Thursday, May 30, 2013

Finally, Even The Non-Educators At Tweed Admit That The Leadership Academy Is A Costly Failure.

The City's Independent Budget Office (IBO) found that there has been a drastic decline in "Leadership Academy Principals" in the New York City School System.  It was only a couple years age that 17% of the Principals came from the "Leadership Academy" with little or no classroom experience and populated the UFT's list of "Principals In Need Of Improvement".   Now the DOE admits that "fast tracking" prospective principals with little or no classroom experience resulted in little academic achievement and high teacher turnover and only 30 principal wannabees are now in the "Leadership Academy"program.

While the DOE has not publicly discussed the reduction of "Leadership Academy Principals" in the New York City School system, at a principals conference in January of this year, Deputy Chancellor David Wiener said the following.

The department has “not done a great job” of recruiting principals, He added, “Starting at the end of the process might not be the best place.”

Now if the DOE will only eliminate the program entirely as the majority of  "Leadership Academy Principals" have not helped our student's academic achievement or proven worthy of working collaboratively with their teaching staff.  Too many of these Principals have found themselves in trouble  and then there is this!  Now many of the "Leadership Academy principals" find themselves under  fire by parents, teachers, and even the DOE!

It's time to eliminate this Joel Klein inspired program that is bad for students, bad for teachers, and bad for the New York City Public Schools.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Will The Next Mayor Grant Retroactive Raises? Yes...But.

One of the major questions that City workers have is whomever wins the Mayoral election will the new City Administration negotiate a deal that includes "retroactive raises"?   The short answer is yes but it will be more complicated than simply granting the "retroactive raises" and it depends on the union.

For the teachers union and a couple of others like CSA, who Mayor Bloomberg refused to follow the "City pattern", the new mayor will "bite the bullet" and give these unions the previous  "City pattern" that the Bloomberg Administration failed to do.  There may be some "face saving" cosmetic changes, especially when the non-binding Arbitrator report comes out with their recommendations.  However, with an improving economic climate and an Arbitrator report in hand, it will provide cover for the new City Administration to give to the few unions who were excluded from the previous "City pattern" to receive their "retroactive raises" with some modifications.

However, the new "City pattern" will not be as generous as the previous 8% two year contract since the inflation rate is only running at 2% and while the economic conditions in the City have improved, it's certainly not robust.  Therefore, look for a contract that hovers around the inflation rate which is half of what was offered in the last one, 4% annually for two years, and may be back loading the raises to the last year to save money for the City. It's possible that the "retroactive raises" may be negotiated in this contract to pay for health care or other benefits since most of these unions will be willing to give them up if they get better benefits as a tradeoff.

It's also possible that the new "City pattern" may be more generous than I am predicting but it will mean that the City and unions struck a deal for City workers to pay a share of their health care costs which will face stiff resistance from the older members and retirees and I am not expecting that to happen.  Therefore, look for the new Mayor to negotiate contracts with all the City unions that will include back loading most of the raises to the end of the contract while allowing for the "retroactive raises". 

In conclusion look for about a 2% annual raise with most of the first year raise payable toward the end of the contract and the "retroactive raises" being either back loaded or used for enhanced benefits.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

It Appears That The UFT Will Endorse Bill Thompson And That Is Too Bad.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the UFT leaders will toss their collective hats and endorse Bill Thompson for Mayor.  This is the very same Bill Thompson who agreed with Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2009 that teachers did not deserve raises, retroactive or otherwise.  Yes, the very same Bill Thompson who was President of the dysfunctional Board of Education and was City Controller who failed to investigate the many consultant thefts like CityTime. Now it seems that after yesterday's Delegate Assembly, the union will only support a candidate that can win.  In other words, it is either Christine Quinn or Bill Thompson from sources inside the UFT leadership.

Why do I think my union leadership will support Bill Thompson?  Let's look at the "tea leaves".

First,  Randi Weingarten has come out and supported Bill Thompson for Mayor and if you think Randi does not have any influence over her old union, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.  Moreover, Bill Thompson has outlined his "education agenda" and UFT President Michael Mulgrew was favorably impressed by it.

Second,  it is highly unlikely the union will throw their support to Christine Quinn since she was partly responsible for Mayor Bloomberg's third term by allowing changes to the City Charter.  Furthermore, Christine Quinn quietly supported many of the Mayor's attacks on teachers and stayed silent on the Mayor's LIFO bill and the drastic cuts in school budgets.  Finally, she has been so closely aligned with Mayor Bloomberg that she is called "Bloomberg Lite" and I doubt her policy will be significantly different from the Mayor's.

Third, The other candidates are either unknown, too far to the left, or have political baggage and the union does not want to support a "loser".

While I do not have a favorite candidate, I would have like to see our union support either John Liu or Bill deBlasio but then I am only a member and my union does not listen to me.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

An Interview With Chancellor Dennis Walcott

After reading the transparent propaganda piece that the Department of Education published about how Chancellor Dennis Walcott will improve teacher training and accountability, I decided it was important to print the truth of what the Chancellor really meant.

Doubling Teacher Training:  What the Chancellor really wants is to train more principals in how
 to terminate teachers by using the Danielson Framework rubric that includes 62 different items and also includes "Common Core", Differentiated Learning", and "VAM (Junk Science)" as  the basis for teacher evaluation.  He wants the money used to pay coaches to train principals how to properly document a teacher's weakness and provide support to initiate termination proceedings against these teachers.

Accountability: We will require teachers to be held accountable for student educational outcomes despite failing to provide the proper resources, services, and having the highest class sizes in the State .  Accountability is only for teachers and not the non-educators at Tweed,who are the real culprits who waste a billion dollars on near-useless technology and higly paid consultants for the lack of student academic achievement.

The Current System: The current system requires the DOE to show "just cause" to terminate teachers "ineffective ratings", even if the teacher is not "ineffective".
and requires the DOE to show real evidence to an independent Arbitrator to fire a teacher.  With the new system we can terminate teachers after two years of

Will the Teacher Evaluation System Work?  Who cares if it works or not?  We just want to terminate as many teachers as possible, especially senior teachers.

Do Teachers Trust the New System?  The Mayor does not care
what teachers think since he hates teachers and since I am the Mayor's poodle, I gladly follow his orders..

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Union Must Get A Commitment From Their Endorsed Candidate To Eliminate The Fair Student Funding Formula.

In my continuing series on what the union should require for their endorsement it's time to get rid of the "fair student funding formula" that has resulted in senior teachers not even getting interviews because of the budget constraints by this unfair funding method.  Before the "fair student funding formula", teachers were units and the "best teachers" were recruited by the schools who were considered the most desirable.  Included in this calculation for these "best teachers" was the neighborhood the school was located in, parking and transportation  availability, and the school's reputation.  Naturally, the schools who had the most to offer attracted the "best teachers".  Along came Chancellor Joel Klein's "fair student funding formula" that in theory would allocate additional money to schools that have a high percentage of "high needs" students (Special Education, English Language Learners, and poverty).  However, like all the Tweed inspired policies under the Bloomberg Administration, the "fair student funding formula" failed to allocate all the resources promised to these schools with "high needs" students.  Instead the "fair student funding formula" has morphed into a restraint on principals who would want to hire experienced teachers since it would hurt the school's budget while not allocating the additional funds to those schools with "high needs" students.

The question is what happened to the money?  While I do not pretend to know the answer since the DOE is not transparent about its funding and allocation mechanism, I can make an educated guess that a significant amount went to funding high-priced consultants and their suspect educational programs they peddle daily to the non-educators at Tweed.  Furthermore, the near useless "Children First networks" siphon badly needed funds from schools and have numerous high-priced managers and ousted principals that contribute next to nothing to the classroom.  Finally, the DOE is noted for its bloated central bureaucracy and it's no secret that badly needed school resources end up at Tweed to pay for their ever oversized headcount.

Why did our union allow the "fair student funding formula" to be implemented in the first place?  It appears this was yet another miscalculation by Randi Wiengarten that given a "bill of goods" by Joel Klein, she fell for it only to see that it ends up hurting both the teachers and the students.

In conclusion, our union should only endorse a candidate who is committed and supports the elimination of the "fair student funding formula" that not only discriminates against the hiring of senior teachers but forces principals to hire the "cheapest" and not the "best teachers" for their school and that is what I call "students last....always" when schools are hamstrung by the unfair "fair student funding formula"

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Why Our Union Cannot Support Christine Quinn For Mayor.

In a month the UFT will endorse a Democratic candidate for Mayor and Christine Quinn is making a major push for that endorsement.  However, under no circumstances should our union endorse Christine Quinn for Mayor since she aided and abetted Mayor Bloomberg's grab for power by approving a third term that has been a disaster for the NYC Public Schools. She was rightfully booed at the UFT sponsored conference for some of her comments and seemed to agree with the Mayor's education policy in co-locating charter schools, a non-educator for Chancellor, and wants to keep the phony letter grades for schools.  Let me remind everyone that as City Council President she rarely ever stood up to the Mayor, especially when it came to the Mayor's divisive education policy. In fact, she supported many of the Mayor's policy programs when in came to education.

Why shouldn't the union support Christine Quinn for Mayor?  Let me count the ways.

First, she allowed the Mayor to change the City Charter so that he and she can run for a third term.

Second, she failed to provide leadership in not standing up to the Mayor's distructive education policies that included closing schools, ignoring commu, nity concerns, and demonizing teachers, allow charter school co-locations, agree to ever increasing class sizes, and a 20% reduction in school operating budgets since 2008.

Third, she still insists on looking at non-educators as a Chancellor and cited Arnie Duncan an example which caused teachers to give her a loud chorus of boos and deservingly so..

Fourth, she wants to keep the phony letter grades that most educators know is a farce and keeps Principals like Iris Blge in power.

Fifth, she opposes teacher seniority rights and quietly supported Bloomberg's LIFO bill.

Finally, she has failed to show any real independence from the Mayor's education policy and given the power of  being the Mayor will be like having "Bloomberg Lite" in office.  Consequently, the union should not endorsed her candidacy for any reason whatsoever. Now if only our tone-deaf union leader would hear their member vocies on this issue but don't count on it.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Another Princpal Acting Badly And The DOE Does Nothing About It.

The New York Post reported today that Independence HS Principal  Ron Smolkin apparently have written two anonymous letters against two teachers in an attempt to remove them from his school. Despite strong evidence that supported that the Principal wrote the letters, the DOE has allowed the Principal to stay in his position.  According to the DOE an internal (OSI) investigation found no real evidence against the Principal.  However, it certainly appears that the Principal should have lost his job if he indeed wrote those letters and it appears both teachers believe he did.

First, the Principal was accused by a teacher back in 2011 that he wrote an anonymous letter to his co-op board that accused the teacher and his partner of luring young boys to their apartment and infect them with AIDS.  The teacher , who was a Chapter Leader before retiring last year, filed a lawsuit and had a handwriting expert compare the letter sent to the co-op board and Principal Smolkin's handwritten notes and found them the same.  Principal Smolkin  also retaliated against the teacher by removing him from the classroom and filing 3020-a charges, forcing the teacher to retire.   The Principal's actions are subject to a criminal investigation and the DA is reviewing it presently.Yet the DOE investigation found the teacher's accusation to be unsubstantiated.  What a shock!

Now, we find that Principal Smolkin is in hot water again as a female teacher has claimed that  Principal Smolkin wrote another anonymous letter accusing the teacher of flirting with the boys, acting sexy in class, and making inappropriate comments on her Facebook page.  The letter allegedly came from an unknown source but the teacher believes that the Principal wrote it and then put into the teacher's official file.  The teacher has now also filed a lawsuit against Principal Smolkin for deformation of character and again OSI is investigating the accusation.  Yet, Principal Smolkin is still leading the school.

What do we know of Principal Ron Smolkin?  He had one of the lowest trust factors in the City in 2011 with only 32% of the staff trusting his judgement.  Principal Smolkin was also cited for ethics violations and fined by the City's Conflict of Ethics Board $5,000 for using school money to have his Secretary do work as he was working toward his Master's degree.  Finally, Principal Smolkin made the infamous "Bizarro World" list of principals acting badly

I guess when the DOE claims that they go after school personal when there is a "pattern and practice" it doesn't include administrators like Ron Smolkin.  Where is your "zero tolerance" policy when it comes to him Chancellor Walcott?  This is just another case of the "double standard" practiced by Tweed between staff and Administration.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Why Education Reformers Ignore Poverty In Student Academic Achievement.

In just the latest example of how Education Reformers will go to any lengths to ignore poverty as a major cause of poor student academic achievement, the founder of "Common Core", David Colman, in a conference where no school-based administrators or teachers were on the panel, stated that critics who blame poverty on poor student academic outcomes should help eliminate poverty by cutting teacher salaries and distributing the money to the poor.  David Colman's outrageous statement is just another example of Education Reformers attempt to minimize poverty as a major cause of poor student academic achievement and not seriously addressing the problem.  Why do they ignore poverty as a cause of poor student outcomes?  It's because they know that a child's social-economic environment is the major factor in academic achievement and to eliminate poverty costs tremendous amount of money and human resources.  Therefore, it is easier to blame the schools and in particular, the teachers rather than spend the money and human capitol necessary to eliminate poverty and improve student academic outcomes.

Be it ex Chancellor Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, and Bill Gates, it is best to ignore the effects of poverty on student academic achievement and blame it on other problems, namely teachers.  While study after study shows that poverty is linked to poor student outcomes the Education Reformers will go to great lengths to ignore this linkage.  In fact the Education Reformers will tell anybody who bothers to listen to them that poverty is no excuse for poor academic achievement, as if they can wish away with a magic wand the educational problems associated with poverty. Instead, these Education Reformers have decided that blaming teachers and making them scapegoats to their failed educational programs rather than face the reality of what really is the root cause of a child's educational problems, poverty!.  How many times have we heard that "if only were can hire and fire teachers at will so that we only have great teachers teaching our students" as if a "great teachers" is a cure all for the world's ills.

While we are now starting to see a backlash against the education reform agenda, it will be quite a "high needs" students with appropriate wraparound services such as family counseling, adequate food, medical checkups, and after school programs not the phony programs that serves the political needs of the Education Reformers at the expense of the students, especially the children who live in poverty..
while before education reform is exposed as a farce it is and will fade into history as just another failed experiment.  However, until that time in the future we must stand fast against the Education Reformers and protect our

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Will The Union Require That The New Mayor Eliminate The ATR Crises As A Condition For Their Support?

It's getting to be "crunch time" as the likely winner of the Democratic primary will be the new Mayor and the endorsementt by the UFT may decide the winner.  Therefore, what should the union demand from the endorsed Democratic candidate? 

First, and foremost eliminate the ATR crises by requiring that all excessed teachers be placed in one school in their District.  No longer should teachers go weekly to different schools and be treated like garbage from the school Administration.  While the union will not publish the information, many senior and higher paid teachers are not even given a chance to interview for vacancies as age and salary discrimination runs throughout the New York City School system.   The approximately 1,500 ATRS need to be placed and feel wanted.  Going weekly to different schools is a waste of time and just dispirrits the ATRs.  Bring back the old system that requires principals to hire excessed teachers before they can hire "newbie teachers" outside the Public Schools. This would be good for students who would have experienced teachers instructing them and not be made "guinea pigs" as the "newbies" learn how to teach.

Second, demand that the candidate agree to full "retroactive raises" that was part of the 2008-09 "City pattern".  No back loading or "givebacks".

Third, eliminate the "fair student funding" fiasco that discriminates against senior teachers and restore the unit system.  This will allow principals to hire the "best teachers" and not the "cheapest" teachers as many are doing now which is not what our students need or want.

Fourth, reduce class sizes to levels that are the State average and add teachers to reduce class sizes to more manageable  levels, especially in the early grades.

Finally, allocate adequate resources to the classroom and eliminate the waste of money on unnecessary consultants and technology that strips over a billion dollars from the City Schools.

If the UFT does not require these promises from their endorsed candidate then our union will once again fail their members and that is not acceptable.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

A Charmed Life!

I have a very close friend who is a bilingual special education teacher who worked in Southern Queens  and was brought up on 3020-a charges of corporal punishment and was terminated by an Arbitrator who was under pressure from the DOE which had reminded him that he was too lenient on a previous case.  The teacher appealed the unfair and shocking ruling and a judge agreed that the Arbitrator used an uncharged specification as part of the basis for the termination and remanded it to a different Arbitrator since the judge didn't think the teacher would get a fair hearing from the original Arbitrator. The City had appealed the judge's decision to the Appellate Court and then delayed their submission as long as they could since the teacher was not on the DOE payroll.  This month the Appellate Court will finally hear the case and hopefully my friend will get her job back, with back pay.  However, that is another story for another day.  This post is about the paraprofessional who was responsible for my friend's unfair termination.

The paraprofessional is one of these people that no teacher wanted to work with,  She was known to take a long lunch and bathroom breaks, leave school at a moment's notice, and was unreliable.  My friend had tried to replace her with a paraprofessional who was more dependable but the Principal refused to change paras since no other teacher wanted to work with her.  Therefore, my friend was stuck with the paraprofessional, let's call her Miss. Nasty.  Miss. Nasty was the prime witness against my friend and embellished the corporal punishment charge despite the denials from my friend and the other paraprofessional who was in the room at the time of the alleged corporal punishment incident. For those who want to know if the child testified?  The child did not!

My friend had a history with Miss. Nasty that resulted in my friend going to the Principal to ask for another para, any para but Miss. Nasty.  However, the Principal, who was forced to retire shortly thereafter, was a personal friend and Miss. Nasty would do the Principal's hair during school time.  Yes, instead of being with the most vulnerable of children, Misss. Nasty was running errands or doing favors for the Principal.

Now it seems in April of this year that Miss. Nasty was seen by both children and adults choking a sixth grade boy and threatening the same boy by allegedly saying "do you  want to go a round"? The corporal punishment incident was reported  to the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) not by the school's Administration but by a parent who's daughter had witnessed the incident and was so upset that she immediately called her mother and told her that Miss. Nasty was choking the boy.  In almost all cases when a staff member is accused of choking a student they are removed from the classroom.  However, what has happened to Miss. Nasty?  Nothing, nothing at all.  That's right Miss. Nasty is still in the classroom almost a month after the alleged corporal punishment incident was reported.  Obviously, Miss. Nasty is being protected by the school's Administration who failed to report the corporal punishment incident in the first place.  I wonder if they are being investigated by OSI for their failure to follow the rules?   While the OSI investigation is still open, nobody expects anything to come from it since the school's Administration is protecting her.  Miss. Nasty, who lied and embellished a corporal punishment incident that resulted in a great teacher losing her job seems to have a charmed life when it comes to her own job.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Mayor Bloomberg's Fuzzy Math When It Comes To Teachers.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg stated in his radio talk show that New York City teachers do not need retroactive raises since they averaged an annual 3.8% raise  in the last four years.  In fact, here is what the Mayor actually said.   “They’ve been getting raises all throughout this period,” Where did he get this "fuzzy math" from?  Abbott and Costello?

At first, I thought he was talking about step and longevity increases but those increases collectively averaged  about 1.5% yearly.  Where did he get the 3.8%?  Easy, the Mayor included the increased costs for health and pension as part of the 3.8% figure.  That's right, the Mayor is adding costs that do not show up in our paycheck as a justification for not approving retroactive raises to the teachers that he gave to almost all other unions. What a bunch of malarkey by the Mayor. I guess his hatred for New York City teachers is such that he will go to any lengths to justify not giving us a pay raise, even if he must use "fuzzy math".

I guess in the Mayor's fantasy world where he could have the unlimited authority to hire and fire teachers at will, ensure that the
teaching profession is temporary with no pensions and retiree health benefits, and have class sizes of up to 70 students is out of reach as he ends his destructive education legacy.  Therefore, the next best thing is to direspect teachers to the very end by not replacing teachers despite the best City budget in years.
Mayor Bloomberg, from all 72,000 NYC teachers it's "goodbye and good riddance" and don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Has There Been An Increase In Teacher Incompetence Charges Under Section 3020-a? I Think So.

I have been hearing reports from sources involved in the teacher 3020-a process that the DOE is going after more teachers for incompetence under State law 3020-a.  According to my sources, in the last couple of months they have seen an influx of teachers who have been charged with incompetence and are now working their way through the 3020-a process.  While there is normally an uptick in teacher incompetence cases this time of year, it appears there are many more than normal, at least according to the people involved in the 3020-a process.

Assuming the increase in 3020-a incompetence cases are true, what could be causing it?  My guess is because of the upcoming teacher evaluation system.  If a Principal fails to have the DOE charge a tenured teacher with incompetence by the end of the school year, the Principal would be unable to charge the teacher with incompetence until the end of the 2014-15 school year since the proposed teacher evaluation system requires two consecutive years of "ineffective ratings" before the DOE can fire the tenured teacher. Worse yet, the DOE and Principal must show that they provided the necessary and adequate support to improve the teacher's ability in the second year and that may be an issue going forward for the DOE since their history is to provide little or no real assistance to a teacher.  In addition, the teacher must have an independent educator (PIP+?) observe them who will provide an "expert opinion" on whether the teacher is incompetent or not and that opinion will be part of the 3020-a hearings.  Unfortunately, the teacher termination path under the proposed teacher evaluation system is a "death sentence" for the 87% of the teachers, if the independent educator finds the teacher incompetent. As for the 13% of teachers whom the union will appeal their "ineffective rating" the DOE must shoulder the "burden of proof" to the Arbitrator that the teacher is really incompetent and is not as a result of differences with the Administration. That might be a "bridge too far" for the DOE and the Principal to prove it and I suspect few of the "lucky 13%" will have their "ineffective rating" upheld and be fired since the arbitrators will have plenty of the other 87% of the teachers to terminate.

In conclusion, if my sources are correct, then there should be a significant increase in 3020-a charges for incompetence as we approach the end of the school year as principals see their last change to rid themselves of teachers they don't want or like for the next two years and they are taking the opportunity to get rid of them using the present 3020-a process.

Note:"  I might not have gotten it exactly right but that is because our union lacks transparency and does not inform its members how the new teacher evaluation will actually work.  Furthermore, they have kept secret the "nuts n bolts" of the process.