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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Editorial by Betsy Combier on The Francesco Portelos Brand: Bullying, Slander and Libel

Victor Jordan, Lydia Howrilka, Lucio Celli, Francesco Portelos
Johnathan Hinesley, Al Leon, unknown person
Francesco Portelos is a person who thinks he gets ahead by threatening people. He bullies his way into your face if you try to get him to admit a mistake, or you dont buy his demand to drink the kool-aid and abide by his rules and his way, on HIS highway. No other roads are of any value.

It seems to me that there is no level of revenge that Francesco will not go to in order to hurt you, damage your career, and hurt your family and your well-being. If you oppose this king of bullying, as you will see below, you are threatened and harassed yourself, until you agree. If you do not submit to his abuse and harassment (he was fined $10,000 by Arbitrator Felice Busto for bullying and not admitting to his wrong-doing at IS 49) he will go after you, as he is doing to me.

 In the video edited by Francesco and assisted by Lydia Howrilka (whose reasons for defaming me are unknown at this time), at approximately 31.09 I am described as a "homophobe" by Jim Callaghan. Francesco sent this video to a group of people after the 9/20/15 meeting where 50 people heard it first hand, without the editing. One UFT Solidarity member who was not there (I was not there either, and could not defend myself), Lucio Celli,  sent it to me because he was my friend, and as a gay person he knew that I most certainly am not a homophobe, and he wanted to protect me from the slander. He was very upset. He was attacked by Francesco for doing that, he told me.

Another example is the following posts on an ATR Support page started by the Editor of Fidgety. Fidgety asked Francesco if he had received a teacher's approval before he sent a letter to the principal telling the principal to stop the harassment of this teacher. Francesco would not answer, so I posted my concern about this.

Use my story as your guide.
I have written at length about my background, am not an attorney and do not represent anyone nor do I give "legal" advice. But I do, and can, give you my opinion. Victims of the legal process seek me out because I have experience and have done the research on 3020-a for 12 years and this, with my 3 years in researching the rubber rooms, surpasses any other person's information about how to win UFT members their cases. I always work with Attorneys, except in 3020-a cases here a teacher wants to be pro se, and wants my assistance. Then, I am an advocate. In New York State you do not have to be an attorney to assist a teacher at 3020-a. Over the past four years a growing number of people have asked me to give them my opinion, so I started my company ADVOCATZ, and now work as a paralegal with seven attorneys from five different law firms. I do not practice law, and do not give legal advice.

As many of the readers of this blog know, I blew the whistle on a couple of principals as PTA President and member of the Executive Board, respectively (Larry Lynch, Principal of MS 54Carmen Farina, Principal of PS 6Stanley Teitel, Principal of Stuyvesant). I was investigating and getting the facts on these three, and others, way before the Francesco Portelos brand of terrorism was born. I refuse to terrorize anyone and I refuse to be terrorized.

When I started going into the teacher reassignment room ("rubber room") at 25 Chapel Street around 2003 in order to write a book about these warehouses, I often heard that I was the only one who listened to the stories, discussed the schools and principals, and even made a visit. 
My birthday card comes from 25 Chapel Street.

For 7 years (2003-2010) I studied the rubber room process. I realized instantly that the "rubber room" is not a room, but a process, and the people going through it never paid me a cent. And I am not a wealthy person. (I have four daughters, so, I am blessed).  In 2007 Randi Weingarten asked me to work for the UFT as a Special Representative, so that she could understand the how, why, and when of the individual stories of UFT members who were reassigned. I agreed, because my goal was to go into all the 7 (then 8) rooms to advocate for the rights of the teachers. I do not work for the UFT now, because their lack of interest in defending members was not ok with me.

On September 20, 2015 at the fall UFT Solidarity meeting Francesco invited a former UFT reporter for the NY Teacher named Jim Callaghan,  to talk about the ugly side of UNITY and the UFT to 50 UFT Solidarity potential members.

Looks like we will be expecting about 50 ATRs at today's meeting. See you at noon.

Jim has despised me since I walked into the UFT as the Head of the SWAT team to help teachers in the rubber rooms. Jim was a very unpopular member of the SWAT team, which was created by Randi and was made up of Jim, me and Ron Isaacs. Neither man wanted to go to the reassignment centers. So, I went every day and sat with teachers trying to find a way to help them.

I had memorized the contract, knew all the arbitration decisions and cases from 3020-a, and that is why Randi Weingarten wanted me to work at the UFT, not because I filed a freedom of information request for Queens UFT Representative Rona Freiser's personnel file as Jim claims. At the time I was not even aware - nor did I care - that Rona was a lesbian when Norm Scott suggested I file a FOIL request to get Rona's file. For those who do not know me, I am deeply committed to human rights for everyone. Besides, I have Rona's file, and there is nothing there of any interest.

See what the rubber roomers thought about Jim:

Jim Callaghan - "Helping teachers or seeking revenge?"

Jim Callaghan
As reassigned teachers, we were the NYC DOE/UFT’s dirty little secret. In the press, we were characterized as those ‘bad’ teachers who sat and did nothing all day on the taxpayer’s dollar. The reality was that many of the teachers sent to the rubber rooms had no idea why they were suddenly not teaching and often waited months for formal charges that did not arrive for months or even years. The union’s lack of response to the press in our defense spoke volumes. Being ignored by our union was the ultimate betrayal. It seemed that they were more concerned about hiding the problem and keeping a low profile rather than supporting us or solving it.
In response to the growing number of reassigned teachers and the pressure to do ‘something’ in show of support, the UFT created a Rubber Room “SWAT” team, whose job it was to visit the Reassignment Centers and counsel the reassigned teachers.  The members of the SWAT team were hand selected by Unity leader, Randi Weingarten.  SWAT team members Jim Callaghan and Ron Isaac made random visits to our reassignment center, claiming to offer moral support, but from a reassigned teacher’s point of view, they were making a visit solely to provide a quick fix by Randi Weingarten in an effort to silence the reassigned members, make sure they did not get out of line, or speak ill of the union. (‘Damage Control’).  As long as the reassigned teachers did not make waves, contact the press or step out of line, it seemed that they, Jim and Ron, were doing a ‘great’ job.

For instance, one of the three reps that visited our Rubber room a handful of times in 2008 was Mr. Jim Callaghan. I bring up his name because much to my surprise, he recently began showing up on my FB newsfeed. During the time that he was part of the RR SWAT team, Mr. Callaghan was a writer for the NY Teacher publication.  It was evident from the first time Mr. Callaghan entered our Prospect Place RR with his nose turned up and ‘holier than thou attitude’ that he was not to be trusted. He was cocky, condescending, and seemed to have no interest in talking with or listening to any of the teacher’s troubles or concerns. When asked a question, he often responded with a loud, sarcastic or snide remark, often alluding to the fact that everyone in the room was most likely guilty. During further visits to the RR, Mr. Callaghan was aloof, unapproachable and barely spoke to or made eye contact with any of the teachers. In addition, he made no effort to hide the fact that he didn’t want to be there. To the reassigned teachers, Mr. Callaghan was a joke and we often placed bets on how long he would last before dismissing himself permanently to the restroom.  His visits lasted no longer than 15 minutes, during which time he never sat down, never removed his coat and was constantly checking his watch. On one occasion he even used the excuse that his parking meter was running out and that he had to leave early.

Reassignment Center @ Prospect Heights

Whatever Mr. Callaghan’s agenda was, it was certainly NOT to help the reassigned teachers.

Since the days of the RR, Mr. Callaghan was fired from the UFT for trying to unionize the writers.  Now, years later, Mr. Callaghan claims to be someone who wants to ‘help’ the newly formed “Solidarity Caucus” led by Francesco Portelos, expose the corruption of the long reigning UFT Unity Caucus. In my opinion, Mr. Callaghan is the last person I would call on as a poster child to promote and attract new members to a caucus that is in need of positive support. Even more surprising was his invitation to a Solidarity meeting where he was given an open forum to speak. Rather than attempt to empower the new members of Solidarity during his videotaped speech, the vain Mr. Callaghan used the forum to air his long suppressed anger against the union who fired him, and, rip apart several individuals (not present) that he has a personal dislike for.  

One person whom he publicly attacked was a former Rubber Room SWAT Team member, the third member, Betsy Combier.  At the meeting, he maligns the name, work and character of Ms. Combier.
While I am no fan of Unity, it is obvious that Mr. Callaghan is a scorned man with a personal vendetta against those whom he feels wronged him. As someone who knew Betsy and the genuine nature of her work, I am naturally puzzled as to why the arrogant Mr. Callaghan would feel the need to launch a seemingly random attack on her. In contrast to the lack of support that Mr. Callaghan failed to provide to the reassigned teachers, Ms. Combier’s dedication to her job as a SWAT team member went way beyond the call of duty. While Mr. Callaghan made a mockery of the teachers, Ms. Combier was a source of comfort and ongoing support.  She listened to their stories and often wiped their tears, of which there were many.  Ms. Combier lent an ear to those who had no one to share their fears and concerns with. Most importantly, when she said she was going to do something, she did it. Whether it was making a follow up call, answering questions or researching information, Ms. Combier always came through. Long after Mr. Callaghan stopped showing up, Ms. Combier remains a pillar of strength for teachers like myself. Ms. Combier used her vast experience of observing 3020a hearings to help teachers who were desperately in need of advice. She was truly an excellent source of information as well as a comfort to us.
 Why would a group assemble to discuss winning an election and putting Unity out, then make such a mockery of a person who has continuously assisted educators and is not even running for office?  Is this the way to win votes? This makes no sense. 
The Betsy Combier that I knew from the Rubber Room, IS and ALWAYS has been a strong teacher advocate.  She is, undeniably, the real thing. Is Jim Callaghan so desperate  to build himself up that he must resort to tarnishing the reputation of others?
"When I once asked Mr. Callaghan why his articles in the NY Teacher never addressed the concerns and injustices of the Rubber Room, he got defensive and blamed the Union Leaders for tying his hands and not allowing those stories to appear in the paper. It always seemed that he had someone else to blame for not doing his job. He even daringly suggested that if I had something to say, that I create a blog of my own ;)
Here are some of the comments that were sent to the blog.
Blogger Jim Callaghan said...
Nice revisionist history written by Betsy who was hired by the UFT at the same time she was allegedly "investigating" Queens Rep Rona Freiser. She then signed a confidential agreement, which she has since denied but I have an email she sent to me admitting to it. 
I asked Betsy last week if she had switched sides (again) back to being on the UFT payroll and she refused to answer.
There are so many lies in this diatribe to even begin to answer.
But the easiest one is simple: I never once "drove" to the Brooklyn rubber room and never expensed my car ($22 per day plus tolls and parking ), and it made no sense to drive from Staten Island to Brooklyn in rush hour traffic. I took the subway.
The writer, like Betsy, is a liar and a Mulgrew shill.
October 14, 2015 at 7:30 PM
Blogger Jim Callaghan said...
Nice revisionist history Betsy.... are you still denying you signed a confidentiality agreement after Randi accused you of being homophobic in going after Rona Freiser? I have the letter you sent me admitting it. Why dont you post it? 
October 14, 2015 at 7:34 PM
Betsy Combier said...
I will have a very detailed report - my truth - to give about Jim Callaghan, on my blog NYC Rubber Room Reporter. At this moment let's just say that it is clear to me that the hatred and revenge that Jim felt when I was hired to work with the UFT members in the teacher re-assignment centers - or "rubber rooms" - is shockingly still brewing more than seven years after it started. To me, it's the same Jim who terrorized the UFT with his off-the-cuff remarks that made him a liability, the same person who made fun of me for going on a daily basis to each rubber room, and speaking to my "beloved" teachers ( his title). Jim despised going to speak to any member who was charged. He believed it was improper for him to be in a rubber room, and he pretended to go to a few places. In fact, he tried his best to stop me from visiting with the members isolated in the 8 locations because I was, in a sense, destroying his made up fantasy about how he was the only one who could write about or "help" the UFT members.
His comments are sad, indeed.
October 14, 2015 at 8:48 PM
 Lucio C said...
Betsy came to the rooms all the time. I owe my taping skills to her. Betsy is a great source of information. I owe her a lot and I believe the members that she helped as well
October 14, 2015 at 9:33 PM
Blogger Polo Colon said...
I completely concur and do validate all that fidgety has reported here. We are both in agreement and there are many others who bear witness to what I am about to add here to her expose of Callaghan's charlatanism. Jim Callaghan's slander and smearing of Betsy is nothing less than a viciously unwarranted, arbitrary and capricious attack on her, when quite the opposite is true. Betsy ought to be lauded and applauded for her selfless and great work on behalf of victimized teachers. 

When Callaghan came to the reassignment center at 25 Chapel Street in Brooklyn, not far from fidgety's site, everyone was sadly disappointed with Jim. He was aloof and seen as selfish and narcissistic as he constantly went to the mirror to comb his thinning hair. His perceived hirsute manipulation was no less reviled than his suspected manipulation of treachery on behalf of the Department of Education, as well as him potentially promoting the UFT's member relation's propaganda schemes. Poor Jim Callaghan! Rather than grooming his hair, he could probably benefit more from an inward check-up from the neck up.

After all these years, why is this dirty faced mudslinger now resorting to this bluster and bloviating against Betsy? Why do those who mobbishly gang up on Betsy so conveniently ignore that the DOE and some at the UFT hate Betsy so much? The Administrative Trials Unit at 49 Chambers Street and the New York City Law Department at 100 Church Street both hate and fear Betsy Combier. Why? Because they actually fear her efficaciousness, following her many victories and competent advocacy for victimized teachers! On many occasions, they have resorted to screaming at Betsy in public to try to discredit and intimidate her!

So shame upon those who energize people like Jim Callaghan to encourage them to demonize Betsy. Callaghan and his ilk spew their blithering blather while knowingly doing the bidding of teacher-in-trouble's greatest nemesis, the incompetent NYC Department of Education!

Jim Callaghan, what a sorry individual you must be to have to go back in time to rehash an old scumbaggy worn out lie of a story in order to lift your sorry ass up. Your punishment is that both you and those who back you must look at themselves in the ego mirror that you cannot escape when running from it.

When this appeared on the wonderful blog FidgetyTeach, Francesco reacted. He asked the author of FidgetyTeach why she would write what she wrote, and when he was asked why he wanted to attack me, Francesco said, because Betsy used to work for the UFT!!! (So did Jim).

Then, a few days after the September 20 2015 meeting when the video was created and edited by Francesco, friendships and alliances fell apart between me and my friends and Francesco and people who follow him. Francesco manipulated parts of Jim Callaghan's speech in which it appeared that Randi Weingarten had called me a homophobe, to make it appear that Jim called me a homophobe instead. Randi and I spoke about this, and she assured me she never called me a homophobe, ever.

Here is the email I received from Jim about this:

"There wasn't the slightest hint in my speech that I considered you a homophobe.
I didn't think that before you were hired, when I worked with you or now."

Francesco wanted me slandered in front of his group, however, so he edited the video to make Jim look like he, Jim had said it. And when I asked Francesco to admit his error publicly, he told me absolutely not. Francesco vowed never to fix this, he said to me that I misconstrued what the meeting was about, and it wasnt about me. It was obvious to me that Francesco's motive was to  slander me and destroy my character and reputation. All because I will not follow his rule to bully/slander and libel the "bad guys" ('proven' by him, of course)

Throughout his campaign, Francesco has shown a desire to destroy rather than build a coalition that would help anyone. The edited video proves that.

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