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Saturday, March 31, 2018

Disarray at the NYC Department of Investigation and at Squad 11/DOE, Formerly Special Commissioner of Investigation (SCI)

Re-posted from NYC Public Voice March 31, 2018

Mark Peters, NYC's Commissioner For the Department of Investigation, Fires Anastasia Coleman, Special Commissioner of Investigation (SCI)

There is disarray at the New York City SCI Office,  now called "Squad 11/DOE", that's for sure.  Commissioner Anastasia Coleman was fired on March 28 2018 by Department of Investigation Chief Mark Peters. We already know about the OSI mess with Wei Liu. As active researchers into 3020-a arbitration and  State and Federal Court cases, for now 15 years, we have evidence of the  corruption within the organizations set up to investigate corruption, namely OEO, OSI, and SCI. It's not pretty.

SCI was set up by Executive Order 11, after James Gill, father to former DOI Chief Rose Gill Hearn, issued his "Gill Commission Report" as well as "Investigating the Investigators" (May 26, 2014):

The Gill Commission Report (1990) and the Denial of Due Process Rights By the "Investigators" in the Special Commissioner of Investigation (SCI) Office

How this will all iron out is unknown at this point, but I would love to have a one-to-one chat with Ms. Coleman! Is there a coverup of someone or something?

Just askin'.

Betsy Combier

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

Seeking Control, Investigation Chief Fires Schools’ Special Commissioner
The commissioner of New York City’s Department of Investigation, who recently tried to seize control of the agency that polices corruption in the school system, has taken another step in asserting his power, firing the new head of the schools investigation office less than two months into her tenure.

The office, known as the special commissioner of investigation for the New York City School District, investigates allegations of corruption, criminal activity, conflicts of interest and unethical conduct in the 1.1 million-student school system. Though it reports to the investigations department, the agency has largely operated independently since its inception in 1990.

But the investigations commissioner, Mark G. Peters, sought to change that last month, saying the schools office was under his authority. Mr. Peters has also subsumed three other offices into the Department of Investigation: the inspectors general for the New York Police Department, the School Construction Authority and the Health and Hospitals Corporation.

Mr. Peters last month appointed Anastasia Coleman, a former senior assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, to take over the schools investigation office from Special Commissioner Richard J. Condon, who retired late last year. She objected to Mr. Peters’s efforts to restructure the office and eliminate its independence, and had told him and his senior staff that she believed his efforts violated the law, based on the municipal documents that created the office, according to memos, emails and other documents.

On Wednesday, Mr. Peters fired her during a brief meeting, at which he was accompanied by five senior staff members. She was escorted to her office and then out of the building by one of the agency’s armed officers, people briefed on the matter said. He later demoted her top deputy.

On Thursday, Mr. Peters announced her removal to her staff of roughly 60 lawyers, investigators and other employees in a conference room at the special commissioner’s offices. The meeting lasted less than two minutes.

Mr. Peters spoke for less than a minute, according to a recording of the session provided to The New York Times, saying that Ms. Coleman no longer worked for the agency and that he had named one of his deputy commissioners, Susan Lambiase, as the acting head of the office.

Then, with anger rising in his voice, he said: “I expect that everyone in this room will give her their full support and cooperation. Thank you.” After he left, Ms. Lambiasi told the staff that she was looking forward to working with them and went over a few administrative matters, remarks that lasted less than a minute.
Anastasia Coleman
(Linkedin picture)

Ms. Coleman’s removal seems certain to worsen Mr. Peters’ already frayed relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio, once his good friend. The mayor appointed Mr. Peters in early 2014, after he served as the treasurer for Mr. de Blasio’s first mayoral campaign. Choosing a friend and campaign treasurer to head the agency responsible for rooting out corruption, fraud and abuse in city government raised questions. The questions grew into concerns when Mr. Peters initially resisted recusing himself in 2016 when Mr. de Blasio’s campaign fund-raising activities — activities which did not involve Mr. Peters — came under scrutiny by federal and state prosecutors.

Before her firing, Ms. Coleman had sent a lengthy memo to the city’s top lawyer, Corporation Counsel Zachary W. Carter, detailing her legal arguments and concerns about Mr. Peters’s changes to the schools investigation office. She concluded with a blistering attack on the investigation department’s conduct.

Finally, it is shocking that an agency that prides itself on public integrity and transparency, and presents itself as the enforcer of city rules, would blatantly disregard laws, bully and retaliate against employees, and demonstrate such poor judgment,” she wrote.

“DOI has overstepped its authority by disregarding” the municipal records that created the office, she continued, “and by unilaterally dismantling the existing authority and structure of SCI.”

Her view is shared by the education department, which funds the office and has publicly resisted the changes, and, according to people familiar with the matter, senior City Hall officials.

In an email to Mr. Peters hours before she was fired, Ms. Coleman identified herself as a whistle-blower and noted that the city administrative code protects her and her deputy from adverse personnel actions for raising concerns about “the potential of criminality, wrongdoing, or mismanagement” to the Investigation Department.

Mr. Peters has steadfastly maintained that the changes he has sought to make were lawful, and he told a City Council hearing on Monday that neither he nor anyone from his staff had been contacted by anyone at the Education Department about the matter.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Peters declined to comment on Ms. Coleman’s firing and the demotion of her deputy. Spokesmen for Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Carter also declined to comment.

Some of the alterations Mr. Peters has sought could significantly change the way the office operates. He has sought the power to set salaries, hire and fire, promote and demote, discipline, and assign the duties and responsibilities of all those who work in the schools office.

He has endeavored to change the title of the head of the office from special commissioner of investigation to inspector general, a less prestigious position that is equivalent to more than a dozen other department officials. That was a sticking point for Ms. Coleman, who, according to documents and emails, was told she would hold the more prestigious title when she was interviewed for the post.

Mr. Condon had the authority to sign subpoenas, compel testimony and publish reports. Ms. Coleman was told she did not have those powers, and needed to seek approval from senior officials at the department.

Mr. Peters said the changes would ensure consistency and add little time to investigations.

When he fired her, Mr. Peters gave Ms. Coleman a letter in which he wrote that he had asked earlier in the day for her resignation because of their “intractable disagreement” over the degree of oversight his agency could exercise over the special commissioner of investigation. He disputed her legal interpretation of the municipal documents — an executive order and two Board of Education resolutions — that created the office, arguing that his changes were lawful.

He also wrote that his agency “found her performance lacking,” although that contention appeared to be something of an afterthought, limited as it was to the last two paragraphs of his two-and-a-half page letter.

Mark G. Peters, commissioner of the city Department of Investigation, has tried to take control of the office that polices corruption in the school system. CreditKevin Hagen for The New York Times
Fight to Control Office That Roots Out Corruption in New York Schools
The selection of a new chancellor has dominated education circles in New York City for the last few weeks, but behind the scenes a more prosaic bureaucratic drama was playing out over control of the office that investigates corruption in the 1.1 million-student school system.

It was a municipal scuffle: The commissioner of the city Department of Investigation tried to seize total control of the semiautonomous office that polices corruption in the school system. The Department of Education has since pushed back — hard.

The move by the investigation commissioner, Mark G. Peters, resulted in an unusual legal skirmish between the two agencies, pitting an archaic set of municipal records against a series of new documents drawn up by the investigation department.

On one side was a series of mayoral executive orders, the earliest dating back to 1990, and two Board of Education resolutions of similar vintage, which give the office its authority. On the other was paperwork prepared by Mr. Peters’ staff that would have given him full control. The outgoing schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, has refused to sign it.

The office, known as the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District, investigates allegations of corruption, criminal activity, conflicts of interest and unethical conduct in the system, the largest in the country.

Taking direct control would give Mr. Peters the power to hire and fire, set salaries, promote and demote, discipline, and assign the duties and responsibilities of the investigators and other employees of the special commissioner’s office. One of the legal documents prepared by the Department of Investigation sought Ms. Fariña’s approval for Mr. Peters’s agency to exercise those powers, as well as the authority to assign staff “consistent with the needs of D.O.I.,” according to a copy of the document.

Without her signature, those responsibilities remain with the office of the special commissioner.

Mr. Peters said his actions were prompted by the retirement late last year of Special Commissioner Richard J. Condon. A widely respected former New York Police Department commissioner, Mr. Condon was appointed special commissioner in 2002 and earned the respect of many at the education and investigation departments, and elsewhere in city government.

Mr. Peters has made additional unilateral changes that appear to run afoul of the orders and resolutions, and which, along with his other actions, would largely eliminate the autonomy that the office has had since it was created in 1990 and which has helped enable it to aggressively root out corruption.

He has changed the title of the head of the office from special commissioner of investigation to inspector general, a less prestigious position that is equivalent to more than a dozen other investigation department officials. The old executive orders provide that the special commissioner has the authority to sign subpoenas, compel testimony and publish reports. The new inspector general, Anastasia Coleman, a former senior assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, would not have those powers, and would have to seek approval from senior officials at the department.

Mr. Peters said those changes would ensure consistency and add little time to investigations.

He has also done away with the special commissioner’s separate website, consolidating it with his department’s. In addition, he has changed the reporting structure. Instead of reporting directly to the investigation commissioner, Ms. Coleman will report to an assistant commissioner, who reports to a deputy commissioner, who reports to the first deputy commissioner, who reports to Mr. Peters.

The changes were needed to create uniformity, Mr. Peters said, and so that his agency could take a more systemic look at the Department of Education, the way it has focused on the city’s Department of Correction and the New York City Housing Authority, where the investigation department has looked into on corruption, mismanagement and other problems.

He also contended that an even older executive order, from 1978, gave him the authority to make the changes he has undertaken because the city school system is now under mayoral control.

In recent weeks, the investigation agency has moved quickly to act on the new authority it has sought over the special commissioner’s office, posting a job vacancy notice for an assistant commissioner level job there, which it has attempted to fund through the education department, according to documents and emails.

But the post, chief information security officer, with a salary of $120,000 to $150,000, would serve the investigation department, according to the posting, which said the job would “increase the agency’s overall security posture.”

Mr. Peters said that the education department funding for the position was only temporary.

Toward the end of the interview, he seemed to be loosing patience with questions about his actions in connection with the special commissioner’s office.

“Either people cooperate with our investigations or they don’t,” he said. “Everything else is just noise.”

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Teacher Tenure Time Almost Up

Due to the disarray of the teacher discipline hearings, as well as the lack of accountability inside the New York City Department of Education where good teachers are fined/suspended without pay/terminated often for no reason, or for a reason (no one can figure out which, so everyone charged with 3020-a is put into the ineligible/inquiry list or "problem code"), the end of tenure in New York City may be sooner than suspected.

I support tenure for teachers.

The tenure system was set up to protect teachers and staff from the vagaries of a maniacal Superintendent, Principal, Assistant Principal, or other person with malicious intent. But tenure is not employment protection for life. What tenure does is give teachers a chance to have a due process hearing where they can defend against lies or mistakes, while keeping their well-earned career, or not.

I am very aware of teachers and other staff who should not be getting paid yet who have not been terminated because the 3020-a disciplinary process is broken. The guilty party can be kept on salary while an innocent charged person can be terminated. A representative who does not know enough about UFT rules and/or DOE Regulations or who doesn't care to know or submit these guidelines to an arbitrator cannot make a proper defense of a charged employee, and the employee can be terminated despite his/her innocence.

So basically what I am saying is, keep tenure, but change 3020-a hearings to be more accurate in who needs to be terminated or not. INVESTIGATE thoroughly the charges!

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

The 74

Good morning! We start today’s coverage with a late-breaking story about a tenure lawsuit in New York State that has survived its third legal challenge, in a stinging defeat for New York City’s teachers union.

On Wednesday afternoon, a New York appellate court unanimously ruled that Wright v. New York, a case brought by a group of parents arguing that teacher tenure laws and seniority-based job protections harm their children’s education, should go forward.

From Edlawfaqs:

The Appellate Division, Second Department on an appeal from a ruling from the Staten Island Supreme has determined that an action can go forward that may test the constitutionality of the State’s disciplinary system and layoff provisions for teachers.
Mymoena Davids aka Mona Davids supported by groups opposed to teacher tenure laws brought an action against the State alleging that ineffective teachers could not be properly dismissed and layoff provisions protected ineffective teachers causing irreversible harm to her teachers. (A similar action was brought in Albany County and joined with Ms. Davids case in Richmond County.)
Justice Philip Minardo of the Richmond County Supreme Court ruled that, on a motion to dismiss, the plaintiffs case could go forward despite a motion to dismiss based upon the changed statutory scheme and other arguments.
The Appellate Division affirmed. The appellate justices ruled, without much argument, that it was too early to dismiss the case as the plaintiffs’ concerns could, if proven, make out a case that their constitutionally protected right of a sound basic education was jeopardized by the current statutory scheme. While not determining the ultimate issue that Appellate Court found that a trial court could determine that the tenure and layoff provisions for teachers interfered with this constitutional right.
Effort to Overturn New York’s Teacher Tenure Laws Wins Unanimous Appeals Court Victory
The 74, March 28, 2018

Partnership for Educational Justice attorney Jay Lefkowitz speaks at a press conference at City Hall.
(Photo credit: Naomi Nix)
New York appellate court ruled unanimously Wednesday that a case brought by a group of parents arguing that teacher tenure laws and seniority-based job protections harm their children’s education should go forward.

The decision dealt the state Education Department, New York City, and New York teachers unions a third defeat in their years-long attempt to have the high-profile lawsuit dismissed.

In a six-page ruling upholding a lower court decision, the four-judge panel rejected arguments that the parents lacked standing to bring the complaint, which alleges that provisions of state education law relating to teacher discipline and dismissal saddle children with ineffective teachers, depriving them of their right to a “sound, basic education” under the New York State Constitution.

The case, Wright v. New York, was originally filed in 2014 by nine parents, aided by lawyers from the advocacy group Partnership for Educational Justice. The organization has pursued similar legal challenges in New Jersey and Minnesota. The New York City Parents Union, a student advocacy group founded in 2011 by Mona Davids, is also involved in the case.

“Today’s decision from the New York appeals court is an incredible victory for students’ rights,” said Alissa Bernstein, the partnership’s executive director. “While the defendants have repeatedly tried to delay and dispose of this case, today’s decision affirms the fact that the brave parents and children who brought this suit deserve their day in court. The fight for educational justice will continue so that we can give our students the education they are guaranteed under the state constitution.”

Among the parent plaintiffs is Tauana Goins, whose daughter’s teacher at Public School 106 — dubbed the notorious “School of No” because it had no books, art, or gym classes — allegedly bullied the girl and called her “a loser.” The Queens mom said she tried unsuccessfully to have her daughter reassigned, but the child was given the same teacher for first, second and fifth grades.

“We’re not anti-teacher,” Goins told The 74 in 2015. “We just want effective teachers and we want tenure to be performanced-based.”

The defendants, who include New York City’s United Federation of Teachers, argued the lawsuit should be tossed out, particularly after the state reformed teacher job protections in 2015 — including mandating a time frame under which school boards had to decide whether to fire teachers consistently rated as ineffective, and increasing from three years to four the length of the probationary period leading up to tenure.

“We are disappointed in this procedural decision by an intermediate court. Judges around the nation have dismissed claims similar to those filed in the Davids-Wright case, and we are confident as the case goes forward that New York courts will ultimately recognize the importance to students and schools of reasonable due process for teachers,” Adam Ross, the UFT’s general counsel, said in a statement.

Jay Lefkowitz, the plaintiff’s lead attorney, has said the revisions were minor and not enough to alter a system that leaves poor teachers in the classroom. State Supreme Court Justice Philip Minardo agreed in 2015, calling the changes “marginal” and “insufficient” as a reason for dismissal.

Lefkowitz said in a statement Wednesday that the plaintiffs were pleased the Appellate Court, Second Department affirmed Minardo’s decision, deciding “to allow this lawsuit to proceed and has once again rejected the effort by the state, the city, and the teachers unions to stop this lawsuit.”

“New York’s constitution guarantees all children in the state a sound, basic education, and the current teacher employment statutes are simply failing our children by keeping ineffective teachers in our public schools,” said Lefkowitz, a senior partner at Kirkland & Ellis. “This decision will finally allow us to get the evidence from the state that will vindicate the rights of parents and children across the state.”

The plaintiffs intend to seek teacher personnel records to argue their case. Minardo had halted the discovery process while the case was before the Appellate Court. The defendants are expected to appeal to the full Appellate Court to review the panel’s unanimous ruling.

Disclosure: Campbell Brown founded the Partnership for Educational Justice. She co-founded The 74 and sits on its board of directors. She played no part in the reporting or editing of this story. Walton Family Foundation provides financial support to PEJ and The 74.

Parents Cheer after Judge Denies Second Request to Dismiss New York Teacher Tenure Case

Convincing Arguments Made in Teacher ‘Tenure’ Appeal
NEA Today MARCH 1, 2016

What Teacher Tenure Is — And What It’s Not
By Kevin Hart, September 17, 2010
A recent Time magazine poll asked members of the public how they felt about teacher tenure. And, in the course of a 26-word question, Time managed to perpetuate three myths that educators say are contributing to the public’s misunderstanding over what tenure is — and what it’s not.

Specifically, Time asked, “Do you support or oppose tenure for teachers, the practice of guaranteeing teachers lifetime job security after they have worked for a certain amount of time?”

The problem is, tenure does not guarantee teachers a job, does not offer any lifetime employment security, and, regardless of the implication of Time’s question, does not just happen after a “certain amount of time.”

Educators participating in a recent discussion on NEA Today’s Facebook page said that these three tenure myths are prevalent among the media and the general public, and are distractions in the debate on how to improve America’s public schools.

The notion that tenure is a guaranteed job for life must have come as a shock for Lancaster, Calif., teacher Carolyn Heia Brown, who said that she received tenure and was laid off in the same month.

If you thought tenured teachers couldn’t lose their jobs, you’re not alone — it’s a common misunderstanding, but that doesn’t make it accurate. Tenure does not guarantee teachers a job, but instead mandates that due process be followed before tenured teachers are dismissed.

The reason is simple enough, said Alabama educator Shannon Keith Ginn, who calls tenure a “measure of protection against personal vendettas and personality conflicts.”

After all, qualified, effective educators who are benefiting students and raising student achievement should not be removed from the classroom because of political disagreements with an administrator — or because the sibling of a local, influential figure wants a job.

And teachers who receive tenure often endure a marathon process before it is granted. At most jobs outside the field of education, a newly hired employee may be considered probationary for six months, or even a year.

When teachers are hired, it is common for them to serve as untenured, probationary employees for three or four years. At this point they can be — and often are — dismissed for any reason whatsoever. That time period also gives school administrators an extended opportunity to evaluate a teacher before determining whether or not the school district, at its discretion, should grant the teacher tenure.

“When explaining tenure, I first make sure to emphasize that tenure is earned, not just handed out to every teacher who walks through the door,” said Illinois teacher Chris Janotta. “Where I work, for instance, a teacher becomes tenured after four probationary years. I explain that the administration has the power to let a teacher go for any reason during these four years. Period.”

Much of the public debate over tenure has focused on whether it is possible to fire tenured teachers who are no longer making the grade. The fact is, contracts between unions and school districts in no way forbid the firing of tenured teachers.

Janotta said he has personally seen two tenured teachers with 20 years of experience let go because of performance issues.

“Did proper steps need to be taken before these teachers were terminated? Of course,” he said. “Were these steps so overwhelming that administration decided it wasn’t worth proceeding with them? Obviously not, or those teachers would still have their jobs.”

Tenure is about due process — not about guaranteeing jobs for life. And it’s not about protecting “bad” teachers — it’s about protecting good teachers.

The typical tenure agreement lays out steps and documentation necessary for dismissing a tenured teacher. Many private corporations also have termination processes and documentation requirements that managers must follow before firing an employee.

Determining which teachers are making the grade depends on a thorough and rigorous evaluation process, and many teachers complain that the evaluation systems at their schools are not functioning. Teachers say they are not evaluated enough, the criteria are murky, and sometimes they receive conflicting evaluations from different administrators.

So why is there so much attention being paid to issues like tenure? Meg Gruber, a teacher from Virginia, believes the issue is largely being driven and pitched to the media by anti-union individuals and organizations. Kelle Stewart, an elementary school teacher from Tennessee, said the heavy focus on tenure keeps the education debate from focusing on real issues that significantly affect public schools.

“Tenure is a red herring that really has nothing at all to do with the problems our schools are facing,“ she said. “I think all the attention paid to tenure should be refocused on NCLB which is hurting us far more.”

The NYC DOE Goes After Bullies in Schools

Every time I see a new Department of Education (DOE) policy, I feel a twinge of hope.

This feeling goes away quickly. I remember that a rule, law, or regulation is only as good as the implementation and follow up. These type of actions are almost never available in the Department.

The DOE does not have consequences which are uniform across the board, and we can all see the random manner that anyone can get away with anything as long as you are the right color and socio-economic status. My opinion - so sorry to break your bubble if you think that segregation and the rich-poor gap are no longer NYC facts. I get worn out quickly - don't you? - hearing about the new curriculum, the new way to evaluate teachers, the new Renewal Program, etc., etc. and yet there are kids who are bullied, and it never stops.

I have loved history since I learned to read, and know that George Santayana's quote is correct:
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." 

There are repetitions all over the place.

I decided to finally read a book I bought on Amazon ($6.99) that calls out to be read: "110 Livingston Street, Politics and Bureaucracy in New York City Schools"  by David Rogers, Random House, 1968. On p. 5, Rogers wrote:
"In the words of one cynic, the New York City school system is the nightmare toward which many others are moving".

The title of Chapter 1? Here it is:


But there's that twinge again, when the DOE goes for a policy change that seems to be in the right direction, especially against a DOE internal epidemic namely bullying. I'm going to hope that now kids who are being bullied in school can, indeed, get relief (see the below articles from Time Out and NY POST) and transfer to another school "automatically".... whatever that means. Remember, it's implementation and follow up that makes a law, rule or regulation "work".

I'm not going to breathe a sigh of relief as NY POST Reporter Selim Algar, an excellent writer, suggests, but I'm feeling that twinge. Maybe this time.....

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

Jim Walden (picture by Natan Dvir)
City education department will overhaul protocols for bullying
 NY POST, March 14, 2018    
Parents can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that New York City's Department of Education is planning to further assess the issue of bullying in schools.
A class action lawsuit two years ago suggested that schools were not properly handling bullying situations, which ultimately lead to violence and a lack of safety in the halls. Now, a more vigorous plan is set to take effect thanks to the settlement's provisions, according to Patch
So what can parents expect to see change in their children's school? DOE members will have to report an incident they hear or read about within one school day. From there, an investigation must be conducted within 10 days. The DOE is also required to assemble a team that trains school staff to prevent, report and investigate bullying cases that arise.
The city Department of Education has been forced to overhaul the way it handles complaints of student bullying as part of a lawsuit settlement with parents of tormented children.
Frustrated by what they see as the DOE’s failure to curb abuse in city schools, the parents filed a class action suit against the department in 2016.
The case was finally settled this week, with the DOE agreeing to revamped protocols that will radically reset their approach to the problem.
The suit – organized by the since disbanded charter backer Families for Excellent Schools — accused the DOE of routinely ignoring bullying gripes.
“This settlement finally brings meaningful reform to a troubled and broken system that placed every New York City school student in dire and dangerous circumstances,” said plaintiff attorney Jim Walden Wednesday.
“I am deeply proud of these parents who had the courage to say ‘enough is enough’ as they stood up not only for their own children but for all children.”
Under the settlement terms, any student victimized by another classmate one or more times will be automatically granted a transfer to another school when requested, court papers state.
“This precedent-setting measure signifies that children will no longer be trapped in dangerous, prolonged bullying scenarios by the very system charged with safeguarding their education and welfare,” read a statement from the law firm that handled the case, Walden Macht & Haran.
Parents also alleged in the suit that the DOE or school staffers routinely ignored their bullying complaints, no matter how severe or persistent.
The settlement will now force the DOE to implement an electronic reporting system by 2019-2020 for parents to submit their complaints.
The setup will also allow them to track the department’s responses to their cases.
Moms and dads will receive confirmations of their complaints within a day and the DOE will be required to provide a determination within 10 days, court papers state.
As part of the deal, the DOE must also create a separate system for parents to “report and track” incidents of physical or verbal abuse by DOE staff along with a dedicated information hotline.
“Compliance with all mandated steps reached in the settlement will be tracked by the electronic system,” the firm said. “Every single violation will be exposed through publicly available biannual reports.”
Roxana Hardy, a parent who signed on to the suit after her daughter was bullied to the point that she suffered recurring nightmares, said she hoped the settlement would help combat the plague.
“You try so hard as a parent to help your kids,” she said. “I am praying and hoping that this corrects the problem. There will finally be someone who has to answer for this.”
“The DOE has initiated numerous reforms to strengthen its anti-bullying programs to ensure safe and inclusive learning environments in every school building,” said city law Department spokesman Nick Paolucci. “This settlement reflects and expands on these initiatives in the best interest of the City and its students.”
NYC Department of Education to put new anti-bullying measures in place

Monday, March 26, 2018

AFT President Randi Weingarten Marries Rabbi Sharon Anne Kleinbaum

Congratulations Randi and Sharon!

Betsy Combier
Randi Weingarten and Rabbi Sharon Anne Kleinbaum
Randi Weingarten and Rabbi Sharon Anne Kleinbaum are to be married March 25 at La Marina, a restaurant in New York. Judge Michelle Schreiber of the New York City Housing Court, is to officiate, with Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld, the president of Hebrew College, leading the religious ceremony, which will include the signing of the ketubah.

Ms. Weingarten (left), 60, is the president of the American Federation of Teachers, which has headquarters in Washington. She graduated from Cornell and received a law degree from Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University.

She is the daughter of Gabriel Weingarten of Suffern, N.Y., and the late Edith Appelbaum Weingarten.

Rabbi Kleinbaum, 58, is the senior rabbi of Congregation Beth Simhat Torah in New York, a synagogue with a significant number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender congregants. She graduated from Barnard College and from Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncott, Pa.

She is the daughter of Josephine Leve Kleinbaum of Teaneck, N.J., and the late Max M. Kleinbaum.

In the mid-1990s, Rabbi Kleinbaum and Ms. Weingarten knew each other peripherally.

“We were two lesbians in New York fighting for different things,” Ms. Weingarten said. “We liked each other. We had good banter. It wasn’t as if there were a lot of high-profile gay women who were active in leadership roles. I thought she was fun, witty and smart.”

It continued that way until 2006. Both were at the Empire State Pride Agenda dinner, when Rabbi Kleinbaum asked Ms. Weingarten to speak at the Gay Pride Shabbat service.

“I’d just turned 50, I’d never publicly come out and said, ‘I’m a lesbian,’” Ms. Weingarten said. “Sharon allowed me to see myself as who I was. It shifted my thinking that it wasn’t simply about having a gay pride speaker. It was about shifting me. I was very moved by it.”

Rabbi Kleinbaum recalls the “ask” a little differently.

“She’s one of the most significant labor leaders in America,” Rabbi Kleinbaum said. “I didn’t get how dramatic it would be for her. I just thought it would be an amazing coup if she said yes.”

Years went by. They continued to see into each other sporadically until 2012. While Ms. Weingarten was working in Washington and dating, Rabbi Kleinbaum was in New York getting divorced after an 18-year relationship.

“I’d heard Sharon was single, so I emailed her asking if she wanted to have lunch,” Ms. Weingarten said.

Rabbi Kleinbaum wrote back the following day. But it was not an easy time in her life.

“My whole world was falling apart,” she said. “It was such a difficult time for me. I was carrying the load of a full-time position. I had two daughters. I wasn’t thinking about anyone in that way.”

Eight or nine email exchanges later, lunch got parlayed into dinner and a friendly request grew into an actual date.

“Flirt entered into the emails,” Ms. Weingarten said. “I was really excited about it. But I almost screwed the whole thing up. I got invited to the state dinner by President Obama for David Cameron.”

It was a plus-one invitation. “I asked Sharon if she would be willing to have our date at the White House rather than in New York,” Ms. Weingarten said.

Rabbi Kleinbaum immediately declined.

“I would never go to the state dinner as a first date,” Rabbi Kleinbaum said. “I’m interested in intimacy. Everyone would think we were on a date. I started wondering if I was ready for that. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be in a relationship again. I wanted to take things slow.”

So they did. Ms. Weingarten attended the dinner with a colleague. The next day she and Rabbi Kleinbaum went for Indian food in the West Village. They talked all night.

“There was no political-speak,” Ms. Weingarten said. “We talked about our lives and things that were important to us. It was a fantastic first date. I didn’t want the night to end.”

That same year, Rabbi Kleinbaum moved into an apartment in the Inwood section of Manhattan. Ms. Weingarten commuted back and forth from Washington, spending two nights there, two nights in New York and other days traveling for work.

“My life had been turned upside down,” Rabbi Kleinbaum said. “Here I was in my 50s with my dogs, and all I had was a mattress on the floor. But Randi never seemed uncomfortable. I thought, this is an incredibly kind person. I value kindness. Slowly I got furniture.”

As her apartment grew, so did their relationship.

In 2014, they began looking for an apartment together. Three years later they found one. Their proposal and engagement almost took as long. When Obergefell v. Hodges was decided in 2015, an excited Ms. Weingarten asked if the decision meant they could get married. Rabbi Kleinbaum wanted to wait.

“We’re not spring chickens,” Rabbi Kleinbaum said. “We didn’t believe we would get this kind of love this late in our lives.”

In June 2017, they both agreed it was time.

“We have a deepening relationship,” Rabbi Kleinbaum said. “We’re both astounded we found each other and both astounded we’re making it work. If you live long enough, life is full of surprises.”

Sunday, March 25, 2018

OSI Investigator Gerard Danko Lands In a Rubber Room After Endorsing a Vendor

Oh no! Gerard Danko, a "senior" schools investigator at the Office of Special Investigations, or OSI, appeared in an ad for a NYC Department of Education vendor, and is now in a rubber room.

The vendor is DTI, a computer-sleuthing firm in Atlanta, and according to Education Department spokesman Doug Cohen, city regulations govern employees’ dealings with vendors such as DTI, which is now known as Epiq.

“It is inappropriate for employees to endorse vendors in their advertisements,” Cohen said. (see Ben Chapman's article in yesterday's NY Daily News, below).

I think this is not the story.

The real story is the lack of supervision at OSI.

Here is Mr. Danko's Linkedin profile:

NYC schools investigator pulled from post after appearance in ad
Ben Chapman, NY Daily News. March 21, 2018

A senior schools investigator has been yanked from his job after appearing in an advertisement for a vendor the city uses.

Gerard Danko, a Department of Education confidential investigator, was removed from his post Feb. 1 after the Daily News inquired about a probe of his appearance in marketing materials for computer-sleuthing firm DTI.

Atlanta-based DTI received nearly $100,000 in city contracts for tracking school employees’ improper computer usage — including pornography — from 2014 to 2017.

Danko, 53, crowed about the company’s services in a “case study” published on DTI’s website that said the city struggled with a backlog of employees’ internet misuse.

“When misuse, such as viewing pornography, is brought to the department’s attention, they are responsible,” the case study read. “The DoE had a backlog of computers.”

But, according to the ad, DTI helped end the backlog.

“Working as an extension of the DoE Special Investigations Unit, DTI is able to provide the DoE with the information they need to discipline or dismiss rogue employees,” the ad said.

“To quote Gerard Danko, DoE Supervising Confidential Investigator, ‘the investigatory skills of the DTI forensics team and reports they generate represent a grand slam’ for his unit.”

Danko is a former New Rochelle cop who continues to draw his $74,635 salary, from a rubber room, while his case is being investigated by the Special Commissioner of Investigation and the Conflicts of Interest Board.

Education Department spokesman Doug Cohen said city regulations govern employees’ dealings with vendors such as DTI, which is now known as Epiq.

“It is inappropriate for employees to endorse vendors in their advertisements,” Cohen said.

Cohen also denied the city Office of Special Investigations has a backlog of misconduct cases.

“OSI has a talented and experienced team of investigators who work tirelessly to thoroughly review each complaint in a timely manner,” he said.

Danko investigated hundreds of cases of improper employee behavior over his special investigations career that began in 2010.

He didn’t respond to calls for comment.

Epiq spokeswoman Jill Brown said Danko wasn’t paid for appearing in the DTI case study.

“Mr. Danko was not compensated for appearing in our marketing materials, nor is Mr. Danko a current or former employee of Epiq (formerly known as DTI),” Brown said.

But Brooklyn College and City University of New York education professor David Bloomfield said Danko is in a delicate position, whether he was compensated or not.

“DOE employees are supposed to seek out opinions from the ethics office before entering into questionable practices, even if the activity is subsequently deemed permissible or the conflict is waived,” Bloomfield said. “Should have happened here since the red flags are there in terms of a relationship outside the scope of the employee’s job.”

And then there is the story of Wei Liu (2015):

This is a story of an almost unfathomably mindless school bureaucracy at work: the crushing of an occupational therapist who had helped a young boy build a record of blazing success., and the disarray at the Office of Special Investigations adding to the problems in this matter. The therapist, Deb Fisher, is now serving a suspension of 30 days without pay for official misconduct. Her crime? She raised money on Kickstarter for a program that she and the student, Aaron Philip, 13, created called This Ability Not Disability. An investigator with the Education Department’s Office of Special Investigations, Wei Liu, found that Ms. Fisher sent emails about the project during her workday at Public School 333, the Manhattan School for Children, and was thus guilty of “theft of services.” 
Aaron Philip
From Betsy Combier, Editor:

The key to any case of misconduct brought to Arbitration and/or Court is the investigation.

Working as I do in solving the puzzle of what really happened in a matter involving a person charged with misconduct of some sort, I am very familiar with the investigators in New York City's investigation units - the Office of Special Investigations (OSI), Special Commissioner of Investigation (SCI), or Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO). All are, in my opinion, under the control of "legal" at the New York City Department of Education, ranging from total control (OSI) to less control (SCI).

For the most part, the investigators are former policemen working on their second pension. Most are good at their jobs, (and that is substantiating whatever the principal or Superintendent wants), but some are not so good. In 2015, Wei Liu became one of the latter.

In 2014 he made, in my opinion, a bad mistake. See the article I posted in 2014:

The story posted here about how teacher Deb Fisher helped Aaron Philip, a student with cerebral palsy, published in the New York Times will disgust and disturb you.

The corruption and malicious prosecution of the New York City Department of Education is oozing from the walls of secrecy behind which the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) Council of Supervisors and Administrators (CSA), the Sturmabteilung "brown shirts" - Department of InvestigationOffice of Special InvestigationsSpecial Commissioner of Investigation, and Office of Equal Opportunity have hidden their collaboration and approval.

This website and other blogs such as NYC Rubber Room ReporterNew York Court Corruption, and National Public Voice have highlighted the actions of these groups and the individuals within them, such as Chancellors Joel KleinCathie BlackDennis WalcottCarmen Farina, the Gotcha Squad (here and here) and the attorneys - Adrienne Austin and Jade Fuller, Arbitrator attorneys Haydee RosarioDoyle Pryor, just to name a few - who convict people without facts or the law behind them. Particularly disturbing is the tainted actions of the investigators who should be honest and fair in their investigations, and are not, deliberately and maliciously. The stories of teachers Natalya SokolsonGlenn StormanLucienne MohammedGlen Fox, and countless others have been written about on this website and the blogs mentioned above. Their lives were destroyed for no reason, and I know each of their cases extremely well. This is again evident here in the story about Aaron Philip, posted below from the article in the New York Times.

We all must expose all the corrupt acts of those who take public money and then attack innocent people, and not let bias get in the way.

Anyway, the story of Aaron Philip and Deb Fisher must be distributed, and we all must take notice that Deb Fisher was wrongfully suspended, yes....and that she would have been fired if she did not have the protection of tenure.

We need to protect the public school teachers like Deb Fisher, and keep tenure rights in New York City, just as we need to get rid of the brown shirts and leadership of the NYC Department of Education. The NYC DOE is not interested in putting the needs and achievement of children above the false charges against innocent people who challenge their fraud and corruption.

Betsy Combier

Bureaucracy Turns a Hero Into a Rogue

This is a story of an almost unfathomably mindless school bureaucracy at work: the crushing of an occupational therapist who had helped a young boy build a record of blazing success.

The therapist, Deb Fisher, is now serving a suspension of 30 days without pay for official misconduct.

Her crime?

She raised money on Kickstarter for a program that she and the student, Aaron Philip, 13, created called This Ability Not Disability. An investigator with the Education Department’s Office of Special Investigations, Wei Liu, found that Ms. Fisher sent emails about the project during her workday at Public School 333, the Manhattan School for Children, and was thus guilty of “theft of services.”

The school system has proved itself unable to dislodge failed or dangerous employees for years at a time.

Ms. Fisher’s case seems to represent just the opposite: A person working to excel is being hammered by an investigative agency that began its hunt in search of cheating on tests and record-keeping irregularities. It found nothing of the sort. Instead, the investigation produced a misleading report, filled with holes, on the fund-raising effort.

By omitting essential context, the report wrongly suggested that Ms. Fisher was a rogue employee, acting alone and in her own self-interest.

In fact, the entire school, including the principal, was involved in the Kickstarter project, with regular email blasts counting down the fund-raising push. And the money was to be used not by Ms. Fisher, but by Aaron, who is writing a graphic book and making a short film about Tanda, a regular kid who is born with a pair of legs in a world where everybody else has a pair of wheels.

Aaron has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to navigate the world. Ms. Fisher has worked with him since kindergarten.

“It’s beyond measure, the greatness, of how she has exposed Aaron to so many things,” Aaron’s father, Petrone Philip, said.

Aaron writes a lively Tumblr blog called Aaronverse. He has addressed all the employees of Tumblr as a guest of David Karp, who created the platform. He was taken under the wing of Fred Seibert, the founder of a hugely successful animation studio, Frederator, who had mentored Mr. Karp when he was a teenager inventing Tumblr. On his blog, Aaron urged Good Housekeeping to make sure that its research arm included disabled children in its testing of toys.

All of this was possible because he is a powerful presence, and he had Ms. Fisher at his side, according to the boy’s father. “She goes above and beyond the call of duty,” Mr. Philip said.

During a brief period of unemployment for Mr. Philip, the family moved to a homeless shelter. Learning this by chance, Ms. Fisher began a relentless campaign to get them permanent housing in an accessible building. She helped set up swimming lessons for Aaron. Ms. Fisher, 55, is passionate and hard-driving; her phone calls and emails can be like buckshot. She and another therapist started “Master Arts” for children with disabilities, devising tools to help their painting efforts. She received a mayoral commendation.

Last year, when Aaron wanted to create the book and the film, he and Ms. Fisher realized he was too young to run his own Kickstarter drive. Instead, Aaron told the investigators, they created an organization to help children like himself.

“We are all very excited to share our partnership with,” P.S. 333’s principal, Claire Lowenstein, wrote in an email on Jan. 11.

The goal was to raise $15,000. The school’s office regularly sent out updates like these: “7th Grader Aaron Philip is Almost 2/3 of the Way to His Goal”; “Aaron Philip is $1,621 Away From His Goal.”

In the end, he raised $16,231. The school celebrated at a town hall session.

In the meantime, a co-worker with whom Ms. Fisher had had continuing disagreements made a series of charges against her. Ms. Fisher had complained that the co-worker was physically bullying and taunting her. The special investigators found that none of the serious allegations against Ms. Fisher were true, but said she was guilty of fund-raising for “her own charity.”

The report made no mention that the entire building had been involved with the effort, nor did it try to determine whether Ms. Fisher would profit from it in any way. She was suspended on Sept. 15 until the end of October.

The school disciplinary system is often said to be broken. The case of Ms. Fisher would seem to prove the point.

The Education Department did not comment on the case.

Correction: October 3, 2014
An earlier version of a picture caption with this column misstated what grade Aaron Philip is in at school. He’s in the eighth grade, not the seventh.


Twitter: @jimdwyernyt

There are other outrageous acts in the New York City Department of Education where administrators from hell maliciously target teachers:Thomas v Jimenez, Albetta, Bradley, Hernandez, et al.,US District Court 14-CV-8019(JMF)