Join the GOOGLE +Rubber Room Community

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Colman Genn, The Gill Commission, And School Corruption In NYC - Let's Never Forget

Many people remember Colman Genn, a man who courageously exposed the corruption of the NYC Board of Education. The Gill Commission was set up, and Ed Stancik became the lawyer who finally went after educators who violated their mandates and responsibilities as public employees. The Special Commissioner of Investigation office was changed by Mayor Bloomberg so that Rose Gill Hearn, James Gill's daughter, and family friend - and not an Attorney - Richard Condon  ("Dick") could be put in place after Stancik died. Then, everything changed, and SCI became a tool for destroying the careers of teachers (see here, here, and here). We need to do another "investigation of the Investigators".

Betsy Combier

Colman Genn
July 17, 2004
New York Times
LINK

Colman Genn Is Dead at 68; Exposed School Corruption


By ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS

Colman Genn, a career educator who exposed corruption in New York City schools by secretly recording conversations about political and ethnic considerations in filling jobs, died on Thursday night at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset. He was 68.

The cause was respiratory failure, said his son, David.



Mr. Genn was the superintendent of Community School Board 27 in southeastern Queens when, in the fall of 1989, he became the star witness in hearings to investigate allegations that elected school board members had awarded dozens of unnecessary jobs to friends and political supporters at a cost of more than $1 million a year.

Mr. Genn became celebrated as the Serpico of the public school system after volunteering to wear a recording device and tape hours of conversations over a period of eight months in his office, at board meetings, in cars and restaurants and on the phone for the Joint Commission on Integrity in the Public Schools, informally known as the Gill Commission, appointed by Mayor Edward I. Koch in 1988.

''I'm a political leader; that's why I'm here,'' James C. Sullivan, a member of the community school board and former Republican district leader, was heard telling Mr. Genn on one such recording. At another point, discussing jobs ranging from assistant principal to school aide, Mr. Sullivan complained that Mr. Genn's predecessor had ''hired out of the synagogue,'' to the detriment of Irish-Americans, and instructed that any black person hired had to be ''pliable,'' and not ''a Mau-Mau.''

The city's 32 community school boards grew out of a 1969 state law aimed at giving community leaders and parents, especially in minority neighborhoods, a voice in the running of public schools. The conversations recorded by Mr. Genn, who became the highest-ranking official willing to discuss corruption publicly, led gradually to state legislation recentralizing the school system over the last few years.

In January 1991, Mr. Genn, then 56, retired from his superintendent's job with two and a half years remaining in his contract. He said he was smoking a pack and a half of cigarettes a day, his asthma had worsened, his weight was fluctuating and he was under police guard for fear of retribution.

''I'm tense and worried that I've made a lot of enemies, that people whose toes have been stepped on will come at me in one way or another,'' he said at the time.

He said he found comfort in riding his motorcycle on the beach.

He found a sanctuary of sorts with a friend and former colleague, Seymour Fliegel, who had helped create small, experimental public schools in East Harlem and who invited him to become a senior fellow at a research institute supporting public education, now known as the Center for Educational Innovation-Public Education Association. The group was initially part of the Manhattan Institute, the conservative research center, but later split to become independent.

Mr. Genn was born on Dec. 11, 1935, in the Bronx. His father, Bernard, was a ritual slaughterer preparing kosher meat, a diamond cutter and later the director of a children's camp. His mother, Fannie, was a homemaker who never finished high school but was well-read in Talmud. Mr. Genn, one of five children, was educated at Yeshiva Etzchaim and Yeshiva University High School in Brooklyn, where he recalled spending a lot of time on the street looking for fights with a gang of youths in Bensonhurst, and being a ''very poor'' student.

He earned a bachelor's degree in health and physical education from Brooklyn College, then a master's degree in the same fields from Michigan State. He got his first job, teaching math at Brownsville Junior High, in 1958, then went on to teach physical education and social studies in East Harlem. During the 1970's and 80's, working with the local superintendents, Anthony Alvorado and Carlos Medina, and the deputy superintendent, Mr. Fliegel, he helped start three alternative schools in East Harlem: the Academy of Environmental Sciences, the Harbor School for the Performing Arts and the Manhattan Center for Science and Math.

Mr. Genn became the superintendent of District 27 in July 1987, and realized from his first months on the job that something was amiss, as board members inquired about hiring and promoting friends and cronies.

Just two weeks before Mr. Genn died, he traveled to Israel to help create a school for immigrant children, Mr. Fliegel said.

In addition to his son, David, of Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., Mr. Genn is survived by his wife, Brenda, of Hewlett; a daughter, Shari Shapiro of Lawrence; three brothers, Reuven, of Israel; Mordechai, of Mount Vernon, N.Y.; and Manny, of Tenafly, N.J.; and four grandchildren.


SCHOOLS AND POLITICS: CHANNELS OF POWER - A SPECIAL REPORT: New York Schools and Patronage: Experience Teaches Hard Lessons

By JOSEPH BERGER with ELIZABETH KOLBERT, Special to The New York Times
Published: December 11, 1989

LINK


Guy Velella


Two decades after the New York City school system was decentralized to encourage local participation, many school boards are allied with neighborhood political clubs and exploited by politicians seeking power and patronage.

Many teachers and administrators say their colleagues, eager to get ahead, are compelled to join the clubs and give their time and money to election campaigns because politicians' allies on the school boards have the power to grant promotions.

And despite recent efforts in Albany to build barriers between education and politics, a seat on a local school board is often seen as a stepping stone for budding politicians.

In dozens of interviews, politicians, school board members and educators agreed that they are creatures, and sometimes victims, of the elective system created by decentralization.
The lessons that New York is learning about this perilous mixture of education and politics are of national significance because cities like Chicago and Miami have begun experimenting with various forms of decentralized schooling.


Decentralization gave control over the hiring of administrators in the city's elementary and junior high schools to 32 local school boards. It was prompted by concerns in the 1960's that the central adminstrative staff was not responsive enough to teachers, students and parents.

Self-Interest and Reluctance

There is wide agreement that the local boards have failed the city's 940,000 schoolchildren. More than a third of these bodies have been shaken by allegations of corruption and mismanagement. Seven board members have been indicted in roughly a year. But the boards have become so enmeshed in the city's political web that many educators say they are skeptical that the 83 state legislators who represent parts of New York City can make dispassionate decisions about reform.

''Political self-interest,'' said Robert F. Wagner Jr., president of the Board of Education, has made many legislators ''reluctant to deal with the issue.''
The injection of politics into running the schools, he added, ''shifts the focus away from kids to the political agenda of individual politicians and there are times that decisions, rather than being made on merit, are made on political connections.'' Other critics note that teachers who refuse to get involved in politics are passed over for promotions and can grow demoralized.

Dr. Fred Goldberg, superintendent of District 10 in the northwest Bronx, said that among teachers and administrators, ''there was a perception that it was an asset to be a member of a political group to enhance the probability of being considered'' for promotion.
Political affiliation has become so important in advancing an educational career that in certain parts of the city, teachers and school administrators are as common as lawyers at meetings of local political clubs. Teachers and administrators are considered intelligent campaigners who have afternoons and summers off to do political work.

Voters decide who the nine members of a school board will be; political clubs may field or back candidates. But because turnout is low, the number of votes needed to win is sometimes no more than several hundred. So the influence of political clubs on the contests can be significant.

Buying 'Insurance'

During the mid-1980's, the board of District 10 was divided between factions connected to Stanley Simon, then the Bronx borough president, and G. Oliver Koppell, a Democrat State Assemblyman from the Bronx.

At least eight people appointed assistant principals in District 10 were affiliated with one of two political clubs. A community newspaper, The Riverdale Press, found that 25 of the 48 principals and assistant principals who were appointed between 1982 and 1986 were affiliated with political clubs or were relatives of politicians.

In almost every case, the administrators were regarded as highly qualified. But, district officials say, the administrators believed they needed to ''buy insurance'' for their promotions through political club support.

In an interview, Mr. Koppell said he had been compelled, as a matter of political survival, to ''support a few people for assistant principals and principals.''
''The whole school establishment was being used to try and defeat me,'' he said. ''There were people on the streets campaigning against me. They carried petitions. They were standing on street corners handing out fliers at polls urging people to vote on primary days. Many of these were teachers and assistant principals.

'' How It Works 'How You Build Loyal Troops'

The widespread impact of politics on the school system has been documented by a survey of school personnel conducted by the Gill Commission, headed by James F. Gill, a lawyer. The commission was appointed by Mayor Edward I. Koch to investigate school board corruption. In what commission officials believe are understated results, 41 percent of the 1,099 respondents said that political affiliation is a factor in the hiring of principals.

A major focus of the commission was District 27 in southwest Queens. At the commission's request, Coleman Genn, the district's superintendent, wore a concealed tape recorder and recorded the school board's treasurer, James C. Sullivan, asking him to hire 11 friends and political supporters to unnecessary jobs as paraprofessionals. This was at a time Mr. Genn was seeking a one-year extension of his contract from the board.

In a recent interview, Mr. Genn asserted that one principal and three assistant principals in his district were active in a local Republican club and had been promoted to their positions through Mr. Sullivan's influence.

''He built an entourage,'' Mr. Genn said of Mr. Sullivan. ''That's how you build loyal troops.'' When Mr. Sullivan ran an election or a fund-raiser for a candidate, Mr. Genn said, ''these people responded. If he had to get signatures on petitions or campaign literature, they responded.''

Mr. Sullivan and Samuel Granirer, the board's vice president, were indicted on Dec. 1 and accused of improperly using their influence to force Mr. Genn to hire their choices. Mr. Sullivan pleaded guilty to mail fraud and coercion. Mr. Granirer pleaded not guilty.

'On My Own Time'

In District 4 in East Harlem, according to a confidential 1988 report by the Board of Education's Inspector General, most of the district's 20 principals and several top-level district officials attended a fund-raising party in 1985 for Robert Rodriguez, then the school board president, who was trying to regain the seat he once held as City Councilman. The report also said Carlos Medina, the district superintendent, had been seen at the Board of Elections helping Mr. Rodriguez fend off challenges to his City Council petitions. The report said that created a conflict of interest because Mr. Rodriguez would be voting on Mr. Medina's contract.

In an interview, Mr. Medina said he admired Mr. Rodriguez for his support of district programs, which have been widely praised for their innovation and, in some schools, notable success. He acknowledged having appeared at the Board of Elections, but said he did so ''on my own time'' because ''as superintendent it was important for me to know who was winning and who would be the people in my district.''

Mr. Medina was discharged as superintendent on Nov. 8 by the District 4 school board after an arbitrator found that he had created an improper ''special projects fund'' from district money, and used it in part to lend $6,788 to subordinates and to contribute small amounts of money to political fund-raisers.

Mr. Rodriguez, 38 years old, argued that principals should be involved in a variety of community activities, including council races.

In District 9, a veteran social studies teacher said that when he applied for a much-coveted summer-school job in 1988, a district official asked him to spend several days helping collect petitions for candidates in local races. The teacher, who agreed to perform those chores, asked not to be identified because he is now seeking a job as an assistant principal.
In District 19 in the East New York and Bushwick sections of Brooklyn, political factionalism stalled the selection of a superintendent and seven principals and assistant principals for several months and delayed the approval of the budget. When Politics Divides A District In Trouble District 10 is the largest in New York City, roughly equivalent to Buffalo in student population. Taking in both the elegant homes of Riverdale and the burned-out tenements south of Fordham Road, it has 36,050 children in 35 schools.

From 1980 to 1986, two successive boards were divided into factions -one connected to the Riverdale Democratic Club, led by Mr. Simon, the Borough President, and the other to the Benjamin Franklin Democratic Club, whose founder was Mr. Koppell.
The Simon loyalists, board members said, were: Jeffrey Litt, who was director of community boards in the Borough President's office; Arnold Kideckel, then executive director of the State Insurance Fund and a close Simon adviser, and Robert Shaw, then a counsel to the city's Transportation Commissioner.

There were four Koppell loyalists at various times. They included James P. Sullivan and Evelyn Karfiol. Mr. Sullivan, who is no relation to James C. Sullivan in District 27, was the brother of Timothy Sullivan, Mr. Koppell's administrative assistant. Mrs. Karfiol is an aide to Mr. Koppell.

Target of 'a Cabal'

The political division was reflected in the choice of school administrators, district officials said. Mr. Kideckel said that he never favored an administrator because ''they came out of Simon's club per se, but if they came out of Simon's club and I may have known them and known their character, that may have been a factor.''

Under the decentralization law, school board members must appoint principals and assistant principals from among candidates recommended by the superintendent. Dr. Goldberg, the superintendent, said that in the early 1980's he was generally able, because of the split in the board and his popularity with independents, to gain support for almost all of his choices. But in 1982, when he refused to recommend as an assistant principal Alexander Castillo, a teacher in District 9 backed by Mr. Litt and Mr. Simon, he suddenly found himself the target of what he called ''a cabal.''

Dr. Goldberg said the Simon faction responded by joining the Koppell faction in closed session and voting to strip him of his powers to hire or transfer personnel, modify the budget or even talk to the press.

''The district could not function,'' said Sandra Lerner, Dr. Goldberg's deputy.

Appealing to Parents

A 1987 report by a Bronx grand jury that inquired into school board politics said the District 10 factions agreed to allow each member to choose one assistant principal.
But Mr. Litt said the factions united because they believed the superintendent was not giving members enough information to make decisions. He has never once, he added, ''been pressured by a political club or its leadership to make an appointment.'' Mrs. Karfiol and Mr. Kideckel were not members of the board at the time.

In response to the district paralysis, Dr. Goldberg, widely considered one of the system's best superintendents, said he was forced ''to consider a strategy that would enable me to run the district for the benefit of the children.'' He continued to recommend people he thought were best qualified to be administrators. He also included candidates whom board members might favor, but he worked to rally parents in support of his choices, and the board members heard from those parents.

''I became more sensitive to the dynamics of the board,'' he said.

Winning Almost All of Them

In almost every case, Mr. Goldberg said, the people he preferred were selected. Still, he added, many teachers and administrators interested in promotions continue to believe membership in a political club could bolster their efforts.

Among those who received appointments as assistant principals in District 10 were four officers or members of the Benjamin Franklin club: Michael Spivak, Emanuele Fontana, Alex Fermanis and Nadia Pagan.

Among those who worked in Mr. Simon's campaign in 1985 or were active in the Riverdale Democratic Club were Barbara Lofthouse, Robert Levy and Candido deJesus, who were named assistant principals; and David Parker, named a principal.

In interviews, Mr. Fermanis, Mrs. Lofthouse and Mrs. Pagan said they joined their clubs not to advance their careers, but because of their interest in community activities. Several agreed, though, that many of their colleagues believed political affiliation was needed for advancement.

Coming to People's Attention

''You had to be more politically involved with certain individuals,'' said Mr. deJesus, now the principal of P.S. 85. ''You wanted to come to people's attention. But I didn't like the climate and decided to get out.''

By the time of the next school board election in 1986, Mr. Simon came under investigation by the United States Attorney's office and, district officials say, he refrained from actively supporting school board candidates. In 1988, he was found guilty of racketeering and conspiracy in the Wedtech scandal and sentenced to five years in prison. The Riverdale club dissolved. Mr. Koppel said that with Mr. Simon's removal he, too, pulled out of school politics.

The Benjamin Franklin Club, which took over the Riverdale club's headquarters at 231st Street near Broadway, decided four years ago not to endorse candidates, but two club members are school board members. They are Richard Sanz Gonzalez and Sandra Ramos-Alamo, who made an unsuccessful bid for the State Assembly last year.

In many cases, the connections between school boards and New York City politicians are direct. Several school board members, for example, work in the offices of city and state legislators. In other cases, the ties are more subtle. Some board members often serve as unofficial proxies for political leaders on school boards, casting the votes that allow supporters to be hired.

Conflicts of Interest

Politicians defend these connections as inevitable, even desirable. It makes sense, they say, that people who are politically minded participate both in school board business and in local government.

In most cases the connections are within the law, but in many cases, they create the potential for significant conflicts of interest.

A law passed last year in Albany has eliminated some of the most obvious conflicts. The law makes it illegal for school board members to serve as political district leaders or to hold other elective office.

But the spirit of the law has proved easy to evade. Brothers and Husbands in Posts
In District 27 in Queens, the district investigated by the Gill Commission, Mr. Sullivan relinquished his Republican district leadership but arranged to have his brother succeed him. And in District 32 in Brooklyn, a Democratic district leader, Elba Roman, gave up her seat on the board but was succeeded by her husband.

The law does not prohibit spouses of political officeholders from serving on school boards. In the spring, Elizabeth Miller, the wife of the Assembly Speaker, Mel Miller, was elected to the board of District 22 in the Flatbush and Flatlands sections of Brooklyn. Campaign finance records show that Mr. Miller's Assembly campaign committee contributed $2,000 to his wife's campaign, and members of Mr. Miller's Assembly staff took off time from work to campaign for her.

Both actions were legal. Mr. Miller, Democrat of Brooklyn, said his wife had no political motive for running, and that he would have no influence over her decisions.
''My wife, this is her life,'' he said. ''She was a teacher in a district. Our two children went through public schools. It doesn't help me; she'll do what she wants.'' 'I Financed Her Campaign'

The law does not prevent politicians' staff members from serving on local school boards, and several do. They include Ernestine Washington, a member of school board 29, who is office director for Assemblywoman Cynthia Jenkins, a Queens Democrat; Maria Irizarry, a member of school board 19, who until recently served as a city liaison to Assemblyman Thomas F. Catapano, Democrat of Brooklyn, and Elinore Mandell, also a member of board 19, who is an administrative assistant to Assemblyman Anthony Genovesi, Democrat of Brooklyn.

Mr. Genovesi said he ''unabashedly'' supported Ms. Mandell's school board candidacy to prevent other politicians like Con gressman Towns from wielding control over the schools within Mr. Genovesi's partly overlapping assembly district.

''She wanted to quit this year,'' said Mr. Genovesi of Ms. Mandell. ''I financed her campaign. It's the only way I know what's going on. It's not a coincidence that she's there. That's why she runs. Ellie is the way I take them on,'' he said, referring to rival politicians. Political Careers School Boards As Stepping Stones By virtue of being elected, school board members are political officials, and it is not surprising that they frequently run for higher office.

Politicians who began their careers as school board members include Assemblyman Al Vann, State Senator Howard E. Babbush, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Assemblyman William F. Boyland. All four are Brooklyn Democrats. Assemblywoman Aurelia Greene, Democrat of the Bronx, is a former member of school board 9, and was indicted earlier this year on felony charges springing from her involvement in the board.
City Council members Sal F. Albanese, Priscilla Wooten and Ruth W. Messinger are also former board members.

At least five former assemblymen and councilmen were once school board members. Three of these, Sam Wright, Israel Ruiz Jr. and Vander Beatty, were later convicted on charges of corruption -Mr. Wright for soliciting a $5,000 payment from a educational materials company, Mr. Ruiz for falsifying a bank loan application and Mr. Beatty for tax evasion.
Politicians who have served on school boards say that, far from being a disservice to the district, the desire for higher office insures that school board members will respond to their constituents' concerns.

''If anything, I see it as a positive sign,'' said State Senator Guy J. Velella, Republican of the Bronx, who was president of School Board 11 in between serving in the State Assembly and the State Senate.
''You don't want to destroy somebody's ambition,'' Mr. Velella added. ''If you do a good job, you'll be qualified for higher office.''

Playing With the Web Doesn't Make The NYC DOE Look Good

I don't understand the random internet entries which work or don't work at the DOE. I think there is something going on here, and I'm not a conspiracy theorist (what's wrong with that, anyway?) but a fact-based theorist.

For example, I have posted two recent stories below: Two teens scooped the newspapers in finding answers posted on the internet for a test before it was given by the DOE, but then the DOE cannot rollout the STARS Application.

Huh?

Just askin'.

Betsy Combier


Staten Island high school students break story about exam answers accidently posted online

Curtis High School student journalists Dinah Nahid and Caroline Gottlieb got the scoop when a student discovered answers to an English test on the Department of Education website. The test — which is part of new teacher evaluations — was taken by city seniors in the fall.

Comments (2)
UPDATED: FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2013, 1:15 AM


Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/staten-island-students-scoop-leaked-test-answers-article-1.1525397#ixzz2lUcUpk8w

Dinah Nahid (left) and Caroline Gottlieb, student journalists at Curtis High School that broke the story
about answers to a new English exam being posted online.


 

Educrats posted the answers to an English test before city seniors took the exam this fall — and student journalists at Curtis High School on Staten Island got the scoop.

The test, part of the new teacher evaluations, coupled with an end-of-year exam, will help determine a substantial portion of teacher ratings.
RELATED: CITY ANNOUNCES SCHOOL GRADES: HIGH MARKS FOR MOST

“I was shocked that there was this breach of security,” said Dinah Nahid, a 16-year-old junior who is co-editor of the Curtis Log.

Nahid and co-editor Caroline Gottlieb, also a 16-year-old junior, were hush-hush even with fellow student newspaper reporters after learning the answers were discovered by a Curtis student on an official Department of Education website.
RELATED: SIZE MATTERS FOR NYC HIGH SCHOOLS AS SMALLER ONES GAIN BIG

“The two of us kept it under wraps until we got it up on the website. ... It was kept mostly exclusive,” said Gottlieb, who spent a month reporting the story and asking Education Department honchos for an explanation. “We got very few answers.”

The new tests were administered at Curtis over two days in late October.

RELATED: BROOKLYN TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOL OFFERS A RIGOROUS TECH-BASED EDUCATION

On the first day, students were required to read selected passages. On the second they wrote essays based on the readings.

But at least one enterprising student sought to re-read the passages — including ones from the novel “All Quiet on the Western Front” — by Googling them after the first day. The student unexpectedly stumbled upon sample responses, which were apparently used to help teachers and administrators in the grading process.

RELATED: HIGH SCHOOL FOR ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES EXCELS WITH CURRICULUM BASED ON SCIENCES

Department of Education officials expressed gratitude Thursday for the students’ investigative work.

“This should not have happened. It was a mistake, and there will be no negative impact on students or teachers,” said spokesman Devon Puglia. “Principals will have latitude to deal with any problems this causes and, as always, we will thoroughly review any anomalies in the data and make adjustments if necessary. We are assessing the situation and thank the students at Curtis High School for bringing this to our attention.”

A decision to invalidate the exam could wreak havoc on the city schools because they’d have to re-administer and re-grade the tests citywide.

Curtis Principal Aurelia Curtis praised the students’ work and argued the exam should be invalidated.

“I am confident of the fact that if my students found it, other students found it,” she said. “I think the only difference is my students found it and actually told the teachers about it.”

rmonahan@nydailynews.com

 

A less-than-stellar debut for STARS

Melissa Borzouye
Report card season is always a busy time for teachers. But this time was even more hectic — and stressful — than usual. That’s because the Department of Education once again rolled out new technology that was not ready for wide release.
The DOE introduced the Student Transcript and Academic Reporting System (STARS) this year to take student report cards into the 21st century. But the web-based electronic program has been riddled with problems since its debut.
Teachers said the system crashed repeatedly, lost data and consumed hours of their personal time. City officials have promised technical fixes, but meanwhile teachers say it has been a major source of anxiety. Although some middle schools have used the virtual report card in previous years, it was new for elementary schools. The UFT has filed a union-initiated grievance on behalf of the many teachers who reached out to the union about lack of access to adequate equipment and how much time outside regular hours they were putting into STARS-related work.
Kristen Lampman, a 5th-grade teacher at PS 89 in Elmhurst, Queens, said it would take her 30 seconds to input a single digit of a grade, and if she added comments, the grades she entered would disappear. Her principal gave her extra time, but it was a tough slog. “It was really poorly designed and implemented,” Lampman said. “And the DOE servers couldn’t handle it.”
Lampman and many other teachers thought Election Day would be the perfect time to enter grades in STARS, but the heavy volume of users caused the system to slow down and freeze. Others got error messages, or warnings that the STARS site was not secure. Lampman said she finally got through on a Sunday morning at 7 a.m.
Melissa Borzouye, a 4th-grade teacher at PS 154 in Flushing, Queens, said she spent about six hours at home one week night attempting to enter student data.
“It can’t handle traffic,” Borzouye said. She also saw data disappear from her screen, which she then had to re-enter.  
UFT Vice President for Education Catalina Fortino and other union officials met with DOE representatives on Nov. 13 to discuss the problems.    
“They are working on the technical fixes,” Fortino said. Among the promised improvements: a larger button icon to save work on the page, and a warning that navigating away from the page will risk losing data. The UFT has also recommended that the DOE provide more training for schools.
This year may mark only the beginning of challenges ahead. Using STARS was an option for elementary schools this year, but next year it will be required for everyone. That worries Fortino.  “Many of our schools do not have proper bandwidth,” she said.

Special Commissioner and Investigations of Tenured Teachers

Does the Special Commissioner of Investigation have the right to obtain sworn testimony from a tenured teacher?

LINK
Edflawfaqs Editor Jeff Kaufman

No. Patricia Sabater, a tenured assistant principal and teacher at an elementary school in Brooklyn was asked to provide sworn testimony about sexual harassment and unlawful touching among students by Special Commissioner of Investigation Richard Condon’s office. SCI wanted to determine whether Sabater had failed to act on and report complaints about these allegations.
Sabater and her attorney refused to answer questions under oath asserting the right, under Education Law 3020-a, not be forced to give sworn testimony in a disciplinary hearing. They argued that a pre-hearing sworn statement was barred.
The SCI sought a court ordered subpoena to force Sabater’s sworn testimony. Justice Carol E. Huff of New York County Supreme Court denied the application. While it is true that Condon’s office has broad powers to investigate and prosecute cases in the DOE a subpoena cannot be used as a way around the protections of Education Law 3020-a. Huff also rejected Condon’s argument that as an assistant principal Sabater could not use the 3020-a protections holding that the statute did not distinguish among those with tenure.

Grievances and Time Limits

Must a grievant stick to the strict time limits for arbitration in the CBA to preserve their right to arbitrate?

No. Most collective bargaining agreements contain time limits to bring grievances up to and including arbitration and generally have provisions which require that all disputes governing the interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement be resolved by arbitration.In Rondout Valleya case recently decided by the Appellate Division, Third Department, a teachers’ union sought arbitration on a series of grievances which the school district claimed were untimely. The school district, rather than submitting the matter to an arbitrator to decide timeliness, went to Supreme Court and obtained a stay of arbitration based on the Court’s determination that the arbitration requests were late. The Third Department reversed the lower court finding, “Where a collective bargaining agreement contains a broad arbitration clause, the question of whether a party has complied with the procedural requirements of the grievance process — such as time limitations — is to be resolved by an arbitrator absent “a provision expressly making compliance with the time limitations a condition precedent to arbitration” (citations omitted).

Edlawfaqs: Can a Probationary Teacher Resign and then Rescind?

 

Edlawfaqs Editor Jeff Kaufman
 

Can a probationary teacher who submits a letter of resignation, effective immediately, rescind that letter once she was made aware of the 30 day notice requirement to prevent her from being placed on the ineligible/inquiry list?


 
No. Gina Sartori was a probationary social studies teacher at Dr. Susan McKinney High School when, in the middle of the year, she submitted a letter of resignation which was effective immediately. At the time, she claimed, that she was not advised by her Chapter Leader or the principal that her failure to provide 30 days’ notice would put her on the ineligible/inquiry list, barring her from future DOE employment. She claimed that the principal told her that resignation was the only way to “save” her license.
Several weeks after submitting her letter of resignation she learned of the consequences of her failure to provide notice and sought to rescind her letter.
When the principal refused to allow her to rescind the letter she filed a grievance which was denied.
Sartori filed an Article 78 to challenge the refusal to rescind her letter and for reinstatement. The DOE answered that Sartori was not forced to resign and that the DOE no longer maintains an ineligible/inquiry list. The DOE argued that while the list is no longer maintained a resignation without the 30 days’ notice “would be flagged for violating Chancellor’s  Regulation C-205(26)(b) for resigning without giving 30 days’ notice, triggering an investigation into her service history by the Office of Personnel Investigation” should the teacher seek employment with the DOE in the future.”
Justice Lobis dismissed Sartori’s petition after finding she was not coerced into submitting her immediate resignation and that the DOE did not act arbitrarily in denying her reinstatement or permitting her to rescind her resignation.