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Saturday, October 12, 2013

In Poughkeepsie, NYS Commissioner John King Gets Heckled On Common Core

John King

Parents Voice Concerns About Common Core: NY Dept of Ed Cancels Further Hearings

Two days ago, parents and teachers gathered at Spackenkill High School in Poughkeepsie, New York, for a public hearing to discuss the Common Core, with New York State Commissioner of Education, John King.

There was a great deal of dissatisfaction expressed by those attending, and this brings to the surface an issue noted yesterday by Diane Ravitch. These citizens are raising concerns which, prior to this event, have not been given a chance to be aired. The frustration at their lack of input is palpable. Ravitch explains how we got here:
The bottom line is that the U.S. Department of Education badly wants national standards, but it is prohibited by law from influencing curriculum and instruction in the nation's schools.
So, a deal is struck. Gates pays to create the CCSS, and Arne Duncan uses the power of the federal purse to push states and districts to adopt them, then uses his bully pulpit to warn that the future of the nation is in peril unless these very standards are swiftly implemented. 
The problem is that all this happened so swiftly, and with so little public understanding, that the public is in the dark. A recent Gallup poll showed that most people never heard of the CCSS and had no idea what they were. Instead of taking a decade to build consensus, the Gates Foundation and the Department of Education plunged ahead. 

Instead of developing a democratic process in which teachers, teacher educators, scholars, specialists in the education of children with disabilities, specialists in the education of English learners, and specialists in early childhood education were consulted at every step in the process; instead of trying out the standards to see how they work in real classrooms with real children, the Gates Foundation and the Department of Education took a shortcut.
It is not too late to hear what these parents are saying. Commissioner King may not want to hear them, but they are speaking for their children, and they have a year's head start on many of us, in that New York has been ahead of the curve at implementing Common Core curriculum and tests.
I have an eight year old son with a giant imagination. He likes telling stories and creating things. He's extremely bright, but he's not the most book-smart kid. He's bright in other ways. He attends third grade in the Cornwall School District. He hates going to school.  He hated it last year, and this year, with a great teacher, he's getting through it. The work that comes home, and the work that the teachers are being forced to teach, is so clinical and boring and confusing, that I refuse to believe that the coursework was written by people with degrees and/or experience in early childhood education. (cheers and applause). The coursework is geared towards the few kids in the class that would have done well in math regardless. The rest of the kids are being made to feel dumb and its abusive, with the kind of testing, and the fact that the teachers have no flexibility or time to do anything creative in their classrooms.
I understand the need to make our children better in math and science, for the future of our country. But there is no reason why you need to affect every part of their schooling, which this Common Core is doing. Everything from the math work being made up of long-winded rails, to eight year-olds needing to learn proofreading marks as if they were getting a master's in teaching. I read in the New York Times article, where you attributed your path to some special teachers in your life, that had you play a sportscaster at a fake news desk. With this new curriculum there is no room for imagination or play as it's all business.
All the kids are stressed out. The teachers in my district are scared for their jobs. They won't sway from the curriculum, they won't debate it or entertain any kind of talk about it to see if anything can be adjusted to make it more moldable. The three times this year that I brought up very specific problems with my son's amazing teacher about something that didn't seem right with the Common Core, I was told that my son needed to know this a certain way for the state tests - end of story. Mr. King, your children go to Montessori school... (applause)
Other parents raised concerns about the data that is being collected on their children. Teachers spoke about the ways the Common Core has restricted how and what they can teach. As Diane Ravitch points out, this reaction among parents and educators should not be a surprise. It must take colossal hubris, on the part of both Bill Gates, and his allies at the Department of Education, to think that they could assemble a small group of people, write a set of standards that would totally transform the way our children are taught, and coerce states into adopting them with zero genuine discussion or debate in the public arena. These standards reflect the process by which they were developed. They do not reflect the expertise of educators, and since they have not been tested in any way, they are going through a trial by fire now, with millions of children being the test subjects.
The impassioned comments of those present were enough to convince the Commissioner that further such exercises in democracy are unwise. Four more hearings that were scheduled have been summarily cancelled at Commissioner King's request, according to the New York state PTA.
While our goal was to provide an opportunity to learn and share, based on review of the initial October 10 meeting, the Commissioner concluded the outcome was not constructive for those taking the time to attend.
 So this experiment in democracy delayed has been extinguished, because those in charge apparently would rather not hear this sort of response.
It is very clear that the implementation of the Common Core standards and associated tests in New York has been a fiasco. The question that hangs over this project is whether the standards can somehow be rescued by more thorough preparation and a different set of tests. The curriculum and tests used in New York were developed by Pearson. Other states, such as California, will see a more gradual rollout, with trials next spring of new tests from the Smarter Balance consortium. New York is teaching us how badly the Common Core can be done, and parents there are teaching us how to respond as well. They organized, they spoke up, and they have been heard, even if the powers that be have made it clear they are not interested.
Speaking truth to power, as these parents did, is an intoxicating thing. It delivers to both speaker and witnesses a shiver, an awakening to the fact that we do not need to suffer in silence, or allow our children to suffer without objection. Those in power may cancel future hearings, but these parents' voices are ringing out, like a bell that cannot be un-rung.
 Carol Burris has posted a letter from a New York parent expressing his dismay at the Commissioner's decision to cancel the scheduled public hearings. 
 What do you think of the concerns raised by these parents in Poughkeepsie? Does this spell trouble for the Common Core project in New York?

Bad Faith Must Be Proven In Order To Re-Instate An Employee Who Opposes Being Excessed

Matter of Hritz-Seifts v Town of Poughkeepsie
2005 NY Slip Op 07374 [22 AD3d 493]
October 3, 2005
Appellate Division, Second Department
Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.
As corrected through Wednesday, December 14, 2005

In the Matter of Nancy Hritz-Seifts, Appellant,
Town of Poughkeepsie et al., Respondents.
In a proceeding pursuant to CPLR article 78 to review a determination of the respondent Town Board of the Town of Poughkeepsie dated October 22, 2003, which abolished the position of personnel assistant, and to reinstate the petitioner to that position with back pay, the petitioner appeals from a judgment of the Supreme Court, Dutchess County (Pagones, J.), dated June 30, 2004, which denied the petition and dismissed the proceeding.
Ordered that the judgment is affirmed, with costs.
It is well established that a public employer may abolish civil service positions for the purposes of economy or efficiency (see Matter of Aldazabal v Carey, 44 NY2d 787 [1978]; Bohan v County of Westchester, 250 AD2d 796 [1998]; Matter of Rose v City of Newburgh, 239 AD2d 587 [1997]; Matter of Klos v Town of Babylon, 237 AD2d 291 [1997]; Matter of Rosenthal v Gilroy,208 AD2d 748, 748-749 [1994]; Matter of Della Vecchia v Town of N. Hempstead, 207 AD2d 484 [1994]). It is also well settled that one who challenges the validity of such an act has the burden of proving that the employer did not act in good faith in abolishing the position (see Matter of Rose v City of Newburgh, supra; Matter of Klos v Town of Babylon, supra; Matter of Rosenthal v Gilroy, supra; Matter of Della Vecchia v Town of N. Hempstead, supra). The Supreme Court properly determined that the petitioner failed to sustain her burden of proving that the respondent Town Board of the Town of Poughkeepsie did not act in good faith (see Matter of Rose v City of Newburgh, supra; Matter of Klos v Town of [*2]Babylon, supra; Matter of Rosenthal v Gilroy, supra; Matter of Della Vecchia v Town of N. Hempstead, supra). H. Miller, J.P., Cozier, Ritter and Spolzino, JJ., concur.

Matter of Arnold v Erie County Med. Ctr. Corp.
2009 NY Slip Op 00918 [59 AD3d 1074]
February 6, 2009
Appellate Division, Fourth Department
Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.
As corrected through Wednesday, April 1, 2009

In the Matter of Janet Arnold et al., Respondents, v Erie County Medical Center Corporation et al., Respondents-Appellants, and County of Erie, Respondent.
[*1] Nancy E. Hoffman, Albany (Paul S. Bamberger of counsel), for petitioners-appellants-respondents.
Colucci & Gallaher, P.C., Buffalo (Paul G. Joyce of counsel), for respondents-respondents-appellants.
Cheryl A. Green, County Attorney, Buffalo (Jeannine M. Purtell of counsel), for respondent-respondent.
Appeal from an order and judgment (one paper) of the Supreme Court, Erie County (Frank A. Sedita, Jr., J.), entered July 19, 2007 in a proceeding pursuant to CPLR article 78, and cross appeal by permission of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the Fourth Judicial Department, from the order and judgment. The order and judgment, insofar as appealed from, granted the cross motion of respondent County of Erie and dismissed the petition against it and, insofar as cross-appealed from, denied the motion of respondents Erie County Medical Center Corporation, Alan Antos, Steven Bajak, Amanda General, Sean Jablonski and Matthew White to dismiss the petition against them.
It is hereby ordered that the order and judgment so appealed from is unanimously modified on the law by denying the cross motion, reinstating the petition against respondent County of Erie, and granting that respondent 20 days from service of the order of this Court with notice of entry to serve and file an answer and as modified the order and judgment is affirmed without costs.
Memorandum: Petitioners commenced this CPLR article 78 proceeding seeking, inter alia, to annul the determination that created the position of senior technical assistant and abolished the position of computer operator for respondent Erie County Medical Center Corporation (ECMCC), thereby terminating petitioners from that position of employment. Petitioners appeal from an order and [*2]judgment insofar as it granted the cross motion of respondent County of Erie (County) to dismiss the petition against it, and ECMCC and the individual respondents (collectively, ECMCC respondents) cross-appeal from the order and judgment insofar as it denied their motion to dismiss the petition against them.
Addressing first the County's cross motion, we agree with petitioners that Supreme Court erred in granting it. We therefore modify the order and judgment accordingly. Contrary to the contention of the County, the proceeding against it was not time-barred. A CPLR article 78 proceeding "must be commenced within four months after the determination to be reviewed becomes final and binding upon the petitioner" (CPLR 217 [1]). "An agency determination is final . . . when the petitioner is aggrieved by the determination[, i.e., when] . . . the agency has issued an unambiguously final decision that puts the petitioner on notice that all administrative appeals have been exhausted" (Matter of Carter v State of N.Y., Exec. Dept., Div. of Parole, 95 NY2d 267, 270 [2000]; see Walton v New York State Dept. of Correctional Servs., 8 NY3d 186, 194-195 [2007]; Matter of Edmead v McGuire, 67 NY2d 714, 716 [1986]). Thus, in determining the issue of timeliness, we must first identify the administrative action or determination to be reviewed, and we must then determine when petitioners were first aggrieved thereby (see Matter of Properties of N.Y., Inc. v Planning Bd. of Town of Stuyvesant, 35 AD3d 941, 942-943 [2006]; Matter of Dziedzic v Gallivan, 28 AD3d 1087, 1088 [2006]).
Here, the relevant administrative determination for statute of limitations purposes is the County's determination that the computer operator position was not comparable to the newly-created senior technical assistant position. In the context of its cross motion, the County failed to meet its burden of establishing that it provided petitioners with notice of its determination more than four months prior to petitioners' commencement of this proceeding (see Matter of Vadell v City of New York Health & Hosps. Corp., 233 AD2d 224, 225 [1996]). Although the County had the final authority to classify employment positions with ECMCC, it sought advice from the New York State Department of Civil Service Testing Services Division (Testing Services Division) to review the classifications of computer operator and senior technical assistant in order to determine whether the computer operators were entitled to automatic certification in the new title of senior technical assistant. Although petitioners were notified by the Testing Services Division on October 31, 2006 and November 14, 2006 that the position of computer operator was not comparable to that of a senior technical assistant, they never received any oral or written communication from the County concerning its determination. Thus, the County's determination was not final for statute of limitations purposes until petitioners were laid off from their positions, on November 22, 2006 (see generally Matter of Heron v City of Binghamton, 307 AD2d 524, 524-525 [2003], lv denied 100 NY2d 515 [2003]; Matter of Wininger v Williamson, 46 AD2d 689 [1974], lv denied 36 NY2d 648 [1975]). Petitioners timely commenced this proceeding less than four months later, on March 21, 2007. We have considered the remaining contentions of the County and conclude that they are without merit.
Contrary to the contention of the ECMCC respondents on their cross appeal, the court properly denied their motion to dismiss the petition against them. We reject the contention of those respondents that the petition against them was time-barred. The relevant determination for statute of limitations purposes with respect to the ECMCC respondents is the determination of ECMCC to create the new position of senior technical assistant and to terminate petitioners from their positions as computer operators. Although petitioners were aware that ECMCC created the new position before November 22, 2006, they were not aware that they were being terminated from their employment until that day, and the petition was therefore timely.
Contrary to the further contention of the ECMCC respondents, there are triable issues of fact [*3]with respect to whether ECMCC acted in bad faith in terminating petitioners, thus precluding dismissal of the petition against them. "It is well established that a public employer may abolish civil service positions for the purposes of economy or efficiency" (Matter of Hritz-Seifts v Town of Poughkeepsie, 22 AD3d 493 [2005]), but it may not act in bad faith in doing so (see Matter of Johnson v Board of Educ. of City of Jamestown, 155 AD2d 896 [1989]), nor may it abolish positions " 'as a subterfuge to avoid the statutory protection afforded civil servants before they are discharged' " (Matter of Civil Serv. Empls. Assn., Inc., Local 1000, AFSCME, AFL-CIO v Rockland County Bd. of Coop. Educ. Servs., 39 AD3d 641, 642 [2007]; see Matter of Hartman v Erie 1 BOCES Bd. of Educ., 204 AD2d 1037 [1994]). " 'Bad faith may be demonstrated by evidence that a newly hired person performed substantially the same duties as the discharged employee' " (Civil Serv. Empls. Assn., Inc., Local 1000, AFSCME, AFL-CIO, 39 AD3d at 642).
A petitioner challenging the abolition of his or her position must establish that the employer in question acted in bad faith (see Matter of Aldazabal v Carey, 44 NY2d 787 [1978]; Hritz-Seifts, 22 AD3d 493 [2005]; Johnson, 155 AD2d at 897). Here, however, the ECMCC respondents moved to dismiss the petition against them and they therefore had the initial burden of establishing that ECMCC abolished the position of computer operator for the purposes of economy or efficiency and acted in good faith in doing so. In support of their motion, the ECMCC respondents submitted evidence establishing that ECMCC abolished the position to increase efficiency and that the new position required more experience and skills than the abolished position. In addition, individuals employed in the new position required the ability to handle a higher percentage of problems that may arise. In opposition to the motion, however, petitioners raised a triable issue of fact by submitting affidavits in which they stated that computer operators performed the same duties as senior technical assistants, that they were qualified for the new position, and that they were laid off solely because of their ongoing conflict with management (see Hartman, 204 AD2d 1037 [1994]; Matter of Terrible v County of Rockland, 81 AD2d 837 [1981]; see also Matter of Archer v Town of Wheatfield, 300 AD2d 1108 [2002]).
We have considered the remaining contentions of the ECMCC respondents and conclude that they are without merit. Present—Hurlbutt, J.P., Centra, Fahey and Peradotto, JJ.