Friday, October 31, 2014

Horror Stories From The ATR Pool.

With Halloween here, its time to recount some of the horror stories told to me by the ATRs in the last couple of years.

Freddy Kruger:
This nightmare started when an ATR, trying to go the extra yard in entertaining the class he was covering, by asking them to solve a math question, using a baseball analogy.  In describing the problem he used statistics commonly used in baseball.  However, one female student didn't understand the concept and he patiently explained the math problem to her.  When she still didn't get it, the teacher explained that since she really didn't understand baseball he could see her confusion in solving the Math problem.  The girl felt insulted and reported the ATR to the Principal who charged the ATR with gender discrimination and verbal abuse. The ATR ended up with a Letter To The File (LIF) and a "u rating" for the year.

An ATR covering a leave replacement was teaching a Science lesson when three girls decided to play "UNO" instead.  The teacher asked the girls to put the cards away three times.  However, the girls refused the teacher's request.  The Teacher went over to three girls and took the UNO cards away.  One girl refused to give up her pile and the teacher grabbed them from her hand.  In doing so he touched her hand in taking the UNO cards away.  The three girls went to the Principal and the teacher ended up being charged with corporal punishment and OSI was contacted.  The result was a LIF for the teacher and no disciplinary consequences for the three students who failed to do their work or follow the rules.

Michael Myers:
A student was feeling ill and the ATR, who was provisionally assigned to the school, told the student to go to the school clinic to be checked out.  The teacher was trying to do what's right by having qualified medical personal observe her and to ensure the child's illness was not contagious to her classmates.  The student refused to go and an argument ensued until the student reluctantly went to the school clinic.  Two weeks later the Principal held a disciplinary hearing and charged the teacher with verbal abuse (yelling)  and embarrassing the student in front of her classmates.  The  teacher ended up with a LIF and a "U rating" for the year.

An untenured ATR provisionally assigned to the school saw a poor performing student's Regents paper being marked separately from others and in another room and quickly realized that the teacher was violating State rules.  She asked the teacher why he had the student's Regents paper and was told to mind her own business.  She reported it first to the Assistant Principal and then the Principal of the alleged Regents violation.  However, it appears the Assistant Principal and Principal wanted this student out of the school and were in on it.  The untenured ATR's satisfactory observations in the Fall semester became "Unsatisfactory observations" after she reported the Regents violation, in the Spring semester.  She was discontinued at the end of the school year.

A certified regular education Math ATR was dumped into a self-contained Special Education class all day without any technology or lesson plans left for the classes and was told by the Assistant Principal to keep them entertained when he complained about the lack of appropriate work for the students.  He tried his best but the students were out of control and when the Assistant Principal walked in saw that the teacher was having trouble keeping them focused.  The Assistant Principal gave the ATR a "U observation" for poor classroom management.

These are just a few of the many horror stories from the ATR pool.  If you have some stories to share, please send them to the comment section and I will publish them.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How Educators Need To Act In Their 3020-a Hearing.

When tenured educators are charged by the DOE under State regulation 3020-a, the only outcome the DOE wants is termination.  However, in only half the cases does the DOE get the educator to leave the system and most of them decide to resign or retire rather than go through the stressful 3020-a hearing process.  It appears that between 45% and 55% are either terminated, forced to resign, or retire.  The reason that the DOE does not get its way is that the DOE must prove the charges against the educator by the preponderance of relevant evidence in front of an independent arbitrator.

There is no matrix for determining the arbitrator's award.  Except if the arbitrator finds the educator committed sexual misconduct then termination becomes the automatic award.  Different arbitrators weight the DOE specifications (charges) differently, despite the number, severity, and type of specifications against the educator. Therefore, its extremely important that the educator's appearance and demeanor will go a long way in influencing the arbitrator award. Here are the actions an educator must take in the 3020-a hearing to save their job.

First, and foremost dress and act professionally.  Treat everyone in the hearing room with respect, even the DOE lawyer!  Your attitude will be noted by the arbitrator,  Men should wear a suit and tie while women should wear business attire. Don't be argumentative, emotional, or display displeasure. These actions at the 3020-a hearing will result in the arbitrator giving a more severe award then might otherwise be warranted.

Second, be on time and never miss a hearing date.  Being late to your hearing will annoy the arbitrator and will make your lawyer's defense more difficult.

Third, thoroughly familiarize yourself with the charges against you.  Craft a point-by-point rebuttal and give it to your attorney.  The more you understand the DOE specifications, the better prepared you will be to defend yourself.  Stay attentive and take down notes when witnesses testify.. 

Fourth, The DOE will blow even the most trivial action into a major incident and take things said or did by the educator out of context.  Your job is to defend yourself with clear, concise, and understandable actions and put it into the proper context.  Try to show your intent behind the action you took and express sorrow, when appropriate, that your actions were misunderstood.  Do not be arrogant!

Fifth, Try to get witnesses for your defense.  Past and present students are important and will help your defense with the arbitrator.

Finally, Tell your attorney everything!  If you lie to the lawyer or caught in a lie at the 3020-a hearing it will probably result in termination.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Time Magazine Joins The Teacher Bashing News Media.

The once gold standard of news reporting, Time magazine, has now sacrificed their journalistic responsibility for some cheap headlines by putting on its cover, a picture of "rotten apples" with a caption saying its nearly impossible to fire bad teachers.  While the article inside the magazine seems more balanced, the use of the picture demonizing teachers rather than a more neutral cover on the tenure wars is inflammatory.

Most educators know that the problem with education is not teacher tenure but the lack of education funding and deep poverty.  Many students show up to school hungry, tired, sick, and insecure.  To believe that a teacher can cure society's ills is not only naive but is insincere when you claim that if you eliminate teacher tenure education will improve. In fact, the opposite is the more likely result. In the book "The Teacher Wars" by education reporter Dana Goldstein, she reported that a teacher affects, at most, 7% of a child's academic achievement.  That means that 93% or more of the factors that affect student academic achievement are beyond the teacher's control.

If teacher tenure is the problem then states that have no teacher tenure should have better educational outcomes and a lower racial/income academic achievement gap.  However, the opposite is true.  States like Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas have the lowest academic levels in the nation and the widest racial/income academic achievement gaps where teachers have no tenure protections.  Furthermore, many studies have shown that teacher tenure is associated with better student outcomes since teachers feel more secure to try different approaches without fear of being fired.  Moreover, teacher tenure reduces teacher turnover which can destabilize a school.  Finally, if a teacher is truly awful, then the Principal can deny tenure or, if tenured, can document the reason to terminate the teacher in a "due process hearing".

A case in point is the New York City schools.  Given the same racial and income cohort, schools that have experienced tenured teachers have lower staff turnover and better student achievement.  By contrast, the schools that have higher inexperienced non-tenured teachers on saff suffer from high teacher turnover and lower academic achievement. Is it any wonder that the schools who have a deep poverty concentration have the highest teacher turnover, the most non-tenured teachers, and the lowest college readiness scores?

Already there are fewer college students going into education  and fewer yet who actually want to teach in the classroom.  How can you expect to get "quality teachers" when the media continually demonizes teachers and blames them for all the ills in society.  This just scares high quality potential candidates from considering the teaching profession and ensures that it becomes the profession of last resort during the recession years and go begging when other, better paying and less stressful jobs are available.  The teaching profession is a highly respected profession throughout the world, except in this nation where these deep-pocketed billionaires have convinced the media that the problem with the nation's teacher quality and not the real reasons of inequility, inadequate funding, and poverty. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My Overview Of The Different UFT Caucuses.

The UFT is one union.  However, it has different caucuses when it comes to representing educators and here is my overview of each of the UFT caucuses and what, I feel they stand for or in some cases against the member interests.

In power since the beginning of the union and the leadership has become increasingly disconnected from the rank and file. Under Unity teachers have been subject to "givebacks" and now making ATRs  "second class citizens".   Democracy ends at the lowest level with only Chapter Leaders elected by the members.  All other positions are appointed by the leadership who demand a loyalty oath.  Lately, the union has put politics above the interests of the members by not supporting Teachout against Cuomo and co-sponsoring a derisive Al Sharpton lead march against fellow union members.  It seems that the leadership's social justice interests trump the rank and file needs.

The opposition caucus that once held real promise but is ideologically split between the moderates and the Socialists.  Lately, the Socialists have seemed to have taken the upper hand in this caucus and their social justice plank seems to trump all other issues, including member rights.  The MORE caucus has moved to the far left and has alienated many anti-Unity moderates which makes their days as the primary opposition group questionable.

New Action:
They claim to be the voice of reason in the UFT but their deals with Unity, like getting two executive board seats in exchange to supporting the Unity caucus candidate for President, is unsettling to me.   Moreover, they tend to follow the Unity position when the leadership tells them to. They also put too much emphasis on social justice and also unwisely supported the Al Sharpton anti-police march.

The new kid on the block and claims it will be narrowly focused on educator issues and be more a trade unionist caucus.  I have joined the Solidarity caucus and hope they attract all like-minded educators who believe that the classroom environment and teacher respect is the most important consideration in teacher satisfaction and student academic achievement.  Time will tell if this caucus will become the primary opposition group or die a slow and painful death like many others have over the decades. Maybe if ICE splits with MORE and combines with Solidarity, a real trade unionist caucus will be created and become the face of the UFT in the future.

Educators 4 Excellence:
A fringe group who operates outside the UFT caucus system. This group is simply a front for anti-union corporate elites and is a fifth column. E4E had a chance to run in the last UFT elections but failed to do so in fear that they would have been exposed as a cult with few real members. Most of the E4E leaders were untenured teachers who quickly left the classroom and took the money that deep-pocketed  corporate reformers gave them to advance their anti-union agenda.

Here was my interview with an ex-E4E member.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Why The MDRC Small School Study Is Crap.

Once again the so-called non-profit MDRC has used questionable statistics and biased assumptions to falsely show that the Bloomberg small schools, between 2002-07, had better graduation rates and enrolled in college at a higher percentage than the large high schools. Yes, if one looks at the simple conclusion it does look like the small schools have a 4 year graduation rate that's 15% higher than the large schools and 49% enroll in college compared to the 40% in the larger schools.  However, if one looks deeper into the statistics you find some very disturbing problems with the study.

First, the MDRC study only sampled the oversubscribed small schools and not all the small schools.   In particular, the MDRC study left out the small schools that had open seats and located in deep poverty communities.  I wonder how that would have changed the small school statistics?

Second, its common knowledge that during the Chancellor Joel Klein tenure, which takes in the 2002-07 study period, small schools were allowed to exclude "high needs" students, like Special Education, English Language Learners, and students with behavioral, attendance, and academic difficulties.

Third, while the average large school was underfunded by 20%, the Bloomberg small schools were given their full allocation and then some more additional funding to ensure they succeed.

Finally, the DOE deliberately dumped large numbers of "high needs" and over the counter students into the large schools, lowering their 4 year graduation rates and college enrollment percentage.

Let's see, if I opened a school and excluded "high needs" students, used academics, attendance, and  behavioral parameters to select or reject students,  and didn't take my fair share of over the counter students  my school would be successful too.  What's interesting is that the small schools didn't have better results, considering their exclusion of low achieving middle school students.  The reason probably lies with the poor administration (leadership academy principals)  and their hiring of inexperienced teachers that hurt student academic achievement.

If you believe the MDRC study is accurate than I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Why You Need Equity Funds In Your Retirement Portfolio.

The most important question when one is nearing retirement is "will my income be sufficient to last thirty or more years"?  The answer to that question is complicated since most retirees what a risk-adverse retirement portfolio and don't know how long they will live.  However, in our present low inflation environment risk-adverse instruments like bank CDs, money market funds, and bonds pay little or no interest (>2%) and therefore does not generate the sufficient income necessary to live comfortably in retirement.  Sure, as educators we get a pension and social security benefits and they are partly but not fully adjusted for inflation and consequently, the spending power will be eroded over time. Most educators have been intelligent enough to put money in the TDA but as one approaches their retirement date, the majority puts it into the fixed income plan that gives 7% interest, a nice perk in our low inflation period.  However, like all risk-adverse instruments, the fixed income portion of the TDA will erode over time as well as inflation will slowly eat away at the spending power  Let's look at the three risk-adverse retirement funds and why the total income will erode over time due to inflation.

Pension:  Our pension is partly adjusted for inflation.  However, the inflation adjustment does not occur until 5 years after you retire and ten years if you retire at 55 years of age.  Using the average inflation rate, the pension will erode by 15% by the time the pension is eligible for an inflation adjustment and 28% if you retire at 55 years of age.  Moreover, the inflation adjustment is only one half of the Consumer Price Index (CPT) and is limited to 3% no matter how high the CPI gets. Finally, the inflation adjustment is confined to the first $18,000 while the average teacher pension is $42,000, that means that the majority of the pension is not adjusted for inflation. Therefore the pension spending power will be eroded over time.

Social Security: Unlike pensions, social security is adjusted for inflation.  However, the modified CPI used for the inflation adjustment ignores energy and food spikes which adversely affects retirees.  Further, social security only accounts for 25% or less of an educator's retirement income.

TDA: Quite a few educators take an annuity from the TDA since it provides the largest payout.  Since the average educator TDA is $316,000 then the payout is approximately $30,000.  However, just like all other risk-adverse instruments the $30,000 will erode over time since there is no inflation adjustment when you annuitize the TDA.

How much will the retirement income erode over time due to inflation assuming a historical inflation rate of 3.4%?

Years                                    Erosion Due To Inflation

That means that the $30,000 annuity in 2044 will have the same buying power as $11,100 would have today.  Not a pleasant thought. 

How does one account for the eroding effects of inflation?  The answer is to include in your retirement portfolio assets that appreciate over time and the only asset that has stood the test of time are equity funds. Historically, going back to the Great Depression, stock equity funds have appreciated by 7.7% over the period.  Yes, there are some bad years, the latest being 2008 but in the long run stocks and equity funds appreciate above the inflation rate and will protect your retirement portfolio from the ravages of inflation.  There are other assets that appreciate like commodities, .real estate, collectables, and precious metals but they are rife with speculators and experience wide swings and are not appropriate for a retirement portfolio.

Many professionals recommend an asset allocation that will give you the best chance of success is a 60% stock/40% fixed retirement portfolio but in any case, one should have at least a 40% equity fund allocation in their retirement portfolio. Regardless how you structure your retirement income, make sure that equity funds are part of the portfolio to protect you from the ravages of inflation.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

How High Schools Are Shortchanging Students In Science Education.

One of the more unfortunate aspects of the DOE budgeting process is the reduction of a quality Science education as the high schools reduce their Science departments to the bone.  This results in hurting student academic performance and puts the NYC high schools students at a competitive disadvantage with other New York State schools.  The DOE funding program called "fair student funding" (fsf) inadequately funds the schools,who, in turn, eliminate popular electives, reduce Advanced Placement (AP) courses, and cut extracurricular activities, the very programs that make for a successful school.  In addition, many teachers are encouraged to teach a "sixth period" and suffer burnout by the end of the school year as schools try to keep their staff salaries down.

In the New York City high schools principals are hamstrung with the unfair fsf fiasco that find many schools underfunded by receiving only 85% of what the formula should allow for.  Moreover, since 2008, the average school budget has been reduced by 14% and the disappointing Chancellor shockingly froze it at 2013 levels rhis school year. Therefore, principals have cut their expenses any way they can and that includes staff.

One of the ways that high schools have cut payroll is to reduce the amount of Science teachers needed at their school.  In far too many schools the principal has replaced the New York State recommended 5-1 program to a 4-1 program.  This means that students will have one less instructional day as the laboratory requirement will replace the instructional day once a week for Regents Science subjects.  This means that the students are receiving a month's less of instruction and the Regents results show a significant drop off of Regents passing grades. Moreover, many schools encourage non-certified Science teachers to teach , especially when it comes to Earth Science and that also results in a lower Regents passing percentage.  When you combine the three issues, many students who may have passed the Science Regents don't and fail to receive the coveted advanced Regents diploma that colleges look for.

Unfortunately, the DOE's "education on the cheap" policy extends to AP courses as well.  Many schools either don't offer the classes or limit them to six periods weekly rather than the recommended ten classes  as recommended by the College Board.  The result of this shortsighted approach puts the students at a competitive disadvantage with the nation and few students achieve the grade of 3 or higher, the minimum necessary to receive college credit.

Finally, some high schools have inexplicably replaced Regents Earth Science with non-Regents courses such as Astronomy, Environmental Science, Forensics, and conceptional Physics. Making it virtually impossible for the students to get an advanced Regents diploma unless they take the much more difficult Regents Chemistry or Physics courses.

A prime example of the short-sighted approach is happening at Cardozo High School, once the shinning jewel of the NYC high schools that has dulled in the last few years. It was only a few years ago that Cardozo has a 34 person Science department.  However, due to excessing, sixth period assignments, and  reduction in courses, the Science department is down to 19, a 45% reduction in staff!  AP courses are six periods weekly and many students don't get college credit/  Moreover, the school has one certified Earth Science teacher for a school of 4,000 students.  Is it any wonder that two thirds of the students failed the Earth Science Regents last year?  Of course that's better than at Bayside high school who excessed two Earth Science teachers and saw their passing percentage drop from 73% to 30% last year! Noe Chemistry is converted to a 4-1 course and I suspect the Chemistry Regents passing rate will drop accordingly.

How in the world can the DOE keep a straight face and claim that student academic achievement will improve when their very policies are putting students in a competitive disadvantage when it comes to all other schools in the State and Nation.  No wonder NYC's "college and career readiness" scores are dismal.  The disappointing Chancellor, Carmen Farina, needs to wake up from her dream world and face the reality  of the consequences of the DOE's "education on the cheap" policy that's hurting the children.

Monday, October 13, 2014

For Many, The Charter School Miracle Really Is A Mirage.

If you read the New York City newspapers, you would think the charter schools are the answer to the "failing schools" issue.   According to the print media the charter schools have shown the way to student academic achievement. However, when you look at the few successful charter schools and go deeper into the statistics, you would find that the charter school miracle is simply a mirage. A look at the NYC Public School Parents blog is a must read to see what the damaging effects the charter schools brought to the public schools in Harlem's District 5.

The supporters and backers of charter schools claim that these schools give minority children a choice and gives them a chance to succeed academically.  What the charter school supporters fail to mention is that the successful charter schools practice an exclusion policy that makes sure that "high needs" students are not part of the student population of the school. A UFT report shows how the charter schools fail to serve the most neediest students.

First, to apply to a charter school, a family must fill out a detailed application that many families don't want to be bothered with.  Therefore, many of the more dysfunctional, high poverty families are excluded by their failure to fill out the application for selection into the charter school.  Moreover, the charter schools expect parental involvement and volunteers for their school and this excludes families who don't have the time or motivation to do that. Not surprisingly,  the above referenced UFT report showed that charter schools have less deep poverty students than the district schools as a result of the application process.

Second, the charter school will discourage English Language Learners and Special Education Students from applying to the school by claiming that they don't have the resources or services for their children.  This limits the number of "high needs" students who are students at the charter schools.

Third, many of these charters have a strict student discipline policy and behaviorally challenged students are usually kicked out of the school and dumped into the district public school.  If a parent balks at removing the student, the school will threaten to have the student repeat the grade as an encouragement to have the student leave the charter school.

Fourth, If a student academically struggles, the charter school will counsel out the student before they hit the testing grades,  The charter schools use the same trick as they do for the behaviorally challenged students by threatening the parent with the child's repeating the grade as an incentive to remove the child from the school. Too many students are kicked out of charter schools for various reasons. More importantly, the charter schools fail to replace the students once the testing grades start.  This ensures the neediest students are not part of the charter school cohort.

Finally, the narrowly focused English and Math curriculum at the expense of other subjects and their obsession with test preparation for the State tests hurts the student's total education experience.  This shows up in the failure of any of the charter school students being accepted into the competitive specialized high schools.

Many of the charter schools are totally segregated with 100% Black or Hispanic and with extremely high teacher turnover.  Worse, the teachers are given a script and teach from the script.  Little if any innovative teaching goes on in the charter schools nor do teachers last long enough to develop the teaching skills to help their students.

The charter school miracle is really a mirage.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Principal Quality Is The Fatal Flaw In The New York City Public Schools.

I grew up and was educated in the New York City public schools and eventually became a public school teacher.  During my days as a student and the beginning of my teaching career, the one constant was that the Principal was a long-term classroom teacher and generally respected for their experience and understanding of the classroom issues.

While not all these principals were great leaders, they were knowledgeable and had an institutional memory of how things worked.  Principals were expected to slowly rise up through the teaching ranks, become an Assistant Principal and maybe after a minimum of ten years gets a shot at being the school leader.  However, things changed for the worst when Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed a non-educator as Chancellor and the Chancellor.  The Chancellor, Joel Klein, in-turn founded the infamous "Leadership Academy".  

The "Leadership Academy" accepted potential administrators with a minimum of three years of experience in the education field and no classroom experience was required.  The result was that many of the newly minted "Leadership Academy" principals were not even tenured teachers!  The Bloomberg/Klein philosophy was that schools could be better run as a business and principals were the "Chief Operating Officers" of their schools and long-term education credentials were not necessary to be a Principal.  The Bloomberg Administration closed over 164 schools and replacing them with 634 new schools, all needing principals. The result was that many of the new "Bloomberg small schools" ending up with these "Leadership Academy" principals that presently make up approximately 20% of all New York City principals.

One of the biggest problems with the "Leadership Academy" principals is that they are trained to be top down managers rather the collaborative leaders.  Many of these "Leadership Academy" principals hire inexpensive and untenured teachers and will not hire highly experienced teachers due to both their higher salary and more importantly, their institutional memory on how successful schools are run. For the "Leadership Academy" principal its about the school report card and constant test prep than what's best for the academic achievement of the students.

If the quality of principals doesn't improve and the current Chancellor leaves the "Leadership Academy" principles in place, then don't look for any real academic improvements despite the rhetoric coming out of the DOE.  The schools are only as good as their leader and in too many cases the leader is from the "Leadership Academy" and that's not encouraging for student academic outcomes.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Is Carmen Farina The New Cathie Black?

There is an increasing concern among educators that Chancellor Carmen Farina is not up to the demands of heading the New York City school system. Her lackluster, unfocused, and dare say, incompetent leadership has many talented educators frustrated with her disappointing performance as Chancellor.  Worse, she has kept on many of the Bloomberg era personnel who retain their critical policy making positions in the DOE that has made teaching in the classroom a hostile experience and damages the students trying to learn in them.

What's unfortunate, is that Chancellor Carmen Farina, unlike the Bloomberg era chancellors, enjoys unlimited freedom in changing the dysfunctional DOE as the new Mayor allowed her to implement policies that would improve the schools. Instead, she has continued many of the destructive Bloomberg policies including the largest class sizes in the State, freezing the already inadequate school budgets, and continuing the badly flawed teacher hiring and retention policies that hurt student academic achievement.

The pity is that Chancellor Carmen Farina, unlike the last four chancellors, is a long term educator and should have been more receptive to positive changes in the classroom.  However, the reality is that Carmen Farina had bought in to Michael Bloomberg's education reform, rising to Deputy Chancellor before being pushed out by Joel Klein in a power struggle and is part of the problem and not the solution in making the classroom environment a more welcoming place to teach and learn in.

To me, Chancellor Carmen Farina is becoming more like the incompetent Chancellor Cathie Black, with her verbal gaffes such as her "its a beautiful day" comment among others. More importantly, the very people who were hoping for real change for the better for the New York City school system and were delighted with the new Mayor's  education policy,  instead were rapidly losing confidence with the seemingly incompetent Chancellor and her failure to improve the New York City schools. Maybe its time for Carmen Farina to retire for good and get a competent Chancellor to transform the New York City schools for the better.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Why The Triborough Amendment Is Important.

One of the unique laws that protect public employees in New York State is the Triborough amendment that not only requires the employer to maintain the provisions of the lapsed contract while a new one is negotiated but prohibits the employer from imposing new provisions or changing an existing contract without union approval.  The print media has complained continuously about the Triborough amendment and wants it eliminated from the State's Taylor Law.  However, there is little political support for the elimination of the Triborough amendment law that protects a public employee union member in New York State.

In states without a similar amendment to protect public sector employees, the State and Municipality can impose new rules and some do.  The latest example is in Philadelphia where the City and State ripped up the existing teachers union contract and imposed a $200 monthly health insurance deduction, eliminated welfare coverage payments, and end all contributions for retirees. This follows in the footsteps of eighteen other states that have changed teacher tenure law and other contract provisions without union approval.

Its a good thing that we live in a State that has real civil service protections.  Can you imagine if ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg had his way and imposed his own teacher contract what it would look like?  Remember this? How about this? Let's hope that never changes.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Will Tweed Be Held Accountable For Their Failure To Properly Investigate The People They Hire? Don't Count On It.

One of the most important responsibility that the DOE has is to ensure that the people they hire to work with children can be trusted in their care.  However, time and again, the DOE has failed in their responsibility to properly investigate potential new hires, often with devastating results. Moreover, the existing investigation process has proven to be inept and worse maybe corrupt in nature.

Its not just the case of Brooklyn Tech High School teacher Sean Shaynak, who has been arrested for criminal sexual assault charges.   What's troubling was that Mr. Shaynak had a restraining order against him in Maryland for assaulting an 11 year old boy and the DOE knowing this, still allowed his hiring.  Unbelievable!  Then there is the case of James Brown, who the DOE hired to become Principal of the troubled Flushing High School.  Mr. Brown was hired by the DOE who failed to look into the resignation of Mr. Brown from the Baldwin NY schools district.  If they just simply Googled his name, they would have found that he was found guilty of harassment, including sexual harassment, and retaliation against a female subordinate in a jury trial and was forced to resign.  Who can forget the poor role models these two "Leadership Academy" principals demonstrated in making obscene and sexually violent videos.  First, it was Anissa Chalmers who starred in a role called "Gang Girl" which featured her shooting, killing, and raping her enemies. Nice role model for her students growing up in gang infested South Bronx.  Yet the DOE has allowed her to continue to be Principal.  Then there's Principal Emmanuel Polanco, who starred in a sexually explicit rap video that glorified himself as a sex machine and demonized women.  Yet the DOE has allowed him to remain on the job. Finally, there's the case of CEO John Shea, who has been accused of sexual harassment by two different women, leading to two federal lawsuits.  Yet, the DOE did nothing about it. I would be remiss if we didn't bring up the case of Assistant Principal Michael Herlihy, an ex-priest who was defrocked because of his alleged sexual misconduct with two male students, yet the DOE didn't bother to investigate why he was defrocked as a priest and fired from Cardinal Hayes High School.

Obviously, accountability is only for the school staff but not for DOE administrators or managers as the blame lies with the disappointing Chancellor who has failed to "clean house" at Tweed and has shown a lack of focus in running the New York City school system.  Maybe she needs to start from scratch and replace the flawed and corrupt investigation process since the present system is badly run and unfair.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Ebola, ATRs, And The 2017 Teachers Contract.

Now that we have a contract, its time to look ahead to 2017 and see how the UFT and the City will finally resolve the more than decade long ATR crisis that wastes talent and money. 

In 2017 New York City finds itself with an Enola outbreak and with close to a 50% mortality rate, its important that the City develop a vaccine as quickly as possible.  How will they get the volunteers to help? However, help is on the way in the form of the 2017 teachers contract.

The provisions of the new 2017 teachers contract will allow the DOE to "force place" ATRs into the City's voluntary Ebola vaccine trials. Any ATR who refuses to participate in the voluntary trials will have been considered to have voluntarily to have resigned.  Moreover, any ATR who refuses to be infected with the Ebola virus in the trials will be charged by the DOE with "problematic behavior"and terminated after receiving an expedited one day show trial by a DOE appointed hearing officer.

The expectation is that of the 2,000+ ATRs, half will be removed from the City payroll either by death, resignation, or termination.  In the New York Teacher Paper UFT President Michael Mulgrew calls this new ATR procedures a victory in draining the ATR pool of 50% of its members.

The DOE wants the surviving ATRs to be fired since they are infected with the Ebola virus and cannot be exposed to the students.  However, in a joint press conference with the new Mayor, Michael Mulgrew stated that the surviving ATRs will be put on a disability pension and receive 33% of their final average salary.  Mr Mulgrew further stated that its a win-win for all parties as he hugs the Mayor, Eva Muscowitz. Not only does the 2017 contract end the ATR crisis but increases educator salaries by the inflation rate and lengthens the school year to 225 days and increases the school day to 9 hours.

Yes, the new 2017 teachers contract is a win for the UFT leadership and the City and we all know that's the only thing that really matters.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The Legacy Of Givebacks By The Unity Caucus Under The Weingarten/Mulgrew Regime.

Since the beginning of the 21st century the working conditions and "due process rights" for the New York City classroom teacher has steadily worsened.  We find ourselves with longer days, more paperwork, and a Teacher Evaluation System that makes for a more hostile classroom environment. Teacher autonomy in the classroom has been replaced by administrative micromanagement and Principals, fresh out of the "Leadership Academy", who with little actual classroom experience,  rather dictate than collaborate with school staff.  In this backdrop, our disconnected UFT leadership has been instrumental in the worsening environment for New York City teachers by agreeing to massive givebacks to the City for raises that barely kept up with inflation. What follows are the list of "givebacks" the UFT, led by the Unity caucus has agreed to since 2000.

3020-a Process:
In 2000, the newly appointed Randi Weingarten, with six months of actual teaching experience, worked a deal with the City to streamline the 3020-a process by agreeing to a rotating list of between 19 to 36 arbitrators to hear 3020-a cases.  In doing so Ms. Weingarten sharply reduced teacher "due process rights".  First, teachers were no longer allowed to refuse the selection of an arbitrator as the rest of the State can.  Second, for incompetency cases, the three arbitrator panel was eliminated, leaving the teacher at the mercy to the decision of one arbitrator. Third, if a teacher retains a private lawyer,it could be a disadvantage since the arbitrator is used to working together as a team for a year or more with the NYSUT and DOE lawyers and replacing the NYSUT lawyer could subconsciously affect the arbitrator's decision negatively. Finally, this NYC 3020-a process limits the chances of the teacher to be found innocent since the arbitrator can only stay on the panel with the approval of both the DOE and UFT.  Therefore, only 4% of the teachers are actually found innocent.. Usually, the arbitrator will give the DOE something to appease them for their time and expense in bring 3020-a charges.  The result is the teacher almost always become an ATR.

Mayoral Control:
Inexplicably, Randi Weingarten didn't oppose Mayoral Control nor did she oppose its renewal.  The result was the "rubber stamp" PEP and 160 closing schools, despite community and political opposition.

The Infamous 2005 Contract:
The 2005 Contract that not only contained the major givebacks that we still suffer from presently but resulted in the ATR crisis and the "mutual consent" provision that allowed principals to hire who they pleased.  Please read my "Here Comes The Clowns" series on what damage the 2005 contract has done to the teaching profession.  Here, Here, Here, Here, and Here in this giveback laden contract.

The Fair Student Funding Fiasco:
This ill-conceived idea that dumped staff salaries on the schools rather than from DOE Central, back in 2007, encouraged principals to hire the "cheapest" and not the "best teachers" for their schools, combined with the mutual consent provision, this has made hiring veteran teachers almost an impossibility.

The 2007 Contract:
This contract saw the expansion of the "probable cause" section that included felony assaults.  However, the most serious giveback was the establishment of the Peer Intervention Plus (PIP+) program that resulted in a finding of incompetency of over 90% of the teachers who took the program.  The UFT leadership knew very well that since the vendors were being paid by the DOE, there was a real concern that these venders would not be objective.  However, the leadership encouraged the Chapter Leaders to recommend the PIP+ program and many of these trusting teachers ended up terminated or forced to resign.

The TDA Reduction:
Randi's parting gift to the members was to allow the City to reduce their contribution to the TDA interest rate in exchange for the two days before Labor Day that she unwisely gave up in the infamous 2005 contract.  She allowed the City to reduce their TDA interest rate contribution by 1.25%, from 8.25% to 7%.  Depending how much one has in the fixed income part of the TDA, the interest rate deduction could result in UFT members losing tens of thousands of dollars by retirement.

The 2014 Contract:
The givebacks continue under the new contract as it makes ATRs second class citizens, subject to an expedited 3020-a hearing process, making some ATRs who won their termination hearings "untouchables" and royally screwing ex UFT members by not giving them their well deserved retroactive payments. I descussed this in the post called "winners and losers".

What do we get for all these "givebacks" that has made teaching in the classroom a more hostile and dangerous environment?  Raises that barely equaled the inflation rate, meaning in 2000 dollars, our salary is essentially unchanged.  Maybe the Unity caucus should rename themselves as the "Givebacks"!