Saturday, December 27, 2008

What I Would Like The Union To Work On For 2009

We all have New Year's resolutions. Some are kept, some are wishful thinking. Here are the ones I would like the union to try to keep. I have found that our current union leaders have been unresponsive to the rank and file and have abandoned the reassigned teacher. Further, their lack of democratic transparency has resulted in secret agreements with the DOE that either had no input from or went against the wishes of the teachers affected by the agreement. Examples of this are the 2005 contract, the rubber room and ATR agreements. However, here is what I would like the union to do for the teachers in 2009.
  • A new contract that have no givebacks whatsoever. Even if it a two-year 4% first year and 0% second year raise. Under no circumstances, no pension or health benefit givebacks!
  • Any negotiated agreement that must include teachers affected by the negotiations.
  • An agreement that all ATRs will be placed in their subject area before a Principal can hire a new teacher.
  • Allow classroom teachers to determine the best method to teach their students. " Let teachers teach".
  • Allow teacher discretion on how to discipline disruptive students without the threat of the teacher being removed. In other words. Give back teacher rights in the Chancellor's Regulations.
  • Have an independent investigative process for Chapter Leaders and Administrator accusations that are paid for by both sides. Not the unfair and biased OSI and SCI investigations that assume teacher guilt and administrator innocence. Teacher removals should also be determined by this same investigative process.
  • Limit SCI investigations to felony issues such as stealing of funds and serious sexual misconduct.
  • Lower class sizes to the average in the rest of New York State.
  • Give us back the right to grieve Letters To The File.
The bottom line is it is time for the union to fight for our due process rights and a safe environment in the classroom for the teacher.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Betsy Combier Is A Real Heroine Who Helps Reassigned Teachers In Their 3020-a Hearings

Many of the UFT officials, especially, the "Unity Faction", has been slammed in my posts and rightly so. Starting with the terrible 2005 contract, the ATR mess, and the terrible morale in the classrooms. However, I will point out one heroine who works long hours in support of teachers. Her name is Betsy Combier.

Betsy Combier who is a parent advocate became involved in the reassigned teacher plight and vowed to help any teacher as they prepared for their 3020-a hearing. Betsy has attended many of the 3020-a hearings as a guest of the teacher and her valuable insight in the 3020-a process is important for any teacher facing their hearings. By attending the teacher 3020-a hearings she provides the teacher and his/her lawyer an extra set of eyes and ears and helps them spot discrepancies in the DOE testimony. She is quite friendly with many of the arbitrators and can help the teacher and lawyer in their argument in front of these arbitrators. Further, she is a sympathetic voice to traumatized teachers, especially, in the Brooklyn and Manhattan TRCs, where she is the authorized UFT representative from headquarters.

Betsy Combier spends the majority of her day in teacher 3020-a hearings. To Betsy's credit she does what she is asked by the union and still has time to help the reassigned teachers at their 3020-a hearings. It is a pity that a union that has abandoned it's reassigned teachers has a jewel in their ranks at headquarters who have these teachers' trust and does not support her wonderful work.

In my book Betsy Combier is a real heroine and should be recognized as such by our union leaders.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

How The UFT Is Abadoning Their Teachers To The Abusive DOE Termination Process

I have previously commented on how the UFT has allowed their teachers to be subject to ridiculous misconduct and incompetence charges by sleazy administrators . Further, the union has allowed the DOE to initiate biased and unfair investigations by calling on OSI or SCI investigators that presume teacher guilt (Here). The result is teacher fines, suspension, resignation, and termination. What follows are two stories about how the UFT abandoned their duties to protect these two teachers. Obviously, the names of the two teachers and the individuals involved are not named.

Case #1: Untenured Chapter Leader Targeted By Her Principal:

This untenured teacher reluctantly had taken the Chapter Leader's position after no other teacher in her school would take it. The previous two Chapter Leaders were targeted by the school's "Leadership Academy Principal" and were no longer in the school (they lasted one year each). The only reason this untenured teacher took the position was that the union rep told her that they would protect her from any Principal actions. How hollow that assurance was. The teacher had worked with a group of her students as an advisor, as is common in small schools and was falsely accused of sexual misconduct. The Principal called in SCI and as usual they found that 2 + 2 = 6 and substantiated the accusation without any witnesses and despite the accusation being denied by all parties involved. At this point you would expect our union to come to her rescue and point out to the DOE the absurdity of the investigation and that the teacher should be given a chance to prove herself in another school, away from this vindictive Principal. However, despite Randi's assurances the union allowed the teacher to be terminated and did not file a PERB complaint of improper practice.

Case #2: Teacher Resigns After Union Tells Him To Resign:

A 20-year teacher with satisfactory ratings was in a school when a new Principal arrived. The Principal did not like the teacher and "U" rated him for the year. After taking PIP and found to be a good teacher, he was still "U" rated for his second year. At the beginning of this school year he was forced to take the DOE supported and fraudulent PIP+ and was given a "U" observation. The Principal of the school with the support of the Chapter Leader and District Rep urged the teacher to resign. If the teacher would resign, the teacher would have his "U" ratings changed to "S" and he could get paid until the end of the school year. Otherwise, they would file 3020-a charges for incompetence and go after both his City and State license. Without getting proper advice from the union and pressured to take the deal he signed the resignation papers under duress. Only a week later when he talked to a knowledgeable teacher did he realize that he was railroaded by both the DOE and the UFT in resigning when he should have fought the incompetence charges at the 3020-a hearing.

Shame on the UFT for not only abandoning their teachers but aiding and abetting the DOE in terminating teachers.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Santa Claus, The DOE, And The 3020-a Hearing

Have you wondered what would happen if Santa Claus was a teacher in today's DOE? Well it is quite obvious that poor old Santa Claus would never survive the classroom and the allegations that go with it.

Let's take a peek at Santa Claus during his 3020-a hearing.

The DOE lawyer asks Santa Claus why he kept telling the girls in the class that they are Hoe's? Santa Claus responds by saying "I said Ho, Ho, Ho. Not that they are Hoes". The DOE lawyer states that Hoe and Ho are the same and the girls complained that they believed he was calling them Hoes. The DOE lawyer then brings up why did he threaten them with coal in their stockings if they didn't act nice? Santa Claus responds: "That is my way to encourage them to do the right things in life". The DOE lawyer states that sounds like you are scaring them. Santa Claus responds. "I was trying to get them to be good". The DOE lawyer then ask haven't you asked the students to sit on your lap? Santa Claus responds. "Yes". The DOE lawyer then asks didn't you tell the children that you will break into their house when they are sleeping? Santa Claus responds. "Yes, but only on Christmas Eve". So you admit to threatening them with breaking and entering into their homes? Santa Claus responds. "I guess so". Finally, is it true that you tried to bribe the children with presents if they sat on your lap?
Santa Claus responds. "I was not trying to bribe them".

In his closing statement the DOE lawyer states the following. The DOE has proved his case that Santa Claus is guilty of the following offenses.
  1. Sexual misconduct of a verbal nature in calling the girls Hoes.
  2. Sexual misconduct of a physical nature by forcing the children to sit on his lap.
  3. Corporal Punishment by threatening them with a lump of coal in their stockings,
  4. Verbal Abuse by threatening them with no presents for being naughty.
  5. Felony criminal charge of "breaking & entering" and "bribing" the children.
Since Santa Claus was already off the payroll because of "probable cause". Thanks to the 2005 contract. He was already broke and without health benefits. Unfortunately, the Arbitrator believed that the DOE lawyer proved his case and terminated poor old Santa Claus. Even old St. Nick could not survive in the NYC classroom.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

According To The DOE The Sports Mascots Would Be Subject To An SCI Investigaton & Termination Because They Hug People

I previously wrote a serious article on how Tweed's bizarre policy on hugs and drugs made little or no sense. However, I decided to write a tongue in cheek story about what would happen to the mascots if they were teachers in the NYC school system. In the perverted world of the DOE the sports mascots like the Phillie Fanatic and yes, even Mr. Met would be considered sex offenders since they love hugging people. Even Barney, the purple dinosaur would fall into the DOE's sex offender category. None of these mascots would ever survive in Tweed's teaching world as they would be removed from the classroom for improper physical contact under section A-420 of the Chancellor's regulations and subject to a SCI investigation. I can just imagine what it would be like for the Phillie Fanatic as he goes through his 3020-a hearing.

Phillie Fanatic's 3020-a hearing: Mr Fanatic, the DOE lawyer said, the SCI report found that you engaged in sexual misconduct and corporal punishment with numerous students and staff, you are even accused of improper actions by your administrators. The SCI report specifically states that you hug people is this correct. Mr. Fanatic: Yes, I do hug people, I do it for fun and entertainment. I do it to make people laugh. So you do admit to improper hugging? I guess so. Is it true that you have on occasion touched a person's backside? Yes. Is it true that you sometimes shove or trip people for laughs? Yes. Further, you are known t0 stick out your tongue to administrators and not follow their direction. Yes, that is correct.

To the arbitrator: I hereby have proved the DOE's case that Mr. Fanatic has engaged in sexual misconduct, corporal punishment, and insubordination to his administrators. Therefore, I recommend that the Phillie Fanatic be terminated from employment at the DOE. The arbitrator terminates the Phillie Fanatic.

Barney, the Purple Dinosaur's 3020-a hearing: Mr. Dinosaur, the SCI report states that you have a habit of hugging students and propositioning them by singing love songs about you and them in the classroom. How do you respond to these accusations? Mr. Dinosaur: I do hug students because they like the affection and it shows that people care about them. So you admit to improper hugging? I guess so but it is not improper. Mr. Dinosaur how about the love songs you sing to your students, like "I love you and you love me". Why are you sexually soliciting these students? It's just a song that shows I care, there is nothing sexual about it. So you admit to singing love songs to the students? Yes, I do sing songs to them.

To the arbitrator: I hereby request that you terminate Barney, the Purple Dinosaur for sexually hugging and propositioning the students. You have heard that Mr. Dinosaur admits to the charges and should be terminated from DOE employment. The arbitrator terminates Barney, the Purple Dinosaur.

Note: Both the Phillie Fanatic and Barney the Purple Dinosaur were already off the payroll for three months and without health benefits because of the "probable cause" provision of the 2005 contract.

I am so happy that Tweed is protecting our children from the likes of these characters in our schools. Children last continues.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

With The DOE In Retreat Because Of The Budget Crises - It Is Time For The Union To Get Back Teacher Rights

While I am no fan of the budget meltdown that has affected the world and New York City, it has finally caused the DOE to stop attacking teacher rights, at least temporarily. First, there was the July 2, 2008 flawed agreement that allowed some reassigned teachers to pay exorbitant fines of $5,000 to $25,000 dollars not to go through a 3020-a hearing. Then there was the ATR agreement that allows Principals to hire some ATRs at little cost to teach in a classroom. These negotiations were not due to our union fighting for teacher rights but it was due to the $145 million dollars the DOE was shelling out annually for non-classroom teachers. The DOE could no longer justify the outrageous cost in a budget crises.

While Tweed is in retreat the union should demand the following actions.

  • A truly independent investigation of administrators and Chapter Leaders. No longer should either group be investigated by the DOE supported Office of Special Investigations (OSI) and the Special Commissioner of Investigations (SCI) who presume administrators innocent and teachers guilty. Further, this same independent group should be used to determine if a teacher should be removed from a school.
  • Reestablishment of teacher input into the SBO decision-making process. This should also include the SBLT group as well. Currently, the Principal makes the decision and doesn't need approval from the group
  • Bring back the grievance for Letters-To-The-File (LIF). This will stop Principals from arbitrarily dumping LIFs in teacher's files as is happening with increasing frequency.
  • Limit SCI investigations to those teachers subject to felony arrest. Not the witch hunts that are going on presently.
  • Let teachers teach as they see fit in the classroom. The bottom line is that only the teachers know what is best for their students.

If the DOE needs to practice "education on the cheap" the least the union can do is to improve teacher morale, respect, and protect their rights.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The DOE'S Circuit City Model Is Destined For Failure

The DOE's mindless policy of encouraging Principals to hire "newbie" teachers at the expense of more experienced and better-trained teachers suffered a temporary setback with the ATR Agreement. However, once the budget crises is over, look for those non-educators at Tweed to go back to hiring the "newbie" teacher as they try to emulate the failed Circuit City Model.

If you are unfamiliar with what Circuit City did, let me enlighten you. Last year Circuit City fired all their experienced sales help and replaced them with inexperienced, and lower paid, sales force. Circuit City stated that the replacing the sales staff will result in significant cost savings. However, the result was massive customer dissatisfaction as frustrated shoppers could not get proper service and they left the stores, never to return. Finally, facing lower sales and fewer customers, Circuit City declared bankruptcy and closed many stores thorough the country.

Let's see the DOE is trying to replace experienced teachers with "newbie" teachers and the result is that the student scores have been flat (NAEP) or worsened (SAT) as the inexperienced teachers have classroom management issues and curriculum problems. The frustrated parents, who Tweed has given no input into the schools, vote with their feet by taking their children out of the schools. Finally, the schools close down as the DOE tries to reinvent themselves in the form of small or Charter schools.

Does this have similarities with the Circuit City model? You bet it does. Tweed's "children last" continues.

Note ednotes online brings this point out as he describes the closing of PS225 in Rockaway, Queens,

Friday, December 05, 2008

It's Good To Be Friends With The Chancellor When You Do Wrongdoing

Tweed's double standard on investigations just keeps on showing up. Now it is the Deputy Chancellor, Christopher Cerf who did some serious wrongdoing and received a slap on the wrist from our glorious Chancellor. A Daily News Article by Juan Gonzalez reported how Deputy Chancellor Christopher Cerf had violated the City's Conflict-Of-Interest-Law by pressuring executives of his former company. Edison Schools, in giving $60,000 to the DOE supported Wilderness Program. The Conflict Of Interest Board gave Cerf a confidential letter admonishing him for using his City position to benefit the Wilderness Program.

The Board's letter was based upon an SCI investigation and report. However, neither SCI or Tweed advertised the report and hoped that nobody would notice. Interestingly SCI Chief, Condon, who is never shy about announcing investigations of low-level school employees, sent an 11-page report on Cerf to Chancellor Joel Klein in August 2007, but never made it public. Can you guess why?

The SCI report found the following about the relationship between the Deputy Chancellor Christopher Cerf and the Edison Schools. Cerf relinquished 6,000 shares of Edison stock in February 2007, only hours before he was to be questioned about his ties to Edison by the DOE's parent advisory council, Condon concluded. Cerf also renounced any interest in a 10-year consulting contract with another Edison-connected firm - a contract that could have been worth $2.5 million.

When SCI investigates a teacher and substantiates anything, no matter how frivolous, they always demand termination and the DOE proceeds with 3020-a charges and a full-fleged attempt to terminate the teacher. However, if you are the Chancellor's friend, a confidential letter to "cut it out" is all that is required.

By the way the heavily-edited SCI report can be found on the Gotham Schools Blog Here. Further, information on the Cerf investigation can be found on the NYC Public School Parents and Ednotes Online blogs as well.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Why Doesn't The UFT File PERB Complaints Against Those " Principals From Hell"?

I am truly sick and tired about how the UFT propaganda rag, The New York Teacher, complains about an occasional "Principal from hell" but does little or nothing about them. If a teacher misbehaves, watch how quickly the DOE acts to remove that teacher and dump 3020-a charges on them. However, when it comes to the Principal, nothing is done about it. This double standard must stop and the only way for Tweed to take the union seriously is for the UFT to take action such as filing a complaint with the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) for improper employer practices.

Presently, only a handful (if any) Principals are disciplined for their behavior toward parents, students, and teachers. The reason for Tweed's lack of will in disciplining Principals is that there is no pressure by the union to put the DOE's feet to the fire. In other words there is no consequences to a Principal that abuse students and staff. Therefore, it is time for the UFT to challenge these "Principals from hell"and their DOE masters by filing complaints of improper employer practices with PERB.

While I cannot say how successful this strategy will be. It should be part of a union strategy that will put the DOE on notice that if they fail to clean up their administrative mess by not disciplining Principals, the union will tie up valuable resources as the DOE would have to defend itself and the Principal for their failure to curb abuses.

Remember, a pro-active union is an effective union.