June 30, 2010

Here they go again

Another article about those pesky ATRs sucking the system dry, this time in the Wall Street Journal.

Barbara Martinez likes to quote Joel Klein:
"Some people prefer not to work, let's not kid ourselves," Mr. Klein said.
but she doesn't like quoting the contract.

So, I decided to give her the experience of reading a primary source.

Dear Ms Martinez:

Why don't you mention that the contract says the DoE should be trying to place teachers. They don't much, but here's where it says they should:

Article 17.B.
Rule 11. Unless a principal denies the placement, an excessed teacher will be placed by the Board into a vacancy within his/her district/superintendency. The Board will place the excessed teacher who is not so placed in an ATR position in the school from which he/she is excessed, or in another school in the same district or superintendency.

When I was an ATR, the district only sent me to one school in all that time — one and a half years. When the DoE chooses NOT TO FOLLOW this clause, it is actually violating the contract.

Yet none of the media chooses to report this.

ATRs, they say, have more U ratings than others.
ATRs, they say, have high salaries.
ATRs, they say, don't cut a good image on the job interviews.
ATRs, they say, don't show up at job fairs.

During that same year and a half, I applied to 20 schools, yet with all my experience and good service, only one of them asked me to come in for an interview. That's a disgrace right there. It's obvious to everyone but the press that Klein wants a system built on intern teachers who are malleable and cheap.

Instead of printing what the DoE wants you to print, why don't you start telling the whole story.

Unda Assalto

(Just so you know, the principal of the school the DoE sent me to was hesitant to hire me when he heard I was in arbitration over a faulty excessing. He told me to call him when the case was over. As for the single school that responded to my application, I chose not to attend that interview in the end. I had learned from one of the blogs that it was run by a principal from hell.)

June 27, 2010


It's that time of year, folks, and over at Ednotes you'll see a bunch of questions someone's asked about U-ratings.

The comments are informative, as are some other responses Scott got in private emails. (Not everyone, it seems, wants to explain their personal experiences publicly.)

The first one quotes from two documents listed by Untamed Teacher as five items all of us should have on hand:
1) Rating Pedagogical Staff Members [pdf here]

2) Teaching for the 21st Century [pdf here]

3) Principal Performance Review [maybe they're referring to this Reg]

4) The Appeal Process [pdf of the Reg here]

5) Teachers' Guide to Serving in the NYC Public Schools [until I find this one, here's a link to the DoE website for teacher guides, regs, and manuals]
The person says that your salary freezes when you get a U. The manual is not all that clear (see p.13 of the pdf), but I've heard people say just the steps freeze, not the longevity increments at 10, 13, 15, 18, 20, and 22 years. Once you start getting S's again, your step increments continue from where they had left off.

In the same document, I love the first bullet point in the section "Writing Formal Observation Reports" (p.20 of the pdf), where it says that "a major objective of a written report is that it be effective in improving teaching without reducing morale." Heck, all this time I've been thinking the ONLY major goal of a written report was to improve teaching without reducing morale. I wonder what the other objectives are?

Tangentially, we're all suffering from this cookie-cutter evaluation system, whether our observations are deemed satisfactory or not. Once Klein decided that principals were incapable of writing their own evaluations from scratch (!), we lost the ability to see in print just how unqualified so many administrators are in executing their own tasks. That's a bias in their favor, and the UFT should have made much more of a fuss about these template evaluations.

Someone also sent in an excerpt from a 2007 revision of a DoE supervisory publication pp.53-4 of the pdf). It describes the "informal" observation thus:

Other answers Scott received in private emails include the following colorful submissions, the first from a CL:
The UFT Boro Office needs to contacted immediately and the DR should be notified that teacher wants to appeal.....yes it applies to tenured teachers. . . .

I have truly lost all hope that teachers in this situation will actually be helped but teacher has to at least attempt to get UFT to fight for him.

Ideas that might help in the future....Teachers should keep detailed logs everytime a supervisor comes in....and they should ask for a follow up face to face meeting...take notes and follow up w/ an email detailing what transpired at follow up face to face meeting and end email with "if there is anything I left out, kindly respond and let me know"......this can help to prevent admins from piling on the bullshit at the end of the year.

The more I work under this horrible system the more I realize that we need to be proactive rather than reactive. For example, if teacher had communication logs with parents/guidance counsellors/admins etc....detailing how teacher has expressed concern for "Johnny's" inability to stay "engaged" or complete tasks etc....it sure wouldn't hurt that teacher's case when the U rating appeal comes around.

i advise the teachers in my school to make cover-your-ass written communication a part of their daily routine. For those teachers who think they can lay low and hope that the mean admin won't target them....they are fooling themselves....it's just the opposite....be a thorn....request meetings, discuss concerns about children ...involve all support staff....request IST's and have your own lesson plans in order...make it as difficult as possible for them to portray you in a negative light at a U rating appeal.

If your teacher has an "s" formal ob and a bunch of "U" informals....when was the teacher advised of U on informals....if he was advised of U each time and waited til now....he was not proactive and it'll be more difficult for him during the appeal. Did admin give any support or suggestions after giving U informals?

From another CL:
Here's some answers to some of your questions:

#1--Is it a waste of time? To be honest with you, over the past 7-8 years I have had about 20 people get a U rating. (I am a CL in an elementary school). I am pretty sure almost all of them didn't go anywhere. The only one that got satisfaction was a probationer who, in her third year got a U rating based on one letter to file (corporal punishment which was unsubstantiated). She hired her own lawyer and eventually won. After that year though, she didn't work for the DOE. When she won her case, she got back pay and was awarded reinstatement and everything about the corp. punish. had to be pulled from the system and her file. She never returned because she was moving to Florida. The CP was she pinned a note to a child's shirt, a 2nd grader, which was folded so the writing on the note was not even showing, so he would remember to give it to the parent. The parent saw the note and told the teacher thank you. A few days later, the principal trumped up charges about corporal punishment.

#2--I've been told that probationers should file the appeal but they have less of a leg to stand on. I would make sure that the probation was not discontinued.

#3--Believe or not my principal usually writes on top of the observation INFORMAL OBSERVATION when it is informal. Otherwise there really isn't a way to tell.

#5--Salary freezes--The chapter leaders handbook, under "Due process/ratings/summons" pg 96, Consequences of a U-rating. The first statement reads: "A pedagogue who has not reached the maximum pay step may be denied salary increments for one year."
And from a former CL:
I'm not longer a chapter leader as of June 2005, I transferred to another school, but I still keep notes in a binder. The following is an excerpt of a form letter I had for u-rated staff.

The consequences of a U rating is as follows according to the 2003 edition of the Chapter Leader Handbook.

If you have not reached maximum salary, you may be denied a salary increment for one year.

You may be denied another license based on this rating.

If you are probationary, you may be denied tenure,

You can be transferred to another school with your permission, or you can remain at your current school.

The receipt of a U rating may result in the person being required to take two courses designated by the principal, appropriate to the reason for the rating.
If this one is actually quoted from the CL manual, I strongly object to its use of the word "may." I don't know in what universe you'd find a U-rated teacher getting an expected salary increment these days.

To be fair, someone who contacted Scott did say that the appeals in their experience were nearly always successful. I don't know about that . . .

I left a comment of my own over on Ednotes. If you have anything to contribute to this thread, please jump in. Post a comment here or there, or send either of us an email (at normsco@gmail.com or UnderAssault@earthlink.net).

We're definitely all in this together.

June 23, 2010

Will the real fighters for our schools please stand up!

Congratulations to Bill Hargraves and all the GEM people who walked out of the umpteenth fake charter school hearing "hosted" by the DoE's these past few years.

I use the term loosely.
You can't even tell who's running this thing, as parent-activist Bill Hargraves points out in the video.
Hargraves: This is a public hearing, right?

Answer (off camera): Right.

Hargraves: Who am I speaking to? It seems to me like we're just speaking to each other.
And describing how a hearing is normally run says:
Whoever's representing the DoE, the charter faction, or the public faction, is here [pointing to the space up front], and not mixed in the crowd, so at least we know who we are talking to.
Those remarks at least get the DoE people to come out of hiding. Why one of them was standing way up there in the back of the auditorium is beyond me, but no matter. They could have been at the deli on the corner for all the difference it makes to the outcome of this hearing, or any other hearing in this nasty business.

No minutes are ever taken at these meetings. They're only for show.

The second link (under the video screen) takes you to Norm's Notes, where you can read a couple of letters concerning the illegality of this particular charter school expansion. Not-in-the-mayor's-back-pocket PEP member Patrick Sullivan writes:
As the Manhattan member of the city school board ("Panel for Educational Policy") I can assure you that none of the legally mandated process for such a significant change in utilization of a public school building was followed in this case.
He then puts the DoE's morality and law-breaking squarely on the table:
[The state ed] law was implemented to protect public school students from the very type of encroachment now being attempted by HSA. Instead of washing their hands of the very real issues facing Manhattan public schools in co-location situations, I suggest the trustees begin to more seriously consider their moral and legal obligations to help all our students.

Bravo to both these leaders, and of course to the president of the Parent Assn at PS 375, Rose Jimenez. Their tenacity on these issues is becoming a national treasure.

Anatomy of a Walkout at Hearing Over HSA 3 Charter Expansion in Public Space

Harlem activist Bill Hargraves points out the shoddy methods in how the DOE runs a so-called public hearing and then leads a walkout.

For background info see:

Mosaic Prep/HSA Charter Invasion Follow-up

June 12, 2010


It's been eight years since I got trained as a chapter leader, and for the past six of them I've started wondering right about now whether my position will be cut in September.

It's no secret I'm a music teacher, and this chancellor has done many things to undermine non-core subjects for as long as he's been in office.

Back in 2003 he sacrificed them to make more room for reading and math. Then came the small schools movement, when more and more of our jobs were lost in the shuffle.

BloomKlein now says it's a question of budget, though lots of people are catching onto the fact that these guys have no problem spending big bucks on highly paid consultants, no-bid contracts, PR, and other corporate accouterments. What we have here is ideology and sociopathy, not high teacher costs.

Throughout this whole sad history of denying kids state-mandated access to life-enhancing subjects, NYC principals have always found it easy to excess teacher activists holding these jobs. Even with a great deal of seniority, your position is toast when there's only one or two of you in the building.

So here it is June, and once again I'm hearing that my principal is planning to do away with the music program at my school for next year. If I can believe the elevator gossip, it's actually already been done.

Only one thing surprises me this time: that a high school of our size, in a city with such musical talent, and in a borough that gave birth to not one but two musical genres (Italian-American doo-wop in the late 50s and hip-hop in the 70s) will probably have no full-time music teacher. They might, of course, ask other people to teach a class or two in my place. There's always an F-status person, an AP, or someone they think can wing it out of license one period a day just to make sure kids get what they need on paper to graduate.

Under this contract, as before, I'll still have my "job," whether it'll be subbing, deaning, or clerical assistance (I know, they're not supposed to give teachers clerical stuff). Needless to say that if they do start laying people off, it's unlikely the cuts will reach up to my veteran years. I'd end up bouncing someone with less seniority, even if the position is on the opposite end of a subway map.

One of the main things I'm curious about is what they'll do with a teacher like me whose position is being closed but who has more than 20 years' appointed service.
The contract doesn't allow us to be excessed:

Art.XVII.B Rule 10. Teachers at all levels who have served 20 years or longer on regular appointment shall not be excessed except for those in neighboring schools who are excessed to staff a newly organized school.

but it's obvious that two legalities butt up against each other — this rule that you can't be excessed and the ed laws placing limits on the number of classes you can teach out of license. I'd have thought some arbitration decision has already determined what's to be done with us, but no UFT person I've ever asked knows of any, even borough and special reps. In fact, all I'm hearing about is people being forced to teach lots more classes out of license than the law allows. Poor kids, poor teachers.

Of course the DoE could have us sub every day like an ATR and call us something else, like "teacher without a program." But they're supposed to give us something "comparable" to our regular program. What does "comparable" mean? Does it mean comparable to my subject, or comparable to teaching in general?

If I read Rule 10 correctly, my principal could for all I know be calling around to see what new schools in the neighborhood need a music teacher.

And it goes without saying, they could also start playing some pretty nasty games, like U's, harassment, and charges of one kind or another. Principals have not only been given the green light on all of these, but training on how to do it and legal teams to back them up.
Being reassigned puts unwanted personnel off the school's payroll in 60 days, I think. Neat.

So, I've decided to write about events as they unfold, because what happens in my case may be of interest to others in the same position. It should read like a Dickens novel, serialized and all.

For the record, at the present time I have no reason to believe I will be getting a U-rating, nor do I know of any charges against me for wrongdoing or incompetence.

I am, however, grieving a whole lot of irregularities in our recent SBOs, Circ. 6-R procedures and preference sheets, because the CL has been derelict in his duties, complicit, or self-serving. Grievances don't make anyone popular with a principal, but heck, someone has to file them when they come at us like a mack truck.

If mine starts messing with me now, wouldn't that be a coincidence.

June 11, 2010

Pakter case dismissed !

Just to increase what will be wide circulation, I'll post this while rushing to school and put the rest of it up later.

The "rest of it" contains the specific dismissed charges and what amounts to the absurdity of the DoE's position towards Pakter and many other educators in New York City classrooms.
UPDATE: Ednotes has posted the full text, so if you want to read more than these extracts, go here.

FURTHER UPDATE: For chapter one of the sequel, see Ednotes here.
This is part of what David Pakter has sent around:

In a crushing blow to New York City's Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, who had sought for years to have Mr. Pakter fired, the Hearing Officer dismissed such preposterous charges against the Educator of Medical Illustration as the charge he had brought a plant to school, allegedly without getting official permission and awarding fashion watches to high achieving students, something Pakter had been doing for three decades.

He was also charged with giving a gift to a school aide and showing the film, "El Mariachi" by Robert Rodriguez, an Internationally known Director, to one of his High School classes. The film has been the recipient of a multitude of Cinematic Awards around the world and launched the career of Robert Rodriguez.

The charge that Mr. Pakter stopped reporting to a small, windowless, so-called "Rubber Room" after years of being ordered reassigned to such punitive assignments, where Teachers just sit all day, was not considered in today's verdict.

Mr. Pakter was a Lead Plaintiff in a Federal Lawsuit to shut down these teacher "Gulags" which New York City has announced will cease to exist after this school year ends.

These so-called "reassignment centers" were widely seen as a means to punish Teachers as well as instill fear in those who spoke out and reported wrongdoing as well as corruption and unethical behavior within the 23 Billion dollar NYC schools system.

The charge that Mr. Pakter had allegedly tried to influence a Dept of Education employee to furnish him with a printout of his personal work history on an expedited basis was also not considered in today's decision.

Mr. Pakter has already filed a $ 10,000,000 (Ten Million) NOTICE OF CLAIM against the NEW YORK POST newspaper as well as the NYC Dept of Education for the publication of false, libelous, defamatory, slanderous statements".

Both the NEW YORK POST newspaper as well as the NYC Dept of Education have been served with papers to appear in NY State Supreme Court on June 16, at 80 Centre Street, Manhattan, Room 328, at 9:30 A.M. before State Supreme Court Judge, the Hon. Cynthia Kern.

Please Note: The fact that the DOE would certainly deny that any, or all of these charges do not violate any of my Constitutional and/or First Amendment rights, (which is to be totally expected), does not make such an assertion and/or position true. It is only by challenging established customs and perceptions of what does and does not violate the Laws of the Land, that "old" laws are struck down, and new Laws and new legal precedents- established.

David Pakter

June 5, 2010

On-again, off-again layoffs

With the Daily News reporting today that Bloomberg is putting layoffs back on the table, the appropriate reaction amongst normal people should be: Let us know when you've finished playing games.

Bloomberg's saying that additional cuts forced him to do it:

Just two days after he backed off threats to send out pink slips to educators, Bloomberg blamed a $600 million cut from Washington for putting teacher layoffs back on the table.

In fact, what Bloomberg's ready to put back on the table may never have actually been taken off. We don't know what deals he's making or which way he's taking this city. And the same is true for Mulgrew. Last time I heard, the both of them were planning some trips together:

While we have reached no agreement on the next contract, the Mayor and I have agreed to go together to Albany and Washington in the near future to lobby for new resources to prevent devastating budget cuts to our schools, our classrooms, and the communities we serve.

Still making that trip, guys?

Bloomberg's announcement earlier this week to prevent teacher salaries from going up now seems like a ploy to get good press. There's nothing like freezing the wages of those highly paid do-nothing teachers to get some cred on the street, especially with those who read the daily rags. Bloomberg knew all along he couldn't do any of that without first fighting it out with union at the negotiating table.

Sadly, there is nowhere to turn for the "truth" of what's going on. The way the system works, with an an oligarchic ruling class, a dictatorial mayor, a lawbreaking chancellor and an undemocratic union, we're just so much flotsam and jetsam.

Tell me when it's all over, and I'll figure out how to get by.

June 4, 2010

We got mail

Below is an email we got from Klein a couple of days ago when they changed their minds about laying some of us off. He's telling us how we're not going to get raises for a couple of years.

Klein doesn't need to be talking to us, since nobody likes him much or trusts him. Teachers don't take kindly to the smarmy explanations of bosses posing as protectors of children.

He should be talking to Mulgrew, and they both should be talking to the UFT's negotiating committee.

But, I guess a one-way email to a huge number of employees he's never really considered his "colleagues" is easier than sitting down at a table and discussing the really basic issues we face doing our job: money, working conditions, and the delivery of instruction.

Reading Klein's email, it occurred to me that the mayor can do all the "determining" he wants in the privacy of his own mansion. Unfortunately, that's not the way contracts work.

As for not "laying off a single teacher" for a year, I'm surprised he even toyed with the idea. The man was hired to push teachers out of the system, and I gotta hand it to him, he's done pretty well. Swamping us with non-instructional activities like teaching to the test and data doo-doo is not much fun. Nor is marginalizing increasing numbers of us out of permanent placements and harassing a slew of others into retiring sooner than intended. Was there ever any need to fiddle around with laying off people? I don't think so.

That remark about not being able to "do without 4,400 of our teachers" is a nice touch, but he'd love to lose 4, 400 of us — the higher paid ones. Then he can make room for lots more interns he can order around at lower cost, and has even been paying a company to recruit them. This issue is one of the major deceptions of his trash-and-burn chancellorship.

I won't call the man delusional or demented when he thinks he can actually identify the "best" teachers amongst us. Just political. No doubt talent counts, but where, whom, how many, and under what circumstances you teach makes a heck of a lot of difference. Klein doesn't care about those things anyway. What constitutes "best" for this chancellor is just plain cheap, malleable, and decidedly untenured.

I never thought I'd end spend the last years of my professional life working for such a bottom-feeder.

Dear Colleagues,

Earlier today, Mayor Bloomberg announced that no teachers will be laid off for the coming school year. Given vast proposed reductions in education funding from the state, we were on course as recently as last week to have to lay off 4,400 teachers citywide.

While the state legislature has been unable to pass a budget for this year, the Governor’s proposal would send $500 million less to New York City schools than last year. On top of those cuts, we have increasing costs—like pensions—that actually leave us short by more than $750 million.

In order to save the jobs of thousands of teachers, the Mayor determined that UFT and CSA members will have to forego two percent salary increases for the next two years. This move will save the City $400 million and, as a result, allow us to avoid laying off a single teacher for the coming school year. The Department’s central staff will not receive any similar increases.

I know that giving up raises is not easy. You and your families are facing tough times too. But I believe tough times also call for shared sacrifice. Last year, school budgets were cut by 4.9 percent, and this year they will be cut by another four percent. Central administrative budgets have been cut by nearly 20 percent in the past two years, including a reduction of nearly 550 staff positions. Next year, Central offices will take an additional cut of nearly $40 million with another five percent cut in positions.

Moreover, we still expect to lose at least 2,000 teachers next year through attrition because we simply won’t be able to afford to fill every vacancy.

I believe deeply that as educators of our children, your work is securing the future of our City. We simply cannot do without 4,400 of our teachers. You and your principals are making a significant sacrifice, and I appreciate your commitment. I look forward to working together to get our schools and our students through these tough times.

While avoiding layoffs goes a long way toward protecting our schools from the worst effects of the state’s insufficient funding, it doesn’t solve all of our budget problems. We still face a huge deficit, which compels us to find savings in our schools. And because we don’t know what the future holds, I will continue to fight for a more rational layoff system that allows us to protect our best teachers no matter how long they’ve been in our system.

Yet at a time when the City—indeed, the entire country—is being forced to make do with less, this plan allows us to retain what’s most important to our students: the resourceful, inspiring, hard-working teachers who are making a real difference in their lives.


Joel I. Klein