Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Will Joel Klein Give In And Remove The Hiring Freeze So That Principals Can Hire "Newbie Teachers"?

It has been two weeks since the citywide ATR job fair has been held and I do not know of any ATRs in Queens who were offered positions for the vacancies that number over a thousand citywide. Some of these ATRs are great teachers and should have been snapped up. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the principals are just going through the motions by interviewing ATRs for their vacancies and claiming that the ATRs are not appropriate for the teaching positions. It is quite obvious to me the principals are hoping that before the October 30th deadline when the money for the vacancy is removed from the school, budget one of three things will happen.

Exemption Waiver: Many of the principals showed up to the ATR job fair to only reject the ATRs and use those rejections to apply for an exemption and obtain a waiver to hire a "newbie teacher". Over 125 such waivers have already been approved by Tweed and more are being considered daily. This was first reported by Anna Phillips of Gotham News and the ATR job fair is the first step for a Principal to obtain an exemption.

Newbie Special Education Teachers: The hiring of "newbie" special education teachers and using them for mainstream classroom teachers. It appears some principals have hired "newbie" special education teachers, where there is no hiring freeze, and are using them as long-term subs or even as mainstream classroom teachers. How widespread this is is now being investigated by the UFT. I will be very interested in the union's findings.

Hiring Freeze: Many principals are still holding out hope that Joel Klein will end the hiring freeze in October and there is some reason to believe that this is not just wishful thinking. However, given the economy and budget restraints, there is probably less than a 50% chance of the hiring freeze being lifted. There is a better chance for the freeze to be lifted for math and foreign language teachers in specific locations before October 30th..

Time will tell how successful the principals will be in getting Tweed to allow them to hire who they want. Remember it is not about the children, it is about the Principa's power. Children last continues going strong.

Friday, September 25, 2009

My Union Hero And Villain

As many of my readers know, I have complained about our union leaders since they seem to have lost touch with the members in the trenches they represent. For example, I have never had a union leader ask me my opinion of issues of importance to the teacher (except those stupid surveys that nobody in the union takes seriously). However, in the sea of uncaring and clueless in he classroom union leaders there are some shining stars. One of these shinning stars is Amy Arundel who has time and again went out of her way to help teacher due process rights. Amy is a special representative headquartered at 52 Broadway and tackles some of the more complex issues that cross her desk. Presently, she is looking into principals that skirted the DOE hiring freeze by hiring special education teachers for mainstream classes or long-term subs. All Chapter Leaders need to contact Amy if your Principal is guilty of hiring special education teachers for regular education classes. While I have had no personal experience with Amy Arundel, I Had heard from numerous teachers how helpful she has been in dealing with their issues. She is not beyond making calls to the DOE to work out potential problems and does not hesitate to file a grievance if the DOE refuses to work out the problem.

On the opposite side of my spectrum is Leo Casey, the "Unity" spin mister and apologist for the terrible 2005 contract that has doomed many a teacher and has made the classroom a more hostile environment. Apparently, Leo has not been in a classroom since the great flood and it wouldn't surprise me that it was Leo Casey who told the Unicorns that the rain coming from the sky was just a shower and continue playing rather then board Noah's Ark. This is the same Leo Casey who told us how wonderful it was that seniority transfer and bumping is no more and now is strangely quiet as the ATR population exploded into the thousands as a result of it. Most of them senior teachers. Yes, and it is the same Leo Casey who thought the probable cause section of the contract was a great idea since it will eliminate the pedophiles and perverts from the system. However, it also allowed the DOE to charge any teacher with it merely based upon Hearsay, and when the teacher is found not guilty of sexual misconduct, the Arbitrators never gives the teacher back the money they lost while being suspended for up to three months without pay and benefits. Further, Leo seems more interested in Durfur and Mexico than the overcrowded high schools that he is supposed to represent. To understand Leo Casey you just need to go back to his infamous Edwize article of October 20, 2005 where he defends the indefensible 2005 contract and insults teachers in the process.

When it comes to the UFT, my hero is Amy Arundel. My villain Leo Casey, who else?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Union Finally Wins A Small Victory On Corporal Punishment - How About A Big Victory On An Independent And Fair Investigation Process?

The NY Teacher reported that an Arbitrator sided with the union on language used for corporal punishment investigations. The union filed the grievance after the DOE changed language in the Chancellor's Regulations that made it easier for the DOE to charge members with Corporal Punishment and also allow the accusers not to be identified. Further, the arbitrator also ruled that the word "perceived" be deleted from the revised regulations since this word can be abused to claim a member interfered in an investigation simply by the Principal saying so,

While I am happy the union has finally won a small victory on the Corporal Punishment Regulations A-420, a much larger victory is needed. That is the elimination of the catch all phrase


This vague phrase allows the DOE to charge a teacher with Corporal Punishment who has any sort of physical contact with a student, regardless if she was defending herself. Moreover, almost every member knows that when an administrator targets a teacher, the OSI investigator will substantiate the charges and file Corporal Punishment charges against the member. Without a fair and independent investigation the member is as good as charged. It does not matter that the physical contact was initiated by the student, or the teacher was assaulted, defending oneself can and will lead to Corporal Punishment charges based upon the Chancellor's Regulations if the teacher is targeted by an administrator.

The UFT must push for fairer and more evenhanded language and investigations when it comes to Corporal Punishment.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Dirty Little Secret That The Media Refuses To Report. How Principal Quality Has Deteriorated Under Bloomberg & Klein

In the pre Bloomberg/Klein tenure almost all Principals rose through the teaching ranks and didn't forget their roots in the classroom. Sure, there were exceptions to this rule (my ex-Principal was one, more about him in another post) and some principals did forget their classroom roots. However, the vast majority of principals worked their way up the ranks. First, as a classroom teacher with over ten years of experience. Then as an Assistant Principal for five years with both administrative and classroom duties. Finally, after mastering both the classroom and the administrative functions, the person is now ready to become a Principal. Many of these Principals had long ago learned to collaborate with other people in the school to get things done. These lessons were never forgotten by the old Principals and any problems in the school were usually resolved in the school. Only those teachers accused of gross incompetence or criminal actions were removed from the school to face 3020-a charges. During these times the total amount of teachers removed from the school were usually less than a hundred throughout the City since removing a teacher from the school was a last resort because of the collateral damage done to the teacher's students and for maintaining staff morale in running a successful and smoothly-running school.

Under the Bloomberg/Klein tenure things have changed drastically. As the old Principals retired, or were forced out. New "Leadership Academy principals" took their place. Many of these "Leadership Academy principals" had limited classroom experience, some never even set foot into a classroom as a teacher! Further, these principals didn't know how to collaborate with heir staffs on what was best for the schools. Some of these "Leadership Academy principals" are in their 20's & early 30's and are not mature or experienced enough to handle the Principal's position but were given the position anyway. However, worst of all is that these "Leadership Academy principals" are taught that "it is your school and do whatever it takes to run it the way you see fit". The result has been a disaster to the parents, students, and teachers alike. No collaboration only domination when it comes to the school staff.

Joel Klein and his non-educators have given the principals complete control over the schools and that means that principals are allowed to remove teachers they do not want. These principals know that the DOE, despite the July 2, 2008 Rubber Room Agreement signed with the UFT, will not interfere with the Principal's decision to remove a teacher from the school. Furthermore, Tweed made it even easier by allowing the Principal to remove the teacher's salary from the school budget sixty days after the Principal removed the teacher. Finally, Tweed's use of the "fair student funding" formula encouraged principals to remove senior and highly paid teachers from the school's budget on trumped-up charges of misconduct or incompetence so that they can hire a "newbie teacher" to replace the reassigned teacher and still have enough money to use for other school functions. The result was an explosion of "rubber room" teachers (750) and the rise of the ATR population of 1,600 teachers.

The real problem in the City Public School System is that the quality of Principals are eroding as more and more inexperienced "Leadership Academy principals" take over schools and lack the necessary social skills to work with their staffs. The result is low school morale, staff mistrust, and quality teachers fleeing the schools. While the phony education reformers talk about quality teachers there is silence when it comes to the deterioration of the principals that run the schools.

For the "Leadership Academy principals" it is not about the children, its about their control over the schools. "Children Last" continues.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How Some "Principals From Hell" Still Screw The Reassigned Teacher

I have a very good friend who was reassigned by her Leadership Academy Principal for alleged incompetence (the charge is false. Her crime is she is over 40 and not the same religion & culture as the "newbie teachers" that she hires). This "Principal From Hell" also known as a Principal-In-Need-Of-Improvement (PINI) by the UFT has limited classroom experience (less than three years) and poor management skills. In addition, over 50% of the teachers she inherited when she was made Principal less than six years ago have left the school for greener pastures.

This Principal had wanted the teacher to resign but the teacher refused and was reassigned to the "rubber room". When the teacher's 3020-a hearing was starting, the Principal had to testify and was grilled by the NYSUT lawyer for the teacher and now no longer in control, the Principal's testimony was evasive, and uncertain. Further, the Principal now had the tables turned on her as she was defensive, uncomfortable, and couldn't remember many of the charges she logged against the teacher. By the time the Principal was allowed to leave the 3020-a hearing (after three days of testimony) she was a mess.

This should have been the end of the Principal's interaction with the teacher, except for one thing. The Principal still had to sign off on the teacher's annual rating sheet which includes the attendance. It doesn't matter that the teacher has not been in the school for years. This vindictive Principal decided to violate protocol and not pay the teacher for attending her 3020-a hearings or meeting with her NYSUT lawyer even when the teacher is no longer on the Principal's budget! Hopefully, the union makes sure that not only will the teacher be paid for those days she was docked but that the union goes after the Principal with the same vengeance that the Principal did to the teacher. If the union allows the Principal to get away with this, what stops other Principals from doing the same? Nothing of course.

Our union makes $100 million dollars on member dues and it is time that some of the money be used to go after Principals that abuse teachers. No more talk, just take some real action.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Has A New Contract Been Negotiated With The Bloomberg Administration?

There are persistent rumors that at Wednesday's Delegate Assembly meeting a tentative contract will be presented to the delegates. This was first written about by Ed Notes Online last week who reported that the Chapter Leader meeting was suddenly replaced by the DA assembly meeting to discus the contract negotiations and in articles in Gotham Schools and the New York Times. In addition, I have always suspected that a contract was nearly complete as far back as June and I have previously posted an article about it . The broad parameters of a contract were already agreed upon between Randi Weingarten and Mike Bloomberg and it was up to the Mulgrew gang to dot the "i" and cross the "t" to finalize the contract.

It is too bad that there haven't been any leaks about what, if any, "givebacks" the union has agreed to. I assume that if there were any real "givebacks" the non-Unity factions on the 300 person negotiating committee would have leaked it out like the dissidents did in the Washington D.C. teacher negotiations. However, the damage has already been done to us in the previous contracts and that if the union does not obtain " takebacks", the situation for the teacher will only get worse. As of Friday, the New York Post said there were 1,600 ATRs still in the system, despite 1,300 vacancies not filled! This intolerable situation can be blamed on the previously negotiated contracts that eliminated seniority transfer and the placing of excessed teachers before hiring "newbie teachers". I hope the union has learned their lesson and requires that all ATRs be placed before "newbie teachers" can be hired.

As for the monetary part of the contract assume that we will be getting two 4% raises for the two years of the contract, minus the 0.58% that Randi negotiated with the Mayor to get back the two days before Labor Day. However, it is possible that the contract may be more than two years if there are additional items included in the agreement. An example of this would be enhanced health and welfare benefits, a reduction in workloads, etc. Presently, these items don't appear part of the new contract but things can change.

Finally, no matter what the new contract will say it is time for the union to become pro-active and file PERB complaints when the DOE abuses teacher due process. Under Randi that did not happen. Let's see an aggressive change in the union position on teacher rights. Time and again the UFT negotiates with the DOE and when the DOE reneges on the agreement the UFT has failed to take action. This must stop and time limits must be adhered to by all parties not just one.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Despite A Shortage Of Science & Special Education Teachers The ATRs In These Areas Are Still Not Being Hired. Look At Ageism As The Reason

In August the DOE, citing a shortage of Science and Special Education teachers, rescinded the ban on hiring "newbie teachers" for these subject areas. However, many Principals and DOE service centers still continued to hire inexperienced teachers despite having ATR teachers available to them in those subject areas and Tweed just turns a blind eye to this terrible practice. In a New York Times article Many of the Principals interviewed for the article admitted that they are circumventing the hiring freeze by various means. Below is what the principals said.

Several principals — who did not want their names published for fear of angering the administration or the teachers’ union — said they were circumventing the restrictions by offering new teachers jobs as long-term substitutes or hiring them as specialized teachers but placing them in regular classrooms. Some said they planned to eliminate open positions from their budgets rather than take on teachers they considered undesirable, and others said they were holding out in the hope that Mr. Klein would lift the restrictions.

I also wrote about the Principal's intent not to hire ATRs as long as possible Here. Now I have been informed of a specific case dealing with how a DOE organization refused to give a highly qualified special education teacher her job back, despite glowing letters by the two principals she worked with.

The story starts with the veteran special education teacher with 20+ years in service being loaned to the DOE organization because of their need for an experienced special education teacher to work with two schools who were in desperate need of resource room services for their special education students. Since the teacher was an ATR, Tweed was responsible for her salary not the DOE organization she worked for. This year the teacher was told to report back to the DOE organization and she hoped that with the glowing written recommendations she received from the two principal and the other administrators of the two schools, would allow her to continue doing the job she was given the previous year. However, to her shock and dismay, the supervisors of the DOE organization refused to consider her for the position she had previously and instead hired a "newbie teacher" who had no experience with the children, Why would the DOE's organization supervisors hire a "newbie teacher" over a highly-qualified teacher when they would cost the same to their budget (ATR agreement)? The answer is simple its about the age. See the highly-qualified teacher is over 50 and when the supervisors say jump, she is likely to say "why". While the 25 year old "newbie teacher" responds by saying "how high"? To add salt to the wound, the supervisors asked the now jobless ATR to train the "newbie teacher" on what she needs to know and do at the two schools. If that wasn't bad enough the DOE organization is busy interviewing other "newbie teachers" for more special education jobs and this teacher was not even given a courtesy interview for these jobs. Just disgusting.

Age discrimination is rampant throughout the ATR population and hiring practices are dictated by insecure administrators that are best for them rather than what's best for the children with special needs. DOE's "children last" continues.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

For Teachers Who Have Been Targeted By Their Principals - Here Are TheThings Teachers Should Not Do.

As the 2009-10 school year starts on Tuesday, many teachers are already being targeted by the Principal for either incompetence and/or misconduct. The end result is an eventual 3020-a termination process. There are many reasons that Principals want to terminate teachers ranging from ageism, salary, personality, unionism, and retaliation. Granted, 10% of the teachers charged under 3020-a probably deserve the charges. However, the other 90% do not. Unfortunately, teachers are easy targets when it comes to filing charges since teachers' skills are based on their caring & nurturing of the students. However, when it comes to legal issues, teachers are basically clueless on how to fight the charges against them. Therefore, the targeted teachers rely on either overworked NYSUT lawyers who far to often pressure the innocent teacher to plead guilty and pay a hefty fine or suspension or pay large legal fees to have a private lawyer represent them in the 3020-a disciplinary hearing. Consequently, many a targeted teacher ends up taking a deal and returning to school as an ATR without a classroom or building seniority.

What are the things that teacher should not do? Here is my list,

First, if the Principal or any other administrator offers you the "Peer-Intervention- Program" plus, known as PIP+, don't accept it under any circumstances. The latest statistics show that anywhere between 75% and 90% of the teachers fail PIP+. Its little wonder since the DOE pays the PIP+ vendor. Furthermore, the PIP+ educator is required to testify against you in the eventual 3020-a hearing making it easier to terminate you. Better to refuse PIP+ than have an expert teacher testify against you.

Second, never have a meeting with the Principal without the Chapter Leader present. There have been numerous instances where the Principal has called in a targeted teacher and offered the teacher a chance to resign and have the previous annual"U" ratings changed to "S" until the end of the present school year. Since the meeting is not disciplinary in nature, the Chapter Leader is not asked to be present. In some cases the Principal demands an answer immediately and a few teachers are pressured to resign. Under no circumstances should a teacher be threatened into resigning.

Third, if the Special Commissioner Of Investigations (SCI) wants to talk to you, don't you even consider it. Make sure you contact the union and they will arrange for you to be represented by a lawyer who will tell you not to talk to them. These investigators are biased and unfair and they are only out to "get the teacher" not find out the truth. The SCI investigators are notorious for substantiating the most frivolous events as serious misconduct.

Fourth, if it is the Office Of Special Investigations is doing the investigation then the union's position is to talk to them. However, the OSI investigations are also "biased and unfair" and I strongly recommend that the targeted teacher not speak to the investigator since the typical union advocate is worthless and are of little help in your case. To them it is just an extra union paycheck and they are more concerned in keeping good relations with the OSI investigator rather than advocating for the teacher.

Fifth, never respond immediately to a Letter-In-File (LIF) given you. Pen your response after calming down and assume it will be used against you in a disciplinary hearing. A month would be a good time to pen your response to a LIF after you have had time to look at it calmly and talk to people you trust and respect. Never give a full explanation in your response since you will be stuck with that explanation at the 3020-a hearing. Just write your denials of the charges and save the details for your 3020-a disciplinary hearing.

Finally, write up all events, either in a diary or notebook, including all conversations with administrators. They will be very important in your 3020-a hearing since after two years people can't remember many of the specific charges leveled against you but you will be able to have it written down for review and comment.

I am sure there are commenters that have additional ones to add to my list. Let's see them.