Sunday, December 28, 2008
Speaking and Writing About the Bloomberg/Klein Educational Mess Upsets Bloomberg and Klein
I love this story -
The New York City Board of Education has stopped the major media from exposing the crimes and errors of their chief perpetrators and their policies, and has stooped to the level of removing a banner from PS 89's fence so that...no one would know what the rally was protesting? The "Who are You Kidding" Award goes to the person at the NYC BOE who told the school custodian to take the banner down.
City removes P.S. 89’s overcrowding banner before rally
By Julie Shapiro, Downtown Express
When Anne Albright arrived at P.S. 89 one morning last week, she noticed that a red-and-white banner reading “STOP Overcrowding Our Schools” had disappeared from P.S. 89’s fence.
At first, Albright and other parents assumed it was a random act of vandalism. But then they heard that the Department of Education told a custodian to take the banner down, said Albright, co-president of P.S. 89’s Overcrowding Committee.
“I don’t understand why the D.O.E. has anything to say [about the school displaying the banner],” Albright said.
Albright and others channeled their frustration about overcrowding at a rally last Thursday. Several hundred strong, parents and elementary students marched to City Hall after the last day of school to demand solutions for the overcrowding at P.S. 89, P.S. 234 and other local schools.
At the rally and afterwards, parents talked about what the removal of the P.S. 89 banner means for the anti-overcrowding effort.
“If he got mad, great,” said Nicki Francis, a P.S. 234 parent, referring to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. “He should work harder doing his job.”
Eric Greenleaf, head of P.S. 234’s Overcrowding Committee, sees no reason for the D.O.E. to order P.S. 89 to take down the banner.
“It’s ridiculous,” Greenleaf said. “It’s not like [the banner] says, ‘Fire Klein.’ It’s pretty innocuous.”
Maibe Gonzalez, a D.O.E. spokesperson, would not comment on the removal of the banner, but she said it likely violated the city’s rules about what can be displayed in schools.
“School buildings are not public forums for purposes of community or political expression,” Gonzalez said in an e-mail to Downtown Express. “School facilities cannot be used to promote political or ideological messages of any kind. I’m certain the public can find a more appropriate venue for this purpose.”
Similarly, she said parents should not spend any P.T.A. money on publicizing the overcrowding in their schools.
The chancellor’s regulations about P.T.A. money prohibit political contributions, including to “sectarian groups,” and Gonzalez cited the city’s legal interpretation of this provision as the final say.
Both the P.S. 89 and P.S. 234 P.T.A.s have used only parent contributions to fund the anti-overcrowding demonstrations — they haven’t dipped into P.T.A. funds at all.
“We knew it would be an issue,” Greenleaf said.
Kevin Doherty, past president of the P.S. 234 P.T.A., took a similar tack when parents were concerned that noisy pile-driving at 101 Warren St. would disrupt classes at P.S. 234. Parents wanted to hire a sound consultant, but they heard from the D.O.E. that they could not use P.T.A. funds, so they paid for the project themselves, Doherty said.
“The impact and benefit to children just wasn’t clear enough [for the D.O.E.],” Doherty said. By using their own money, parents were able to move more quickly and address impacts to the surrounding neighborhood, not just the school.
Doherty sees the appropriate use of P.T.A. funds as a spectrum. At one end are obviously legitimate expenditures, like paper for photocopy machines or musical instruments for children. At the other end are items expressly forbidden by the D.O.E., like contributions to political candidates or tickets to social events.
Doherty, though, thinks the P.T.A. should be able to use their money on the anti-overcrowding flyers and postcards.
“Educating parents on a critical matter is well within P.T.A. guidelines,” Doherty said. “That doesn’t fly in the spirit of what the Board of Ed is trying to do.”
A D.O.E. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the prohibition on P.T.A.s using money to fight overcrowding has nothing to do with the message or the criticism of the chancellor and mayor.
“Even if they’re supporting D.O.E. policy, it’s simply not allowed,” the official said. A more generic activist message, like “Stop global warming,” would also be prohibited, the official said.
Dennis Gault, the outgoing president of the P.S. 89 P.T.A., knew that the P.T.A. could not take any political action, but he isn’t sure that the overcrowding activism fits into that category.
“If someone made Obama pins, that’s obviously political,” Gault said. But as for the “Stop Overcrowding” buttons and banners, “Someone could argue that’s freedom of speech,” Gault said.
Freedom and speech were out in full force at the rally last Thursday afternoon, a hazy, humid day that marked the end of school. As parents and children waited along Broadway to get into the plaza in front of City Hall, they waved posters and chanted, “Stop overcrowding, build more schools!” They magnified their voices with megaphones and their message with the sheer number of people who turned out. Red buttons showing stop signs adorned their T-shirts, strollers, backpacks and baseball caps.
But no one was wearing more than Connor Donigian, 6, who covered the front of his turquoise polo with 10 red buttons, which clinked like armor, and was in the process of attaching the 11th.
Connor had just finished the last day of first grade at P.S. 234 and wanted everyone to know that he was against school overcrowding. Why are overcrowded classes bad?
“Then people can’t learn and they can’t get smart,” he said firmly.
Linda Moutinho, Connor’s mother, has lived in Tribeca since 2000 but the overcrowding is making her seriously consider moving out of the city. Her younger son will enter kindergarten in September 2009, which looks like it will be the most crowded year for Downtown schools.
“I love the city and I don’t want to leave,” Moutinho said, “but I have to put my kids in front of that.”
Protestors from P.S. 89 and P.S. 234 met in P.S. 234’s schoolyard to march over to City Hall, where they joined parents from schools as far away as the Upper West Side and Brooklyn. As the parents strode along Warren St., pushing strollers and chanting, several people came out of The Park Preschool to applaud.
The crowd reformed outside of City Hall, where everyone continued to chant, making noise with their voices, a tambourine and even an overturned bucket and drumstick.
In the very front, chanting at the top of their lungs, were Camille O’Keefe and Miriam Helene Rudd, who just finished third grade at P.S. 116 on E. 33rd St.
Camille, 8, said her school is too crowded, with more than 25 kids in a class.
“People are not learning what they’re supposed to learn,” she said. “We need to help the teachers. The teachers are like, ‘Ahh!’” she shrieked, raising her hands to her cheeks to demonstrate.
Rudd, 8, agreed, saying her class was disorganized because there were so many people.
Like their parents, the kids have heard a lot about the one potential overcrowding solution that no one likes: busing fifth graders to other schools.
“I think that’s horrible,” said Esmee Greenfeld, 9, who just finished third grade at P.S. 234. “I don’t think any fifth graders should be kicked out of schools. It’s rude. I think they should build more schools instead of more buildings.”
On the steps of City Hall, as elected officials spoke, parents waved posters reading “Bloomberg flunked as education mayor!” and “Kids before stadiums.” The children held smaller signs that said “We are your future” and “ABCDEFG, will there be a seat for me?” One neon yellow sign asked simply, “WHY?”
It was a word that State Sen. Martin Connor picked up in a rousing speech that demanded the city fund education. Shouting and gesturing broadly, he criticized the mayor for planning new residential buildings without thinking about schools.
“Why, why, why are you in charge of our schools?” he said. “It’s time for a change next year. It’s time for a system that gives a voice to the community.” The time for mayoral control of education, Connor said, is over.
Daniel Squadron, Connor’s opponent in the September Democratic primary, attended the rally and told Downtown Express he favored renewing mayoral control of the schools, but giving parents and the community a stronger voice.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Borough President Scott Stringer and Councilmembers Alan Gerson and Robert Jackson attended the rally.
The main target of the protests, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, came down the City Hall steps as the rally was gearing up. About 30 parents and kids from P.S. 89 and P.S. 234 walked in his direction, chanting, “Stop overcrowding, build more schools!”
Bloomberg smiled briefly as he passed, but he did not stop or comment, just walked toward his SUV and got in.
“He didn’t pay attention to us. That sucks. He should have said ‘hi’ to the kids,” said Patricia Orlando, whose child just finished first grade at P.S. 89. She’s worried about the overcrowding.
Ed Johnson, a United Federation of Teachers member who advises P.S./I.S. 89 teachers, thinks the angry parents’ message is finally getting to the chancellor.
“The D.O.E. is in turtle mode,” Johnson said. “They’re hiding in their shell.”
With reporting by Josh Rogers
The NYC Board of Education and the United Federation of Teachers Agree to Make the Re-Assignment of Members and Staff to the "Rubber Rooms" More Fair
Members sent to ‘rubber rooms’ will receive fairer, more timely treatment
Jul 3, 2008 4:27 PM
In an important victory for members languishing unfairly in Department of Education temporary reassignment centers, the UFT and DOE have reached an agreement that will erase the backlog of teachers sent to a “rubber room” for alleged misconduct.
The agreement also makes the process fairer, as principals will be prohibited from removing a member from a school without DOE review and approval unless there are unusual circumstances.
“We were focusing on fairness and timelines because we know justice delayed is justice denied,” said UFT President Randi Weingarten, who added that she is hopeful the agreement will make the often-cruel TRC experience “more humane.”
Under the terms of the agreement, there will be an increase in the number of arbitration panel members — 28, instead of 20 — and as many as half of the panelists will deal solely on cases of alleged incompetence.
And, as there has been a backlog in contract grievances for years, there will be an increase of arbitration dates to 175 per year from the 140-date schedule that has existed for the past 20 years.
In another measure aimed at speeding the process, principals may testify under oath by phone — provided that a UFT district representative, or a union staff person sent in place of the DR, is in the room to make sure the principal isn’t referring to written material or being assisted by anyone during their testimony.
The DOE will provide any UFT member who is being reassigned a letter listing the general grounds for reassignment, and those already reassigned but not yet charged will also receive a letter listing the general grounds for their reassignment.
Effective immediately, the DOE must adhere to the following timelines, from the date of the reassignment, for affected employees:
* The amount of time for the chancellor’s Office of Special Investigations to conduct an investigation will be 90 days.
* The amount of time to transfer a criminal case to the Administrative Trials Unit will be 30 days.
* The amount of time for the DOE to draft 3020A charges will be 40 days.
Each year, a DOE-UFT committee will meet to discuss whether these timelines are being followed.
The DOE will have a central review process for reassignments and will provide the UFT with a list of reassignments weekly. If the UFT disagrees with any reassignment decisions, it can present objections to the Office of Labor Relations.
The UFT will also get a quarterly report all reassignments so that it can tell whether DOE is adhering to its own guidelines.
The DOE has already conducted a central review currently reassigned members and some members have been sent back to their schools.
Penalties for principals
If a principal reassigns a member without proper approval and doesn’t follow DOE procedures for doing so, central DOE will return the member to the school and the principal’s budget will be charged for the salary the member earned while reassigned.
Reassignments should never be used to retaliate against whistle-blowers or for any other illegal reason. Any employee, including a principal, who is found to have knowingly made false allegations against a member will face disciplinary action.
Wherever possible, members will be reassigned in the borough where they work.
Members who wish to do so will be permitted to perform duties or activities subject to the approval of a DOE supervisor, and each member will be provided workspace. The DOE will work with the UFT to comply with the Public Employee Safety and Health Act.
The DOE will evaluate cases of tenured teachers who receive U-ratings for poor performance and will, where it deems appropriate, refer those case to PIP Plus
In addition to expanding the 3020a arbitration panel by 40 percent, the UFT and DOE will explore ways to speed up the process of getting transcripts of hearings, to shorten the hearing time.
The pre-hearing conference will facilitate more fairness for those preparing their cases, with members and their lawyers receiving evidence against them one week prior to the conference. Every effort will be made to make sure the member attends the pre-hearing conference. DOE will also attempt to have a representative authorized to settle the case present.
If you are an Attorney, you can apply for a job at the Administrative Trials Unit:
ATTORNEY - NYC DEPT. OF EDUCATION ADMINISTRATIVE TRIALS UNIT
New York City Department of Education
Location: New York, New York 10007 United States
Last Updated: 6/2/2008
Job Type: Employee
Job Status: Full Time
Agency Attorney - Administrative Trials Unit
Tracking Code 5037
Multiple Positions Available
Position Summary: Under the direction of the Deputy Counsel of the Administrative Trials Unit, with wide latitude for independent action, incumbent serves as legal representative of the Chancellor performing sophisticated legal work in disciplinary proceedings.
Reports to: Director of the Administrative Trials Unit
* Handles legal issues and cases including recommendations concerning the soundness of charges, preparing specification of charges, coordinating the gathering of evidence, briefing witnesses.
* Responsible for legal cases that are complex and high profile in nature.
* Represents the Department in Education Law 3020-a proceedings and hearings pursuant to Section 75 of the Civil Service Law.
* Provides legal counsel and training to Superintendents and Principals on disciplinary procedures.
* Acts as liaison with executives within the agency and with other City agencies.
* Performs related work.
Applications will only be accepted through the New York City Department of Education Career Opportunities website at:
Please include cover letter with your application.
Resumes will be reviewed on an ongoing basis. We encourage applicants to apply as soon as possible.
NOTE: The filling of all positions is subject to budget availability.
AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER
It is the policy of the Department of Education of the City of New York to provide educational and employment opportunities without regard to race, color, religion, creed, national origin, alienage and citizenship status, age, marital status, disability, prior record of arrest or conviction (except as provided by law), sexual orientation, gender (sex), and to maintain an environment free of discriminatory harassment, including sexual harassment, or retaliation as required by civil rights law. Inquiries regarding compliance with this equal opportunity policy may be directed to: Office of Equal Opportunity, 65 Court Street, Room 923, Brooklyn, New York 11201, or visit the OEO website at http://schools.nyc.gov/Administration/Offices/GeneralCounsel/OEO/default.htm.
Job Location Tweed (52 Chambers Street) (TWEED)
Position Type Full-Time/Regular
Salary $75,962-$98,314 US Dollars (USD)
Admission to the New York State Bar AND three (3) years of progressively responsible United States legal experience subsequent to admission to any state bar.
NOTE: Selected candidates must remain members of the New York State Bar in good standing for the duration of their employment.
* Ability to rapidly understand provisions of applicable law and regulations;
* Ability to write clearly and concisely;
* Ability to conduct legal research efficiently