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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bloomberg Is Understanding! by Lynne Winderbaum

No one should say that our mayor is not understanding of how unique challenges can affect the statistical measurement of one’s job performance. And so it was that I listened to Mayor Bloomberg explain with a bit of impatience and annoyance that the city’s performance in the wake of the snowstorm was not up to par because of a series of unique challenges. He begged for understanding because, you see, it was the biggest effort to clear snow that the city has ever seen, there were a large number of city agencies and personnel involved, there were near white-out conditions, and hundreds of city buses and dozens of ambulances were stuck in the snow.

But the mayor should be aware that all that matters is the outcome, not the difficulties inherent to the job. The data shows that the average response time to structural fires in 2008 was four minutes 33 seconds. The average response time for medical emergencies in 2008 was four minutes 30 seconds. However, in this case, data released today show that the FDNY had a 3-hour delay in response to critical cases, like heart attacks, and 12-hour delays for non-critical calls. A five alarm fire in Elmhurst raged for 3 hours when firefighters were delayed by the blizzard conditions.

Surely, firemen and EMT’s are to be judged “ineffective” when it comes to a response time so far below the city standard.

It is incumbent on the news organizations, for the sake of our citizens, to FOIL a list of all firemen and EMT’s that were on duty during this time period and to identify them by name in the newspapers. The mere fact that response time data was influenced by so many factors beyond their control, as detailed by the mayor above, is no excuse to fail to reach or exceed the standard of response time expected by the city.

The Fire Department of the New York is expected to comply with the request of the news agencies for the release of names and response times recorded in this snapshot of time. Extraordinary challenges notwithstanding, emergency responses to all calls should be within five minutes.

UFA objections that FDNY personnel who were not on duty during this time period would not produce data, and therefore would not be publicly judged as are their colleagues, are unfounded. UFA objections that response time data does not reflect the totality of the job and are unreliable are unfounded as well.

Perhaps there should be merit bonuses for the fastest responders to ensure that firefighters show more dedication to their work and our citizens’ welfare. Those who take on the most challenging conditions are no exception. Data is king and the statistics are the only objective way to measure the value of the workers.

It is also unfounded to excuse the longer response times from any engine companies who were impacted by the increased demands created by the closure of firehouses in their neighborhoods.

It is commendable that the FDNY receives the gratitude of the citizenry and the satisfaction of knowing they have saved lives and property. But these things are not measurable as are response times.

It is incomprehensible that in the face of this disappointing data the mayor would excuse FDNY performance by saying, ““And I want them to know that we do appreciate the severity of these conditions they face, and that the bottom line is we are doing everything we possibly can, and pulling every resource from every possible place to meet the unique challenges…”

Oh wait. Nobody wants to privatize the fire department or find reason for it to be run by corporate interests who have scant experience improving performance in fire and medical emergencies. Nevermind.

Lynne Winderbaum, retired teacher
Three of Winderbaum’s former students at JHS 109 — (from left) State Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Holder; Florence Gilpin, now a DOE principal; and former New York Jets player Chy Davidson — showed up to praise her

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The NYC BOE 'Internet Acceptable Use' Policy

Teachers, staff, professionals everywhere:

In this world of make believe, where Principals can make up anything about you that they want, and something sticks, do your internet shopping/business/game-playing at home, not at your assignment. Even if you have nothing to do, DONT go to the internet to do anything but write/research/input something that relates directly to your work.

I have obtained the NYC BOE internet rules, below, and I suggest that you read them carefully. The Gotcha Squad may already have your personnel file.

Betsy Combier

New York City Department of Education

A.‘Internet Acceptable Use Policy.’

B. System Responsibilities:

3. “Each district’s plan must designate, for each school building in the district, a building-level coordinator for the Department’s Internet and e-mail system and must include a customer service telephone number for users to call with questions or comments about the Internet Acceptable Use Policy. The building-level coordinator may be the principal or his\her designee. The building-level coordinator will approve building-level activities, ensure teachers receive proper training in the use of the system and of this policy, establish a system to ensure adequate supervision of students using the system…and be responsible for interpreting the Internet Acceptable Use Policy at the building level.

D. Filtering:

The Department has installed Internet filtering software in an attempt to block users access to inappropriate and\or harmful text on the internet. The software works by scanning web sites, addresses, web site content, e-mail and other document for objectionable words or concepts. Objectionable words and concepts are pre-determined by the Department….it denies the user access to to them based on the level of access assigned to the word or concept by the Department.

F. Respecting Resource Limits:

i. Users will use the system only for educational and professional activites. Staff may not use the Internetfor personal use during working hours, except that they may engage in incidental use during their duty-free time…..

9. E-mail Policy: E-mail Acceptable Use Guidelines

i. “Acceptable” e-mail use activites are those that conform to the purpose, goals, and mission of the DOE and to each user’s job duties and responsibilities.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

NY State Governor David Paterson Regrets Not Firing Aides Who Led Smear Campaign Against Caroline Kennedy

Governor Paterson believes that the unfounded rumors about Caroline Kennedy were wrongly spread by members of his staff, and he should have fired the people who created the smear campaign.

What about the Gotcha Squad who work every day on creating unfounded rumors about tenured teachers pushed out of their classrooms, and ultimately their jobs?

Let's look at the story below very carefully, and apply the essence to the rubber rooms. Paterson doesn't like his staff making up false stuff about Caroline Kennedy. So, why does he allow Principals to make up things about tenured teachers and permit these teachers to be vilified and thrown away like garbage?

What we need is a system that penalizes principals and superintendents who knowingly, recklessly and arbitrarily make false claims about a person, and pursue fake "just cause for termination". FINE THE PRINCIPALS if they charge a teacher unfairly.

NY Gov. Paterson: Staff should have been fired after Caroline Kennedy Senate post rumors

MICHAEL GORMLEY, Associated Press, December 13, 2010

N.Y. (AP) — Gov. David Paterson said Monday that he should have fired all staffers "potentially involved" in spreading unfounded rumors about Caroline Kennedy after she dropped out of contention to be appointed U.S. senator.

Paterson's stand on Monday in a WWRL-AM radio interview was much harder than after the episode played out in January 2009, when just one campaign staffer left as a result. Then, Paterson was still widely thought to have directed or been involved in the attack on Kennedy, although an ethics probe later reported no wrongdoing.

But the long and unsavory process to select a senator to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton after she left to become U.S. secretary of state led to Paterson's political free fall before he chose Kirsten Gillibrand, then a little-known congresswoman. Ugly repercussions alienated the Kennedys.

It left Paterson looking indecisive and his administration looking mean-spirited in a process so wild he said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg even urged Paterson to appoint himself.

Paterson, who took office after a prostitution scandal ousted his predecessor and didn't seek election to a full term, said Monday his political downfall was helped along considerably by what he called a dysfunctional "political club" in the media that seeks to run government in Albany and has "no standards at all."

"Caroline Kennedy was insulted and castigated by people who worked for me," Paterson said in the latest of his interviews in the final days of his administration. "It was outrageous ... all the people who were potentially involved should have been immediately dismissed. Like, immediately."

The New York Public Interest Research Group filed the complaint over the Kennedy leaks with the state ethics commission. The good-government group questioned how confidential, personal information submitted by those who sought Paterson's appointment to the Senate apparently got to the campaign staffer who lost her job.

"When someone is seeking a high position they shouldn't be treated like trash, and the governor didn't do anything about it," NYPIRG legislative director Blair Horner said. "Almost two years later the governor is describing his participation as an innocent bystander, which he may have been, but that would be disturbing in itself."

The Senate appointment process included often contradictory hints by Paterson that made national headlines and public criticism of people who sought the political plum.

Paterson said in a recent interview with The Associated Press that he was urged to appoint himself to the U.S. Senate seat. Before Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned amid a prostitution investigation in 2008, forcing Lt. Gov. Paterson into the seat, many Democrats had expected Paterson, a former Democratic state senator, would succeed Clinton if she were elected president.

"Everybody said to me, particularly Mayor Bloomberg, 'Appoint yourself to the United States Senate. Get out of Albany because with the budget (problems), you can't win there,'" Paterson told the AP.

Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser said the mayor doesn't divulge any private discussions he may have had on the matter with Paterson.

Soon after, Paterson's headaches were compounded when the state Senate was embroiled in a power struggle. Paterson's departure for Washington could have meant the next governor would be Sen. Pedro Espada, a Bronx Democrat who is now under investigation for use of state grants at his health clinics and who lost his seat in the fall elections.

"I thought that would be irresponsible," Paterson said.

Gov: I Should Have Fired Aides Who Trashed Caroline Kennedy

State of Politics
Caroline Kennedy
Gov. David Paterson this morning expressed chagrin over his handling of the Caroline Kennedy mess last winter, saying it was a mistake not to have immediately fired aides who launched a smear campaign after she withdrew her name from consideration for Hillary Clinton’s US Senate seat.

“Caroline Kennedy was was insulted and castigated by people who worked for me,” Paterson said on AM 1600 WWRL. “And it was outrageous. It was wrong. And as the person in charge. I had to take responsibility for it.”

“… I think that when there’s been that kind of degradation of a person who had only signed up to be a candidate – in other words, they had put themselves out as a candidate – the one thing I think should have happened was that all people who were potentially involved should have immediately been dismissed, like immediately.”

In other words, the people who participated in leaking information to the media about her, which, by the way, was false information and gossip, that everybody who was potentially involved should have immeidatly been dismissed.”

Paterson did take responsibility for the leaks about Kennedy’s alleged tax, nanny and marital problems back in February 2009.

But he did not immediately fire the campaign consultant who masterminded the release of the information, (although she was eventually let go), nor did he ever axe the staffers who did the dirty work.

Paterson’s discussion of the Kennedy debacle came in response to a caller who asked if he wished he had done things differently and selected her to fill Clinton’s seat instead of former Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand and if that choice had tanked him with the media.

The governor replied that while he does believe that moment marked the beginning of the end of his relationship with the press, but also noted that he couldn’t have chosen Kennedy even if he wanted to because she withdrew her name citing “personal reasons that she declined to explain.”

Monday, December 13, 2010

Attorneys Joy Hochstadt and Nick Penkovsky Get A Reprimand In Federal Court

Attorneys Nick Penkovsky and Joy Hochstadt, a terminated teacher who worked with Ed Fagan, are sanctioned in Federal District Court for frivolous claims in a suit brought by former rubber roomers, but this will not stop the filing of federal claims by those who were denied their rights to a fair and speedy trial. 

Here are the cases: Southern District Federal Court Magistrate Judge decided to recommend sanctions for both of them in the matter Twana Adams v New York City Board of Education. Now the fines will be up to Federal Judge Victor Marrero to decide.

'Rubber' cluck fines
By BRUCE GOLDING, NY POST, Decemmber 11, 2010

Two lawyers who challenged the Board of Ed's policy of banishing suspended teachers to "rubber rooms" face $28,000 in fines over their "frivolous" charges.

Lawyer Joy Hochstadt violated court rules by claiming race discrimination under the 13th Amendment -- which abolished slavery -- after being warned she had no legal right to do so, Manhattan federal Magistrate Judge Andrew Peck ruled.

Co-counsel Nicholas Penkovsky, meanwhile, was slapped for pressing "previously dismissed hostile work environment claims without setting forth new facts."

Peck recommended that Judge Victor Marrero -- who dismissed the suit last month -- sanction Penkovsky $7,000.

Peck also recommended a whopping $21,000 in fines for Hochstadt's misconduct, noting that her race charge was only one of "numerous causes of action without any basis in law [or] fact."

Penkovsky said yesterday that he didn't have time to discuss the ruling.

Hochstadt didn't return a request for comment.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mike's First Choice For Chancellor Was Geoffrey Canada

I have a question. If Mike Bloomberg's first choice for NYC Chancellor was Geoffrey Canada, how did he make a leap of faith to Cathie Black, who has no education administration or teaching experience at all? Were there others in between who turned dowm Mike's offer?

The public wants to know.

Betsy Combier
Geoffrey Canada
Educator Is Said to Have Rejected Chancellor Job

In defending his selection for schools chancellor, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has called Cathleen P. Black, a publishing executive with no education experience, “exactly the right person for the job” and suggested that her skills as a manager were unrivaled.

Ms. Black, however, was not the first person the mayor asked to take the position. Mr. Bloomberg tried to persuade Geoffrey Canada, the prominent Harlem education leader and a friend of the mayor, to be chancellor, but Mr. Canada turned it down, according to two people with direct knowledge of the discussions.

The two people did not want to be identified because Mr. Bloomberg has sought to keep the process private.

Mr. Bloomberg has repeatedly declined to offer details about whom he consulted during the search process, or how he ultimately settled on Ms. Black, the chairwoman of Hearst Magazines.

But the revelation suggests that Mr. Bloomberg conducted a wider search than previously thought, and that he may have been seeking a more traditional candidate in hopes of avoiding the withering criticism that has accompanied Ms. Black’s appointment.

Ms. Black’s opponents have seized on her lack of familiarity with the public education system and the fact that during a 40-year career, she has rarely gone outside the publishing world. She attended parochial schools, sent her own children to private boarding school and holds no graduate degrees.

Mr. Canada, by contrast, has gained international notice as the leader of the Harlem Children’s Zone, a network of charter schools renowned for its cradle-to-college approach. He grew up in the South Bronx and holds a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

And although Mr. Bloomberg was criticized for not picking a member of a racial or ethnic minority to lead a school system that is made up overwhelmingly of minority children, Mr. Canada is black.

Still, while Mr. Canada, 58, may have been more palatable to some critics, his passionate defense of charter schools and his habit of firing teachers who fail to improve test scores would most likely be anathema to union leaders and many parents active in the schools.

For Mr. Canada, becoming chancellor would have meant leaving behind the empire he had built in Harlem, which is depicted as helping children succeed against steep odds in a popular documentary, “Waiting for Superman.”

In a brief interview, Mr. Canada did not dispute the suggestion that he had been offered the job but declined to comment on it. He said Mr. Bloomberg had solicited his advice about a month before the mayor announced the selection of Ms. Black in early November.

“It was just a very frank and open conversation,” Mr. Canada said. “He was really seeking my opinions on what I thought would be the characteristics of a good chancellor.”

A spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg declined on Thursday to comment.

The two men deeply admire each other and have spoken often about how to promote charter schools in the city.

Mr. Bloomberg gave Mr. Canada’s name when he was asked recently by New York magazine to identify the most important living person in the city. When the mayor was running for re-election in 2009, he said Mr. Canada was the person he most admired.

“He grew up poor and wasn’t handed a path to prominence and success,” Mr. Bloomberg wrote in a candidate survey. “He is an entrepreneur, an innovator and an inspiration.”

Through the Carnegie Corporation of New York, a foundation that donates the mayor’s money, Mr. Bloomberg, according to financial records, has given at least $675,000 to the Harlem Children’s Zone, which covers a 97-block area and some 10,000 children.

Mr. Canada is also a close political ally of Mr. Bloomberg. He helped lead the successful effort to renew the mayor’s control of city schools in 2009.

Since Mr. Bloomberg announced his selection of Ms. Black, her candidacy has come under attack, and he has faced criticism for conducting a highly secretive search process.

In response, the mayor has emphasized Ms. Black’s time as a leader of a large corporation, saying the school system needed a nimble cost-cutter. Mr. Canada, by contrast, has spent much of his life working at the helm of community organizations.

It is unclear how many people Mr. Bloomberg consulted about the chancellorship, or whether he offered the job to anyone else. His aides have said that he spoke with many people about the position.

One of those individuals was another prominent education leader: Michelle A. Rhee, the tough-talking former chief of the Washington school system. In an interview, Ms. Rhee declined to elaborate on her conversations with the mayor, and she refused to say whether she had been offered the job.

Mr. Bloomberg’s choice of Mr. Canada suggests he was looking, at least initially, for a tough-minded reformer who could claim success in the education arena. While Mr. Canada’s program is considered a national model, some say the results should be more pronounced, given that he vastly outspends traditional public schools.

Eli Broad, the billionaire financier of education reform efforts, said he had confidence that Ms. Black was the right person for the job. But he acknowledged that Mr. Canada “might have been an easier sell.”

“He is really part of the fabric to change American public education in many ways,” Mr. Broad said.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Leanna Lansmann On Cathie Black's Business Acumen

The underlying premise of Leanna Landsmann's argument is that successful business leaders can turn around the absolute failure of public education in America due to the inefficient mangerial skills of educators.

Dont believe this gobblygook.

Professional businesspeople are also parents, teachers, and others in the workforce who are never asked to manage a public school system because they dont buy into "The agenda" as touted by The Broad Foundation, Bill Gates, Mike Bloomberg, etc. What better way to reform the education system as it now stands than to have a parent and/or teachers from the very system that needs reform, hired to 'fix' problems that he/she/they is/are familiar with after having been on the front line, watching and getting involved first hand?

What is going on is that political forces are choosing local administrators who will govern our public schools in such a way as to benefit them, not necessarily the children in the system.

Betsy Combier
How Cathie Black can leverage her business acumen to improve the schools
By Leanna Landsmann, Thursday, December 9th 2010, 4:00 AM
When Cathie Black, soon-to-be installed schools chancellor, was asked in a recent interview to name a teacher who had influenced her, she said there was "no one who was transformative." Many parents, educators and business and civic leaders don't believe Black will be transformative, either. One influential New Yorker told me last week, "I wish her well, but she has no clue what's she's in for."

That may be, but those of us who have followed her career know she has formidable talents to bring to Tweed far beyond the mundane "managerial skills" Mayor Bloomberg continues to tout. If Black is smart, she'll start playing to her strengths.

Here are three things she should be able to do better than anyone, regardless of their credentials:

Sell a big idea. Black's success in advertising sales is legendary. She's known as a remarkably persuasive pitch person. One idea that New Yorkers - and lots of "ed reformers," frankly - still haven't bought is that student achievement doesn't take place only in the classroom. Family and community culture either reinforce or weaken high expectations, academic achievement and college-readiness.

Black needs to make the case. For help in doing so, she might add Temple University Prof. Laurence Steinberg to her kitchen cabinet. He's the author of "Beyond the Classroom: Why School Reform Has Failed and What Parents Can Do." His research with thousands of teens shows just how strongly influences outside the classroom shape student performance.

The successful KIPP charter schools also understand the leverage of parental and cultural commitment to school success. They help families set high standards, limit media time, enforce homework policies and insist on developing the habits of mind that support scholarship. If New York students are going to do better academically, Black must sell this brand of family, community and school accountability throughout the city schools system.

Build bridges. Second, Black understands how to form and sustain functional partnerships. Hearst Magazines' work with Oprah Winfrey when Black was chairman there is a brilliant example that can be a model. In 1994, I pulled together a group of executives to launch the Principal for a Day program for then-Schools Chancellor Ramon Cortines. The goal was to get civic and business leaders involved with public schools. The response was so strong that in 1995 we launched PENCIL, which stands for Public Education Needs Civic Involvement in Learning. Today, there are PENCIL partnerships in nearly 300 schools.

Black can encourage many more to step up - to help teachers see how classroom learning translates to the workplace; arrange internships so students see why algebra is a useful tool in a job; mentor gifted kids; finance after-school programs and training programs, and provide scholarships for the many poor yet highly motivated seniors who won't get to college without them. Other partnerships might beef up ways for students to use the rich resources of the city's underutilized cultural institutions or support the work of school-focused groups like City Year New York and Learning Leaders.

Call in chits. Third, Black has a killer Rolodex and knows how to use it. I'm betting that on her mobile device there are contacts for hundreds - maybe thousands - of the city's movers and shakers who admire her, and maybe even owe her one. She shouldn't hesitate to call in those chits now. Those of us who have been involved in school improvement for a long time know it's a hard slog. It's not the stuff of "Dancing With the Stars."

But with the help of some bold-faced names who were born, bred and educated in the city, Black can make it cool to be smart in school. She can communicate both the strengths (and there are many) and challenges of New York's public schools to a broader public.

These skills alone won't by themselves enable the new chancellor to master a complex and unwieldy system many still consider unmanageable. State Education Commissioner David Steiner was smart to suggest that Black's chances for success are better served with a strong partner who understands curriculum and instruction.

But no one should undervalue the importance of selling the city's parents, students, residents and business and civic leaders on ways they can accelerate school improvement and help students meet high standards. In a city of high achievers, it shouldn't be that hard to market the notion that it takes a village as big as New York to educate every child well.

Landsmann was founding president of TIME For Kids, volunteer director of Principal for a Day and co-founder of PENCIL with Lisa Belzberg. She is co-chairwoman of and author of "A+ Advice for Parents."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Teachers Sit In "New Rubber Rooms" And Do Nothing; The Gotcha Squad Is Still hard At Work

Teachers in NYC Rubber Rooms Are Now Scattered So That The NYC Board of Education Can Hide The Harm and Retaliation

Sharon Otterman has written the best article that I have read on the re-assignment of teachers in New York City. I have posted her article below on the UFT members who are in the "new" rubber rooms, hidden from view by the general public. The "new" rubber rooms are the offices and schools where professional, tenured employees are told to sit and do nothing or do nothing meaningful or related to their professional licenses. Almost all have been accused of something that they did not do, or that is so ridiculously inconsequential as to make it unreasonable as a charge.

I have been observing the process of removing tenured teachers from their assigned position for 7 years. I was very lucky to have been hired by Randi Weingarten to "take care of the rubber room teachers". Randi asked me to work part-time in 2007, and I was thrilled to be able to use my UFT staff card to visit all the "rubber rooms" in NYC and research exactly what was going on.

As I really care about people who have been falsely accused, I decided that my part-time job (14 hours/week) actually required 80 hours of listening and writing, which I gladly volunteered. On July 7, 2010, after I questioned the value of the new agreement signed April 15 2010 (tht no one at the UFT ever told me about), I was told that the UFT did not need me anymore. Bye bye.

The focus of the UFT seems to be to get as much money as possible by doing the least amount of work. Many reps cant stand a re-assigned teacher, and believe that he/she must be guilty of something.

As you read Sharon's excellent article below, think about what these professionals could be doing to teach students. They have been displaced, but for what reason? I know Verona Gill. I have never met anyone who could describe differentiated learning better than she does. (Of course that is one of her charges, that she cannot differentiate). Sitting at Verona's 3020-a hearing was an education for me. She is terrific, and the kids love her.

Deborah Byron also never had any complaint in her file until the principal went after her with false claims, convincing an arbitrator from hell that she was a terrible miscreant all of a sudden. Any reasonable person can see through this. Mike Bloomberg set up a system that says, if we decide we dont want you, we will get you removed from your job, so you might as well quit now.

My advice is, fight and never give up. The vortex of evil is nothing more than a whirlwind of threats, not facts or laws.

Betsy Combier

December 7, 2010
For New York, Teachers Still in Idle Limbo
By SHARON OTTERMAN, NY TIMES, December 8, 2010

For her first assignment of the school year, Verona Gill, a $100,000-a-year special education teacher whom the city is trying to fire, sat around education offices in Lower Manhattan for two weeks, waiting to be told what to do.

For her second assignment, she was sent to a district office in the Bronx and told to hand out language exams to anyone who came to pick them up. Few did.

Now, Ms. Gill reports to a cubicle in Downtown Brooklyn with a broken computer and waits for it to be fixed. Periodically, her supervisor comes by to tell her she is still working on the problem. It has been this way since Oct. 8.

“I have no projects to do, so I sit there until 2:50 p.m. — that’s six hours and 50 minutes,” the official length of the teacher workday, she said. “And then I swipe out.”

When Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg closed the notorious reassignment centers known as rubber rooms this year, he and the city’s teachers’ union announced triumphantly that one of the most obvious sources of waste in the school system — $30 million a year in salaries being paid to educators caught up in the glacial legal process required to fire them — was no more.

No longer would hundreds of teachers accused of wrongdoing or incompetence, like Ms. Gill, clock in and out of trailers or windowless rooms for years, doing nothing more than snoozing or reading newspapers, griping or teaching one another tai chi. Instead, their cases would be sped up, and in the meantime they would be put to work.

While hundreds of teachers have had their cases resolved, for many of those still waiting, the definition of “work” has turned out to be a loose one. Some are now doing basic tasks, like light filing, paper-clipping, tracking down student information on a computer or using 25-foot tape measures to determine the dimensions of entire school buildings. Others sit without work in unadorned cubicles or at out-of-the-way conference tables.

“They told me to sit in a little chair in a corner and never get up and walk around,” said Hal Lanse, a $100,000-a-year teacher from Queens who had been accused of sexual harassment. He was assigned to an administrative office on Fordham Road in the Bronx in September as part of a deal that led the city to drop the charges against him.

One day he plopped down on a couch in the hallway and began reading a novel, he said. Eventually, he dozed off. Then he was asked to “paper-clip some papers” and refused: he was charged with insubordination. He is now collecting his full salary at home in Queens, with plans to retire in January; the city is trying to fire him for insubordination before then, which would reduce his pension.

“There are indeed still rubber rooms,” he said. “They just don’t call them that.”

While the teachers are supposed to be given actual work, the Department of Education still considers them unsuitable for classrooms while their cases are pending. So it has assigned them to various offices, like those overseeing facilities and food, and the external affairs office at Tweed Courthouse, the department’s headquarters.

Barbara Morgan, a schools spokeswoman, said Friday that the teachers were being as productive as possible given the temporary nature of their administrative assignments. She provided a list of tasks that some were performing, which included processing invoices, arranging schedules, answering phones and scanning documents.

Deborah Byron, 45, was one of about 60 teachers told to report to the offices of the School Construction Authority in Long Island City, Queens. On their first day, they were told they would be responsible for “collecting data,” and someone began handing out folders with lists of school names and 25-foot retractable tape measures.

The teachers fanned out to different schools to measure every classroom, auditorium, athletic field and parking lot, for precisely the contractually mandated six hours and 50 minutes each school day. They frequently interrupted classes to do their work. Sometimes custodians said, “Hey, we already have this, let us print it out for you,” and offered blueprints, Ms. Byron said. In those cases, she would do spot checks.

While other reassigned teachers said they felt ostracized and uncomfortable among their peers, hearing whispers about their “rubber room status,” Ms. Byron said she tried to look as official as possible, never revealing that she had been reassigned and was facing suspension for insubordination, she said.

“I had strappy sandals on, and a clipboard and a pen, and an old Board of Education ID,” she said. “Some of the younger teachers were almost envious — they came up and said, how did you get this job? Because they were struggling with 20-something kids and I’m here walking around.”

In October, Ms. Byron was reassigned to a truancy center in a church basement in Far Rockaway, Queens. When the police brought in truants, she looked up their records on her personal laptop and tracked down their parents’ and school phone numbers. Then she tried to counsel the students. “I talk to them and ask them why they didn’t go to school,” she said at the time.

Reassigned teachers work at a dozen truancy offices around the city, but not all of them may be as effective. Ms. Byron said the other teacher she worked with did not bring her own computer and still could not access the system by mid-November. (Ms. Byron was recently sent home, her case concluding with an eight-month unpaid suspension.)

Despite the difficulties of finding the teachers actual work, cases are moving much faster than before the April agreement, when lawyers for both sides, arbitrators and defendants all played a role in dragging them out, sometimes for years. In mid-November, there were 236 teachers and administrators still in reassignment, down from 770 when the deal to close the rubber rooms was signed.

Ms. Morgan, the city spokeswoman, said the city was on track to close all the cases that had existed before April by the end of the year, except for those involving arrests or special investigation. The city did not provide information on how many teachers were fired, suspended or fined, and how many returned to teaching, saying that information would be available in January.

Last month, 16 accused teachers were supposed to return to the classroom when officials missed a new 60-day deadline to file formal charges against them. But some got their charges as soon as the following day, and most still have “rubber room duties” in schools, said Betsy Combier, a former union employee who now counsels reassigned teachers independently.

While several former rubber room teachers said they much preferred their new, comfortable assignments, describing luxuries like office-cleaning services and microwave ovens, others said they missed the camaraderie of the rubber room. All said they would rather be back teaching students.

“The people from my rubber room are all here,” said a preschool teacher who blogs under the pseudonym FidgetyTeach and has been assigned to administrative offices in Downtown Brooklyn, “and we are all very distressed.” She declined to be identified by name because her case was still before an arbitrator.

She was reassigned three years ago after she was accused of leaving a child unattended. She said that while the people in her new office were pleasant enough, she had had nothing to do since the first week.

“Some people are doing filing, but they are not even wanting to do it,” she said of her fellow reassigned teachers. “It’s menial work. Most people are not doing anything; they are just sitting there. This is punishment, whether the city wants to see it that way or not.”

Juliet Linderman contributed reporting.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

UFT Goes To Court To Keep Teacher Data Confidential

Here is the problem with the release of teacher data: what if the scores are false? Not all of them, but enough to say that teacher data cannot be accurately reported because there is too much cheating, and other misconduct going on in the public school system to reflect true performance of anyone.

What if principals routinely placed teachers that they wanted to get rid of, in classrooms where most of the kids were known to have behavior issues?  Or, let's say you are a middle school science teacher and you are assigned to teach english as a second language. You have no license or degree in ESL. You have to teach. What do you do? You go to the bookstore, learn the curriculum, and do it the best you can.

But it really doesnt matter, because the principal will give you an end-of -year "U" (for "unsatisfactory) rating anyway. You grieve the position as outside of your license area, but you lose, as 99% of grievants do. No one at the UFT will help you get a job in your subject area. You fail.

The score that you get for teaching this class is not good, but does this reflect your teaching ability as a science teacher? Nope. Only no one will help you get this off your record, and before you can get it removed from your file three years from now, I betcha you will have another U and maybe even a couple of disciplinary conferences in there for various kinds of misconduct that you dont know anything about.  This means re-assignment if you are tenured, and termination if you are probationary. Bye bye.

Getting rid of an excellent teacher is not hard if you follow the Gotcha Squad formula. Your score in the teacher data released to the public? Not really about you, it's about the system. I have graded this sytem: F

I also suggest that as the staff of the United Federation of Teachers have done nothing to help members placed in classes that are outside their subject area, permitted a clause in the UFT contract in 2005 that denied all members their right to grieve a letter in their file, and have assisted in 99% of all teachers losing their U-rating appeals, the UFT staff is an accomplice in creating and maintaining the false teacher data that they so want to hide. The grade that I give them: F

Here are the papers in the lawsuit as of yesterday, Dec. 7, 2010. Submission of papers for the intervenors is today
Betsy Combier

Article 78
Notice of Motion To Intervene

Showdown Nears On Release Of NYC Teacher Ratings

by The Associated Press, December 7, 2010
UFT President Mike Mulgrew

A dispute over whether to release performance ratings for 12,000 New York City schoolteachers is pitting the public's right to know which teachers are making the grade against teachers' fears that they will be unfairly subjected to ridicule based on student test scores.

A hearing is scheduled Wednesday in a state court after the United Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit seeking to keep the data confidential. The union called the ratings "unreliable, often incorrect, subjective analyses dressed up as scientific facts."

The teacher ratings controversy follows a scandal in Los Angeles in which a teacher committed suicide after the ratings were released. It comes during a transition period for the nation's largest school system, as publishing executive Cathie Black prepares to take over from outgoing Chancellor Joel Klein.

Black, the chairwoman of Hearst Magazines, has not spoken publicly about the teacher ratings since Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced her appointment as schools chancellor on Nov. 9. Klein made the case for releasing the data in an Oct. 24 op-ed piece in the New York Post.

"It's a quantitative way to show what many of us have argued for years — not all teachers are equally effective," Klein said.

"We aren't naive about the impact this release could have on our teachers," Klein added, "which is why we hope that no one misuses the data or views it as an opportunity to scapegoat teachers."

Opponents say such scapegoating is inevitable.

"I fear the humiliation that teachers will face when these scores are released," said Martha Foote, who organized a petition drive against the release of the teacher ratings at Public School 321 in Brooklyn, which her son attends.

The planned release of the teacher ratings comes after The Los Angeles Times published similar data, known as value-added analysis, for 6,000 Los Angeles teachers in August.

The United Teachers of Los Angeles protested the Times' publication of the teacher ratings and has blamed the suicide of fifth-grade teacher Rigoberto Ruelas on being listed as a sub-par teacher.

"Seeing himself outed as an ineffective teacher was the straw that broke the camel's back," said union president A.J. Duffy.

Following the publication of the Los Angeles scores, several news organizations filed Freedom of Information Law requests for similar data for New York City teachers.

The city planned to release the data in October before the union filed its lawsuit.

Value-added analysis is a method for calculating teacher effectiveness based on how the teacher's students perform on standardized tests.

Used by hundreds of districts around the nation, value-added scores are designed to measure whether a particular teacher's students performed better or worse than expected on statewide math and English tests.

The statistical model that New York City uses to calculate value-added scores takes more than 30 factors into account including the students' ethnicity and whether they are poor enough to qualify for free lunch.

"Value-added scores level the playing field by enabling one to compare the effectiveness of teachers who teach different populations of students," city Department of Education official Joanna Cannon said in an affidavit filed with the court.

Cannon said the scores are "specifically designed to take into account factors outside of a teacher's control so that teachers are not rated ineffective simply because they teach lower-performing or disadvantaged students."

But the United Federation of Teachers argued in its lawsuit that the value-added scores cannot account for all the factors that affect student performance on tests, such as whether a teacher is assigned to a more difficult class one year than another year.

The union said value-added scores are intended as confidential data to be used by principals in conjunction with other measures including direct classroom observation and the quality of student work.

The union that represents New York City principals is supporting the teachers union. Council of Supervisors and Administrators President Ernest Logan said the value-added model "has too many bugs in it."

Experts who have studied value-added methodology agree it's difficult to control for all the factors that can influence student performance.

"Is the school counselor good?" said Jeffrey Henig, a professor at Teachers College at Columbia University. "Is the principal good? Is the building condition conducive to learning?"

Jon Cohen, senior vice president and director of the assessment program at The American Institutes for Research, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, said test scores could be affected by "whether a friend got beat up in the neighborhood that week."

"The random component is large," he said.

Many New York City parents will no doubt want to see the scores.

"It has some value," said Daniel Monte, who was dropping his first-grader off at Public School 33 in Manhattan. "I don't see how it could be a bad thing — except for the teachers."

But Robert Margolis, who has a sixth-grade son at the Clinton School for Writers and Artists, said he is "not a big believer" in standardized tests.

"They measure something but I'm not sure what," he said.

Los Angeles Unified School District spokesman Robert Alaniz said that after the Times published the scores, the district briefed principals on how to explain them to parents.

Alaniz said the district feared that droves of parents would demand to have their children moved to teachers with higher scores, but that did not happen.

"We're hoping that parents understood that the value-added is not a total tool for all of a teacher's effectiveness," Alaniz said.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Melissa Petro, NYC Teacher Now In The Rubber Room

Melissa Petro
Read below Melissa's essay on why she feels she should still be teaching. In my opinion, if she is a good teacher, LET HER TEACH, and let's not judge people so quickly that we lose sight of fairness and human rights. I am the mom of four daughters, and each one would gladly have Petro as a teacher if she was willing and able to inspire them in art or any creative activity. Two of my daughters are artists and two are professional opera singers, starting at the ages of 9 and 5.

And Mayor Bloomberg, I'd very much appreciate your explanation for removing her from her  tenured position as a teacher, for her past work as a sex worker, when the person you appointed as Chancellor for NYC designed an app for the iphone and droid that taught sexual positions to teens.....

Isn't this disparate treatment?
Writing From the Rubber Room

by Melissa Petro, Huffington Post

It was over three years ago that I was selected by the New York City Teaching Fellows program to become a public school teacher. I didn't know, at that time, that I wanted to be a teacher -- I knew only that I liked working with children, and I needed a job. The NYC Teaching Fellows bills itself as a highly competitive program that recruits and prepares "high-quality, dedicated individuals from different backgrounds and careers to become teachers in our city's public schools." At the time I applied to the Teaching Fellows I was a writer and a graduate student, working as a research assistant in a public hospital while earning my Masters degree in Creative Nonfiction from the New School.
I was also a former sex worker. Of this, I made no secret. My academic and creative writing has appeared in numerous publications online and in print since 2006. My work is included in the NY Times acclaimed anthology Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys: Professionals Writing on Love, Sex, Money and Work as well as in Sex Work Matters: Power and Intimacy in the Sex Industry. I have presented at multiple conferences on the issue of women's participation in the sex industry and regularly participate in literary readings around the city. My thesis at the New School, completed the same semester I was accepted into the Fellows program, was entitled "Selling Sex."
Having spent more than a decade making meaning of my own self and my experiences -- as well as having conducted ethnographic research in the United States and Europe, interviewing prostitutes and other sex workers about themselves and their professions -- I am deeply committed to fighting for the preservation of the rights and integrity of current and former sex workers. Specifically, I advocate for decriminalization and de-stigmatization of the industry, so that women and men who choose to sell sex can do so with greater protection and less fear and so that individuals who choose to exit the industry can do so with a more honest, right-sized understanding of their experiences -- the kind of honest, right-sized understanding I have worked so hard to have for myself.
While I would not say I am the same person in a spiritual sense, what is undeniable is that I was, at one time, a sex worker and was, until recently, a teacher. Writing and sharing my story was and continues to be a part of my recovery from my history. Through writing and performing my work I learned that my feelings matter. My thoughts and experiences are important. Others can relate and be helped by my sharing. As a writer, I learned to trust in the validity of my opinions and that I could humbly express such opinions -- indeed, it is my First Amendment right to do so. No doubt the fact that I was a working writer was partly the reason I was offered a position at PS 70 in the first place, where I taught art and creative writing with a seriousness of purpose unique, I believe, to those of us who go home and live the lessons we teach.
Of all the actions I've taken in my lifetime, there has been no greater source of pride and esteem than I found in working as a teacher. Over the past three years, I grew to love my profession. My first and second years, I worked hard to earn a Masters in Childhood Education while teaching full time, working before and after school to self-design an arts curriculum and create an arts-rich environment in a school that formerly had no art teacher at all. I was involved in my school's community and respected amongst my colleagues. I was as positive an influence on my student's lives as they were on mine.

All this changed the evening of Sunday, September 26th when I received a phone call at my home from a woman that identified herself as the Superintendent of Schools in District 9, informing me that I had been reassigned to administrative duties pending a Special Commissioners Investigation. It was the next day when an article appeared on the front cover of the September 27th edition of the New York Post. This article, headlined "Bronx teacher admits: I'm an ex-hooker," began like this: "Meet Melissa Petro: the teacher who gives a new twist to 'sex-ed.'" In the article I am described as a "tattooed former hooker and stripper" who was "shockingly upfront about [her] past," posting "online accounts" of my so-called "sexcapades" including an essay in which, according to the Post, I "claim" to have been a prostitute. The essay that statement is in reference to is an opinion editorial posted on September 7th at the Huffington Post, in which I disclose having accepted money in exchange for sexual services sold on Craigslist from October 2006 through January 2007, some months prior to my becoming a teacher. In that article I described the lifestyle I was living at that time as "physically demanding, emotionally taxing and spiritually bankrupting" and go on to say that "I hope to never again make the choice to trade sex for cash even as I risk my current job and social standing to speak out for an individual's right to do so."

Since the New York Post's "exclusive," I have sat in reassignment while the Special Commissioners investigated what I had been open and honest about all along. "Reassigned" means that instead of teaching I report to the administrative offices at 65 Court Street where I sit six hours and fifty minutes each weekday in a windowless cubicle at a generic desk designated as mine. The system of reassignment -- formerly called "rubber-rooming" -- is a well reported controversy. We who've been reassigned are scattered inconspicuously throughout the building, indistinguishable from the DOE's actual administrative employees. Publicly the DOE claims that people who have been reassigned are doing administrative work, but the reality is that no such work exists. For the past two months I've been paid my full salary to sit in what amounts to detention.

I believe workers should be allowed to live self determined lives outside the workplace and that, so long as that individual performs competently at his or her job, one's personal life -- particularly one's personal history -- should be inconsequential to his or her employer. In the age of the internet, individuals' lives outside the workplace are becoming increasingly harder to hide. While in my case I made no secret of my identity, neither as a former sex worker nor as a writer, as we advocate for individuals' rights to privacy, I believe what must simultaneously be challenged are society's outdated notions of what kind of individuals -- particularly, what kind of women -- are fit for certain jobs. Certainly, the attention generated by my story illustrates that, for many -- including, it seems, Mr. Bloomberg -- the kind of woman fit for working with children is not the kind of woman who would, at any time in her life, have participated in any aspect of the sex industry -- or, if she had, she certainly wouldn't want to talk about it today.

Two months later and the results are in: As I suspected, the DOE could find no evidence of anything inappropriate about my conduct as a teacher, other than my having an opinion with which many disagree on a controversial topic that few know much about. That is to say that the OSI investigation found nothing other than my work as a writer and that -- though mischaracterized in the report -- I stand behind. I never did anything at work or -- in my opinion, outside of work -- to warrant removal from my job. My writing or opinions on sex work in no way affected my role as a teacher. If people were truly concerned about the children, they would have investigated this privately and found this to be true, rather than plastering my image all over the tabloids and exposing my students to the vague claim that their art teacher is in some way a bad person. The fact is, administration at my school was aware of my situation and was supportive up until the day of my reassignment. At the end of the day, I believe I was put on reassignment not for my work outside of the classroom -- which I have made no secret of from the beginning -- but because the Post embarrassed the DOE.

The DOE may be embarrassed by the New York Post, but I am not. I have no regrets and have done nothing I'm ashamed of. I have worked hard to become the woman I am today -- a woman of dignity and grace, not to mention a competent teacher as well as an accomplished writer. I do not deserve to be shamed or punished or made to feel useless, and yet here I sit in "reassignment." Given the negative attention this situation has received I still hope though do not expect I will be returned to teaching. That said, I firmly believe I should have the right to teach despite my past and despite my conduct outside of the workplace -- which I perceive as courageous and important and certainly not "unbecoming." I believe teachers should not be removed from their positions for living their lives outside the workplace, for having histories from which they've overcome -- overcome, in my case, in large part precisely by speaking out and sharing my story -- and certainly not for having and expressing opinions. I believe an important part of life is making mistakes, and learning from those mistakes is what makes us -- as individuals, as well as a society -- evolve. While my conduct prior to my becoming a teacher may be morally reprehensible to some, I harmed no one the way I harmed myself. To those I have harmed, I have made amends. I've asked for God's forgiveness and I have forgiven myself. For me, the punishment of living the lifestyle I lived prior to becoming a teacher was punishment enough. I do not deserve and will not be punished any further. I am entirely comfortable with the who I am today and more proud than ever of the job I did as a teacher, of which even the Post could find no way of describing me other than "well liked."

The way I see it, if anyone's being punished by this situation it's my former students. As far as I know, they still haven't replaced me, which means these kids still don't have an art and writing teacher. Now that's the real shame.

NYC Pushes To Fire Melissa Petro, Teacher Who Blogged About Craigslist Sex Work

Huffington Post, Dec. 2, 2010

In September 2010, New York City art teacher Melissa Petro wrote a blog post on HuffPost about her time working as a prostitute using Craigslist's adult services section.

After her past was revealed, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg personally ordered Petro out of her classroom, reports the New York Post.

According to video footage of Petro performing at open mic nights, the 30-year-old teacher is also open about the time she spent being paid to work as a stripper in Mexico.

Petro has taught at P.S. 70 in the Bronx since 2007. Now, education officials are trying to permanently remove Petro from her post -- although she became a tenured teacher just days before blogging about her experiences in sex work.

Although firing a tenured teacher is complicated, the New York City Department of Education is pushing ahead.

The New York Post reports that city officials charged Petro on Wednesday, Dec. 1, with charges of "conduct unbecoming a teacher."

However, officials declined to release the full report detailing the charges against Petro, NY Daily News reports.

Bronx teacher admits: I'm an ex-hooker

Meet Melissa Petro -- the teacher who gives a new twist to "sex ed."

The tattooed former hooker and stripper has been teaching art in a Bronx elementary school for three years, The Post has learned.

Calling herself a "for mer sex worker," the well-liked teacher has been shockingly up front about her past -- posting online accounts of her sexcapades in Mexico and Lon don.

But in her boldest move, the 30-year-old posted an essay this month claiming she also had been a pros titute.

"From October 2006 to January 2007, I accepted money in exchange for sexual services I provided to men I met online in what was then called the 'erotic services' section of," wrote Petro on The Huffington Post, using her real name and picture.

The attached bio identifies Petro, who has an MFA in creative nonfiction from The New School, as a "former sex worker, researcher, writer, educator, and feminist."

It appears she managed to keep her shenanigans a secret from parents at PS 70 -- who were stunned by the revelation.

"I don't want nobody that used to do that to be around my kid," said Grace Ventura, whose son is in third grade. "People like that should not be allowed to be anywhere near children."

Yocelyn Quezada said perhaps Petro had managed to turn her life around, but she still fumed that a former money honey was teaching two of her three kids.

"She's not a good role model. I do not want my daughters to find out about this," Quezada said, "and I do not want my daughters to be around that kind of person."

Despite predicting in one online posting that "that this would be a conversation I'd someday be compelled to have," Petro declined twice to speak with The Post.

Principal Kerry Castellano referred questions to the Department of Education's press office, which said Petro had been reassigned to administrative duties pending an investigation

But Petro's posts show she was warned by at least two school staffers -- including one administrator -- that her refusal to be more cautious about her history could land her in hot water.

"In an off the record conversation, a sympathetic administrator kindly asked if I couldn't publish under a pseudonym. I wish, for her sake, I could," Petro recently wrote on The Rumpus, an online magazine.

Petro, who earns $61,000 a year, also wrote that a co-worker had warned her that some of her colleagues were beginning to Google her.

"There have been lots of rumors going around about her for a while now," one school worker told The Post. "I wouldn't want my kid to be in a school where she is."

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Look Back: Andrew Wolf On "Banana King Bloomberg", 2008, And "The Fix Is In", 2010

One of the best journalists around, in my opinion, is Andrew Wolf of the New York Sun. He seems to always hit the nail right on the head as far as Mike Bloomberg's education mess is concerned.

As you read the articles below, dont forget that NYC has just suffered under the worst leadership of the public school system ever. Three articles I posted on this blog, "Kleingate", Mike Bloomberg and Joel Klein, Inc., and "Score Scandal" are just the tip of the iceberg I have named, somewhat affectionally, "violation of rights" that freezes the mind with just how much lawlessness the Bloomberg/Klein regime has gotten away with over the past nine years ("The Gotcha Squad" is still alive and putting teachers on suspension and/or terminating for no reason). Someone must be exceptionally gifted in pulling the wool over the eyes of the public in order to get away with long-term public fraud, and Joel Klein is not good at this. Neither is Mike Bloomberg. The fact is, when piercing, relevant questions are asked about some policy or rule that doesn't make sense, both Bloomberg and Klein attack, belittle, or ignore the person asking the questions. This doesn't work with me and others who know what is going on.

I'll give you one example that will be in my book:

In November 2006 I wrote an article for my website on teacher Hipolito "Polo" Colon who sued his NYSUT Attorney Steve Friedman, Joel Klein, and the NYC Board of Education (Panel For Educational Policy - PEP) in New York State Supreme Court. His cause of action was told he would be terminated on September 19, 2006 at an Executive Session of the Panel because he did not request a 3020-a hearing after getting charged. Problem was, he was out of state when the BOE sent the charges to him the last day of school, and he didnt get any notice until he found 3 return notices in his post office box when he returned in August. Anyway, on September 18, 2006 I served BOE General Counsel Michael Best with an Affidavit that stated the facts of how the vote on the termination could not go forward, and it didnt. On October 13, 2006 Polo filed a lawsuit for violation of his due process rights as a tenured teacher using the lawless PEP Executive Session termination hearings as one part of his whistleblower complaints. The PEP kept meeting in secret Executive Sessions through the 2009-2010 school year. I dont believe that an Executive Session has been held this year, but if you have any information on this, please email me at

What has been overlooked by the media and everyone else, is the fact that the PEP members have routinely violated the rights of tenured teachers since the lawless Panel was set up in 2002. Bloomberg did away with a vote for school boards and local school boards. We, the public, have no representation by election of any person currently sitting in positions of deciding our children's futures.

In 2002-2003 the PEP started immediately voting to terminate tenured teachers who did not return the form asking for a 3020-a hearing (pursuant to Education Law 3020) to the General Counsel within 10 days after receiving their charges. But they did not vote properly. The PEP members read the charges and voted on termination behind closed doors at an Executive Session BEFORE the regular public meeting began. This is a violation of Open Meetings Law Section 105. I contacted Bob Freeman at the Committee on Open Government and he agreed with me that this was indeed a violation of section 105. (See Mr. Freeman on youtube, May 2010).

While you are at it, read Section 106 about minutes. Today, if you go to the PEP website you will see "Minutes of Action". Interesting title, but not really what I, a former PTA President, would call the rundown of the PEP meeting. These postings are new, by the way. Attorney and General Counsel Michael Best has the job, as Secretary of the PEP, to write minutes of each meeting and post on the NYC BOE. Several years ago I filed a Freedom of information request for his minutes, because I've never seen any posted on the BOE website, and I received a couple of agendas. Watch Mr. Best, you will see that he never writes the minutes, and it seems no one else does either. Considering the technologically advanced posibilities for the PEP to take advantage of, one might wonder why there is all the secrecy.

Of course I dont. And now, you dont either. Back to the present, with a waiver being given to Cathie Black who has, unlike Joel Klein, absolutely no public service in her past nor any public/private teaching experience. But Mike Bloomberg wanted her. So, he appointed her. Why didn't he wait until he had given her an Honorary Degree at some University before he made the appointment??? Then he may have gotten away with his bully pulpit, and not been sued by Eric Snyder, a brilliant attorney who saw that once again, the agenda of Mike doesn't comply with the law. I posted his Article 78 so everyone can read the lawsuit. Kudos Mr. Snyder!!!!

Have a great day.

Betsy Combier
Banana King Bloomberg
By Andrew Wolf, Tuesday, October 14, 2008, 7:01:16 PM

New York City is about to become a “banana republic,” ruled not by the will of the people, but rather by the will of one man, our “benevolent” dictator, King Michael Bloomberg.

Twice the voters mandated term limits for city elected officials. They spoke clearly and their desires were respected. As a result, some very fine public officials were forced to step down. And it must be pointed out that the current crop of City Council members, beneficiaries of the law and the mayor knew exactly the terms of their employment.

Earlier suggestions that the Council repeal term limits so that their members could run for a third term or beyond were called “disgusting,” by Mayor Bloomberg himself.

But now as his own clock winds down, King Mike is attempting what is nothing more than a Beer Hall Putsch, and the Beer Hall is the City Council chamber. Enlisting the pliable, gutless and morally bankrupt Council Speaker, Christine “Lap Dog” Quinn, the mayor is about to “steal” an illegal third term. No matter what you think of Bloomberg as mayor, you should fear this gambit, and resist it with every fiber in your being. Rules are rules and respect for the law must not be tampered with. Ever.

Let’s start with the premise that the mayor is the only person who has the ability to “save” the city during the financial crisis. This is the same argument made by Mayor Giuliani, somewhat more persuasively, after 9/11.

Certainly with smoke still rising from the site of the World Trade Center, daily updates in the body counts, and disarray in the financial markets, a real crisis was at hand. All Giuliani asked for was a few extra months. Yet the plan was dropped as cooler heads prevailed. In a democracy, no one man is indispensable.

Now the “Indispensable Emperor” wants an extra four years. As the old Mike Bloomberg would say, it’s “disgusting.”

Before we end democracy in New York, we should closely examine the record of Michael Bloomberg. Is he indispensable? No. In fact in my view he hasn’t even been a good mayor, and continuing him in office would be a disaster.

In a city where the town’s richest man serves as mayor, and the media is greatly compromised by his wealth and influence, sometimes all news appears good, even when it is not.

And there has been plenty of bad news in Bloomberg’s New York. Here’s the truth:

I certainly can’t blame the world financial crisis on King Mike. But everyone should understand that he has failed to prepare us for the uncertain times we face today. He has had no cogent policy to diversify the city’s economy, and now we will pay the price. And more than any person, he was uniquely positioned to see the fragile state of the financial markets, as the leading supplier of information to Wall Street.

When the dust clears, New York City will have tens of thousands fewer jobs in the financial sector, the best and most productive jobs in town, from the perspective of raising tax revenue. And those jobs are not coming back, no matter what King Mike does. This will lead to a glut of residential and office space, and further declining real estate values. Where was our fearless all-knowing leader when we needed someone to sound the alarm?

Because this is a world crisis, the tourist boom, fed by a cheap dollar will also end. Even as the stock markets declined, the dollar has made a comeback, regaining 15% of its value against the euro. In other words, good for you and me when we travel abroad, but not so good for Europeans who have been filling our high end retail stores, getting bargains courtesy of the exchange rate. Look for lots of empty hotel rooms here.

And the mayor - with the connivance of the City Council — has mismanaged the budget. Unlike Mayor Giuliani, King Mike hasn’t shown budgetary restraint, and now we will pay. He already increased property taxes by 18% after 9/11, failed to give us the 1% sales tax break promised a generation ago during an earlier budget crisis, and has new plans to raise property taxes now. Look for more taxes and deep cuts, and give blame where blame is due - right with the Imperial Mayor.

The World Trade Center site, Ground Zero, is still an empty hole. Whose fault is that? King Mike has been our ruler now for seven years. He should have been screaming for action. Now it is clear that even a memorial will not be completed even in time for the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 outrage. Another victory for the terrorists.

What of the mayor’s other “accomplishments?”

You will hear much talk of better schools. Where? Certainly not here in Riverdale, as every important indicator is way down. Our schools are now being run by unqualified, insensitive “instant principals,” whose loyalty is to King Mike and his Court Jester, Chancellor Joel Klein, and not to our children and our community.

Citywide, test scores key tests administered by those outside of New York are flat, even as the cost of running schools has increased by 79% and the number of students declined by 60,000. Amazingly, 5,000 extra teachers have disappeared into the system, but class size is as big as ever. The conclusion is inescapable. King Mike has botched the job.

The State Legislature, blessedly, rejected the burden that congestion pricing would place on us. But if King Mike stages his coup, can we count on them to continue to protect those of us who, here in the outer boroughs, will surely be victimized by this wacky scheme?

As he has failed with the big things, the out-of-touch Emperor, perhaps spending too much time with his billionaire pals at his estate in Bermuda, has put through some small projects which reveals how disconnected from our lives he is.

He boasts of a new bus line to speed travel time across Fordham Road. And it has. But it comes at the expense of every single parking space along Fordham Road between University Avenue and Southern Boulevard. The result? Retail business has suffered greatly. But hey, when was the last time unthinking King Mike shopped on Fordham Road?

The Benevolent Dictator likes to tell us what we can eat and what we can’t. So he (and the mental midgets on the City Council) came up with the craziest scheme of all, to place hundreds of pushcarts on the streets to sell fresh fruits and vegetables to “underserved” poor communities. King Mike failed to realize that if there was a real demand for more availability of fruit and vegetables, the free market would satisfy it.

So what happened? Only eight vendors came forward, and as of now, they are doing miserably. You see even his highness, Emperor Mike, the Banana King, can’t repeal the laws of supply and demand.

And he shouldn’t be allowed to try and repeal our term limits law, either.

Even if he was doing a great job, repeal of term limits would be morally wrong. Because this king has failed us, repeal would be a disaster for our city on every level.

Fix Appears To Be In at Secret Hearing on Next City Schools Chancellor
By ANDREW WOLF, Special to the Sun, November 22, 2010
The growing movement to deny Cathie Black, Mayor Bloomberg’s friend and choice to become New York schools chancellor has, I suspect, ground to a halt.

The New York State Education Commissioner, David Steiner, has appointed an advisory committee so heavily stacked with former employees of the Bloomberg administration’s education department and recipients of Bloomberg’s charitable largesse that it is hard not to draw the conclusion that the “fix is in.”

One can only conclude that Mr. Steiner:

· has decided, for whatever reason, not to challenge the mayor.

· fears that the mayor’s nominee is so controversial that he must have a near-unanimous vote of the advisory committee recommending Ms. Black’s appointment.

· calculates that unless the committee is top-heavy with “sure votes” for any choice of the mayor, it would reject Ms. Black.

I have heard that this is a “line in the sand” moment for the mayor and that he has telegraphed this to both Mr. Steiner, and the chancellor of the state education department, Merryl Tisch, though what Ms. Tisch will do behind the scenes is difficult to predict. She has shown courage is challenging New York’s test scores, publicly questioning the results in 2009 when the mayor was running for reelection, reportedly enraging him, even though she held back on what should have been done back then, which is withhold that year’s results.

In any event, it is hard to conceive that a candidate possessing as thin an educational resume as Ms. Black would be considered if nominated by another mayor.

The saddest part of this story is that the meetings of the advisory committee to decide whether Ms. Black deserves a waiver from the statutory requirements will apparently by done in secret.

Under New York State’s Open Meetings Law, the deliberations of this panel should be open. Personnel matters can be held in executive session, but this is not a personnel decision. Any confidential information regarding Ms. Black’s previous employment — not much of a secret because of her high profile position in a public company — falls into the mayor’s purview in selecting her. This is merely a review of whether her professional qualifications can be considered as meeting the specific requirements outlined under state law, arguably a matter of public concern.

No doubt running New York’s schools requires a great manager, but not just any manager. The job requires a manager with a particular understanding of this field and its issues, such as curriculum and pedagogy. It is easy for professional managers to imagine that they can run a school or a school district, but quite another to actually do it.

Joel Klein, the non-educator who currently leads the school system, is being lauded as a transformational chancellor, but that assessment will be adjusted as the scale of the test results balloon comes into perspective. Test scores have barely budged, while school expenditures have skyrocketed.

It is widely acknowledged that now, with the impending absence of federal stimulus funds, major cuts will have to be made. But what should be cut? How do we more efficiently use resources and get positive educational results?

Compared with Ms. Black, Mr. Klein’s resume held far more promise. He had a long history of government service, right up to the White House. He had actually served, if briefly, as a classroom teacher and was himself a graduate of the New York City public schools. Ms. Black main qualification in education is that she sent her children to a private boarding school.

Now we’re being told by Oprah Winfrey, of all people, that Ms. Black is the best choice for the job.

Ms. Winfrey opened a small school for girls in South Africa that, by next year, is slated to grow to just 450 young women. This is a particular interest of Ms. Winfrey, who has often discussed being sexually abused as a child. But the school has been rocked by at least two sex scandals since the day it opened and has been mired in controversy. One school. Maybe it isn’t so easy, even for the well-meaning rich. Imagine running 1,400 schools with well over a million students.

I’m willing to give Ms. Black the benefit of the doubt. But hold the meeting of the advisory committee in public. Let’s hear what she and they have to say. No one is served by holding this deliberation in secret, certainly not the public or the children attending our schools. Ultimately, it will ill serve Ms. Black — and Mr. Steiner as well.

Mr. Wolf is a contributing editor of The New York Sun.

Public Deserves Full Hearing on Bloomberg’s Nominee for Chancellor of Schools
How Far Has the City Come Under Mayoral Control?
By ANDREW WOLF, Special to the Sun, November 14, 2010

Before Cathie Black gets a waiver to come in as Mayor Bloomberg’s schools chancellor, there should be a proper hearing in Albany. It would provide a moment not only to explore whether Ms. Black is the right person for the job but to assess how far the city has actually come under mayoral control of the schools.

The mayor, who fashions himself as a great educational reformer, wants New Yorkers to believe that he has found the magic formula that can be executed by any fine manager, even one who, like Ms. Black, is without any educational experience. But where’s the magic?

The fact is that under Mr. Bloomberg’s formula, New Yorkers have increased the education budget to $21 billion a year from $13 billion but have seen only the tiniest increase in student performance, continuing a pattern of similar (and often larger) gains that were being posted by the old, much maligned and allegedly “dysfunctional” Board of Education.

The “historic gains” boasted of last year, when the mayor won reelection, evaporated this year with the admission by the newly installed State Education Commissioner, David Steiner, that New York State tests in grades 3 through 8 had, for the past few years, been wildly inflated. The extreme nature of this situation has, in my opinion, been largely understated.

This deception — and no one should think that it is anything but — was not to help the children, who are, after all, demonstrably worse off by not having been told the truth, but rather to benefit the adults who run the schools. Beneficiaries included Mr. Steiner’s predecessor, Richard Mills, who boasted of the state’s soaring test scores as proof of his success, and Mayor Bloomberg, who used those scores as part of his $100 million campaign for re-election.

The federal No Child Left Behind law has its critics, but it did force policy makers to try to achieve increased scores, with the unrealistic goal of making all children proficient in math and reading by 2014. It was an invitation to game the system by allowing each state to determine proficiency, resulting in the New York state debacle. This compromised the education of hundreds of thousands of students here, denying many of them essential remediation, while facilitating their unearned promotion to the next grade. The concept of “ending” social promotion, central to the Bloomberg educational program, now lies in tatters.

Just as the academic program is emerging as in need of rethinking comes the fiscal bad news. The full effect of the recession, blunted for a while by the infusion of billions in federal stimulus funds, is now upon us. With billions less to spend, we’ve got to achieve the academic gains that we now know weren’t reached when the cash spigot flowed freely. This is a daunting task.

The first step to fixing a problem is admitting that one exists. That is what Mr. Steiner did at the state level with the test scores in July. I suggest that the solution to creating real, not illusive, academic gains will come from better pedagogy, not better management.

Which brings us to Cathie Black. I fear that the mayor still believes his own 2009 press releases and has told Ms. Black that, as far as academics are concerned, all is well with the city’s schools. All she needs to do as chancellor would then be to follow through on the programs the outgoing chancellor, Joel Klein, and his staff have already put in place. But in the harsh light of the revised test scores, what kind of success has Mr. Klein truly accomplished? Achievement has not dramatically increased, while funding has. New educational programs will need to be developed.

There are those who suggest that the mayor, in total control of the schools, have free reign to pick his chancellor. But the mayor, even within the overly-liberal terms of the renewal of his control of the schools in 2009, has control only within state law. That law clearly enumerates certain pedagogical qualifications for district superintendents, and New York City is the largest school district in the state (not to mention the country). Those requirements, not unique to the city, can be waived only for those possessing extraordinary skills.

There have been three waiver requests in my memory. Mr. Klein, in the euphoria of the initial adding of the school system to the mayor’s portfolio, won such a waiver. But he brought extensive government service to the table, at a time when all of the stakeholders, including the teacher’s union, were supportive. His predecessor, Harold Levy, whom the mayor would dismiss as part of the old “dysfunction,” also won a waiver. He had considerable experience as an education advocate in the private sector and had served on the State Board of Regents.

The third application for a waiver, which was denied, was for Robert F. Wagner, Jr., who was — he has since died — the scion of a distinguished New York political family and who was a widely recognized student of public policy. Many at the time were shocked by Wagner’s rejection. Mayor Koch responded by orchestrating Wagner’s election as president of the Board of Education, where he served with distinction.

In Ms. Black’s case, what would be appropriate would be a public hearing at which Ms. Black would be entitled to testify and face questions from a panel of Regents, state and city legislative leaders, and state education department staffers. This would enable Commissioner Steiner, who knows better than anyone the challenges that lie ahead, to make an informed and transparent decision.

It would also enable Ms. Black, a social friend of Mr. Bloomberg, to prove that she is not the education world’s equivalent of Harriet Miers, the ill-fated Bush nominee to the Supreme Court. Or perhaps give her pause, as with Ms. Miers, to withdraw rather than face questions for which she is ill-prepared to answer.

Laurence Tribe, US Department of Justice Senior Counsel, Speaks About The Disintegration of Justice In America

U.S. Department of Justice challenges state Chief Justices to fix access to justice systemic deficiencies

On July 26, 2010, Laurence Tribe, Senior Counsel for the United States Department of Justice, Access to Justice Initiative, delivered an important speech to the Conference of Chief Justices, challenging them to halt the disintegration of our state justice systems before they become indistinguishable from courts of third world nations. “If some of the things I’ll be asking of you, in your capacity as chief justices and as occupants of the bully pulpits in your respective states, will resemble judicial ‘activism,’ they will bear no resemblance to activism of an ideological stripe, right or left, but will bear the ‘activist’ label only to the degree that activism is understood as the opposite of passivity – a passivity that disclaims responsibility for the systems of which you are, after all, the stewards.”

The active participation of Chief Justices in reform is critical, Professor Tribe noted, to counterbalance the “hydra-headed monster” of “too many people to be served effectively” in the face of state legislators’ “appetite for imprisonment that ignores the veritable mountain of evidence which shows that alternatives to incarceration are often more effective at reducing recidivism while also less costly” and their “unwillingness to provide the legal assistance needed to provide meaningful, adequate defense.”

The often overlooked linked between broken justice systems – both civil and criminal – and escalating risks to public safety was of particular focus in the speech. Tribe stated that “clogged” and at times “corrupt” public courts lead to a “vicious cycle of cynicism and disaffection in which the system’s democratic legitimacy, the very foundation of its capacity to articulate and enforce the rule of law, disintegrates.” Tribe continued: “[T]hat in turn leads increasing numbers to flout the law.”

Tribe was particularly concerned about the plight of juveniles in our nation’s courts: “[W]ithout any credible defense, those young people are far more likely to end up in detention or incarceration, where they’re much more likely to be exposed to assault or sexual abuse, much more vulnerable to suicide, and far more likely to commit further crimes after their release. You, as our chief justices, can make a difference. Every child in delinquency proceedings should have access to justice via a right to counsel at every important step of the way: before a judicial determination regarding detention, and during probation interviews, pre-trial motions and hearings, adjudications and dispositions, determination of placement, and appeals. The changes you can bring about will affect these young people for the rest of their lives. And you could save not only their lives but the lives of those they might otherwise endanger years into the future.”

The DOJ gave very specific recommendations to the state chief justices. Recognizing that the “consequences of juvenile adjudications are serious and long term” and that “the lack of representation can reshape a child’s entire life” from “expulsion from school, exclusion from the job market, eviction from public housing, and exclusion from the opportunity to enlist in the military,” DOJ challenged the state chief justices to be the protectors of the right to counsel. Lauding those states that “do not accept a waiver of counsel from juveniles under any circumstances,” DOJ recommends that “every state in the country should adopt a rule that at the very least requires consultation with an attorney prior to waiver of counsel.” Furthermore, the DOJ recommends that each Chief Justice create a state task force – a la Nevada -- to evaluate “the adequacy of the way your state is discharging its federal constitutional duty under Gideon.”

In closing, Tribe stated, “[t]here may well be times when, as you contemplate the enormity of this challenge, the task ahead will seem so daunting that paralysis is the first reaction. Believe me – I’ve felt that, too. But, if the search for a universal solvent for the intractable problems of justice can be paralyzing, the commitment to these achievable reforms can be empowering.”

Scandal in the Los Angeles Justice System