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Monday, October 22, 2018

Another School Bus Scandal Rips NYC

Elizabeth Rose's nine-year run in the city school system is over. (Go Nakamura for New York Daily News)
 Another school bus scandal. In New York City! The headquarters of  Boss TWEED, oops I mean with people at Tweed, the headquarters of the NYC Department of Education. You would think they could get at least this right. The buzz:

..... the caseload has been reduced somewhat after the unit was moved out of OPT to the Office of Special Investigations in the wake of the busing scandal. Officials say allegations of bus driver and matron misconduct will now be investigated by the same office and process as all DOE employees.
.....Sources with knowledge of the situation said that allegations of lesser offenses, including actions without the potential to harm children, are being routed to customer service representatives.

City's yellow-bus contracts boss pushed out as companies say routes go unstaffed
EXCLUSIVE: NYC schools chancellor fires top deputy over bus scandal
DOE honcho gets moved after boneheaded busing decisions
 Facing his first crisis, Carranza fired a top official. But can he fix New York City’s yellow bus system?
The top official in charge of the Office of Pupil Transportation, Eric Goldstein, was axed.
(Bryan Pace for New York Daily News)


 
 The NY Daily News has done a great job exposing the corruption and fraud in the school bus companies in New York City. Eric Goldstein was fired. We have been here before. See my 2006 article .

Elizabeth Rose was moved. As if this would solve the problem.

Chancellor Carranza, this is New York City. We are different. We were the home to TWEED, before it became the home to the NYC DOE and your office.

Need I say more (I do, and probably will).

Betsy Combier
 betsy.combier@gmail.com
Editor, Advocatz.com
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, Parentadvocates.org
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials
 
Exclusive: Former head of DOE Investigations says he got push-back from higher-ups for more closely vetting school bus drivers

Ben Chapman

| NEW YORK DAILY NEWS |
OCT 21, 2018

The former head of the unit that conducts background checks on school bus drivers and investigates misconduct says the Department of Education gave him a hard time about cracking down on bad hires.

Ralph Manente, a modest, retired NYPD lieutenant and detective squad commander with a shock of white hair, labored for 10 years as boss of the unit. 

After the Daily News reported rampant problems with no-show or late buses and the hiring of drivers with serious criminal records, the DOE ordered a revamping of the city's massive $1.2 billion yellow bus system. The top official in charge of the Office of Pupil Transportation, Eric Goldstein, was axed and Deputy Chancellor Elizabeth Rose was moved out.

Manente, who retired last week when he turned 65, felt his work was a public service. "We tried to put ourselves in the parents' shoes," he said. "We weren't going to put someone on a bus that we wouldn't be comfortable with if our kids were on that bus."

A handful of investigators were obligated to probe about 8,000 complaints a year, Manente said. Among them, a mom who griped that her son came home without socks and another who groused that her child came off the bus with his shirt on backwards.

The policy of looking into everything, Manente said, put a strain on the office.

"If a bus driver rolled his eyes or didn't say good morning to a parent, we had to investigate it," he said. "It took us away from concentrating on the more serious cases."

About 18 months ago, Manente directed former NYPD Detective Eric Reynolds to do pre-employment background checks on drivers. At the time, criminal records checks were limited to only 13 counties in New York State.

Reynolds found that far too limited, broadened his checks and had drivers come in for interviews. He learned troubling information about an alarming number of applicants andrejected them with Manente's approval.

"He took it to a new level," Manente explained. "After a while, the bus companies started complaining and we started getting resistance from (head of safety) Paul Weydig and people in contracts. In essence, Eric had bucked the system unknowingly by looking further into the vetting process and that slowed down the hiring."

Then in April, as The News has reported, Reynolds suddenly stopped getting new applications. Unknownst to him, a worker in the contracts office started rubber-stamping drivers using Reynolds' signature and email address. More than 720 people were approved between April and September as a result.

Reynolds was then told his waiver to receive a police pension and work for the DOE would not be renewed in December. Manente says Weydig also ordered him to give Reynolds a letter of reprimand, but he refused.

"I believe Eric was retaliated against for shining a spotlight on this," Manente said.

Weydig also resisted Manente's calls to fire investigators whose work wasn't up to snuff, Manente explained. 

"Whenever I had an investigator who was not performing, I had a better chance of winning the lottery on a Saturday night that getting Weydig's assistance in terminating that person," he said, adding that he to go over Weydig's head to cut people loose, and that caused some animosity between the two men.

Weydig did not respond to requests for comment.

Manente, who spent 25 years with the NYPD, said he also suspects that OPT contracts officials and the bus companies are too close.

"The pressure to have these drivers and attendants approved as quickly as possible only indicates to me that contract compliance was being pressured by the bus companies and shows me there's some sort of comfort level with the vendors," Manente said.

Three years ago, City Controller Scott Stringer asked the Justice Department to investigate possible collusion between bus companies. Stringer charged that the DOE made the city vulnerable to collusion with poor monitoring of the contracts and vendor performance.

In a statement, DOE spokeswoman Miranda Barbot said, "We take the safety of our students on school buses extremely seriously, and every current and former bus driver underwent a rigorous background check and fingerprinting process before they were hired, including an FBI criminal history review. We've hired a new leader to oversee our Office of Pupil Transportation, and all school bus drivers now undergo two separate background checks and two separate fingerprint reviews."

Manente thinks background inquiries should includea more thorough check using FBI databases, a search of the NYPD's domestic violence database, court filings, the sex offender registry and whether or not there were 911 dispatches to his home.

"I've wanted to do this since 2008," Manente said. "As it stood, we wouldn't know if a driver got arrested in California or even New Jersey and that's information we need."

Manente also advocates for a reduction in the misconduct caseload. "We shouldn't be investigating every little complaint," he said. "The serious investigations should be emphasized."

Investigators tell The News that the caseload has been reduced somewhat after the unit was moved out of OPT to the Office of Special Investigations in the wake of the busing scandal. Officials say allegations of bus driver and matron misconduct will now be investigated by the same office and process as all DOE employees.

Sources with knowledge of the situation said that allegations of lesser offenses, including actions without the potential to harm children, are being routed to customer service representatives.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Absent Teacher Reservist (ATR) Disaster

Aixa Rodriguez, an ESL teacher who has been with the DOE since 2005. After her school closed, she
spent some time in the Absent Teacher Reserve before being hired by a new school for this fall.
The New York City Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers are, together, accountable for the "Absent Teacher Reserve" or "ATR" disaster.

Excessing teachers is not new. Closing schools is not new. What was new, when Mike Bloomberg came into his position as Mayor of New York City, was the streamlining of the trashing process for tenured teachers. It was the idea that teachers were protected by tenure rights that someone up the line in the food chain disliked.

Bloomberg spoke often about Jack Welsh and the firing of 10% of the workforce to keep employees on the ball, always worried about "being next". The City was, in 2003, under the spell of management/administrators of public agencies to get rid of the riff raff, the employees who sit around and do nothing all day. Bloomberg was led to believe (I honestly do not think he checked this out himself) that tenure gave tenured employees the right to do nothing because they could never be terminated. This is, was, and will be, fake news.

But fake news and false claims work. Especially if someone knows how to use the dark web, how to hack into computers, or who has malicious intent to make up lies about someone. Most people still believe what they read and see on the internet.

So what happened in 2003, and I was fortunate enough to be there to see it, was a full scale attack on tenured teachers and "failing" public schools, so that massive numbers were thrown into big warehouses around NYC (in 2008 there were 8 main warehouses). Some remained for 1 year, others 7-15 years, and a few are still sitting in rooms where they are not given any work, not called a rubber room, but still the same thing. A reassignment room where you are told to sit until further notice is a rubber room.

I started visiting rubber rooms in 2003-2004 when my friends David Pakter and Polo Colon asked me to visit them at 25 Chapel Street, 10th floor. I was there several times a week, and stayed all day, chatting with the teachers there about their stories, their schools, and their administrators. The UFT went to the rubber rooms I think 1 time/year, but everyone at the UFT knew that I was talking with the members, because I also attended 3020-a hearings at the request of members, and then the charged employees started asking for me to help their NYSUT attorney settle their cases. So, I did that. Then I was hired to work as a Special Representative and given an office at 52 Broadway, 16th floor in 2007. I was in all the rubber rooms every week (except Staten Island) until August 2010, when I left to start advocating for teachers' rights at 3020-a on my own.

I still remember when suddenly, in 2012, I heard that every charged UFT member who was not terminated at 3020-a would become an ATR. I asked where this was written down, and heard it was not in writing, it was "just the way it is."

Bad move.

Suddenly, teachers who had been charged with something but who was not terminated, even if completely false, who had  inefficient counsel at the 3020-a and/or a biased arbitrator, became a substitute teacher/nomad, wandering week to week to a new school, replacing full-time teachers/guidance counselors for a day/week/month. How do you establish enough trust with a child to counsel him/her, if you meet them for a day or stay with them a week, then disappear? How can you teach?

Also, ATRs who are assigned somewhere temporarily, mostly a few days or weeks, often do not have access to IEPs, and don't input grades.

Students are smart enough to know that if you are not grading him/her, why bother doing the work?

This is really a black/white picture of ATRs and their bizarre situation in a school, and there are many layers of grey which I am not going into here. But the plan to remove tenure by displacing thousands of people and making it torture to remain in the DOE, certainly worked to create an environment of fear, resentment and even hatred.

It seems to me that we are seeing a return to rational strategic planning, with the new contract implying that ATRs can be placed in their content area in September. But "CAN" does not mean "WILL". Let's see.

Unfortunately, the UFT is still interested in playing-along-to-get-along with the Chancellor, Mayor, and everyone underneath. This is not going to change anytime soon, unless someone wins the $billion lottery and pays everyone to take a looooong holiday.

It is all about money, after all.

Betsy Combier
 betsy.combier@gmail.com
Editor, Advocatz.com
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, Parentadvocates.org
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Educators Linger in the Misunderstood ‘Teacher Reserve,’ a Byproduct of School Reforms
This past summer, most city teachers were prepping new lessons, revising curriculum and readying for the start of the new school year. However, many teachers on the city’s Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) were polishing their CVs. This included Aixa Rodriguez, an ESL teacher who has been with the DOE since 2005.

She was previously a teacher at the Foreign Language Academy of Global Studies (FLAGS), which closed at the end of the 2015-2016 school year. Like many teachers after a closure, Rodriguez was placed in the ATR, a pool of DOE educators who lack permanent placements in city schools but remain full-time DOE employees. Rodriguez said many teachers in the pool have a similar story to hers, finding themselves relegated to the list in the aftermath of school’s closure or a program cut.

“If those schools close and those programs get shut down, the teachers get labeled along with it,” she says. “Your resume looks like Swiss cheese. I have friends who have been in the ATR for years.”

After FLAGS’ closure, Rodriguez was hired on a provisional basis to fill in for a year for a teacher on sabbatical, but come the end of the school year she was back seeking a full-time role. Rodriguez, like many others, found herself in a proverbial limbo while in the pool; educators in the ATR are still full-time DOE educators (and are paid as such), but often fill in short-term gaps, covering for teachers during parental leave or medical absences, working as substitute teachers or performing administrative work.

However, critics contend that many of these excessed teachers are saddled with disciplinary issues or are not seeking new full-time teaching positions, content to take the short-term work.

How did the ATR start?

The ATR is a result of 2005 negotiations between the United Federation of Teachers and the Bloomberg administration, who wanted to give school principals greater autonomy in hiring decisions. Prior to these negotiations, senior teachers had a greater say in choosing schools in which they were placed, according to Jeff Kaufman, a computer science teacher at Far Rockaway High School and former member of the UFT’s Executive Board. He described this loss of seniority as a “giveback” by the UFT.
“Principals now control, to a large degree, who is in their school,” he says.

Instead of automatically placing excessed teachers in new schools, the ATR carved out a way for principals to make their own hiring decisions, while excessed teachers were ensured they’d remain on the DOE payroll while seeking a position. Many initially applauded the move as an overdue correction to tenured teachers’ control in their own placement (arguing this often led to experienced educators disproportionately getting jobs in certain schools and districts). Now, most agree that the ATR has led to more problematic consequences, and many teachers in the pool assert many of these consequences were in fact the intention all along.

Two years after the establishment of the ATR pool, the city implemented the Fair Student Funding formula, which recalibrated the way in which the DOE determines how much funding schools receive.The city intended to direct more funding towards schools that had been shortchanged over the decades, but teachers’ salaries were to come primarily from this revised funding on the principal’s discretion (as opposed to the DOE directly paying teachers’ salaries).

Critics argue this incentivizes principals to not hire experienced (and higher-salaried) teachers, leading to an ATR pool that is exceedingly older and growing more expensive by the year; ATR payments cost the city $136 million last year. Rodriguez argues this disincentive and a generalized stigma against ATR teachers is depriving the city of a supply of time-tested educators who could be used in the classroom on a more permanent basis; what’s more, the city is already paying for them.

“A lot of the teachers in the ATR are 40 and up, and have a salary level of $80,000. We have both the time and experience,” she says. “(Principals) just don’t want to pay for them. There are plenty of us in the ATR who are ready and willing to work.”

Experience as a downside

Concrete data on the ATR can be difficult to attain, partially because the pool is constantly in flux; often the pool will balloon at the close of a school year as schools are shuttered and programs are cancelled, only to shrink as some ATR teachers fill open positions come the new school year. In 2017, Chalkbeat reported that 38 percent of ATR teachers were in the pool due to school closures, with another 30 percent in the reserve due to budget or program cuts. Additionally, 32 percent were in the pool due to “ramifications from a legal or disciplinary issue.”

The ATR’s cost continues to grow as the pool grows older and more experienced, according to a recent report from the Citizens Budget Commission. Employees in the ATR pool have been teachers for 18 years on average, compared to the average 10.2 years of the total DOE teacher workforce, and the average ATR salary is $98,126, compared to $84,108 for all teachers.

In 2017, a quarter of teachers on the ATR were also on there five years earlier. Some argue that this indicates teachers are not being hired for full-time positions or are not looking for work, though it is also possible a teacher could have been hired off the pool and subsequently excessed again.

There were 788 teachers in the pool in 2006, during the first year of implementation, but after a spate of school closures during the Bloomberg administration that number grew exponentially; at the start of the 2014 school year, there were 1,676 teachers in the pool. That number dropped to 1,202 at the start of 2018, but the Panel of Education Policy closed 10 schools at the end of last year.
Additionally, while as many as a third of educators on the ATR have faced a disciplinary issue, what that designation entails remains opaque. According to the UFT, tenured teachers in the ATR are allowed a hearing before an independent arbitrator when accused by a principal of misbehavior. However, a teacher may end up in the ATR pool regardless of the outcome of any disciplinary process, according to Kaufman.

A tenured teacher may be the recipient of 3020-a charges (which challenge the protections a tenured teacher has and can be a first step towards dismissal). Those charges could be sustained (potentially resulting in termination), but they can also be mediated through arbitration or could even be dismissed altogether. However, even in the cases of dismissal, if a principal opposes reinstating a teacher in the original school that teacher could be excessed and placed in the ATR pool. A teacher would have to ‘grieve’ their status in the ATR to be reinstated over the wishes of the principal in the original school, and Kaufman said he had never seen a successful grievance in such instances.
“Anytime a principal has opposed the return of a teacher, the principal has always won out,” he says. “That stuff starts to get internalized. It clearly impacts on someone’s ability to teach, and if you’ve been on it for a long time there’s a lot of issues. I’ve seen a lot of excellent teachers, lauded in all different ways, and they end up on the ATR and all they can do is end up retiring.”

Ana Champeny, the Director of City Studies for the Citizens Budget Commission and the author of the report on the ATR, noted that the pool’s structure, coupled with New York State’s protracted disciplinary process, could lead principals to see the ATR as an alternative method for dealing with unwanted teachers.
“The process to remove a teacher for cause is incredibly complex, and it’s set in state education law. It’s very time-consuming,” she says. “The ATR can create this unintended incentive—it can mean you can get people into the ATR instead of this long process.”

Still, most ATR teachers are not in the pool because of a disciplinary matter, and some teachers in the pool believe principals shy away from hiring ATR teachers because of the cost involved. Principals may also want to hire inexperienced teachers whom they may feel will be more amenable to that principal’s particular vision, according to James Eterno, a DOE educator who entered the classroom in 1986 and retired last year. After Jamaica High School closed in 2014, he found himself excessed into the ATR pool, and strongly disagrees with how ATR teachers are treated by the DOE and by the principals weighing whether or not they should be hired. Camille Eterno, a high school teacher and James’ wife, is currently in the ATR pool, and said that principals indeed considered ATR teachers differently than other prospective hires.
“The sentiment is that you’re an ATR and they run in the other direction,” she says. “You’re less desirable because you have years of experience. They’re choosing to hire people fresh out of college.”
James Eterno agreed, saying principals often will not even consider ATR educators with years (or decades) of experience because of the higher salaries.


“I don’t blame you for not wanting to hiring me. I understand; I cost a lot of money. But it shouldn’t be like that,” he says. “Could you imagine if a police captain couldn’t bring in a great detective because they were too high up on the salary scale? That would be outrageous, and I don’t think the public would tolerate it.”
However, some criticize the teachers in the pool, bemoaning the fact that they have full-time salaries without permanent classroom placement. Dan Weisberg, the executive director of The New Teacher Project, said he would question placing ATR educators in classrooms, arguing that too many had significant past disciplinary issues. He also disputed the idea that principals avoid hiring experienced ATR teachers.

“If principals saw a strong candidate to fill a vacancy, they will happily take a senior teacher. For the ATR pool, where you have thousands of vacancies in every conceivable license area, if you’re not getting hired year after year, chances are you’re not applying to vacancies, or you’re not demonstrating you’re a good match,” he says. “Just because you’re experienced doesn’t mean you’re very good at what you do.”
Funding: fair or flawed?

TheFair Student Funding (FSF) formula of 2007 does mean that principals are weighing the value of an educator against the cost that hire entails, rather than making hires on their own with the DOE footing whatever the teacher’s price tag may be.
Prior to the FSF, a given school’s funding largely correlated with teachers’ salaries; this meant there was often disparate per-student funding from school to school. When teachers had more power over where they were placed (prior to the 2005 agreement), educators with seniority often gravitated towards certain schools, and those schools would subsequently get larger budgets to cover their costs.

This shifted with the FSF, which became by a significant margin the largest financial allocation for schools each year. According to an 2013 IBO report, funding from the FSF allocation can comprise as much as 70 percent of a school’s budget and is tabulated based on the characteristics of a school’s student body. For each school, the needs of the students and schools are weighted, including how many students are in each grade and whether some students are English Language Learners or require special-education services. Supporters say the formula aims to instill more equity among schools, cease the funneling of funding towards schools with the greatest number of high-salaried teachers, and direct more towards schools facing the greatest need.
However, only 23 percent of schools received the full amount of funding they were allocated under the FSF in 2017, according to Chalkbeat. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, many FSF funding increases were delayed or cancelled, meaning many of those schools that were inadequately funded prior to the FSF are constantly behind the more affluent schools (additionally, the more affluent schools never had their allocations reduced when the formula was put into place).

This confluence of policies leads principals, particularly in schools receiving lower funding, to have a far greater incentive to hire younger teachers as opposed to taking on the expense of an experienced educator, according to many ATR teachers, because now the expense is being drained from the principal’s FSF allocation (which may be lower than the formula deems it should be). A starting teacher with a Bachelor’s Degree and no prior teaching experience can expect to make, on average, $56,711, an amount more than $40,000 lower than the average salary of teachers in the ATR pool.
“The natural progression of experience is being totally thrown out,” Rodriguez says. “When you have a small salary you’re aiming for, you’re not going to have a diversity of experience.”

New York City has a young teacher workforce compared to the rest of the state; a 2018 Rockefeller Institute report found that 52 percent of city teachers were younger than 40 years old in 2015-2016, and only 27 percent were 49 or older. While this might mean teacher retirementswill pose less danger of school or subject shortages in the city than elsewhere, it leaves NYC’s teacher workforce more susceptible to higher rates of turnover and attrition among younger educators; nationally, less than a third of teachers who leave the profession annually do so because of retirement, according to the Learning Policy Institute. Teachers hired directly out of school are more likely to leave the profession or transfer to a different school, and cash-strapped schools could be placed in a difficult position if principals feel they are only able to afford the expense of inexperienced, younger teachers.
“It’s created a pool with a large number of older teachers,” Kaufman says. “It made principals responsible for the cost of teachers, so there was a stronger incentive to discriminate against teachers.”

De Blasio responds
While it’s likely that the ATR pool continues to grow more senior because of its rising costs (even as the number of teachers in the pool drops), the DOE does not release regular detailed updates on the state of the pool, or on the age and experience level of the educators remaining on it. Champeny lamented the lack of data, saying it was more difficult to propose substantive solutions to the quandaries created by the pool’s existence.

“Is there some group of ‘X’ teachers that have been in the pool since they’ve been created?” she asks. “We just don’t know. That kind of information is really missing. The nuance is really missed.”
The de Blasio administration says it is taking steps to reduce the pool’s size; last year, former Brooklyn Technical High School Principal Randy Asher was tasked with shrinking the ATR. Since 2014, the city has offered separation incentives to encourage ATR teachers to take a lump sum in lieu of staying on the DOE payroll. In 2014, 115 teachers left, and in 2018, the city offered ATR teachers $50,000 to leave the profession; 170 educators took the deal. The CBC report indicated the move cost the city about $8.5 million, but would save the city about $23 million per year in salary expenses.

The DOE also promises to subsidize salaries of ATR teachers for schools who provisionally hire them by 50 percent in the first year and 25 percent in the second year; ATR educators who receive ratings of “highly effective” or “effective” at the end of the first year in the new school will then become permanent hires (though some teachers in the ATR pool say the plan leads some principals to provisionally hire ATR teachers, and then push for a low rating at the end of the first year to get the 50 percent subsidy without having to take on the cost in the following years). The CBC found the subsidy offer led to 372 ATR hires during the 2017 school year.
Last autumn, the city also began to place ATR educators in schools without the approval of those school’s principals. Many principals vociferously opposed the practice, calling it “forced placement” and decrying the loss of control in hiring decisions. The city originally wanted to place 400 ATR teachers in school though this approach, though only 72 were eventually placed.

Earlier this year, The Education Trust uncovered information on those teachers who were placed in schools through this practice; none of the 41 teachers placed in schools without the approval of principals through Oct. 15, 2017 had an “Unsatisfactory” or “Ineffective” rating, according to the Education Trust. Of the 205 provisional hires in the past year, only five had an “Unsatisfactory” rating. This indicated the city placed high-quality teachers in schools, but the Trust’s report expressed worry that the remaining pool of ATR educators could be disproportionately packed with teachers with “Unsatisfactory” ratings (though The Trust acknowledged that the pool was constantly in flux).
In last week’s announcement of a new contract between the city and the UFT, de Blasio acknowledged the new agreement did not do anything in particular for teachers in the pool, but stressed that the administration was tackling the problem through other means.

“The pool’s been shrinking consistently, it will be shrinking more in the coming year. A lot of things that could have been done a long time ago weren’t being done, like ensuring that a capable teacher whose school changed was not left out in the cold but was helped immediately to find a new assignment between June and September of the same year,” de Blasio said during a Thursday press conference announcing the new contract. “There’s a host of other initiatives, but it’s absolutely shrinking and it will keep shrinking.”
The DOE contends its policy reforms are starting to have an impact, noting that there were 765 teachers in the ATR at the conclusion of the 2017-18 school year, compared to 1,131 at the end of the last school year, along with efforts to emphasize longer-term placements to offer schools and educators more stability.

For Rodriguez, an uncertain summer was punctuated with the call she was hoping for; she was off the ATR pool, working as an ESL teacher as a provisional hire at a school in Manhattan. The position has the potential to extend beyond the year. But her thoughts remained with other teachers still in the ATR pool, lacking a permanent placement. Some may enjoy the substitute work, but Rodriguez was adamant that the current design of the system was wasting the talent and experience of teachers already on the payroll.

“Wherever I go, I need to stay. I need to put roots down, and the problem is the constant closures are having people run around. You don’t form relationships, you don’t develop curriculum over time,” she says. “I’m just going to try to enjoy the year, do my best teaching and we’ll see what comes next.”
Assessing the ATR’s progress over the past decade, Eterno contended that the pool’s existence amounted to an towering array of missed opportunities.

“The vast majority of teachers, if given the opportunity, could have helped out,” he says. “We could have been assets, for sure.”

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Shadia Alvarez, The Famous "Prom Killer", Now Hired by the New Rochelle School District

Shadia Alvarez

Here we go again!

By that I mean, we just posted the bizarre situation involving Reginald Richardson resigning from his job while under investigation to take a job in the new York City Department of Education, which was then rescinded, and he re-applied for his job, and the New Rochelle School District said "No way".

Now, New Rochelle has hired Shadia Alvarez, the nicknamed "Prom Killer" who told the students at her school that if they did not all graduate, there would be no  prom.

That a new one I've never heard before.

But Alvarez was also found guilty of financial fraud and services theft by the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Special Investigations in 2014. See the article below. She also was terminated and has a "problem code" on her fingerprints. Still, New Rochelle has no one else to hire. No one?

Really?

OSI Investigation Report on Shadia Alvarez

Betsy Combier
betsy.combier@gmail.com
Editor, Advocatz.com
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, Parentadvocates.org
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice


Prom Killer Who Ripped Off NYC Schools After Hurricane Sandy Now Up for Tenure at New Rochelle High School

New Rochelle Talk, May 07, 2018
NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Despite repeated assurances to the contrary, the New Rochelle Board of Education has once again hired an employee who could not pass a basic background check — suggesting that no employment background check was done or that school officials knew of her sordid past and hired her anyway.
Records obtained by Talk of the Sound are raising serious questions about New Rochelle High School’s decision to hire a former New York City school principal, once dubbed the “Prom Killer” by the New York Post after she threatened to cancel her school’s prom if seniors did not guarantee a 100% graduation rate (see link below), for a key administrative position.
Shadia Alvarez, hired by the New Rochelle Board of Education as a House Principal in 2015 under a three-year probationary contract, is up for tenure this summer.
In 2014, Alvarez, a former Bronx high school administrator was found to have engaged in financial fraud and services theft by the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Special Investigations. According to court documents filed by her lawyers and obtained by Talk of the Sound through PACER, the electronic filing system of the federal court system, DOE records show a flag on Alvarez’s name which reflects that she was terminated from employment with the DOE.
Among the sustained allegations, Alvarez was found to have claimed to have worked on after-school programs with students on October 29th, 30th, 31st and November 3rd. All NYC DOE schools were closed to students from October 29, 2012 until November 5, 2012 due to Hurricane Sandy.
In 2015, she was hired by the New Rochelle BOE at the recommendation of Principal Reggie Richardson.
The records came to light as part of a motion filed last month in a federal lawsuit brought by Alvarez against her former supervisor. 
According to court records, Alvarez was under investigation from May 2013 to January 2014 by the NYC DOE Office of Special Investigation. The OSI Investigation sustained charges against her related to theft of services and failure to follow required financial protocols. 
The court records state Shadia Alvarez was appointed as Acting Principal with the DOE in January 2012, subject to a probationary period, which was scheduled for completion on July 1, 2014. She was assigned to the Collegiate Institute for Math and Science in the Bronx, New York.
Superintendent Carron Staple became Alvarez’s supervising Superintendent in October 2012. In early May 2013, Alvarez submitted “per session” payment requests to Staple for Staple’s ratification regarding hours Alvarez claimed she worked from February 2013 through April 2013. Per session activities are sports or clubs that students participate in under the supervision of faculty members. DOE principals such as Alvarez are at times authorized to be paid for “per session activities” (activities outside their primary assignment) at an hourly rate in addition to their regular salary. These payments require specific documentation and supervisory approval. 
Staple noticed what she perceived as “glaring inconsistencies” in the documentation Alvarez had submitted in support of her payment requests.  Staple thereafter revisited previous per session payment requests from Alvarez  and noticed similar inconsistencies, leading Staple to believe that “Alvarez may have attempted (or successfully completed) theft of service and financial fraud”.
When Staple relayed these concerns to her superior, Senior Supervising Superintendent Donald Conyers, Conyers directed Staple to report the matter to DOE’s Special Commissioner of Investigation. Staple immediately reported her concerns to SCI on May 3, 2013, and SCI thereafter transferred the investigation to DOE’s Office of Special Investigations. OSI’s  investigation into Alvarez’s conduct lasted from May 2013 through January 2014. Alvarez was interviewed as part of the investigation. At the conclusion of its investigation, OSI issued a report, dated January 10, 2014, which substantiated the misconduct allegations lodged against Alvarez. Namely, OSI concluded that Alvarez had committed employee misconduct by requesting payments for time she had not worked, and that Alvarez had failed to follow the mandates of DOE Chancellor’s Regulation C-175 which governs the per session payment process. 
Additionally, upon examination of earlier per session payments made to Plaintiff, OSI concluded that Alvarez had been improperly paid for requests she had submitted covering periods in which her school was closed (due to Hurricane Sandy in October and November 2012) and during Alvarez’s absence from the school such as “sick days”. Ultimately, OSI’s independent investigation resulted in a substantiated finding against Alvarez, and the OSI Report noted that Alvarez’s “attempts to receive payment for work that she was unable to establish actually occurred . . . and the frequency with which Alvarez did so . . . demonstrates a pattern of behavior that has yet to be adequately explained.” Although this report was dated January 10, 2014, it was not distributed to either Alvarez or Staple until June 2014.
After the investigation was completed but before the report was distributed, Staple conducted a “completion of probation” visit for Alvarez in early March 2014. Staple rated Alvarez’s completion of probation visit positively, and on March 31, 2014 Staple submitted a formal recommendation for Alvarez’s completion of probation to the Office of the Senior Supervising Superintendent.
On June 10, 2014, more than two months after she had submitted her positive recommendation for Alvarez’s tenure consideration, Staple received the January 10, 2014-dated OSI Investigative Report for the first time. Upon determining that Alvarez had engaged in misconduct, the OSI Report recommended disciplinary measures be taken against Alvarez. After consulting with her superior and other DOE personnel regarding the import of the substantiated allegations, Staple was directed to reverse her positive recommendation for Alvarez and submit an updated “(Tenure Notification System) narrative” indicating that an OSI investigation had ended with a “substantiated” finding against Alvarez, and that the substantiated finding warranted denial of Alvarez’s probation. 
As directed, Staple submitted the TNS reversal on June 12, 2014.  On June 24, 2014, the Office of the Senior Supervising Superintendent sent Staple and other pertinent administrators a formal notification through TNS that the Office had denied Alvarez’s probation.  By letter the next day, Staple formally informed Alvarez of her probationary discontinuance due to the substantiated OSI investigation. 
What happened next is in unclear. There is one claim that, upon her discontinuance as a Principal, Alvarez reverted back to her former underlying position of Assistant Principal from July 1, 2014 then voluntary resigned in August 2015 (her contract in New Rochelle began September 1, 2015). DOE records, according to Alvarez, indicate she was terminated as a result of the OSI investigation.
After her discontinuance as Principal, Alvarez submitted an appeal of the probationary denial to DOE’s Office of Appeals and Review. Alvarez’s appeal was noticed and scheduled for a review committee hearing on October 16, 2017, but Alvarez failed to appear for the hearing. 
Meanwhile, on November 9, 2016, an action was commenced Shadia Alvarez in the Supreme Court of the State of New York naming Staple and the NYC DOE as defendants. The case was later removed to the United States District Court Southern District of New York and the DOE was dropped from the lawsuit.
In her lawsuit against Staple, Alvarez claims her rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution were violated in retaliation for for filing a police report on matters of public concern relating to safety issues to the New York Police Department.  Alvarez claims that the OSI substantiated false allegations against her and that the errors on her time sheets were caused by administrative errors by her payroll secretary. The complaint states that in the summer of 2015, Alvarez duly resigned as an Assistant Principal because she received an offer of employment with a school district in Westchester County. 
It was shortly before starting her new job in New Rochelle, on or about August 19, 2015, that Alvarez says she discovered a flag on her name in DOE files that reflects that she was terminated from employment with the DOE. Her complaint says the record should reflect that she was discontinued from the Principal position, reverted to the position of Assistant Principal and then duly resigned.
This raises several questions as to whether Alvarez’s DOE record, marked “terminated”, was ever provided to the City School District of New Rochelle, and if so did the District know that Alvarez was terminated and did they obtain a copy of the OSI investigation report.
Staple’s lawyers have filed a motion to dismiss the case which is currently pending before U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer.
A review of New Rochelle Board of Education records show that on July 7, 2015 Shadia Alvarez was given a probationary appointment by the New Rochelle Board of Education as New Rochelle High School House Principal effective September 1, 2015 to August 31, 2018, Salary Schedule HSHP, Step 10, $139,965. She replaced , Vera Cheek who retired effective June 30, 2015. On October 6, 2015, the New Rochelle Board of Education retroactively approved payment to Alvarez for attending four days of Professional Development training in the summer of 2015 at a daily rate of 1/180th of contract salary at a time when no such contract had been approved. It is not clear whether the training period overlapped with a period of time when Alvarez claims she was still employed by the NYC DOE and, if so, whether she received permission to attend the training in New Rochelle. 1/180th of $139,965 is $777.58; for four days that totals $3,110.33. On August 11, 2015 the New Rochelle Board of Education authorized and approved Alvarez to be appointed as a Dignity Act Coordinator during the 2015-2016 school year.
On August 2, 2016 the New Rochelle Board of Education authorized and approved Alvarez to be appointed as a Dignity Act Coordinator during the 2016-2017 school year. On August 23, 2016 the New Rochelle Board of Education certified as a Qualified Lead Evaluator of teachers for the 2015-2016 school year having successfully completed the training requirements. On October 5, 2016, the New Rochelle Board of Education retroactively approved payment to Alvarez for attending up to two days of Professional Development training in the summer 2016 at a daily rate of 1/180th of contract salary. 1/180th of $139,965 is $777.58; for two days that totals $1,555.16.
Alvarez may have received step increases in her salary since 2015 but there are no resolutions to that effect.
On January 3, 2017 the New Rochelle Board of Education authorized and approved Alvarez to work during the December 2016 break week to work on the OCR report, not to exceed a total of two days indicated, at the rate listed: 1/180th of contractural rate. 1/180th of $139,965 is $777.58; for two days that totals $1,555.16. On April 4, 2017 the New Rochelle Board of Education approved an amendment of Resolution No. 17-25, adopted on July 5, 2016, to include the appointment of Alvarez as an additional Chairperson to serve on the Sub-Committee on Special Education for the City School District of the City of New Rochelle during the 2016-2017 school year. Also on July 5, 2017 the New Rochelle Board of Education approved the appointment of Alvarez to serve on a Sub-Committee of the Committee on Special Education to review, evaluate, complete Individualized Education Programs, and to make recommendations regarding the educational placement of students referred to the Sub-Committee during the 2017-2018 school year, also on July 5, 2017 the New Rochelle Board of Education authorized and approved Alvarez to be appointed as a Dignity Act Coordinator during the 2017-2018 school year, also on July 5, 2017 the New Rochelle Board of Education certified that Alvarez completed all of the necessary training to be certified as a Qualified Lead Evaluator of classroom teachers. On September 5, 2017 the New Rochelle Board of Education authorized and approved to work during the summer 2017, not to exceed a total of two days, at the rate of 1/200th of contract salary. 1/200th of $139,965 is $699.83; for two days that totals $1,399.65.
On February 6, 2018 the New Rochelle Board of Education retroactively authorized and approved Alvarez to work two days during the Christmas break on Attendance/Disciplinary Data, at 1/180th of her contractual salary. 1/180th of $139,965 is $777.58; for two days that totals $1,555.16.
On April 10, 2018 the New Rochelle Board of Education authorized and approved to Alvarez to supervise and work with the online/Blended AIS Credit Recovery Program during the 2017-2018 school year, not to exceed 80 hours, at the hourly rate of $62.77. 80 hours at $62.77 is $5,021.60.
It is worth noting here, for the first time on Talk of the Sound, that over the past two years, serious questions have been raised about the use of the Apex Learning Credit Recovery Program to artificially inflate graduation rates at the high school and whether students are properly completing work to quality for credit recovery. Talk of the Sound has previously sought records (and was rebuffed) in an effort to ascertain how many students each year are obtaining high school credits through credit recovery, how many such credits they are obtaining and how many students graduate each year “credit recovery” credits on their transcript. 
Sources at New Rochelle High School have told Talk of the Sound that the computers used for credit recovery are left “unlocked” so that students can complete “closed book” tests with their books, notes and other material on hand. Students have access to the exams at any time and can work on them from home. There is no way to know that a particular student completed their own work.  Worse, in some cases, credit recovery is not being used to recover credit for a class but rather in lieu of taking the class. Some house principals have students that are only enrolled in credit recovery classes.
 
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