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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Nick De Marco, NYC Teacher, Loses His Appeal For a Three-Member Panel in His 3020a Hearing

Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Commissioner of Education (Richard Mills, pictured at right) no longer has jurisdiction to determine the merits of disciplinary charges served on a tenured teacher

Appeal of Nicola A. DeMarco from action of the New York City Department of Education regarding disciplinary charges, Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, No. 15,850, December 12, 2008

Nicola A. DeMarco, a tenured teacher employed by the New York City Department of Education [DOE], was served with disciplinary charges initiated by his principal at Louis Armstrong Middle School.

DeMarco demanded a hearing on the charges to be conducted by a three-member panel pursuant to Education Law §3020-a, and also demanded dismissal of the charges on the ground that “disciplinary charges pursuant to §3020-a may not be initiated by a principal without review and approval by higher authority.”

DOE refused DeMarco’s demands on the grounds that [1] it had adopted alternate disciplinary procedures as authorized by Education Law §3020(4); [2] its agreement with the United Federation of Teachers did not provide for three-member disciplinary panels;** and [3] the authority to initiate disciplinary charges had been properly delegated to principals by the Community Superintendent of Community School District involved.

The Commission dismissed DeMarco’s appeal for lack of personal jurisdiction after finding that DeMarco had not served the only agent authorized to accept service of his appeal on behalf of the DOE, the Office of the Corporation Counsel.

In addition, the Commissioner said that DeMarco’s appeal had to be dismissed because, as Commissioner, he no longer had subject matter jurisdiction. Education Law §3020-a was substantially amended in 1994 and the Commissioner no longer had jurisdiction to review either final or nonfinal determinations by disciplinary hearing officers.

The amendment, said the Commissioner, “specifically gives the hearing officer authority to hear and decide all motions, including, but not limited to, motions to dismiss disciplinary charges, citing Education Law §3020-a[3][c][iii] and [iv].” Accordingly, concluded the Commissioner, DeMarco’s request that he dismiss the charges would require a review of the merits, which review was no longer within his jurisdiction.

** §3020-a.2(c) provides that in the event the disciplinary charges concern pedagogical incompetence or issues involving pedagogical judgment, the educator may elect to have the hearing conducted by either a single hearing officer or a three-member panel. All other charges are to be heard by a single hearing officer. However, as the Court of Appeals indicated in Antinore v State, 40 NY2d 6, a collective bargaining agreement may provide for alternatives to the statutory provisions provided such modifications are consistent with administrative due process.

The full text of the Commissioners decision is posted on the Internet:

Appeal of NICOLA A. DeMARCO, from action of the New York City Department of Education regarding disciplinary charges.

Decision No. 15,850

(December 12, 2008)

Michael A. Cardozo, Corporation Counsel, attorney for respondent, Ivan A. Mendez, Jr., Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner challenges disciplinary charges brought against him by the New York City Department of Education (“respondent”). The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner is a tenured teacher employed in respondent’s district since 1994. On December 7, 2007, disciplinary charges were brought against him by his principal at Louis Armstrong Middle School, I.S. 227. Petitioner demanded a hearing on the charges by a three-member panel pursuant to Education Law §3020-a, and demanded dismissal of the charges on the ground that disciplinary charges pursuant to §3020-a may not be initiated by a principal without review and approval by higher authority.

Respondent refused petitioner’s demands on the grounds that it had adopted alternate disciplinary procedures as authorized by Education Law §3020(4), and that its agreement with the United Federation of Teachers did not provide for three-member panels. It also refused to dismiss the charges because it claims that authority to initiate disciplinary charges had been properly delegated to principals by the Community Superintendent of Community School District 30 on August 27, 2007.

Petitioner commenced this appeal on June 25, 2008, to seek dismissal of the disciplinary charges and to enjoin the disciplinary proceeding during the pendency of the appeal. Interim relief was denied on July 8, 2008.

Petitioner argues that the alternative disciplinary procedures adopted by agreement between respondent and the United Federation of Teachers are improper and effectively deprive him of due process. He contends that the disciplinary proceeding against him also violates his rights under the New York Human Rights Law and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

Respondent denies any wrongdoing on its part and asserts several affirmative defenses, including lack of personal jurisdiction and lack of subject matter jurisdiction over some or all of petitioner’s claims.

The appeal must be dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction. Section 275.8(a) of the Commissioner’s regulations requires that the petition be personally served upon each named respondent. If a school district is named as a respondent, service upon the school district shall be made personally by delivering a copy of the petition to the district clerk, to any trustee or any member of the board of education, to the superintendent of schools, or to a person in the office of the superintendent who has been designated by the board of education to accept service (8 NYCRR §275.8[a]).

According to the affidavit of petitioner’s process server, he made service of the notice of petition and petition upon Christine J. Kicinski on June 25, 2008, at 52 Chambers Street, the location of the Chancellor’s office. Respondent alleges that Ms. Kicinski is not a person authorized to accept service on its behalf. Respondent alleges that “Ms. Kicinski informed the deliverer that she would not accept service on behalf of the DOE, and that he would have to serve the petition on the only agent authorized to accept service on behalf of the DOE, the Office of the Corporation Counsel.” Respondent further avers that the Office of the Corporation Counsel was not served with the petition.

Petitioner’s reply does not address or refute the statement attributed to Ms. Kicinski with respect to her lack of authority to accept service on behalf of respondent. The reply states only, in a general way, that all of petitioner’s papers were served “properly, legally and sufficiently.” This general statement is insufficient to contradict respondent’s assertion.

When there is no proof that an individual has been authorized to accept service on behalf of the respondent, service on that individual is improper and the appeal must be dismissed (Appeal of Baker, 47 Ed Dept Rep 280, Decision No. 15,696; Appeal of J.L., 47 id. 151, Decision No. 15,654; Appeal of D.P., 46 id. 516, Decision No. 15,580).

The appeal must also be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Education Law §3020-a was substantially amended by Chapter 691, §3, of the Laws of 1994, effective for disciplinary charges filed on and after September 1, 1994. Pursuant to that amendment, the Commissioner’s jurisdiction to review determinations of hearing officers, both final and nonfinal, has been removed (Appeal of T.W., 47 Ed Dept Rep ___, Decision No. 15,735; Appeal of Fauvell, 47 id. 350, Decision No. 15,720; Appeal of Frajer, 41 id. 403, Decision No. 14,725). The amendment specifically gives the hearing officer authority to hear and decide all motions, including, but not limited to, motions to dismiss disciplinary charges (Education Law §3020-a[3][c][iii] and [iv]). Petitioner’s request that I dismiss the charges would require my review of the merits, which is not within my authority (Appeal of McCall, 34 Ed Dept Rep 484, Decision No. 13,390).

In light of this disposition, I need not address the parties’ remaining contentions.



Giving Something Back While Representing NYC

Michael A. Cardozo, New York City Law Department

Stacey Laskin
New York Law Journal
August 7, 2007

Name and Title: Michael A. Cardozo, corporation counsel

Age: 66

Like A Big Law Firm: The New York City Law Department represents and provides legal counsel to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the City Council, other elected officials and city agencies. Cardozo heads a staff of 1,300 employees, 690 of them attorneys grouped into 17 legal divisions.

Cardozo works mostly in the department's headquarters near City Hall, but oversees offices in each of the city's five boroughs and maintains a desk inside City Hall. His staff vets $4 billion in contracts each year.

According to Cardozo, the department is the third-largest law firm in New York City and operates in much the same way as a large firm, except for the pay -- the average starting salary is $55,000. Still, Cardozo said, the excitement and the responsibility to which city employees are exposed more than make up for the money.

Legal Team: New York City gets sued approximately 200 times every week, and about 65 cases go to trial each week. To staff all of these cases, Cardozo frequently relies upon his first- and second-year attorneys, but also borrows lawyers from large New York firms.

"Unfortunately, because of the economics of the law industry, it's hard to give new associates trial practice. But if they're here for their first year at the firm, they're assigned to one of our trial offices. We win, the law firm wins," Cardozo said.

The law department sometimes refers cases to outside firms. In 2004, for example, New York-based Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom took on a case involving a shooting incident in a city jail. The firm assigned summer associates at no charge to the city. "It's a terrific help," Cardozo said. "The generosity of the private bar is just terrific. It's not just generosity; they gain from it."

Cardozo maintains an active affirmative litigation division, and recently argued, and won, a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, establishing the city's authority to charge property tax against foreign embassies that use their buildings to house employees.

Cardozo counsels the mayor on legislation, including the city's bans on smoking in bars and restaurants and use of trans fats by restaurants. He helped launch police searches of passengers' bags on the subway system following the 2005 London transit system bombings.

The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks generated 9,000 lawsuits against the city, including claims by workers that they had become sick while cleaning up the ruins of the World Trade Center. "This was huge, huge litigation," he said.

Outside Counsel: The city "very, very rarely" retains outside counsel, Cardozo said. Exceptions occur when city attorneys are conflicted out of a case or lack the necessary legal expertise. Litigation arising from the fatal 2003 Staten Island Ferry accident, for example, required retention of Freehill Hogan & Mahar, a firm specializing in admiralty law, as well as another New York firm, Debevoise & Plimpton. Federal regulations require the city to outsource the work involved in selling municipal bonds; firms doing that work have included Sidley Austin, Fulbright & Jaworski and Boston-based Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge. The city turns to outside experts in medical malpractice litigation arising from the 14 municipally run hospitals; they have included McAloon & Friedman and Martin Clearwater & Bell, both of New York. For litigation arising from city pension investments, the office has turned to firms including Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll of Washington, Grant & Eisenhofer of Wilmington, Del., and Labaton Sucharow & Rudoff of New York. Conflict counsel have included Seiff Kretz & Abercrombie and Peltz & Walker, both of New York. The city chooses among firms that respond to a formal request-for-proposal process.

Diversity: Cardozo prides himself on the diversity within his office. Women make up 65 percent of his staff and whites perhaps less than 50 percent, he said. According to Cardozo, the office has the largest number of gay and lesbian attorneys of any municipal law department in the country. "We are a very representative microcosm of society," he said.

Route To Present Position: The Sept. 11 attacks convinced Cardozo, then a partner at New York-based Proskauer Rose, to contribute more to the city in which he was born and spent much of his life. At the time, he was co-chairman of the firm's litigation department and had an active practice, representing the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer in antitrust and labor cases.

"The city was on its knees. But this was an opportunity to give back, so when the mayor offered me the job, I said, 'Yes,'" he said.

"This is my absolute dream job. We make a difference. You can stand up in court and say, 'I represent the city of New York' -- there's a lot of meaning behind that. That's a powerful statement. It's very satisfying."

Cardozo served as president of the Bar Association of the City of New York from 1996 to 1998, and said that it helped prepare him for his job's management and executive duties. He graduated from Brown University with a bachelor's degree in political science in 1963 and earned a J.D. from Columbia Law School in 1966.

Daily Duties: Cardozo starts his day at 9 a.m. with meetings in City Hall with the mayor and other officials. Then he'll usually head back to his office to confer with aides on management issues and with lawyers working on individual cases. He tries to visit each of his offices every week, has frequent meetings with judges and attends charity and bar association events.

One task the mayor assigned Cardozo was to help lead a parade safety task force. Bloomberg set up the panel after a wind gust blew a helium-filled balloon into a lamp post and injured two people during the 2005 Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. It followed a similar incident involving a Cat in the Hat balloon in 1997.

"We realized this was something serious," Cardozo said. "We came up with a new protocol for measuring wind -- that's something I didn't learn in law school."

Personal: The Scarsdale, N.Y., resident enjoys attending the theater with his wife, Nancy, and spending time with daughters Hedy and Sheryl, and 3-year-old twin grandchildren, Joshua and Lucy. He is an avid New York Yankees fan, and likes to "putter around the garden." He runs three days a week on a treadmill and relaxes in the evenings by reading.

Last Book and Movie: Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Sicko.

Monday, December 29, 2008

No Right To Union Representation During Criminal Investigatory Interview

Union presence during an interrogation of a unit member by the appointing authority
Seabrook v City of New York, 2008 NY Slip Op 09471, Decided on December 4, 2008, Appellate Division, First Department

Norman Seabrook, individually and as President of the Correction Officers' Benevolent Association, challenged the policy of not allowing an employee to consult with a union representative after a question is posed and before an answer must be given, at an interrogation conducted pursuant to [New York City] Mayoral Executive Order No. 16.

Mayoral Executive Order 16 requires city employees to report allegations of corruption to City's Department of Investigation.

The exclusion of union representatives, said the court, "ensures that the charges will be probed confidentially and professionally by investigators independent of the employee's own agency and superiors."

Holding that this policy “was reasonably designed to promote truthful responses by discouraging coaching,” the Appellate Division concluded that such action did not deprive the employee of his right to union representation under Civil Service Law §75(2) (p. 24) or National Labor Relations Bd. v J. Weingarten, Inc. (420 US 251 [1975]).
( See also Civil Service Laws and Rules - Editor)

A similar issue was addressed by the Appellate division in City of Rochester v Public Employment Relations Board, 15 AD3d 922, Leave to appeal denied, 4 N.Y.3d 710. In Rochester the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, held that PERB abused its discretion when it decided that the City of Rochester committed an improper employer practice in violation of Civil Service Law §209-a(1)(a) (The Taylor Law) by denying city police officers, who were union members, access to union representation during a criminal investigation interview.

The Fourth Department said that "PERB abused its discretion in expanding a public employee's rights to include the right to have a union representative present during a criminal investigation" as New York State "has a strong public policy that prohibits union interference with criminal investigations."

The full text of the Seabrook decision is posted on the Internet at:

The text of Executive Order 16 (see below - Editor) is posted on the Internet

Reprinted with Permission From New York Public Personnel Law
Mitchell H. Rubinstein

From Betsy:
Below is Executive Order No. 16, and the mandate to report corruption if you are a public employee. Then, you will be subjected to the NYC policy of "killing the messenger". You will be retaliated against.
You Are Obligated To Report Corruption

Most public employees are honest, hardworking people. However, as in any other business, there are always a few people who think they're above the law. For instance, there have been City workers who have asked for a 'tip' just to provide a service that residents and taxpayers are entitled to free of charge; or they used a City-owned car or equipment for personal business or pleasure; or stole money or property from the City; or faked an injury in order to collect disability pay. That's where DOI comes in. As the Mayor's watchdog over City government, DOI roots out fraud, waste and corruption wherever it may be.

Pursuant to Mayoral Executive Order 16, City employees must report allegations of corruption to DOI. This ensures that the charges will be probed confidentially and professionally by investigators independent of the employee's own agency and superiors.

If a City employee has knowledge of criminal activity and doesn't report it, that employee could face disciplinary action or termination, or other more serious penalties in a court of law. A City employee who interferes or obstructs a DOI investigation could be removed from office or employment, or face criminal or civil penalties.

For your convenience, we have included a copy of E.O. 16 on this page and a link to a flyer that was published and distributed by the Department of Investigation. Click here to view the flyer.

Executive Order No. 16
The document that follows is an electronic reproduction of the actual one in Web Page format. As such, errors may have occurred when the information was converted to this format, and therefore should not be considered an authorized version of the original document.

Go to Sections

1. Responsibilities of Commissioner
2. Responsibilities of Agency Heads
3. Responsibilities of Inspectors General
4. Investigations (Read this section for the duty to report corruption)
5. Formal Disciplinary Proceedings
6. Informal Disciplinary Proceedings
7. Background Investigations
8. Dissemination of Information
9. Regulations and Procedures
10. Waiver of Provisions
11. Construction with Other Law
12. Preservation of Rights
13. Revocation of Executive orders
14. Effective Date

Go to Amendments


The 2004 "How to Remove Teachers Permanently" Manual from the New York City Public School System

In October 2004, the New York City Board of Education - or Department of Education, as Mayor Bloomberg would have you believe - published a manual for principals in which FAQs on how to remove a teacher permanently from his/her school were described in detail. No one could find a copy for several years, and then I was given a copy by a member of the "Rubber Room" in Brooklyn NY, just in time for the holidays.
Happy holiday, whatever you celebrate!
Betsy Combier

In October 2004 the New York City Office of Labor Relations published a 69-page document in answer to frequently asked questions that Principals were asking when they wanted to discipline a teacher or get him/her removed from the school permanently.

The first page says;
"These FAQs are intended as legal advice for Principals and other supervisors and as such are protected from disclosure as attorney-client communication. The purpose of these FAQs is to ensure greated predictability that supervisors' actions will not be overturned. As a result, some of the advoce contained herein may go beyond bare minimum contractual or legal requirements and does not necessarily constitute the administration's interpretation of a particular contractual or legal provision. Principals and other supervisors may utilize this advice in their discretion. Therefore, these FAQs do not constitute a policy or directive of the Chancellor or the Department of Education without limitation. The Office of Labor Relations reseves the right to change these FAQs at will."

Click Here for the Principals' Manual, 2004

Why is this document interesting?

In America teachers are removed from his/her classroom (see below - Editor) for no reason other than:

1. The principal doesn't like him/her
2. The principal wants the job for a friend
3. The principal wants the job to be given to a senator's friend/relative/assistant/etc.
4. The teacher bothers him/her for some reason (wears glasses, talks with an accent, is too
short/fat/tall/hairy/bald/wears red sneakers/asks questions about taboo topics/etc.)
5. Teacher is accused of sexual/verbal abuse or corporal punishment (and then is removed only if the
teacher is not a personal friend/contact)

In fact, Principals can find any reason (or no reason) to throw a probationary teacher out permanently, or a tenured teacher into the re-assignment center ("rubber room") in New York City. All the rules and regulations are not considered because Principals have the "power" to ignore these guidelines. As soon as a reason can be dreamed up or an allegation made (false or true, doesn't matter) an online occurence report is made (OORS) and the teacher's life is changed forever. His or her name is now "in the system". If the individual is a mental health provider, the charge, if sustained, will assure the individual a life without an income in that field.

This is unlimited power. Principals in New York City, for example, have been given this power by Mayor Bloomberg and Mr. Joel Klein. Mr. Klein is coloring the title of "Chancellor" in order to rid the New York City public school system of expensive teachers or teachers who think on their feet and report wrong-doing in their schools.

I tell teachers who are suddenly removed from the school in which they are teaching that this process is not actually about him or her, but about a business that must reject teachers who have been in the system a long time and therefore earn top salaries - often above $100,000/year. It doesn't matter that you are a great teacher and the kids in your classes love you. The administration really does not care about whether or not the kids are happy. This is business. The bottom line is profit. The profit for a principal is the higher score on the test (however achieved) and the money earned for raising scores.

The indiviuals who suffer the most: the kids.

Here is one teacher's story:

From Rubber Room and Back

When I started working for a large city school district in 2003 I already had permanent State certification, one Masters degree in my content subject and credits toward an additional Masters degree in Special Ed. The permanent certification is important because there have been scores of teachers who have completed all their schooling only to have their entire license taken away by one of these principals. These teachers who have done nothing wrong except that they are needed for their principal’s body counts can’t get licenses in other states because the application asks if they have ever been terminated. Many fully certified teachers marginally employed as substitutes and teachers assistants in suburban district say that teachers should NEVER work in the city; it has a wide reputation for having dangerous schools but loosing all your schooling, life savings and being made destitute on completely unjust grounds by an aggressive principal climbing their way to the top over the bodies is a scarier prospect.

People assume these teachers have been terminated for inappropriate conduct with a child or at least gross incompetence. The state licensures will never know or care that these terminated teachers are innocent victims who have wrongfully had their years and savings for schooling and their very livelihoods stolen. This is especially tragic when it is done to an older person who went into teaching as a second career; those second career teachers having so much more to offer students than those who have never been out of the field of education. There is an emphasis on youth because they want teachers who are wide eyed and naïve and also because these teachers generally have to be paid less. The rubber rooms are caulked full of over 40 twofers who made the mistake of knowing too much, seeing what administration was doing, being perceived as knowing or at least being able to figure out what their administration was doing, or the ultimate crime of connecting positively with their students and being a good teacher. Administrators set up a false system in which really bad students never get in trouble, and good students get in trouble. Like attracts like and immoral, spineless and dishonest students are cultivated by administrators who share their qualities. These students are rewarded for lying about teachers by having their grades inflated or by not getting in trouble for something the students did.

I went to work in an alternative high school located in the basement of an organization. The school was for students with problematic behavior who had been expelled from the surrounding traditional high schools. The site I was working at started the previous spring of 2003, and I came in the fall of 2003. Six female teachers taught at this school, three of whom had known each other from previous schools. There was one other woman who was new to this school and she and I were the only white women. All the teachers said hello and were friendly to me when I first came, except for one woman who would not even say hello to me the first day. When I said hello to her she just gave me a scowling look. This woman was taking administration classes, did work that the assistant principal should have been doing and had the unfortunate habit of yelling very loudly and abusively with no provocation at many people including myself. She yelled at me on several occasions for no reason, one time when I was doing a favor for her. One time she came into a small room and yelled at me very loudly. The yelling teacher was good friends with the two other dominant “black” female teachers, all of whom were middle class, lived in the suburbs and two of them could have easily passed for white. I got the worst room which was away from the other classrooms; it was in the lunchroom and I had to set up partitions every morning. Students who came late were not allowed to enter the other classrooms, and they stayed unattended outside my partitions heckling my students when they were participating. It was a comical situation. One time one of the three dominant black female teachers came to my area, I told her that the late students were heckling my classroom, and she started shouting at me very loudly, coming into the classroom to shout. My students were shocked at this and I did not shout back, not wanting to up the ante and not knowing what would happen.

This was an anything goes atmosphere. These dominant black female teachers were all light skinned middle class women who drove expensive cars and lived in the suburbs on Long Island. My students used to be amused by the way they said they were black and yet they looked white. The worst one who was taking administration classes and who screamed at me the worst many times told her students that she lived in a housing project when she was young. These three were always trying to play up their blackness in contrast to me, and yet my students were close with me. The behavior problems I had were from students who were not in my class, and who I believe had been turned against me by these teachers. If I said anything in faculty meetings I was told in a very nasty way to “Go back to the suburbs” or something else to let me know that they thought I didn’t belong there because I was white. The other white woman never said anything and told me she just wanted to get along with these teachers. (This only other white teacher had worked in a suburban district and was not part of the power click in that district so she was booted out. I knew what she said was true because I did my student teaching in this district and my cooperating teacher used to tell me all the time how more than half of the teachers are related to each other and the cooperating teacher used to love to see my pained expression when she constantly rubbed it in my face how she was going to get her daughter’s boyfriend a job in the district as soon as he got his bachelors degree. So I didn’t doubt this teacher’s assertion that she was unfairly targeted because she wasn’t part of the suburban district’s cabal.) The assistant principal, who was the only administrator, was seldom at the site because there were many problems setting up the site which she also over saw at the building next door, plus the AP had some surgery that fall.

At faculty meetings there were comments from these three teachers about “our children” as if I wasn’t connected to them and I was told to “Go back to the suburbs” frequently. There was a faculty meeting in November 2003, in which every time I said anything, I was told to shut up and shouted over. After being told to shut up three times, I got up to leave and said there was no reason for me being at the meeting because they didn’t want to know anything I had to say. After I said this, the teacher who was going for administration classes screamed at me “You wanna take it outside”? I did not want to “take it outside” and I waited three more hours to leave because I didn’t want to meet her in the parking lot. I had verbally and in writing informed the assistant principal as these verbal assaults were going on and the AP did nothing about it.

I told the community based organization head about it and he told me he didn’t think it was anything to worry about. I also told the union. This happened before the weekend and when I came back into work after the weekend the school safety officer told me that this teacher who screamed at me filed a harassment charge against me. I was shocked but I taught all my classes for that day not knowing if I would be handcuffed in front of my students and put in jail. I wondered what would happen to my school aged child if I was put in jail. I was in complete shock and disbelief. After I was finished teaching for the day I walked to the police department to see what this meant and what my rights were. The school safety officer offered to take a counter statement from me, but my experience with the school was that everything that was up was down and everything that was down was up, there was no logic or sanity and I did not think I would be treated fairly. The next day when I came in to work, the community based organization head asked me where I was, and I told him I walked to the police department. It was strange because I felt I was the victim in the situation, I thought I had the right to go to the police station on my free time and I didn’t understand why they were treating me like I had done something wrong. I had been completely honest with them, and I had been telling the AP about these problems as they were occurring; I was also telling the UFT chapter leader as this abuse and unprofessional behavior which I was being subjected to.

The AP moved me to the site next door where a teacher who had been working for the city district for fifteen or twenty years was in a physical altercation with the community based organization leader at this site; the teacher was closing the classroom door as the organization leader was opening it. This teacher was taken away by the police and put in a rubber room at a near by high school. When I met with the AP to get my new schedule, the schedule of the teacher who was taken away by the police, the AP told me to start looking for another job. I didn’t think I did anything wrong, I think I acted prudently in trying to protect myself, and I would have done the same again if I was in the same position. I hope to never be in a situation like that again.

This AP tried to get me fired. The principal saw that I didn’t do anything wrong and gave me a counseling memo which does not go in the file. A school safety officer in a van followed me all the way back to the school. I know it was me they were following because when I pulled over, they pulled over also, and did this several times. This was a waste of personnel to follow me all the way back to the school. I also had city education detectives outside my classroom area on several occasions, the same city detectives I saw at the chancellor’s office and sometimes at the downtown rubber room, and I also saw these detectives at the last high school I worked at.

This AP was not successful in firing me, so she started writing silly letters to put in my file, did a surprise observation the day after a snowstorm when I had a bad cold, wrote me up for having students with “head gear” on when they were girls with scarves on in a room where we had no heat. What if they were Muslim and this was part of their religion? She also wrote that the desks were in a haphazard order when we had to set them up every morning. She wrote that there was no “aim” on the board when she admitted that she arrived halfway into the lesson, the board was flipped around and the students had the “aim” written in their notebooks. Another teacher who’s classroom was next to the AP and the CBO director’s office told me that the AP was always talking about firing me. This teacher transferred away from this AP and told me that if I don’t the AP will fire me at the end of the year.

The next site in the same program I transferred into was in the space that used to be a small pizza parlor with three small rooms. We would go into “work” every day and just sit there. In spite of the fact that we weren’t doing anything, the AP at this new site, who was a good friend of the AP at the last site, saw fit to threaten to write me up for being three minutes late for “work”. One day there was something wrong with the heating system and they told us we could leave because the smell was so bad. I told them I would be at a nearby diner and gave them my cell phone number. When I got back after an hour he threatened to write me up because I didn’t just take thirty minutes; we had no students and there were bad smoke smells in the “school”. Just before the vacation, he suddenly asked me for a bunch of lesson plans, and over the vacation this AP kept demanding months and months of lesson plans from me and would send me threatening emails saying that I had a 5PM deadline to get the lesson plans in. They must have had a good laugh over this. I was teaching out of my license area and the first AP had been an English teacher so I probably made many mistakes. I was getting sick turning in all these lesson plans. They probably knew all along that the site was never going to open, but I was informed via email two days before we went back to school that it wasn’t going to open and I was reassigned a substantial drive from where I lived. I had transferred to this site to get away from the AP who wanted to fire me and to be closer to home; but that easy commute only lasted a month and I had an hour and a half commute after that. When I went to the Pizza Pallor site to get belongings, the AP told me I had 40 minutes to get to a place over an hour and a half away.

The AP at the new site was exponentially crazier that the other two combined. She wrote me up for absurd things, made me sign letters and didn’t give me a copy, did absurd things with teachers and students, and she topped all this off by sending me to the rubber room. She wrote me up for ASKING to get my coat from a distance of a few feet away when we team taught and there was another teacher for the class, plus counselors. She screamed NO at me in front of the students, and I walked out to the fire drill with no coat in very cold weather. This AP also wrote a letter saying that I “abandoned my classroom” when I spoke to her inside my classroom with the door ajar and with the other teacher in the classroom, and in this case she made me sign the letter but never gave me a copy. She kept telling me it was in her car and then I never got it because she sent me to the rubber room. This AP wound up being promoted to work with the school’s chancellor. The principal told me I was being investigated, but I was never told what I had been accused of, never got to know who my accusers were, never got the outcome, and never got exonerated. I was first rubber roomed at an almost two hour drive away. The other teacher from our program who lived near me was rubber roomed in a local school. They sent me as far away as they could, probably hoping I would just quit. Why didn’t I just quit? I had bills to pay. I wish I could have just quit. One day when I was in the office alone while being rubber roomed I looked through the files and found that the teacher who yelled at me so badly kept writing to get her sick day absence reserves because when they didn’t come into work, they didn’t call in sick, but just had the other teachers cover for them without reporting the absence. I also found in duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate copies of a silly incident in which a student threw a comb at the other teacher who warned me of the AP’s intention to fire me, and this happened a year before at another alternative school for problem students. This was a silly incident which can happen every day, but I’m sure they used that to try to fry that teacher. This is what these principals spend their time on, on the tax payer dime, and if they get in trouble these unscrupulous administrators will have a lawyer paid for by the tax payers defending them.

After being assigned to this rubber room which was a long commute for me, I was assigned to a central rubber room. (I managed to see memos when I left in 2006 in which they were emailing each other back and forth to see if they could just fire me.) I did not mind being in this rubber room. We had comfortable chairs in this one and they didn’t make us do anything all day. The only thing which made me nervous was that the light skinned black woman who yelled at me so many times, one time threatening “do you want to take it outside” was also in this rubber room. I avoided her and luckily did not have any run ins with her. Strangely enough, many teachers from the program I was in wound up in the rubber room, coincidentally at the time the program was contracting. All these alternative programs have since been absorbed into other programs. The region we were in had recently had an administrator who stole large sums of money, and the word was that it was harder to get fired from our region than others because we worked with such difficult children. The other thing which made me nervous was that I was never informed of the charges against me, and there were payroll issues. I had heard of people being fired without being informed, and I wondered if I was one of these. For all the uncertainty and worry, I received a priceless education on how the system works from these other teachers, plus I found them to me more interesting, engaging, and intelligent than teachers in the school. This could have been the setting we were in and the fact that we had nothing to do all day. I was only in the rubber room for a few months, all without charges. Then in November of 2004, inmates of the rubber room started talking to the press and the city district was under pressure to empty these rubber rooms out.

I was finally informed that there were no charges against me, I was never told why I was put in the rubber room in the first place, and I was sent to meet with my superintendent to be sent back to work. I told the superintendent some of what went on in this program and I asked to go into another program because I feared further retaliation. The superintendent was a nice man and he obliged, sending me to a small program where all the teachers knew each other personally and the principal of this program resented the superintendent. The teachers in this program all spoke highly of the superintendent, but not of the principal. This superintendent wound up leaving this city school district in disgust at the gross mismanagement and wrote a book exposing how poorly the schools are run and how they shortchange the children.

Even though I told the principal I did not want to go to a site with such a long commute, I was sent there. It seemed like the principal did not even want me and asked me for references. I was probably just “put” there by the superintendent. I thought I wouldn’t be sent there, but I was called the day before and told to report in the morning.

The site I was sent to was a drug and alcohol treatment center. A few of the female teachers and I expressed the idea that the people running the place seemed very shady. It turned out that officers of this organization were actually involved on the wrong side of the law involving drugs. The organization hated all the teachers, and the former drug addict counselors did an “us against them” act with the students, portraying the teachers as the oppressors. This organization had forced out many teachers. I took over from a teacher who was forced out of the classroom the year before, but still remained in the school tutoring, they forced a teacher to another site, one teacher who started in September quit or was fired, another started and was forced out by an accusation by a student which no one should have believed. Without me even asking, a student told this didn’t happen, and I asked her to give me that in writing. She did, and she was also afraid of them, but she felt bad to see this innocent man wrongly accused. I didn’t win any points with the AP or union rep, (who is supposed to be on the teacher’s side) by this action. This accused teacher told me something which is ironic but true; a teacher who yells at a student can get in more trouble than a cop who shoots someone.

There were many other teachers from this organization who got into trouble from obvious lies by students. They were closing down sites, making teachers be substitutes in all areas of the city, one teacher even wound up dying and I never got to know the circumstances. He looked young and healthy and I wondered if he committed suicide. This place was crazy and I transferred out to be someplace closer to where I lived.

The way the system works is that the teacher can check the vacancies, put in many choices and then the city decides where they will put the teacher. I was put in a school with a graduate from the leadership academy, which is a fast track principal certification program which uses a business model which advocating firing a certain amount of teachers every year to promote fear and keep the rest in line. I was observed the second week of school by the principal and AP. What they used in this case was that they didn’t like my teaching style. I was told that I didn’t walk around the room enough. I explained that I couldn’t walk around the room because of the oversupply of desks which I kept trying to get rid of, and these desks also had to be set up in 4 square facing each other, which meant that there was even less room. They kept my room oversupplied with desks because it was also used for night school. I could have been accused of inappropriate contact with a child if I brushed up against them, and I really didn’t want to. A student purposely tripped me, and I know it was on purpose because he laughed in my face as he was doing it. On the first day of school this student bragged that he got a teacher fired the last year. An older male teacher was also tripped by a student and didn’t get in trouble. I didn’t even get a key to the department office for two months. The AP probably wanted to fire me right away, and the principal was making him go through what she thought were the proper steps.

In the post observation conference when the principal told me I didn’t walk around the room enough I told her about the over supply of desks, the fact that I saw a chiropractor and a student had tripped me on purpose, she responded “become an AP and you’ll get a comfortable chair.” This principal was hardly graceful herself, she was very overweight, had bad skin, unkempt hair, dressed badly, took off her shoes and walked around in slippers, and let her finger nails grow to a ghastly length to the point that the nails curled around. As she told me this, she got her hanging earring caught in a sequin of her shirt and couldn’t even pick it up because she had to do everything with the sides of her fingers because of her grotesquely long nails. It was so obvious that I was being treated unfairly at the first post observation conference and I told the principal that I would do whatever she wanted and if she didn’t happy with my performance, I would transfer out. At one of the last hearings she completely lied and said that I said that I was going to do whatever I wanted and if she doesn’t like it I would just transfer out. It was never questioned if this would have been a logical thing for an employee who wanted to keep their job to say. I was given unsatisfactory reviews for perfectly good lessons. My students did well on their state tests. How can a teacher prove that it is a good lesson? The administrator has the ultimate power. I was a good teacher, but they just wanted to get rid of me because of paperwork in my file from other administrators or because of the incentive principals have to get rid of teachers, particularly older, higher paid teachers with more education.

I was told by several people who see this information that there were no complaints about me from either parents or students. My students mostly liked me. On my last day of work, and when the principal wasn’t there, I asked the secretary to see my file. I was only at this school five months, and yet they had a five inch file on me. One teacher told me that another teacher told her that when he was in the office he saw a 20 page fax come in all about me. Out of this five inch file, they gave me a few pieces of paper. One of the papers, which I still have, was a letter written by the drug and alcohol treatment center containing an anonymous accusation that someone smelled alcohol on my breath. In the column of this letter my former principal wrote “No one would come foreword with an name, so I did not put a letter in the file” I’m sure the principal did not believe the anonymous accusation against me based on past history of the organization and his personal knowledge of me, yet the principal or his secretary sent this letter alleging on the job drinking to my next school. This is how the system is set up against teachers. In any other field, an employee could sue for something as discriminatory as anonymous letters of drinking on the job, and yet the teacher, a profession which used to be thought of as virtuous, can have their years of work taken away by anonymous slurs. I put this letter in a separate area of my belongings in case they tried to take it back from me, but they never did. The sad thing was that they didn’t even have to worry. The whole system up to the highest level in the education department is totally corrupt and these administrators know they don’t have to worry because they can get away with this. Destroying a teachers career, in some cases their lives, is just another day at work for them. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

The after firing hearings are a complete joke. I have the whole thing on tape and they lie through their teeth. The union will tell the teacher that they would have a better chance of winning in Stalinist Russia. The city school district never rules against itself. Administration committed fraud many times. The teacher has the right to write an appeal after they receive the upholding of the discontinuance letter, and when I pressed them for this letter which I never got I saw on the letter that they had addressed the upholding of the discontinuance letter to another teacher they discontinued a month after me. They fire that many teachers there, and in the middle of the year also. These administrators are seriously disturbed people. The only thing graceful about this last principal was the grace with which she ruined innocent people’s lives. She started out as a teacher’s aide, and dated and later married her former teacher. Years later when her husband, as principal, went after teachers in his school, the teachers were successful in ousting him as principal and my principal got her husband another principal position. As she was working her way up the ladder, she would go to barbecues at the homes of the other teachers in the science department. After she knew them personally, she would go after the teachers she had befriended. When she became principal she carried on the same harassment and firing of teachers. A post observation conference caused a 40 year old science teacher who had a PhD and seemed to be in good shape to go in to cardiac arrest. He complained of back pains, lied down on the floor and asked them to call an ambulance. The principal refused to because she said the ambulances were for the students. When the man’s wife came to the school to meet the principal, the principal had the nerve to say that the man didn’t take care of himself, not that she had harassed the poor man to death with phony observations and then refused to call an ambulance for him. The wife was not American and didn’t know the legal system here. Even if the wife did sue, the money would come from the tax payers. These administrators do not have to account to anyone or anything, and it is the most ruthless, immoral ones with no sense of scruples who rise to the top. A student was hit by the car of another parent; the parent backed up and hit the student again, killing the student. This principal managed to keep this story out of the press with the help of a politician in the state assembly who keeps her in power.

I was never told I did anything wrong, except that they didn’t like my teaching style and they discontinued me. I was told that I could keep working for the district, if I could get another principal to hire me. Of the hundreds of vacancies I applied for in the district, I received a few interviews which were all hostile. This district is doing this on a vast scale to all teachers by making large schools into smaller academies and making the teachers apply for the jobs they have had for years; these are teachers not even being accused of being bad teachers, they also send hundreds to the rubber rooms to face 3020 hearings on mostly made up charges. I now count my blessings that I did not hit tenure in this system because then I would have had to go through a 3020 hearing in which they can take away your license, and I saw first hand how they lied. I also hear horror stories from other teachers in the rubber room and I believe them all to be true because I saw what was done to me. I went on many more interviews in the state and did not get a job. I suspect that I was blackballed in the entire state. Either my state has too many teachers, they are expecting a sudden decrease in population, all the teaching jobs go to family members and they just interview teachers to make it seem like the job is open to everyone, or my principal with the help of her politician friend went to the trouble of having me blackballed in the entire state.

I finally got three part time jobs and it seemed like they were happy to have me. After I told a friend where I was working, I suddenly had a supervisor in my classroom telling me bad things. Coincidence? I would love to see my secret file to know exactly what I was ever accused of. I suspect it is nothing, or it could just be anonymous nasty gossip. It is probably just the first AP having nothing better to do with her time and writing a bunch of things about me, and it snowballs as each successive principal jumps on the band wagon because they can’t make the students better students, so the way they try to show they are good principals is by going after teachers, the reasoning being that if you criticize the teacher you have high standards. There is so much hype in the public arena about a teacher shortage. If there is a teacher shortage, they wouldn’t treat teachers as if they have no rights. It seems like they just want a bunch of naive and idealistic people going into teaching, and then when they won’t be told the truth about what is really going on until it is too late. Teachers are just so expendable and there is no rule of law operating here. We are told to teach students that we are living in a democracy with due process and the rule of law, and yet none of this exists for the teacher.

From Ellen, now living in Florida:

I was recently employed and unemployed by the Amityville School District. I paid out of my pocket close to a thousand dollars plus received donations for my classroom supplies. All I had were tables and stools, all of which were missing nuts and bolts as well as other hazardous conditions. I was resented by certain entities for supplying my classroom with excellent materials and beautifying the room and then bullied into resigning. The Amityville Administration also interfered with my getting a job with Wyandanch. The NY State Labor Department found in my favor. I am now unemployed collecting benefits.

The purpose of this letter is to tell you this is one malignant school district. I have children and you could not pay me to send my children to the Edmund Miles Middle School where I worked 2002 - 2003.

The environment is not fit for children. The culture is sick and twisted and serves as a detrimental role model for the children. Hall monitors evaluate and belittle nontenured teachers. They make complaints to the arrogant and bully happy principal who has to appease the bully happy superintendent.

These children are at severe risk by a school board and administration that have no emotional intelligence and care not for the mental and emotional well being of children. The children must be nurtured emotionally and mentally and nutritionally. Then the learning can take place thus higher test scores. NOBODY UNDERSTANDS THIS! THESE CHILDREN ARE SUFFERING AT THE HANDS OF SELF SERVING INDIVIDUALS PARADING AROUND AS EDUCATORS.

Also, the teachers who live in the district, their children are the ones receiving goodies like AP classes and scholarships not to mention the overinflated recommendations for college. Meanwhile other children cannot even read and write and are pushed through.

The Amityville UFSD needs many watchdogs for many unethical and immoral goings on. Especially the taxpayers’ money. Send people to walk through Edmund Miles Middle School at any given time without warning and inspect the furniture and supplies. Go into the 1965 bathrooms with 1965 fixtures that are disgusting to say the least. Listen to the way Dr. DeSorbe speaks to his subordinates and check out the hall monitors. Maybe they cleaned up some since I was there.

In conclusion; watch them, and watch them, and watch them. Never turn your back especially on the money. Help the children, save the children,
Ellen Belfiore: X - Home and Careers Teacher



The New York State Education Department has awarded grants totaling $5 million to thirty schools districts throughout New York State. The State funds support proposals for professional development of instructional staff to improve their skills to help students achieve the State standards and assessments. The proposals are model programs addressing four professional development targets:

* Effective use of technology in the regular classroom setting
* Pre-kindergarten programs
* Children with disabilities in the regular classroom setting
* Non-disabled children who demonstrate the need for increased academic attention

Other areas of need demonstrated by the local district that relate to student instruction may also be supported.

Wyandanch UFSD
Contact: Brian DeSorbe
(516) 491-1021

This project will further implement the ATLAS Communities Pathway model, which combines strategies of the School Development Program at Yale University, Project Zero at Harvard University, the Coalition of Essential Schools at Brown University, and the Education Development Center of Greater Boston. It provides monthly meetings, study groups and sharing events, two additional superintendent conference days, and visits to other Atlas sites to observe practices that would have a positive impact on the district. $190,000


Subject: The "Damage Control Shuffle"

Message: I lost the battle, but not the war. Amityville UFSD has been investigated by the Feds, the County DA, and now the state dept of education. GOD BLESS

I lost my discrimination case because of reasons that are very, very, disturbing.

1. The Superintendent shuffles people around in the district to keep from getting statements from them. All they have to say is "I do not remember" and the complaint is dismissed.

2. The Superintendent calls a faculty meeting to get everyone on the same page of lies. The Superintendent tells everyone what to say to the questions anticipated from Human rights. They all follow suit and lie, lie, lie in writing to human rights.

3. The superintendent says he hired a zillion new teachers of all ages and races. How could I claim discrimination. Because we all know the superintendent will fire and hire a zillion new teachers every year, only tenuring family members, cronys, and to hush up teachers with potential lawsuits like the art teacher who was severely assaulted by a student, DeSorbe is now clamoring to give her tenure.

But Human rights does not have the manpower or the proper tools to do an extensive investigation!!!! Which would turn up more foul smelling goings on than you could shake a stick at.

THIS IS WHY THEY CAN get away with it!!!!!!!

My first mistake was missing the statute of limitations with the Federal EEOC You must file immediately when you suspect foul play. They will coach you how to build a case. They are competent, capable, and very thorough.

Otherwise you are stuck with the State Human Rights Dept as in NY. The computers are always down, the Investigators are overworked and to save money, the state hires para's instead of full fledged trained investigators. The investigations are half/assed, lack of working technology, manpower, etc...

Now I am told to go after Brian DeSorbe in Civil Court. This is where I get them caught up in all the lies. I was told I stand an excellent chance in civil court.

Like O.J. who won in criminal court but lost in civil, this is what I am Hoping for

Why am I bothering?

So all of you can learn from my mistakes and hopefully my successes.

So all who were tortured and abused like me will hopefully file successful discrimination suits

We are doing this for the future of our grand and great grand children. We must stop the corruption in the public schools and make them our public schools once again.

We must take our schools back from elite family groups who feel they and their off springs are the only people entitled to the public school jobs, and taxpayers money.

We must stop the colleges from knowingly and willfully taking money from people who think they will get a teaching job when this is the furthest from the truth. And the college certification professors know it. The college certification professors are well aware of who to support in their endeavor and who not to support.

This is one big racket. This is why I will continue to fight!
The Racket

$42,000 – $100,000
entry - top-pay
certified does not mean qualified

good pay and summers off teacher-shortage

In General

Back In the late 1960’s, 1970’s and early 1980’s all the teaching jobs were filled. The job was not high paying and attracted mostly women as teachers. Men who got into education usually went for the admin jobs because of higher pay. Thus, was the creation of the good ole boys club overseeing a mostly female population of teachers.

The late 1980’s saw an aging burnt out teacher population. It was impossible to get rid of incompetent or burnt out teachers because of the bit with tenure and the unions. The buzz was to get rid of the old burnt out teachers. The buzz was that tenure protected the incompetent and burnt out teachers. Administrators learned that in order to get rid of unwanted tenured teachers they had to create a paper- trail over time. The paper- trail tactic worked. Admins were now able to force unwanted teachers out and bring in new blood. But the low salaries were not attracting the material girls of the late 1980’s and 1990’s and certainly not men. Around this time, the college teacher certification programs were starving for students and their money as well. Teaching programs were being dropped from some colleges. Teacher shortage was now the new buzz of the late 1990’s.

Low salaries will not attract the brightest and the best and the public also wanted men teachers to ‘defeminize’ if you will, the profession. The early 1990’s also saw teachers picketing for more money. The public was behind the higher salaries as well. The public believed the higher salaries would attract the brightest and the best and men. So, Long Island, in the 1990’s, saw amazing entry level salary hikes to $38,000 – $42,000 and top pay became anywhere from $75,000 on the south shore to $100,000 on the north shore. Teaching now became desirable to the young college students. The buzz is now; good pay and summer’s off.

You rarely saw the children of teachers and administrators become teachers at one time. They wanted their children to become doctors and lawyers where the real money was. But now, with the rise in teachers’ salaries, rise in malpractice insurance and lawsuits, this began to change. Getting a job in the public schools is now good pay, clean and easy work, and the weekly school schedule with weekends, holidays, and summers off just too good to be true. So, the admins and teachers began to steer their own children into teaching. And now they want to guarantee their child get a position. But, according to the law, I believe that principals cannot hire their own family members so this is where the collusion or cartel begins.

Administrators now, not only make deals to hire each other’s offspring within one district, but many districts will collude with each other to do this. It gets worse. Before hire is made, a minimum of 4 candidates must be fully interviewed. What better way to keep the college teaching programs full of paying, unknowing, students, to be nothing more than a ‘minyan’ if you will for administrators hiring nepotisms anyway. Teacher-shortage is now nothing more than propaganda. At its worst, some administrators will destroy the careers of teachers simply to open up the position for a new hire, nepotism within the cartel.

This is the new face of what is going on in education right now.

Background from NAPTA President Karen Horwitz

NYC Rubber Room Reporter

Sunday, December 28, 2008

David Pakter, a NYC Teacher and Whistleblower of the NYC Board of Education's Corrupt Practices, Sues in Federal Court

Four years and four New York City Board of Education re-assignment centers ("rubber rooms") later, David Pakter (pictured at right with Mayor Rudy Giuliani, 1997) completes his journey to hold the New York City Board of Education accountable for taking him away from his very successful career in the New York City public school system as an excellent teacher, and dumping him into the dungeons of the NYC rubber rooms. For what? For trying to expose racial discrimination at one school, and buying plants for the lobby at another. I've been lucky to see it all, and it's quite a story! There's something to please everyone - retaliation and vindictiveness by the NYC BOE against a teacher who did the right thing, a medical evaluation that was false and overturned, and the ridiculous "rubberization" process that good teachers in NYC have to be subjected to when he or she puts the students first. David refuses to be silenced, and we salute him for this as he proceeds in his quest for justice. by Betsy Combier

David Pakter is a teacher who will teach again. His lesson will be perhaps not for the children he taught at the High School of Art and Design (picture below) in New York City, but for adult learners who need to know how to stop the abuse by the New York City Department of Education of teachers who whistleblow what is happening in the City Schools.

I dont think there are many people who know David Pakter's story who would say that he was placed in four re-assignment centers ("rubber rooms") in New York City by the New York City Board of Education for good reason - or any reason. His first round of rubber room sitting occurred after he refused, in September 2004, to stand by and allow the Principal of Art and Design to remove music from the multi-ethnic students at this high school, while an elementary class from PS 59 moved into the high school music rooms.(The school has since moved to East 63rd Street - Editor). Pakter asserts that he was viciously retaliated against and harassed because he reported evidence of criminal wrongdoing, including ongoing violations of Federal Civil Rights statutes (as well as unnecessary window construction work and repairs at his school), to the Office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District.

Specifically, David contacted both the Office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation and wrote the Chancellor directly because he believed the school Principal Madeleine Appell had determined that the only foreign language that the students at At & Design were to be exposed to was Spanish -- the language which most of the school's students spoke before they learned English, and was retaliating against him because he offered 10 minutes enrichment in his elite medical illustration class, for a short lesson in french. David had ordered enrichment materials and books on countless occasions, during his 37-year-career, (and been praised for doing so), and had ordered a set of books for his gifted Medical Illustration students titled "French in 10 Minutes a Day". On Friday afternoon, Sept. 26, 2003, an Assistant Principal named Harold Mason (pictured at left, and who, by the way, was videotaped saying Pakter was engaging in “mental masturbation” at a disciplinary hearing. Mason was severely criticized by an independent hearing

officer who called it “an outrageous comment.”- Editor) entered Pakter's locked Medical room, at close to 5 PM to present Pakter with a letter formally charging Pakter with ordering and distributing books to his students. The letter cited an enclosed Chancellor's Regulation A-610, entitled "Fund Raising Activities and Collection of Money from Students", said regulation having no relationship to the ordering of books.

David says he was ludicrously charged with ordering the set of French books because the school was determined not to allow the teaching of any language other than Spanish in the school, even to students for whom Spanish was their birth language and that both the Principal as well as the Assistant Principal were fully aware and informed that he had violated no rule or regulation in ordering books for his students.

David videotaped the PS 59 children because he wanted to do the right thing, and expose what he believed to be racial discrimination at the High School of Art and Design. David is a NYC public school teacher, after all, and a mandated reporter of the NYC public school system. The kids from PS 59 were mostly white. In fact, David says, Madeleine Appell, the Principal of A & D High School, had accepted, under a Special Budget line (Blue Print for the Arts), almost $ 75,000 to guarantee Music to the High School students but had in fact, gotten rid of Music at the school. Ms. Appell was a contributor to the writing of "Blueprints For the Visual Arts" - see page. 2, which many people wondered about. Did she give heself a grant? David wanted to know where that money went. He asked the music teacher if he could video the kids from PS 59 for his own use, and she said yes. Approximately one hour after the videotaping, David says that Principal Madeleine Appell entered his classroom and interrupted him while he was teaching, to demand the videotape he had made of the music class -- a demand David refused. He was ordered to attend a meeting after school later that day at which time Principal Appell again repeatedly demanded the music videotape and which demand was again refused by David.

The following day, Sept. 23, 2004, Principal Madeleine Appell called a special faculty conference after normal school hours to announce that she had decided to retire forthwith as Principal of the school. We hear that she was hired by CUNY - Kingsborough Community College.

David adds: "The New York Dept of Education made an offer on or about Sept. 27. 2004 to the effect that if I would surrender a video tape in my possession that documented a serious, unacceptable and illegal form of discrimination taking place at the High School of Art and Design, I would be returned to my former position as Instructor of Medical Illustration."

He again refused, and was quickly removed from the school and assigned to a rubber room. Later, new Principal John Lachky only allowed him one single day, a Saturday, to pack and remove twenty five years of books, personal records and personally owned Medical items from the school premises. In the weeks previous to the single afternoon he was allowed to return to the building, his metal storage cabinets had been entered and rifled through by his immediate supervisor at the school, Mary Ann Geist-Deninno. A police report documents that thousands of dollars of Pakter's property was stolen, removed or destroyed.

David reports that a full half-year after he was removed from the school, he received telephone calls from two different teachers from the school that his former Supervisor, Mary Ann Geist-Deninno entered his former Medical Illustration room accompanied by a computer expert named Amir Faroun and claimed later the same day that she had found "pornographic material" on one of the open access computers that students used on a daily basis. When Ms. Geist-Deninno reported this "discovery" to the Office of Special Investigations, investigators arrived at the school and were stunned to learn the computer Ms. Geist-Deninno wished them to examine was a computer that everyone in the school had access to day and night. Including Ms. Geist-Deninno. The investigators recommended she store the computer in a closet. Four weeks after mailing his letter to the Medical Office, Mr. Lachky, like the previous Principal, chose to retire.

Despite the information stated immediately above, a full five months after Ms. Geist-Deninno reported her "discovery", the former Principal John Lachky wrote and personally signed a letter memorializing Geist-Deninno's "discovery" to the Director of the Medical Office of the New York Department of Education, Dr. Audrey Jacobson, M.D. Mr. Lachky, in reporting Geist-Deninno's "discovery" made 5 months earlier, suggested that Pakter be interviewed by the Medical Office.

David was the teacher for the only medical illustration course in New York City, at the High School for Art and Design. He was cited by Mayor Rudy Giuliani as the 'Teacher of the Year' in 1997. To understand David's case, click here to read a letter he wrote to Chancellor Klein on October 2, 2003 about the racial discrimination in New York public schools, and former NYCBOE Counsel Chad Vignola's response. Chad Vignola was fired by Joel Klein when he allowed Deputy Chancellor Diana Lam to hire her husband for a position in the NYC BOE without getting a clearance from the Conflict of Interest Board. Or so the story goes...(there is always more that the public never hears about).

David explained:
"Sadly, rather than respond to my letter, Chancellor Klein delegated that responsibility to his former General Counsel, Chad Vignola, Esq. who only months after I wrote the Chancellor, was forced to resign in disgrace for his part in the Diana Lam cover up scandal in which Deputy Chancellor Lam attempted to illegally place her husband in a high paying DOE job in a manner contrary to State and
City law.

Any person reading Chad Vignola's letter to me on behalf of Mr. Klein cannot fail to observe that Mr. Vignola fails to address a single issue that was raised in my letter to the Chancellor."

David was ordered to undergo a psychiatric examination by the New York City Department of Education: "The Medical Office has set up an appointment for me to meet with a Psychologist by the name of Dr. Richard Schuster, Ph.D., Panel Psychologist, at "Comprehensive Rehabilitation Consultants", at 275 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, on Friday, August 19, 2005." Although he was informed he would be interviewed by Schuster for about five hours, David in fact was asked to spend two full consecutive days at Schuster's office taking over fifty pages of examinations.

On the second day, July 27, 2005, Schuster administered a version of the 567 question MMPI-2 Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, which had just been declared an illegal employee Medical Examination in a Unanimous Seventh Circuit panel decision, six weeks earlier. (See: Unanimous Seventh Circuit panel, Karraker v. Rent-A-Center, Inc., 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 11142 ,June 14, 2005). Then on August 16, 2005, he received a letter from the Medical Office, signed by the Medical Director, Dr. Audrey Jacobson, M.D., stating that based on the examinations Schuster had administered, David was "not currently fit for duty".

David says that Dr. Jacobson signed that letter, which effectively ended his employment with the New York City Dept. of Education, despite the fact that he was later informed that Dr. Jacobson had never bothered to read the complete official version of the results of the MMPI Examination administered on her orders, which stated on several different pages, in particular page 3:

"His MMPI-2 clinical and content scales are within normal limits. No clinical symptoms were reported".

Immediately on being notified of the claim of the Medical Office Director Dr. Audrey Jacobson that Pakter was not "fit for duty", David attempted to avail himself of the remedy specified in Dr. Jacobson's letter: that he "may request an independent evaluation by a medical arbitrator." His NYSUT attorney sent a certified letter to Dr. Jacobson memorializing Pakter's demand for medical arbitration and the United Federation of Teachers simultaneously filed in a timely manner. To obtain another opinion on his fitness to teach, David and his NYSUT attorney sought and obtained the services of the handsome and eminent Forensic Psychiatrist, Dr. Alberto M. Goldwaser, M.D., D.F.A.P.A. After a lengthy and expert evaluation, and also careful study of hundreds of pages of documents including the documents and reports utilized by Dr. Jacobson in making her own evaluation, Dr. Alberto Goldwaser (pictured at right) concluded that there was no scientific evidence whatsoever to substantiate the claim of the Medical Office that Pakter was not "fit for duty".

But David also wanted another opinion from the Medical Office, and asked the UFT for help in getting another evaluation. He finally received notice from the Medical Office that they had arranged an appointment with their "independent medical arbitrator," Dr. Charles E. Schwartz, M.D., to take place at Montefiore Hospital on Dec. 21, 2005 at 5:15 PM. Due to a transportation strike, the appointment was delayed until Jan. 11, 2006, with the physician named above. David was accompanied at the medical arbitration by Dr. Alberto Goldwaser, as well as a reporter and journalist (Betsy Combier). Near the end of the two-and-a-half-hour medical arbitration meeting, Dr. Schwartz agreed and concurred with Dr. Goldwaser that there was no scientific evidence to support the claim of Dr. Audrey Jacobson, Director of the Medical Office, that Pakter was not "fit for duty".

Six months later, David sent me this email:
"The Director of The New York City Dept of Education Medical Office, Dr. Audrey Jacobson, has admitted in a signed letter sent to David Pakter, that her office made a mistake in claiming Mr. Pakter was not "fit for duty" on August 16, 2005.

In a tersely worded letter dated June 5, 2006, DOE Medical Office director, Dr. Jacobson stated:

"The independent medical arbitrator has upheld your appeal, and has declared that the Medical, Leaves & Benefits Office was incorrect in deeming you unfit for duty as of August 16, 2005. The findings of the medical arbitrator are equally binding on you and the Department of Education. A copy of the arbitrator's decision has been sent to your physician."

This is believed to be the first instance in more than a quarter of a century that a New York City teacher, having been found "unfit" by the Department of Education Medical Office, was able to have such a charge overturned."

I filed a freedom of information request to obtain information on charges against David:

From: Betsy []
Sent: Tuesday, September 05, 2006 12:25 AM
To: Holtzman Susan
Cc: Arons Elizabeth Dr.; Best Michael (Legal Services); Cantor David; Caputo Virginia;; Longoria Carragher Arlene;;;; Feinberg Marge;;;; Greenfield Robin; Kicinski Christine J; Klein Joel I.;; Onek Matthew;
Subject: Press FOIL Request from The E-Accountability Foundation

The E-Accountability Foundation
Betsy Combier, President and Campaign Sponsor September 5, 2006
Ms. Susan W. Holtzman
Central Records Access Officer
Office of Legal Services
New York City Department of Education
52 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10007

Dear Ms. Holtzman:

Under the provisions of the New York Freedom of Information Law, Article 6 of the Public Officers Law, I hereby request to purchase records or portions thereof pertaining to:

1) all Technical Assistance Conference memoranda ("TAC memos") that were authored by personnel assigned to the Office of Legal Services, and which mention David Pakter

2) all Technical Assistance Conference memoranda ("TAC memos") that were authored by personnel assigned to the Office of Appeals and Reviews, and which mention David Pakter.

If any record has been redacted or denied, please identify which categories of information have been redacted or denied, and cite the relevant statutory exemption.

I would prefer to receive the requested records by E-mail.

If you have any questions relating to the specific records or portion(s) being sought, please phone me so that we may discuss them.

You may not deny access to inter-agency or intra-agency records that are not "final agency policy or determinations" if they contain "statistical or factual tabulations or data" (or other material subject to production) within them, unless statutory exemptions different from FOIL §87(2)(g) are applicable. Both you and Mr. Best were previously in error for denying access to records on the sole ground that they were not "final agency policy or determinations."


Xerox Corporation v. Town of Webster (65 NY2d 131)

New York 1 News v. Office of the Borough President of Staten Island (647 NYS2d 270, affirmed 231 AD2d 524)

Gould v. New York City Police Department (89 NY2d 267)


As you know, the Freedom of Information Law requires that an agency respond to a request within five business days of receipt of a request. Therefore, I would appreciate a response as soon as possible and look forward to hearing from you shortly. If for any reason any portion of my request is denied, please inform me of the reasons for the denial in writing and provide the name and address of the person or body to whom an appeal should be directed.

Betsy Combier

David's first 3020a hearing began Nov. 30, 2005, and lasted many months. Then he waited for the decision another several months. Hearing Officer Martin Scheinman heard witnesses at David's 3020a that David was an excellent teacher...he fined David $15,000 for "insubordination".

In September 2006 David was assigned to the High School of Fashion Industries. He wrote "The AP of Supervision, Giovanni Raschilla, admitted to a reporter that even before I was reassigned to that school, following my first 3020-a trial, the school Principal, Hilda Nieto, had received specific marching orders from the NYC DOE to target me as soon as I arrived at the school and 'get something on Pakter'. An outrageous state of affairs in which I had literally been ordered into a hostile work place environment where I was already targeted as "guilty" before I even walked in the schoolhouse door. And I fully suspected this would be the case but had I not reported to the new assignment the DOE would have charged me with being AWOL. Thus it was a catch-22, no win situation for me."

He was there only a few weeks when removed once again to the rubber room, this time at West 125th Street.

Here is the re-assignment letter:

November 22, 2006

David Pakter
C/o 02M600

Dear Mr. Pakter:

Please be advised that an allegation has been made against you and pending the outcome of this investigation you are being reassigned to 388 125th Street, 6th floor. Effective Monday,November 27, 2006, you are to report to 388 125th Street,
6th floor and continue to report to the location until further notice.


Philip Crowe
Human Resources Director (Manhattan)

C: Michael LaForgia
Local Instructional Superintendent

Hilda Nieto

David's explanation: "For the record it should be noted that the two specific issues that arose with the principal in the short time I had been assigned to HS Fashion Industries are as follows:

1) The school attempted to place a letter in my file that I had purchased two plants for the lobby of the school without Principal Nieto's written permission. This is obvious harassment as I have been decorating school lobbies for over 30 years and never needed permission.

2) As an incentive to improve student achievement I offered to allow students with a 90 % average or higher on their report card to select a fashion accessory watch from my corporate website www.DAVIDPAKTERWATCHES.COM that showcases watches from my sold out 2004-2005 fashion collection which are no longer available for sale so there is no conflict of interest issues. The students were all well aware that the only way to obtain a watch from my last collection was to earn it by attaining a 90 or higher average on the official school report card. (See his collection at store.davidpakterwatches - Editor)

For the first time in my long career as a teacher, the principal claimed I needed approval from the DOE/ Regional Office to distribute incentive awards. I thereupon emailed a formal request to Mariano Guzman, the Deputy Superintendent for Region Nine, fully describing in detail the full particulars of my company's offer to underwrite an incentive campaign.

It should be noted that the HS of Fashion Industries has for many years maintained their own student incentive program consisting of rewarding students with financial "vouchers" to acquire free art supplies from the official school store.

In addition, on page 6 of the most recent Parents Association Newsletter, the entire page is plastered with the names of stores, companies and neighborhood movie theatres that support the HS of Fashion Industries.

Thus once again the entire issue of my awarding students fashion accessories for high achievement is really a non-issue. But the attempted letter in my file re the above (which the UFT Rep challenged) is simply one more example of the never ending vendetta on the part of the DOE to try to harass me out of the system. Especially since I won the Medical Arbitration Decision last June which forced the Director of the DOE Medical Office, Dr. Audrey Jacobson to formally recant in writing a knowingly false claim she made one year ago, much to her embarrassment, and at great cost to the City."

Specification 6 of David's new charges as he awaits his second 3020a hearing was that he made the New York City Board of Education 'look bad' in the NY Teacher article written about his case and published on March 15, 2007. Spec #6 says: "caused widespread negative publicity and notoriety to the HS of Fashion Industries and the New York City Department of Education in general when his "unprofessional behavior" was referenced in a UFT newspaper".

"Thus I was not only set up and victimized but later charged in the 3020-a Specifications for my new, second, 3020-a Trial with the crime of letting the UFT publish the facts of my first 3020-a Railroading," David said. The NYC BOE re-considered, and withdrew this charge. David awaits his second 3020a hearing.

In September 2008 Pakter sued the NYC Board of Education in Federal Court:
U.S. District Court
United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Foley Square), CIVIL DOCKET FOR CASE #: 1:08-cv-07673-DAB

David Pakter's Complaint
New York City's Notice to Dismiss
New York City's Memorandum of Law in Support of the Motion to Dismiss

NYC Chancellor Joel Klein, Esq.'s Dirty Secret For Purging Teachers

How Long 'Til Mayoral Control of our Public Schools Falls Out of Favor

December 5, 2001
School's Alumni and Staff Feel Its Art Emphasis Is Neglected

For decades after it was founded, the High School of Art and Design on East 57th Street in Manhattan funneled generations of students into commercial art careers.

It did so by immersing its students in four or more art classes a day, in a choice of 13 majors from architecture to fashion design. Graduates include the designer Calvin Klein, the singer Tony Bennett, the playwright Harvey Fierstein and the filmmaker Ralph Bakshi.

But as the school celebrates its 65th anniversary this month, alumni, teachers and students are worried that a focus on bread-and-butter academic subjects like science and history is watering down the school's commercial art mission, even as money has not been made available to keep the number of art offerings at their traditional level.

Critics say that the 1,500 students at A.& D., as the school is known, are now more likely to have two periods of art a day than four. Years ago, state and city budget cuts began stripping away financing for art classes, and even in recent years when the budget has been robust, the money has been diverted to support increased instruction in subjects like science and history needed to pass the state Regents tests required of both vocational and academic students.

''The Board of Education has a one-size-fits-all policy,'' said an assistant principal, John Lachky. ''We have to conform to the same requirements as any other school even though we have special needs.''

State officials, including Roseanne DeFabio, an assistant commissioner for curriculum, instruction and assessment, say that higher academic standards, properly applied, should improve the school. ''There was pretty universal agreement that those academic requirements should be the same for everybody,'' she said.

W. L. Sawyer, the Board of Education's superintendent for Manhattan high schools, speculated that the decline in art classes was a result of an increased need for remedial classes. But staff members at the school say that only about 60 of 360 incoming ninth graders needed math remediation, the most prevalent remedial subject, and that such classes were usually given after school.

The school still offers career preparation in 13 art majors: animation, advertising, illustration, fashion design, fine arts, architecture, photography, theater arts, medical illustration, cartooning, computer graphics, industrial arts and film and video production. So well regarded are the school's commercial art graduates that companies like Disney visit the school to recruit.

''The concentration of art training that I got,'' said Calvin Klein, a 1959 alumnus, ''gave me a very strong foundation. I spent a good four hours a day. I couldn't have gotten that from half the amount of time.''

Since its inception, the school has trained a diverse group of students, mostly from working-class and lower-middle-class homes. Today, roughly a third of the students are black, a third are Hispanic and the rest are white or Asian.

Throughout the years, there have been letter-writing campaigns and walkouts to protest systematic arts cuts. Hope Eisman, the school's principal, says that ever-increasing academic requirements have not only pushed out art classes but have also given the students a heavier burden than other high school students have.

Ms. Eisman emphasized that she was an advocate of strong academic subjects. But she added: ''You've got kids here who don't want to go to Harvard. My kids want to go to Pratt, Cooper Union, F.I.T. and Rhode Island School of Design. We're asking a kid who doesn't need it to take physics.''

Karines Reyes, a senior who edited the yearbook and wants to work in advertising, said, ''I like math, I like physics, but they are completely useless to me in terms of my career goals.''

The school, which has historically been classified as a vocational school, is included in the schools affected by a new state policy that will allow courses in math, science and English to be blended with art by including, say, more calculation and writing in an art class. But Mr. Lachky said it was hard to find art teachers also qualified to teach science and math courses on a Regents level.

The extra academic requirements have also strained the school's budget, Mr. Lachky said. ''Now you have to add a lab to every science class,'' he said. ''Where do you get that one period to give the lab and where do you put the lab?''

With budget cuts, teachers complain, comes an increasing lack of technology. ''We've been operating in the Dark Ages,'' said an assistant principal, MaryAnn Geist-Deninno. ''Animation was done with flip books until recently, and you end up with a whole class using one digital camera that I bought at Radio Shack.''

At the Fiorello H. La Guardia School of Music and Art and Performing Arts, on the Upper West Side, the Web site displays a comprehensive art curriculum that includes three periods of studio art a day. But there is a reason for the disparity, Mr. Sawyer says.

La Guardia, he said, is a specialized school, backed by state legislation enabling a distinct difference in budget allotment. La Guardia also looks at both academics and artistic ability in its entrance requirements. Art and Design weighs only a student's artistic ability, thereby admitting students who need remediation.

The original School of Industrial Arts was started in a dilapidated warehouse on West 40th Street in 1936 by four young art teachers. They made their own desks and storage from orange crates and plywood. After two decades at a former Civil War hospital, the school was renamed Art and Design and moved in 1961 to a new, modernistic building at 1075 Second Avenue.

The terror attack of Sept. 11 has also hurt the school. In past years, 500 applicants have turned up on each of four days to take a two-and-a-half-hour art test and submit their portfolios. Now teachers say the number of applicants showing up has been cut in half, and they cite parents' fears of having their children far from home.

As a result of the slippage in courses and equipment, alumni like Mr. Bakshi feel the school has changed for the worse.

''It's madness what they did,'' he said. ''Why did they take a perfectly good art school that put hundreds, thousands in the business and change its format?''

Related story: Diana Lam's ouster:
On the Lam
New York Magazine

The mayor wanted basic change in the schools, and Diana Lam provided it—until unsavory tactics proved her undoing. Where does the chancellor turn now?By Robert Kolker, Published Mar 15, 2004

Joel Klein is not the man he was two years ago when Mike Bloomberg asked him to head the nation’s largest public-school system, and much of his evolution—especially his belief that children learn as much reading alone as they do from being taught by teachers—took place at the knee of Diana Lam. In a cabinet of private-sector and think-tank émigrés, Lam, Klein’s deputy for instruction, was the only career educator; while most of his team focused on rejiggering the bureaucracy, Lam introduced the one piece of reform that actually had to do with the way kids are taught. But now that she has left in disgrace—forced out for nepotism, igniting the mayor’s first major personnel scandal—Klein finds himself in an awkward position: He feels the need to defend her as an educator while condemning her sin. And yet, even as the scandal grows, Klein’s condemnation seems halfhearted.

“Some people for ideological reasons disagreed with her about the curriculum,” Klein says. “That became an issue. And in this business, people get polarized. That’s unfortunate. But I think that she was a sound educator, and I have confidence in her educational judgments.”

Klein defended Lam to Bloomberg, too, before the mayor finally persuaded him to get her resignation, which suggests either a certain political myopia or a devotedness to the deputy who became his mentor. In the beginning, Klein had hired her to be a change agent, offering her the job after just a few meetings not because of her educational philosophy but because they clicked. “I liked her style,” he told me last year. Did he know anything about the educational programs she used? “No,” he admitted. But he did know this: Four times, in four different cities, Lam would start up a campaign of parental engagement, introduce a new curriculum, and see test scores bump up a tick or two. And for an education novice whose boss needed the scores to go up before the next election, that seemed like a good deal.

In Lam, Klein had found a fellow anti-incrementalist; in a pedagogical culture of marathoners, she was a sprinter. Revamp the middle schools? No problem. Cut out social promotion in the third grade? Done. Devise a special-ed plan and break up the big high schools? You got it. She was dynamic and uncompromising at a time when managing the educational bureaucracy was at the forefront of the mayor’s thinking about education.

She was also impolitic, a lousy listener. She didn’t mind whom she provoked. The $800,000 buyout in San Antonio. The wacky three-day campaign for mayor in Boston. The bad blood in Dubuque. And the last few months in Providence, where she rigged a bidding war with Portland, Oregon, to boost her salary and then abruptly accepted the job in New York, giving notice by e-mail. In the end, Lam didn’t need any help imploding.

Last summer, newspapers were tipped off that her husband, Peter Plattes, was working in a department that reports directly to her. Lam claimed that Plattes never formally accepted the job, but another tipster revealed this to be a lie. Guessing who whispered to investigators about Lam’s indiscretions has become a parlor game at Tweed Courthouse. “She was done in by people inside the system who work for her,” says one source who sat on a board with Lam. “Not by reporters or teachers.”

In the final act last week, when a report by the schools investigator forced Bloomberg’s hand, Lam made sure she wouldn’t flame out alone: She said she’d been given the blessing of general counsel Chad Vignola, who resigned a few days later. For a mayor who has staked his reelection on cleaning up the schools, this is no time for an accountability crisis. But Klein, claiming all is well, continues to cast himself as a reformer—and Lam as a target of those who opposed reform.

“She didn’t mind whom she provoked. In the end, Lam didn’t need any help imploding.”

Lam’s enemies were ideological and political as well as personal. Phonics fans like Diane Ravitch were appalled by her philosophy of allowing long blocks of unstructured time for children to simply read and write on their own. Liberals hated the pressure the program put on teachers. The joke around Tweed was that for the first time, teachers-union chief Randi Weingarten and Manhattan Institute pundit Sol Stern agreed on something—that Diana Lam was a disaster.

“Wherever she went, the teachers hated her,” says Stern. “Her forte is a tremendous emphasis on top-down staff development. You haul all of the teachers and principals out of the classrooms constantly and pound into them what it is you want done.” Those headlines about how teachers are shocked that they have to keep lessons to less than eleven minutes—Lam took the blame for that. Which is why Weingarten felt comfortable sending Lam off last week with the hope that “we can start making educational decisions based on what works for children rather than on one administrator’s personal ideology.”

In recasting the system in Lam’s image, Klein embraced a curriculum already used in wealthier parts of town like the Upper West and Upper East sides—alarming conservatives who believe poor kids need something more structured, like phonics. Klein and Lam capitulated, making a phonics program available to qualify for federal money, but it’s clear Klein still believes in Lam’s approach. “People want to put adjectives on it instead of understanding the texture and nuance,” Klein says, “which is a much more complicated set of issues about how you not only teach children how to read words but to have an excitement for reading—to share ideas. So I think this is the right solution, and I think people are giving this a bad rap.”

in the last several months, lam had become so disliked that Klein was shielding her from public exposure. “Clearly, she was the lead educational thinker,” says Eva Moskowitz, chair of the City Council’s education committee. “But there was a vacuum when it came to who would be allowed to publicly defend the rationale. I don’t think either Klein or Lam really took seriously the level of dissatisfaction in the system.”

Now that she’s gone, there’s not much of a chance for Klein to exhale. “I think we have the right mix of talent,” he says. “Let’s wait and see if we bring in somebody else to fill that role on a permanent basis.”


“Well, it’ll depend, obviously, on whether we find the right person,” he says.

Much of what people found provocative about Diana Lam—the new curricula, the speed of the reforms—remains in place. But from here on out, Klein will be taking the heat alone. He’s graduated.