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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Hipolito "Polo" Colon Jr.: The First and Finest Teacher Advocate/Warrior in New York City Dies at Age 67

Polo Colon at the Panel For Educational Policy 2009 (Norm Scott videographer)
Hipolito "Polo" Colon, Jr. was one of my closest and dearest friends. From the moment we met in 2004, we were partners in the fight to get justice for NYC educators. We taught and learned from each other, and my heart is broken, although I know he is now at peace.

When I spoke with him briefly late in the evening of January 29 2017, I told him to hang on, and to stay in the fight. But he couldn't. The world lost this warrior early morning January 30, 2017.

His wake will be held at the Borinquen Memorial Funeral Home, 1461 Bushwick Avenue, Brooklyn N.Y. 11207, sunday February 5, 2017, 3-9PM. If you want to donate flowers or any financial help to his family, please send to Polo's daughter Lanaette at

Lanaette Colon
75-25 67th Rd.
Middle Village, Queeens, 11379
347-856-0698

She told me that Polo asked for purple flowers.

He was the best teacher advocate I have ever met, and showed amazing courage in front of astonishing challenges. He was a gentle, kind man who always stood up to bullies and scam artists wherever they were. He had my back and I had his. I bet most people did not know he was a very talented musician, and sang with the band MALO. He also wrote music.

When Polo was charged with 3020-a he asked for a 3-member panel, as permitted by NYSED at that point -
Hearing request with 3-member panel option
- but the UFT did not want members to have the 3-member panel, so UFT Attorney Carol Gerstl  filed an Affirmation that permanently denied anyone charged with 3020-a in NYC a 3-arbitrator panel. In NYC, the UFT wants speed, not rights, for members who are charged with 3020-a.

See here for information about The Gotcha Squad:
How The New York City "Gotcha Squad" Gets Tenured Teachers Declared "Incompetent", and Placed in a Rubber Room by Betsy Combier (2009)

Despite the huge challenges brought by the Corporation Counsel and the NYC DOE against him, Polo survived, and continued to work as an ATR for the DOE until he retired a few years ago. He was the Treasurer of my Foundation, the E-Accountability Foundation, which is completely independent of this blog and my website Parentadvocates.org. His daughter Lanaette will take his place.

I will never be able to say enough about our friendship and collaboration, so I will let my previous posts on my website and blogs speak for themselves:

NYC Teacher Hipolito Colon Makes History and Sues the NYC BOE, The Panel For Educational Policy, and NYSUT For Violating His Rights (2006)


ATR Status: what does this mean?






Despite Public Outrage Against A Continuation of Mayoral Control, A Deal is Made


and see Polo's comments to the two articles on Fidgety:

Polo was extremely distressed over the defamation of me by Francesco Portelos. I cannot and will not forget Polo's outrage.

Here is a tribute to Polo from David Pakter which I received yesterday:

"Polo Colon:  In Memorial 
I just received the news of the untimely death of our most Loyal and Deeply Beloved Friend, Polo Colon.  It would be an understatement to say I am filled with an overarching Sadness that is difficult to express in words.
It is as if a piece of my own Heart has been suddenly torn from my body.

I first met Polo when we were both incarcerated at the infamous Chapel Street "Rubber Room" Detention Center, situated in the bowels of Brooklyn.

At my second Kangaroo State 3020 Trial several years ago, the former Head of Human Resources, was made to admit under Oath, that my being assigned to that Rubber Room had been totally illegal as I should have been assigned to a DOE Rubber Room in Manhattan, where I taught Medical Illustration at the High School of Art & Design.

The intent of the DOE was to make it as arduous and time consuming as possible for me to travel to my daily intentionally punitive "assignment" which required two different trains and then a bus.

Nevertheless, that said, as so often occurs in Life, this Machiavellian plan on the part of New York's DOE had one redeeming benefit.  That is to say it was in the Chapel Street Rubber Room that I first had the distinct Honor of meeting Polo Colon. 

It was clear to me immediately on our first meeting that Polo Colon was quite a unique Human Being and truly a force of Nature to be reckoned with and deserving of the utmost respect.

Always impeccably dressed in suit and tie, something that was quite rare in the many DOE Rubber Rooms, Polo radiated a positive energy and optimism even in the worst of circumstances.  Indeed it is difficult to imagine Polo is no longer among us to continue fighting the Good Fight on behalf of all the innocent victims of an egregiously corrupt Education system. 

On the very day I first met Polo, he told me his own personal Story and how he was fully expecting to be permanently terminated from his Employment that very same afternoon by the New York City Dept. of Education an entity that can truly be said, without exaggeration, to represent "Evil Incarnate".

(Thousands of Dedicated and innocent Educators, over the years, have been attacked and terminated from their jobs for speaking out, reporting wrongdoing and/or becoming Whistle-blowers.) 

Of course on hearing Polo's story, I immediately thought of Betsy Combier, the famous "Miracle Worker", well known for years, for interceding on behalf of the downtrodden Educators of New York City as well as Educators Nationwide. 

Polo and I contacted Betsy Combier by phone from the Chapel Street Rubber Room in Brooklyn and true to form, she immediately  went to work to stop the City from illegally Terminating Polo Colon. 
By 5 PM that very same day Betsy Combier had blocked the DOE from their nefarious plan to end the career, once again, of yet another dedicated NYC Educator whose only "crime" had been to stand up for the Rights of New York City's most powerless and at risk citizens- its more than one million Inner City children.

The rest, as they say, is History.  Having secured Polo's employment and ability to care for his Family, Betsy Combier and Polo Colon became inseparable Fellows in Arms, fighting together for the Rights and well being of all of New York City's Teachers and Students so many of whom had been let down and abandoned by the once powerful, Teachers' Union, the United Federation of Teachers.

Over the years, just as with Betsy Combier,  Polo never rested in his never ending quest to attain Justice for both the Teachers and students of NYC.
Just like Betsy Combier, Polo Colon was a force to be reckoned with.  
Similar to Betsy Combier's own shinning example, Polo Colon inspired so many people whose needs he always put before his own personal needs.  In that sense, just like Betsy Combier, Polo Colon represented the Archetypal Hero.

And just as Betsy Combier literally saved Polo Colon's Career when he needed her priceless assistance most, Polo spent his subsequent years fighting for the same people Betsy Combier has spent her life fighting for. 

The fathomless Sorrow I feel today, knowing that Polo Colon is no longer with us on this Earth is mellowed by the knowledge that he, like Betsy Combier, spent his Life tirelessly helping people as Betsy Combier selflessly helped Polo when he most needed her.  

And I am comforted by the firm belief and Hope that others will be inspired to Honor Polo Colon's Life and Memory by rededicating themselves, once again, to all those Sacred values which Polo Colon held dear in the deepest core of his boundlessly Generous Heart.

I will always treasure my Hollowed Memories of knowing Polo Colon till I draw my Last Breathe on this Earth.  Just as Betsy Combier, is such a unique Woman, who always and even now, still Leads by Example, Polo Colon was an equally unique Man who never ceased to Lead by his own Example.

You, Polo Colon, are done now with your Work on God's Earth. 
Rest well, my Dear Friend in your Well Deserved Peace among the Stars.


David Pakter"

Below are some memories which I will forever treasure. Rest in Peace Polo!

From Betsy Combier:
I met Polo in 2004 after I met another teacher, David Pakter, at a TV studio on the West Side of Manhattan in 2003. David talked about "the rubber room" and a "3020-a hearing", neither of which I had ever heard about before. I told him I would really like to find out more about 25 Chapel Street and the 3020-a hearing, so David told me he would sneak me in, and that he would tell his attorney, NYSUT's Chris Callagy, that he wanted me to sit in at his arbitration. I found out later that if a charged employee wanted a person to sit in his/her hearing, all they had to do is ask - but NYSUT did not want to tell anyone. I started publicizing the "open and public 3020-a hearing" so that all Respondents could have friends and relatives observe.
Betsy Combier and Chris Callagy at David Pakter's 3020-a, 49-51 Chambers Street, 2009
I started going to Chapel Street 2-3 times /week, and I sat with the UFT members there and listened to their stories all day. I left when their day was over. Polo asked me to sit in in his 3020-a, which I did, and then teachers at the Chapel Street rubber room as well as in other rooms throughout NYC began to ask me to sit in in their hearings, so I began my study of how 3020-a arbitration worked....or didn't. Randi  Weingarten, President of the UFT at the time, heard that I was there and asked me to help her get rubber room teachers to tell their stories to the NY City Council hearing on whistleblower laws in 2006. I helped her round up testimony. Then after almost 4 years of attending 3020-a hearings and visiting the 25 Chapel Street rubber room, in 2007, asked me to work for the UFT as the "official rubber room rep". I gladly agreed.

Polo, David Pakter and I worked together to make sure that our voices were heard. When there was a Panel For Educational Policy ("PEP") meeting with a lawless Executive Session, Polo called me or I called him, and we got there in time to sign up as the first speakers. Joel Klein and his Attorney Michael Best tried to cut us off, but their efforts only fueled our flames. As you will see in the videos below, both Polo and I call Joel Klein "Mr." Klein, because neither Polo nor I had a copy of his contract with the DOE. In fact, DOE FOIL attorney Susan Holtzman told me that Joel did not have a contract. So, I wrote an article "The Who Are You Kidding Award Goes To Joel Klein". Both Polo and I did not see how he could be called "Chancellor". We couldn't see how Carmen Farina or Dennis Walcott could be given that title, either.
See Polo's speeches on video, thanks to Norm Scott:

PEP Meeting September 2007
PEP meeting 2009
Polo Colon

Polo was the first teacher who I knew about who sued the UFT and the DOE for putting him in the rubber room. I served his papers on the UFT at 52 Broadway, 9th Floor (NYSUT). I remember vividly when the Corporation Counsel scheduled a deposition at their offices at 100 Church Street, and the day before emailed Polo that I would be barred from entering the building. We had a good laugh, then Polo called his girlfriend and told her to arrive at 9:30am the following day dressed professionally. She became the Reporter of the event where I would be thrown out of a public lobby. Matthew Leighton, the Corporation Counsel attorney assigned to the case, was very cordial when he saw us, and escorted us up to the 4th floor, where he said there would be no problem if I wanted to come with Polo to the 2nd floor, but no one else could come. So the girlfriend left and we had the reporter set up to transcribe the hearing with the principal. When she was ready, Mr. Leighton immediately went into a diatribe on the record about how I had to leave immediately. Polo suggested (I wrote him a note) that Mr. Leighton get the judge on the telephone. Mr. Leighton unfortunately had to wire the room for outside calls, so the deposition of Liza Carabello was put off for 45 minutes while electricians put a speaker phone into the room. Then, Mr. Leighton called the judge's chambers and said to the law clerk that he had to get a ruling from the judge. The law clerk said that the Judge, Paul Fineman, was not there, but she could rule. Leighton told her that I wanted to sit in on the deposition, I was not a party, and he wanted her to order me to leave. She hesitated for a minute, then told him to cease and desist, I could sit there, give notes to Polo, and take him outside, the only thing I could not do was speak on the record. Polo tried not to laugh. I dont believe I mentioned that I had called a friend at the Supreme Court and asked him the very same question, before I went into 100 Church street to meet Polo. I already knew the answer. Mr. Leighton thanked the law clerk, but after he hung up was visibly angry.  Polo did the deposition of Carabello and I was soooo proud of him. What a guy.

Then, in 2010 when UFT Staff Directors Ellie Engler, Leroy Barr and President Mike Mulgrew told me that I was helping too many members and they wanted me out of my office so they could give it to someone else, who came at 7PM with his SUV to the front door of 52 Broadway to load up all my boxes and bags in the pouring rain? Polo. He put all of the stuff in his apartment until I could figure out what to do with it. I've of course kept all my notes on the rubber rooms for my book, which Polo was going to co-author.

From The A For Accountability Award (trademarked by me 2005)

Hippolito "Polo" Colon was a tenured teacher at PS 120 in Brooklyn NY, when he became aware that the principal of the school was not following federal laws protecting the children in her care at the school. He wrote down what he believed to be illegal actions by the principal and called in the NYC BOE investigators. He believed that he would be protected by local, State, and Federal whistleblower laws, and the investigators would look into his allegations. Instead, the NYC DOE "investigated" him, and removed him suddenly and without warning from the school. He became another statistic of the New York City "rubber rooms", or re-assignment centers, where tenured teachers who are whistleblowers are dumped, and where these potential firecrackers sit, day after day, at long tables. Polo sat in the room for almost 1 year, and, like most of the other 400+ teachers in rubber rooms around New York City, asked for, but never received the charges describing the 'crimes' that he was accused of doing. 

Then, in August 2006, he received a letter from NYC BOE General Counsel Michael Best saying that he would be terminated at the September 19 2006 meeting of The Panel For Educational Policy, due to his waiving of his right to a hearing. He did not waive his right to a hearing, and, unwilling to lose his salary (as his UFT representative said he would), he took steps to stop the BOE, The PEP, and NYSUT from leaving him without his job and his salary: he filed a lawsuit in the New York State Supreme Court pro se. Parentadvocates congratulates him, and hopes that his actions are repeated by all the other teachers dumped into rubber rooms unfairly and denied due process. See NYC Teacher Hipolito Colon Makes History and Sues the NYC BOE, The Panel For Educational Policy, and NYSUT For Violating His Rights

3 comments:

DAN RONEN said...

Polo was one of the most dedicated and bravest advocates for students and co-workers.

Dave Goodwin said...

A terrible loss. He was a gentle man, a wonderful person. I was always amazed at how he fought the behemoth DOE and its corruption. GOD BLESS YOU POLO, thank you for all.

Dan Ronen said...

Polo was one of the most dedicated and bravest advocates for students and co-workers.