Sunday, June 27, 2010

The DOE "Double Standard" Strikes Again When It Comes To Principals

The DOE's "double standard" when it comes to disciplining a Principal has shown up again as the Principal of Fordham Leadership Academy, Richard Bost in the Bronx was accused of groping and making lewd comments to a school secretary. What is most shocking is that after OEO (why not SCI?) substantiated the allegations against the Principal, the school secretary, not the Principal was removed from the school. You heard it right. The Principal was left in the school. Now new accusations of sexual harassment and sexual contact between the Principal and staff are being investigated, again by OEO and not SCI. A DOE spokesperson lamely explained that the Principal was left in the school because it did not involve a student and OEO has not completed their new investigation. Let's see the Principal can grope and make sexually suggestive comments and be accused of even more serious allegations to staff members and nothing happens to him? What is wrong with this picture? The New York Daily News printed the article here. Previously, I have posted about the DOE's "double standard" when it came to teachers and administrators here, and here. Unfortunately, nothing has changed since that time.

By contrast, I know a teacher who was falsely accused of verbally abusing a student by using the word F**K in a sentence that was taken out of context. Despite his denial of using the word. He was subject to an SCI investigation and was taken offline for three months by the "probable cause" Arbitrator. Simply the word of the student is enough to terminate a teacher while numerous staff complains of sexual harassment and even more by a Principal is met with indifference and a slap on the wrist. What is most disturbing is how the union does not take up the fight for the staff and does not file a formal complaint to the DOE and PERB about the Principal. Where are the union concerns for equal treatment? Instead what we get is deafening silence. It appears that our union leadership is more interested in negotiating more secret deals with the DOE then protect the rights of their members.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

DOE's New Idea For "Credit Recovery" Double Credits For Summer School.

In the DOE's never ending quest to artificially raise the graduation rate of the high schools, Tweed has come up with the idea of splitting summer school into two three week sessions and giving the students double credit if they take both sessions. It is bad enough that many of the students don't have to show up during the year and are given "credit recovery courses" to artificially inflate the high school graduation rate. Now the DOE has quietly approved "credit recovery" for summer school by allowing students to get full credit for a semester by showing up for just three weeks. Students that show up for the entire six week course will get credit for both semesters or double the credit that summer school had previously allowed.

Over the years the DOE has approved the "credit recovery program" without so much as a guideline on what is "credit recovery". Principals, who are under pressure to raise graduation rates have gone to great lengths to use whatever means that are necessary to push out students to artificially raise the graduation rate and increase not only the school grade but to receive a financial bonous to the Principal as well. For example, the Principal at Lehman High School was accused of doing just that. I am sure every struggling high school in New York City can look at their own school and see abuses of the "credit recovery program". While the State has promised to look into the practice in New York City, So far the State has done little or nothing about these abuses. It is more important to artificially raise the graduation rate then to give a student a meaningful education. It is all about the numbers not about the quality of education.

Tweed's "children last" continues.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mayor Blommberg Has Spoken Yet Again To The City Workers- "Hit The Road Jack". There Will Be No Retirement Incentive For Them.

Over the last month I have been hearing from teachers how the union and NYSUT are telling them that if the hold on to the end of the school year, the City will give city workers the New York State retirement incentive. I was confused since I always keep on top of the rumors and nobody I spoke to had any information that Mayor Bloomberg would approve of a retirement incentive. In fact, Mayor Bloomberg has repeatedly said no to the retirement incentive. Now it seems that Mayor Bloomberg has said it again. On his Friday radio show, Mayor Bloomberg stated that he does not believe that the City will save money and has no intention of having city workers participate in the Sate retirement incentive. What happens next?

I assume that business will go on as usual and as for the teachers? We will need for the PERB mediator to cry uncle and send it to the three Arbitrator PERB panel for their non-binding recommendations that may or may not be agreeable to the union or the City.

I will keep my ear to the wall for rumors and let you know if anything changes.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

According To The DOE Teachers Are Guilty Until Proven Guilty But Are Never Innocent

There is tremendous pressure on reassigned teachers to admit guilt and take a settlement as the UFT and DOE want to eliminate the backlog by the December 31st 2010 date as proposed in the "rubber room agreement". Under the UFT/DOE agreement under 3020-a teacher innocence is not an option since the Arbitrator will always give something to the DOE for their efforts to terminate the teacher since the Arbitrators can only stay on the panel with the DOE's (and UFT's) approval. Therefore, it is extremely rare (2%) for a teacher to be found innocent, For example, the teachers accused of incompetence and took PIP+ the DOE deal was to irrevocably resign after one year or pay a significant fine ($15,000) to stay on for two years. Unless the teacher is ready to retire these settlements are unrealistic and are being rejected. The same goes for teachers subject to SCI investigations where the SCI investigator did not recommend termination. One teacher was offered a $70,000 fine and two courses and many others were given deals that exceeded $10,000 and suspensions of up to one year. Few of these teachers have actually taken such deals and are awaiting their 3020-a hearings or the long-awaited mediation. Regardless of the settlement, the teacher admission of guilt in taking the settlement is of prime importance to the DOE and will result in almost certain termination if the teacher is charged again under 3020-a.

Complaints to the UFT leadership about how the DOE has violated the spirit of the "rubber room agreement" has been met with indifference and inaction as not all teachers are being offered mediation and the DOE settlements in some cases are outrageous. Granted, nobody is putting a gun to a teacher's head to take a settlement but when the NYSUT attorney and the Arbitrator is telling the teacher the alternative could be termination, what is the teacher to do? It takes a brave teacher to say no when the possibility of termination is on the table and in all 3020-a hearings the DOE asks for termination as the only possible remedy. You can explain that only 10% of the teachers actually are terminated but when the teacher's own lawyer and Arbitrator tell them what the alternative can be, the teacher gets scared and takes a deal under duress.

It appears that the DOE philosophy that all teachers charged are guilty and stay guilty when they take a settlement is still in force and not in danger of changing anytime soon. Shame on the DOE and shame on the UFT for not changing the "teacher is guilty" process.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Michelle Rhee - Worry About Your Own Failed Administration And Schools. Mind Your Own Buisness When It Comes To Negotiating Our Contract.

The Chancellor of the failed Washington D.C. school system, Michelle Rhee, has stuck her feeble mind into the complex New York City contract negotiations in an opinion piece for the New York Daily News which only shows how out of touch and clueless she is to the New York State Civil Service laws. Michelle Rhee who once worked for the DOE and is a protege of Chancellor Joel Klein has inserted her idiotic ideas in how to negotiate a new contract for us. Fat chance that is going to happen. Both Accountable Talk, Perdido Street School, and Ednotes online have also commented on Michelle Rhee's article and are must reads.

Michelle Rhee, who is funding teacher raises with private funds (a very dangerous practice and may not be a recurring stream of funds in the future, then what?) has just about eliminated teacher tenure. Under the Washington D.C. contract an "ineffective teacher" can be fired immediately and a teacher that is "minimally effective" would have their pay frozen and can be fired after two years. The Chancellor claims that the Principal must work with a school committee before a teacher is rated but we all know it is just a "fig leaf" that will allow the Principal to do what he or she wants to, regardless of the teacher effectiveness. The Washington D.C. contract also eliminates seniority for determining layoffs and gives the Principal total discretion on who to lay off. Furthermore, she wants to fire all ATRs as if it is their fault that they can't find jobs. She ignores the "fair student funding" fiasco or the age discrimination issue in the ATR crises. Just blame the ATRs and fire them all. Finally, she recommended that Randi Wiengarten help negotiate the contract (I would think Michael Mulgrew must be throwing up when he read that). I can just see Randi Wiengarten agreeing to another disastrous October 2005 contract and Randi proclaiming that everybody wins as Leo Casey insults teachers that dare to disagree.

I could not help but see her lack of criticism of the bloated Tweed budget, the no-bid contracts, the high-priced consultants that inhabit the Central Bureaucracy, and the lack of educators in decision-making positions. I also laughed at her praise of the two year wonders from Teach For America. Then again she is one of these ed deformers who care more about control then the students.

Chancellor Michelle Rhee, "mind your own business". This is New York City not Washington D.C. You have enough trouble managing your schools.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Does Mayor Michael Bloomberg Really Have The Authority To Freeze Our Salaries? The Short Answer Is Yes But It Won't Happen

Mayor Bloomberg, with much fanfare, has announced a wage freeze for principals and teachers for the next two years. This wage freeze flies in the face of the "City pattern" that has always been followed and in fact the teachers union has already went to PERB to make sure the "City pattern" is followed. However, unlike the police any PERB decision is not binding and can be ignored by either side. Historically, both sides have used the "City pattern" and the PERB arbitration that generally follows the "City pattern" as political cover to get a new contract. Despite, the budget crises look for this to happen here but with a twist.

Look for the Bloomberg Administration to pick off a weaker union (DC-37?) to settle for a vastly inferior contract. Let's say 3% and a no layoff clause with "givebacks" for two years for the 2011-12 time period. Now there is a new "City Pattern" in place. Once the new contract is in place. Look for the Bloomberg Administration to follow the PERB recommendations, after ignoring them, and give the teachers a four year contract that will be 11% (4%, 4%, 1%,2%), with "givebacks" ( a sixth class, unpaid coverages, more time, etc.). Since the teachers have not had a raise in three years (May 19, 2008), the union leadership will recommend its approval because it is based upon the two "City patterns". Therefore, our salaries will fall further behind the neighboring suburbs and create an even more hostile classroom environment as our "givebacks" will reduce teacher discretion and individuality.

Yes, Mayor Bloomberg will lift the wage freeze but remember what the consequences will be for the New York City teaching profession.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Will Bloomberg Agree To An Early Retirement Incentive? I think Not.

My peers are all talking about the State passing the early retirement incentive and that many of them contacted the union leadership who have given them the false impression that the City will follow suit and allow the teachers to get the retirement credits they want. However, the bad news is that Mayor Bloomberg has stated time and again that he does not want to give a retirement incentive since these teachers are going to retire anyway. Therefore, the Mayor decided to impose a wage freeze and an additional 4% cut in the school budget instead. However, exempt from the budget cuts was the DOE adding $840,000 in bonuses and raises to the Central Bureaucracy. Unbelievable, and how hypocritical.

While it may make more sense to agree to the State's early retirement incentive, the Mayor and Chancellor do not want to reward senior teachers with up to three years pension credit when they are doing everything possible to get rid of them for "cause". With their failed attempt to get the "Keep Act" through the State Legislature, which would give the principals the right to determine who to layoff. The use of a wage freeze was preferable to them than the more reasonable early retirement incentive. "Why reward the senior teacher when we can screw all the teachers?"

It will be interesting to see what transpires but for now it appears that the City is not going to agree with an early retirement incentive. Despite what our union leadership is telling the teachers.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Teacher Bashing Is At A New High Thanks To The Politicians And The News Media

It seems like whatever the problem the nation's schools experience both the politicians and the news media seem to think it is the teacher's fault. The teachers are now the scapegoats in what is wrong with the education system. For example when President Obama unwisely agreed with the Central Falls School Board to fire all the high school teachers despite the heroic efforts many of them made with a challenging student population and starved for educational services.

No longer do the politicians and the media blame poor parenting skills, ridiculous rules concerning student discipline, incompetent administrators, poverty, or the students themselves. To them it is the teacher's fault. Notice how these so-called education forums and think tanks rarely have practicing teachers on them and classroom teacher input is almost non-existent. If a student is failing, everybody blames the teacher. It doesn't matter that the child may have learning difficulties, be a non-English speaker, or are academically behind due to attendance or health issues. Regardless, the fault is put on the teacher's lap.

Nationwide, teachers are under attack as politicians and their media allies demand wage freezes, paying increased health benefit premiums, tenure changes, and even rolling back pensions. In New Jersey, Governor Cristie has demanded wage freezes of teachers as a condition for getting State funds. No other group was targeted by the Governor but teachers. While in New York City, Mayor Bloomberg has threatened to layoff 4,400 teachers if the State does not come through with additional funds. Further, the Mayor has failed to negotiate the "city pattern" with the teachers union and has demanded that the layoffs do not follow the State Civil Service requirements based upon seniority.

Disrespect for teachers ranges from the President, Barack Obama to the Chancellor, Joel Klein. However, the greatest disrespect for teachers are found in our local newspapers, the New York Daily News and the New York Post who operate as a propaganda mouthpiece for Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein. Their editorials blaming the teachers or the unions reminds me of Pravda during the days of the Soviet Union. Even the New York Times print some articles that can be considered anti-teacher. Only Newsday seems to give a balanced prospective on education issues. This media disrespect has made teaching in the classroom an increasingly hostile environment and has resulted in a "blame the teacher society".

The only way to put an end to the continued assaults on teachers is to mount a well focused attack on politicians and the anti-teacher news media that support them. Giving in is not the answer. The union must dig in their heels and yell "not one step back" if we are to earn respect as a profession. No more sellouts, no more "givebacks" and more importantly let's get back our self respect and that is what our union should be doing.