Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Dennis Walcott Says There Are No Rubber Rooms. He Lies
Two years ago New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, union officials and teachers announced that they had figured out how to do away with teacher reassignment centers, also known as ‘rubber rooms.’ However, recent reports are showing that teachers are still being pulled out of the classroom and placed into these centers.
This year teachers in these centers will earn upwards of $22 million where many will do nothing.
Teachers are often placed in these centers for a variety of reasons ranging from breaking rules to abusing children, where they await disciplinary hearings, and the practice was supposedly done away with two years ago.
The reassignment centers became known as rubber rooms due to notion that it would be difficult to go crazy after spending all day doing nothing.
“This was an absurd and expensive abuse of tenure,” Mayor Bloomberg said when he announced the new reforms in April 2010. “We’ve been able to solve what was one of the most divisive issues in our school system.”
However, recently one teacher, Francesco Portelos, made headlines when he created a website with a webcam showing himself in one of these centers.
Initially he was placed into a basement office, and then moved into an empty conference room. While in the conference room he set up a webcam and began blogging about his experience.
When the school district caught word of his activities, they banned the use of personal computer equipment from the conference room. Portelos, after going dark for a few days, began using his smartphone to continue his webcam site.
“It's just crazy, I never thought this would happen, especially in the New York City Department of Education,” Portelos told CBS Radio station 1010 WINS. “A $24 billion budget and I'm being paid $75,000 to sit here. It's ridiculous.”
Portelos hasn’t been formally charged with any specific wrongdoing, but claims he is being punished for accusing the principal of financial mismanagement. The district is not formally commenting on the situation.
He is just one example of teachers being paid to do nothing. Some teachers, like Portelos, are in a situation where they are pulled from the classroom because of disagreements with management, or for breaking rules. However, there are some teachers that are in these situations because they are deemed a danger to children, and cannot be terminated due to tenure rules.
It was reported that one teacher has been collecting over $100,000 per year in one of these centers, after he found a loophole that allowed him to continue due to the state not having a mandatory retirement age.
This practice of placing teachers in reassignment centers has not been isolated to just New York City. Many other large school districts use the practice.
In Los Angeles, for example, 161 teachers are reported to be assigned to various offices throughout the district as they await disciplinary hearings.
“Several of the people I know in rubber rooms have been there two years, some people as long as five years,” Leonard Isenberg, a disciplined Los Angeles Unified School District teacher said to NBC News. “You don’t just sit there. You can’t do anything. Think of Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo, with a paycheck.”
In spite of these reports, New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, while not denying the existence of these reassignment centers, wants it clear that they are not ‘rubber rooms’ where teachers go to do nothing.
“They’re not rubber rooms, let’s be very clear about that,” Walcott told reporters after a meeting with state education officials. “We have a number of offices throughout the city, and they provide opportunities for some type of work assignment.”