Friday, May 29, 2009

Will The Principals Really Hire The ATRs For Their Vacancies? - Rumors Are that The Principals Intend To Hide The Vacancies Until The Last Minute

Because of the financial problems, Joel Klein apparently "cried uncle" and stopped the Principals from hiring the "newbie teachers" for their vacancies. The exception was the new small schools which can still hire 40% "of its teaching staff with "newbie teachers". Interestingly, the Charter Schools have increased their recruiting of the "Teach For America" temporary teachers who usually don't last more than two years. However, let's go back to how the Principals are reacting to the Tweed mandate that requires them to hire ATRs for classroom vacancies.

Many teachers from their schools have told me that the Principals are pissed off and do not intend to post their classroom vacancies until the very last minute in the hope that Tweed reverses itself and allow the schools to hire the "newbie teachers". It seems the Tweed propaganda machine has worked too well. Many of the Principals are convinced that the ATRs are unwanted and unsatisfactory teachers. This is especially true of the "Leadership Academy Principals" who don't know any better. Moreover, as I have mentioned previously, the Principals are more interested in control rather than what is best for their students. This was shown by the Daily News article that showed only 16 ATRs were hired out of 313 teachers who filled vacant positions, despite the November Agreement between the UFT and DOE. Another example how Tweed speaks out of both sides of their mouth.

I hope I am wrong and this is simply mumbling by Principals who have been empowered to do what they like in the schools and feel that Tweed has eroded some of their decision making authority. However, when I went on the Open Market Transfer System I found very few vacancies and this has raised my suspicions that indeed the Principals are hiding vacant positions hoping that Tweed will change their minds. Unfortunately, in my April 4th article I showed why the Principals really don't want to hire the ATRs. It is all about control and nothing else. I believe that the Principals will resist hiring ATRs and only time will tell if the Principals finally post their vacancies and hire the ATRs.

"Children Last" continues........

Monday, May 25, 2009

What Mayor Mike & Chancellor Joel Really Want For The New York City Public Schools

The New York Post, the media's propaganda mouthpiece of Bloomberg and Klein have coined a slogan "City Schools City Rules" to justify the continuation of mayoral control. However, what does Mayor Mike and Chancellor Joel really want for the NYC Public Schools? To me the two have mapped out policies to destroy public education as we know it. They have gained power and have set up a Trojan Horse program that will shatter the public schools from the inside and out. The losers are the parents, students, and teachers of the NYC Public Schools.. Let's look how Mayor Mike and Chancellor Joel are trying to achieve their goal.

First, they are hiring unqualified Principals, with little or no classroom experience, and gave them total control and backing to run their schools as they please. These "Leadership Academy Principals" either don't know how or don't want to work collaboratively with the school staff. The result is that the schools are in chaos and the students suffer the consequences as quality teachers flee the school.

Second, the terrible twosome have developed a policy of breaking up the large comprehensive schools and replace them with small or Charter Schools that encourage separation due to race, religion, cultural identity, gender, and sexual orientation. These very same schools exclude the most needy of students including Special Education, English Language Learners, and behavioral problems . Only in the NYC Schools does Brown vs. The Board of Education needs to be revisited 55 years later.l

Third, Tweed has made an effort to hire "inexpensive newbie teachers" at the expense of senior and more expensive teachers. Despite Tweed's propaganda that every child should have a quality teacher, the reality is very different. Mayor Mike and Chancellor Joel's overriding concern is to provide "education on the cheap". That is to hire inexperienced and inexpensive teachers, abuse them until they burnout and hope they leave the system before they are vested. The result of their misguided strategy is to have 1400 ATRs and 800 "rubber room" teachers, most over the age of 50 being forced out of the classroom. Further, to make it easier for the Principals to remove teachers without a financial penalty, the teacher was off the Principal's payroll after 60 days. Before it was a year or more. Consequently, the students experience rapid teacher turnover and teachers who have their own learning curve while trying to teach the students.

Fourth, despite receiving extra funds to reduce class size from the State, the classroom remains as overcrowded as ever with classrooms averaging 28 students and in the large overcrowded high schools 34 students. Compare this to to the small/Charter Schools who average 21 students in a classroom. Where did the extra State money go? Certainly not to the classroom.

Fifth, the DOE has an out of whack discipline code that fails to properly punish students but goes out of their way to charge teachers with verbal abuse/corporal punishment. In fact in the Chancellor's regulation A-421 this statement says it all.

"Nothing in this regulation, however, prevents a supervisor from counseling or disciplining an employee for inappropriate speech or conduct that is not otherwise in violation of this regulation".

In other words any action by a teacher can be result in a disciplinary charge simply by the Principal saying so!

Finally, the increase in paperwork and data collection allows for little free time for the teacher to properly evaluate and give more help to the students. It is laughable that Joel Klein told the New York Times that he could envision a 30% drop in teachers as technology would allow students to do their work at home or the library. Didn't I read in the Daily News that a high school teacher from Francis Lewis teaches in a crumbling trailer with no heat? In fact Arthur Goldstien's quote was:

" My high school was built to hold 1,800 but enrolls 4,450 students. My kids sit in a crumbling trailer, with no technology and often no heat in the winter. So much for efficiency".

Crumbling trailers, lack of heat, no technology. What drug is Joel Klein using when he is talking about distance learning? Maybe he is talking about the bizarro world that Treed seems to inhabit that would explain his distance learning comment.

I could bring up the gimmicks the DOE does like their "No Bid Contracts", Non-Educators in charge of education, and the increased headcount at Tweed while the field offices and schools are starved for funds and laying off workers. However, I believe I made my point. The Trojan Horse policies of Mayor Mike and Chancellor Joel is destroying the NYC Public Schools as "Children Last" continues.

Friday, May 22, 2009

How The DOE Violates Our Country's "Innocent Until Proven Guilty" Legal Foundation When It Comes To The International Teachers They Recruit

One of the strengths of our country's democratic system is the presumption that a person is "innocent until proven guilty" legal foundation. While the DOE appears to violate that concept when it comes to reassigning the teacher when an allegation is made. At least the teacher has a "due process" right" to make the DOE prove their baseless, or embellished allegations through the 3020-a process. However, when it comes to the International teacher the idea that a person is "innocent until proven guilty" does not apply.

Because of a teacher shortage in various subject areas (how come the suburbs have no such shortage?) such as Science, Bilingual education, and Math, many foreign teachers are sponsored by the DOE under the H-1 visa regulations to work as NYC teachers. In most cases, they receive the minimum starting pay of $45,000 a year and are happy to get it. However, these International teachers, who come from countries with stringent discipline codes and student respect for teachers, find that in the bizarro world of the DOE that teachers are disrespected and Administrators fail to discipline students. Worse is the stress and inevitable corporal punishment charges that these teachers will be hit with. Since any allegation can remove a teacher, the International teacher will find him/herself removed from the classroom and sent to the "rubber room". Unlike a tenured teacher who is a U.S. citizen, the International teacher finds that the DOE has withdrawn their sponsorship of the teacher and the extension of the H-1 visa is rejected by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

How shocking! Even before the tenured International teacher has his or her due process rights, the DOE has presumed the teacher's guilt and withdraw their sponsorship. The result is the strong possibility of deportation, unless the teacher could get another school system to sponsor him/her which is highly unlikely.

In a country where every person who has been invited to live and work in, the basic legal foundation that a person is "innocent until proven guilty" is violated and ignored by the increasingly teacher unfriendly DOE. "Children Last" continues.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Separate And Unequal Education In NYC - Thanks To Mayor Bloomberg & Chancellor Klein

In 1954 the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the separate but equal policy for schools throughout the nation. Now 55 years later the phony education reformers in the DOE and the Bloomberg Administration have not only ignored the historic Brown vs. the Board of Education Supreme Court ruling but have encouraged separate and unequal schools in New York City.

Many of the Charter and small schools are racially segregated with numerous Charter Schools in poor areas having a student population of over 92% Black and few Hispanics or 92% Hispanic and few blacks. Furthermore, the Charter schools and until recently, the small schools seem to exempt the most needy students from admission. These Charter Schools do not welcome English Language Learners, Students with disabilities, and children with behavioural problems. Many other schools now have Asian. Jewish , Arabic, or sexual orientation themes. Who do you think go to those schools? Moreover, the City allows a separation of the sexes which is against the intent of the Supreme Court ruling.

How does New York City get away with ignoring the 1954 Supreme Court ruling on the separate but equal education issue? Easy, both the Liberals and Conservatives of the educational reform movement look the other way. From Bill Clinton to George Bush to Barack Obama, the federal government has looked the other way as schools open with a student population that is of either one race, gender, or cultural identity. Michael Myers of the New York City Civil Rights Coalition in a Daily News opinion piece stated it best when he wrote how Bloomberg and Klein has oversaw the Balkanization of the NYC schools.

The education reformers justify Bloomberg's and Klein's ignoring of the 1954 Supreme Court ruling by showing how the schools have seen scores rise and the achievement gap narrow. However, most veteran educators know that New York State keeps dumbing down the test (all school districts in NYS have shown similar rises) and that the achievement gaps has not significantly narrowed according to the NAEP. Raul Gonzales pointed out in his Daily News Column that the statistics trumpeted by Bloomberg & Klein are suspect at best. Until the most recent NAEP results are published, no independent-minded educator will put any faith in the New York State test results.

Separating the students by race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or cultural identity is morally wrong, ignores the Supreme Court's 1954 decision, and is against the basic idea of this country which strives to integrate all people into one common nationality of being an American.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Three Stooges Brag How The NYC Teacher Salary Has Risen Significantly. How Do We Compare To Long Island?

I can only snicker when I hear the three stooges, Mayor Mike (Moe), Chancellor Klein (Larry), and UFT President Randi Weingarten (Curly) tell the world how well they have improved teacher pay. Granted our pay has went up. (If you assume that an average 3.28% annual increase is significant under Kleinberg). However, the mediocre salary increase came with outrageous givebacks, abusive regulations, increased paperwork, and more teacher time. How does our salary compare to the average teacher salary in a typical middle-class community on the South Shore of Suffolk County?

The community of East Islip in Suffolk County is a typical middle class community and is about in the middle of the salary range in Long Island. The maximum salary in East Islip is $127,000 compared to $100,000 in New York City. The difference is 27%. Quite a significant difference for top salary. However, since the maximum salary requires 60 credits above a masters degree, some people may say that is an unfair comparison. Therefore, lets look at the average annual salary for the two communities. In NYC the average salary is generously assumed to be $60,000. This number is probably less with the influx of inexpensive newbie teachers in the school system. On the other hand, the average teacher salary in East Islip is $87,000 or 45% greater than the average NYC teacher salary! In addition to salary, the East Islip Schools have half the Administrators that a similarly sized NYC school has and most importantly, all the Administrators are long-term teachers and work collaboratively with the staff unlike the "Leadership Academy Principals" who have limited classroom experience and fail to include teacher input into running the school. The result is that East Islip has a smoothly running school system while many of the NYC schools are dysfunctional and adversarial.

So next time you hear the three stooges crow about the increase in NYC teacher pay, Remember, it is still significantly lower than the typical Long Island teacher makes and they don't suffer the abuse that we do in the schools.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

For Reassigned Teachers The Union Wants Them To Remain Clueless And Quiet

It is very traumatic when a teacher is reassigned from his or her school for frivolous or minor incidents. What is worse is that our union representatives, rather than being supportive and pushing for a fair investigation of the charges, just tells the poor teacher to "sit tight and don't tell anybody why you were reassigned". Why do they not want the teacher to talk to other teachers about their case? It is quite simple, knowledge is power. The less the teacher knows, the more dependent the teacher is on the union. Many of the union representatives go as far as saying things like. "Maybe the person you talk to will end up as a witness against you" or that "you will be getting bad advice from those teachers". How disingenuous of the union to scare already frightened teachers about not trusting the very people who knows best what is in store for these newly reassigned teachers.

For all practical purposes the union has abandoned the reassigned teachers to their fate. The union does not conduct their own independent investigation nor do they challenge the often biased and unfair OSI or SCI investigations. Rarely, if ever, does the union question the DOE's removal of a teacher or go after lying Administrators or investigators. The union's support is confined to providing a NYSUT lawyer in the eventual 3020-a hearing process, which has seen the union negotiate the erosion of teachers' due process rights since 2000. Even when the teacher is charged under section 3020-a of the State Education Law, the union provides no guidance to the teacher about the process, the Arbitrators and the NYSUT lawyers. According to the union their responsibility is to provide a NYSUT lawyer and the NYSUT lawyer will guide the teacher through the process. How about the union's responsibility to conduct an independent investigation with the Chapter Leaders and District Representatives to find out if the teacher removal was proper? What about the union's responsibility in providing the NYSUT lawyer ammunition to help the targeted teacher in his or her defense? How about the union determining the collateral damage to the teacher's students? I could go on but you get the message.

It is very unfortunate that the union position about the reassigned teacher is to abandon them and keep them clueless and quiet as they languish for years in the "rubber room" awaiting their fate. Shame on the union and their leaders that have looked the other way as the "rubber rooms" fill up with over 50 year old teachers whose only fault is that they are old and make too much money. I will end this post with one of my quotes.

"A union that allows it's members to be disrespected, is a union that no longer deserves the respect of it's members".

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Where Was Bloomberg & Klein When PS 177 Reopened?

With much fanfare Mayor Michael Bloomberg showed up along with the head of the Archdioceses when the parochial High School, St. Francis Prep, reopened. However, when it came to the PS 177, a "special needs" public school, less than a mile from the High School, neither Mayor Bloomberg or Chancellor Joel Klein showed up for their reopening. How come? Were they too busy meeting with Al Sharpton and Charter School advocates or is the real reason that they don't care about the "special needs" students in a public school? These District 75 schools and students are not in the Kleinberg plans. The students in the District 75 school are largely untestable, require more services than a regular education student, and the parents are a real pain to both "City Hall and Tweed, as they rightfully demand an appropriate education for their children.

While I cannot look into the minds of Bloomberg and Klein on why they really didn't welcome back the students and staff, it is obvious to me that their recent actions such as limiting "special needs" students in new schools, not allowing parental input, and exempting Charter Schools to take their fair share of "special needs" students is evidence enough.

Interestingly, none of the newspapers or television networks commented on their non-attendance and of course, didn't ask Bloomberg or Klein why they weren't at the school. If I was a parent of a student or staff member at PS 177, I would have been quite upset with the two of them and would have demanded that they comment on their absence. Lies or not, the both of them should have been there. It is about the children, right?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

"The Needs Of The Many Outweights The Needs Of The Few" ."Or The One" - Except At The DOE Where "Children Last" Continues

In honor of the new Star Trek movie, I decided to use a quote from Star Trek's "Wraith Of Khan" where a dying Spock finally understood the logic that "The Needs Of The Many Outweighs The Needs Of The Few" While Captain Kirk stated "And The One". What this means is simple, it is more important to do the right thing for the students than cater to the dislikes of a teacher by an Administrator or a student. However, in the bizarro world of DOE's "children last" program the collateral damage done to the students are unimportant.

With Chancellor Klein and his non-educators in control of the schools, it is more important to pull quality teachers out of the classrooms for frivolous or minor issues then do what is best for the students. It is common for teachers to be sent to the "rubber rooms" when either a failing student or vindictive Principal accuses the poor teacher of misconduct, insubordination, or inappropriate behavior. In the NYC DOE the teacher is assumed guilty while the failing student and the vindictive Principal are assumed to be truthful. In fact when teachers are being investigated by OSI & SCI the investigators are not trying to find out the truth but to accumulate evidence to "get the teacher". The investigators will not question the teacher's witnesses and will omit any information that is favorable to the teacher. However, any unsubstantiated or hearsay statement against the teacher will be displayed in the investigator's report. The result is the teacher will languish for years in the "rubber room" while the students are usually taught by a substitute teacher and do poorly on tests. In many cases the school is unable, or even unwilling to find a quality replacement for years after. Therefore, the next few years the students will continue to fail. However, as I have said time and again in the DOE it is more important to "get the teacher" than what is good for the students.

"Children Last" continues,

Sunday, May 03, 2009

What Really Happens To The Reassigned Teacher?

There is some mystery on what actually happens to the reassigned teacher that finds him or herself sent to the Teacher Reassignment Center (TRC), otherwise known as the "rubber room". Based upon the available information at the Queens TRC for the school years 2007-2008 and this year, I can come up with some simple statistics that probably is representative of what actually happens to the reassigned teacher throughout New York City.

During the period investigated, I found that only 8% of the teachers reassigned to the "rubber rooms" were actually terminated. However, an additional 12% had resigned or retired and it is likely some of them would have been terminated if they went through their 3020-a hearing. The remaining 80% were evenly divided between taking a settlement by pleading guilty for a fine and going through their 3020-a hearing and getting a range of penalties from acquittal, to a 3 month suspension. There are some longer suspensions but none were issued during the period investigated. Of the people who actually went through the complete 3020-a hearing, the termination rate was 20% or one out of every five teachers. However, many of the teachers who were terminated were subject to felony charges due to theft of service, corporal punishment, or sexual misconduct. There were very few teachers who were sent to the Queens TRC and sent back to school without 3020-a charges. This group consists of less than 5% of the total teacher population.

Unfortunately, the actual statistics are a closely kept secret by the DOE, UFT, and NYSUT. Why aren't they published and broken down for public review is a question that needs to be answered. Occasionally the DOE allows some snippets of information that they spin to the newspapers. However, all three groups appear to believe that not providing statistics is in the best interests of each group. Of course, the lack of knowledge to the actual teacher reassignment process puts the teacher at an extreme disadvantage since the union does not provide real guidance to the teacher and the NYSUT lawyers are too willing to have the teachers take a settlement that makes them plead guilty to something they are not guilty of, pay a significant fine, and take a useless course or courses to add to their punishment.

Finally, please don't think that you will never end up in the "rubber room". If you are over 40, have at least 15 years in the system, and read the blogs you already have the top three risk factors to have a vindictive Principal reassign you. Please read the TAGNYC flyer being sent to all schools about the rubber room. It is interesting reading.

The Rubber Room: DOE's Dirty Little Secret (TAG NYC's flyer)
What is the ‘rubber room’?

Approximately 800 Department of Education teachers are warehoused in Temporary Reassignment Centers, known as rubber rooms. The DOE considers these individuals too dangerous to be around children, yet most will return to schools after languishing for months or years in off-campus sites.

Teachers receive full pay while waiting for the resolution of their cases. The financial costs are estimated as high as $65 million dollars; the human costs are seldom considered.

Reassignment Centers are called rubber rooms because doing nothing is maddening. Outwardly, teachers play cards, watch DVDs, knit, read books, and sleep. Inwardly, teachers lament the loss of successful careers and worry about uncertain futures. Feelings of fear, doubt and shame never subside.

Why are teachers removed?

Allegations of sexual misconduct, corporal punishment and other misconduct are so disturbing that the DOE banishes teachers to rubber rooms on just the word of a principal, teacher or student.

Certainly some teachers should not be in classrooms, but many charges against teachers are exaggerated or simply not true. For example, reporting unsafe conditions is insubordination; failing to immediately admit a late student to class is corporal punishment.

Principals frequently use false charges to retaliate against whistleblowers and to remove competent teachers who question the policies of the administration.

Reassigned teachers may also be charged with incompetence or be accused of crimes by outside agencies.

Incompetent teachers should be terminated, but many principals and assistant principals are not qualified to judge competence. Principals and assistant principals are required to have only three years of teaching experience. Possession of an administrative license does not guarantee knowledge of pedagogy.

The decision to remove a teacher is often based on personalities; a teacher who caters to the whims of the administration is rarely reassigned and never accused of incompetence.

Why do disciplinary proceedings take so long?

Education Law states that disciplinary proceedings against charged teachers must be completed within five months. The DOE and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) modified the proceedings. These modifications do not provide teachers with increased protection; instead they infringe on the rights of teachers and lengthen the process. The DOE and the UFT agreed that teachers can be removed before charges are preferred. Teachers are supposed to be charged within 6 months of their removal, yet some teachers remain in the rubber room for years without charges.

The DOE and the UFT also denied teachers the right to choose arbitrators. A fixed number of arbitrators are assigned on a rotating basis, supposedly to accelerate the disciplinary proceedings. However, more arbitrators are needed, timeframes are ignored, and cases can last for years.

The accused teachers are not responsible for the delays and they can expedite cases only by admitting guilt and settling.

Teachers who are charged with crimes by an outside agency face similar obstacles. Prosecuting attorneys continually ask for postponements, claim they are ready to proceed, and then ask for additional postponements. The teachers are again powerless to hasten the process except by admitting guilt.

Is justice served?

Arbitrators are paid approximately $1,700 per day and must be approved by both the DOE and the UFT. Arbitrators have a huge incentive to please both sides.

The UFT is happy if teachers do not lose their jobs; the DOE is happy if the arbitrator renders any finding of guilt. Teachers are rarely terminated or exonerated. The decision of an arbitrator is very predictable: a finding against the teacher, a fine, and reassignment as an Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR).

Teachers who become ATRs are substitute teachers permanently assigned to schools. They do not have programs and have little hope of returning to the classroom in a meaningful capacity. There are approximately 1,400 ATRs in the DOE. Most ATRs are tenured teachers with excellent records who lost jobs after schools were closed

Why does the process continue?

Principals who abuse the disciplinary process are not punished and they achieve their desired results: a troublesome teacher is removed and the remaining teachers are intimidated.
The DOE hopes that public opinion inflamed by the newspapers will result in the termination of ATRs. Mostly tenured teachers will be dismissed, and teachers without tenure are cheaper and easier to control.

The UFT is reluctant to protest the abuse of the disciplinary process. The UFT receives dues from over 2,000 ATRs and rubber room teachers, approximately $2.4 million annually. Positions for these teachers have been given to new hires and changing the system will cost the UFT money.

Teachers and students are hurt by the system, but neither group has a voice.
Parents and the public are kept in the dark and trust that policymakers will make the right decisions. So far they have not.

We teachers must all stand together and bring transparency to the system both at the DOE and the UFT. Separately, we are just fish in the barrel that the DOE can pick off at will.