Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mulgrew morphs

I'm really happy to learn that UFT Prez Michael Mulgrew has changed his angle on the school closings issue.

His campaign to label Tweed "Mismanagement Central" — which lasted about a week-and-a-half and got my knickers in a twist in a post last Saturday — seems to be morphing into something else.

You can't find the word "mismanagement" at all in an editorial he wrote for the Daily News two days ago. I did a word search, it's not there.

Mulgrew's now calling Klein's ed policies "misguided," which is a few steps closer to the way I'd describe Tweed's sociopathy.

I suspect we'll be watching Mulgrew test-drive one so-called strategy after another as he tries to protect teachers against the very people his caucus has been collaborating with for a decade.

What a position they've put us in.
What a waste of labor clout.



Saturday, December 19, 2009

I REFUSE TO BELIEVE THE UFT IS THIS STUPID

This post was written before the UFT changed course. Oy.

See an update at "Mulgrew morphs."



I don't get to open my copy of the NY Teacher until the weekend, though I might have known by the end of the the Delegate Assembly last Wednesday what it was going to feature.

"MISMANAGEMENT CENTRAL" - a bold heading over a very washed out picture of Tweed.

For those who believe the UFT's had no viable or even discernible strategy throughout the Weingarten stewardship except to run us into the ground, that front page speaks for itself.


MISMANAGEMENT, yes. But not Tweed's.

Klein's doing a great job — a masterful job, in fact — shredding public education in NYC, defying accountability, transparency, law and ethics.

He's also busted one of the largest unions in the country: ours, and you can't beat that record.


MISMANAGEMENT CENTRAL is Unity Caucus, which is taking us whitewater rafting down a very long and angry river without paddles, lifesavers, or strategic thinkers at the helm.


The "Mismanagement" campaign of our new UFT prez is the most recent case in point.

You can't call Joel Klein or Michael Bloomberg bad managers. Having got so much of what they wanted already, they're now setting their sights on the last bits, like tenure, teacher evaluation idiocies, and what's left of seniority rights.

But, UFT mismanagers have been allowing them to chop off bits of our lifeline with each successive contract, and obviously they continue to take us all for a ride.

And I agree with that headline on uft.org's link to the NY Teacher:
THERE IS NO EXCUSE.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tweed and its RRs: filling in what Brill conveniently left out

If you remember Steven Brill's article in the New Yorker last summer, which riled practically everyone who knows anything about the infamous Teacher Reassignment Centers in NYC, you'll know that not everyone got a chance to rebut his skewed reality.

Of course, some did.

In an Ednotes post called "Steven Brill Leads Major Assault on ATRs and Rubber Room," Scott asked: "Was Steven Brill commissioned as a hit man on the rubber room and ATRs?"

He thought Brill interviewed selectively for this article, to put pressure on the union to give up some protections in the upcoming (now current) contract negotiations. He also laid out Brill's "persistent record" of media failures and, in an additional post, published a teacher's response to the piece.

Attorney Joy Hochstadt also wrote a rebuttal and sent it to both Brill and the New Yorker. Neither of these acknowledged receipt, of course, but at a time when city council members are starting to call for the chancellor's head — Charles Barron at the Maxwell HS protest last Wednesday: "We will go down to the Tweed building and shut it down . . . I am going to make a citizen's arrest for the chancellor impersonating an educator" — it kind of behooves us to continue documenting WHY there is such anger in the Apple.


"IT IS TO BE UNDERSTOOD THAT THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE CONFINEMENT TO THE RUBBER ROOM AND ALL ITS DEGRADATION, THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE 3020-a PROCESS NO TEACHER HAS BEEN FOUND GUILTY OF ANYTHING WHATSOEVER YET." — Joy Hochstadt, P.C.

RUBBER ROOM II: WHAT STEVE BRILL NEVER LEARNED

By Dr. Joy Hochstadt, Esq.

Mr. Brill has only a small slice of the story. Most of the teachers in "Rubber Rooms" awaiting disciplinary hearings have mixed charges — perhaps only 50 do not also have some charge of insubordination or misconduct to "beef up" the incompetence charges — most of which are de minimus and could be said of any teacher. The observation process is that for a favored teacher only positive comments are made, for a disfavored teacher only negative comments are made when in reality both sets of comments are equally true of both sets of teachers. The real problem with our inner city schools is that the students are only in school ~6 hours/day and they leave to an educational vacuum for another 18 hours a day. Middle class children and those who come from cultures where scholarship and knowledge in general is a pre-eminent value, receive another 10 hours (or more on non-school days) of constant education, discussion and mental challenge. The way to change the learning of the kids and help their undereducated parents as well, is to pay parents of low performing students to attend school first to learn what they want to know: computers, diction, ESL, native language arts (most who emigrated to the U.S. during their own school years may not have mastered grammar or composition in any language if they did not thrive as students after arrival here), auto mechanics, ethnic cooking, sewing, etc. Then their children will see the drive for mastery (of anything) in the home and model it. The parents have a sense of what they are missing and once they have mastered sufficient basic skills of the "3R's," even from other types of classes where the two are blended, will covet classes in history, science and literature, etc. Many will be glad to receive minimum wage for this, others will trade higher paying jobs when possible for education, professionals will be encouraged to imbue more to their children if their offspring are not thriving in school.

The incompetent teacher/rubber room syndrome is largely a pretext for our "trust-busting" Chancellor to "union-bust" and see the demise of tenure for mainly two reasons — more top-down control (which will not improve student performance without the drive to learn which I address can be changed as described above) and to save money by lowering the average teacher salary, by claiming 30 year veteran-teachers are suddenly incompetent (as well as to save billions on pension payments by getting teachers out of the system at lower final salary and fewer years of pensionable service both of which determine retirement payout).

Now let us turn to the wider view of the "rubber rooms" than the narrow slice Mr. Brill has observed. The typical teacher in a "Teacher Reassignment Center" has served with an admirable and unblemished record as a tenured School Teacher until s/he requested a transfer to a school closer to home, or one with a higher achieving student body and was granted a seniority transfer around 2003. Or a particularly favored teacher in a school to which a new Principal was installed, or was transferred to a school because of a school closing, etc since Mr. Klein was made Chancellor has been targeted.

Veteran tenured teachers previously had the option of receiving seniority transfers to another school by ranking their choices of known vacancies; the teacher with the greatest seniority not already placed in a school ranked higher by them would be appointed. Until 2004 this seniority transfer program was maintained as a contractual provision in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) between the United Federation of Teachers (“UFT”) and the Department of Education (compare the 2003-2007 CBA and subsequent CBA’s with earlier CBA’s). The 2003-2007 CBA was ratified and implemented retroactively in the summer of 2005; therefore, the last seniority transfers occurred at the end of June 2005.

Prior to that time new hires were either from direct hiring of teachers applying to a particular school, or from central office assignments where the central office tried to offer the Principal of a school a choice of three eligible candidates from which the Principal was expected to select one. For some shortage areas, a selection from three was not always available. The shortage areas were traditionally math, science and special education. This open hiring was allowed only after all the seniority transfers had been matched to a vacancy on the teacher’s prioritized list of vacancies in descending order of preference.

For 2006 and thereafter, all hires and transfers were guided by a market based plan that did away with the seniority system. Also until that time schools were allocated “slots” for teachers based on the number and type of classes taught. Though statistics were kept on the average teacher salary in each school as an indication to parents of the experience and education of the faculty in that school, salaries were not individually budgeted to specific schools and there was no incentive or disincentive to hire a teacher based on the teacher’s salary. If anything, schools sought to have the highest teacher salaries, as it indicated faculty stability, low turnover, high experience, and increased educational achievement on the part of its faculty. This all changed recently as well. The Principals traded their own tenure for complete control over the hiring, budget and performance of students in their schools. They also gained the opportunity for as much as 50% (or greater) incentive increment in their own compensation based on student performance, including standardized tests, promotion and graduation rates, student attendance, number attending four-year colleges after graduation, inter alia.

The Principals complained that it was unfair to be held so fully accountable, until they gained the right to purge the “deadwood” (as the Chancellor put it) from their faculties. The Chancellor agreed and encouraged Principals to request a Technical Assistance Conference (“TAC”) with DOE attorneys to help them build an incompetence or misconduct case against a tenured teacher. At one point the Chancellor announced that he was going to hire 100 additional full-time attorneys to be dispatched in teams to go out to the schools to work with the Principals to more efficiently build the case against tenured teachers and remove the tenured teachers from the classroom earlier. (This plan was abandoned based on public outrage to the idea of going after teachers.)

Another mechanism to purge unwanted tenured teachers was to close a school for failure to meet acceptable achievement criteria and to reorganize the school, whereby its faculty was chosen anew by the new Principal.

Tenured teachers not selected for the reorganized school were assigned as Absent Teacher Reserves (“ATR”s) to substitute teach on a day-to-day basis at their full salary (sometimes at top pay of $100,000.00+ per annum with excellent benefits) while the typical substitute can earn no more than $28,000.00 each year even if every school day is worked; no benefits are received by true substitutes.

Since each dollar of teacher pay was now accounted for in each school's budget, teachers at the top of the pay scale were targeted as two — $50,000.00/yr. teachers could replace one $100,049.00/yr teacher (life-tenure, notwithstanding).

In practice, however, the Principals latched on to the concept of “deadwood” which became a misnomer for the targeting of tenured teachers whose loyalty to the Principal in the face of Principal manipulation of test and other data was not assured (and could threaten the Principal's salary or longevity in the job). Tenured teachers who were already demonstrated “whistle-blowers” were targeted. The rubber rooms, in fact, are filled with such “whistle-blowers” who challenged misuse of school funds, changing of Regents Grades to better scores, tolerance of scandalous/criminal conduct of teachers with students, grievances filed for inaccurate and unfair observation reports with detailed rebuttals of same. In fact, several of my clients represent each of these "whistle-blower categories, and then some. Eventually these teachers file a Div. Human Rights claim, an EEOC claim and a lawsuit in federal court and were retaliated against then or even before they filed with any Court or Agency. Tenured teachers who are too astute and are able to discern the meaning of a Principal’s words and actions despite other pretexts were not to be trusted. Tenured teachers who had been in the “system” for many years and had seen the Chancellor’s Regulations’ as they developed before Klein arrived, were not rescinded, and knew non-compliance when they saw it, were dangerous, especially if they as much as raised a silent eyebrow at a non-compliant practice. Tenured teachers who would dare file a grievance against their School Administration for any such non-compliant practice were to be eliminated as was the case with each of many of my clients. It also turned out that these tenured teachers had the highest salaries and for that reason alone became the undesirables now that teacher salary was directly billed to schools.

There exist mechanisms other than bringing a teacher up on charges of incompetence (and if the incompetence charge is sustained that teacher will likely never work in U.S. public schools again), to remove a teacher who has a mental or physical disability. In New York City alone (written as in any school district for a city of over 1,000,000 in population) NYS Education Law §2568 allows the Superintendent of Schools to require a mental or physical exam, or both, to ascertain whether the teacher is fit for duty, albeit that population provision is synonymous with NYC. Teachers can be retired on disability pension if they do not meet the medical standards. This mechanism is not used with teachers who have fewer than 19 years of service or unless the disability is caused by a line-of-duty (“LOD”) injury, because the disability pension would entitle the tenured teacher to greater retirement income than they would receive in regular pension income. Too often it is used to target a teacher without any due process; just a DOE MD's signature determination as not fit for duty.

Further, both teachers and the UFT made claims of Age Discrimination and denial of Dur Process. By 2005, the disparate impact and disparate treatment of older, higher paid teachers, had reached such proportions that Randi Weingarten, then UFT President, filed an age discrimination case on behalf of all members over 40 who felt that they had been unfairly disciplined through negative evaluations because of their age, with the EEOC. After two years of investigation, the EEOC sought to conciliate the case with DOE but was unable to obtain agreement on any change in DOE policies. The EEOC sent a right to sue letter (“RTSL”) to the UFT so that it might litigate the case. The UFT decided it would pursue individual actions, if any, since of the original sixty teachers named in the complaint and whose cases had been thoroughly investigated by the EEOC which included several rubber room assignees. Thirteen teachers from Graphic and Communications Arts High School (“GCAHS”) had initiated an action under Age Discrimination in Retirement Act ("ADEA") on their own, other teachers had by then retired and moved elsewhere, inter alia. The EEOC issued 60 RTSL’s to the named charging parties, in the UFT complaint. Only one action was ever filed on behalf of one tenured teacher by the UFT based on those RTSL’s. That action was filed in March 2008 and is pending.

Those teachers who were not made aware of the original call for teachers to come forward in 2005, or whose targeting came later, were not included in either the RTSL’s or the subsequent UFT contemplation of Action(s), soon found a new action that was organizing or once filed in January 2008, that was seeking additional plaintiffs. The group called itself Teachers4Action (“T4A”) and its focus, in addition to the unwarranted and orchestrated removal of teachers from schools on pretextual grounds of misconduct and incompetence, was teacher mistreatment after administrative reassignment away from their school, and serious problems with the way the 3020-a process was being conducted in NYC.

Not all the teachers who were in the Teacher Reassignment Centers aka “Rubber Rooms” for three years or longer with no adjudication of the “charges” joined the T4A lawsuit when it was first filed in January 2008. But, by March 4th, when the court ordered them to identify themselves by name, 61 plaintiffs had signed on. At the first meeting of the group that some of the teachers attended, one teacher heard the suggestion that many of the hardships the tenured teachers had to endure were those due to practices that did not occur outside NYC. Outside NYC tenured teachers had a choice between the 3020-a statute as written and the CBA; only in NYC was there no choice. Thus, only NYC tenured teachers lost the right to a three member arbitration panel for incompetence cases; only in NYC were arbitrators not chosen by the tenured teachers but by the UFT and the DOE to a permanent panel where tenured teachers saw the arbitrators work 54 days per year at up to $2000.00 per day plus expenses and fees for decision drafting. The average one day a week jobs (actually five days per month for ten months and two days per month for July and August) were coveted as it allowed the arbitrators freedom for the rest of the time to pursue whatever work or other activities while providing a guaranteed base pay. The hearings were held in the DOE facilities and where the DOE attorneys maintained their offices. There was much ex parte interaction between the arbitrator and the DOE legal services department of the DOE which led to another lawsuit. See, Castro v. Dept. of Educ., 08 CV 7580 (LAP).

The hearings are protracted because of the maximum of five days per month that the arbitrators are allowed to work (Possibly so their compensation does not rise above $150,000.00/yr to be noticed on public payrolls where few earn this much). The waits in the crowded, windowless rubber rooms can be and as it was for many teachers more than three years. Teachers removed from the classroom are assigned to be confined in “reassignment centers” which are foul-smelling overcrowded cramped spaces where life-tenured teachers outraged at their inconceivable removal when they have committed no wrong sit amidst a few teachers who have done some act(s) appropriate for some type of discipline, along with many more teachers who are emotionally paralyzed and disconsolate at what has occurred to them for no good reason but several unlawful reasons that they are older, at the top of the pay scale at slightly over $100,000.00 (not reached until 22 years of service), highly educated [teachers only reach top pay if they have an earned master’s degree plus the equivalent of a full year’s full time semester hours after the Masters degree (30 credits) or a Doctorate] and not wanted by their new, younger, over-empowered Principals (by Chancellor Klein, who specifically authorized Principals to rid their schools of unwanted tenured teachers). Apparently deliberate on the part of the DOE. One DOE Official who oversaw three-year confinement, testified on June 30, 2009, in another proceeding that the number of reassigned teachers has doubled to trebled since Joel I. Klein became schools Chancellor. In each borough there are enormous full floor facilities to detain “reasssigned” teachers. In 2007-2008 there were 756 tenured teachers so assigned.

The Teacher Reassignment Centers as these warehouses are officially called but better known as “rubber rooms” are specifically designed to be hostile work environments, where the tenured teachers are treated as Pariahs and disdained by other DOE employees, especially by clerical level employees, or uniformed security guards who are assigned to oversee their confinement and record their movements. No work is allowed in the rubber rooms, no electronic devices, no visitors. The process is aimed at the demoralization of “reassigned” tenured teachers so that they will resign rather than undergo years of confinement without any duties followed by months to over a year of the disciplinary trial itself only to have to relive all the false accusations with which they were harassed in the first place. Then having to be subjected to false testimony, from several witnesses, was a dejecting and dispiriting ordeal.

Kinicky Bernstein Associates, reviewed the to-scale floor plans of the rubber room area and found blatant violations of Building Department Codes of New York City. A reassigned teacher was provided with data from Architect Ricardo Hatton of Kinicky Bernstein that the room to which teachers were confined daily at the Rubber Room of 333 7th Ave. in Manhattan was not only severely overcrowded, but in gross violation of New York City’s Building Department Codes. A room of 1000 square feet designed for conferences for, at maximum, forty people, was being used to warehouse and confine almost eighty tenured teachers daily quite similar to holding cell or concentration camp conditions.

To add to the pervasive hostility of the “rubber room” atmosphere, the Public Employees Safety and Health Agency (“PESH”) has issued numerous violations, for inadequate air circulation, stale air, inadequate means of egress inter alia, yet these unhealthful conditions go uncorrected, teachers suffer asthma and other respiratory ailments, and the entire object is to get the teachers to quit (no possibility of a true acquittal or of a later special proceeding to vacate the penalty). One teacher was diagnosed with hypertension, diabetes, COPD which had never been the case previous to her stay at the rubber room. Other reassigned teachers simultaneously were also afflicted with acute bronchitis, and became severely ill for several months. In fact, a petition was signed by 10 teachers assigned to the 333 Rubber Room that listed their names, type of respiratory illness as well as the dates and occurrences of these illnesses. Most tragic of all was the death of Gilda Teel, from Bronchial Pneumonia while she was at the rubber room and a T4A plaintiff. The depression Ms. Teel experienced for having been sent to the rubber room without cause, was clearly a significant contributing factor in her succumbing to respiratory illness that afflicted many teachers there. The status of reassigned teachers is lowered to below that of the lowest hourly employee. They are tainted for life within the DOE, and unless entirely exonerated of all charges called specifications (DOE attorneys convert the allegations of the Principal into as many specifications as possible from all the observation reports, letters, disciplinary meetings, follow-up letters to file and other documents, often drafted months after the fact and backdated). Thirty specifications, each with anywhere from 1-80 or more incidents are not uncommon, 10-15 specifications (each with many sub-specifications) are typical. There are even cases where more than 200 specifications each with sub-specifications have been heard. Yet there is virtually no chance for a teacher who has been charged with more than one or two specifications to be completely exonerated. Some specifications violate the Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”), or conflict with one another, and it is up to defense Counsel to get these charges dismissed. With several hundred sub-specifications, and with the Department sustained by the Arbitrator if even one allegation is inadvertently omitted in the rebuttal, an arbitral award of discipline is the result. In incompetence cases, or where any observation report is part of the specifications DOE attorneys scour the observation reports for silent areas, then they cite the teacher for having failed to incorporate the element not mentioned in the report. When there is cross-examination, sometimes the evaluator is not even familiar with the technique or concept the teacher was cited for omitting in the specifications. When the witness is confronted with items of the specifications, the DOE attorney objects vociferously that specifications are legal constructs written by a lawyer and that the witness should not be questioned about them. The arbitrator usually agrees over the objections of NYSUT counsel’s pleas that those are the allegations based on the specific report of that witness how can a witness have included something with which the witness is unfamiliar, the allegations must be questioned. In the case of T4A teachers they were all forced to go through the hearings without counsel as their lawyers were told to withdraw and the arbitrators granted all of their withdrawal.

IT IS TO BE UNDERSTOOD THAT THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE CONFINEMENT TO THE RUBBER ROOM AND ALL ITS DEGRADATION, THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE 3020-a PROCESS NO TEACHER HAS BEEN FOUND GUILTY OF ANYTHING WHATSOEVER YET.

Only after the Arbitrator renders a decision is there any judgment of any type then the teacher is disciplined — even if the teacher was exhonerated of 199 of 200 of the specifications and subspecifications by an arbitrator who wants to remain an Arbitrator once the decisions if rendered the teacher is immediately removed from the payroll if terminated or suspended without pay, sometimes before the teacher even received the decision.

. A tenured teacher who has even been mildly disciplined with a reprimand is thus guilty, the decision becomes public (albeit under FOIL @ $.25/page and decisions are typically 50-90 pages), all states exchange disciplinary information barring the teacher from future employment at any public school. That is how DOE coerces teachers to enter into a settlement agreement to resign, or to become an ATR without the “conviction” on their State Education Department record. While the DOE saves the cost of the Arbitration and the teacher is spared its ordeal, the DOE gains far more. It requires the withdrawal of all litigation claims until the date of the settlement agreement for the §3020 and it usually contains an automatic termination clause should the conduct ever be repeated. Thus, a teacher with a long commute was coerced into agreeing that if she ever exceeded a cumulative maximum of 55 minutes of tardiness in any academic year she would be automatically terminated without further due process. An outstanding teacher at NYC's premier High School who Mr. Brill calls "Patricia Adams" who was a recovering alcoholic signed a similar clause; her father was dying and she returned home to California for a few weeks, other family members drank heavily, she relapsed briefly, but not so briefly as to lose consciousness at a staff workshop with no students present, very shortly after she returned to NYC immediately after the burial, and the system lost an outstandingly talented teacher who had only once in 10 years been observed with any symptoms by a student. In another case, at the summer school of that same premier High School, a student attempted to extort a passing grade for her failing beau (both students enrolled at other schools during the regular school year) by threatening another outstanding teacher who taught summer school session there as well (open to all students from all schools, public or independent) that she would claim the teacher had inappropriately touched her unless he passed the boy who was failing. After grades were distributed, she carried through with her threat. The teacher was coerced to resign; now every school district to which he applies inquires as to the circumstances surrounding his departure from his most recent position, and he has been out of work and denied unemployment benefits.

While Brandi Scheiner, a kindergarten teacher for 24 years, who is loud, funny, round and cuddly and has been the perfect type of kindergarten teacher and surrogate caretaker for students in transition from caretaker to school was written up in observation reports or specifications, or both, for poor "rug management." Apparently the observer was not entirely pleased with how Ms. Scheiner had arranged her students to be seated on the rug for "story time." If I had a child in kindergarten, I could not think of a story teller who would be more expressive in her ad-libs, more raucous in her characterizations, and make any child so eager to read the story for themselves, again and again remembering Scheiner’s antics, that they could hardly contain themselves getting her help to read and relive any story by themselves. Ms. Scheiner was also cited for giving more glue, to a student who had gotten the glue on something other than his project, ergo he had misused the glue, and horrors she had given him more glue she had also given the rest of the students more glue. At age five, some students have better coordination than others it would have been poor pedagogical practice to have denied that one child more glue, and singled him out for no logical reason. These criticisms were not against Ms. Scheiner's teaching; they were against Ms. Scheiner personally, and against her top of scale salary. Again and again I see these nonsensical specifications in 3020-a charges; never have I seen that a teacher taught substantively incorrect concepts, facts, and ideas. The most prevalent complaint is poor class management. When it is a favored teacher, the few students not excited about the class activity are ignored in the report unless they interfere with the lesson. When it is a disfavored teacher, that is all that the observer writes about. In one school (which is being phased out for poor student performance) an observation report indicated that the teacher did not (interrupt) to address a late comer on arrival, that few students handed in the homework, that one student was intermittently nibbling something from his pocket, and that not everyone handed in the "do now" (a five minute opening task while the teacher does attendance, distributes and collects papers, etc). This clearly could be said of every classroom where only 29% of the males and 36% of the females assigned to the ninth grade, progress to tenth grade at the end of any given year (9th grade including both entering 9th graders and those who have already been in 9th grade for two or more years).

During a specific teacher's daily trudge to the “rubber room” at 333 7th Avenue from June 2006 until December 2008, she found that the demographics had changed considerably from what she understood them to be a decade earlier. Previously the mode reassigned teacher was a male younger than 50, being accused of an inappropriate relationship or inappropriate touching or comments with regard to his students. During the long confinement in the rubber room, it was filled almost exclusively with female teachers over 50 brought up on charges of incompetence after decades of competent service, or accused of the most trivial incidents of “non-misconduct” [e.g. a teacher donating two plants to his school without prior authorization (a Mr. Pakter who was hailed as teacher of the year under Mayor Giuliani, but who is now litigating for five years confinement in various rubber rooms), a teacher who was accused of submitting an unacceptable receipt for instructional supplies but who never cashed the check meant for the purpose (Ms. Teel whose death was likely caused by confinement to the rubber room and the outrage of with what she was charged), Mr. Pakter, for promising students the same gift they had been promised for 35 years, if they earned a grade point average of 90% or better on their report card) inter alia. ("Gifting" of students was suddenly not allowed when the school had instructions "get Pakter").

Finally, after almost three years of not being allowed to practice the profession which the DOE had found these teachers had satisfactorily performed for decades, to the daily humiliation of security guards overseeing the teachers sign in and out of the building to begin and end the day, at lunch break, and on two 10 minute breaks as if they were prisoners taking leave from their pods, to the congregating spot at the front of the 333 facade and for meals, the time for their hearings approached. The pervasive humiliation of the rubber room was intolerable; the rubber room to which they were assigned was intentionally depressing and hostile; had they left, each could have brought an action for Constructive Termination.

Because of the great pain and feeling of betrayal (or at least neglect) by the UFT for all of the above indignities that the tenured teachers felt their union, the UFT, should have prevented or corrected, by March 1, 2008, T4A enumerated 61 plaintiffs, in its Action brought in the SDNY, and in the Second Amended Complaint of Teachers4Action v Bloomberg et al. 08 CV 0548 (VM)(AJP) (SDNY 2008) the UFT was added as co-defendant along with the Mayor and the DOE. This was insisted upon by a few of the more militant plaintiffs. The dispute with the union was over when many of the worst rubber room abuses were supposedly ended with an agreement between the DOE and the UFT, signed on June 27, 2008. Between March 1, 2008 and June 27, 2008 none of the 61 plaintiffs, had union representation for their 3020-a hearings. They could not afford to hire attorneys as rubber room teachers typically lose ~ $25,000.00 in "per session" or coaching, tutoring, night school, summer school and other extra session pay beyond their base pay, and are usually struggling to meet their expenses as they are only permitted their base pay when investigations or charges are pending. There were several teachers required to go through the 3020-a process without counsel. Stays were granted in Court but not for the full four months. The teachers objected saying they had paid $1,000.00 a year for as many 35 or more years, and now when they needed the benefit of counsel that was included in their union dues counsel had withdrawn. Each teacher whose hearings were hurried by the DOE to be closed before the end of June was fired, typically less than 30% are fired but the vast majority get any where from a reprimand to a suspension (few weeks to one or more years). The T4A teachers whose hearings did not begin or did not end until the fall resumed representation by union counsel. None of them defended themselves pro se; they all said they needed counsel, could not proceed on their own, put on no witnesses, did not cross examine witnesses, said they were deprived of counsel, had no money for counsel all were fired. I am trying to get new 3020-a hearings for several so affected. For the record T4A broke up because of differences in strategy among factions of plaintiff's; one group of plaintiffs refiled and their suit is active they paid costs because it is a court rule that if an action is withdrawn or dismissed without prejudice, then if the Plaintiffs refile, the Defendants should not have to pay to defend a second time. Several of the interim Orders of several judges indicate that confinement for years to a rubber room that is admittedly a hostile work environment before a teacher has been found guilty of anything is a serious due process issue. One last comment before closing is that classroom management for older teachers is an uphill battle because of the culture that the Chancellor has engendered. The Chancellor and the Administrators, have bought into the new, fresh blood and therefore pass on to the students that it is okay to "dis" older teachers. If the culture revered the older, wiser, more experienced teachers as it did 50 or 60 years ago, the Principals would make this clear in their schools, the students would follow suit and the Principals would not have the older teachers as fodder for complaints that the older veteran teachers cannot keep the students toeing the line!

Disclosure: The author is a scientist [Ph.D. in Microbiology from Georgetown, M.A. in Biological Sciences from Stanford, A.B. from Barnard in Zoology; fellowship training at Harvard Medical School, National Institutes of Health, Karolinska Institute Stockholm), Weizmannn Inst. (Rehovot, Isr.), full Professorships at New York Medical College, Cornell-Weill Medical College numerous stringently peer-reviewed publications and NIH, NSF, American Heart Assn. Major Grants, Board Certified in Clinical Chemistry, Licensed as Clinical Laboratory Director in NY, NJ, FL, Editorial Board Member of Journal of Bacteriology, Federal Advisory Panels, inter alia]; Educator: began certified teaching at K-12 level in 1960 in California, was candidate for Ph.D. in Science Education at UC, Berkeley until switched to molecular biology as the more challenging training still attained 116 graduate semester hours in Education including School District Administrator's License in NY (while at Teacher's College, Columbia University), valid permanent teaching licenses in Calif, NY, at all grades levels, and NJ in Biology], Attorney [J.D. Brooklyn Law School, Admitted in NY, NJ, SDNY, EDNY, NJD, 2nd Circuit, and to be sworn into U.S. Supreme Court Bar on Oct. 19, 2009]. Employed by Board of Higher Education 1996-1997 at Hunter College Campus High School and in the spirit of being a Civil Rights Activist in 1960's, by Board of Education in 1997-2008 at Lafayette High School, Brooklyn until 2000 (with rave reviews) and then at Brandeis High School 2000-2008. In 2004 Principal appointed at Brandeis while I was on leave, did not want 65 year old, who transferred into the school on medical transfer in 2000 (guarantees placement in school closest to teacher's home), returning from medical leave during which earned J.D. with above additional credentials; the central office insisted that there was right of return from approved leave. The Principal and her subordinate Asst. Principals built a silly incompetence case over two years of making calamities of minutiae, exacerbated class management by Deans understanding that they should not assist, assigned self-contained special ed classes for entire program for an entire year when unlicensed in special ed non-compliant with State regulations; sent to 333 7th Avenue where I spent September 2006-June 2008. My problems there focused on the unsuccessful but relentless and illegal attempts to get rid of my service dog NICO (thus constructively terminate me as NICO charms and my legal skills ameliorated the hostile work environment at 333); the Arbitrator gave no mitigation to the fact that I was purposely assigned Spec. Ed classes exclusively, etc. and terminated my employment. I am the one teacher whom the UFT brought an age discrimination case in my behalf based on the EEOC investigation from 2005-2007. Sizeable settlement demands have been proffered by the union; settlement talks are scheduled before the Chief Magistrate of the SDNY.


All profits that accrue to any entity as a result of the above letter should be turned over to Client Funds Account c/o Joy Hochstadt, P.C, @ Chase, Upper Broadway Financial Center, W. 90th Street and Broadway, New York, New York to defray costs of Class Action litigation.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

It's heatin' up

As BloomKlein's slash-and-burn strategy of closing schools across the city's less privileged neighborhoods, there are more reports of protests.

This from Marjorie Stamberg about the demonstration at Maxwell yesterday. I'm almost with her in the last paragraph where she says we can't fight Bloomberg with Democrats.

Even if you're not in the same political camp as Stamberg, what she says is just about where we're at:
Here's a brief report on tonight's UFT demonstration outside Maxwell HS in East New York. It was held to protest the announced closing of the school. There were maybe 300 unionists, students and parents there by the time we all went in to the public forum after the rally.

The school closing massacre comes in the context of the mayor's Thanksgiving eve speech in Washington declaring war on the UFT, made with Obama's Education Secretary Arne Duncan sitting next to him. A week later, Bloomberg announced the closing of a slew of schools (now up to 22 as of today), including Jamaica HS, Columbus in the Bronx, Norman Thomas in Manhattan, Broad Channel in Queens. This is huge.

Politically, we are now at an important moment where teachers broadly understand Bloomberg has declared war on the union, and the minority population sees that the city will close down their schools, throwing thousands of kids into the streets, disrupting their education and throwing teachers out of the classrooms.. The sense of the need for joint struggle was palpable in the crowd tonight. Here all the issues of class and race come together.

Later at a public forum inside there was a very hot meeting where parents, teachers, and students, participated in ripping the Board of Ed spokesman to shreds. UFT president Mike Mulgrew spoke, but attributed the blame only to District 19, not to Bloomberg.

Many students and parents spoke powerfully of the school's proud record of educating students, helping them achieve careers in many fields, supporting them and challenging them along the way.

I personally spoke saying Bloomberg has a policy of educational colonialism — the schools he's closing mainly effect minorities. Ninety schools have been closed since mayoral control because he has an agenda of union busting and privatizing education.

It seems to have finally dawned on the leadership, with this round of school closings, that if they don't fight to defend the schools now, the union will be devastated. But their whole modus operandi (m.o.) is how to avoid a showdown. Look how they dealt the ATRs, the issues of standardized testing, merit pay, etc. But they can't sidestep this one. What is needed is a real independent mobilization of labor, students, and parents.

The UFT bureaucracy at this point is focused on treating each closing school individually. But the situation has gone so far beyond where it can be fought school-by-school. Some of us took up the chant "Fight Back — Citywide," which struck a chord with the crowd. We need to go to City Hall in mass protest, have informational meetings in schools across the city, start marching across the Brooklyn Bridge, join with other labor unions, such as the TWU. The situation also raises the issue of the need for a workers party — you can't fight Bloomberg with Democrats.
More on the rally at Ednotes. (That guy never stops.)


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A train to nowhere

After reporting on Dec. 2nd that the chancellor is moving to close four schools, the Times reported two days later that four more are slated to be phased out, and word has it that BloomKlein is actually planning to close 20 by the end of the year.

To put this campaign into perspective, read Leonie Haimson's post of a few days ago, where she says that "the DoE to this day continues to deny the damaging effects of their school closure policies."

Added to that, she says, the DoE "is breeding new small schools each year like rabbits, with no thought of quality control, sustainability, or collateral damage on the system as a whole."

If these schools are so bad that they need to be closed, what the heck has Joel Klein been doing for seven years?


As appalled as I always am at this chancellor's policies and directives, to judge him as incompetent is misguided. In order to say he's not good at his job, the man would have had to have had the formal training, skills, and license required of school superintendents by law, not to mention a recognizable calling to educate children.

Klein patently has none of these, and the country's businessmen are rejoicing. He's going full steam ahead on a new kind of public education — sans union, sans tenure, sans transparency, sans everything.

Klein isn't educating our kids, he's just playing with cash and property.

People like him shouldn't be allowed to make decisions about which schools have to be closed and which just need some more help. (Smaller classes would be an excellent start, plus the appointment of more principals who've come up through the ranks instead of being barfed out of the infamous Leadership Academy.)

It's like tossing your car keys over to an inexperienced, unlicensed driver and hoping you'll get get home with all your body parts. You're trusting precisely the wrong person with your health and well-being.


Last night I received an email from a teacher whose school is going down. I thought I'd post it because it's written from the gut, and that's the only way the public gets to hear the misery of what's going on. Forgive me for not including names and places. It's better not to these days.
Honestly this made me want to dance on the head of a pin after the way I've been treated, especially under the "new" principal they brought in (in a BIG hurry to replace the former principal who I went to work for), who's been torturing me and other senior teachers. She had the NERVE to cry in front of us after the DOE big-wigs made their announcement to the faculty today during our "conference day" meeting. The school needs to be closed — it's disgusting. The inmates running the asylum.

The UFT peeps came then and started the "rah-rah" routine — do we want to FIGHT for our school, etc... and frankly, I don't if it means working under an illiterate, nasty, thug. Find me an exemplary, teacher-respecting, professional educational leader and then ask me to fight. The kids — and the teachers — are the losers in all this . . .

Maybe the parents once they realize their special needs children WON'T be the recipients of the Mayor's big reform plan might get active, but I wouldn't bet on it. Politicians have no incentive, as their constituents don't even vote most of the time, and the kind of rabid local community activists who dominated the now-defunct school boards went the way of the dodo once there was nothing in it ($$) for them. I know there are parent-activists in the city, but they have little clout — they are neither influential nor a real threat to the stability of the city, like in the mid-late-60's.

So — what will happen in the future? Perhaps public school fees might inspire more public investment in education. Once you have to pay for something, you value it.
I really hope we don't have to go that route, but my colleague is right about one thing. Parents of NYC schoolkids cannot depend on a handful of activist teachers and citizens mounting a few protests here and there to rein in a machine like BloomKlein's created with their cronies in government and the edu-business sector.



At some point they'll have to come out in force if they want to put this train back on track.



Someone just alerted me to a new post at Ed in the Apple that is eerily similar to this one. Here's hoping a million others will jump on board.

Norm Scott's thought on that post: "
Does Goodman talk about failed leadership of the enablers/uft at the top? Goodman was on the payroll judging whether schools should be closed down."

The short answer is no. Just like Weingarten was on our payroll all those years making nice to those evil plutocrats instead of going after their jugulars.




Sunday, December 6, 2009

Slam dunk for the upwardly mobile

More social engineering, this time affecting underserviced kids in big cities and the arts.

This comment (see the second paragraph) from a DC teacher just got posted to an ed listserv:
"... Arne Duncan (with Obamas support) wants to lengthen the DC school year and hours in the day! You know that the DC teachers lost their class action case in court. They are furious with the current union president as well as Randi Weingarten and do plan to do individual law suits. Bloomberg must be drooling with delight.

"Meanwhile, there is a DC school for the arts [Hardy MS] which took students in from low income neighborhoods from all over DC. The school was very run down but still managed to create quite a name for itself. It happens to be located in Georgetown. Anyhow, they had a recent renovation and SUDDENLY the families of Georgetown want their kids to get first crack during the enrollment period claiming it has always been a neighborhood school. Meanwhile, Rhee is backing the parents of Georgetown. This was on the news the other night and I forget the name of the school. But isn't it so disgusting?"

Not that anyone who reads this blog needs an encyclopedia to find out where Georgetown is, but I found the Wikipedia account pretty useful, and the boldface is of course mine:

Georgetown is bounded by the Potomac River on the south, Rock Creek to the east, and Glover Park to the north. Its primary commercial corridors are M Street and Wisconsin Avenue NW, whose high fashion stores draw large numbers of tourists as well as local shoppers year-round. There are also several high-end developments on K Street, on the waterfront, featuring outdoor bars and restaurants popular for viewing boat races. Between M and K Streets runs the historic Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, today plied only by tour boats; adjacent trails are popular with joggers or strollers.

Georgetown is home to the main campus of Georgetown University, as well as the embassies of France, Mongolia, Thailand, and [the] Ukraine. Other landmarks include Dumbarton Oaks, where the United Nations was outlined in 1944; the Old Stone House, built in 1765 and the oldest structure in DC . . .
School Chancellor Michelle Rhee's contention that there may have been misunderstandings in the application process doesn't ring true. Here's how Bill Turque reports on what's happening at Hardy in today's Washington Post:
Rhee, who promised that Hardy's arts curriculum would not change and that the school would remain open to out-of-boundary enrollment, is looking for ways to retain more of the city's white middle class families, who usually leave the public school system after the fourth or fifth grade.

But in a tense and often angry two-hour session in the school cafeteria, punctuated by calls of "liar" and "no BS," Rhee was confronted by accusations that she wanted to squeeze minority students out of Hardy to make it more palatable for white families from neighborhood "feeder" schools. Some said the neighborhood wants to "take back" Hardy now that a $48 million renovation is complete.

Rhee, who has held meetings over the past year with parents at nearby elementary schools such as Key, said they have long been confused by Hardy's application process, which she said left the misimpression that it was not a neighborhood school open to all within its attendance area.

Members of the Hardy community said that was insulting and absurd and that elementary parents have heard years of presentations from Pope and his teachers about how Hardy operates. They also took issue with meetings Rhee has held with feeder school parents over the past year while failing to consult with Hardy's parent leadership.
I suppose one should be happy if ANY kids get an arts program these days, but there's a stench about the way they are delivering it in Georgetown.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

MM Pinocchio


UPDATE
:

Ednotes just reminded us not to forget about NAC, the Unity "allies" who wormed their way onto the Exec. Board in the last election on a joint slate with them promising not to run their own prez candidate against RW.

He's
right, I had forgotten about NAC.

That's what happens when you trade your opposition for a seat at the table. People don't really think you're fighting the fight anymore.

In fact, it's a good metaphor for Weingarten herself. She turned in her trade union adversarial role for a seat at the table of Bloomberg and quite a few other local barons, maybe even a few national ones.

And that's why we're at where we're at,
with a few more pennies in our pockets than last contract perhaps, but not with the careers we signed up for when we first became educators.

SEE ALSO: Michael Fiorillo on the same topic over at NYC Educator.



UFT Prez Michael Mulgrew wrote us today about how terrible Bloomberg's recent speech in Washington was.

Sure enough, he talks a good line about ATRs, rubber rooms and test scores, but who can believe what these union managers say anymore?


When the ATR pool was created, he says, the union had "warned the DOE that faulty implementation of the process would leave hundreds or even thousands of teachers without permanent assignments."
There is no better example of the Department of Education’s mismanagement and failed leadership than this group of dedicated and experienced teachers.
Sure looks to me as if he's denying the union's role in negotiating a contract that handed us the ATR situation on a platter.

Let's be clear about this. Randi Weingarten, backed by her indefatigable Unity Caucus, signed a deal that gave principals the right to pass over any or all excessed teachers. The old way, when the superintendent's office packed an excessed teacher off to a new job at another school, was apparently not good enough for our former prez. She tinkered, then tried to convince everyone in a thousand-mile radius that the new contract was just fab for teachers, everyone was so grateful for their new mobility. Yikes.

I'm not saying Klein didn't make it much worse once the union signed on. He certainly neglected the DoE's side of the bargain when he made sure that few ATRs would ever be sent on interviews or get placed. Then he badmouthed unplaced ATRs in the press and everywhere else he could think of. Regardless of skill, seniority, race, gender or creed, once you're an ATR, you're automatically a Bad Teacher. Gosh, even Obama fell for that crap, much to his discredit.


Back to Mulgrew's letter, let me ask the new prez this question:

When the problem of ATRs got out of control and excessed teachers were abandoned by the DoE in droves without interviews or positions, who was the union president and caucus leader who did not have the heart to protest ATR and rubber room abuse? I'm referring to the Candlelight Vigil that Norm Scott describes as "basically a zero. The Weingarten act is wearing very thin," as well as the ATR rally in Nov 2008 and another earlier one in May (I think 2007), which I have to find the link for.

That was Weingarten, and
it was Unity Caucus who gave her the supposed "democratic" cover she needed to push that agenda. She even sabotaged one of those rallies, Nov 2008, which was incomprehensible to every one of us who was there at Tweed while she was wining and cheesing a bunch of ATRs at 52 Broadway.

Another question, while I'm at it: Who was the union president who negotiated a "side agreement" to solve the ATR problem, which in the end only codified four different kinds of tenure?

Because don't think for one moment that unplaced ATRs have the same rights as teachers in positions. Not only don't they, but far too many won't ever have a real career again. That's Weingarten also, backed by Unity Caucus all the way.


Unity management works behind our backs and lies to us.

As nice as Mulgrew's letter sounds — and it does sound better than Weingarten's claptrap — I don't believe anything Unity says anymore. Not one word.


They're still lying to us.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What passes as the "least restrictive environment" these days


This post continues Part I: Reaching for the whistle.



When a parent agrees to place his child in "special ed," a team puts together an Individual Education Plan (IEP) to prescribe a projected learning environment for him.

According to some, IEPs are the "heart of the special education system," the legal instruments that will make it easier for students to learn. IEPs can stipulate how many kids should be in all the child's new classes or whether he should be mainstreamed/included/integrated into general ed classes, get help in a resource room, or receive other kinds of services for a range of disabilities.

The DoE talks about how "more intensive services" will be provided in self-contained special ed classes. It also claims to work "to make certain that the child is provided with what he or she needs to succeed."

That last bit is, of course, poppycock. The DoE makes certain of nothing at all and in fact hires more lawyers to obfuscate, evade, convert mandates into recommendations, justify violations, and keep whistleblowing in check.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004 requires that special ed students be placed in the "least restrictive environment" (LRE). According to Wikipedia, the "appropriate mix" of services will vary from child to child and from year to year as the child develops. "If the school officials have provided the maximum appropriate exposure to non-disabled students, they have fulfilled their obligation under IDEA."

A concept as vague as that has the potential of hurting all childen all the time — not just the IEP kids.

Teachers cannot split themselves into multiple people. They can only address certain skill sets at any given time. The kids who learn differently than the way the teacher is working the room at any point in the lesson — whether they're the more proficient learners or the struggling ones — are pretty much getting less direction, supervision, attention, intellectual stimulation, and specific help than the crowd he's focusing on in that moment. De facto.


Since words like "mainstreaming," "inclusion," and "integration" are being thrown around all the time, I was happy to come across this extract from a fact sheet put out by the NY Lawyers for the Public Interest in 2006, which adds some clarity to the subject:
Q: What does LRE mean for my child?

A: What all this means is that legally, under the Least Restrictive Environment requirement,a child with a disability should be allowed to attend a general education class, in his or her zoned school, and receive the services needed to make such a placement work, unless there is proof that he or she cannot receive educational benefits in that setting. If he or she cannot receive educational benefits in that setting, he or she should be educated in a context that provides access to general education students and general education curriculum to the maximum extent appropriate to the student’s individual needs.

The Least Restrictive Environment is related to, but different from, the concepts of “inclusion,” “integration,” and “mainstreaming.” “Inclusion” means that primary instruction and provision of appropriate special education services are provided in (i) an age-appropriate general education class (ii) in the student’s home school (iii) with appropriate additional supports for the student and the student’s teacher.1 Importantly, inclusion does not require a child with a disability to perform at the same level as his or her general education peers. By contrast, “mainstreaming” means that a child with a disability is educated in a general education classroom for those areas of instruction in which the child can be expected to perform at the level of nondisabled peers without needing supplementary aids and services. “Integration” means that children with disabilities and children without disabilities are educated together, though not necessarily in general education classrooms.
1This definition of inclusion comes from the New York State Education Department’s Least Restrictive Environment Implementation Policy Paper, which was updated in May 1998 [see this link]. Some people at the Department of Education may define inclusion differently, so it is important to clarify what they mean by inclusion when they are talking about options for your child.
The special education statutes do not mention “inclusion,” “mainstreaming” or “integration,” but they do require that children with disabilities be educated in the Least Restrictive Environment. “Inclusion,” “mainstreaming,” and “integration” may be the Least Restrictive Environment for some children but not for others.
It seems to me that what LRE and the Act really do is institutionalize wiggle room. Under the cover of doing what's "best" for the individual child with disabilities, administrators have the legal tool to fudge almost everything.

On top of that, LRE doesn't take into account the effect mainstreaming, inclusion and integration have on the more proficient students, and that bothers me a whole lot.


A couple of days ago, I learned that the DoE thinks of music as a "non-academic activity," on a par with lunch. I don't think most music teachers will agree with that, but it shows what kind of managers we have at Tweed.

More to the point, though there are many IEP students in my school who take their core subjects in a 15:1 class, not a single one of them go to a small class for music. That means administrators at all levels believe that every last special ed kid in high school can function in a regular ed music class regardless of his particular disabilities.

That's appalling. What is an "IEP" if not a recommendation for a single child. Some of these kids are reading, writing and comprehending at the 2nd-grade level. Their classmates in these humongous classes are writing college applications. I'm doing my best not to hurt the slower learners, but when I teach to the middle capabilities of the whole-class profile, most of the IEP kids (not to mention a certain number of others whose parents refused special ed) CANNOT DO THE WORK.
And please don't bring up differentiation. It's one thing to differentiate, it's a whole other thing to award a high school credit when a student can't do a tenth of the subject matter.


No doubt schools are designing IEPs — or altering them illegally — to cattle-herd special ed kids into large, heterogeneous classes with up to 50 on register in all grades. After all, they are fulfilling their obligation under IDEA to give IEP students exposure to the gen ed population. Be damned emotional damage to the struggling child or the delivery of content!

"Least restrictive environment" should not mean creating living hells for teachers and students by such indefensible placement policies.
These classes are not right for them, whether they have decoding problems, low IQ, attention deficit, anger management issues, or hearing deficiencies. They get frustrated, and we're hurting them.

That's indicative of a general callousness to inner city kids at the very highest levels of policy making in this city, state and country.




I'm not finished with this topic yet. In Part III, I'll be giving some specifics.

By the way, I used ARIS, just like Pissed Off. Too bad the data I'm looking at today over there is the same as it was when I started writing these posts. That makes ARIS about 3 weeks out of date. How much did it cost?


Reaching for the whistle

I'm ashamed it's taken me so long to write about how special ed kids aren't getting serviced the way they should be. It's not that I haven't wanted to. I've been busy weighing the consequences of speaking publicly on the DoE's abrogation of responsibilities to NYC school children in both special ed and regular ed classrooms.

The plan for special education services outlined in June of 2000 sounds good in theory, but it's hard for me to believe that the people who designed this program couldn't foresee that violations would become widespread once administrators tried to stay inside tight budgets.

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I haven't reported the violations I know about to the UFT, which created a website to receive such complaints last spring. That's because when I wrote to the person at the union who determines whether a complaint should be forwarded up to Albany for investigation, she flat out told me that speaking with her does not in itself give me whistleblower protection.

Googling around a bit, I now see why. According to a City Council whistleblower law enacted in 2007 (described in the NY Teacher at this link), reporting a wrongdoing to a UFT official doesn't trigger the law's protection against retaliation. To get that, you must send your report to at least one of eight offices: the public advocate, the comptroller, a City Council member, the city's Dept of Investigations (DOI), the DoE's Office of Special Investigations (OSI), the mayor, the chancellor, or the deputy chancellor. The UFT is not in that list.

Also, reporting a violation doesn't mean something is going to be done to fix the problem. And of course there's also the question of retaliation. The same article says it might take the form of "dismissal, suspension, discipline and a U-rating," but there's no mention of one option that has been used to marginalize outspoken teachers for years: excessing.


It's obvious there's not so many music positions in schools now that the DoE has found ways to circumvent state mandates for the arts. Seniority doesn't protect you all that much. Administrators can shut your position in a New York minute and put even a very senior teacher into excess. My guess is that if a music teacher were to blow a whistle, a principal would excess him or her immediately and just pretend the program was cut for other reasons.

Knowing all this, participating in the charade of special ed is becoming increasingly uncomfortable for me as an educator, so I'm putting some of this stuff out here and letting the chips fall where they may.

A compromise maybe, but I'm not yet ready to string myself up by the neck and yell "Jump!"



PART I: Thoughts on the New Continuum


A 52-page document on the Continuum of Services for kids with disabilities (accessed by a link on the DoE website here) claims that regular ed and special ed students are "more alike than different" and that "integrating programs and resources result in improved student outcomes for all."

I disagree with that right there. Improved student outcomes for all? Hardly. Especially when they seem not to have put a limit on the number of IEP kids that can be mainstreamed into a regular ed class. If you mix large numbers of kids with learning disabilities, behavioral issues and/or limited facility in English into NYC's already oversized classes, the outcome for the average and good learners won't be improved one tiny bit.

In fact, the intellectual needs of the more proficient learners won't probably even be met, because while you're attending to the kids who are struggling, you're obviously depriving the others of more challenging learning experiences suitable to their mental and maturational levels.

And the opposite is also true. If you aim your discussions and classwork at these better learners, those who are struggling will start exhibiting all the behaviors of avoidance and frustration that led them to special ed solutions in the first place: fooling around, talking, retreating mentally into their own worlds, and if you're not careful, reaching for their cellphones and iPods. Add to these the kids who aren't special ed but really should be — those are the ones whose parents declined the extra help for whatever reason. With all this going on, the bottom line is that in large and diverse groups, what the teacher believes to be the essence of the subject frequently can't be delivered at all.

I've mentioned many times already that HS music classes have up to 50 kids on register, containing students in all four grades (9th through 12th), regular ed and special ed, repeaters, English-language learners and those who are hearing impaired. Some of the struggling learners read, write, and comprehend at early elementary school levels, other students are going home at night to fill out college applications.

So many special ed kids are being mainstreamed/included/integrated into my oversized — but contractually legal — music classes that I feel the system is just about broken.



Continued in Part II, which I'm still writing, but in the meantime, please also go over to Pissed Off, who is duking it out with some adversarial commenters as we speak.

Needless to say, I'm on her side, and if you get a chance to read the rest of what I've been working on for a couple of weeks, you'll see we're coming to the exactly the same conclusions.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

The union talks a good game about special ed violations

I was at the Delegate Assembly yesterday when the UFT management gave a big presentation on its "No Excuses" campaign against special ed violations, which they initiated last spring.

Michael Hirsch's article in the NY Teacher is a good place to start if you don't know anything about how principals are cutting services to kids with IEPs to save money. According to Hirsch, teacher input on the UFT's website for reporting these violations paints a "devastating picture of rampant neglect."

"The number of complaints is staggering," says UFT VP Carmen Alvarez. "But we already know that these kids are failing. The IEP is not a piece of paper; it’s a coordinated effort to save kids.”

Here are the kinds of things Hirsch says teachers are writing in:
Not having two appropriately certified teachers in Collaborative Team Teaching classes when IEP kids require them,

Principals amending IEPs on their own, without input and approval from the IEP team,

Inappropriate disciplinary suspensions,

Lack of paraprofessional support services,

Failure to provide related services,

Staff being denied access to IEPs, and

Therapists being told to discontinue services for students who plainly need them, and

General education teachers unaware — because IEPs are unavailable, in some cases for months — that students in their class have disabilities and are required to receive support and instructional and testing accommodations.
I am trying to figure out which educators have the cojones to register these kinds of complaints. Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has, after all, created a culture of aggressive thuggery against teachers. It seems he'd give any principal who wanted to retaliate against a whistleblower his royal blessing, if not a bevy of lawyers to keep this kind of bravery under control.

I haven't yet mentioned the one complaint the union says it's been getting that really hurts the teacher more than the kids:
Teachers with oversized classes and behavior issues that they can’t manage.
It's clear to me that administration will try to convince anyone who's listening that the negative results of their own mismanagement must always be the teacher's lack of skill. It's really not, but who cares about the truth when you're busy cost-cutting and want to "encourage" those expensive senior teachers to think about retiring.


I'm not crazy about all aspects of the union's campaign. Alvarez told the delegates yesterday that under Chapter 408 of the state ed law, everyone dealing with the IEP student has to be informed of his responsibilities in this process prior to the implementation of the IEP. That is one scary feature.

If they're going to mainstream inordinate numbers of IEP students into regular ed the way they've been doing for so many years, I'd rather not know what that little ol' IEP team envisioned for me when they placed those kids in such great and irrational numbers into my classes. They sure aren't going to be walking in my shoes, and I don't want to be held to any of the guidelines they might come up with off the top of their collaborative head. None of them have the experience of what it's possible to deliver in such large learning environments as our NYC classrooms, especially when there are so many overwhelming behavioral issues and widely differing skill sets.

The IEP team will be planning for that single IEP child. I'll be having deal with the whole shebang, and they will neither know of what I'll be up against or even much care.



You can read Chapter 408 of the 2002 state ed law and its amendments in Appendices 1 and 2 of this link. (Scroll down towards the end.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

This just in !

For all you teachers of electives, here's a bit of news.

The DoE doesn't think we're teaching classes like everyone else. They think we're running things called "non-academic mainstreaming activities" — like LUNCH!

I found this out when I was googling the web yesterday looking for how many IEP kids are legally allowed to be mainstreamed into my general music classes.

Never found the answer to that, but I did come across something called "A Parent's Guide to Understanding the IEP Process." It's a pdf of what looks like a power point presentation given at some kind of parent convention in the spring of 2008.

Check out the last sentence in this paragraph below, where it talks about the kinds of subjects we all thought we were "teaching":










Maybe it's a good thing to be doing "non-academic mainstreaming activities" with my kids. It might mean I don't have to write lesson plans anymore, or even get observed.

I says what's good for the cafeteria lady is good enough for me.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Raw experience into words

UPDATE Dec. 5th and 7th:

On Tuesday, the Village Voice blog reported on the lawsuit some educators filed in federal court against the DoE's rubber room abuses. Pakter apparently sent in a comment, but I don't see it's been posted there yet. Maybe it will be, but for now it's in the sidebar of this blog.

ALSO read Betsy Combier's Dec. 5 post in the NY Rubber Room Reporter. She makes the point that "union members and administrators are treated very differently in the New York City public school system. A principal who discriminates or does something else that is illegal or corrupt does not get the same punishment as a teacher or staff member, who, more often than not . . . is removed from the school — either fired immediately if this person is not tenured, or re-assigned to a "rubber room." We've heard many of these kinds of stories: principals striking out at kids, demeaning staff in front of children, and doing very many weird things with the budget and special ed.



SMALL ADDITION:

At someone's request, Pakter gives a 3-part update to his case in the comments below and has now sent around some pictures of his famous plants — the subject of the latest charges brought against him by the DoE. Since I can't illustrate the comments, here is one of the offending plants.

The other one is also green, I guess.




I've posted Pakter before (feisty alliteration) and need to do it again, not only for the breadth of his commentary, but for his insight into the way this malevolent chancellorship distorts a profession and maims a generation of kids.



He wrote this to Norm Scott of Ednotes fame.

In New York City, Whistle-blower Teachers
— of Joel Klein's School System —
Get Blown Away


Dear Norm:

I read Ed Notes religiously, every day, as well as some of the other excellent Education websites, although nothing even comes close to your Ed Notes- may it go on till you are one hundred and perhaps for a few years after that.

All the present fuss over New York City Teachers reporting cheating truly amuses this old geezer writing to you. Not that the topic is not important.

Shocked- just shocked. You mean to say there are really car thieves and illegal Betting Parlors in every big City in America. Impossible - How can that be ??

So what else is new. Cheating went on in every school I ever taught in and at the High School where I taught for twenty five years, mark altering / "improving"/ "updating" - was raised to a virtual "art".

I wonder if Principals demand Kickbacks for all the gallons of "white-out" they order every June to ensure that their graduation totals will look even better and rosier than the previous year's stellar "improvement".

As for using a "Passing" Regents grade as an excuse to ignore a Failing Class Grade score- how the heck do you think they come up with those "regents scores".

At my former school, and I am sure many would not be surprised to learn, at 99 % of the NYC High Schools, all Regents Scores are referred to as a student's "Raw Regents Score". That is to say- the actual grade the student earned on the actual Regents Examination.

Then at my former school, the teachers were actually given printed "Regents Score Conversion Graphs" that indicated what to enter as the student's final official Regents grade in a particular subject- such as Earth Science for example.

If the student achieved a real grade of 43 for example- the teacher just ran his/her finger across the graph to find that this "raw" score was to be converted to a 65, for example. You can imagine what a "raw score" of 65, became in the final adjustment. "Harvard University - here we come".

When it comes to grades and grading, the entire 23 Billion dollar NYC DOE is one big scam from A to Z.

As for a Teacher going to "The Office of Special Investigations"- please - give me a break.

That office is the slickest shell game of all. Sure, they bust a small time independent electrical contractor from time to time just to make it look like they are really doing "Investigations".

But their real purpose for existing is to put out potential political fires before they even have a chance to become fires. I went to them with tons of stuff and got stone-walled every time. I know everyone down there by name. That office is a total crock.

I shall never forget the day, after I was most unceremoniously removed from my school (after I refused to surrender evidence in my possession of egregious Federal Civil Rights violations as well as financial fraud being perpetrated by the Principal and her cronies), when I received a very brief call on my cell phone.

I had just been removed and illegally transferred to a Rubber Room gulag in Brooklyn. The caller was one of several SCI "investigators", (most of them former or retired NYC Police Officers), assigned to look into the allegations I had reported to that agency on several different occasions.

His words were- and I recall them as though it were yesterday:

"Mr. Pakter, I am just calling you to inform you that I have been ordered to close the book on your case". The call was that short and simple.

But then again, you find this situation existing in the NYPD, the US Army, Mega Corporations, the US Post Office et al. It is the way of the world.

Anyone who seeks to have any type of wrongdoing investigated, quickly discovers that he or she soon becomes the prime object of "investigation".

It is, and has been the way of the world since the Dawn of Time- "Bad News- Then Kill the Messenger".

When I observe all those teacher "nubies" running down to SCI at 80 Maiden Lane in lower Manhattan, a stone's throw from Wall Street, to report horrendous and outrageous criminal activity in the NYC DOE, schools system, I never really know whether I should laugh or cry.

Any one who Whistle-blows in NYC, or most other places just doesn't understand that he or she has just signed and Notarized their own "Death Warrant".

As for going to the Newspapers- "paleeeeeze"- give me a break. Who do you think owns and controls the news media- and I mean 99 % to all of it ???

But every year, as sure as Day follows Night, some young group of idealistic Teachers, God Bless their innocent and naive beautiful Souls, goes running all over the Universe- here, there and everywhere, crying "the sky is falling".

You bet it is, right down squarely on their soon to be chopped off innocent heads.

We old timers smile and just send out our warmest telepathic messages of Love to all the Teacher Whistle-blowers in Gotham and wish them our deepest and most sincere hopes for Good Luck and that they may emerge at the far end of the SCI gauntlet with a little of their tattered skin still hanging from their bloodied backs and torn and broken bodies.

Can an old Geezer like me fault these young idealistic Teachers for all their efforts to make the system better for all the powerless and vulnerable children in NYC- most of whom are already "at Risk", from the moment when they first emerge from their Mother's womb and cry their very first cry.

Who am I to fault and be the least bit cynical that someone wants to protect Gotham's children. When I stare at the face of a NYC Teacher "Nubie'", all pink cheeked and eyes shining, hurrying through the ever-revolving glass doors at 52 Broadway, knapsack heavy with text books hanging over their shoulders, who, my old friend, am I really looking at, but the perfect reflection of who I myself was, almost 40 years ago, starting out in the world of Education in New York City.

I thought back then, as a young Teacher, in the South East Bronx and later, working in Bed-Stuy and Harlem and finally via my self created Medical Program for gifted Minority students at Art & Design High School, that I could, by sheer dint of hard work and a driving Idealistic vision of the Universe make a difference.

That somehow "Good" would triumph over "Evil", honest "Idealism" would or could vanquish rampant corruption, and that somehow, by hook or by crook- I would make a "Difference"- even if just a small degree of difference.

Tell me dear God, I did make a difference.

Tell me my old and dear friend, Norman Scott, that it was not all for nothing.

And that those young Teachers presently fighting the good fight we both began to fight also, in our long distant Youth, so many decades ago, long before the present Whistle-blowers were so much as a glint in their Mother's and Father's eyes- oh please do tell me that they will succeed where we failed to make things better.

Hey Jude- please tell me that things can and will be better and that some good and healing force in the Universe- call it what you will, can and will wash away all those twisted and demented minds and sorry excuses for human beings, who for now at least, have temporarily hijacked the futures of all of Gotham's innocent children and are Hell bent on privatizing all Education in Gotham and turning it all into one gargantuan, multi-billion dollar, For Profit, enterprise.

In some cases trading their future lives and future hopes for a bag of Silver coins.

And I still see, when I lay me down to sleep each night all the laughing, beautiful faces and shining innocent eyes of my former gifted, so very gifted and talented, Medical students in Room 316, so radiant with great expectations and so deserving of Hope, that this present Chancellor, a pathetic "Legend in his own mind", via his countless lackeys, lapdogs and stooges and confederates, criminally robbed from their futures when I, as payment for becoming a Whistle-blower myself, was so violently torn from their school and so violently torn from their Lives.



David Pakter, former Teacher of the Year, STILL STANDING