Saturday, January 30, 2010

Student "X" And The Closing Of The Large High Schools.

The Bloomberg/Klein strategy of closing down the large public high schools have accelerated lately as the PEP approved closing down a record 19 schools earlier this week, despite thousands of parents, students, and teachers who protested and spoke against their closings.Previously, I have commented on how the destructive policies of the DOE has led to the downfall of the once world renowned Jamaica High School. However, what about the "at risk" students that are the reason for the downfall in the first place? This story is about one such student know as student "X".

Student "X" was an English Language Learner (ELL) student who came from the Caribbean with only his mother and three other siblings. His mother worked hard but had little time to monitor her children's academic progress. Student "X", besides being an ELL student was struggling academically and occasionally lashed out and was labeled as having a behaviour problem. An aunt tried to enroll him in a charter school only to be told that his mother did not put him into the lottery. Next, the aunt tried a new small school in her neighborhood but once the Principal saw the child's record that he needed academic as well as behavioral intervention she told the Aunt that her school cannot provide the services that a large school can. The Aunt reluctantly enrolls the child in the large neighborhood school with large class sizes and finds that her nephew is just one of many "at risk" students at the school. The elementary school did its best to provide the services to student "X" but as he entered the middle school he was an "at risk"student and even as his Aunt managed to have student "X"s mother enter a lottery for a new charter school, the charter school interviewed the mother and student "X" and convinced the mother her son cannot get the proper academic services that her son required.

Student "X" struggled through his middle school years but thanks to the teachers and the increasingly dumbed down New York State tests, student "X" was tested as a low grade "2" and was promoted into the high school, despite not being able to do high school work. The Aunt realized that her nephew, student "X", really needed to be in a small school setting and was able by force of will to enroll him ion one of those small collegiate schools. However, once the school staff realized that student "X" did not meet their unofficial criteria of being college bound, they convinced the mother that it was better for her child to go to the large neighborhood school to get the behavioral and academic services student "X" required. The Aunt was upset but the clueless mother was fooled into accepting the transfer.

Student "X", once again found himself with many other students like him. Most of his peers had struggled throughout their school years and many of them could not pass even the introductory Regents such as Living Environment, Algebra, and Global History. Like student "X" most of his high school friends were ELL students and had problems academically and/or behaviorally. In fact, student "X"s high school seemed populated with "at risk" students and despite the efforts of the school staff, many of these students will not be able to graduate because of their accumulated deficiencies. Now student "X"s high school will be closing down but for him it is far too late. His attendance was poor and he was failing his classes, even the phony "credit recovery program" the Principal put into effect to try to artificially raise the school's graduation rate was not enough. Now student "X", while still officially enrolled in the closing high school, does not attend anymore and is trying to look for a job. However, he has trouble filling out job applications and he has trouble counting despite his level 2 testing status.

Student "X" is the reason that Chancellor Joel Klein and Mayor Michael Bloomberg cite on why our schools are failing. However, it is their deliberate policy of excluding students like student "X" from the small and charter schools that have resulted in too many students like student "X" to be enrolled in the remaining high schools that cause their destabilization and a low graduation rate that eventually puts them on the Chancellor's list for termination.

Bloomberg & Klein caused the problem and they are blaming the schools and closing them instead of fixing the problem they caused. Why don't the newspapers write about that?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bloomberg Wants To Cut Our Raises Or Face 2,500 Layoffs Of Teachers. The Union's Reaction Should Be The Following "Not In This Contract"

News have leaked out that Mayor Bloomberg wants to shortchange teachers by giving them the same truncated raises that Chancellor Joel Klein gave his people. That is two 2% raises for the first $70,000 in salary and 0% for any salary above $70,000. This is despite the fact that the teachers are the last major union that falls under the "City pattern" of two 4% raises with no "givebacks" and an existing budget that has those raises in it.

News Channel 4 reported that Mayor Bloomberg's proposed budget includes the two 2% raises for teachers and administrators and if the teachers union does not agree, Mayor moneybags threatened to layoff up to 2,500 teachers.

My union's response should be the following' The UFT will only accept the "City pattern" that requires two 4% raises with no "givebacks" the same terms given to all other unions. Mayor Bloomberg's proposed budget is "dead on arrival" when it comes to the teachers and any variation from the "City pattern" will be consistent with agreements made with all other unions in the last round of negotiations".
By the way as for laying off 2,500 teachers? Go right ahead and layoff the inexpensive and untenured teachers that you and Chancellor Joel Klein wants to keep. Civil service law requires that layoffs are based upon citywide seniority and no whining by you and Chancellor Joel Klein can change that fact. If you really want to save money the union suggests the following procedures be followed.

First, no more secret exemptions for principals who refuse to hire highly qualified ATRs. All vacancies must be filled by ATRs before "newbie teachers" are allowed into the school system.

Second, scrap the 600 million dollar AIRS system that does not work.

Third, eliminate the high priced no-bid consultant services that are of little or no value to the school system. Do you remember this one? Even the New York City Public School Parent blog's tongue-in-check GBN news article on the hiring of the hypnotherapist is not far from the truth.

Finally, bring transparency back to the secretive world of Tweed and let John Liu's staff oversee the DOE finances to ensure the classroom is getting their fair share of funds.

Bloomberg and Klein wants to destroy our union. Therefore, it is time for the union to take the fight to them and make them feel the pain for messing with the 800 pound gorilla. Michael Mulgrew, this is the time for you to show me that you are a mensch and not a wuss.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Can A Teacher Really File 3020-a Charges Against An Abusive & Vindictive Principal? The Answer Is No.

While reading my good buddy's blog, South Bronx School, I ran into a claim from the crack (or is that cracked) SBSB staff that any individual can file 3020-a charges against a tenured teacher or administrator. Boy, was I excited. I would demand that the union file 3020-a charges against the PINI principals that they identify in the New York Teacher and watch as Tweed complains loudly that the principals would be afraid to go after staff and be unable to do their job. Gone would be the unfair removal of staff without the Principal being investigated to determine if he or she should be subject to 3020-a charges by the union However, after talking to people in the know, inside and outside the union I found out New York State Education Law 3020-a allows only the superintendent of a school district or their appointed representatives who can file 3020-a charges.

Unfortunately, in New York City the Chancellor has appointed the ATU (misconduct) and TPU incompetence) legal staffs as the proper units to file 3020-a charges against teachers. These groups are only too eager to file "just cause" charges by believing all the hearsay statements given to them by the Principal and the corrupt investigators. The truth? This is not about the truth it is to get the teacher.

We teachers really do need a level playing field and the only reasons we are not terminated by DOE's Office of Legal Services is that under New York State Law we have "due process rights" and the DOE's flimsy evidence and hearsay statements must be brought in front of an Arbitrator who hears from both sides. However, many Arbitrators accept stand alone hearsay and it puts the teacher and her lawyer on the defensive and assumes that the Administrator or child has more credibility than the accused teacher. This is unfair and must be changed by giving all parties equal credibility and to dismiss hearsay, unless supported by actual evidence. Therefore, the union must remove Arbitrators who depend on the use of unsupported hearsay as a basis for their decision. This will help level the playing field for all teachers subject to 3020-a charges.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Parallels Between Weingarten & Klein With Chamberlain & Hitler In Negotiating Contracts & Agreements Have Caused This Mess In The First Place.

Back in 1938 Hitler's Germany was ready to back down on invading Czechoslovakia and annex the German speaking Sudetenland. However, along came Neville Chamberlain who appeased Hitler's demands and said that "I have assured peace in our time" and surrendered the Sudetenland to Germany. He then looked the other way when Germany gobbled up the rest of Czechoslovakia. The result was a destructive world war that saw over 70 million people die. Now the UFT must prepare for a "total war" with Joel Klein because of Randi Weingarten's appeasement policy with disastrous contracts in 2003 and 2005 that saw the rise of the ATR crises, loss of seniority rights, reduction in teacher due process rights, and overcrowded "rubber rooms". Furthermore, Joel Klein's policy of recruitment over retention was endorsed by Randi Weingarten and this allowed a worsening of teacher morale as Principals were encouraged to hire "newbie teachers" and get rid of experienced teachers by any means necessary.

Just like in 1939. Hitler decided to invade Poland thinking that the West would not interfere since they gave in to the occupation of the Saar Valley, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. However, the West finally said "enough" and World War II started. We now find ourselves in a similar position as a union since Bloomberg & Klein have for so long had their way with Randi Weingarten's appeasement policy allowing the DOE to ask for an inch and then take a mile. Just like the West in September of 1939 our union is at a crossroads. Do we continue our destructive appeasement policy that has resulted in raises that barely kept pace with inflation while slowly destroying the morale of teachers and creating a hostile work environment in the classroom? Or do we fight back?

It does seem that our New President is acting like Winston Churchill and engaged the Bloomberg & Klein evil empire in the "total war" heaped upon the union members by this administration. It is long overdue that our union is finally flexing their collective muscles and show Bloomberg & Klein that when you mess with the 800 pound gorilla expect to be bruised.

While, I am one of those bloggers that have liked what I have heard from Michael Mulgrew. However, I must agree with Ednotes online that under Mr. Mulgrew its been more style than substance so far. However, this contract negotiation is "a fight to the death" and the union cannot accept any "givebacks" since we are the last major union subject to the "City pattern" of two 4% raises for the two years with no "givebacks". It is time to show the Administration that we are no longer the punching bag under Randi Weingarten's tenure but a fighter that will accepted nothing more than total victory for its members.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Who's Fault Is It Why A School Like Jamaica High School Is Forced To Close? It Is The DOE's Fault!

As you all know there is a good chance that a landmark school, Jamaica High School, will be closing its doors once the "rubber stamp" PEP meeting approves the DOE action. It has been well documented how the DOE created the conditions that led to the destruction of Jamaica High School as well as other large traditional high school throughout the City. Let's recap.

First, closing other large traditional schools south of Jamaica High School (Springfield Gardens, August Martin, Franklin K. Lane, Far Rockaway, Andrew Jackson) forced Jamaica High School to take the many "at risk" students that would have gone to those schools.

Second, the establishment of small schools that had exclusionary policies that limited "at risk" students and encouraged these students to apply to Jamaica High School because they claimed that the school had the services for these students.

Third, the deliberate financial starvation of resources to the school as an increasing number of "at risk" students did not include the money for the school to effectively integrate these students into an academic environment.

Fourth, poor school leadership led to the school being unfairly placed on the State's most dangerous schools list, when it was a safe school with quiet halls and classrooms.

An example of how this works is how the small Queens Collegiate School that was placed into Jamaica High School had two students that didn't fit their student profile. One was a special education student and the other was a slow learner academically. Both students were eventually transferred to Jamaica High School as the College Board School convinced the parents of the two "at risk" students that Jamaica High School was the better setting for them. Is this the exception? No, it is probably happening everywhere throughout the City.

The DOE policy has caused the problem and they are solving it by closing the schools that their policy destabilized in the first place. I wish for the best but expect the worst for Jamaica High School.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Contract Negotiations Have Reached An Impasse. Why We Should Be Concerned That PERB Will Resolve It By Recommending Massive Givebacks.

I congratulate Michael Mulgrew and the negotiating committee who resisted the City's unreasonable demands for getting the "City Pattern" of two 4% raises (minus the 0.58% that we owe the City for the two days before Labor Day). However, the union has now declared an impasse and that is scary. I am concerned that after the usual mediation process, the contract will go to the "fact finding" phase. By allowing the three member PERB "fact finders" to determine the conditions of a new contract is very disturbing. In this difficult economic environment it will be too easy for the PERB "fact finders" to allow for "givebacks" and to further destroy teacher rights.

While it is true that the PERB recommendations are non-binding, it will be very difficult for either side to resist these recommendations. Therefore, the union is taking a big risk in agreeing to PERB intervention. I hope our union leadership knows what it is doing since I and many other knowledgeable teachers rather have no contract than a contract with significant givebacks.

Remember, after too many years of Randi Weingarten's policy of appeasement and horrible "givebacks" (remember the 2005 contract) for a wage increase that didn't even keep up with inflation and the fact that her lackeys are still in power makes me very nervous and it should you too. Yes, I am pessimistic since this is the same old failed leadership that has made teaching a much more difficult profession in the last decade. I can only hope I am wrong as time goes on.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Why Is It That Only Teachers Must Meet Contract Time Lines?

In my years working as a teacher for the DOE I have found that only teachers appear to be required to meet time lines and not the DOE. Granted, there are exceptions, for example the union won a rare victory when the DOE challenged and lost the use of the 90 day limit to give a letter to the file. This is known as the 90-Day decision However, these victories are few and far between as our union tends to look the other way in enforcing time lines in the "Contract". Let's look at specific examples of the contract that the DOE violates or ignores.

Article 18: Transfers And Staffing - B: Hardship Transfers

Many teachers are frustrated when applying for a hardship transfer when they meet the condition of traveling more than one hour and thirty minutes each way between their home and place of employment. The DOE drags their feet and in many cases does not approve the transfer and forces the teacher to continually reapply until the DOE finally allows the teacher to move to a closer location. However, many teachers give up after first applying and are forced to travel over one hour and thirty minutes each way because of the DOE ignoring or refusing the original request. Time lines? The DOE needs no time lines. They just drag their feet and delay the request until it disappears,

Article 21: Due Process & Review Procedures -G:3020-a Procedures - 2B Rotational Panel

A pre-hearing conference must be held within ten to fifteen after a selection of an Arbitrator. What a laugh, I know cases where the pre-hearing was held over a year after an Arbitrator was selected! As for ten to fifteen days? Not in this universe.

Article 21: Due Process & Review Procedures -G:3020-a Procedures - 2e Rotational Panel

The final hearing shall be concluded no later than 60 days after the pre-hearing conference and a written decision must be rendered within 30 days of the final hearing date. Suffice to say this never happens. Many teachers spent an average of two years in the "rubber rooms" and some Arbitrators may take up to 9 months to render a written decision once the closing statements have been submitted. If the "Contract" was really enforced then all the Arbitrators would fail to meet the final paragraph of Part 2f which states " "Failure to abide by these rules shall be "good and sufficient" grounds to remove the Arbitrator". Reality shows that these time lines are unrealistic and make a mockery of the 3020-a process. Here again the time lines are ignored and with good reason. However, it is still another example when it comes to others, time lines are not important.

Article 21: Due Process & Review Procedures -G:3020-a Procedures - 4. Investigations

If a reassigned teacher is not charged under section 3020-a within six months of being reassigned. The teacher must be returned to his or her school, unless SCI is the investigating agency. I know of at least 5 teachers who have been reassigned and after a year they have no charges. I am sure there are many more teachers citywide. So much for the six month contract limit. This is another case where the DOE ignores the "Contract". By contrast if a teacher fails to meet the ten day appeal process once he or she is given their 3020-a charges, the DOE will terminate them.

For the DOE it appears time lines are not for them to meet only the teachers they want to target,

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Its About Time That Our Union Fights Back In Stopping Bloomberg & Klein From Allocating Education Funds For Reducing Class Size To Other Uses

As many of you know I have been very critical of our union and their culture of appeasement under the failed leadership of Randi Weingarten. Every time the union gave an inch, the DOE took a mile. Every negotiated agreement between the union and the DOE were ignored by the DOE when they pleased. Examples are the ATR agreement and the "rubber room" agreement where the DOE have consistently choose to ignore the provisions that affect them. The result is that we will have over 2,000 ATRs by year end and "rubber rooms" that are bursting at the seems. I have watched as the paperwork has tripled and the classroom environment has become more hostile, how the union allowed and even approved the DOE policies that encouraged recruitment of lower paid "newbie teachers" at the expense of higher paid, experienced teachers always seemed a problem to me. It appears that maybe our union has finally cried "enough" and is ready to combat the DOE bully as it should have done eight years ago.

Finally, the union has filed a lawsuit on how the DOE misused 760 million dollars of CFE funds by New York State to reduce class size to other programs, some may not be of any educational use. Despite the increased money and declining enrollment, we have actually seen an increase in class sizes throughout the New York City Public School System since 2007. See chart. Where did the money go? To which programs? Did it even go for education? I applaud my union in taking their first concrete step in confronting the DOE in their "children last" program. However, this should only be the beginning of a more dynamic and pro-active union that flexes their collective muscles and let's their opponents and the politicians in Albany know what it is like to upset the 800 pound gorilla.

I am also impressed that the union has not agreed to any "givebacks" in the contract negotiations with the City. I understand that the union negotiators refused to put on the table any of the Bloomberg/Klein proposals about the ATRs, reassigned teachers, or tenure issues. Good for them and let's keep it that way. Rather no contract than a bad contract.

Good job Michael Mulgrew, so far you appear to be a Mensch. I hope this continues for all our sakes.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Two Community Leaders Get A Grade Of "F" For Buying The DOE Propaganda That Jamaica High School Should Be Closed.

I read with a mixture of amusement and anger as two clueless community leaders thought it was a great idea that Jamaica High School will be closed and be replaced with three smaller schools. The New York Daily News allowed these two apologists for Joel Klein's destructive policy in closing large, traditional high schools to express their ignorance of the DOE's policy to destroy these neighborhood schools and put in small or charter schools that will try to exclude the neediest of the children in their community from these very schools.

To prove why Jamaica High School should be closed down they brought up the poor graduation rate of under 50% and the lack of students who want to go to the school (88). They also claimed that Jamaica High School fared poorly when compared to similar schools. What they fail to understand, or don't want to understand, the reasons behind the poor graduation rate, the lack of student selections, and the alleged comparison with similar schools. It is because of the destructive policy by the DOE that put Jamaica High School in danger of closing in the first place.

First, the poor graduation rate can be attributed to the failed policy of Chancellor Joel Klein who started an irreversible plague by closing down the high schools south of Jamaica High School (August Martin, Springfield Gardens, and Far Rockaway) and dumping many of the "at risk" students that the smaller schools refused to select into the school. It is common knowledge that many of the small schools claim that they do not have the services or resources to educate the ELL and Special Education students and push them to the large traditional schools like Jamaica High School. Furthermore, until recently the DOE allowed these small schools to "cherry pick" their students not only excluding the above mention groups but children that were level 1 with behavioural or attendance issues. It is little wonder that these schools showed an initial jump in the graduation rate. Presently, these schools are still trying their best to encourage level 3 & 4 students with good attendance and little discipline issues to go to their school while discouraging the "at risk" students to select the school due to lack of services for them. In today's edition, the New York Daily News article wrote that the UFT claimed how unfair this is with regard to charter schools. However, let's see what these graduation rates are a decade from now? I suspect they will be no better and maybe worse than the large traditional high schools they replaced since these small schools will be competing with other small schools and charter schools for students and must fill their schools with "warm bodies" or risk being closed down themselves.

Second, the poor leadership of a previous Principal and incompetence of some of his administrators that are no longer at the school resulted in the State wrongly putting the school on their "most dangerous list of schools" . Once placed on this list the school not only lost existing students but labeled it to parents as too dangerous for their children who were considering going there. It did not matter that the school was safe and had quiet hallways and a great learning environment and was taken off the State list a year later. The damage was done and to the outsider Jamaica had a scarlet letter on it. The DOE, rather than correcting a wrong, cut resources, and space at the school and hastened the school's spiral downward.

Finally, these two clueless community leaders said that Jamaica High School, when compared to similar schools, did poorly. Really? Where are these similar schools? Do they have the same population and income distribution as Jamaica High School? Did these schools suffer from a similar brain drain as smaller and charter schools in the area siphoned off these high achieving students. Moreover, and more importantly, were these so called similar schools get their fair share of "at risk" students as nearby large high schools were shut down? I would venture a guess that they do not have the answers to my questions.

It is unfortunate that people who are supposed to be intelligent believe the DOE's fuzzy math, phony report card grades, and a lack of real accountability as the basis of their faulty conclusion that a potentially great school like Jamaica High School should be closed. Had they dug deeper into the numbers I would bet that they would be singing a different tune. However, their failure to explore the closing of Jamaica High School more closely allows the DOE propaganda spin machine to continue and allow a once great school like Jamaica High School to close.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Is The Union Sniffing Around By Surveying Members For "Givebacks" ? I Hope This Is Not True?

I have been hearing some very disturbing reports that our union may be considering some "givebacks". Not directly but through a marketing research group asking about what we would willing to giveback for a contract. I have not received such a phone call nor have any of my teacher friends., However, according to education notes online that some teachers have. If true, this appears to be a typical sleazy, backhanded way that our union works. Talk a good game and keep the rhetoric strong, while secretly preparing to sacrifice teachers. Be it ATRs, "rubber room teachers" and seniority rules. Very disturbing indeed. If true, Michael Mulgrew is just another Randi Weingarten union hack who continues to follow the failed and destructive policies of appeasement to the Bloomberg and Klein Administration that have resulted in an increasingly hostile classroom environment, an ATR crises, and overcrowded "rubber rooms". In addition, the rubber room reporter posted the NY1 interview with Chancellor Klein that parroted what Bloomberg said previously about eliminating the ATRs and overcrowded "rubber rooms" on their terms. Do I need to remind the union that the "City pattern" requires no "givebacks"?

I will say this loud and clear to the union. We will not accept any "givebacks" in the next contract and if that means waiting out the two clowns, so be it. Have we not learned from the 2005 contract fiasco that led to all these problems in the first place? As for giving the ATRs a one year time limit? In Chicago where the ATRs have an eighteen month time limit, over 6,000 of them have been eliminated in a school system of 35,000 teachers! It is time for Michael Mulgrew to show he is a Mench and not a Wuss to his members.