Leadership Academy" Principals who hire only newbie teachers could abuse the process by releasing ATRs each school year and pick up others for the next school year, only costing the Principal the $45,000 for a newbie teacher for each ATR. However, I believe this will be an uncommon occurrence (I hope) and most Principals will want an experienced teacher running their classrooms.

On the other hand, look for the ATRs to dominate the "Open Market Transfer System". Since Principals can pick up an ATR for a newbie teacher salary, why would a Principal select a $85,000 per year appointed teacher when they can get an equally experienced ATR for $45,000 per year? It is interesting how quiet Leo Casey of Edwize has been on how many senior appointed teachers received jobs through the "Open Market Transfer System" last year and I don't expect him to give us those statistics because of the obvious results, few senior teachers were moved. With the ATR agreement look for little if any senior appointed teachers to be successful using the "Open Market Transfer System" since the ATRs are much cheaper.

While the ATR Agreement is a victory for the union and a defeat for the DOE it will also restrict any chance of appointed senior teachers from using the "Open Market Transfer System" to change schools.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The ATR Agreement Shows That The DOE Lost The Tenure War - For Now

The Memorandum of Agreement between the DOE and UFT appears to be a rare win as the DOE has apparently conceded defeat and will encourage Principals to hire ATRs for any vacancies starting immediately. This agreement puts to an end, at least temporarily, the Kleinberg attack on tenure. The financial crises has forced the DOE to cry uncle and put to an end the ATR crises. According to the New York Times, the ATRs would cost $155 million dollars for the next three years. Money that the DOE does not have. Therefore, Tweed has slowly realized that continuing the insane policy of encouraging Principals to hire newbie teachers while making experienced teachers ATRs were not good for the budget in a time of need. An example of how it will work is discussed below.

A vacancy opens in School A for a middle school Math teacher. The Principal will have a list of ATRs with a middle school Math license and interview them to see if they fit the school culture. The selected ATR, who makes $85,000 will only have $45,000 charged to the school, or the salary of a newbie teacher. To further encourage the principal to hire the ATR, the DOE will not only pick up the $40,000 difference in salary but give school A $22,500 dollar one-shot fee, or half a newbie teacher salary for picking up the ATR. Tweed will continue to pay the difference in the ATR salary for the first eight years, or until the the fictitious newbie teacher reaches step 8b. How could any Principal not take advantage of this windfall and getting an experienced teacher in the process?

Finally, this Agreement sunsets on November 16, 2010 and the November date ensures that Principals do not hide vacancies at the beginning of the school year.

Reading the Agreement I cannot find any negatives in it. However, I can't guarantee that there are not any hidden understanding between the two parties and based on past negotiations I will remain suspicious. For now it really appears to be a total win for the union and therefore a win for the children and parents who will once again have experienced quality teachers back into the classroom. .

Saturday, November 15, 2008

How Principals Mainipulate The Phony High School Report Card Grades

The DOE continues to waste precious funds on their ridiculous "Accountability Program". According to the Daily News, the "Accountability Program" wastes $352.8 million dollars. Money that could be better used to reduce classroom overcrowding, increase classroom supplies, and bring better technology for the classroom. Part of the "Accountability Program" are those phony school report cards that do not reflect the real conditions of a school. Tweed spends almost $3 million dollars annually on these phony report cards. In this post I will concentrate how high school Principals can "play the system" and improve their school's grade.

An example of how it works. A principal can improve their school's graduation rate by simply changing grades of seniors, against the teachers' wishes or knowledge, to push them out of the school. Pissed off mentioned how her ex-Principal, Suit, secretly passed 300 Math students to get his pensionable bonus and improve the school report card. Unfortunately, high school Principals know how the game works to improve their school's report card and do what is necessary to keep their job.

The most common ploy the high school principals use is to artificially increase the school's graduation rate. This can be done by two methods. The first method (motioned previously) is for the Principal to change student grades, without teacher approval or knowledge, and graduate them. Unfortunately, what Suit did is probably quite common throughout the school system. The other way is to push otherwise failing students into the "credit recovery program" that can give them full classroom credit by simply writing an essay or two. Imagine, a student fails to show up all year or sleeps in the class and can get credit for that class by doing a simply project or two! Finally, many devious Principals have instructed their staff not to report incidents to outside authorities. One high school Principal in particular has been cited by Tweed and NYPD about the failure to report incidents. However, the Principal's failure to report incidents in the school worked to the school's advantage when it came to the school's report card. Go figure.

It is a pity that real accountability is not practiced at the schools or at Tweed where non-educators continue to waste money on their pet projects. "Children Last" continues.

update: please list all the tricks that principals use to raise their school's grades other than real progress. Pissed off already commented on one.

Monday, November 10, 2008

How The DOE Explots Frightened Reassigned Teachers By Threatening Them With Termination

As many of you know there are over 800 teachers that have been reassigned from their classroom duties. Most of them are assigned to the Teacher Reassignment Centers, commonly known as "rubber rooms". These reassigned teachers are removed from the classroom because of arrests, alleged misconduct, or accused incompetence, including time & attendance issues. The DOE claims that the teacher's removal from the classroom is required because they are a " threat to the children" and Tweed begins 3020-a proceedings to terminate the teacher. However, increasingly the DOE will truncate the termination process if the teacher is willing to pay Tweed a significant monetary fine.

Yes, you read this right. Many teachers can magically be sent back to the classroom and be no longer a "threat to the children" simply by paying the DOE a monetary fine. Is this because the teacher is really not a" threat to the children"? Or is it because the DOE knows that only about 10% of the teachers actually get terminated by the 3020-a arbitrators? Regardless of the reason, the DOE is exploiting reassigned teachers by obtaining fines of $5,000, $10,000, $20,000 dollars and more from frightened teachers before moving them back into the classroom. The DOE exploitation of reassigned teachers is disgusting and hypocritical. If a teacher is really a "threat to the children" the DOE should never be making deals with the teacher. On the other hand, if the DOE is making deals with a teacher, that teacher should never have been removed from the classroom in the first place!

It is very obvious to the educated observer that the DOE exploitation of reassigned teachers by charging them significant fines to stop their 3020-a charges is repulsive and brings into question why was the teacher removed in the first place? If the teacher warrants removal, the DOE should not be making settlements. Either a teacher is a "threat to the children" or they are not. Giving Tweed a significant monetary fine should not determine if the teacher is a "threat to the children". To me this is simply a cynical ploy by the DOE to exploit reassigned teacher fears by getting a significant monetary fine rather than have the teacher face the 3020-a hearing process.

Only in the bizarre world of Tweed can a teacher no longer be a "threat to the children" by simply paying DOE a monetary fine. "Children last" continues.

Friday, November 07, 2008

A Message To Barak Obama - Don't Make That Phony Education Reformer, Joel Klein, Your Secretary Of Education

News reports have said that New York City Chancellor, Joel Klein, is on the short list for Secretary of Education. This is a terrible choice since Joel Klein has shown that his tenure as the Chancellor of the New York City Public Schools have been a disaster for the students, parents, and teachers of the school system.

Under Chancellor Klein's phony school reforms the New York City Public Schools have seen little change in student achievement when the gold standard of testing, the NAEP is used. In addition, there has been a decline in SAT scores at the High School level and continued overcrowding of classrooms despite State mandates to reduce class size.. Furthermore, parent involvement in the process is almost non-existent as Klein has made parent organizations impotent. Finally, Joel Klein's deliberate policy of encouraging temporary and inexperienced teachers to be hired by Principals under the "fair student funding" formula has resulted in 1400 ATRs, mostly veteran teachers, are wasted on non-classroom duties, while the students must be taught by teachers that have not mastered either the classroom management or the curriculum.

In Joel Klein's administration there are only two long-term educators out of a staff of 20 that surrounds him. Furthermore, he has developed a "leadership Academy" for Principals and many of them get schools with little or no classroom experience. Moreover, under Joel Klein's leadership we have seen the destruction of the large traditional academic schools, with a variety of programs and activities into small and charter schools, with limited programs and high teacher turnover.

In conclusion, Barak Obama please do not select a non-educator like Joel Klein as your Secretary of State. He has demonstrated that he does not respect teachers, ignores parent organizations, and has not shown improvement in student achievement, while maintaining overcrowded classrooms during his tenure as Chancellor of thew New York City Public Schools.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Why Mayoral Control Is Bad For NYC Public Schools

There is a battle going on whether Mayoral control should continue as is or be modified. Mayor Micheal Bloomberg wants to keep total control while his critics want some changes according to the Daily News. To me changes to Mayoral control is a no-brainer. Under Bloomberg, Mayoral control has been a disaster for the NYC Public Schools. Flat test scores, overcrowded classrooms, no parental involvement, poor teacher morale, and an ever increasing bloated Central Bureaucracy at Tweed. However, Randi Weingarten, who made a big mistake not opposing Mayoral control in the first place, has seemed very reluctant to oppose a continuation of Mayoral control. Therefore, it is time to remind everybody who cares about NYC Public School education why Mayoral control has been bad for the school system.

  • Testing under the NAEP and SAT scores have remained flat or drifted downward since the beginning of the Bloomberg Administration. No "smoke and mirrors" can hide that fact.
  • The elimination of Parent Organizations that had real input in how their schools are run.
  • Tweed has imposed their every-changing "flavor of the day" teaching method on the classroom teacher which results in poor teacher morale and a "one-size-fits-all" mentality that is not conducive to individual student learning.
  • Overcrowded classrooms and many of them in so-called temporary trailers. See the Daily News article at one public school.
  • The transparent Kleinberg policy of favoring the hiring of "newbie teachers" by using the "fair student funding" formula and encouraging principals to hire teachers from alternate certification programs.
  • The equally transparent policy of favoring recruitment over retention of teachers, which the UFT leaders has bought into to the shame of our union.
  • The ever-increasing ATR problem that has risen to 1400 this year. This problem is a cynical move by Tweed to get rid of senior teachers by any means possible.
  • The overcrowded "rubber rooms" with 800+ teachers, many of them removed from the schools based upon a Principal's dislike of the teacher.
  • The selection of unqualified Principals to run schools when they have little or no experience in the classroom.
  • The doubling of teachers leaving the system in 2007. This is before the 25/55 pension system was in effect. I wonder what it is for 2008 with 25/55 in effect?
Finally, it is no secret that the bureaucracy at Tweed has increased significantly since Bloomberg took over the school system. In addition, the no-bid consultant contracts and high priced non-educators are strangling school budgets as money for the classroom is diverted to Tweed at the expense of the students. I won't even get into the "Charter/Small schools" that cost money and hurt the more traditional schools in the system.

Why is Mayoral control bad for the NYC Public Schools under Bloomberg? Just take your pick of the items listed above.

Tweed's "children last" and "education on the cheap" continues.