|UFT President Mike Mulgrew, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYC DOE|
Chancellor Carmen Farina
If you want to ask for an Impartial Hearing to obtain public funding for a private school for your child when the NYC DOE does not give your child a free and appropriate public education, you send an email/letter to the Impartial Hearing Office and to the New York State Education Department. (Full disclosure: I represent parents and children at Impartial Hearings as the Parent Advocate).
For suspensions and Office of Hearings Online (SOHO) database you can contact the Office of Safety and Youth Development (no one will tell you that the SOHO reports exist, parents and teachers are forbidden from seeing these discipline histories even for their own children). See here as well, Chancellor's Regulations A-450. (Full disclosure: for 9 years I represented parents and their children at suspension hearings, and these hearings are a farce, designed to punish children - especially special needs children - for having a disability. Think about suing.)
For violence in the classroom committed by students:
*if you are an administrator, you contact the Office of Special Investigations by sending an email to them in the Online Occurrence Report (OORS). By doing this, you are setting in motion the process I have written about in my article The Gotcha Squad. When OSI gets involved, their mandate is to create paperwork that says the violence in the classroom was committed by the teacher, not the student. This paperwork will be used in charging the employee if he/she is tenured, with 3020-a; if he/she is a probationary teacher, this person will receive a letter of discontinuance saying that the reason is that he/she harmed a child in his/her classroom. There is no option to receive a hearing within the DOE. The reason is that the NY State Education Department keeps a record and publishes this record of the State's most violent schools. Principals do NOT want to be on the VADIR list. They get bonus points for getting rid of the teacher as the culprit, instead.
*if you are a teacher, the best thing to do if you are assaulted in the classroom or a child is hurt in a fight, is to call 911 and get a police report. You most probably will be charged with something for doing this, but if you dont do it, and the principal gets a report into OORS, you will be charged with committing the harm. It's a catch 22.
And who do you contact if you have a big problem that no one will solve for you? The media.
|The TWEED building, NYC DOE headquarters|
52 Chambers Street, Manhattan
How about the Chancellor? Carmen Farina, just like her predecessors, has a group at Tweed (DOE Headquarters) who intercept all the mail and email sent to her. It is called the Chancellor's Strategic Response Group:
"About usThe NYPOST Reporter Carl Camanile called this group "Klein's School-Gripe 'SWAT' TEAM'" in 2004. Did I give you that story, Carl?
Julia Levy wrote about this group in 2005:
Reading and Writing for Mr. Klein
About a year ago, the schools chancellor, Joel Klein, quietly renamed the office that handles his correspondence and gave it a new set of responsibilities. The new unit, called the Chancellor's Strategic Response Group, is a "team of problem-solvers," its director, Terry Bowman, said.
"I wanted to make sure that when parents wrote in they got responses - that they didn't just get shuffled through the system," Mr. Klein said.
The seven-member team works on the first floor of the Tweed Courthouse, on Chambers Street. In a corner of the office, on a stand-alone dry-erase board, "The Big List" is written in colorful marker.
The first rule is "Everyone gets a Response." That's a lot of responses.
Mr. Klein responds to some of his own mail. But even once he writes back to some of the principals, teachers, and parents who contact him, there are still between 1,000 and 1,200 messages a month left for the Strategic Response Group, not including condolences, thank-you notes, and invitations. The majority of the letters, e-mails, and phone calls come from the parents of students who attend public schools. Other messages come from students, teachers, public officials, and citizens of places as far from the city as Arizona and as close as Long Island.
Mr. Bowman said some of the messages are compliments about programs or policies that are working in the schools. Most messages, though, are complaints.
"Education is serious business to people," he said. "The majority are serious problems for people that need solving."
When someone contacts the chancellor's office, the Strategic Response Group enters the complaint into a newly developed computer system. If someone sends a letter, someone in the office scans the letter and makes it part of the electronic records system.
"Rather than writers going through a loot of hoops, complaints are tracked," Mr. Bowman said. "It's about accountability, responsiveness, and consistency."
About half of the messages that come through the office are pointed questions about local issues at specific schools. Those messages are forwarded to one of 10 regional offices, and there are follow-ups to make sure the region responds.
The other half, which deal with central education department policies, is divvied up between the chancellor's strategic responders.
People ask frequently about transportation to and from school, human resources, and registration. Students' questions tend to be less predictable. Public-school students have written in with a range of complaints, from excessively heavy backpacks to insufficient supplies of candy in school vending machines. Some have requested lighter loads of homework, and others have demanded more.
One of the strategic responders, Taneka Miller, said she received a letter from the student vice president at a Brooklyn middle school who conducted a poll finding that the favorite lunch food is beef patties. The vice president asked that the patties be on the menu more frequently.
The office also has to handle special one-of-a-kind requests. Ms. Miller, for example, handled a request from a mother whose daughter had been beaten up on the way home from school. After a few conversations with the mother and personnel at the regional office, Ms. Miller helped the student secure an expedited safety transfer.
One of her colleagues, Thackston Lundy, helped an Ohio theater group get permission to perform a play written by a public-school theater teacher about the September 11 attacks.
Mr. Lundy has also been working with other people in the central offices of the education department to create a section of the department Web site where listings about internships and scholarships - many of which filter through the Strategic Response Group - could be posted.
"It's a matter of kind of connecting the dots," he said. "I think our goal is to know a little bit about a lot of things."
The office also deals with some quirkier issues.
For example, it helped secure an honorary diploma for a 90-year-old woman who went through the public school system when she was a girl but never received her diploma. The family was so pleased with the help it received that it sent the Strategic Response Group flowers and balloons.
It has also helped find money at the department to pay for funeral expenses of some public-school children from impoverished families.
Mr. Bowman said there is no strict timeline for responding. More urgent matters are handled first, he said, but added: "We wouldn't want anything to languish, certainly not any more than a month."
The unit's budget is $350,000, about the same as annual spending on the old correspondence unit.
In June, a parent whose child is desperately in need of a new school sent the reply from Ilana Rudolf of CSRG to me after the parent wrote a long plea to Chancellor Farina:
"Thank you for your email to the Chancellor on behalf of your daughter who is a registered student at J.H.S. in Manhattan. We appreciate you sharing your concerns with us.
Upon receipt of your email, I contacted Principal for information. Principal informed me you met with her and Ms. to address the concerns referenced in your letter. It is my understanding that they informed you that as the bullying incidents referenced in your email were unsubstantiated, your daughter does not qualify for a safety transfer. Additionally, Principal told me that your daughter's attendance was discussed at the meeting and school personnel recommended a re-evaluation of your daughter’s Individualized Education Program. However, I understand that you have refused a re-evaluation at this time.
Given that your daughter does not qualify for a safety transfer, I strongly recommend that you continue to work with Principal , the District Family Advocate, Ms. , and school-based personnel, as they are in the best position to address your concerns. Moreover, please be advised that the Department of Education strongly urges parents to ensure that their children are attending school at least 90 percent of the school year, as attendance factors heavily into student progress and promotion.
I hope this information has been helpful. Thank you again for writing to the Chancellor, and I wish you and your family a safe and relaxing summer.
Chancellor’s Strategic Response Group
NYC Department of Education
52 Chambers Street, Room 215, New York, NY 10007
You could have applied to be an intern for the summer: