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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Myths of Teacher Tenure and 3020-a Hearings

Let me add some more thoughts about my team ADVOCATZ and Education Law 3020-a Teacher Tenure Hearings -
this is not legal advice, as I am not an attorney:


The MYTHS about 3020-a hearings in NYC (not all of them) are in bold black:

1. When you are charged with incompetency, inefficiency and failure to provide adequate pedagogy, etc., you will be terminated and lose your pension

While no one can guarantee the outcome of a 3020-a proceeding, this mantra of NYSUT and some private Attorneys is absolutely false. When you reach the years to get your pension, you get it. period.

The way you win your 3020-a for incompetency is by providing a strong defense.

A strong defense requires:

* written rebuttals of all U-rated observations (mini-observations, formal, informal, and snapshot) created within a few weeks of receipt and emailed to the principal. Edit to make sure the grammar is correct

* transcripts made of any and all secret tapes which provide relevant and necessary facts to support your position.

*case law and correspondence received under FOIL that there are no facts in observations - Elentuck v Green

* submission of documents and testimony on events seen by you that prove misconduct by others at your school, especially if committed by the principal and/or the assistant principals (for a case of retaliation or whistleblowing)

* any and all incidents of non-compliance with special education laws, rules, and procedures

* any and all incidents of non-compliance with laws, rules, and policies governing Title 1 funding and fair student/school funding guidelines

* submission of APPR S-ratings from school years outside of the charged years

* bringing in at least 3, but hopefully more, witnesses to testify for you, your work, and/or your character. Give subpoenas to anyone who is a student, or who works for the NYC DOE.

2.   When you are charged with incompetency, inefficiency and failure to provide adequate pedagogy, etc., you must only discuss the charged years and the specifications, nothing else

This is NYC DOE/NYSUT gobblygook, and not a defense strategy at all. Some private attorneys buy into this plan, but we at ADVOCATZ do not. We bring in WHY the principal made the charges (had to get rid of tenured teachers, wanted to get rid of expensive teachers, retaliation, make a spot for a relative or friend, etc). There are any number of reasons to charge an employee with tenure, none of which have anything to do with what the teacher is actually doing in the classroom

3. NYSUT defends you

An urban myth, that proves "you get what you pay for". NYSUT is free, therefore you get nothing. Actually, there are many NYSUT attorneys who I do like and respect (see #4 for the others), but all must abide by the policy of "stay within the agreed upon boundaries". In my opinion, trying to say that a teacher gave in a lesson plan when a principal says they didn't is not a defense. The legal team must show that the principal said that "there was no lesson plan" (they were not interested in seeing it and didn't ask for it) because they were intent on getting the employee charged with 3020-a and because the principal didn't want him/her in the school, and there are no facts in observations anyway. This is a good defense strategy - in our opinion at ADVOCATZ. Sometimes NYSUT wins. Sometimes everyone wins.

Again, a good defense at 3020-a is submission of all the facts, hearsay, witness testimony and Respondent's papers, rebuttals, tapes, transcripts, notes, and anything else.... and having an arbitrator who will consider these submissions. Several arbitrators currently on the 3020-a panel are absolutely under the control of the NYC DOE Gotcha Squad. You know who you are. So do we.

4. Betsy Combier is an "ambulance chaser, all arbitrators hate her, and everyone who has her on his or her case is terminated" (Maria Elena Gonzalez Lichten to a Respondent assigned to her)

C'mon, Claude (Hersh - Assistant General Counsel at NYSUT - see below) these claims are totally false....I asked you several years ago to stop your attorneys at NYSUT from talking about me as if I was a criminal. I have a CD made especially for me by a Respondent in which Maria Elena started screaming about me and how the Respondent was never to talk with me, never, never, never. He fired her and hired me and one of the ADVOCATZ attorneys for his 3020-a. Then there is the time that I was walking down the hallway where the hearings are held, at 49-51 Chambers Street, 6th floor, when I saw an arbitrator who I liked very much, and I put my hand up to wave hello as I walked by his hearing room. I was looking behind me, so I did not see Maria Elena walking in the opposite direction. Suddenly my hand was smacked so hard it hit the wall. Maria Elena didn't even look back or say she was sorry for hitting me. I think she needs anger management!!! Evidently she despises me for putting a picture of her husband, Stuart Lichten, on this blog. Too bad. See his picture below.

Attorney Stuart Lichten

By the way, I feel a little uncomfortable knowing that the lawfirm of Lichten & Bright P.C.

(formerly Schwartz, Lichten & Bright, but Arthur Schwartz joined Advocates For Justice)

Attorneys Stuart Lichten and Daniel Bright

represents NYSUT's Claude Hersh in the Federal 1983 action filed by teacher Lisa Guttilla. She was forced into resigning by NYSUT Attorney Steve Friedman before her 3020-a hearing began.

And then there is Paul Brown, who, when he saw me on the 6th floor hearing office, told his client that she was never, ever to speak with me and NEVER take my card. She had it already, and fired him that day. And then there's Keith Gross.....

So tiring to have to write about NYSUT attorneys, even more tiring to keep reading about them. The fact of the matter is, I and my team at ADVOCATZ put 100% effort into every single case: seeking witnesses, documents, statistics, outcomes, grades, SOHO reports, and anything else that could be used as a defense to 3020-a charges - which are almost always an exaggeration of the truth or severely wrong and false. It's most certainly a challenge providing assistance at 3020-a, but I cant imagine doing anything else.

Betsy Combier

Three Myths of Teacher Tenure

In my five years organizing with non-union health care workers who wanted to join the union, job security was always one of their top issues.
Firings were arbitrary, they said. Evaluations were based on favoritism. Experienced employees were fired just because they were more expensive.
So it always surprises me to hear regular people repeat the smears against teachers’ job security. They’re parroting the message of those trying to weaken one of the largest remaining sectors of unionized workers in this country.
When it comes to teachers’ right to job security, you have to look at why management wants to get rid of it—if you want to tell fact from fiction. A few common myths:

Myth #1: Teacher tenure means a job for life.

Teacher tenure is not like academic tenure, which is set up through each university. Faculty members jump through many hoops before becoming tenured.
But maybe the differences are beside the point. Both systems lay out clear grounds for dismissal. A teacher or professor can be fired—for cause.
K-12 teachers first won tenure rights over 100 years ago, but it wasn’t through collective bargaining agreements. The push for tenure systems came out of the desire to protect teachers and districts from the politically motivated firings that came with patronage politics.
It became a way to protect women, pregnant teachers, and people of color from discrimination. Also teachers with controversial views—read, “pro-union.”
In fact, today charter school teachers are organizing unions so they too can bargain for, you guessed it, job security.

Myth #2: It’s impossible to fire a tenured teacher.

Research shows teachers are fired more often than federal workers—above 2 percent, compared to .02 percent a year. These figures come from Dana Goldstein’s new book, The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession.
Goldstein also looked at comparable private sector data. These jobs too were more secure than teaching.
If teachers violate policy or can’t do their jobs, it’s up to administrators to make a case to remove them. That’s what due process means.

Myth #3: Teacher tenure is too protective—unlike other sectors’ union protections.

Sure, the process could be tweaked—for instance, expedited, so it doesn’t punish the unfairly targeted and doesn’t draw out the appeals of those not equipped to do the job. (See Union Fights Teacher Jail to read how Los Angeles teachers get caught in a legal limbo.)
But that’s not what they want, the people pushing to get rid of due process.
Look at Chicago, where the unionized teaching force has shrunk by 20 percent, and black teachers dwindled from 45 to 29 percent. Teachers are facing layoffs year after year, while non-union charters grow.
Hard to make the case that teachers have too much job security, isn’t it?
Emboldened by anti-tenure rhetoric, Philadelphia, Chicago, and L.A. have been bypassing seniority provisions in district policies and in union contracts. When budgets are squeezed, districts push to replace veteran teachers with inexperienced hires at the bottom of the pay scale—or not replace them at all, and make remaining teachers do more.
That’s not about what’s best for students. It’s what bosses do, when they can get away with it, in any industry.
When people say, “Teachers may have needed tenure back then, but now things are different and they have it too good,” remember: you could easily replace the word “tenure” with “union.”
Samantha Winslow is a staff writer and organizer with Labor
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Monday, December 29, 2014

Mobbing and Lori Evanko - Job Titles Mean Nothing When the NYC DOE Comes After You

A title means nothing to NYC Department of Education employees when they are focused on mobbing a person. Whether you are a janitor, paraprofessional, 30-year math teacher without any disciplinary actions or U ratings, or a principal, nothing matters if you break a code of silence concerning "protected" employees, you will be targeted, harassed, and/or fired.

Who is a "protected" employee?

Someone who has a mom, dad, niece, cousin, in-law who works in 'high' places at Tweed or at one of the Tweed branches, which are many.

These protected employees are immune to prosecution of any kind.

Lori Evanko is a victim of mobbing.

Kandis Rivera
Principal says she was fired for reporting teacher’s ‘fake’ internship
A scandal over a teacher who allegedly falsified documents to get a master’s degree has ensnared a state Board of Regents member and a principal who claims she was fired for blowing the whistle.
Lori Evanko, ex-principal of JHS 125 in The Bronx, accuses teacher Kandis Rivera — the daughter of a retired city principal — of faking paperwork for a Fordham University internship last year, records show.
Kandis Rivera, 35, an English-as-a-second-language teacher under Evanko’s supervision, faked 275 hours of an administrative internship at the Soundview school, Evanko charges.
“An internship is rigorous,” Evanko told The Post. “You have to work with a principal and assistant principals on things like budget, curriculum, instruction, and be assigned certain responsibilities. She did none of that with us.”
Under Evanko, JHS 125 improved from an “F” grade in 2012 to a “B” in 2013. But the Department of Education abruptly fired Evanko on June 27 — nine days after she and two of her then-
assistant principals met with agents of special schools investigator Richard Condon to report Rivera.
The SCI probe is ongoing, a spokewoman said.
Evanko has filed a claim against the city, saying she was fired in retaliation.
Rivera, a teacher since 2006, received a master’s degree in administration and leadership from Fordham’s school of education in May. The degree puts educators on track to become principals.
She has since gotten a big raise because teachers with Master’s degrees get bumped up the salary scale. She made $59,453 plus $9,138 in overtime for after-school tutoring in 2013.
Her salary is now $75,283.
Evanko’s complaint has entangled Kathleen Cashin, a member of the State Board of Regents, which oversees education statewide. Cashin, a former Queens school superintendent, is a Fordham professor and was Rivera’s internship instructor.
Evanko contends Rivera forged her signature on a document requiring the principal to agree to oversee the internship, but Fordham officials said that document is missing.
Another form stating that Rivera completed her internship was signed by PS 72 Principal Margarita Colon, described by Evanko as a “very good friend” of Rivera’s mom, retired principal Nilda Rivera. But Kandis Rivera never worked at PS 72, the DOE says. Colon would not explain when or how Rivera did the internship.
A DOE spokesman said Evanko’s termination was due to “school performance and her fit with JHS 125’s unique characteristics and needs,” and “in no way related” to her complaint against Rivera.
Dr. Sophie Henshaw

Bullying at Work: Workplace Mobbing is on the Rise

Mobbing is “bullying on steroids,” a horrifying new trend whereby a bully enlists co-workers to collude in a relentless campaign of psychological terror against a hapless target.
Targets are usually anyone who is “different” from the organizational norm. Usually victims are competent, educated, resilient, outspoken, challenge the status quo, are more empathic or attractive and tend to be women, aged 32 to 55. Targets also can be racially different or part of a minority group.
The target receives ridicule, humiliation, and eventually, removal from the workplace. It leaves the victim reeling with no idea what happened or why. It takes away a person’s safety in the world, dignity, identity and belonging and damages his or her mental and physical health. The effects also radiate outward toward the target’s partner, family, friends and even community.

Because an employee is being targeted and criticized, he or she may be seen as a “troublemaker” by others and thus be ignored and isolated by otherwise OK people. Former allies can thus turn against him and he is left socially isolated. They think: “well, he’s being criticized by management, there must be something wrong with him and I don’t want to be tarred by the same brush!”
Gossip and innuendo spread behind closed doors before the target is aware of what’s happening, as previously loyal co-workers are enlisted to provide personal information that substantiates damaging rumors. Often the person instigating the mobbing is emotionally immature and threatened in some way by the target. People with personality disorders often employed tactics such as “splitting,” which pits members of a team against each other in order to exact revenge against a perceived slight or insult by the target.
At least 30 percent of bullying is mobbing — and the tendency is rising.
In Australia, a government inquiry revealed that calls about workplace bullying had increased by 70 percent in three years. Statistics show that bullying affects one in three employees; what is really worrying is that one in two have witnessed bullying but have done nothing about it. Moreover, the actual incidence of bullying is likely to be much higher: for every case reported, eight to 20 cases are going unreported (Faure-Brac, 2012).
Mobbing is more likely to occur when a number of workplace factors are present. Understanding what they are can help to protect yourself from staying in, or taking a job in a toxic organization. For example, certain industries facing increased financial pressure because market demand is on the wane are more mobbing-prone. These organizations are driven by the dollar and accountable only to shareholders and directors. This creates toxic environments where managers turn a blind eye to bullying and mobbing and may even encourage it (Duffy & Sperry, 2013).
Organizations that are driven by bureaucracy, e.g., government departments, are arguably the most toxic. They appear to have policies and procedures to ensure a safe workplace, but they will redefine bullying as a “personality conflict” and end up offering no real protection. In essence, bad behavior is tolerated and left to escalate. The 2012 film, “Murder By Proxy: How America Went Postal” is a fascinating portrayal of the ultimate in toxic workplaces.
In contrast, healthy organizations are accountable to a wider range of shareholders including customers, staff and community. They also have values that are centered on caring for others (Duffy & Sperry, 2013).
The best way to deal with workplace mobbing is to increase resilience, practice self-care and get out as soon as possible. It is often impossible to win against organizations that tacitly support mobbing. Five steps that you must take to ensure recovery are:
  1. Document everything in detail. From the earliest signs of something “not quite right,” even if it’s just a gut feeling, keep a journal of all the incidents you experience. The more evidence you have, the better your recourse to legal action later.
  2. Give yourself space and time to figure things out. Seek someone in authority you can trust at work to disclose to. Seeking redress from the organisation might not be a safe first step for you to take. See a doctor for stress leave and a worker’s compensation claim.
  3. Get a good recovery team to stop the isolation. A good clinical psychologist will help you develop recovery strategies, liaise with your doctor and lawyer, write a psychological injury report and advocate for you. A good lawyer will help you initiate legal action. A good doctor will treat bullying’s medical repercussions. Family and friends will understand, believe and support you.
  4. Make self-care a priority.Focus on what you love. Engage in a daily spiritual practice and follow good diet and exercise plans.
  5. Engage in meaningful life activities. Set new goals. Undertake creative pursuits. Focus on fun and laughter.
Victims of bullying who want more detail on how to protect themselves can learn more about developing effective strategies against bullies by downloading Dr Sophie Henshaw’s exclusive report.
Duffy, M. & Sperry, L. (2013). Overcoming Mobbing: A Recovery Guide for Workplace Aggression and Bullying. USA: Oxford University Press.
Faure-Brac, J. (2012). A Slow Poison: Behind The Alarming Statistics On Workplace Bullying Are Personal Stories Of Grief And Hardship, Revealed During A Parliamentary Inquiry.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Mayor De Blasio Praises the NYPD, Perhaps Too Much

I wonder how truthful Mayor De Blasio's support of the NYPD really is. He is certainly trying to make the police department believe him, but then there is Kicy Motley......

Mayor Bill de Blasio – NYPD Support

Administration made largest increase in resources for NYPD programs in a decade: additional $352 million this year to enhance and expand training, provide technology that will protect officers

Offers unequivocal support for department, its leadership and its officers

From selecting Bill Bratton--the nation’s foremost law enforcement leader--to head the NYPD, to investing in more tools and equipment for officers on the beat, Mayor de Blasio has strongly supported the police during his first year in office. Thanks to the NYPD, crime in New York City is down nearly 5 percent this year—a record low. 

 Mayor de Blasio has invested an additional $352 million in the NYPD’s budget this year to enhance and expand training, provide technology that will protect both officers and our communities, pilot a gunshot detection program, and support overtime. This is the largest increase in resources for NYPD programs in a decade, and larger than the entire Boston Police Department budget. The Mayor has also made major investments to improve NYPD facilities, including $110 million in capital funds to build or rehabilitate precinct houses.

 To protect officers and keep the department on the cutting edge, the Mayor invested in more advanced communication technology, including smartphones for all 35,000 officers and 6,000 tablets for police cruisers that enable more rapid distribution of alerts, images and directives. The Mayor has invested in retraining and professional development for the entire force. It settled contracts with thousands of senior officers, providing raises for the first time in years, and is working in good faith to reach accord with all unions representing NYPD personnel.

 At police ceremonies, policy announcements, community events and in the aftermath of Eric Garner’s death, Mayor de Blasio has made clear his strong support of the NYPD and its officers, praising them as the finest police force in the nation, and commending their sacrifice and professionalism. The Mayor has unequivocally and decisively condemned the actions of protestors who engaged in violence against police officers.

 A Safer City

·         Major crime in the city is down. Homicides are down nearly 4% percent and overall crime is down nearly 5% percent.

·         Misconduct complaints filed against NYPD have declined significantly during second half of 2014 – the largest decline over a five-month period since the CCRB was created in 1993
2014 Public Safety Investments

Mayor de Blasio has invested an additional $352 million this year to enhance and expand training, provide technology that will protect both officers and our communities, and much more. This is the largest increase in a decade and larger than the entire Boston Police Department's budget.  These investments include:

·         A $160 million initiative to enhance NYPD mobile communications by providing 41,000 tablets and handheld mobile devices for every NYPD officer and patrol car
·         Providing over $28 million dollars to support additional in-service training for the entire Police Department

·         A $101 million dollar investment with the Manhattan District Attorney to reduce violent crime in NYCHA developments through an increase in exterior security cameras, camera connection to NYPD networks, lobby and elevator cameras, new doors, layered access, and improved exterior lighting.
·         Invested $20 million to fund expansion of the NYPD's high-bandwidth fiber network, which enables the transmission, in real time, of law enforcement and public safety data sources, including feeds from NYPD's extensive public safety camera network.

·         An investment of $17 million to increase the patrol strength of the force by civilianization.
·         Made major investments to improve NYPD facilities, including $110 million in capital funds to build or rehab precincts.

In addition the City has made other investments that will help our officers keep the city safe while also protecting them from harm, including:
·         Expanded citywide initiative to reduce gun violence by investing $12.7 million in comprehensive, neighborhood-based strategy to prevent shootings in 14 key precincts

·         Launched Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety, a $210 million investment to strengthen neighborhoods and reduce violent crime at the 15 NYCHA developments
·         Accelerated long-delayed installation of security cameras at Boulevard Houses and housing developments across the city

·         Launched $130 million plan to reduce crime and reduce the number of people with behavioral and mental health issues behind bars
Unequivocally Condemned Violence Against NYPD Officers

12.15.14 Mayor: What we believe we know is that individuals attacked our police officers in an entirely inappropriate and unacceptable way – and that won't be tolerated. It's as simple as that. And not only will it not be tolerated by me, it will not be tolerated by the NYPD. I want to speak directly to those who are protesting. I've spent plenty of years involved in efforts for social change. I've been to my share of protests. It is incumbent upon all those who are protesting to set a high standard, to respect the police who have done such a fine job of protecting them and working with them, and to stop any potential act of violence. It is up to the protestors to join the effort to keep the peace. And if anyone knows anything about the individuals who attacked our police officers, they need to come forward with that information.

Praised NYPD for Restraint and Professionalism Handling Protests

12.04.14 Mayor: A lot of people demonstrated last night. They expressed their first amendment rights. Overwhelmingly, the demonstrations were peaceful, and I want to say, the response by the NYPD was exactly the right one. It was smart, it was strategic, it was agile – a lot of restraint was shown. When necessary, arrests were made. But you saw a very peaceful night in New York City. Despite the frustration and the pain that so many people are feeling, you saw a peaceful protest. You saw a minimum of disruption. I give credit to everyone involved, but I particularly give credit to the NYPD for having managed the situation so appropriately. 

12.07.14 Mayor: I think the NYPD has done an extraordinary job. We’ve had protests for a number of nights but the protesters, by and large, have been peaceful and the NYPD has acted, I think, in a very intelligent and agile manner. And that’s helped to bring us to the result we’ve had now, and last night was particularly good. And I think it’s an example of what the professionalism of the NYPD allows to happen in this city, where peaceful protest can occur.

Praised the NYPD

7/18/14  Mayor: We have extraordinary leadership at the NYPD. We have an incredibly well-trained police force.

7/31/14 Mayor: I want to commend Commissioner Bratton and Chief Banks, and everyone at NYPD for continuing to drive down crime. And I also want to commend them for starting aggressive processes of reform, so that we can have low crime while creating more dialogue and mutual respect.

7/31/14 Mayor: I’ve mentioned the extraordinary work of Commissioner Bratton and Chief Banks, and all the leadership and all the men and women of the NYPD following this pathway – safety and respect.

8/01/14 Mayor: We are constantly preparing. And I think that all of our agencies – NYPD and FDNY and OEM – are literally the gold standard on this earth for how to protect a locality.

8/05/14 Mayor: I have immense respect for the men and women of the NYPD. It’s a very tough job and they do it very, very well. This is why crime is down over three percent this year, murders are down, a lot of incredible work is happening every day in every neighborhood because of the dedication of the men and women of the NYPD.

8/13/14 Mayor: We believe that we have the finest police force in the United States of America, and they do extraordinary work every day. And there's a lot we need to do to support our police, and one of the things we need to do is help solve the problem before it occurs, at the grassroots, with the full participation of communities. We do that more and more – we're going to see crime continue to stay low and then go down in this city.

10/13/14 Mayor: I am so appreciative for what you do to represent the Italian-American community through your service to the people of New York City. Because I appreciate you for the work you do, to begin with. We all depend on you. We all appreciate and understand how hard the work is.

11/2/14 Mayor: I’ve said it many, many times, the New York City Police Department is the world’s finest. We see it over and over again, every day. We saw it today with a safe marathon – the biggest marathon in the world. And everything that was done, in the way of security preparation, was outstanding and the execution was flawless – another example of what the NYPD is capable of, another example of the leadership of Commissioner Bratton. And I think the NYPD, at this moment, is the best it’s ever been. And I think it’s on the pathway to even higher heights, to even greater accomplishments.

12.03.14 Mayor: I’ve said repeatedly we are blessed to have the finest police force anywhere in the world. That's this police force is keeping us safer all the time.

12.09.14 Mayor: I think something all New Yorkers should be proud of today is the way the NYPD handled this incident. In the dead of night, something absolutely unexpected – the responding officers handled things, from everything we've seen so far – again, there is an investigation, but I'm going to speak as someone who's seen the video and just offering my own common-sense assessment – the officers responded with great restraint. They made every effort to try to disarm the individual. And, they – in the work they did so courageously – protected lives. This individual had already assaulted Mr. Rosenblatt – may have caused much more damage to others. Lives were at stake, and these officers – with courage and skill and restraint – handled the situation very admirably. With that, I would like to turn to our police commissioner to commend you, the men and the women of the NYPD, for how this was handled today.

12.09.14 Mayor: This is a very important step forward for this city – reaching agreement with those who, day to day, lead the work out in the field, protecting the people of this city, keeping this city safe, keeping the city clean. These are the leaders in agencies we depend on every day. We have deep respect for their work. We understand how difficult it is. We understand how dangerous it is.