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Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Wall Street Journal Says ATRs Are NYC's "Worst" Teachers

The article in the esteemed Wall Street Journal re-posted below is an opinion piece of the worst kind. The Editorial Board threw facts out of the window in order to attack the Absent Teacher Reservists (ATRs) who are, supposedly, NYC's "worst" teachers, and "ATR" is the new name for the miscreants who sat in the rubber rooms.

Wrong, ugly wrong. The NYC DOE charging process, or the Gotcha Squad re-assignment-3020-a procedure is wildly out of control because no one is in control. If a principal feels someone is close to exposing theft or wrong-doing by the admin at the school, or may be doing something wrong themselves, the tenured staff member is often thrown out of his/her classroom quickly, and then the principal calls "legal" and finds out what to do next. This should be the other way around, with probable cause found by the school board (the Panel For Educational Policy or PEP), and then the re-assignment, or investigation, followed by re-assignment. But it does not work this way. See Education Law 3020-a, especially Section 3020-a(2)(a) - which is not complied with at all.

At all times remember that speed is the only thing that matters to those at the top or in "legal" and involved with 3020-a:

The 3020-a Arbitration Newswire: Digging Up The Garbage On the UFT/DOE Partnership of Harm For Charged DOE Employees

NYC Chancellor Carmen Farina, Mayor Bill deBlasio
There are many errors in the WSJ article due to the lack of knowledge of the Editorial Board:

- first of all, it is very easy with the new set of arbitrators on the NYC permanent panel in NYC (and nowhere else is there a permanent panel) to fire anyone. If you do not know (as most private attorneys don't, especially if they are on their first 3020-a, or second-third) all the ins and outs of the UFT contract, the ATR agreement, buyout, Fair Student Funding, senior transfers and exactly how the Danielson rating system and HEDI fail, anyone can be fired at any time. 3020-a hearings are a minefield, even for my legal team after 14 years of observing and working on 3020-a cases. Every case has a WHAT???!!! moment that makes it unique and unforgettable. The charged Respondent can win, if the representative - the legal team - is experienced enough to know the minefield and how to defuse it.
Very unfortunately, however, sometimes the charged employee is the person who loses the case, by having a prior set of charges, admitting wrongdoing and making deals when the misconduct never occurred (NYSUT's fault) and testifying poorly (not answering the question, being arrogant, etc). There is a way to testify that works, and I think it is absolutely crucial to give pointers on how to testify before the charged employee goes on record. Notice that I don't say WHAT to testify about, that would be coaching testimony. But a guide to HOW to testify is what we do. As I have previously written on this blog, do not think that by not testifying you will not be terminated. If you do not put your side of what happened into the record, you will be terminated. Sometimes the Respondent won't listen, or the arbitrator is hell-bent on termination from day 1 (yes, I will tell you more about the bad ones on the panel on this blog and my website, soon).

-secondly, many (not all, true) ATRs are senior teachers at the 20+ years into teaching, usually with all S ratings until the Danielson rubric raised its horrible head, Fair Student Funding put the budget of the school squarely in the hands of the principal and the principal decided the staff member was too expensive to keep on the school budget. Without senior transfers, the only way a principal can get an expensive employee out of the school is to charge that employee with anything, i.e., sharpening a pencil too long, if that's what kind of 3020-a charge which must be made up.

- third, the rubber room folk waited for 2-15 years to have their days in arbitration, and that was the fault of over-anxious principals dumping anyone who would not do something or, who would. Mayor Bloomberg woke up one day and realized that there were not enough hearings and too many people in the temporary re-assignment centers ("TRCs") . He did what all politicians do when confronted with a mistake they made: first, try to hide the facts from the newspapers (that did not work, I made sure of it when I used to work for the UFT), then, try to make the mistake go away (not necessarily fix it, because then it will look like you are admitting the mistake). But the rubber roomers are almost always folk who had not had a hearing yet. ATRs are employees who have been excessed after a school was closed, or who won the 3020-a and did not get fired. There is a reason why the tenured employee did not get fired!!!! Principals lie under oath, and tell their AP, parents, students, staff to lie as well. Everyone follows a script. In my opinion, most people are bad liars. You can spot a lie immediately, because the person who does not tell the truth gets confused, and loses track of what they said, and change their story. When I read the transcripts to prepare for closing arguments, the lies stand out as if there were red highlights.

- fourth, the Editorial Board did the easiest thing for people who have made their minds up and refuse to see anything different (which is surprising, considering that the Wall Street journal is widely respected): go with the prevailing theory. The Board is misinformed, but probably could not look at any other versions than what their funders wanted, which is disappointing.

- fifth, many ATRs that I know are the best in the business. They are intelligent, hard-working, terrific individuals who asked the right question (why do I have to change the grades? Where's the money?) to the wrong person, and before they can blink are being accused of harming a student, having sex with a child in the classroom, saying something that "upset" someone, etc. But, when you look deeper into the situation, you find out it never happened.

Anyway, articles like the one below are extremely harmful to all the wonderful ATRs out there, and I apologize for re-posting such an ugly piece of the WSJ's dislike of public school teachers because of the misinformation fed to them from their funders and allies. But I could not resist the urge to tell the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board that their opinion post below is just, plain, stupid.

Betsy Combier
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

NYC Chancellor Carmen Farina, NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio

The Teachers No One Wants

New York forces its worst teachers back into classrooms

For decades the United Federation of Teachers has protected perverts, drunkards and other classroom miscreants from being fired. Now the union’s allies plan to put some of these teachers back in New York City schools.
On Monday the city’s Department of Education said it will require city schools to fill between 300 and 400 vacancies from the Absent Teacher Reserve, or ATR. This is the politically sanitized name for the “rubber rooms” where teachers who couldn’t be fired but no one wanted would sit from 8:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. collecting a paycheck as they napped or played cards. After a horrified public learned of the practice, the city abolished rubber rooms in 2010.
But many of those same teachers are now in ATR, which is no longer a physical room but remains a form of employment limbo. Some teachers are there because their last school closed. But trained, licensed teachers in ATR can apply for vacant positions in 1,700 other public schools. If a teacher can’t find another job in such a large system, there’s probably a good reason principals don’t want him.
Three years ago schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña vowed “there will be no forced placement of staff.” But now she would effectively mandate that schools take teachers they initially rejected. This includes teachers who end up in ATR because they drink too much, have abused students, or for some other misconduct that renders them unfit for the classroom.
The underlying problem is a tenure system that makes it all but impossible to fire teachers after they’ve spent four years on the job. Those suspended for misconduct continue to receive pay, pension contributions and benefits as disciplinary hearings stretch on and on, sometimes for years. Unions have the power each year to approve or reject the arbitrators who decide misconduct cases.
Under this rigged system, New York fired a mere 61 of its 78,000 teachers over a decade, the American Enterprise Institute found in 2014. Each teacher in ATR costs taxpayers about $100,000 a year, so no wonder many have declined the city’s $50,000 buyout offers.
The logical solution would be to make it easier to fire bad teachers, but Mayor Bill de Blasio is a wholly owned union subsidiary. Poor students will bear the real cost of his rubber-room rebound as their education suffers with a subpar teacher—or worse. No wonder tens of thousands of parents have put their children on waiting lists for charter schools that are free to hire and fire teachers on the merits, not by union diktat.
From Betsy Combier:
And then there is, of course, Chalkbeat, a well-known hater of teachers and teacher unions:

New York City principals balk at plan to place teachers in their schools; some vow to get around it
Many New York City principals are unhappy that the city is planning to place teachers directly into their schools — and in some cases, they’re vowing resistance.
Department of Education officials announced last week that they would place up to half of the 822 teachers who currently do not have positions into jobs that haven’t been filled by Oct. 15. Those teachers are part of the Absent Teacher Reserve, a collection of educators moved to the pool for disciplinary reasons or when their positions were eliminated. They remain on the city payroll in an arrangement that has generated political tension for years.
The move by the city reverses Chancellor Carmen Fariña’s promise in 2014 to avoid “forced placement” and raises questions about principals’ already fraying sense of autonomy. The city claims the plan is not forced placement because it would only apply to vacancies, as opposed to displacing teachers who are already employed. Regardless, many principals aren’t on board.
Some say they’ll avoid any attempt to place teachers at their schools, even if that means obscuring open jobs from the city’s hiring systems past October.
“I’m going to make sure my school doesn’t have a vacancy,” said one Bronx principal who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the topic. “I’m not going to post a vacancy if someone will place an ATR there. I’ll be as strategic as I can and figure out another way.”
Some principals raised concerns about the quality of the teachers in the pool. Education department officials could not readily provide the percentage of teachers in the pool who are there for disciplinary reasons, but a 2014 report estimated it at 25 percent. The same report said another third had received unsatisfactory ratings and half hadn’t held a classroom position in two years or more.
“Many of them have been coming from schools that have been closed down or subject areas that were cut,” said Scott Conti, principal of New Design High School in Manhattan. “The majority of them were at schools that were highly dysfunctional.” He noted that some may have been out of the classroom for years and not getting proper professional development, effectively hindering their performance as teachers.
Conti said he did hire a teacher from the ATR pool three years ago, through the standard procedure he would use to hire other teachers. He objects to the idea of being forced to hire someone whose effectiveness he could not fully judge.
“It’s never good when somebody from outside a school decides to fill in a vacancy in a school,” Conti said. “ It’s scary that some teacher could be put in your school that you have no choice about.”
Other principals were more harsh. One Bronx principal said multiple experiences working with ATR teachers sent to the school for monthly rotations in the past left the impression that those in the reserve are “not qualified, with very few exceptions.” Other principals agreed, suggesting that if the teachers were high-quality candidates, they probably would have found positions on their own.
To circumvent the new policy, some principals said they might check in with all their teachers early in the hiring period to be aware of potential future vacancies. If there is a vacancy in October, others said they’d consider hiring a long-term substitute to fill the position rather than leaving it open to an ATR placement.
The city says the new approach will be more stable than having teachers in the ATR rotate monthly, and will allow schools to more closely support and supervise the teachers in their building. It plans to work closely with principals on the hiring.
“We will work to find the right fit, and hear and work through concerns that they might have,” education department spokesman Will Mantell told Chalkbeat last week. “But ultimately, we do have discretion to place an educator in a vacancy that exists, and it kind of makes sense.”
Schools will still have final say over whether the teachers are permanently hired. If at the end of the school year, the teacher is rated as “effective” or “highly effective” in the observation portion of their evaluation — performed by principals or other school administrators — that teacher will be permanently hired to that school.
It is unclear if any of the ATR teachers placed into schools this coming fall could have a background of poor disciplinary conduct, or if the teachers placed would come solely from the share that are in the pool because they were excessed.
“The DOE has discretion on which educators in the ATR pool are appropriate for long-term placement, and may choose not to assign educators who have been disciplined in the past,” education officials said.
Last year, the city offered an incentive system to encourage schools to hire from the ATR pool. During that school year, 372 teachers were hired from the ATR pool under a DOE policy that subsidized the cost of the teachers’ first-year salaries by 50 to 100 percent. Those incentives will not be offered with the placements expected this fall.
Daniel Russo, principal of Walton Avenue School in the Bronx, said he has had positive experiences with the two teachers he hired from ATR pool in previous years. He added that though ATR teachers sometimes have a gap because they are coming from a different school — and sometimes not a high-performing school — his school is able to fill that gap and assimilate the teacher to the school’s culture and expectations.
Still, he noted, finding the right fit between candidates and schools could be a “challenging undertaking” for the city.
New Design’s Conti fears that challenge will disproportionately fall on schools like his that struggle with fluctuating enrollment.
“These teachers are not going to end up at Lab, they will end up at places like New Design where the positions will open up,” Conti said, referring to the selective and successful NYC Lab School for Collaborative Studies. “Schools with the most unstable populations, serving the neediest kids is where the low-functioning teachers will end up.”