A close-up look at NYC education policy, politics,and the people who have been, are now, or will be affected by acts of corruption and fraud. ATR CONNECT assists individuals who suddenly find themselves in the ATR ("Absent Teacher Reserve") pool and are the "new" rubber roomers, and re-assigned. The terms "rubber room" and "ATR" mean that you or any person has been targeted for removal from your job. A "Rubber Room" is not a place, but a process.
Arisleyda Ureña, former Director of School Quality and Founding Principal
Ms. Arisleyda Urena
Arisleyda Ureña has been on radar of DTOE since we noticed a number of comments and postings on the Do Not Apply List and Betsy Combier’s NYC Rubber Room Reporter blog which mentioned her and her antics. A graduate ofSkidmore Collegeand Teachers College, Ms. Ureña started out as a teacher of Spanish in the Board of Education. She taught for five years before earning a position in the Bronx Region 1 office where she worked for another three years as an administrator. It was in this capacity where it is believed she metElena Papaliberios, the former superintendent of Bronx high schools, and Rosamaria Leon, a former principal whose specialty was in the instruction of English Language Learner (ELL) students. Ureña then graduated from the Leadership Academy in 2007 aftercompletingher internship withAnthony Rotunno. At the Leadership Academy Ms. Ureña allegedly developed a political connection with Joel Klein and In August 2007, Ms. Ureña opened up the Academy for Language and Technology (ALT) in District 9 of Morris Heights, the Bronx. All this information is critically important to understand and keep in mind—considering Rotunno’s and Papaliberios’sordid dealingswith their colleagues, one can understand where Ms. Ureña picked up a good deal of her “methods.”
According to an Anonymous contributer:“During the first few years of the school’s existence, Urena had full support from the Leadership Academy and the Chancellor’s Office. Chancellor Klein himself stopped by with his entourage several times to shake our hands and to take pictures. Furthermore, Urena was on speed dial with the superintendent at that time, who was well known for wielding power to remove certification and licensure of anyone who opposed her. The UFT and CSA were fully aware of that.”
It should be no surprise to anyone who would examine the NYS Accountability Report Card for ALT that teacher turnover has reached catastrophic levels over the past few years. In 2012, eleven new teachers (ten of them first-year and untenured) were hired. In 2013, sixteen new teachers (all of them untenured) were hired at ALT. Why would an established school have such a high turnover rate? The data doesn’t lie from previous years (see below). NYS Calculates the Teacher Turnover Rate at ALT. You can see ALT’s State Report Card by going to: https://reportcards.nysed.gov/files/2011-12/RC-2012-320900011365.pdf
From an Anonymous contributor to the ANOI form: “For six years, the two of them [Ms. Ureña and Ms. Papaliberios] collectively conspired to terminate over 50 professionals, many of whom Ms. Urena personally hired to work under her: school aides,custodians, safety agents, parent coordinators, guidance counselors, teachers, assistant principals. Luckily, justice and logic prevailed and the two were, for the most part, unsuccessful. Those who got black-listed by Ms. Urena simply moved on to better schools and are now happily employed and productive in their jobselsewhere.”
Retaliation Against Teachers, Guidance Counselors, and Assistant Principals
Ms. Ureña turned against a guidance counselor several years ago when this counselor discovered major discrepancies in the transcripts of seniors who were missing critical core and elective classes needed for a Regents diploma. This guidance counselor asked for help from her mentor who later on called the Office of Special Investigation. In her own words:On April 9, 2011 Ms. Melissa Wilde investigator at OSI said that there were some allegations against the principal and that Emily Moore [name has been changed] a counselor at George Washington High School of Law in Washington Heights had contacted OSI. Mary Smith [name has been changed], former Assistant Principal, called me and left a message for me to call her when possible. When I contacted Ms. Smith, she told me that the investigator was in the school and Ms. Ureña told her, “that she suspected Ms. Smith and I had something to do with the investigation.” I was never informed by OSI of what the allegations were. Since then I was excluded from staff meetings, trainings, and activities with parents and students hindering my ability to perform my duties as a counselor.
This guidance counselor was probationary and Ms. Ureña took all the steps to “letter-up” her personnel file and discontinue her probationary services in the Department of Education. To complicate matters, this counselor was subjected to a false investigation by OSI. The charges were later found to be unsubstantiated. The “mandated reporter” who called OSI against this brave educator? Ms. Ureña, allegedly.
Ms. Combier’s blog reveals some more episodes of retaliation Ms. Ureña committed against her staff:Urena hired four IA APs (Interim Acting Assistant Principals) between 2008 – 2012. Each left before his or her first year. Two were forcibly removed and attempts were made to strip them of their administrative licenses and certifications. Two left before Urena could file against them.While they were at the school, each of the APs reported Urena to various organizations, including but not limited to the UFT, CSA, DOE, OSI, CAS, and other city and state organizations.All four APs claim Urena required them to participate in fraudulent, unethical, and illegal actions. When they did not do what Urena asked them to do, she had them removed or harassed them until they left.No AP was ever given required, mandated mentoring. Urena never conducted the required C-30 process for IA APs. When asked why she never conducted this mandated process, she claimed it required “too much clicking” (through various screens on the computer).
Ms. Ureña has allegedly had colleagues and employees of hers subjected to faulty SCI investigations. Her “enemies” have spent days in the local police precinct on bogus charges before being transported to Central Booking for a night or two. She has even filed a restraining order against a former Assistant Principal who dared stand up for her rights. Teachers who are able to leave ALT with a decent end-of-year review are happy to leave and not look back.
The Learning Environment Survey
In general, while the Learning Environment is not a perfect indicator to gauge teacher mood or morale at any school in general, a number of the statistics at ALT ought to be taken with a grain of salt. New Action, a caucus of the UFT (seehere for a succinct summaryof the major caucus, parties, within the United Federation of Teachers), in 2011 summarized the responses of Bronx and Manhattan high schools from the Learning Environment Survey. Ms. Urena’s responses for the following questions were quite interesting and placed her in the bottom 50% of all Bronx high school administrators at the time. Did Elena Papaliberios see this data?
Question: “I trust the principal at his or her word” Answers: “Strongly Agree” (10 pts), “Agree” (6.7 pts) “Disagree” (3.3 pts) or “Strongly Disagree” (0 pts). Score: based on average response. Percent: based on percent of answers “to a great extent” or “to some extent.”
Academy for Language and Teaching
Question: “The Principal is an effective manager who makes the school run smoothly” Answers: “Strongly Agree” (10 pts), “Agree” (6.7 pts) “Disagree” (3.3 pts) or “Strongly Disagree” (0 pts). Score: based on average response. Percent: based on percent of answers “to a great extent” or “to some extent.”
Academy for Language and Teaching
In later years, over 60% of teachers would disagree with the following statement: “I trust the principal at her word.” Why would they think that way? Read on….
The environment of fear and “dog eat dog” at ALT has made it difficult for a strong union presence to develop. 50% of the Chapter Leaders at ALT have allegedly been in the administration’s pocket. Teachers were left ignorant of the contract, their rights and benefits, and how to defend themselves against a very oppressive and cruel administration. The contractual provisions violated by Ms. Ureña are numerous but include:
1. Article 8
2. Article 2
3. Article 20
4. Article 7
The scant number of teachers who have filed grievances have seen their Step 1 hearings denied by Ms. Ureña. When a probationary teacher filed a grievance against the administration several years ago, Ms. Ureña called this teacher “unprofessional” and then-Chapter Leader Claire Brennan allegedly told this teacher “you made a very poor choice,” and implied that Ms. Ureña would go after this teacher for asserting their rights. Not surprisingly this teacher was placed in a Teacher Reassignment Center (TRC) days after filing a grievance; the allegation in questions were dropped by both SCI and OSI. What is even more disturbing is the alleged role Jose Viñales and Brennan played in getting this teacher targeted and removed (see below):
Without discussing the “incident” with the teacher, Ms. Ureña forwarded the email to her CFN Leader beginning the process of reassignment of the victimized teacher.
In November 2014, Ms. Urena left her position as principal of ALT. In her tearful good-bye, according to sources, she did not comment on whether she was receiving a promotion. She only commented that she was resigning, in the presence of her CFN Leader, Superintendent Carron Staple (Papaliberios stepped down in 2011), and teaching staff. Why resign in November? Even if Urena was offered a position as a Director of Quality Review (which she was sometime between September 2014 andDecember 2014, when she did her first QR), why would she be given a promotion in November when the school year was 1/3 done? Something smells fishy to us at DTOE but since we have no proof, all we can do is wonder. Or look at some of the stuff we can prove. . .
OSI Investigation: Marijuana Sales on Campus
A 2009 OSI investigative report calls into question, Ms. Ureña’s intention on ensuring for the safety and quality of education students at ALT have received. The origin of the complaint is the following:
In a “21-Jump Street” style drug bust, Ms. Ureña colluded with a minor to get another student arrested for drug possession with the intent to sell. For the full details of this investigation, please seethe following link. Ms. Ureña failed to properly notify school safety personnel promptly as indicted below.
Ah, you see it now, don’t you?
OSI Investigation: Raucous Raffles, P-cards, misuse of resources
In 2013, SCI received a complaint from the Mayor’s Office submitted by a former employee (in the report, the employee’s name has been changed for security purposes). This person claimed that Ms. Ureña had engaged minors in gambling, games of chance, and raffles; the employee claimed that Urena has also distributed DOE property, purchased by a Procurement Card, to students as gifts violating DOE policy on student incentives, and failed to keep proper documentation of said purchases. SCI bumped the investigation the the Office of Special Investigation. When the NY Postran an expose of the raucous raffles, the DOE had no choice but to dig in and do a very thorough investigation into the matter. The informant provided OSI withMs. Ureña’s P-card statements from 2007 to 2012as well asa video of the raffles in December 2011.
This investigation took a total of six month to conclude. Ms. Ureña, who at that time was provided a “promotion” in the Office of School Quality, was found to be guilty of the following counts:
Oh how scandalous!
You can view the full reporthere. Our sources have confirmed that Ms. Urena is no longer employed by the DOE in any capacity. Was it because of this investigation? The bad press? A legal battle against a former teacher? Only Ms. Urena knows for sure, and she sure isn’t telling us.
A Bronx high-school principal failed toaccountfor $12,786 in purchases with her Department of Education credit card— including 70 iPods andlaptopsshe claims she raffled away to students as holiday prizes, officials said.
Arisleyda Ureña, former head of the Academy for Language and Technology, misappropriated school funds by purchasing items “that had no educational purpose,” a DOE investigation found.
Ureña, who took home $154,638 last year, left the DOE in August “before being brought up on any disciplinary charges,” a department spokesman said.
The Post reported last February that Ureña held raucous raffles in the school auditorium on the day beforeChristmas break. Kids cheered as Ureña pulled tickets out of a jug, and handed out iPads, iPods, mini-laptops, sporting goods and other prizes to winners.
An investigation found she failed to keep receipts for $11,700 in purchases from an Applestore, $918 from Modell’s, $125 from Modell’s and $43 from Best Buy.
She “engaged in employee misconduct by giving DOE property to students as gifts,” the probe found.
Ureña’s lawyer, Tim Parlatore, said she blames the charges on “harassment” by a former teacher she fired and noted the investigation did not find she “took any money for herself.”