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Friday, May 2, 2014

Get Principal Ron Smolkin Removed - Sign the Petition

Ron Smolkin


Independence High School Principal Ron Smolkin Sent Hate Mail To Teacher Michael McPherrin
Ron Smolkin, Principal of Independence High School in Manhattan is the author of hate mail targetting teacher Michael McPherrin and his partner, according to McPherrin, who had the handwriting on the letter analyzed. Let's hope that the penalty handed down by prosecutors of this heinous act by Smolkin is equal to the harm he has caused, and he does not get off with a slap on the wrist like Iris Blige did.

    Here is a link to the story in New York Teacher:

Principal Ron Smolkin’s relations with staff at Manhattan’s Independence HS were always frosty, teachers say. But they turned arctic last spring after the school’s faculty leadership team made a series of ambitious recommendations on safety, teaching, guidance, consensus and collegiality.
The team never got a reply or even an acknowledgment from the principal. As Chapter Leader Michael McPherrin put it, “Smolkin refuses to discuss plans and leadership style. He even takes suggestions as a personal affront. He goes after those he sees as disloyal; questioning his policies is to enter a world of pain.”
He also apparently plays payback — as a sequence of events reported by the media in late March suggests.
McPherrin, a leading member of the faculty leadership team, got a big surprise when his co-op board received an anonymous letter charging him with sex and drug crimes. With copies sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as well as the FBI and the IRS, the letter declared that McPherrin and his “undocumented” partner were engaged in “spreading disease” and “unsafe sex with underaged boys.”
An independent handwriting analyst hired by McPherrin found it “highly likely” that the author of the hand-addressed envelope was Smolkin.
In late summer, McPherrin got a second surprise, when his classroom at the West Midtown campus was trashed. It was the only classroom in the school so destroyed, McPherrin said. Since December, McPherrin has received five letters in his file. Prior to last spring, he had received none.

UFT District 79 Representative Marc Korashan (left) with Chapter Leader Michael McPherrin
Now Smolkin is under investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for aggravated criminal harassment, and the state’s Human Rights Commission is also conducting a probe. McPherrin has filed a harassment complaint against Smolkin under Article 23 of the contract.
As the New York Teacher went to press, McPherrin reported that Smolkin had filed 3020a dismissal charges against him for unprofessional conduct.
Smolkin has been principal at the two-campus transfer alternative high school (a smaller campus is housed in the West Village) since the spring of 2004. The school educates 425 overage, under-credited students who have aged out of their class cohort or dropped out.
McPherrin says the principal’s relationship with the staff is “poisonous.”
“He’s the biggest obstacle to the school’s success,” McPherrin says. “He operates in terms of who’s in and who’s out.”
The six other teachers at Independence HS interviewed for this article, all on condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation, confirmed that Smolkin is widely viewed as remote, divisive and vindictive.
McPherrin and other staffers said the school is not safe for students and staff alike. There is gang activity and drugs are used openly, said the chapter leader, “usually near the LYFE center,” which houses infants and toddlers of students.
McPherrin and others accuse Smolkin of underreporting safety incidents and not enforcing discipline. “He won’t take a stand because he’s afraid that if he does, attendance will drop,” one teacher said.
Since December, McPherrin has filed five union safety complaints, charging Smolkin with having no meaningful student removal process, making no effort to deter student texting in class, not supervising the school’s vendor-run after-school program, and refusing to hold safety committee meetings for his school.
Staffers say it’s no coincidence that the academic performance of the students is suffering. Independence HS received another C on its most recent School Progress Report, but there is a widespread belief among faculty that Smolkin fiddled with the parent survey results to avoid an F. The school received an F in student performance and a C in student progress, but somehow pulled off a near-perfect score on the Learning Environment Survey to earn an A in school environment. Staff noticed that the returns showed the number of parent responses exceeded the number of parents who picked up surveys.
Smolkin keeps parents at arm’s length, too. He has done as little as he can to create a school leadership team. Only after staff complained to the superintendent did he move the team meetings to a time more convenient to parents.
Marc Korashan, the UFT’s alternative high schools district representative, blasts the DOE for not riding herd on Smolkin. In an email letter to Manhattan HS Superintendent Elaine Gorman, Korashan said that the principal “continues to make veiled threats about reorganizing the school and putting people out of jobs. His attitude toward staff remains dismissive or threatening. It seems clear that [the principal] does not want an active parent body or an effective SLT looking at what is happening in the school.”
Korashan’s email letter concludes: “The question remains: When does administration step in to support the school and not the principal?”
Gorman and a representative from network leader Sumita Kaufhold’s office met in February with 12 staff members at their request, but so far neither official has intervened.
“This kind of support for a principal who is leading a school to fail is something we’ve seen time and again with this DOE,” said Korashan. “If Independence HS is put on the Persistently Lowest Achieving list, it will certainly not be the fault of the teachers who have tried to create a collaborative, student-centered culture at the school only to be stymied by this principal.”
Independence High School Principal Ron Smolkin Sent Hate Mail To Teacher Michael McPherrin
Ron Smolkin, Principal of Independence High School in Manhattan is the author of hate mail targetting teacher Michael McPherrin and his partner, according to McPherrin, who had the handwriting on the letter analyzed. Let's hope that the penalty handed down by prosecutors of this heinous act by Smolkin is equal to the harm he has caused, and he does not get off with a slap on the wrist like Iris Blige did.

NY1 Exclusive: City Principal Investigated In Retaliation Probe

By: Lindsey Christ, NY1

A veteran public school principal is under investigation for allegedly attempting to smear one of his teachers through a hate-filled letter. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

Last June, an anonymous letter was sent to the managers of Michael McPherrin's co-op. It contained ugly allegations against McPherrin, a public school teacher, and his longtime partner Andre Lopes.

"As you read, your jaw just keeps dropping because it just gets worse," McPherrin said.

There were private details, like the couple's HIV and immigration status, as well as allegations of drug use and pedophilia. It said, in part:

"The talk of the building is that both Mike and illegal immigrant Andre suffer from full blown AIDS and have no problem infecting others including the underage boys they bring to the apartment."

"This was an attempt to destroy our lives and me professionally," McPherrin said.

The writer claimed to represent concerned residents, but the building management called it "anonymous hate mail" and wrote McPherrin that, "our records indicate there are no complaints against you or your partner."

McPherrin says he knows who sent it: his boss, Ron Smolkin, the principal of Independence High School in Manhattan.

Since the addresses on the anonymous letters were handwritten, McPherrin hired a handwriting analyst who found it "highly likely" they matched samples of handwriting McPherrin said were Smolkin's. Then, there was the information in the notes.

"That we are HIV positive. That Andre has an outstanding immigration issue. That we have a second residence. The social security number. That information could’ve only been gotten from my personnel file," McPherrin said.

McPherrin says his trouble with Smolkin started after he became the teacher's union rep and organized staff members concerned about Smolkin's leadership.

"He has a history of retaliatory vindictive actions," McPherrin said.

Other staff members at the school make the same charge. In one case, a judge ruled Smolkin falsely accused a school aide of an assault inside the building and fired her without benefits. A former assistant principal says Smolkin had her removed on trumped-up charges after they hadn’t been getting along. Current staff members also gave NY1 other examples -- off the record -- saying they were afraid of further retaliation.

The Manhattan district attorney's office, state Human Rights Commission and teachers union are all investigating the anonymous letter. But Department of Education lawyers argue there is "no evidence of a hostile work environment" and have asked the human rights commission to drop the case.

Smolkin would not speak with NY1 on the record but through a lawyer says he denies the allegations. Also, the DOE and the groups investigating him all have policies against speaking on the record about ongoing cases.

Meanwhile, McPherrin says the principal continues to target him and has slapped him with four disciplinary charges this school year. He says they're the first in his 23 years of teaching.

From Betsy Combier:

Below is a letter that Mike McPherrin sent the DOE in 2013:

Office of School Personnel Review
And Accountability
New York State Education Department
89 Washington Avenue, Room 981 EBA
Albany, NY 12234

Dear Sir or Madam:

Enclosed please find the complaint I am submitting to you regarding the unethical and immoral actions of Principal Ron Smolkin of Independence High School, located at 850 Tenth Avenue, New York, NY  10019. It is an alternative high school in midtown Manhattan, District 2, Department of Education, City of New York. Its mission is to help over-aged, under credited students towards a high school diploma.

 I am a recently retired high school social studies teacher from Independence High School, where I taught for twenty-five years.   I enjoyed a wonderful career, and worked with many excellent teachers and principals. My professional record is replete with commendations from my supervisors, and my record of success in the classroom has been amply recognized, including laudatory praise from Mr. Smolkin throughout his first five years as my principal.

In the spring of 2010, I was elected UFT representative for our Local Chapter, and began asking some questions about the budget, and safety issues at school, including unchecked drug and gang activity, and upticks in physical threats to teachers by students. Teachers were developing a consensus on how to address these issues to discuss with the administration, but it appeared Mr. Smolkin interpreted this as a personal attack on him. (See Exhibit A)  I became a target for his retaliation at my home and at school.

On June 10, 2010, three “anonymous” hate filled letters arrived at my co-op building (to the building manager, co-op president, and a resident real estate broker) accusing me and my same-sex partner of “using our pets to lure underage boys to our apartment, where (we) infect them with AIDS.”  The letters, purportedly written by “Concerned Parents of Park Terrace Gardens,” urged the building management to evict me and my partner, for having sex parties with boys, using illegal drugs,  illegally harboring an illegal alien (my partner is a Brazilian national), and thus  lowering the property values of shareholders through these nefarious crimes.  The letters were copied to the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, IRS, and the Local Police Precinct 36. (See Exhibit B)

After obtaining the hand-addressed envelopes of these three letters, I sent them for handwriting analysis, along with a sample of Mr. Smolkin’s handwriting, and the examiner found the samples to be “highly likely” written by the same hand. (See Exhibit C)  I reported this case to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for Special Prosecutions, and they conducted a five-month independent forensics investigation of my claims, including obtaining samples of Mr. Smolkin’s handwriting by subpoena.  In March of 2011, I received a call from ADA Amy Justiniano (212-335-3339), who informed me that the results of the investigation confirmed Smolkin’s handwriting.

Although the District Attorney’s Office declined to charge Mr. Smolkin under hate crimes statutes, Mr. Wornum suggested I pursue civil claims for libel and defamation.  I am currently suing Mr. Smolkin in New York State Supreme Court, and lawyers for the City have used every tactic available to shield Mr. Smolkin from accountability. Our claim was filed in May of 2011.  This case may still be dismissed, or  Corp Counsel has indicated they may be willing to offer a settlement, including a “Confidentiality Agreement” which would preclude my ability to speak to a reporter, or anyone else about this case forever.  They have made it clear that removing Mr. Smolkin from his position is not under consideration. My lawyer is Matt Taub of the Taub Law Firm (646-484-5020).

It is my position that anyone who engages in such behavior demonstrates a lack of the moral compass required of a state-licensed principal or teacher.

For your information, Mr. Smolkin is being sued by two other former subordinates.  The most recent case concerns another “anonymous” letter to Mr. Smolkin from a “concerned parent” that the teacher was a pedophile. (See Exhibit D)  She was “U” rated based on this letter, and was forced out of her position at Independence High School. She is being represented by Mr. Taub as well, in a separate civil claim.  In the other case, Mr. Smolkin fired a school aid without benefits claiming she “broke the wrist of her DC37 Representative during a break in a disciplinary meeting.”  This claim was contradicted by a secret recording made by the school aide, and played in court. (Ms. Adrian Floyd: 646-329-6957)  The judge sternly admonished Mr. Smolkin and his DOE lawyer, and restored the benefits to the school aid. Mr. Smolkin was never called to account for these actions, including perjuring himself under oath.  Mr. Smolkin was found to have misused school funds by paying his secretary from school funds to edit and type his graduate school research papers, according to the Conflict of Interest Board. (See Exhibit E)  He was fined and had to return the money. It is truly stunning to anyone familiar with these cases, that Mr. Smolkin has not been removed.

Please see Exhibit F for another anonymous letter found in my personnel file, purporting to be a disgruntled female student. The letter contains gay-baiting, and is written in “Ebonics”.  The handwriting expert compared the writing with the original Smolkin samples, and found it highly likely” that the authors are the same.

Please see Exhibit G  Business cards of investigators involved in this case

Please see Exhibit H for the arbitrator’s award regarding the 3020a charges against me brought by Mr. Smolkin, and the dismissal of those charges as a reason to fire me.

Please contact me if you would need more detail on any of the above, or if you would like further documentation.  If you Google “Smolkin/ McPherrin”, you can discover what has already been reported in the media. (See Exhibit I for samples)

 Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Michael P. McPherrin

ICEUFT and Perdido Street Weigh in on the New Agreement

Two informative views on the new agreement:

Peridio Street School
At First Glance, A Disastrous Contract Deal Made By Michael Mulgrew, UFT
A few years of zeroes, they threw the ATR's under the bus, they just enshrined merit pay and they are set to allow 200 schools to operate without UFT contractual rules, allowing for longer schools days/years and other "innovations":

The new contract would begin, retroactively, on November 1, 2009, and provide retroactive four percent pay raises for 2009 and 2010–comparable to the increases granted to many of the city’s other workers under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Teachers will then receive a 10 percent raise over seven years, plus a $1,000 bonus, beginning in May 2013 and extending through October 31, 2018, with workers receiving an added 1 percent in 2013, 2014 and 2015, 1.5 percent in 2016, 2.5 percent in May 2017 and 3 percent in 2018. The terms must still be approved by the union’s full membership.

The retroactive portion of the raises will amount to at least $3.4 billion, including pension costs, according to Doug Turetsky of the city’s nonpartisan Independent Budget Office.

In exchange, the union has agreed to more than $1 billion in health care savings, according to the administration. The savings would be achieved not through increased contributions, however, but through measures including an audit to make sure only those eligible are receiving benefits and centralized drug purchases. If the same reforms were extended across the workforce, the city claims they would yield $3.4 billion in savings–”effectively bending the curve of rising healthcare costs for the first time.”

The deal also includes reforms to various rules, including changes to the “Absent Teacher Reserve pool,” where teachers are sent if they can’t find work in city classrooms. The new contract will include rules that allow the city to permanently fire teachers if, for instance, they are twice returning to the pool for poor performance by principals. The rules also expand the definition of sexual misconduct, which will make it easier for the city to fire teachers for actions like inappropriate touching or texting, officials said.

The new rules also pave the way for merit pay for high quality teachers, creating new categories of “Ambassador” ” Model” and “Master” teachers, who will earn between $7,000 and $20,000 more a year. A new “Hard to Staff School Differential” would also pay teachers at the city’s 150 toughest schools an extra $5,000 a year.

As part of the deal, the UFT has also agreed to allow 200 schools to operate outside of existing DOE regulations and union rules, allowing the city to experiment with a longer school year and school day, among other changes.

The deal also requires twice as many parent-teacher conferences each year, and changes to teacher evaluations.
I don't see much to like here - who gets to be the "innovative" schools with the longer school days/years?

Is there more pay for that gig?

We know many principals want nothing to do with veteran ATR's, certainly because they cost more, but also because they're not as easy to control as younger teachers.

By giving ATR's two shots at a permanent gig or subjecting them to termination, they have essentially thrown most of them under the bus.

And what exactly will this merit pay proposal be based on, the one that pays up to $20K for being a "Master"?

Will this be based on the current evaluation system, which is a @#$%ing mess?
No wonder the other unions were reported to be pissed about Mulgrew's dealings - the UFT took zeroes after the old pattern (which is the 8% for 2009 and 2010) and didn't get another salary increase until May 2013.

That means little retro for the other unions, since most of the years they went without a contract will become zeroes in the pattern set by the UFT.

Wow - I will look some more at this deal, but what I see in the details so far is an absolute disaster.
No wonder the PBA declared an impasse with the city today - they didn't want to take the same shit deal Mulgrew is hailing.

Alas, it seems the UFT will set the pattern and all the other unions will get shit deals too.

I often say if you're a betting person, it pays to bet the worst possible outcome when Mulgarten and the Unity crew are handling things.

It looks like even with a fairly friendly mayor on the other side of the negotiation table, Mulgarten and the Unity crew screwed us - and the other unions in the city too.

That's why other union leaders are distancing themselves from this deal:

“I was surprised at how well the administration’s negotiators did considering the hand they were dealt,” said one labor source, who said the city had won “an incredible amount of leverage to win work rule reform, more healthcare givebacks, a change in pension payments, whatever’s on their agenda” with other unions.

And some were already trying to distance themselves by pushing against a one-size-fits-all approach.

“Every union’s members have different needs,” said Al O’Leary, a spokesman for police union chief Patrick Lynch, asserting that a deal “that satisfies one union’s needs may not satisfy the needs of other unions.”
I'm thinking it's time for a new UFT slogan:



Four members of the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) sat through a propaganda love fest this afternoon as UFT Chief Financial Officer Dave Hickey, Staff Director Leroy Barr and then President Michael Mulgrew explained our new contract to rousing applause from the Unity/New Action faithful on the negotiating committee. Now that the contract is done there is no need to be confidential.

I asked the President to show us a copy of the Memorandum of Agreement but there was none. However, the UFT machine is spinning faster than any Wascomat washing machine.

UFT members in the new contract will get the 4 % + 4% salary increases that other city workers unions received back in 2009 and 2010, but we won't see the money until 2015-2020.

For the seven years from 2011 to 2018, where the UFT will set the pattern for raises that other city unions will now follow, we will be getting a total of 10% in raises for seven years plus a $1,000 signing bonus. That works out to less than 1.5% per year.

Specifically, this is how the CFO crunched the numbers:

2009-2010 = 4% raise
2010-2011 = 4% raise
2011-2012 = 0% raise but we will get a $1,000 signing bonus if we ratify the contract.
Nov 2012- April 2013 = 0% raise
May 1, 2013 = 1% raise
May 1, 2014 = 1% raise
May 1, 2015 = 1% raise
May 1, 2016 = 1% raise
May 1, 2017 = 2.5% raise
May 1, 2018 = 3.0% raise
Total: 18% (compounded it will be a little more)

For those of you expecting to go back in the fall and at least have the 4%+4% added to your pay, forget it.

The 4 % + 4% that other unions received in 2009-10 will not be added to our salary schedules until the increases kick in one year at a time starting in 2015. Here is how the 8% will be added in:

May 1, 2015 = 2%
May 1, 2016 = 2%
May 1, 2017 = 2%
May 1, 2018 = 2%

All we get added to our salaries now if we ratify is 1% for 2013 followed by 1% for 2014 and the $1,000 bonus.

The 8% won't be added to our salary schedule fully until 2018 and the retroactive money the city owes us since 2009 won't be coming soon either. Here is the schedule for the retroactive payments:

October 1, 2015- 12.5% lump sum
October 1, 2016 - Nothing
October 1, 2017 - 12.5% lump sum
October 1, 2018 - 25% lump sum
October 1, 2019 - 25% lump sum
October 1, 2020 - 25% lump sum

We will not be made "whole" for Bloomberg denying us the raises that other city unions got 5 years ago until 2020.

Retro delayed is really Retro denied!

Anyone who Retires Before July 1, 2015 Wins Big
The winners in this deal are anyone who retired from 2009 through now and anyone else who retires between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015. They will get all of their retro pay calculated and get it at once. People who already retired will have their pensions recalculated as well as receiving retro payments for the time they worked.

Anyone who retires July 1, 2015 or after will get the deferred payments the same way as active personnel and will be waiting until 2020 to be made "whole".

Only people who resigned or were terminated won't get retro.

Top salary now $100,049 will crawl up to $119,565 by May of 2018.

President Mulgrew arrived at around 5:20 pm after hanging around at the mayor's press conference and here are some of the other details he let out.

Some union had to settle first and it was us.

Here is a breakdown of some of the non-economic issues.

We will go down from being rated on 22 Danielson components to 8. (No word on the number of observations.) Artifacts are out.

On Measures of Students Learning if we want, we will only be graded based on students we teach.

The DOE and UFT agreed to set up (yet another) Committee on excessive paperwork. This one will be half UFT and half DOE with a mediator. Cases can also be taken to arbitration.

Extended Time
No additional time added to the day. The extended time, faculty, grade/department conferences, open school night time will be reconfigured. We will work two extra open school evenings which will go from 2.5 to 3 hours.

There will be a default schedule on how to use the extended time each week and preapproved School Based Options.

Multi session, District 75 and 79 schools will keep their current time schedules.

Each core subject will have a curriculum that we must use. Unit plans will be no longer than a page.

Merit Pay
There will be a career ladder i.e. merit pay.
Ambassador teachers will earn $7,500 more to visit other schools.
Model teachers will earn $7,500 more to be model teachers at their own schools.
Master teachers will earn $20,000 to help other teachers.

PROSE Innovative Schools
Schools can opt in with a 65% vote to cancel major parts of the contract. This can be up to 200 schools.

Absent Teacher Reserves must show up for interviews. ATRs will sent to vacancies in schools. There will be no termination for time in the ATR pool but there is an offer of a severance package.

If two principals document unprofessional behavior, the documentation can be used for a special 3020A process just for ATRS. This will not be for performance and it will be a one day hearing which could lead to termination.

Schools will be forgiven for ATR salaries.

$5,000 will go to teachers who go to a hard to staff school.

There is a healthcare cost savings plan from the Municipal Labor Committee that must be approved. (We don't know how the cost savings will be achieved but we will keep our basic plans for free.)

For teachers rated ineffective, the validators sent in the second year to validate an ineffective rating will now be educators: teachers and administrators.

Where is the Memorandum of Agreement?
I asked the president when we would be seeing the full Memorandum of Agreement in writing. He said he didn't know but Staff Director Leroy Barr said it would be out soon. Mulgrew asked for a motion to recommend the contract for approval. I abstained as I would never vote on something I haven't seen. The Unity faithful followed their caucus obligatons and all voted in the affirmative while the New Action people went along with Unity too. The other MORE members abstained silently during the vote but I screamed out for my abstention to be counted.

I leave it to you to decide what we should do. I tried to keep the adjectives to a minimum in this piece and just report what was said.

We couldn't lose on the 4% + 4% because of pattern bargaining (one city union settles on a percentage salary increase and all the unions follow that pattern) but allowing the city stretch it out so that money we were owed since 2009 won't be fully paid back until 2020 really lets the city off the hook.

As for setting the pattern of 10% over 7 years, this is an abysmally low pattern to establish (we did better monetarily under the anti union Mayors Bloomberg and Guilliani). I can understand why other labor unions in the city are angry with Mulgrew, particularly when it is considered how much surplus revenue the city has. We should have been able to achieve non monetary gains for loaning the city our money and setting a very low pattern but instead we surrendered as usual.

The devil will be in the details on the ATR agreement but I see this contract as a real missed opportunity. Here's hoping the members will ignore the Unity spin cycle and see through it.