March 28, 2009


If your file is getting filled up with distorted, incorrect, or even malicious reports about what you may have done, said, or ate for dinner last night, you won't find the union has any answers on how to get this drivel removed.

"Attach a response," they say. As if I'd spend one minute responding to a principal whose motives are impure in the first place and couldn't care less what I have to say. It's just laughable.

Of course, if you can identify a procedural violation, you have a chance at correcting the record. Then one of the "remedies" you'll be asking for is to have the LIF removed. But, apart from these anemic suggestions, the union is stumped.

So, imagine my surprise when I read this comment by an anonymous blogger on one of my earlier posts:
Any type of "letter in the file," whether it be an observation report, reprimand, or "findings after an investigation" letter may be appealed to the Commissioner of Education in Albany within thirty days of knowledge of the letter pursuant to Education Law §310.
I followed the link to Article 7 of the law and found pay dirt at no.7 below:
§ 310. Appeals or petitions to commissioner of education and other proceedings. Any party conceiving himself aggrieved may appeal by petition to the commissioner of education who is hereby authorized and required to examine and decide the same; and the commissioner of education may also institute such proceedings as are authorized under this article. The petition may be made in consequence of any action:
1. By any school district meeting.

2. By any district superintendent and other officers, in forming or altering, or refusing to form or alter, any school district, or in refusing to apportion any school moneys to any such district or part of a district.

3. By a county treasurer or other distributing agent in refusing to pay any such moneys to any such district.

4. By the trustees of any district in paying or refusing to pay any teacher, or in refusing to admit any scholar gratuitously into any school or on any other matter upon which they may or do officially act.

5. By any trustees of any school library concerning such library, or the books therein, or the use of such books.

6. By any district meeting in relation to the library or any other matter pertaining to the affairs of the district.

6-a. By a principal, teacher, owner or other person in charge of any school in denying a child admission to, or continued attendance at, such school for lack of proof of required immunizations in accordance with section twenty-one hundred sixty-four of the public health law.

7. By any other official act or decision of any officer, school authorities, or meetings concerning any other matter under this chapter, or any other act pertaining to common schools.

Am curious as all get out who Anonymous is, but chances are we'll not be finding out any time soon. In any case, he's treated me to a wonderful fantasy: an Ed Commissioner's desk piled high with an avalanche of petitions.

Why can't Weingarten help my fantasy life like Anonymous.

I guess there's no hope in that. She's never been able to figure out what turns career teachers on.

March 15, 2009

Must we keep the faith?

My kids and half a dozen other people have been asking me why I'm so down on Obama these days, and it's really exhausting giving them an answer comprehensive enough to make sense to them.

That's why I was so happy to read the great NYC Educator piece of a few days ago, which does most of the job for me. RBE's just left a couple of things out that have bothered me consistently about the man from the start — in particular, the religion he wears on his sleeve.

Obama's faith-based anythings all scare me. I don't like pastors invoking, blessing, sanctifying or otherwise presiding over inaugurations, hearings, ceremonies, and sessions. That kind of thing tells the world that the opinions of agnostics and atheists like myself somehow don't count.

If, in fact, Obama relies on faith and myths for his moral compass, he should do all of us a favor and keep them on his side of the White House. The spaces reserved for We, the People are protected by an egalitarian, secular Constitution, and he and his advisors should "listen up." They're becoming deaf to a document that screams separation of church and state.

The Times mentioned today that the president takes advice from five pastors. No pun intended, but good god! Faith is a feeling, not a primordial truth, and when politicians flaunt it, they're choosing to be divisive. They're bonding with the like-minded and leaving the rest of us out of the loop.

There's other issues as well, like these:

Obama really protecting unionism in this country? From what we've heard this week, can't say for sure.

Is he doing enough about those bonuses going to AIG managers from taxpayer dollars? I don't think so.

Is he doing enough to make good on campaign promises to end gulags and wars? Likely not.

Is he bringing governmental officials who very likely committed treason to trial? Not so far.

So the real question is:

Is Obama the kind of progressive leader that could really make me happy? Most definitely not.

March 14, 2009

In the face of tyranny

I wrote a follow-up report on the protest at Fordham Arts as a guest post for Ednotes yesterday morning. Here's an excerpt of it:

Highlights of the protest at Fordham HS for the Arts on March 13th

. . . after a hard day’s work for most of us who labor in NYC schools

Yesterday’s rally was organized in support of teacher Raqnel James, who has recently become a victim of Blige’s miserable judgment and management skills. It was reported at a recent union meeting that Blige arranged for eleven cops to come and arrest her at school, claiming she had written a letter that had included threats. Lacking evidence (the letter was faked), the police refused to charge her. Blige remains unscathed, protected by a chancellor who seemingly condones, and maybe even asks for administrator misconduct that borders on or exceeds legal limits (who knows).

Another gruesome story came from Fannie Davis, a veteran teacher of 32 years who had been a popular dean of students when Blige decided to excess her. She grieved, and after what looked like a successful hearing, Davis returned to the school to face a pissed off Blige. With the help of one of her APs (who later rescinded his statement and apologized to Davis personally for his action), Blige trumped up a cause for Davis's removal. Into the rubber room went she the very next day, where she remained sans allegation, sans charges, sans meetings, sans everything.

One full school year later, out of the blue, came a simple letter telling Davis to go back to work, which she did, but only to serve in a series of activities hardly matching her 34 years of teaching expertise: cafeteria and bleachers supervision, and copy machine duties (they told her to watch TV while she was down there doing that).

After some months of this, and fearful that a U-rating would be doled out come June no matter what, calls were made, emails were sent, lawyers were convened, and solution was found. She's now teaching her own subject at two different sites, free of Blige and enjoying her profession once again.

Blige, by the way, is footing the bill for this. Sweet!

Joel Klein is burnishing his legacy.

[Full report and sporadic editorial remarks over at Ednotes . . . . ]

Watch a video of part of the demonstration here.

March 13, 2009

Bill Maher: my new Anti-Hero

They've just posted the full ed segment on YouTube, so I can cite a few more clips from the show I saw last night that inspired this post.

I can't believe what I just heard him say about teachers this evening. It's worse than what we've been hearing from Obama.

Did they go to the same Professional Development class or something?

Maher laid the entire blame for the all the ed problems the country has at the foot of the — wait for it: Teachers' Union.

"It's huge!" quoth he, and followed up with comments as inane as bad teachers go teach in the worst schools.
What's wrong is the tenure system: he says that's "where the bad teachers go." SHAME ON YOU, Maher.

Maher's "articulate" guest, Professor Michael Eric Dyson (you'd have to have seen the first part of the discussion to know why I use that word) put him squarely in his place, saying that yes teachers should be held accountable, but at the same time, "let's hold the society accountable, as we owe these young people a chance to survive." He mentioned a whole lot of social issues, and he mentioned class size. Bill, I'm afraid, speaks from the seat of his pants.

t wasn't enough, though, to keep me tuned into the rest of the show. Maher cannot redeem himself from this one.

He's not my kind of man anymore, and actually, neither is Obama.

March 9, 2009

Time to get busy

Further to that plea I made two posts ago regarding a protest a against an errant principal at Fordham HS for the Arts, here's what Lynne Winderbaum (Dist Rep, Bx HSS) just sent around:
Thank you so much for your calls of support for our teachers at Fordham High School for the Arts, especially for the third teacher who was sent to the rubber room on the word of the principal with no evidence. At Wednesday’s Chapter Leader meeting you heard from two members at the school about some of the horror, abuse, and intimidation suffered by our Union brothers and sisters at that school for the last five years.

As a result of the last unsupported allegation, the teachers at that school have finally summoned the courage to stand up to their principal. At this point, I would really consider it a personal favor if you would all come, from every Bronx High School, for one hour and bring any other members with you on Friday to show this principal, and all other principals who engage in intimidation and abuse, the power of the UFT!

Parking is difficult at Roosevelt. But if you carpool, there is some parking on the street and a pay lot right across the street that you can split.

Please come! It is very important to show the force of the Union to those who abuse their authority and ruin our members’ lives.

I know there are other important meetings scheduled for the same day —an ICE meeting and a School Governance State Assembly hearing for the Bronx — and I also know it's Friday and most of us would just prefer to head straight home. But, think where you can do the most good this time, and party later.

March 8, 2009

"Contractual responses" — what a laugh

On page 10 of this week's NY Teacher, there's a "Know Your Rights" discussion about Classroom Observations. It's actually a reprint of what the union put out on the subject two years ago — Feb. 6, 2007 — which pre-dates the current contract by a good many months.

It may be that the last contract said the same thing about observations as the one we have now. I don't have a copy of it anymore, so I can't check. But, what concerns me is this paragraph:
If the observation is rated “unsatisfactory,” you should speak to your chapter leader, who can explain the various contractual responses you can pursue [two years ago, "available to you"].
Here's the question: What "contractual responses" does the union have in mind for the teachers that get an unsatisfactory on an observation they believe has no merit? A fireside chat with the principal? Maybe I'm wrong, but I remember we used to be able to grieve the lies and distortions that go into our files by sub-standard administrators.

Those were the days.

The way I see it, these paragraphs in "Know Your Rights" are pretty useless on any level, but if anyone has any idea how this contract allows us to defend ourselves properly against malicious untruths, please let us all know in a comment. If I'm missing something here, I promise to follow up with a correction, or take down this post altogether.

March 13th: Be there!

Though I've temporarily suspended this blog during my involuntary career change to Bandleader, some things that catch my eye are worth repeating.

This is a comment Mr. Talk left on Chaz's blog about ageism in the Rubber Rooms:

"There should be real penalties for principals who abuse the RRs. And what ever happened to that age discrimination lawsuit that the UFT said they would pursue? The truth is, the RRs are a de facto early retirement system. If it isn't stopped, no one will reach 55/25 anyway."

To the first sentence about real penalties for wayward principals: Yes, and you can come to a RALLY
in support of a teacher working for one of these principals with a fetish for rubber rooms. Iris Blige runs the Fordham High School for the Arts and has arranged stints at the reassignment center for several unlucky educators over the years. She's not the only one of course, but the union is focusing in on her this coming Friday. Be there.

To the second sentence, where Mr. Talk asks what happened to the age discrimination suit the union got us all excited about (me too, I was part of it until they made me remove myself from all lawsuits against the DoE if I wanted the arbitration to go in my favor), the short answer is that the lawsuits were dropped.

Each case was different, but I'll tell you this from what happened with mine. We offered lots of documentation — licenses, online application data, letters of commendation, years of S ratings — all stuff relating to the application process for which I never received a single response. The DoE's answer to that was a point-by-point "explanation" of why none of those applications led to an interview — such things like the job didn't really exist, or the principal didn't look at the online requests or had someone else in mind anyway — but offered no documentation to back any of those explanations up. It was all commentary, with no legal standing that I could discern. The NYSUT lawyers were as troubled as I was about that, but guess what: I never heard from them again. If what happened in my case happened to others, it's obvious the union just backed down. Otherwise, why wouldn't they have demanded documentation to support all those whimsical explanations the DoE put out in lieu of a proper response? Proof positive that the system failed, and the unions collaborated.

As for the "truth" Mr. Talk alludes to in his final two sentences: Damn right. The RRs are a de facto early retirement system, and so is the burgeoning ATR situation, with all the closing schools and the ads they keep running for new teachers.
PS: Shame on you, Cynthia Nixon, for taking part in that campaign. Decimating the ranks of senior teachers and filling up the schools with trainees is not what I think you had in mind for your children or anyone else's. Before you offer your services, please think the whole thing through, or you just become part of the "PR"oblem.
Mr. Talk: It's not that no one will reach 55/25 anyway, it's that BloomKlein's COUNTING on no one staying in it that long.