Editorial: Is Francesco Portelos a Danger To New York State Tenure Law?
by Betsy Combier
Francesco used to be an ally in the fight for change in New York City as far as how teachers are being treated. Indeed, I posted many articles about his being charged and found guilty of internet bullying and never admitting he was wrong, thinking that he was a hero and a fighter for all things good.
I was wrong. When Francesco Portelos found out that I do not agree with his vindictive retaliation of anyone who is rumored to be "bad" or who does not agree with him, and he decided to defame my name and my work as a teacher advocate by creating a video lying about how I am a "homophobe", I looked more carefully at the UFT Solidarity brand.
The Francesco Portelos Mob: Who Are They?
Here is what Francesco sent me on May 8, 2014, marked up with yellow highlighting and red ink by him, (I guess):
Francesco Portelos' 3020-a decision (dated May 2014).
I put this decision on my website, in one of the many articles I wrote about Francesco glorifying his work to undermine Linda Hill who seemed at the time to have charged Francesco after he found out she was not handling money correctly. Blowing the whistle on an administrator, or any public employee is complicated. The case decided by the US Supreme Court, Garcetti v Ceballos (see here, here and here). Teachers are public employees and their First Amendment rights were, it seems to me, limited to "a citizen speaking on matters of public concern".
I am not a public employee and not limited by this law. I still am not able to put on the internet lies about someone, and I do not do it. I never write about anyone or any case unless the person violates my rights, defames me or libels/slanders me and/or asks me to post their case or name on any of my 6 blogs and website. I respect confidentiality.
All decisions by arbitrators at 3020-a are available to the public, all you have to do is file a FOIL request to New York State Education Department at firstname.lastname@example.org. Just name the person or the arbitrator, and, if you have it, the year of the decision.
Looking at Francesco's arbitration decision now, which he sent to me, I am frightened by the implications of the sustained charges (p. 107) and his promotion of activities under the umbrella of UFT Solidarity. There are many similarities, and I fear that Francesco is deliberately putting other teachers in danger to mitigate his punishment of $10,000. He is telling teachers to do exactly what he was charged with.....the group which is most in danger is probationary teachers, who can be fired for no reason. Principals and APs may see your allegiance to Francesco as a sign of disrespect and insubordination, and fire you without any explanation. Watch out!
Here are the sustained charges for which Arbitrator Felice Busto found Francesco guilty, on pp.7-13 of the Opinion and Award :
During the 2011-2012 school year, Respondent disclosed confidential Department information, including, but not limited to, witness statements, on a non-Department website, including, but not limited to, protectportelos.org.
During the 2011-2012 school year, Respondent inappropriately accessed and/or retrieved Department information, including, but not limited to, a Department email account and/or email messages of another Department employee.
During the 2011-2012 school year, Respondent inappropriately accessed a Department email account and/or email messages of another Department employee.
On or about January 28, 2012, Respondent, without consulting, notifying, and/or seeking authorization from Principal Hill or the I.S 49 administration, accessed the school website, www.Dreyfus49.com, as a site administrator and manipulated the settings to revoke the administrative rights and/or privileges of all individuals previously granted such administrative access.
On or about February 2012, Respondent refused to transfer control and/or ownership of the school website, www.Dreyfus49.com, to Principal Hill, I.S. 49, and/or the Department after agreeing to do so at a meeting with Principal Hill and Superintendent Erminia Claudio.
On or about November 2012, Respondent, without consulting, notifying, and/or seeking approval from Principal Hill or the I.S 49 administration, altered the website www.welearnandqrowtoqether.com, which Respondent had created for the school with Principal Hill's approval, to automatically transfer visitors to his alternative website, https://sites.qooqle.com/site/occupywarrenstreet/, which contained derogatory information about I.S. 49, Principal Hill, and/or the Department.
During the 2012-2013 school year, Respondent, without consulting, notifying, and/or seeking approval from Principal Hill and/or the Department, altered the school website, www.Dreyfus49.com, to automatically redirect visitors to his website, protectportelos.org, which chronicled his issues with various groups including Principal Hill, I.S. 49, and the Department.
During the 2011-2012 school year, Respondent recorded a video in a school facility, namely, I.S. 49, of a student during school hours, without permission or authority.
On or about December 12, 2012, Respondent notified I.S. 49 Superintendent Erminia Claudio that he showed the video referenced in Specification 33 to parents, without permission or authority.
On or about and in the month of September 2012, Respondent:
A. Sent an email message to a parent without permission or authority stating, in sum and substance, that the teacher who sent their son to summer school was not certified to teach and that this message identified the teacher and indicated that her teaching certification had expired.
B. Failed to notify and/or confirm with I.S. 49 administration that the teacher referenced above lacked certification prior to contacting the parent.
By committing one, some, or all of the actions described in the above Specifications, Respondent's actions:
A. Had a disruptive and/or negative impact on students, staff, and/or administration at I.S. 49 and the Department.
B. Caused negative publicity, ridicule, and notoriety to I.S. 49 and the Department."
Francesco filed an Appeal (Article 75) of the decision, but missed the 10-day rule by one day. The Judge in Richmond County wrote that he would not have overturned Arbitrator Busto, anyway. (read Judge Troia's decision).
The UFT Solidarity brand stands for all of the above, in my opinion. This is frightening.
Look at Specification #36. This seems to be the sustained charge that Francesco Portelos actually went after another teacher, and created a problem for her/him. Does anyone have any confirmation that this charge relates to the fiance of the IS 49 Chapter Leader, Dr. Richard Candia? The allegation rumored to be this specification was that Francesco wanted to retaliate against Dr. Candia for not helping him destroy IS 49 Principal Linda Hill, so Francesco went after Candia's girlfriend.
If anyone has any further information about this specific sustained charge, please send me an email at email@example.com.
In any case, to wear the brand of UFT Solidarity proudly showing support for someone who would and could be so vindictive as these sustained charges show is, in my opinion, a badge of shame.
It turns out that Francesco is, in my opinion, the most vindictive bully I have ever met, and he uses his internet knowledge to gain followers to his cult, all of whom believe that it is their right under protection of the First Amendment to say anything they want about anyone.
I asked Francesco to kindly allow me to speak about what Jim said, or he, Francesco, could post on his many internet outlets that what Jim said was not true, but Francesco refused. In fact, he got angry that I asked him, and said that the talk was not about me, so he wasn't going to alter anything, and stay away.
A friend of mine who was in the rubber room which I visited when I worked as a Special Representative at the UFT (2007-2010) posted on her website FidgetyTeach about Jim Callaghan, and suddenly Francesco went after her too. He told her that the reason he attacked me was because I had posted on my blog that Randi Weingarten had changed my life by hiring me to go to the rubber rooms of NYC. Francesco then posted on the listserv my friend started, confidential information about her, in retaliation for supporting me.
Evidently this is the way Francesco keeps people afraid of him. I am not.
The first no that I gave him, was several months ago when he set up a new business, EduFOIL, charging people for his writing Freedom of Information requests. I have filed more than 50 FOIL requests, and when asked by someone how to do it, I just show them my blog, or give them the format I use.
Then a person called me to tell me he paid $29-$50 to get the rating of his principal in 2013-2014, was denied, and then the anonymous people over at EduFOIL told him that he could appeal, for $60.00. But wait a minute!!!! Ratings of principals are no longer available under FOIL, so the person writing under EduFOIL does not know this? But is charging money anyway?
Then, on September 20 came the video saying I was a homophobe, which a person in Francesco's "cabinet" sent me. He is a gay man, and was very upset.
The NY POST wrote an article about his breaking into the confidential records of parents:
Teacher’s tweets threaten kids in tenure suit: parents
By Aaron Short and Carl Campanile July 8, 2014 | 2:53am
An angry city teacher recently sprung from a rubber room spewed online threats against the children involved in a lawsuit to end tenure in New York state, the kids’ parents claim.
Franceso Portelos, who was allowed to return to teaching even though charges against him were substantiated, darkly tweeted that another teacher should “look away” from helping the kids of Sam Pirozollo and Mona Davids, who claim tenure protects lousy educators.
“U need your protection removed so if you see a disservice to little Franklin P or Eric D u look away,” Portelos said under his twitter handle, Mr. Portelos.
He was discussing Franklin Pirozollo and Eric Davids, who are among students named in the suit.
Mona Davids, a member of the Parents Union, responded on Twitter: “ru encouraging tcher 2 ignore a child in need.” An hour later, Davids tweeted: “We are taking this threat very seriously.”
On Monday night, Davids said, “He’s targeting our children, my son.”
Portelos denied ill intent.
“No. It was a sarcastic tweet to another teacher,” he said Monday night, while joining 60 other teachers and union activists who showed up at a Staten Island Community Education Community Council meeting to protest the anti-tenure lawsuit.
Portelos also discussed the personal details of the student-plaintiffs on his blog site, protectportelos.org.
He posted a link to a New York Times article about another student-plaintiff in the case, Izaiyah Ewers, who is identified as having a mood disorder and acting out. The report also said the youngster’s mom entered homeless shelters to avoid an abusive husband.
“Really unfortunate story, but . . . Teacher’s fault?” Portelos asks.
Despite his whining, Portelos seems to be the epitome of the kind of teacher for whom the Parents Union is pressing the suit.
Even though a a report by Special Schools Investigator Richard Condon’s office substantiated allegations that he tampered with a school website, and posted student information on his personal website, a state arbitrator refused a city DOE request that he be fired.
He was fined $10,000, and some parents at Staten Island’s Dreyfus Intermediate School 49 defended him as a good teacher.
But the city Department of Education placed him in the absent-teacher reserve pool instead of reassigning him to Dreyfus.
Mona Davids and Sam Pirozzolo of the New York City Parents Union say there were targeted by educator Franceso Portelos in an angry Sunday tweet.
Mona Davids and Sam Pirozzolo of the New York City Parents Union say they were targeted by teacher Francesco Portelos in a Sunday tweet.
“U need your protection removed so if you see a disservice to little Franklin P or Eric D u look away,” tweeted Portelos, referring to to Davids’ son Eric, 6, and Pirozzolo’s son Franklin, 11. “Teachers need to be protected so they can speak up for any disservice to students,” said Portelos.
Now we see Francesco trying to shovel himself into the release of confidential information citywide in his new toolbox for teachers and parents, posted recently:
Special Ed Info
Our system is unfortunately plagued with countless Special Education violations. Our neediest students suffer and often times their teachers and paraprofessionals are gagged from speaking up. Although there are avenues to report such violations, history has shown us that none of the methods through 311, the UFT and State Education Department have protected these special ed whistleblowers.
UFT Solidarity is committed to assisting these members and children.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will work with the administration, the UFT and DOE to remedy the situation while keeping your name a secret.
Staff member or parent contact email@example.com with information on the alleged violation or concern. UFT Solidarity Special Education task force contacts administration on member/parents behalf. Five days are given to remedy the situation.
If situation is not remedied in a week, the UFT, school superintendent, deputy chancellor and 311 are contacted. If the violations are not remedied at this level, the NYS Education Department and media are contacted as well as Special Education advocates.
***We are also there to assist and help with ANY special educaton issue whether you believe it is big or small! If you have a SESIS question or a legal question etc message us!***
Who, Francesco, is giving the legal advice? Victor Jordan?
Frightening. This one person, Francesco Portelos, shows the world why tenure should end.