Thursday, November 28, 2013

The New Recipients Of My 2013 Golden Turkey Award.

Yes, its Thanksgiving and the time for me to issue my annual "Golden Turkey Award".  Who are the most deserving recipients of the award this year?  There was quite a bit of competition this year.  Christine Quinn, Chancellor Dennis Walcott (past winner), President Obama, Meryl Tisch, the idiots at Tweed, and of course Mayor Bloomberg's failed education legacy (past winner).  However, I have identified the three most deserving individuals that are my recipients this year because of their failure to understand the New York City Public Schools.

First, and foremost is the Commissioner of the State Education Department, John T. King who has proven to be inept at his position and alienated everybody he encounters, except the Governor.
Mr King has imposed an unworkable "teacher evaluation system" complete with "junk science" and was bitterly disappointed when only 1% of the teachers statewide were rated "ineffective".  To ensure that doesn't happen in New York City, he imposed a more stringent "teacher evaluation system" and to make sure that more teachers are rated "ineffective", the "junk science" scores alone can be used to determine a teacher's rating.

Now he has tried to impose high stakes testing throughout the State from Kindergarten to high school and demands the use of "common core" even when the materials and teacher training are lacking.  He tried to impose restrictions at public meetings that backfired in his face.  Moreover, his "I'm always right" attitude has even turned off many of his allies.  Finally, his insistence in keeping inBloom inc. has made him a "laughingstock" of the country as all the other States have either dropped or are dropping the company.

Second, is the Federal Education Secretary, Arnie Duncan, the basketball playing buddy of the President, who has shown to speak out of both sides of his mouth and in his latest gaffe has complained that "white suburban soccer moms are discovering that their children are not as brilliant as they think".  Only to apologize the next day. 

Arnie Duncan's education legacy as head of the Chicago School System was of failure and his tenure as the Education Secretary is no better.

Finally, I bring you the clueless Campbell Brown who falsely claims that teacher's found guilty of "sexual misconduct" are being allowed to teach in the classroom.  Of course what Campbell Brown either fails or doesn't want to understand that accusations of "sexual misconduct" is not evidence.  Therefore, in the warped world of Campbell Brown any accusation that an investigator substantiates must be true and no damn evidence is needed.  In other words "due process rights" and the assumption that a teacher is "innocent until proven guilty" that is part of our country's history is foreign to Campbell Brown's assumption that any suspicion of "sexual misconduct" is good enough for her to have the teacher terminated.

I guess Ms. Brown would be happier if our justice system was more like Nazi Germany's or the Soviet Union under Stalin.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Why The Children First Networks Must Go!

One of the worst ideas that came out of the Bloomberg Administration under the Chancellorship of Joel Klein, was the replacing of the 31 District Offices with 62 Children First Networks (now down to 57).  The idea behind the replacing of the District Offices with the Children First Networks was to eliminate cronyism and geographic control that the Districts had under the Superintendent.  Furthermore, the Children First Networks were to supply administrative and professional development support to the schools of the network at a reasonable cost.  However, the Children First Networks have morphed into something very different. Rather than supporting the schools they dictate to them and gives the schools an inferior product.  Let's look on why the Children First Networks should be eliminated and replaced by a real school support organization.

Many of the Children First Networks are located far from the 30-35 schools in their networks with many schools located in different Boroughs from their own network!  Therefore, the networks are not sensitive to neighborhood or community issues and have little, if any interaction with parents.  In fact, most parents have no clue what network their child's school is associated with or where they are located.

Many of the Children First Networks appear to be a "dumping ground" for failed principals and other administrators and managers that nobody else wanted.  For every effective network there are many more "ineffective networks" and they are all stretched thin by the many demands that Tweed imposes on them.  The networks charge extra for consultant services and many of these consultants hired by the networks are kids right out of college.  .Maisie McAdoo of Edwize has a very informative article called "The DOE networks face a new day" and is a must read as a companion piece to this post..

The Children First Networks suffer from a "talent crisis" and many principals question why they are required to choose a network that provides little or no support to their school.  Even when the Children First Networks tried to rally the principals to support their continued operation, they only garnered 8% of the principals to sign it and a few claim they never agreed to sign it but were included anyway.  Absent in the petition were Queens principals as only one "newbie Principal from a new school" signed the petition to keep the networks.  Maybe the reason is that the majority of Queens schools pay $50,000 yearly for basic services to the networks, excluding additional Professional Development and consulting services, which cost extra, while the majority of Brooklyn, Bronx, and Manhattan schools pay only $16,000 yearly.

Tweed has reduced school support services by 32% since 2005 which corresponds to the rise of the Children First Networks and to add "insult to injury" forces the schools to pay the networks to provide some of those support services that the Central DOE used to pay for.  The networks are used by Tweed to impose their programs and policies that are not in the best interests of the schools or the children in the classroom. For example telling principals to hire the cheapest and not the best teachers.  Remember this?

Finally, the Children First Networks was the creation of ex Deputy Chancellor Eric Naldestern, yes the very same Eric Naldelstern who came up with the idea that principals should have control of their budget including hiring of teachers that has resulted in the "education on the cheap" policy with a 2,000 + person ATR pool. and wasting of $160 million dollars annually.   How has that worked out for our schools and students Eric?  Not good at all.

I hope that the new Mayor eliminates the nearly worthless Children First Networks and replaces them with the geographically sensitive District Offices and with safeguards to prevent cronyism or corruption by pitting all candidates through a vetting process by an independent panel selected by the Mayor.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Is There Age Discrimination In The ATR Pool? You Bet There Is!

In the last ATR meeting with the union in October at the UFT Queens Borough Office, approximately 100 ATRs showed up to listen to what the union had to say Here.  Looking at the crowd showed that almost all the ATRs were over 40 years of age.  Of course, I didn't ask the other ATRs their ages but "seeing is believing". In my informal observation I saw less than 5 young-looking ATRs in the audiance.

Fortunately one of the teachers set up an e-mail poll to find out what the age distribution of the ATR pool was.  To no surprise to me and to many other independent educators, it showed that almost all the ATRs were over 40 years of age.  The results are listed below.

Under 40 years of age.................................2%

40 - 49 years of age..................................12%

50 - 59 years of age..................................48%

Over 60 years of age.................................38%

Astoundingly, 86% of the ATRs who responded to the e-mail survey are 50 years of age or older!

Unfortunately, the union will tell you its not age discrimination but salary, seniority, and those frequent earthquakes in Japan, for that matter or any natural disaster under the sun, but not ageism as their basis that there is no age discrimination occurring at the DOE when it comes to the ATR pool.

I shouldn't have to remind our union that our students need "quality teachers" in the New York City public school classrooms.  Instead they remain silent as the DOE encourages principals to hire the "cheapest and not the best teachers" and fails to challenge the DOE on their "education on the cheap" policy.  This is the Achilles heel of Tweed's claim that its "children first, always" and the union should be running commercial;s to expose it.

To me, "children first" means schools have the freedom to hire those "quality teachers" that are in the ATR pool without worrying about the cost and that means bringing back teacher hiring by units and that part of the budget should be handled by the Central Office and not.the schools who don't have the best interests of the students they are supposed to be looking out for.  Instead, these principals hire untested "newbies" and use their students as "guinea pigs" when it comes to instruction.  Just look Here. for examples how principals hire now."

Friday, November 22, 2013

How The DOE's "Fair Student Funding Formula" Affects Hiring Quality Teachers.

There seems to be some confusion, deliberate or not, on how the DOE uses the "Fair Student Funding" (FSF) formula works.   The theory behind FSF was that the money would follow the student with "high needs"  with these students getting more money than schools with few "high needs" students.  However, like many other programs the people at Tweed "perverts" the FSF and "picks and chooses" what parts of the FSF that support their ideology and that's where the confusion lies.

When it comes to hiring the DOE uses the FSF by using the "average teacher salary" of the school to determine the funding.  The result is that principals have an incentive to hire the "cheapest" and not the "best" teachers for their schools. Let's look at some examples:

Large School = 120 teachers average salary is $80,000.  The school hires a top teacher making $100,000.  What will the average teacher salary be?

ATS = {$80,000 x (119/120) = $79,333) + ( $100,000 x (1/120) = $833}   = $80,166.

However, $166 x 120 = a $19,960 increase in the school budget for teachers.

On the other hand, if the Principal hires a "newbie teacher".

ATS = {$80,000 x (119/120) = $79,333) + ( $40,000 x (1/120) = $333}   = $79,666.

However, $333 x 120 = a $39,960 decrease in the school budget for teachers.

Small  School = 30 teachers average salary is $52,000.  The school hires a top teacher making $100,000.  What will the average teacher salary be?

ATS = {$52,000 x (29/30) = $50,266) + ( $100,000 x (1/30) = $3,333}   = $53,600

However, $1,600 x 30 = a $48,000 increase in the school budget for teachers.

On the other hand, if the Principal hires a "newbie teacher".

ATS = {$52,000 x (29/30) = $50,266) + ( $40,000 x (1/30) = $1,333}   = $51,600

However, $400 x 30 = a $12,000 decrease in the school budget for teachers.
Mid-Sized  School = 60 teachers average salary is $65,000.  The school hires a top teacher making $100,000.  What will the average teacher salary be?

ATS = {$65,000 x (59/60) = $63,916) + ( $100,000 x (1/60) = $1,666}   = $65,582

However, $582 x 60 = a $39,350 increase in the school budget for teachers.

On the other hand, if the Principal hires a "newbie teacher".

ATS = {$65,000 x (59/60) = $63,916) + ( $40,000 x (1/60) = $666}   = $64,582

However, $416 x 60 = a $24,960 decrease in the school budget for teachers.

As the reader can plainly see the Principal has a financial incentive to hire the "newbie teacher" and save some money in the process.  The smaller the school, the greater the incentive. Its no wonder that there are over 2,000 ATRs rotating while "newbies" are being hired to fill the vacancies.

I hope the readers of my blog realize why principals hire the "cheapest" and are not interested in hiring the "best" teachers for their students. The principals can fool the parents of the students that they are hiring "quality teachers" to instruct their children but now you know better, its all about the money and not what's best for the students.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

How The Union And The New Mayor Can Solve The ATR Crisis.

It's no secret that the educational legacy of Michael Bloomberg is a failure. His tenure is marked with ever rising class sizes, closing schools, a shrinking school budget, low teacher morale, and an obscene funding formula that penalizes schools who dare to hire a highly experienced teacher.  All this and there still has been little or no student academic achievement, a widening racial/income academic achievement gap, and abysmal "college and career readiness" scores. 

Besides all the Mayor's failures, the one that stands out the most is the wasting of $160 million dollars annually on excessed educators including teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, secretaries, and Assistant Principals by rotating them from school to school.  Presently, there are over 2,000 ATRs/ACRs rotating in their school Districts and over 1,000 more temporarily covering long-term leave positions and signing "provisional contracts" that will not be renewed at the end of the school year due to the money issue.  This is known as the ATR crisis.

The ATR pool is populated by highly experienced teachers with over 90% being over 40 years of age and at least 10 years of experience. Among them are some very "highly qualified teachers" who have either been excessed from their closed schools. or were reassigned by vindictive principals who claimed the teachers were either incompetent or committed misconduct but the independent 3020-a Arbitrator ruled differently and found only minor infractions and sent them back as an educator.  The DOE then retaliated by making them an ATR as its more important for Tweed to maintain their ideology than what's best for the students. Once Bill de Blasio becomes Mayor and selects a new Chancellor, the union should negotiate with the Administration to end the ATR pool and the cisis.  Listed below are my ideas.

First, Impose a hiring freeze in school districts that have excessed teachers in the subject area where the vacancy is. There should be  "NO EXCEPTIONS"!

Second, Provide incentives to principals tro hire ATRs similar to the November 2008 incentives that allowed schools to pick up highly experienced ATRs for "newbie" prices.

Third, Have the DOE penalize principals who try to hide their vacancies by removing from the school's budget funding for the hidden vacancy.  This will encourage principals "to do the right thing".  This was tried previously  in 2010, but the DOE failed to enforce it and the union  looked the other way rather than taking any action.

Fourth, Eliminate the illegal, discriminatory, and immoral "fair student funding formula" that is the primary cause of the ATR crisis.  Have the educator budget revert back to a separate budget and the teachers be treated as a unit regardless of the salary.  This will go a long way in giving students "highly qualified teachers" that they need and deserve.

Fifth, to mitigate "forced placements" keep the "provisional assignments" and it only becomes permanent when borh the Principal and the educator agree that ir's a good fit at the end of the school year.

Finally, eliminate the illegal and unfair "red flags" on teacher files when the independent Arbitrator ruled against OSI and SCI substantiation of charges not found to have been true in the 3020-a hearings.

I must point out that in the unlikely event that the City refuses to deal with the ATR crisis, the union should insist that the New York State Civil Service law be reimposed as part of the next contract with "bumping" that goes with it.

Realistically, by putting the ATRs back in the classroom, the City will save money, experience reduced class sizes, have more "highly qualified teachers instructing students, and getting rid of the Bloomberg legacy of hiring the "cheapest" rather than the "best" teachers for the classroom. Now that's really "children first"!

Monday, November 18, 2013

How Mayor Bloomberg Has Destroyed The New York City Public Schools.

Mayor Bloomberg's failed legacy as the education Mayor is a lie and history will show how he tried to remake the New York City Public School system in his own image and ended up with a school system in chaos.  Under Mayor Bloomberg, teacher morale has never been lower as they are demonized by the Mayor, his media allies, and his cronies at Tweed.  During his tenure there has been no improvement in academic achievement  a widening of the racial/income academic achievement gap, and an "education on the cheap" policy.  that has resulted in rising class sizes, the largest in the State. Let's look at what changes he made while in office.

During the Bloomberg years he closed down 160 schools, many of them neighborhood comprehensive large high schools and replaced them with small schools that showed no real improvement in "college and career readiness rates". These small "Bloomberg schools" have a limited academic curriculum, very limited extracurricular activities, and excluding self contained special education and English Language Learners. In other words these schools exempted "high needs students".  Furthermore, the Bloomberg small schools took little of no "over the counter" (OTC) students and could recruit students throughout the city.  The result was that the remaining large comprehensive schools became a "dumping ground" for these OTC and  "high needs students'.  Is it any wonder why these schools were targeted for failure and eventually closed?

The closing of so many schools resulted in thousands of teachers being excessed and because of the "(un)fair student funding formula", principals wouldn't or couldn't select senior teachers for their vacancies, even when it was best for the school's students.  Under the Bloomberg Administration education policy, principals selected the "cheapest" and not the "best" teacher for their students in the "education on the cheap" and "children last" polices. The result is an ATR pool that has over 2,000 excessed experienced educators with little chance of getting a vacant position, just worthless temporary leave replacements.

Money sucking "Children First Networks" (CFN) that are supposed to provide professional development services to the schools but increasingly dictate to the principals how to run their schools and who to hire and how to fire tenured teachers.

Inexperienced Administrators with little classroom experience who try to run a school as a business and fail miserably in doing so.  The "Principal Leadership Academy"  is littered with fail administrators who don't have a clue about teaching in the classroom. Of course the three Chancellors under Mayor Bloomberg were not educations and all needed waivers from the ever compliant State to do the Mayor's dirty work.

The proliferation of charter schools, 184 at present. Many of then with a segregated student body, excludes "high needs students" and experience high rates of teacher turnover under the Bloomberg Administration.  In fact the Bloomberg Administration favored the charter schools and allowed them to co-locate, free of charge, with public schools and take over their much needed space.

The virtual elimination of neighborhood schools and with it an effective PTA who used to act as a check to a school's action and was a balance to a school's top-down policy. A hallmark of the Bloomberg Administration's educational policy was to cut out parent involvement in their child's education.

Finally, as the schools have experienced a 14% reduction in their budget since 2007, the large schools only received 80% of these reduced numbers while the more favored Bloomberg small schools saw budget increases of 110%.

For a more policy-like article about the Bloomberg years in public education and what the new Mayor needs to change please read my colleague Marc Epstein's, articles called "cleaning the stables" Here and  Here and is a most read if you're interested in our schools.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

How To Appeal The 3020-a Decision - Part VI

Once an Arbitrator determines the "award" (penalty), both sides can appeal the "award".  In the DOE's part, the "award" was not termination and it should've been.  While for the educator the "award" was too harsh.  The Arbitrator "award" can be appealed to New York State Supreme Court under section 75-11 (CPLR 7511).

While all appeals can be filed, not all are heard.  The City's Corporation Counsel will automatically ask for dismissal and receive it. The only appeals that will not eventually be dismissed is when the plantiff can show one of the following four conditions applied to the Arbitrator "award".  They are as follows.

The sole grounds set out in Article 75 for overturning such a determination:
1. Proof of corruption, fraud or misconduct in procuring an award;

2. The partiality of the arbitrator;

3. The arbitrator exceeded his or her authority; or

4. The arbitrator failed to follow the procedures set out in Article 75.

In  other words the Arbitrator's "award" is excessive or included actions not charged under section 3020-a.  Previously, it was rare for a court judge to rule against an Arbitrator's "award".  However, of late the NYS Supreme Court judges have been more sympathetic to educators in their appeals and some cases where termination was awarded to the DOE were reversed and in other cases the "awards" were reduced in severity.  Therefore, if you are to appeal your "award" than here is the procedure to do so.

Once the arbitrator renders his final determination ("award"), teachers that wish to contest must file a notice of claim within 10 days of the final determination in the New York State Supreme Court. The NYS Supreme Court is located at 60 Centre Street and the petition should be a lawsuit against the Department of Education and the Chancellor (currently Hon. Dennis Walcott). The petition is pursuant to Article 75 of the CPLR and should outline the reasons why the determination of the arbitrator was too severe of a penalty and “shocking to the conscience and one’s sense of fairness.”

Teachers who decide to go through with the appeal and believe  they want to pursue their case in the NYS Supreme Court should compile all available evidence and either contact an educational lawyer or seek legal advice to put together the petition. Generally NYSUT lawyers will not continue on your case if you pursue Article 75 and a private lawyer is necessary. Timing is very important in all legal cases against the DOE, as all article 78 proceedings must be filed within 4 months of the date of termination, and article 75 proceedings must be filed within 10 days of the final determination. Filings after that cut-off date will be time-barred by Corporation Counsel and the petition will generally be dismissed by the presiding justice. 

Once 3020-a decisions are made traditionally NYS Supreme Court justices have been reluctant to overrule the decision of the arbitrator, but in several recent high-profile cases judges have vacated the ruling of the arbitrator and demanded a lesser penalty. 

One case is the case of Christine Rubino. In this case, the decision to vacate her termination was upheld in the NYS Appellate Court:

Another is the case of Daniel Esteban:

In both cases, the lawyers argued effectively that the penalty (termination) imposed by the arbitrator was excessive. 

So if you are terminated by the 3020-a hearing, teachers should immediately file a petition within the NYS Supreme Court within 10 days of the receipt of the final determination or "award".

This is the final section of my six part series on the NYC version of the 3020-a process.  I hope you never have to use or experience it during your professional career as an educator.The other parts of the 3020-a process can be found below and is worth reading if you want a complete picture of the NYC 3020-a process and its aftermath..
  1. Part I,    The Process
  2. Part II,  The Arbitrator
  3. Part III, The Lawyers
  4. Part IV, The Educator
  5. Part V,  The "Award"
In addition, please read my articles on the investigators who are rarely "fair and balanced" and are an important part of the 3020-a process and can be found Here.and Here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Why Every 3020-a Arbitrator Award Is Different. - Part V

One of the truisms in the New York City version of the 3020-a hearing process is that "every case is different".  To support that statement I present three cases that have the same or similar allegations with vastly different Arbitrator "awards" (penalties).

Case #1:  Three high school teachers were reported to have been drinking hard liquor in the classroom before open school night started.  All three teachers were sent through the 3020-a hearing process and received vastly different "awards".  The alleged ringleader of the group was the first one to finish his 3020-a hearing and received a $5,000 fine and a course on appropriate behavior.  His girlfriend was next and received a much more stringent fine of $25,000.   The last teacher was handed to most severe "award" with a six month suspension without salary and benefits as well as being called on to take alcohol testing at a moment's notice.

All three teachers had no previous discipline problems and were well liked by the school Administration'  Why the vastly disparate "awards"?  The answer is the dynamics of the 3020-a hearing itself.  All three teachers had different attorneys and different arbitrators.  Further, its how each teacher handled the highly stressful 3020-a hearing.  Finally, the teacher's testimony will influence an Arbitrator's "award".  Therefore,  the combination of many factors caused the different and disparate "awards".

Example #2:  Two female elementary school teachers were accused of "corporal punishment" at two different schools.  They allegedly took a misbehaving special education student and according to the room paraprofessional either kicked, pushed, or shoved the student.  The cases were  similar in many ways.  Each  student was eventually placed in a District 75 school because of their behavioral disabilities, the teacher and paraprofessional had issues with each other, and most importantly, the Principal did not like the teacher.
One teacher ended up with a "letter-to-the-file" while the other teacher was terminated.  Why the difference?

In the non-terminated teacher's case, the school physiologist testified on behalf of the teacher about the student's behavioral issues while the terminated teacher had no witnesses.  Otherwise, there is no differences. Therefore, it goes back to the dynamics of the hearing and the teacher's testimony.

Example 3:  Two male high school teachers were accused of "sexual misconduct" with female students.  In one case the teacher was spotted with a schoolgirl in his parked car near the school and it was reported to SCI who substantiated that the girl was in the teacher's car but according to the girl "nothing was going on"..  The Other teacher had an inappropriate testing and phone relationship with a female student and were seen together often alone in his classroom.  SCI substaintiated the allegations and both teachers went through the 3020-a process.

The teacher who had the female student in his parked car near the school was terminated for "sexual misconduct" which is automatic by  the Arbitrator.  While the teacher with the numerous phone and text messages was given a $7,500 fine.  Go figure. I will not pretend to understand these two widely disparate "awards" except to say its about the dynamics of the 3020-a hearings and the creditability of the teacher. .

Consequently, the best advice I can give you is to tell the truth, express sorrow, even if you believe you didn't do anything wrong, and be confident but not arrogant in your testimony and hope for the best.No wonder the teacher is confused because there is no rubric that is used to determine the Arbitrator's "award".

The four other parts of the New York City 3020-a process can be found Here, Here, Here, and Here.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"Don't Tread On Educators" Forum Thursday.

This is to remind all teachers who feel the DOE and the Administration of their school has abused them that a forum will ne held at 6pm in Elmhurst Queens to discuss the major issues. in teaching in today's New York City public school classroom.

The moderator is the one and only Francesco Portelos who is in his own 3020-a hearing and will discuss the real bullying that Tweed, the DOE, and school administrators are practicing against teachers/

See you there!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The New York City 3020-a Process Part IV - The Educator

The most important person in the 3020-a process is the educator.  First impressions really count.  The educator must be well prepared with a "point by point rebuttal" of the specifications (charges) against him or her when the educator meets with the attorney.  If the educator acts defeated, the attorney may not be able to do their best for the educator.  First impressions also count when the educator shows up to the pre-hearing.  If the educator shows up late, is sloppily dressed, and acts disinterested that is a bad sign and the Arbitrator will form an opinion that is not favorable. What's most important is how the educator handles herself at the hearings.

The educator must stay calm and in control at all times during the 3020-a hearings.  Any loss  of control, crying, outbursts, or showing emotion will hurt the educator.  The DOE will make the educator to be a cross of "Jack the ripper", "Typhoid Mary", and "helpless Harry".  To repeatedly hear how you are the worst educator in creation takes tremendous willpower and the Arbitrator will be watching your reactions to the "character assassination" against you by the DOE.

The DOE has a habit of "throwing shit on the wall and see what sticks".  That means that the DOE will claim the preponderance of charges are real and termination is the only "award" (penalty) possible.  Remember the DOE always seek termination and they will bring as many charges as they can think of against the educator in the hopes of receiving termination from the Arbitrator.  While many of the specifications will be eventually thrown out by the Arbitrator, the DOE hopes the quantity of charges will influence the "award". To counter the DOE's personal, perverted, and embellished charges against the educator its important that the educator do the followig:

First, be well-mannered, engaged, and most importantly, be confident.  Remember, the DOE must prove their case with a "preponderance of relevant evidence" the educator does not need to prove their innocence. I know this is a very stressful situation and the "sword of Damocles" is over the educator's head but don't show self pity,  your demeanor is noticed by the Arbitrator.

Second, Don't be arrogant, argumentative or emotional.  The DOE is counting on the educator to either loss control or react to their "character assassination".  Stay calm and pay attention to what is being said and take notes even if it's painful to hear. You will be able to rebut the charges later in the hearing.

Third, Tell the truth at all times.  While the DOE witnesses may lie or exaggerate and it won't have a major effect on the DOE's case but the educator can't lie.  If the educator is caught in a lie, termination becomes a real possibility so don't lie!  If an incident did occur, express sorrow and explain that it was a unique situation and under normal circumstances I would have handled it differently. 

Fourth, bad news.  The Arbitrator almost always finds the Principal who testifies against you as "credible" even when the educator's attorney catches them in an exaggeration or even outright lies.  Therefore, if the Principal does not like the educator, their testimony against the educator will likely increase the severity of the "award".

Finally, the educator needs to bring witnesses to the 3020-a hearing.  Colleagues, parents, and especially students as "character references" to counter the DOE's "character assassination" against the educator.  Some NYSUT attorneys discourage bringing in students and colleagues but the educators who brought in these witnesses seem to have an effect on the Arbitrator and received lesser "awards".

Remember, the educator is the "best and worst witness" in the 3020-a hearings  The arbitrators always want to hear from the educator.  Collect yourself, be truthful when explaining the situation leading up to the charges, and show the Arbitrator that you are "credible" and an asset to the school system and especially that  you care deeply about the students.  Remember, the Arbitrator wants to hear that its "all about the children".

The other three parts of the New York City 3020-a process can be found Here, Here, and Here.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

The New York City 3020-a Process Part III - The Lawyers

Another major actor in the 3020-a hearing process are the legal teams for the DOE and the educator. For simplicity I will call the DOE legal representatives as the "lawyers".  While the NYSUT legal representatives as "attorneys".  During the Bloomberg Administration, the DOE has hired more lawyers than any other employees in their Central Bureaucracy.  Most of these lawyers work for the Office of Legal Services and are directly or indirectly associated with educator discipline issues.  The Office of Legal Services represent the DOE in the 3020-a hearings and their mission is to ask and receive termination.  No other "award" is acceptable.  On the other hand, the educator is represented by NYSUT who provides an attorney "free of charge".  The NYSUT  attorney's mission is to save the educator's job not to acquit the educator.  Remember in the New York City version of the 3020-a process only 4% are actually acquitted.

The DOE Lawyer:  In the 3020-a hearings the DOE lawyer can come from either one of two units under the Office of Legal Services.  The Administrative Trials Unit (ATU) for educator misconduct cases an the Teacher Performance Unit (TPU), otherwise known as the "gotcha squad" for teacher incompetence cases. Regardless, both units have one mission and one mission only and that is to seek and receive termination by whatever means possible.

To achieve their goal of termination, the DOE lawyer will overwhelm the educator with numerous dubious charges (specifications).  These charges will include presenting unsupported hearsay as fact, embellishing everyday interactions as serious infractions, and twisting and perverting simple actions as major misconduct.  Their specialty is to take incidents out of context and will claim that the educator has a "pattern and practice" to advance their goal for termination otherwise known as "throwing shit on the wall and see what sticks".

The NYSUT Attorney:  When a tenured educator is charged under section 3020-a, the UFT will contact NYSUT and arrange to have an attorney assigned to the educator "free of charge".  These NYSUT attorneys are, for the most part, very experienced and will do their best to represent the educator,  However, when the educator and the attorney don't see "eye to eye", the educator can fire the NYSUT attorney and have a "private lawyer" to represent them. For the most part, the NYSUT attorney is very competent and do the best job they can and are usually more poised and polished than their DOE counterparts.

The Private Lawyer:  Some educators decide to use a private lawyer for different reasons.  There is a perception that the private lawyer will work harder for the educator since they are being paid.  However, in my opinion, the results have been mixed at best.  The major reason is that the New York City version of the 3020-a process is a team process. The Arbitrator. The DOE lawyer, and the NYSUT attorney are the team.  They are linked together for a year or more and a certain "comfort zone" is established between the three. When a private lawyer replaces the NYSUT attorney this may unconsciously affect the Arbitrator's "award".  I prefer to believe that no Arbitrator knowingly does that but it can't be ruled out.  Therefore, an educator should think long and hard before replacing the NYSUT attorney.

Open and Public Hearing:  None of the actors want an open and public hearing but the educator has a right to one and while the NYSUT attorney will strongly recommend that its not in the educator's best interests to have one, the decision is the educator's.  I believe an open and public hearing allows other eyes to observe the process and can assist the educator in his or her defense and I did have one. Again the final decision is the educator's.

Parts I and II of the 3020-a process can be found Here and Here.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

There Is No Truth To The Rumor That The ATR Weekly Assignments Will Change This School Year.

There has been persistent rumors floating around the schools that there will be changes to the ATR rotation this school year.  One rumor has the ATRs staying in a school for a month rather than a week; the other is that the ATRs will be forced placed in the second semester.  The rumors gained some credibility when Gotham Schools reported that the DOE and CSA made some changes to the ATR system for supervisors.  Here. Even principals who I have spoken with believe changes are being implemented presently. However, its sad to say that "none of these rumors are true"!  Where these rumors originated from, I could not tell you since I have received numerous calls and emails from various sources about the rumors. It seems to have a life of its own.

Therefore, to find out the truth I placed a call to the lead UFT official on the ATR committee, Special Representative Amy Arundell, and she informed me that the DOE is very happy with the ATR weekly rotation and there has been no meeting or one being planned to discuss changing the weekly rotation system.  Furthermore, Ms. Arundell believes that the DOE will be unwilling to change the ATR system until a reorganization of the DOE leadership and policies occur when Bill de Blasio takes office in January and that will take time.  Therefore, it will not be this school year that any changes to the ATR situation is expected.

Hopefully, when the UFT and the de Blasio Administration negotiates a new contract, the ATR situation will be resolved and for many of us it will be a bad memory of a secretive deal that ended up very badly for many of the members in the ATR pool.

For a more humorous take of what weekly rotating ATRs are experiencing go to the Traveling ATR blog

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

The New York City 3020-a Process Part II - The Independent Arbitrator

The New York State tenured educator disciplinary process, known as the 3020-a process has three major actors.  The School District (DOE), the educator, and the Arbitrator. I previously wrote about the 3020-a process and can find it here.  This post is about the independent Arbitrator and what goes into the Arbitrator's "award".

In the New York City version of the 3020-a process the Arbitrator is selected from a rotating panel of between 23 and 39 arbitrators that are jointly selected by the DOE and UFT.  These arbitrators serve one year terms and are only renewed if both the DOE and UFT are satisfied with their decisions.  Otherwise, the arbitrators are removed from the panel.  While the DOE is much more aggressive than the UFT in removing arbitrators, the fact is that most arbitrators leave the panel out of frustration with New York State's failure to pay them for their work.

Arbitrators get $1,400 dollars per hearing date.  While it may seem like a good chunk of money,  the truth is that New York State never allocates enough funds for 3020-a cases and many arbitrators quit the panel due to a lack of timely payments.  One senior arbitrator quit the panel after not being paid for three years and owed an astonishing $200,000!  Presently,, the NYC arbitration panel is down to 18 arbitrators and the blame squarely lies with New York State.

Arbitrators have a wide latitude in determining the "award" (penalty) for the School District and against the educator.  The "award" ranges from a mere "letter to the file" to termination.  While the NYCDOE always asks for termination, the job of the Arbitrator is to find the proper corrective actions that will rehabilitate the educator and have the educator return to service.  If there are no corrective measures available to rehabilitate the educator, the Arbitrator will terminate the educator.

There is a myth that arbitrators will "split the baby" since both the DOE and UFT must be satisfied with their decisions.  Arbitrators do not "split the baby" when it comes to the "award".  The Arbitrators take many factors into account including the "preponderance of relevant evidence".  You can see the list in my post here.  The "splitting of the baby" is a myth that Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Dennis Walcott claims when educators survive the 3020-a process with the jobs, if not their reputations, intact.  I guess to those two the 38% termination rate over the last two years is not good enough, it should be 100%!

While arbitrators are not immune from political considerations or pressure from one side or the other, they are usually fair and reasoned, for the most part, in their "awards"  Very few Arbitrator decisions are reversed on appeal, less than 10% from anecdotal evidence.  However, of late some justices have either modified the arbitrators decisions or sent it back for a re-review when the justice believes the "award" may have been based upon charges not included in the specifications submitted to the Arbitrator.

Finally, there is no "rubric" for the Arbitrator's award since the "award" depends on many factors including the personalities involved in the 3020-a hearing. One of the more upsetting aspects of the 3020-a process is the Arbitrator's assumption that the Principal is always credible.  Even when the Principal is caught lying or exaggerating, the Arbitrator will still find credibility with the Principal's statements. By contrast if the educator is caught lying the Arbitrator will find the educator not credible and usually terminate the educator.  Unfair or not, that's how it goes.

While Arbitrator decisions are usually fair and well-reasoned, many factors go into the "award" and as one of my now terminated colleague once said to me "every case is different" and so are the "awards".

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Another Reason Why The Bloomberg Graduation Rate Is Bogus. - Grade Inflation

Most real educators snicker when Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Dennis Walcott, and the news media brag how the graduation rate rose over the Bloomberg years.  The truth is that the graduation rates rose not because the students were getting a better education but because of artificial means used by the DOE and principals. While most educators point to the extensive use of bogus "credit recovery courses " and the poor "college and career readiness rates" of these high school graduates, one thing that does not get enough publicity is "grade inflation".  Yes, many principals not only pressure teachers in passing students who don't deserve to pass by requiring their teachers to have a minimum class passing rate of 80% or higher but require teachers who do fail a student to limit the failing grade to an artificially high value.  A prime example is the often maligned Flushing High School.

On the Ed notes Online blog a Science teacher Mr. Ok  Seung Young  has published his three letters of complaint to top DOE officials who have refused to take action against Principal James Brown's outrageous grading policy.  Yes, the very same James Brown who was cited in the New York Post and my blog for his misconduct, including charges of "sexual harassment" and was found guilty of the misconduct by a jury in court but seemed to get a job with the DOE anyway. These letters can be found Here, Here, and Here.

According to Mr. Ok Seung Young, Principal James Brown has decreed that no student can get a grade lower than 55, even if they don't show up!  In addition, the grade is worth only 33% of the final grade which can allow the administration wiggle room to use "credit recovery" and other dubious methods to artificially raise the failing student's grade to passing by year's end.  In other words, the student need only show up for one of three marking periods and do the required work and get a passing grade along with some artificial grade inflators, unbelievable!

If Principal James Brown's bogus grading policy is allowed to stand, which seems to be in violation of the New York State grading system, then what kind of education are these students actually getting?  That's right its "junk education"!  What kind of message are we sending to employers allowing students who fail to show up and don't do the necessary schoolwork by giving then a bogus diploma.  Is it any wonder that New York City employers complain that many high school graduates lack the proper skills and work ethic to succeed in the adult world? If you are a employer, would you hire a Flushing High School graduate knowing that the awarding of the diploma may be tainted? It's a real pity that the Bloomberg administration is more interested in the bogus graduation rate than the real education necessary for our students to prepare for the real world.

Friday, November 01, 2013

How Disrespected ATRs Are To Principals? Just Read This!

It's common knowledge that many principals, especially those clueless "Leadership Academy Principals" refuse to hire ATRs for their vacancies.  Usually its about the money and the average ATR makes $85,000 while the "newbie teacher"  makes less than $46,000 or a difference of $39,000 dollars!  Sure some Principals will not hire a ATR because of building seniority and a "red flag" if the ATR was once "rubberized and investigated".  However, its manly about the money.

An ATR, Keith Fabes was kind enough to send me two separate requests by Brooklyn elementary school principals who want to interview "newbie teachers" for vacancies in their schools while asking for out of district ATRs to temporarily cover the classes until the principals can select the appropriate "newbie" for the vacancies.  Listed below are the two vacancies.

From: Allen Patricia
Sent: 10/31/2013 10:38 AM
Cc: Flores Robert (32K106)
Subject: Common Branches Licensed ATR needed at 32K106
Dear Common Branches licensed Teacher, 
Please be advised of a possible vacancy at 32K106. The Principal is looking for an ATR who is willing to work outside of his/her seniority district to assist while he is in the process of conducting interviews. We would appreciate any volunteers willing to work as an ATR at that location while the principal proceeds with the interviewing process. 
Please respond to this e-mail if you are interested. Below is the location/contact information for the school. 

(718) 574-0261
 Mrs. Patricia Allen
 Patricia Allen MBA/HRM , HR Director
CFN 412: Making it Happen!
Daisy Concepcion, Network Leader
Christopher Groll, Cluster Leader

From: Allen Patricia
Sent: 10/31/2013 10:38 AM
Cc: Scarlato Mary (14K031)
Subject: Common Branches ATR needed at 14K031

Dear Common Branches licensed Teacher, 
Please be advised of a possible vacancy at 14K031. The Principal is looking for an ATR who is willing to work outside of his/her seniority district to assist in covering the class while she is in the process of conducting interviews. Furthermore, since D14 has very few ATR in the common branches license area, we would appreciate any volunteers willing to work as an ATR at that location.
 Please respond to this e-mail if you are interested. Below is the location/contact information for the school.

 14K031 - PS 031 SAMUEL F DUPONT (CFN 94N412)
(718) 383-8998
 Mrs. Patricia Allen
 Patricia Allen MBA/HRM , HR Director
CFN 412: Making it Happen!
Daisy Concepcion, Network Leader
Christopher Groll, Cluster Leader

That's right!  ATRs need not apply, they want only inexpensive "newbies"!   To these two principals its not what's best for the students but what's best for them and their CFN in their "
education on the cheap"
policy..  How disgusting,