May 16, 2009

New info on LIFs! Just kidding.


After I posted this blog piece last Saturday, ICE's James Eterno provided some more commentary on the same LIF presentation. He was at the May 13th Delegate Assembly where grievance head Howard Solomon unveiled it to all and sundry.

I could not attend, but am thankful to James for taking the time to lay out the history of this ever-deepening giveback and show how UFT management is trying to spin the current contractual wording into gold.

It's another must-read on the ICE-blog. One of many.

Here's something on Letters to the File that union management has just made available to chapter leaders. I tried to access it without a password but couldn't.

I can't figure out why we all weren't allowed to see it. Is this stuff secret or something?

Maybe it's just too stupid. Making it available to everyone might be too embarrassing.

This presentation on LIFs is strategically useless. No fight to remove a letter from your file is going to make a principal click his heels in joy. There was a reason you got a LIF, and it probably has nothing to do with the kind of respect, professionalism, collaboration, improvement, or sound educational environment the contract seems to call for.

Principals are out to intimidate you, one by one and collectively. They've been trained and encouraged to do it, by a chancellor who has recently put out a presentation saying "Principals never lose," or words to that effect. Fight to get that letter out of your file and you'll continue to be on the principal's shitless, maybe even deeper than before.

Union management sold us out on the grievance process. They know it, we know it. The difference is that these bumblers keep getting a nice piece of our salaries and there's no way either to fine them for their crummy negotiations or get them out of office. The system is so rigged they can't be replaced without sinking a huge portion of your personal money into an election run.

So, here's what they've made available to chapter leaders, for what it's worth. (There are a few sample documents I've not included.)

Raise your hand if you think that will do any good.

Yes. And exactly how many people get their licenses taken away for such trivial items? In other words, so what. These are just tools to keep the troops in line. No one is going to lose a license over this stuff.

And have fun. You might get that meeting, but you won’t change the LIF.

What decade is union management living in? A response these days not only won't get you anywhere, but could possibly make the principal even more combative. After all, many of these newbie administrators are very inexperienced people. Some are not even educators, and most are not in this game for the kids. If you are a good writer, you can really get under their skin. If you are a poor writer, better not show anything you put on paper to an arbitrator. It will certainly color his opinion of you as an educator.

Why bother, or what’s so good about this? If you are incorrectly reprimanded for attendance, the letter in your file shows the principal, not the teacher, is in violation of the contract: you shouldn’t have gotten an LIF on attendance in the first place. If you’re found guilty of corporal or verbal abuse, the LIF is nothing compared to the charge itself, and if the charges are unsubstantiated, do you think filing a grievance to get your LIF on this removed from the file is going to endear you further to your principal? In most cases it's probably better to just let it rot there (thanks, RW) and take it out of your file when its time is up (3 years).

I have an idea.

Let's tell all those union management people — who just loved the idea of PD for all — to go get some PD for themselves. Maybe even an internship for a year in a real school.

We're up against an army of corpocrats and their generals, people who seek power for power's sake. Union management doesn't have a clue about the reality of what we're dealing with. If I'm wrong and they do, their band-aid approach to this abuse is stunningly anemic, or . . . they're collaborating big-time.

Pissed On asked what I left out (that's so cute, a guide to how to give up tenure), so here's a sample of one of the last pages:


  1. Thanks. What did you leave out....I bet the good parts where you really can win a LIF grievance were left out. I heard the UFT was putting together a guide on how to give up tenure. They are great.

  2. I added a sample for you above (see ADDENDUM).

  3. Woodlass:

    I know of a teacher who wouldn't sign her LIF as the CL told her not to. I informed her that failure to sign the LIF could result in insubordination charges and I recommended that she sign it and write a rebuttal. She listened to the CL and sure enough was charged under 3020-a with one of her charges insubordination for not signing the LIF!

  4. Chaz, the CL was dead wrong. You must sign the LIF, and that's that. But, I wasn't talking about signing it, only about bothering to attach a response (suggested in Strategy 4). Signing it doesn't mean you agree with it. Heck, it doesn't even mean you've read it! It just means you received it. No harm in signing.

    I'm also not saying you shouldn't write down for your own records everything you can remember — not only to get it off your chest, but because the LIF may come into play in the future, and then you'll have to defend your position and you might not remember all the facts.

    If you want to legalize it a bit more, mail your response to yourself and don't open it. (This is how you're advised to defend yourself against plagiarism with anything you've written when you don't want to go through the formal Library of Congress copyright process.) But, I see very little use in actually handing in a response.

  5. Hmmm...Woodlass we have had the same discussion in my school here on Long Island as to whether or not to respond to a letter in the file or negative end of year evaluation. You are precisely on target that a bullying principal is likely to react negatively to any response that points out the foolishnemss of his comments. But at the same time conventional wisdom suggests that a failure to respond might suggest agreement with the letter or evaluation.
    All in all, the teachers as a rule at my school now respond in writing and as thoroughly as possible. There is no limit to the length of the response and the principal does not counter respond. Should an arbitrator ever read the letters or evaluations we believe we are better off with well-written coherent responses than plain signatures. Again, it is a very close call.

  6. Hi, L.I. - There's another alternative, and that's to sign it and either say outright that you are not in agreement, or write something like "Your Name, in receipt of this document."
    It is then clear that you are signing to receive, not to agree on anything. So I guess I don't think it's as close a call as you guys do.

  7. I kinda like the no sign strategy. It really pisses them off.

  8. Sign it and write under your signature ' see my attached response'. If nothing else it gives the U rated advocate something to argue at a hearing should it come to that. It can also help prepare the advocate with questions for the principal before hand. It is important!

  9. Pissed On - you really have to sign it. Take care if you choose not to.

    Proofoflife - maybe we're talking two different things. I wouldn't bother writing up anything for LIFs since admin doesn't give a hoot. If you get a couple of LIFs and you think they are building a case against you, you can make some notes for your own records and compile them into something later for your attorney - if the need should arise. But I think a lot of times the principal gives LIFs to document for their own superiors that they are doing a "proper" job; also for general staff intimidation. I think most LIFs don't lead to anything much, because I know too many people who get them, yet still get S at the end of the year.
    If you're defending a U-rating, that's a whole different ballgame. I would document that a lot. On the bathroom walls if necessary. (LOL)

  10. I regret missing that last DA. If there I would have added the story of a teacher of mine who is asking for a U observation to be removed on the grounds she did not get a proper pre-ob conference. She was in danger of getting a U and we asked for a specific day and class for the observation. The AP refused and would only promise to show up some time in the next two weeks. Despite chancellor's reg 80, requiring specific content to be discussed in preob on our side, her step 3 union rep says we can't ask for post observation removal! So even if we win the file stays in.

  11. When you say a Step 3 union rep, do you mean you went to grievance on this and they are denying a Step 3?

    Article 8.J.2.b. clearly says: the Formal Obs. "includes pre- and post-
    observation conferences and written feedback/comments."

    If you asked for it and they denied it, then you have grounds for a grievance. The remedy for that grievance would be to remove any LIF related to a tainted Formal Observation. What's their problem?

    Can you clarify what's going on here? Because I can't tell if it's a question of faulty info from a rep without your having gone to grievance, or having gone to grievance but it's being denied — as they are so frequently doing these days to make you go away.

    Many supervisors are pulling this "any time in the next 2 weeks" crap.

    What I did to combat this at my school was to ask for a pre-obs (which I got), and make a huge list of all the possible things that I know I would be responsible for in that classroom "experience." Get the supervisor to agree with that huge list, which they will because everything we're responsible for is so obvious.
    Then if I got a U for something small (like wrong date on the board) or medium (could do more differentiation), I could produce that list of things I got RIGHT to any future arbitrator — because I'd definitely file a grievance for the contract violation and press the union like mad to take it to Step III.

  12. Trying desperately to get help regarding unsigned letters in file.

    Rating Officer added material without my knowledge....
    Rating Officer argues that he has witnesses to Grievant's refusal to sign. Who must these be? Must these persons be licensed administrators?

    Can it be the School Secretary?