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Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Terminator: PIP+ Observer

After spending almost three years investigating the PIP+ process of evaluating teachers, while I worked for the UFT and after, I have become what some people may describe as an Expert Witness to the errors and pitfalls of the program.

When a Principal wants to get rid of you, he or she will "offer" you the "remediation" of the PIP+ and tell you to sign the contract agreeing to participate. He or she may also add, if you hestitate, that if you do not sign up for the PIP+ then this information will be brought to a 3020-a and the arbitrator will see this as convincing evidence for your termination. DONT FALL FOR THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


In fact, a teacher said no, and at the 3020-a the NYC DOE Gotcha Squad lawyer tried to argue for termination based upon the refusal to participate, and arbitrator Randi Lowitt said that she would not consider any penalty for not participating in a voluntary program.

Sandra Kase, PIP+ Director at RMC, told an assembly of NYSUT attorneys (and a NYSUT Attorney told me), that the PIP+ is to help Principals get rid of staff, not to help teachers improve their classroom teaching skills.

Don't get caught, read the documents below. Also, when you read the Training Manual, you will see that the RMC Employee hired to observe you must model for you the constructs that he/she wants you to use. Ask your observer to model for you, and see what happens. Dont forget to have a secret tape recorder hidden in your pocket.

Oh, by the way, let me remind all those warm and fuzzy Department of Education and NYSUT/UFT people who desperately want me to stop writing on this blog and/or my website, I am not an attorney and the information below is just my opinion. Besides, you should have kept me on payroll so I would have had to continue to send my opinions to all the other blogs in town.

Here are two(2) truths:

If you signed up for PIP+ (Peer Intervention Program Plus), you probably were observed by someone who knows little or nothing about the subject area or the curriculum, and is in the school to serve the interests of the principal. The observer is there to complete and substantiate the claims of the administration of your school that you should be fired and you cannot improve under any circumstances.

When you go to 3020-a, on charges that you are an incompetent teacher, you will be terminated unless you defend your competency aggressively (videos, tapes, affirmations, letters in support, etc.) and submit to the arbitrator through your attorney the documents below.

How did this program start? For many years one of the objections teachers have had concerning the annual rating sheet is that the principal, who gives the rating, is biased. The argument is, if a principal is out to "get" you - fired, excessed, removed, re-assigned - by giving you two or more "U" ratings at the end of two school years, then this person will come into your classroom to observe you suddenly without notice, and then staple this informal observation to the rating sheet along with the 45 other formal and informal observations he/she did in the space of a month (this is a little exaggeration, but this is my blog, and I can exaggerate to make my point). This is not proper procedure. An observer is supposed to give you a date for a pre-observation, observe the scheduled class, and then discuss the observation with you later the same day or as soon as possible. Formal observations are supposed to be used not in a punitive way but to assist you in improving your teaching.

Randi Weingarten heard the complaints of members, and agreed to allow a program to start in 2007 called the PIP+ that would give some of the power to determine "incompetency" to an independent and neutral party, a PIP+ observer brought in from outside the school. The job of running the program was given to The RMC Corporation, as I found out after filing a Freedom of Information request for the PIP+ contract (I paid $52.00 to the NYC DOE). Here is the PIP+ agreement between the RMC Research Corporation and The New York City Department of Education (the UFT is not mentioned), OLS Contract Log No. 17053:

An Agreement By and Between the Board of Education of the City of New York and the RMC Research Corporation (pp. 1-53)
Request For Authorization (pp. 54-105)
Proposal (pp. 106 -incomplete)

and here are the pages on the Training Manual, that show how the entire program is driven by the principal:

Peer Observation and Evaluation Part 1(#RO116)
Training Manual Part 2

By the way, I also FOIL'd the personnel file of Sandra Kase, and will post this soon on these pages.

The problem is that the Peer Intervention Program+ was never implemented correctly. RMC is a consulting group that works alongside The Gotcha Squad. I first heard this from a teacher who had signed up for PIP+, and taught 3rd grade (very successfully) and suddenly was told to switch to fifth grade. The principal from hell was driving all teachers away, the scores of the school were falling, everything was wrong. The PIP+ observer came in and told her (the teacher) that she, the observer,  had taught 3rd grade in 1969 for 6 months, before moving to California. She asked what the Workshop Model was. Then, after ten weeks, told the Principal that the teacher was too incompetent to keep, that this tenured teacher was absolutely incapable of ever being remediated in any way and recommended termination. In another case, a PIP+ observer who had worked with the Principal several years earlier came to the school to end the career of a teacher who the principal wanted out because she wanted that position for her niece. etc.

At 3020-a, the arbitrators are respecting the "neutrality" of these observers, and their "professional opinions" to the extent that almost everyone who signed up is being given harsh penalties, which should be appealed (Article 7511, New York State Supreme Court). In other words, the arbirators believe them, and find them credible. You must prove otherwise.

So, what is a PIP+ victim to do?
1. The NYCDOE attorney will make a big point of the "fact" that the PIP+ is a collaboration of the UFT and the DOE (especially if you get Gotcha Squad attorney Dennis Da Costa, who treats Respondent teachers as serial killers - can someone report him to the First Department Disciplinary Committee? Or, send me your transcripts and I'll send them over, with a cover sheet) and submit to the arbitrator the UFT 2007 contract as if this was the agreement that RMC uses as their contract. This is not correct.
In the agreement  above, look at on pp. 15-16 where says that the RMC Corporation is paid by the Chancellor and the Chancellor shall decide if the job is done well or not. This makes the RMC Corporation anything but neutral. Point out this to the arbitrator, and submit the agreement as evidence.

2. The manner in which the teacher is observed is key to proving that the PIP+ is a principal-driven tool to get rid of the teacher. The PIP+ observer gives his/her observations to the principal, once the observation is written...sometimes the principal does not give the observation to the teacher until weeks later. This cannot be the way a teacher is "helped". In order for a teacher to be assisted in his/her pedagogy, he/she must have immediate feedback. All training programs 'know' this, but the PIP+ program is a "Gotcha" program, so there is no remediation involved. (For a teacher to be fired there must have been a remediation strategy in place that failed over time to make the teacher capable of teaching).
Have your attorney point out the time lags between the observation and the discussion with the teacher of the observation, or the day that the teacher gets the observation comments. And, if the year-end rating is stapled to informal observations, counseling memos and letters to file, ask the arbitrator to have the NYC DOE attorney submit only the formal observations with the rating sheet, as allowed in the UFT contract.

3. Have a student witness come in and say what a great teacher you were, and how well you performed in your class.
Arbirators I know give alot of weight to a child who, when he/she enters the room, seems very happy to see his/her teacher, and testifies about how wonderful the teacher is in the classroom. I remember one hearing I sat in on when a charming seven year-old was asked by the NYC DOE to testify against her teacher. The little girl came into the room and waved to the teacher, and said a big hello. The arbitrator told her to tell the truth, she said that she would, and then she started scribbling on a little piece of paper. The arbitrator asked her if she would like a bigger sheet (probably thinking this would keep her from figgiting too much). She said yes, and proceeded to answer questions while scribbling on her paper with her red pen.
The DOE Attorney wanted the girl to admit that the teacher had pinched her nose. The girl kept saying she didnt recall anything like that. Getting a little frustrated, the DOE attorney said loudly (and in a leading way) DONT YOU REMEMBER THAT YOUR TEACHER PINCHED YOUR NOSE DURING CLASS???? The girl said something to the effect, "yes, I guess so".
She then finished scribbling, and I was interested in seeing what she had drawn (I have a certificate in Art and Drama Therapy).
The little girl handed the artbitrator her sheet of paper with the following in big red letters: "NO". I heard the arbitrator (one of my personal favorites) ask the smart-as-a-whip little witness whether he could have her "drawing", and after she said "yes", he slipped the paper into his file of exhibits, saying to her, "thank you."
So kool.

Betsy Combier

The New Underhanded Sleazy DOE Policy To Get Teachers To Resign On The Spot

The DOE in their never ending search to find ways to get veteran teachers to leave the system has came up with a new procedure to do just that. Tweed's Teacher Performance Unit (TPU). Otherwise known as the "firing squad" or gotcha squad" has come up with a sleazy procedure to railroad and pressure teachers accused of incompetance into resigning. The TPU has sent a resignation form to the Principals' that allows the teacher to resign on the spot and our union has not objected to this sleazy program. How does this new procedure to get rid of teachers work?

It starts with the Principal "U" rating the teacher for the first year. Then during the second year the Administration gives the poor teacher "U" observations. The teacher is given the Peer Intervention Program (PIP) and despite sometimes glowing reports, the Principal "U" rates the teacher for the second year. During the third year, the "U" observations pile up and the teacher is given the DOE termination program called PIP+. Usually given by an F status administrator or teacher who relies on the DOE supported income and won't go against the Principal. Finally, the Principal, with another administrator will call in the unsuspecting teacher, sometimes without the Chapter Leader since it is not a disciplinary hearing and offers the teacher a deal. The deal is as follows:

" If the teacher signs the resignation paper, handed to the teacher at the meeting, the Principal will remove the "U" ratings and give the teacher an "S" rating for the previous two years and the current year. Further, the DOE will give a neutral recommendation to other school systems. Finally, the teacher will be reassigned out of the school and be paid for the rest of the school year. Of course the resignation paper states that the teacher cannot work for the DOE ever again. If the teacher refuses to sign the resignation paper the Principal falsely claims that the teacher will be brought up on expedited 3020-a charges and go after not only the City license but the State license as well and that the teacher will be terminated before the school year is over."

This scare tactic frightens the teacher and without guidance some teachers sign their careers away. The reality is that if the teacher properly refuses to sign the resignation paper here is the most likely scenario that would ensue. The Principal will file 3020-a charges for incompetence and the teacher will be reassigned. In two to three months, maybe longer, the 3020 charges will be given to the teacher. Three to six months after receiving the charges the teacher will be assigned a NYSUT lawyer, free of charge, by the union and a 3020-a arbitrator will be assigned. Between six and 12 months after receiving the lawyer & arbitrator, the teacher will finally have a pre-hearing where it is quite likely the DOE lawyer will offer the teacher a settlement by paying a fine of between $2,500 -$6,000 and a course without going through a 3020-a hearing. If no such settlement is offered, expect the 3020-a hearing to last six months or more before it ends. Because transcripts from Albany are very slow in coming, an Arbitrator's decision could take another three month or more. That means from the time the teacher is reassigned from the school to the arbitrator's decision expect it to be a minimum of 20 months and in most cases it is over two years! Finally, very few teachers are terminated for incompetence and the teacher is eventually reassigned to another school as an ATR.

Why our union allows the DOE to get away with this deception is mind-boggling. The district reps should be telling the Chapter Leaders to make sure that no teacher sign a resignation paper and encourage them to fight the charges. Instead it seems that the union takes a neutral position and leaves the teacher on her own with no guidance and the likely scenario if the teacher does not sign the resignation paper. It appears to me the union is aiding and abetting Tweed's sleazy teacher resignation program by keeping the hapless and targeted teacher ignorant of their options if they fight the charges.

Shame on Tweed for their underhanded ways to pressure teachers to resign and the union for allowing this DOE program to exist without putting up a fight.

Note: I am pretty much disappointed that many of my fellow bloggers have not commented on this serious new development on how to get teachers to resign in the school. We need to put the union on notice that they must have meetings to inform teachers about this new DOE action plan. I understand that Edwize and Leo Casey could care less about the classroom teacher but we do care and this issue can affect us all!

Posted by Chaz at 5:32 PM
Thursday, January 08, 2009


Anonymous said...

Settlement offers are made by DOE to teachers because the punishments and fines handed out by arbitrators are less severe than the settlement punishments and fines. A frightened teacher who does not know that is ripe for settlement.

In all but the most obvious incompetence cases a teacher is much better off in the hands of an arbitrator. Of course DOE wants the settlements (makes it easier to get rid of the teacher next time) and of course the NYSUT lawyers want the settlement but the teacher should not. It is no secret that a 3020a settlement that includes a fine is going to be viewed as an admission of incompetence or guilt at subsequent 3020a hearings. Let me be frank, if you settle for a fine and a course than you are toast at your next 3020a hearing. An honest NYSUT lawyer will admit that to you.

7:44 PM
Monday, March 23, 2009

NYC teachers: Beware of the new PIP+ !

New York City's Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers have established the Peer Intervention Program to assist teachers that have received two unsatisfactory, or “U” ratings in a row. (The principal wants the teachers out of the school and the profession.) The PIP observers observe the teachers for ten weeks.

The are several problems of grave concern to the teachers under review in the new version of the Peer Intervention Program. PIP has changed from the original program format. The new program is the “PIP+” program. In the new design of PIP+ there are aspects of secrecy, of non-transparency, that work against the teacher, and in favor of the principal.

The intent of the original PIP program was to provide teachers with an opportunity for growth. Experienced teachers could be trusted to work in confidence with teachers, and as aides with the teachers. Under the original PIP program teachers would be spared the risk of being observed by an administrator for the period of months that the teacher was being observed by the PIP observer.

In the new PIP+ program, the PIP+ observers do not show the observations to the teachers, instead, they only show their reports to the principals. The observations only are revealed to the teachers when they are charged at the 3020-a hearings (incompetency hearings, to strip teachers of their teaching license). These observations are used as ammunition against the teachers, as part of the charges against them in the 3020-a process. The teachers have been told that if they do not participate, this will be used against them as act of insubordination at the 3020-a proceedings.

The PIP+ observers write things about the teacher that might not even be true. The teacher will not have any defense. One PIP+ observer told a teacher that she was an ideal teacher, that she did not actually understand why the observed teacher was being subjected to the program. However, the observer wrote in her report that the teacher was incompetent in performing her lessons.

The observers have the appearance of being independent outside observers, but they are being hired by and paid by Department of Education. There is a known case in which a principal called a PIP observer, asking her to come in, to observe a teacher. The observer testified under oath that she had never been in the school before. However, the teacher in question hired a private-eye to find the truth. The investigator uncovered that the PIP observer had previously been in the school, that she had lead a professional development session at the school.

The conclusion that teachers and their advocates should draw from these details is that a teacher should not sign up with the PIP+ program. Teachers that are pressured to sign up with PIP+ should ideally say, “I don't want to say anything or participate in anything that could wrongly jeopardize an assessment of my performance. I need to know that what actually happened in the classroom is going into the observation report.”

Posted by NY_I at 6:10 AM 0 comments

Hal Lanse, Teacher in the "New" Rubber Room, is Suspended Without Pay

As I wrote previously (See The Rubber Room Diaspora), former rubber roomers are now scattered throughout the City of New York, so that the massive violations of civil rights, labor and employment law, legal malpractice and denial of due process can be swept under a rug and "forgotten" by the general public as we head into the November elections. The UFT, NYSUT and the New York City Board of Education (the legal name) are all hoping that the news of all that has gone wrong over the past eight years will be stale by now, and the politicians, staff and employees of these three groups can "forget" about being terrified of someone holding them accountable for ruining the lives and careers of not only thousands of teachers but also thousands of children and young adults who were used as pawns in the deadly game of fraud, extortion and theft.

I am, of course, talking about money. If there was no money to be taken by the folk that brought you The Rubber Room (all locations and the process of "rubberization") I believe none of this (the rubberization of the workforce) would have happened, or at least it would have been kept within lawful boundaries, but for the fact that there is alot of money for those who can successfully grab it. An example of this is the harassment of tenured employees by NYSUT attorneys and the NYC BOE to sign settlement agreements. If a teacher is going into a 3020-a, it really doesn't matter if he or she is guilty or innocent. Mayor Bloomberg has decreed that the 'rubber rooms' issue is not good for him, politically speaking, therefore every case must be completely over by December 31, 2010. Thus the "Respondents" (teachers) are forced to give the Board $5,000+ to go back to a school as an ATR (a title that someone made up) or else they are going to be terminated. The new agreement and the terms of most of the current settlement agreements significantly harm the due process rights of anyone going through 3020-a right now.

Email from Hal Lanse, former Rubber Room teacher at 501 Courtlandt Avenue in the Bronx:

After blowing the whistle on my principal and contacting the Daily News after he ordered teachers to falsify grades, I was hit with false charges and sent to the rubber room for the better part of a year. Although my case was dismissed in August the DOE refused to honor their agreement to make me an ATR. They have kept me in a rubber room at 1 Fordham Plaza. (Yes, there ARE still rubber rooms!) My agreement with the DOE was that I'd become an ATR. The DOE's agreement with the UFT stipulates that teachers like me should be sent back to our schools. None of this has happened. I was given no work for two weeks until I fell asleep on a couch. (I refused to sit in the corner as ordered. My lawyer says this is corporal punishment.)

Then, I was given a few menial tasks like collating papers and stuffing folders with papers. I refused, however, when the DOE stooped to ordering me to put paper clips on stacks of papers. (A job that can be done in seconds by the office coy machine.) I pointed out that my contract stipulated a particular job: ATR--a substitute teacher.

Last week, my supervisor yelled at me in front of other to "Get back to your seat, NOW"; and when she followed this up the next day by closing the distance between us when I said to her "I don't want to be verbally harassed again; please move away from me," I filed a complaint. The DOE refused to log-in the complaint, so I followed the UFT's advice and called the police.

The result: More retaliation. I have been suspended without pay just five weeks before going on terminal leave. The DOE cited no law or regulations allowing them to do this. Below is my letter to Michael Mulgrew regarding this matter. This suspension has citywide and possibly national implications.

If you think Mulgrew's reacting should be swift and strong contact him and tell him so.

Dear Michael Mulgrew,
I am involved in a situation that is so unprecedented it could put an end to due process as we know it. I have been suspended without pay even though the DOE failed to cite any law or regulation justifying such an action. I believe this is a test case. If the situation is allowed to stand then the DOE can argue in the future that the UFT has given tacit approval of this action and has set a precedent by failing to protest. I believe that we will see the 3020a process replaced by blanket, open-ended, unpaid suspensions.

I am asking you to personally handle my case. I am scheduled to meet tomorrow (Tuesday) at 3 PM with Bronx Special Rep. David Kazansky. Can you please attend?


Hal Lanse

'Rubber room' teachers in make-work jobs
By KEVIN FASICK and YOAV GONEN, NY POST, Posted: 3:27 AM, September 9, 2010

The city is transforming hundreds of high-priced, do-nothing teachers accused of wrongdoing into pricey paper pushers.

The teachers -- who for years spent their time dozing, playing games or doing zilch while earning full pay in infamous holding pens known as "rubber rooms" -- are now being dispersed to DOE offices around the city as they await disciplinary hearings.

"I'll be doing clerical work, which means they'll be paying me $100,049 to be making photocopies," said Hal Lanse, a Bronx teacher who learned yesterday that he's being assigned to a district office in The Bronx.

He said he was accused of sexually harassing a colleague but claims the accusation was payback for exposing grade-tampering.

"The rubber rooms are not being closed," said Lanse. "They are just being diffused around the city."

Under an agreement between the United Federation of Teachers and the schools chancellor reached in April, the bulk of educators charged with misbehavior are obligated to pitch in with busy-work.

That deal was also meant to expedite a disciplinary system that at times pulled more than 700 teachers out of the classroom for years on end.

"The agreement's working," said UFT President Michael Mulgrew, who put the current figure of reassigned teachers at about 400. "We've cut the number almost in half. Hopefully after we finish the backlog this will never be an issue again."

In the meantime, former Rikers Island teacher Vera Ifudu, 62, said she was told to report to Department of Education food services in Long Island City.

"Whatever they give me, I will try to make lemonade out of lemons," she said.

Ifudu, who was earning close to $80,000 last year, was sidelined for lateness, insubordination and misconduct, according to DOE officials.

She claims the misconduct charge stemmed from her giving prisoners paper masks to wear on Halloween.

"I miss the classroom and teaching, but I still have a job. I'm still being paid," she added. "Hopefully it is not just another rubber room."

A Department of Education spokeswoman emphasized that teachers who are being assigned to offices will all have individual work assignments.

"Whereas in a reassignment center they were doing nothing, they will now be given administrative work," she said. "A few educators could be assigned to the same room or conference room, but it's not the same as a rubber room."