Monday, March 30, 2009

The DOE Double Standard Continues As Tweed Allows An Accused Sexual Molester Assistant Principal To Be Around Students

In the bizarre world of Kleinberg's DOE once again the double standard between Administrators and teachers rears its ugly head. The New York Post reported that the DOE refuses to remove an Assistant Principal, Michael O'Herliiy, from Night and Day Comprehensive High School who was accused of sexually molesting two male students at Cardinal Hayes High School. After an investigation by the Catholic Church, Mr. O'Herliny was not only fired from the school but was defrocked as a Priest in 1993 an extremely rare action. The only reason the DA did not prosecute the case was the statute of limitations expired when the Catholic Church didn't give the list of Priests who were accused of sexually molesting children until 2002. Despite DOE being aware of the very serious accusations, they have decided not to reassign the Assistant Principal away from students.

This is the same DOE that will quickly reassign a teacher for using a word in a sentence that a student misunderstands or for touching an arm or shoulder. To the DOE that is sexual but when it comes to an Assistant Principal that was fired as a teacher and Priest because of sexual molestation charges, that is not. Bizarre is hardly the word. This is perverted when an accused sexual molester is allowed to be around students while quality teachers are in the "rubber rooms" for simply making a student uncomfortable.

I can only say that Tweed has taken the statement that "Administrators are assumed innocent while teachers are assumed guilty" to the extreme in this case and endangers the very students they are sworn to protect. "Children Last" continues.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Lies That Bloomberg & Klein Claim About Academic Achievement

Now that we are coming down to the home stretch on the State's decision on mayoral control. The daily newspapers are advocating the continued dominance of mayoral control. The newspapers claim that under Bloomberg & Klein the schools have shown academic improvements, increased graduation rates, school choice, and a streamlined administration. However, the truth is something far different than what Kleinberg and the daily newspapers claim.

First, lets look at Kleinberg's claim of academic improvements. According to the federal NAEP tests there has been little, if any progress, in improving academic achievement. Dumbing down the State tests has resulted in all the State's school districts showing academic progress. Making the State tests easier is not real academic improvement and until the national numbers improve, the New York City public schools under Kleinberg has shown academic stagnation not improvement.

Second, the so-called improved graduation rates could be based upon the New York State discredited "credit recovery system" . Many high schools use this program to improve not only their graduation rates but school grade as well. For readers who don't understand the "credit recovery system" it allows students who failed to show up to their classes to participate in a three day workshop on the subject outside school hours. James Eterno writes about Jamaica High School's "credit recovery system" and the consequences to all the school's students who follow the rules. I previously wrote about the "credit recovery system" and you can see my article Here. Even the new head of the Regents, Merryl Tisch has expressed her disapproval oi the "credit recovery system" along with the testing scores Here. Despite the New York State's disapproval of the "credit recovery system, no action has been taken to stop it and the DOE uses this discredited program to artificially improve high school graduation rates.

Third, it is true that many students have more school choice. However, it comes with many strings and it is rigged for the smarter student with involved parents. For example the small/charter schools have a much lower percentage of "special education" and ELA children. In fact, the DOE exempted the newly created small schools from these students for the first two years and looked the other way when these small schools continued this policy of discouraging these students from applying to the school citing inadequate resources. Further, the small/charter schools also practices the exclusion of the level one student who may have disciplinary or attendance problems and the "not ready for promotion" students. More importantly, is the reduction in resources to the public schools as money and the better students are picked off by the charter schools, aided and abetted by both the DOE and the UFT. The daily newspapers and the DOE always compare the charter schools with the neighborhood public schools. However, this is an unfair comparison since the charter schools reaches out to the involved parent and hence, the better student. These charter schools should be compared to the specialized public schools that attract the same type of students. It is a wonder that any charter schools fail but they do and that usually is caused by high teacher turnover and administrative incompetence.

Fourth, the lack of educators at the top level of Tweed. Of the 18 members of Klein's inner circle, only 2 are educators. Furthermore, the disconnect between the policy makers at Tweed with the schools have resulted in the use of a "on-size-fits-all" workshop model and with classroom teacher dissatisfaction. Moreover, the poor allocation of precious resources into non-academic programs like AIRS, the accountability project, and the Teacher Performance Unit has resulted in less money for the schools and student services.

Finally, under Kleinberg the only voice that counts is the Principal's. There is no parental or teacher involvement in school policy and the Principal can do what he/she likes when it comes to budget, services, and hiring. No input is considered and all decisions are entirely up to the Principal. This has resulted in very few ATRs being hired for the classroom. This is about control and power by the Principal not what is good for the students of the school. The ongoing problems at IS #8 in Jamaica is an example on how the DOE closes their eyes on alleged abuses by a Principal.

There must be checks and balances in the school system and educators must be put back into control of the New York City Public Schools. No other outcome is acceptable.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Message To Chancellor Klein

I have a friend and every time he goes to do his business in the toilet he announces that he is sending a "message to the Chancellor". In other words after being pissed and shitted on by the Chancellor and his Tweed flunkies, this teacher responds in kind when he has a bowel movement. While I might find my friend's action amusing I have my own "message to the Chancellor".

My "message to the Chancellor" is that your disrespect for parents, students, and teachers is hurting the morale of the New York City Public Schools and the lack of transparency at Tweed makes real reform nearly impossible. Furthermore, your failure to honor negotiated agreements with the UFT has resulted in overcrowded "rubber rooms" and an ever increasing ATR population. Moreover, your destruction of the neighborhood schools at the expense of small/charter schools has resulted in high teacher turnover and instability in the schools. Finally, your misguided priorities in allocating funds to Tweed's pet projects at the expense of the schools is starving the schools of precious funds and reducing student services.

I could add much more but it would take me too long to list all of them. Now I must end this article as nature calls. Come to think of it, my friend is right and I really need to send a "message to the Chancellor". Children Last continues.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Peek Into The DOE's Secretive "Gotcha Squad" And How They Are Trying To Terminate Teachers

I have been viewing the blog "rubber room reporter" and found an in-depth account how the DOE's Teacher Performance Unit (TPU) operates. The TPU is a $1.2 million dollar group, made up of lawyers and retired Principals, and has developed a process, including a worksheet for Principals on how to terminate teachers for alleged incompetence. Randi Weingarten has nicknamed the TPU the "gotcha squad" and has complained about their purpose. However, the union has done nothing to combat this secretive group in their bid to terminate teachers. Little was known about how this secretive TPU group works until Betsy Combier filed a "Freedom Of Information Request" or otherwise known as FOIL and then published it on the blog.

What is very interesting about how the "gotcha squad" works is that they seem to require that the targeted teacher go through PIP+ where 75% of the teachers are found incompetent. More about PIP+ in a later article but it is safe to say that the union approved PIP+ is just another Tweed tool to terminate teachers. Furthermore, the Principals are required to fill out the "Principal Worksheet To Terminate The Teacher." Finally, the Principal gives the poor teacher her final "U" observation once PIP+ is completed and the teacher is now removed from the classroom and the eventual filing of 3020-a charges a couple of months later.

It is unfortunate that we have a real enemy in Tweed rather than a partner to improve education. Tweed will do anything they can to terminate senior teachers, whatever the cost. Remember this is not about the children and the collateral damage done to them when a teacher is removed from the classroom. It is about the DOE's "Children Last" policy.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Principals Are Still Not Hiring ATRs For The Classroom Despite The UFT/DOE Agreement

When the UFT, with much fanfare, negotiated an agreement with the DOE to give Principals a financial incentive to hire some of the 1,740 ATRs for classroom positions. I admit I was all for the agreement since the Principals can get an experienced teacher for a minimal cost. What Principal wouldn't want an experienced teacher in the classroom? It made sense that Principals would want an experienced teacher to improve their test scores. It is all about the children, right? Wrong? many Principals still rather hire a "newbie" teacher with no classroom experience than an experienced ATR with good management skills.

Today's New York Daily News reported that only 16 ATRs have been hired to fill a classroom vacancy since the November 2008 agreement while 295 "newbie" teachers have filled the rest.The reason it is not about the children but about the Principal. Many of the Principals, especially the Leadership Academy Principals, would rather have inexperienced teachers who when told to jump responds "how high" rather than an experienced teacher that might say "why"? Further, many of the younger Principals are intimidated by the experienced teachers and refuse to hire them. Finally, ageism is also a part of the equation as many Principals discriminate against the older teacher and don't want them in their schools.

The union's ATR agreement with the DOE should have resulted in over 300 ATR offered a position in the classroom. Instead the Principals continue to fail to do what's best for their students and hire inexperienced teachers who take years to develop effective classroom skills. Unfortunately, "Children Last" continues.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Joel Klein & Tweed Show Their True Intentions When They Are Asked To Protect NYC Public School Students

Joel Klein always claim the reason that teachers are removed from the classroom is that they are a potential threat to the children. However, when it comes to the Principals Tweed looks the other way. Now the New York Post reports how a NYC public school honor student showed up at a Brooklyn meeting with Chancellor Joel Klein, gave him a letter and pleaded for a safety transfer, as she was threatened with physical violence from a gang of students, only to be brushed off by the Chancellor and his minions. The girl wrote 25 e-mails to Joel Klein and did not receive a single response from Tweed. Eventually, she was jumped and beaten up and suffered serious neck injuries. Only then did she receive a safety transfer. If a teacher failed to take action and the girl was physically assaulted, the teacher would be removed from the classroom for failure to protect the safety of the child. However, Joel Klein's failure to protect the child goes unpunished since he is the Chancellor. In other words Joel Klein does not have to follow the Chancellor's regulations and violating his own regulations does not result in any consequences.

It seems that student safety is only a concern at Tweed when an accusation is made against a teacher. However, when it comes to physical threats against a student by others it is ignored by the DOE. "Children Last" continues unabated at Tweed.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Age Discrimination Is Going Strong At The Queens Teacher Reassignement Center- Where Is the Union's Age Discrimination Lawsuit?

Previously, I wrote about how the "rubber rooms" are filling up again as Principals have resumed pulling teachers out of the classrooms since the DOE has ignored the July 2, 2008 agreement with the UFT. However, more ominous is which teachers are being removed and sent to the Queens "rubber room". They are senior teachers that are over 40 years of age that are the primary inhabitants in the Queens "rubber room". In fact, a very recent survey of the age distribution of the Queens "rubber room" inhabitants found the skewed data analysis listed below. The increase in senior teachers at the Queens TRC seems to be attributed to Principals being given the go ahead to have senior teachers removed without DOE questioning the Principal's motives. What follows is the age distribution of the inhabitants reassigned in the Queens TRC and other offices throughout the borough. This data does not include teachers removed from the classroom but have not yet been sent to the "rubber room" while 3020-a charges are being prepared by the DOE legal Office.
  • Total number of "rubber room inhabitants = 113
  • Inhabitants between the ages of 20 to 29 = 2
  • Inhabitants between the ages of 30 to 39 = 18
  • Inhabitants between the ages of 40 to 49 = 28
  • Inhabitants at or over the age of 50 = 65
The percentage of inhabitants in their 40s or older reassigned to the Queens TRC is an astounding 82% and 58% of those inhabitants at least 50 years of age! Any reasonable analysis of the data shows that the DOE is practicing age discrimination. However, the union seems to fail to see this. Like an Ostrich, the UFT appears to put their head in the sand so as not to address the ageism issue. Why is the union ignoring the ageism issue is puzzling. However, the union must take quick action and start a major age discrimination lawsuit against the DOE practice of reassigning senior teachers while younger, and inexperienced teachers are given a free pass.

The union's failure to protect their senior teachers is disgraceful and for the UFT to allow Tweed to practice ageism in the teacher removal process is aiding and abetting the DOE practice of age discrimination.

Monday, March 09, 2009

How Much Does It Cost The DOE To File 3020-a Charges Against Tenured Teachers? How About $250,000!

There are between 700 and 1,000 teachers that have been removed from the classrooms and most of them will be charged under State Education Law 3020-a. Because tenured teachers have due process rights the DOE cannot just fire a teacher but must convince an arbitrator that the teacher's alleged wrongdoings warrant termination. Unfortunately, for Tweed they must show real proof and compelling evidence before an arbitrator is convinced that termination is a proper penalty. However, more unlikely, is that the arbitrator finds the charged teacher totally innocent. Therefore, to appease the DOE, the arbitrator will usually find teacher fault that is sufficient to impose a fine or suspension on the teacher.

The real question is how much does the average 3020-a process cost? Based upon some numbers floated around by both the DOE and UFT it appears to average $250,000 for a teacher to complete a 3020-a hearing. This number can be lower or higher depending on how many specifications (charges) Tweed files against a teacher. For example some teacher incompetence cases can take an entire school year or more just to go through the specifications against the teacher. While I cannot confirm the $250,000 value, it does appear reasonable when you work through the numbers. For example lets assume the following is true.

  • Teacher salary $75,000/yr and averages two years out of the classroom.
  • Arbitrator's salary $1,700/Dy and averages 20 days per hearing.
  • NYSUT attorney's salary of $80,000/'yr and averages 4 months
  • DOE's lawyer salary $75,000/yr and averages 4 months
  • Transportation (usually a limo service) & food for DOE witnesses. about $4,000
When added together it comes out to approximately $250,000 from start to finish. This value does not include the cost of replacement teachers for the teachers removed from the classroom and the cost of subpoenas and visits to the school by the DOE. Furthermore, printing and photocopying costs of evidence, including transcripts are ignored. Finally, this does not include the use of DOE paid investigators which costs thousands of dollars in manpower. If these other items are included, the figure could easily reach $300,000 or higher.

In the ongoing severe budget crises the DOE can save much money and bring fairness to the system by hiring an independent mediator to evaluate whether a teacher should be removed from the classroom rather than the existing DOE kangaroo court/investigative process that almost always takes the Principal's side and files 3020-a charges against the hapless teacher and, of course, wastes precious education funds just to file 3020-a charges that usually does not end up in the teacher's termination.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The "Rubber Rooms" Are Filling Up Again With SeniorTeachers Who Are At Least 50 Years Old Of Age Or Older

Randi Weingarten of the UFT with much fanfare had vowed to close down the "rubber rooms" by signing an agreement with Joel Klein to have the DOE legal Office offer settlements to teachers subject to 3020-a charges and to seriously question the Principal's motives when they remove teachers from the classroom. For a fleeting moment the July 2nd 2008 agreement appeared to have had an impact. It did seem that many teachers were offered settlements and Principals appeared reluctant to remove teachers. The "rubber rooms" were slowly emptying out. However, since the holidays there has been a dramatic reversal on all fronts. The first teachers who were subject to the PIP+ process and allegedly found incompetent were no longer offered deals under the newTeacher Performance Unit (TPU). Only resignation or retirement were allowed. Further, Principals, under increasing budget restrictions and knowing that teachers are off their payroll in 60 days, would have senior teachers who are eligible for retirement, removed from the school after the Principals realized that the DOE legal Office was not serious in questioning the motives of the Principals' removal process. Moreover, the continued biased investigative arms of the DOE, the Office Of Special Investigations (OSI) and the Special Commissioner Of Investigations (SCI) assume teacher guilt and aids the Principal in railroading the teacher out of the classroom.

Obviously, the union has been caught sleeping at the switch as the much promised reforms and fairer treatment for "reassigned teachers"has been disregarded by the DOE. Furthermore, the DOE and the Principals are discriminating against older teachers and are using "ageism" in accounting for the increase in 50+ year old teachers sent to the "rubber room". Therefore, as the "rubber rooms" are filling up with older teachers the union just looks the other way. Where is the discrimination lawsuit now that the DOE has shown their hand and are actively engaged in removing senior teachers? based upon previous actions, don't count on the UFT to do the right thing and bring an age discrimination lawsuit on behalf of the senior teachers. Why do we pay outrageous union dues if the union does not advocate for us and stop the DOE's abuse of power?
It is very discouraging how the union keeps dropping the ball and lets the DOE get away with abusing teachers.

I just ask that the union live up to it's requirements and protect the teacher from the abuse of the DOE. So far, I am disappointed on the union's lack of aggressive action to counter the DOE.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Blommberg & Klein's Decision To Cancel School At The Last Minute Was Disgraceful & Dangerous For Parents, Students, and Teachers

We all know that the Politicians use the New York City Public Schools as a "babysitting service". However, Bloomberg & Klein, knowingly allowed parents, students, and teachers to prepare for school when all other school districts cancelled their classes either last night or by 4am the following morning. It wasn't until 5:55 am when WCBS radio announced the closing. Later for other radio stations. If you were waiting for the TV to announce it, that didn't happen until almost 6:30am, too late for many affected school staff who already started their trip to school. Further, many parents and students were unaware that the schools were closed at the last minute. Fox interviewed a high school student going to school who had no idea that the schools were closed.

With up to 8 inches of snow already measured in the City, and below freezing temperatures making the roads icy and dangerous, (all the news reported were accidents all over the Metropolitian Area) to allow children to travel in such hazardous weather conditions is illogical and life-endangering. While Bloomberg & Klein eventually did the right thing by cancelling school, they did it for the wrong reason. I do not believe the decision was made based upon the Sanitation and Bus companies. Rather the decision was based upon that they were pressured to cancel school because few school staff were prepared to show up and risk their lives on the road just to supervise students in an auditorium and making them watch a movie. Therefore, the very late decision to close the schools.

The DOE must stop putting themselves first and the schools last. The decision to close schools during a major snowstorm is a "no-brainer" Compared to all other school systems , only Tweed doesn't take student safety in consideration and their failure to acknowledge student safety concerns is the major reason for Tweed's failure to close the schools in a timely fashion.

"Tweed's "children last" continues....