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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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