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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Mitchell Robinson on Silencing Teachers

The One about Silencing Teachers, Retribution and the Smell of Fear from the Reformers...

I received the note below from a former student who is now a teacher. For obvious reasons, I won't identify her or where she teaches, but--shockingly--her story is becoming all too common...

"We had a union meeting yesterday where they warned us that the governor is going after the certificates of teachers that opted out their kids (of the state tests). The governor says it breaks our contract agreeing to protect and follow educational laws. Is this legal? Teachers are being targeted and warned to be extremely careful, especially on public media. I was just curious on your thoughts."

This theme of administrators and elected officials threatening teachers if they speak out publicly against tests, the Common Core State Standards, or other education policies seems to be growing stronger and louder recently, with reports of similar stories popping up in New Mexico (, Louisiana (, New York (, Arizona (, Missouri (, and Michigan (

In Rochester, NY, an email from an administrator to the city's principals asked them to keep a list of teachers who might have shared information on testing for possible disciplinary action:

"An email sent from a high-level Rochester City School District official to principals is causing concern among teachers.

Chief of Schools Beverly Burrell-Moore sent the email Monday afternoon to principals she supervises. The email asks them to share names of teachers who have encouraged parents to refuse to allow their children to take state exams. 
"Per your building, please identify teachers who have sent letters or made phone calls to parents encouraging them to opt out their children from the NYS Assessments.  Also, identify teachers who you have evidence as utilizing their classrooms as 'political soap boxes.'  I need this updated  information no later than Tuesday morning for follow-up," the email states. (
Audrey Amrein Beardsley, a professor of education at Arizona State University, and the author of one of my favorite education blogs on the web, VAMBOOZLED, reports: "New Mexico now requires teachers to sign a contractual document that they are not to 'diminish the significance or importance of the tests” or they could lose their jobs. Teachers are not to speak negatively about the tests or say anything negatively about these tests in their classrooms or in public; if they do they could be found in violation of their contracts.' Beardsley wonders about the legality, and even the constitutionality of this sort of action: 'As per a related announcement released by the ASBA, this “could have a chilling effect on the free speech rights of school and district officials' throughout the state but also (likely) beyond if this continues to catch on. School officials may be held 'liable for a $5,000 civil fine just for sharing information on the positive or negative impacts of proposed legislation to parents or reporters.'”

While there is no doubt that these moves are indeed a "chilling" development in the education "reform" movement, I believe that they also reveal a quickly growing sense of fear and confusion among those in the reform community regarding the viability of their agenda. Indeed, the surprising strength of the "Opt Out" movement in New York, where as many as 200,000 students have reportedly refused to sit for the state's tests, has led to 
calls demanding the resignation of Merryl Tisch, Chancellor of the NYS Board of Regents.
If there is a silver lining to these threats it may be the impending crumbling of the reform agenda under the increased scrutiny from the public, the media and teachers. For far too long, policy "leaders" like Chancellor Tisch, Governors Cuomo, Kasich and Snyder, and Sec. of Education Duncan have responded to criticism of their agenda with either deafening silence or dismissive pandering, such as accusations that "painted parents as confused patsies of a labor action." Now, these feeble rejoinders are being exposed for what they have been all along: weak and arrogant responses to the legitimate demands for accountability from those so negatively impacted by these destructive policies.
These "leaders" are clearly scared, and they have every right to be. Now is the time to step up the pressure, and not let our voices be silenced. We are fighting for our students, our colleagues and our profession.
Let students learn, let teachers teach, and get the politicians out of education.
Mitchell Robinson
Mitchell Robinson is associate professor and chair of music education, and coordinator of the music student teaching programat Michigan State University. Robinson has held previous appointments as assistant professor and coordinator of the music education area at the University of Connecticut; assistant professor of school and community music education at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y.; and director of wind activities and wind ensemble conductor at the University of Rochester. Robinson’s public school teaching experience includes 10 years as an instrumental music teacher, music department facilitator and high school assistant principal in Fulton, N.Y.
Robinson was awarded the 1997 Reston Prize from Arts Education Policy Review for his analysis of arts education policy, and the 1999 Research Award from the International Network of Performing and Visual Arts Schools. He recently concluded a term as Editor of the Music Educators Journal, and has served on the editorial/advisory boards of Arts Education Policy Review, the Journal of Music Teacher Education, the Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, the Music Educators Journal, the International Journal of Education and the Arts, Research and Issues in Music Education, and the Desert Skies Research Symposium. His publications have appeared in Arts Education Policy Review, Music Educators Journal, Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, Journal of Music Teacher Education, American Music Teacher, and the American School Board Journal. He was a chapter author for Great Beginnings for Music Teachers: Mentoring and Supporting New Teachers, published by MENC: The National Association for Music Education in 2003, and contributed a chapter to Teaching Music in the Urban Classroom, Volume 2: A Guide to Survival, Success, and Reform, published by Rowman & Littlefield Education. Robinson also contributed two chapters to the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Qualitative Research in American Music Education, and was asked to write the chapter on music (Music Teaching and Learning in a Time of Reform) for What Every Principal Needs to Know: Instructional Leadership for Equitable and Excellent Schools, which will be published this summer by Teachers College Press. Robinson also served for two years as scholar-in-residence for music for the Connecticut State Department of Education, where his work focused on beginning music teacher induction and support.
A founding member of the Instrumental Music Teacher Educators Association (IMTE), Robinson received B.F.A. degrees in music education and trumpet performancefrom the State University of New York at Buffalo, the M.M.Ed. from Hartt School of Music, a Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Administration from the State University of New York-Oswego, and a Ph.D. in music education from the Eastman School of Music. He also pursued post-graduate studies in music education and conducting at Northwestern University.
Dr. Robinson lives in Okemos, MI, with his wife Cathy, an elementary music teacher, their two sons, Jacob and Drew, and Buddy the Dog.

Selected Publications

Book Chapters
Robinson, M. (2015).  A Tale of Two Institutions: Or . . .Myths and Musings on Work/Life Balance.  In Theoharis, G. and Dotger, S. (Eds.), On The High Wire: Education Professors Walk Between Work And Parenting.  NY: Information Age Press.
Robinson, M. (2014).  Changing the Conversation: Considering Quality in Music Education Qualitative Research. In Conway, C. (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of Qualitative Research in American Music Education.  NY: Oxford University Press.
Robinson, M. (2014).  The Politics of Publication: Voices, Venues and Ethics. In Conway, C. (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of Qualitative Research in American Music Education.  NY: Oxford University Press.


Robinson, M. (2012).  Music Teaching and Learning in a Time of Reform.  In Theoharis, G. and Brooks, J. (Eds.), What Every Principal Needs to Know to CreateEquitable and Excellent Schools.  NY: Teachers College Press.
Robinson, M. (2015).  The Inchworm and the Nightingale: On the (Mis)use of Data in Music Teacher Evaluation Arts Education Policy Review, 116, (1), 9-21.
From the Band Room to the General Music Classroom: Why Instrumentalists Choose to Teach General Music. (accepted for publication). Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, 2010.

Another Request Sent By Betsy Combier Concerning F11,129 For Records of the Mandatory 3020-a Meeting Held on February 24, 2015

RE: F11,129
response 2 messages Betsy Combier Tue, Apr 14, 2015 at 11:59 PM
To: Baranello Joseph , Betsy Combier ,

Dear Mr. Baranello,

I sent you an email on April 14, 2015, requesting clarification of your demand that I tell you how much I was willing to pay your employee at $29.95/hr for documents, emails and records of the February 24, 2015 meeting on 3020-a arbitration held at your offices at 52 Chambers Street. Please see my blog, and the original email request forwarded above.

Betsy Combier Asks FOIL Officer Joe BaranelloTo Clarify the Fees of $29.95/hr For F11,129
The Freedom of Information number for the requested meeting records has been given the
Attorney Adam Ross and Former UFT VP Mike Mendel
 FOIL # 11,129. This meeting was set up by Adam Ross, UFT lawyer, and by your colleague and Supervisor (also the Appeals Officer of FOIL requests) Courtenaye Jackson-Chase.
NYC DOE General Counsel Courtenaye Jackson-Chase
If I had simply given you an amount I would be willing to pay, I could be precluded from any documents above that fee, and denied my choice. For instance, if I told you I would pay for $10 hours, $299.50, then you could pick through the documents available, and tell me that the 10 hours were spent on retrieving those documents, thank you and goodbye. But I would be denied any other documents related to my request due to the fact that I said I would pay for 10 hours, and you would effectively withhold any related documents that you wanted to withhold and tell me I didnt want to pay for them, because I told you I would only pay for 10 hours of your employee's search, at $29.95/hour.

As this mandatory meeting on 3020-a included all the NYC Panel arbitrators, NYSUT attorneys and DOE attorneys involved (no private attorneys) and as this is not a NYC DOE agency-only meeting and this meeting is open to public access (the arbitrators and NYSUT attorneys are not DOE employees), I asked you to explain your fees of $29.95/hour to access the documents and emails related to the creation of this meeting.

In any case, I asked you to reply to me no later than 5PM on April 17, 2015, so that I could get the documents on April 22, 2015. I received no response.
Now that you did not answer my request for clarification, I am left with the assumption that you are not going to give me the documents, as I have not given you the amount I would be willing to pay.
Therefore, I am sending this email and posting this email on my blog as Notice to your Supervisor, Courtenaye Jackson-Chase, that on April 22, 2015 I will formally appeal all of this, and add this to my lawsuit against you currently on for depositions in the Supreme Court. See The Second "Who Are You Kidding Award" Goes To Dennis Walcott
I respectfully suggest that you are retaliating against me for making my request for documents of this February 24th meeting, for placing your Facebook page on my blog, and for suing you for the almost 2-year delay in obtaining the contract of former Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

Please give me the fee for documents, emails and records requested, with details of each and every document and email, no later than 5PM on April 20, 2015.
Thank you in advance,

Betsy Combier

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Betsy Combier Asks FOIL Officer Joe BaranelloTo Clarify the Fees of $29.95/hr For F11,129

I decided that I should clarify with Records Access Officer Joe Baranello exactly what I would pay for, and who I would be hiring, (at $29.95/hr) in order to obtain the secret rules handed out at the Plenary meeting for the DOE/NYSUT/UFT folk who represent members at 3020-a:

Joe Baranello
Dear Mr. Baranello,

I am responding to your email dated March 25, 2015 in which you stated I must pay $29.95 for the preparation of digital records above two hours that relate to my request in F11,129. See my post on my blog:

Betsy Combier Files a Freedom of Information Request to Obtain the Information Given Out At The NYC DOE February 24, 2015 Secret Meeting on 3020-a Hearings

You ask what the maximum amount is that I am willing to pay to the person you hire to prepare these records and for the storage media.

 I need more information in order to give you my response:

1. I need to know the number of records responsive to my request and the amount you charge to me for full access before I decide what I am willing to pay. 

2. I also need to know exactly what records you will charge me for - emails? agenda? invitees? This meeting included several groups, NYSUT/UFT, DOE, and Arbitrators , therefore this meeting was not only for Department of Education employees. What redactions are relevant to Public Officer's Law 87? Please be specific. I also understand that you can charge me 25 cents for each page - do you add the $29.95/hr to this, and where are you authorized within the Law to do this, if you charge the $29.95/hr in addition to the $.25/page?
3. I need to know who the person is who will be paid by me at $29.95/hour. Please give
me this person's full name, job title, and daily duties. I also need to know whether or not there is any person willing to do those same duties at $8/, or $9/hr, and whether you sought to find any such individual, and where you posted the job description.

4. In your demand that I pay for the cost of storage media, please describe exactly what you mean by this. What is the "storage media" that I have to pay for? Please give any and all details.

5. Please describe to me what costs are involved in reproducing records that are maintained electronically.  

6. Please tell me why I have to pay a person $29.95 to forward electronic documents via email to me, as you no doubt have people on staff who are already being paid to assist you in granting FOIL requests.

7. Please describe what "internal communications" you refer to, as the February 24, 2015 meeting was not a meeting of DOE employees, but also UFT, NYSUT, and arbitration panel members.

 Please take note that I am willing to pay for the records of the meeting held by your colleague Courtenaye Jackson-Chase at Tweed at 4PM of February 24, 2015 and that I intend on writing the Committee on Open Government to ask for an opinion. I advise you not to close this request, I am simply asking questions to clarify your very vague response.

 Please reply to this email in its entirety no later than 5PM on friday, April 17, 2015, so that I can receive all the documents/emails/powerpoint/video/presentations on or before April 22, 2015.

 Thank you for your prompt response.


Betsy Combier
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

Thursday, April 9, 2015

PS 90 Chapter Leader Vicky Giasemis Wins Her Grievance to Change Her "Ineffective" Rating Given by Bully Principal Greta Hawkins

I hope this is "historic", as the UFT badly needs a good case to overcome the scam they have supported in the grievance process for too many years.

Historic rating ruling

Brooklyn principal forced to change Ineffective thanks to appeals process UFT fought for

PS 90 Chapter Leader Vicky Giasemis (right), whose Ineffective rating from her principal was overturned by an arbitrator,
and delegate Betty Matos outside the Brooklyn school.

For the very first time, a teacher rating of Ineffective has been overturned and a principal has been ordered to submit a different rating, thanks to the appeals process that the UFT insisted on as an essential part of any fair and impartial teacher evaluation system.
This was the first case before a three-member rating- appeals panel consisting of a neutral arbitrator and panelists selected by the UFT and the Department of Education. The union proved that the rating of Ineffective for the 2013–14 school year for Vicky Giasemis, the chapter leader at PS 90 in Coney Island, was due to harassment and animus by her principal, Greta Hawkins, and was not related to her job performance.

Greta Hawkins with Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg
Hawkins was ordered on March 3 to submit a different rating to the panel for their approval.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew hailed the decision as “the culmination of a long battle to win meaningful protection for members rated Ineffective for no fault of their own.”
UFT General Counsel Adam Ross said the new protection against supervisory harassment was a major milestone.
“We never got ratings reversed on substance under Bloomberg, but now we have secured due-process rights for teachers in state education law,” he pointed out.
Giasemis was rated Effective on both the state and local measures of student learning, which account for 40 percent of her rating. But Hawkins slapped her with an Ineffective rating for measures of teacher practice even though, according to the arbitrator, the principal did not detail deficiencies in the physical environment and student-teacher interaction in Giasemis’ classroom in her observation reports.
The arbitrator found “that had the principal observed deficiencies in these readily observable classroom components they would have been included in her observations.”
The arbitrator further noted that there was no doubt that Giasemis “was a teacher for whom the principal had great dislike and little regard.”
The new ruling is just the most recent of a string of decisions nailing Hawkins as a bully.
In June 2013, an arbitrator ordered Hawkins to stop “harassing or otherwise discriminating” against union members lawfully exercising their union rights after she tried to intimidate 14 teachers who were named in a Step 1 grievance concerning lesson plans.
At Giasemis’ appeals hearing, teachers at PS 90 testified that Hawkins hung a copy of a New York Teacher story heralding that arbitration victory, “Staff wins grievance against ‘bully’ Coney Island principal,” on a bulletin board in her office as a badge of honor.
The arbitrator in the rating appeal said that article on the bulletin board was “in essence a daily reminder of who the principal held responsible for that award — the UFT — and more specifically, its chief representative at the school, the chapter leader.”
Giasemis said she is “delighted” that she has been vindicated, but she added, “There is no way to explain how I feel when I walk into school every day. After all the abuse, the damage is done.”
Judy Gerowitz, the UFT’s representative for District 21, noted that “the arbitrator left no doubt that animus toward the union and not poor pedagogy was the reason for her Ineffective rating.”
Diane Mazzola, the UFT coordinator of appeals, savored the broader meaning of the arbitration victory.
“The UFT fought long and hard to get a process which would result in fair hearings for those teachers whose ratings do not reflect their work in the classroom,” Mazzola said. “This appeal award demonstrates that we have, at last, achieved that goal.”
Read more: News stories

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Age and Seniority Are Factors in Re-assignments of Teachers in Boston

 Silent no more: Boston's ‘unwanted’ educators rip school administrators

Kids lose on bottom line

‘EDUCATION AS BUSINESS’: Aytul Farquharson, left, a 15-year music teacher with degrees from Harvard and
Berklee, and Andrea Devine, right, a 14-year ESL teacher, say they’ve been shunted aside in Boston Public Schools
for younger teachers with smaller salaries.

Boston teachers who are unwanted by principals or in limbo because of budget cuts say they’ve been cast aside just to save money, 
and to make way for 
cheaper, more malleable newcomers.
“If you see education as a business, this is the right route to go. But if you 
see this as the future of 
our children, it is dead wrong,” Aytul Farquharson, a 15-year music teacher with degrees from Harvard and Berklee, said yesterday in an exclusive interview with the Herald.
“They’re looking at, ‘OK, I can get a $48,000 first-year teacher, I don’t need the teacher to be from Harvard, Berklee,’” said Farquharson, who was cut from her school last year and 
relegated to “co-teacher” duties in another classroom.
The Herald sat down with three teachers from the controversial unwanted pool. They are among the 72 teachers, totaling some $6 million in salaries, who lost their positions due to budget cuts or school closings or when principals had broad discretion over who to keep and who to scrap. They are now assigned as co-teachers in other people’s classrooms.
They fear they’ve been branded subpar through no fault of their own and have seen their professional prospects damaged.
“They’re not looking at your performance as a great teacher, they’re looking at the dollars beside your name,” said Denise, a 20-plus-year visual arts teacher who asked that her last name not be used. As a co-teacher, she works on writing and reading skills with students who speak foreign languages.
Andrea Devine, a 14-year
 ESL instructor, said she is convinced money was a motive after her former school was declared a
“turnaround school,” mean-
ing all of its 25 or so teachers were laid off.
“(The principal) kept four teachers, all of them very young, and didn’t rehire any of the rest of us,” Devine said. “The whole experience really made me feel very broken and crushed.”
The three teachers stressed they do not have issues with principals in the schools they are currently assigned to.
Records obtained by the Herald show more than 75 percent of the teachers in the pool are 50 or older, with an average age of 54. Union officials say the teachers are also among the highest earners in the district because of their experience and advanced 
degrees; all three teachers who spoke to the Herald make in the $100,000 
A Boston Public Schools spokeswoman said the claims about financial mot­ives are “absolutely not true,” and that the aim of the new hiring system is to let principals hire who they want and let teachers pick their schools.
As of last year, teachers no longer need seniority to interview for job openings.
Teachers who aren’t picked up but have three years’ experience are guaranteed a classroom under state tenure law. Those 
assigned to “co-teacher” duties are encouraged to acquire new skills.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh has said the city can’t sustain “paying for teachers that aren’t in classrooms.”
The city is working to secure private money to cover their salaries in the coming years.
The end result, the teachers said, is a system that gives principals incentive to hire cheap new teachers with a chance of also 
being assigned a co-teacher whose hefty salary is not carried on their books.
“You’re telling them if they say no, they might end up with a second teacher for free, and the system is willing to sacrifice tremendous experience,” said Boston Teachers Union President Richard Stutman, who said the district is contractually barred from placing teachers who fare poorly on evaluations into the pool.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Jennifer Rehn-Losquardo, Principal of UES Middle School IS 67, Wagner, Believes in One Visit to the Bathroom Per Day

Parents often hear the Latin term "in loco parentis" when they are told about the duties and responsibilities of principals and teachers in their child's school.


"The term in loco parentis, Latin for "in the place of a parent"[1] refers to the legal responsibility of a person or organization to take on some of the functions and responsibilities of a parent. Originally derived from English common law, it is applied in two separate areas of the law.
First, it allows institutions such as colleges and schools to act in the best interests of the students as they see fit, although not allowing what would be considered violations of the students' civil liberties.[1]
Second, this doctrine can provide a non-biological parent to be given the legal rights and responsibilities of a biological parent if they have held themselves out as the parent.[2]
The in loco parentis doctrine is distinct from the doctrine of parens patriae, the psychological parent doctrine, and adoption.[3] In the United States, the parental liberty doctrine imposes constraints upon the operation of the in loco parentis doctrine.[3]
As an advocate who represents parents at Impartial Hearings where I ask for tuition for non-public schools as well as various services for children with special needs. I had not heard of the variation in bathroom policies which affect children of all ages in New York City until a recent hearing for a child now removed by her parents from Robert F. Wagner Middle School IS 67 at 220 East 76th Street in NYC.
IS 67 Principal Jennifer Rehn-Losquardo seems to believe that "Whole School" and "Whole Class" is more important than "Whole Child".

Above is a copy of the Wagner Middle School bathroom pass. Each student receives one at the beginning of the school year, carries it around with them, can leave it on their desk, show each other, etc. For each day in the school week there are boxes which are to be signed by the teacher if the student has to use the bathroom outside of lunchtime.

IS 67 Principal Jennifer Rehn

If a student is taking medicine and must go to the bathroom more often, Principal Rehn says, then a "special pass" is given. This reporter spoke to several parents who were not told about this, and their children are on medication. The NYC Department of School Health has never heard of a school policy like this, and told me that Ms. Rehn is "doing this on her own".
But that's not all that Ms. Rehn does to maintain control.
If one student acts up, the entire class gets detention, even on religious holidays. Parents are told nothing and are kept outside on the sidewalk for an extra 10-20 minutes after the school day, until the whole class is dismissed from detention - where they are told to sit and do nothing.
Chancellor Farina - how do these policies work to keep the students healthy, happy and safe?

Betsy Combier

Teachers Fight Special Needs Accommodation

A teachers group is fighting a plan to allow a student with a disability to use a faculty restroom, all because they say the accommodation violates their right to exclusive facilities.
Eighteen teachers — including two special educators — signed a petition filed alongside a union grievance after administrators opted to allow a student at Park Elementary School near Pittsburgh to use the faculty restroom, reports thePittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The student has a physical limitation, school officials say, which makes it difficult for the child to climb stairs needed to access the student facilities. The school’s bottom floor does not have a student restroom nor is there elevator access.
Teachers at the school argue the plan violates a provision of their contract stating that the school will provide “lavatory facilities exclusively for employees’ use.”
School officials, however, say the building has other faculty-only restrooms and the district has an obligation to “meet the needs of students with disabilities.”
The Steel Valley school board voted unanimously Thursday night to deny the teachers’ grievance and allow the student to use the faculty restroom, the Post-Gazette reports.
(Updated: March 27, 2015 at 10:30 AM CT)