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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

United Hispanic Construction Workers Chief, Aide, Indicted

David Rodriguez (center in gray shirt), was indicted on charges that he and top deputy Daryll Jennings strongarmed contractors into hiring black and Hispanic workers

United Hispanic Construction Workers chief, aide indicted on charges they threatened contractors

The boss of a Bronx based construction coalition and a top deputy have been indicted on charges of strong-arming contractors to get Hispanic and black workers jobs, the Daily News has learned.
United Hispanic Construction Workers chief David Rodriguez and field director Daryll Jennings threatened contractors with violence and labor unrest if they didn't hire their members at job sites in Manhattan and the Bronx, sources told The News.
Rodriguez and Jennings will surrender to Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. on Monday, their lawyer, Murray Richman, confirmed. They are expected to be charged with enterprise corruption and could face 25 years behind bars if convicted.
The DA's office would not comment, but a source familiar with the case said it was spearheaded by Vance's Rackets Bureau.
The indictment comes seven years after a jury cleared Rodriguez of racketeering charges in Brooklyn Federal Court. He'd been accused of collecting more than $300,000 in kickbacks.
At the time, investigators secretly taped a phone call in which Rodriguez said of a slow-paying contractor: "$11,000 worth killin' for, brother."
"This is a continuing attack on the coalition," said Richman, who defended Rodriguez in the federal trial.
"When white guys do this, they call it a union, but when persons of color do it, they call it a crime."
"I was acquitted [in 1994] because I did not commit any crime," Rodriguez said Friday. "I have done nothing wrong."
United Hispanic was formed in 1982, ostensibly to give minority groups a toehold in the city's white dominated building trades.
Rodriguez, a veteran of the Savage Skulls and the Dirty Dozen street gangs in the 1970s, has been president since 1988.
The group has a violent history.
United Hispanic members with pipes and bats clashed with members of a rival minority-worker coalition at a Times Square job site in 1995, authorities say.
The next year, 33 people were arrested after a dustup between the group and another competing coalition.
In 2002, police fingered the group in a turf battle that sent three men to the hospital.
"These kinds of groups have been dormant for quite a few years," said Louis Coletti of the Building Trades Employers' Association.
"But in this time of unemployment, it's ripe for them to resurface."



United Hispanic Construction Works Inc. (UHCW), its president, DaVid Rodriguez, 54, and his chief lieutenant, Darryl Jennings, aka DJ, 50, have been indicted for running a criminal enterprise that lasted for at least 17 years.

UHCW, founded as a minority labor coalition, was allegedly used by Rodriguez andJenningsas a vehicle to extort money and jobs from builders in the construction industry, typically in return for labor peace at the builders’ job sites.

The defendants are charged with first degree enterprise corruption, second degree grand larceny, attempted second degree grand larceny and fourth degree grand larceny.

Acting as the head of the criminal enterprise, Rodrigue controlled and directed all daily activities of the organization, according to the indictment.Jennings, who acted as Rodriguez’s enforcer on the ground, in turn controlled the activities of 20 to 50 UHCW members who travelled with him in vans to construction sites.

Their collective presence was meant to intimidate builders, and coerce them into hiring coalition workers, or else pay the coalition up front in exchange for what was termed “labor peace”, prosecutors said.  “Labor peace,” in the context of coalitions, means freedom from assault, property damage, vandalism, or harassment from other coalitions.

Between October 2006 and March 2011, both Rodriguez andJenningsare charged with directing and participating in the extortion of builders at more than 15 job sites throughoutManhattanand in theBronx. According to documents filed in court, Rodriguez would giveJenningsa list of sites to visit with coalition members, and the two were in frequent daily contact by phone. UHCW vans would transport the coalition members to job sites designated by Rodriguez and the vans were equipped with large duffle bags containing pick axe handles. Often, the members would carry these pick axe handles, as well as bats and tools, to intimidate and harm workers at the construction sites, prosecutors sasid.

At times, dozens of coalition members would enter construction sites, using intimidating tactics and sometimes physical force to bring work to a halt and demand money and jobs for coalition members, it is alleged. At other times, the coalition members would leave the vans and remain on the street en masse, as a show of potential force.Jenningswould allegedly demand jobs and money from the builders or contractors in charge of the sites and, depending on the perceived threats, contractors often hired UHCW workers, or else simply paid the coalition for “no-show” jobs or for services that were not provided.

The payments that the victims in this case made to UHCW varied. Most payments started at a few hundred dollars per week, but that amount could be increased at any point. By the end of a construction project lasting many months, the total payment made to UHCW by a builder could range from several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, prosecutors said.

According to documents filed in court, some of the payments that were made in addition to or in lieu of hiring UHCW workers included:

–$100-200/week in exchange for “good will”
–$250/week to “coordinate laborers”
–$300 monthly contributions to UHCW
–$360/week for “security”
–$400/week to ensure “labor peace”
–$500/week to be left alone
–$750 biweekly payments for no work completed
–$1,000-1,200/month for “security”
–$4,000 over a six month period to prevent UHCW from stopping construction  9-27-11

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Union Gangsters

Union Gangsters: Craig Becker
Posted By Matthew Vadum On September 23, 2011 @ 12:46 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 10 Comments

In the past year, America has witnessed the true face of organized labor and the thuggery and mob tactics that typify it. This behavior is no less than what national labor union figureheads have been promoting for decades — but in truth, they desire to see much worse. These fixtures of the Democratic political machine commonly push their followers into committing acts of criminality and brutish intimidation, while inciting hatred toward union enemies and free-market capitalism. Greed and an obsession with power have spawned a syndicalist culture that bears a striking resemblance to another well-known crooked subculture: that of organized crime. Frontpage’s new series of articles, “Union Gangsters,” will illuminate these very commonalities. Below, investigative reporter Matthew Vadum provides our first profile, featuring Craig Becker, Big Labor consigliere and Obama appointee.

There are union thugs and then there are those who try to give union thugs intellectual respectability.
Labor radical Craig Becker, now a member of the powerful National Labor Relations Board, is not a union thug per se. He’s more of a consigliere to union thugs.

In the spirit of Rules for Radicals author Saul Alinsky, Becker supports doing whatever needs to be done in order to advance the cause. Lying, cheating, and using violence are all fair game.
Becker advocates a strange, authoritarian version of syndicalism in which no one would have the right not to join a union; individuals would only get to choose which union to join. This labor fascist believes that “employers should have no role in the unionization process,” according to Brian Johnson, former executive director of the Alliance for Worker Freedom.

Free market capitalism is an impediment to social justice in Becker’s eyes. In a 1987 Harvard Law Review article, he explained how Big Labor should shiv industry.

“The right to engage in concerted activity that is enshrined in the Wagner Act – even when construed in strictly contractual terms – implicitly entails legal restraint of the freedom of capital,” he wrote. “What threatens to eviscerate labor’s collective legal rights, therefore, is less the common law principle of individual liberty than the mobility of capital, which courts have held immune from popular control.”

Of course there is no such thing as a collective right. Rights are possessed only by individuals, at least in the Anglo-American legal tradition. Becker would overthrow all of that in order to move the ball forward for unions, giving collective bargaining units the power to dictate to employers.

“If you cut through all the academic speak here, in effect, what he’s saying is collective bargaining and the Wagner Act doesn’t set up a system of collective bargaining. It sets up a guaranteed outcome,” according to Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government. “What he’s saying here is labor unions can’t possibly succeed unless you guarantee their success. In his reading of the law, any notion of workers who choose to collectively bargain sitting down with their employer and working out a deal is gone.”

Although leftists like Becker talk a good game about democracy, they don’t support it in the unionization process. Desperate to boost the anemic ranks of union members in the private sector, they support the thuggish “card check” method. Currently, workers vote in a federally supervised secret-ballot election, but under card check, if more than 50 percent of employees at a particular facility sign a card, the government certifies the union without a proper vote. Union goons would be free to intimidate workers into signing the cards, which is just fine by organized labor (and President Obama). Labor leaders would be delighted if the NLRB would simply abolish secret ballots by administrative fiat.
Becker would love to oblige them.

Becker may have played a role in drafting a Service Employees International Union (SEIU) manual that explained how union organizers could intimidate businesses into taking away the secret ballot from workers. The “Contract Campaign Manual” surfaced during a racketeering lawsuit filed against SEIU by the food and facilities management company Sodexo Inc. The company alleged that SEIU ran an “illegal campaign of extortion.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said the manual tells union members how to undermine the reputation of an employer and its management by hurting the employer’s relationship with customers and suppliers. It urges union members to break laws and dig up dirt on individual managers and publicize it in order to weaken management’s bargaining position in contract negotiations.

“[O]utside pressure can involve jeopardizing relationships between the employer and lenders, investors, stockholders, customers, clients, patients, tenants, politicians, or others on whom the employer depends for funds,” the Alinskyite vade mecum explains. Legal and regulatory pressure may be brought to bear in order to “threaten the employer with costly action by government agencies or the courts.”

The manual urges using community groups to “damage an employer’s public image and ties with community leaders and organizations.” It recommends targeting senior managers personally, long a favorite tactic of ACORN, SEIU’s community organizing doppelgänger.

When questioned by Hatch about his involvement in unions’ corporate campaigns, Becker said very little, often invoking attorney-client privilege in order to avoid answering. But he did acknowledge that, as associate general counsel to SEIU, his duties “included providing advice concerning organizing and contract campaigns.”

According to labor lawyer F. Vincent Vernuccio, this shows “at the very least” that Becker knew about the manual “and probably used it.”

Becker appears to make a habit of bending the truth to suit his political objectives.

As I report in my new book, Subversion Inc., at his nomination hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) asked Becker this straightforward question: “Do you perform work for and provide advice to ACORN or ACORN-affiliated groups while employed by your current employers or on a volunteer basis?”

Becker decided to take advantage of the confusion that surrounds ACORN’s byzantine organizational structure. He responded, “Senator McCain, I have never done so.”

But that answer—that Becker “never” provided advice “to ACORN or ACORN-affiliated groups”—is demonstrably false.

Becker gave advice to SEIU Local 880 in Illinois, which was part and parcel of ACORN, before it merged with another SEIU bargaining unit. As the Wall Street Journal noted, Becker acknowledged previously that he had “worked with and provided advice” to Local 880. And in a blog post, ACORN founder Wade Rathke couldn’t help bragging about Becker’s NLRB nomination, calling it “a big win no matter how you shake and bake it.”

In March 2010, Becker became a member of the National Labor Relations Board, itself a socialist anachronism left over from the New Deal. He received a recess appointment from President Obama the month after Senate Democrats fell short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a GOP filibuster of his nomination.

Before, Becker was an activist and a lawyer.

Now, he has the might of the United States government behind him.

About Matthew Vadum

Matthew Vadum is an award-winning investigative reporter and the author of the recently published book, "Subversion Inc.: How Obama’s ACORN Red Shirts Are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Principal's Union CSA Loses In The Appellate Division, First Department, As NYC Wins Removal of Parking Permits For Members

Matter of Council of School Supervisors & Adm'rs, Local 1 v New York City Dept. of Educ.

2011 NY Slip Op 06451
Decided on September 15, 2011
CSA President Ernest Logan
Appellate Division, First Department

Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.
This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the Official Reports.

Decided on September 15, 2011
Gonzalez, P.J., Tom, Friedman, Catterson, Richter, JJ.
5302 112483/09

[*1]In re Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, Local 1, etc., Petitioner-Respondent,
New York City Department of Education, et al., Respondents-Appellants.

Michael A. Cardozo, Corporation Counsel, New York
(Elizabeth S. Natrella of counsel), for appellants.
Bruce K. Bryant, Brooklyn, for respondent.

Order and judgment (one paper), Supreme Court, New York County (Joan A. Madden, J.), entered August 4, 2010, which, to the extent appealed from, granted the petition seeking to confirm an arbitration award that required the City to restore on-street parking permits to petitioner's members, and denied the City's cross petition to vacate the arbitration award and to dismiss the petition, unanimously reversed, on the law, without costs, the petition denied, and the cross petition granted.

Petitioner, Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA), Local 1, American Federation of School Administrators, AFL-CIO, by its President Ernest Logan, is a labor organization certified pursuant to article 14 of the Civil Service Law as the bargaining representative for school principals, assistant principals, and other supervisors and administrators in the City's school system. Respondents include the City by the Mayor (City), and the New York City Department of Education (DOE), which is a municipal agency that administers the City's public education system, and is the employer of the CSA-represented employees.

In early 2008, the City enacted a city-wide plan applicable to all agencies to reduce the number of parking permits issued to municipal workers for parking on city streets, and to ensure the proper regulation of such permits by the Department of Transportation (DOT). The reason for the plan was to reduce congestion and pollution on the city streets, and to encourage the use of public transportation. Prior to that time, parking permits were distributed by each City entity based on demand rather than corresponding to parking spaces actually available.

For the 2007-2008 school year, DOE issued more than 63,000 permits for just 25,000 spaces available to DOE employees. The permits could be used in any of the 10,000 parking spaces designated by DOT for DOE use on the city streets, or in the 15,000 spaces on DOE premises. The permits made no distinction between on-street parking or parking on DOE premises. Nor were the permits site-specific. Any CSA-represented employee who requested a [*2]parking permit for use in spaces reserved for DOE employees was granted one, although having the permit did not guarantee a parking space.

Upon application of the city-wide plan, the DOE (as well as other agencies) was restricted to 10,000 permits for the corresponding number of available on-street spaces, and was no longer authorized to issue the on-street permits on demand (as distinguished from the permits it may still issue for parking spaces on DOE property). Instead, the permits issued by DOT for on-street parking are site specific, and therefore issued to personnel working at a particular site [FN1]. The number of DOE parking permits was thereby substantially reduced, and DOE denied permits to many CSA-represented employees who had previously held them.

In August 2008, CSA filed a grievance against the DOE, arguing that any reduction in the parking permits issued to CSA members violated a provision of the collective bargaining agreement between DOE and CSA that dealt with conditions of employment. The CSA contended that DOE could not make such a change without appropriate prior negotiation with CSA.

The grievance went to arbitration, and following a hearing, an arbitration award was entered against the DOE and the City. The arbitrator found that the permits policy change was a proper subject of bargaining as it "constituted a significant and adverse alteration of the bargaining unit members' working conditions." It directed DOE to "return[] all parking permits previously held by CSA bargaining unit members" in the 2007-2009 school year until negotiations could be conducted with CSA over the proposed reductions.

In September 2009, the CSA commenced this proceeding pursuant to CPLR article 75 to confirm the arbitration award. The City respondents cross-petitioned for an order to vacate arguing that: (1) it violated strong public policy; (2) the arbitrator vastly exceeded his authority; and (3) the arbitration award was irrational.

By order and judgment entered August 4, 2010, the court granted the petition, confirmed the award in CSA's favor, and denied the City's cross petition to vacate the award. This was error.

As a threshold matter, we reiterate well-settled law that an arbitration award will be vacated only where "it is violative of a strong public policy, or is totally irrational, or exceeds a specifically enumerated limitation on [the arbitrator's] power" (Matter of Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. v Chesley, 7 AD3d 368, 372 [2004] [internal quotation marks and citation omitted]). Here, however, we agree with respondents that the award should be vacated on all of the above-mentioned grounds.

It is undisputed that the power to issue parking permits rests in the exclusive control of the City. Respondent City by Mayor Bloomberg, and non-party DOT have the power under the NY Constitution, article IX, § 2(a),(c), state law (see NY Vehicle and Traffic Law §§ 1641; 1642) and local laws (see Municipal Home Rule Law § 10[1][ii][a][6] and Administrative Code of City of NY §§ 24-801 et seq.) to regulate traffic in the City streets, as well as parking. DOT is the preeminent City agency responsible for regulating traffic, including parking, within the City (see Santiago v Riccio, 170 AD2d 340 [1991], appeal dismissed 77 NY2d 989 [1991]).

In this case, the award directs DOE to issue permits in such manner and by such method [*3]that it directly overrides the authority of DOT. Indeed, it directs DOE to exercise a legal authority it does not possess. This not only means the arbitrator exceeded his authority, but did so in an entirely irrational way. Moreover, Supreme Court erred in attempting to soften or justify this irrational overreach.

Specifically, the court found that the award had no direct bearing on DOT's authority to regulate on-street parking because the number of parking permits that DOT allocated to DOE exceeded the number of CSA members affected in this proceeding. In other words, the arbitrator had decided only "the issue of entitlement" as to the 10,000 on-street parking permits assigned to DOE. Further, the court noted that the arbitrator had heard testimony that DOE's practice of issuing parking permits was a condition of employment. Thus, the court denied the City's cross petition because it found that the City had failed to show how the award was inconsistent with the terms of the collective bargaining agreement which required negotiation of changes in the conditions of employment.

The foregoing findings miss the point. First, it is irrelevant that the award is consistent with the collective bargaining agreement. The agreement was forged between CSA and DOE. DOT was not a party to the collective bargaining agreement, and cannot be bound by it. DOT did not agree to issue parking permits to any CSA member who demanded a permit. Nor did DOT expressly agree to the arrangement in place prior to the installation of the city-wide plan, namely issuing more permits than available corresponding spaces. Nor was DOT a party to the arbitration. Yet, the issuance of on-street parking permits lies in the exclusive control of DOT not DOE. Thus, either DOE has been directed to negotiate a "perk" it cannot legally deliver, or we would have to accept the clearly unsupportable position that the arbitration award de facto transferred the authority to regulate traffic and parking in the City of New York to DOE, certain City employees and their collective bargaining representatives.

Moreover, we reject the court's attempt to justify the arbitrator's overreaching by holding that the award did not infringe on the City's and DOT's authority to regulate traffic and parking because DOT issued 10,000 on-street permits to DOE, and DOE is simply allocating them when it reinstates them for certain CSA members. This reasoning simply further underscores the irrationality of the award.

At the heart of the city-wide plan, and its objective to reduce congestion and pollution, are 10,000 site specific permits. That is, current permits issued by DOT, unlike the permits issued in prior years to DOE, are regulated by issuing them to personnel at a specific physical location (either a school or a DOE facility) adjacent to or near the on-street parking spaces allocated to DOE.

According to the affidavit of DOE's director of special projects, this means that parking permits can be issued only to personnel working in schools or DOE facilities that have on-street parking spaces assigned to the facility by DOT. According to DOE, approximately 300 schools in the city do not have any on-street or off-street parking spaces available. Thus, while a number of CSA members previously received permits even though they worked at such schools, the DOE further affirms that it is no longer "possible or practical for DOE to give all DOT issued permits to CSA union members, especially to those who are not assigned to schools with on-street parking."

This is entirely consistent with DOT's determination that regulation is necessary to reduce congestion and pollution. The objectives of reducing congestion, pollution and the City's carbon footprint, and promoting the use of public transportation are all city initiatives [*4]encompassed in the City Charter and the Administrative Code. To the extent that the award essentially annulled the judgment of the City as to those objectives of the city-wide plan, we find that it also violated public policy.

Footnote 1:However, the DOT issued an additional 650 permits to the DOE for teachers and staff whose work required them to visit multiple sites during their workdays

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

ATRs Starting To Organize Citywide Opposition To ATR Status

ATR Hiring Fair
Washington Heights Armory, 169th Street Manhattan
The pictures in this post show the many people who showed up at the "mandatory" ATR recruitment event held today and next tuesday (see previous post about mandatory fairs for ATRs)

According to one teacher who called me, the fair was "a total waste" except he saw people he knew from the rubber room in which he spent almost two years. This person said there were no positions open or offered.

Opposition to the "ATR" pool is growing, due to events like this that only serve to humiliate members placed into this unrecognized position.

There is nothing in the UFT contract about the current growing population known as ATRs. People are being dumped into this group after they have completed their 3020-a hearings and, no matter what the decision, told they are now "ATRs" So, if you are exonerated of all charges and an arbitrator says you must be placed back into your position as a permanent teacher, the NYC DOE will ignore this. And it seems that there is nothing you can do about it, because all anyone has received from the UFT is silence. Oh, I take that back. A very brave soul who was not terminated at his 3020-a, at which the arbitrator said in the record that he  was a great teacher, went to NYSUT (9th floor, 52 Broadway, Manhattan) and asked Assistant General Counsel Claude Hersh what was going on, and where in writing could he find information about Absent Teacher Reserves. Claude told him that there was nothing in writing, except that after the middle of October everyone will be moved every week to a different school.

Like THAT's going to work well.

Everyone should be sharing their stories with the blogger at NYCATR, the new blog for ATRs.

My friend Phil Nobile did just that:

UFT refuses to help ATR teachers organize

On September 10th, NYCATR posted an open letter from an ATR teacher, Philip Nobile, (see letter below) to the UFT's Co-Staff Director, LeRoy Barr. In the letter, Mr. Nobile requested that the UFT form a special chapter to represent ATR teachers.

Mr. Nobile never received a reply from Mr. Barr. Instead, he was referred to Elizabeth Perez, a UFT Special Representative. Below is an exchange of emails between Nobile, Perez, and yours truly, this time going by the name of Joseph Moses.

Sept. 12, 2011
FROM: Elizabeth Perez, UFT Special Representative
TO: Philip Nobile, ATR Teacher


It is my understanding that the UFT has no plans to create an ATR Functional Chapter. All ATRs have Chapter Leaders with whom they can speak with, in the schools/buildings they are assigned.


Sept. 12, 2011
FROM: Joseph Moses, teacher and publisher of NYCATR
TO: Elizabeth Perez, UFT Special Representative

Dear Ms. Perez
I understand that ATR teachers have chapter leaders with whom they can speak. However, when these teachers begin to be shifted about on a weekly basis, they will not really have access to a chapter leader who can help them. Perhaps a special chapter of ATR teachers could be formed before October 9 when the weekly reassignments are scheduled to begin.

Joseph Moses

Sept. 13, 2011
FROM: Philip Nobile, ATR Teacher
TO: Elizabeth Perez, UFT Special Representative

Hi Liz,
Good to hear from you, though I am surprised that LeRoy deferred to you.Surely, he could have said the same thing himself.

Naturally, I am disappointed by the news that the UFT is denying meaningful representation its neediest members. As you know, ATRs, like rubber roomers of yesteryear, are prime DOE targets. With the connivance of Tweed we are routinely kicked around in the press as no-good, unhirable teachers draining the city of $100 million a year. On top of this revolting predicament, and with UFT agreement, we are condemned to wander the wilderness of new schools every week punctuated by occasional mandated fairs for jobs that are rarely consummated.

Clearly, we nomads have special needs and interests that cannot possibly be satisfied by quickie conversations with ever shifting chapter leaders and DRs. Consequently, I do not understand why the UFT would not show ATRs, numbering around 2000, the same solidarity shown to 700 rubber roomers who were likewise separated from meaningful representation. Further, regular meetings at 52 or borough offices, would advantage the UFT as well. We can provide you with direct feedback and the informationgained would inform your negotiations on our behalf. A win-win situation, as they say.

ATRs are the least of the union brethren, and the pool is expanding every year. How will it look if the membership comes to believe that you do not care enough to recognize us via a functional chapter? Do you really want thatfight? At the least, the UFT owes us an explanation as to why we don't count enough to meet with union leaders.

Thanks for your consideration,


"Moses" of NYC ATR sent out via email about the ATR fair held today:
Over 300 ATRs (excessed teachers) lined up for another DOE sponsored job fair where most will not find permanent jobs.

It was another one of those summer mandatory futile job searches where ATRs are obligated to attend and where only a few will land a job.

Most at today's job fair were clearly senior veteran higher-paid excessed teachers and over 50% were Black and Latino.

Principals generally will hire the younger inexperience teachers who are paid less and tend not to know their
Labor rights -- thus more compliant to the whims of administrators. Many of those young teachers are graduates of the Teach For America pool who are inculcated with anti-union and anti-veteran teacher propaganda. Principals, facing mounting budget deficits and cuts, would be foolish to hire seasoned teachers who earn salaries between $80 - 100K yearly when the bargain is to hire two at those prices! The deck has been unfairly stacked against older higher paid ATRs.

At his job fair today, some expressed the hope that maybe the city will offer them an early retirement buyout.

Others shared anger at the UFT leadership for abandoning them in the 2005 contract which bargained away their right to seniority rights transfer. Now starting in October, those ATRs can not find a steady classroom job will become substitutes who will be assigned weekly to different schools in their districts to cover for absent teachers. This agreement by the UFT with Mayor Bloomberg to turn ATRs into traveling subs can force many to quit due to the untenable and unpredictable situation.

Bloomberg persists in seeking to eliminate tenure and the just "Last In First Out-LIFO" state protections. Should layoffs occur, without these protections, ATRs will be surely the first targeted for firings. Be on the look-out also for Bloomberg's allies in our schools --- an nefarious group called E4E (Educators for Excellence) is aggressively organizing to win over the hearts and minds of our newer teachers in this deceptive anti-tenure and anti-experienced teacher campaign that unjustly and cruelly blame them, instead of government, for the problems in our public schools in Chicago and Washington DC excessed teachers are given from six to nine months to find placements or else are fired. We can't let this happen here too. We can't allow our brothers and sisters to be dumped like collateral damage in this charter-privatization assault of our schools. Excessed teachers should be guaranteed a job elsewhere as was the case prior to 2005. As schools continue to be closed to replaced with charters, hundreds more of ATRs will be created. It is estimated that it costs today the city $100M yearly!

An ATR Sends Mulgrew a Letter


Good Day All!

As most of us know, the board has an inaccurate count of just how many ATRs are out there, and being that twenty-five plus schools were shuttered/given over to charters, it is fair to say there are far more then a mere 1200! For I doubt highly that all those teachers in the 25 schools were permanently placed, and I know for a fact that there are numerous colleagues of ours, who, like myself have been floating around for the last five years now since this mess began!

That being said, I sent a letter to Michael Mulgrew, (which has yet to be responded to), requesting information on how the ATRs are supposed to be evaluated for our end-of-year assessment. This is a very SERIOUS issue because with the new "agreement" on how ATRs can be used/placed many will have the possibly of having anywhere from 3 to 10 different supervisors! As it stands at the moment ATRs are being assigned for periods ranging from one to three months at any given location, with the possibly of being moved afterwards! So what criteria could possibly be used to evaluate them, since more than likely they will not be given teaching assignments and more than likely used as subs and to do scut work. Given that the three "U's" and you're out is being pushed-HARD, this needs to be clarified immediately!!!!!

If anyone out there has some information, please share it, and also do raise this issue, educators are under attack in every possible area and this seems to be just another tactic to trim our ranks, especially with 2,000 NEW TEACHERS having been hired for this school year!!!!!!


(Name redacted)

Sunday, September 04, 2011


If you haven't already done so, then go on over to the NYC ATR Teacher blog for some real honest insight into the life of an Absent Teacher Reserve. The post about the latest so called DOE job fair is deeply moving. I can confirm from information I have received from other people who were there that NYC-ATR's post is absolutely accurate. Basically, at this time many ATRs appear to be on an informal "Do Not Hire List." Here is an excerpt of the blog piece:

The saddest thing I saw was a male teacher about my age, who had two kids with him, about the ages of my older two. His name tag said, “Technology and Computer Science” and his kids kept pointing to tables saying, “What about this one, Dad?” or “This is a high school, Dad, how about here?” and he kept answering, “No, they don’t want me, they don’t want me.” My heart broke for this man, and my anger flared at a system that throws people on the trash heap like day-old bread.

The ICE UFT blog has been complaining since before the ink dried about how the ATRs were left with third class gypsy status by June's UFT DOE agreement that will allow the DOE to redeploy ATRs to different schools every week this fall.

My phone has been ringing every day and text messages and emails have been pouring in from friends who are ATRs and can't find jobs. Remember, my school is phasing out so roughly half the teachers were excessed in June.

It's time to get these people together at more than just job fairs.

Posted by James Eterno at 9/04/2011 10:31:00 PM

FEDUP! said...

I agree! We are treated like garbage and that must stop! We have paid our dues and are being treated unfairly! For the last couple of years in my old school,only young teachers straight out of school were being hired. I don't how since I thought there was a hiring freeze! What do you expect? The APs and principals are very young. They do not want to have to deal with experienced teachers who may (do) know more than they do! True, it's about paying our salaries but it is also about being too experienced for the newbie administrators!

Monday, September 05, 2011 2:53:00 PM

Pre-K Teacher Tracie said...

It is true- DEFINITELY TIME for all to fight back...they need to stop hiring new employees and place the teachers that they already have.

Monday, September 05, 2011 10:30:00 PM

FEDUP! said...

Went to my old school today cause they still haven't given me an assignment and guess what????? New teachers all over the place. One girl was just certified in English and she was there for a position. My friend just told me 6 spanking new teachers were hired.Why isn't the union fighting harder fo us? This is a travesty!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

ALERT for ATRs: Mandatory Recruitment Fairs

The New York City Board/Department of Education has scheduled hiring fairs in all boroughs and your attendance is MANDATORY.
Some ATR employees have received notice by mail, others know nothing about this.
The first step is to call the number below and/or your Human Resources Department asap!
Manhattan and Bronx are supposed to attend on September 13; Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island attend either September 14 or 20 (I have been given both dates) so you must check the right date for you.
Dont be left out in the cold, call HR.

Betsy Combier


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Principals Who Violate The Law, Rules, And/or Regulations Buy Their Freedom From Prosecution

Bad-apple principal plea deals

SLAP ON THE WRIST: Manhattan Village Academy Principal Hector Geager
was fined for illegally expelling a student.
The city cut backdoor deals with a handful of misbehaving principals last year rather than seek stiffer penalties through disciplinary hearings, records obtained by The Post show.
Among those who signed hush-hush agreements with the Department of Education was Manhattan Village Academy Principal Hector Geager -- who dealt with a troublesome student by altering her transcript, handing her a diploma and illegally expelling her three months shy of graduation.
The student, whom Geager also barred from prom and graduation, told officials that the popular principal had "simply given her the passing grades to get her out," according to an internal DOE probe.
Before even filing charges last year, however, DOE officials reached an agreement not to pursue further discipline against Geager if he simply paid a $10,000 fine.
Geager, who remains principal of a school that boasted a 98 percent graduation rate last year, did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
But critics say these types of plea bargains highlight an increased hesitancy by the DOE to forcefully discipline wayward principals ever since it granted them more authority -- and took on a greater role in selecting them -- several years back.
"The Bloomberg Department of Ed can't define 'accountability' to simply be rating students and teachers with standardized tests," said Patrick Sullivan, the Manhattan appointee to the Panel for Educational Policy. "Transgressions of administrators need to be addressed in a fair and transparent fashion rather than hidden to avoid embarrassment to the adults in the administration."
Other deals reached last year include one for former HS for International Business and Finance Principal Juan Alvarez, who tackled a student in The Bronx school and e-mailed an anti-Semitic rant to a fellow principal. Alvarez was demoted but allowed to stay around students as a teacher.
DOE spokeswoman Barbara Morgan said the agency takes principals' work histories and the facts of each case into account, and added that officials felt the school leaders had been properly held accountable.
“These settlements allowed us to move forward quickly, so that the schools could focus on teaching and learning, without these matters serving as a distraction,” she said.
Additional reporting by Amber Sutherland and Lachlan Cartwright
Case Study # 1
A Department of Education probe confirmed that Iris Blige, principal of the Fordham HS for the Arts, instructed assistant principals to give poor ratings to teachers without actually observing them. Blige signed a deal agreeing to pay a $7,500 fine.
Case Study # 2
Investigators found Maria Penaherrera of PS 114 had rigged bids and mismanaged the school onto the city's closure list. But she's off the hook because she agreed to be demoted to assistant principal -- with the opportunity to earn tenure next year.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Mayor Mike Bloomberg and CEO Dennis Walcott Do Not Want Public School Students To Know About Constitutional Rights

NYC Dept of Education CEO Dennis Walcott

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg And CEO Dennis Walcott Do Not Want Students To Learn What Their Constitutional Rights Are
by Betsy Combier, Editor,
LINK they can deny these rights.

In 2003 Michael Cardozo asked parent activists to contact the Department of Justice in Washington D.C. about the removal of the New York City Board of Education and the election of school board members, replaced by appointments to a non-functional group called the Panel For Educational Policy. Cardozo handed to us the document below, which has been on my website since I first wrote my article on his denying NYC teachers, parents, and children, their due process rights.

I called the DOJ, told them I was a parent of four children in the public school system and that I didnt want my vote taken away. I asked the DOJ to not approve of this. DOJ attorney Mr. Joseph Rich never got back to me. Betsy Combier
Many years ago I wrote about the denial of rights in New York City: Editorial: The New York City Department of Education is a Sham and Mike Bloomberg is the Flim-Flam Man

I've kept this article on the homepage of this website, at the bottom under "Corruption", for anyone who stopped by to read. If you dont want to read what I have to say, go to the Cardozo document, which I will re-post here:

Michael Cardozo's introduction to his submission which removes the constitutional rights of NYC citizens
Pages index -11
Pages 12-25
Pages 26-41
Pages 42-58
Pages 59-80

I followed up with this:
"I will highlight the claim made in the last paragraph:
"As we have demonstrated above, Chapters 91 and 123 have neither the purpose nor the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color or membership in a language group."

My opinion: the City of NY didn't discriminate, but took the Constitutional rights away from everyone who has been given those rights (who are citizens over the age of 18). This is a crime. But someone might ask, "Well - what about the Community Education Councils, set up to encourage parental participation in public school education?"

Below is an article published in the NY TIMES that describes this lie:"

A Lack of Interest (and Candidates) in New System's School Parent Councils
By JULIE BOSMAN, NY TIMES, April 28, 2007

The stage was set for the candidates' forum. Andrew Baumann, one of nine candidates on the ballot for a school parent council in southwest Queens, was the first person to arrive.

Andrew Baumann, with his son Anthony on a playground in Queens, is running for the parent council in his children's school district. And he was alone.

"Not a single person," Mr. Baumann said disgustedly of the recent nonevent in Community School District 27. "One candidate showed up. Me."

Elections begin on Monday for the 34 parent councils that replaced New York City's community school boards when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg won control of the school system in 2002.

The councils are intended to give parents a voice in running the schools, and to be even more representative of their interests than the old school boards, which were often criticized as rife with pollitical patronage and corruption.

But with parents fuming that the councils have no real authority, no power to institute policy and no influence with the Department of Education, the elections, which run through May 8, have been foreshadowed by skimpy attendance at candidate forums. And in some cases, there is a distinct lack of candidates to run for vacant seats.

While there are nine elected seats on each council, in at least two districts only four or five candidates are on the ballot. (Two additional members of each council are appointed by the borough president.)

So few parents wanted to run that the deadline to become a candidate was extended this year. Two weeks ago, the Chancellor's Parent Advisory Council — a citywide parent group separate from the district
councils — urged a boycott of the vote until the Department of Education "modifies the present election process" to do things like better inform candidates.

Unlike the old school board elections, open to all registered voters, current state law restricts this election so that only the top three officers of each school's parent association vote for council members. Parents serving on the district councils are ineligible to be officers in the parent associations of their own schools.

Many parents who have been elected to the councils say they feel out of the loop, disrespected by an education department that, they say, decides first and asks later.

And several council presidents said they were frustrated by a perceived lack of support from school principals, many of whom do not even know who their council members are.

"The principals feel they don't have to deal with the education councils," said James Dandridge, the council president of District 18 in Brooklyn. "It's like: `Who are you? You can't hire or fire me. You have no pull.' "

The Department of Education says that it is trying to improve the councils, and has scheduled a meeting for May 22 between Chancellor Joel I. Klein and the council presidents. It also hopes to increase voter turnout in the coming election.

"There clearly is more work to be done," said Tom Huser, the director of the councils at the Department of Education. "There definitely is some sense out there that we need to do a better job of bringing the parents into the fold and reaching out to them as we plan programs and make policy for the department."

But in a sign of how useless even the most active parents consider the councils, some districts with long legacies of heavily involved parents have shown the least interest in the coming elections.

In District 2, covering the East Side and much of Lower Manhattan, only two people attended a recent candidates' forum, said Michael Propper, the district's council president.

"By and large, parents don't even know the council exists," Mr. Propper said, adding that he would not be running for another term this year.

Rob Caloras, the council president in District 26 in northeast Queens, a district known for its excellent schools and high levels of activism by parents, said that only five people were running for the parent council.

"It's kind of sad," Mr. Caloras said. "We've lost people who were on the council. They went back to the PTA because they feel it's much more important to be active in their children's schools than waste their time here."

According to David Cantor, a spokesman for the Education Department, the first parent council election in 2004 attracted roughly 1,200 parents who signed up to run. In 2005, more than 1,000 parents signed up; this year, there are 744 candidates.

In several districts, the list of candidates is unusually long. District 17 in Brooklyn has 67 parents on the ballot; District 7 in the South Bronx has 44 candidates; District 22 in Brooklyn has 34.

Frances Torres, a parent support officer in District 7, said that she had been doing "tremendous outreach" for months to recruit candidates. (A parent support officer is a staff job that involves providing services to parents.)

But some parents said even many of the listed candidates had no intention of serving on the councils. One parent in Brooklyn, Betsy Dabney, said she signed up on the ballot for District 17, in Crown Heights and Flatbush, at the urging of a parent coordinator, but was not briefed on many details of the commitment. "I'm not even sure how long the term is supposed to be," Ms. Dabney said.

Mr. Dandridge in Brooklyn said the Education Department was determined to show that the councils were improving and to put pressure on schools to recruit candidates. The result, he said, is parents who have little real interest.

"One candidate came to the first meeting and never came back," he said. "One candidate never showed up. They don't even understand what they're signing up for."

Some potential candidates have been deterred by the financial disclosure forms required of candidates, which ask for employment and personal investment information.

"A lot of people, as soon as they see that on the form, they get really turned off," said Calvin Diaz, an office administrator for District 9 in the Bronx. "Once people see that they have to put down how much money they make, they just feel that that's personal. And they get scared."

Mr. Huser said the Department of Education was working on changing the state law requiring financial disclosure forms. "We do recognize that it is both an unnecessary burden to serving on the council," he

The lack of interest in the coming elections is "an indication of how bad things are," said Tim Johnson, the chairman of the Chancellor's Parent Advisory Council, the group that called for the elections to be boycotted. "I think over all, the Department of Education really doesn't want parents at the table advising them on much of anything. Nothing they do seems to get any attention."

Still, some parents defend the councils, saying that they have seen progress. There is a full council in District 31, which encompasses all of Staten Island, where parents have had a strong voice in their schools. Rajiv Gowda, the council president there, said 28 people were running for seats in the coming election.

"We do have some power," he said, adding that his council passed eight resolutions in the last year.

But even after the elections are over, many parents expect to face the same problems of limited attendance and interest.

Mr. Baumann of District 27, who by day is the president and chief executive of New York Families for Autistic Children, said that to lure parents to the meetings in the past, he invited their children to sing, dance and even recite poetry. Parents still grumbled that their attendance was pointless, he said, because the Department of Education did not listen to their complaints.

"The mayor and the chancellor really don't want us involved," said Mr. Baumann, who calls himself a reluctant candidate for a third term. "When you're running a big corporation, you don't ask the guys
on the loading dock what their opinions are. The way I see it, we're just pushing a box from one side to the other in a warehouse."

Now to the current news:
Bloomberg Schools Flunk the Constitution
We're raising a generation that doesn't know its rights
By Nat Hentoff, Village Voice, August 31, 2011

Years ago, when I was interviewing Justice William Brennan in his Supreme Court chambers for my book, Living the Bill of Rights, he suddenly became somber.

"How," he asked, "can we take the Bill of Rights off the pages and into the very lives of students?" He was aware, even back then, how little time was spent in our public schools on who we are as Americans and what it keeps taking to protect our individual liberties against overreaching governments. (This was before George W. Obama.)

Were he still with us, Brennan would be even more disturbed by a report from an organization that honors his principles and actions, the Brennan Center for Justice in New York.

On April 13, the center released "A Report Card on New York's Civic Literacy" by Eric Lane and Meg Barnette. The report received scant attention or follow-up, but a week later in the New York Daily News, Eric Lane--Distinguished Professor of Public Law and Public Service at Hofstra University Law School--did get space to emphasize that here and nationally, "unless we quickly address our disengagement from and ignorance of the way our government works through aggressive teaching of the basics in our schools, the nation's very strength and prosperity will be at stake."

And especially such very personal Fourth Amendment rights to privacy against "unreasonable searches and seizure." Under our Education Mayor and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, this city leads the nation in "stops and frisks," largely of blacks and Latinos, without the cops first going to a judge. Between January and March of this year, Kelly set a record: 183,326 interrogated with only 12 percent arrested or given a summons (Daily News, June 12).

How would the city's students know about the Fourth Amendment? Here, and throughout the country, the fixation on collective standardized tests in reading and math has led to the absence of civics classes throughout the country. Early in his tenure, I asked Joel Klein about this most basic educational need if this generation and those that follow are not to be conditioned to accept being in a police state as normal. "I'm working on that," Klein assured me. If he ever actually was concerned, this Brennan Center report gives him an F for what he did. And I've heard nothing from Chancellor Dennis Walcott about bringing the Constitution back to our students.

Let me challenge you, Chancellor Walcott.

What do students know about presidential and Justice Department contempt for the separation of powers, which were intended during the formation of the Constitution to prevent our becoming a kingdom? The rampant use, for a present example, by Bush-Cheney-Obama of "state secrets" to prevent cases against a unilateral federal government from even being heard in our courts?

Also, the almost daily increase in our society being in a state of surveillance. The FBI, for instance, can start an "assessment"--an investigation--of any of us without going to a judge.

In what is reliably called "the nation's report card," the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reported on how much citizens know about--and care about--the most dangerous subversions of the Constitution by the Bush-Cheney and now Obama administrations.

This is what "the nation's report card" revealed particularly about students across the country: "Only one in 10 demonstrated acceptable knowledge on the checks and balances (the separation of powers) among the legislative, executive and judicial branches" (New York Times, May 4).

Also: "a smaller proportion of fourth and eighth graders demonstrated proficiency in civics [who we are as Americans] than in any other subject the federal government has tested since 2005."

What is the subject of which they are most ignorant? History!

Now dig this from the Brennan Center Report on New York's Civics Literacy: "For years (all of) New York required social studies (civics) assessment tests for its fourth and eighth grade students. The eighth grade assessment consisted mostly of history questions . . . Overall, New Yorkers did not perform well on those tests, and New York City students performed horribly. At a 2005 hearing of the New York City Council's Education Committee, school officials informed the council members that "more than 80 percent of New York City eighth graders failed to meet state standards in social studies."

So what happened as a result? "School officials said that they pay little attention to fourth and eighth grade social studies assessment tests 'because they are not among the criteria used to determine if schools are performing adequately, either under state regulations or the federal No Child Left Behind law.'"

I remember that when Eva Moskowitz was a member of the City Council--before her Success Charter Network of schools had Harlem parents urgently trying to have their children accepted--she was the only council member to keep after Joel Klein about what he was actually doing to restore classes in civics. Klein did help her charter schools, but I recall nothing he actually did to respond credibly to those questions by her.

Hey, Chancellor Walcott, what do you have to say in response to the following urgent concern in the Brennan Center Report?

"Civic literacy is the prerequisite for developing the ties that bind us together as a nation. It enables us to disagree and pursue our interests and the common interest . . . Without these tools, we are now moving in a different direction, heading toward what the philosopher Michael Sandel calls a 'story-less condition,' in which 'there is no continuity between present and past, and therefore no responsibility, and therefore no possibility for acting together to govern ourselves." While Ray Kelly keeps zealously stopping and frisking citizens.

This column is open to you, Chancellor Walcott, to tell New York students, parents, and other citizens and residents what is being done in real life, real time, to engage students in learning why Thomas Jefferson often warned that the only basic safeguards of our constitutional rights and liberties are in the people themselves.

In one of the last conversations I had with Justice William Brennan, he said to me, "Remember, pal"--he called many people "pal"--"liberty is a fragile thing."

And if you don't know what your constitutional liberties are, how will you be able to realize they're gone?

If I were teaching civics in this public school system, I would ask students to react--after they'd discovered who Jefferson, James Madison, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black ("Don't be afraid to be free!"), et al., were--to what an underrated Supreme Court Justice, David Souter, said while declaring his retirement at the National Archives Museum on May 21, 2009: Who we are as Americans "can be lost, is being lost, it is lost." What's needed "is the restoration of the self-identity of the American people."

Imagine Thomas Jefferson in East Harlem seeing cops stopping and frisking people in total disregard of the Bill of Rights' Fourth Amendment. He'd think King George III had taken back the colonists.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Story of Khalil Gibran International Academy

Debbie Almontaser

Debbie Almontaser: The Story of Khalil Gibran International Academy
Monthly Review

In 2005, I was immersed in working with the Mayor's Office on the inauguration of Arab Heritage week. In the midst of this, New Visions for Public Schools, a school reform organization, decided to begin the development of an Arabic/Hebrew-language high school with a co-existence theme. After months of searching for an Arab-American educator to work on such a school, Adam Rubin contacted me after the recommendations from the Department of Education (DOE), the Mayor's office of Immigrant Affairs, and lastly, even from an Arab-American woman at a Brooklyn falafel stand.

Days later, I met with Adam Rubin from New Visions, and weeks later, I met with the president of New Visions. I then immersed myself in the school development process by attending DOE and the New Visions workshops where school themes and models were described. They led us to decide to teach only Arabic. Therefore, the school would become an Arabic Dual Language Program. I also initiated an informal feasibility study with educators, academics, politicians, community and civic leaders within the Arab-American community, multi-faith leaders, parents, students, and 9/11 families. For such a school to succeed, it was critical to show that there was both a dire need, and that there was also strong support among community groups.

New Visions required all of their schools to have a lead partner agency for the $400,000 Gates Foundation grant. Various academic institutions and non-profit groups were explored. It was also imperative to identify an institution the stakeholder communities felt comfortable with.

Months later, New Visions hosted a gathering for the Arab-American community to introduce the first Arabic dual-language school in New York City—joining eighty dual-language schools of various languages. The Arab-American community was charged to start the process! We ventured to identify a lead agency and a highly qualified educator to lead the school.

A lead agency was selected from two organizations that were nominated: the Arab American Family Support Center (AAFSC), and the Brooklyn Cultural Center, which is responsible for opening the Alnoor Islamic School. After an arduous process, the committee determined that the AAFSC best met the lead agency application criteria. Shortly after, a principal selection committee was formed by the community, consisting of community organization heads and academics. I was encouraged to apply as well. Weeks later, I engaged in one of the most important interviews of my life. Days after the interview, the final candidate was announced and I was selected.

As the project director and principal, I was charged with assembling a school design team to write the proposal for submission to New Visions and DOE. The design team was ethnically and religiously diverse, comprised of educators, former principals, assistant principals, prospective parents, community members, and professionals. There were members of the team who spoke Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish, French, and Chinese. The design team and I worked for the next six months developing the proposal and getting endorsement letters from the Arab-American community and the larger community to accompany the proposal. Incredibly, we had over eleven partnering groups such as the Tanenbaum Center for Inter-religious Understanding, the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Conservatory for Music, Alwan for the Arts, and several others. We met weekends and weeknights and worked through the wee hours of the night to meet the New Visions and DOE deadlines. And finally, on December 1, 2006, we submitted the final proposal to the DOE.

Our objective was to establish a school that emphasized critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills through inquiry project-based learning. The Arabic language program was a critical component of the curriculum as well. Weeks later, the DOE approved Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA). Its creation was publicly announced along with eighty other schools being approved for the 2007–08 school year. KGIA made its national debut on February 12, 2007, in the New York Times. But only days later, right-wing bloggers began to create a negative narrative about the school. New Visions and the AAFSC had been responsible for preparing a school website and hiring a communications person, but at that point neither had happened. In spite of the steadily increasing attacks, I remained focused on the work ahead.

KGIA faced additional complications due to not having a home. The first location explored was P.S. 282 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, but the DOE, as is typically the case, had made no attempt to engage the community in assessing space feasibility. The parents of P.S. 282 protested against KGIA, landing it on the front page of local papers. The Brooklyn Paper headline was "Holy War! Slope Parents Protest Arabic School Plan," while the New York Sun proclaimed "A Madrassa Grows in Brooklyn" and "Arabic School Idea Is a Monstrosity." After weeks of parent protests, the DOE abandoned P.S. 282 and set its eyes on the Sarah J. Hale Campus in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, where two schools already existed, subjecting KGIA to even more parental opposition. However, after some negotiation, KGIA was accepted.

Our new school was given a fourth-floor wing that was separate from the two existing schools. However, one of the other schools negated these arrangements, which landed KGIA in an isolated space in that building which was not conducive to learning. The DOE decided to split up the cafeteria space into three classrooms and a main office with portable partitions.

In the midst of these challenges, I was ordering furniture and textbooks, recruiting students, dealing with media requests, and interviewing potential staff. Teachers from across the country were applying to teach at KGIA. The staff I finally hired was ethnically and racially diverse. Despite the media hype, they were very excited to be part of the founding staff. We began our journey with weeks of professional development in all subject areas, including Arabic language and cultural studies.

The Nightmare

As I agonized about when the furniture was going to arrive and the partitions would go up, those who opposed the school did everything in their power to undermine its opening. The DOE's continued commitment to opening the school infuriated these individuals, and they started attacking me based on my ethnicity and religion. They plastered pictures of me in my headscarf on websites and blogs with unfounded allegations that I was a radical Islamist with an agenda to radicalize youth. They distorted my words in local and national papers to make me seem anti-American. A 2007 New York Sun article cited a 2003 article (about who was responsible for 9/11) which quoted me as saying, "I don't recognize the people who committed the attacks as either Arabs or Muslims"—leaving the false impression that I denied that individuals of this background were responsible. The New York Sun left out the second half of the quote, in which I vehemently condemned those individuals for 9/11. The second part of the quote stated, "Those people who did it have stolen my identity as an Arab and have stolen my religion."

I never thought I would be at the center of such attacks given the number of years I have worked in public education and interfaith work. The charge was led by Daniel Pipes, the head of the Middle East Forum, and Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a Board of Trustees member at the City University of New York. Accompanying them were Pamela Geller, a right-wing blogger, later to be infamous for her attack on the Park51 Muslim community center in lower Manhattan, and a few others who formed a group called "Stop the Madrassa Coalition" (STM Coalition). The DOE tried to counter some of the attacks in various media. However, by July 2007, the STM Coalition were appearing at events where they hurled Islamophobic rhetoric at me. This included accusations that I was a 9/11 denier; a supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah; part of the U.S. history revisionist movement (which denies that the Holocaust occurred); and that I was going to teach children Sharia law, and to hate Christians and Jews.

These people seemed to believe that as an observant Muslim woman I should be disqualified from leading KGIA, regardless of the fact that the school is rigorously secular and required to meet the same educational standards that all New York City public schools are. They disregarded that its namesake, Khalil Gibran, was a Lebanese Christian—and an internationally revered poet and philosopher of peaceful coexistence. To further perpetuate anti-Arab prejudice, they continually referenced me by my Arabic name, which I have chosen not to use professionally for many years.

In August 2007, the STM Coalition found the ultimate pretext to ignite a media firestorm. In their quest to shut the school down they made efforts to somehow connect me to "Intifada NYC" t-shirts made by a youth organization called Arab Women in the Arts and Media (AWAAM). A New York Post reporter persistently sought my comments. I saw no reason to speak to any media since the t-shirts had nothing to do with KGIA or me. Upon the DOE's insistence, however, a three-way phone interview with the reporter from the New York Post, a DOE press person, and me took place. During the interview, the reporter asked about my affiliation with AWAAM. I explained that there was no affiliation, and that I was a board member of a social service organization that shared office space with AWAAM.

Lastly, the reporter then asked about the origin of the word "intifada." I said that the Arabic root word from which the word intifada originates means "shake off" and that it has evolved over time to have different meanings for different people, but certainly for many, given its association with the Palestinian/Israeli conflict during which thousands have died, it is associated with violence. In response to a further question about the teenage girls of AWAAM, I expressed my belief they were not going to engage in a "Gaza-style uprising" in New York City, as the reporter had claimed. These were inner-city youth in a summer program that gave them the opportunity to engage in an arts and media program.

Sadly, the next day's New York Post distorted my words about the root word of intifada, making it seem that I had minimized the historical context of the Intifada. Friends and allies paid the story no mind. However, others believed it, regardless of my record of extensive interfaith work. The DOE press secretary called and questioned why I had spoken about the t-shirts. I explained that I had, as an educator, discussed the root word of "intifada" to give contextual information of a word that many have limited knowledge about. The press person on the call with me had had no objection to my doing so. She did not interject or interrupt me.

A New York Sun reporter said that in an earlier interview I refused to answer questions about Hezbollah and Hamas. This was because in response to her question I asked if it would be asked of the 1,500 other public school principals. She responded "No," but nevertheless the New York Sun considered my answer an evasion. In any case, after the New York Post interview, the press person who had been on the call with me let me know I did a good job, and she believed that it went well.

Hours later, the phones began ringing. The press secretary informed me that the Chancellor and the senior leadership had decided the "best way" to deal with this matter was to issue a statement. I was pleased to hear this at first. But shockingly, the DOE wanted me to issue an apology, even though I knew that I had neither done nor said anything wrong. I did what I had planned to do with students at KGIA—speak on an issue while making sure to provide all perspectives on it.

After some back and forth about why an apology might be the best strategy, the press secretary stated, "It is in your best interest to do as we advise you if you want to see the school open." He knew there was nothing more important to me than to see this historical school open. I was deeply troubled; the last thing I wanted to do was condemn an organization serving young Arab women and girls of color, or send a negative message about freedom of expression. Soon I realized that the DOE was caving into pressure. To ensure the school's opening, I put my pride aside and compromised my views; but as I had feared, matters continued to get worse. The members of STM Coalition seized the moment to attack me. Randi Weingarten, at the time the New York City United Federation of Teachers (UFT) president, immediately attacked me in the New York Post without inquiring about what actually happened. She stated that the word "intifada" should have been condemned, rather than defined.

DOE officials missed the opportunity to stand against bigotry. They should have simply said that it was clear that neither KGIA nor I had any connection to the t-shirts. They should have pointed out that I had devoted my entire adult life to the peaceful resolution of conflict and to building bridges between ethnic and religious communities. In other words, they should have said that the attacks were utterly baseless. Instead, the DOE changed course and decided I should have condemned the word, not explained it, and that I also should have condemned the motives of the young Arab women's group that made the t-shirt.

By the end of the week, I was forced to resign by the Mayor and DOE. The people whom I had worked closely with and trusted unconditionally literally reduced me to a word—ignoring my qualifications. Shortly after, the DOE and New Visions replaced me with Danielle Salzberg, a New Visions employee and former assistant principal, who had no Arabic language or cultural expertise, nor any connection to New York City's Arab communities.

In the weeks following my forced resignation, I secluded myself to ensure that the school opened. However, activists, educators, local and civic leaders, and community groups did not believe I simply resigned. They wanted answers from Mayor Bloomberg and the DOE. These individuals and groups recognized that Daniel Pipes and other right-wing groups were launching a campaign much wider than KGIA to cast doubts and suspicion on Arab and Muslim Americans who were seeking to expand their positions in the United States.

On August 20, 2007, these individuals and groups who supported me organized a rally in front of the DOE on Chambers Street demanding answers. I was deeply touched by the outpouring of support. This rally spurred the formation of a group called Communities in Support of KGIA, a coalition of organizations seeking to challenge the blatant racism that had occurred and to fight for a just and equitable public education system.

Simultaneously, Alan Levine offered his legal services, which I was thrilled about. He is a long-time and noted civil rights attorney and a social justice activist going back to the Civil Rights Movement, and he quickly assembled a legal team and led the charge. Our first step was filing a claim in federal court against the DOE and City for infringing on my First Amendment rights in November 2007.

In February 2008, we appeared at the Court of Appeals. The judges, after hearing the argument, sharply criticized the City for its mishandling of the controversy surrounding the school and me. One of the judges said, "I can't believe the city really wants to take that position, that if there is a disruptive response to a misleading article that unfairly quotes a city employee, then they get disciplined. That's a very unattractive position for a city to take." It was very gratifying to finally hear a judge state I was unjustly treated. However, my lawyers also filed a discrimination complaint with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC). In March 2010, when we least expected it, the EEOC determination was released. It found that my forced resignation was discriminatory on account of my "race, religion and national origin," and that the DOE had "succumbed to the very bias that the creation of the school was intended to dispel." The EEOC declared that I "had no connection whatsoever" with the t-shirts and that "a small segment of the public succeeded in imposing its prejudices on the DOE as an employer." The DOE called the ruling baseless. I cannot describe the tremendous relief I felt being vindicated in that way—a vindication not only for me, but for all those facing discrimination and bigotry.

As months went by after the school's opening, teachers I had hired reported that the new administration compromised the school's mission and vision. The Arabic-language program suffered immensely. Teachers who spoke out felt badly treated and were finally driven out of the school by the third principal, Holly Anne Reichert, who had quickly replaced Salzberg. In its first year, the school also experienced a high rate of violent incidents, leading many families to pull their children out.

KGIA's second school year, 2008–2009, was also turbulent. The DOE relocated KGIA to another P.S. 287, where it again faced some initial opposition from the host school community. The new location was far from the Arab-American community that KGIA had set out to serve, and was difficult to access by public transportation. KGIA staff and families did not learn of this move until they read about it in the paper. Additionally, prior to the move the DOE had informed the P.S. 287 families that KGIA would only function as a middle school, rather than a 6–12 grade school, as it had been envisioned.

In March 2010, the school received its fourth principal after the EEOC Determination unearthed that there had been three Arab Americans apply for the position when I did, but that the DOE selectively decided to pass them up. Shortly thereafter, the DOE abruptly removed Reichert as principal, and replaced her with Bashir Abdellatif, one of the Arab-American candidates who applied back in 2007, and who had become a principal at another high school.

Now in its fourth year, KGIA survives but is significantly under-enrolled. It has only 109 students when it should have close to 200. Among those enrolled, the number of Arabic-speaking students remains very low. For the most part, many Arab-American families have pulled their children out the school for safety and transportation reasons. It is no longer functioning as an Arabic dual-language school; it just offers Arabic as a foreign language. For the 2009–2010 school year, KGIA received a C on the NYC Progress Report, for poor student performance and progress in ELA (English Language Arts) and Math. The DOE recently announced it intends to relocate KGIA to another building in September 2011, phase out the middle school, and turn it into a high school. This completely undermines the possibility of it ever becoming an Arabic dual-language school.


In the last four years, I have gone through a lot, both professionally and personally. I have learned a great deal about myself, my family, working for a bureaucratic institution, the politics of my city, and New Yorkers. I persevered because of the love and support of my family and of complete strangers who saw my struggle as their own, and gave me the will to battle an institution that many feared to challenge. Shortly after the EEOC Determination, I asked my lawyers to refrain from initiating additional litigation on the EEOC Discrimination claim. I decided that it was time for me to move on with my professional and personal life. Additional litigation of the discrimination claim would mean reliving the unfortunate and painful events of August 6–10, 2007, when news stories daily distorted my words and attacked my work, my integrity, and my reputation—and when I was publicly betrayed by people to whom I had given loyal service, including the Mayor, the Chancellor, and longtime colleagues in the interfaith community.

While I have endured a great injustice at the hands of people I trusted, the far larger offense has been to the Arab and Muslim communities of the United States. In the years since 9/11, these communities have been at the center of the most vile and hateful attacks. The attacks on me are part of a larger campaign to intimidate and silence marginalized communities. In response to these attacks I wholeheartedly continue to work with various groups locally and nationally to challenge Islamophobia, racism, and xenophobia.

The Campaign of Resistance
Donna Nevel

I did not know Debbie Almontaser and did not know anything about the Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA), but when I learned that a Muslim and Arab principal of an Arabic Dual Language school was the victim of a racist smear campaign orchestrated mostly by Jewish bigots—it hit me in my gut. A second hit in the gut was reading UFT President Randy Weingarten's letter, which further fueled the flames of bigotry. It said, "While the city's teacher's union initially took an open-minded approach to this school, both parents and teachers have every right to be concerned about children attending a school run by someone who doesn't instinctively denounce campaigns or ideas tied to violence." Members of the Center for Immigrant Families (CIF), of which I am part, felt as I did and did not want Weingarten to go unchallenged. CIF immediately wrote a letter to her that included the following: "Aside from everything else that points to the racist nature of this whole incident, do you not know that in most parts of the world, the word intifada connotes resistance to an unethical and illegal and brutal occupation? It is not the word intifada that promotes violence or that should be denounced; rather, what should be denounced is an occupation that promotes violence and that made the intifada necessary."

Within a day of sending out CIF's letter on listservs, we heard from Mona Eldahry of Arab Women in the Arts and Media (AWAAM) who asked if we wanted to help plan and participate in a rally, being quickly organized, in support of Debbie and the school. CIF joined individuals and groups that gathered from across the city to denounce anti-Arab racism and anti-Muslim bigotry and to demand that the DOE re-instate Debbie to her position as KGIA's principal.

After that spirited rally, several organizations came together to create Communities in Support of KGIA (CISKGIA). The steering committee groups included AWAAM, CIF, Brooklyn for Peace, Muslim Consultative Network, Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition, and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. The steering committee representatives were Mona Eldahry, Carol Horowitz, Erica Waples, Fatin Jarara, Elly Bulkin, Adem Carroll, Michael Feinberg, Ayla Schoenwald, Ray Wofsy, and myself.

We spoke out in opposition to those who were responsible for the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim attacks on Debbie, on AWAAM, and on the school, but we were particularly committed to holding the DOE accountable for its actions and for the consequences of those actions. We always looked at what happened from a broader lens. This was part of a larger struggle for justice and for self-determination of communities being assaulted and demonized. And, with tremendous implications for the integrity of a public education system, the demonization had been sanctioned by a government institution responsible for the education of our children.

We also reached out to our allies and engaged in outreach within many different communities across the city—low-income and communities of color, immigrant communities, Jewish and Muslim groups, organizations focusing on public education, and other peace and justice groups. Hundreds of groups endorsed this effort, and many participated with us in our organizing.

We held a number of community events with educators, social justice activists, and with Muslim and Jewish leaders from across the country. They all wrote moving statements and letters of support to the Mayor and DOE demanding Debbie's reinstatement. We were able to garner support from academics, educators, community activists, and interfaith leaders from across the country. We also received support from politicians, but we were clear that they would not dictate our direction. A priority for us at all times was our work with parents and teachers at the school. One of our large community events featured teachers who shared information about how the school was falling apart from the inside, a fact that the DOE refused to acknowledge. Parents expressed feeling marginalized and that their voices were being ignored by school officials, and a number of teachers ended up feeling intimidated by the DOE or felt that they were being pushed out for speaking the truth.

We tried to reach inside as many new communities as possible. At one point, a number of people from the Jewish community made clear they would not join the coalition if AWAAM were part of it. We felt they were putting Debbie into the category of the "good" Arab and AWAAM as the "bad" Arab. That is, since AWAAM had put out the intifada t-shirts, they were "tainted" with the anti-Israel brush and were therefore not considered "kosher" partners. We emphatically rejected this proposal, believing it perpetuated the very bias we opposed, and were unanimous in our decision to remain true to who we were, which was a coalition that had AWAAM in its leadership.

In addition to rallies, educational and community programs, ongoing outreach, and letter-writing campaigns, our media strategy was a priority since the media was at the center of the controversy. We worked to reframe the debate, ensuring that the real story was told—by Debbie and by the young women of AWAAM, and not by the media or the racists. We wanted to be sure the voices of those who had been silenced and distorted were out there. We also wanted to be certain that we always framed our comments within the larger context of justice for marginalized communities and of holding our government institutions (in this case, the DOE) accountable.

We held press conferences, put out statements, and "busted" one of the press conferences of our anti-Muslim opponents. In this struggle, we had media on top of us all the time, so we had to be discerning about what types of media we thought were valuable to respond to and pursue. We devoted a lot of time to thinking this through. Fortunately, we benefited from the wisdom of AWAAM members whose work focused on the media, and we also worked together with Riptide Communications, particularly when the media requests became overwhelming.

Several filmmakers also contacted us wanting to do documentaries, but, after much deliberation and meetings with some of them, we only granted interviews to one person who seemed honest and ethical (and who ended up creating a film, Intifada NYC).

We also worked closely with Debbie's legal team, led by civil rights lawyer Alan Levine. We discussed political strategy together, making certain the voices of the community were front and center, which was always honored by the legal team. Since Alan Levine is my husband, rather than offering more of my own views about our relationship with the legal team, I will quote what Mona Eldahry has said:

Working on the campaign to support KGIA, I've learned exactly what a meaningful collaboration between a legal team and community organizers looks like. We at CISKGIA were working to ensure that the DOE would provide the school with the resources it needed to succeed, including the leadership it deserved. Debbie's legal team was set to ensure that her civil rights and her rights as an employee were protected. Our work together ensured that both paths would lead to justice for students and community-members who saw, as the EEOC later determined, that the Mayor and the DOE ousted a school leader because she was Arab.

Our coalition met as much as was humanly possible. Everyone was passionate and deeply committed.

CISKGIA is the most respectful, collaborative coalition I have ever been part of. We all learned with and from one another. Leadership was shared amongst our groups; there was never a struggle over power. We all understood the importance of AWAAM's leadership (and I must add that Mona Eldahry and the other AWAAM representatives were extremely inspiring). We worked in sync with the legal team.

How does one gauge success in such an undertaking? While Debbie did not return to KGIA, as we had all hoped would happen, in fact something powerful did happen. Communities and individuals from every background came together and were relentless in demanding that our institutions be held accountable for promoting racism and bigotry. Most importantly, the story of what had actually happened was told and re-told by those who had lived and experienced it. And with the EEOC Determination, the story was also told in the legal arena, which reflected the truth as we knew it to be. All in all, critical relationships were developed, connections were made amongst our many interrelated struggles, and community power was built that reverberates to this day. We all remain personally and politically connected in deep ways and are working closely together—some of us with groups to challenge Islamophobia, racism, and xenophobia; some in groups for justice in Palestine—which I think reflects the power and strength of the community that so many of us built together and the justice of the cause.

The struggle definitely continues.

EEOC Concludes NYC Ed. Dept. Discriminated Against Almontaser
March 25, 2010

The MPAC-NYC community welcomed a recent ruling by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) which found that the New York City Department of Education  discriminated against Debbie Almontaser, the founding principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy in 2007. Almontasser was forced by resign her post following a highly politicized and baseless attack by Islamophobes, led by Daniel Pipes.
The New York City Department of Education (DOE) yesterday notified the EEOC that it is unwilling to engage in a process of conciliation concerning the EEOC's finding that the DOE discriminated against Debbie Almontaser when it forced her to resign as acting principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy. 
The EEOC's ruling on March 9, 2010 had given the DOE until March 24 to indicate whether it would work with Ms. Almontaser's lawyers and the EEOC to reach a "just resolution" of her claim.  Within hours of receiving the EEOC's ruling, the DOE responded that it had "in no way discriminated against Ms. Almontaser and she will not be reinstated." 
Commenting on the DOE's unwillingness to engage in conciliation, Cynthia Rollings, one of Ms. Almontaser's lawyers, said: "Given the DOE's dismissive response to the EEOC ruling, we were not surprised to learn that the DOE now says it is unwilling to engage in conciliation. The response is clearly prompted by considerations having nothing to do with the substance of the EEOC Determination."
Ms. Almontaser's lawyers announced that they intend to bring a lawsuit based on Ms. Almontaser's discrimination claim.  In addition, as a result of the DOE's refusal to conciliate, the EEOC has referred the case to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to consider whether it, too, will bring a court action against the DOE. 
 In its letter spelling out its ruling, the EEOC stated that the NYC Department of Education (DOE) had discriminated against Almontaser, a Muslim of Yemeni descent, "on account of her race, religion, and national origin."
The commission went on to state that the NYC DOE "succumbed to the very bias that the creation of the school was intended to dispel and that a small segment of the public succeeded in imposing its prejudices on DOE as an employer."
Commenting on the Commission's finding, Alan Levine, an attorney for Almontaser, said:
"Debbie Almontaser was victimized twice. First, when she was subjected to an ugly smear campaign orchestrated by anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigots, and second, when the DOE capitulated to their bigotry. But the bigots didn't have the power to take her job away. The DOE did. To its everlasting shame, the DOE did the bigots' work.  Now, the EEOC has reminded us that it is the responsibility of government to stand up to the forces of discrimination, not to give into them."
- Dalia Mahmoud