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Sunday, June 17, 2018

DeWitt Clinton Principal Charges Teachers With 3020-a If They Do Not Change Student Grades

DeWitt Clinton High School Principal Pierre Orbe Gives Credit Recovery To Students Who Never Show Up

But even more disappointing is Principal Orbe's charging teachers with 3020-a if they will not agree to change a failing grade. This practice must stop, because these kids move on to college or jobs where they cannot succeed.

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

The NY POST published a story online on June 16, 2018, and in the paper on June 17, 2018, about DeWitt Clinton High School Principal Pierre Orbe and his handing out "mastery packets" to students so that students can gain passing grades in courses which they never attended, or missed tests, homework, and/or did not "master" the content.

In my opinion, there is alot more to this story, namely that Principal Pierre Orbe had meetings with teachers who he felt did not grade their students "correctly" in order to force these teachers to pass the students who had failed. And he disciplined the two teachers who said "no" to his "request", with 3020-a arbitration. Only two teachers said no to changing the students' grades and both hired me and Attorney David Barrett to represent them at their 3020-a.
Pierre Orbe

All principals change grades or, try to. It is the right thing to do, if the grade is unfair to the student or needs to be changed because it is a misprint or whatever. I have completed more than 60 3020-a cases, and I do massive research into all the actions of the principal, Superintendent, teachers, para, anyone who participates in the charging process. Changing grades of students and credit recovery are standard in all schools. Principals are supposed to change grades unless there is some kind of media attention to the way they do it, which occurred in the case of the previous Principal of DeWitt Clinton, who was Santiago Taveras. He was given another job at the NYC Department of Education, with a high salary after he was "punished" for changing 900+ grades without the teacher's approval.

I am the parent of four daughters, and I understand that stuff happens.

But Orbe is wrong to charge teachers with 3020-a if they dont think the student merits a grade change and will not change a grade for that reason.

The UFT Collective Bargaining Agreement states in Article 8J that a teacher's grades must be respected. In other words, the teacher must sign off on the grade change. But Pierre Orbe was brought in to DeWitt Clinton to make the school, a failing Renewal School, look good. He did not want to get any teacher's approval, he wanted to order teachers to do what he wanted.

Pierre Orbe started as Principal at DeWitt Clinton Feb 6, 2017.

He spent the month of January at the Superintendent’s office, studying what Santiago Taveras had done at DeWitt Clinton. He saw that HE, Pierre Orbe, had to collaborate with teachers in order to change failing grades to passing grades. But he was hired to make DeWitt Clinton, a Renewal School, look good, and support Carmen farina, the Chancellor, who pushed through the program. The program was failing (and Carmen was NOT happy).

What is clear to me having completed one of the 3020-a hearings, is that Pierre Orbe despises teachers and their right, in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, to have autonomy in grading as they see necessary. Here is a quote from of Orbe’s testimony, on February 7, 2018:

"To any lack of transparency, to
9 not sharing anything, but in a school where it's
10 75% stricken with below the poverty line, or
11 maybe the parent involvement is a little bit
12 lower, and they've gotten used to not having
13 transparency, to having what you would consider
14 a second or third rate level of treatment, this
15 is what I would expect. The impact is dramatic.
16 There is a sense of learned helplessness that
17 overcomes a community. You start to become--you
18 accept this, but you become angry. You accept
19 it, but you're really annoyed that no matter how
20 angry you get, you're still at the mercy of the
21 grade creators."

So, one month after entering DWC, he set up “Gradebook meetings” for all the teachers who failed students “too much”. This is the scholarship report, or “failure report”. At the 3020-a we were handed 52 pages of students, their names, classes, teacher, and grades for the September 2016-January 2017 Fall semester.

Orbe called 23 teachers to a “gradebook meeting” in March-April 2017, after Taveras left. But Orbe was able to meet with only 10 teachers before the UFT and/or the DOE stopped the meetings.These meetings were stopped because he was using his power and authority to force teachers to change grades or be disciplined. He could not do this.

Each teacher left the meeting with the names and grades that were supposed to be changed upward. Each teacher was given a packet with a Transcript Update Form to fill out and sign. As you can see, the Transcript Update Form must be signed off on by the teacher and principal. The two 3020-a charged teachers filled his out, but did not agree with Orbe that these students’ grades should be changed, so never handed the Form in.

The other teachers all, evidently, changed the grades as requested., and were not charged with 3020-a at that time. I am not blaming them, or anyone. Teachers must do as told and grieve later.

Both teachers who would not change the students' grades (they felt that the students should not be given passing grades for not showing up) were given 3020-a charges and reassigned to a Bronx rubber room. What is shocking is that both teachers were charged in the same OSI investigation, and the OSI Investigator was not given the right information about grading policy (he was not told about the school approving a grade of 60 which had been in place for many years). The investigator nevertheless UNSUBSTANTIATED the charges and found both teachers not guilty of misconduct.

This was not ok with Orbe. Quickly, OSI Supervisor Francine Campbell substantiated the charges against the two teachers who did not change the grades of their students. Ms. Campbell, an Attorney, did not do her own investigation, changed the "unsubstantiated" to "substantiated, then left her job at OSI. See p. 1 of the OSI report, last entry dated 7/21/17.She no longer works at OSI.

We wanted Ms. Campbell to come in to tell us why she changed the conclusion but the DOE refused to bring her in or give us her address to serve the subpoena SIGNED BY the ARBITRATOR.

I found her address and email from the Attorney Grievance Committee in Albany and called Joanne Vargo to confirm. Vargo told me to stop immediately from looking into her – Campbell – because she no longer worked for the DOE . She added, “her employment with us did not end well”.

Francine Campbell refused to come in:

From: Francine Campbell [mailto: ]
Sent: Friday, April 13, 2018 1:14 PM
To: David Barrett, Esq.
Subject: Re: Subpoena in 3020a Hearing

Mr. Barrett,

I have made it abundantly clear that I do not wish to appear at this hearing, and that there are other current DOE employees who can speak to the content of the report and the investigation as a whole. My current work schedule would not permit me to appear at the hearing. Moreover, there is nothing more that I can add to the reasoning behind the decision made in the investigation that is not already in the case file or that can be explained by the Executive Director or the Deputy Director of OSI. Please do not waste your time or money serving me with a subpoena, as I know that you will not glean any more information from my testimony that you do not already know.


Francine A. Campbell, Esq.


Here is the NY POST's article published June 17, 2018:

Principal lets students pass even if they never went to class
by Susan Edelman and Sara Dorn, June 16, 2018

This high school is a hooky player’s dream.

At DeWitt Clinton HS in the Bronx, kids who have cut class all semester can still snag a 65 passing grade — and course credit — if they complete a quickie “mastery packet.”

Insisting that students can pass “regardless of absence,” Principal Pierre Orbe has ordered English, science, social studies and math teachers to give “make up” work to hundreds of kids who didn’t show up or failed the courses, whistleblowers said.

“This is crazy!” a teacher told The Post. “A student can pass without going to class!”

The 1,200-student Clinton HS is one of 78 struggling schools in Mayor deBlasio’s “Renewal” program. Last year, 50 percent of seniors graduated, but only 28 percent of the grads had test scores high enough to enroll at CUNY without remedial help.

The DOE’s academic-policy guide says students “may not be denied credit based on lack of seat time alone.” Passing must be based “primarily on how well students master the subject matter.”

Orbe has taken the policy to a absurd extreme, teachers charge.

“We’re kind of being forced to pass students who don’t deserve to pass,” one said.

Another said, “It’s unfair to the students who made every effort to come to class, complete assignments — and earn the credit.”

In a meeting, Orbe dismissed their concerns, teachers said. They also complained he gave no written guidance on what to put in the packets, which were handed out starting June 12 — after the last day of classes. Kids have until June 26, the last day of school, to turn them in.

One girl never attended a single class during the whole spring term — Jan. 30 to June 11, a teacher said. Another came one day. Both skipped homework, classroom writing tasks, group discussion, quizzes, and essay assignments or exams. Another kid showed up but failed tests and “didn’t do any assignments or participate in class.”

Their packets require only completion of tests. One student who has returned the packet “did not demonstrate mastery” — and will fail, the teacher said.

Since the work can be done at home, teachers said, kids can copy off the Web, or otherwise cheat.

Students had mixed feelings about the packets. “I’m grateful for it,” said junior Ronny Ravelo, 17. “Let’s say you’ve been absent a lot or you don’t really understand the course. It gives you a chance to get your grade back up instead of going to summer school.”

Freshman Jeremy Bautista, 14, disagreed, saying a packet did a pal no favors because he’ll likely flunk the Regents exam: “In the long run it’s going to mess him up.”

CUNY education professor David Bloomfield said the DOE make-up policy leaves room for abuse. “These packets may not reflect subject mastery. If so, they’re a scam and shouldn’t be allowed.”

Phil Weinberg, deputy chancellor for teaching and learning, said, “We’re reviewing this matter to see if the concern is valid and are prepared to take follow-up action if necessary.”

Orbe did not return a message seeking comment.

"Mastery packets", credit recovery, social promotion, or whatever you call allowing students to pass by doing alternative work to the required test or homework, is nothing new, as we all know. Parents like it, because their little angels can graduate with their friends. Principals and Superintendents want it, because the more kids that graduate the better.

Teachers who know that kids are not learning and not making an effort usually try to work with these kids, and give them second and third chances to make up what has been left undone. But simply changing a grade from F to P(failure to pass) without earning the change and missing all the classes, does not help the student at all.

Mayor Bloomberg fought social promotion. But kids are promoted to the higher grade or graduated throughout NYC today, because this makes Mayor Bill DeBlasio and now Chancellor Richard Carranza look good.

See this article published in 2008:
Lacking Credits, Some Students Learn a Shortcut

Dennis Bunyan showed up for his first-semester senior English class at Wadleigh Secondary School in Harlem so rarely that, as he put it, “I basically didn’t attend.”

But despite his sustained absence, Mr. Bunyan got the credit he needed to graduate last June by completing just three essay assignments, which he said took about 10 hours.

“I’m grateful for it, but it also just seems kind of, you know, outrageous,” Mr. Bunyan said. “There’s no way three essays can possibly cover a semester of work.”

Mr. Bunyan was able to graduate through what is known as credit recovery — letting those who lack credits make them up by means other than retaking a class or attending traditional summer school. Although his principal said the makeup assignments were as rigorous as regular course work, Mr. Bunyan’s English teacher, Charan Morris, was so troubled that she boycotted the graduation ceremony, writing in an e-mail message to students that she believed some were “being pushed through the system regardless of whether they have done the work to earn their diploma.”

Throughout the city, an ad hoc system of helping students like Mr. Bunyan over the hump is taking root in public high schools, sometimes over the protests of teachers, who call credit recovery programs a poor substitute for classroom learning and say they ultimately devalue the diploma. In interviews, teachers or principals at more than a dozen schools said the programs ranged from five-day crunch sessions over school breaks, to interactive computer programs culminating in an online test, to independent study packets — and varied in quality.

Top officials with the city’s Education Department say good principals have always found creative ways to help struggling students make up missed work, describing such efforts as a lifeline for students who might otherwise never earn their diplomas. And across the country, school systems confronting abysmal graduation rates are turning to online credit recovery courses, which roughly a third of states have either developed or endorsed in recent years, according to the National Dropout Prevention Center at Clemson University.

Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, in a statement, called credit recovery “a legitimate and important strategy for working with high school students.” He said there was “no indication” that the practice “has been abused more in recent years.”

“If credit recovery is not conducted properly, just as with any other required course, we will take appropriate action,” he added. “We do students no favors by giving them credit they haven’t earned.”

But city officials acknowledged that credit recovery programs are neither centrally monitored nor tracked.

The State Education Department, after seeing a copy of “independent study” guidelines in use at Wadleigh and a number of other schools, said it was examining whether the practice met its standards. State law requires students to earn credits by completing set hours of “seat time” — essentially, showing up for class — and demonstrating subject mastery. To graduate, they must also pass Regents exams.

“We are looking into this situation very carefully,” said Johanna Duncan-Poitier, the senior deputy state education commissioner. “We want to make sure that the student is getting what they deserve.”

Critics say the practice is poised to become more prevalent as principals enjoy greater freedom from supervision at the same time as they are held more accountable for student performance, two hallmarks of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s plan to overhaul city schools. Last fall, schools received letter grades based on student performance, with principals at D or F schools in danger of losing their jobs.

Diane Ravitch, a historian of the city’s public schools who has been a frequent critic of the mayor’s efforts, says the practice of credit recovery could raise questions about the validity of gains in the city’s graduation rate. According to the state, the city had a 50 percent four-year graduation rate in 2006, the most recent year for which data was available, up from 44 percent in 2004.

“I think when it’s used correctly, it might be a good thing,” Ms. Ravitch said of credit recovery, “but when used incorrectly it’s a way of gaming the system.”

But Mr. Klein said there was “no basis to suggest that improper credit recovery has affected graduation rates.” Saying that 39,000 students received Regents or local diplomas last year, 8,000 more than in 2002, when the mayor took control of the schools, he added, “A few anecdotes don’t materially affect this rise.”

Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said that the union had received “enough complaints about it that we are really concerned,” but that without hard numbers on the prevalence of credit recovery, she could not say whether the graduation rate was suspect.

“It clearly raises questions about the graduation statistics, but I can’t tell you right now as I sit here how widespread it is,” she said. “I don’t know if it raises questions about a statistically significant number of kids.”

Elizabeth Dougherty, a social studies teacher and teachers’ union chapter chairwoman at the Pelham Preparatory Academy, a small public school in the Bronx, said her school offered several credit recovery programs. “The pressure is so overwhelming now for graduation rates,” she said. “The principals are getting pressure, and the pressure gets put on the teachers.”

One Manhattan principal who has worked in the school system for more than a decade and, like many educators, requested anonymity for fear of retribution by the department, said: “I think that credit recovery and the related topic independent study is in lots of ways the dirty little secret of high schools. There’s very little oversight and there are very few standards.”

Mónica Ortiz-Ureña, the principal of Evander Childs High School in the Bronx, a large school scheduled to close in June after years of poor performance, said its credit recovery programs were developed after the city cut its centrally run summer and evening schools. She said many teachers did not like the practice, which at her school includes online programs in which students complete some work at home and some at school, because “they feel that you’re taking away their jobs.”

“I think credit recovery, as long as it’s done properly and is done according to state law, I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for students who have experienced failure before to experience success,” she said.

At Franklin K. Lane, a large high school in Brooklyn, an advertisement for credit recovery programs offered last year urged students: “If you failed a class, don’t despair ... turnaround your 55 into a 65 in 6 weeks!!! Ask your teacher for details!!!”

Adam Bergstein, a teacher who is head of the school’s union chapter, said the six-week program, which consisted of six classes, had troubled teachers.

“A 55 could be indicative of anything from a 1 to literally a 55 average,” he said. “It’s not a mere nudge ahead; it could be an astronomical leap.”

“It undermines the whole concept of teaching and grading,” Mr. Bergstein continued.

At Lafayette High School in Brooklyn, a February memorandum from two assistant principals described “our first five-day Intensive Program for Credit Recovery” for English classes, consisting of “two days of full instruction from 9-2 p.m. and three days of classroom instruction and field trip experiences.”

Credit recovery programs generally take place on school grounds; teachers who lead them can receive overtime pay.

At Wings Academy in the Bronx, several teachers, all of whom requested anonymity, said credit recovery programs shortchanged students because they may never acquire the discipline and work habits to succeed beyond high school. The programs include crunch sessions after classes end for the semester and independent study packets.

At the Felisa Rincón de Gautier Institute for Law and Public Policy, also in the Bronx, Natasha Ramos, a top student, said she was dismayed by a new “term extension program,” in which seniors could make up missing credits during the week when classes stop for Regents exams.

“I didn’t think that that was fair to the kids who had to go to class during the whole semester,” she said. “It takes away from an actual learning environment.”

A teacher at another Bronx school, who did not want the name of his school published for fear of retribution, said a program there let students earn a year’s worth of science credits by responding to 19 questions on 5 topics. “Research and list all the global environmental issues that science focuses on,” read one, under the “environmental studies” category. “What are some ways that you, as an individual, can help?” read another.

Ms. Morris, the teacher who boycotted the Wadleigh graduation, declined to comment; her e-mail message was provided by a recipient. Wadleigh’s former principal, Karen Watts, was rewarded in January for the school’s performance by being named the city’s first “executive principal.” She was reassigned to a troubled school, in exchange for a $25,000 yearly bonus.

In an interview, Ms. Watts said she believed that no more than five of the more than 100 graduates last June had benefited from the credit-recovery work packets, which were meant to take 54 hours and were “just as rigorous as courses they would have taken sitting in the classroom every day with a teacher, or even more rigorous.” She said she believed she had been following “standard practice.”

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Manhattan Center Principal David Jimenez Gets Away With Sexual Harassment

David Jimenez

When I read Sue Edelman's expose of Principal David Jimenez, I couldn't help but think "what if Harvey Weinstein and/or Bill Cosby worked for the NYC Department of Education? Would there be a #MeToo Movement?"

It's very disturbing that public funds are paying for this man, Principal David Jimenez, to stay in his job, as well as paying for his wrong-doing. Where are the investigators, and justice for the people who have been victimized?

See April 26, 2018, NY POST:
Department of Education stifled sex harassment claims: ex-union rep
and prior posts on this blog:

Wrong-doing of any kind needs to be fully investigated, and wrong-doers must be penalized, and stopped.

Betsy Combier

Principal accused in sex harassment cases totalling $200K keeps job

By Susan Edelman, NY POST

This principal was spared the #MeToo ax — twice.
While Mayor de Blasio has blamed a “hyper-complaint dynamic” for a spate of sex-harassment complaints at the Department of Education, the city has quietly shelled out $200,000 to two women who accused the same principal of abuse — yet he got to keep his job.
The city last month settled a second sexual-harassment suit in four years charging that Manhattan principal David Jimenez groped, made unwanted advances and retaliated against the women when they complained.
The city has now agreed to pay a total $200,000 to two assistant principals who worked under Jimenez at the Manhattan Center of Science and Mathematics in Harlem.
Yet even in the #MeToo era, Jimenez, who makes $173,707 a year, can’t be punished, officials said.
Felicia Bray
Five years after she filed suit in Manhattan Supreme Court, Assistant Principal Felicia Bray reached a deal on April 4. The city agreed to pay her $150,000. She claimed she suffered Jimenez’ abuse from 2008 to 2009.
According to her suit, the harassment started when Jimenez touched her hand and told her he liked her. She replied that it made her uncomfortable, and that she wanted to keep their relationship professional. But he still pursued her aggressively, she alleged.
In his office, Jimenez “grabbed me from behind and tried to feel up my breasts,” she testified in a deposition. “I was wrestling with him and started to cry, ‘What are you doing?’ I was screaming.”
After five minutes, he finally stopped when a janitor knocked on the door, she said. “He told me to hide in the bathroom.”
Another time, according to her publicly filed deposition transcript, he followed her car in his, honking the horn, and demanding he pull over and join him.
In a health office, Jimenez asked Bray to open a desk drawer. It contained a fake penis used in sex-ed classes to demonstrate condom use.
“He laughed hysterically,” she recalled.
In a school hallway, Jimenez “leaned in and tried to smell me,” she said.
Bray confided in another AP, Arleen Milton, who revealed that Jimenez had harassed her, too, Bray testified. The two women agreed to stay together whenever he was with either of them.
Milton settled her own sex-harassment suit in 2014 after complaining that Jimenez tried to kiss her, made lewd comments and asked her on dates, according to court papers. The city paid her $50,000. She works as an assistant principal at another school.
When Bray finally complained to the DOE’s Office of Equal Opportunity, Jimenez began slapping her with disciplinary letters.
She lodged a complaint with the city’s Commission on Human Rights, charging that Jimenez was retaliating against her sex-based complaints.
Instead of investigating Jimenez, the DOE terminated Bray as an AP, citing “professional misconduct” and “insubordination.” She was demoted to teacher, her salary slashed.
A different school later rehired Bray as an AP. She now makes $140,639.
Another former AP under Jimenez called him “mean and vindictive,” saying, “He shouldn’t be a principal.”
In 2013, The Post reported that Jimenez ordered a beloved 89-year-old aide to man the elevator all day in an effort to get her to retire so he could give her $28,000-a-year job to someone else, staffers said.
“It’s scary,” said attorney Gerald Gross, who represented both Milton and Bray. “When you have similar acts alleged against the same principal, it’s incumbent on the city to start seriously investigating whether to keep this guy in the same position.”
DOE spokesman Doug Cohen said the settlement does not confirm wrongdoing. He added, “Cases are often resolved beyond the time-frame when DOE is legally able to impose discipline.”
The DOE also pointed to the Manhattan high school’s 96 percent graduation rate as evidence that Jimenez is “effective.”
“I have not been disciplined,” Jimenez told The Post. “I’ve always denied these accusations and I’m sticking to that. I did not sexually harass anyone.”
The Bray settlement comes after the city admitted it fielded 570 sex-harassment complaints in the DOE between 2013 and 2017, but substantiated just seven cases.
The de Blasio administration said last week it will spend $5 million to beef up enforcement, including hiring eight new investigators.
Harlem Teachers Say Principal Has no Principles

Teachers and others at an East Harlem high school say their principal is bad for education.
Principal David Jimenez of the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics has been accused of sexually harassing two employees, asking a staffer to lie, unfairly forcing out a teacher and creating a climate of fear and retribution.
"It's just so crazy in school, the tension between mostly the principal and the teachers has gotten out of hand where now it's affecting a lot of students,” said Oscar Valenzuela, the senior class president.
The Department of Education says it is investigating Jimenez, but staffers say the school is sinking as accusations have swirled for more than a year.  Jimenez declined to be interviewed.
Former Assistant Principal Felicia Bray is one of two women who accuse Jimenez of sexual harassment.
“He groped me in his office,” she said.
After filing a formal complaint against Jimenez last year, she says he retaliated against her and others.  She was sent to another school and is fighting her demotion to teacher.
Baseball coach Edgar Leon says the principal wanted him to lie and accuse Bray of okaying an unauthorized purchase for the team. He says that after he refused to lie, the school cut the baseball team's funding.
“I believe that I am a target for standing up for what's right,” said Leon.
To save the season, teachers say they raised $700 for the team. Leon thanked them with a barbecue. English teacher Yves Cloarec says Jimenez forced him to resign last June -- simply because he had attended that barbecue.
“Basically because I participated in that barbecue, I was no longer the right person for the job and as a matter of fact, he said so in those words,” said Cloarec.
Since Jimenez took over the school three years ago, the graduation rate has improved to 89.5%.  However the school's rating has dropped from an A to a low B and staffers say Jimenez has caused talented teachers and administrators to leave.
Student Dabian Canales was in Cloarec's English class and plays baseball for Coach Leon. 
“I just feel like it's unfair,” said Canales.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Students Attack Teachers and Staff - NY POST

The proof that the New York City public school system is in disarray can be seen in the statistics of harm done to the people who work or attend schools in the City. Student assaults are a symptom of bad management, plain and simple.

A culture of "hands off the little flowers" (children) no matter what they do, screams to kids, "You can do whatever you want". This well-known but unwritten "rule" harms everyone.

Especially the victims of bullies. A bully cannot exist in a zero-tolerance environment that is cognizant of the need to have accurate facts about circumstances before making conclusions. The NYC Department of Education does not have this embedded in policy at any District or school level, nor are there any "real" investigators ("real" investigators = people are professionally trained to look into the circumstances of events of bullying). It's a free-for-all in our city's schools where the strongest, most politically connected person wins the approval.

With accountability and consequences missing, bullies succeed. And they get people to follow them. This is "mobbing".

This type of mobbing, in my opinion, is a criminal operation created and pursued irrationally - because these are kids we are discussing.

From Wikipedia:
"In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority. The term "crime" does not, in modern criminal law, have any simple and universally accepted definition, though statutory definitions have been provided for certain purposes. The most popular view is that crime is a category created by law; in other words, something is a crime if declared as such by the relevant and applicable law. One proposed definition is that a crime or offence (or criminal offence) is an act harmful not only to some individual but also to a community, society or the state ("a public wrong"). Such acts are forbidden and punishable by law.

With the meeting of more than two criminal minds, only malicious harmful consequences can occur. And such a group is almost always successful. No planning or strategies exist to re-direct the extremely malicious focus of a team of criminal minds.

This has to change.

Betsy Combier 

Students attacked, threatened thousands of school employees last year

City school kids aren’t just hitting the books, they’re smacking their teachers.
More than 10,000 city school employees, from custodians to principals, and about half of them teachers, were assaulted or threatened by students last school year, The Post has learned.
A total of 10,825 staffers reported incidents in 2016-17, a 4.5 percent increase from the 10,357 ­embattled educators in 2015-16, and 11.8 percent more than the 9,686 in 2014-15, data show.
The number of incidents — including “altercations,” “physically aggressive behavior” and “inflicting serious injury” — also spiked. Schools reported 9,529 cases in 2016-17, up 3.5 percent from 2015-16 (9,211) and 10 percent from 2014-15 (8,677). Some cases involved multiple victims.
And from 2015 to 2017, a staggering 8,253 school employees, including 3,792 teachers, suffered injuries in those incidents.
Gregory Floyd

“The mayor’s narrative is that the schools are safer, crime is down. These stats show crime is not down. Assaults are high, threats are high,” said school-agent union leader Gregory Floyd.
“I’ve said from the beginning of the de Blasio administration, the schools are out of control.”
PS 78 in Queens topped the list with 80 victims of violence or threats in 2014-15; PS 3 on Staten Island held the top spot with 100 victims in 2015-16; and the Island’s PS 60 recorded a leading 179 victims in 2016-17.
The city Department of Education took 18 months to comply with The Post’s Freedom of Information Law request for the disturbing data.
The DOE refused to divulge details on the violence, citing student privacy, but several incidents have made the news:
  • A Bronx special-needs high-school student stabbed his teacher with a No. 2 pencil in October 2015. Devon Smalls, 17, attacked his 44-year-old teacher, Juliet Omenukwa, inside the Jeffrey M. Rapport School for Career Development, police said.Smalls, a special-needs student suspended three days earlier, allegedly punched the shell-shocked instructor and jabbed her multiple times in the ribs with the freshly-sharpened point, according to witnesses and reports. The teen pleaded guilty to harassment, and the charges were dropped on condition he complete community service, the Bronx DA’s office said.
  • In May 2016, a veteran English teacher at troubled Flushing HS landed in hot water for trying to stop a student who threatened to beat her with a heavy cast on his arm. Eileen Ghastin was so terrified when the teen charged at her that she blurted in self-defense, “If you hit me, I’ll kill you.” The May 17 confrontation occurred at a long-troubled school in de Blasio’s $600 million “Renewal” program. But instead of expelling the teen, the DOE suspended Ghastin for four weeks, with a hearing officer saying she should have followed Michelle Obama’s motto, “When they go low, we go high.” Ghastin is appealing.
  • In October 2016, a student at Manhattan Early College School for Advertising pummeled his principal who had asked him to remove his headphones. “He grabbed my Beats and was very aggressive so I lost control,” 18-year-old Luis Penzo confessed, court papers say. Matthew Tossman, 36, suffered two black eyes and a laceration that needed seven stitches. In September, a Manhattan Supreme Court judge granted Penzo youthful-offender status and sentenced him to a conditional discharge: if he stays out of trouble for three years, he’ll avoid prison and a criminal record.
Some teachers believe the number of assaults and threats is much higher, and that many incidents do not get recorded on the DOE’s Online Occurrence Reporting System.
Some administrators don’t want the school to look bad, or they blame the teachers for “poor classroom management.”
“If you complain, you’re a target,” a teacher said.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said the union contract mandates a safety plan in every school, and each site should offer counseling, training and conflict resolution.
“One of our frustrations with the Department of Education is that it fails to ensure that this happens in every school,” he said.
The DOE data does not include assaults on school safety agents, who are NYPD employees. The unarmed guards suffer injuries while breaking up fights or trying to restrain kids — some have been punched or stabbed, said union leader Floyd.
“If they assault adults, what would they do to other students?” Floyd asked. “Children are being bullied and threatened too.”
Last September, a bullied teen at Urban Academy School for Wildlife Conservation in the Bronx whipped out a folding knife and stabbed two classmates, one fatally. There were 18 incidents at the school in recent years, five during 2014-15, two in 2015-16 and 11 in 2016-17. The school is closing this year.
“We take each incident seriously and have detailed protocols in place to ensure they are reported, investigated and addressed,” said a DOE spokesman.

The Partnership of Bully Power and Media Can Convict a Teacher at 3020-a

Bullies have the right of way in New York City, it seems to me after looking into and working on more than 60 3020-a cases of corporal punishment or verbal abuse.

Eileen Ghastin
The case of Eileen Ghastin comes to mind. I've written about her in a previous post (I and Attorney Jonathan Behrins are working on her Article 75 Appeal) after a student threatened Eileen in her classroom with beating her up with the cast on his arm, and he knew how to box, he told her. She was terrified, so she believed that there was only one way to stop him, and that was to say something that would make him re-consider. here is part of the record testimony:

"The teen then “went berserk,” Ghastin said. “He jumped out of his chair, rushed toward me and raised his arm,” encased in a hard cast from elbow to hand.
“I’m going to beat the s–t out of you,” Ghastin quoted him as yelling. “I’m a boxer, so I can ­really f–k you up. "I am really going to do a lot of damage."

Eileen was frozen with fear that she was really going to be hurt. And then, she said, " I thought to myself, I have to say something quickly or else I am going to die. --you know. So, I realized, you know, that he is in a very--a blind rage. If I say something strong enough to him, he will stop.
I said, "If you beat me, I will kill you." 

This statement stopped him."

However the Arbitrator, Richard Williams concluded that Eileen's words embarrassed the student and created a sense of terror in the student and all the other students in the class, and gave her 4 weeks suspension without pay. The lawyer on this case defending Ms. Ghastin was NYSUT Attorney Jennifer Hogan.

But in the record there is testimony that the Student, Student A, had read the article published in the New York Post on May 29, 2016:

My student threatened to beat me — and I’m the one in trouble

and Arbitrator Williams was convinced that reading the article on May 29 2016 was enough for him to conclude he must punish Ms. Ghastin for embarrassing the student.

Huh? Read the Williams' support for entering the POST article at the hearing (Kereen Evans-McKay was the Department attorney making the argument):

"21 MS. HOGAN: …I think
22 there's a distinction between the question of
23 how did you feel as a result of statements being
24 made to you in the classroom versus how did you
25 feel about reading about an allegation contained

in a newspaper. And so I understand your point
3 about the Chancellor's Regulations deriving from
4 the allegations, but here it appears to me that
5 the Department's trying to argue that uncharged
6 conduct, which is notoriety, can be used in
7 making a determination as to whether or not
8 there was a Chancellor's Regulation violation.

MS. HOGAN: ...Here
21 counsel is taking it a step further and asking
22 that question about how the witness felt as a
23 result of reading the newspaper article.

24 THE HEARING OFFICER: But that's a
25 consequence
THE HEARING OFFICER: That question is
6 being answered because in my mind, should I find
7 a violation of the Chancellor's Reg., the impact
8 of the incident and the natural flowing
9 consequences that the student experienced and
10 the impact on that student's future really going
11 forward and interacting with teachers, is
12 relevant in the determination.

MS. EVANS-MCKAY: Okay. So at the end
5 of the day, the Department has to prove for
6 verbal abuse which includes how the verbal abuse
7 by the teacher made the student/students feel.
8 If there is, if there was a follow up to the
9 incident, an incident, there's a continuation of
10 the incident that was now publicized that also
11 bleeds into how the student may have felt by the
12 incident, both the incident that happened inside
13 the classroom and now something that's now been
14 publicized about the incident. So I'd like to

15 be able to ask the student about his feelings
16 about what happened in the classroom and
17 obviously we can only get how this affects him
18 educationally if we get his feelings about what
19 happened and what he read. I think it,
20 everything has to be considered in its totality"

(Transcript, pp. 469-471, 2-3-17)

and then shockingly, Williams tried to get some emotional damages to penalize the Respondent, Eileen Ghastin:

"THE HEARING OFFICER: What ways have 5 you been affected?
6 WITNESS: Well I haven't been affected
7 at all physically. Honestly, I just thought it
8 was a stupid thing to still bring up. I'm not
9 holding a grudge. What was said was said, and
10 it was last year. I think it should have been
11 dropped last year. 

19 A. By the time I saw The Post, I was confused
20 on how she said the story had gone or what had
21 happened. But then just a week after that, I was
22 done. I just let it go." (transcript, pp. 472-473)

4 your friends saying stuff about it change your
5 mind about how it impacted you?
6 WITNESS: No. Every time they brought
7 it up, I said, "Yeah. That was me that got the
8 teacher fired." But I just leave it as that."  (transcript, p. 475)

The arbitrator agreed with the Department that the incident and the write-up in the POST must have embarrassed the Student, and gave Ms. Ghastin the penalty of 4-weeks’ suspension without pay, altering her unblemished career forever.

That Williams used the NY POST to give a penalty of 4-weeks' suspension is absurd, in my opinion. Ms. Ghastin has appealed this decision.

Betsy Combier

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Wade Goria: Please Stop The Grade-Fixing

We are getting many 3020-a cases where a tenured teacher or Guidance Counselor is charged with grade-changing, falsifying grades, not complying with Department policies, and similar such stuff. This theme is the flavor of the 2017-2018 school year, it seems.

If a student genuinely needs extra credit due to circumstances particular to him/her, then, of course, we support the teacher working with the student on credit recovery, extra homework, etc. All kids need a chance to succeed. But few students (there are special circumstances, IEPs, etc.) need to be socially promoted to graduation if there has been no effort or attendance.

If you are told to change the grades of your failing students, and you feel that the request is improper, then read further.

The department is trying its' best to shove great teachers under the bus, and we understand that game: put the blame on the teacher/Assistant Principal before someone blames the principal or goes to the media. Principals are always immune to prosecution, so the best thing that a teacher/AP can do when a Principal calls him/her into the main office and tells the person to change the grade on a Transcript Update Form or on something else, say "let me take this and I will get it back to you".  Go to your computer immediately, and write up the meeting, send the transcript update form to your UFT rep and the Superintendent with your reasons why this is improper. Ask for assistance in what to do. Stop the principal from cleaning his/her wheels with your career.

If you are charged with 3020-a specifications which charge you with any of the above, contact us. We got this.

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

Wade Goria is a former teacher and whistleblower at John Dewey HS in Brooklyn -- and he's still
pushing for the scandalized city school system to clean up its act.

Dear Mr. Chancellor, please stop the grade-fixing in NYC schools
NY POST, April 14, 2018

Five years ago, teacher WADE R. GORIA exposed a massive grade-fixing scheme at John Dewey HS in Gravesend, Brooklyn, along with his colleague Michael P. Klimetz. Their revelations led to a state audit, released last month, that confirmed the shocking truth: School leaders had committed wholesale fraud — and cheated students out of the education the city was required, by law, to provide. Here, in an open letter, Goria says how grade-fixing fraud is still widespread throughout the system and asks the new schools chancellor, Richard Carranza, to stop the rot . . .
A cancer has metastasized in NYC’s school system. It was deliberately planted by your predecessor, Carmen Fariña, with the sanction of the mayor, the State Education Department and the United Federation of Teachers.
In the face of Mayor de Blasio’s ambitious demands for dramatic increases in graduation rates, Fariña and her superintendents found a reliable means of achieving success: grade-fixing. John Dewey HS students sardonically called it “Easy Pass” amid a nightmarish flurry of corrupt practices that I witnessed as a social-studies teacher during the tenure of Principal Kathleen Elvin from 2012 to 2015. She came to Dewey as part of the mayor’s Renewal program for struggling schools.
Elvin’s creation of “Project Graduation” involved many schemes. Elvin created bogus titles such as “College Explorations” to give students a way to accumulate credits for courses they had failed or lacked. Many sham “credit recovery” courses covered a dozen or more academic subjects — math, science, English, Spanish, you name it — supposedly taught concurrently by a lone teacher who had no certification in most of the subjects. One rookie teacher was listed as having taught a total of 52 classes in all academic disciplines in a single semester. Little or no actual teaching went on. Most students didn’t even attend. Elvin’s assistant principals strong-armed teachers into giving passing grades. If they refused, the assistant principals and guidance counselors entered the data system and passed the kids anyway.
Elvin retaliated against unwilling teachers with endless disciplinary hearings. She and her assistant principals stormed into classrooms to do teacher observations guaranteed to slap them with the lowest rating: “ineffective.” After Michael P. Klimetz, a revered science teacher, refused to grade students in subjects he didn’t teach, he was moved to another room without lab equipment.
Our union failed us. The UFT chapter chair in all NYC public schools is required to review each teacher’s program to ensure compliance with the contract. Had this been done, the rug would have been pulled out from Elvin’s scam. The UFT’s Brooklyn representative was fully aware of the violations but failed to address our pleas for protection.

[Editor’s note: The UFT said Friday it gave “full support” to teachers who exposed the “principal’s destructive practices.”]
Michael and I reported Elvin’s massive fraud to Brooklyn Superintendent Michael Prayor, the Department of Education’s Office of Special Investigations, the Special Commissioner of Investigation and members of the state Board of Regents. We naïvely assumed the system would intervene and halt these unconscionable practices.
More than 1¹/₂ years later, on June 30, 2015, the OSI finally issued a scathing report. But it detailed just some of the fraud and named only Elvin and two assistant principals, though most of the assistant principals and guidance counselors took part. A week later, Elvin was removed from Dewey amid intense media coverage. Yet, as we would learn a year later, it was all a charade. We believe Fariña never intended to hold Elvin accountable.
It took the state Education Department five years from the time they were first alerted about this outrageous scandal to issue an audit on March 25, finding that thousands of improper credits were awarded to Dewey students. But the audit gave no explanation of how the scam was carried out. It was like confirming a murder without describing how the victim was killed or who committed the crime.
The Board of Regents has yet to hold any guilty parties accountable by revoking their licenses or certifications, or by levying fines. This stands in stark contrast to the handling of a major cheating scandal in Atlanta 10 years ago, when prison sentences were meted out to corrupt educators. More recently, the Washington, DC, school system issued a swift and far more thorough report following media reports that Ballou HS had fixed grades and graduated students whose low attendance failed to meet requirements.
A once vaunted and proud institution, Dewey now boasts an 80 percent graduation rate, but last year 48 percent of the grads didn’t have test scores high enough to enroll in CUNY without remediation. Several assistant principals and other staffers who conspired with Elvin still work at the school. Elvin was awarded a post at the DOE’s Tweed headquarters and now collects $170,000 a year in the Office of Safety and Youth Development.
Chancellor Carranza, at the outset of your tenure, you are faced with a choice: You can stop the spread of the grade-fixing contagion by finally applying consequences for criminal fraud, or you can let the DOE further descend into self-serving degeneracy.
Wade R. Goria taught social studies for 20 years at John Dewey HS, retiring in 2015 after Principal Kathleen Elvin’s ouster. He also taught international relations at NYU for 18 years. He earned a master’s degree at Oxford University and authored the book“Sovereignty and Leadership in Lebanon, 1943-1976.”
Kathleen Elvin (picture by Gregory Mango)

Grade-fixing ex-principal lands $157K job as DOE administrator
by Sue Edelman, May 14, 2016 

The city will not appeal a decision to dismiss cheating charges against former Dewey HS Principal Kathleen Elvin, and will keep her on as a six-figure administrator, officials told The Post.
An internal probe had found that Elvin and her assistant principals at the Gravesend, Brooklyn, high school ran a grade-fixing scheme called “Project Graduation.” Hundreds of students — who dubbed it “Easy Pass” — got credits for sham classes with no instruction.
But Jay Nadelbach, a hearing officer assigned to conduct Elvin’s administrative trial, last month dismissed misconduct charges after the Department of Education failed to turn over records revealing it later approved all the credits. Nadelbach ordered Elvin, ousted in July 2015, “reinstated” and awarded back pay.
The city had 10 days to appeal the dismissal in court. “We did not appeal,” a city Law Department spokesman said.
Instead, Elvin “will be assigned to a position as a DOE administrator in a central office,” officials said. Her salary: $157,040.
“Ms. Elvin will not be placed in a school,” said DOE spokeswoman Devora Kaye.
Officials would not explain why they didn’t fight to uphold the charges against Elvin, but a court appeal would have cast light on a major cheating scandal at a time when Mayor de Blasio is seeking extension of mayoral control of schools.
Dewey teachers who exposed the fraud aren’t surprised at Elvin’s victory.
“It completely substantiates the lack of sincerity in their ostensible effort to terminate her,” said retired social-studies teacher Wade Goria. “They never had any intention to fire her in the first place.”
The DOE probe found Elvin led a scheme in which students lacking credits in all subjects were listed on class rosters and given “packets” of work but got no instruction by certified teachers, as required by state law.
Whistleblowers believe Elvin planned to contend at trial that her actions were sanctioned by higher-ups, including Chancellor Carmen Fariña.
“Elvin would spill the beans on a system-wide policy,” another Dewey teacher said.
When the charges were tossed, Elvin said she was a victim of “character assassination” and the case was based on “misrepresentations, half-truths and misinformation.”
“It completely substantiates the lack of sincerity in their ostensible effort to terminate her,” said retired social-studies teacher Wade Goria. “They never had any intention to fire her in the first place.”
The DOE probe found Elvin led a scheme in which students lacking credits in all subjects were listed on class rosters and given “packets” of work but got no instruction by certified teachers, as required by state law.
Whistleblowers believe Elvin planned to contend at trial that her actions were sanctioned by higher-ups, including Chancellor Carmen Fariña.
“Elvin would spill the beans on a system-wide policy,” another Dewey teacher said.
When the charges were tossed, Elvin said she was a victim of “character assassination” and the case was based on “misrepresentations, half-truths and misinformation.”
CSA General Counsel David Grandwetter, Kathleen Elvin, Former CSA President Ernest Logan, Bon Reich, Schoolbook, · by Yasmeen Khan
An arbitrator ruled to dismiss all disciplinary charges against Kathleen Elvin, the former principal of John Dewey High School in Brooklyn, who was removed from her position on charges that she ran a sub-standard credit recovery program. 
On Wednesday, Elvin expressed relief at the ruling. She said the allegations, her removal as principal and the media coverage of the issue amounted to a "character assassination." 
This was the latest twist in a story dating back at least to last school year when investigators looked into teachers' complaints that even students who did little work and had low attendance rates passed courses designed to help them accrue credits required for graduation. 
The arbitrator, Jay Nadelbach, wrote in his ruling that city education officials validated the credit recovery program when it certified the credits received by students, thereby allowing students to graduate. 
"If all the course credits were accepted and validated," wrote Nadelbach, "how can the Respondent be charged with misconduct for allegedly administering substandard courses?"
The union representing public school principals, the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, applauded the ruling, and called the Wednesday press conference with Elvin.
"It was very difficult to actually read about myself and not recognize that person they were describing in print, because virtually none of it was true or accurate or clear in communicating what had gone on in the school," Elvin said. 
After she was removed from John Dewey in July she was suspended without pay. In March, she returned to the payroll, following an earlier ruling by the arbitrator. The most recent decision entitled Elvin to full back pay and reinstatement as a principal.  
"We are disappointed with this decision, and we are continuing to review our options," said Devora Kaye, a Department of Education spokeswoman, in a statement on Wednesday.
City education officials, according to a summary in the arbitrator's ruling, called the motion to dismiss disciplinary charges "premature and inappropriate." Instead, they wanted a full hearing to terminate Elvin's employment.