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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Winning Your 3020-a Part 2: Information Advocacy

You are your own best advocate or enemy.

It is almost ridiculous to write that, and know that you may have no idea why you were told to report to a re-assignment center. But think about it for a minute -"it" being the "unknown".

Haven't there been signs of dislike coming from the administration to you for a "long" time, or at least since the new Principal/Assistant Principal came to your school? How did you deal with this? Was there an incident in your class that ended with a letter to file, disciplinary meeting, or even a SOHO report which includes your name? (A SOHO report is an online occurence report filed with the NYC BOE by a Principal or Assistant Principal which details an incident that led to a Superintendent's Suspension). Was an informal observation done that bothered you because the time or entry of the Principal or AP into the classroom was improper? Keep a log of all such events. Did all of your formal observations have a pre- and post- observation properly addressing the classroom activities? Did you observe the administration doing something wrong? Document everything, then look over your notes. You may see what may have led, or may lead to in the future, to a charge or specification. Or, you may see nothing at all, and this is your defense as well. "They" made a mistake in re-assigning you.

You know your case, and you were there when "it" happened or didn't happen. You need to gather together all of your notes, documents, files, tapes and other possible relevant material and arrange these items chronologically. Then take a good, long look at what you have.

Oh yes, please do not use ignorance of the law, rules and bargaining agreement to excuse your re-assignment and/or removal from your teaching assignment! Read everything that concerns the process known as "rubberization", including:


How The New York City "Gotcha Squad" Gets Tenured Teachers Declared "Incompetent", and Placed in a Rubber Room by Betsy Combier

and in the article above, read the Labor FAQs.

What Do you Have?

Do you have a tape or video - or can you get one of these - for the time or day that you think you are/will be charged with? Note that in New York State it is the law that you can tape anyone without telling him or her, as long as you are part of the conversation.. If someone calls you up and you believe that you need to preserve the conversation, you can tape the call and not tell the person or people, if more than one, on the other line. Obviously this cuts out hacking into someone else's telephone line, or taping people who are not talking with you or did not include you in their conversation. I observed how two teachers used secret tapes of conversations with NYC BOE personnel in a conversation with them, and this secret taping technique resulted in the presentation of evidence to impeach the testimony of the Principal of the school, the SCI investigator, an arbitrator, even Theresa Europe, Director of the Administrative Trials Unit (ATU) at their 3020-a hearings. In both cases the arbitrators allowed in the tapes as evidence for the teacher. Neither has a decision yet, so stay tuned.

Do you have notes or documents that 'prove' your side of the story (assuming that you know what story you are being held accountable for, or what your charges are)? Keep all notes until after your 3020-a is over, or forever - hey, you never know (slogan of the New York State Lottery).

Do you know anyone who may have any items or information that may be relevant to establishing your defense? Jot down their names/addresses/emails, and google anyone who you can think of who be able to provide information for you with which you can strengthen your defense. After you locate a possible witness, do not call any of these people yourself, but indirectly keep track of those individuals who are essential to establishing your side of 'the story'. Stay on top of this information, as often you may sit in a re-assignment center for a long time, and students graduate, staff move, etc....dont lose your best witness(es). Six degrees of separation: with email, blogs, websites, media now getting more and more in the hands of everybody on the planet, somebody may be able to reach "Jane Smith" who worked with you during the 2007 school year as a para. You can find people today with a little bit of good cyber-snooping.

If a witness is very ill or is moving out of state, see if this person will write a statement about what occurred and ask this person to notarize the statement and then give it to you for your hearing. Keep a file.

Look for the piece of paper that had something on it you remember was important. Search under your bed, behind furniture, in places this note simply couldn't be. It might be there. Try to re-create scenarios that you remember, then go to the source of possible information about the day/location/people there and ask for any documents that might be relevant. Dont give up.

If you are being charged with incompetence, the 'proof is in the pudding' - results count. What were your students' scores? Did they go up? Good teaching requires content knowledge and professional delivery of information. The argument that you are "incompetent" is weakened if your students' scores in your subject area went up the year that you taught them. Use this information to help your attorney prove your point, that you should not be terminated.

If you have your personnel file, fabulous. Go through it very carefully. Pick out all relevant rating sheets, letters to file, etc., and arrange chronologically.

If you dont have your personnel file, GET IT. Call your UFT District Office up and speak with your representative as soon as possible. Get all online postings about you as well. See below.

What Dont You Have?

As I wrote above, if you do not have your personnel file, GET IT.

Get all online postings as well - SOHO reports may have your name mentioned, so ask for these for your students.

You may say, but what if I dont know what I dont have? Then, think. What would you like to have to prove your innocence if you were proving that you were innocent of x, then y, then z. As you may not know your charges, or what the NYC BOE may bring up against you when your hearing begins (this is another story), create charges you think may be charged against you, and think about what documents you may have that you would need to prove your innocence. You will feel better when you know that you have information that will help you overcome any charge or specification.

If you dont have your students' scores, file a freedom of information request of the city or the state. Call the New York state education department. Below is one of my recent freedom of information requests, and you can copy it and put your own information in:

send your FOIL request to:

Joseph Baranello
Central Records Access Officer
New York City Board of Education
52 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10007

Here is a request I filed on August 2, 2009:


Joseph A. Baranello, Esq.
Central Records Access Officer
Office of Legal Services
New York City Department of Education
52 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10007

Dear Mr. Baranello:

RE: FOIL Request # ______ (Categories Used to Rate Teachers)

Under the provisions of the New York Freedom of Information Law, Article 6 of the Public Officers Law, I hereby request to obtain/inspect records or portions thereof pertaining to:

For each of the following numbered categories pertaining to teaching service (which are listed underneath four lettered headings), the records, memoranda, circulars, bulletins, reports, newsletters, manuals, training materials, PowerPoint presentations, webinars, etc. containing the rubrics, standards, or policies that are used by principals in order to assess whether the category merits a rating of "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory" on the Annual Professional Performance Review and Report on Probationary Service of Pedagogical Employee form:


1) Attendance and punctuality
2) Personal appearance
3) Voice, speech and use of English
4) Professional attitude and professional growth
5) Resourcefulness and initiative


1) Effect on character and personality growth of pupils
2) Control of class
3) Maintenance of wholesome classroom atmosphere
4) Planning and preparation of work
5) Skill in adapting instruction to individual needs and capacities
6) Effective use of appropriate methods and techniques
7) Skill in making class lessons interesting to pupils
8) Extent of pupil participation in the class and school program
9) Evidence of pupil growth in knowledge, skills, appreciations and attitude
10) Attention to pupil health, safety and general welfare


1) Attention to physical conditions
2) Housekeeping and appearance of room
3) Care of equipment by teacher and children
4) Attention to records and reports
5) Attention to routine matters


1) Maintenance of good relations with teachers and with supervisors
2) Effort to establish and maintain good relationships with parents
3) Willingness to accept special assignments in connection with the school program

The responsive records may be located in any of the following offices or divisions:

a) Office of Legal Services
b) Office of Labor Relations
c) Office of Labor Policy
d) Office of Appeals and Reviews
e) Office of the Chancellor
f) Office of the Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning
g) Division of Human Resources
h) any Integrated Service Center
i) any Learning Support Organization
j) any superintendent's office or deputy superintendent's office
k) any principal's office

After the inspection, I may decide to purchase copies of the entire records or certain portions thereof. Alternatively, you may E-mail me copies of the records.

If you have any questions relating to the specific records or portions being sought, please phone me so that we may discuss them.

As you know, the Freedom of Information Law requires that an agency respond to a request within five business days of receipt of a request. Therefore, I would appreciate a response as soon as possible and look forward to hearing from you shortly. If for any reason any portion of my request is denied, please inform me of the reasons for the denial in writing and provide the name and address of the person or body to whom an appeal should be directed.


Betsy Combier
Editor, ParentAdvocates.Org
NYC Rubber Room Reporter

Meeting with your attorney

If you are going into a 3020-a arbitration hearing, you are a tenured teacher. This means that when you receive your charges CONTACT THE UFT DISTRICT OFFICE AND HAVE YOUR REPRESENTATIVE FILE FOR A HEARING!!!!!!! You have 10 days from the date of receipt of your charges to request a 3020-a due process hearing. Your rep will know what to do.

You will be assigned a NYSUT Attorney. When the NYSUT Attorney schedules a meeting, remember that you most proabably will not be paid for this meeting if you leave your assigned location during school hours, so arrange to meet after the school day has ended, if at all possible.

Realize that your assigned attorney has many other cases going on and is overworked. Bring copies of your documents to this meeting and show your attorney everything that you have. Make your defense clear.

You have the right to be treated with respect at all times, so treat your Attorney with respect as well.

Take detailed notes.

Support your attorney by trying to get any information that you do not already have.

If you have the money, you always can hire a private attorney. Be careful. The process known as the 3020-a in New York City is a strange one, in many respects. More about that later.

1 comment:






In a recent 3020a Hearing the Principal of a well known High School lied under Sworn Oath to Tell the Truth.

When she realized by the questions she was asked under Cross Examination, that it was apparent the teacher she wanted terminated, had taped the meeting/s in question, she exclaimed with an outburst of emotionally charged outrage:

"Why would a teacher want to tape a meeting?"

An attorney present in the Hearing room responded with no small degree of irony:

"We are here at a Hearing whose goal is to terminate this teacher, aren't we ?"

Any charged Teacher who believes their word will carry more weight than the word of their school Principal is in need of a serious Reality check. Wake up and get real!

But no DOE Witness can argue when their own words and voice are played back concerning the meeting or event/s in question.

If you understand that no sane person neglects to carry Health Insurance, then you should understand that no DOE employee, given the present climate in New York's school system, can afford not to carry a sophisticated, quality Digital recorder.

A forty to seventy five dollar model will more than suffice to get the job done.

Unless of course you don't believe your Teaching career and future Pension are very important to you.

There is a reason no member of the NYPD goes on Duty without putting on a Bullet Proof vest. For a UFT member your protective vest is what you are able to prove once you are Railroaded into a Rubber Room on ten minutes notice and eventually charged and scheduled, to present yourself at a 3020a Hearing, (several months later), where it is always an uphill fight to prove your innocence.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a high quality recording is worth ten thousand words.

Especially if you later decided to bring a Lawsuit against the NYC DOE in State or Federal Court for committing any number of crimes perpetrated against you in violation of City, State and Federal Law/s.

The NYC Dept of Education never ceases to rely on the well known fact that very few UFT members bother to take the many precautions necessary to avoid huge financial fines and/or suspensions and even permanent Termination from their teaching careers.