Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Postman calling!

The Teacher Advocacy Group (TAGNYC) has informed us of some letters they've sent Randi Weingarten and other UFT officers from the Assignment Center.

Too bad nobody's answered them.

TAG says:
To date, Randi/the UFT has not acknowledged receipt of the letters. That the Union does not respond signifies the total abandonment of its duty to ensure that its members receive justice, due process, and job protection until proven guilty. The UFT is becoming irrelevant within the schools. The competent teachers sitting in the TRCs would not be there/have been there if the Union had done its job within the schools. The UFT gives no job protection. State law 3020-a, not the UFT contract,is what protects tenured employees from the scourge of 'employment at will'.

The attached letters are deserving of a response, if for no other reason than to keep hope alive that non-unionized teachers will one day join a union.
I'd love to have some answers — in writing — to all of the questions TAG poses. Am I appalled that these issues are NOT being addressed by UFT management? Yes. Am I surprised. No.

I'm going to put them up here now without comment, but I don't think there's a thing I disagree with in any of them.

The first one — January 29th:
Dear Ms. Weingarten,

We, the undersigned, are teachers at the 181st Street Temporary Reassignment Center who are alarmed by the number of teachers who have been removed for incompetence. Many of these teachers have been tenured for years and have excellent records.

We request that you answer the following questions:

• What options do teachers have if an observation is inaccurate and unfair? Unsatisfactory observations frequently result in unsatisfactory ratings and the subsequent removal of teachers from classrooms. Teachers must then endure months in teacher reassignment centers before they have an opportunity to defend themselves.

• How will the UFT ensure that all teachers understand the performance review system and know their rights? Teachers in need of assistance may not be aware of the Peer Intervention Program or the Peer Intervention Plus Program. Tenured teachers with satisfactory ratings may not be aware of the performance option model for performance reviews. Chapter leaders do not always provide complete and accurate information.

• How will the UFT ensure that the integrity of the performance review system is not compromised? Principals and assistant principals frequently have less experience and knowledge of pedagogy than the teachers they are observing. Meaningful performance reviews are essential for the development of good teachers and these reviews must not be used as punitive measures by principals.

The UFT must advise teachers that they have the following rights under Article 8J of the UFT/DOE contract:

• Formal observations must include a pre-observation meeting. If a teacher requests a one-to-one pre-observation conference in writing, the request must be granted (Chief Executive Memorandum # 80, 1997-98).

• The grievance/arbitration procedure can be used to determine if there was a failure on the administration’s part to comply with the performance review procedures.

• A rating can be challenged by the teacher using the rating appeal process. (Teachers must be told what this process is.)These rights and the performance review system must be clearly explained in writing and distributed to all teachers at the beginning of the school year.

We believe that the rating system is being abused by principals in order to selectively remove competent teachers. The UFT must ensure that the following tenets of performance reviews are upheld:

• Performance reviews promote the characteristics of good teaching. Performance reviews help the teacher improve and are not to be used as punitive measures.

• Performance reviews are based on agreed upon characteristics of good teaching. The range of abilities and experiences of teachers are identified and recognized, and teachers are informed of the requirements for a satisfactory lesson.

Principals who use performance reviews to remove competent teachers must be disciplined. Their actions destroy professional careers and drain needed resources from the educational system. Superintendents could be requested to initiate charges against these principals for professional misconduct. If a superintendent does not act or supports the principal without cause, the decision of the superintendent could be appealed to the Commissioner of Education.

Thank you in advance for your prompt response to our concerns and questions.


Teachers from the 181st Street Temporary Reassignment Center

The second one — February 13th:
Dear Ms. Weingarten,

We, the undersigned, are teachers assigned to the 181st Street Temporary Reassignment Center who are frustrated that the timeframes for 3020-a procedures are not followed by the Department of Education (DOE) as mandated by Education Law and as specified in the UFT – DOE Letter on the TRC Agreement dated June 27, 2008. We also believe that the sole purpose of the TRC Agreement was to appease reassigned teachers; the agreement cannot be enforced. (The UFT – DOE Letter on the TRC Agreement is attached.)

We request that you answer the following questions.

What is the UFT doing to ensure that the timeframes for 3020-a procedures are followed?

Article 21G4 of the DOE/UFT contract states that the DOE must prefer charges against a reassigned teacher within six months. Once charges have been preferred, Education Law states the following time frames for 3020-a procedures:

• 5 days for the DOE to draft a written statement specifying the charges and to forward the statement to the accused teacher
• 10 days for the accused teacher to request a hearing
• 3 days for the DOE to inform the Commissioner of Education of the need for a hearing
• 10 days for the selection of a hearing officer
• 15 days for the hearing officer to hold a pre-hearing conference
• 1 day for the pre-hearing conference
• 60 days to complete the hearing after the pre-hearing conference
• 30 days for the hearing officer to render a written decision
• 15 days for the DOE to implement the decision

The process should take at most 13 months assuming that no actions occur during the summer months. An article in the Daily News on May 4, 2008 stated a recent Education Department analysis found that the average accused teacher spends 19 months in a reassignment center. Many teachers have been in reassignment centers for years waiting for the resolution of their cases.

The TRC Agreement states that a labor-management committee composed of UFT and DOE representatives will meet each year to determine if further actions are necessary with respect to the time frames. What actions will the UFT suggest at this meeting?

What is the UFT doing to expedite the release of hearing transcripts?

The hearing officer is required to render a written decision within 30 days of the last day of the final hearing, yet teachers frequently wait months for decisions. Decisions cannot be rendered without the transcripts of the hearings. Transcripts are not being released because the State is not paying the court reporters’ fees.

The TRC Agreement stated that the UFT and DOE would explore the feasibility of jointly paying court reporters’ fees and then seeking reimbursement from the State. The agreement was signed in June 2008; this is February 2009.

How will the UFT assist teachers when the DOE violates the terms of the TRC Agreement?

The TRC Agreement states that the DOE will “diligently” attempt to prefer charges within 160 days. However, the TRC Agreement also states that the timeframes are not enforceable by the grievance process or any other legal mechanism. What can teachers do if charges are not received in a timely manner?

Before the TRC Agreement was signed, the DOE supposedly conducted a central review of all investigations conducted by principals of currently reassigned teachers. What can teachers do if they were reassigned unjustly by principals and do not believe their cases were reviewed by the DOE?

The TRC Agreement states that the disciplinary process should never be used to retaliate against whistleblowers. The New York Teacher regularly prints articles about whistleblowers that were reassigned, and the UFT appears powerless to do anything. What can teachers do if they were reassigned because they reported an illegal activity?

The TRC Agreement states that administrators who make a knowingly false allegation will be subject to discipline, but aggrieved parties cannot use the grievance process. What can teachers do if an administrator makes a knowingly false allegation?

Has the UFT received the quarterly and weekly reports from the DOE which were promised in the TRC Agreement? If so, what is being done with the findings?

The TRC Agreement states that a unit within the DOE is responsible for managing and tracking all reassignment cases, and for ensuring that all reassignments are made consistent with applicable policy. The unit supposedly makes quarterly reports that are shared with the UFT.

The agreement also states that “The DOE will provide the UFT with regular listings of the reassigned pedagogues, no less frequently than on a weekly basis, and if the UFT disagrees with any reassignment decisions it can present its objections for consideration to the Office of Labor Relations.”

The UFT cannot protect teachers in reassignment centers without accurate data. The UFT must know when a teacher is reassigned, the reason the teacher was reassigned, who substantiated the allegations against the teacher, when the teacher was charged, and the length of time a teacher is in the reassignment center.

Finally, all interactions between the UFT and the DOE concerning reassignment centers must be made transparent to reassigned teachers.

Thank you in advance for your prompt response to our questions and concerns.

Teachers from the 181st Street Temporary Reassignment Center

And the third one — April 3rd:
Dear Ms. Weingarten,

We, the undersigned, are teachers assigned to the 181st Street Temporary Reassignment Center who have questions and concerns regarding issues affecting teachers assigned to reassignment centers.

We expressed some of these concerns and questions in letters sent to you on January 29 and February 13. We have not received a response to date.

The enclosed survey was distributed in the reassignment center, and the results are summarized on the survey. We request that you address the strong feelings expressed in this survey.

Approximately 800 teachers are warehoused in reassignment centers. These teachers pay approximately one million dollars in union dues. However, they are denied representation in the delegate assembly; their concerns are ignored; and their questions are unanswered.

We deserve a response.

Teachers from the 181st Street Temporary Reassignment Center

On the same date, April 3rd, TAG also wrote VP Michael Mulgrew and Exec. VP Loretta Johnson for help in getting a Weingarten response.

Cracky, why should they have to.


Anonymous said...

Randi answers thousands of letters from rank-in-file members but I think she is far more likely to respond when the members are named and not anonymous. Do you have a functioning e-mail address? If so, list it and I bet Randi will again reply. The fact that e-mails to you are bounced back doesn't equate with their not having been sent in the first place. Please be fair and give credit when due.

Chaz said...

Failure to respond is not an excuse because the group that comprise TAGNYC prefers to remain anonymous. While I might not agree with everything the group stands for. I believe they do represent the reassigned teachers.

By the way I noticed you commented as anonymous. How about practicing what you are preaching.

Woodlass said...

If Chaz hadn't thoroughly responded to Anon., I would have.

To Anon. -- Nice try.

Who said anything about emails — bouncing back or otherwise? I saw copies of these letters in what looked like real documents, with letterheads. The group calls itself "Letter Writing Committee", and the address of the rubber room was listed, to the very floor of the building. All the information necessary to reply to these UNION MEMBERS was there. When I posted them for this blog, I did not include that information just to save space.

So, let me be really fair and give credit where credit is due. Randi Weingarten does answer emails. But, that has nothing to do with the substance of this post, or her non-response to these particular letters.

If Weingarten had wished to respond to this committee, her letter would have reached the petitioners. These people aren't going anywhere soon.

And if she was unwilling to write to a committee, someone from her office could easily have found out which union members, who pay dues, she could address her comments to.

This is a pure situation of non-response.