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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Is Campbell Brown a Bully?

I have a question: how does Campbell Brown have standing to bring a lawsuit against tenure for public school teachers/employees?

How many of her children attended public school in NYC?

Just askin'.

Betsy Combier
Campbell Brown

Law firm supporting New York Parents Union quits, parents blame bullying by Campbell Brown’s education reform group

In early June, a decision in the California court case Vergara v. California deemed the state’s teacher tenure laws to be unconstitutional because they deny children access to a quality education. The decision has sparked similar cases around the country. In New York, the parents group New York City Parents Union (NYCPU), headed by Mona Davids, filed the first of these lawsuits in early July. In Davids v. State of New York, et al., eleven students, all children of members of the New York City Parents Union, are plaintiffs. The complaint (pdf) asks the court to issue permanent injunctions against the New York statutes involving “Last In, First Out” (LIFO) layoff rules and dismissal rules for teachers found to be ineffective. UnlikeVergara, Davids does not go after tenure rules which protect teachers who have worked for a pre-specified period of time from being fired for non-educational reasons.
Mona Davids has been, and still is, involved in a variety of lawsuits challenging the funding of schools and the release of student and parent data to a private corporation among other issues and she has fought against lack of parental oversight in charter schools in New York. I spoke to Davids and NYCPU Vice-President Sam Pirozzolo at length this past week to prepare this piece.
Mona Davids
Mona Davids
According to Davids and Pirozzolo, the week before the lawsuit was filed, NYCPU was contacted by Campbell Brown, the former CNN anchor. Brown has left her journalism career to become a staunch and well-funded advocate of education reform. With Michelle Rhee leaving her position as CEO of StudentsFirst, Campbell, through her group Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ), appears poised to take up Rhee’s torch and establish herself as the face of education reform. Her type of education reform echoes Rhee’s model with a strong focus on blaming teachers for poor performing schools and a disdain for teachers unions and teacher tenure laws, in particular.
When Brown contacted Davids and Pirozzolo, she told them she wanted to work with them and set up a meeting. On his way to the meeting Pirozzolo learned that Brown’s group had cancelled. They attempted to reschedule but soon learned that Brown was coming to New York City and seemed to have no interest in talking with them. Fearful that Brown was attempting to preempt their forthcoming lawsuit, they hurriedly found an attorney, Jonathan Tribiano, and filed their suit on the July 3rd. Pirozzolo paid the $250 filing fee out of his own pocket. He told me that they chose to file in Staten Island because they felt they would have a better chance of getting a sympathetic Republican judge than if they filed in Albany. Due to the hurried nature of their filing, they knew they would have to file an amended suit before too long.
Sam Pirozzolo
Sam Pirozzolo
After they filed, they heard once again from Campbell Brown who congratulated them as “brave parents” who were standing up for students and once again offering to help. Davids and Pirozzolo gladly accepted. However, Brown called them back a short time later and told them she didn’t have any money to support them. Instead, she offered to put them in touch with her attorney so that he could explain to them how bad their lawsuit was. Davids and Pirozzolo already knew their complaint needed to be improved and on July 24th, they filed an amended complaint.
Four days later Campbell filed her own lawsuit in Albany. In a tearful press conference, she said called the plaintiffs “incredibly brave”, saying she was “just proud to be holding [their] coats.”
On August 6th, Students Matter, the California group founded by millionaire David Welch which bankrolled the Vergara case, announced they would be supporting the plaintiffs in the Davids case. The legal representation would be taken over by the law firm Gibson Dunn with attorneys Randy Mastro, former Deputy Mayor of New York City, and Theodore Boutrous, lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the Vergara suit, in charge.
The next day, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a motion asking that the court combine the cases in Staten Island due to their similarities. All parties agreed to this and next week, on September 3rd, there will be a hearing to formalize the consolidation.
After that, however, Davids and Pirozzolo told me “all hell broke loose.” Gibson Dunn attorney Mastro recently asked them to come to his office telling them he had “shocking news”. Mastro, they said, told them that Campbell Brown had contacted some of his other clients and those clients were now threatening to pull their business from his firm if they didn’t drop the Davids suit. In the meantime, their original attorney, Jonathan Tribiana had become “cagey” and wouldn’t answer their questions. Mastro assured them that there were plenty of other firms that would be willing to take on their case pro bono and that Gibson and Dunn would help them find someone.
Thursday night, less than an hour before I spoke with Davids and Pirozzolo, Gibson Dunn “fired” their clients. Because of this, they are currently without representation as they head into next Tuesday’s hearing. Students Matter, the California group bankrolling the lawsuit, is also pulling out.
Davids and Pirozzolo tell me that the players involved will not acknowledge any of this in public. The various players have said variously that Gibson Dunn was quitting their case because of a conflict of interest due to the other lawsuits that Davids is currently involved in or that it was because of “bad behavior” by Davids and Pirozzolo. None of the players are willing to go on the record to say that Campbell Brown acted like a playground bully, threatening everyone who supported them to isolate them and leave them without resources so that she and her group could take over their suit once it was consolidated with hers. Indeed, since they were fired, PEJ has reached out to them to “craft a productive path forward”, one that surely involves the case being handled by Brown’s PEJ attorneys with the shots being called by them.
Davids and Pirozzolo have found themselves both opponents of and allies with the New York teachers union United Federation of Teachers (UFT), at various times. And though their complaint doesn’t go after teacher tenure laws, they are still at odds with the UFT over the other elements of their suit (you can read their FAQ about it HERE.)
However, they now appear to share a common enemy: Campbell Brown.
Brown has long championed transparency and disclosure in her position as an anchor at CNN. However, now that she’s the one receiving the money, she has gone silent. On an appearance on the Colbert Report, she told Steven Colbert that she would not reveal her funders because if she did, people “are going to go after people who are funding us.” Inhis op-ed in Salon magazine, Gabriel Arana lays it out plainly:
If the pearl-clutching millionaires behind Campbell Brown’s lawsuit are too emotionally fragile to withstand any sort of public scrutiny, they have no business wading into a debate whose outcome will affect millions of students.
Brown’s secrecy about her funders is especially unconscionable given her background as a journalist. Her organization claims it wants to encourage debate about public education. But if anything, the Partnership’s lack of transparency only makes open dialogue more difficult. Without knowing who is behind the effort to get rid of teacher tenure, it’s difficult to tell if they are acting in the best interests of students or whether they are among the for-profit education entrepreneurs looking to cash in on the privatization of public education, which has become a multibillion-dollar industry.
From Davids’ and Pirozzolo’s perspective, they are the true grassroots activists and they are being silenced by a high-profile, well-funded celebrity. “We can fight with the unions but still find ways to work together,” Davids told me. “We piss off the unions all the time but we also piss off the education reformers. In this situation, the giants are fighting and we’re being pushed to the sidelines.”
I asked her why she thought Brown was doing this after initially offering to help. “She want to be the next Michelle Rhee,” Davids said. “This is all about her. When she did this, we had to get over the shock that she would to this to the parents and the students.”
Davids and Pirozzolo tell me they will continue on with their suit with or without the support of Students Matter and Gibson Dunn. “How can Campbell Brown go in front of cameras to talk about a lawsuit named ‘Davids’?,” Davids asked rhetorically. “This is our suit and we will keep fighting.”
There are reasonable people on both sides of the issues at stake with these lawsuits. However, if what Davids and Pirozzolo claim is true, it appears that Campbell Brown is using the court case to launch her new career as an education reformer. And, when when inconvenient parents got in the way of that, she used her influence and money from unknown sources to try to isolate and squash them. Rather than “holding their coats”, Brown appears to want to hold all of the power.
For their part, the New York City Parents Union is doing everything they can to make sure the world knows that Campbell Brown has bullied them and does not speak for them, sending out tweets like this one:
"Campbell Brown does not speak for   We are INDEPENDENT, GRASSROOTS PUBLIC SCHOOL PARENTS who can speak & advocate for OUR children"

The hearing to combine Brown’s complaint with theirs is on Wednesday. I will follow up as this story develops.
[CC Brown photo credit: Asa Mathat/Fortune MPW | Flickr, Pirozzolo and Davids photos courtesy of NYC Parents Union]

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Mona Davids' Attorneys Withdraw From The Anti-Tenure Lawsuit

Now it turns out that Mona Davids cannot get along with her attoneys who are helping her sue New York City for protecting "bad" teachers by allowing them to have tenure. Or, at least that is the current rumor, for anyone who cares at all about Mona, I certainly don't and I don't know anyone who does either....

Mona's attorneys are possibly as confused as any of us are as to what exactly she is trying to prove. We must all remember her starting the New York Charter Parents Association, which disappeared, and her moaning and groaning about charter schools not being given public school buildings and having to deal with CECs and parents who try to fight her.

After her switch to becoming an advocate for NYC teachers Mike Mulgrew gave her $10,000, and Mona said thank you by giving him an award as a "Community Leader" - see below).

Soooo confusing.

Betsy Combier
Mona Davids

New parent group all $nug with UFT
It’s the new teacher’s pet.
A nonprofit touting itself as an “independent” parent advocacy group has quickly cozied up to the United Federation of Teachers — and to the union’s deep pockets, The Post has learned.
The New York City Parents Union, which supported the UFT’s legal battle against charter schools being housed in public buildings and which recently ripped the mayor’s handling of the schools system, has already received $10,000 from the teachers union since launching in April.
The relationship between the two groups will take center stage tonight when the Parents Union hosts its first annual awards benefit — honoring none other than UFT President Michael Mulgrew at the UFT’s downtown headquarters.
Also honored for community leadership will be the state’s NAACP chief, Hazel Dukes — who has railed repeatedly against charter schools — and Arthur Z. Schwartz, a longtime labor lawyer who represented the transit union during its unlawful 2005 strike, which crippled the city.
His new group, Advocates for Justice, filed a lawsuit last summer on behalf of the Parents Union that echoed the UFT’s losing legal bid to keep struggling schools from being shuttered.
A host of other unions were also donors to the event including the AFL-CIO, Teamsters Local 237, SEIU 32B and the Transit Workers Union.
School-choice advocates accused the new parents group of being an arm of the UFT.
“It was always clear that the UFT was behind this organization, but now they aren’t even trying to pretend there is any separation,” said Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform.
Parents Union founder Mona Davids insisted her group is not a union tool, saying it “welcomes and appreciates alliances with other individuals and organizations who share our interest in obtaining the highest-quality public education for all children in New York City.’’
Additional reporting by Yoav Gonen

Anti-tenure advocates’ law firm withdraws from case

The powerhouse law firm that was supposed to represent parent advocates suing to overturn the state’s teacher tenure laws has withdrawn from the case, The Post has learned.
One of the parent advocates, Mona Davids, charged that the firm Gibson Dunn pulled out after “bullying” by rival parent advocate Campbell Brown, the former CNN anchor who has her own set of lawyers.
“We are moving forward with our lawsuit,” said ­Davids. “Campbell Brown does not speak for Davids vs. New York.”
Brown declined to comment.
Gibson Dunn spokeswoman Pearl Piatt said the proposed consolidation of lawsuits filed separately by Davids and Brown “advances the same issues.”
But multiple sources said the firm pulled out because several of its longstanding education clients complained about previous run-ins with Davids.
Also withdrawing was the California group Students Matter, which funded the landmark case overturning that state’s tenure laws.

Gov. Jerry Brown has appealed a California judge’s sweeping ruling that threw
out teacher job protection laws

California Governor Appeals Court Ruling Overturning Protections for Teachers

LOS ANGELES — Wading into an intense national battle that has pitted teacher unions against a movement to weaken tenure protections, Gov. Jerry Brown has appealed a California judge’s sweeping ruling that threw out teacher job protection laws on the ground that they deprived students of their constitutional rights.

In a one-page appeal filed late Friday afternoon, Mr. Brown and the state attorney general, Kamala D. Harris, argued that a decision of such scope needed to be made by a higher court, and that the judge in this case had declined a request by the governor and attorney general “to provide a detailed statement of the factual and legal bases for its ruling.”

“Changes of this magnitude, as a matter of law and policy, require appellate review,” it said of the case, Vergara v. California.

The notice of appeal was filed one day after the judge in the case, Rolf M. Treu of Los Angeles Superior Court, issued his final ruling. Tom Torlakson, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, had also requested that Ms. Harris file the appeal.

The decision by Judge Treu, handed down in June, sent shock waves across the educational establishment here and nationwide. He found that tenure protections for teachers deprived students of a constitutional right to an education, and disproportionately hurt poor and minority students.

“The evidence is compelling,” the judge wrote. “Indeed, it shocks the conscience.”

The case was brought by an organization of students,Students Matter, backed by a Silicon Valley technology millionaire, David Welch. A lawyer for the organization, Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., criticized Mr. Brown’s decision to appeal.

“The State of California should be supporting and protecting students not defending these harmful and irrational laws,” Mr. Boutrous said Saturday. “Judge Treu got it exactly right, and this appeal is destined for failure.”

Teacher unions here had denounced the decision, saying teachers were being scapegoated for the failures of educational institutions. But the ruling was strongly welcomed by the federal education secretary, Arne Duncan, and California Republicans — including Neel Kashkari, who is challenging Mr. Brown this fall.

“I am beside myself with anger that JB is appealing Vergara,” Mr. Kashkari said in a post on his Twitter account. “His lifetime of empty words about caring for the poor is utterly worthless.”

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Arbitrary Use of Power Can Be Seen in Who the DOE Decides Must Be Terminated, Without Consideration of the Facts

Every case brought to 3020-a is for the purpose of terminating the employee, according to the NYC DOE. Some arbitrators have told me that they find this to be outrageous, because so many of the charges brought to arbitration are vague, minor, or not worthy of punishment.

I have been hired to assist a principal at his 3020-a who in my opinion did not do anything wrong, yet The Department immediately took him off salary and left him penniless while he waits for his 3020-a  where they want him terminated.

There are other principals who do something unethical, criminal or abusive and nothing happens or they get a slap on the wrist. The process currently in place under the DOE authority to harass and condemn is completely arbitrary and capricious, in my opinion.

The case of Principal Anissa Chalmers comes to mind, and I will be writing more about her case on another post.

Then, there is the matter of Max Jean Paul. See below.

Betsy Combier

Brooklyn principal fined for forcing workers to do his personal errands — like fetching lunch and buying alcohol

Max Jean Paul, principal of Brooklyn Bridge Academy, has been hit with a $2,400 fine for using three subordinates as personal assistants. They were forced to carry out tasks such as bank trips and to pick up his dry cleaning, according to the city’s Conflict of Interest Board. He even made them buy his booze at a liquor store. Paul will still keep his job.

Thursday, August 28, 2014, 11:53 PM

And you thought your boss was bad.

A Brooklyn public school principal was hit with a $2,400 fine for regularly using three underlings as personal assistants, forcing them to do his shopping and bank trips and pick up booze for him at the liquor store.

And he’s still got his job — with a sweet $140,074 salary.

Max Jean Paul, who has worked at the Brooklyn Bridge Academy in Flatlands for three years and has been a Department of Education employee since 2000, also had the three employees pick up his dry cleaning, shop at a wholesale club and fetch him lunch and breakfast, according to the city’s Conflict of Interest Board, which made its findings public Thursday.

The board did not name the workers, but said one was a youth advisor and the other two worked at community programs in the school.

All were Paul’s subordinates who repeatedly performed “numerous” errands for him, according to the COIB.

Despite the bad behavior, Paul will remain principal at the school.

He declined comment when reached by the Daily News.

He’s not the only educator caught behaving badly — and still keeping a Department of Education job.

Kim Judin, a teacher at P.S. 86 in the Bronx who earned $75,092, was using a fake Department of Transportation parking placard to snag parking spots and avoid paying tickets, the Conflicts Board said .

Judin, who has been a teacher since 1996, was hit with a $1,600 fine.

According to the board's disposition, she made two “unauthorized” copies of the DOT placard that she received via a lottery at her school.

After her time was up with the legit placard, she began using her fake ones to park in restricted areas, according to the board report.

She used the fake placard for several months before getting caught in September 2013.

Judin will also keep her job.

She declined comment.

The DOE declined comment on both cases and has not disciplined the educators over the findings.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Where is The Money Allocated To Special Education?

Mismanagement, fraud and corruption are costly. It seems to me that our city government has no respect for public dollar allocation. The thought is "oh well, we will take a portion of the grant/allocation for [me, you, us] and no one will notice".

Betsy Combier

A Question For Carmen Farina, NYC Chancellor: Where is the Money?

Management By Intimidation, Jack Welch and The New York City Public School System

Former Deputy Chancellor Carmen Farina Retired Because of Her Complicity With the McCaskill Wrongdoing

Sol Stern Writes the Truth About the Bloomberg Public School "Reforms":

More Than 620 People Work in One Building For New York City's Department of Education and "Earn" Millions

False Claims of Special Education Successes Cloud the Bloomberg/Klein Reform
Special Education in New York City Does Not Exist; Ed Officials Mislead the Public and Discard the Kids

EXCLUSIVE: School officials lose $356M in special education funds over sloppy accounting

In the past three years, hundreds of millions of dollars have been lost due to poor documentation of special education spending and a failure to apply for Medicaid reimbursement, the Daily News has learned.

Friday, August 22, 2014, 2:30 AM
City Controller Scott Stringer says, 'There's no excuse for leaving so much money on the table.
City public schools lost $356 million during the past three years in federal Medicaid payments for special education services because city and state officials failed to properly apply for reimbursement, the Daily News has learned.
“Red tape and bureaucracy should not stand in the way of (the city) being reimbursed for the vast array of services provided,” city Controller Scott Stringer said in a report obtained by The News.
As a result, between 2012 and this year, the city Department of Education kept shifting funds originally slated for books, supplies and other general costs to pay for those special education services, Stringer said.
And unless officials reform their practices quickly, the school system will miss out on another $310 million from Medicaid over the next four years — for an astonishing total loss of $666 million.
“That’s just unacceptable,” Stringer said. “There’s no excuse for leaving so much money on the table.”
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew has warned that New York City
needs to do a better job of documenting special education spending.

Under federal law, Medicaid provides 100% reimbursement to state and local school districts for special education services such as speech, occupational and physical therapy, counseling, evaluations of students, and pupil transportation.
Each school district, however, must first pay for the service, then provide extensive documentation to its state education department, which in turn applies to Medicaid for reimbursement. After Washington approves the money, the states and local districts get to split the payments between them.
But over the past few years, United Federation of Teachers President Mike Mulgrew and other school system labor leaders have warned that New York City, unlike other school districts in the state, keeps botching its documentation of special education expenditures.
Stringer’s report appears to back that up. He found the city has collected only a tiny fraction of the Medicaid money it should have.
Tweed Courthouse at 52 Chambers St., headquarters of New York City's Department of Education, which needs to do a better job of fililng for reimbursement to prevent losing hundreds of millions of dollars.

In the fiscal year that ended June 30, for example, the Department of Education initially expected to receive $117 million from Medicaid for services to 170,000 special education pupils. Instead, it has received just $2.2 million, and billed for only another $180,000.
Department of Education officials say they’ve been working hard to improve the Medicaid billing system they inherited from the Bloomberg years.
“We are confident that our . . . corrective action plan, along with additional actions the DOE has taken since last December, will result in increased Medicaid revenue this fiscal year and in the future,” department spokeswoman Devora Kaye said.

Monday, August 18, 2014

2008 OSI Investigation Guide

I think I was given the documents below in 2008 or thereabouts. I received it by asking for any rules for an investigation at the Office of Special Investigations, and an employee there gave me the two pages below. My writing - a question - is at the top right.

Upon my information and belief, no one who works at OSI looks at any guidelines nor follows any.

It's a free-for-all over there!! Each does his/her own thing, whatever that might be.

Remember what Lawrence Scott did.

 I was the paralegal in another 3020-a in 2012, when Scott came in and told us that he did an investigation, but he never interviewed the Respondent, saw only the students who would support the charges, and in every way violated all the guidelines listed below.

Yet he worked there until he resigned, Oct. 4, 2013 after admitting to a sexual event with Natalya Sokolson. How much damage did he do while he worked at OSI?

Betsy Combier

Monday, August 11, 2014

Quick!! Become a "Highly Effective" Teacher Without Any Teaching Experience!

This is a new concept, thankfully resolving for all of us throughout America the true definition of a "highly effective teacher"........ Just in time to be used in the anti-tenure lawsuits that will be popping up all over the place!!!

The NYC Teaching Collaborative will take smart people (can we please find out your definition of "smart"?) and turn them into 'highly effective teachers" after they get hands-on training in a public school classroom for 8 months.  I betcha that there are glowing observation reports for every single graduate....gotta make the promos true, right?

I mean, it's like building tanks, then inventing a war so that you can justify the expense.

Good luck, newbies!

Betsy Combier

 Become a NYC Teacher - no experience required! Subsidized MS degree. (New York City)

compensation: $49,000+ with full benefits
non-profit organization
The NYC Teaching Collaborative:
The NYC Teaching Collaborative is a new, practice-based teacher residency program that prepares smart, talented individuals to become highly effective teachers in New York City's highest-need schools. Participants apprentice in a New York City public school for eight months (Jan. 2015 - August. 2015) prior to becoming a full-time teacher. During this time, participants experience hands-on training in a public school classroom and targeted, ongoing coaching and feedback from skilled mentor teachers and program staff.
Who Can Apply?
Participants come from a wide range of personal and professional backgrounds. No previous teaching experience or coursework in education is necessary. Through practical preparation, Partner Teachers are able to positively affect the lives of students while becoming certified teachers.
Why Us?
  • Starting salary of at least $49,000 and full benefits following training experience (starting September 2015)
  • Subsidized Master's Degree
  • $13,000 stipend during training experience
  • Practice-based training residency
  • Begins in January 2015!
The Collaborative Experience:
During the training period, participants work as "Partner Teachers in Residence" in high-need NYC public school classrooms under the guidance of an experienced teacher called a Collaborative Coach (CC). Partner Teachers also receivetraining from program staff on key strategies for successfully working with students within a high-needs context. Meanwhile, they gradually assume increased instructional responsibilities throughout their eight month training period. Once they begin teaching in the fall of 2015, Partner Teachers continue to receive coaching from program staff in the initial months of their first year that is tailored to their specific strengths and needs.
Participants also earn a subsidized Master of Science degree in Education by taking courses part-time while teaching, earning their degree over 2-3 years. The degree program supports participants' immediate work in the classroom while laying the foundation for a career in teaching.
  • Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.
  • do NOT contact us with unsolicited services or offers