Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why Mayor Mike & Chancellor Joel Want To Eliminate Teacher Seniority. They Are Trying To Destroy The Teachers' Union

Now that the "rubber room" problem has been resolved (maybe). Mayor Mike & Chancellor Joel have now focused on eliminating seniority for teachers. The two of them whine that they would have to lay off "good teachers" while keeping "bad teachers" due to seniority procedures of "last in, first out", a staple of the Civil Service System. They have recruited two, soon to be defeated, politicians to sponsor the "KEEP Act" that would allow the Principal to decide who to keep and who to terminate. Furthermore, they have allies in some naive "newbie teachers" who have developed a website supporting the "KEEP Act". This "divide and conquer" policy is destined for failure as both leaders of the State Legislature have claimed it "dead on arrival". However, look for the propaganda rags of the New York Post and New York Daily News plead with the politicians to save the "good teachers".

The problem is how does a person determine who is a "good teacher"? Not Mayor Mike or Chancellor Joel? Neither one has any clue what a "good teacher" is. Furthermore, most teachers have little respect or confidence in their "Leadership Academy Principals" who would have the responsibility to determine a "good teacher". In their world a "good teacher" would be determined by their age, salary, loyalty to the Principal, and who they can bully. What about the students? Wouldn't they know who is a "good teacher"? Of course they would but many of these teachers the students like are hated by the insecure and vindictive Principal because of their interactions with the students and their questioning of Principal directives that are not in the best interest of the school.

It takes an average of 8 years (6-10 years) to reach their peak as a teacher. Once a teacher reaches their peak, unlike an athlete, they maintain that level for decades to come. Teachers are not athletics that see their skills deteriorate over the years. On the other hand 50% of the "newbie teachers" fail to last five years in the system and some of them who start off trying to conquer the world become hardened and skeptical in the next few years as they leave the system before even being vested! Therefore, how can a "newbie teacher" be a "good teacher" when compared to an experienced teacher? They can't but don't confuse Mayor Mike & Chancellor Klein with these facts.

How come Mayor Mike doesn't propose to eliminate seniority for police, fire, and sanitation? Wouldn't the athletic component actually apply in these jobs? Of course they do but the real reason is simple, he does not like teachers and would just love to break the powerful teachers' union. Give it up Bloomie, just offer "buyouts" and the bogus seniority issue disappears.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Educators4Excellence Group Is Just A Stooge For Bloomberg & Klein's "Education On The Cheap" Policy

Two misguided teachers, Sydney Morris and Evan Stone of PS 86 have become the stooges for the DOE's "education on the cheap" policy by questioning the long-standing union provision of "last hired, first fired" as they have developed a website called Educators4Excellence that supports Bloomberg and Klein rather than the union. These almost "newbie" teachers' classroom instruction are nowhere near the excellence they have named their website. Most education studies show a teacher needs a minimum of 6 years to achieve mastery of the classroom. The two of them combined only have 5 years experience! Excellence in teaching? Not even close. They have a long way to go to reach that goal, assuming they last that long. However, this does not stop them from developing the website due to their own self interest for protecting their jobs.

These two quislings support the Bloomberg/Klein attack on seniority and have worked with the failed and hopefully soon to be replaced politicians Ruben Diaz and Jonathan Bing to pass the KEEP Act. This program simply allows principals to decide who to keep (young, clueless, and inexpensive, no pension vesting) and who to fire (union advocates, highly paid senior teachers, and teachers the Principal dislikes). While, I can understand their concern about keeping their jobs. However, to allow themselves to be exploited by Bloombeg and Klein for their "education on the cheap" policy just shows how naive these two are.

The good news is that the KEEP Act is not only "dead on arrival" it was "dead before arrival" and your ill-considered attempt to change the "first in, last out" rule has only galvanized the support of union members against it and has exposed the two of you as self-serving stooges of the Bloomberg/Klein Administration and their "education on the cheap" policy. Gotham Schools wrote a piece that shows how dead it is.

You can read more about these two traitors who would eliminate our protected rights at the South Bronx School website and is required reading.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The DOE's Principals First & Children Last Policy

Over the tenure of the Bloomberg/Klein Administration the New York City Schools have seen an increase in Principal abuse of their staff as Tweed has given these principals more control of their school. Many of these principals are coming out of the "Leadership Academy" with little actual classroom experience, some not even tenured! Moreover, these principals have been told that they are the CEO of their school and run the school as a business. The problem is that the students are not widgets and the staff cogs. Every child is different and have individual learning needs, while among the staff, their are various teaching styles. The result is chaos at many of the schools and can result in the unfair removal of a teacher.

How many times have I heard about a teacher being removed from his or her class, usually instigated by the Principal, only to have no qualified substitute to handle the class. This results in an Administrator to come into the class of unruly students and say "if Ms. Jones was here, you wouldn't act this way". Of course if the Administrator had not targeted Ms. Jones in the first place, the class would not be a problem. This is called "collateral damage" and results in the DOE encouraged "children last" policy that has swept the New York City Public Schools.

You might ask why would a Principal deliberately hurt the students by removing a well qualified teacher? The answer is simple. Its about the Principal's power and control to impose their will over the staff. Any teacher criticism can and usually does target that teacher. Is it little wonder their are between 600 and 700 teachers in the "rubber rooms"? Many of the "Leadership Academy" principals are insecure and rule their schools through intimidation and fear. Therefore, they find any reason possible to push out senior teachers who are outspoken and defend the rights of the students and staff. The DOE allows these principals to gets rid of the teacher while enforcing the intimidation and fear aspect to others.

Another reason is the budget. Many schools are suffering from significant budget cuts of up to 5%. Therefore, many of the Principal's pet programs would need to be cut. However, if the Principal can drum up frivolous or bogus charges against a senior teacher, the school can save up to $100,000 after carrying the reassigned teacher's salary for only 60 days. Quite a temptation indeed.

Finally, just plain "age discrimination" as many of these insecure Principals want to hire "young, newbie teachers" who don't question idiotic decisions. That is why the "rubber rooms" have a majority of teachers 50 years or older.

Every time I hear Chancellor Joel Klein state that he has a "children first" policy I can only laugh and say when does it help the children when you remove a quality teacher because of a Principal's dislike of the teacher. To me that is Principal first and children last.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Good News Is The "Rubber Rooms" Are Closing. The Bad News Is That Teacher Due Process In The 3020-a Process Remains Unchanged

The demise of the "rubber room" is a great victory for all reassigned teachers, regardless how people feel about the union leadership and their exclusive (secretive) negotiating techniques. However, to claim it was a "pure win" for the reassigned teachers as a very respected blogger claims is quite an exaggeration. Nothing in this "rubber room agreement" makes the 3020-a process any more fair than before. Let's look at why the reassigned teacher still must deal with the unfairness of the 3020-a process.

Unfair Investigations:

There are no changes to how investigations are done. When a Principal goes after a teacher the final result is the teacher is removed. I have previously wrote about these unfair investigations Here, Here, and Here. An independent investigator would make this a fairer investigation and would require the teacher to fully participate in it.

No Consequences For "False Accusations":

The agreement does nothing to ensure that either the DOE or UFT go after administrators or students that were found to have given "false accusations" against a teacher, despite language to do just that in the previous "rubber room agreement". To date, no Administrator has been disciplined for giving "false accusations" against a teacher.

The Expansion Of The Hated & Unfair "Probable Cause" Provisions:

The awful "probable cause" provision was expanded to include violent assault. Despite Leo Casey's advocacy for this provision, mere hearsay is enough to get a teacher offline for up to three months. Now we are adding another accusation to remove more innocent teachers.

Shortening The 3020-a Hearing Process:

You might think that this is a good thing. However, there is real concern that the hearings, with their stringent timelines could pressure Arbitrators from hearing character witnesses for the teacher because of the requirement of meeting the timelines (teacher witnesses go last). The hasty hearing process may turn out to be unfair to the teacher.

Arbitrator Selection:

The NYC 3020-a process is inferior to the State 3020-a process because teachers do not have the right to refuse an Arbitrator (the State allows this). Furthermore, for incompetence cases, one Arbitrator, rather than a three Arbitrator panel is used to hear teacher incompetence cases. More about this issue can be found Here.

Overall, it was a win for the reassigned teachers but a "pure win"? Sorry, I just don't buy it.

Thanks South Bronx for the use of your picture.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Union Did A Good Job Getting Rid Of The "Rubber Rooms"

In what is a major win for reassigned teachers and the teachers' union the sorry saga of the Temporary Reassignment Center (TRC), commonly referred to as the "rubber room" appears to be finally history as of September of 2010. No longer will "good teachers" who were whistileblowers. had issues with administrators, or were subject to "false or embellished accusations" from students, languish for years in crowded rooms with little or nothing to do but wait for their hearings. Now all reassigned teachers will rapidly go through their hearings within 60 days (with some exceptions dealing with criminal court requirements and students who graduated and can only return to testify during college breaks) of responding to the DOE's 3020-a charges. To ensure the timelines are met, the amount of Arbitrators will be increased from 23 to 39, not including additional Arbitrators to hear expedited cases where termination is not being sought by the DOE ( maximum penalty, a one month suspension without pay). Furthermore, to get rid of the existing considerable backlog in 3020-a cases, the DOE has agreed to work with a Mediator/Arbitrator to develop realistic settlement offers to teachers. After very carefully reviewing this groundbreaking "rubber room agreement" I have come to the conclusion that it is a victory for the reassigned teacher. I must congratulate President Michael Mulgrew, Chief of Staff Leroy Barr, and Lawyer Adam Ross for, their work in crafting this agreement for reassigned teachers. It appears this agreement includes the contractual enforceability that the June 2008 "rubber room agreement" lacked and was widely ignored by the DOE. While I do have some minor misgivings and questions dealing with specific issues in the agreement, I do think the elimination of the "rubber rooms" is long overdue.

If one thinks back, before Joel Klein the new reassignment procedures are similar to what was in place in the 1990's where between 80 to 90 reassigned teachers (not the 600 to 700 presently) were sent to District or Regional offices and the reassigned teachers were required to do Administrative work. During this time principals would be closely questioned by the Superintendent's office before a teacher was reassigned because the District or Regional office did not want too many reassigned teachers there. By bringing back this requirement we should see a reduction of reassigned teachers as principals, used to dumping teachers they do not like or want out of their schools, will be unable to do that since they must be sent to their "Children Fist Network" office that is assigned to the school and who must authorize the reassignment.

I must admit I am somewhat suspicious of the agreement because of the secretive nature of the negotiations, a lack of participation by the elected leaders for the reassigned teachers (liaisons), the past actions of the DOE in ignoring the previous "rubber room agreement", the expansion of that awful and abusive "probable cause" provision, and the DOE's failure to go after Administrators for "false accusations" However, on its surface the agreement seems to have solved the public relations problem of the "rubber room" for both sides. I am also heartened that Mayor Bloomberg's office pushed to end this financially wasteful practice that gave both sides a black eye and cost the City over 30 million dollars annually. Money that is badly needed to close the City budget gap.

Let's all hope that this agreement stands the test of time and will be seen as the turning point for our union to return to the strong and effective"800 pound gorilla" we once were under Albert Shanker

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

These Stupid Politicians Are Dead Men Walking

Two misguided politicians, Assemblyman Jonathan Bing from the Upper East Side and State Senator Ruben Diaz from the Bronx were asked by lobbyists from the City to sponsor a bill that would eliminate New York Civil Services protections for determining teacher layoffs by seniority and replace it with a Principal directed procedure to determine the layoffs by different means.

The New York Times reported that the seniority based layoffs will be replaced by a school committee of administrators, teachers, and parents. However, we all know that the Principal will have the ultimate decision-making authority and it will be based upon the Principal's likes and dislikes as well as the teacher's salary. Not only is this proposal "wishful thinking" but is dead on arrival.

This misguided proposal, if accepted, would start a slippery slope of eroding the State's Civil Service protections that the unions have painstakingly built upon to ensure all public employees have fair and equatable treatment. Therefore, all the State, Municipal, and Local unions will rally against this blatant erosion of Civil Service rights. As for the two misguided politicians? They should be "dead men walking" as the unions should organize a campaign against their reelection and make sure they can never win again. Not even for dogcatcher! The unions must impress upon all the Assemblymen and State Senators that there are serious consequences for sponsoring bills against Public Service employees and that should be funding their opponents and taking out ads against these politicians.

To date, Michael Mulgrew's reaction to this outrageous and dangerous proposal was Randi-like (a very bad sign). Rather than strongly condemn the proposal he was bringing up the fact that in can cause high teacher turnover and destabilize the schools like in Washington D.C. Norm Scott in ednotes online said it best in saying:

It's economics, stupid, not about quality teachers
Sure, that is the reason to oppose the bill. To stop teacher turnover. Why not make the point that if they get rid of every single teacher who makes over $70,ooo they can keep lots more teachers? And why is the DOE still advertising new jobs? It's time for the UFT to start calling a spade a spade. Call this the BloomKlein version of a "buyout." Just fire all the senior teachers and save a whole lot of money. The "fire one and keep two" plan.

Norm's entire article can be found here.

I expect our union President to show these two politicians who is boss and punish them by helping them leave office as quickly as possible. Michael Mulgrew's tepid response so far is very discouraging and where is the strong rhetoric we heard before the election? I will be watching to see if Michael Mulgrew is a man of action or just a male version of Randi Weingarten.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Why The DOE Is Responsible For The Disconnect Between The Rising High School Graduation Rates And The Lack Of Academic Skills By The Graduates

Before Bloombeg and Klein took over the New York City Public School System, the high school graduation rates were lower but the students who did graduate knew if they worked hard they could legitimately attend college or join a job market where their education was a factor in being hired. However, along comes Bloomberg and Klein who have cheapened the high school diploma to the point employers find that many high school graduates have difficulty completing an employment application and that over 80% of the graduates who try college find they must take remedial courses because they were not educationally proficient for college work.

Why the disconnect between the improved graduation rate and the lack of readiness for the graduates in the business or college world? I believe you can trace this disconnect to at least three factors that have resulted in a student graduating high school without the necessary educational tools or skills to succeed in either the business or college environment.

First, one of the most common method to graduate students is for the Principal to change failing grades for seniors with and sometimes without the knowledge of the teacher. With principals given broad authority by the DOE to run a school as he or she pleases and with high school grades (maybe even bonuses) depending on the graduation rate, principals are tempted to improve their statistics. I wrote a post about this here and is a must read. Furthermore, principals have been accused of changing Regents grades and go unpunished since the investigative agencies have a different standard when investigating administrators. You can read it here as well.

Second, a significant rise in the "credit recovery program" for high school students during the Bloomberg/Klein Administration that are encouraged by the DOE and some of these "credit recovery programs" are as simple as writing a report over the vacation. Read here.

Finally, the single mindedness of Regents prep at the expense of a well rounded education is rapidly gaining favor in the high schools. Many high schools now put in Regents prep courses rather than giving students an option to take courses that could broaden their academic horizons. Is it little wonder that many of our graduates are deficient in academics despite graduating?

What ever happened to our mission to graduate well rounded boys and girls who would be a credit, not only to their family but the community as a whole? Now it seems that the DOE's mission is to get them out by any means necessary without giving them the proper tools and skills to succeed in the real world. Tweed's "children last" policy continues.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

With Michael Mulgrew's Election, I Hope The UFT Makes Transparancy & Protecting Their Members As A Top Priority

I congratulate Michael Mulgrew on his election as UFT President and now comes the hard part, making the union more responsive to the members. The era of union appeasement under the failed leadership of Randi Weingarten is now officially over and Michael Mulgrew can now put his stamp on how the union responds to both pressure from the outside and how it handles member needs. I have previously been impressed with Mr, Mulgrew's rhetoric and the pro-active lawsuits against the DOE. However, I voted for James Eterno because of Michael Mulgrew keeping the failed leadership that caused so much damage to the members during Randi Weingarten's tenure. Therefore, here is what I expect from my newly elected UFT President.

First, demanding the "City pattern" in the contract negotiations. That includes two 4% raises (minus 0.58% for gaining back the two days before Labor Day) with "no givebacks". Our negotiating committee worked too hard in resisting the outrageous DOE demands to destroy the NYC Public School Teacher to let three unaccountable Arbitrators under PERB to impose any "givebacks" as a condition to get the "City pattern". Any PERB recommendation should go through the same negotiating committee for approval and not the present leadership that was so instrumental in giving us the terrible 2005 contract. Any contract with significant givebacks should be rejected immediately!

Second, No more secret deals with the City and Tweed that are not brought to the members for review and comment. In Randi's tenure she negotiated many secret deals that did not involve member input. Many of these deals were not enforceable and the DOE ignored their obligations. Now we hear that Michael Mulgrew is secretly negotiating with the DOE on the "rubber rooms". Scary, since the reassigned teachers or their liaisons are not even consulted about their fate. Lack of transparency has always been a problem in this union. Is it little wonder when the union leadership fails to include the members that the decisions prove to disadvantageous to the members.

Third, more democracy in selecting District Reps, Special Reps, and High School Reps. The union policy of selecting, not electing people for these positions has resulted in a culture of loyalty to the leadership rather than the members they are supposed to represent. This has led to the perceived disconnect between the member needs and the leadership duties.

Finally, it is no secret that I expect Mr. Mulgrew to make changes in the leadership that owe their jobs to their allegiance to Randi Weingarten. Whomever ends up in the leadership positions should be people more responsive to member needs and not to their own political agenda. We need leadership that provides solutions not obstructing member rights.

I will be watching to see if Michael Mulgrew is his own man or just another "ass kisser" who puckered up his way to the top.

Monday, April 05, 2010

"Here Comes The Clowns" - The Legacy Of The 2005 Contract- Part 5: "Circular Six" Requirments Reimposed

This is the final part of my five part series on the horrible "givebacks" our union clowns agreed to in the terrible 2005 contract that has helped make the classroom teaching an increasingly hostile environment. Last but for many teachers, not least, was the return of "circular six" requirements to replace a teacher preparation period.

We had ridden ourselves of "circular six" when we agreed to the infamous "double zeros" back in the 1990's. However, thanks to the existing "Unity" leadership we now have to use a preparation period for things like "potty patrol, cafeteria duties, or hallway help". These unprofessional activities should be preformed by non-professionals, not teachers. Further, it put teachers at risk if they try to break up fights in the hallway or cafeteria and may lead to disciplinary actions by vindictive administrators. Here again our failed union leadership are not subject to "circular six" requirements and there were unsympathetic to teacher complaints about reimposing the "circular six" requirements. How can any union agree to "givebacks" that they themselves are not subject to? The answer is that many in the union leadership had lost touch with what the classroom teacher was subject to and this was evident in the 2005 contract negotiations where classroom teachers were excluded from the negotiating process and dissidents were met with evasive answers and insults by the "Unity" propaganda machine.

Now, as we send the contract impasse to PERB (a very bad idea in this economic environment). I fear that the teacher directed negotiation committee, who did a wonderful job in representing us, will be replaced by the same inner circle lackeys who were so instrumental in giving us the terrible 2005 contract, with disastrous consequences for the classroom teacher. I can only hope that Michael Mulgrew or James Eterno remember that they represent the classroom teacher and not the other way around. In any case it is important that whomever is the UFT President that he makes sure that they ensure the members voices are part of any agreed upon contract and that means replacing the clowns that were and are part of the problem and not the solution.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

"Here Comes The Clowns" - The Legacy Of The 2005 Contract - Part 4 : The "Probable Cause" Bomb

One of the most dangerous "givebacks" that our union gave up to the City was taking teachers off the payroll for up to three months simply when a student accused the teacher of sexual misconduct. No other school district in New York State has this provision and nor should they. Our union gave up the right of "innocent until proven guilty" simply on hearsay evidence. According to SCI and the DOE our President Barack Obama, could be subject to "probable cause" because of his apparent leering of the high school girl's backside. When this provision was discussed in Edwize, the leaders in objecting to this provision came from UFT Presidential candidate James Eterno, nyc educator, JD2718, and myself. As for Mike (call me Michael) Mulgrew doing this time? Not a peep. Unless he was the HS Shop Teacher who defended this contract. Time and again we demanded that the "Unity" minister of propaganda, Leo Casey clearly explain why the union agreed to this provision. Instead Leo Casey, responded by insulting us and accusing us of protecting pedophiles and perverts rather than answer the question on what constitutes "probable cause". You can find our complaints and Leo Casey's deceptive responses here. Of course Leo Casey knew full well that simple hearsay could land a teacher suspended without pay for three months since you only need to read what the union sent to NYSUT legal as evidence of "probable cause". You can find this shocking definition in an article right here. In essence Appendix H of the "probable cause" agreement allows the Arbitrator to take a teacher offline simply by hearsay evidence, not the facts.

Here are some real examples of people who were subject to the "probable cause" provisions.

Case 1: A teacher tells a student that does not belong in his class to get the F**k out of my class. The student, embarrassed told her two friend later that day that the teacher told her that he would like to f**k her. The three girls went to the Principal who took statements and reported it to SCI. Interestingly, not one person in his class heard him say what the girl claimed. However, Appendix H allows for hearsay and the teacher was put on "probable cause".

Case 2: A teacher was joking with his high school ESL class and said he has had many girlfriends over the years. When the students asked him if he had sex with them, He joked, everyone of them, who can resist me. The students laughed because he was quite ugly but one student reported it to Assistant Principal who contacted OSI and was found subject to "probable cause" for his light hearted bantering despite the 3020-a Arbitrator finding him innocent in his 3020-a hearing, the Arbitrator would not give him back the money he lost while under "probable cause".

Case 3: A teacher has been having a long-term relationship with a women who has a 13 year old daughter. The daughter tells her cousin that her mother's boyfriend is hot and she wants to have sex with him. Just a childhood fantasy? Well the cousins later had a fight and the cousin told her mother that the teacher and the girl had sex. The mother reported it to the police and ACS who both investigated and realized it was simply the girl trying to get her cousin jealous that a grown man was interested in her. However, in the bizarre world of the DOE any accusation must be true and had SCI investigate. Despite affidavits by all involved that nothing ever happened, SCI substantiated (how?) the cousin's recanted accusation and he is now under "probable cause".

Case 4: A female teacher was falsely accused of touching a special education student in his privates. The teacher was arrested but the police dropped all charges as the DA found that the child made up the story and had his two friends claim it happened. However, here comes SCI who believes the three students even after the DA found the students unbelievable and now the teacher is under "probable cause" despite the lack of credibility of the students.

Case 5: SCI claimed a teacher asked a student out on a date. However, in the 3020-a hearing the student admitted that he asked the entire class to go get ice cream, not just her. She claimed she told the SCI investigator that he never propositioned her but admitted she felt uncomfortable with the attention he gave her because of the personal problems she had. This poor teacher was subject to "probable cause" as well.

There are more cases like the five I identified and very few fall into Leo Casey's pervert or pedophile category. All five teachers are caring people and tried to do the right thing but for some reason the student didn't like the approach. Does this allow the DOE to remove a teacher? Thanks to Leo Casey and our union the answer is yes. If you think this will never apply to you? Just read this.

Teacher Contract 6/1/2003-11/12/2007


On October 2, 2005 the following understanding was reached regarding probable cause hearings:

"The UFT will conduct a meeting of lawyers who represent UFT members in 3020-a proceedings to inform them about the new procedures regarding offenses involving sexual misconduct with a student or minor not a student. During that meeting there will be a discussion of what would constitute probable cause including that we agree that in a probable cause hearing the hearing officer may accept hearsay as evidence of probable cause, and that a criminal complaint and corroborating affidavit of the SCI report is sufficient evidence to create a rebuttable presumption of probable cause".

In other words simply hearsay is sufficient to remove a teacher on "probable cause". You can thank the "Unity" people for this. Here again. Leo Casey and the other "Unity" lackeys are not subject to this provision since they don't deal with the students. You can thank our union clowns that allowed this travesty of justice in their ongoing effort to destroy teacher due process.