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Saturday, September 16, 2023

The NYC Department of Education Salary Scam

DOE Deputy Chancellor Caroline Quintana
From Betsy Combier:

I am very sure that we, members of the public who read about the lack of transparency in the salary payments made to NYC Department of Education "VIPs", wish that the City of New York would rein in this outrageous scam that uses our taxpayer money.

NYC Comptroller Brad Lander

NYC Comptroller Brad Lander - where are you?

Let's fire the Chancellor, and all Deputy Chancellors, and pay a reasonable salary with accountability steps imbedded in the payment, to the school Districts and the students and families.

This will allow kids to move to private schools if they need to, which I have always supported and will continue to do so. Yay for school choice!!!

See also:

Professor David Bloomfield on the Toxic State of New York City's Public Schools

The New York City Department of Education and the High-salary-No-work Jobs Given To "Friends"

and an article I posted on this blog in February 2011:

Steve Ostrin And The NYC Rubber Room Scam

I have written many times about the robber barons at the NYC DOE, and over the past 20 years.

I'm still hoping this pattern and practice can be stopped.

Just sayin'...


NYC DOE blasted for pay hikes to deputies accused of misconduct

by Susan Edelman, NY POST, September 16, 2023

Some city education leaders are fuming about fat raises given to two educrats after an internal probe found they had committed misconduct — and blasting the secretive way Chancellor David Banks and First Deputy Chancellor Dan Weisberg dole out salary increases.

“There’s anger towards Banks and Weisberg, and questions about how they shell out raises,” said a source familiar with city Department of Education personnel decisions.

Among those offended is Carolyn Quintana, the deputy chancellor of teaching and learning, the insider said.

Quintana leads Banks’ top initiative, to improve how kids are taught reading — and had complained that his former deputy chancellor for leadership, Desmond Blackburn, was getting $265,000 a year, while her salary is $241,000.

Two other female deputy chancellors also get $241,000.

Blackburn, a Florida recruit with no NYC experience, quit his gig after one year.

Banks replaced him with Danika Rux — and hired her husband, Shawn Rux, for another top spot after he agreed to drop his work as an education consultant.

Quintana’s request for equal pay was “ignored,” the source said.

Her ire heightened when The Post revealed Weisberg gave big raises to Chief Enrollment Officer Sarah Kleinhandler and her senior executive soon after a DOE investigation substantiated misconduct allegations against them.

“They denied Carolyn Quintana, but decided to give raises to two people accused of wrongdoing,” the insider said.

Amanda Lurie, senior executive director in the Office of Student Enrollment, was a chronic no-show, barely visited the “family welcome centers” she supervised, and peddled apparel on Poshmark during DOE hours, the agency’s Office of Special Investigations concluded in late February, according to former OSI investigator Jonathan May, who conducted the probe.

Kleinhandler failed to supervise Lurie or address longstanding complaints about her, the probe found.

Weeks later, inexplicably, Weisberg named Lurie a “senior advisor” in his office, and granted her a pay hike from $199,118 to $208,000 a year.

Kleinhandler got a raise from $204,106 to $220,000.

The Post report led DOE lawyers to question Weisberg about his handling of the OSI report. Lurie was then terminated.

Currently, some 95 DOE employees in central and district offices make more than $200,000 a year, records obtained by The Post show.

Banks gets $363,346,

Experts call for more transparency in the awarding of pay hikes.

“This is public money and taxpayers have a right to know what the criteria are for leadership spending at the DOE, especially at a time of budget tightening,” said David Bloomfield, a Brooklyn College and CUNY Grad Center education professor.

 “This kind of jockeying at central only adds to distractions and confusion, with leadership arguing over salaries rather than student matters,” he added.

“Before I’d pay either of them $241,000 or $265,000, I’d want to know what exactly they feel accountable for,” said Eric Nadelstern, the deputy chancellor of school support and instruction under ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“The argument for a raise,” he said, “should be here’s what I’ve done to improve the performance of kids.”

Quintana did not reply to a request for comment.

DOE spokesman Nathaniel Styer said, “Salaries of senior leadership were set based on portfolios of work and represent the hard work our senior leadership team puts into supporting schools every day.” 

Styer claimed the raises for Kleinhandler and Lurie “occurred prior to the OSI report.” But internal records show Lurie’s raise was approved on March 28 — months after the OSI report was sent to Weisberg. Kleinhandler’s raise was finalized last December 22, near the end of the probe.

Both raises were backdated to September 1, 2022.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Professor David Bloomfield on the Toxic State of New York City's Public Schools

David Bloomfield [Photo Credit: Paula Vlodkowsky]

David Bloomfield has been a widely-known speaker on the NYC Department of Education for many years, and his opinions are, in my opinion, well worth reading.

Betsy Combier
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter

Opinion: A Leadership Perspective on the ‘Toxic’ State of Our Schools

By , City Limits, September 5, 2023.

I have been teaching educational leadership in the CUNY system for almost 25 years. My former students are now peppered throughout the New York City Public Schools and often honor me by reporting back about their current experiences. As would be expected, they have a broad range of opinions about the state of our schools, but recently, many of these stories coalesce into a perceived environment that one ex-student summarizes as “toxic.”

Mayor Eric Adams, it should be remembered, came into office with a scant record on school policies. His expertise and campaign focused on criminal justice. He chose David Banks as his schools' chancellor, a former principal with no experience even as a district superintendent but who has a long association with Adams, is the partner of now-First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright, and the brother of Deputy Mayor Philip Banks.

As one of his first acts, Banks appointed a Florida superintendent, Desmond Blackburn, to a new post, deputy chancellor for school leadership, to supervise the Department of Education’s 45 district superintendents who, in turn, supervise the DOE’s more than 1,500 principals. Banks also demanded the resignation of all district superintendents, at first refusing to let any reapply, then relenting after widespread criticism. But the message was clear: the new cohort of superintendents would be controlled by Banks, Blackburn, and Blackburn’s new special assistant, Tracey Collins, the mayor’s partner.

Amid this tight inner-circle and superintendent churn, Blackburn soon resigned, followed by the DOE’s chief strategy officer, chief technology officer, chief communications officer, and executive director of the Office of Safety and Youth Development, all within the first one and a half years of the Banks’ chancellorship.

Before he left, Blackburn instituted what has become known as “the hot seat,” where superintendents are interrogated on their district’s performance. Modeled on the police department’s CompStat system of precinct accountability, the DOE’s version, according to Blackburn, is “supposed to be purposely agitating” as superintendents are grilled in front of peers and supervisors.

But the DOE is not—or at least should not be—a paramilitary force like the NYPD. Superintendents, as professional educators, are not generally prone to top-down directives and supervisors’ intentionally-inflicted, semi-public agitation. Rather, in the education context, the idea of a collaborative “learning organization,” in Peter Senge’s phrase, is a preferable, more supportive, and lasting form of supervision for system improvement.

As reported by my former students and others, this recipe of cronyism, turnover, and intimidation has produced the toxic culture now facing principals. Faced with myriad, frequently changing Central demands—such as the quickly introduced then as quickly abandoned Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) screening tool—and overwhelming administrative paperwork, the need to implement new reading curricula dictated by the chancellor, enroll high numbers of new immigrants, reduce high rates of absenteeism and disciplinary problems, address post-pandemic interrupted learning, and care for student mental health issues, principals are not faring well. Many are contemplating retirement before they had planned.

Take the reading issue. The profession is designed for principals to serve as schools’ instructional leaders. Yet, in selecting three phonics-based reading curricula for the coming year, Banks—over the principals’ union’s objection—handed the choice of which will be taught to his hand-picked superintendents who almost universally chose a single product, the cheapest. Even if there were apt reasons for Banks’ delegation, the result has been catastrophic for principal morale and the odds of program success.

Schools within a district can have high variability. Principals know their staff, students, and families and, attuned to this, curriculum selection is a key professional responsibility. To take away that discretion is an insult and, one long-serving principal told me, was the deciding factor in their quitting. If they were no longer trusted to choose key, system-approved reading texts and attendant professional development, the job had become intolerable. Even waivers from this directive were mishandled. Principals could choose their own curriculum if 85 percent of students met proficiency standards. Reportedly one principal, done in by an over-scrupulous district obsession with numerical data, failed to meet the mark with an 83.5 percent rate because of a high number of students opting-out of state tests.

Enrollment of immigrant students is another point of toxicity. Not, as might be assumed, the difficulties of teaching newly arrived students. Those are tasks principals normally handle, even welcome. But the centrally-driven, disproportionate enrollment of immigrant middle and high school students selectively concentrated in our highest needs schools is another breaking point. Our many screened schools are immunized from accepting these students so, instead, Borough Placement Centers repeatedly send immigrant students to the same open-enrollment schools despite resources so stretched that adequate instruction, including special education, and other supports are impossible to provide. But the principal is held accountable, berated for underperformance by a stressed superintendent after their own “hot seat” quiz. And so it goes.

These challenges pale compared to the increasing, everyday needs of students. The pandemic has brought a host of student challenges that shrinking budgets fail to address. Principals need more instructional and support staff, but disappearing federal dollars and lower enrollments frequently result in less money. Fixed costs and pressures for improved performance demand the same or greater expenses. Quick and dirty solutions encouraged by central policies, such as NX grading to provide students with empty credits, save money but at the price of lower educational quality. The temporary help of district-based coaches and other itinerant personnel fails to adequately solve these problems and adds to managerial confusion because of mixed reporting lines and sudden redeployments.

With the start of a new school year, Adams and Banks have a chance to learn from the toxicity now besetting our schools. There is some indication that this is the case. A promise to “reinvent” special education and a new consent decree to improve services for students with disabilities may make a difference. A “Blueprint for Public Safety,” despite its criminal justice focus, includes over $200 million for education, recreation, and mental health services.

But these targeted initiatives don’t get to the heart of the problem. Banks needs to show more openness to outside voices, improve staff stability, and demonstrate trust in decentralized decision-making to create a healthier mix of resource and educational strategies at the school level. Most of all, he needs to earn support from principals who have been alienated by insular leadership; frequently changing top-down mandates; burdensome paperwork; brutalized supervisory policies; and inadequate professional delegation.

Without the renewed confidence of principals, the administration’s agenda for improved student outcomes cannot be achieved.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Former Principal of PS 46 Heather Jansen and Her Student Rat Pack

Re-posted from and

The Student Rat Pack of PS 46

by Betsy Combier, August 19, 2023

The story I am posting here is the ugly side of the New York City Department of Education, the dark side where administrators target, attack, and discriminate against employees for no reason other than to save a few dollars in the budget or retaliate against a person they do not like.

Indeed, the perpetrator's motives are often hidden beneath layers of denials ("I did not say that" or "I did not do that") hurled at deaf ears. 

New York City employees are reassigned to rubber rooms and are seldom told why. Heather Jansen, former principal of PS 46 in Staten Island, knows very well why she was removed May 1, 2023. She used secret tape recorders and very young children to report on teachers in order to get the teachers terminated for no reason or, some suspect, for being “white”. Her Supervisor, Superintendent Marion Wilson, has openly attacked white people working in her District, D31.

Wilson denied the truth of this statement but no one believed her.

Let me give you an overview of the charging process before the actual 3020-a specifications are served on an educator.

The charging of an employee for incompetence starts when a principal gives a teacher two end-of-year “Ineffective” or “Unsatisfactory” ratings. Misconduct charges begin when someone makes a complaint to a member of the school administration. The allegation may not be true. It gets filed with OEO, OSI or SCI nonetheless.

Heather Jansen, former principal of PS 46 in Staten Island, put a new twist to this old scheme. Jansen, pictured below, enlisted a group of students in 2nd-4th grades to report on teachers and these children were rewarded for their work as her “little investigators.” What they complained about became charges against the teacher. The process of creating charges used to be under the authority of the adults in the building or parents, so Jansen added a whole new dimension by adding children’s complaints to the mix.

We call this a “Student Rat Pack”.

Heather Jansen

First, let’s take a look at the charging process. Principals have to balance their budgets and this takes precedence over quality of work. Animosity towards an employee for any reason also becomes a primary reason to target an employee, no matter how good their teaching skills are, and no matter whether the allegation against a person is valid or not. We are, as we all know, in tough times. Students are not enrolling in the numbers needed to fill seats in their building. As funding is tied to “seat time”, or the number of warm bodies (meaning “alive”) that fill the seats available, principals must try to find out what they can do to keep the funding stream coming into their building.

The solution is to reduce the number of teachers in the school who eat up the budget money, and secretly move the money into other areas the principal believes are more important – i.e. test prep, professional development, and his/her pocket. Enlarging classes from 25 to 36+ students is approved, as high achievement is not a priority, and test results can always be altered before filing with the State Education Department.

I will give you an example. Several years ago one of my clients, a highly respected, excellent general education pedagogue, was given a U (“unsatisfactory”) for her work in an Integrated Co-Teaching Class (ICT). However, a close review of the observation reports showed that whenever the principal came in to observe, the Special Education teacher who helped this teacher with the lesson by adapting it to the students with disabling conditions (IEP-Individualized Education Plan) was not in the classroom. This special education teacher was deliberately assigned by the principal to work in the principal’s office during the class that was to be observed. The general education teacher requested that the principal come back on another day, but the principal said no, gave the excellent teacher an unsatisfactory observation report rating, and then an unsatisfactory rating at the end of the school year.

The next year, the principal gave the teacher a Teacher Improvement Plan (“TIP”) that was, according to the principal, designed to “help” the excellent teacher “improve”, according to a standard that was subjective, random and arbitrary. The teacher was never given any notice of this standard, so she could not – and did not – meet the unknown expectations of the principal in her performance. The excellent teacher was placed into a rubber room to await 3020-a charges which were served about two years later, after the NYC Department of Education created the charges and rounded up the witnesses they needed to terminate her. This is, of course, a setup. See the secret Guide on how to terminate an “incompetent” teacher:

Performance-doc by Joseph Belesi

The documents and procedures to get rid of a tenured teacher is highly scripted (see p. 12 “Tell the Story of Incompetence”).  If the teacher is actually not incompetent, the principal will make up what is not there. More on this in a later post. My point here is that Jansen and all principals can ignore all the rules and alter a person’s rating downward at any time just because they want to, so that the person can be discontinued or terminated.

There are no facts in observations. Observation reports “consist solely of advice, criticisms, evaluations, and recommendations.” Elentuck v. Green (202 A.D.2d 425, 608 N.Y.S.2d 701, lv denied 84 N.Y.2d 809, rearg denied 85 N.Y.2d 858). Therefore, any principal can get anyone on their staff removed simply by observing wrongdoing in the classroom, lack of professionalism, etc. The rating procedure is only as good as the person making the observation wants it to be.

My advice: document everything, Grieve and appeal everything, and rebut all observations or reports that make false statements. Don’t fall for the Union reps’ advice not to do anything or the principal will come after you. The principal will do what they want anyway, but you will be left without a defense.

The procedure to charge a teacher with misconduct is the same, where no one investigates properly and a complaint takes precedence over truth. Here is an example:

A senior teacher with more than 20 years of excellent work was sent to a reassignment “rubber room” and not told why. Several years later she received 3020-a charges for slapping the face of a kindergartner in her class. She asked me to take her case. The investigator never showed up to testify about the investigation, as he had “retired” (a word the DOE uses lightly). SCI sent another warm body to testify instead. This so-called SCI investigator testified that he could not read the notes of the original investigator, he had been told a few days earlier to show up at the hearing, and he knew nothing about the case other than that the misconduct had been substantiated, even though the teacher charged was not in school that day (she was ill) and the investigators never checked that fact. The teacher we defended was exonerated, and the Arbitrator, Robert Gifford, left the  DOE. We were not told why.

Indeed, many arbitrators have told me after they leave/retire/are removed from their positions as 3020-a arbitrators that they were told they were too lenient, and did not terminate to the required degree or extent.

Misconduct complaints are more horrific than observation reports because they could lead to Part 83. Part 83 is a hearing held in Albany at the New York State Education Department on sustained 3020-a misconduct charges – let’s say a steep fine or termination, or “unethical behavior” – as a determination of moral character. The Part 83 Hearing Officer can – and almost always does – take away the teacher’s State License.

I have been writing about the “Gotcha Squad” since 2007, and I have many posts on this website as well as my blog NYC Rubber Room Reporter on the rubber rooms,, and 3020-a Arbitration. I think these posts are well worth reading by anyone working for the NYC Department of Education because the NYC DOE does not want anyone to know any of the information there.

For instance, the TAC Memos are, according to a Department attorney, “attorney-client information”, and are not to be made public. F17887 FOIL disclosure explains this process. When I filed a Freedom of Information request (“FOIL”) for the “Technical Assistance Conference” (TAC) memos of the DOE legal department in 2007, I was sent 79 pages of emails. I filed a FOIL request of the secret meeting held at DOE headquarters on February 24, 2015 which was mandatory for all arbitrators, DOE attorneys and NYSUT Attorneys who were working on 3020-a cases. I was sent a video and transcript which I posted on my blog in full. Again, the misconduct charge may not be true, but the NYC DOE is not concerned about that, only that the budget doesn’t need to be burdened by a teacher’s salary and that someone in the school and/or a parent made a complaint, and the teacher must go.

Shawn Ramos, UFT

I gave the background above to give readers some idea of the random and arbitrary actions that clutter the unfair charging process for the NYC Department of Education. Heather Jansen, the former principal at PS 46 in Staten Island altered these unfair practices to add her own. She got away with it, at least until May 1 2023 when she was removed,  thanks to the fearless actions of staff and the excellent support of both UFT Rep. Shawn Ramos, pictured above, and Staten Island Borough Representative Sean Rotkowitz, who went above and beyond the normal ‘no response’ from the UFT.

In my previous post on my blog NYC Rubber Room Reporter and ATR Connect about the race war going on in District 31 led by Marion Wilson, we believe that Wilson may have allowed Jansen to undermine staff and destroy morale at PS 46 in order to get rid of Jansen (who is white). Last spring the following statement by Marion Wilson was sent to me and others:

“During a school visit with colleagues, and children present, Marion Wilson stated, “All I see is white children, no diversity. This needs to change.” Also, during an in-person meeting with colleagues, she stated, “When I said no more white principals, I meant it,” and the last snippet is of the superintendent sharing her feelings that the island is “…still too white” for her. If these comments are not hate crimes, I don’t know what is. Her actions are disgusting, disgraceful, and unbecoming a superintendent.”

Heather Jansen created her own tragic end, with destroyed careers and trashed educational opportunities for the PS 46 students. Never in my twenty years of doing the rubber rooms and 3020-a arbitration have I seen any other principal create under-handed, malicious actions similar to those of Heather Jansen. The purpose was to set up anyone on her staff whom she did not like.

Jansen was appointed principal of PS 46 in September 2021. When she started working there she held a staff meeting where she told staff that the school was “racist” because all of the staff were white folk. I did a post already on Superintendent Marion Wilson, with whom Heather Jansen worked for many years.

Whether Wilson’s motive in appointing Jansen was to get rid of white principals and teachers was true or not, Jansen started a reign of terror on her own that destroyed the morale of the school. On parent-teacher conference day, Jansen called a teacher and told her that she, Jansen, was going to get Jane Doe to retire or be terminated at a 3020-a. When this teacher wanted to take time off for medical reasons, Jansen told her she would not allow this, as she was going to terminate her co-teacher, and she could not have two teachers out of the same class at the same time. Jansen told her, ” “I’ve got you.” Many staff were fired, or forced out, leaving no professional teachers in their place. Do not bother to try to find a benefit this procedure had for the children in the school, because there is none.

Jansen’s “student rat pack” is similar to what I call the “Gotcha Squad”. The selected students, basically those most in need of support and encouragement, were given permission to get up anytime while in class and tell their teacher they had to go to the bathroom when what they really did was go to the office, walk into Principal Jansen’s room, and tell her what the teacher did that they didn’t like. Then the student was rewarded with candy, McDonalds, pizza, little toys, whatever.

A teacher testified about the select group of students at the 3020-a as follows:

“I had, on several occasions, students come to me to tell me that Ms. Jansen asked them to report on teachers. I had children that were uncomfortable with it. I had students that told me they weren’t rats. I had witnessed students telling some of her rat pack that snitches get stitches. I had students that were starting to bully some of her rats, knowing they were part of the rat pack. I felt like it was a very unhealthy, unsafe environment for children. I felt they were being groomed. A lot of them were needy and looking for someone. And it was, at this point, it was like an insidious. It was horrific to me how children were being used, how parents were coming to me and telling me their children wouldn’t talk to them anymore, and that they were being used and groomed by Ms. Jansen…..

They were given everything from small pop-its, opportunities to shop on her lap top for pop-its, lunches, McDonald’s.”

Parents were never told about any of this.

Indeed, the students were told by Principal Jansen not to reveal any information to their parents or anyone, because they were her “little investigators”  and the information they gave her was secret. No educator has the authority or right to tell children to keep secrets from their parents. This is outrageous, and the worst part of Jansen’s teacher removal process. NYC has, it seems, accepted the crimes of young children as the "new norm".

I know all of this from doing a 3020-a for a teacher who was charged by Jansen with misconduct, which started my digging for the real story. I could not believe what I found. A parent told me that she found out her child belonged to the “Rat Pack” and her daughter told her that she was told never to tell her parent anything, even if asked. Luckily, this student told someone else no longer in the school, and we brought in that person to testify.

A teacher testified that a student who made frequent visits to Jansen’s office

“[would] leave with pencils. If she had — 13 [00:01] in the office, she would give those out regularly to Student A and other students. Whatever prizes she had on hand. Other times she had–she used to keep snacks in the office. Students would leave with that.

Jansen showed herself to be ready and willing to make up new rules to tarnish the career and reputation of any employee in the school who was not part of her inner circle. She suddenly accused a teacher of erroneously marking a child absent when the child was in the school, a mistake that was always fixed later in the day by the school secretary. Instead, this error led to 3020-a charges, the first time ever seen by anyone who worked at the school. We were told by staff that she put secret tape recorders in every classroom. Everyone was terrified of speaking to anyone about anything. They were also afraid of secret cameras.

In sum, the evidence and testimony in the case of Jane Doe * (name changed to protect her privacy), charged with 3020-a misconduct in December 2022, show a lack of due process in the procedures used to charge her (i.e. improper determination of probable cause), and unprofessional mismanagement of PS 46.  Jansen was the mastermind behind a random system using favoritism, cameras, secret tapes and outright lies about staff made by her student rat pack to remove any staff member she wanted to get rid of.

One 3020-a charge alleged that a student came to the office upset with something Jane Doe said. Then Jansen tried to force her temporary secretary to file it with OSI, the Office of Special Investigations.  But the paraprofessional working as the secretary testified at the 3020-a that she refused to validate the student’s lie about Jane Doe and was soon fired by Jansen.

Another teacher who was seen crying as she left the school told us later that she was made to apologize to Student “A”, who was seven years old, for something she didn’t do, at the risk of losing her job. These events show violations of law so outrageous that they are visible to even the most unwilling mind.

But teachers and staff took action. The UFT arranged for a Vote of No Confidence:

Vote of No Confidence

80% of the school personnel voted against Jansen.

Heather Jansen was removed from PS 46 on May 1, 2023, after staff voted no confidence. We have just heard that she has been appointed a teacher at a Staten Island school starting in September 2023.

Stay tuned.

Betsy Combier
Editor, ADVOCATZ Blog