Friday, November 05, 2010

Dare To Be Remarkable And Expect To Be Punished For Your Efforts

I have a friend who was assigned to a school that has a motto "Dare To Be Remarkable". The teacher believed that the school's Administration was actually serious in wanting innovative and interactive teaching in the school. He had been in a previous school where the students considered him the best teacher in the school but alas, he was excessed as the school cut back staff However, to the teacher's surprise and disappointment the "C Rated" Principal had other ideas. Now the teacher is being falsely accused of "verbal abuse" and was given a Letter-To-File (LIF) for his efforts to "dare to be remarkable". As you can guess there is a story to this.

My friend, let's call him Josh, is an ATR and was assigned to the "C Rated" Principal's school this school year. Everything seemed to be going well when he was told to take over a program that was not in his subject area for a teacher who suddenly left for a long term medical emergency. He instantly connected with the students and many of the students enjoyed his storytelling and easy to understand method of teaching. However, there was one boy who resented the teacher because he was not certified in the subject. He then told his parent things about what the teacher said. Most of it untrue. It did not matter that all the other students liked the teacher and that the teacher had warned the "C Rated" Principal about the problem with the student previously. The teacher felt threatened in this climate of students filing false accusations and being believed by the Administration so he requested at least twice for the student to be transferred to another class since it could only end with the teacher being continually harassed by the student's parent. The "C Rated" Principal assured the teacher that she knew the parent and her complaints about the teacher were being ignored and he shouldn't worry. Unfortunately, the parent kept complaining about the teacher and eventually the "C Rated" Principal felt the heat and started an investigation of "verbal abuse". The "C Rated" Principal's investigation upheld the "verbal abuse" allegation based on the one child's testimony! It did not matter that all the other students supported the teacher and claimed he was a "great teacher" and refused to say anything bad about the teacher. The "C Rated" Principal, under pressure from the parent, upheld the "verbal abuse" allegation and removed the "great teacher" from the classroom and made him a day to day substitute. Now the children are upset and many parents have complained to the "C Rated" Principal but to no avail.

This teacher "dared to be remarkable" and refused to teach scared. However, in the end the accusations of one student and his parent was enough to derail a "great teacher" and remove him from the classroom hurting the 150 children in his classroom. DOE's "children last" just keeps on continuing.


Anonymous said...

Oh. I see-it is now about the children and not about the poor teachers who are being abused by the Mayor and the Chancellor. I know your 100% innocent.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:05 Has it occurred to you that students are harmed when good teachers are tossed out of the classroom? And millions of dollars are wasted by DOE chasing imagined and invented misconduct and incompetence? Money that could be used FOR THE CHILDREN?

Under Assault said...

I'm experiencing something similar these days, serving a whole day entirely out of license.

Add this into the mix: Though this teacher is just day-to-day subbing now, the principal might go the route of 3020-a charges. It doesn't matter if the charges are fabricated, because once it's made, as I understand it, the clock starts ticking and the teacher is off the principal's budget in 60 days.
I was wondering when this "strategy" for cost-cutting might start becoming very popular......
It's clearly a way to get unwanted ATRs and higher salaries (ATR or not) off the budget.

james boutin said...

Public schools and corporate reform are great case studies in irony:

Children First

High Expectations

Dare to Be Remarkable

It'd be more entertaining if it weren't so real

Chaz said...

Anon 12:05
I see that you are not a classroom teacher. Every classroom teacher knows their is a link between student academic achievement and great teachers. However, this climate of fear and teacher disrespect the DOE has created makes one student complaint into a potential teacher termination.

As for every teacher being 100% innocent just shows how out of touch you are with the classroom. Every teacherhas said or did something that an evil Administration can use to file charges.
For example reassuring a student by touching her shoulder can bring on a sexual misconduct investigation by SCI. Or when a running student slams into a teacher results in a corporal punishment charge by the investigator. In other words innocuous an inconsequential actions become something else by the Administration and the investigators.

Its a pity that you are not a classroom teacher and therefore cannot understand what is going on.

Anonymous said...

Why do you diss Unity which tends to control the union forever and what is wrong with the General, as you call him?

Chaz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chaz said...


I am pro union but when the leadership fails to protect their members I must speak up.

As for the general? He is a fountain of misinformation and yes, disinformation.

Modern School said...

This scenario plays out far too often, regardless of the quality of the teacher. Few administrators are good at supporting their teachers, particularly when attacked by irate parents. Many kids learn that any accusation against a teacher, even a frivolous one, can take attention away from the student's behavior and result in harassment of the teacher. When harassed, we need to fight back. Organize. File a grievance. Don't let a bad admin. get you down. (Chances are, they won't be around that long anyway).

Anonymous said...

To Modern School:

These bad amins will last long enough to ruin many careers and some lives.

It may be important to be hopeful, but it is more important to be realistic.

Moriah Untamed said...

Modern School,
What you say is true about uniting against bad administrators. However, this is what usually happens. A teacher receives a letter to file, a U-rated lesson observation, or some other disciplinary measure. His/her friends are sympathetic, but go on with their lives. He files a grievance. Nobody knows about it because the teacher is told not to talk about it to anyone. Even if he does seek help from his peers, he notices that he is becoming more and more isolated from them. Some are starting to think he really deserves the principal's attacks. Others are afraid to become involved lest they come under investigation too. The teacher is questioned by DOE investigators. He is cautioned by his UFT representatives not to talk to anyone about it. He becomes more isolated. One day he disappears from the school. Teachers who ask about him are told he has been "reassigned". They breathe a sigh of relief. They think he has been reassigned to another school, but in reality he has now been charged with one or more offenses and is sitting at a desk somewhere waiting for a 3020a hearing. When the hearing finally comes around no one will testify in his defense. They don't want the same thing to happen to them.

Many teachers are accustomed to going into their classrooms and shutting out the world. They take responsibility for their own little piece of the school and their own students and fight their own battles with administrators. If they don't change their mentality, they will lose their classrooms, their students, and the war being waged on them by Bloomberg.

Anonymous said...

I am about to be charged, at least I think so, because I was removed from my assignment. Does anyone have real stats as the won/lost record for each NYSUT lawyer and each arbitrator? I am sure the UFT will say that will not tell us anything. However, over a period of time, these stats will tell us a great deal.
Perhaps if Chaz did a story about stats we could get them. Maybe we should file a Document request on the UFT and demand that our NYSUT lawyers do this. What do you guys think. It is a sad day if teachers do not stick together as divided we fall. Well said Moriah, but what do we do about it.

Chaz said...

Anon 7:42:

The statistics you want is a closely held secret. Only the NYSUT supervisor and the top UFT leaders have them. Once you are charged you will be assigned to a NYSUT lawyer and Arbitrator, not until then. I need to remind you that every case is different and there iss no matrix to determine the penalty.

I assume the Administration is keeping you in the building. What are they having you do?

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:42

NYSUT keeps stats on arbitrators. Beyond that every case is different (charges, respondent, witnesses, etc). NYSUT lawyers vary in effectiveness. Thus you can see why stats maintained on a per-charge basis might be less than informative.
NYSUT supervisors know which of their lawyers tend to be more successful (if success is defined in dismissal of charges).
Good luck.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 7:42

First, unlike teachers out of the city, NYC teachers do not select their arbitrators at their hearings; secondly, your initial NYSUT attoney is likely to be switched if you decline to settle, more experienced one are often assigned to try cases; thirdly, if the case is not clear cut, and arbitrators believe during the course of the trial that DOE and your principal is playing games with the 3020a proceedings, some of the arbitrators sit on the case for long long time without rendering a decision (at least for the cases prior to the new rubber room agreement).

There are really no many ways a teacher can influence the process except for hiring an outside attorney, who may be more amenable to suggestions. No matter what you do, there is always risk involved in going into the trial.

To Chaz:

I know many teachers are kept away from kids and teaching for multiple years for frivolous charges or no charges. Do you believe it constitutes a legal ground for a court complaint that DOE renders a teacher's skills obsolete or creates a sever barrier for a teacher to reenter his or her chosen profession?

Anonymous said...

I was a union leader at a Long Island District and for personal reasons took a job in nyc and I am a member of the UFT and lost in my bid to be a Chapter Leader. I was very involved in multiple 3020-a in LI and I have been helping UFT teachers. First, I have worked extensively with the male NYSUT atty Betsy has attacked and he was wonderful. More importantly, the issue is not the lawyer, but it's the UFT. The UFT does not support charged teachers. if Mike M and other officers-even chapter leaders, would regularly go to hearings that would matter. Though Betsy appears do good work,no one cares or needs to listens to a former employee that appears to have been let go. In LI, NYSUT local presidents are involved and often go hearings. Think about it. Most of your cases involve a teachers word against a student or a professional from sci. Hearings are at the doe and doe witnesses testify against the teacher. Doe lawyer supervisors are involved and they care. If you were the arbitrator making large amounts of money off of this process, would you vote In favor of the teacher and risk being kicked off the panel when you knew no one from the UFT cared. By the way, Randi mentioned at a NYSUT meeting a few years back that the same NYSUT lawyer used her in a case. I don't any details.
So Chaz, please do a full story about the need for UFT suppprt and teachers should ask UFT officers to attend their hearing. That is the reason to request a public hearing.

Under Assault said...

Anon 12:18: What am I not understanding here?

You say: "Though Betsy appears do good work, no one cares or needs to listens to a former employee that appears to have been let go."

So, you're against the UFT when it doesn't support charged teachers, but when people (like Betsy) want to expose their duplicity, you say we don't have to "listen"?

I think we should be listening to them very carefully indeed.

Anonymous said...

This is 12:18. Regardless of what you think of the UFT, they negotiated the changes and they pick and fire arbitrators. Therefore, they have influence that needs to be used for am individual to have a fair shot. I never met Betsy, but from what others have told me, she seems to do good work and requests public hearings. My only point is that she has no clout so no one needs to listen to her. The arbitrators do need to listen to the UFT or they can be removed from the panel which pays them very well for pt work. If UFT stood behind teachers, their chances would be better. The other commentator, asked for stats. I dont have them, but heard the acquittal rate is 1or 2%. That illustrates the extend of the problem, and I am offering a way to change it. Don't you agree? Can others comment? Chat please do a story on this topic as maybe someone will listen.

Under Assault said...

Betsy does a good deal more than request public hearings. Read through: NYC Rubber Room Reporter and get back to us.

(If the link doesn't work, here it is:

Anonymous said...

Under Assault. This is 12:18 again. Betsy runs a blog and appears to support teachers. She attends hearings as a member of the public. So what?? Maybe she gives teachers good advise and maybe she does not. (I don't know). As I said, I heard good things about her. But 3020-a is not about her. Does Betsy have any weight with the arbitrators or the process? I cannot imagine that the NYSUT lawyers listen to her. Am I wrong?
The UFT has to be involved to make sure that the arbitrators are neutral. Most cases are not black and white, but involve different shades of grade. If your making close to $200,000 from this process and only work part time, in whose favor would you rule?? Imagine if Mulgrew went to a few hearings. Think the result may be different? Having a member of the public sitting their, well that is useless. That is my only point. People should do what they want.
As far as I can see, this is a well run blog and I was hoping to help others by asking Chaz to post a story about his thoughts with respect to the need of the UFT to get more involved.

Under Assault said...

Totally agree about the faults of the Unity-run, undemocratic and unsupportive UFT. And I'd love to see Mulgrew show up at a hearing or two. He can't obviously — because he and his predecessor agreed to this arbitration "solution." It was doomed to failure from our point of view. From the UFT's point of view, it's just fine.

By saying that it's useless for a member of the public to "sit there" you are still diminishing the work of people - even outsiders - who have devoted their lives to helping people. Why don't you cut it out? Betsy sits there, listens, and informs. It's infinitely better than anything the union is doing.

Pete Zucker said...

This teacher needs to start audio recording all his classes, as well as any meetings with the principal.

Chaz said...

anon 12:18

I do agree with you thAt the UFT should be more interested in the 3020-a hearings. However, the UFT leadership really do not care for teachers brought up on charges. They have the power to remove an Arbitrator but they rarely use the power to do so. To my knowledge, I believe they have removed only one Arbitrator in the last five years.

I believe that no lawyer will take the case pro bono and the teacher is being paid while in reassignment.

As for Betsy Combier? She is another set of eyes and ears and picks up on things that the teacher and lawyer might not have. Furthermore, an open hearing reduces any potential abuses in the process. See my post

Michael Dunn said...

The grievance process does leave a lot to be desired, especially with a toothless union that is unwilling to fight for its members. On the other hand, we need to do a better job organizing our fellow workers, educating them about their rights, documenting harassment, and encouraging them to fight. Too often my colleagues shrug their shoulders and assume that the abuse was just part of their job description.

We had one principal who took a disliking to a colleague and tried to run him out of the school. We locked down our dept, did a work to rule, and demanded the harassment end. Fortunately, this principal was weak and backed down.

Fighting a grievance is often a lonely, thankless battle between you and the superintendent or school board and they have all the power. It takes chutzpah, brains and a lot of energy to win.