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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The Unlawful Randomness of Arbitration in NYC

How does it happen that teachers are being fired for not getting the COVID vaccine, no exceptions?

Oh, I know everyone reading this says "Wait! She is incorrect, teachers can have a hearing on religious exemptions and medical accommodations."

Yes, everyone - we are all right. The arbitration won by the UFT to have the medical and religious exemptions put into place is only as good as its implementation. What happens if the outcome of all hearings on the exemptions for any employee is denied? This is called constructive denial and ends up in the same pile as those applications which were denied without any hearing. Except, a couple of attorneys and arbitrators made some money.

What if...indeed.

Then there is the winning CSEA  (Civil Service Employees AssociationPetition filed on behalf of 5,600 members who work in the State's court system, to PERB and the Supreme Court, which has just decided that a mandatory vaccine requirement without proper negotiation is contrary to the rights of the members:

CSEA Wins Improper Practice Charge Against the NYS Unified Court System For Unilateral Imposition of a COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement Without Proper Negotiation

When there is something that just doesn't seem right, there is probably something that isn't right, like employer bias in arbitration.

Just sayin'...

Betsy Combier

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

The Unlawful Randomness of Labor Arbitration 3020-a in New York City

ADVOCATZ, October 17, 2021

From Editor Betsy Combier:

When I started my voluntary study of the compulsory arbitration known as “3020-a” in 2003, I believed right from the start and still do believe, that the procedures used to prosecute the charges violate the accused person’s Due Process rights to a fair and complete hearing. This egregious action is compounded by the biases and lies of the lawyers and their witnesses brought to testify or promote false “evidence” under the color of law. 3020-a arbitrators, one in each case, sit in judgment of a tenured employee of the NYC DOE and can exonerate, fine, suspend from employment without pay or terminate any charged person brought before them. The United Federation of Teachers, their legal adjunct agency NYSUT, and the New York City Department of Education run these hearings in such a way as to deny the charged employee their rights under New York State law. See more


Education Law 3020-a Arbitration Up-Close and Personal: The Case of Teddy Smith

Attendance of Homeless Students Fall in NYC Public Schools


Absenteeism from homeless students has increased throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Advocates for Children of New York.
Getty Images/Cavan Images RF

The breakdown of lawful procedures in the NYC Department of Education is clear. And the people most harmed by all of this are the students, whose futures will be altered by the lack of safety, rules and academic excellence that they can, and are told, to expect. It's all a lie.

Advocates For Children has issued a Report saying that attendance rates for homeless kids are falling this school year in NYC. Where are they going? Is anyone overseeing these kids? We hope they are safe.

Parents should immediately move their children out of the public school system and try to get placement for their children in private or religious institutions, or, if able, home school.

Betsy Combier

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

NYC homeless student attendance drops sharply so far this school year

More than a quarter of city kids living in shelters were absent from school in the first several weeks of the new academic year, according to a new study.

Advocates for Children of New York found that attendance plunged to just 73 percent, and that absenteeism among homeless students has steadily worsened over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The DOE said Monday that the figure has since ticked up to 78 percent.

Attendance for all city students has hovered near 90 percent thus far in the academic year.

Citing the dire figures, ACNY has called on the Department of Education to allocate more federal funds to curb the trend.

“These alarmingly low attendance rates make clear that the DOE’s current shelter-based support system is not sufficient,” said Jennifer Pringle, Director of AFC’s Learners in Temporary Housing Project. “There needs to be dedicated, well-trained staff on the ground in the City’s shelters who can help students reconnect with school and access the educational supports they need to get back on track.”

ACNY said that roughy 30,000 kids spend time living in homeless shelters each year.

During the 2018-2019 academic year, attendance for homeless kids was 82 percent and rose slightly to 83 percent in 2019-2020 before schools shuttered.

An ACNY attendance analysis for the period between January and June of 2021 found that attendance for kids in shelters never cracked 80 percent.

The organization noted that 94 percent of kids in shelters are African-American and Hispanic.

See AFC's full report:

Attendance Data Show Urgent Need to Overhaul the Education Support System in City Shelters

10.18.2021 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) released a new policy brief documenting the pandemic’s heavy toll on school attendance for students living in homeless shelters and calling on the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to direct federal COVID-19 relief dollars to overhaul the education support system in shelters, starting with hiring 150 shelter-based DOE community coordinators.

The brief, which examines monthly attendance data released by the DOE pursuant to Local Law 10 of 2021, shows that students in shelter had significantly more difficulty accessing an education than their permanently housed peers during winter and spring 2021. Between January and June, overall monthly attendance rates for students in shelter were lower than those for any other student group and trailed attendance rates for students in permanent housing by 10.6 to 14.1 percentage points, depending on the month. While the lack of internet access in some City shelters undoubtedly had an impact on remote attendance, the attendance rate for students living in shelter who opted for blended learning (some days in school and some remote) was just 2.3 to 4.3 percentage points higher on their in-person days than on their days of remote learning.

There were especially high rates of absenteeism at the high school level: 10th graders living in shelter missed more than one out of every three school days in winter and spring 2021, while 9th, 11th, and 12th graders in shelter were absent more than 25% of the time.

While the attendance rates of students in shelter during the pandemic were particularly troubling, barriers to consistent attendance are not new. In both 2018-19 and 2019-20, more than half of students living in shelter—94% of whom are Black or Hispanic—were chronically absent, missing at least one out of every ten school days.

Unfortunately, this trend has continued into the start of this school year; the average attendance rate of students in shelter during the first couple of weeks of school was only 73%.

“Children get one shot at a quality education, and every day a student is absent is a day of instruction they can never get back,” said Jennifer Pringle, Director of AFC’s Learners in Temporary Housing Project. “These alarmingly low attendance rates make clear that the DOE’s current shelter-based support system is not sufficient. There need to be dedicated, well-trained staff on the ground in the City’s shelters who can help students reconnect with school and access the educational supports they need to get back on track.”

At present, there are not enough staff working in shelters who have the skills and knowledge necessary to help families navigate the school system, address barriers to attendance, and resolve educational problems: just 117 shelter-based DOE Family Assistants are tasked with supporting the roughly 30,000 students who spend time in shelter each year. The number of Family Assistants has not grown over the past decade even though thousands more students are now spending time in the shelter system than in years past. As there are more than twice as many shelters as there are Family Assistants, these staff must divide their time among multiple shelter sites and are stretched very thin. The Family Assistant position is also very low paid ($28,000 for 10 months), making it difficult to recruit and retain qualified staff for the role.

Fortunately, New York City is poised to receive tens of millions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funding specifically to address the needs of students experiencing homelessness—and the City has not yet decided how to allocate these funds. AFC, in partnership with 25 organizations, is recommending that the DOE use this funding to hire 150 new community coordinators to work on the ground in the City’s shelters and help students get to school every day.

These coordinators would proactively assist families with getting school placements, bus service, and special education services in place as quickly as possible upon entering shelter and for the start of each school year; ensure that students are attending school regularly and help address barriers when students are not getting to school; and connect students to after-school programs, tutoring, counseling, and other supports.

“New York City has long struggled to meet the needs of students living in shelter, and the pandemic has only exacerbated the many challenges these young people face,” said Pringle. “The good news is that the City now has funding to hire a new team of professionals who can help students succeed in school and break the cycle of homelessness.”

Read the data brief [PDF]
View the news release as a PDF

Monday, October 18, 2021

MTA NASA-Like "Bus Command Center" Remains Unused, Falling Apart


This is so sad.

New York City has been robbed by political miscreants who are gleefully stealing from the public coffers because they can. There seems to be a psychology of entitlement to public funds when a person works for the NYC government, and they see others doing service or resource theft, so why can't they do it too?

‘We’ve been babysitting them’: MTA pins bus ‘war room’ delays on contractor

What is $86 million between friends, anyway.

These are my thoughts on this scandal.

Betsy Combier

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

$86M bus ‘war room’ empty, falling apart two years after MTA ribbon-cutting
The eastern Brooklyn command center replaces a smaller facility across the street.
Gregory P. Mango

Brooklyn, we have a problem.

The MTA spent $86 million on a state-of-the-art, NASA-like “bus command center” that has gone unused for more than two years because it’s already falling apart, The Post has learned.

Transit officials have said the eastern Brooklyn command center, which replaces a smaller facility across the street, will serve as a “war room” for bus dispatchers. But the building has sat empty since former Transit President Andy Byford and other bigwigs held a celebratory ribbon-cutting there in June 2019.

With the building at Jamaica Avenue and Fanchon Place having suffered leaks, faulty heating and bug-infested bathrooms, dispatchers who are supposed to work there have refused to relocate from across the street, sources said.

Transit President Andy Byford, center

The ribbon Byford cut with then-MTA buses president Darryl Irick in 2019 said “Grand Opening,” but dispatchers only started to move into the building last winter, sources said. That lasted only a few months because the heat did not work and the building’s electrical system couldn’t handle the workers’ space heaters.

The MTA has not communicated plans for when the building will reopen.

“It’s falling apart. It had roof leaks. The place is empty and the employees refuse to work there,” said one bus worker. “They have to put in electric heaters just to keep warm.”

MTA officials have promised to hire additional dispatchers to fill the new command center’s massive theater, but photos obtained by The Post show the so-called “war room” empty — with the computers running and cable playing on the TVs.

“They’re keeping the heating and ventilation system running. They can’t let it freeze up. They’re paying thousands of dollars in cable bills with TVs on and no one’s there,” said the source. “It’s a brand new building and it looks horrible.”

“That place has been a mess since it started,” said another worker, who shared photos of dropped ceilings, an infested bathroom and cracked glass in a section of the building meant to protect workers from chemical attacks.

The command center was initially supposed to cost $55 million and wrap up in 2017. Completion was ultimately kicked to June 2019 due to issues with the building’s drainage and sprinkler systems.

The building was constructed by MPCC Corp., a contracting company based in Westchester County.

A related project to upgrade the MTA’s bus radio system has been repeatedly delayed, in part due to “poor contractor quality/productivity,” according to publicly available MTA board materials. Once slated to cost $283 million, the radio project cost has increased to $294 million as of November 2020.

MTA rep Aaron Donovan said the command center is now set to open “in the first half of next year.”

“The upgraded Bus Command Center is the first part of a complex project to improve service for bus customers by bringing our service management into the 21st century with a state-of-the-art bus radio system,” Donovan said in a statement. “Like most of the capital program, the project was temporarily placed on pause during the pandemic.”

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Patrick Brimstein Resigns His Position as Superintendent in Blind Brook-Rye Union Free School District


Former Superintendent Patrick Brimstein

Superintendent In Westchester Resigns Following Fallout Over State-Ordered School Closure

Zak Failla, White Plains Daily Voice, October 11, 2021

The head of a Westchester school district that had an elementary school forced to close due to safety concerns has stepped down.

Blind Brook-Rye Union Free School District officials announced that Superintendent Patrick Brimstein, who was placed on paid leave earlier this year, has resigned from his position after the state ordered the closure of the Ridge Street Elementary School.

The move comes after the school building was shut down by the state, which said the district was “using space for instruction without appropriate inspections and other approvals.”

Assistant Superintendent Colin Byrne was named the interim superintendent in Brimstein’s absence.

Brimstein cited “personal reasons” for his resignation, which took effect as of Tuesday, Oct. 5. Byrne will remain in the position through at least Tuesday, Oct. 26 as the Board of Education surveys its options moving forward

“The district has maintained a laser-like focus on a successful return to in-person instruction as quickly as possible," school officials said in a statement announcing the return of students to Ridge Elementary School under Byrne’s purview.

"We have been pursuing a thorough review and adherence to all NYSED requirements, keeping the health and safety of our students at the fore as we work to bring this process to fruition.”

See also:

Blind Brook Superintendent Steps Down After Safety Scandal

District Hopes To Bring Back Students To Westchester School NY State Ordered To Close

School officials: Ridge Street School closed indefinitely, students to learn remotely

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Federal Judge Says N.Y. Must Allow Medical Workers To Get a Religious Exemption from COVID Vaccine Mandate


People march as they protest against NYC's coronavirus vaccine mandate in Manhattan, New York.
(Michael M Santiago/Getty Images)

Now it's Mike Mulgrew's turn (he is President of the UFT) to do the same for teachers.

Betsy Combier

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

Judge rules N.Y. must allow religious exemption for COVID vaccine mandate for medical workers

OCT 12, 2021  4:37 PM

ALBANY — A federal judge dealt a blow to Gov. Hochul’s vaccine mandate for medical workers, ruling Tuesday that New York must allow religious exemptions to the state’s COVID immunization requirement.

Justice David Hurd of the Northern District in Utica granted a preliminary injunction temporarily barring the state and employers from enforcing the vaccine mandate against health care workers who claim a legitimate religious exemption.

Hurd had already issued a temporary restraining order last month order after 17 doctors, nurses and other health professionals filed a lawsuit claiming their rights would be violated by the mandate without an exemption.

New York began requiring all hospital and nursing home workers to be vaccinated against coronavirus starting on Sept. 27. Hochul last week expanded the edict to include workers at assisted living facilities, hospice care, treatment centers as well as home health aides.

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo initially instituted the mandate back in August, but his version allowed for religious exemptions. Under Hochul, the state Department of Health amended the order and did away with the exemption.

The plaintiffs in the case argue that they oppose taking the shots due to the vaccines’ connections to aborted fetal cells, despite none of the available immunizations containing such tissue.

Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna all used laboratory-grown cells based on aborted fetal cells collected decades ago in manufacturing and testing their COVID vaccines.

Hurd noted that the constitutional question in the suit is simply whether the mandate “conflicts with plaintiffs’ and other individuals’ federally protected right to seek a religious accommodation from their individual employers.

“The answer to this question is clearly yes,” he wrote.

Hochul indicated that the state will seek to appeal the decision.

“My responsibility as Governor is to protect the people of this state, and requiring health care workers to get vaccinated accomplishes that,” she said in a statement. “I stand behind this mandate, and I will fight this decision in court to keep New Yorkers safe.”

Sunday, October 10, 2021

A Question To The NYC Department of Education: Who Are You Kidding When You Deny Knowing How Many Students Are Attending School?


Mayor Bill de Blasio gives a news conference outside Phyl's Academy, Wednesday, March 24, in the Brooklyn borough
of New York. 
(Mark Lennihan/AP)

The NYC DOE is not kidding. They REALLY mean that they do not want any bad data to be made public. This might make the NYC Department of Education look bad. I mean, look worse.

Here is what I think, courtesy of Rick Kick, Editor (you should buy this book!):

I have given the "Who Are You Kidding Award" to several Chancellors:

The "Who Are You Kidding??" Award Goes To: Joel Klein, New York City Board of Education Pretender

NYC Department of Education Wins the "Who Are You Kidding Award" After Losing Gifted and Talented Entry Exams

The 2016 "Who Are You Kidding Award" Goes to Carmen Farina (for the second time) and Mayor Bill de Blasio

Betsy Combier

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

OCT 09, 2021  4:10 AM

The new academic year’s fourth week has just ended, yet America’s largest public school system still refuses to report the number of students in attendance. Preliminary numbers are promised at the end of the month, supposedly earlier than ever before, and that the public should be grateful for getting that much data that quickly.


Every weekday, the Department of Education delivers, and Mayor de Blasio boasts about the attendance rate — 87% on Thursday — without any numerator or denominator. Is that 87% of 1.1 million students, the pre-COVID tally? Is it 87% of last year’s 960,000, which included more than 600,000 fully remote learners? Or 87% of a much smaller number? The first week of school, the DOE told us it was too early because too many families were still settling in. While there may be some volatility, it’s been a month.

Meanwhile, only Wednesday did educrats reveal the number of kids whose parents have let them get COVID tests — a critical data piece of information, since a random 10% is swabbed weekly, with results triggering partial and full classroom closures. Of roughly a half-million elementary-age students, just 192,705 have signed forms — meaning we’re getting a very incomplete picture of COVID inside schools.

While we’re on the subject, last week came news that only about 300 medically vulnerable kiddos are getting at-home learning (there’s no remote option anymore, just limited at-home instruction for at-risk kids who qualify). That’s a tiny fraction of the 3,000-5,000 Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter expected. Why have these 300 been getting just an hour a day of instruction, far less than what remote learning provided last year? The DOE says it’s rolling out longer-day, small-group instruction for some of these youngsters. Why only now, and why can’t kids get one-on-one for more than an hour a day?

The City Council is mulling bills by Mark Treyger demanding the DOE publish basic indicators. If the mayor signs it, it won’t take effect for another 30 days. New Yorkers deserve the truth now. It’s embarrassing we even have to say this.

The Special Education Student Information System ("SESIS) Is Replaced

A teacher works on a laptop in her classroom. New York City is planning to scrap its special education data system and replace it with a new one.
 José A. Alvarado Jr. for Chalkbeat

Finally! The terrible Special Education Student Information System or "SESIS" will be replaced. At least that's what has been reported by Chalkbeat and voted on by the Panel For Educational Policy ("PEP")

New SESIS Form for 2020-21 School Year

 NYC parent advocates, special education teachers, paraprofessionals, and everyone else in the Department of Education have been heard. The voices have been loud and clear for many years. The NYC DOE, Mayor, and NY City Council weren't listening. Maybe they still aren't and this is a public relations campaign.

A law is only as good as its implementation.

$33 million in back pay for SESIS work going to members

SESIS For Dummies

Special Education Standard Operating Procedures Manual

Betsy Combier

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

NYC panel approves $43 million to replace troubled special education data system

A citywide panel cleared the way this week for New York City to begin overhauling its special education data system, approving nearly $43 million to replace the costly and glitchy database more than two years after officials first announced plans to scrap it.

The city’s Special Education Student Information System, known as SESIS, is responsible for tracking the services students with disabilities are supposed to receive, their evaluations, and progress toward meeting their goals. But the system, which cost $130 million to develop, has been plagued with problems since it launched in 2011. The new system should be ready by fall 2023, city officials said.

The city’s Panel for Educational Policy on Wednesday approved nearly $43 million over five years for the education department to contract with a Milwaukee-based company called Experis to help replace the system, the result of a competitive bidding process.

City officials have been pushing for a custom-built alternative to SESIS that can be tailored to New York’s complex special education system rather than an off-the-shelf replacement. The new system will integrate data on preschool students with disabilities, which is currently housed in a separate system.

Advocates hope replacing SESIS will have tangible benefits for the city’s more than 200,000 students with disabilities. Because SESIS is incompatible with other city databases, including those that track what classrooms students are actually enrolled in, it is difficult to obtain up-to-date information about whether students are in classrooms with the correct ratios of students and educators, advocates said. City officials have previously been forced to cross reference data from different systems manually.

SESIS has also impeded the city’s ability to release accurate data on whether students are receiving the legally mandated special education services to which they’re entitled.

“I’m very excited that the city has finally allocated the resources to change [SESIS] and create a better system, which can only mean that more kids can get what they’re entitled to in a timely way,” said Lori Podvesker, a special education policy expert at INCLUDEnyc and a member of the education policy panel who voted to approve the city’s proposal.

Still, her vote to approve the funding came with some reservations. She worries the city prioritized cost-effectiveness over the best possible platform and wondered whether Experis had sufficient experience building special education data systems. “Do I trust that it’s going to be great? Absolutely not,” Podvesker said. “But I believe it will be better than what we have.”

Experis officials emphasized that the new system will be created to the education department’s specifications and owned by the city, which will not have to pay ongoing licensing fees. The city will also be able to change the system as needed. Michael Corley, the company’s managing director said in a prepared statement that Experis “has subject matter experts that are proficient in Special Education services, practices, and program implementation.”

Crucially, Experis will also provide a parent-facing portal for families to communicate about their child’s learning plan, monitor what services are being delivered, and give parents direct access to their child’s individualized education program, said education department spokesperson Sarah Casasnovas.

“This will help families get real-time information and allow for seamless reporting and oversight to make sure our students get the support they’re entitled to,” Casasnovas said in a statement.

Advocates have long called for more real-time information about whether students are receiving services and allow parents to access it, giving families a powerful tool to advocate on behalf of their children and city officials a clearer sense of where resources are needed. It’s unclear exactly what information parents will be able to access in the new system.

“Sometimes it feels like they’re relying on our escalations to figure out where they need to send support,” said Maggie Moroff, who works on special education policy issues for Advocates for Children. She hopes a new system will help city officials respond faster in situations where students aren’t getting required therapies — or are even in the wrong type of classroom setting.

Moroff noted that city officials have recently given parents direct access to some special education data, including whether the teachers in their courses have a special education certification, and the most recent dates of services such as speech or occupational therapy.

For its decade-long run, SESIS has caused headaches for teachers, families, and city officials.

Educators have long complained that SESIS is difficult and time consuming to use, and the system at times malfunctioned more than 800,000 times a day.

Special education teachers often spent hours navigating a maze of drop-down menus — inputting data such as whether they met with a student and for how long — only to experience error messages that erased their answers. (An arbitrator eventually ordered the city to pay more than $38 million in teacher overtime.)

In addition, former Public Advocate Letitia James filed a lawsuit claiming that SESIS was to blame for some children not receiving services as well as lost Medicaid payments. Between 2012 and 2015, according to the IBO, the city collected $373 million less in Medicaid reimbursements than officials projected.

Megan Moskop-Toler, a special education teacher who once experienced 41 error messages in the span of two hours, said she hopes a new data system isn’t so time consuming so she can spend more time focused on her students rather than on data entry tasks that are sometimes redundant.

She also pointed to more systematic issues with special education staffing, saying that knowing where students aren’t getting services is only one part of the issue.

“The heart of the problem is understaffing and under-resources,” she said. “No one is like, ‘Oh I don’t want to give their children physical therapy.’”

Other educators said they are nervous about whether such a massive undertaking will involve unforeseen glitches and delays that could impact the timeliness of special education evaluations or other services.

“I just worry about what the transfer will look like,” said Annie Tan, a Brooklyn special education teacher. “I’ve been using [SESIS] for about six years now and I think it was like the second or third year where I finally understood all the places to put things.”