Saturday, May 27, 2006
Without Adequate Representation You Will Lose Your U-Rating Appeal
To paraphrase Dostoevsky’s famous quote you can measure the effectiveness of a Union by how it treats its most troubled members. The U-rating is management’s most effective weapon, short of a full 3020-a hearing, in its arsenal against our members. A “U-rating” for non-tenured teachers is a career ending act. For tenured teachers it means the inability to move forward in salary and can become the basis of a 3020-a hearing and ultimately dismissal.
You would expect that as the number of U-ratings increase the Union would be providing competent and caring advocates to members given the severity of its implications. Not so.
At a U-rating hearing I recently attended at 65 Court Street the main issue was the teacher’s lateness and attendance record. The advocate advised the teacher that there was nothing that could be done as 30 absences and 15 latenesses were “clearly excessive.”
After I called the advocate he admitted that there was no specific standard for excessive absences or latenesses but that “teachers had been fired for less.”
I suggested that he obtain the records of the attendance and lateness records of the school and that when he did he would find that the U-rated teacher had a better record than many S-rated teachers in the school.
I advised the teacher to file Freedom of Information Law requests for these records. She instead wrote directly to the Chancellor.
Virginia Caputo, the head of the hearing officers wrote back stating that the records were considered confidential and would not be made available to the teacher thus confirming the advocate’s statement that there was no way to defend this appeal.
Rather than take Caputo’s letter as clear evidence of lack of due process in the hearing the advocate is content to sit there and collect whatever small sum our dues pay him for showing up.
We need aggressive advocates who don’t wait until the night before the hearing to contact our members. We need aggressive advocates who don’t accept the DOE line that these hearings are indefensible and instead use their imagination to make records for appeal to Court or the State Commissioner.
Insist on fair representation. It is your right!