Thursday, May 27, 2010

Not All Arbitrators Are Equal - Ask Betsy Combier

One of the most closely kept secret by NYSUT attorneys that represent teachers and the DOE legal service's ATU and TPU groups are how Arbitrators rule on similar 3020-a cases. If the DOE believes that the Arbitrator is to teacher friendly, their annual contract is not renewed. Less common is if the Arbitrator is too harsh with his or her decisions against the teacher, the UFT/NYSUT will also not renewal the yearly contract with the Arbitrator. Therefore, many of the Arbitrator "awards" (penalties against the teacher) will have these competing factors in mind. In other words, there are very few terminations of teachers but even less acquittals. The "awards" can range from a simple "letter-to-the-file" to a one year suspension without pay. While all the Arbitrators are intelligent and honest men and women and try to do the what is right for all parties, the pressure on them to stay on the Arbitration panel encourages them to "split the baby" and make sure that both sides are happy. The DOE gets a suspension or fine and the UFT stops the termination of a teacher.

Within the gray area of "awards" you have some DOE friendly Arbitrators that tend to suspend many teachers that appear before them while the teacher friendly Arbitrators use fines and courses as an "award". While every 3020-a case is different and the Arbitrator usually is influenced by the teacher's own testimony and behavior, the Arbitrators do have a history of making decisions based upon their "body of work". However, try to get that information from the DOE or the union is impossible. Therefore, the next best source would be somebody who has had seven years experience dealing with the 3020-a hearing process and the Arbitrator decisions. That person is Betsy Combier, who writes under the blog "NYC Rubber Room Reporter". She is a paralegal who has participated in many 3020-a hearings and is familiar on the general decision making by the Arbitrators. Betsy Combier can be contacted at if you want more information about the Arbitrator assigned to your 3020-a case.

Another way to obtain information about your Arbitrator is to FOIL the New York State Education Department (NYSED) about the five most recent Arbitrator decisions in cases similar to your own. For example incompetence, misconduct, corporal punishment, etc. However, expect to pay anywhere between $25 to $75 dollars for the redacted information.

I suggest that you use both sources if you really want to get a good idea of how your Arbitrator "awards" cases based upon similar allegations. "Knowledge is power" and the more you know about the 3020-a process, the better chance you have in defending yourself against the allegations that the DOE has charged you with.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Even The General Publc Dislikes Chancellor Joel Klein

The latest Quinniapiac Poll has shown that Chancellor Joel Klein's approval ratings from the general public has plummeted to an all time low of 30%. Even the public realize that Joel Klein and his not-so-merry band of non-educators that surround him at Tweed are not good for the education of their public school children. If passing is 65% then our angry Chancellor should be given a well deserved grade of "F". Despite the ever continuing propaganda coming out of Tweed and their mouthpieces at the New York Daily News and New York Post, the general public just sees from their own children the inequities and favoritism that Tweed practices when it comes to charter schools vs. the public schools.

Even many of the school-based administrators (principals & assistant principals) have grumbled about how clueless Tweed is in running the school system. In one case they give the principals more authority to run their schools and then cut their budget as Tweed increases their own headcount of non-educators (8 Deputy Chancellors at $192,000 for a total of 1.5 million dollars just an example of the increase) at the expense of the classroom. As for the teachers, except for this group here, I suspect that Chancellor Joel Klein would be in the low single digits when it comes to approving his job performance. Why is the Chancellor almost universally disliked? I would like to say that our union did a magnificent job in demonizing the angry Chancellor. However, our union has been pretty much inept and only now is trying to ramp up opposition to Tweed through the media. No! The real reason is the misguided policies by the Chancellor, be it school closings, charter schools, budget priorities, and the increase in test preparation at the expense of a total education are a large part of the problem.

It is about time that people realize that Chancellor Joel Klein and his group of non-educators are the problem and not the solution for the New York City Public Schools as Tweed continues their "children last" and "education on the cheap" policies.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Has The DOE Fooled The "Hear-No-Evil" UFT Again On Implementing The "Rubber Room Agreement"? It Certainly Appears So.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the DOE is not meeting the conditions in the recently negotiated "rubber room agreement". For example, take mediation. Presently, there is no mediation going on as the DOE believes that they must agree to mediation requests before mediation is started to get rid of the backlog in existing 3020-a cases. Therefore, the only settlements being made are the DOE's take-it-or-leave-it settlement offer where the teacher must admit guilt. What has been the UFT response to the DOE's failure to uphold the agreement? Dead silence.

It appears that the UFT leadership has this "hear-no-evil" approach and refuses to take the DOE to task for their failure to live up to the "rubber room agreement". There is widespread skepticism on all sides of the 3020-a hearing process (Arbitrators, DOE lawyers, and the NYSUT attorneys) that the hearings will be fairer since the DOE refuses to settle with many teachers who are subject to SCI investigations and continue to offer outrageous settlements that are insulting to the teacher. What happened to leveling the playing field?

Many bloggers had objected to the "rubber room agreement" because the UFT leadership failed to include the reassigned teacher in crafting the agreement. While I supported the closing of the "rubber rooms" so as to stop warehousing teachers, I certainly questioned the other issues. I also believed the UFT leadership was in over their collective heads in understanding the 3020-a hearing process without input from the people most involved in it. Unfortunately, it appears that is the case here. The UFT has again allowed the DOE to ignore both the spirit and intent of the agreement and the losers are? You guessed it, the reassigned teachers.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly. The "Rubber Room" Agreement One Month Later. How The UFT Disappointed The Reassigned Teachers

It is time to see how the "rubber room agreement" is being implemented and I must say the movie "The good, the bad, and the ugly" properly fits the failure of the DOE and the UFT meeting their obligations. I would like to report that the "rubber room agreement" is going smoothly. However, it appears that except for the eventual elimination of the "rubber rooms" where teachers were being warehoused, many of the promises have not been kept. Let's look at how the "rubber room agreement" is working.

The Good:

It does appear that the DOE is living up to Mayor Bloomberg's commitment to close the "rubber rooms" despite unhappiness from Tweed and the Children First Network (CFN) administrators. Furthermore, the DOE has made an effort to settle as many cases as possible (on their terms - more about this later). Finally, with a new transcription service, no longer are there lengthily delays to close a hearing because of a lack of transcripts.

The Bad:

The DOE still are allowing principals to remove teachers at will. Since the agreement the Washington Heights "rubber room" has received 20 more reassigned teachers, while the Queess TRC has welcomed 10 reassigned teachers. It appears that principals are escalating the teacher removal process before the year ends. Furthermore, there is no mediation process (more about this later). What happened to immediately? If a teacher does not report their arrest immediately (within 48 hours) to OPI and the Principal. The teacher can be brought up on charges for failure to satisfy the definition of immediately in Chancellor's Regulation C-105. How come we teachers must comply with the word immediately while the DOE is not accountable. One month later there is still no mediation occurring.

The Ugly:

The DOE has decided that their idea of mediation is to extort teachers with large fines, admission of guilt, take courses that establish what they are guilty of, and eliminate the right to sue the DOE. I have previously posted this before. This extortion by the DOE is bad enough but now they have the teacher's own Arbitrators pushing the frightened teacher to settle and this further pressures the teacher in taking an unfair settlement which marks the teacher as admitting guilt. What happened to mediation? According to the dictionary.

Mediation, a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) or "appropriate dispute resolution", is a way of resolving disputes between two parties. A third party member is involved in order to structure the meetings, and to help the parties come to a final decision based on the facts given through the discussions. Mediation is not legally binding so it does not have to be followed, although if one party does not, they can sometimes be taken to court by the disadvantaged member, depending on the mediation agreement.

Mediation, in a broad sense, consists of a cognitive process of reconciling mutually interdependent, opposed terms as what one could loosely call "an interpretation" or "an understanding of." The German philosopher Hegel uses the term "dialectical unity" to designate such thought-processes. This article discusses the legal communications usage of the term.

Mediators use appropriate techniques and/or skills to open and/or improve dialogue between disputants, aiming to help the parties reach an agreement (with concrete effects) on the disputed matter. Normally, all parties must view the mediator as impartial. Disputants may use mediation in a variety of disputes, such as commercial, legal, diplomatic, workplace, community and family matters. A third-party representative may contract and mediate between (say) unions and corporations. When a workers’ union goes on strike, a dispute takes place, and the corporation hires a third party to intervene in attempt to settle a contract or agreement between the union and the corporation.

Mediation is the only way assisted by one third, which promotes freedom of choice of protagonists in a conflict[1].

Having the teacher's own Arbitrator pressure the teacher in taking the DOE settlement is not arbitration but can be considered an ugly form of coercion that exploits the frightened teacher who believes that if they don't take the settlement on DOE's terms, the Arbitrator may take offense and impose a more severe penalty. Therefore, the DOE has won by getting the teacher to admit guilt by taking a course and get a large fine. How is this mediation? It is not! How can the Arbitrator be fair if he or she pushes for a settlement and the teacher refuses? While I do have confidence that the Arbitrators are honorable and fair people and will rule on the evidence (or lack thereof) I can see how many a teacher would be fearful of not following the Arbitrator's lead. This is not only unfair but downright ugly. Mediation? Don't make me laugh, this is worse then ever for teachers who wish to expose the DOE's lies, misstatements, and embellishments in the 3020-a hearing

Mediation? Yeah right! What a joke! The DOE appears to have won again. Thanks for nothing Mike (call me Michael) Mulgrew. Clint Eastwood you are not.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Is This The Beginning Of The End For Seniority Protections? Is Teacher Tenure Next?

It appears that NYSUT and the UFT caved in to State pressure to gain RTTT funding by agreeing to a new teacher evaluation system. This system will allow teachers to be evaluated into four categories.

  • Highly effective
  • Effective
  • Developing
  • Ineffective
This new teacher evaluation system will make it easier for Administrators to remove senior teachers by labeling them "ineffective". While our unions claim that there will be additional protections to help and support struggling/targeted senior teachers, I'm not buying it. It is really a "gotcha program" to swiftly remove highly-paid senior teachers out of the schools and attack teacher tenure, In my opinion the unions prostituted themselves to get RTTT funds and put their members in danger. Our UFT press release praising the agreement notwithstanding.

Smart administrators will load up targeted teachers with the worst students, fail to supply them with proper support, unjustly compare the targeted teacher's class with higher achieving student classes, and write damaging observations to ensure the teacher gets two consecutive "ineffective" ratings and termination sixty days later. Furthermore, it will pit teacher against teacher and collaboration among teachers will cease to exist. Finally, look for an increase in cheating, not by the students, but by teachers. What were our foolish union leaders thinking? A possible short term funding gain at the expense of teacher due process? What will stop administrators from rating ATRs "ineffective"? Nothing according to this agreement.

I can only wonder what other goodies our union leaders have in store for us. How about donating part of our paychecks to Joel Klein to pay for his million dollar Deputy Chancellors he is hiring and the increased headcount at Tweed? Or is that where our raise will go to? How about exempting the teachers rated "highly effective" from seniority based layoffs? I wouldn't be surprised if Michael Mulgrew turns out to be "Randi lite" as many of my blogger friends have been claiming all along. I assume we will need to vote on this because it changes the contractual provisions. If so please vote Nooooooooooo!

What a piece of crap!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Will Bloomberg Finally Give In And Offer A Buyout To Senior Teachers? He Will Need To As Long As The Union Does Not Give Ground On Seniority.

Now that the Bloomberg doomsday budget is out and up to 6,400 teaching positions will be eliminated from the system (I believe it will be much less), the shrill calls from Mayor Mike & Chancellor Joel to change the "last in, first out" seniority requirement are increasing. However, as long as the union stays firm, the Mayor will have to capitulate and to save the "newbie teachers" he needs to continue his "education on the cheap" policy. Therefore, what can Bloomberg do? The answer is really quite simple. He needs to offer "buyouts" to the senior teachers to save the jobs of the inexpensive and not vested "newbie teachers".

When will the City admit defeat and propose a "buyout"? Probably at the end of the school year once the State finances are better known. Depending on how much funding needs to be cut, look for the "buyout" to be a either a month for every year worked. for example a teacher who worked 24 years would get 2 years of pension credit. Or possibly a $25,000 lump sum payment. While the Bloomberg Administration is denying that any such "buyout" is in the offering. I don't believe for a second that Mayor Mike & Chancellor Joel will allow the "newbie teachers" to be laid off. Just see how Tweed, while laying off 4,000 teachers is quietly trying to allocate up to five million dollars for the teaching fellows program. Unbelievable! Furthermore, take a look at Joel Klein's whining e-mail to the principals telling them how he wants to eliminate the seniority provision so they can get rid of any teacher they please. You can find it at Betsy Combier's blog here.

As long as the union stands their ground and let the politicians know the consequences to any attempt to reduce teacher "due process rights", the City will have no choice but offer "buyouts" to save their "education on the cheap" program.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Michael Mulgrew Got It Wrong When He Called Chancellor Joel Klein "Numbnuts". What Chancellor Joel Klein Really Is, Is Evil

Michael Mulgrew, the President of the UFT has allegedly called Chancellor Joel Klein "numbnuts" at a union meeting last month. "Numbnuts" is defined as "a person of severely limited intellectual prowess'. While I would like to believe our Chancellor is stupid, the reality is much different. Chancellor Joel Klein is not stupid but just evil when it comes to the experienced classroom teacher and the students they educate. Under his eight year destructive leadership we have seen clueless non-educators run the DOE and who are responsible for closing 91 schools to be replaced by Charter or small schools. Klein's disciples have caused the following problems. The creation of the ATR crises, the almost sevenfold increase and overcrowding of the "rubber rooms", the "fair student funding" fiasco, a threefold increase in unnecessary paperwork, "Leadership Academy Principals" with little or no classroom experience, The increase of headcount at Tweed at the expense of the rest of the education system, and worst of all flat scores on the NAEP's and the SATs.

Now the evil Chancellor wants to go after seniority, tenure, and have disposable teachers who leave the system before being vested for a pension or retiree health benefits. Furthermore, he would like to see more Charter schools at the expense of the neighborhood schools and does not want the Charter Schools to have to take students that are English Language Learners or have disabilities. The more "at risk" children going to the neighborhood school, the better the phony comparison between the neighborhood school and the Charter school that "cherry picks" their students. He also wants the Charters to be located in existing schools and take scares funding from the public school system. It is like having the "fox in the hen house" as Chancellor Klein and his non-educators devise ways to hurt the public school classroom.

"Numbnuts"! I wish this was true for Chancellor Joel Klein. Unfortunately, for the New York City teaching profession and the students they educate, Joel Klein and his awful policies are just plain evil.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Justice For Lal Singh!

The nightmare appears to be finally over for Lal Singh. His 3020-a charges were dismissed by Arbitrator Alan Berg who also stated that he should be put back into the classroom as quickly as possible.

The nightmare for Lal Singh started after a male special education student accused Mr. Singh of molesting him in a closet in his classroom after school and offering him $20 for a blow job three years earlier. OSI investigated the three year old accusation and substantiated the accusation even though there is no closet in Mr. Singh's classroom! With the OSI substantiation, the NYPD special victims unit arrested Mr. Singh and put him in jail until he could post bail. Furthermore, his name was plastered all over the local news media.

Mr. Singh was put on "probable cause" by the DOE and was given a three month unpaid suspension by the DOE (thanks Randi and Leo). Mr. Singh went to trial and, in part, after his Principal testified that Mr. Singh has no closet in his room and that because Mr. Singh had child care responsibilities, he left school right after the last bell. The evidence against Mr. Singh was so flimsy and unbelievable that the jury took all of 22 minutes to acquit Mr. Singh. That's right 22 minutes!

Did Mr Singh's acquittal by a jury in 22 minutes affect the DOE's prosecution of Mr. Singh? Not one bit. The DOE pursued 3020-a charges against Mr. Singh with the same flimsy case the DA had. Time and again Arbitrator Alan Berg questioned the DOE lawyer about presenting evidence and not unsubstantiated accusations and insults about Mr. Singh. What did the DOE lawyer allegedly call Mr. Singh during his 3020-a hearing? How about pedophile and child molester. He also was alleged to have told Mr. Singh that his parents would rollover in their graves having a child like Mr, Singh. He even allegedly said that it was best if Mr. Singh was "stillborn". In the 3020-a hearing the OSI investigator admitted that he didn't bother to see if Mr. Singh had a closet and he believed an excessed para who blamed Mr. Singh for her removal over the school's Principal about the closet.

The questionable ethics used by both the Queens DA and the DOE in using character assassination as a bases for charges and an unfair investigation by NYPD & OSI could have resulted in Mr. Singh losing his liberty as well as his job. However, Mr Singh's criminal & NYSUT lawyers and the jury of his peers as well as the Arbitrator saw right through the false allegations and Mr. Singh was cleared of all charges.

Now comes the problem, at the height of the media frenzy the DOE stated that Mr. Singh will never set foot in a classroom again. However, three years later he was found to be a victim of the Queens DA and the DOE who cared more about getting Mr. Singh than justice. Will Mr. Singh be sent back to the classroom? I think not since the DOE has already stated as much. Therefore, I must assume he will be added to Joel Klein's Chancellor's discretion list of teachers. That's too bad Mr. Singh is a wonderful teacher and a caring person who has worked with a very difficult population and his absence from the classroom only hurts the students who would benefit from his instruction. DOE's "children last" continues.