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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Rubber Room Still Exists, Folks

Robert Bradbury did not deserve to be in the latest mess created by the New York City Department of Education. I met him many years ago, and we have kept in touch, and I can tell you that he is a very, very nice guy.

But his Principal, Howard Kwait, has so many demons and skeletons dangling around him that I'm surprised he is still getting a salary. (see below)

Why do we have such people working forever at the DOE while good people lose their jobs for no reason?


Betsy Combier
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, The NYC Public Voice
Robert Bradbury

Teachers trapped in rubber rooms for years, still collect 

full pay and raises

They’ve been rubber marooned for five to seven years each.
The city Department of Education has kept three accused teachers on the payroll, but confined to menial office tasks since seeking to fire them in 2009 to 2011. One takes home nearly $100,000 a year, and they all get contractually mandated raises.
It’s a violation of a major 2010 agreement between the DOE and the United Federation of Teachers to break up the infamous holding pens dubbed “rubber rooms.”
In the pact, former Chancellor Joel Klein and union president Michael Mulgrew agreed to end long delays in the handling of educators charged with misconduct or incompetence.
But the rules have collapsed in several cases. Arbitrators who have 30 days to file their rulings after completing termination trials simply abandoned the cases, and the DOE says it could do nothing about it.
“They’ve been in limbo for nearly six years — collecting full pay and benefits but just sitting here doing nothing with no light at the end of the tunnel,” a reassigned educator said of two tenured teachers waiting long overdue rulings at 28-11 Queens Plaza North.
Howard Kwait

Robert Bradbury, 47, who taught history at John Bowne HS in Flushing, mans the reception desk. He made $84,104 in 2015.Bradbury was accused of incompetence by Principal Howard Kwait, who has since cost the city more than $500,000 in settlements with two assistant principals who accused Kwait of sexual harassment, and a student falsely blamed for sending menacing e-mails to staffers.
Bradbury’s trial ended July 5, 2011, but arbitrator Leona Barsky failed to file a ruling.
Leona Barsky
“I had to step away from the case due to the recurrence of my breast cancer,” Barsky told The Post. She’s been removed from a panel of hearing officers.
Joshua Cutler, 36, an English-as-a-second-language teacher at IS 10 Horace Greeley, makes photocopies in the Queens office. He was paid $67,672 last year.
Back in 2011, Cutler, was yanked from his classroom for tussling with a student.
“One of the most violent kids in my class accused me of intentionally bending his wrist to try to hurt him,” he told NPR in 2013. “I did break up fights repeatedly, but I never intentionally caused harm to a child.”
Cutler said he would not quit his DOE job: “I’m fighting this till the very end, no matter what.”
Arbitrator Beverly Harrison, also removed from a panel of DOE hearing officers, never ruled.
Seven years ago in May 2009, Laurie Goldstone, a teacher at P.S. 268 Emma Lazarus in East Flatbush, was charged with incompetence and reassigned to clerical duties, officials said. Arbitrator Adam Goldberg conducted her hearing but left the post in 2010-11 without filing a ruling. Goldstone took home $98,366 in 2015.
The DOE cannot fire tenured teachers unless an arbitrator says so.
Arbitrators get paid $1,400 for each day they work on a case after filing their rulings.
While state law mandates decisions 30 days after a trial, they typically take four to six months, said Betsy Combier, a paralegal who defends teachers.
“The DOE does not hold arbitrators accountable for missing the deadline,” she contends.
But DOE officials said state law has no penalty for arbitrators who drop the ball, and no process to re-do a hearings with different arbitrators.
“We have repeatedly reached out to the independent arbitrators handling these cases to issue their decisions, and their failure to do so is unacceptable,” said DOE spokeswoman Devora Kaye. “We are evaluating new options to close these cases, as well as options for penalizing arbitrators who fail to issue timely decisions.”


Principal who cost city $500K 

in settlements now accused of fixing grades

Pervy principal keeps his job despite draining city in legal fees

A randy Queens high-school principal has cost the city more than a half a million dollars to settle sexual-harassment suits brought by staffers and students — and he’s still on the job.

John Bowne HS Principal Howard Kwait presented the latest hefty tab to taxpayers on Thursday, when the city agreed to give a combined $275,000 to two former assistant principals who accused him of everything from lewd advances to fudging grades.
Maria Catenacci and Sally Maya were so disgusted by Kwait’s boorish antics that they resigned their positions, court papers state. Maya agreed to settle her case for $150,000 and Catenacci for $125,000.
“It was best for the city to settle,” a spokesman told the Post.
It’s not the first time Kwait’s antics cost the city cash. A 2012 suit against him by a student’s family, who said the girl was falsely accused of sending staffers threatening e-mails, was settled by the city for $225,000.
“We settled after evaluating the facts and the risks of proceeding with the litigation,” said a city Law Department spokesman.
The city also paid an undisclosed amount when, in 2012, it settled another harassment case against Kwait. That one was brought by an assistant principal who accused him of discrimination when she became pregnant.
Howard Kwait (left)
In the latest suit, Catenacci claimed that Kwait pressed her to go home with him after an alcohol-soaked retirement party for a colleague and attempted to straddle her at another school related event.
“Mr. Kwait made numerous sexual advances towards Ms. Catenacci,” the suit, brought by attorney Steven Morelli, states.
Knowing she was a lesbian, Kwait profanely interrogated her about her sexual interest in other female staffers at the school, the suit stated. When she rebuffed his advances, Kwait revoked her teaching responsibilities and undermined her, the suit said.
Maya, meanwhile, accused Kwait of criticizing her for getting pregnant and taking time off.
Despite his legal woes, Kwait remains principal at the school, where the motto is “the relentless pursuit of success,” according to its Web site.
“We are reviewing Mr. Kwait’s status,” said Department of Education spokeswoman Devora Kaye.

 A Voice From the 'Rubber Room'
By Liana Heitin on May 13, 2013 12:31 PM
Sixteen years ago, Radio Diaries, an audio series broadcast on NPR in which people document their stories, had a show on Josh Cutler, a high school student living with Tourette Syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by vocal and motor tics. Last week, the program aired a follow-up episode, in which Cutler caught listeners up on where he is today.
As it turns out, the now 33-year-old became a New York City public school teacher. But two years ago, in his seventh year of teaching, he was accused of misconduct and terminated from the classroom. He explains: "One of the most violent kids in my class accused me of intentionally bending his wrist to try to hurt him. ... They said that I was doing this repeatedly. Well, yes, I did break up fights repeatedly, but I never intentionally caused harm to a child. Of course not."
During a termination hearing, one of his colleagues testified that she had been concerned for her safety because "Mr. Cutler has some bizarre tendencies." She continued: "Mr. Cutler has openly told me that in social situations he doesn't always behave appropriately because of medical issues. ... And his behavior is unpredictable and it's strange."
Cutler now sits in a temporary reassignment center, or what is colloquially known as a "rubber room," from 8:30 a.m. to 3:20 p.m. each day doing office tasks as needed. He continues to receive his teaching salary. "My parents think I should leave and go do something else, but I'm not going to do that," he says. "I'm fighting this till the very end, no matter what."
We've written about rubber rooms and the absent-teacher reserve pool (the teachers who are paid to sit in the rooms) quite a bit over the years. In 2010, the United Federation of Teachers and the N.Y.C. school district reached an agreement to close the rooms and instead have teachers report to the central office for clerical work. But as Ed Week reporter Stephen Sawchuk has written—and as Cutler's story corroborates—not much has changed. The rooms may now be in an office setting, but the teachers in them are still getting paid for, as Cutler says, "just sitting around in limbo."
Cutler's account of the dismissal and arbitration offers a glimpse into how complex these cases can be—and perhaps into why these policies have yet to be truly undone. Be sure to check out Cutler's diaries from both then and now, as well as the rest of the series, entitled Teenage Diaries Revisited