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Saturday, July 25, 2015

UFT President Asked AFT President Randi Weingarten To Donate To Mayor's Nonprofit Lobbying Arm While The UFT Negotiated a New Contract With City Hall

Bill de Blasio

But it's not a conflict of interest. Huh?

Betsy Combier

Mulgrew details union's gift to de Blasio effort

The teachers' union president says it was he, and not the mayor, who asked Randi Weingarten to make huge AFT donation to Mr. de Blasio's nonprofit lobbying arm while the UFT was negotiating a new contract with City Hall. Not a conflict, he insists.


United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, whose parent union donated $350,000 to Mayor Bill de Blasio's nonprofit in the midst of contract talks in April, says the mayor never asked for the money—and that accepting it wasn't a conflict of interest.
UFT President Mike Mulgrew
"He keeps the two things separate," Mr. Mulgrew said in an interview Thursday. "We don't bring the two things up at the same time."
The donation, on April 9, came less than a month before Messrs. de Blasio and Mulgrew struck a nine-year, $9 billion contract, which included back pay and raises. The same day the $350,000 flowed in, Mr. de Blasio's nonprofit, Campaign For One New York, which was running low on money, spent exactly $350,000 on politically helpful television commercials that celebrated Albany's approval of pre-K funding for the city.
Mr. Mulgrew said the prospect of the AFT making a donation did not come up at a March 8 meeting. Mr. de Blasio's schedule shows that he met with Mr. Mulgrew and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten for a lunch that Saturday at Harlem's Red Rooster restaurant. They were accompanied by a top de Blasio aide, Emma Wolfe.
The meeting was a month before Ms. Weingarten's AFT made the $350,000 donation, and less than two months before the Mr. Mulgrew's UFT struck the $9 billion contract deal with the mayor. Mr. Mulgrew says the conversation focused on Mr. de Blasio's battle to win pre-K funding from the Legislature. "It was more about strategy," Mr. Mulgrew said.
Asked if Mr. de Blasio or his team had ever asked for a donation to the mayor's nonprofit, Mr. Mulgrew said, flatly, "No." A spokesman for Mr. de Blasio, meanwhile, said there was no talk of a donation at the Harlem meal.
"Absolutely not," the spokesman said. "This was a substantive meeting that focused solely on legislative strategy."
Two days after the pow-wow, in a March 10 appearance on "Morning Joe," Mr. de Blasio said he would be open to accepting pre-K funding from the Legislature without an income tax hike—a major shift in strategy.
Mr. Mulgrew did say that he had asked Ms. Weingarten, herself a former UFT president, to help with making a donation to Campaign For One New York. "Of course I asked Randi to assist on that," Mr. Mulgrew said.
One oddity of the donation's timing is that the state budget containing the pre-K funding passed in late March—and the AFT donation was not made until afterwards, on April 9. Mr. Mulgrew said the donation was not intended for any specific purpose other than to promote pre-K. "We were just donating to the fund itself," Mr. Mulgrew said.
Chirlane McCray
The $350,000, however, was immediately spent by Campaign For One New York on television ads featuring first lady Chirlane McCray touting the funding of universal pre-K as a "landmark win for New York City." The New York Times reported that the nearly $1 million ad blitz, which was made possible by the AFT donation, was meant to help the mayor "regain command of his political message as he approaches his 100th day in office." (Mr. de Blasio's poll numbers had been hurt, in part, by a multimillion dollar charter school ad campaign targeting the mayor.)
Mr. Mulgrew said it had simply taken time for the AFT to line up the $350,000—the biggest donation given to Mr. de Blasio's nonprofit since its creation following his mayoral election in November. He added that the money would be helpful for a "second phase" of Mr. de Blasio's pre-k push—urging the public to sign up for the program—and that Mr. de Blasio's $950,000 ad blitz made New Yorkers aware of the program.
Mr. Mulgrew said it didn't make sense for the UFT to stop pursuing this part of its agenda just because it was simultaneously in contract talks with the mayor. "We're very involved with pre-K," Mr. Mulgrew said. "That's a natural thing for us."
A charter-school group has called for a city Conflicts of Interest Board investigation into the AFT donation, and the New York Post called on Mr. de Blasio to return it.

Friday, July 24, 2015

YOUPS: A Look at New Jersey's Teachers Without Assignments

Kathleen Murphy-Butler is a Newark public school teacher without a permanent position for the fall
Pool for Unassigned Teachers Swells in Newark

City struggles with what to do with hundreds of teachers on the payroll who don’t have permanent assignments

As Newark school officials struggle to fix a long troubled system, one costly issue looms large: what to do with hundreds of teachers on the payroll who don’t have permanent assignments.
This pool of “educators without placement’’ rose to 453 people in June—or 15% of Newark teachers, according to a list from the Newark Teachers Union. Their total annual pay: $35 million.
Some are stuck in the pool due to poor ratings. Many are there because they balked at working longer hours in a school slated for an overhaul, or lost their positions when a school was revamped.
District officials say no one is idle; they work as substitutes, aides and other helpers. About 200 drew salaries topping $90,000, according to the union’s list. Some have lingered in this limbo for more than a year.
John Abeigon, President of the Newark Teacher's Union
Principals, who are required to hire from the pool to fill most vacancies, say they aren’t free to recruit the best faculty. Taxpayers are paying for staff that district officials have said could be cut. And teachers complain they don’t know where they will be put for temporary stints, and sometimes land in slots outside their expertise.
“The district has created a crisis,” said union spokesman Michael Maillaro. The pool “creates a bad situation for everyone.”
The pool grew out of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s efforts to make Newark a national model for education reform. The state-operated district has closed, merged or reconfigured dozens of schools over the past three years. Many teachers lost their posts as principals gained more autonomy in hiring and student enrollment dropped.
Recently departed superintendent Cami Anderson has said the pool served as a mechanism to avoid firing any high-performers: If the district had a reduction-in-force among teachers, seniority rules would protect tenured veterans and force her to cut newer staff, no matter who was most effective. So excess teachers were sent to the pool to avoid layoffs. She repeatedly asked for the state’s permission to “right-size” the faculty by waiving seniority rules. In the spring, she estimated that performance-based layoffs would save $10 million.
The pool has ballooned since March, when the district said it had 243 teachers. Ms. Anderson called it a burden on the $990 million budget, which was already strained by rising health-care fees and allocations to charter schools. On Tuesday, the district said that 92 clerks, security guards, custodians and others were being let go to help plug a budget gap.
Newark Teachers Union officials say most teachers in the excess pool earned good ratings and getting them lasting positions is a priority in contract negotiations. District spokeswoman Brittany Parmley said the district was taking steps to move them into classroom jobs and ensure all students had strong teachers.
But some school leaders say requiring principals to recruit from the pool can hurt children academically. Ms. Anderson reported in the spring that teachers in the pool were six times as likely to be rated ineffective as those with permanent spots.
Dominique Lee, founder of BRICK Academy, (pictured above) which runs two district schools in distressed neighborhoods, said it takes unique skills to nurture children facing hunger, inadequate housing and fractured families.
“In terms of finding the right teachers for our buildings, that population has diminished from the pool,” he said. “You want to give schools autonomy to find the right staff.”
The district’s new state-appointed superintendent, Chris Cerf, took charge this month and declined to comment on the issue, saying he was still reviewing it.
Some educators say the chaotic churn among faculty deprives children of caring adults who know them. Kathleen Murphy-Butler, an elementary school teacher and union official in the pool, said she used to have more than 200 parent contact numbers in her phone. Last year, she learned on Aug. 28 where to report in September, and started a temporary post at a new school without knowing any families.
“It puts the kids at a disadvantage,” she said. “In the inner city, parent support is the most important thing.”
The pool swelled recently due to the cyclical flux between school years; many teachers are expected to find jobs in the fall. Many teachers, however, are there because they balked at longer hours in schools slated for overhauls. Under a union-district agreement, teachers joined the pool if they didn’t agree to a stipend, typically $3,000, for working about an hour more daily, several Saturdays and two weeks in the summer. A union spokesman said some who kept to contract hours and left at 3:05 p.m. were derided by other staffers as “Three-oh-fivers.”
Some in the pool say they’re contributing as substitutes and that principals don’t hire them because doing so would shift their salaries from the central office’s budget to the school’s budget.
In certain ways, the pool resembles New York City’s Absent Teacher Reserve, where tenured teachers linger after school closures or disciplinary problems. In New York City, the education department said one out of 75 teachers was in the reserve in the spring. In Newark, by the union’s June count, about one out of seven teachers was in the excess pool.
Newark officials say all the excess teachers are given tasks so the pool is nothing like New York City’s notorious rubber room, where teachers used to sit idle while waiting for disputes over dismissals to be resolved.
Write to Leslie Brody at

Bigger than Bridgegate? Christie’s $25 million in no-show Newark school jobs

Christie: You gotta problem with wasting taxpayers' money?
Christie: You gotta problem with wasting taxpayers’ money?
Gov. Chris Christie’s operation of the Newark schools wastes some $25 million a year in public funds to pay teachers who don’t teach–teachers who spend all day in so-called “rubber rooms” or at home, doing nothing to earn the money they are paid. It’s something he’ll never bring up in his presidential campaign trips to Iowa or New Hampshire–but New Jersey’s governor is OK with no-show school jobs in the state’s largest city.

This site has acquired a document, dubbed “Managed Choice,” that lists the names of 402 instructional employees who spend their days doing nothing and getting paid for it because they have lost their positions but cannot be taken off the payroll because most have perfectly good records.  Ninety percent of the instructors are tenured. They are called “educators without placement”–or EWPS. They did not choose to be idle and they hate it–but it was Christie’s decision to put them there.
At a conservative estimate of an average salary of $60,000 per teacher, that represents some $25 million a year in taxpayer funds flushed down the sewer of corruption and ineptitude that is Christie’s control of the Newark schools.  The figure is probably much larger because many of the EWPS teachers are experienced and at the higher end of the pay scale.
The list also does not include the scores of administrators who also have been transformed into “educators without placement”–or EWPS. That would add millions to the money wasted by Christie’s agent in Newark, state-imposed superintendent Cami Anderson.

Anderson’s administration faces a deficit of  at least $57 million this year, a fiscal hole the Glen Ridge resident managed to dig for herself and the Newark schools in her more than three-year tenure. Christie, who constantly praises what a great job Anderson does,  rewarded her wasteful spending and ineptitude this year by giving her another three-year contract. Christie owns the corruption in the Newark school administration. Unlike his claims about Fort Lee and the blockade of the George Washington Bridge, his stubby fingerprints are all over this scandal. He knows about this waste of public funds and he has encouraged it to continue.
One administrator EWP is Tony Motley, the former principal of the Bragaw Avenue School, an institution handed over to a privately-operated charter school chain whose principals have close business and personal ties to Anderson, former state Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf, and former Mayor Cory Booker, now a United States senator. Motley, a vice president of the union  representing school administrators, was one of five principals removed from their jobs early this year for raising questions about Anderson’s “One Newark” plan. He never got his job back.
A few weeks ago, Motley told me he did “nothing” in his EWPS rubber room at 2 Cedar Street, Anderson’s headquarters. At times, he worked on his doctoral dissertation, he said.
The EWPS list for teachers is dated July 31, 2014. Some of the names may have been removed from that list–others have been added.  Earlier this year, the Newark Teachers Union estimated that at least 300 teachers were EWPs so the number is apparently growing. No precise tally as of this date is available but hundreds of teacher and other school employees, through no personal fault of their own,  are drawing paychecks without working.
The document bears this warning  in, appropriately, red ink: “**Confidential . Internal use ONLY. Please do NOT redistribute** Internal Candidates – Available for Managed Choice.”
Hespe: "Rubber rooms? What a hoot!"
Hespe: “Rubber rooms? What a hoot!

It’s no surprise Anderson would want to keep this list confidential, a secret. It is evidence both of massive waste of public funds and her ineptitude–all on Chris Christie’s watch. Neither he nor his education commissioner, David Hespe, has done anything to stop it. They are complicit.
EWPS are not teachers who have been brought up on tenure charges–or suspended. Most of these educational employees are in good standing. The huge list of unused personnel is a direct result of what Cami Anderson’s backers in the media call her “bold and sensible” reforms–like, for example, so-called “Renew schools.”
Anderson is claiming “Renew schools” are doing well–and The Star-Ledger unquestioningly echoes the boast–but she refuses to release the statistics that would prove her right or wrong. What is known about “Renew” and other “redesigned” schools is that principals willing to back Anderson are given a free hand in firing teachers without cause and sending them to EWPS central. They hire their friends and the people they don’t like go off to rubber rooms and collect salaries without providing educational the services they are capable of doing–and licensed to do.
Worse, Anderson is committed to hiring scores of Teach for America (TFA) graduates–and, indeed, she has been hiring them while sending veteran teachers to EWPs centers. Anderson herself was a TFA executive and the organization supports her goals of closing neighborhood schools and expanding charters.
They can’t be taken off the payroll because they haven’t done anything wrong–they apparently just haven’t struck the fancy of principals who want to “renew” their staffs.
Anderson tried to rid the schools of these teachers last year when she sought to obtain a waiver of lay off procedures from the state education department. Hespe hid the request in his vest pocket, never accepting or rejecting it–but that doesn’t mean he won’t bring the waiver up again.
The expensive transformation of teachers into professional zombies hanging around the Limbos of schools and 2 Cedar Street reveals a pattern that proves it’s part of Anderson’s distorted policies. The dismissal of teachers is not random and is not spread equally among all schools in all wards of the city. Rather, many teachers have been let go from schools in the South, West, and Central Wards that have received the Christie regime’s special attention, while the North and East Wards generally are untouched:
  • Louis Munoz Marin–25
  • William Horton–25
  • West Side–20
  • Weequahic–18
  • Newark Vocational–17
  • Belmont-Runyon-15
  • Speedway–14
  • Barringer Arts and Humanities–13
  • Newark Bridges–13
  • Bragaw–12
  • Louse Spencer–12
  • Madison Street–12
  • Central–12
  • Shabazz–11
  • Roseville–10
  • Flagg–10
The types of teachers assigned to the rubber rooms also reflect what Anderson is doing to disrupt Newark’s neighborhood public schools.  By type of teacher, these are the most likely to lose their positions to “renewal” or “redesign”:
  • Elementary school teachers–90
  • Special education teachers–61
  • Guidance counselors–23
  • Physical education teachers–19
  • Social workers–16
  • Mathematics teachers–15
  • Librarians–13
  • Art teachers–13
  • Technology coordinators–13
Some might also see a pattern in the rate of participation of assistant superintendents in the exiling of teachers to the EWPS gulag. Gary Beidleman presided over the most–with 79, followed by Roger Leon, 59, and Brad Haggerty, 51.
Bros in wasting taxpayer money
Bros in wasting taxpayer money
Anderson’s rubber rooms are only part of the story of how state control cheats Newark’s students and taxpayers from throughout New Jersey. Another side is the failure of Christie’s agent to provide appropriately licensed instructors for Newark’s children. In its next installment, this blog will introduce readers to a teacher who, after spending two years as a EWPS is now teaching outside his license–way outside his license.

'Youps': Newark's expensive, excess school staff
By Joan Whitlow/For The Star-Ledger The Star-Ledger
on February 26, 2012 at 6:55 AM, updated February 26, 2012
They are called "Employees Without Placement Sites," or EWPS, which is pronounced "youps," which rhymes with "oops," which is unfortunately appropriate.
The Newark school district is paying $8.5 million a year in salaries and benefits to 84 youps: tenured teachers, guidance counselors, social workers and other personnel, including two vice principals and two department chairs, none of whom could get a principal to hire them into the reconstituted public school system.

The 84 are there because of staff reorganizations that began in September, in part, to save $7.9 million for a district with a dwindling student population. With more such changes just announced, we're going to get more youps.

Newark schools Superintendent Cami Anderson calls it the "excess pool." Those in the pool, she said, must stay on the payroll until they retire or leave for jobs outside the district because of tenure laws and union contract provisions. They aren't just sitting around, she said. They have been assigned to be long-term substitutes, an "extra pair of hands" in special education classes. I've seen a list of those in the pool -- no names, just data -- and most of them have six to 30 years of service which, given salary increments, would make them very expensive teacher aides.

I'd work 'em hard, hard enough to either get some direct benefit for the kids, or work the youps right off the payroll.

I asked the district for an assignment list to show where the youps were working. Haven't got it yet.

There used to be more than 200 in the pool. Most lost jobs because replacing half a school's staff is one of the reform options under the federal School Improvement Grants that seven Newark schools received.

Principals are supposed to interview at least two from the excess pool before hiring anyone else, Anderson said. In many cases, people aren't hired because they don't fit the need -- too many English teachers, too few vacancies in English departments, for instance.

But I hear anecdotes, like the one about the principal who had open jobs and wanted to fill them to help students prepare for the coming round of standardized tests. The principal interviewed two youps and decided it was better to have vacancies than inflict those teachers on the students.
It would be foolish to think all those in the pool are bad teachers. It would be just as foolish to believe there are no bad teachers among those left behind.

Joseph Del Grosso, the Newark Teachers Union president, (pictured above) protested that he's seen the list and that none of the teachers on it has complaints or reviews on file that would trigger tenure charges or disciplinary action.
One of the problems, I've been told, is that principals don't always write up teachers the way they should, because of everything from friendship to a belief that nothing comes of it.

"Don't blame the union," Del Grosso told me.

He said there would be no youps if the district had gone strictly by seniority, letting nontenured teachers go first, then the tenured teachers, based on least seniority. That would have been within tenure law and contract language, and would have avoided creating the pool of tenured jobless that the district must still pay, he asserted.

Yes, but it might also mean good, energetic young teachers would be lost, while teachers who had burned out long ago -- or never had the right stuff -- would be retained.
DelGrosso said, and others also told me, they don't think the use of the youps pool has been well-planned.

Educators in the district pointed out that, since schools have lost reading coaches and tutors to budget cuts, why aren't English teachers (I counted eight) in the pool assigned to fill those slots? Can we put them to work after school? On weekends?

I'm all for reform. I've seen it come and go in Newark, too often with more unintended consequences than good, stable changes. I worry about the next phase of closings and consolidations proceeding, even though no one has done the analysis to tell the results of the first phase, other than youps.
They make excellent poster children for tenure reform, but is that enough educational bang for those 8.5 million bucks?


Los Angeles Teachers Left Without Jobs After a Loophole Appears in Reed v California Settlement

Laid off ‘Reed’ teachers accusing LAUSD of exploiting a loophole


More than three dozen teachers at some of LA Unified’s lower-performing schools say their contracts are not being renewed because of a loophole in settlement of Reed vs. California, a lawsuit that tried to curb high teacher turnover in some of the city’s most challenging schools.
The settlement, made in April 2014, was aimed at addressing inequalities at 37 LA Unified schools identified as those with high teacher turnover and student drop-out rates as well as low statewide test scores.
The loophole, some of the laid off teachers say, is that instead of signing probationary contracts last year, the custom for new teachers joining the district, the Reed school teachers were asked by the district to sign “temporary” employment contracts, which expired on June 30.
Without recognizing the difference, they later learned that the contracts were not being renewed, and the district plans to replace the teachers with displaced teachers from non-Reed schools. Displaced teachers are those who are moved out of their positions by virture of shrinking student population.
Repeated efforts to gain an explanation from the district were unsuccessful. Nor did the LA teachers union, UTLA, respond to a request seeking comment.
Arising out of a 2010 lawsuit that named for plaintiff Sharail Reed, the settlement involved the district, the ACLU and UTLA, and called for more assistant principals, counselors and special education support staff, greater professional development for teachers and administrators and bonuses to retain and recruit principals.
The move surprised some Reed school principals, pushing some to lobby the district to keep the teachers they were going to lose.
“I think if you ask any of the principals, they would say they would have preferred to keep the teachers who were on the temporary contracts,” said James Monroe High School principal Chris Rosas. His North Hills school lost two teachers this summer, and both were trained specifically to teach at “Reed schools.” The incoming replacements will have to be re-trained. “I would love to have kept my teachers,” he said.
The principal didn’t recall that the new teachers were hired with temporary contracts rather than probationary contracts and said he “thought they were safe.”
A principal at another Reed school who asked not to be identified said that school was also losing teachers who did not know they had signed “temporary” contracts.
Meanwhile, LAUSD will replace the “temporary” teachers from among the pool of 800 other displaced teachers, many of whom may not have experience with Reed schools.
“I guess I was an idiot when I signed the temporary contract, I didn’t think much of it at the time,” said Glenn Sacks, a social studies teacher whose contract was not renewed at Monroe High School. He is an experienced teacher, but new to LAUSD. He said he was surprised he got laid off.
“It seems like this is a loophole that the district is using,” Sacks said. “If it doesn’t violate the letter of the law, it certainly violates the spirit of the Reed school agreement.”
Sacks attended special Reed school training that took place over three days during the Spring break. It was a time he also had a huge stack of essays to grade during the holiday.
“I enjoy teaching at the school, I felt like I was having an impact,” he said. “We were teaching children of gardeners, hotel maids and cleaning women from families on the bottom of the economic ladder. Some of the kids did not speak English when they came to the school.”
Sacks said he chose to be at Monroe High. “I felt a challenge to impact those at the lower end of the socio-economic scale,” he said.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Former Chief Executive of the NYC DOE Office of Labor Relations, David Brodsky, and His Decision on Secret Recordings and Peter Lamphere's Special Complaint (2010)

David Brodsky has moved on, but many of his decisions made while he was Chief Executive at the Office of Labor Relations, are very interesting - at least to readers of this blog.
David Brodsky
Rumor has it that he is at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.

In any case, the below decision written - or at least signed - by David Brodsky says some interesting things about secret recordings and what constitutes harassment of teachers. The Special Complaint was filed by 20 teachers at Bronx Science, including Chalkbeat writer Peter Lamphere, who claimed that in 2008 Assistant Principal Rosemarie Jahoda repeatedly harassed them. They also charged that principal Valerie Reidy wrongly denied them tenure and gave arbitrary “U” ratings.

See also a 2012 PERB charge of bad faith against the UFT for your summer enjoyment.

In many ways I already miss David, with whom I met many times at Tweed and at 49-51 Chambers Street, 6th Floor. He was always diplomatic in what he said and acted completely as a gentleman at all times, even when he disagreed with what was being said. Good luck in your new position, Mr. Brodsky!

Oh - by the way, 3020-a hearings and the NYC DOE Office of Legal Services/General Counsel/Labor Relations moved July 17, 2015 to their new address:

100 Gold Street, 3rd Floor

After 13 years of going to the 6th floor for hearings, I will miss:

1. sitting in the waiting room and hearing the receptionist - often Sylvia Cheeks - demanding that no one sit near the reception desk or by the Xerox machine in fear of someone seeing the computer screen (with non-DOE websites) - soooo ridiculous, because despite the screen anyone in the room can see what is on the computer, even if you were sitting at the far wall;

2. the secret room where certain attorneys hide cups for when there were no cups/no DOE employee would give you a cup for the water;

3. Hearing Room 621, where, several years ago, the window sprung open and the Ubiqus equipment used for taping the hearing fell out and down to the street below (no one was hurt). The window was subsequently locked for years, then unlocked. How we who worked in that room kept the window shut/open depending on the air in the room;

4. Finding a room in which to speak with my clients hoping that Sylvia would not suddenly barge in and tell us to immediately get out, as the rooms on the 6th floor belong to the NYC Department of Education, and we don't work for the DOE. Huh? My clients are all DOE employees....I guess she forgot.

5. The wonderful old safe that must have weighed a ton or two, by the elevators (West bank) on the 7th floor. I did not get a picture of it, but if anyone could take a picture and email it to me I would appreciate it!! My email:

I will add to this list as more funny incidents come to mind. There are a lot of them.

Betsy Combier

Department of Education
Joel I. Klein Chancellor


 April 23, 2010

 Ms. Carol Wittenberg Fact-Finder
620 Eighth Avenue 34th Floor
New York, NY 10018

Mr. Howard Solomon
Director, Grievance Department United Federation of Teachers 52 Broadway, 16th Floor
New York, NY   10004-1603

RE:        United Federation of Teachers, Local 2, AFT, AFL-CIO (Peter Lamphere et al., Special Complaint) and the Department of Education of the City School District of the City of New York

AAA Case No. 13 390 01347 09 OLRCB File No. 09-25389

UFT File No. A-072-C16485

 Dear Ms. Wittenberg and Mr. Solomon:

In accordance with Article 23 ("Special Complaints") of the collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") covering teachers employed by the Department, I have been duly designated to issue the final Department determination in the above-referenced matter.  Upon consideration of the Fact Finder's Report and Recommendations  ("Report")1 dated April  15, 20102 in this case, I am issuing this letter as the Chancellor's determination under Article 23G of the governing CBA.

 In sum, the Department has determined to reject the Report in all respects, except as expressly stated otherwise below.  Upon review of the available record including the same surreptitious audio recording that was submitted to the Fact-Finder, I conclude that the Report is not fairly based upon all the evidence in this case. Equally important, the Report did not address major legal arguments or apply governing legal principles in this case and is thus fundamentally flawed.

My review of the Fact-Finder's Report is in accordance with the declared objective outlined in the preamble of the Special Complaints section of the CBA. This process is designed "to encourage prompt and informal resolution of special complaints not covered by the grievance procedure ..." Thus, I agree with the Fact-Finder to the extent she concluded that pedagogical issues or matters involving the implementation of department/school policies or procedures, assignments, postings, or disciplinary matters are inappropriate for the Special Complaint procedure.  See Report, p. 2. Any challenges the union seeks to present involving these issues must be lodged in other forums, whether under available CBA grievance procedures such as the reorganization grievance process; the separate non-contractual processes for review of pedagogical ratings and discontinuances; or elsewhere.

 Thus, after listing six categories of issues the Special Complainants sought to raise in this matter, the Fact-Finder noted that only one such category, i.e., alleged "creation of a hostile work environment through the harassment and intimidation of teachers, particularly untenured  teachers" was "at the heart of the matter."  Report, p. 2.  The remaining issues represented disagreement over pedagogical matters that are inappropriate subjects for determination in a Special Complaint proceeding.  As to the issues considered by the Fact-Finder, I completely reject her conclusions that Assistant Principal Rosemarie Jahoda3 harassed "certain teachers, including but not limited to Elizabeth Bellantoni, Carolyn Abbott, and Nancy Phillip" and that "in addition to specific acts of intimidation ... the totality of Jahoda's treatment of teachers also constitutes harassment." Report, p. 7.

Valerie Reidy
 I note that, as recognized by the Fact-Finder, Principal Valerie Reidy identified the Mathematics Department as needing improvement in academics and being student centered.  In her attempt to address its deficiencies, Principal Reidy hired Ms. Jahoda as the school's assistant principal for math department in August 2007.  At Principal Reidy's suggestion, Assistant Principal Jahoda focused her efforts to provide instructional support to six newer teachers to the school. Report, p. 3.4   Instead of being open to her directions, a group of the newer teachers resisted Assistant Principal Jahoda's instructions and sought the assistance of the more senior members of the math department, who had mentored them prior to Assistant Principal Jahoda's arrival at the school.   The record further shows that the more senior teachers were also resistant to change and supervision themselves and often treated Assistant Principal Jahoda, herself a new supervisor, with rudeness and disrespect that at times became extreme.

The Fact-Finder appears to largely justify her conclusions regarding Assistant Principal Jahoda's tone and manner in her dealings with the teachers based on the testimony of three teachers; various unsworn written statements submitted by other special complainants; and, most significantly, on a surreptitious audio recording introduced by the union on its rebuttal case.

Union Exhibit 21. In fact, as evidenced by the Report's Fact-Finding discussion devoted to this surreptitious recording, there can be no doubt that it was heavily relied upon by the Fact-Finder. Accordingly, I also reviewed this recording and have concluded that it was unfairly considered for more than the limited purpose for which it was offered but, in any case, does not support the Fact-Finder's  conclusions.

In fact, the recording shows, in context of the entire record, that teacher Nancy Philip wanted to have a fellow teacher accompany her to a post-observation conference with Assistant Principal Jahoda.  However, there is no contractual right for such an arrangement regarding a non-disciplinary conference such as the post-observation meeting in question.  Further, Assistant Principal Jahoda was confronted by a group of teachers who suddenly appeared on the scene, and Ms. Jahoda felt it necessary to call the Principal for assistance.  Thus, while it is not surprising that Assistant Principal's "tone with the teachers was confrontational and defensive and, at times, her voice was raised," see Report, p. 5, this is hardly evidence of harassment of the teachers.

More accurately, the recording shows that a group of teachers walked into the meeting to challenge and intimidate a new Assistant Principal.  Even accepting the finding of the Fact­ Finder concerning that Assistant Principal Jahoda's tone and manner, such behavior does not rise to the level of harassment under the parties' contractual complaint process.  See UFT v. Board of Education, (Dr. Arlene Bloom), AAA# l339 0515 88, Arbitrator Weinstock (1988) pp. 18-19, which held that a principal's impatience and annoyance, even though it exceeded the bounds of propriety, did not rise to the level of harassment or discrimination.

I further find that the Special Complainants' withholding of their 18 months of surreptitious recordings taint the union's entire case presentation and demonstrates their motives with regard
to Principal Reidy's attempts to resolve this matter.  Eighteen months ofrecordings would have surely supported the union's claim of consistent harassment of the entire math department, yet
only one was introduced into evidence.  Beyond that, Jeremy Shahom ("Shahom") testified that
he still has most of the recordings in his possession.  Thus, he and the other Special Complainants and/or the union chose to withhold rather than submit their 18 months ofrecordings of virtually
all relevant events in this matter.  Clearly, those recordings would have been the best evidence of the interactions between the teachers, Assistant Principal Jahoda and Principal Reidy in this case.  By contrast, much of the Fact-Finder's determinations, which included crediting Philip's testimony that was clearly contradicted by fellow Special Complainant Shahom, are based on conflicting accounts of events that could have easily been reviewed by listening to the actual recordings themselves.  As Assistant Principal Jahoda disputed these claims, the recordings would have
easily avoided any speculation or subjective determinations as to what occurred.  Accordingly,
the Department's attorneys maintained that, under governing case law reflecting principles of fundamental fairness, an adverse inference should be drawn by the Fact-Finder that no alleged incident of verbal harassment rose even to the level of the one recording submitted, and even that did not demonstrate harassment. See supra.

However, the Report does not address this point in any way.

I thus draw the inference that the withheld audio recordings do not establish harassment any more than the one secret recording that was submitted, which itself does not establish harassment.  Accordingly, I reject any of the Fact-Finder's determinations to the contrary.

Moreover, the Fact-Finder's Report is fundamentally flawed in that it fails to consider all relevant facts regarding a number of other conclusions. For example, I reject the Fact-Finder's conclusions that requiring teachers to raise their hands before speaking at Departmental meetings is harassment or meant to intimidate. See Report, p. 4. To the contrary, the full record shows that the Mathematics Department meetings were particularly disorderly and chaotic with individuals frequently speaking over one another. The Assistant Principal took steps to bring some order into chaotic meetings.

Further, in finding that Assistant Principal Jahoda reduced teachers to tears, she misstated the number of teachers who allegedly cried and, more to the point, overlooked all the relevant circumstances.  For example, the Fact-Finder overlooked the fact that Assistant Principal Jahoda was herself concerned during her first ever post-observation conference when Special Complainant Philip broke into tears while Ms. Jahoda was attempting to critique the lesson  taught by Philips.  At no point was it alleged that Ms. Jahoda's critique was delivered in any way but the most professional and respectful manner. When that occurred, Assistant Principal Jahoda gave Philip tissues; assured her the lesson observation would be rendered null and void and not placed in her file; attempted to comfort Philip; and allowed the meeting to end. These are hardly the hallmarks of harassment.  Moreover, the Fact-Finder does not address various acts of insubordinate and rude conduct by the Special Complainants,          .
Special Complainant  Veetal's admission that she raised her voice and used obscenities when addressing Assistant Principal Jahoda. In addition, the Fact-Finder evidently credited unsworn written statements by numerous Special Complainants over sworn testimony and written affidavits, themselves prepared in response to the unsworn statements.  Among other things, these affidavits included those from non-complaining  teachers who corroborated Assistant Principal Jahoda's testimony that she did not raise her voice or harass teachers at meetings and at other times. I find that, to the extent the Fact-Finder credited unsworn statements over sworn testimony and affidavits, she committed a fundamental evidentiary error reflecting on the soundness of her conclusions.  
However, it would serve little purpose to further catalog here the numerous similar ways the Report is fundamentally flawed. Suffice it to say that I cannot find that it portrays an accurate, fair and complete picture of the relevant events, nor can I adopt most of the conclusions she has drawn from the incomplete factual picture portrayed in the Report.

 Finally, the evidence illustrates that Principal Reidy made numerous good faith attempts to reach a resolution.  During the four months between the date the special complaint was drafted and the date it was filed, the union district representative and school's chapter leader knew that the principal and assistant principal were being secretly recorded, which adversely reflects on the good faith of their efforts to work with the Principal to resolve the matter. Thus, it would be an injustice to find that the Principal did not do all within her power to afford "adequate relief," even assuming for the sake of argument that any harassment occurred.

 Based on all of the foregoing, I have determined to state the extent to which the Department of Education will adopt or reject each of the Fact-Finder's four numbered recommendations as follows:

1.     The first recommendation is rejected. The Chancellor does not have the ability to require voluntary and simultaneous transfer of pedagogical staff.  Moreover, given my rejection of the Fact-Finder's findings and conclusions above, I do not agree that it is appropriate for Assistant Principal Jahoda to leave her position at the Bronx High School of Science.

2.      The second recommendation is rejected.  Procedures involving letters placed in the files of the complainants are beyond the scope of the Fact-Finder's jurisdiction.

 3.      The third recommendation is adopted, in part.  Team building programs, to the extent there are available funds not needed for direct educational support, are often salutary. Thus, I will support Principal Reidy to the extent she chooses to engage the services of an experienced facilitator to work with the Mathematics Department and the administration to establish mutual goals and to build a cohesive unit.  The Bronx  High School of Science must overcome the disruption caused by this proceeding and begin the healing process.

 4.      The fourth recommendation is rejected. The Fact-Finder's recommendation is unclear as to "actions affecting" teachers who transferred from the school.  Only two of the complainants, Shahom and Bea Robertson, have "transferred" out of the school as outlined in the collective bargaining agreement.  All other complainants have who are no longer at the Bronx High School of Science have either retired or resigned.5 Moreover, it appears that the recommendation would affect actions that are not within the jurisdiction  of a Special Complaint Fact-Finder.

 Based on the foregoing, I reject the Fact-Finder's Report and Recommendations except as expressly stated otherwise above.

Peter Lamphere won in Court:

Former Bronx High School of Science teacher Peter Lamphere gets ‘unsatisfactory’ rating reversed in Supreme Court 

Alleged that Principal Valerie Reidy harrassed him, wrongly denied others tenure


Embattled faculty members at Bronx High School of Science are rejoicing after a state judge ruled to erase an unsatisfactory rating from a former teacher’s record.
In a decision last Wednesday, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Paul Feinman granted a petition to overturn a “U”-rating for Peter Lamphere, which he received from principal Valerie Reidy during the 2008-09 school year.
The former union chapter leader appealed it first to the Department of Education, and then to the court, in July.
“It’s a big relief to finally see some judicial review of the DOE’s actions,” said Lamphere, who now teaches at a high school in Queens. “It provides some measure of scrutiny of the DOE’s blank check that they've given to Reidy.”
Lamphere was among 20 out of 22 math teachers who filed a special complaint in 2008 against assistant principal Rosemarie Jahoda, alleging repeated harassment. They also charged that Reidy wrongly denied them tenure and gave arbitrary “U” ratings.
An independent investigator found that the teachers were being harassed.
Lamphere, a tenured teacher, decided to leave Bronx Science after receiving two “U” ratings from Reidy, the first in the 2007-08 school year and then again in the 2008-2009 school year.
“It was understood at Bronx Science that Reidy used ‘U’ ratings and denials of tenure for nonpedagogical reasons,” said Mark Kagan, a social studies teacher who left the school this year.

Lamphere said he is still awaiting another judge’s decision for his first negative evaluation.
Last week’s ruling will likely grant Lamphere the wages he did not get when he received the poor rating.
Reidy did not return repeated requests for comment.
“We are disappointed in the decision and are weighing our legal options,” said DOE spokeswoman Barbara Morgan.

Lamphere said the ruling should provide encouragement to other teachers.
“I think it should give some hope to those folks who’ve been abused by the administration at Bronx Science,” he said. “It’s possible to gain some measure of justice by speaking out.”
He added, “I would love to go back to Bronx Science, if I was confident that the academic environment there was no longer filled with the kind of persecution