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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Probationary Teachers Terminated By The Department, and Filing An Article 78 Appeal

Many probationary teachers are being discontinued unfairly. I know of a case where the teacher was given "satisfactory" for all his observations by one principal for 2 1/2 years, then all "S" from the principal who replaced the first principal, except for a "U" on his rating sheet his third year, given to him on the last day of school in June 2011. On the rating sheet the comment as to why he received a "U" was "refused to sign the Extension of Probation Agreement".

Why did he refuse to sign the Extension of Probation Agreement? Basically, he did not want to waive his rights to sue the Department for the retaliation and harassment he had received, and a clause said that by signing the agreement he would be waiving his legal rights to sue; secondly, he did not want to work at this school for another year, knowing that he would be observed and given "U" ratings no matter what he did. He had received only one "U" in his teaching career, and this was given to him by an Assistant Principal who was angry at him for reporting problems in the school. This AP did a 20-minute walk-though in november, which, according to UFT rules, could not be included in the end of year rating. Rules don't matter, as we know. The other teachers in the school as well as his UFT representative testified that he was a "gem" in the classroom.

I am an advocate for following the rules but fighting for justice until you simply cannot anymore, and then fighting some more. Teachers are now filing timely Notices of Claim which will allow them to sue the Department, and some do win. See the case of Lisa Capece).

One of the standard arguments of the New York Law Department when they write Cross Motions To Dismiss the Article 78s filed in the NYS Supreme Court by probationary teachers is, that the timing of the filing of the Article 78 is wrong, and the petition must be dismissed. What's the real story?

Here is what the Court of Appeals says:

Posted on February 15, 2012 by Kevin Sheerin

Court of Appeals: Terminated Probationary Teachers have 4 months to file Article 78

Terminated probationary teachers had been faced with a dilemma-should I file an Article 78 within four months of my termination and have the respondent's move to dismiss my petition for "failing to exhaust my administrative remedies" or wait for the decision of an internal appeal and have Respondent's move to dismiss their Petition as untimely having been filed more than 4 months after the termination date.
New York State's highest court apparently resolved this conflict and decided on February 14, 2012 that probationary teachers have four months to file an Article 78 to appeal their termination.  The 4 months time limit runs from the final day of service.
Leslie Khan and Doreen Nash did not file Article 78 petitions within 4 months of their terminations.  Leslie Khan was terminated "... as of the close of business January 25, 2008"  She filed a DOE appeal of her probationary termination on January 3, 2008.   Despite the committee's non-concurrence with the termination on May 9, 2008 the superintendent informed Khan that she "reaffirmed the previous action dated January 25, 2008.  On September 9, 2008 Khan initiated an Article 78.
Doreen Nash started working for the DOE on September 3, 2002.  In 2005 she received a "U" for the 2004-2005 school year. On June 16, 2005 Nash filed a DOE appeal.  Nash's employment was terminated July 15, 2005.  The Chancellor's Committee held a meeting on May 10, 2006 and recommended "non-concurrence".  Nevertheless, the superintendent of Brooklyn High Schools reaffirmed Nash's discontinuance as of "close of business July 18, 2005" Nash filed an Article 78 on September 10, 2008.
The Court held that both Khan and Nash had 4 months to appeal their termination.  Their filing internal Chancellor Committee appeals did not extend the limitation of time to file an appeal.
The Court explained: " Because a determination pursuant to Education Law 2573(1)(a) to discontinue a probationary employee's service becomes final and binding on that employee on his or her last day at work-as Frasier holds-CPLR 217 (1) dictates that any suit to challenge the determination must be commenced within four months after that date.
You can read the Probationary teacher Khan case here.

Francesco Alexander Portelos, Tenured Teacher at Berta Dreyfus I.S. 49, Wins The "A For Accountability" Award

 From Betsy Combier:

The E-Accountability Foundation was created in 2002 to assist individuals in a battle against people who deliberately and intentionally commit crimes which harm another person, other people, or group, without justification. I created the "A For Accountability Award" to highlight the struggle of whistleblowers by giving each person the recognition he or she deserves. Francesco Alexander Portelos wins an award for his standing up to the hostile work environment created by Principal Linda Hill at IS 49.

I.S. Principal Linda Hill Goes After Francesco Alexander Portelos, a Teacher, With a Vengeance After He Asks Questions About The School Leadership Team
...and became Union Delegate.Hill, now Principal of the Berta A. Dreyfus School I.S. 49, is, it seems, another Principal from Hell who needs to have training in leadership in New York City after graduating from the "Leadership Academy". Almost overnight she started giving Portelos grief when he asked the right questions. I believe this is text-book retaliation. Mr. Portelos created a website to tell the public all about Hill and her sudden discipline. The aim of this lesson is to show attacks of a supervisor on the internet. Kudos to Francesco!!!! Betsy Combier

Don't Tread on Mr. Portelos
Dont Tread On Me


Letters of Recommendation

Thank you Mr. Portelos

Thank You Mr. Portelos -continued

In the News

Formal Observations

More Stuff

Negative Emails

Disciplinary Letters in File

Renovating the STEM Lab

IS 49 SLT Minutes

Stay Informed

The Story -
I am Francesco Alexander Portelos. I am an educator and I love my job. I was an engineer turned teacher and this is my story on how I went from hero to villain by bringing up the needs of the students and community.

For four and half years I served my community and school Berta Dreyfus IS 49 the best I could (see tabs above). I stayed late almost every day to not only renovate my S.T.E.M. Lab 2 times and create engaging lessons, but to also, troubleshoot tech issues for colleagues, design more efficient ways to communicate in a 21st century world plus much, much more. My Robotics team has won countless awards in Staten Island including Top Design in NYC.

With years of "Satisfactory" ratings I somehow received 3 Disciplinary Letters in my file in 10 days, have been harassed by my administrators, had a DOE SCI investigation started on me, confiscating my DOE issued iPad, Macbook and teacher PC and asked to resign as UFT Chapter Delegate.

Everything was going great at school for 4.5 years. I loved teaching and my principal, students and parents loved my class and dedication to the school. However, I did not entirely agree with all the ways my troubled school was being run. I decided to become proactive. I became Union Delegate and also obtained a seat on the School Leadership Team (SLT) amongst many other things like speaking up in meetings. As part of the SLT I noticed we were never talking about the Comprehensive Educational Plan (CEP) or Budget which were our main goals. At my fourth meeting, December 13 2011, while the principal was out of the room, I asked the SLT Chairperson "Are we ever going to talk about the CEP and Budget?". This sparked a debate as more and more SLT members, including parents, were wondering the same thing. The principal walked in and when asked she told us "The CEP was due December 1st. I already submitted it." Now the SLT members, comprised of educators and parents, all have to sign it. This caused several suspicious looks from the parents and staff. When the principal stepped out again we started looking for answers. The UFT leader said that we could have called an emergency meeting before the due date had we known. I found an SLT Support site and with the knowledge of all members present (including the chairperson) sent the following email to the contact person:


On Dec 13, 2011, "Francesco Portelos" wrote:
I just found your SLT blog. Very intresting. I am a brand new member to the team and very disheartened to see that all we do is discuss calendar events. We had absolutely no input in our schools budget or CEP. What can we do? We all just left a meeting very upset.



Date: Dec 14, 2011 7:13 PM
Subject: Re: School Leadership Team

Dear Francesco,

Your principal's violating Chancellor's Regulations A-655 and B-801 and State Educational Law 2590-H (15). Speak with the PTA President and Chapter Leader who are core members of the Team with the Principal. Speak with the principal with other members and inform them that you will have to file a complaint with the Superintendent.

You can also contact the District Leadership Team for assistance and FACE, the DOE parent advocacy department.

The Team is suppose to be working on the 2012-2013 CEP and budget alignment this school year.

Feel free to share this e-mail.

James Calantjis

I forwarded his surprising response to UFT Representative Rich Candia and SLT Chairperson Susanne Abramowitz to see how we can fix this

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Francesco Portelos
Date: Wed, Dec 14, 2011 at 7:44 PM
Subject: Fwd: Re: School Leadership Team
To: Rich Candia , Susanne Abramowitz
What do we do?


I believe this is the point where they turned on me and made me the scapegoat instead of performing the job they were elected to do. See File Letter 1 in the Disciplinary Letter tab above. Since then there have been countless eyewitness accounts of Richard Candia and Susanne Abramowitz meeting and conspiring with different administrators.

Since the series of emails:

I have been told to keep my mouth shut and "let it go".

I have been kicked under the table during the January 10th SLT meeting when I disagreed with a comment made by the SLT chair stating that "The teachers agreed to keep the academies."
I was called a "hindrance" to the community by the principal although I rallied to keep PS 14 open down the block the day before.

I was told to be quiet in a UFT meeting by the chapter leader. He walked out along with his girlfriend and SLT chair and tried getting the other 60+ members to leave. The other union members did not and I continued to speak about how "We are all in this together" and not to fight against each other.

I was falsely accused by the SLT chairperson and UFT Chapter leader for professional misconduct

I had my online account access suspended when I sent an email to union members refusing to resign as UFT Delegate as per the request of the chapter leader. I also received a Disciplinary letter for emailing union members.

I was slandered by the principal in a staff email calling me divisive, accusing me of calling the NY Post to make the school look bad. In the email she also quoted a Greek philosopher and it just so happens that I am Greek.

I received a 3rd Disciplinary Letter for staying late to create engaging lessons.

I was put under investigation by NYC Special Commisioner of Investigation and had the investigators confiscate my teacher desktop, iPad and Macbook and even come to my house.

Principal Hill was also heard telling School Safety "Stay away from Portelos' room. We are trying to get him out but it will be extremely difficult."

There is more but you get the picture.

I will not be silenced or broken tenure or no tenure!

"As a matter of self-preservation, a man needs good friends or ardent enemies, for the former instruct him and the latter take him to task."

Negative Emails
Sent 1/29/12

Dear Staff,

What a beautiful weekend, in terms of weather. I hope you are enjoying it.

Feedback from some staff also indicated we had some other challenges – unfortunately, not quite so fun- last Friday at the Union meeting. Without knowing all the details I just need to remind the staff of the message we started the year with – “We’re all in this together.” So I ask you what does it mean to be colleagues in a school community? How do we remain together in unity in the midst of a potential division? It is clearly bad for there to be division. It is pleasant to be together and working toward a common goal – the success of our students, while it is unpleasant to have to deal with unrest, strife, and division. The attitudes and actions that we portray in school should be patterned after a relationship of comradeship and respect that we share and want to emulate for our students. It is in our best interest for us to be unified. It actually takes away from our entire school community when staff members are divisive. Educators don't work alone - we work together. We don’t just dwell together in our building, but we dwell together, with a unified set of beliefs, for the benefit of our students. This should be our aim in all things we do.

Unfortunately, instead of striving together it seems that some of us are now finding ourselves struggling over words and having disputes and arguments that are unprofitable and distract us from our goals. When people are so focused on their own interests that they do not consider others, they are certain to cause problems that lead to disunity and disturb the cohesiveness of the organization. This can be seen in an article in today’s NY Post. While we worked so hard this year to re-establish our credibility and reputation in our community, the negative press in that article set us back in order to satisfy one person who seems to have a need for recognition. Let each of us examine our ways and verify, if indeed, we are promoting togetherness and unity in our school or if we have a divisive spirit that needs to be changed.

To sum up, we still have much work ahead of us in the remainder of the year. The success of our deserving students depends on how we serve their needs, academically, emotionally, and socially. As you may know 50% of the teachers at P.S. 14, one of our feeder schools, will be ATR’s next year due to the closing of the school. I attended a large rally last week for the public hearing on the closing of the school. Everyone, UFT, parents, local politicians, students, came together to oppose the closing of the school, but it was too little too late. We cannot allow the plight of P.S. 14 to fall on I.S. 49. The only way we can deflect that is by all of us coming together, learning new strategies and approaches, honing our own skills, and sharing best practices to teach both our struggling students and our high achieving students, as well as all students in between, and keeping our eyes on the prize – developing responsible and intelligent 21st century citizens. The work is hard and we cannot afford to be sidetracked. We can, and we will do this, as it is the right thing to do!

Techie Friday
Mr. Portelos
Feb 7 (7 days ago)

to Linda, Anne
Ms. Hill,
I will be offering "Techie Fridays" on Friday mornings where we have no Staff or Dept meetings in my lab. I will volunteer to help staff members with updating websites, using google docs as a grade book and mail merging as well as general Q and A. Can I have permission to email the staff. They would start this Friday morning. Thank you.
Linda Hill
Feb 8 (6 days ago)

to me
Mr. Portelos,
I would like a list of interested staff that will attend Techie Fridays BEFORE and IF I approve the PD sessions. Please draft the email you want to send to the staff and send it to me BEFORE sending it to the staff.
Principal Hill
Linda V. Hill
Principal, IS 49
tel. 718 727 6040
fax. 718 876 8207

We believe in our students,
We believe in ourselves,
We believe in our colleagues,
We believe in IS 49

GO GREEN - please don't print this e-mail unless you really need to do so.
Confidentiality Notice: This e-mail communication and any attachments contain privileged confidential information for the exclusive use of the recipient(s) named above. If you are not the intended recipient, or the employee or agent responsible for delivering it to the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that you have received this communication in error and that any review, disclosure, dissemination, distribution or reproduction of it or its contents is prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please notify me immediately by replying to this message and delete this communication from your computer. Thank you.
Mr. Portelos
Feb 8 (6 days ago)

to Linda
Ms Hill,
Its difficult to get a list since word has not gone out yet. It will be like a Lunch and Learn or similar to the Smartboard Training I gave during a Friday morning last year. I have had many discussions about ways to help teachers with tech and their classes. Some want smartphone integration. Others want a class list on Google docs with mail merge integration. There are more that want to make their sites better or help aquiring parent emails and having group lists.

Email would be something like this:
Dear Staff,
I will be in my room Friday morning starting "Techie Fridays" on days we have no Staff or Dept meetings. We will be there to help set up or augment:
- teacher sites focusing on updating HW page via smartphone.
- Also on agenda will be setting up easy class lists on google docs.
-iPad and the classroom

Bring your coffee mug and K cup!

Mr. Portelos,
I was informed that you told teachers about Techie Fridays which I never approved. Please do not have any Friday morning PD meetings. Teachers already meet with Kwaku, an AUSSIE, to work on developing their technology skills. There is no need for further correspondance on this matter.
Principal Hill
Mr. Portelos
Feb 9 (6 days ago)

to Linda
There will be no PD on Tech in my room tomorrow. Just to make sure though I can be in my room and other teachers are free to visit before the day starts? Correct?

Linda Hill
Feb 9 (5 days ago)

to me
As per my discussion with Superintendent Claudio, you should avoid having meetings of any kind with staff at this time. It would far more advisable to concentrate on your pedagogy, particularly your lesson planning, as you stated was a goal for you earlier this school year.
Principal Hill
Mr. Portelos
Feb 10 (5 days ago)

to Linda, bcc: epietromonaco, bcc: rfarkas, bcc: jgutterman
Ms. Hill,
This is a strange request, but would you be able to define "having meetings of any kind with staff at this time." for me please? I was merely volunteering to come in early and make myself available to the staff that needs my help like I have done for the past 5 years. If I am in a room during a non instructional period and there are one or more union members with me, does that count as a meeting? Does the same apply to hallways, staff lounge or outdoors? I just need to be very clear on this directive so I do not appear to be insubordinate. Thank you.

From Betsy Combier:

Here is an example of a Comprehensive Education Plan (CEP)