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Monday, May 18, 2020

The New York City Department of Education: A Bottomless Pit of Waste and Corruption

NYC Chancellor Richard Carranza
All the parents and teachers who have contacted me in the past few months are frustrated and angry with the Department of Education in general, and Chancellor Richard Carranza, specifically. I feel their turmoil and frustration whenever I look at or hear about how the NYC DOE "VIPs" like to spend millions of dollars on the betterment of themselves, not kids, parents or educational resources.

If anyone wants to see a bottomless pit of waste and corruption, there is no better place to go than the New York City Department of Education.

The budget for 2019-2020 is $34 billion. Yep, that's right, $34 BILLION with a "B".



And this amount is 100% public money, meaning, some people believe, there is no transparency or accountability within the NYC DOE. I am one of those people. I have read about principals taking $ thousand dollars out of their budget for their personal use, with the full support of the Superintendent of the District. See the case of Carmen Farina in 2000.

The thieves believe no one will notice, or if someone says something, the whistleblower will be crushed and silenced. It's the culture of public corruption.

News reporters have cited statistics such as:

The DOE employs 1,189 educrats making $125,000 to $262,000 a year. All have desk jobs at Tweed Courthouse or in borough offices, records obtained by The Post show. Of those, 50 execs take home $200,000-plus — more than double the 21 at that salary level in fiscal year 2018.

That does not count Carranza, who collects $363,000.

Despite the army of six-figure supervisors, the DOE still pays high-priced consultants.

The DOE just inked a two-month, $1.2 million contract with Accenture LLP to advise the chancellor on school-reopening options, including a mix of classroom and remote learning.

Accenture staffers bill up to $425 an hour. That’s on top of another three-year Accenture contract costing the DOE $1.7 million a year for management advice.

The Office of School Wellness, under executive director Lindsey Harr, promoted 19 employees to supervisory posts over the past year — with pay hikes up to 45 percent.

Harr’s own salary ballooned $41,416, or 28 percent, to $189,041. She paid a consultant $19,000 to advise her on the reorganization.

In what a fed-up staffer called “favoritism,” Harr let two employees who were working part-time bump up to full-time. Their boosted salaries of $103,211 and $112,791 kicked in in March, just as schools closed and they could work from home.

“The timing shows that they are taking advantage of the system,” the staffer said. “They get a financial benefit during a global pandemic, while first-responders have to find help or send their kids to city-run child-care centers.”

Harr promoted another employee to “senior director of implementation,” making $185,944 a year. The DOE said she supervises a team of 45 who help schools meet PE and health-ed requirements.

The senior director of implementation, in turn, appointed four “directors of implementation” to supervise the 45 staffers — about 10 each. Three of the directors received 40-percent pay hikes to $110,419; the fourth makes $118,418.

LaShawn Robinson

Harr reports to LaShawn Robinson, deputy chancellor for School Climate & Wellness, who makes $229,787 a year.



I have been working with parents as a parent advocate for 22 years, and with educators as an advocate for 17 years, and I have gathered first hand data on the wide-spread theft of money from public coffers by employees. If not outright theft, there is blatant transfers of money from, as an example, special education programs to general education classrooms, stealing of computers and other resources, and general mishandling of donated gifts.

I have been doing Impartial Hearings for parents and winning payment of private tuitions for parents since 1998. The staggering truth is, the kids with special needs do not get the federally mandated services they are supposed to get as per their Individualized Education Plan (IEP). In my opinion, if you have a child with Special needs, he/she should be transferred out of the NYC Department of Education as soon as possible.



The NYC DOE is no place for kids with any kind of challenges, whether it is academic, social or emotional. This is particularly true for children with autism.


The NYC DOE also has no place for 2e, "Twice exceptional" or "Twice Gifted" kids. These children/young adults need special attention to perform at their personal best, but their gifted, high-level IQs need specific educational challenges that are simply not available in public schools in NYC (except in the Specialized High Schools, grades K-8 at NEST+M, the Anderson School, and Hunter College Elementary).

Please note that you do NOT need an attorney to represent a parent at an Impartial Hearing. I am not an Attorney.

How do principals falsify the books to satisfy budgetary interests? Principals put only a general education teacher in an ICT class, where two teachers, one special ed and the other general ed, are supposed to co-teach, but this does not happen in reality. Unless the teacher of this class speaks out, no one would know. The facts of this fraud are hidden, because the school says that there are "two teachers", and both the Special education teacher and the general education teacher are listed as employees of the school, so the paperwork shows that everything is as it should be. Only it's not.

We find out exactly what the truth is when we at ADVOCATZ do a 3020-a for a teacher who is charged with incompetency, yet was observed in his/her classroom, an ICT classroom, with only him or her teaching that day or that period.

Below is a chart prepared for a 3020-a case where a general education teacher had multiple observations rated "developing" or "ineffective", then was charged with 3020-a:


The column on the far left are the charged evaluations numbered and submitted by the NYC DOE attorney. The column on the far right shows that if the class was designated as ICT, there was no special education teacher present on that day at the time of the evaluation. The "N/A" means that the class was not an ICT class.

We believe that it is unfair to evaluate a teacher in an ICT class when a second teacher is not present. NYSUT attorneys ignore this point in the hundreds of transcript pages I have read where the educator was represented by a NYSUT attorney. Having one teacher in a classroom is also a violation of the UFT contract, but most educators do not grieve this. They should. 

“The DOE has long been bloated and pumped money into pet projects, overpriced consultants, and progressive pandering,” says Staten Island Councilman Joseph Borelli.

Stats show that the DOE employs 1,189 educrats making $125,000 to $262,000 a year.
In addition to this amount is NYC DOE Chancellor Richard Carranza, whose salary is $363,000 without the perks of the chauffer-driven limo, miscellaneous which add thousands of more dollars to the pot. Many people believe this salary is excessive and that Carranza must be fired. We agree.
Then there are the high-priced accountants (NY POST):
"Despite the army of six-figure supervisors, the DOE still pays high-priced consultants.
The DOE just inked a two-month, $1.2 million contract with Accenture LLP to advise the chancellor on school-reopening options, including a mix of classroom and remote learning.
Accenture staffers bill up to $425 an hour. That’s on top of another three-year Accenture contract costing the DOE $1.7 million a year for management advice.
The Office of School Wellness, under executive director Lindsey Harr, promoted 19 employees to supervisory posts over the past year — with pay hikes up to 45 percent.
Harr’s own salary ballooned $41,416, or 28 percent, to $189,041. She paid a consultant $19,000 to advise her on the reorganization.
In what a fed-up staffer called “favoritism,” Harr let two employees who were working part-time bump up to full-time. Their boosted salaries of $103,211 and $112,791  kicked in in March, just as schools closed and they could work from home.
“The timing shows that they are taking advantage of the system,” the staffer said. “They get a financial benefit during a global pandemic, while first-responders have to find help or send their kids to city-run child-care centers.”
Harr promoted another employee to “senior director of implementation,” making $185,944 a year. The DOE said she supervises a team of 45 who help schools meet PE and health-ed requirements.
The senior director of implementation, in turn, appointed four “directors of implementation” to supervise the 45 staffers — about 10 each. Three of the directors received 40-percent pay hikes to $110,419;  the fourth makes $118,418.
Harr reports to LaShawn Robinson, deputy chancellor for School Climate & Wellness, who makes $229,787 a year.
First Deputy Chancellor Cheryl Watson-Harris, who sources say hopes to replace Carranza after de Blasio leaves office, makes $220,000 while overseeing an array of underlings that includes nine executive superintendents, each making $209, 476 a year. This new layer of bureaucracy created by Carranza costs taxpayers nearly $3 million a  year.
Watson-Harris recently announced a new chief of staff, Melissa Harris, formerly chief executive of the Office of School Design and Charter Partnerships. She makes $194,573 a year and did not get a raise, the DOE said.
On March 18, after schools closed, Chief Academic Officer Linda Chen named a Director of Policy and Engagement, Judy Villeneuve, who received a $23,254 raise, or 21 percent, to $133,673.
Other recent promotions with raises include Recy Dunn, one of Carranza’s nine executive superintendents, became chief strategy officer in the Office of Field Support under Watson-Harris. He gets  $213,976, and a staff of 17.
Flavia Puello Perdomo became chief executive of School Climate and Wellness, under LaShawn Robinson, in July 2018. With the promotional pay hike and mayoral management raises, her salary has risen from $179,098 to $198.161.
DOE BLOAT
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza says classrooms will suffer from a planned $827 million budget reduction because “there is no fat to cut.” But DOE insiders say he should slash his increasingly bloated bureaucracy, which includes:



1,189 educrats making $125,000 a year and up, costing taxpayers $181 million a year.



50 administrators making more than $200,000 annually. Carranza makes $363,000.



340 positions added to the central administration and borough offices in 2019.


A mid-level bureaucracy that has more than doubled in cost to $351 million under Mayor de Blasio.

191 educrats with desk jobs paying $125,000 and up in the Office of Teaching and Learning.

215 staffers with desk jobs paying $125,000 and up in the Division of Early Childhood.

The Office of School Wellness, overseeing physical education and health programs, which promoted 19 staffers to six-figure supervisors in the past year, with raises up to 45 percent.
Nine $207,559-a-year executive superintendents to oversee district superintendents — an extra layer of management created by Carranza costing $3 million a year.

$35.5 million in for First Lady Chirlane McCray’s ThriveNYC mental health school “consultants” who don’t serve children directly.

$19.6 million for Academic Response Teams with 16 administrators who oversee 58 coaches who pop into lagging schools to coach staff. 
Enlarge Imag

$1.66 million annually to a private firm, Accenture, for management consulting, and a new two-month, $1.2 million contract for school-reopening advice.


Opinion Bob McManus
NY POST, May 7, 2020:
Online teaching is vital — but Carranza, United Federation of Teachers don’t care

NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza dropped $270 million on iPad tablets and 
related paraphernalia without first clearing the deal with the teachers union.
Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office
New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza just dropped $270 million on iPad tablets and related paraphernalia without first clearing the deal with the United Federation of Teachers — with entirely predictable results. Think fiasco.


So pour ashes on Carranza’s head, but also blame UFT boss Mike Mulgrew.
The tablets were intended to help kids learn from home during the coronavirus crisis. But remote instruction is poison to the always job-conscious UFT.
“The Department of Education policy regarding [remote] instruction recognizes that educators know their students and families the best and that they use a variety of instructional strategies every day to connect with their students,” says the union.
Rough translation from the edu-speak: Forget about iPads. They threaten the status quo.
So if UFT members don’t feel like conducting remote instruction, they don’t have to. As it happens, a lot aren’t even pretending, and there is nothing Carranza can do about it.
Thus the money is gone. A quarter of a billion dollars is a big chunk of change, but considering the post-coronavirus fiscal tsunami now bearing down on city schools, it’s a potentially calamitous loss.
Not that Carranza, for one, cares about the cash, or the kids, or much of anything beyond transforming the system into a national model of ethnically balanced, perfectly PC mediocrity. Maybe worse.
“Never waste a good crisis to transform a school system,” he said recently, and it would be a grave mistake to think that the fellow who has explicitly dedicated his tenure to “integrating” a school system that was 86 percent minority when he got to town was kidding.
Carranza’s obsession explains his indifference to classroom performance, to scholastic standards, to community tranquility and — now — to the UFT’s wholly predictable hostility to remote instruction.
Sure, the chancellor talks supportively. “Every student that’s identified themselves as needing a device … will have a device,” he said last month. And to that end, the Department of Education says it has distributed more than 300,000 iPads.
Spending is what DOE does best, of course. It went into the 2019-2020 school year with a $34 billion budget, supporting what is far and away America’s highest per-student spending, some $31,000 annually, or roughly double the national average.
Results have always been something else. Apart from some truly bright spots, student performance ranges from barely mediocre to purely disastrous. This is true for such reasons as an acute lack of engaged students, a surplus of disinterested parents, a self-engaged teachers union and an administration more dedicated to social engineering than it is to education.
So why should anybody expect the iPad experiment to have worked?
Yes, there appears to be some distance-learning success stories, and three cheers for that. But the disinterest and self-serving that hobbled the schools pre-coronavirus certainly didn’t disappear when the iPads were distributed.
Beyond that, it would be absurd to expect a seamless transition to remote instruction under any circumstances, let alone amidst the seismic disruptions caused by the coronavirus shutdown.
Let’s be frank: Good faith can carry abrupt change only so far, and there has been precious little of that. But lots of excuse-mongering and hostility. Some say remote instruction generates inequities and should be shut down because DOE hasn’t provided every child with the tools necessary to participate.
There’s probably some truth to this, given the department’s history, but the solution is to try harder — not to give up on schooling altogether. What happens if the pandemic keeps the doors closed in September?
And what about remote instruction beyond September? More strife, most likely.
“The old model where everyone sits in a classroom is not going to work in the new normal,” said Gov. Cuomo Tuesday. “Remote learning, in any form, will never replace the important personal connection between teachers and their students,” responded the UFTs’ parent union, New York State United Teachers.
Thus are the lines drawn. It probably would be best to consider this friction to be battleground preparation for the stupendous budget cutting needed to match the daunting coronavirus-driven city and state revenue shortfalls.
For if anything seems certain, it is that public-employment rosters across the Empire State are going to look dramatically different in a year or so.
But remote instruction and related digital innovation could go a long way toward cushioning the overall impact of cutbacks, given a chance. It’s shameful that the experiment has gotten off to such a rocky start.

Twitter: @RLmac2
Betsy Combier
Editor, ADVOCATZ.com
Editor, ADVOCATZ blog
Editor, Parentadvocates.org
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

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