Wednesday, December 30, 2009
It is time for me to post my New Year's wish list for 2010. While I truly hope that many of them come true, I will not be holding my breath waiting for my wishes to happen.
New Contract: I hope that we will see a new contract that gives us the "City pattern" which is for two years at 4% per year, minus the 0.58% owed to the City for getting back the two days before Labor Day. More importantly, this contract shall not allow for any "givebacks". Under Randi Weingarten's helm we have already gave up too much and any "giveback" is one "giveback" too many. I also recommend that we keep PERB out of the negotiations since going to PERB can provide cover to include "givebacks" in any future contract. Therefore, to ensure a contract with no "givebacks", don't go to PERB!
ATRs: The union must demand that all excessed teachers in the subject area be placed before a Principal can hire "newbie teachers". This simple and fair procedure will eliminate the ATR problem and allow the DOE to hire "newbie teachers" when a real shortage exists. No waivers or exemptions can or should be allowed as was done this year.
Teacher Control: We need to regain control of the classroom and stop using the "one-size-fits-all" methods like the "Workshop Model" that do not work well with many of our urban population and just results in skyrocketing teacher incompetence charges. Moreover, the disciplinary codes against teachers have resulted in more and more teachers being charged with misconduct when there was no misconduct. No wonder we have overcrowded "rubber rooms".
We really need to let teachers control their classrooms to ensure a safe and learning environment. Teaching scared using a program that does not work and with a threefold increase in paperwork over the years is not conducive for real classroom learning. Finally, even the students know that they can get a teacher in trouble by simply making up a story and having his or her friend agree.
Teacher Respect: It is time for our union leaders to organize the 80,000 strong teachers into a potent force by demanding teacher respect from the DOE and their anti-teachers leaders at Tweed. This can be done by the union actively going after the more abusive Principals, known as PINI Principals. Instead of writing about them in the New York Teacher, bring the mainstream media into it. Further, the union can file a PERB complaint against the DOE for allowing a hostile work environment and/or file a lawsuit when serious abuses by the Principal are uncovered. It is difficult for teachers to be respected when the students see how the Administrators abuse them.
Leadership Shakeup: So far Michael Mulgrew has not changed Randi Weingarten's top staff since taking over the UFT presidency. We still have the same failed and out of touch, double pension Randi loyalist in positions of power within the union. It is time that Michael Mulgrew make some real leadership changes and put more involved people into positions that deal directly with the membership.
There are more but let's start with these five issues first and see how it goes and to everybody have a Happy New Year!
Thursday, December 24, 2009
In the DOE's never ending quest to bring in "newbie teachers", many of them the two year wonders from "Teach For America" and the "Teaching Fellows" programs. Here is a story about one "Teaching Fellow", a jolly old man named Santa Claus. Santa Claus wanted to make a difference with the children year round, not just Christmas. After carefully reviewing all the possible jobs he felt he could make a difference in, he settled on teaching where he can interact with the children year round (including summer school). However, there was a slight problem, Santa was not certified and the normal certification process takes years. Lucky for Santa, this was Chancellor Joel Klein's DOE and Santa could apply to teach as a "Teaching Fellow" and get his certification while actually teaching, what a deal! Since Santa had no educational experience, he was considered a "newbie teacher" and received $45,530 annually. Santa thought this was great, he could spend his salary on making more and better toys for the children of the world and if he lasts long enough a pension and retiree health benefits for him and his reindeer crew. What a deal!
Unfortunately, for poor old Santa this is Joel Klein's DOE where any student's accusation or administrator's claim is believed and soon poor old Santa was jettisoned out of the classroom and found himself in the Teacher Reassignment Center (TRC), known as the "rubber room". Santa did not know why he was removed from the classroom since the administrator refused to tell him why, despite violating last year's negotiated "rubber room" agreement, his reassignment letter only said he was under investigation for "misconduct". However, there was no specifics to the misconduct accusation.
Santa found himself surrounded by teachers, most his age, who were squeezed into a room that was to handle half the amount of people and when poor Santa tried to sit down, the site supervisor called the "Warden" summoned him in and read him the "riot act" and placed him at a different table with a broken plastic chair. Eventually, some teachers befriended him and told him to handle it the best he can. He was told by the teachers to call the union representative, known as the "General". Santa Claus called the "General" who told him to keep quiet and don't tell anybody about your case. Santa said how can I tell them about my case when I don't even know my case? The "General" also told him that do not listen to the teachers at the TRC. They give you bad advice and I will see you in my monthly visit to the TRC. Santa was now bewildered, the union representative told him to be quiet and Santa was still clueless on why he was reassigned.
Two months later two men in suits showed up at the TRC and wanted to question poor old Saint Nick about the alleged incidents at his school. The liaison at the TRC told him that he shouldn't speak to these two men because they are from the Special Commissioner of Investigations (SCI) and their job is to "get the teacher" and not to determine the truth. The liaison further told Santa that if you say the wrong thing, they have the power to arrested you and lock you up. However, Santa decided to ignore the liaison and spoke to the two men without union representation. Santa was reassured by the two investigators that if he cooperated fully with them he would be out of the TRC in no time and get back to his career. The lead investigator asked Santa why he called the girls Hoes in his classes. Santa said "I did not call them Hoes, I said ho, ho, ho, when I laugh"The investigator writes Santa's response and the lead investigator ask the next question. Why did you put students on your lap? Santa responded "to find out what they wanted for Christmas. I am Santa Claus and this is what I do". The next question was do you ask the students about their personal lives? Santa responded "of course I need to know if they are naughty or nice". Many students complained that you were stalking them since you seemed to know about their families when no other teacher did that. Santa responded by saying "it is my business to know everything about the children". The SCI investigators thanked Santa for meeting with them and for his candor in explaining the misunderstandings with the students and that he will be out of the TRC quickly.
Santa left the interview room and told the liaison that everything was resolved and I will be back at my school soon. The liaison told him he hoped he was right but very few people who cooperate with SCI are found innocent. Two months later Santa was summoned to a disciplinary meeting at the Superintendent's office where the DOE "Grinch" gave the SCI report to Santa Claus and his union representative. The SCI report found Santa Claus guilty of sexual misconduct and recommended his termination. The SCI report findings were as follows:
- Verbal sexual abuse - calling female students Hoes
- Sexual harassment - asking them about their personal lives (naughty or nice).
- Sexual touching - putting children on his lap.
- Stalking - following the students around and looking into their families.
To twist the knife even further, SCI is sending their investigation report to the District Attorney for possible criminal prosecution.
Two weeks later the "Warden" called in Santa Claus and handed him a one page letter that said the DOE "Grinch" has terminated Santa Claus for inappropriate behavior as a teacher and since you are not tenured, the DOE has the right to fire you. Have better success in your next career. SCI did keep their promise and Santa Claus is no longer at the TRC. Yes, even Santa Claus could never survive in today's DOE under the true "Grinch", Chancellor Joel Klein and his non educator cronies who impose rules on teachers that don't seem to apply to them.
Last year I wrote about how the DOE was able to get rid of a tenured Santa Claus Here.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
My Response To Mayor Bloomberg's Speech On "Rubber Room" Overcrowding, the ATR Crises, And Tenue. Part 3: Tenure
This is the last part of my responses on Mayor Bloomberg's Washington D.C. speech on the "rubber room', ATRs. and tenure. In my previous responses I discussed what Mayor Mike and Chancellor Klein wants to obtain from teachers in exchange for the "City pattern" despite no other union agreeing to "givebacks" for the same "City pattern" Their demands are to fire all "rubber room" teachers, give ATRs a one year time limit, and as for tenure? They want none. What Bloomberg and Klein want is what no self-respecting union can never allow.
Bloomberg and Klein want to use student test scores to determine tenure and the right for principals to layoff teachers as they please rather than seniority. Both proposals require State legislative action to occur and the State teachers union (NYSUT) will never allow this to happen. Moreover, I do anticipate our own union (UFT) will never agree to these outrageous demands anyway. In fact, even the ATR one year time limit is a backdoor attack on tenure and a further reason that our local and State unions will not give one inch on anything that affects tenure.
Any changes to tenure is non-negotiable even if some well meaning bloggers think it is okay to strengthen tenure provisions. I might even agree with a blogger that a strengthened tenure process for "newbie teachers", with reasonable benchmarks, might actually work better than allowing principals to make tenure decisions based upon their likes or dislikes. However, any change to the tenure process, no matter how well meaning and fair, put the tenure issue on a slippery slope for more and significant erosion of teacher tenure rights. Remember, Tweed not only wants to reduce retiree health benefits and pension costs but to encourage senior teachers to resign by making the classroom an unceasingly hostile work environment. Therefore, there should be no retreat on the tenure issue. The same goes for the seniority issue where many principals would jettison senior teachers in a moment if they could pick or choose who gets laid off. For the DOE and their principals it is not what is best for the students it is about their control and budget or I know it as "education on the cheap".
When it comes to the tenure issue, I agree with our union that this issue is non-negotiable and no change in the tenure process is possible since it will lead for demands for further and more serious attacks on teacher tenure in future contracts.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
My Response To Mayor Bloomberg's Speech On The "Rubber Room" Overcrowding, The ATR Crises, And Tenure Part 2: The ATR Crises
The ATR crises was created by Chancellor Joel Klein and his non-educator cronies in a futile attempt to force highly paid senior teachers out of the system. I would like to say our union played no part in the ATR crises but they did when they not only gave up the seniority transfer system but allowed the DOE to ignore excessed teachers and encourage principals to hire lower paid "newbie teachers" who had no classroom experience instead. In fact, I complained years ago that our union actually encouraged the recruitment over retention policy by the DOE by buying into new teacher initiatives such as subsidized mortgages and apartments for the "newbie teachers". By contrast, no such programs were available to experienced teachers who struggled to provide their families with affordable housing and a decent salary in our high cost of living region. In fact, the terrible 2005 contract gave the most benefit to the "newbie teachers" by dramatically raising their salaries at the expense of the experienced teacher. However, the legacy of the 2005 contract was an explosion of ATRs, many of them senior teachers with a long resume of outstanding service.
Since 2003 Bloomberg and Klein have started a crusade to try to close schools and replace them with smaller themed or charter schools and this tactic has been very successful. It does not matter that the new schools opened by the DOE do not show any significant progress once the carefully screened first two student classes leave these schools. When the small schools are required to accept ELL, special education, and "at risk" students, the phony academic progress in the first two years of the school's existence disappears. The long-term result of the school closing crusade is an ever increasing excessed teacher population called ATRs. Presently, there are over 1,300 ATRs and with 20 more schools closing next year and with a 1.5% budget reduction starting in February as well as an additional 2.5% budget reduction next school year(excluding any State education cuts) look for the ATR figure to rise above the 2,000 person mark. Bloomberg & Klein's solution to the ATR crises? Fire them after being an ATR for one school year if they cannot get a permanent classroom position.
Every time the union tries to strike an agreement with the DOE on the ATR problem, the DOE seems to simply ignore the agreement and very few ATRs are given an actual classroom position. Interestingly, there were 1,354 ATRs and 586 vacancies in mid-October with the DOE already granting 125 exemptions. However, despite the deadline passing as of October 31, 2009 the DOE has refused to release how many vacancies were given exemptions and how many ATRs were hired for the vacancies. The only information that was leaked out was that 14 schools had their vacancies taken away from their budget. It will interesting to see when Gotham Schools obtain the numbers and how many vacancies received an exemption. I do suspect that our union does know what happened to the vacancies based upon comments by acting President, Mike (call me Michael) Mulgrew but are not prepared to release them.
The ATR population are dominated by senior teachers who in many cases were not selected by the small schools replacing the closing large school. The reasons are simple, it is about control and the budget, it is not what is best for the children. Many of the new small schools have an inexperienced Principal and a teaching staff of nontenured teachers who may or may not last the school year and more than half of them will not be teaching in the school five years down the road. I call this "children last" because if Bloomberg and Klein really cared about the children, they would demand that the principals hire experienced teachers, with good classroom management skills, a quality teacher, and would require the principals to hire what is best for the students not what is best for them.
Solving the ATR crises is very easy. The DOE must hire excessed teachers in the subject area before "newbie teachers" are hired, no exemptions, waivers, or other excuses. Once this simple measure is implemented, the problem will disappear and the DOE can save 120 million dollars a year. A win-win situation for everybody. Except for the insecure and vindictive Principal and his/her Tweed allies.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
My Response To Mayor Bloomberg's Speech On How To Solve the "Rubber Room" Overcrowding, The ATR Crises, & Tenure. Part 1: The "Rubber Room" Problem
We all know how Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein wants to solve the "rubber room" overcrowding, the ATR crises, and make tenure more difficult. However, their idea is quite different than our union or mine for instance. According to Michael Best, the head of DOE legal services, all teachers accused of incompetence or misconduct will be taken off payroll until their hearings and if found innocent, will get their jobs back. Of course that is unrealistic and violates the State's "due process" law. Therefore, in this post I will tell you how to eliminate the "rubber room" overcrowding back to the pre Bloomberg/Klein era when only teachers subject to criminal or serious sexual issues were removed. During the days before Bloomberg and Klein the amount of teachers removed ranged from 80 to 100 teachers, now the figure is between 600 and 700, a sevenfold increase and costing the DOE 60 million dollars annually.
Presently, a teacher just needs to piss off a Principal to find that teacher removed to the "rubber room". Since the Principal only has the removed teacher on her budget for sixty days after his removal and if the teacher is older and makes a high salary the temptation to remove the teacher is very real. Even teachers who are subject to OSI and SCI investigations have frivolous charges filed as both investigative agencies start the investigation with the presumption of teacher guilt and the teacher is not given a fair investigation and any innocent or defensive action is interpreted as "proof of guilt". Therefore, to stop the abuse of both the corrupt investigative process and the release of the vast majority of the "rubber room" teachers, I propose the following process.
First, any teacher who is not arrested for criminal or sexual issues could only be removed from his or her assignment after a three person mediation panel, paid for by both the DOE and UFT, interviews the major players, including the accused teacher to determine the seriousness of the charges. If the three person panel agrees that the charges are both real and serious. Then and only then can the DOE remove the teacher from the school. If the three person panel decides that the charges have been embellished, distorted, perverted, or false and does not raise to the level of serious. The Principal can only give the teacher a letter to his or her file. This would limit the "rubber rooms" to the serious cases.
Second, to ensure a fair investigation, a UFT assigned investigator will work with the DOE investigative agencies to determine the extend of the alleged teacher misconduct. The UFT assigned investigator will sit in on all witness interviews and will write their own report. If the UFT assigned investigator report is at odds with the DOE investigation report, both reports will be given to the three member panel as evidence for determining the level of seriousness of the charge and the removal of the teacher to the "rubber room".
Finally, the three member panel can also recommend action be taken for administrative misconduct when it is discovered that the charges against the teacher are bogus, discriminatory, or greatly exaggerated. Fines against the administrators can be issued when the three member panel determines such administrative misconduct.
While some of you may disagree on my recommendations. It is certainly a first step to bring real sanity into the "rubber room" process.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
I was impressed with the tone of our acting President's letter to his members and his responses to Michael Bloomberg's onslaught against the teachers union. However, all talk and no action has been the legacy of our past President which has resulted in Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein riding roughshod over the teachers union this decade.
Over the last decade we have given up some of our "due process" rights in disciplinary hearings, seniority transfers, the right to file grievances, classroom independence, gave up a professional period, and the increase in the school day for a 43% increase in pay. This averages out to be a 4.3% annual increase for the decade which is below the decade inflation rate of 4.5%. Is it any wonder that I am suspicious of all the rhetoric that comes out from our union President? If Mike (call me Michael) Mulgrew wants me to support the current union leadership, here is the actions I expect him to implement.
- File PERB complaints against the PINI principals that the New York Teacher complains about but does nothing to stop it. The DOE will wary of wasting money defending these undependable and vindictive principals and take steps to stop the abuse.
- Start an age discrimination lawsuit against the City and Tweed that has resulted in the ATR crises and overcrowded "rubber rooms".
- Require independent and fair investigations of alleged teacher misconduct. This is especially true for Chapter Leaders. Presently, the investigations process is biased against the teacher and this must change.
- Demand and obtain takebacks and no more givebacks in the next contract. Some of the takebacks should include but not be limited to: Allowing grievances for letters to the file, elimination of circular six, and no hiring of teachers until excessed teachers in the subject area are placed.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
There is no longer any pretense on what Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein wants to do with the large traditional high schools in New York City. They have targeted them for extermination and use the space for small and possible charter schools. In turn, there will be hundreds of additional ATRs added to the ATR ranks, many of them senior teachers as the replacement schools only hire the young, cheap, and nontenured teachers. The media rags, the New York Post & Daily News will rant about the over 200 million dollars the DOE must pay for the over 2,000 ATRs and demand a time limit. Meanwhile, our union will remain defensive and hunker down and hope the bad press will go away.
What about the children? Bloomberg & Klein do not care about the children. For them it is "education on the cheap" and "blame the teacher" for the administrative mismanagement of the schools. Since I am familiar with Queens, let's see how Tweed caused this mess in the first place and the falling of the dominoes associated with the closing of the large traditional high schools..
Years ago under Joel Klein's tenure, Tweed closed down four large traditional high schools in southern Queens. August Martin, Far Rockaway, Springfield Gardens, and Franklin K. Lane . The small schools that replaced these closed schools were allowed to exclude English Language Learners and Special education students for the first couple of years, Moreover, the schools worked hard to discourage level one students with behavioral or attendance problems from selecting their schools by claiming to the parents that their school could not provide the services to help their child and that the large traditional high school would be a better choice. The result was that schools like Beach Channel high school received an influx of these low achieving students once slated to go to Far Rockaway high school. The same happened to Jamaica high school as these very same low achieving students from Springfield Gardens & August Martin high schools ended up at Jamaica high school. The result was a destabilization of both schools who are now slated for closing. Now what happens to these low achieving students who would normally go to both schools? Well if I was a staff member of John Adams, Richmond Hill, Martin Van Buren, and Hillcrest high schools, look for your schools to be destabilized and slated for closing in the next year or two and be welcomed to the ever expanding ATR ranks.
It is time for our union to stand up for these schools and fight tooth and nail to stop Tweed from closing these or any other schools without "just cause" and organize political and parent support to get rid of Chancellor Joel Klein and his non-educators at Tweed who are destroying the New York City Public School System. We are supposed to be a powerful union. How about using this power for once?
Friday, December 04, 2009
It has finally happened! Chancellor Joel Klein and his non-educator flunkies at Tweed have finally succeeded in destroying one of the great schools in New York City with a century long history, Jamaica High School. It was as recently as 1985 that the Federal Department Of Education ranked Jamaica High School the #1 secondary school in the nation. Yesterday the DOE formally announced the closing of Jamaica High School after they setup the school for failure. Under Joel Klein's awful stewardship and his anti-large school stance, the school suffered from terrible decision making by past and present school leaders in and out of the school that resulted in an exodus of both quality students & teachers, poor and inept leadership at the school, starved it for funds, was treated as an "impact school" by the City in 2005, found itself unfairly placed on the State's "most dangerous schools list" in 2007, and encouraged students to transfer out of the school or discouraged perspective students from selecting the school in the first place. The result was a school that was underpopulated while having large class sizes and only receiving the bottom feeders of the student body.
The closing of Jamaica High School was no great surprise to many who watched helplessly as Tweed dismantled the school step by step. I previously wrote about what the DOE was doing to the school Here, Here, Here, Here, and Here. Still, it was shocking that Tweed ignores the community and student body and goes on their merry way to destroy the traditional large high schools while lobbying for small or Charter schools to replace them. How ridiculous is it that nearby schools like Francis Lewis is bursting at the seams while Jamaica High School can't attract enough students to fill the school.
Despite repeated pleas by the community to allocate the necessary funds to help the school, Tweed instead placed a specialized school in the building in 2008 and made no effort to encourage students in nearby overcrowded schools to transfer to Jamaica. Furthermore, Tweed penalized Jamaica High School by cutting their budget and starving the school for funds.
Jamaica High School was one of the great high schools in the nation and because of Mayor Mike and Chancellor Klein, a 117 year history of accomplishment will disappear. The closing of Jamaica High School is a great loss for the City's culture and community pride. Shame on Tweed for what they are doing. Shame, shame, shame.
P.S. Where will the "at risk"students go with Jamaica High School closing? How about Thomas Edison, Martin Van Buren, Hillcrest, Forest Hills, Richmond Hill, John Adams, & John Bowne? Yes these schools will be next in the slowly spreading plaque of destroying the large high schools in Queens.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
For all you teachers who were waiting for the 8% raises in the next contract, dream on. It is now very obvious that Mayor Bloomberg and Joel Klein will not give us a contract without some outrageous "givebacks" that the union will never allow. This means do not look for a contract anytime soon. While some union officials think that the UFT's decision to explore the PERB option is just a ploy to give the City and the union political cover to approve the "City Pattern", which is two 4% raises (minus the 0.58% for the two days before Labor Day) without any "givebacks", I do not think this is the case. As recently as a couple of months ago both the Sargent's Benevolent Union and the Teamsters local 237, along wih other unions, agreed to this "City Pattern" during the height of the City's budget crises and we should be no different. However, it appears that Bloomberg is looking to break the power of the teachers union by demanding "givebacks" and will not negotiate a fair contract without winning some of them.
I previously explained why we should not agree to any "givebacks". I now also believe that our union should not agree to PERB mediation since the default is the"City Pattern" and we will be forced to allow "givebacks" to achieve the raises. Therefore, it is best to force the City to come to terms without PERB mediation and if the City refuses to do that then charge the City with "bad faith" bargaining and ask permission to strike. Moreover, the union needs to fight back and file PERB complaints against administrative abuses which will force Tweed to defend their vindictive administrators time and again. In time, Tweed will wary of defending abusive principals and the City will eventually "cry uncle" as they will be forced to layoff newbie teachers and spend 160 million dollars yearly paying ATRs and "rubber room" teachers who were unfairly denied a classroom position.
Time is on our side, not the City's. It is the City that is wasting upwards of a billion dollars on non-classroom positions, high-priced consultants, and dubious educational programs. If Bloomberg & Klein wants a fight. They are fighting with one hand tied behind their back. We should oblige them and if we stick together, we will win in the end. We can knockout Bloomberg/Klein and their media supporters by aggressively fighting back with our own advertising blitz by showing them solutions such as lower class sizes, smaller central bureaucracy, and programs that help the classroom. Finally, at the Delegate Assembly, Michael Mulgrew must draw a line in the sand and commit to never allow a time limit on the ATRs, and ensure due process for teachers in the "rubber rooms". In this total war with Bloomberg and Klein, no retreat is possible.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
In today's New York Daily News editorial their clueless editorial staff once again gets it wrong when it comes to the New York City Public Schools. The editorial blamed the wrong people, the teachers for the ongoing problems with the New York City Schools. The editorial basically used Mayor Bloomberg's speech at Washington D.C. for what changes are needed in the school system. However, educators, especially ones who came from the classroom know better. These educators know that Blommberg's accusation against teachers are lies and what is really needed to help the children are as follows.
1. Smaller class sizes: New York City has the highest class sizes in the State and despite State money through the CFE lawsuit that was to be used to lower class size, the money appeared to have been e diverted by Tweed for other uses since class sizes have remained steady over the Bloomberg/Klein years. Most independent studies show that small class size has a very positive correlation to student academic improvement.
2. Experienced Teachers: There is no doubt that the most needy of children need an experienced teacher to guide their academic development. However, under Bloomberg/Klein we now have a "fair student funding" formula that penalizes schools that hire experienced teachers. In fact, budget cuts actually penalizes principals who hire experienced teachers.
3. ATRs & Rubber Room Teachers: Joel Klein created the ATR crises which has resulted in 1,300 ATRs, many of them experienced, senior teachers from closed schools and the sevenfold increase in reassigned teachers who's only crime is to be on the wrong side of a vindictive Principal. Some of the best teachers in the system can be found in both groups. All Tweed needs to do to get rid of both groups is to have a real hiring freeze until there are no ATRs left. As for the "rubber room" teachers, only those teachers accused of criminal offenses should be reassigned with the rest sent back to the school system after meeting with an independent mediator.
4. Reduce The Central Bureaucracy: Reduce Tweed to the bone and ensure that educators are in control of the DOE not the lawyers and business managers. Furthermore, it is time that an independent oversight board be established to make sure consultants and contracts are both cost effective and beneficial to the schools.
5. Stop Hiring Non-Educators: Finally, Tweed must stop hiring family and friends who only care about their next job outside the school system and waste precious education money on programs and people who don't contribute to the children they are supposed to represent.
These are the issues, along with improving the schools, not closing them, are what is needed to improve the New York City Schools.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
It certainly appears that our union have again made some terrible decisions when trying to negotiate with Michael Bloomberg & Joel Klein for a new contract. I like many others had thought that the Randi Weingarten/Michael Mulgrew crew had secretly worked out a contract in exchange for the union allowing a continuation of mayoral control, neutrality in the mayoral elections, and the elimination of the 8.25% fixed interest rate in the TDA. It now appears that is not the case.
While it is true the City has penciled in two 4% raises for teachers in their budget, it now seems likely that we will not be getting our City "pattern" raises until the union agrees to "givebacks" to compensate for any wage increase. What are the "givebacks" Bloomberg & Klein want? Just read what Bloomberg said in Washington D.C. with the Secretary of Education standing next to him. While I am not part of the 300 person negotiating committee or the 30 member executive group that actually sits down with the City, it is very obvious what Bloomberg & Klein wants from us.
Tenure decisions: While tenure has always been controlled by the Principals, Tweed and the City wants to use actual student data that they can manipulate to determine tenure. This seems strange since Principal don't need student data to give or not grant teacher tenure. Is this a underhanded way to reduce school input on tenure decisions? I would like to know how the CSA feels about this.
ATR Time Limit: This is Chancellor Joel Klein's most important issue. He wants a six month time limit but will accept a longer time limit to eliminate the ATR problem that he created in the first place. To date the union has not budged on this and I hope they never will. How many ATRs filled the vacancies that were around before the October 30, 2009 deadline? Not many, none of my ATR friends filled one and I suspect the Principals were able to find a way around the issue without hiring ATRs.
Terminating Teachers: Under Bloomberg/Klein the sevenfold increase in reassigned teachers are mostly caused by Tweed allowing Principals the power to remove teachers on false or frivolous charges. This increase in reassigned teachers have overwhelmed the 3020-a process making a 2 to 3 year stay in "rubber rooms" quite common. Since Arbitrators and transcribers are paid by New York State and are paid sporadically, many 3020-a hearings are drawn out as both groups make this a low priority item. This has resulted in the DOE making settlements with many a charged teachers. However, teachers who know the charges are untrue rather take their chances with an independent Arbitrator than admit guilt. This forces the DOE to bolster their "weak cases" by practicing "character assassination" against the teacher that furtherextends the 3020-a hearing process.
School Closings: The expected ncrease in school closing is just another ploy to allow for the increase of "Charter Schools" and "Small Schools" at the expense of large neighborhood schools. Just look at the problems Tweed caused at Jamaica High School and Beach Channel High School are examples on how to destroy a neighborhood school.
It is the union's responsibility to listen to the other caucuses, including your allies at "New Action" and many of your own "Unity" members not to give any "givebacks" whatsoever. The pattern is two 4% raises minus the 0.58% we owe for getting the two days before Labor Day. No other union allowed for "givebacks" in this pattern and we will not as well.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Principals Are Being Informed That They Do Not Have To Approve Payment For A Teacher Who Sees Their Union Lawyer After Tweed Files 3020-a Charges.
The DOE has found yet another way to make life a living hell for reassigned teachers by not approving the teacher a paid official business day to see their union-appointed NYSUT lawyers even when the reason was caused by the DOE filing 3020-a charges against the teacher in the first place. Until this school year it has been common practice for principals to give approval to a teacher who is meeting with his NYSUT lawyer as a paid official business day. However, last year a vindictive elementary school Principal decided that any absence from the "rubber room" by the reassigned teacher was considered leave without pay. The union rather than pro-actively going after the Principal, quietly tried to negotiate with the DOE and was only partially successful in making the Principal accept that she must approve the days the teacher actually attended her 3020-a hearing.
Left out of the agreement were the days when the reassigned teacher was required to meet with the NYSUT attorney as they needed to prepare the teacher's defense against the 3020-a charges by the DOE. In fact, the Principal refused to take the teacher's three "personal days" when meeting with the NYSUT attorney and was marked as leave without pay. It seems that since Joel Klein has given the principals complete control over the school's budget and staffing, The Principal has the right not to approve a reassigned teacher's right to see their NYSUT attorney simply by controlling their CAR. It doesn't matter that the teacher is no longer on the school's payroll and it doesn't cost the Principal a dime. It is not about what is right, it is about their control.
In this school year more and more reassigned teachers are complaining that the principals in their old school is requiring them to use up their three personal days to see their NYSUT lawyers and in some cases are required to take the day as leave without pay. What has the union done about this? Nothing, nothing at all. President Michael Mulgrew has been informed of this issue and so far silence. What kind of union representation do we have when Tweed changes the rules and costs teachers money as they allow vindictive principals to get away with not paying teachers for seeing their union-appointed lawyer based on 3020-a charges that is usually instigated by the same Principal.
It is bad enough that Tweed allows principals to remove teachers to the "rubber room" on false and/or frivolous charges. Now they are allowing (encouraging) these principals to ignore common practice and force reassigned teachers to meet their NYSUT attorney on their own time. Shame on Tweed who assumes teachers are guilty, shame on the principals who show their vindictiveness, and shame on our union that refuses to fight this outrage to already targeted teachers.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Over the eight years of Joel Klein's tenure as Chancellor of the New York City's Department Of Education (DOE) the central bureaucracy (Tweed) has seen an increase of non-educators and lawyers while employing less educators at the highest decision-making levels. The hiring of more non-educators ruining Tweed has resulted in an increasingly anti-teacher climate. Historically, the "rubber rooms" averaged about 90 teachers citywide, most accused of criminal or serious sexual offenses. However, under Joel Klein's tenure we have seen the number of "rubber room" teachers increase to about 650. Nearly a sevenfold increase!
One of the more interesting developments under Joel Klein's leadership is that once a teacher is served his or her 3020-a charges, the teacher will end up with a two year stay while the process plays out. While I am sure that the DOE can rescind 3020-a charges when the accusations are later to be found false or frivolous. I do not know of any teacher that actually had their 3020-a charges dropped. I believe that DOE's own arrogance stops them from admitting that many 3020-a charges are bogus and they rather go into the 3020-a hearing with a weak hand and practice character assassination then admit that 3020-a charges should not have been brought in the first place.
The reason that the DOE can abuse the 3020-a process is the unwillingness of the UFT to go after the DOE's abusive practices against their teachers. Once in the "rubber room" the UFT leadership washes their collective hands of the teacher. Yes, they give the teacher a NYSUT lawyer and speak of due process rights but in reality to the UFT these reassigned teachers have one foot out the door and if, by chance, survives the 3020-a process, are welcomed back as powerless ATRs. The vast increase of "rubber room" teachers would not be possible without the quiet approval of a union that believes these reassigned teachers are guilty of something. Compounding the UFT unwillingness to help the teacher with an independent investigation and adhering to the contract time lines, is the unfair and biased investigations by the DOE and their investigative agencies against the targeted teacher. I have previously complained about the corrupt investigation process that lands teachers in the "rubber room" without any recourse. It seems that finally there is a teacher who is willing to fight back.
In a NY! post, teacher Daniel Smith has filled a federal lawsuit against the DOE and SCI for illegally removing him to the "rubber room" and costing him per session money. While I do not know his full story. I hope what he claims is correct and that he wins his case against the evil twins the DOE's Office Of Legal Services and SCI. A win for him may help reduce the DOE abuse of the 3020-a process. Good luck and best wishes from all of us.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Bloomberg Wants More Education Cuts. Where Will The Cuts Come From? Just Don't Expect Them From Tweed.
Today Mayor Bloomberg requested that the Department Of Education (DOE) cut the 23 billion dollar education budget by 5.5% according to the New York Post. 1.5% this school year and 4% next school year which comes out to almost 127 million dollars. While this is less than the 12% that most City agencies need to cut, the question becomes where will the education cuts come from? Based upon the historical record of Joel Klein's priorities, look for the central bureaucracy at Tweed and their well-connected consultants to be spared while the field offices, support centers, and the schools will probably suffer the brunt of the cuts.
However, look for Tweed to put the DOE propaganda machine into overdrive and claim that if they can eliminate the 1,300 ATRs after six months and fire the 650 "rubber room" teachers, they could save 160 million dollars. Of course Tweed will totally ignore the money spent on highly-paid consultants and their pet projects that overwhelms the money Tweed pays non-classroom teachers that they put out of the classroom in the first place. Furthermore, Tweed, rather than hire non-educators like lawyers to persecute teachers and allow principals not to hire ATRs despite Joel Klein's widely ignored ultimatum to hire them or lose the vacancies should freeze hiring of newbie teachers. No loopholes or exceptions at all. Moreover, the DOE should reopen many of the 3020-a cases which not only cost time (average 2 years) but $250,000 per case between the City and State.
If the DOE really wants to help the students then they should cut the central bureaucracy to the bone, free the unjustly accused "rubber room" teachers , and freeze all newbie hires until the ATRs are placed.
By the way if Governor Paterson gets his way, the NYC schools would experience an additional 223 million dollar budget cut for the remainder of the school year for a total mid-year budget cut of 257 million dollars! Let's hope this does not happen for the children's' sake.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
One of the questions that reassigned teachers ask and get no answers from the union is what happens to the money that the teacher either agrees to settle with the Office of Legal Services or the Arbitrator awards the DOE? Now in Betsy Combier's blog - rubber room reporter she identifies a mysterious group at 65 Court Street, known as "District 65" who she believes may be the beneficiary of the teacher fines. Contrary to what most people believe, the Arbitrators and transcribers are paid by New York State and not the DOE. Therefore, the money the DOE collects from teachers seems to disappear into the Tweed bureaucracy but now Betsy Combier may have discovered where the money may actually go to. Could it be this top secret "District 65" group?
My question is, if this "District 65" group actually exists. What is their purpose? Who runs the group? Where does the money they allegedly take in used for? If anybody knows about "District 65" and what their purpose is please contact
P.O. Box 17
NY., NY 10021
All information sent to Betsy will be kept confidential.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Tweed's "Children Last" Program Continues As They Layoff 503 School Aides While Giving Millions To High Priced Consultants
Tweed went ahead and laid off 503 school aides starting Monday. These school aides are invaluable to the schools, especially in the poor neighborhood schools while at the same time approving a 3 million dollar contract for the consulting firm KPMG that does not directly benefit the children. Tweed previously threatened to layoff 530 school aides but was temporarily stopped by an injunction that has since expired when DC37 refused to supply a bond to pay for the school aides.
The school aide position is one of the lowest paid position of all school employees and they do the jobs in the schools that other staff members refuse or do not want to do. Furthermore, many of the school aides work closely with the children by supervising them in the lunchroom, busing duties, and overseers during recess. Many schools will struggle greatly without the school aides and the quality of the children's educational experience will surely suffer. The DOE claims that the layoffs of the 503 school aides will save 13 million dollars for the educational budget, However, the budgets cuts seem to exempt Tweed's consultant services as in the same week they approved a 3 million dollar program by the consulting form KPMG to survey schools for priority issues. This survey has been done previously and has been largely ignored by Tweed when the previous surveys found class size to be the most important factor. Both Public Advocate, Betsy Gotbaum, and the Manhattan PEP representative, Patrick Sullivan, questioned the use of the money at the time of past, present, and future budget cuts. However, the DOE said the survey is needed to identify school improvements. Really? As Patrick Sullivan stated. Tweed has seemed to ignore the surveys when they don't like the results. Why will this survey be different?
Yes, "children last" continues to go strong as Chancellor Joel Klein and his non-educator cronies serve up expensive contracts to well-connected consultants as the schools and especially the classroom, that they are supposed to protect are starved for funds and manpower. I believe the post on Gotham Schools-the last day of a school aide where some children wrote an emotional letter to Mayor Mike about their school aide is a must read. Shame on Mayor Mike Bloomberg and shame on Chancellor Joel Klein for the policies that only hurt the most vulnerable of children they are supposed to protect.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Updated Statistics Of The PIP+ Program Are Now Available & They Are As Bad As The First Year Numbers
The union official in charge of the PIP+ process has updated her numbers for the school year 2008-09 and found that of the 46 teachers who took PIP+ (Peer-Intervention-Program Plus) last year, 41 teachers failed the program and were deemed incompetent and are subject to section 3020-a. This means that for the two years that the union agreed to the PIP+ program 102 teachers who took the PIP+ program, 92 teachers failed the program " that is a 90% failure rate!" How can any union justify a program that allows the employer to terminate 9 out of every 10 of their members?
Now that we know what the numbers are, why is the union allowing such a flawed and biased program to exist? What's more, why hasn't the union let the District Reps (DR) and the Chapter Leaders (CL) know about the unfair PIP+ process and make sure targeted teachers are not hanging themselves by taking a program that has a 90% failure rate?
I am only one blogger and I have limited visibility. However, I appeal to all other bloggers to let their CL know of the problems with the PIP+ program and to read my articles on it here, here, here, and here. Knowledge is power and the more the CL knows, the better the CL can advise their targeted teachers in resisting a DOE inspired program who's main aim is to terminate teachers.
In my previous article I asked that the union members who are knowledgeable that they spread the word that PIP+ was a teacher termination program. The latest numbers have only convinced me that the PIP+ process must be eliminated. James Eterno, one of two UFT presidential candidates has already backed the termination of PIP+, how about you Mike Mulgrew?
Sunday, November 08, 2009
Why Is Our Union Not Telling The Members At The Schools What They Know About How Administrators Target Teachers For Incompetence?
Over the last few years the DOE was increasingly frustrated in getting arbitrators to terminate teachers charged with incompetence. To try to increase the number of teachers to either be terminated or quit teaching in the NYC schools, they took precious money (1.2 million dollars) and setup a special unit dedicated to terminate alleged incompetent teachers. This unit was named the Teacher Performance Unit (TPU) also known as the "gotcha squad" named by Randi Weingarten. The TPU consists of lawyers and retired principals whose only purpose is to terminate teachers accused by their principals of being incompetent. The TPU developed different strategies to help principals get rid of teachers that they didn't want. While Tweed developed these strategies to help to terminate teachers, the union remained silent and failed to inform the District Representatives (DR) and Chapter Leaders (CL) about these TPU strategies and how to combat them.
Many of the TPU strategies were identified by either Betsy Combier and myself. Here, Here, Here, and Here. However, unless you read the two blogs the teacher would be unaware that the DOE has given the administrators the tools to go after the classroom teacher. The question is why does the union allow the DOE to get away with these horrible strategies to terminate the teacher? The answer is that it appears that it is in the Union's best interest to sacrifice some teachers to the DOE termination process for the sake of maintaining a good relationship with Tweed. For the union leaders it seems that an occasional teacher or two that are targeted are not as important as getting along with the DOE overseers. My conclusion may seem harsh to some and I am sure that many of the anonymous union hacks will object to my statement. However, when was the union going to let the teachers know about what lengths the DOE will go to terminate them? Further, the union knew full well that the PIP+ program resulted in a 90% failure rate and that the teacher cannot be charged for not taking PIP+. Therefore, the union had a responsibility to inform its members and their representatives (DRs and CLs) and not keep silent.
It is bad enough that we have an anti-teacher Chancellor in charge but we do not need our union leaders allowing his programs go unchallenged when it adversely affects the teacher.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
On my previous post I received a student commenter from Team Polazzo who asked me why I and other education bloggers believe that their teacher Matt Polazzo was wrong and misguided in his article in the New York Daily News last Sunday. The student was respectful and asked me why we attacked their beloved teacher for speaking his mind. I thought about it and believe that they deserve an answer. Therefore, here is my response.
First, your teacher flatly stated that all the teachers in the "rubber rooms" are "bad" teachers and the ATRs are incompetent. If he really understood the issues concerning the two groups he defames he would have known that Chancellor Joel Klein and his non-educator cronies caused both problems with their anti-teacher policy. The increase in "rubber room" teachers and the ATR mess were caused by closing down schools and cutting school budgets to the bone while encouraging principals to hire inexperienced and ill-prepared teachers to replace the experienced teachers in Tweed's "children last" program.
Second, the DOE brought in a fair student funding program that was not revenue neutral as the program was intended to be. This forced principals to hire the cheapest teachers to balance their budget and as a result many of the worst schools have little or no experienced teachers, just those "Teach For America" two-year wonders who couldn't teach to save their collective lives while experienced teachers languished on the ATR list.
Third, Chancellor Klein gave the Principals power to remove teachers they don't like and kick them off the school payroll in sixty days. The sevenfold increase in teachers in the "rubber room" is not about what is best for the students it is what is best for the principals, many of them with limited classroom experience themselves. For your information 90% of these so called "bad" rubber room teachers are sent back to the classroom after an independent arbitrator hears the case against the teacher.
Finally, the DOE practices age discrimination, both in the "rubber room" and the ATR ranks. I just need to refer you to last year's survey on the Queens "rubber room" as evidence to this. If you consider senior, experienced, and highly paid teachers as "bad" then you should work for Joel Klein's DOE.
I am sure Matt Polazzo is a great teacher and the students just love him and deservedly so. However, his knowledge of what really goes on in the "rubber room" and the ATR issue is sorely lacking. Therefore, his article is misguided, unfair, and inaccurate and he deserves the criticism that he brought upon himself.