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