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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Joel Klein Says Get Teachers Out of the System After One Year Without An Assignment!

Joel Klein and Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott Argue For Mayoral Control, February 2009

NY1 interviewed Joel Klein on what the possibilities are of NYC winning "Race To The Top" federal funds. I have the usual astonishment which accompanies any interview Mr. Klein does as he misleads new reporter Ms. Christ and does not tell her that NYC is not paying the 3020-a Arbitrators, and has not paid them since last June (this is not true anywhere else in New York State); that now the people who create the transcripts for the 3020-s Hearings are not being paid; that the lawyers who work for the Teacher Performance Unit ("The Gotcha Squad" for incompetence cases) and the ATU (Administrative Trials Unit, which deals with corporal punishment issues, theft, other more serious charges)are bringing new charges into almost-finished hearings, post-poning the closing in cases that otherwise should never have been brought in the first place; that charges are still not brought in a timely fashion, due to Principals throwing out good teachers against whom there are no charges to bring or just cause for penalties....etc.

Read my book "How To Sabotage Your Employees and Get Rid of People For No Reason" for more on this topic.

Happy New Year everybody!

Betsy Combier

NY1 Exclusive: Schools Chancellor Joel Klein Seeks New Rubber Room Rules, More Federal Funding

In the second half of an exclusive year-end interview, NY1's Education reporter Lindsey Christ (pictured below at right) asks Schools Chancellor Joel Klein about changes he hopes the state Legislature will make to allow New York to qualify for federal education and to remove teachers from the public school system.

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein: "Race To The Top" is a federal program, where they put aside $3.4 billion that states have to compete for. And there are big requirements in terms of major changes in standards, on data, teachers effectiveness, teacher evaluations, on closing schools. A lot of the things, quite frankly, Lindsey, that we've been talking about in New York for the last seven or so years.

Lindsey Christ: But the state of New York is the one that's competing and there are some state laws that could potentially get in the way. The first deadline is January 19. Do you think New York will make change in the next couple of weeks?

Klein: I hope so. Obviously, that is up to the Legislature. It now costs our city almost $50 million a year to keep teachers in the "rubber room."

Christ: So these are teachers [in the "rubber room"] who have been accused of potential wrongdoing, there is a very long process before they can either be acquitted or dismissed.

Klein: A very long process. Sometime it takes seven years. I mean, it is a ridiculous process. We need a quick process, one that gets people evaluated in a meaningfully way, and either out of the system or back in the classroom, but not a process where for five or six years someone doesn't work and they are getting paid by the taxpayers. That's ridiculous.

Christ: There is also another group of teachers who are getting paid full salary who don't have permanent teaching positions. Those are teachers who have lost their jobs because their schools have closed down or because of budget cuts but have not actually been fired and are just waiting for a new job in the system. With all of these school closures announced this year, there are going to be a lot more, potentially, of these teachers. How do you see that pool of teachers going forward? Is the city going to keep supporting it, even though they don't have permanent positions?

Klein: I hope not. Some of those teachers doing incredibly good work, most of them get rehired. Those that don't, I think there ought to be a time period where teachers either find a job or have to leave the system. I think it will put a real incentive on these teachers to look for a job. Quite a few of them really don't look for a job. And it will also enable us in a meaningful way to say to people, "Okay, a reasonable time has come and you haven't been able to find a job in the system."

Christ: What's a reasonable time?

Klein: Well, the number the mayor used was a year, and that sounds reasonable to me.

Christ: This is something you have to get in the union contract?

Klein: I think it should be done by legislation. This is important to us, to make sure that if someone isn't rehired then they must exit the system. We can't afford to pay for teachers, particularly in tight budget times, for teachers who aren't fully and gainfully employed at a school.

Related Stories

12/30/2009 NY1 Exclusive: Schools Chancellor Joel Klein Stands By DOE Closings

Sunday, December 27, 2009

SOUTH BRONX SCHOOL: "I am more, Mr. Bloomberg"

This video is an answer to the ridiculous opinions of Mr. Marcus Winters:

"I am more, Mr. Bloomberg"

sent from blogger SOUTH BRONX SCHOOL

Marcus Winters on "Teacher Quality"

2009-12-19 10:06:00 ednews
Teachers’ Unions vs. Progress—Again
Education News

Marcus A. Winters

New York resists reforms that would bring in millions and improve teacher quality.
Ever wonder how effective your child’s teacher is? Officials in Albany would rather you didn’t know. At least that’s the lesson one has to take from their refusal to allow data systems to match students to teachers, though doing so would help the state compete for a pot of perhaps hundreds of millions of federal dollars. Narrow political interests stand in the way of improving our schools and easing New York taxpayers’ burdens.

The use of data to improve student learning is a crucial modern education reform. Standardized tests produce rich sources of information that researchers can use to identify effective policies and practices. The data revolution, moreover, promises to move education policy away from politics. Numbers don’t have agendas or run for reelection. Accurately collected and properly analyzed, data can reveal truths that escape our sight.

One such truth is the effectiveness of individual teachers. Data analysis is far from perfect, and no one argues that it should be used in isolation to make employment decisions. But modern techniques can help us distinguish between teachers whose students excel and teachers whose students languish or fail. There’s just one problem with the data revolution: it doesn’t work without data. States must develop data sets that track the individual performance of students over time and match those students to their teachers.

Unfortunately, New York has deliberately refused to take that step. The state already has a sophisticated system for tracking student progress, but it doesn’t allow this statewide data set to match students to their teachers. No technical or administrative factors prevent the state from doing so. Only political obstacles stand in the way. The premise underlying the policies favored by the teachers’ unions, which govern so much of the relationship between public schools and teachers, is that all teachers are uniformly effective. Once we can objectively distinguish between effective and ineffective teachers, the system of uncritically granted tenure, a single salary schedule based on experience and credentials, and school placements based on seniority become untenable. The unions don’t want information about their members’ effectiveness to be available, let alone put to practical use, and thus far they’ve successfully blocked New York State’s use of such data.

Along with its refusal to improve its data system, the state has kept cities from adopting reforms. When New York City hinted that it would use its own data system to evaluate teachers based on student test scores, the state legislature passed a law banning the practice. Fortunately, that law is set to expire next year and may never actually be enforced, thanks to the city’s new reading of it, which frees city officials to use test scores for tenure decisions this year. Still, the legislature’s actions illustrate its opposition to using data in any way that would identify ineffective teachers.

New York’s stubborn resistance to the data revolution not only harms the education our children receive; it leaves hundreds of millions of federal dollars on the table during a massive budget crunch. The Obama administration’s Race to the Top grant competition will distribute $4.35 billion to states that pursue modern education reforms. According to the competition’s rules, however, any state with a law that prohibits the use of test-score data to evaluate teachers is immediately disqualified from consideration. A state’s application also becomes more attractive under the guidelines if its data set matches students to teachers. Currently, New York fails on both counts.

It’s time for New Yorkers to push Albany politicians for real information about teacher quality. Getting New York into the running for Race to the Top funds is a compelling reason to make the change now rather than later.

Marcus A. Winters, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, conducts research and writes about education policy, including such topics as school choice, high school graduation rates, accountability, and special education.

Comments (2 posted):
Doug Little on 2009-12-19 17:41:22

The Manhatten Institute is not some detached apolitical organization. It is a far right wing anti-union outfit with an agenda. Nobody is surprised by their position. There is no research that shows that this would be advantagous to education. There are simply far too many variables. It is a field full of contradictions. Even testing before and after a term/year and doing so-called value added if full of holes. Some groups are easier to move than others. This is another prime example of educational comment by people who are not educators and are not close to education. A know-nothing opinion.

Christine D'Amico on 2009-12-27 09:41:09

What "sophisticated data-system" is this guy actually referring to? You mean the faulty tests that are dumbed down and are not showing any real progress? The same NY State Tests that the Federal Government has just reported are too easy? Are you going to take into account all the variables involved in teaching. Perhaps a kid is from a wealthy home and gets tutoring on the side? Would that be taken into account when he scores well? And who gets graded the teacher or the tutor? Come on, this is the Obama administration side-stepping the real issue which is that CURRICULUM, which works and is research based needs to be the focus of these funds. Instead, they want to grade teachers for using curriculum which is often NOT of their choice to see whether or not they are effective teachers. For the RECORD, the Bloomberg administration SIDE-STEPPED lots of Federal Funds when they chose the MONTH-BY-MONTH Phonics program which had no research whatsoever behind it, because it was cheaper than a solid program like Sing, Spell, Read & Write which has 35 years of research to back it up.

Scoring system for school aid
Obama program assigns points to reform efforts in competition for funds

By Nick Anderson, Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 12, 2009

Educators argue endlessly about the merits of one idea or another to improve schools. But with billions of dollars at stake, the Obama administration Thursday will lay out a novel federal system for keeping score.

Making education funding a priority? Good for 10 points. Demonstrating significant progress in raising achievement and closing gaps? That's worth 30. Developing and adopting common academic standards, turning around the lowest-achieving schools and ensuring successful conditions for high-performing charter schools: Those are worth 40 each.

But improving teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance is worth more than any specific improvement: 58 points.

Those are the priorities in the Education Department's rulebook for the unprecedented $4.35 billion Race to the Top reform competition. States and the District of Columbia are invited to compete. Bids will be rated on the point system, which Education Secretary Arne Duncan approved. A perfect bid will score 500 points and could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The call to action on teacher-principal improvement, which means factoring student test score growth into job evaluations, is likely to draw intense scrutiny from unions.

Arne Duncan

"We're saying student achievement matters and teachers and principals make a huge difference in students' lives," Duncan said in an interview. "That has never happened in the history of this country before. We're getting a lot of pushback on this, but it is a game-changer."

The fund, created through the economic recovery law, is unique. No education secretary has ever had so much money for school improvement with so few conditions from Congress. Proposed rules, announced in July, drew significant criticism from teachers unions and stirred debate in the education world because they offered a window into Obama's thinking about how to move beyond the No Child Left Behind era. Officials said they drew up final rules with that feedback in mind but kept the essentials intact.

Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.4 million-member American Federation of Teachers, who had criticized major elements of the proposed rules as "Bush III," praised the final version. She said the administration made changes to ensure that teachers are included. She also cited the addition of a key qualifier -- that teachers should be evaluated on "multiple" measures, including, but not limited to, student achievement.

"They worked hard to find the right balance. I see a real culture shift in these regulations from what we had seen in the previous administration," Weingarten said. "At the end of the day, the culture shift is about can we collaborate, work together to make schools better."

Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, the largest teachers union, with 3.2 million members, said the final rules were better. But he said he was disappointed by the continuing focus on tying test scores to job evaluations. "I think they missed the mark," he said.

Maryland and D.C. officials said Wednesday that they plan to compete in the first round, with bids due in mid-January. Virginia officials did not commit to a timetable.

"We've got great conditions on the ground that make D.C. a really interesting competitor," said D.C. State Superintendent of Education Kerri Briggs. She cited the city's growing charter school movement and a new teacher evaluation system. "We're on board."

At stake for the District is $20 million to $75 million. For Maryland and Virginia, awards could range from $150 million to $250 million each.

Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick said the state is seeking help from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to draft a bid. The funding, Grasmick said, "serves as a catalyst for a visionary approach to where are you going in this 21st century and how can you use the money to leverage very significant changes. That's what we want to do."

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

The MTA and/or NYC Must Continue Free Public Transportation For NYC Public Students

The elimination of free bus basses would inevitably be so catastrophic to so many families that it cannot be done or, cannot be sustained if the policy is approved by any one agency, including the MTA.

With the new legislation signed by our Governor, the MTA may have a big problem making the move that they suggested, with the bus passes (see below):

New York State Governor David Paterson Signs Legislation That Will Make Public Authorities More Accountable To Their Constituents

Several years ago there was a lawsuit to open the books of the MTA, and Straphangers’ Gene Russianoff sued, and won in NYS Supreme Court. Then the MTA hired Chief Judge Judith Kaye’s husband at Proskauer Rose to do the appeal at the Appellate Division, and the win was overturned (surprise???). Two of my daughters were on the Board of Directors last year of New York Public Interest Research Group, a great group that does some very terrific work and could certainly be brought into this fight, if necessary, I suppose (hope, would urge, etc)!

Here is my article from back then:

NY Metropolitan Transit Authority Continues On It's Path of Keeping NYC Unsafe, User Unfriendly

And, just to be optimistic, I really don’t see how the MTA could devastate the public school education system so drastically as denying free transportation to children who need to get to school.(Unless there is already a signed no-bid contract for public online schools to be mandated throughout NYC in September 2011, and this is a forerunner of this).

Oh my gosh – this sounds almost too awful and could be true. Oh, by the way, the City of New York subsidizes public school transportation for private school (+ religious and charter) school students.

Betsy Combier
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter

December 18, 2009
Students See Hard Future if Free Fares Are Ended

When Alejandro Velazquez, 15, was selecting a high school last year, he decided on Washington Irving in Manhattan because of its strong Spanish-English bilingual program. It was a 40-minute trip from his home in the Bronx, but his mother assented, in part because he could travel free.

His family’s calculus, he said, would have been different had he needed to pay $40 a month or more to get to and from school, a reality that will begin next fall if budget cuts passed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board on Wednesday are carried out. His mother, an immigrant from Ecuador, works as a cook in a Bronx restaurant to support him and his 10-year-old brother, and there is little cash to spare.

“If I had to pay for the MetroCard, my mother would have preferred a school closer to me — there’s one right down the block from our house,” he said.

The cuts to the student subsidies for the MetroCards are not yet final. The M.T.A. board will have a public comment period over the coming weeks, and then another vote early next year. If the cuts are approved, the 584,000 city students who receive free or half-fare MetroCards would all receive half-fare cards beginning next September. In September 2011, they would pay full fares — nearly $700 for a school year at current rates.

As elected officials wrangle over the responsibility to pay for the program, parents, administrators and students on Wednesday painted a drastically different school landscape were the cuts to go through. It would be one in which school choice, a program expanded under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, would be limited by students’ ability to afford transportation across the city. Absenteeism and truancy, many students predicted, would rise.

Students have had free transportation in New York City for decades, although urban areas in the state are not legally required to provide it, said Tom Dunn, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Education. (Rural areas are.) Even so, the system is the backbone of the competitive high school system, which has eliminated most high zoned schools in the city.

Robert Rhodes, the principal of Millennium High School, a sought-after college preparatory high school with a liberal arts focus at 75 Broad Street, said he feared that the change would significantly alter the composition of the school.

“We value the diversity of taking kids from different neighborhoods and different income levels,” he said. “Will it become a school that’s only available if you have enough money and live in a certain radius? Is that the kind of school that we want?”

Jamillah Burke, 24, is the legal guardian of her 13-year-old sister, who takes two buses to a Leadership Academy school each day from their house on 142nd Street and Lenox Avenue. Ms. Burke, who recently lost her job, said she could not afford to pay for her sister’s MetroCard.

“I know a lot of kids who are not going to come to school,” said Iquan Richardson, 15, of Bushwick, as he arrived at the Boys and Girls High School in Bedford-Stuvyesant in Brooklyn. “Or they’ll jump the turnstile.”

David Bloomfield, the former general counsel for the city’s Department of Education, said that the state would most likely face legal challenges were the cuts to go through. “If suburban students have the right to transportation,” he said, urban families would probably press for the same right.

“I believe it would have a devastating impact, especially on kids over 17,” he said. “This might be just another reason for dropping out of school.”

Participation in after-school programs would also suffer, students predicted. Right now, student MetroCards are good for three trips per day, to give students the opportunity to travel to competitions or other events.

The transportation authority says students took 7.3 million rides on the subway in October, and 7.2 million bus rides, a typical month during the school year.

As the cost of the program rose from $162 million in 2000 to $239 million in 2008, based on average fares, the city and state contribution remained relatively constant: about $45 million from the state and $46 million from the city. In 2009, however, the state’s share fell to $25 million, then $6 million.

Several members of the transportation authority’s board said that while they are legally required to pass a balanced budget before the end of the year, they would not vote for many of the specific cuts later. The mayor’s office said his four appointees on the board would not approve the student-fare cut when it comes up for a vote again.

State officials, citing severe shortfalls, say the transit agency should be able to find the money in its operating budget, which is due for an overhaul. The agency says it should not have to bear most of the burden for what is essentially an education benefit.

“No other transit agency in the country subsidizes free or discounted student travel,” said Kevin B. Ortiz, a transit agency spokesman. “Transporting students usually falls on the government body responsible for educating them.”

Karen Zraick contributed reporting.

South Bronx Teacher Writes About The [Corrupt NYC BOE] System

Friday, December 25, 2009

See Ya Kid!!

So why am I writing this on Christmas day? One, I have the time, and two this is something very near and dear to me. I am writing about something in my school which I swore I won't do anymore, but now I am compelled to. I will attempt to put my cynicism and sarcasm away for a few moments.

On Wednesday I said goodbye to a student. He is in second grade. He was held over this year. He went to another school where there is a special ed seat open for him, and he will have a management para. This is the best thing that could happen to him. I am happy for him and his mom. But I am saddened.

I have spent the better part of this year focused on this student. He has a lot of issues. Major anger issues, but also wants and needs major attention. Unfortunately he was getting too much negative attention. But he also has a huge heart, is quite verbal, and quite smart. Academically he is very behind. But through no fault of his teachers.

He has thrown chairs, flipped over desks, tried to stab students with pencils, blocked the door and refused to allow his class to leave the classroom. I can't count the times I had to look for him all over the school. He has a sense of entitlement, and all the instances I mentioned have come at the slightest perceived provocation.

But he loves music and art. He wants to be loved, and needed. One on one, or in a very small setting he shines. He is caring. He does have empathy. He is not a mean kid, nor a bad kid. He truly is good. He wants to be good. He just does not know how to go about it at times.

His mother is on the ball. The father is a sperm donor. He speaks a good game, but it is all talk. Mom is the one who has to deal with the phone calls, and the promotion in doubt letters, and the crap. I feel for her.

I told the kid that he can call me anytime, that mom has my phone number. I promised him I will visit him at his new school and that he better visit me. I will genuinely miss him.

But according to Joel Klein, I am a failure, even though I am not responsible for his academic progress. I know that somehow, someway I have had a positive influence in his life. I know that ten, twenty years from now something I said will click in his head and he will become a better person for it. I know when he hears my name in 2033 he will smile. But I can't now, and I don't know if I will then. The SYSTEM, not his teachers, has failed him thus far.

The SYSTEM is responsible for making learning unfun, everything skewed to some bullshit tests that only benefit the test making companies and the DOE. The SYSTEM is responsible for the large classes this kid should never have been in. The SYSTEM is responsible for monies going to Tweed lackies, Klein toadies, and charter schools instead of getting this kid a management para long ago. The SYSTEM is responsible for an asinine method of holding kids over no matter the test scores or ages when ever freaking study out there shows that the only time this benefits a student is when it is done in Kindergarten! Let's have more fifteen year old fifth graders and let's see how their self-esteem is doing. Yeah, I have seen such students.

The SYSTEM is broken. Joel Klein is walking around butt naked but very few wish to tell him the truth.
Posted by A Teacher In The Bronx at 4:24 PM


Chaz said...

Not only that but telling him to call you can lead to an SCI investigation and charges of inappropriate conduct. Be careful, very careful.

December 27, 2009 9:30 AM



Bravo to South Bronx School for a very insightful and quite touching Christmas Day essay.

I write this comment from a small village near the border between Belgium and Holland.

Even being so far from New York cannot prevent or knumb the brain from recalling the institutional havoc and gargantuan human misery Joel Klein, Esq., NY's Faux Schools Chancellor by Special Waiver, has visited on one million innocent children, their parents and one hundred thousand hard working, dedicated teachers.

How ironic to think that had Michael Bloomberg never decided to purchase the Office of the Mayor of NYC, then a former Federal Prosecutor who knows zero about the field of Education would never have been appointed to a position he is so clearly NOT QUALIFIED for from any and every point of view.

How sad that for lifetime career educators like myself, no matter where we go in the world, even for a brief respite from the NYC DOE, it is never far enough to escape the awareness that such sorry excuses for human beings as Joel Klein, resides among us.

The young child who was so horribly cheated by the NYC DOE, so movingly and memorably described by South Bronx Teacher, reminds every NYC public school teacher of the thousands of children they also have encountered in their careers. Children who were and still are, being cheated of their futures and simple human dignity on the chessboard of the pompous power mad charlatans who treat all those who have spent their lives in Education as if they were only their personal pawns.

Those of us who have dedicated ten, twenty, thirty, forty and more years of our lives trying to level the playing field for all of New York City's mostly, at risk, inner city children know all too well what South Bronx School is speaking of when talking about biding farewell to a child who has become a permanent part of our lives.

Surely no New Yorker will feel any regret when our egotistical Mayor and "Legend in his own mind" faux, uncredentialed schools Chancellor are consigned to the scrap heap of New York City's history.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bloomberg Loses a Key Vote

Parsing Kingsbridge (Updatedx2)
By Elizabeth Benjamin

Lobbyist Richard Lipsky is feeling pretty good in the wake of the unusual defeat by two Council committees of the rezoning required for the Kingsbridge Armory project, confidently pronouncing the plan permanently "dead" - no matter what the administration might try to revive it.

UPDATE: The project has now been rejected by the entire Council. The vote was 45-1 with one abstention from soon-to-be-former Land Use Committee Chairwoman Melinda Katz. The lone vote in opposition came from another outgoing lawmaker, Councilwoman Helen Sears. (Clarification: The vote was to oppose the rezone, so it was 45 in favor and one against).

"He didn't quite grasp the almost seismic nature of the shifting political landscape," said Lipsky, who has been working for months against the Bronx redevelopment.

"People were emboldened by the election results, and the Council leadership vote in January created a unique set of circumstances (for Speaker Christine Quinn). Why would you want to roil the waters and go against the entire Bronx delegation with this vote?"

Lipsky called Quinn a "winner" in the Kingsbridge fight because she decided to side with the Bronx elected officials, who made the living wage issue a deal-breaker, over Mayor Bloomberg and the developer, Related Companies.

"She understood the political winds and she didn't need to be a weatherman to know which way they were blowing," he quipped.

Quinn's relationship with the Bronx delegation has been uneven - not as strong as her ties to the Queens delegation, but far better than her touch-and-go dealings with Brooklyn, which is home to her lone announced opponent for the speaker's chair: Councilman Charles Barron.

Quinn angered new Bronx Democratic Chairman Carl Heastie last February by rewarding Queens with the city clerkship in what was widely viewed as a demonstration of her displeasure that Heastie had been scheming with Brooklyn Democratic Chairman Vito Lopez.

The delegation was far more united on Kingsbridge than on the clerk vote, in which Heastie did not manage to provide a united bloc of votes.

Of course, the players have changed since then - most notably with new Bronx BP Ruben Diaz Jr., who made opposition to the Kingsbridge project without a living wage component his cause célèbre.

Diaz, who won a nearly uncontested special election for the seat vacated by BP Adolfo Carrion, has been mentioned as a potential mayoral contender sometime in the future - perhaps as early as 2013.

Other winners, in Lipsky's eyes, include RWDSU and its president, Stuart Appelbaum, who was among outgoing Comptroller Bill Thompson's most vocal supporters during the mayor's race and made the living wage fight in the Bronx a top priority for his union.

UPDATE2: Bloomberg, who is in Copenhagen, released a statement calling today's vote "disappointing and irrational," adding:

"As a result of today’s vote, we can say one thing for sure: there will be no wages paid at all at the Kingsbridge Armory for the foreseeable future...New Yorkers can rest assured our Administration will not waver in our efforts to encourage private sector investment and job creation in The Bronx and throughout New York City."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Whistleblower PE Teacher Daniel Smith Sues the NYC BOE in Federal Court For Putting Him in the "Rubber Room" For More Than Two Years

Contact: Alan J. Wax (631) 873-8044
(631) 574-4433
or Todd Shapiro (516) 312-6573


NEW YORK (Nov. 12, 2009) -- Daniel Smith, the outspoken former Dewitt Clinton High School girls softball coach and Bronx high school gym teacher, is suing the New York City Department of Education to get out of one of the city’s infamous “rubber rooms.” Smith claims he’s been assigned to the rubber room for speaking out against school officials.

“The New York City Department of Education, despite clear evidence that Dan Smith was not guilty of improper conduct assigned him to the rubber room and delayed proffering charges against him for an entire school year,” said his attorney, Lenard Leeds of the Carle Place law firm Leeds Morelli & Brown PC, specialists in employment law. “He’s been harassed and disciplined in retaliation for exercising free speech.”

The suit seeks an injunction against the school system, unspecified financial damages for lost income and punitive damages for the humiliation and physical and emotional damages that Smith alleges he has suffered. A jury trial has been requested.

“Dan was charged with the unfounded sexual harassment allegations levied against him by a student who was absent on the day she claims to have been harassed, with coaching a team on a day in which he utilized sick time for a doctor’s appointment, and for receiving an unsatisfactory rating from his supervisor,” Smith’s lawyers claim in the suit filed Nov. 6 in Manhattan federal court (Index No. 09 CV 9256). “These charges were pretext in retaliation for speaking out about a matter of public concern,” the complaint stated.

In the lawsuit, Smith claims he was placed in the rubber room, or reassignment center, in retaliation for talking out about racial and regional bias in the Public School Athletic League’s football program and because of his vocal efforts to get money for the under funded Clinton girls team. Until their cases are resolved, which can take years, teachers, who receive their full salaries, are required to spend the 181 days of the school year in the spartan rubber room.

Smith, who was assigned to the “rubber room’” or reassignment center in 2007 after he was accused of sexual harassment by a student, is one of hundreds of Department of Education employees who've been accused of wrongdoing -- ranging from buying a plant for a school against the principal's wishes to inappropriately touching a student -- and who do absolutely no work.

Also named in the suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York are various school administrators at Clinton and Grace Dodge High School.

Smith, who has worked in the city schools since 1985, says in his suit he’s being punished for speaking out about racism and economic bias in the Public Schools Athletic League, and because of his attempts to get funding for his softball team, Smith formerly was also a football coach

Smith’s suit alleges that school officials have harassed him since 1999 and that the harassment peaked in 2001-2002, when he received an unsatisfactory rating for his teaching. The rating eventually was removed. The former coach says further retaliation was the result of publication in 2008 of a story in the New York Daily News about the budget disparities that he complained about.

In March 2007 a student made a false allegation of sexual harassment--on a day the student was absent from his class. An investigation, he claims was not launched until a month later, after an article entitled “Grudge Match” appeared in the Daily News mentioning Dan in his capacity as a softball coach for speaking out about the lack of equipment provided to the girls’ softball program at Clinton. Smith alleges that school officials made no effort to interview a faculty eyewitness to the alleged event. In August 2007, Smith learned he had been assigned to the “rubber room” as a result of the student’s allegations and because he coached on a day when he was absent from his teaching job. No other students among the almost 100 in the class at the time were interviewed, except for a friend of Smith’s accuser.

“Reassignment to the rubber room has left Dan ineligible to coach within the Department of Education system, in turn costing him income he regularly earned by coaching in years prior,” he claims in his suit. Formal charges against him were not filed until May 2008, a month after a second Daily News story was published.

Daniel Smith Complaint

The case has been assigned to Judge Denise L. Cote.

Teacher Sues DOE Over Molestation Charges

Teacher Accused of Sexual Misconduct Wants Out of Rubber Room
By John Del Signore in News on November 13, 2009 1:30 PM

For well over two years now, Bronx gym teacher and coach Dan Smith has been sidelined in one of the Department of Education's infamous "rubber rooms," thanks to an allegation of sexual misconduct in March 2007. But while other teachers (over 600 hundred of them!) use their rubber room time to play Sudoku and nap, Smith has been hatching a plan to get out.

Yesterday Smith filed a federal lawsuit against the DOE for an unspecified amount of money and for the right to get out of the rubber room and go back to work. His lawyer claims it took a year before the DOE filed charges against him, and says Smith has been told "he won't have his hearings for another two years, so four or five years [in the rubber room]."

Smith and his lawyer contend the misconduct allegation was "trumped up" by administrators at Dodge High School to retaliate against Smith for speaking to the Daily News about unequal funding for the girls' sports teams. Last year Smith told the News, "My attorney said (the Dept. of Education) is going to ask for me to retire or resign, but I don't intend to do that. I'm not guilty of this charge, and this should have been deemed unfounded. The only reason it's not is because they have a hidden agenda and ulterior motives. ... I'm not making any deals. I want my name restored."

A female student claims Smith told her to sit on his lap during gym class, but Smith tells WABC, "I have something I normally I say and that's 'take a lap and sit on your spot.' Students are normally assigned floor spots, and she said, 'I have to sit on your lap.' I said, 'No. You heard what I said." Smith claims his constitutional rights are being violated by the rubber room banishment, and adds, "I can't understand why the taxpayers of this city are not outraged by what's going on. You can't get your day in court. You can't even be heard."

Comments (8)
[1] | hotstepper

he's got a valid point. no accusation without trial. meanwhile we taxpayers pay salaries to those "accused" teachers stranded in the rubber palace because of this idiotic policy.
November 13, 2009 1:42 PM

[2] | HOTCUP

the DOE and UFT can both shove it.

and there needs to be a better way of dealing with accusations of sexual abuse in schools. decent people can be ruined at the whim of an adolescent, it's out of control.
November 13, 2009 1:45 PM

[3] | Splicer

If they had evidence, they would have plea bargained this thing out. It's obvious they've got nothing to go to trial with. No evidence, no case. The end.
November 13, 2009 1:48 PM

[4] | tom9d

Why would he tell a student to sit on his lap in front of the whole class? It makes zero sense, and if it really happened, one would think other students would back it up.
November 13, 2009 2:20 PM

[5] | ANGRYGOD11

The entire process to fire a tenured NYC teacher is 7 long steps. It costs a lot of time and money. Therefore, it might be cheaper to pay them to rot in the rubber room as some are near retirement and some will just quit.
November 13, 2009 2:41 PM

[6] hotstepper replied to comment from ANGRYGOD11

that's false economy, because as taxpayers we get no return on our investment from those rubber roomies. better to get to the bottom of the complaint expeditiously and fire them or, if deemed innocent, get them back to work ASAP. it's the long drawn out process that is the problem.
November 13, 2009 2:54 PM

[7] EricRoberts

The New Yorker had a really good article about the Rubber Rooms back in August:
November 13, 2009 2:47 PM

[8] | GalBklyn

We need to begin looking at what the Department of Education really does on a day to day basis. I see it as a bloated, ineffectual and callous black hole for teachers and parents that is destroying public education in NYC. Not to mention that nutty budget of theirs.

The problem is that creating logic and efficiency at Klein's DOE is not fit the Bloomberg paradigm of blame the teachers. It's going to take a few more stories like this - and a Lui audit - to make a difference.
November 13, 2009 4:01 PM

Clinton coach Dan Smith slams ban
BY Matt Gagne, Tuesday, April 22nd 2008, 12:17 PM

Suspended Clinton softball coach Dan Smith, a coach and phys ed teacher for 22 years, says sexual misconduct allegations stemming from March 2007 incident are unfounded.

Dan Smith has taught phys ed and coached softball and other sports for the last 22 years, but these days he spends his work hours reading, watching movies on a laptop and playing board games at a Dept. of Education reassignment center, where he is likely to remain through at least the remainder of the current school year.

Smith, who finished last season with a 215-47 career record at Clinton, was removed as coach of the softball team and from his teaching position at Grace Dodge HS in September, following allegations of sexual misconduct that prompted inquiries by Dodge principal Craig Shapiro and the office of Richard J. Condon, the special commissioner of investigation for the New York City school district.

The 46-year-old Smith, a tenured teacher who describes himself as one who doesn't "bow down to people," recounts a longstanding record of "friction" between himself and numerous supervisors. He says that the sexual misconduct charges are politically motivated and part of a calculated effort to remove him from his coaching and teaching positions as payback for speaking openly with the Daily News last spring about what he characterized as the unfair treatment of himself and his softball team by Clinton officials.

"My attorney said (the Dept. of Education) is going to ask for me to retire or resign, but I don't intend to do that," Smith said. "I'm not guilty of this charge, and this should have been deemed unfounded. The only reason it's not is because they have a hidden agenda and ulterior motives. ... I'm not making any deals. I want my name restored."

Nobody from the SCI, the Department of Education, Clinton or Dodge High Schools would comment on Smith's case. Department of Education spokeswoman Margie Feinberg said only that the department was following the proper disciplinary and adjudication procedures contained in the current teachers contract, and that details of the schools' case against Smith would not be discussed until the hearing begins.

There has been no date set for the hearing.

The allegations stem from an incident in the Dodge gymnasium on March 12, 2007 in which Smith is alleged to have approached two female students as they sat on mats in the gym and told one of the girls that "I want you to sit on top of me, on my lap."

Representatives from the teachers union stopped short of calling the charges a conspiracy, but said there were holes in the reports made by Shapiro and the SCI that served as the basis for Smith's removal.

Dodge phys ed teacher Chris Fink, who shared a classroom with Smith and was witness to the incident, maintains that the incident unfolded differently than investigators reported.

"There's an open gym, and I know what I saw and heard," Fink said. "He said (to the girl), 'Long time no see,' and 'You're going to have a hard time passing.' And she said, 'What? Do I have to sit on your lap? . . . He said, 'No, take a lap and go to your spot.' "

Fink was not interviewed by SCI investigators, and although he was interviewed by Shapiro, his account was not included in the Dodge principal's report. Fink said he confronted Shapiro and provided a written statement in an effort to have his
account included, but it is unclear whether it was added to the report.

"I've only known (Smith) for two years. I have no reason to protect him," Fink said. "The truth is the truth when it comes to something as serious as what they've accused Danny of. If I'm there and I'm a witness, I have to live with myself."

Smith raises other questions about the investigation's timing in making his case that Clinton and Dodge officials worked in tandem to put him in "a state of purgatory to get me out of coaching." Smith says that parents of softball players at Clinton learned of his removal before an offical announcement was made. He adds that Dodge has subsequently scrutinized his time slips and charged him with coaching at Clinton on days he was absent from his teaching job at Dodge, a violation of Department of Education regulations. Students also were not removed from taking phys ed classes in the same gymnasium where Smith was teaching after the charge was filed last March, also stipulated by DOE policy.

Smith concedes that he has a lengthy record of less-than-cordial relations with supervisors. Following an altercation between Smith and a referee in 1999, Clinton principal Geraldine Ambrosio fired Smith from his post as the school's assistant football coach. The incident was resolved in arbitration, but Smith says that it led to an icy relationship that's never thawed between himself and Ambrosio.

Despite the current controversy, Smith's former team has continued its winning ways this season. Clinton is 9-1 in Bronx 'A'.

Richard Eaton, who took over varsity coaching duties on March 1 after being the JV coach the past three years, said he was told the arrangement was temporary. "The school says if (Smith) is cleared of everything, then it's his job to get back," Eaton added.

Senior Jazcelyn Pagan and other players on the team told the Daily News that Smith coached them without incident. "He was professional. He respected everybody, and we respected him," said Pagan, a four-year player. "We had fun, and nothing wrong ever happened on the team with him."

For now, the Lady Governors will continue their pursuit of a second straight division crown while Smith continues to await the hearing that could exonorate him or leave him jobless and facing criminal charges.

Lynne Winderbaum, the Bronx district represenative of the United Federation of Teachers, says it's not unusual for the Department of Education to wait a year or more to schedule a hearing after charges against an employee have been formally filed. In the meantime, Smith continues to report to the reassignment center, one of the so-called "rubber rooms" where more than 700 DOE employees report daily while awaiting the adjudication of their cases.

"It's not a taxing day other than the duress of these allegations," Smith said. "You've been thrown in the Tower of London, and you're not going to see the light of day.

"My way of thinking is, if they're going to cut my throat, I want it to be out in the light of day."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Teacher Jail in Los Angeles

Venom flows from the newspapers and the Los Angeles United School District for the "wayward instructors", "bad teachers and instructors", "trash" that teach in Los Angeles' public schools.

And we thought the New York Post and NY Daily News were graphic in their tirades against "rubber room" inhabitants? Just read the articles below. And what's happening in Rochester is even worse (coming soon to this blog).

The teachers and inhabitants of the rubber rooms (New York City has them, as does Rochester NY, Los Angeles, California, and other states) cannot be lumped together into any category. Each case is unique - a combination of personality, circumstance, whistleblowing retaliation, misconduct and/or sheer stupidity - and there can be no justification for lightly passing over the frightening truth that every person placed into a re-assignment is undergoing an extremely stressful experience that will alter his/her life forever, and change the paths of the children and family members connected however closely to this person, as well.

Betsy Combier
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter

Free Pass From (Teacher) Jail
President Monica Garcia and a cowed LAUSD board punt on firing bad teachers

By David Ferrell
published: June 25, 2009

Mediocrity is so entrenched in Los Angeles public education that an entire lexicon has emerged.

“Teacher Jail” refers to the housing of wayward instructors inside district offices — away from vulnerable students — essentially paying them not to teach, even as long and costly probes are conducted into allegations of sexual harassment, molestation, insubordination or other acts. The “Dance of the Lemons” is cynical shorthand for shuffling lousy principals and teachers from one unsuspecting campus to another rather than address their incompetence. And “L.A. Mummified” is the district that oversees it all.

For most of her eight years on the Los Angeles Unified School District board, Marlene Canter has

been horrified by tales of bad teachers and administrators and, especially, over how difficult it is for Los Angeles schools to get rid of them. At one point recently, 158 instructors and staff members were in the teacher pokey — drawing full paychecks as they fought their dismissals. One of those instructors was relieved of his duties due to harassment allegations in 2002, and has now spent seven years doing nothing but collect his salary, get top-of-the-line health care and enjoy taxpayer-funded vacations.

During that span, according to officials, the one-time special-education teacher has reaped wages and benefits estimated at a stupefying $2 million — an income stream that continues to flow his way despite a budget crisis that is causing other, competent teachers to be booted to the streets.

“It’s really a problem,” understates Canter, a former teacher and teacher trainer, who decided to press for reforms to make it much easier for school districts in California to fire their worst classroom instructors. It’s a goal about as difficult as any Canter has ever tackled, as she discovered again this month in persuading the dysfunctional Los Angeles school board to pass a watered-down resolution that addresses the problem. The board narrowly passed the resolution, by a 4-to-3 vote.

Not only did she face intense opposition from two powerful unions — the California Teachers Association and the United Teachers of Los Angeles — but also from board members themselves, who were all but paralyzed by concerns about ruffling union feathers at a time when the troubled district is laying off teachers and facing rancorous contract negotiations.

In fact, Canter says, she spent an astonishing eight months just trying to get the “teacher-quality” matter placed on the agenda, due to school-board president Monica Garcia’s stubborn reluctance.

“I’ve been blocked since October,” Canter says ruefully. “Anybody I talked to about this didn’t want to talk about it. There are people who would much rather I be silenced.”

What she had in mind was a modest aim, seeing as a “resolution” is one of the weakest actions an elected body like a school board can take. A resolution merely states an official position, and sometimes a resolution launches a study. Under Canter’s plan, the board would simply have implored the California Legislature to tweak the state Education Code, to finally give the schools a way to remove inept, tenure-shielded teachers from the payroll.

But immediate pressure from the teachers unions — CTA and UTLA — forced Canter to rid the resolution of all language dealing with teacher incompetence, thus sparing hordes of chronic no-shows and burn-out cases in Los Angeles schools. Instead, she settled for at least targeting a much smaller group of teachers, those accused of actual illegal or illicit behavior, such as having sex with a student.

Even that wasn’t enough to persuade the exceedingly nervous school board, most of whose members were ushered into their elected posts thanks in part to teacher-union cash and other UTLA help. Instead, it took a substitute motion by board member Yolie Flores Aguilar — who, like Garcia, is an ally of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — to create a sufficiently palatable plan.

Aguilar stripped it entirely of Canter’s call for immediate action by the California Legislature — and still drew “no” votes from school-board members Julie Korenstein, Richard Vladovic and Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte. The resolution now envisions a task force — yet to be assembled — that purportedly will hash out exactly what, if anything, the district should ask the Legislature to do, probably months from now, if ever.

Critics say the clear winners are union leaders and the city’s worst teachers. “I’m skeptical, at best, that this will result in any action at the school-site level,” says Joe Hicks, a product of Los Angeles schools, who now helps to run Community Advocates Inc., a political think tank. “It’ll probably get bogged down in the bureaucracy. The district itself or the union will find a way to stall ... [and] never enact any major decisions.”

Hicks adds, “Every school has legendary tales ... of teachers who are simply not performing up to the demands of the job, but, because they have the support of the UTLA, are protected. Or they’re transferred around; they’re just sent to another school. That’s always been the sticking point — the union has gotten its way. Just about all the board members are beholden in one way or another to the union — the UTLA.”

Canter says that since 2001, she and the board have been told of incredible, persistent, rotten-teacher problems during closed-door personnel briefings and in conversations with Kathleen Collins, an attorney who joined the district about the time Canter was elected to the board. Collins was handling dismissal cases and was often outraged over teacher misconduct — and exasperated at how difficult it was to fight the bad ones, especially if young students had to be called as witnesses.

Collins began documenting the district’s losing struggles in internal memos, which started to attract attention. Says Collins, “Every case seemed to bring some new problem to my attention.”

Eventually, she discussed some of the most shocking cases with Canter, as well as with Ted Rohrlich and Jason Song of the Los Angeles Times, whose creepy, in-depth series about the near-impossibility of firing bad teachers was published in May. The series elicited about 1,500 Web comments and nearly 300 e-mails, according to Song. The stories ran just as Canter was about to give up pushing the highly reluctant, union-indebted LAUSD board members to act. The intense public anger in response to the articles made Canter reconsider.

“I decided I’d have to, on behalf of the people,” she says.

Never mind that the resolution ultimately adopted is widely seen as a cave-in to Villaraigosa’s allies Garcia and Aguilar. The fact that Canter introduced it at all draws a venomous response from A.J. Duffy, the blustery head of the UTLA. Rather than speak to the issues, the first thing Duffy does is launch a gratuitous attack on Canter herself.

“I think it’s politically motivated,” Duffy tells L.A. Weekly, revving up his hostility. “Marlene Canter has been pretty much a do-nothing school-board member. ... I think her only claim to fame is she presided over the largest increase in bureaucracy in the history of this district.”

Duffy accuses Canter of going after bad teachers in order to grab headlines and attain higher office — but can’t offer any facts to support his accusations. “What a platform,” he says. “‘I got rid of bad teachers.’ In fact, she did nothing.”

Only after spewing about Canter does Duffy get around to saying, “We recognize there are some people in the profession who don’t belong there,” citing, as one example, a school administrator caught at the beach making out with a 15-year-old girl. “[But] 99 percent of our teachers do a great job.”

Now that the weakened resolution has been approved by the school board, Duffy pronounces himself in full support. “Because it calls for what I originally called for — a commission to study this issue.”

Unlike L.A., some cities are joining a movement to let schools fire bad, tenured teachers — not just sexually and physically abusive teachers — who can hurt the achievements of thousands of children during a single, unfortunate career. L.A.’s school board, which has known about, discussed extensively in private, and punted on the issue for years, will instead create a commission to study the problem.

What is the Dance of the Lemons? Bad teachers being passed around
By: Ericha Parks

Why are school districts prevented from laying off or firing under-performing teachers? The unions. At a time when our financial education crisis is at an all time high, school administrators' hands are tied. How much influence do the teachers unions have in the personnel matters of public school teachers? Plenty.

It is difficult to imagine why anybody would create obstacles for the termination of a poorly performing teacher. However, the unions make costly restrictions for firing a tenured teacher and will support the offending teacher in legal actions. This has caused school districts to be overcome with legal fees and time-consuming procedures, sometimes taking years to accomplish with appeals.

We already know that class sizes will explode this fall, according to the New York Times. Many qualified teachers will be leaving their teaching posts as a result of the massive rounds of layoffs resulting from the financial education crisis in California. On the flip side, many unmotivated and poorly performing teachers will remain.

This debate has many questioning the force behind this tenure practice and what action can be taken. It looks promising that federal reform for education is being discussed, a bit too late in the case of California teachers. However, President Obama has weighed-in announcing in March, "It is time to start rewarding good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones." But who makes the case against merit pay for teachers? The teachers’ unions oppose merit pay citing that test scores would be a flawed formula to determine success in a classroom.

Certainly, most of us agree that test scores are not the measure by which teachers should be judged. It makes sense because students’ background and learning paces vary. But isn’t it possible to evaluate teacher success in a more traditional way? Even Obama has vowed to find a better way to track student progress in order to determine teacher accountability. At stake for the unions: their own relevance. Teachers’ unions have to create a following for membership whereby promising security for its members who pay the dues. Teachers’ unions have such a hold on the legislature by virtue of their lobbying power and campaign contributions, that reform is nearly impossible.

I tried to reach A.J. Duffy, president of UTLA, the Los Angeles teachers’ union, to ask him what formula could be made to determine merit other than using test scores. Although I was authorized to pose the question for comment to UTLA’s Communications Department, Mr. Duffy has not returned my phone call. The result of keeping contracted teachers employed is a practice of transferring an offending teacher within the school district if that teacher has poor performance at the preceding school site.

According to, this practice is called "the dance of the lemons" or "passing the trash." The unions are the architects of this practice by disallowing a teacher to be fired for poor performance. UTLA has come under fire recently for failing to reform its contract or collective bargaining agreement, which would give the school district more flexibility in adjusting pay, benefits and more creative ways to save money so more or all teachers can be spared unemployment. In recent days, Arne Duncan, Secretary of the US Department of Education and Obama, both are calling for education reform by the teachers unions.

Steve Lopez of the LA Times, just last week, ran a column expressing frustration with the teachers’ union. Lopez critizes UTLA and its confusing and voluminous 347-page collective bargaining agreement. Lopez, in his column, appeared to be confused and lost "in Article IX, Hours, Duties and Work Year." And again, "between Pages 108 and 132, under Article XII, Leaves and Absences." So far there has been little movement from the teachers union. On the other hand, UTLA practices publicity stunts masquerading as teacher-supporters.

One such stunt, called Pink Friday, on March 13, had all teachers and students wear pink in protest of the layoffs. What makes this bizarre is the fact that had it not been for the UTLA contract, teachers would probably not be in this position. Certainly a reform of the collective bargaining agreement would mitigate the damage to schools and class sizes by allowing creative solutions such as furloughs and across-the-board pay reductions to be considered as a solution.

Eliminating a bad teacher is also in the hands of the parents. What can parents do to report a bad teacher? Click the next link:

Nation pushes for teacher merit pay - the politics: good teachers v. bad teachers

How Are Teachers' Unions Using Their Power?

Dance of the lemons; Bill lets principals pick their own teachers

Duncan Stresses Merit Pay to Teachers Union
In Tough Love Speech, Education Secretary Urges Teachers to Rethink Rules on Seniority

The Dance of the Lemons

By Peter Schweizer

Why is the quality of teachers so low? Just try getting rid of a bad one. Hoover media fellow Peter Schweizer explains.

National Education Association president Bob Chase, undaunted by the news that more than half of Massachusetts teachers had failed their competency tests, characterizes the problem of bad teachers as a matter of “a few bad apples.” But when America’s children returned to the classroom last fall, many of them were instructed by teachers who are not only incompetent but sometimes actively dangerous. And the teachers’ unions make removing them nearly impossible. In recent years, the unions have gone to bat for felons and for teachers who have had sexual relations with their students, as well as for teachers who demonstrably could not teach. For the unions, apparently no apple is so bad that it need be tossed from the barrel.


The process of getting rid of problem teachers, especially those with tenure, can be so arduous and expensive that many school districts don’t even bother anymore. “Getting rid of a problem teacher can make the O. J. trial look like a cakewalk,” says Mary Jo McGrath, an attorney in Santa Barbara, California, who helps administrators deal with bad teachers. “For a principal, it can seem a lot easier to hang on to the deadwood. Teachers are more protected than any other class of employees, with all the procedural rights that can drag a civil case out for years.”

“Legally, the union doesn’t need to take every case we make against a teacher,” explains Stephen M. Robinson, a former teacher who is now an attorney representing six school districts in Rhode Island. “But they do. They’ll defend even the worst offenders.”

Michael Levin, an attorney for several suburban Philadelphia school districts, says, “I’ve been in this business for twenty-five years. Nothing surprises me any more. I just had my first cannibalism case.”

Much of the problem stems from the tenure system, which means that after three or four years it is virtually impossible in most states for a teacher to get fired. “Tenure was originally designed to protect the best teachers from wrongful termination,” says the reform-minded Frank Brogan, Florida’s first Republican education commissioner. “Today it protects the worst teachers from rightful termination.” And teachers can expect their unions almost always to back them up, no matter what they have done. As Kathleen Winter, copresident of the Scituate Teachers Association in Rhode Island, admitted to the Providence Journal-Bulletin, “Teachers pay substantial amounts of money to the union. If I’m paying $450 a year [in dues], if I get into a jam, I want something for my money.”

The problem teacher gets quietly passed along to someone else. Administrators call it “the dance of the lemons.”

In 1994 a teacher in Florida was in just such a jam. Florida Department of Education (FDOE) investigators were alerted by local officials that a student had been coaxed by a teacher into a sexual relationship, including oral and anal sex. When confronted with the evidence, the teacher resigned. But he insisted on keeping his teacher’s license so that he could work in a classroom somewhere else. “Naturally, we didn’t think it was a good idea to have this guy near kids,” the investigator who handled the case says. So the FDOE pushed to have his license permanently revoked. But the local NEA affiliate supported the teacher. An administrative law court finally ruled that he should lose his certification permanently, but it took more than two years and tens of thousands of dollars in legal and administrative costs to reach that point.

In 1996 school administrators in San Francisco discovered that a teacher was placing her six-year-old students in a trash can, closing the lid, and kicking the can. She was finally suspended when a fellow teacher overheard her threatening to cut off a child’s private parts with a pair of scissors. Thanks to heavy resistance from the local affiliate of the NEA, pursuing her dismissal cost the district more than $100,000, and the woman later got a teaching job elsewhere.

Michael Levin, the attorney for the Philadelphia schools, says these cases are typical: “The teacher fights you and doesn’t just walk away,” he told me. “The union will back them.” A recent study by the New York State School Boards Association found that the average termination in the Empire State took 319 days and cost $112,000. If the teacher appeals the decision, the cost is likely to top $300,000. In Illinois the average contested dismissal case takes three years and costs at least $70,000—more if the teacher appeals. Given the cost in time and money, few teachers actually get terminated. In the entire state of New York only 219 termination cases were brought in the 1996–1997 school year.

And the monetary costs go beyond administrative and legal expenses. In many states, contracts negotiated by teachers’ unions mean that bad teachers continue to get paid during the dismissal process, no matter how gross the offense. James Plosia, an attorney for the Northern Highlands Regional School District in New Jersey, says, “It’ll usually take eighteen months or two years before you finally complete the case. So on top of legal bills and administrative costs, you’re paying them more than a year’s worth of salary.” That applies even if they are serving time in jail.

Getting rid of teachers who have committed crimes is difficult. Getting rid of teachers who are simply incompetent is nearly impossible.

Consider the case of Carolyn White. A fourth-grade teacher at the nationally acclaimed Watchung Elementary School in suburban New Jersey, the forty-eight-year-old had logged twenty-seven years in the classroom. She was kind to her students, but she would disappear from the classroom for long periods. Her homework assignments were confusing, and due dates changed at a whim. Her written comments to students were indecipherable. In May 1996 a five-year-old student accidentally discovered cocaine in White’s lipstick case. Eventually she was arrested for drug possession. The district superintendent suspended her almost immediately, but she continued to receive her $56,000 salary throughout the monthslong criminal hearings. It was part of her teachers’ union contract.


Often, as a way to save time and money, an administrator will cut a deal with the union in which he agrees to give a bad teacher a satisfactory rating in return for union help in transferring the teacher to another district. The problem teacher gets quietly passed along to someone else. Administrators call it “the dance of the lemons” or “passing the trash.” Howard Fuller, the superintendent of Milwaukee public schools from 1991 to 1995, explains: “Administrators found they needed to trade bad teachers because it’s easier than getting rid of them. We had one teacher who put a student’s head down the toilet. He simply got moved to another school.”

Robert C. Devaney is another case in point. In November 1981 Devaney abruptly resigned as a special education teacher at North Providence High School in Rhode Island after a student complained that he had made sexual overtures. But Devaney got good references and began teaching elsewhere, skipping from job to job as his sexual misconduct caught up to him—but always leaving with a good reference. Finally in May 1996 Devaney was in jail, sentenced to serve twenty years for sexually assaulting a special education student and making sexually explicit videotapes and photographs of two other students.

Never once did Devaney’s references mention any of his misconduct. In each case administrators found it easier to “pass the trash” than to fight the local union for his termination. At the sentencing hearing, Superior Court judge Maureen McKenna Goldberg said, “The employment background of this defendant who was shuffled from one school department to another, from one bureaucrat to the next, is a crime in itself.”

Administrators’ great fear is getting on the wrong side of the unions. Stephen Robinson explains: “I have to make sure I cross all my t’s and dot all my i’s with the teachers’ union when handling a case because they’re going to come after me. The union takes a very aggressive stance when it knows a teacher is in the crosshairs. There will be a very aggressive union rep at prehearings, at postevaluation meetings. The rep walks into the administrator’s office and questions the administrator’s right to do A, B, or C. It takes a very strong-willed administrator to fight through that.”


Getting rid of teachers who have committed crimes can be expensive, but it happens. What is nearly impossible is getting rid of a teacher who is simply incompetent. School district officials in Saint Louis had to work for three years to get rid of an algebra teacher who passed out As to students who would bring her Big Gulps and Snickers bars. In suburban Chicago, a school district had to fight the union the entire way, spending $70,000 in the process, in order to dismiss a math teacher who couldn’t answer basic algebra questions. But these cases are the exception, James Plosia says: “Even though it is possible to remove an incompetent teacher, the process that you have to follow means you win the battle, but lose the war.”

Not even failing to show up for class will cost a tenured teacher his job. In 1997 Wallace Bowers, an English teacher in Collinsville, Illinois, was fired from North Junior High School when he failed to come to school for six weeks. When he finally returned, Bowers said he wanted to keep his job, but Superintendent Thomas Fegley stood firm: “We don’t necessarily concur that somebody can quit coming to work for six weeks and get his job back.” So Bowers challenged the district, with the backing of the powerful Illinois Education Association, an affiliate of the NEA. In the end Judge Henry X. Dietch found in Bowers’s favor, not because of the merits of the case but because of the strange protections offered teachers under Illinois law. If a teacher’s conduct, whatever it might be, is “remediable,” a school board must offer a notice to remedy before firing the teacher. Bowers went back into the classroom and received full back pay.

Some states have adopted new policies to make it easier to dismiss incompetent teachers. In 1997 Frank Brogan, whose qualifications as Florida education commissioner include a stint as a fifth-grade public school teacher, championed a law that compresses the process for termination from two years to ninety days and institutes a ninety-seven-day probationary period for new teachers. During the 1997–1998 school year, 303 teachers either were let go or resigned during the new probationary period. But termination unfortunately does not guarantee that a teacher is out of the classroom. “We have actually gone through the process and revoked the teaching certificates of some individuals only to have them show up as a paraprofessional—a teacher’s assistant—in the same classroom the next day,” Brogan complains. “They get virtually the same pay and benefits.”

Now even some public school teachers are turning against the absurd system. Joe Nathan spent fourteen years as a public school teacher in Minnesota and served on the board of the Minnesota Parent-Teachers Association. His wife still teaches in a public school. Today, as head of the Center for School Change at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert Humphrey Institute, he has blunt words about the current system. “The tenure system is really adult welfare,” he told me. “It cheats kids of the most effective faculty, and keeps some of the worst teachers in place. It’s a system that puts the needs of adults first.”

That is certainly the case when it comes to hiring and firing on the basis of seniority, which prevails in almost every state. The result is often that ineffective teachers keep their jobs while hard-charging younger teachers are shown the door. On Thursday, May 28, 1998, Sarah Gustafson was inducted into the Florida Educator Hall of Fame by Commissioner Brogan, an acknowledgment of the Florida Teacher of the Year award she received in 1991. The next day, she was canned by the Brevard County School District. Her school was cutting back because of declining enrollment, and the former Teacher of the Year had less seniority than several colleagues with mediocre job appraisals.

There have been efforts around the country to change teacher tenure laws. At least four states—Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Colorado, and New Mexico—have eliminated tenure for new teachers. But the problem is more fundamental than that. Mary Jo McGrath, who is advising outgoing California governor Pete Wilson on tenure issues, thinks that, even if tenure is taken away, it probably won’t become significantly easier to can bad teachers. “Even if you change the procedure from tenure to something else, you still have harassment from the unions,” she told me. “As an administrator you want peace. You don’t want the union nipping at your heels.” Until the unions’ power is broken, the minor fixes will remain just that.

Meanwhile, what about the cannibalism case in Philadelphia? “The teacher was telling students and fellow teachers that she lured a young girl to a remote house where her father and a next-door neighbor killed the girl. She told one teacher that she ate part of the girl,” says Michael Levin. No body has been found, and so criminal charges were not filed. The teacher was fired, however—and because she was a substitute the union did not make a fuss. However, the school system, Levin notes, is now in court. “She’s suing us under the Americans with Disabilities Act on the grounds that she suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome.”
Reprinted from National Review, August 17, 1998, from an article entitled “Firing Offenses.”

Available from the Hoover Press is What’s Gone Wrong in America’s Classrooms, Williamson M. Evers, editor. To order, call 800-935-2882.

Peter Schweizer is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. He has served as a consultant to NBC News and as a member of the Ultra Terrorism Study Group at the U.S. Government's Sandia National Laboratory. He and his wife, Rochelle Schweizer, wrote The Bushes: Profile of a Dynasty, which the New York Times called "the best" of the books on the Bush family. His other books include Do as I Say (Not as I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy and Reagan's War: The Epic Story of His Forty-Year Struggle and Final Triumph over Communism.

Rochester City School District Is Rocked By Scandal When Damaging Audit Information is Leaked to the Press

Robert Freeman, Executive Director, Committee on Open Government

The Rochester Board of Education is shocked at the leak of an audit that has damaging information of the City School District financial practices over the past seven years.

Hmmmm...[the BOE members] "doth protest too much, methinks" (Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act III, Sc. 2)

Can this person who leaked the information please come to New York City? We need some leaking here.

Betsy Combier

Malik Evans, President of the Rochester Board of Education

December 4, 2009
Rochester school board seeks probe of audit leak
Nestor Ramos, Staff writer, Democrat and Chronicle

Rochester school board members will request a state investigation into how a draft of a damaging audit landed in the hands of the Democrat and Chronicle.

The board will send two letters to top state officials urging them to find out who leaked the audit, which includes broad criticisms of City School District financial practices over the past seven years. If the breach was a board member's, one letter read, it constitutes an act of official misconduct.

But the executive director for the state Committee on Open Government said much of the audit report was likely public under state law anyway, and scoffed at the notion that any laws were broken.

Board members Thursday expressed dismay over the leak.

"I was shocked to see that a report that I had received within the last 24 hours was already in the headlines," said board member Van White(pictured at left).

"If the actions were those of a board member, we believe your office must be involved," the board's letter to state education Commissioner

David Steiner Takes Oath as Education Commissioner at Albany's Pine Hills Elementary School

David Steiner reads. The other letter, to state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, requests that he provide any information available about who leaked the report.

White and Willa Powell, along with board President Malik Evans and Melisza Campos, voted to send the letters and to discuss the matter with the district's outside lawyers. Cynthia Elliott voted against both motions.

Details of the audit were first reported Tuesday afternoon by the Democrat and Chronicle.

White said whoever leaked the audit was "violating, at the very least, what the comptroller asked us to do, and possibly ... violating the law."

But Robert Freeman, executive director for the state Committee on Open Government, said much of the draft audit would have been required to be disclosed under the state freedom of information law anyway.

"There is little in this document that could justifiably have been withheld," Freeman said. "There's nothing in the law that makes any aspect of this confidential."

Lawrence Tenenbaum, a partner at Jaspan Schlesinger LLP in Garden City who has experience with New York education law, said the state education commissioner has the ability to remove a board member for misconduct.

"There was a decision by the commission of education a few years ago ... where the commissioner chastised a board member for disclosing information that was confidential and (arose) during an executive session," said Tenenbaum, who noted that he was unfamiliar with the specifics of the Rochester situation or local regulations.

While Freeman agreed that there are some circumstances where disclosing information constitutes a crime, he said this isn't one of them.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

NYC Teachers Sue The BOE For Rubber Room Assignments...Again

The plant in the picture above may look like the plant that you have in your apartment, have seen everyday at your work, or in your school. According to the New York City Board of Education, however, it was this plant, or one very similar, that

the administration of High School of
Fashion Industries
on 24th and 7th Avenue in Manhattan believed swallows children whole when teacher David Pakter bought it and donated it to the school. The purchase and donation of this dangerous threat to children sent esteemed teacher David Pakter back to the gulag called the "Rubber Room" to punish him for his crime of purchasing such a thing for the school lobby area. He is currently undergoing his second 3020-a hearing at 51 Chambers Street, and has filed two federal lawsuits in response to the NYC BOE's pattern of 'rubberizing' whistleblowers and teachers who speak up about wrong-doing in NYC schools. See below.

Union members and administrators are treated very differently in the New York City public school system. A principal who discriminates or does something else that is illegal or corrupt does not get the same punishment as a teacher or staff member, who, more often than not (especially if the individual is not 'politically connected'), is removed from the school - either fired immediately if this person is not tenured, or re-assigned to a "rubber room" if he/she has tenure. Anyone with tenure is reviewed by the NYC "Gotcha Squad", charged, and scheduled for a Hearing at which there is a disposition. This is a business, and the buyer is the City of New York.

Take Marcel Kshensky, for instance. He was Principal at the

school where George Lawson was a teacher. George sued Marcel for racial discrimination, and what does the NYC BOE do? Move Marcel to the Administrative Trials Unit (ATU) where he does Grievances. You can meet him any day at 51 Chambers Street in Manhattan, 6th floor.

Teachers Bring Suit Against Klein Over Rubber Rooms
By Roy Edroso in Featured, Legal, Schools
Tuesday, Dec. 1 2009 @ 10:19AM

Several schoolteachers are suing Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, claiming their confinement to "rubber rooms" -- holding facilities for teachers removed from duty, usually on disciplinary charges -- violates their rights.

They claim the Chancellor has no authority to charge or hold them, and that conditions in the rooms are unpleasant and dangerous.

Among the plaintiffs is David Pakter, who has portrayed himself as a whistleblower against the poor administration of city schools, and claims that because of his attempts to bring them to the city's attention, "Joel Klein, Esq.'s lapdogs, lackeys, sycophants and stooges, leaped out from under their countless dark and clammy rocks and went after me like a bat out of Hell" for bringing plants to his school, showing students the Robert Rodriguez film El Mariachi, and other trivialities.

David Pakter with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani at a 1997 City Hall ceremony where he was honored as a Teacher of the Year with his colleagues from other vocational schools. The mayor praised Pakter’s “outstanding achievement as a vocational school teacher in our city’s public schools, your work with parents and with the community, your solid and innovative teaching methods and your ability to create a stimulating learning environment.”

A former Teacher of the Year, Pakter has been in and out of rubber rooms for years.

Another plaintiff, Josefina Cruz, was one of no less than nine teachers (see below as well) sent to rubber rooms by Graphics Communications Arts HS principal Jerod Resnick.

Teachers have brought suit against the city on similar grounds before, and occasionally the press pays outraged attention, but the rubbers rooms persist; Mayor Bloomberg is against them, too, but on the grounds that the teachers thus charged and confined should not be paid.

Retaliation Against All Whistleblowers is the Name of the Illegal Game in New York City

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

Raw experience into words
Under Assault
UPDATE 12/5/09:

On Tuesday, the Village Voice blog reported on the lawsuit some educators filed in federal court against the DoE's rubber room abuses. Pakter apparently sent in a comment, but I don't see it's been posted there yet. Maybe it will be, but for now it's in the sidebar of this blog.

At someone's request, Pakter gives a 3-part update to his case in the comments below and has now sent around some pictures of his famous plants — the subject of the latest charges brought against him by the DoE. Since I can't illustrate the comments, here is one of the offending plants.

The other one is also green, I guess.

I've posted Pakter before (feisty alliteration) and need to do it again, not only for the breadth of his commentary, but for his insight into the way this malevolent chancellorship distorts a profession and maims a generation of kids.

He wrote this to Norm Scott of Ednotes fame.

In New York City, Whistle-blower Teachers
— of Joel Klein's School System —
Get Blown Away

Dear Norm:

I read Ed Notes religiously, every day, as well as some of the other excellent Education websites, although nothing even comes close to your Ed Notes- may it go on till you are one hundred and perhaps for a few years after that.

All the present fuss over New York City Teachers reporting cheating truly amuses this old geezer writing to you. Not that the topic is not important.

Shocked- just shocked. You mean to say there are really car thieves and illegal Betting Parlors in every big City in America. Impossible - How can that be ??

So what else is new. Cheating went on in every school I ever taught in and at the High School where I taught for twenty five years, mark altering / "improving"/ "updating" - was raised to a virtual "art".

I wonder if Principals demand Kickbacks for all the gallons of "white-out" they order every June to ensure that their graduation totals will look even better and rosier than the previous year's stellar "improvement".

As for using a "Passing" Regents grade as an excuse to ignore a Failing Class Grade score- how the heck do you think they come up with those "regents scores".

At my former school, and I am sure many would not be surprised to learn, at 99 % of the NYC High Schools, all Regents Scores are referred to as a student's "Raw Regents Score". That is to say- the actual grade the student earned on the actual Regents Examination.

Then at my former school, the teachers were actually given printed "Regents Score Conversion Graphs" that indicated what to enter as the student's final official Regents grade in a particular subject- such as Earth Science for example.

If the student achieved a real grade of 43 for example- the teacher just ran his/her finger across the graph to find that this "raw" score was to be converted to a 65, for example. You can imagine what a "raw score" of 65, became in the final adjustment. "Harvard University - here we come".

When it comes to grades and grading, the entire 23 Billion dollar NYC DOE is one big scam from A to Z.

As for a Teacher going to "The Office of Special Investigations"- please - give me a break.

That office is the slickest shell game of all. Sure, they bust a small time independent electrical contractor from time to time just to make it look like they are really doing "Investigations".

But their real purpose for existing is to put out potential political fires before they even have a chance to become fires. I went to them with tons of stuff and got stone-walled every time. I know everyone down there by name. That office is a total crock.

I shall never forget the day, after I was most unceremoniously removed from my school (after I refused to surrender evidence in my possession of egregious Federal Civil Rights violations as well as financial fraud being perpetrated by the Principal and her cronies), when I received a very brief call on my cell phone.

I had just been removed and illegally transferred to a Rubber Room gulag in Brooklyn. The caller was one of several SCI "investigators", (most of them former or retired NYC Police Officers), assigned to look into the allegations I had reported to that agency on several different occasions.

His words were- and I recall them as though it were yesterday:

"Mr. Pakter, I am just calling you to inform you that I have been ordered to close the book on your case". The call was that short and simple.

But then again, you find this situation existing in the NYPD, the US Army, Mega Corporations, the US Post Office et al. It is the way of the world.

Anyone who seeks to have any type of wrongdoing investigated, quickly discovers that he or she soon becomes the prime object of "investigation".

It is, and has been the way of the world since the Dawn of Time- "Bad News- Then Kill the Messenger".

When I observe all those teacher "nubies" running down to SCI at 80 Maiden Lane in lower Manhattan, a stone's throw from Wall Street, to report horrendous and outrageous criminal activity in the NYC DOE, schools system, I never really know whether I should laugh or cry.

Any one who Whistle-blows in NYC, or most other places just doesn't understand that he or she has just signed and Notarized their own "Death Warrant".

As for going to the Newspapers- "paleeeeeze"- give me a break. Who do you think owns and controls the news media- and I mean 99 % to all of it ???

But every year, as sure as Day follows Night, some young group of idealistic Teachers, God Bless their innocent and naive beautiful Souls, goes running all over the Universe- here, there and everywhere, crying "the sky is falling".

You bet it is, right down squarely on their soon to be chopped off innocent heads.

We old timers smile and just send out our warmest telepathic messages of Love to all the Teacher Whistle-blowers in Gotham and wish them our deepest and most sincere hopes for Good Luck and that they may emerge at the far end of the SCI gauntlet with a little of their tattered skin still hanging from their bloodied backs and torn and broken bodies.

Can an old Geezer like me fault these young idealistic Teachers for all their efforts to make the system better for all the powerless and vulnerable children in NYC- most of whom are already "at Risk", from the moment when they first emerge from their Mother's womb and cry their very first cry.

Who am I to fault and be the least bit cynical that someone wants to protect Gotham's children. When I stare at the face of a NYC Teacher "Nubie'", all pink cheeked and eyes shining, hurrying through the ever-revolving glass doors at 52 Broadway, knapsack heavy with text books hanging over their shoulders, who, my old friend, am I really looking at, but the perfect reflection of who I myself was, almost 40 years ago, starting out in the world of Education in New York City.

I thought back then, as a young Teacher, in the South East Bronx and later, working in Bed-Stuy and Harlem and finally via my self created Medical Program for gifted Minority students at Art & Design High School, that I could, by sheer dint of hard work and a driving Idealistic vision of the Universe make a difference.

That somehow "Good" would triumph over "Evil", honest "Idealism" would or could vanquish rampant corruption, and that somehow, by hook or by crook- I would make a "Difference"- even if just a small degree of difference.

Tell me dear God, I did make a difference.

Tell me my old and dear friend, Norman Scott, that it was not all for nothing.

And that those young Teachers presently fighting the good fight we both began to fight also, in our long distant Youth, so many decades ago, long before the present Whistle-blowers were so much as a glint in their Mother's and Father's eyes- oh please do tell me that they will succeed where we failed to make things better.

Hey Jude- please tell me that things can and will be better and that some good and healing force in the Universe- call it what you will, can and will wash away all those twisted and demented minds and sorry excuses for human beings, who for now at least, have temporarily hijacked the futures of all of Gotham's innocent children and are Hell bent on privatizing all Education in Gotham and turning it all into one gargantuan, multi-billion dollar, For Profit, enterprise.

In some cases trading their future lives and future hopes for a bag of Silver coins.

And I still see, when I lay me down to sleep each night all the laughing, beautiful faces and shining innocent eyes of my former gifted, so very gifted and talented, Medical students in Room 316, so radiant with great expectations and so deserving of Hope, that this present Chancellor, a pathetic "Legend in his own mind", via his countless lackeys, lapdogs and stooges and confederates, criminally robbed from their futures when I, as payment for becoming a Whistle-blower myself, was so violently torn from their school and so violently torn from their Lives.

David Pakter, former Teacher of the Year, STILL STANDING

Union hits DOE with age discrimination charge
by Jim Callaghan, Feb 16, 2006 11:30 AM

Despite having suffered a hernia and a knee injury, 64-year-old Madelyn Dimitracopoulos of Flushing HS was given four different classrooms in one year as apparent retribution for filing a grievance

The UFT has filed an age discrimination complaint against the Department of Education and accused it of condoning illegal acts in forcing teachers to retire. The complaint charges that school administrators are using fear and intimidation to drive experienced, qualified teachers out of the classroom.

Filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the complaint states that the DOE has “knowingly permitted school administrators to employ a practice of discrimination that took the form of unjust and unfounded criticism, abuse of the observation process and blatant disregard of seniority in making classroom assignments,” all designed to harass and intimidate senior teachers.

UFT President Randi Weingarten said that the problem escalated under Chancellor Klein, whose administration had exhibited “a disdain for experience.” She said that during the 2002-03 school year, for example, 90.5 percent of teachers facing dismissal and loss of license charges were over the age of 40 while only 63.4 percent of all tenured teachers were 40 and over.

In nearly every case intil Chancellor Klein’s stewardship, the senior teachers had exemplary records of satisfactory ratings. Many teachers had 20 to 30 years of unblemished records. The complaint said these veteran teachers were victims of abusive principals who often made disparaging remarks about them being stuck in the past, or about these members relying on “old” methods of teaching or not being able to stand up all day.

One principal, Jerod Resnick of Graphic Arts HS in Manhattan, said his school needed “young, energetic teachers.” He drove out nearly every senior teacher, forcing transfers for some and retirement for others.

The complaint was accompanied by statistics (see box) showing that a preponderance of unsatisfactory ratings were given to senior teachers, far above what the average would be if it was nothing more than a statistical coincidence.

The harassment was not limited to a paper trail of unsatisfactory ratings. In one particularly egregious case, Madelyn Dimitracopoulos, 64, who despite having suffered a hernia was given four different classrooms in one year as apparent retribution for filing a grievance.

Dimitracopoulos, who started teaching at Flushing HS in 1962, was also having trouble carrying a full set of books from room to room. The complaint specifies that English Department chair Celeste Burton was also aware that the teacher had torn her meniscus ligament and had to leave school in a wheelchair. Despite that, Burton yelled at teachers and a student not to help the teacher, who was struggling in lifting her books.

“I will not be driven out of this school,” Dimitracopoulos said. “I love my kids and they are doing well,” she added, pointing to a 77 percent passing rate for her Regents class. The lengths to which Burton has gone to force Dimitracopoulos to resign are not your garden-variety harassment tricks. The veteran teacher said that she has been followed into the bathroom, where Burton screamed at her about a minor issue of adjusting marks. She said Burton has also come into her Regents review class unannounced and rummaged through closets, allegedly looking for books. Until last year, Dimitracopoulos had received Satisfactory ratings every year since 1962.

Things weren’t much better for Edmond Farrell at John Adams HS. He, too, was subjected to abuse, after 13 years in the building.

Farrell, 67, said he first got on Principal Grace Zwillenberg’s list when he crossed swords with her over the need for portable classrooms at the school. “Ever since then,” he said, “she has been making disparaging remarks about me, even though I have been honored for my work.” The scores of students in his math classes, he said, improved by the equivalent of two full years. Before teaching, Farrell was in the business world. “I got a great deal of satisfaction — a thrill, really — to see failing math students show their parents a certificate with an 80 instead of a 60,” he said. Farrell also offered to transfer out of the school, but was rebuffed by Zwillenberg.

In an accompanying affidavit to the EEOC complaint, Weingarten provided a list of examples that sounds like a “how to harass senior teachers” horror show. The examples seemed to fall into a pattern, almost as if administrators were being taught in a seminar “how to get rid of qualified, experienced teachers,” including trumped-up charges of corporal punishment and insubordination.

Perhaps the most invidious cases are occurring at Graphic Arts, where the principal’s discriminatory actions roped in 19 teachers over the age of 40 who were subjected to discriminatory treatment.

In one case, an assistant principal at the school, Eric Brand, told English teacher Midge Maroni that she had old ideas, that “the kids won’t go for Macbeth.”

Maroni also said that Resnick spoke adoringly of younger teachers in his newsletter. “The education spirits have smiled on us,” Resnick wrote in October 2005. “A new, younger teacher has joined our staff.” Maroni said she has never observed Resnick make similar remarks about older, experienced teachers. Resnick also claims that Brand, on at least 30 occasions, subjected her to “repeated, unannounced observations of short duration, for the purported purpose of evaluating my pedagogical skills.”

The harassment went beyond the usual measures employed by principals to get teachers to retire. At Brandeis HS, the principal, Eloise Messianeo, told Joy Hochstadt, 66, that a teacher “who can’t stand up the entire day should retire.”

Linda Kuznesoff-Herman, 57, was told by Jonathan Straughn, the principal at PS 276 in Brooklyn, that she would not be rehired as literacy coach because he needed “new blood” in the school. Straughn accused her of being at the stage where teachers become “battle weary.” Kuznesoff-Herman was rejected for the position despite her 25 years’ experience, which included four years as a literacy staff developer and two years as a literacy coach. The position was given to a younger teacher who had no prior experience teaching gifted students, but, incidentally, was one whom Kuznesoff-Herman had trained.

Another teacher, faced with students who would rather fight than learn, was told by Ivan Kushner, the principal at PS 19 in Manhattan, that “the classroom setup (Standards-Based Classroom) supports positive pupil interactions.” Apparently, the students didn’t read this tome, because they continued fighting in class. Kushner then proposed a “reward system” to improve student behavior. The fights continued, so Kushner resorted to another claim from the administrator’s bag of tricks: It must be the teacher’s fault. She “lacked classroom management skills.” From 1972 through 2003, however, the teacher had received only satisfactory ratings.

Age bias?

At PS 721 in Queens, the principal’s desire to rid the school of undesirable geezer teachers even affected the students. Not content with giving teacher Sidney Rubinfeld the cold shoulder by refusing to speak to him and even witholding classroom keys, the principal, Madeline Hassell, stood by like the Sphinx and watched Rubinfeld try to restrain a student who was acting out. In similar situations involving younger teachers and disruptive students, the principal intervened. Rubinfeld was told by Hassell that his years of seniority were “dead years.”

The EEOC is investigating the charges. If the agency decides that there is merit to the complaints, it can become an advocate for the teachers and can file a lawsuit on their behalf. If the EEOC fails to find merit, the teachers can sue on their own in federal court.

* 85.3 percent of the 143 UFT members brought up on 3020a charges during the last school year were over 40.
* 90 percent of pedagogues hit with 3020a disciplinary charges during the 2003-04 school year were over the age of 40.
* 3 90.5 percent of the 126 members brought up on 3020a charges during the 2002-03 school year were over 40.
* 78 percent of the 729 educators who received
unsatisfactory annual performance ratings for the last school year were over 40.
* 63.4 percent of tenured members are over 40.


Back in 2005 forty-five teachers filed a complaint with the EEOC that the DOE had discriminated against them because they were over 40 years old. The Daily News reported the filing and Randi Weingarten announced at the time that "88% of teachers brought up on disciplinary charges in the last three years were over 40."

A lawsuit involving 12 of the teachers, filed in 2006, is finally coming to trial. While some of the claims have been dismissed on technical grounds the 12 teachers have won significant gains.

In Shapiro v. NYC DOE, 06 Civ. 1836, 2008 U.S. Dist. Lexis 46327, Judge Jed Rakoff found that during the 2004-2005 school year, five teachers were transferred from Graphic Communication Arts and reassigned to another school. All were over age forty. In June 2005, sixteen teachers at GCA were given unsatisfactory ratings ("U ratings") for the year. Of the 16, thirteen were over the age of 40. A year later, in June 2006, eight teachers received U ratings, only one of whom was under age forty.

One of the teachers given a U rating in 2005 was plaintiff Diana Friedline, who was 53 years old at the time. Friedline has a New York State teaching license in commercial art and a New York City teaching license in cold type composition. She had been a full time teacher since 1989. In the Spring of 2005, Friedline applied for a curriculum writing position at GCA. The principal told Friedline that Friedline was not eligible for the position because she was certified with the wrong license. Friedline filed a grievance objecting to her non-selection for the position, which was denied. Friedline also applied to have a substitute vocational assistant student teacher placed in her classroom; but this application was also denied. When Friedline complained to the principal that these actions were prompted by age discrimination, he told her that he preferred to hire younger candidates. In June 2005, Friedline was giving a U rating for the year.

One of the teachers given a U rating in both years was plaintiff Josefina Cruz, who was 58 years old in June 2005. She has been a teacher of Spanish at GCA since 2003. In the Spring of 2005, she received 24 classroom visits in a two-month period, which she testified was well above the norm. Her schedule was changed seven times in two weeks. She was then given a U rating for the year. In January, 2006, Cruz failed to administer the oral portion of the Spanish regents exam because she had not been given exam materials, which were kept in a vault to which she had no access. She was then given a U rating for the 2005 year, served with disciplinary charges, and reassigned to the Manhattan rubber room.

Another teacher who was given a U rating in 2005 was plaintiff Anthony Ferraro, who was then 72 years old. He began teaching at GCA in 1985. In May, 2003, the principal requested that teachers planning to retire contact him to let him know of their plans. Ferraro contacted the principal but then changed his mind and decided not to retire. When Ferraro told the principal of his change in plans, the principal asked Ferraro's age and then expressed "extreme dismay" that Ferraro was planning to say on at the school In December, 2004, Assistant Principal Johnson repeatedly chided Ferraro for continuing to work and reminded Ferraro that Ferraro could be doing other things with his life, such as spending time with his wife and traveling. Similarly, Assistant Principal Seyfried told Ferrarro that he did not understand why Ferraro was still working and that Ferraro should have retired long ago. In June, 2003, the principal told Ferraro that Ferraro was doing a "deplorable job" coordinating the "LEARN" program, a work-study program through which Ferraro coordinated employment opportunities for GCA students in their chosen fields of study. The principal also told Ferraro that his teaching style was "outmoded" and "outdated."

In September, 2003, Ferraro was removed from his position as LEARN coordinator, but a year later he was reassigned to the position but given less time to perform the necessary work. In January 2005, Ferraro was removed from the position once again and replaced by a younger teacher who was not properly licensed to act as coordinator. Also, in September 2004, Ferraro, a licensed peer mentor, applied to serve as a mentor to new teachers, but the position was given to someone 20 years his junior who was not a certified mentor. Finally, on June 13, 2005, the principal told Ferraro his teaching style was "antiquated" and then days later, Ferraro received a U rating for the year.

Another plaintiff is Diana Hrisinko, who is currently 64 years old. She began teaching at GCA in 2002. Beginning in the fall of 2004, Resnick would come into her classroom unannounced, sometimes as often as five times per week. On February 1, 2005, Hrisinko was transferred from GCA and thereafter worked briefly as a substitute teacher before assuming a position at another school. She filed a grievance claiming that her transfer was illegal because younger teachers with less seniority remained in their positions at GCA.

Plaintiff Elaine Jackson is currently 69 years old and was the Assistant Principal for the English Department at GCA for one semester in the fall of 2003. During her one semester as Assistant Principal, Jackson increased the passing ratio of the English Regents exam. At no time did the principal tell her that he was dissatisfied with her performance. Nonetheless, she was fired in January 2005 and replaced with a younger male who lacked relevant experience for the position.

Plaintiff Midge Maroni, currently 61 years old, began teaching at GCA in 2002. She testified that in early 2003 she was "subjected to ageist comments and unjust criticism" as "Resnick [the principal] repeatedly made references to his desire to have a staff of young teachers." Resnick also said things such as "you don't take your profession seriously, you have old ideas." Maroni was subjected to frequent short, unannounced visits to her classroom from Assistant Principal Brand. During 2005, while Maroni was acting as advisor for the school newspaper, she complained to Resnick that her students lacked access to computers to produce the paper; the next year, a younger teacher received a computer to use for this purpose. In June, 2005, Maroni received a U rating for the year. The U was later dismissed in an arbitration proceeding.

Plaintiff Geraldine F. Whittington, currently 61 years old, began teaching at GCA in 1986. She has a state teaching license in Graphic Arts. Whittington testified that, beginning in 2004, Resnick criticized her for taking sick time to which she was entitled, threatened her with a U rating and treated her with hostility, refusing to address her or make eye contact. When Resnick visited her classroom, he glared at her in an obtrusive and hostile manner. In the spring of 2004, the computers and scanners in Whittington's classroom broke. Whittington heard that new computer equipment was given to younger teachers rather than to her (despite her seniority). Whittington retired effective July 1, 2004.

Plaintiff Fitzroy Kington, currently 58 years old, began teaching at GCA in 1992. During 2004-2005, Resnick repeatedly stood outside of Kington's classroom and shook his head disapprovingly. Assistant Principal Guttman told Kington that Resnick wanted younger, more energetic teachers on staff, and asked when Kington was leaving (even though Kington had not indicated that he had any plan to leave the school). During a social studies exhibition, Kington heard Resnick refer to "old, burnt out, tired teachers" who gave children detention and told them they were no good. In May 2005, Kington applied to transfer to another school.

Plaintiff Gloria Chavez, currently 59 years old, began teaching at GCA in 2002. During the 2004-2005 school year, Resnick began a pattern of yelling at Chavez and threatening disciplinary action against her. He also told her that she looked "tired," should start drinking caffeinated coffee and should modernize her teaching style. In 2006, Chavez did not administer the oral portion of the Spanish regents exam because she was never given the required materials by Assistant Principal Silverman Chavez was then served with disciplinary charges, given a U rating, and reassigned to the Manhattan Regional Operation Center.

Plaintiff Erica Weingast, currently 60 years old, became GCA's bilingual coordinator in 2001. In 2003-2004, Weingast was removed from an after-school assignment teaching English, and the position was given to a teacher who was 30 years younger than Weingast. Between 2003 and 2005, Weingast was "subjected to a campaign of harassment which entailed unwarranted criticisms of her management of [the] bi-lingual studies program." In June, 2004, Resnick began to scream at her in public and humiliate her at school. In June 2005, defendants told her to expect a U rating or resign; Weingast resigned.

Plaintiff Ismael Diaz, currently 64 years old, began teaching at GCA in 2003. During the fall of 2004, Silverman was "constantly" coming into Diaz's classroom, commenting on trivial matters and asking Diaz to attend to a bulletin board in the hallway. She also checked his lessons plans more than once a week. In May 2004, Resnick and Silverman observed one of Diaz's lessons and rated it "unsatisfactory". Resnick refused to speak to Diaz when Diaz said "Good Morning" in the halls. Diaz was given a U rating at the end of the 2004-2005 school year and decided to retire.

In order to prove an Age Discrimination in Employment Act case the teachers are required to show that they suffered an "adverse employment action." This has been defined as suffering a materially adverse change in the terms of employment. A teacher is not required to show a change in income or reduction of benefits. Thus teachers reassigned to the rubber room or receiving a "U" rating can show adverse employment actions, something the City has fought hard to prevent.

Judge Rakoff found that both "U" ratings and rubber room transfers can, if shown in the context of an Age Discrimination claim, be grounds for recovery.

The plaintiffs will have their day in Court to prove their claims before a jury in Manhattan Federal Court.
Posted by Jeff Kaufman at 7/13/2008 10:41:00 AM

Last Updated: 5:00 AM, October 28, 2007

The principal of a Midtown vocational high school is being accused of harassing and unfairly punishing teachers he doesn't like - including the school's entire Spanish department.

Since his arrival at Graphics Communications Arts HS in 2003, principal Jerod Resnick has sent nine teachers to a so-called "rubber room," a holding pen for teachers waiting to face disciplinary charges. In his first year, 17 teachers received an unsatisfactory rating.

Several teachers described Resnick as a "bully" who goes after employees - particularly older, disabled or minority teachers - by issuing bad ratings or bringing false disciplinary charges.

Two lawsuits have been brought against him and the Department of Education in federal court; a third is expected.

"If he doesn't like you, he will target you," charged Spanish teacher Gloria Chavez, who was pulled from the classroom last year. "I've been teaching 16 years, I've never gotten a bad rating. Not one. Now all of a sudden I'm in trouble."

Teachers concede the school had discipline problems when Resnick arrived, and understand his desire to get tough - just not at their expense.

"His way to fix the problems is to harass the teachers and blame us," said Josefina Cruz, a Spanish teacher who said most of the instructors targeted are minorities, even though the student body is 95 percent Hispanic and black. "We're not the problem."

Resnick did not return messages seeking comment.