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Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Guide To Laying Off Teachers, Or Anyone, For That Matter

National Council On Teacher Quality

As you can read in the New York Times Editorial I have re-posted below, the issue of layoffs and WHO will be laid off, is very much the topic of the minute.

By the way, where is the outrage at Joel Klein's newest improper use of public funds - as in the hiring of new Deputy Chancellors at Tweed? Just asking. Are we all so dulled by the pain of our due process rights being denied that we learn to accept corruption? If anyone is considering a lawsuit or has written any complaint about Tweed's continuing employment of unnecessary personnel while the rest of New York City is terrorized out of their jobs, please contact me.

I have drawn up my own list that may be exactly what Joel Klein is using to decide for principals throughout New York City whom they should cut from their school budget:

A Guide To Laying Off Teachers
by Betsy Combier

1. Any person over whom you do not have total control and cannot threaten successfully into silence;

2. Any person who has seen an error that you made, no matter what this error is,and certainly anyone who has filed a grievance or made a complaint to anyone about you;

3. Any person who is injured in the school;

4. Any person who gets ill more than three days in a row, or gets a terminal or serious disease (or gets pregnant);

5. Any teacher too loved by/popular with students(thus you cannot get a gang to lie about his/her behavior, words);

6. Any teacher who has something, anything, in his/her file at the school,at any other school, or stored in the auxiliary storage location at 65 Court Street;

7. Any person late more than 1 minute more than five times, even if he/she does not miss any teaching time;

8. Any person who seems to have a friendship with another staff member who is guilty of any of the above;

9. Any person who is, in your mind, hesitant to change a grade, to fill out a survey exactly as you want it, or suspend a student for no reason;

10. Any person not included in the list above who has annoyed you in any way, for any reason, whether valid or not;

and, thanks to Fidgety, here are some more qualifications for layoff:

11. Any person who is arrested for any reason;

12. Any person who has a family member or friend arrested for any reason, valid or not;

13. Any person who is arrested and, even if he/she is in the hospital and/or in a coma, doesn't call in the arrest to the NYC Board of Education within 24 hours, personally, or has a family relative make the call;

14. Any person who is reported to the Agency For Child Services at any time, for any reason or no reason, at any time, even during the summer (because the report MAY be true, and ACS keeps you in the agency files for 10 years, which makes the NYC BOE look bad);

15. Any person who questions or complains about a principal at a school other than the one he/she teaches at (suggesting that perhaps at some point in time the teacher would speak to someone about the Principal at his/her own school).

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

May 8, 2010
How Should the Layoffs Work?


Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City said this week that fiscal woes could force him to lay off more than 6,000 teachers. We hope the number will not be that high, but there will have to be layoffs. The question is, how will they be done?

We would prefer to wholeheartedly endorse the mayor’s proposal for laying off teachers based on performance instead of the current seniority rules. But the system that would allow the city to make fair and objective performance-based layoffs is clearly not yet in place, and we are skeptical that the city will be able to produce one in the next few weeks before the budget ax falls.

New York is one of 15 states that have laws requiring that the most recently hired teachers be laid off first.

Mr. Bloomberg has instead proposed a nonseniority system that would make layoff decisions based partly on student test scores for some teachers and give principals considerable latitude to decide whom on their staffs to let go and whom to keep.

The city has begun to use students’ performance on standardized tests to evaluate teachers. But critics of the mayor’s layoff proposal rightly point out that about only 11,500 of the city’s 80,000 teachers have gone through such an evaluation. And a provision of the plan that would give principals greater discretion has raised suspicions about favoritism and unfairness.

Joel Klein, the schools chancellor, says the nonseniority system would allow the schools to keep promising young teachers instead of laying them off en masse. But a new analysis of city teacher performance data by The New York Times suggests that younger teachers would still be let go in large numbers. The Times’s analysis suggests that young teachers need five years in the classroom before they can do their best work.

Mr. Bloomberg and his team are right to argue for a performance-based system. Seniority is a very blunt instrument. New York’s students — who will already pay a high price for the layoffs — will suffer even more if good teachers are let go and bad ones kept on based solely on how many years a teacher has held a job.

City Hall should work with the union to implement a comprehensive, transparent and rigorous teacher-evaluation system. And it should start working now to persuade the State Legislature of the value of such a system. But barring some unforeseen developments, the city may have no choice but to conduct layoffs this time using traditional seniority rules.

May 5, 2010
Bloomberg Budget Would Cut 6,700 Teachers

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, anticipating deep financial cuts from Albany, plans to cut the number of city teachers by 6,700 to help close a projected $5 billion deficit under his latest budget proposal, people briefed on the plan said.

Mr. Bloomberg also intends, in a proposal to be unveiled on Thursday, to reduce the city’s work force by about 5,000 other workers, mostly through attrition and spread across many different agencies. And he is prepared, officials say, to take his budget knife to a host of programs that many residents have come to treasure, closing as many as 75 senior centers, as well as day care centers and programs for children.

One area that will be spared, however, is public safety. Mr. Bloomberg has decided that the police force, which dropped to 35,641 last year from 40,285 in 2000, cannot absorb any more cuts, especially in the wake of the Times Square bomb scare.

So he will scrap his original plans, as sketched out in his preliminary budget address in January, to reduce the police force by 892 officers through attrition, city officials said.

It was not immediately clear, however, whether Mr. Bloomberg planned to back away from his original proposal to close 20 fire companies.

Mr. Bloomberg’s budget will not contain any new taxes, according to people who spoke on condition of anonymity, so as not to upstage the mayor’s presentation on Thursday. There may be proposals for some additional sources of revenue, though details were not available.

When asked about the particulars of the budget, Marc La Vorgna, the mayor’s chief spokesman on the budget, declined to comment.

The new proposal reflects the sobering reality that the city, while in far better shape financially than most, is still reeling from the effects of the recession, as well as years of generous contracts for unions and increased spending.

“The mayor’s not going to be restoring much,” one person briefed on the plans said. “It’s going to be devastating. People are going to be screaming.”

But more than anything else, the proposal reflects Mr. Bloomberg’s frustration with Albany.

In January, his plan called for reducing money for libraries, trimming the number of caseworkers who deal with H.I.V. and AIDS, eliminating nurses from elementary schools and increasing caseloads for workers in the Administration for Children’s Services. He also proposed eliminating 20 fire companies, increasing the cost of truck parking on Manhattan streets by 25 percent and closing four swimming pools and a center for the homeless.

But he warned that if Gov. David A. Paterson’s proposed state budget was enacted, the city would face an additional shortfall of $1.3 billion — a shortfall that he said would result in thousands of additional layoffs on top of his own proposals.

State legislators were supposed to have a budget in place on April 1, giving the city three months to adjust its own budget accordingly. The city is legally required to reach a balanced budget for the new fiscal year by July 1. But Albany has not reached a budget deal, and there is no indication that one is imminent.

So that means Mr. Bloomberg is left with a moving target, trying to estimate how much money the state will provide. Albany’s predicament also makes things difficult for the City Council, which must hold hearings and approve the budget.

Mr. Bloomberg is likely to hold Albany accountable for his plan to lay off, or lose through attrition, 6,700 teachers.

“He’s going to be putting in very little money because he’s really upset with Albany,” one city official briefed on the budget said.

Stu Loeser, the mayor’s chief spokesman, said, “Unlike Albany, we in New York City have made tough choices and unpopular budget cuts over the last three years to keep the city’s fiscal house in order.”

The budget would, he said, “include further cuts to many important city services, but it won’t include a reduction in the number of police officers out on our streets.”

Over all, the proposal totals about $64 billion and will not be appreciably different from last year’s budget. But rising expenditures for pensions and health benefits, which have ballooned under Mr. Bloomberg’s watch, are eating into the budget, and forcing the city to look for cuts elsewhere.

In January, the mayor signaled that he was prepared to take a much tougher position on union contracts and pension and health benefits. He urged teachers, for instance, to accept a smaller annual raise in the contract now being negotiated (2 percent, rather than the 4 percent received in some years).

He also encouraged unions to consider long-term changes in pension and health benefits that could save hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

And last week, in yet another sign that Mr. Bloomberg would be focusing on cutting costs and streamlining government, he announced that he had tapped Stephen Goldsmith, a former mayor of Indianapolis, as his new deputy mayor for operations. Mr. Goldsmith, a fiscal conservative, made a national name for himself by downsizing government and pushing for privatization.

Teacher Layoffs in New York City

NY TIMES, Published: April 23, 2010

To the Editor:

Re “Bill Would Allow Layoffs of Teachers With Seniority” (news article, April 13):

Despite all the publicity about New York City’s desire to fire or lay off senior teachers, scant mention has been made of money, a major factor in principals’ reluctance to rehire displaced teachers.

For decades, schools were financed with “units,” each being worth the salary of an average-service teacher. No matter whom the school hired, the cost was the same.

In a perhaps misguided effort to equalize financing to schools, this administration forces schools to bear the true costs of each teacher. Simply put, a principal can hire two beginning teachers — perhaps more — as cheaply as he can hire one senior teacher. My conversations with countless principals reflect this reality.

Though the chancellor has periodically offered temporary incentives — paying the differential for a limited period of time — the principal knows that the true cost will ultimately appear, forcing him to lay off a younger teacher to pay the senior teacher.

Any solution to the surplus of senior teachers without positions must reflect this reality if it is to be fair to those teachers whose only crime has been to give the city years of service.

Stephen Phillips
Brooklyn, April 13, 2010

The writer, program head, adolescence education at Brooklyn College School of Education, retired in 1997 as superintendent of alternative high schools and programs with the New York City Board of Education.

Mary Prendergast, Principal of High School for Youth and Community Development, Is Investigated For Grade Inflation

Principal Mary Prendergast under investigation for
grade inflation after teacher survey scandal

BY Rachel Monohan, DAILY NEWS WRITER, Sunday, May 9th 2010

A Brooklyn principal caught on tape encouraging teachers to give their school good marks on a city survey also faces a possible grade-inflation scandal.

Mary Prendergast of the High School for Youth and Community Development is under investigation "for testing allegations," city Education Department spokesman Danny Kanner confirmed.

In documents provided to the Daily News, a handwritten note instructs teachers to "review" January 2009 English Regents exams of 20 students who nearly passed but didn't. A separate spreadsheet appears to show improvements in eight of the students' grades.

A call to Prendergast, whom The News wrote about after she allegedly tried to sway teachers' responses to a school satisfaction survey, was not immediately

A Brookyln principal caught on tape encouraging teachers to give their school good marks on a city survey also faces a possible grade-inflation scandal.
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Principals feeling pressure to get A's putting pressure on parents, teachers to give them
BY Rachel Monahan, DAILY NEWS WRITER, Wednesday, May 5th 2010

Leslie Colbert, (l) mother of a child who attends P.S. 38, says the allegations that Principal Yolanda Ramirez (r) abused teachers after she received poor marks on an evaluation, are shocking

These principals may be the real grade-grubbers.

Across the city, principals are under investigation for pressuring parents, students or teachers into giving them good reviews on the secret surveys that gauge school satisfaction.

Just a month after the Daily News obtained a recording of a Brooklyn principal threatening teachers for giving her shoddy reviews, another tape has emerged of a principal instructing teachers on the importance of giving high marks.

"If you give us low grades and that attacks our progress report grade, the school's going to close," Principal Mary Prendergast of the High School for Youth and Community Development says in a matter-of-fact tone.

She also notes that she considers the survey to be "stupid, quite frankly," and tells her teacher to "politically be smart."

"We live in a toxic political environment in the Department of Education," she explains. "I'm not putting this in a memo because these are the kind of things that can be misinterpreted."

Prendergast isn't alone. Yolanda Ramirez, principal of Public School 38 in Brooklyn, was caught on tape last year berating her teachers for giving her lousy reviews.

And education officials confirm they are investigating other cases of principals giving instructions on the surveys, which account for 10% of the A-to-F grades given to schools and are used to determine bonuses.

Contacted by The News, Prendergast acknowledges she's looking to improve her new small school's scores and that the threat of closure is a real one her teachers are generally aware of. But, she said, she wasn't trying to pressure her underlings.

"How does a principal advocate for doing the best we can without making it look like we're skewing the results?" she asked.

Education Department officials said they don't think there's "widespread" pressure on the surveys, noting 24% of teachers last year said they didn't "trust the principal at his or her word."

"We will not tolerate any attempt to manipulate survey results," said Danny Kanner, an Education Department spokesman, before bashing teachers for making the recordings.

But at PS 34 in Queens, a current and a former teacher charged their principal freaked out after they gave her poor reviews two years back, then tried to convince them that better reviews would mean a bigger bonus. Principal Pauline Shakespeare denied the charge through a secretary.

At PS 345 in Brooklyn, teachers charged the principal tried to scare them with the prospect of closure - but backed off after the school's report card grade rose. Principal Wanda Holt denied the allegations before hanging up on The News.