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Thursday, December 30, 2021

UFT Paraprofessionals Now Receive Lifetime Monthly Pension After Retirement


No matter how bad the UFT Representatives are in winning Grievances,- and/or Appeals, or solving workplace problems, there still remains the benefit of the right to receive a pension upon retirement. Many people want to remain members for that benefit, and I think they are absolutely right to do so!

I also believe in fighting for the rights you have whenever you believe that something is unfair, and your rights are not being honored. 

Betsy Combier

Automatic TRS pensions won for full-time paras

  New York Teacher

Decades of UFT advocacy bore fruit for the union’s paraprofessionals on Oct. 29 as a newly enacted state law guaranteed all UFT-represented full-time paraprofessionals — on the job now and in the future — will automatically become members of the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS). After they retire, TRS members receive a monthly pension for the rest of their lives.

“For more than three decades we’ve been fighting for this,” said Paraprofessionals Chapter Leader Shelvy Young-Abrams.

Though full-time teachers and other TRS titles are automatically enrolled in the pension system, the UFT’s paraprofessionals historically preferred to opt into the system because the cost was considered prohibitive. The union won them that right in 1983.

“When paraprofessionals first joined the union half a century ago, they were making $2.30 an hour; they felt they couldn’t afford it,” said Young-Abrams. “But later, we started having members come in calling for pension appointments and finding out they’re not in the pension system. That hurt.”

The UFT began lobbying for automatic enrollment for paraprofessionals and managed to persuade the state Legislature to pass legislation enabling it in 2000 and 2019, but both bills were vetoed by the governor in office at the time. Gov. Kathy Hochul signed this year’s legislation.

About 1,800 appointed, full-time paraprofessionals — 4.35% of those eligible — were not enrolled in TRS when the new law went into effect. They will join the retirement system as Tier 6 members, as will all future hires.

TRS was to begin reaching out to eligible paraprofessionals starting in December 2021. Both TRS and the UFT will hold informational meetings for eligible paraprofessionals.

In addition to their monthly pension check for life, UFT paraprofessionals will now have the right to participate in the TRS Tax-Deferred Annuity Program as well as the right before retirement to borrow from their TRS pension account. Their family will now receive a death benefit from TRS if they die after one year of service.

The new law does not apply to substitute paras, who have the option to join the Board of Education Retirement System. The law also does not affect paraprofessionals who have already enrolled in TRS.

“Gone are the days when a paraprofessional would reach the end of a long career to find out at a pension consultation that they had not enrolled in TRS and would have no pension,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “Our paras have devoted their lives to taking care of children. It is fitting that they and their families are taken care of as well.”

Related Topics: ParaprofessionalsPension

Thursday, December 2, 2021

The Alleged "HEPA purifiers" and The NYC Department of Education Misinformation


The students at Townsend Harris High School at Queens College are to be commended for their work on the "HEPA " purifiers in NYC schools. 

Betsy Combier

The DOE calls the air purifiers that will be in NYC classrooms “HEPA purifiers.” The Classic asked the CDC if that’s accurate. Here’s how the CDC responded
The Classic, August 31, 2021

By Jasmine Palma and Ryan Eng, Editors-in-Chief

Given that aerosolized particles with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can remain suspended in the air for long stretches of time, ventilation and air purification represent key preventative strategies. In its guide to opening schools, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends schools consider adding portable air purifier units with high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to “enhance air cleaning wherever possible.” The CDC’s FAQ on ventilation notes, “Portable HEPA filtration units that combine a HEPA filter with a powered fan system are a preferred option for auxiliary air cleaning.” 

An investigation by The Classic has found that, though it has told the public that two “HEPA Purifiers” will be in each classroom this fall, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) will be providing devices (Intellipure compact air purifiers) that do not match that description. The DOE has repeatedly referred to the Intellipure units as “HEPA purifiers” on its website, in a “DOE Homecoming Health and Safety Guide,” and in statements to The Classic. Multiple experts have told The Classic that to be a “HEPA Purifier” the units should have within them an actual HEPA filter, but they do not.

When asked by The Classic to comment on the accuracy of the DOE’s decision to describe the Intellipure units as “HEPA purifiers,” DOE spokesperson Nathaniel Styer said, “We never said that the units had HEPA filters. We said that they met the standard for HEPA filtration. That they are HEPA purifiers.”

On Twitter, Mr. Styer claimed that HEPA refers to a rating that could be applied to “different types of machines” that filter particles at the level of HEPA filters. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the designation HEPA is specifically applied to “a type of pleated mechanical air filter” tested to a standard level of efficiency. Citing the CDC, Mr. Styer said that because Intellipure’s process as a whole can filter at HEPA filter levels, it is a HEPA purifier. The Classic contacted the CDC, however, and a representative said the two technologies are distinct. 

“The distinction between an air cleaner using a true high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter and one that does not should be clear,” said Dr. Steve Martin, an engineer and expert on ventilation at the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, a branch of the CDC, in an email to The Classic. 

Dr. Martin said that while “it is certainly possible for other air cleaners to use a combination of filtration technologies that can perform at ‘HEPA-equivalent’ levels (and maybe even higher),” the Intellipure air purifiers are not true HEPA devices. “The distinction should be clear between true HEPA air cleaners and others,” he said. 

The difference between a true HEPA filter and a HEPA-equivalent device can be significant, according to Dr. Martin. “The biggest concern with air cleaners claiming ‘HEPA-equivalent’ performance is how they perform over time. As a true HEPA filter loads with particles over time, the overall filtration efficiency will only increase.  The same can not necessarily be said for other technologies,” he said. 

Other experts spoke to The Classic about whether it was accurate for the DOE to describe the Intellipure units as HEPA purifiers to the public.

“HEPA refers to having a specific type of filter… so a product should have one of those filters in it to be a HEPA purifier,” said Dr. Delphine Farmer, an atmospheric chemist with a research focus in air pollution from Colorado State University, in an email to The Classic

According to an email from Dr. Donna Green, an associate professor at the University of New South Wales, Australia and a founding member of the Climate Change Research Centre, “[Intellipure] uses a different process, which may meet or exceed the filtration standards of a HEPA, but that only makes it HEPA like, not true HEPA.”

The HEPA filter level of efficiency is set by the United States Department of Energy, but manufacturers do not receive certification for their filters from the government. Dr. Martin said, “HEPA filters are tested and certified by their manufacturers according to consensus standards.” The consensus testing standards he referenced come from the Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology, a nonprofit membership organization.

Intellipure does not refer to its devices as HEPA purifiers. The Classic spoke to Isaac Mulvihill, the senior vice president of Delos, the company that procured the Intellipure units on contract for the city. “As it relates to claims being made by school systems that have purchased the Intellipure Compact devices, we stand by any statement or representation made that these devices meet or exceed the HEPA efficiency standard,” he said in an email.

The name the DOE uses to describe the devices to the public matters for a number of reasons. First, the department’s declaration that a non-HEPA product is in fact a HEPA product obscures the fact that the devices now in schools are not what the CDC recommends for schools (“portable air cleaners that use high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters”).

Second, according to reporting by Chalkbeat New York, purifiers containing actual HEPA filters can be less expensive than the Intellipure devices and other units had better clean air delivery rates, a metric that experts say is essential in keeping rooms supplied with fresh air and less likely to be carrying the COVID virus. 

Third, while the Intellipure devices use a total filtration system to reach or exceed the standards of the HEPA filter, the level of peer-reviewed, independent testing of the Intellipure system pales in comparison to the mountain of testing done on the industry-standard HEPA filters since the 1940s, when the filters were created for the Manhattan Project to filter out radioactive toxins.

In an interview about air purifiers with the MedCram YouTube channel, Dr. Joseph Allen, an associate professor at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said, “If you’re looking for a portable air cleaner, look for a HEPA filter and nothing else. You don’t want any of these bells and whistles.”

It is, however, the ‘bells and whistles’ that bring the Intellipure devices up to HEPA-level standards. 

Different features might make non-HEPA devices vulnerable to further problems, Dr. Allen told MedCram. “So you want to be careful that we’re not solving one problem and creating others, and importantly, there’s something else that’s actually less expensive that will do the job the same or even better,” he said.

The Intellipure process

Delos maintains that the efficiency of a filter in an overall unit is less important than how the unit functions as a whole. Mr. Mulvihill said it’s essential to validate a system’s overall performance “instead of relying solely on a HEPA rating for the filters inside. Every Intellipure Compact device produced from the factory line is individually tested for efficiency at the total device level to meet or exceed the HEPA efficiency standard.” 

Citing a Delos fact sheet on Intellipure in NYC schools, Mr. Styer of the DOE told The Classic that “These devices were purchased for the entire unit’s ability to provide HEPA-level filtration. It would be misleading to report otherwise.”

The Intellipure compact air purifier units use a technology called a Disinfection Filtration System (DFS), which relies on a process of electrostatic precipitation to effectively capture particles. The airstream passes through a prefilter and into an ionization fieldThe particles are charged, which “forces those remaining particles to agglomerate to one another, thus enhancing the filtration capabilities of the downstream mechanical filter (the main filter),” according to Mr. Mulvihill.

In other words, the unit enhances the main filter through ionization to combine smaller particles so they can get captured by the filter. According to Mr. Mulvihill, the units use a series of filters. The main filter makes it difficult for ions to escape, and an additional grounding grid captures ions that are not sequestered by the media filter, “ensuring ions do not disseminate outside the device.”

Explaining the purchase

The New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services acquired the Intellipure compact filter units for NYC public schools, including Townsend Harris, in a two-contract $43.3 million dollar deal. Two air purifier units will be placed in each classroom all across the NYC school system for the new school year. 

According to a representative from the DOE, “The most important consideration in our choice of a purifier was the level of filtration it provides. The units we chose use a technology that filters to .007 microns, which is beyond the HEPA standard of 0.3 microns.”

In a Twitter thread responding to Chalkbeat’s report, DOE Press Secretary Danielle Filson linked to Intellipure’s website and wrote, “We are providing MORE protection than a HEPA filter.” 

The Intellipure web page that Filson linked to reads, “HEPA is theoretically supposed to capture particles down to 0.3 (µm). As air passes through the filter, large particles get trapped, but anything smaller than 0.3 (µm) can get through and [be] released back out into the air. Many harmful pollutants like certain chemicals, bacteria, allergens, and airborne viruses are much smaller than 0.3(µm).” 

However, Dr. Martin of the CDC said that claims that HEPA filters are only efficient “down to” 0.3 microns “show a fundamental misunderstanding of how HEPA filters truly work, and they simply are not true.” 

In fact, HEPA filters are highly efficient at trapping particles smaller than 0.3 microns. This happens because at such small scales the particles move erratically in a phenomenon called Brownian motion, which allows them to be trapped in the mesh of the filter. 

In a statement to The Classic, Mr. Styer said, “New York City Schools are the gold standard for health and safety. Our HEPA purifiers clean air particles at .007 microns – far beyond traditional HEPA filters.”

Dr. Martin, on the other hand, said HEPA filters can “filter down to 0.007 micrometer particles… To control diseases spread through the air, there is no practical reason to be ‘beyond HEPA.’”

In an email to The Classic, Mr. Mulvihill of Delos reiterated his claim that Intellipure’s efficiency standard is more reliable because the company tests how its overall unit functions. He said that many devices which use HEPA filters can and do perform below HEPA efficiency levels when the overall device containing the HEPA filter is tested. 

“Intellipure’s products evidently ‘surpass HEPA filter standards,’ but, how much does that matter if the difference is between 99.97% efficient and 99.99%? … So, as long as the efficiency is high, I recommend not getting hung up on exactly how high,” said Dr. William Bahnfleth, an affiliate researcher and professor of architectural engineering at Penn State, as well as a presidential member of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). “What I wonder about is whether New York could have acquired actual HEPA/activated carbon filter units that would provide the same uncontaminated air delivery rate for a significantly lower cost.”

Functionality and safety after long-term usage

A general consensus among the experts The Classic spoke to is that maintenance is an important factor when selecting an air purifier, particularly with electrostatic precipitation, which can be effective but requires attention.

Dr. Martin said that electrostatic precipitators become covered in layers of dust as they capture particles, and their efficiency can diminish over time. 

“It is unclear how efficient the overall air cleaner will be when this happens,” he said. “This decreased efficiency can be limited with careful, routine cleaning and maintenance of the air cleaner, but it will likely require more frequent maintenance and a more time-consuming process [than] that [of] a true HEPA air cleaner.”

Mr. Mulvihill said that Intellipure does use electrostatic precipitation but not in the same way as traditional electrostatic precipitators, which use collection plates to gather particles. Such plates, Mr. Mulvihill said, need to be managed regularly, but Intellipure instead uses “a synthetic filtration media” to capture ions along with a “grounding mechanism” opposite the main filter designed to capture ions that may pass through. He says that this distinction ensures “the purification efficiency over the lifetime of the installed filter is significantly enhanced.”

Delos maintains that the Intellipure unit is safe and has been tested to ensure that it does not release harmful byproducts into the air, noting the device is California Air Resources Board (CARB) and UL2998 (Zero Ozone Emissions from Air Cleaners) certified. 

“It sounds like the manufacturer has done testing to determine that no reactive byproducts are produced – while the information is short on details, this is important to know,” said Dr. Charles Haas, a professor of environmental engineering and the head of the environmental engineering program at Drexel University.

Mr. Mulvihill said that Intellipure units require maintenance, a process shown in this video tutorial, but are not different from other units requiring filter replacements and the removal of dust buildup. He added that Intellipure units also require “the simple removal of any dust present on the metal grid ahead of the main filter – taking only a few more seconds of cleaning.”

Some experts, however, said that the school environment might make maintenance difficult.

“Electrostatic precipitators, such as this system, properly designed and maintained can be an excellent solution… The big challenge in public schools is facilities maintenance,” said Dr. Donald Milton, a professor of Environmental Health at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. “So, while I’m confident that at the start of the school year, these devices will work very well, it will require vigilance to ensure that they continue to work and don’t emit hazardous chemicals (ozone and its reaction products) into the classrooms.”

Dr. Green, from the Climate Change Research Centre, said “Given that [the Intellipure units] are not likely to be as carefully maintained (two in each classroom with already overworked staff), my preference would be to use true HEPA to reduce the likelihood of accidental release of products that can be harmful to health.”

As made evident by the multiple perspectives garnered by The Classic, purifiers operating at HEPA-equivalent levels of efficiency and units using true HEPA filters are different technologies. Delos provided timely, detailed answers to every inquiry The Classic sent, and these responses demonstrated there are many distinctions between their units and units containing HEPA filters. Parents, students, school administrators, and teachers deserve full and clear information about the Intellipure devices so they can ask legitimate questions surrounding the safety of schools as the upcoming academic year approaches. 

Additional reporting done by Elsa Oreen and Jocelyn Wang, Science and Technology Editors

Photo by Matthew Merino, Accuracy Editor

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Alonzo Yanes, Burned in His High School Chemistry Lab, Wins $29 Million Award For Past and Future Pain And Suffering.

Alonzo Yanes after the fire

The picture above of burned student Alonzo Yanes says it all. Anna Poole, who was a science teacher at his school, Beacon High School on Manhattan's West Side, did an experiment that she should never have done, and burned student Alonzo Yanes after the experiment went horribly wrong. Ms. Poole was punished by being given an administrative job at the NYC Department of Education. I am not making this up. I can't help but think about all the teachers I know who made a mistake that was silly and not as serious as that of Ms. Poole and were terminated at a 3020-a arbitration. Teacher tenure discipline and punishment are random and arbitrary in NYC.

Below is a re-posting of the story on this blog in 2020  with the update, namely that the Appellate Division First Department has awarded Mr. Yanes $29 million for past and future pain and suffering, the largest pain-and-suffering damages amount approved by an appellate court in state history, according to the NY Law Journal.

From the New York Law Journal, November 22, 2021

First Department Appeals Court Halves Jury's $60M Pain-and-Suffering Award—But It's Still a Record

Anna Poole

Alonzo Yanes, Burned at School, Keeps His $60 Million Award While Teacher Anna Poole Gets a Raise From the NYC DOE

NYC Rubber Room Reporter, August 21, 2020

Principal Lacey testified "she made a terrible mistake" and cried on the stand, but was ousted from Beacon in August 2020, basically for this incident and her alleged "racist" policies.

Ruth Lacey

‘Hypocritical’ Beacon principal squeezes rich parents while students rally against ‘privilege’

Some readers may say that I am a teacher advocate and therefore should support all teachers at all times.

I do not believe this. If I want to be believable in hearings or on my blog, (which I do),  I must dig into the facts of a story or case, and tell the reader those facts. If an educator is guilty of misconduct based upon a review of the facts, then I will say exactly that. I still argue for a punishment that is fair, based on the evidence, so I usually do not agree with a termination award and will fight to overturn any termination decision I think was not deserved.

In the case of Alonzo Yanes, I do believe that the NYC DOE should fire the teacher who caused such harm, Anna Poole. One of my reasons for feeling this way is that I know of so many cases where arbitrators have terminated good teachers for no reason or a low-grade accident or mistake that did not harm a child.

Alonzo Yanes and his parents

I just cannot accept the fact that Ms. Poole did such a stupid act and was rewarded, with her student suffering so much from his injuries. I know personally many teachers who allegedly made a far less serious "mistake", admitted to making a mistake or not doing what they are accused of, were charged with 3020-a and terminated.

More proof that the teacher disciplinary procedures and penalties must be changed and made more fair.

Betsy Combier
Editor, ADVOCATZ Blog

NYLJ, Jason Grant, November 22, 2021

A state appeals court has awarded $29 million—the largest pain-and-suffering damages amount approved by an appellate court in state history—to a former Manhattan public high school student burned over much of his body during a class experiment gone wrong, though the court did cut the jury verdict of $60 million roughly in half.

The Appellate Division, First Department awarded the $29 million in past and future pain and suffering to the plaintiff, referred to as A.Y. in the opinion, while only briefly addressing its decision to halve the trial-court award. And the panel did not address in detail how it arrived at the $29 million total.

The unanimous panel of five justices used most of the opinion to detail the “catastrophic physical injuries, with psychological and emotional sequelae” suffered by the plaintiff, who has been identified in multiple news reports as Alonzo Yanes, at the time of the chemistry class accident in 2014 and in the years since. Yanes was 16 when, in a chemistry class at Manhattan’s Beacon High School, a teacher conducting an experiment “poured methanol from a gallon jug” into dishes containing nitrates, and “a giant fireball erupted … and engulfed” Yanes, and he burned for at least a minute, according to an earlier decision in the litigation by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Alexander Tisch, who cited witness accounts.

After detailing the pain and suffering Yanes has experienced, the First Department panel wrote simply that “under the circumstances of this case, we find the jury’s awards for past pain and suffering (5.5 years) and future pain and suffering (54 years) excessive only to the extent indicated,” citing Peat v. Fordham Hill Owners.

Earlier in the opinion, the panel had laid out “the extent indicated,” writing that a jury in 2020 had awarded “A.Y.” the “principal sums of $29,585,000 million for past pain and suffering and $29,585,000 for future pain and suffering over 54 years, plus 9% interest.” And the panel said in the Nov. 18 opinion that it was allowing Yanes to stipulate to a reduction of the trial-level awards to $12 million for past pain and suffering, and to $17 million for future pain and suffering.

Ben Rubinowitz, the attorney for Yanes and managing partner at Gair, Gair, Conason, Rubinowitz, Bloom, Hershenhorn, Steigman & Mackauf, has indicated that his client will accept the $29 million amount allowed by the First Department court, rather than attempt to retry damages in the case.

And in an email Nov. 19, he said that “it is hard to imagine the extent of the pain and suffering that Alonzo went through and will continue to go through for the rest of his life.”

“The bottom line is that Alonzo would give back every penny if he could have his health back,” Rubinowitz also said. And he added that “it is unfortunate that the city of New York failed to follow their own safety protocols and rules and so badly injured Alonzo.”

The New York City Law Department, which has represented the defendants, including the city of New York, the New York City Department of Education and the chemistry teacher who conducted the experiment gone wrong, in the long-running case, did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

In the opinion that mostly detailed A.Y.’s injury and suffering, the panel, composed of Judges Troy Webber, Cynthia Kern, Lizbeth González, Manuel Mendez and Martin Shulman, wrote that his “physical injuries included, among other things, third-degree burns to 31% of plaintiff’s body — mainly on his face, ears, neck, arms, and hands — as well as degloving injuries to his hands and a corneal abrasion to his right eye.”

“Within the first 24 hours of his hospital admission immediately following the accident, 38 pounds of fluid were pumped into plaintiff’s body in an attempt to provide adequate fluid replacement to his damaged tissue, and plaintiff was placed in an induced coma for three days,” the panel also wrote.

Later in the opinion, the justices added that “the third-degree burns that plaintiff suffered also destroyed the nerves and sweat glands underneath his skin, causing him both to lose sensation in those areas and to be unable to regulate his own body temperature.” Moreover, they wrote, “Following his two-month hospital stay, plaintiff was required to wear compression garments, which caused him to overheat. Plaintiff’s treating physician testified not only that these injuries were permanent and incurable, but that plaintiff will also suffer from ‘double or triple’ the problems he ordinarily would have as he ages due to skin atrophy, i.e., the loss of elasticity and thickness of the skin.”

The justices also said that “as for his psychological and emotional suffering, plaintiff testified, in detail, about the sensations he experienced being on fire,” and that “despite stopping, dropping, and rolling in a futile attempt to extinguish the fire, plaintiff said that he ‘felt trapped in [his] own body’ and ‘completely helpless.’”

“He described it as ‘the worst pain [he had] ever felt in [his] entire life,’ and that ‘[n]ot a day passes by where [he does not] think about it,’” they added. “Plaintiff also attested to the unceasing, excruciating physical pain that he endured during his hospital stay, which was minimally alleviated, if at all, with pain medication.”

In August 2020, Tisch had upheld a jury verdict of $60 million in pain and suffering damages awarded to the former 10th-grade student, in a 38-page opinion.

MAR 22, 2018 

City educators, parents, and students were sickened Thursday to hear an Upper West Side teacher found a pot of cash and a cushy job at the end of a rainbow experiment that burned two students.

Beacon High School teacher Anna Poole has landed $23,000 in raises since the 2014 accident that permanently disfigured one teen and prompted nearly $40 million in lawsuits.

She is now an instructional leader assigned to the Education Department headquarters and teaches city teachers how to perform science lessons.

New York City Parents Union founder Mona Davids was appalled.

"I think that's outrageous and ludicrous. It's actually insulting," said Davids. "But it's typical DOE. That's what they do, reward poor performance."

As an example, Davids cited former Bronx principal Santiago Taveras, who lost his job at DeWitt Clinton High School in a 2017 cheating scandal. Despite a probe that found he changed students' grades, Taveras landed in another high-paying city schools gig, as an educational administrator.

Poole, 35, was a rookie science teacher on Jan. 2, 2014, when a chemistry rainbow experiment went horribly wrong and caused a classroom explosion that injured two students.

"Oh my God, I set a kid on fire," Poole cried out, according to a Special Commissioner of Investigation report published five months after horrific blast.

But instead of firing Poole, Education Department officials gave her a new job as citywide instructional specialist, and a series of raises the agency said were contractually required. She currently makes a $79,484 a year — up from $56,048 on the day of the explosion.

City public school teacher and education activist Axia Rodriquez said Poole's plum gig shows the Education Department disciplinary system is upside-down.

"The DOE is helping this lady reboot her career because it was a tragic accident," said Rodriquez, who teaches English-language learners. "But when whistleblowers speak up, their careers are in tatters."

Queens teacher Bobson Wong said on Twitter that the city should put its brightest educators in positions to lead important professional development classes.

"I think this says a lot about the quality of professional development — who gets chosen to do it," Wong tweeted. "I wish teachers had more of an opportunity to run PD, but given how busy we are, this is difficult."

Beacon students were shocked that Poole is giving city educators lessons on how to lead science classes. The classroom blast she touched off four years ago melted the ear of one student, burned the forearms and hair of another, and left a third with PTSD.

So "maybe continuing to work with chemicals isn't a super responsible decision," said sophomore Henry Pearl, 16.

Poole didn't pick up her office phone when called for comment, and her coworkers at 52 Chambers St. said they were too spooked to comment on her story.

"Good luck," said one DOE staffer approached by a Daily News reporter outside Tweed Courthouse. "There's a lot of fear here."

Ben Chapman is an award-winning reporter who covers education for the New York Daily News. A graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Chapman has written more than 2,000 articles about New York City schools for the Daily News since joining the paper in 2009.

By Priscilla DeGregory, NY POST August 10, 2020

The city lost its attempt to avoid paying the $60 million verdict that was awarded to a Beacon High School student who was badly burned in a since-banned chemistry experiment gone awry, a judge ruled Monday.

Alonzo Yanes was awarded the stunning sum by a jury on July 1, 2019, following a trial that detailed how Yanes, then 16, suffered horrific and disfiguring burns on Jan. 2, 2014, after his chemistry teacher, Anna Poole, conducted a “Rainbow Experiment” that erupted in a fireball.
The trial also laid out the harrowing physical and emotional recovery that the teen went through in the months and years following the incident.
“All of this excruciating physical and emotional trauma experienced by Mr. Yanes has essentially stopped his young life before it even began,” Manhattan Supreme Supreme Court Justice Alexander Tisch wrote in a decision upholding the jury’s verdict.
The city last August filed a motion seeking to toss out or renegotiate the hefty verdict claiming that Yanes wasn’t nearly as disfigured as other accident victims in New York cases who have received smaller payouts.
Tisch said the verdict — which awarded for past and future pain and suffering — is appropriate as “Mr. Yanes was subjected to literally being burned alive.”
Yanes, now 22, spent painful months recovering in hospitals including undergoing skin grafting to his face, neck, arms, and hands and losing his ears, according to trial testimony. He has disfiguring scars on his face and body and has lost the ability to sweat and feel in the burned areas, a doctor testified.
“Having miraculously survived being severely burned and the related trauma of the accident, Mr. Yanes became acquainted with the agonizing pain and suffering he would have to endure daily,” Tisch wrote of Yanes’ recovery.
And as for his future, the judge wrote, “While Mr. Yanes is supposed to be entering the prime of his life, he has been unable to establish a romantic relationship and has never even experienced his first kiss or had a single sexual encounter.”
Tisch said there is no sign that these emotional consequences “will somehow lessen over the remainder of his life.”
The physical and emotional impact of the accident will continue to affect Yanes’ job prospects, his future relationships, his self-confidence, his independence from his parents, and his friendships throughout his life, Tisch said.
he jury “awarded a sizable, but fair monetary award for the substantial injuries … that Mr. Yanes has endured and is statistically likely to continue to endure for an additional 54 years post-verdict,” the decision read referring to Yanes’ predicted life expectancy.
Yanes’ lawyer Ben Rubinowitz told The Post he and his clients are “very pleased” with the decision.
“This young child suffered horrific injuries through the negligence of the Board of Education and a teacher who failed to provide protection for the students,” Rubinowitz said. “Although the award offers some measure of damages I know that my client would return it in a heartbeat if he could have his health back.”
The DOE deferred comment to the city Law Department.
Law Department spokesman Nicholas Paolucci said, “This was a tragic incident and the experiment has been banned in our schools.
“While we respect the court’s ruling, we believe the award is not consistent with the awards that have been upheld by the courts in similar cases.”
Paolucci said the city is “reviewing the city’s legal options” when asked if there would be an appeal.
Case Upheld

As a chemistry teacher at Manhattan's Beacon High School "poured methanol from a gallon jug" into dishes containing nitrates, "a giant fireball erupted ... and engulfed" the student, and he burned for at least a minute, wrote the judge.