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Saturday, June 19, 2021

NYC DOE Says To Parents: If You Want Your Children To Learn, Take Them Out of Public School


Keisha Ellis poses in front of P.S. 147, the McNair Elementary School, in Queens.
Georgette Roberts/N.Y. Post

‘It’s frightening’: Troubled NYC school told mom to pull her smart son out

Georgette Roberts and Selim Algar, NY POST, June 16, 2021

Find a better school for your son. 

That’s the advice defeated teachers at beleaguered PS 147 in Cambria Heights, Queens, gave to mom Keisha Ellis when she asked about improving the 11-year-old boy’s performance. 

“It’s frightening to hear that from a teacher talking to you about your son,” she told The Post. “They didn’t say they would work with him or try to address it, they just said we should leave.” 

Ellis fears her boy will fail at his dream of becoming a lawyer if he stays at the failing school, where 70 percent of students can’t pass the state’s basic English exam despite the DOE spending nearly $25,000 per pupil. 

“They told me that he is a good student, a smart student,” she said. “But they said the school is not a competitive place and that he was just going to fall behind with the rest of his class.” 

It appears that a lot of the predominantly black parents at the school are getting the message, as enrollment has dropped 17 percent from 2017 to this year. 

Many District 29 families have split for private and charter schools — or moved to Long Island. But Ellis says she’s in a bind because she can’t afford a move or a private school.

“A lot of people don’t have the money for private schools,” she said. “I’ve applied to two charter schools. But that’s it. Otherwise I’m not sure what I’m going to do.” 

The DOE spent roughly $24,000 per student at PS 147 in 2019. 

Despite that, 81 percent of students failed their state math exam in 2019, according to DOE records. Seventy percent failed English that year. 

“If he’s in a class where there is little or no competition, how do you think he’ll feel?” Ellis added. “He’ll feel complacent. If there is a lot of mediocrity in the class, he is not going to do well. He will feel alright that he is not doing OK. He wants to be a lawyer. I know he can accomplish his dream. But it feels farfetched.” 

District mom Judith Nephew said her son showed little progress while at PS 52 in Jamaica. 

“He wasn’t getting anywhere” she said. “Every year they would tell us that he was struggling and that he would have to stay back. Then suddenly, they would say he made a big improvement and they would promote him. At the end of the third grade he still couldn’t read.” 

Nephew said area friends suggested that she apply to charter school Success Academy two years ago and that she won a spot. 

“They did an evaluation and told me that he would have to repeat the third grade in order to catch up,” she said. “They took their time and gradually he improved. He is one of the best readers in his class now.” 

Nephew said that she feels lucky to have landed a spot at the school and said District 29 parents are increasingly starved for schooling options. 

A total of 73 percent of students at PS 52 flunked their 2019 state math tests and 67 percent failed to pass English, according to DOE records. Roughly $23,000 was spent on each student that year. 

Enrollment has dropped from 475 in 2017 to 336 this year, a dip of 29 percent. 

“I know how a lot of parents feel who are in these schools now,” Nephew said. “Kids are promoted when they shouldn’t be. Nothing happens with bullying. It’s just very difficult.” 

DOE spokesperson Sarah Casasnovas said, “We’re supporting our District 29 families, teachers, and staff and firmly commit to expanding on the improvements we’ve seen so every child and family has a positive, rigorous and high-quality experience.” 

Local activists Michael Duncan and Raymond Dugue of the Students Improvement Association rallied frustrated parents at District 29 offices last week. 

“People are coming to me and asking me what to do,” Duncan said. “I don’t have an answer for them. There are so many people in these situations who are desperate. The DOE needs to do something now.”

From the Editor:

See also:

Another NYC DOE School Buys The Woke Cancel Culture Curriculum

This is  the same opposition heard recently from parents whose children attend private school:

NYC’s Spence School showed video that ‘tarred and feathered’ white women: ex-trustee

Parents revolt at Manhattan’s posh Spence School amid race-video scandal

 Betsy Combier

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

Thursday, June 10, 2021

The End of the Absent Teacher Reserve Pool - For "Excessed" Employees


rubber room at 333 7th Avenue, Manhattan

rubber room, Ozone Park, Queens N.Y.

Who can define an "excessed employee" in real terms?

The Absent Teacher Reserve pool is a unique group of educators who are given jobs as nomad temporary substitute teachers/assistant principals/staff and are used by principals to cover absences or illness of permanent staff as if they were per diem employees, but they get their regular salary and stay in one school for longer than a day. ATRs have no chapter and do not elect a chapter leader. The UFT contract does not give them any rights, and the NYCDOE takes full advantage of this to place ATR educators out of license and even out of their district. This never made any sense. 

Educators Linger in the Misunderstood ‘Teacher Reserve,’ a Byproduct of School Reforms

Absent Teacher's Reserve Agreement Reached

Absent Teacher Reserves (ATRs) Become a NYC Budget Battle Issue

When this title was created in 2005, there was, as usual, a total lack of thinking by anyone at the UFT, CSA, or NYCDOE. The articles being posted by media about how the ATR pool is supposedly ending are very muddled because reporters seldom understand the depth of deceit and outright lies that the NYCDOE comes out with on a daily basis. This is deliberate, by the way. 

The ATR pool is not the rubber room.

I studied international secrecy strategies and whistleblower laws while doing graduate studies at Johns Hopkins' SAIS. Government deceit and keeping secrets are strategies used by governments all the time. (See TRAC). I love this description of the coverups of the Julian Assange whistleblower case:

"It remains illegal to classify information “to conceal inefficiency, violations of law, or administrative error; to prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency.” Presumably that includes war crimes. Yet the secretive among us are classifying fifty million items a year, a perpetual fog machine."

That's the DOE, UFT, and CSA: "perpetual fog machines".

The Teacher Hiring Support Center got it right:

Teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR)

"Teachers are often confused about the difference between being a teacher in excess and being part of the ATR.  ATRs are excessed teachers who do not find a permanent position at a school by the time the next school year begins.  Teachers in excess do not have to become ATRs. In fact, becoming an ATR is risky.  For example:

- If you do not obtain a fully appointed teaching position by the beginning of the school year, you will be placed into a rotation assignment as a member of the ATR pool.  The placement will be made under the collective bargaining agreement, but the assignment will be done centrally and you will have no control over the schools into which you are placed. 

- If you are in fact teaching in a full-time teaching program at a school while you are still in fact a member of the ATR pool, the central NYCDOE policy can still assign you to another school at any time.  Because you are not on the school's budget, the principal cannot guarantee your security. [Top of Page]"

I need to add that since 2012, whenever a teacher won his/her 3020-a with a reprimand or suspension (but no termination), this person was automatically made an ATR.

There are so many ways that this dumping procedure is not fair to anyone: an ATR teacher certified to teach math can be placed into a vacancy for a month as a teacher for a high school social studies class; or, a Guidance Counselor can be placed into a vacancy to teach math for a week. If the ATR educator was actually not an ATR but a per diem, then they could have the students review a report or look at a video during the class to take up the time, because they do not know how to teach a class and don't have to worry about being rated and fired. 

But an ATR who is a tenured person can be evaluated while in the class teaching a content area that they know nothing about. ATRs are rated "S/U" (satisfactory/unsatisfactory)under the rating system described in Teaching For the 20th Century,  This is good, in my opinion, because the NYSED rating system ("HEDI" - highly effective, effective, developing, and ineffective ) is a fog machine at work, clearly, or at least the way the NYCDOE uses it. I've heard that Charlotte Danielson herself doesn't like what the NYC DOE is doing. 

You cannot understand this nonsense unless you understand that this waste of human capital and public money both fit into the bigger policy of the removal of highly paid tenured educators from their regular teaching/admin. position whenever a principal wanted the person gone for any number of reasons, often having nothing to do with the actual pedagogy or skills of the person reassigned or "excessed".  Tenured and non-tenured educators who are 'excessed' became part of the muddle in the planned displacement of employees, as if people were things.

Then in 2012 I was doing a 3020-a, and a DOE Attorney told me that a new policy was set up where anyone who was not terminated would be automatically placed into the ATR pool. I asked where this was written down, and heard it was not in writing, it was "just the way it is."

The temporary reassignment centers, or 'rubber rooms' ("TRC"s I called them when I worked at the UFT) are another part of the same so-called 'solution' to the main issue Bloomberg hoped to resolve (with the inexplicable help of Randi Weingarten at the UFT and David Grandwetter, General Counsel of the CSA) which was and is today as follows:

Terminate educators with tenure without giving them a due process hearing. (Education Law 3020-a(2)(a)) or, if the unwanted employee is not tenured, deny them their jobs without considering any protected rights (age, gender, race, religion discrimination) and arbitration.

The policy stems from a pattern and practice of allowing a back-room charges writer (I made the term up) to put as many charges as possible into the served papers in order to make something stick. Whether you are tenured or not, there are certain rights that a person has which can be used to get your job back, or at least off of the problem code.

Any way you want to look at it, the ATR pool and rubber rooms deny lawfully given rights to Department employees.

Therefore both the rubber rooms and the ATR pool are symptoms of the same employment policy but are not the same in practice. 

In the post below we read that after years of outrage for placing tenured teachers in rubber rooms, excessed or punished for crimes brought to 3020-a - but not terminated - have been recorded for history, and now the other terrible outcome of the unlawful 3020-a hearings - the demeaning title of "Absent Teacher Reserve" or "ATR" - will be retired, gone, done. But only for excessed employees. The author is confusing ATRs with the rubber room. 

Oh, wait. Are we to believe what the NYC Department of Education is saying? In the City that is the capital of the State of deceit? Be mindful that the NYCDOE is claiming that most of the ATR pool are "excessed" employees, and all of the "excessed" employees who are in the ATR pool will be permanently placed in September. But this does not apply to teachers who are charged with something, and are waiting in a rubber room to have the 3020-a arbitration or discontinuance appeal hearing. 

How do you prove if you are being excessed for a valid reason, i.e. elimination of your position, due to financial necessity, or a whim of a principal?

Answer from the DOE: we only reassign/excess for valid reasons ("fog machine" at work);

Answer from the UFT: "there is nothing we can do" or, ""your arbitration has been put on hold for a year (so you lose the ability to go to PERB or court on an Article 78 but we are not going to tell you about your options" (fog machine again) 

When I worked as Special Representative for the UFT, there were 8 rooms scattered in all the Boroughs, and I visited all of them, one at a time, almost every day. In 2010 the public uproar over the huge amount of money spent on paying the tenured educators to sit in the rubber rooms became a cause celebre and a PR nightmare for Bloomberg, so a deal was made with the UFT to "close" the rubber rooms. 

This was extremely misleading. What the NYCDOE did was close the large rooms and replace them with small rooms, hidden in schools, basements, and closets. See the two pictures at the top of this post?  The first picture above is the rubber room in Manhattan in about 2007, when principals re-assigned anyone for any reason who they wanted out of their school. It was full. 

The second picture above is a rubber room for one teacher who dared to report student-to-student violence in his classroom. The storage room he was told to sit in was badly ventilated and there was no heat. He complained, but his complaint went nowhere. He was there for a year, then terminated recently at his 3020-a. He did not appeal.

The NYC Department of Education higher-ups are notorious for claiming they are NEVER wrong about anything, even when handing over $hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlement money, and unilaterally changing the titles of tenured employees simply to further harass an employee who was supposed to be terminated but was not. 

The Department higher-ups also believe that when an educator is charged with anything by anyone, the charged educator is guilty of the charges. Thus, all charged employees' fingerprints are placed onto the "Problem code" the minute 3020-a charges get placed into the printer. I always thought that a person was innocent until proven guilty. 

See Down The Rabbit Hole: The NYC Department of Education's "Problem Code"

But if the person charging an educator with misconduct did not taint the person with a problem code before he/she was found guilty in the due process hearing, then the Arbitrator could be convinced that the person charged was innocent, and the NYC DOE may have to say that the charges were - or could be - false. Oh no!!! To admit this would mean the DOE personnel who charged this person could be determined to have been wrong about the allegations against this employee. Truth is, the DOE prosecuting Attorneys in 3020-a hearing believe to their core that the charged employee is guilty of the charged conduct. These attorneys fight to keep out any witnesses or evidence from the Respondent employee that differs from their belief. In a recent case we did, our client was accused of slapping a young child across the face. But a thorough look into what really happened showed that the accuser was lying, and we won complete exoneration from the Arbitrator. The Department and school districts never want to admit they are WRONG about charging someone, so re-read the paragraph above.

When Mayor Mike Bloomberg began his first term as Mayor in 2002, the tenure law and tenure employment protections were inconvenient truths that he would rather not comply with. But rather than look bad for trying to repeal Education Law 3020-a giving all tenured educators the right to a hearing after being charged with misconduct, he went around the law and altered the procedures before the hearing began which would assure the Department's attorneys that the arbitrators had a bias which would favor them (the NYCDOE) in any decision. 

Some of the changes in procedures are:

Bloomberg, the UFT and CSA all agreed to quickly dispose of educators by renting large warehouses so that these miscreants could be removed from their schools, kept on salary, but not allowed contact with any children until they were terminated or given the punishment they "deserved" at a 3020-a Arbitration. All removed educators were warned not to talk about where they were assigned ("rubber room"), nor why. No one knew what the charges were, sometimes for many years. Public funds are paying for this.

Another way arbitrator bias was embedded in the charging procedures can be seen in the denial of the right for teachers to choose the arbitrator for their 3020-a. In about 2007, panels of arbitrators were started, where the UFT and the DOE chose arbitrators who stay on the panel hearing cases for 1 year on contract. The UFT agreed with the DOE that tenured individuals who were members of the UFT would not be allowed to choose the arbitrator. CSA members, Assistant Principals and Principals may, after receiving 3020-a charges, choose the arbitrator from a list sent out by the New York State Education Department. The arbitrators are contracted to hear 5 cases/month at $1400/day. I have been told by several arbitrators formerly on the panel that they are not asked to stay on as an arbitrator or are not asked back after the end of the fiscal year (August) if they are too "lenient" - i.e. they do not have a high number of Respondents terminated from their employment. Arbitrators are forbidden to agree to a dismissal of a 3020-a case because of improper procedures such as the unlawful determination of probable cause by the Chancellor.

This list of arbitrators handed out to choose a name for a 3020-a usually has the names of 15 arbitrators approved by NYSED according to standards set by the American Arbitration Association. I have picked many arbitrators over the past 18 years, and my choice is always the individual who I believe is most fair - I have met most who work the 3020-a circuit and if I have not met someone on the list I research the background and prior case decisions. I doubt my standard of "fairness" is anything close to the standard used by the UFT or DOE when they pick arbitrators for their panels (there are two, one for misconduct and the other for incompetence). Remember, the goal is to terminate. 

Outside of NYC, all tenured educators, no matter if they are members of the UFT, the School District, or whatever, choose the arbitrator for the 3020-a from the approved list.  Last June I chose an arbitrator for a 3020-a in Long Island and was able to settle the case the first day with all charges withdrawn, and the school District paying my client $250,000+.My point is that the panels in NYC encourage bias because the charged employee, the Respondent does not have any say in who the arbitrator will be who hears their case. Yes, the UFT says that as they are part of the hiring team with the DOE that they represent all members charged. This is baloney, in my opinion. It's like taxation without representation, and a war was fought to undo that. 

Then there is the fraudulent manner in which probable cause is never voted on by anyone, leaving the arbitrator without subject matter jurisdiction to hear any case or decide on any penalty. NYSUT will not permit any mention of the Cardinale case in any 3020-a that they do, (private attorneys can offer this case) and if the charged educator demands that they argue improper determination of probable cause, their representation will suddenly end. NYSUT will not represent anyone that wants the Cardinale case argued in a 3020-a hearing because the UFT is a collaborator with the NYCDOE in denying a proper determination of probable cause to all charged educators.

I was astonished - actually not, but at least not amused - when NYSUT Attorney Keith Gross told one of his teacher-clients that I was a liar after she asked about the probable cause issue. He then threatened to quit her case if she mentioned it again. He is probably still angry that I wrote about what he did in the case of "Jane" (not her real name) from the 25 Chapel Street rubber room.

Really, Keith?

 Betsy Combier

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

NYC will end controversial absent teacher pool, placing hundreds of sidelined teachers in permanent positions
NY DAILY NEWS, June 8, 2021
The city’s controversial Absent Teacher Reserve pool — a holding ground for hundreds of city educators without permanent teaching assignments — is winding down for good.
City Education Department officials announced Tuesday that they will place the roughly 800 teachers in the pool in permanent teaching positions starting next year — with the department’s central offices picking up the tab.

The size of the pool — which mostly contains teachers who lost jobs when schools were closed or budgets slashed, but also includes some let go for poor performance or disciplinary issues — has shrunk significantly under Mayor de Blasio.

It was winnowed down even further last fall when city officials sent hundreds of ATR teachers to schools to help address a massive staffing crisis brought on by the labor-intensive “hybrid” schooling during the pandemic.

Now, all reserve pool teachers temporarily assigned to schools will stay in those roles for good, and any future excess Education Department teachers will be assigned to open positions in other schools, rather than placed in the holding pool.

“We have made commonsense reforms to the Absent Teacher Reserve since it was created by the prior administration, and now we are fully reimagining the process,” said Education Department spokeswoman Katie O’Hanlon.

The ATR pool has been a lightning rod since it was created in an agreement between former mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city teachers union in 2005.

Mayor de Blasio had already slashed the size of the pool from roughly 1,100 in 2014 to 553 by the end of last school year, according to the Education Department.

The “vast majority” of teachers in the reserve pool end up there for reasons outside their control, Education Department officials say, adding that teachers with pending disciplinary cases will stay out of classrooms.

The agency reported in 2017 that 68% of reserve teachers landed in the pool because of school closures or budget cuts, while three-quarters were rated “satisfactory” or higher, according to Chalkbeat. The Education Department didn’t provide more recent figures.

“There are stereotypes” about reserve teachers, said Priscilla Figueroa, the principal of Public School 676 in Red Hook, Brooklyn, “and sometimes you have to get past that.”

For Figueroa — who took on reserve pool teacher Shawn Mason in 2018 to fill a sudden pre-K teaching vacancy — the announcement reserve teachers will stay on permanently came as a relief.

“He [Mason] came right in and fit,” she said. “He was singing and dancing with them, using instruments.”

“It feels like this is an opportunity to keep Mr. Mason and not worry about using any additional funding,” she added.

But not all schools had such a rosy experience with their assigned reserve pool staffers.

One Manhattan principal, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the reserve teacher who arrived at her school last fall to help with staffing shortages struggled to navigate Zoom and remote learning.

“We tried to teach her and after investing countless hours, gave up,” the principal said.

Another principal who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that, while the stigma that often surrounds reserve pool staffers is harmful and misleading, the staffers do often require additional training and supervision — a challenge for already time-strapped administrators.

Critics of the decision say it will restrict principals’ hiring autonomy, and force underperforming teachers back into schools.

“It’s a terrible decision against the interest of children and families,” said Dan Weisberg, the CEO of the education reform group The New Teacher Project, and a former Education Department official who helped negotiate the original terms of the reserve pool under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“If they have a teacher who hasn’t taught in a classroom, who hasn’t taught in five years, are they going to disclose the fact that that teacher received an unsatisfactory rating and hasn’t taught in five years?” he continued.

Education Department officials say principals can apply to remove an assigned reserve teacher if there are serious problems including poor performance reviews or disciplinary complaints.

Principals union chief Mark Cannizzaro praised that provision of the new policy and the assurance that the Education Department central will pick up the tab for current reserve teachers. But he warned that the decision to end the pool permanently could complicate future school hiring decisions.

“The thing that I find concerning is going forward, after this year, when teachers are placed in excess, they will then be placed in vacancies ... and schools will have to fund the position,” he said. “Effectively, what’s happening is they are making hiring decisions in certain circumstances out of the hands of principals and mandating forced placements.”

But city teachers and union officials have long pointed to flaws in the reserve pool process — with some educators finding it difficult to overcome the stigma of the temporary placement and find new jobs.

“The [reserve] pool was always a waste of teacher talent and taxpayer money,” said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers.

Mason, the reserve teacher assigned to PS 676 in Red Hook, said his time in the pool was rife with instability and uncertainty.

“I had gone through about six months of traveling around to different schools,” said Mason. “That just began to be a real crazy experience of not knowing where you’re going to work on a daily basis.”

Mason said he breathed a huge sigh of relief when he learned he could stay at his new school permanently.

“It came to be a ‘woosah’ moment,” he said.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Another NYC DOE School Buys The Woke Cancel Culture Curriculum


Former Lab teacher Maggie Boyd Feurtado said she was appalled at the announcement of ending advanced math classes.
                                                                        [photo Stefan Jeremiah]

The woke mob who now empowers the Department of Education to dumb down the curriculum at G&T schools are doing it again, this time at the Lab Middle School For Collaborative Studies.

See my comments and those of others, below, which show a national pushback against the cancel culture curriculum in schools across America:

La Guardia High School, the "FAME" School, May Take Away AP Classes

Teacher at posh NJ prep school quits over 'anti-racist' teachings

Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Sued For Saying "Stuyvesant High School Was Like Being In Chinatown"

Woke teachers want Shakespeare cut from curriculum: ‘This is about White supremacy’

The Fairfax County School Curriculum, Cancel Culture, and Why You Should Care

No one needs to wonder why so many parents are pulling their children out of public school.

We're with you, Maggie!

 Betsy Combier

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

Parents rage as top NYC school plans to end advanced math program

By Selim Algar NY POST, June 8, 2021

A top Manhattan middle school sent parents into a rage when it announced that it was junking accelerated math classes — and agreed to hold meetings first amid the backlash.

In what some families ripped as the Department of Education’s latest smothering of advanced academics, Lab Middle School for Collaborative Studies principal Megan Adams emailed parents that “we will no longer have leveled math courses at Lab Middle School.”

 “I know this is a change,” she wrote, without offering any rationale for the move. “I assure you that this decision was not made lightly.”

Former Lab teacher Maggie Feurtado, who founded the program roughly a decade ago before retiring this year, said she was “simply appalled” by the weekend announcement.

“This is all in the name of equity,” she told The Post. “And it’s likely coming from above. But it’s misguided. Having everyone in the same class hurts everybody.”

With parental fury erupting on social media, Adams sent out another email Tuesday afternoon saying the announcement was “premature.”

“We will be holding community meetings where parents and educators can hear from one another, and school leadership can collect feedback,” she wrote.

The plan to cancel separate accelerated math classes would be put on “pause,” Adams said.

Feurtado, who grew up on the Lower East Side and attended city public schools, said the uniform instructional approach fails to address the needs of both advanced and struggling students.

“It’s like not allowing any kids in a daycare to walk until all of them learn to walk,” she said. “It doesn’t work. Advanced kids don’t want to belabor the same material. And the kids who need the extra attention won’t get what they need.”

Feurtado’s imperiled model offered advanced math classes at Lab — a feeder school to the city’s ultra-competitive specialized high schools — for kids in the 7th and 8th grades based on a diagnostic test.

She said that exam — which she authored — assessed not only knowledge but critical thinking as well.

Parents said Lab’s announcement further cemented a notion that DOE schools are stanching academic opportunities for advanced city children.

“My child had a wonderful experience in one of these classes,” said the parent of an outgoing 8th grader. “I feel sorry for future students.”

Another mom said parental disillusionment was spiking to new levels.

“Children have different interests and abilities and we should foster their individuality,” she said. “We need to push them. The one-size-fits-all doesn’t work for middle schoolers and math in particular if we want to train the next generation of scientists.”

She added that affluent parents will simply find new ways to provide for more demanding coursework for their kids — or just decamp to private schools.

“Those who can’t afford that will be stuck,” she said.

Feurtado, who taught math for 17 years in the city, argued that the DOE should reorient in a new direction.

“We need to teach kids to get hungry,” she said, stressing that many of her top performers over the years were low-income minority immigrants. “They need to understand that this is how they can get ahead, through education and hard work. This is how they can go places. Priorities have to change.”

A DOE spokesman said the community meetings will begin this week.

“Lab Middle School prides itself on offering rigorous courses that best prepare our young people for bright futures, and no advanced math programs have been cut,” said Nathaniel Styer. “Principal Adams will be hosting a series of community engagement beginning this Thursday to discuss course programming.”

Saturday, June 5, 2021

La Guardia High School, the "FAME" School, May Take Away AP Classes


While LaGuardia High School students crammed last week for Advanced Placement exams, school administrators
faced a high-stakes test of their own: selling wary parents on a plan to cut down on AP courses at the famed
arts school. 
(Barry Williams/for New York Daily News)

It is indeed sad to see that the 'woke' crowd believes in taking away the diverse menu of creative, artistic expression that makes La Guardia High School such a special place for talented youth. I am very happy that this terrible plan will not be in place anytime soon:

NYC’s LaGuardia H.S. backs off plan to reduce AP courses after parent backlash

The bad word is "talented". People whose children did not get a spot at La Guardia don't want to admit to themselves or others that their child is not as "talented" as another student the same age. I have a problem with this perspective which seems to be the driving force behind public policy right now, i.e. making all kids the same in order to do away with screening of any kind. All children - all people - are unique and each individual brings something new and different to the world. I don't believe in putting anyone into a box with a label on it. 

Proponents of an opposite view to "Woke Diversity" and/or critical race theory are ready to do war as parties in the current global trend toward political intolerance.  

The new "woke" thinking conjures up ideas focused on how everyone, whether black, brown, Asian, white, Muslim, Jew Christian, or other unique characteristic is equally "talented" and should get into any school just because all kids are "equal" in their ability to sing, dance, play an instrument and/or draw, think and/or act and if you disagree, then you are a racist or something along that line. I believe this perspective only encourages a judgment that denies a person's individuality, and I can already hear readers thinking "oh, she is just a right-wing, white conservative racist" for saying this. Baloney.

We all know this just is not true.

Maybe your child is excellent at astronomy, gymnastics, languages, computers, or is interested in law, medicine and biology, and has an opportunity to shine in a school that optimizes his/her interests in those areas?

Neither La Guardia nor the Specialized High Schools are proper learning environments for every child.

The answer to this "problem" that so many parents want these hard-to-get-into schools for their child(ren) is to create many more Stuyvesant and La Guardia High Schools in every borough so that all kids can reach their personal bests, whatever they may believe these goals are.

 Betsy Combier

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

Plan to reduce Advanced Placement classes at NYC’s LaGuardia High School angers students, parents

By Michael Elsen-Rooney, NY Daily News, May 31, 2021

While LaGuardia High School students crammed last week for Advanced Placement exams, school administrators faced a high-stakes test of their own: selling wary parents on a plan to cut down on AP courses at the famed arts school.

In virtual town halls, officials sketched the outlines of a plan to reduce AP courses, while expanding other types of college-level classes, in an effort to give teachers more control over curriculum and cut down on stress for students.

The plan — which school officials cautioned is not yet finalized — angered some parents and students at the Upper West Side school near Lincoln Center who say it will dilute academic rigor and disadvantage kids in college admissions at a school known for a blend of top-notch arts and demanding classes.

“I just want to take more advanced and challenging courses because I haven’t felt academically challenged in my previous classes,” said one LaGuardia junior enrolled in AP classes who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“It looks good on her record to take AP classes,“ added the LaGuardia junior’s mother, who also asked to withhold her name. “They’re going through this whole big change in the curriculum without really listening to how the parents, teachers and students feel.”
[More Education] NYC’s LaGuardia H.S. backs off plan to reduce AP courses after parent backlash »

LaGuardia officials insisted the plan would not dilute academic rigor — on the contrary, it would allow teachers to get more creative by removing the strict requirements that come with preparing for AP exams, which are designed by the nonprofit College Board and can earn students credit at some colleges if they score high enough.

“The College Board curriculum is limiting, and doesn’t allow for students to engage in a meaningful way with material,” Derek Dubossi, an 18-year-veteran science teacher at LaGuardia told parents at last week’s virtual town hall.

“Any time we encounter a topic that piques interest … we typically spend one day and move on,” he said. “If the College Board’s mandates are no longer a factor, it would allow the AP Environmental Science course to change in a positive way while still covering some very important material.”

On the one hand, the debate is another chapter in a years-long tug of war at LaGuardia — the basis of the show and movie “Fame” — between focusing on nurturing budding artists and preparing elite students.

Many families felt the school’s previous principal, Lisa Mars — who built up an arsenal of more than 20 AP courses — prized hard-charging academics at the expense of the arts.

Her successor, Yeou-Jey Vasconcelos, took over in 2019 with a promise to support the arts and re-evaluate the curriculum — a process that culminated in last week’s recommendations.

The clash over APs at LaGuardia also reflects a growing debate citywide over the value of the courses in a system that has aggressively expanded them in recent years.

More than 400 city high schools serving over 200,000 students offer at least one AP class, and Mayor de Blasio considers the growth of AP classes a signature component of his education equity agenda.

But the expansion has also drawn criticism from some educators who say the College Board-directed classes bring too many restrictions and questionable benefits.

“We erroneously assume that AP represents the highest level of education in this country,” said Pat Sprinkle, a history teacher at the NYC Lab School for Collaborative Studies in Chelsea. “But what does that mean? How rich are those courses?”

The Lab School is moving to phase out AP classes over several years, after previously requiring them for juniors and seniors.

“We’re transitioning into our own uniquely designed courses,” said Sprinkle. “We don’t believe that a high-stakes exam is the learning environment in which students thrive. Let’s de-emphasize stress, de-emphasize tests, and let students enjoy their learning.”

A wave of elite private schools in Washington, D.C., made a similar decision to drop AP classes in 2018.

A College Board spokesman defended the value of the courses, arguing “no other advanced academic program has achieved the reach and diversity of AP” and pointing to company research suggesting even the lowest scores on AP exams help predict college success.

It’s not just the fast pace and high pressure of AP courses that have alienated some city educators.

Critics say the College Board has been slow to diversify its materials, even as the DOE ramps up its efforts to make school curriculum more culturally relevant.

There is no full AP class dedicated to African-American studies, though College Board officials say there’s one in the works, and there’s an AP “seminar” focused on the African diaspora.

One DOE central staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, pointed out that the AP Comparative Government restricts study to six countries. If teachers had more control, they could allow “students to select which countries they study, like where their parents are from ... that would be more culturally relevant.”

College Board spokesman Zach Goldberg vehemently disputed those characterizations, citing  Advanced Placement Program’s long-term commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Goldberg noted that schools can add their own countries to the Comparative Government curriculum.

Some city educators’ frustrations with the College Board and the demands of AP courses intensified during the pandemic.

Educators and DOE officials sharply criticized a College Board rule that barred city students from using their iPads to take digital exams, despite the fact that the city DOE distributed nearly 500,000 of the tablets to tech-strapped families. The College Board said it gave out 3,000 Chromebooks to city students who needed laptops.

Some teachers and administrators also worried the demands of the tests needlessly ratcheted up pressure on students during an already challenging year. LaGuardia went as far as encouraging students to opt-out of the exams.

“We examined the value of high-stakes Advanced Placement (AP) examinations versus the prospect of putting additional stressors on our students ... as well as increasing the equity divide in our school community,” school officials told families in a January presentation obtained by the Daily News.

“We concluded that AP exams are NOT compatible with our community values during a global health crisis ... LaGuardia strongly recommends students do not take AP examinations this year,” the presentation explained.

Many LaGuardia families bristled at that guidance — and the larger plan to reduce the role of APs in the school curriculum.

“I don’t think it’s fair that the school promised this academic rigor and all of these APs when we looked at the school, and now it just feels like a bait and switch,” said Laura Beth Gilman, the mother of two LaGuardia students.

Gilman said her son has benefited from LaGuardia’s AP courses, and her older child was able to graduate college early in part because of credits he accrued through AP tests.

LaGuardia officials say they’ll replace axed classes with programs like “College Now” that can earn students credit at CUNY and some SUNY campuses, but Gilman said that doesn’t match the wider range of colleges that accept AP credits.

Students can still take AP exams in subjects where the school no longer offers a corresponding AP course, school officials say — and insist colleges won’t penalize students for curriculum changes over which they have no control.

DOE spokesman Nathaniel Styer said “providing rigorous, enriching instruction and learning experiences is the focus at all of our high schools, including LaGuardia, and the school is engaging with staff and families as they finalize their course offering catalog for next school year.”

City officials said they didn’t see evidence of a “significant decline in AP course enrollment” next year based on a survey of roughly 100 schools.

Some students are still conflicted.

Marlen Mendieta-Camaron, an 18-year-old senior at Midwood High School in Brooklyn who’s taken both College Now and AP classes, said there are pros and cons to each approach.

“There is much more flexibility to a College Now course,” she said, while “an AP course obviously has its rigor, and it’s just very high level ... it’s what colleges want.”

“I do question sometimes if it [AP] is more about memorization ... in contrast to a College Now course where I think it’s more so about applying it to the real world,” Marlen said.

“I think the beauty of having options — AP and College Now — is you have the possibility of exploring your interests,” she added.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

May I Get Unemployment If I am Suspended Without Pay?


Appellate Division, Third Department

The answer is - and I'm a legal researcher/writer, not an attorney - yes and no.

I have done unemployment hearings for suspended and/or terminated Department of Education employees and won unemployment benefits based upon the argument that the claimant's actions for which he/she was suspended does NOT rise to the level of disqualifying misconduct, and "not every mistake, exercise of poor judgment or discharge for cause will rise to the level of misconduct" (Matter of Morris [Lenox Hill Neighborhood House Inc.-Commissioner of Labor], 110 AD3d 1333, 1334 [2013]

That's how you win, especially if you know the level of fraud and deceit that the Department of Education puts into the 3020-a cases to get an employee terminated. You have to know, so that you can argue against an arbitrator's decision.

We have successfully overturned 47 Arbitrator decisions in Court pursuant to Article 75 or settlements in State and Federal Courts because we use the backstory behind the charges, and how the Plaintiff or Petitioner was damaged by the unlawful charging process.

It seems to me that the people who benefit from 3020-a Arbitration are the Attorneys who do these cases, allow ridiculous charges to become "crimes", and Arbitrators who receive $1400/hearing day.

Betsy Combier

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

Matter of Jensen (Victory State Bank--Commissioner of Labor) 2015 NY Slip Op 02169 

Decided on March 19, 2015 Appellate Division, Third Department Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431. This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the Official Reports.
Decided and Entered: March 19, 2015

[*1] JENNIFER JENSEN, Respondent.



Calendar Date: January 20, 2015
Before: Lahtinen, J.P., Garry, Egan Jr. and Devine, JJ.

Law Offices of Steven M. Sack, New York City (Steven Mitchell Sack of counsel), for appellant.

Young Woo Lee, The Legal Aid Society, New York City, for Jennifer Jenson, respondent.


Appeal from a decision of the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board, filed September 23, 2013, which ruled that claimant was eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits.

Claimant, a customer service representative for a bank, opened a checking account for a coworker, the assistant branch manager, which claimant was authorized to use for buying and selling items on eBay. Although claimant maintained a savings account at the bank, which was limited to six transactions a month, the record establishes that claimant's checking account had recently been closed at the behest of the bank, which claimant felt was unwarranted. Claimant mistakenly wrote a rent check on the coworker's account and, when she realized the error, she stopped payment on the check. Claimant used the bank tellers when transacting business through the account, providing her own name and identifying information. When the branch manager noticed the stop payment that claimant had placed on the check, claimant was terminated for opening and using an account in someone else's name and for performing maintenance on an account with which she was associated, in violation of the employer's policy. The Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board, reversing a decision of the Administrative Law Judge, ruled that, although claimant exercised poor judgment, she did not engage in disqualifying misconduct for the purpose of unemployment insurance benefits. This appeal by the employer ensued.

"Whether a claimant's actions rise to the level of disqualifying misconduct is a factual [*2]issue for the Board to resolve" (Matter of Okano [Bruno, Gerbino & Soriano, LLP-Commissioner of Labor], 114 AD3d 1128, 1128 [2014] [citations omitted]), and "not every mistake, exercise of poor judgment or discharge for cause will rise to the level of misconduct" (Matter of Morris [Lenox Hill Neighborhood House Inc.-Commissioner of Labor], 110 AD3d 1333, 1334 [2013] [internal quotation marks and citations omitted]). Here, there is nothing in the record to refute claimant's testimony that she was authorized by the assistant branch manager to open and use the checking account. Although the employer viewed this as dishonest, the record establishes that claimant funded the account, was not secretive about using it and no complaints about the use of the account were lodged by the assistant branch manager. As for the violation of the employer's policy, the record does not substantiate that claimant was given a copy of the policy nor does the policy provide for an employee's discharge. Furthermore, claimant testified that she would not jeopardize her employment of 13 years if she believed placing a stop payment on the erroneously written check violated the employer's policy. Although the record could support a contrary conclusion, we find, under the circumstances herein, that substantial evidence supports the Board's decision and it will not be disturbed (see Matter of Kuryla [Finger Lakes Community Coll.-Commissioner of Labor], 45 AD3d 1129, 1130-1131 [2007]; Matter of Spencer [Bank of Smithtown-Commissioner of Labor], 244 AD2d 838, 838-839 [1997]).

Lahtinen, J.P., Garry, Egan Jr. and Devine, JJ., concur.

ORDERED that the decision is affirmed, without costs.

Brown v. Erie 2 Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Boardof Coop. Educ. Servs.




In the Matter of the Claim of Parke R. BROWN, Respondent. Erie 2 Chautauqua–Cattaraugus Board of Cooperative Educational Services, Appellant. Commissioner of Labor, Respondent.

Harris Beach, PLLC, Buffalo (Tracie L. Lopardi of counsel), for appellant. Cynthia Feathers, Glens Falls, for Parke R. Brown, respondent. Eric T. Schneiderman, Attorney General, New York City (Steven Koton of counsel), for Commissioner of Labor, respondent. Jay Worona, New York State School Boards Association, Inc., Latham, for New York State School Boards Association, Inc., amicus curiae.


Harris Beach, PLLC, Buffalo (Tracie L. Lopardi of counsel), for appellant.

Cynthia Feathers, Glens Falls, for Parke R. Brown, respondent.

Eric T. Schneiderman, Attorney General, New York City (Steven Koton of counsel), for Commissioner of Labor, respondent.

Jay Worona, New York State School Boards Association, Inc., Latham, for New York State School Boards Association, Inc., amicus curiae.



Appeal from a decision of the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board, filed February 20, 2014, which ruled that claimant was eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits.

Claimant is employed as a criminal justice teacher for the employer. He was placed on administrative leave in March 2012 and, shortly thereafter, the employer filed charges pursuant to 
Education Law § 3020–a with an eye toward his termination. Following an evidentiary hearing at which claimant had a full and fair opportunity to dispute the accusations, the Hearing Officer found him guilty of a number of the charges. The Hearing Officer further found that termination was not called for, however, and instead directed that claimant be suspended without pay for the second half of the 2012–2013 school year.

Claimant applied for and obtained unemployment insurance benefits during the suspension period, prompting an objection by the employer. After further proceedings, an Administrative Law Judge correctly acknowledged that the factual findings made by the Hearing Officer were entitled to collateral estoppel effect (see Matter of Czosek [Cheektowaga–Sloan Union Free School Dist.-Commissioner of Labor], 
71 A.D.3d 1359, 1360900 N.Y.S.2d 154 2010; Matter of Tranberg [New York City Bd. of Educ. of City School Dist. of City of N.Y.-Hudacs], 205 A.D.2d 812, 812615 N.Y.S.2d 290 1994 ). The Administrative Law Judge nevertheless concluded that the conduct for which claimant was disciplined, while “serious,” did not rise to the level of disqualifying misconduct that would preclude him from receiving unemployment insurance benefits. The Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board affirmed, and the employer appeals.

Initially, while the Board never expressly addressed the employer's contention that claimant was barred from receiving benefits because he was not “totally unemployed” during the period of suspension, its decision can only be read as an implicit rejection of that argument 
(Labor Law § 591 1; see Matter of Smith [Commissioner of Labor], 8 A.D.3d 744, 745777 N.Y.S.2d 771 2004 ). “Total unemployment is defined as ‘the total lack of any employment on any day’ ” (Matter of Smith [Commissioner of Labor], 8 A.D.3d at 745777 N.Y.S.2d 771, quoting Labor Law § 522), and claimant was suspended without pay for the period in question and was not subsequently compensated in any way for the time he was idle. Substantial evidence therefore supports the decision of the Board that claimant was totally unemployed during the period in question (cf. Matter of De Maria [Catherwood], 31 A.D.2d 708, 708, 295 N.Y.S.2d 774 1968; Matter of Tonra, 258 App.Div. 835, 835, 15 N.Y.S.2d 755 1939, affd. 283 N.Y. 67628 N.E.2d 402 1940 ).

As for the question of whether claimant committed disqualifying misconduct, we note that such “is a factual issue for the Board to resolve, and not every mistake, exercise of poor judgment or discharge for cause will rise to the level of misconduct” (Matter of Jensen [Victory State Bank–Commissioner of Labor], 126 A.D.3d 1207, 1207–1208, 5 N.Y.S.3d 606 2015 [internal quotation marks and citations omitted] ). That being said, claimant here was found to have committed numerous instances of improper, immoral and insubordinate behavior, as well as conduct unbecoming a teacher. He was specifically found to have made inappropriate, demeaning and sarcastic comments to students, to have sent unprofessional emails to staff and parents, and to have violated the employer's policies and procedures governing the treatment of students, parents and fellow employees. A notable example of his cavalier treatment of students was an incident wherein he improperly confiscated a student's cell phone and impersonated that student in order to learn what another student thought of his teaching abilities. Claimant further disregarded the employer's policy regarding the use of multimedia tools in the classroom, despite having previously discussed that policy with administrators, and elected to show a violent movie to his students without obtaining parental consent to do so.

An employee's actions that are contrary to established policies and that have a detrimental effect upon the employer's interests have been found to constitute disqualifying misconduct (see Matter of Campon [Commissioner of Labor], 122 A.D.3d 1228, 1228, 995 N.Y.S.2d 865 2014; Matter of Cody [New York City Dept. of Educ.-Commissioner of Labor], 
37 A.D.3d 920, 920829 N.Y.S.2d 729 2007 ). This includes insubordinate conduct (see Matter of Benbow [Commissioner of Labor], 32 A.D.3d 1094, 1095820 N.Y.S.2d 869 2006 ) and unprofessional behavior that is detrimental to the interests of the employer (see Matter of Katz [Commissioner of Labor], 54 A.D.3d 1093, 1093865 N.Y.S.2d 696 2008; Matter of Moore [Commissioner of Labor], 49 A.D.3d 1124, 1124854 N.Y.S.2d 252 2008 ). The Hearing Officer found that claimant repeatedly engaged in that type of behavior and, under the circumstances presented by this case, the decision of the Board that his behavior reflected nothing more than “poor judgment ... is erroneous and is not supported by substantial evidence” ( Matter of Restifo [Roberts], 88 A.D.2d 1045, 1046,452 N.Y.S.2d 690 1982; see Matter of McIntee [National Ambulance & Oxygen Serv.-Ross], 64 A.D.2d 1003, 1003–1004408 N.Y.S.2d 841 1978 ).

Inasmuch as the facts of this case leave no question that claimant committed disqualifying misconduct, we need not reach the employer's contention regarding the propriety of ever awarding unemployment insurance benefits to a worker who has been suspended without pay following disciplinary proceedings brought pursuant to Education Law § 3020–a.

ORDERED that the decision is reversed, without costs, and matter remitted to the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board for further proceedings not inconsistent with this Court's decision.

LAHTINEN, J.P., McCARTHY and LYNCH, JJ., concur.