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Monday, May 27, 2013

ACR/ATR Meeting

Next ACR/ATR meeting: June 6
Skylight Diner, 402 W 34th Street (at 9th Avenue), Manhattan, 5:00 pm.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Betsy Combier Files a Second FOIL Request After Francesco Portelos Receives a Letter From ATU Director Laura Brantley

Dear Mr. Baranello,
I believe that Ms. Laura Brantley meant to put Ms. Erminia Claudio, and not Ms. Claudio Erminia, in her email to Francesco Portelos? If not, please give me the title, contact information and authority of "Claudio Erminia" to find probable cause against Mr, Portelos.
Thank you,
Betsy Combier
Editor
ParentAdvocates.Org
NYCRubberRoomReporter.Blogspot.Com  
Betsy Combier, Editor / Reporter
betsy.combier@gmail.com 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
                                                                    May 26, 2013
Mr. Joseph A. Baranello
Central Records Access Officer
Office of the General Counsel
New York City Department of Education
52 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10007





Dear Mr. Baranello:

Under the provisions of the New York Freedom of Information Law, Article 6 of the Public Officers Law, I request copies of the following items:

1) All documents, notes, memos, emails, or recordings made when Superintendent Erminia Claudio contacted Laura Brantley, Attorney, about the matter concerning Francesco Portelos and his 38 charges, and/or probable cause in his case. Please see the letter attached from Laura Brantley to Francesco Portelos.
Erminia Claudio

2)  All documents, notes, memos, emails, or recordings made when ATU Attorney Laura Brantley contacted Superintendent Erminia Claudio about the matter concerning Francesco Portelos and his 38 charges, and/or probable cause in his case. 

3) The name, title, contact information for any person who assisted either Laura Brantley or Eminia Claudio in "finding" probable cause for Mr. Portelos' 38 charges.
Superintendent Erminia Claudio

4) The name, title, and contact information for the charging attorney at the Administrative Trials Unit who wrote the 38 charges against Mr. Portelos.

5) The name, title, and contact information for the charging attorney at the Administrative Trials Unit who wrote the probable cause form.

6) The name, title, and contact information for the person(s) who recommended that Francesco Portelos be suspended with pay.

7) The particulars of what the title of Ms. Brantley means, specifically "as designee for Dennis M. Walcott, Chancellor", and any and all rules, regulations, or law which gives her this authority and title.

8) How Dennis M. Walcott has the powers and duties of "Chancellor" pursuant to law.

If the records have been removed from their original locations, please cause a diligent search to be conducted of all appropriate file rooms and storage facilities.

If any record has been redacted, please identify which categories of information have been redacted, and cite the relevant statutory exemption(s).

If you have any questions relating to the specific record(s) or portion(s) being sought, please email me at betsy.combier@gmail.com so that we may discuss them.


Here is the contact information for Ms. Claudio:

Erminia Claudio
Superintendent
Community School District 31
715 Ocean Terrace
Staten Island, New York 10301
718-420-5667
Fax: 718 420-5665
eclaudi@schools.nyc.gov

As you know, the Freedom of Information Law requires that an agency respond to a request within five business days of receipt of a request.  Therefore, I would appreciate a response as soon as possible and look forward to hearing from you shortly.  If for any reason any portion of my request is denied, please inform me of the reasons for the denial in writing and provide the name and address of the person or body to whom an appeal should be directed. 

                                                                   Sincerely,


                                                                   Betsy Combier


Betsy Combier Files A FOIL Request For the Names, Titles,etc., of The People Who Voted Probable Cause At An Executive Session on Francesco Portelos' Charges

Illinois Teacher Ellie Rubenstein Resigns, in a Video



Teacher Resignation Video: Ellie Rubenstein Explains 'Everything I Love About Teaching Is Extinct'

LINK

Ellie Rubenstein has had enough.
Upon learning that she would be involuntarily transferred to another Illinois school, the former fourth-grade teacher submitted her resignation in the form of a video .
In the 10-minute spoken resignation, posted on Youtube Tuesday under the username Iquityoucantfireme , Rubenstein explains why she is quitting and addresses several major problems she says she has faced as a teacher in the U.S. public education system.
"I was proud to say I was a teacher," Rubenstein tells the camera, after describing how she abandoned a career in public relations to "do something meaningful" with her life. "But over the past 15 years, I've experienced the depressing, gradual downfall and misdirection of communication that has slowly eaten away at my love of teaching."
"Raising students' test scores on standardized tests is now the only goal, and in order to achieve it the creativity, flexibility and spontinaety that create authentic learning environments have been eliminated. ... Everything I love about teaching is extinct," she continues.
Rubenstein's resignation stems from a dispute between four Lincoln Elementary School teachers -- Rubenstein included -- and North Shore School District 112 administrators. As Highland Park News reports, Rubenstein and her colleagues received letters detailing their mandated transfer to other schools in the district  and were given 21 days to respond.
In the video, Rubenstein states that the letter cited a "poor climate" in the building as the reason for her involuntary transfer. "But the truth is, I'm just not a 'yes man,'" she claims in her video.
Administrators contend, however, that such a transfer is not used to punish teachers, Highland Park News notes.
Rubenstein's resignation and the teacher transfers will likely be discussed at a school board meeting Thursday night. Pamela Kramer, president of the North Shore Education Association teachers union, said the district did not violate its contract . Nevertheless, she expects the meeting to draw a crowd, according to The Chicago Tribune.
Earlier this year, a New York high school teacher's resignation garnered widespread attention on social media after he posted the letter on Facebook  along with a photo of Porky Pig saying, "That's All Folks."
"I am not leaving my profession," Gerald Conti explained in the letter, "in truth, it has left me. It no longer exists."

Friday, May 24, 2013

Newsday in January 2013 on Arbitration Run Amok

Editorial: Long Island's trouble with arbitrators

The seal of the NassauCounty District Attorney's office.
Photo credit: Nassau County District Attorney' Handout | The seal of the NassauCounty District Attorney's office. (Jan. 11, 2013)
This month was very good for the investigators of the Nassau County district attorney's office, and very bad for the taxpayers. That's normal on Long Island, where the arbitration system is out of control, our pocketbooks are being abused almost beyond belief and politicians are either unable or unwilling to stop the madness.
Two weeks ago, an arbitration panel gave 40 percent raises to 43 current and former DA's office investigators, meaning the best-paid will receive $190,000 per year and the average for that job will be $121,000. In comparison, investigators with the district attorneys' offices in New York City earn an average of about $65,000 per year.
Many of the 42 Nassau investigators now working for the DA's office are retired police officers with pensions of $56,000 to $106,000 a year. Thirty of the 42 are retirees who have waivers allowing them to collect public pensions and earn full salaries from another government employer. Without waivers, people collecting state pensions cannot earn more than $30,000 a year from another government job. The waivers are supposed to be very hard to get, with public employers essentially having to prove they could not find qualified hires other than these retirees. They are, instead, often laughably easy to obtain.



Beyond the huge pay hike, and $3 million in retroactive payments, DA's investigators in Nassau will get 24 days of sick leave and 27 to 30 vacation days a year, health insurance with no contribution out of their pockets (and $2,000 annual bonuses if they don't take the health insurance, an important clause for those "double-dipping" retirees already getting health care) and clothing and equipment allowances of $1,900 per year.
And why do they get all this? According to the panel led by pro-labor arbitrator Martin Scheinman, it's because DA's investigators in Suffolk County do, and because Nassau County's police detectives do.
In the universe of arbitration logic, the ruling makes sense. The police benevolent associations and other cop unions in both counties, with the willing help of arbitrators and in some cases, county officials, have hiked the pay and benefits of law enforcement personnel sky-high, but these Nassau DA investigators were left out. Arbitration is based on comparable contracts, and there's no legal justification for giving this one group a deal that much worse than everybody else's.
However, arbitration for law enforcement is so far off-kilter in favor of employees and against taxpayers that it is destroying the finances of our counties. Nowhere is there any recognition of meteoric taxes and a stagnant economic base.
For the arbitration panel to award such packages, when almost 75 percent of the investigators already get public pensions, is unrealistic in a county under a state financial control board. The fact that these law enforcement workers got such a great deal isn't what's important. What's important, and what's breaking the bank, is an arbitraton system run amok.

ALFONSE D'AMATO

Binding arbitration leads to higher taxes

 1/24/13

We all know the high price we pay for living in Nassau County. There’s always a lot of talk about the blame game, but did you ever think that one person could singlehandedly drive up our taxes? 

Well surprise, surprise. Over the past several years, Martin Scheinman, a largely unknown power broker, has made quite a career as an arbitrator for thousands of public employees. The deals he has helped hammer out between public employee unions and county officials have impacted millions of taxpayers.

His latest deal, however, has raised more than a few eyebrows and will prove to be another nail in the coffin of the Nassau County taxpayer. 

Last week, Newsday reported that an arbitration panel gave a 40 percent raise to 43 investigators in the district attorney’s office. This included both current and former investigators. Their salaries jumped a grotesque 40 percent during the week of Jan. 7. 

According to Newsday, the investigators were making an average of $86,400 per year, and the salaries ranged from $46,000 to $109,000. The new wage scale increases their salaries to an average of $121,000, with a low of $98,000 and a high of $190,000 — all almost overnight!

Why the dramatic increase? Scheinman and his panel decided that these investigators, who were formerly part of the Civil Service Employees Association, should instead receive the salaries and benefits of the county’s Detectives Association.

The increase in salaries will cost the county an extra $1.5 million. Also entangled in the agreement is approximately $3 million in retroactive pay, and mandated benefits that include extra pay for years of service, clothing and equipment allowances. And let’s not forget 24 days of sick leave a year and 27 vacation days.

Many of these investigators are retired police officers who already receive state pensions. According to a Newsday editorial on the issue, “Thirty of the 42 are retirees who have waivers allowing them to collect public pensions and earn full salaries from another government employer.” This is an absolute sham. Many taxpayers are wondering how this could happen. You may recall that Nassau County’s finances are currently under the control of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority. NIFA serves as a financial control board, and it has imposed a freeze on all county wages, thus eliminating annual pay increases.

The county investigators’ $3 million in retroactive pay dates back to Jan. 1, 2011, which is three months before NIFA took control of all country finances; thus NIFA has no jurisdiction on the matter.

We are in an economic crisis. How much longer is Nassau County going to be subject to decisions made by public arbitrators, such as Scheinman, who is obviously in the pocket of the unions?

Richard Zuckerman, Nassau’s representative on the arbitration panel, wrote that giving the investigators this type of raise “is inconceivable to me . . . while the county remains under NIFA’s jurisdiction and in the middle of a severe financial crisis that makes the county’s ability to pay for this award at best doubtful.”

Scheinman has a long history of controversial decisions. He has repeatedly given Long Island police unions generous awards, making them among the nation’s highest-paid officers. Meanwhile, our taxes continue to rise astronomically, and people are being forced to move out of Nassau County. 

Nassau politicians have complained about Scheinman’s reach in the past, but to no avail. He continues to handle Nassau’s gluttonous police contracts. The current system is taking decisions that should be made by trusted elected officials whom the people elect and putting them in the hands of special-interest captives such as Scheinman.

Suffolk Country was wise enough to enact the so-called “Scheinman Law” in 1998, which bans the county from using arbitrators who have worked in Nassau during the previous three years.

New York’s lawmakers must overhaul binding arbitration laws and put some power into the hands of local officials whose constituents are footing the tax bill. In the meantime, it is long past time for Nassau County to adopt the same policy as Suffolk County and bar Scheinman from participating in any arbitrations.
Al D’Amato, a former U.S. senator from New York, is the founder of Park Strategies LLC, a public policy and business development firm. Comments about this column? ADAmato@liherald.com.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Betsy Combier Files A FOIL Request For the Names, Titles,etc., of The People Who Voted Probable Cause At An Executive Session on Francesco Portelos' Charges




On or about May 21, 2013, teacher Francesco Portelos was served 38 charges at his reassignment location. With these charges was the form above. In the middle is a paragraph about a vote on probable cause. Where did this take place? What if there was no vote?


Sometime in April 2013 the Notice above made its appearance in the packet when charges were served.  And curiously, now there is a statement that there WAS a vote in Executive Session!! Oh, really? I want to know who voted, when, where, what this person's title was, how he/she had the authority to vote, and proof that there was a vote.

While Francesco will challenge the validity of these allegations at a 3020-a arbitration some time in the future, I am right now challenging the right of the New York City Department of Education to serve the charges at all. Below is an excerpt of a Motion To Dismiss submitted in the case of J.J. in September 2012:


"Education Law requires a vote by the school board precede a determination of “probable cause” upon which to bring charges against teachers removed from their schools. (Education Law §3020-a(2)(a), Article 61)). This provides all pedagogues protection from vindictive Principals who may want to remove senior teachers from their positions because they make salaries that could pay for two teachers instead of one. The requirements of NYS Education Law §3020-a, under which tenured personnel may be disciplined for “Just Cause” are absolute and require that before charges can be brought against a tenured educator, the School Board must:

a. Determine that there is “probable cause” for the proceeding with charges by a majority vote by the Board.

b. Make this determination within 5 days of the charges being filed with the Board.

c. Ensure that the decision to proceed with the charges is not frivolous, arbitrary, capricious or discriminatory.
 

Without a school board to perform these functions – and, the New York City Panel For Educational Policy (“PEP”) never has taken on this function – there is no oversight by anyone other than the tenured teacher’s Principal to initiate the disciplinary process and Local Superintendent to endorse the Principal’s request to prefer file charges against any educator a Principal chooses to remove from the school the Principal administers.
The lack of independent review and lack of oversight by anyone other than the tenured teacher’s Principal to initiate discipline is not consistent with Education Law §3020-a. This constitutes a de facto denial of equal protection of the §3020-a law. Arbitrators who sit on the panel to hear 3020-a charges are not permitted by law, collective bargaining agreement, or any other contractual arrangement to make a decision on charges unless they have been voted on by the New York City Board of Education before a tenured teacher is given these charges, pursuant to Education Law §§ 2590-j, 3020, and 3020-a. The relevant parts are as follows:

Filing of charges. All charges against a person enjoying the benefits of tenure as provided in subdivision three of section one thousand one hundred two, and sections two thousand five hundred nine, two thousand five hundred seventy-three, twenty-five hundred ninety-j, three thousand twelve and three thousand fourteen of this chapter shall be in writing and filed with the clerk or secretary of the school district or employing board during the period between the actual opening and closing of the school year for which the employed is normally required.”

Section 3020a(2)(a) of The NY Education Law states:

Disposition of charges. Upon receipt of the charges, the clerk or secretary of the school district or employing board shall immediately notify said board thereof. Within five days after receipt of charges, the employing board, in executive session, shall determine, by a vote of a majority of all the members of such board, whether probable cause exists to bring a disciplinary proceeding against an employee pursuant to this section. If such determination is affirmative, a written statement specifying the charges in detail, the maximum penalty which will be imposed by the board if the employee does not request a hearing or that will be sought by the board if the employee is found guilty of the charges after a hearing and outlining the employee’s rights under this section, shall be immediately forwarded to the accused employee by certified or registered mail, return receipt requested or by personal delivery to the employee.”
 

Before a tenured teacher can be brought up on disciplinary charges, the Education Law lays out a number of procedural hurdles that a Board of Education must comply with. These procedural hurdles are in place to protect the rights of the tenured teacher to fair process, and constitute jurisdictional pre-requisites to a §3020-a disciplinary hearing. Chief among these procedural hurdles is the requirement that probable cause to prefer charges must be voted on by the Board of Education (see, e.g., Education Law §3020-a(2)(a))."

Now if an arbitrator rules that indeed the Section 3020-a (2)(a) statute does not apply to New York City as the UFT bargained away the law, then they can proceed as if the argument had no basis, and they get paid their $1400/day in spite of the law. That's the nice and comfy way to do away with the due process rights of tenured teachers brought to 3020-a hearings. If an arbitrator agrees that there was an improper determination of probable cause, the hearing cannot go forward, and the arbitrator does not get paid.


As we all know, New York City does not have a Board of Education.

Here is my FOIL request:

ParentAdvocates.Org
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
                                                                   May 23, 2013
Mr. Joseph A. Baranello
Central Records Access Officer
Office of the General Counsel
New York City Department of Education
52 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10007
 
JBaranello3@schools.nyc.gov
FOIL@schools.nyc.gov

Dear Mr. Baranello:

Under the provisions of the New York Freedom of Information Law, Article 6 of the Public Officers Law, I requested copies of the following items:

1) All documents, notes, memos, emails, or recordings made when a vote was taken during an Executive Session on probable cause for the 38 charges served on Respondent Francesco Portelos on or about May 17, 2013; see the Notice which is attached to this request.

2) The name, title, contact information for any person who attended the Executive Session.

3) The name, title, contact information, date, time, place, and name of the school board and proof of voting on the charges of misconduct served on Francesco Portelos by any and all parties;

If the records have been removed from their original locations, please cause a diligent search to be conducted of all appropriate file rooms and storage facilities.

If any record has been redacted, please identify which categories of information have been redacted, and cite the relevant statutory exemption(s).

If you have any questions relating to the specific record(s) or portion(s) being sought, please phone me at 212-794-8902 so that we may discuss them.


RELEVANT LOCAL LAW

As you know, the Freedom of Information Law requires that an agency respond to a request within five business days of receipt of a request.  Therefore, I would appreciate a response as soon as possible and look forward to hearing from you shortly.  If for any reason any portion of my request is denied, please inform me of the reasons for the denial in writing and provide the name and address of the person or body to whom an appeal should be directed.

                                                                   Sincerely,

                                                                   Betsy Combier

Gotta Love The NY POST: Mike Bloomberg Caught Spitting And Cursing At Taxi Club Management CEO Gene Freidman

Mike unleashes a ‘hail’ storm

By EMILY SMITH

Last Updated: 12:40 PM, May 22, 2013
 
CABOTAGE: Cab king Gene Freidman says Mayor Bloomberg (above) threatened him in a curse-filled rant over losing a court fight on new city taxis.
Gene Freidman
Mayor Bloomberg went on a spitting-mad rant against a city cab-fleet boss who won a court victory over Hizzoner’s planned “Taxi of Tomorrow” — vowing to “destroy your f--king industry” when he leaves office, The Post has learned.
A fuming Bloomberg made the threat against Taxi Club Management CEO Gene Freidman at Madison Square Garden’s private 1879 Club during last Thursday’s Knick playoff game, a witness said yesterday.
“It was like Gene had kidnapped his child. He used the f-word twice,” the witness said.
Freidman confirmed the blow-up to The Post, and said Bloomberg’s tirade included the warning that, “After January, I am going to destroy all you f--king guys.”
That’s bad news for Bloomberg’s political enemies, who could all become targets once the revenge-minded billionaire has nothing but time on his hands.
Freidman approached Bloomberg at the exclusive club a day after a judge ruled that the mayor’s plan to replace the city’s taxi fleet with the Taxi of Tomorrow violated a city code requiring a hybrid-cab option for garage owners.
“I saw Bloomberg and his security there in the club, so I went over and said, ‘Tell me what is going on with the Taxi of Tomorrow?’ ” Freidman, 42, said yesterday.
“He turns to me, and said, ‘Come January 1st, when I am out of office, I am going to destroy your f--king industry.’
“I said, ‘Whoa, Mr. Mayor, calm down! Why can’t I sit down with you and figure out something that works?’ He got back in my face and said, ‘After January, I am going to destroy all you f--king guys,’ ” said Freidman, whose company operates a fleet of 925 yellow cabs.
Freidman said a red-faced Bloomberg’s jaw was clenched.
“He was very angry, very scary, very violent in a non-physical way. He was grinding his teeth, he was spitting, he was red and he was in my face,” the self-styled “King of the Road” claimed.
“The mayor was extremely disrespectful, and not ‘mayorly’ at all. He cursed at me, and when we walked away, I asked a friend who was with me, ‘Did the mayor just threaten me?’
“My friend responded, ‘No, he threatened you twice.’ ”
Bloomberg this morning said he doesn’t recall unleashing that profanity-laced tirade -- or virtually any other details from that night.
“The only thing I remember from that night was the [basketball] court. It was the court in the middle of Madison Square Garden and the Knicks won,” the suddenly memory-challenged mayor said.
“It was a great game … that’s all I remember from that night.”
The witness said Bloomberg was just being a sore loser over state Supreme Court Justice Peter H. Moulton’s ruling.
The Taxi of Tomorrow is a Bloomberg pet project that would have replaced nearly the entire of fleet of yellow cabs with a more spacious model that Nissan won the right to design in an open competition.
The taxi industry, led by Freidman, challenged the overhaul — and Bloomberg seeing his foe at MSG set him off, the witness said.
“Bloomberg thinks that everyone should just follow his decisions,” he said.
Freidman said he tried to placate the mayor by reminding him of a meeting in 2006 when Bloomberg praised him for introducing hybrid fuel and wheelchair-accessible taxis.
But nothing would calm Bloomberg — who at one point looked about for security to toss Freidman from the club.
“This was my club that Bloomberg was a guest in, that I had paid to get in, and he wasn’t getting me kicked out of my own place,” said Freidman.
His lawyers have asked MSG to preserve any surveillance video that may have captured the exchange.
Freidman wondered how the mayor planned to “destroy” his industry.
“I don’t know how he’ll destroy me, whether he’ll start a black-car service that will take people for free,” he said. “Perhaps he’ll put $10 million of his own money to lobby against the taxi industry — that is pretty powerful.”
Additional reporting by Sally Goldenberg