Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Daily News Editorial Gets It Wrong Again. What Else Is New?

In today's New York Daily News editorial their clueless editorial staff once again gets it wrong when it comes to the New York City Public Schools. The editorial blamed the wrong people, the teachers for the ongoing problems with the New York City Schools. The editorial basically used Mayor Bloomberg's speech at Washington D.C. for what changes are needed in the school system. However, educators, especially ones who came from the classroom know better. These educators know that Blommberg's accusation against teachers are lies and what is really needed to help the children are as follows.

1. Smaller class sizes: New York City has the highest class sizes in the State and despite State money through the CFE lawsuit that was to be used to lower class size, the money appeared to have been e diverted by Tweed for other uses since class sizes have remained steady over the Bloomberg/Klein years. Most independent studies show that small class size has a very positive correlation to student academic improvement.

2. Experienced Teachers: There is no doubt that the most needy of children need an experienced teacher to guide their academic development. However, under Bloomberg/Klein we now have a "fair student funding" formula that penalizes schools that hire experienced teachers. In fact, budget cuts actually penalizes principals who hire experienced teachers.

3. ATRs & Rubber Room Teachers: Joel Klein created the ATR crises which has resulted in 1,300 ATRs, many of them experienced, senior teachers from closed schools and the sevenfold increase in reassigned teachers who's only crime is to be on the wrong side of a vindictive Principal. Some of the best teachers in the system can be found in both groups. All Tweed needs to do to get rid of both groups is to have a real hiring freeze until there are no ATRs left. As for the "rubber room" teachers, only those teachers accused of criminal offenses should be reassigned with the rest sent back to the school system after meeting with an independent mediator.

4. Reduce The Central Bureaucracy: Reduce Tweed to the bone and ensure that educators are in control of the DOE not the lawyers and business managers. Furthermore, it is time that an independent oversight board be established to make sure consultants and contracts are both cost effective and beneficial to the schools.

5. Stop Hiring Non-Educators: Finally, Tweed must stop hiring family and friends who only care about their next job outside the school system and waste precious education money on programs and people who don't contribute to the children they are supposed to represent.

These are the issues, along with improving the schools, not closing them, are what is needed to improve the New York City Schools.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mike Mulgrew, Just Say No To "Givebacks" And Demand The City "Pattern"

It certainly appears that our union have again made some terrible decisions when trying to negotiate with Michael Bloomberg & Joel Klein for a new contract. I like many others had thought that the Randi Weingarten/Michael Mulgrew crew had secretly worked out a contract in exchange for the union allowing a continuation of mayoral control, neutrality in the mayoral elections, and the elimination of the 8.25% fixed interest rate in the TDA. It now appears that is not the case.

While it is true the City has penciled in two 4% raises for teachers in their budget, it now seems likely that we will not be getting our City "pattern" raises until the union agrees to "givebacks" to compensate for any wage increase. What are the "givebacks" Bloomberg & Klein want? Just read what Bloomberg said in Washington D.C. with the Secretary of Education standing next to him. While I am not part of the 300 person negotiating committee or the 30 member executive group that actually sits down with the City, it is very obvious what Bloomberg & Klein wants from us.

Tenure decisions: While tenure has always been controlled by the Principals, Tweed and the City wants to use actual student data that they can manipulate to determine tenure. This seems strange since Principal don't need student data to give or not grant teacher tenure. Is this a underhanded way to reduce school input on tenure decisions? I would like to know how the CSA feels about this.

ATR Time Limit: This is Chancellor Joel Klein's most important issue. He wants a six month time limit but will accept a longer time limit to eliminate the ATR problem that he created in the first place. To date the union has not budged on this and I hope they never will. How many ATRs filled the vacancies that were around before the October 30, 2009 deadline? Not many, none of my ATR friends filled one and I suspect the Principals were able to find a way around the issue without hiring ATRs.

Terminating Teachers: Under Bloomberg/Klein the sevenfold increase in reassigned teachers are mostly caused by Tweed allowing Principals the power to remove teachers on false or frivolous charges. This increase in reassigned teachers have overwhelmed the 3020-a process making a 2 to 3 year stay in "rubber rooms" quite common. Since Arbitrators and transcribers are paid by New York State and are paid sporadically, many 3020-a hearings are drawn out as both groups make this a low priority item. This has resulted in the DOE making settlements with many a charged teachers. However, teachers who know the charges are untrue rather take their chances with an independent Arbitrator than admit guilt. This forces the DOE to bolster their "weak cases" by practicing "character assassination" against the teacher that furtherextends the 3020-a hearing process.

School Closings: The expected ncrease in school closing is just another ploy to allow for the increase of "Charter Schools" and "Small Schools" at the expense of large neighborhood schools. Just look at the problems Tweed caused at Jamaica High School and Beach Channel High School are examples on how to destroy a neighborhood school.

It is the union's responsibility to listen to the other caucuses, including your allies at "New Action" and many of your own "Unity" members not to give any "givebacks" whatsoever. The pattern is two 4% raises minus the 0.58% we owe for getting the two days before Labor Day. No other union allowed for "givebacks" in this pattern and we will not as well.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Principals Are Being Informed That They Do Not Have To Approve Payment For A Teacher Who Sees Their Union Lawyer After Tweed Files 3020-a Charges.

The DOE has found yet another way to make life a living hell for reassigned teachers by not approving the teacher a paid official business day to see their union-appointed NYSUT lawyers even when the reason was caused by the DOE filing 3020-a charges against the teacher in the first place. Until this school year it has been common practice for principals to give approval to a teacher who is meeting with his NYSUT lawyer as a paid official business day. However, last year a vindictive elementary school Principal decided that any absence from the "rubber room" by the reassigned teacher was considered leave without pay. The union rather than pro-actively going after the Principal, quietly tried to negotiate with the DOE and was only partially successful in making the Principal accept that she must approve the days the teacher actually attended her 3020-a hearing.

Left out of the agreement were the days when the reassigned teacher was required to meet with the NYSUT attorney as they needed to prepare the teacher's defense against the 3020-a charges by the DOE. In fact, the Principal refused to take the teacher's three "personal days" when meeting with the NYSUT attorney and was marked as leave without pay. It seems that since Joel Klein has given the principals complete control over the school's budget and staffing, The Principal has the right not to approve a reassigned teacher's right to see their NYSUT attorney simply by controlling their CAR. It doesn't matter that the teacher is no longer on the school's payroll and it doesn't cost the Principal a dime. It is not about what is right, it is about their control.

In this school year more and more reassigned teachers are complaining that the principals in their old school is requiring them to use up their three personal days to see their NYSUT lawyers and in some cases are required to take the day as leave without pay. What has the union done about this? Nothing, nothing at all. President Michael Mulgrew has been informed of this issue and so far silence. What kind of union representation do we have when Tweed changes the rules and costs teachers money as they allow vindictive principals to get away with not paying teachers for seeing their union-appointed lawyer based on 3020-a charges that is usually instigated by the same Principal.

It is bad enough that Tweed allows principals to remove teachers to the "rubber room" on false and/or frivolous charges. Now they are allowing (encouraging) these principals to ignore common practice and force reassigned teachers to meet their NYSUT attorney on their own time. Shame on Tweed who assumes teachers are guilty, shame on the principals who show their vindictiveness, and shame on our union that refuses to fight this outrage to already targeted teachers.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Finally, A Teacher Sues The DOE When Falsely Accused Of Sexual Misconduct

Over the eight years of Joel Klein's tenure as Chancellor of the New York City's Department Of Education (DOE) the central bureaucracy (Tweed) has seen an increase of non-educators and lawyers while employing less educators at the highest decision-making levels. The hiring of more non-educators ruining Tweed has resulted in an increasingly anti-teacher climate. Historically, the "rubber rooms" averaged about 90 teachers citywide, most accused of criminal or serious sexual offenses. However, under Joel Klein's tenure we have seen the number of "rubber room" teachers increase to about 650. Nearly a sevenfold increase!

One of the more interesting developments under Joel Klein's leadership is that once a teacher is served his or her 3020-a charges, the teacher will end up with a two year stay while the process plays out. While I am sure that the DOE can rescind 3020-a charges when the accusations are later to be found false or frivolous. I do not know of any teacher that actually had their 3020-a charges dropped. I believe that DOE's own arrogance stops them from admitting that many 3020-a charges are bogus and they rather go into the 3020-a hearing with a weak hand and practice character assassination then admit that 3020-a charges should not have been brought in the first place.

The reason that the DOE can abuse the 3020-a process is the unwillingness of the UFT to go after the DOE's abusive practices against their teachers. Once in the "rubber room" the UFT leadership washes their collective hands of the teacher. Yes, they give the teacher a NYSUT lawyer and speak of due process rights but in reality to the UFT these reassigned teachers have one foot out the door and if, by chance, survives the 3020-a process, are welcomed back as powerless ATRs. The vast increase of "rubber room" teachers would not be possible without the quiet approval of a union that believes these reassigned teachers are guilty of something. Compounding the UFT unwillingness to help the teacher with an independent investigation and adhering to the contract time lines, is the unfair and biased investigations by the DOE and their investigative agencies against the targeted teacher. I have previously complained about the corrupt investigation process that lands teachers in the "rubber room" without any recourse. It seems that finally there is a teacher who is willing to fight back.

In a NY! post, teacher Daniel Smith has filled a federal lawsuit against the DOE and SCI for illegally removing him to the "rubber room" and costing him per session money. While I do not know his full story. I hope what he claims is correct and that he wins his case against the evil twins the DOE's Office Of Legal Services and SCI. A win for him may help reduce the DOE abuse of the 3020-a process. Good luck and best wishes from all of us.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bloomberg Wants More Education Cuts. Where Will The Cuts Come From? Just Don't Expect Them From Tweed.

Today Mayor Bloomberg requested that the Department Of Education (DOE) cut the 23 billion dollar education budget by 5.5% according to the New York Post. 1.5% this school year and 4% next school year which comes out to almost 127 million dollars. While this is less than the 12% that most City agencies need to cut, the question becomes where will the education cuts come from? Based upon the historical record of Joel Klein's priorities, look for the central bureaucracy at Tweed and their well-connected consultants to be spared while the field offices, support centers, and the schools will probably suffer the brunt of the cuts.

However, look for Tweed to put the DOE propaganda machine into overdrive and claim that if they can eliminate the 1,300 ATRs after six months and fire the 650 "rubber room" teachers, they could save 160 million dollars. Of course Tweed will totally ignore the money spent on highly-paid consultants and their pet projects that overwhelms the money Tweed pays non-classroom teachers that they put out of the classroom in the first place. Furthermore, Tweed, rather than hire non-educators like lawyers to persecute teachers and allow principals not to hire ATRs despite Joel Klein's widely ignored ultimatum to hire them or lose the vacancies should freeze hiring of newbie teachers. No loopholes or exceptions at all. Moreover, the DOE should reopen many of the 3020-a cases which not only cost time (average 2 years) but $250,000 per case between the City and State.

If the DOE really wants to help the students then they should cut the central bureaucracy to the bone, free the unjustly accused "rubber room" teachers , and freeze all newbie hires until the ATRs are placed.

By the way if Governor Paterson gets his way, the NYC schools would experience an additional 223 million dollar budget cut for the remainder of the school year for a total mid-year budget cut of 257 million dollars! Let's hope this does not happen for the children's' sake.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Where Does The Money Go When Teachers Either Settle With Or The Arbitrator Awards Money To The DOE?

One of the questions that reassigned teachers ask and get no answers from the union is what happens to the money that the teacher either agrees to settle with the Office of Legal Services or the Arbitrator awards the DOE? Now in Betsy Combier's blog - rubber room reporter she identifies a mysterious group at 65 Court Street, known as "District 65" who she believes may be the beneficiary of the teacher fines. Contrary to what most people believe, the Arbitrators and transcribers are paid by New York State and not the DOE. Therefore, the money the DOE collects from teachers seems to disappear into the Tweed bureaucracy but now Betsy Combier may have discovered where the money may actually go to. Could it be this top secret "District 65" group?

My question is, if this "District 65" group actually exists. What is their purpose? Who runs the group? Where does the money they allegedly take in used for? If anybody knows about "District 65" and what their purpose is please contact

Betsy Combier
P.O. Box 17
NY., NY 10021

All information sent to Betsy will be kept confidential.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Tweed's "Children Last" Program Continues As They Layoff 503 School Aides While Giving Millions To High Priced Consultants

Tweed went ahead and laid off 503 school aides starting Monday. These school aides are invaluable to the schools, especially in the poor neighborhood schools while at the same time approving a 3 million dollar contract for the consulting firm KPMG that does not directly benefit the children. Tweed previously threatened to layoff 530 school aides but was temporarily stopped by an injunction that has since expired when DC37 refused to supply a bond to pay for the school aides.

The school aide position is one of the lowest paid position of all school employees and they do the jobs in the schools that other staff members refuse or do not want to do. Furthermore, many of the school aides work closely with the children by supervising them in the lunchroom, busing duties, and overseers during recess. Many schools will struggle greatly without the school aides and the quality of the children's educational experience will surely suffer. The DOE claims that the layoffs of the 503 school aides will save 13 million dollars for the educational budget, However, the budgets cuts seem to exempt Tweed's consultant services as in the same week they approved a 3 million dollar program by the consulting form KPMG to survey schools for priority issues. This survey has been done previously and has been largely ignored by Tweed when the previous surveys found class size to be the most important factor. Both Public Advocate, Betsy Gotbaum, and the Manhattan PEP representative, Patrick Sullivan, questioned the use of the money at the time of past, present, and future budget cuts. However, the DOE said the survey is needed to identify school improvements. Really? As Patrick Sullivan stated. Tweed has seemed to ignore the surveys when they don't like the results. Why will this survey be different?

Yes, "children last" continues to go strong as Chancellor Joel Klein and his non-educator cronies serve up expensive contracts to well-connected consultants as the schools and especially the classroom, that they are supposed to protect are starved for funds and manpower. I believe the post on Gotham Schools-the last day of a school aide where some children wrote an emotional letter to Mayor Mike about their school aide is a must read. Shame on Mayor Mike Bloomberg and shame on Chancellor Joel Klein for the policies that only hurt the most vulnerable of children they are supposed to protect.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Updated Statistics Of The PIP+ Program Are Now Available & They Are As Bad As The First Year Numbers

The union official in charge of the PIP+ process has updated her numbers for the school year 2008-09 and found that of the 46 teachers who took PIP+ (Peer-Intervention-Program Plus) last year, 41 teachers failed the program and were deemed incompetent and are subject to section 3020-a. This means that for the two years that the union agreed to the PIP+ program 102 teachers who took the PIP+ program, 92 teachers failed the program " that is a 90% failure rate!" How can any union justify a program that allows the employer to terminate 9 out of every 10 of their members?

Now that we know what the numbers are, why is the union allowing such a flawed and biased program to exist? What's more, why hasn't the union let the District Reps (DR) and the Chapter Leaders (CL) know about the unfair PIP+ process and make sure targeted teachers are not hanging themselves by taking a program that has a 90% failure rate?

I am only one blogger and I have limited visibility. However, I appeal to all other bloggers to let their CL know of the problems with the PIP+ program and to read my articles on it here, here, here, and here. Knowledge is power and the more the CL knows, the better the CL can advise their targeted teachers in resisting a DOE inspired program who's main aim is to terminate teachers.

In my previous article I asked that the union members who are knowledgeable that they spread the word that PIP+ was a teacher termination program. The latest numbers have only convinced me that the PIP+ process must be eliminated. James Eterno, one of two UFT presidential candidates has already backed the termination of PIP+, how about you Mike Mulgrew?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Why Is Our Union Not Telling The Members At The Schools What They Know About How Administrators Target Teachers For Incompetence?

Over the last few years the DOE was increasingly frustrated in getting arbitrators to terminate teachers charged with incompetence. To try to increase the number of teachers to either be terminated or quit teaching in the NYC schools, they took precious money (1.2 million dollars) and setup a special unit dedicated to terminate alleged incompetent teachers. This unit was named the Teacher Performance Unit (TPU) also known as the "gotcha squad" named by Randi Weingarten. The TPU consists of lawyers and retired principals whose only purpose is to terminate teachers accused by their principals of being incompetent. The TPU developed different strategies to help principals get rid of teachers that they didn't want. While Tweed developed these strategies to help to terminate teachers, the union remained silent and failed to inform the District Representatives (DR) and Chapter Leaders (CL) about these TPU strategies and how to combat them.

Many of the TPU strategies were identified by either Betsy Combier and myself. Here, Here, Here, and Here. However, unless you read the two blogs the teacher would be unaware that the DOE has given the administrators the tools to go after the classroom teacher. The question is why does the union allow the DOE to get away with these horrible strategies to terminate the teacher? The answer is that it appears that it is in the Union's best interest to sacrifice some teachers to the DOE termination process for the sake of maintaining a good relationship with Tweed. For the union leaders it seems that an occasional teacher or two that are targeted are not as important as getting along with the DOE overseers. My conclusion may seem harsh to some and I am sure that many of the anonymous union hacks will object to my statement. However, when was the union going to let the teachers know about what lengths the DOE will go to terminate them? Further, the union knew full well that the PIP+ program resulted in a 90% failure rate and that the teacher cannot be charged for not taking PIP+. Therefore, the union had a responsibility to inform its members and their representatives (DRs and CLs) and not keep silent.

It is bad enough that we have an anti-teacher Chancellor in charge but we do not need our union leaders allowing his programs go unchallenged when it adversely affects the teacher.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Dear Team Polazzo - Why Matt Polazzo's Article Is Wrong

On my previous post I received a student commenter from Team Polazzo who asked me why I and other education bloggers believe that their teacher Matt Polazzo was wrong and misguided in his article in the New York Daily News last Sunday. The student was respectful and asked me why we attacked their beloved teacher for speaking his mind. I thought about it and believe that they deserve an answer. Therefore, here is my response.

First, your teacher flatly stated that all the teachers in the "rubber rooms" are "bad" teachers and the ATRs are incompetent. If he really understood the issues concerning the two groups he defames he would have known that Chancellor Joel Klein and his non-educator cronies caused both problems with their anti-teacher policy. The increase in "rubber room" teachers and the ATR mess were caused by closing down schools and cutting school budgets to the bone while encouraging principals to hire inexperienced and ill-prepared teachers to replace the experienced teachers in Tweed's "children last" program.

Second, the DOE brought in a fair student funding program that was not revenue neutral as the program was intended to be. This forced principals to hire the cheapest teachers to balance their budget and as a result many of the worst schools have little or no experienced teachers, just those "Teach For America" two-year wonders who couldn't teach to save their collective lives while experienced teachers languished on the ATR list.

Third, Chancellor Klein gave the Principals power to remove teachers they don't like and kick them off the school payroll in sixty days. The sevenfold increase in teachers in the "rubber room" is not about what is best for the students it is what is best for the principals, many of them with limited classroom experience themselves. For your information 90% of these so called "bad" rubber room teachers are sent back to the classroom after an independent arbitrator hears the case against the teacher.

Finally, the DOE practices age discrimination, both in the "rubber room" and the ATR ranks. I just need to refer you to last year's survey on the Queens "rubber room" as evidence to this. If you consider senior, experienced, and highly paid teachers as "bad" then you should work for Joel Klein's DOE.

I am sure Matt Polazzo is a great teacher and the students just love him and deservedly so. However, his knowledge of what really goes on in the "rubber room" and the ATR issue is sorely lacking. Therefore, his article is misguided, unfair, and inaccurate and he deserves the criticism that he brought upon himself.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The First Results Of PIP+ Is Finally Known And It Is Bad, Really Bad

At one of the 3020-a hearings a UFT official with detailed knowledge of the Peer Intervention Program plus (PIP+) has informed the Arbitrator presiding on one of the teacher incompetence cases that of the first 56 teachers who were given PIP+, 51 teachers were found incompetent by the PIP+ educators. That is a 90% failure rate! Astounding that our union allowed this program to exist at all. I was previously assured by a high union official that the PIP+ program was legitimate and it allowed targeted teachers a six month respite from the administration hounding them. However, it is apparent that the trade off was that in 9 of every 10 cases, the DOE now had an expert witness testifying against the teacher in the 3020-a hearing and an increased chance that the Arbitrator will either terminate the teacher or give more severe penalties than without the PIP+ educator's testimony.

Since the PIP+ program is voluntary, the union should be forcibly advising all Chapter Leaders and District Representatives that no teacher should agree to PIP+ under any circumstances. Remember, an Arbitrator has already ruled that that Administration cannot require the teacher to take PIP+ and cannot be charged with not taking PIP+. We all make mistakes in expecting the DOE to act fairly and reasonably. However, time and again Tweed does what is best for them and not what is best for the schools. Therefore, it is time for the union to admit failure in the PIP+ program and demand its discontinuance. Nothing less should be acceptable.