Friday, January 31, 2014

Why We Must Eliminate The ATR Pool

One of the more shameful policies implemented by the Bloomberg Administration was the establishment of the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool where teachers, guidance counselors, and social workers were excessed from the 161 closing schools or survived the bogus 3020-a process, usually initiated by vindictive principals who targeted teachers they didn't like or want.  Over the many years the DOE, due to their ideological policy, wasted between 100 and 200 million dollars annually by keeping these excessed educators from the classroom, except as substitute teachers or  temporary replacements.  In the last three years, thanks, in part to our union, the DOE came up with the idiotic ATR rotation system that has turned out to be a waste of time, money, and demoralized many an ATR as being worthless.  In an era of rising class sizes, overcrowded classrooms, and the lack of "quality teachers", having over 2,000 ATRs, with most of them rotating weekly, is a complete waste of talent.  Moreover, by placing ATRs back into the classroom, the "productivity savings" of $160 million dollars yearly will help to provide cover for the City on the new contract.

In the beginning the DOE/UFT ATR committee acted in complete secrecy and the two union members on this committee were the recently retired Michael Mandel and now AFT policy person and chief propagandist of the 2005 contract, Leo Casey.  Neither Mr. Mandel or Mr Casey ever bothered to meet with any of the over 2,000 ATRs and ask them their opinion about how the ATR program should work and what they would like to see changed.  Instead these two uncaring clowns decided that the weekly ATR rotation system was a wonderful idea that would force principals to hire ATRs rather than lose them.  How wrong they were! The result was that the ATRs became traveling gypsies and many of the resigned or retired rather than submit to the indignity of being a "babysitter" and disrespected by administrators, staff, and students of the school they were assigned to.  Over 90% who were given "provisional contract" for the school year found that they were not welcomed back the next year since the DOE's "fair student funding" formula made it difficult for principals to hire them without taking a major budget hit.

Now the ATR committee is lead by Amy Arundell and Michael Sill and have brought with them a less secretive and refreshingly open approach with regard to the ATR situation.  They have reached out to selected ATRs and formed an ATR advisory committee to provide input into the process.  Yes, I am on this committee and while I cannot say if our recommendations will actually be the union's position when they talk to the DOE under the De Blasio/Farina Administration, I am hopeful that they will be and the  ATR pool will be just a bad memory next school year.

The question is what should the union's position be when it comes to the ATR pool?  Eliminate it! Here are my suggestions on just how to do that.

First, all staff funding must be put back into the hands of the DOE and away from the schools.  Under the "fair student funding" formula principals are encouraged to hire the "cheapest" and not the "best teachers".  The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)  hiring "newbie teachers" are not considered "highly qualified" and despite the Tweed rhetoric, it's budget first and children last. That perverse policy needs to end. Teacher hiring should be based on units and not based on salary considerations. This will allow schools to reduce class sizes and obtain "quality teachers" that they presently do not have.

Second, impose a complete hiring freeze until all excessed teachers are placed within a district in their content specialty, no exceptions! Included in this hiring freeze would be a prohibition for principals to use teachers to teach out of license which is commonly done at present.

Third, have the DOE provide principals who have vacancies a list of all ATRs by seniority rank in their license area.  The most senior ATR should have the right to interview for any vacancy in his or her district with the final hiring decision kept into the hands of the Principal once the Principal had interviewed up to but no more than three ATRs. Any Principal found hiding or refuses to hire for a vacancy should lose funding for the vacancy for that year and receive a disciplinary letter to their file to remind them not to do it again.

Fourth, any ATR not selected for a vacancy will be placed in any remaining vacancy in the District or work in a school as a "push in " teacher in their content specialty at a school that both the ATR and Superintendent agree upon as a "good fit". This will minimize "forced placements".

Fifth, have buyouts.  However, I don't expect the buyout offers to be generous enough to have many takers.  A minimum of two years, with pension credit might entice more ATRs to take a buyout but I think if a buyout is offered it will be a maximum of one year in salary (probably six months) and no pension credit.

Finally, all ATRs filling a vacancy will sign a "provisional contract" that gives both the ATR and Principal the time to see if its a "good fit" for both.  It also allows the flexibility or both parties to decide if the ATR will stay in the school and obtain his or her seniority for school excessing the following year.

I will need to remind my fellow ATRs that we signed up to be teachers and that means that we should be in the classroom and making a positive difference in the children's lives.   For the minority of ATRs who prefer going week to week to different schools I must question if you're in the right profession.  Even the "worst schools" need quality teachers and it's our responsibility to lead by example.  You can disagree with me but we are teachers, guidance counselors, and social workers and we are in this profession to help the children be productive adults. Going weekly to different schools and "babysitting" doesn't help the students and that's what is most important and that's why all ATRs must be placed back into the classrooms to improve student academic outcomes..

You can agree or disagree with me but that's how I see it.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Are The SCI Investigators Really Interested In Finding Out The Truth? Not If You Ask Me.

In the last five years I have written many posts that questioned the fairness and objectivity of the DOE investigative departments.  The Special Commissioner of Investigations (SCI), The Office of Special Investigations (OSI), and The Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO).  Nothing recently has changed my opinion of these investigative agencies and as far as I am concerned they are simply tools of the DOE to get teachers terminated when accused of the most frivolous of actions while protecting the alleged vindictiveness and misconduct of administrators  You can find my previous posts on the DOE investigative process at corrupt investigations.

 Now a teacher told me a story that confirms to me that these investigative departments, paid for by the DOE, are still more interested in getting teachers terminated than finding out the truth. This story, as told to me, is about an untenured teacher who was getting satisfactory observations by the AP of her high school until she witnessed another teacher coming out of a room with a student and with his Regents paper in hand which was in violation of New York State testing procedures.  She quickly realized that the teacher was alone with the student and that her experience with the student told her he had no chance of passing the Regents without cheating.  She knew the school was anxious to graduate the student out of the school however, she decided it was her duty to report the alleged cheating to the Assistant Principal who was in the hallway that January day in 2013.  The Assistant Principal assured the untenured teacher that he will handle the problem.  Of course a couple of days later she found out that the student miraculously passed the Regents and graduated from the school.  She asked the Assistant Principal what he did about the cheating allegation and he told her that it was handled and don't bring it up anymore.

During the next semester the untenured teacher found herself being subject to numerous observations from the Assistant Principal and her "Satisfactory" observations in the first semester became "Unsatisfactory"  observations after reporting the alleged cheating.   The untenured teacher felt harassed and took her complaint to the Principal early in the Spring only to be told that the student in question graduated and follow the instructions given to her by the Assistant Principal about her classroom management skills  The Administrative retaliation continued throughout the second semester and the untenured teacher was discontinued. End of story?  Not quite.

During the summer the news media got wind of the story and wrote an article about an untenured teacher being terminated because of her claims of whistle blowing.   It seems that after the article was published, SCI took the case on to determine if there was cheating going on at the high school.  In January of this year  SCI substantiated the alleged cheating and the school apparently removed the teacher involved.  Sounds like SCI did their job right.  Wrong!  SCI never bothered to interview the discontinued teacher who made the original complaint about the alleged cheating.

The question is why didn't SCI interview the main witness to the alleged cheating?  While I cannot say why SCI didn't interview the discontinued teacher, I must suspect that they were afraid that her testimony would have implicated both the Assistant Principal and the Principal in covering up the alleged cheating and maybe the Superintendent as well.  It will be interesting to see how this entire process plays out and if these administrators are cleared or found to have participated in the alleged cheating  since SCI is claiming that the investigation is ongoing.  Stay tuned as I suspect this will not be the end of the story.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Its Time To Put Quality Teachers Back Into The Classroom.

As we approach the second semester of the 2013-14 school year, the De Blasio Administration should be working on improving the New York City public schools and start the process to eliminate the Bloomberg education policies that hurt the schools and the students in them.  While Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina have only been in charge for a month and change does take time.  Their priority should be to do what's best for the student academic outcomes going forward. 

The question is how can we improve student academic achievement for the second semester?  What can be done this semester and will cost little or no extra money and help students improve academically?  My suggestion is to place the 2,000+ ATRs back into the classroom within their District, either as a "push in" teacher, co-teacher, and filling all vacancies with the ATRs.  Since the DOE is paying for the ATRs already, it will only cost a minimal amount of money as schools would need to hire a few more substitute teachers since the ATRs would not be "babysitting" students anymore.  However, the De Blasio administration must include a total hiring freeze, no exceptions, if this is to work.

Yes, some Principals may object to being forced to hire ATRs but its not "what's best for the principals",  its what's best for the students and that means that schools must hire the "best" not the "cheapest" teachers as they have over the Bloomberg last two terms as Mayor.   Furthermore, many of the ATRs are "quality teachers" and are considered "highly qualified" by the "No Child Left Behind" act. 

If the Mayor and Chancellor really want to change things quickly and help the students imporove academically, then let's put the ATRs back in the classroom where they belong.  Doesn't the City's children deserve as many "quality teachers" that they can have instructing them?  I think so.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Did Andrew Cuomo Really Tell The Daily News That The State Contract With The Unions Set A Pattern For The City?

The Daily News editorial board interviewed Governor Andrew Cuomo and claimed that he said the 2011 contract the State imposed upon its unions "set a pattern" for the City in its negotiation with the municipal unions.  Whether he actually said that or the Daily News editorial board interpreted his response that way is questionable. However, readers to my blog know that I did compare the New York State economic problems when they negotiated the 2011 union contract with the vastly improved economic condition of New York City in 2014 Here.  Since that time, the City's economic condition has improved even more than expected, with an increase of jobs (94,000) and a dropping unemployment rate (8.1%) for December. The New York State Labor Department report can be found Here.  Additionally, the Governor's Secretary on ABC stated that the State has added 400,000 jobs since 2011

The only pattern that the Municipal employees are subject to is the "City pattern". The 2011 State contract could never be a pattern and was negotiated under different economic conditions.   Just recently the National Mediation Board handed down a decision on the MTA's Long Island Railroad contract calling for "retroactive raises" averaging 2.83% for six years. The National Mediation Board determined that the MTA has the" ability to pay for the raises" .  In December another Arbitration panel gave an 11% retroactive raise for the last three years to a small MTA union as well. In fact, while the MTA claims they cannot afford raises to their union employees, they secretly approved raises for many of their management staffs and have just agreed to "retroactive raises" with their police union..  Just like the MTA the City has the ability to pay for raises, including "retroactive pay". 

To compare the State's 2011 contract to the City in 2014 is comparing "Apples and Oranges" and cannot be used as a pattern nor should it be since the economic conditions have improved drastically in the last three years.  I can't see an Arbitrator using the State contract as a basis for determining the municipal contract for City unions.

One last point, the United Federation of Teachers and the New York State Nurses Association are waiting for the Arbitrators to determine if they are to get the "City pattern" for the 2009-10 budget years that everybody else received (two 4% raises).  Since the City has the ability to pay, its highly likely that the arbitrators will rule that both unions should receive the "City pattern".  The new "City pattern" still needs to be negotiated and I believe the City will probably try to make a five year deal with the teachers union, giving them the "retroactive raises", spread out over the five year contract and establishing a new "City pattern" for the final three years (between 1-2.5% yearly).

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Chancellor Carmen Farina's Actions Show Its More About Babysitting Then A Child's Safety Or Education.

Chancellor Carmen Farina has made a second poor decision in not closing New York City Schools today.  Despite the Mayor declaring a "State of Emergency" the Chancellor decided to open schools anyway. The New York City schools was the only school system that was open between Philadelphia and Boston according to numerous reports  I guess the Chancellor believes that, parents depend on the City to keep the schools open since they can't afford "babysitters" when they go to work and that's more important than a student's safety..  Therefore, closing schools due to dangerous weather under the new Chancellor is the same as under the Gulliani and Bloomberg Administrations.  How disappointing!

I was an optimist and expected that Carmen Farina would do what's right fror the students.  That is
making sure their safety concerns are the most important factor in having students go to school.  How wrong I was, she ignored the problems the students had with the brutal cold with windchills below zero and snow covered roads and that's unacceptable. The majority of students wisely stayed home today and many of the students ended up in the auditoriums to watch movies for the day.  The high schools averaged less than 25% and approximately 50% of the staff did the smart thing and stayed home.

I guess under Chancellor Carmen Farina, the more things change the more they stay the same and that is greatly disappointing.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Who's Next To Leave Tweed? Waiting For The Exodus.

The New York Times broke the news that Tweed flunky and Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky is resigning in the next four to six weeks to run a college.  I guess he realized his days were numbered as the many questionable and failed initiatives he championed under Bloomberg are expected to be dismantled in the De Blasio Administration and he knew it was time to go before he was terminated by the new Chancellor

It was interesting how in the last six months he went from a data-mining advocate, the issuing of school grades, using  "standardized testing" by selectively screening students for the screened small schools, and a teacher accountability maven, a true education reform believer that gave blind obedience to Bloomberg's flawed and failed education policy to vaguely recommending some small changes.  Too little and too.late" Shael.  I almost laughed when he wanted the Chancellor's job under the De Blasio Administration.  I had a better chance than Polakow-Suransky to be Chancellor.  Moreover, we all saw how well he put teachers to sleep at Cardozo High School when he unsatisfactorily tried to explain the teacher evaluation system to a bored staff on a professional development day.  Shaul Polakow-Suransky is just the first to leave and I'm waiting for the rest of the "gang of eighteen" to leave before they are kicked out.

I hope as President of the college he doesn't have to teach  otherwise, the students will be dropping out of college real quick. Normally, I would say "good luck" but considering all the academic damage that occurred under his watch, the appropriate response is "good riddance" and "don't let the door hit you in the butt on the way out"

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Its Time To Stop Funding And Hiring From The Flawed "Leadership Academy".

In today's New York Post, there are more revelations about Principal Marcella Sills of PS 106 in Far Rockaway.and how the DOE ignored pleas to remove her  I have also been informed that the Principal never taught in a New York City classroom before being put in charge of the school.  Who was responsible for this?  The finger is pointed at ex-Chancellor Joel Klein, Regent Kathleen Cashin (Superintendent at the time of Ms. Sills hiring as Principal), and of course District 27 Superintendent Michelle Lloyd-Bey who not only allowed Ms. Sills to continue to be the Principal but ignored all the complaints since 2006, unbelievable. The Post also reported what a student said about her school.

In my first assignment this year, I was sent to a school in Central Queens that also had a "Leadership Academy Principal"  and he actually bragged to me that he never taught in a New York City classroom.  When I asked him very politely "doesn't it impede your ability to properly evaluate your teachers", his response to me was that he was trained to be the CEO of the school and that's the job of his Assistant Principal to inform him of the effectiveness of his teaching staff.  I was, of course, appalled that he was not an instructional leader and didn't seem to care to be one.

In my "bad principals" and "Leadership Academy principal"columns, almost all the principals highlighted are "Leadership Academy principals" and its time for the DOE to stop funding this group and go back to the way it used to be.  First a long term effective classroom teacher (minimum ten years) an Assistant Principal (minimum five years) and then Principal, if the person showed that he or she was a "team player" who fostered an environment of collaboration in the school.  In the Diane Ravitch column, the Tweed insider said the following about the "Leadership Academy principals".

NYC’s non-geographic school support network structure and the central bureaucracy at Tweed are bloated, ineffective, inefficient, and lead to patronage. Of the non-geographic networks a full 1/3 received ineffective or developing quality ratings. An audit by the NYC Comptroller’s Office found that “it is difficult to determine whether or not that support increased the efficiency of the school’s day-to-day operations… a network’s contribution to the scores allotted to the schools cannot be directly ascertained.” This is not surprising. We do not assign police precincts to police blocks in different neighborhoods, even if those blocks have similarities. We do not have fire stations cover fires in different boroughs. So why should our schools be supported by teams responsible for 30 schools spread all across the city? A policy report by the NYC Comptroller revealed that this structure blocks parent influence in local school governance. The opportunities for conflicts of interest, patronage, and corruption, supposedly a concern under a geographic structure are, unfortunately, all too plentiful in the centralized structure. Favoritism is rampant. For example, schools were forced to hire Aspiring Principal Program (APP)/Leadership Academy principals despite the data showing that student suspensions increase, the” performance drop… is larger at the schools hiring an APP graduate” and over 40% of APP graduates are no longer principals in the same school after 3 years.

By the way, who spearheaded the hiring of these inept and dangerous "Leadership Academy principals"? Yes, you guessed it, the one and only Eric Nalderstern who also gave us the useless Children First Networks listed by the Tweed insider as being of dubious value to the schools and other less than wonderful changes that will take a decade to reverse.  Thanks Eric for your contribution in destroying the New York City school system.

The bottom line if we are to improve the New York City Public School System lets bring back how principals used to be selected based upon their ability, collaboration, and excellent teaching skills. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Memo To Andrew Cuomo, Merit Pay Doesn't Work!

Governor Andrew Cuomo in his education speech protected the increasingly criticized "Teacher Evaluation System" and "Common Core"  as expected.  However, he surprised some by advocating a "merit pay plan" for "highly effective teachers" who work in struggling schools with bonuses of up to $20,000.  The problem with the Governor's "merit pay plan" is that "merit pay doesn't work"!

"Merit pay schemes" have been around since the beginning of the 20th Century and has resulted in disappointing results and abandoned, yet education reform groups believe that "merit pay" is part of the answer to improve student academic achievement.  In 2008, Mayor Bloomberg and Joel Klein, with much fanfare, rolled out a "merit play program" that failed and was quietly discontinued in 2010.  Apparently our Governor's education policy is influenced by education reformers like NYSED Commissioner John King and the "behind the scenes" group of ed deformers that are not accountable to the public and lack the institutional memory that would show that all these "merit pay schemes" have resulted in failure. The question is "why doesn't merit pay work"?  The answer is the flawed assumptions that people who make education policy, who never taught in the classroom, make.

First, These policymakers falsely assumes that "dangling a carrot" in the form of money will make them better teachers.  The reality is that the majority of teachers try their best to have their students achieve academic competence and no monetary incentive will make a "hard working teacher" do any better.

Second, the failure to understand that teacher success is also based upon a good school administration that supports and collaborates with the teacher.  Furthermore, the school must have adequate resources and a stringent student discipline policy.  Remember "it takes a village" for a child to succeed academically and that's true for a school.

Finally, the education reform groups ignore the social economic conditions that a child grows up in.  This "baggage" accounts for the vast majority of a child's development and cannot be ignored. Yet, education reformers like "Joel Klein" will clam that "poverty is no excuse"  However, poverty is strongly linked to academic outcomes and another reason that "merit pay" is doomed to failure.

In addition, Andrew Cuomo will certainly use the "junk Science" of "Value Added Measurement" (VAM) as the basis of determining "highly effective teachers".  Meaning that many schools will concentrate on the English and Math tests and conduct constant test preparation and marginalizing the other academic subjects.   However, if the school has a high percentage of "high needs students" like English Language Learners, Self Contained Special Education, and deep poverty the VAM wll penalize these students and the teachers that instruct them.  Therefore, the ."merit pay scheme" will be a failure and will never succeed, even if it's implemented

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Will The De Blasio Administration Eliminate the "Gotcha Mentality" At Tweed?

One of the most anticipated changes that students, parents, and teachers are waiting for is a change of tone at the DOE.  Under Bloomberg and his non-educator Chancellors, the DOE practiced a "gotcha mentality", that ignored students, made parents powerless, and demoralized teachers as the classroom became a more hostile environment.  However, there is hope of change coming to the DOE as Bill De Blasio, running as the anti-Bloomberg,  selected a long-term educator, Carmen Farina to become Chancellor.  While her first real test was a disappointment, there's hope that in the coming months real change will occur at the DOE.  While I for one, hope the new Chancellor cleans house and replaces the non-educators at Tweed with respected educators who understand the classroom and reduce the bureaucratic bloat.

According to UFT President, Michael Mulgrew at yesterday's UFT Delegate Assembly, he told the gathering that many at the DOE were apologizing for the things they were forced to do under Bloomberg.  We'll see if that's true and the "gotcha system" actually disappears.  However, its going to be very difficult to unravel the damage done by Bloomberg to the NYC schools. I would add more to this post about the abuses we educators suffered under Bloomberg's thumb but I leave it up to my friend, colleague, and columnist, Marc Epstein who wrote an article that recaps the Bloomberg years of destruction and vindictiveness in the DOE and the effects on the New York City Public School System and is a must read. Here.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Why Didn't Chancellor Carmen Farina Remove Principal Marcella Sills From PS 106?

In her first real test to show that as Chancellor, Carmen Farina would change the dysfunctional DOE, she has failed the test in not removing Principal Marcella Sills from PS 106, pending an investigation on the very serious accusations made against her. It appears that the Chancellor has glossed over the allegations as she sent a Deputy to observe the school on Monday and made no changes but to offer support to the school. The least the Chancellor should have done was to reassign the Principal to either her network (CFN 05) or the Superintendent's Office.  Instead the Chancellor has decided to leave the accused Principal in charge of the school and that's unfortunate.

The Chancellor's lack of action smacks as "business as usual" at the DOE where the Principal is presumed innocent and is protected by the higher ups, despite the seriousness of the accusations.  By keeping the Principal in charge of the school it causes a "chilling effect" for the school staff.  What staff member is going to complain about the Principal while she's still in charge?  Not many, if any, since they automatically becomes a target for the Principal to rate "ineffective" or come up with trumped up misconduct charges.

What the Chancellor should have done is one, remove the Principal until the investigation against her is finished. Two, have the Special Commissioner of Investigations (SCI)  investigate the attendance and financial allegations against the Principal, and three, personally interview all the "higher ups" about what they knew and what, if any action was taken when confronted with the allegations against Marcella Sills.  That includes the Superintendent, the Network, and Tweed.

Maybe I will be proven wrong and Chancellor Carmen Farina will "do the right thing" and eventually remove the Principal for cause.  However, more importantly, what will the Chancellor do with the DOE "higher ups" who protected Ms. Sills and ignored or refused to take action on the allegations against her.  I was really hoping that Carmen Farina would "clean house at the DOE".  Instead there are no resignations and she is playing the Four Tops song called "Its The Same Old Song" when it comes to the dysfunctional DOE and that's a shame.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Marcella Sills, Another Leadership Academy Principal Acting Badly And The DOE Does Nothing About It.

Yet another "Leadership Academy Principal" has turned up apparently "acting badly".  This time its the "embattled" nine year Principal of PS 106 in Far Rockaway, Marcella Sills.  Interestingly, Ms Sills was actually appointed as Principal by Cathy Cashin when she was a Superintendent, maybe its good that she didn't get the Chancellor's job. In today's New York Post the article by Susan Edelman shows the many problems found at her school. Worse, if you go back to the 2007-08 school year, Norm Scott for the newspaper "The Wave" and reprinted on his blogs, wrote articles about the problems with Principal Marcella Sills at PS 106, Here and also Here   Interestingly, over the nine years of Ms. Sills tenure Tweed ignored the problems at PS 106 as children suffered, teachers were retaliated against, and the administrative shortcomings that went on at the school. Furthermore, during the years 2005-07 a second grade girl was sexually assaulted in the school and Ms. Sills never bothered to called the police and initially refused to authorize a transfer for the girl from the school despite the abuse. The Post also reported how in a school with deep poverty, she required 5th graders to rent tuxedos and prom dresses costing over $100 to go to the formal the video is Here.

Marcella Sills has been accused of some very serious actions by the New York Post artice and they include the following allegations:

  • Ms. Sills is a frequent "no-show" and is often late when she shows up at the school.
  • The students have no physical education or art courses.
  • No substitutes are hired and the kids are dumped into other teacher's classes.
  • No special education co-teacher for learning disabled students.
  • No reading, writing, and math books aligned to the "Common Core".
  • The Library is a mess and refereed as a "junk room".
  • The Nurse's office lacks the necessities like a refrigerator, sink, and cot.
  • The Kindergarteners sit in a dilapidated trailer that reeks with animal urine.
If these accusations are true, the question and considering the other issues surrounding Principal Marcella Sills tenure, why does Tweed allow this situation to continue to exist?  The answer is the old "double standard" by the DOE that presumes that administrators are innocent until proven guilty "beyond a shadow of doubt", while teachers are presumed guilty and never found to be innocent in the eyes of the DOE. For Tweed it never is "children first" when it comes to taking action against administrators who act badly. The real question is which people at Tweed, the Network, and of course the Superintendent which protected her from the consequences of her actions?

update:  Chancellor Carmen Farina will send a Deputy to check out the problems at PS 106 but didn't mention if the Principal will be removed, pending an investigation.  The double standard continues.By the way, according to the New York Post Marcella Sills showed up at 7:30 am and wasn't removed as of today.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Story About A Father And Daughter When It Comes To Getting A Job Interview In The NYC Public Schools.

This story is real and is a symptom of what's going on when it comes to hiring teachers in the New York City Public School System.  I did change the names and the father's and his daughter's position to protect their identities.

The father (Sam) is a 58 year old teacher with 20 years in the school system, who was excessed from his closing school two years ago and has been rotating weekly this year.   His subject is in a DOE "shortage area".  However, after applying to 12 openings in the Open Market System and getting no responses, Sam decided to go to the only "job fair" at the Armory in Manhattan in hopes of landing a position.  Unfortunately, the "job fair" was a farce.  There were only a smattering of schools, mostly from the South Bronx and transfer schools that even bothered to show up.  Many spaces where schools were supposed to be were empty.  Worse, the schools seemed only to be interested in the younger teachers while giving the older teachers like himself less than a minute or two to sell themselves.  Finally, Sam only saw two schools, both transfer schools, that had vacancies in his subject area.  The father went home disappointed and resigned to the weekly rotation he faced.

The daughter (Cindy) 25, fresh out of college with a teaching degree in a non-shortage area, had worked in Long Island as a substitute teacher for two Long Island School Districts in her first year of teaching. In May, realizing she wasn't getting a permanent position next year, Cindy applied to the DOE's "new teacher finder".  However, during late June Cindy landed a position as an Assistant Human Resources Administrator for a medium sized company and decided to put her teaching career on hold.  Throughout the summer Cindy was besieged with job interview requests from principals in the four Boroughs. Even during the fall and just before the Christmas vacation Cindy told me that she received an average of 10 inquiries monthly. Meanwhile her father is rotating weekly to different schools. 

For experienced teachers it was hard enough to land a position when there was a hiring freeze but with the hiring freeze lifted, stories like the "father and daughter" is the reason that the ATR pool is over 2,000 strong and until the de Blasio/Farina Administration stops this destructive "education on the cheap" policy, nothing will change.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Where Did The DOE Job Losses Come From? Not From Tweed!

The Chalkbeat New York published information that came from the Independent Budget Office (IBO) that showed that there was a 3.3% decrease of 4,496 DOE employees since 2002.  Now one would think that  the Bloomberg Administration's claim that they reduced the headcount at the Central Bureaucracy was  really reduced.  Wrong!  The headcount actually increased while the schools suffered a 14% budget cut since 2007.  Previously, I wrote about the headcount and said this:

While the New York City Public School System has shown a reduction of 8,000 teachers (80,000 to 72,000) and a rising class size as more students enter the school system, the headcount at the Central Bureaucracy just increases. Tweed claims that they reduce their headcount but in reality they simply play a "shell game" by forcing schools and field offices to take on headcount that are really from the Central Bureaucracy. While it is difficult to ascertain the actual numbers because Tweed lacks transparency, there is no question that there has been an increase in non-educators in the DOEThe last numbers I saw showed that there was a 70% increase in headcount at the Central Bureaucracy since 2003.  In City Council testimony during October 2012,  Michael Mulgrew stated how a Deputy Chancellor bragged about how there was a decrease of 32% to school support services since 2006.  Where did the savings go?  Not to the schools.  Instead it went to hire more consultants, managers and lawyers at Tweed, that's where. While I have no idea how much can be saved by streamlining and eliminating the redundant and useless bloat at Tweed, I suspect that $1 billion dollars would be a conservative figure for annual savings.

Nothing in the IBO report, changes this statement in my previous post.  In addition to a reduction of 8,000 teachers by attrition, the Bloomberg Administration laid off 1,179 school aides since 2007  including 530 back in 2009.  If you simply add the reduction of the teaching staff with the layoffs of school aides, it comes to approximately 9,200  school employees who no longer are DOE employees, not including other school personal.  Since the DOE has lost 4,496 employees, that leaves an additional 4,200 employees unaccounted for.  Of course, these additional employees can be found at Tweed and the Central Bureaucracy along with their support organizations. Instead of reducing the headcount at the Central Bureaucracy and Tweed, the opposite happened.  Yes since 2002 the headcount actually increased a minimum of 4,500 employees and probably more if we include other school staff attrition rates not included in the article.In other words, while the schools saw massive reductions in DOE employees since 2002, the opposite happened at Tweed and the Central Bureaucracy.

Hopefully, the new Mayor and Chancellor needs to streamline the bloated DOE Bureaucracy and redirect the savings to the schools. Nothing less should be acceptable since its "children first" right, right?

Sunday, January 05, 2014

The Father Factor.

Now that Bloomberg is gone and the new Mayor is the progressive Bill de Blasio, the "tale of two cities" ends,  or does it?  The answer is that its going to be really difficult to end this division and one of the main factors are families that don't have fathers.  Since the "Murphy Brown era", fathers have been marginalized.  Yet the consequences of not having fathers in a household is staggering.  In New York City 43% of school children live in a single parent household and the City poverty rate has increased to 21,2%,  Black and Hispanic household poverty rates who had children were 35%.

While its nice to supply statistics about poverty and single family households, let's see what children grow up with when a father is living at home.

Father Factor in Education

  • Children with Fathers who are involved are 40% less likely to repeat a grade in school.
  • Children with Fathers who are involved are 70% less likely to drop out of school.
  • Children with Fathers who are involved are more likely to get A’s in school.
  • Children with Fathers who are involved are more likely to enjoy school and engage in extracurricular activities.
  • Children with fathers are more likely to have financial security.
  Here are just some of the problems that various studies have found when there are no fathers present in a child's life.
  • Lower school grades.
  • Greater absenteeism.
  • Left back or expelled.
  • Increased dropout rate.
  • Increased drug use.
  • More behavior problems.
  • Increased pregnancy rates for teenage girls. (1 in 3)
  • Greater incarceration rates.
  • Unable to keep a job for long periods of time.
  • No male role models for socialization and disciplinary issues.
  • Lack of father's income.
In the blog "Fallen Fathers" some of the statistics in the post are downright frightening and needs to be read. if the statistics are true, and I have no reason to believe they aren't. Is it any wonder that we have the problems we have in the schools, especially in the large urban areas?

Maybe the first thing the de Blasio Administration should do is to get fathers to support their children and make them engaged parents.  Otherwise, nothing will change.

Friday, January 03, 2014

The Real Story On Principals Hiring Teachers.

During the Bloomberg years one of his familiar slogans was to hire "quality teachers" for the New York City schools.  Of course his idea of a "quality teacher" was very different than what most people think it is.  According to No Child Left Behind (NCLB) a "quality teacher" was properly credentialed, experienced, and a deep knowledge of curriculum.  By contrast, during the Bloomberg years, principals were encouraged to hire "newbies", from alternate certification programs (Teach for America or Teaching Fellows),  untenured teachers, and young over old.

To ensure that principals would do his bidding, he and his Chancellor, through Eric Naldelstern's infamous 2009 memo informed Superintendents and CFNs to hire "Leadership Academy Principals" who lacked classroom experience but shared the Mayor's and Chancellor's vision. Furthermore, they implemented the badly flawed "fair student funding formula" that discriminated against older and highly experienced teachers. Moreover, by requiring school budgets to include staff salaries, principals were strongly urged to hire "quantity over quality" by making it painful for a Principal to hire the "quality teacher"

Finally, the 166 schools closed during Bloomberg's tenure and the explosion of teachers reassigned to "rubber rooms", peaking at 804 back in 2008, resulted in an ATR pool that averaged over 2,000 strong.  Even when the Mayor imposed a "hiring freeze", there were loopholes large enough to drive a truck through. When ATRs did receive a "provisional position", over 90% were returned to the ATR pool the next year since the school usually didn't want to pick up the ATR's salary for the second year since it would count against the school.

Under Mayor Bloomberg and his Chancellors it was "education on the cheap" and not "children first" when it came to what's best for the classroom and the hiring practices by principals reflect this.

Update:  A young Chemistry Teacher, Anna Poole, apparently demonstrated a dangerous experiment without taking proper precautions and two students went to the hospital with burns, one seriously.   In Rate my teacher   her first couple of years of teaching in 2010-11 she was given failing grades by her students at Bronx High School of Science (63%).  The question is why did the Principal of the Beacon School pick her up if the Bronx High School of Science jettisoned her and the students rated her poorly?  Could it be that she was young and cheap?

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

To Carmen Farina. Its Time To Take Out The Trash At Tweed.


Now that Michael Bloomberg and his poodle ex-Chancellor Dennis Walcott are gone.  Its time for the new Chancellor, Carmen Farina to do some very extensive housecleaning at the Department of Education (DOE).  In other words "its time to take the trash out".  At Tweed, there is plenty of "trash" that needs to go.  First in line should be Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky who provided cover for the last two non-educator chancellors, participated in closing schools and long forgot his teaching roots to please the Mayor on his quest to destroy the teaching profession.

Next Carmen Farina should be asking and accepting the resignation of the "gang of eighteen", almost all non-educators, who implemented the destructive Bloomberg education policies that resulted in the closing of 166 schools and his "education on the cheap" policy that excluded parents, antagonizing school staff, and hurt the students.

Moreover, the Chancellor must eliminate the bureaucratic bloat that is legendary at the DOE.  Hopefully, the new Chancellor cuts the overhead by eliminating managerial and legal positions and reducing consultant contracts.  In addition, giving the geographically placed Superintendent offices the power and responsibility to provide direction to their schools by tasking over the tasks of the soon to disappear Children First Networks. The tremendous savings could be used to give the schools the resources they need to succeed.

Finally, the Absent Teacher Reserve fiasco must be addressed and if the DOE is paying $160 million dollars for the ATRs, let's put them in a school for the semester and help schools by making them a "co-teacher" or a "push in teacher.  This is what's needed to help the students, not the demoralizing and useless weekly rotation system. By next school year the Central Bureaucracy should be given the responsibility for staff salaries and not the schools and the (un)fair student funding formula should be eliminated and the ATR pool should be a thing of the past.

In order of priority, here is what I hope the new Chancellor does before the end of the school year.

  • Extensive housecleaning at Tweed.
  • Eliminate the Children First Networks.
  • Streamline the Central Bureaucracy and give the saved funds to the schools. 
  • Review and sharply reduce the high-priced consultant contracts.
  • Address the Absent Teacher Reserve issue.
Its a new year and once the "Tweed trash is thrown out",  then real educational progress  can start to be realized.