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.

39 comments:

proofoflife said...

This makes absolutely no sense. You are right about that Chaz. I am defending a teacher who received a "U" rating and was found guilty of corporal punishment. This particular teacher has been moved to another school. I don't understand this. If the teacher did "hit" the kid, why is he in another school? Is the "U" just to keep him at the same salary step? I don't get this. I will speak with him tomorrow to get the full story.

NYC Educator said...

Great point, Chaz.

Anonymous said...

I do not believe that giving out fines to reassigned teachers is the true objective of DoE. Reassignment is primarily used by the principals as an effective and clean tool to get rid of the teachers unwanted for whatever reason in his or her building. Just fetch a false allegation or build an imcompetence case, this teacher is not only out of his or her building, this teacher, eventually being an ATR after 3020a, is one big step closer to be removed from the payroll. These principals never truly believed that this teacher was the threat to the children in the first place, it makes sense to fine this teacher, then send back to the children. It is very clear to me that reassignment is the empowerment of the principal to fire any teacher from the building, then push this teacher to be an ATR , eventually move this teacher off the payroll.

Anonymous said...

It all comes down to power and money just like everything else. Power to hire and fire, price of two newbies for one senior teacher. Too many dirty enterprises operate under the banner "for the welfare of the childre".

Chaz said...

anon:

I agree with you that itis a way for Principals to get teachers off their payroll after 60 days. However, the fines are still part of the DOE method to get money out of these teachers.

Woodlass said...

Great that you wrote about this, Chaz. I heard about fines at an ICE meeting about 8 months ago.

Before that, I only had heard of a single teacher getting fined ($4,000), for a corporal incident. I thought at the time (about 5 years ago) that maybe a fine was the right kind of legal action, since it might remind people to keep their anger in check. But, that's for another discussion.

I'd really like to know how widespread this fining thing is. Can the DoE be FOILed on it?

I know the UFT has no interest in the numbers. They helped set up this game.

Anonymous said...

Prior to the Klein era, the number of teachers being reassigned was consistently around 100 people among all the 32 school districts plus citywide special ed. There was no outcry of abuse of children by teachers. For the rubber room to be filled with more than 800, the legitimate supplies have long been exhausted, principals have been getting very creative in trump up charges against teachers. DoE is actually operating an illegal enterprise which includes policy makers on the top, principals, osi, sci, and office of legal services. Welfare of the children and the truth are not something they look for, what they look for is the terrorization of school staff and pushing senior teachers out of the payroll.

Pissed Off said...

The only fines I have heard of have been for excessive absence. this makes no sense either as the teacher already lost pay.

The teachers in my school are fighting this because no one ever informed us of our rights under FMLA. They have a great a lawyer and have a good shot at winning. Teh lawyer website is listed on my blog under good reads if anyone needs it.

Anonymous said...

Don't be too carried away by hired lawyers. DoE controls the tempo, evidence collection, even the selection of arbitrators if it really wants to. The process of 3020a in NYC is stacked against teachers going through the grinder. Only about 3 percent teachers are eventually cleared considering how tainted and flimsy most charges are.

Chaz said...

Woodlass: Fining teachers are more common then you think. Many teachers are pushed by their NYSUT lawyers to pay the fines rather than prepare for their 3020-a hearings. It is easier for the NYSUT lawyer to settle a case then to prepare a defense.

Pissed Off:

You are right the UFT is part of this shakedown of the eacher. Without the UFT's/NUSUT participation the DOE would be forced to take the case to the full 3020-a hearing and the teacher is usually given a smaller fine than the DOE offers.

Anon: You are correct, it is highly unlikely that an arbitrator will find a teacher completely innocent, unless no witnesses appear. However, a simple Letter to the File is still considered guilty and the DOE knows this and tries to dump fines on the frightened teachers to get something more than the arbitrator would give the teacher.

Anonymous said...

This policy by the DOE has another name to go by, EXTORTION.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that teacher are abused because they allow themselves to be abused. Bloomberg will never employ same tactics on sanitation workers or policemen. won't be surprised to find that some malicious supervisors were ended up inside the garbage grinders.

Confucious said more than 2000 years ago that to study without thinking is a snare and to think without study is a danger.

Teachers are too smart to care about someone else, and too dumb to care about themselves.

Teachers are losers, They deserve what they get because they are stupid losers. no wonder that out of 80,000 teachers, two lawyers, K and W, sit on the top. Teachers are losers. Can't image two teachers will ever sit on the top seats of any Bar Association.

Anonymous said...

To the person who wrote that teachers are losers, etc.: why so nasty and insulting?

As for the rest:

The DoE, in collusion with the UFT, and in concert with so many other school districts, is out to dismantle and destroy the country's public schools.

In keeping with the coporate-capitalist-fascist model so powerful here, there is privatization, cronyism, terrible fear, and too often sadism involved.

Everything that has been written on this thread is only the tip of the iceberg.

Teachers have indeed been sources of money FOR the DoE, the City, and in some instances, NYS, for years. The exorbitant fees charged for licensure, fingerprinting and such are not charged by the neighboring Suffolk and Nassau districts. (Nassau State troopers charge $7.00 for fingerprinting.)

Since the little dictator bloomberg was empowered to destroy teachers, he and his minions have devised methods to extort huge sums of money from teachers and other school personnel.

Teachers ordered into the internment camps of rubber rooms are held up financially in many ways.

The demand for "fines" is one way and it most surely IS EXTORTION.

Another method that has not been mentioned here is SUSPENSION.

These ugly destructive creatures suspend teachers for up to a year, depriving them and their children of ALL HEALTH CARE (effective IMMEDIATELY, with NO NOTICE), and all money.

Salary steps and any bonuses are denied this way, as are pension funds. The damage can climb into the HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS, people.

Destroying teachers' health, families, ability to pay rent/mortgage or for food is part of this.

If a man is paying child support to a divorced wife, and is unable to do so because the DoE, in collusion with the UFT, has seen fit to destroy him, this might happen:

He may have his driver's license suspended.

He may lose his U.S. passport.

He may lose his teaching license.

He may be arrested and imprisoned.

FYI: New York State education law provides that a teacher may have his salary and health insurance stopped only if a teacher is convicted of a felony or pleads guilty to it. Yet Weingarten's UFT leadership has perfectly innocent teachers and their families deprived of all monies.

Life is good, no?

- a woman who has lived this hell

Anonymous said...

Overall, teachers are a group of fearful people. Showing fear is showing stupidity, and showing lack of resources or unability to work around or overcome adversities. Teachers who are coerced into settlement of taking fines or suspension are the people who are not smart enough to identify the true risk and reward. Their brains are cloudy and mushy. If most of the teachers decide to pay fines instead fighting false charges and abuses, they can not be a group of smart. Just the opposite, these lawyers are confident that they can lie and break any laws, and get away with it, as they know whom they are dealing with. A group of people with cloudy and fuzzy minds. Truth hurts, do you understand! stop putting your head in the sand, stop being a crying baby.

Chaz said...

Teachers are not losers. They just don't understand what it is to be reassigned. Further, we should not dismiss the DOE's intent to get rid of senior teachers by any means possible.

The reason I did not mention suspensions is that it takes an arbitrator to suspend a teacher.

Anonymous said...

OK, OK, teachers are not losers, they have been just losing in every recent contracts or any grievances they filed. As one of the UFT special rep who accompanied me to DoE Appeals and Reviews told me that teachers know nothing, they are ducks in the woods. This guy advocates for teachers every day and knows a thing or two about teachers.

Losers are the people who are fearful, who have trouble dealing with variables, who are short-sighted, who struggles with emotion, who are afraid of standing up for themselves.

Teachers are not losers, they are not losers. Then who are the winners, Teachers have not been the winners for long long time.

JUSTICE not "just us" said...

Chaz, everything you have written here is true. All the comments are true as well. My questions are what does this "sorry state of affairs" when it comes to working as a teacher in New York City say about the city of New York, its citizens and its future.

Chaz said...

Anon:

Teachers are losing because our union does not have the "guts" to stand up to the DOE. Our union allows the DOE to abuse the teachers, especially senior teachers.

Justice:

Thanks for the compliments. I see an increase in ATR's, a stablization of "rubber room" teachers at 800, and an increase in overcrowded classrooms in the near future.

Anonymous said...

UFT in essence reflects the spirit of its members. Why bother to do more than minimally necessary when Randi is certain to be re-elected anyway just like any manufacturer only make its product free of trouble to outlast the duration of its warrantee. It costs too much money and effort to better represent its members.

Well, Bloomberg has been unstoppable under the current circumstances, and UFT would not be unable to do much to help its members in their plights even it wanted to. UFT is in its last throes and its leadership is in self-preservation mode. I will not be surprised to see UFT disappear in 10 years.

Despite of union talk and union dues, I knew from the very beginning of my conflict with the principal that I was on my own.

Fidgety said...

Dear Chaz, I have met teachers who paid 10K just to avoid the 3020a process and return to teaching after 2 years in the rubber room. This money is automatically deducted from their paycheck on a schedule. After paying this amount, this teacher returned as an ATR who is abused daily. Thank you for bringing this practice to the forefront.

Chaz said...

Fidigity:

Glad you are paying attention to this disgusting practice of DOE extortion and abuse of reassigned teachers.

These reassigned teachers must stop taking deals and force the DOE to prove their charges. Usually, because the DOE and their investigative agencies distort, pervert, twist, and embellish the charges, they have a tough time proving them to an arbitrator.

Granted it is hard to be found innocent but a letter-to-the-file is much better than 10k, three courses and an admission of guilt.

Anonymous said...

Some of the rubber room inmates have no one else to blame but themselves. If you do believe that you have been framed, then go straight to hearing instead of letting a NYSUT lawyer entice you into a box of settlement. DoE lawyers only offer the terms they have trouble getting from an arbitrator. If everyone asks for a hearing, DoE will be forced to take a different strategy in running disciplinary trials. Too many settlements put undue burdens of heightened focus by DoE and psychological distress on the few teachers who do ask for hearings.

Chaz said...

It is up to the union to make sure that the teachers are well protected if they choose to go through with their hearing. That means that the arbitrators should be making fair decisions or risk removal from their post by the union.

Floraine Kay said...

Don't you see that in denying the opportunity for people to make amends for what they did by paying a fine -- in calling attention that money shouldn't absolve people of guilt -- inevitably it will make the public want the rules to be stricter? Suppose someone is insubordinate to an administrator -- that's technically 3020a material and believe me IT DOES HAPPEN THAT PEOPLE ARE PUT THROUGH THE PROCESS JUST FOR THAT. Shouldn't that person get the opportunity to make amends? Or, do you want them to be fired the way they would in the corporate world -- even if they have an excellent record in the classroom. They just happened to have a bad night and make a sarcastic remark to a principal. Trust me, I know what I'm talking about. And believe me, the person in question was glad to be able to pay a fine and move on.

Fidgety said...

Dear anonymous,
It is easy for you to blame the teacher for their own troubles since you have been misinformed about the reassignment process. For those who are not aware, not EVERY teacher is offered a 3020a hearing and if they push for one, they may also receive additional 'false' and 'trumped up' charges in order to qualify for the 3020a process. Some principals just want to reassign and torture without due process which may reflect poorly on their own performance. Not every allegation qualifies for 3020a hearings, some teachers are removed for minor accusations and ridiculous grudges held by their supervisors... Believe it or not, it is the truth.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is this, one thing that a midget such as Bloomie does know by intuition is whom he picked upon to bully with. Teachers are just the right group to pick upon.

Chaz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chaz said...

fk:

That thinking is why the DOE dumps 3020-a charges on teachers for minor infractions. Many teachers who go through the 3020-a process, who reject DOE shakedowns, tend to have much lower fines or just a LIF.

Further, by taking a fine, 5he teacher has pled guilty and is now a target for the rest of their carrer.

Floraine Kay said...

Chaz,

Sometimes you have to take a fine or face the possibility of termination. Some of us can't afford that. And who is to say what is right in some cases: I gave you a scenario in which the teacher WAS INSUBORDINATE. The odds were good, even if the teacher hadn't settled, a fine would've been the penalty (at least). Now, technically, you can FIRE someone for being insubordinate. Do you want the DOE NOT TO OFFER A MEDIATED PUNISHMENT WHICH ALLOWS SOMEONE GUILTY OF NOT HURTING THE KIDS BUT DOING SOMETHING WRONG TO CONTINUE TEACHING? Look, I shopped the detailed situation of this case to several people in and outside of the DOE and some people said they would have fired the person. To some, disrespecting your boss is a very big deal. There is no hard and fast rule about what penalty you should get. So, the offer of a fine was a lesser punishment than being fired, while still giving the person a punishment. In this case, the person would be marked no matter what because the person WAS GUILTY. It was just not a crime against kids.

People don't realize how lucky we are to be offered the opportunity to be fined. If you work for Horace Mann and you tell off the headmaster he can have you thrown out and blacklisted from the private schools across the country. There is no process for compromise of any kind.

Sometimes a person DESERVES some kind of punishment, but not termination. The fine allows you this opportunity.

Or, would you have fired someone who told off his/her boss, once, at the end of the day which ended a long week in which the person had worked without breaks and tirelessly to see to it the kids passed a major exam? The fine allowed the teacher and the principal to save face.

Do you see my point?

Floraine Kay said...

Chaz,

There are no written rules about what is a "minor" or "major" infraction. Everything is relative. I have made mistakes which some people would've started the 3020a process on me for -- technical errors about paperwork. Some people, thankfully, have allowed me to be human. But, there is NO RULE, NO LAW and NO GUARANTEE that someone will be fair or kind. And that's true anywhere.

Like I said in the other scenario, some people look at yelling at your boss as blasphemy, others think everyone is entitled to let off steam once in a 16 year career. There's no law saying that, however. So, beware. If you are insubordinate to the wrong person, you can be fired.

If you were in that situation, you'd much rather be offered a fine. And if you were fined after the 3020a process it WOULD BE DESERVING. Everyone has to pay for doing something wrong in some way. That's just fair. What's unfair in some way is how often people are let slide when there are people sitting in the rubber room for those same actions.

I hate to say it, but I have to be honest. A colleague of mine was humiliated by another colleague. That is "conduct unbecoming a teacher" and yes, you can be 3020a'd for that. And no one came to my colleague's defense (he's at a different school). The principal didn't say a word. Is that right? I'd say the person who humiliated a perfectly fine teacher in front of students and other colleagues can fork over 5000 in the next year.

Call me draconian.

Chaz said...

I see your point and yes I understand that some cases it is best to take a fine. However, in many cases an otherwise innocent teacher who is set up by the Principal is pushed to take a fine rather than face the 3020-a hearing. According to you the teacher should take the fine. That is what the DOE wants!and just encourages the DOE to file more 3020-a charges, Hence the 800+ rubber room teachers.

Anonymous said...

Chaz is correct: TAGNYC, who represents reassigned teachers, recommends having an open hearing and Randi Weingarten also suggested the arbitrators usually award lower penalties then the DOE.

Of course there are always exceptions.

Anonymous said...

NYSUT lawyer, DoE and DOE lawyers stand to gain when a case is settled without a hearing. 1)less time and effort spent on the case; 2)no expenses paid to the arbitrator from either UFT and DoE; 3)no appeals or any other recourse with a settlement.

No one really cares about absolute truth, or stiffer fines or suspension meted out to a teacher, since termination never gets involved in this situation. And both lawyers know it is just a game , less serious one compared to cases with possible results of 10 years jail time, It is just a job or a game they have to play to earn a living.

It is built into the process for someone who settles to get a lousy deal.

It is just sad that too many teachers give up and settle like a little puppy running away with its tail between its legs.

Floraine Kay said...

Of course, if someone believes he or she is COMPLETELY innocent he or she should never give up.

I hate to say it: HARDLY ANYONE IS COMPLETELY INNOCENT. It's not that you necessarily did what they are accusing you of doing. But, something can ALMOST ALWAYS BE FOUND. Did you add something up incorrectly on paperwork? Is there a student who thinks you are unfair? Did you ever get angry at a colleague who accused you of doing something you didn't do and yell at him? (Not allowed: conduct unbecoming a teacher.) Everyone has made mistakes. Some people get caught, some don't. And like I said earlier, what is a serious mistake and what isn't is relative. Today I made another mistake related to going through chain of command. For years, we just had the teachers and the principal at Brooklyn Comprehensive. Our longstanding principal was a mensch, a goddess, a great leader and an angel. She looked at all of us as learning and working in the best interests of the kids. She followed her own ethics which were higher than the DOE's, by far. Then everything changed with our last principal. She was a by the book woman, and to be fair, a brand new principal. Under that woman my actions would've resulted in: 3020a. At this school, where, thankfully, I am working for a mensch, I hear "you're learning." I'm a lucky kid.

There are people, however, who, as in a real court, are best off plea bargaining. And, I'm sorry: from my experience, the fines come in 5,000, 7,500 and 10,000 denominations with a few larger and nothing smaller. You get what you get what you get no matter when you get it. There are set prices that the DOE demands for certain kinds of offenses. So, you can fight it out for months to shave off maybe 1,000 -- but I doubt it. OR YOU CAN GO BACK TO WORK SOONER.

I think I would enjoy going back to work sooner. If other people prefer to languish in the twillight zone of the Rubber Room, be my guest. If you know you did something and you know you are going to get punished in some way, you ARE LUCKY to have an option to get out earlier.

Again, I'm not talking about the innocent. I'm talking about the guilty.

And you know, if our UFT Pres advises people who are guilty (which is implied in her blanket advice) that they should haggle for the easiest punishment, she's advising people to be cowards. She also isn't looking closely at the details -- the individual cases. How many people who waited got a better deal -- how much did they save -- 500 dollars? How many months were they out of school? How much stress did they incurr in those extra months? How much new medicine did they have to buy? How much did they overeat or god forbid, drink?

I don't think anyone is thinking about the actual experience the person goes through when they recommend sticking it out. Sure, it sounds grand. But, if you are going to be fined and you know you are not absolutely 100 percent blameless in your life, it makes no sense to waste your life away and be demoralized. Not for 500 or 1000 dollars. In my view, not for a million.

To me, you make your mistake, you take your lumps and you move on. Arguing over the price is, what my students call, "bad business." It's also penny-wise and life foolish. No time at work can be worse than a day in a room filled with people who don't know their fate. Ask Jean Paul Sartre - read "No Exit."

Pissed Off said...

Chaz--I first agreed 100% with you but by talking to soem people who have paid the fine, I think they were glad to pay it and get on with their lives.

maybe the fine is not right for some, but others who have been affected by it, are glad that it is the lesser of two punishments.

Floraine Kay said...

As for the "little puppy with tail running between its legs" remark: spend a few days in the Rubber Room. See how you like it. All the while, I want you to think about the fact that
1) you could lose your job
2) you have no other skills except those related to teaching
3) you are surrounded by people who are in the same place
4) some of the people in the room are actually crazy
5) there is a guard who writes down what you do, when you go to the bathroom, etc. Use a curseword -- you can get written up.
6) Don't take that chair -- that's X's chair. X has been in the Rubber Room for over 5 years. He is very posessive of that chair.
7) Don't talk too loud. Y doesn't like it. Y is a third time visitor to the Room.
8) The girl next to you can't stop crying.
9) There aren't enough windows.
10) It's too hot.
11) It's too cold.
12) Nobody cares if you are hot or cold.
13) People treat you like a criminal in the DOE. If your room is in a building with other kinds of folks, they have been told you are a criminal. They don't talk to you.
14) Are you THAT GOOD a teacher?
15) How old are you? Are you over 40? It's hard to switch professions once you cross 40.
16) If you get a job at a Not-for-profit, it will start at half your salary. Can you live on that?
17) Your cat needs to go to the vet. You love this cat as much as you love life.
18) Don't like cats: your child needs a medicine not covered by your insurance. Sure, you will argue with them, but RIGHT NOW you need to buy it because he can't breathe without it.
19) This anxiety is making it hard to sleep. You need anti-anxiety meds.
20) THis anxiety is making you sleep all the time. You need friends to help you get out of bed.
21) You have no family who will loan you money if you need it. All your friends are broke. You have very little money saved because you spent an enormous amount of money helping your parents last year.
22) In essence, if you lose this job, you and your pets are either
a) moving into an apartment share at 40plus years of age.
b) moving into your parents' livingroom. Should I mention that your parents suffer from mental illness which is why it cost so much to help them with the many problems they cause themselves.
c) becoming homeless.
and
d) What are you going to do to make a living?

Some people call that scared. Some people call that facing reality and your responsibilities.

Try it. Volunteer some time at your local Rubber Room.

Floraine Kay said...

How can someone afraid to put his/her name on his/her opinions criticize someone who wants to get out of a terrible situation so he/she can be a responsible citizen again?

Anonymous said...

I know a lot about the rubber rooms as I am in one now.

DoE's "Divide and conquer" works because DoE divides us by exploring our minor individual interests, then conquer us by undermining our core and common cause.

DoE's main goal is to pacify the staff and eventually to remove experienced teachers from the payroll by 25/55 buyout, by crowding the rubber rooms, by keeping a pool of ATR, and by whatever way they can think of.

Chaz said...

Okay: I get the point. Fines for some people are best for them. However, I should point out that according to a NSULT attorney who usually does not recommend that her members take a settlement,the reason she does not recommend taking a deal is that you admit guilt and it will be used against you if you ever face 3020-a charges again. This will always lewd to termination.