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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Teacher Nicholas Gerace On Publicizing Teacher Evaluations

Should teacher evaluations be made public?




Nick Gerace, 31, explains a math problem to his students in an 8th grade math class at Whitesboro Middle School Tuesday May 22, 2012

Posted May 22, 2012 @ 07:14 PM

Nicholas Gerace, a Whitesboro eighth-grade math teacher, knows he’s good at his job.
That doesn’t mean he wants his annual evaluation, which is supposed to make him a better teacher, made public.

A debate is raging across the state about whether the evaluations should be public information so parents can see how their child’s teacher is performing. More controversial is whether the media or good government groups should be able to look at a school or particular teachers and analyze the data as currently is done with school report cards.
“We’ve had a couple of conversations in school and in union meetings,” Gerace said. “It’s kind of scary to think about.”

In February, in a response to a Freedom of Information requests from the media, the New York City Department of Education released the evaluation data for all of the city’s 18,000 educators. With strong caveats warning that the data could be inaccurate, news agencies published databases and analyses of the city’s best and worst teachers.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who almost has direct control of city schools, is strongly in favor of keeping the information public, and believes parents need to know how their child’s teacher performs.

According to Capital, an online news site, in February Bloomberg defended releasing the data.

“Parents have a right to know every bit of information that we can possibly collect about the teacher that’s in front of their kids,” he said.

Legislators tried to exempt the data from the Freedom of Information law as part of the budget in March, but the effort fizzled. Board of Regents Chancellor Meryl Tisch has said she is in favor of making evaluations private, and a bill also has been introduced that would make the documents private, save a court order or permission from the teacher.

“I don’t know of evaluation systems for other public employees with this level of scrutiny,” Whitesboro Superintendent David Langone said. “If being paid by public dollars is the lynchpin, I have a problem with that.”

Few, if any, public employees’ performance evaluations are public record. Teachers could be different, said David Albert, a spokesman for the New York State School Boards Association.
“I think there are issues with making it public,” he said. “But on the other hand, if your child is in a classroom, you want to know if the teacher is effective or not.”

If a police officer sleeps on the job, money is wasted, but Bloomberg has argued that a bad teacher impacts a child for the whole year.

The discussion right now, Albert said, is how to make it accessible to parents but not everyone else.

“The goal of this teacher and principal evaluation law is to improve teacher performance and student learning,” he said. “Our concern is that if we publically brand someone as a failure, will that person ever be able to recover from that?”

His organization is arguing that, at least at first, the information should be kept private.
“For the time being, in the first year or two of the implementation, we believe the information should be used just internally,” Albert said. “Then, once we have some of the issues worked out, then the info should be make public.”

New York State United Teachers, which represents teachers unions across the state, is against making the evaluations public. On Tuesday, about 650 union members rallied in Albany, calling on lawmakers to restrict access to the information and taking action before the end of the legislative session in June.

“This is a very high priority for teachers,” NYSUT spokesman Carl Korn said. “What we’re talking about here is the public naming and shaming of teachers.”

NYSUT is examining a number of options, but Korn said one that makes sense is making the data available to parents during meetings about their child’s education.

“What’s important here is it’s in the context of a students’ ability to excel,” Korn said. “Then that information becomes worthwhile.”

Harris Lirtzman Asks Questions About Special Education, Gets Terminated

Harris Lirtzman
From Betsy Combier:

Why didnt Mr. Lirtzman call Emelina Camacho-Mendez at the UFT to help him help 
the kids in his school? She is the UFT liaison to the Department of Education for 
special education, she told me.

In any case, we all must address the retaliation that occurs the minute anyone 
says anything about violations of laws, rules and regulations by school 
administrators. The whistleblower laws in NYC need to be strengthened, and 
we need people such as Mr. Lirtzman back in the classroom. 

Mr. Walcott, as CEO of the New York public school system, would you please 
take a stand on supporting whistleblowers and gay/lesbian teachers? We need to
hear from you about these dedicated folk, and how the system torments them.

Thank you.

Betsy Combier

May 21, 2012

Helping Special Education Students, and Paying With His Career

There was no particular moment when Harris Lirtzman decided to blow the whistle, and so close the door on his teaching career.
A former deputy state comptroller, he had decided to give public school teaching a midcareer whirl. In 2009, he landed a job as a special education math teacher at the Gautier Institute for Law and Public Policy, a Bronx high school.
He describes that first year as a cross between a hurricane and a tornado, learning his craft in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. He came to love his work.
But in September 2011, school administrators placed uncertified teachers — and a conga line of unemployed teachers who came for one-week stints — in classrooms filled with special education students, which is to say those children most in need of expert help.
This violated federal regulations.
Mr. Lirtzman, 56, decided to speak up. As he was not yet tenured, he stepped gingerly.
“I am NOT trying to cause problems,” he wrote in an e-mail to his assistant principal, but, he added, “we’re violating” court-mandated educational plans for students.
Mr. Lirtzman, unwittingly, became sand in the school’s gears.
He had received nothing but satisfactory evaluations. But in December, he said, the principal, Grismaldy Laboy-Wilson, said that she would not recommend him for tenure. The next day, she told him to leave immediately.
Mr. Lirtzman took his allegations to the Office of Special Investigations, an in-house unit at the Department of Education. An investigator asked for proof.
Mr. Lirtzman handed over 20 student programs, all of which showed that administrators placed students in classrooms with uncertified teachers. The investigator informed Mr. Lirtzman that these were confidential documents.
Now I am opening an investigation of you, she told him. It would be enough to bring a smile to the lips of Kafka.
“These are the most vulnerable kids, the ones no one really looks out for,” Mr. Lirtzman said. “This wasn’t a gray legal area. This was black and white, and the Department of Education decided that I was the problem.”
The Department of Education portrays Mr. Lirtzman as disgruntled at his failure to get tenure, and the principal declined to comment on his allegations.
New York City does not shoulder an easy burden trying to care for its tens of thousands of special education students. More than 18,000 teachers are dedicated to special education. Each student is required by law to have an individual educational plan, or I.E.P.
It’s also true that the city, over many administrations, has failed many of these students. Therapy is in too short supply; students — who wrestle with emotional and learning disabilities — are crammed in classrooms that are too large; and administrators sometimes conspire to push out troubled children. Graduation rates for these students are vanishingly low.
As Kim Sweet, executive director of the nonprofit Advocates for Children of New York, said: “We see cases of schools violating I.E.P.’s all the time. Our phones ring off the hook.”
Mr. Lirtzman acquired a crash course in these multiple neglects. And, although he does not phrase it so grandly, he also helped rescue a few of these children.
One such teenager, Derek Chestnut Jr., had more or less thrived in middle school, but ran upon the academic shoals at Gautier, where he was stuck in classes with a changing cast of uncertified teachers. One day, Mr. Lirtzman talked to the student’s father, Derek Chestnut Sr.
“He kept hinting something was wrong, and finally he told me there were rotating aides and teachers,” Mr. Chestnut recalled about their conversation. “The administrators told me otherwise, and I really didn’t appreciate when they tried to pull the wool over my eyes.”
Mr. Chestnut took his case to the upper reaches of the education bureaucracy. Quickly, without the usual resistance, he obtained an unusual legal letter that entitled him to place his son in a private school for special education children, all paid for by the city.
“They admitted off the bat that my son’s I.E.P. was being violated,” he said. “I owe this to one honest man, Mr. Lirtzman. He became an advocate not just for my son, but for all special education students in that school.”
Mr. Lirtzman acknowledges that he burns hot. The Department of Education now says Ms. Laboy-Wilson filed a harassment charge against him after he sent her several particularly heated e-mails. Mr. Lirtzman, who showed me dozens of his e-mails, insists his correspondence included no threat.
He has worked at high levels in city and state government. He was not intent on career suicide.
“I wanted to be a teacher; I wanted to get tenure,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to commit kamikaze so that I would feel good about myself.”

Harry Lirtzman Goes to Albany

Former top aide in city comptroller’s office joins Hevesi’s new team


New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who took office at the beginning of the year, has named Harris Lirtzman, a Manhattanite long active in local gay politics, as his deputy comptroller for administration.

Lirtzman, who has since his appointment relocated to Albany, spent the past eight years working for Hevesi and later William C. Thompson, in the New York City Comptroller’s office. For the past five and a half years, he was responsible for risk management for the pension funds managed on behalf of city workers. Along with New York State and the state of California, New York City manages more public employee pension dollars than any other public sector money manager in the nation.

“Harris Lirtzman is the kind of skilled, dedicated leader our State needs during these difficult times,” Hevesi said, in announcing the appointment. “His experience in government and the business world will be an invaluable asset to this office and to our State. I’m proud to welcome him aboard.”

Lirtzman’s new responsibilities with the state put him in charge of the financial, budget, and facilities management for the technology infrastructure and physical plant of the comptroller’s offices in Albany, New York City, and elsewhere around the state. About 2,400 people work in the comptroller’s offices statewide, and about 350 of them will report to Lirtzman.

While Lirtzman said that Hevesi’s office is unlikely to designate liaisons to specific communities across the state, it is likely that he will advise the Comptroller informally on issues of concern to the LGBT community.

Lirtzman, who is 47, earned a master’s degree in urban planning at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1981 and graduated from Stanford in 1977.

In addition to his work in the city comptroller’s office, Lirtzman also served as chief of staff at the New York City Housing Authority and as investment banker structuring capital financings for state and local governments at Merrill Lynch.

Within the LGBT community, Lirtzman has been a member of the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats since 1985 and has served as treasurer to numerous local political campaigns. He has also served as treasurer of the board of directors for both the LGBT Community Center and the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project.

Lirtzman’s partner, Ralph Wilson, is a former staff member of the Empire State Pride Agenda, and currently works for a community based service organization in Westchester doing outreach to LGBT adolescents.

Sex, Lies, and Newspapers

Comacho-Mendez and Mulgrew
More stories are out there today about Ivor Neuschotz, Mike Mulgrew, and Emelina Camacho-Mendez. Some are posted below.

Just to keep my part of this saga straight, I told anyone who asked me about what I knew of this tryst and alleged coverup that in 2004 the custodian of Grady HS found [Emelina and Mike] them in the act and told staff, "I finally caught them (Mike Mulgrew and Emelina Camacho-Mendez) in the act!!!!" I did not know the name Donald Herb until a reporter told me that he was the custodian. I never 'identified' Herb. Cant, as I never knew the custodian's name, and didnt know if indeed, the rumor was true. I believe it is, but Rachel Monahan is wrong about me identifying Herb. Didnt happen.
After being 'discovered', Mike and Emelina were moved to the UFT, and there was no investigation. The Dean told the Superintendent who told a teacher at another Brooklyn school that there was "other stuff" on Mike, and people should look into his conduct while at the school. Then Debbie at 25 Chapel Street told me she knew "stuff" about Mike Mulgrew, and he would not want her to reveal any of it, so she would not be spending any time in the rubber room. She left quickly, and never had any charges. All of this does sound familiar to anyone who has been through the Rubber Room experience. Only, nothing happened in Mike's case. This is the key issue. Why DIDNT anything happen, like substantiating or not substantiating the rumors at Grady??

We can see that Mike still received money from the DOE while negotiating for UFT members in 2008-2009, 2009-2010 :
See Through NY

For the faint of sight here are the numbers:
Michael Mulgrew, Department of Education, Subagency "pedagogical", position: Teacher, received $80,989 in 2008; $56,951 in 2009; and $1661 in 2010. Now we need to know what this is for.

I believe that what is important here is not the sex allegations, but why there was no investigation, as too many people were saying the exact same thing: that Mike and Emma had/are having a fling, and were given cushy jobs at the UFT as a result.
Harold Levy

Nothing is new about this kind of 'politicking', which doesnt make it ok. What about Burton Sacks? Burt Sacks was Deputy Chancellor under Harold Levy in 2001. I was, in 2001, Editor of the Parents Association newspaper at Stuyvesant High School, The Bulletin. In November 2001, after the school staff and students moved back to Stuyvesant from Brooklyn Tech, Principal Stan Teitel asked me to keep Chancellor Levy company, as Levy made a second office for himself at Stuy to show everyone that it was 'safe' to be there. So, I went in and talked with Levy several times. One day I decided to tell him about the segregation at Booker T. Washington MS 54. While I was there with him, he told me that I had to speak with his Deputy Chancellor, Burt Sacks. He called Sacks, and we made an appointment.

Burt Sacks' office was on the 11th floor of 110 Livingston Street, Brooklyn. When I got off the elevator there was a guard in full uniform and a huge American flag in the corner on the right. The guard called Burt, told him I was there, and told the guard to let me in to his office. We - Burt and I - talked for several hours. He took notes. When I told him the it seemed to be the case that Principal Larry Lynch was taking money that he should not have, Burt told me "They - Principals - do it all the time."
Burt Sacks

When I got home, I sent him a fax thanking him for his time, and I asked what happens to principals who, as he told me, always take money from their schools. 5 minutes later my telephone rang, and Burt screamed more curse words at me than I have ever heard from anyone, before or since. He told me  he would never say that about principals. He told me NEVER to contact him again. Never, never, never.
In or about November, 2002, I was at Tweed (NYC DOE headquarters) for a meeting of parent leaders, when we heard that everyone had to leave immediately in order for new Chancellor Joel Klein to have his cabinet meeting in the room we were in. I just happened to have the complete story of what Burt Sacks had said to me, as well as the details of what I uncovered at Booker T. Washington MS 54, in an envelope with "Chancellor Joel Klein" written on the outside. i assumed that Joel would want coffee, so while my friends left the room I walked s-l-o-w-l-y to the coffee machine, and was standing there when Joel burst into the room. He came over to me and introduced himself, and asked me how good was the coffee? I said it was delicious, and could I give him the envelope I had for him? He said "sure", poured himself some coffee, and sat down at the table with his cabinet, minus one. One chair was empty.
As I left the room (my friends were telling me I better hurry up), I looked back at Joel Klein, and saw that he had taken all the documents out of the envelope and was reading it. Everyone at the table was sitting, not saying anything. I got into the elevator and went to the first floor. I was talking with my friends when Burt Sacks comes running to the elevator and he said "Hello, Betsy! How are you? I'm very late!" I said, "yes, I think the meeting just started." Burt got into the elevator and went upstairs to the second floor.
The next day, newspapers posted how Burt Sacks retired. Within two weeks Burt was Randi Weingarten's Assistant at the UFT:

BULLETIN BOARD; Teachers' Union Hires a Troubleshooter
By Abby Goodnough, NY Times, Published: December 04, 2002
BURTON SACKS, a consummate Board of Education insider who retired last week after 33 years, has a new boss: RANDI WEINGARTEN, president of the United Federation of Teachers. Mr. Sacks, a liaison to the community school districts and a troubleshooter for five chancellors, will be a senior adviser to Ms. Weingarten, doing the same kind of crisis control he was known for in the New York City public schools system. Education officials said Mr. Sacks would be a valuable addition to the union's staff because he is well connected and is an expert at easing tensions. ''He's another set of antennae for Randi,'' one official said. Abby Goodnough

  He has one of the highest Annual Pension benefits in the State (#76), and a very high stipend from the UFT, where he was a lobbyist. (see 1999-2004 list)
 And what about David Hickey? How did he end up at the UFT as Assistant to the Staff Director, after being involuntarily removed from his previous position, I believe the PBA?

Stay tuned. Below are some articles, showing how much the Daily News supports Mulgrew. The newspaper was sued by Neuschotz, remember, and there was a settlement. Maybe the newspaper knows what happened?

 Sex scandal allegations involving Michael Mulgrew are ‘bull’


School staffer named as a witness: I saw nothing

Comments (1)
UFT President Mike Mulgrew
Donald Herb, 69, of Brooklyn, a former custodial worker at William E. Grady High School who retired seven years ago, said he saw nothing of the kind.
"I didn't see anything. I'm telling you the truth. I'll take a lie detector test if I need to,” he said.
“If I did see something I would've reported it and had Mulgrew removed from the building.”
Last Wednesday, Queens math teacher Andrew Ostrowsky filed a federal lawsuit alleging the union was blackmailed into making labor concessions in exchange for covering up the scandal for Mulgrew.
The lawsuit does not name the witnesses other than to say the custodian and principal knew first-hand.
Former teachers union staffer Betsy Combier has identified Herb as the witness.
But Herb said he supported Mulgrew, calling him a “good guy.”
“We could tell he was a fighter back then. Now he's got some power and they're trying to take him down. That's all this is about."
The city has confirmed Mulgrew was never removed from the classroom for any investigations during his teaching career, contrary to the lawsuit’s allegations. He also was never found to have committed wrongdoing by any investigators.
As proof mounted that the 73-page federal lawsuit was paper-thin, Joy Hochstadt, the oddball lawyer who filed the allegations, emailed the press Wednesday, complaining that her conversations with journalists over the last few days had caused her to miss a filing deadline on a separate case.
She also defended her claims about the Mulgrew scandal, saying that the “the dates and the capitulation all fit” for the blackmailing conspiracy she alleges.
“As I wrote to Mike Mulgrew yesterday, it was NOT my intent to embarass him, it was to stop the extortion of eroding teachers rights,” she wrote.

Here is some background on Neuschotz:

Fear Hs Students Exposed To Asbestos
A Brooklyn principal who hired students to renovate the school library never told the kids they could be exposed to asbestos, two students involved in the project told the Daily News.
Guillermo Mollins, 17, a junior at Grady Vocational High School in Brighton Beach, said yesterday that the five students tapped by Principal Ivor Neuschotz had no idea they shouldn't disturb floor tiles believed to contain the cancer-causing dust.
"We were just kids. We didn't know anything," Guillermo said.
Franchon Dixon, 17, another student who worked on the library, said: "We weren't even told about it. The principal just wanted to get the library done."

A Brooklyn principal directed students and a teacher to tear down library walls and shelves even though he knew the room contained asbestos, then tried to cover up the incident, teachers union officials said yesterday. 

Ivor Neuschotz, principal of Grady Vocational High School, received a letter of reprimand, a Department of Education spokeswoman said, with more disciplinary action pending an investigation. 

Neuschotz ordered the work done last month after getting a $300,000 grant to renovate the library, but union officials say the costs have climbed to $500,000 for cleanup instead of a $90,000 asbestos removal. 

They say everything in the library, including books and computers, will have to be thrown out, and they fear that other grants will be withdrawn. 

"He said the abatement was too expensive," said Michael Mulgrew, the school's union rep. "It wouldn't allow him to do what he wanted to do in the library - cappuccino machines? I don't know."
A letter of reprimand? A bit harsh, don't you think? 

What's next, asbestos abatement merit badge?