Sunday, September 26, 2010

Do Teachers Have a “One Slap” Rule?

Termination reversals after 3020-a hearings are extremely rare, but given the right circumstances and a "hanging" arbitrator and you just might get your case reversed. So is the case of Beverly Riley.

On September 21, 2006, Riley, a fifteen year elementary school teacher at P.S. 28, allegedly approached a nine-year old student who was in the hallway after school. As she approached the child, who was waiting for her family to pick her up, Riley allegedly grabbed the girl, pulled her to the wall and slapped her on the left side of the face. The incident was reported to the principal, OSI investigated and Riley was charged with corporeal punishment. A second charge of corporal punishment was preferred against Riley for an incident allegedly occurring against another student on October 4, 2006.

After a five day hearing the arbitrator dismissed the October 4, 2006 incident but sustained the first incident and imposed the penalty of termination. In his finding the arbitrator noted Riley's fifteen year unblemished record but found it insignificant due to the devastating impact on the child.

The arbitrator wrote "even one proven incident of corporal punishment can have a devastating impact on the involved student, and justifies the imposition of severe discipline. . .[s]tudents and parents need to know that the Department will not tolerate teachers using physical force to discipline students, even where the incident of corporal punishment was isolated and the only bruise was 'on the inside'."

On appeal Justice Saliann Scarpulla of New York Supreme Court found that the arbitrator had gone too far. One slap does not indicate the pattern of misconduct that deserves the most severe penalty. Besides, the child admitted she was not injured by the incident..

The Court ordered Riley be reinstated and the matter be sent to another arbitrator for a penalty consistent with the Court's decision.

A copy of the September 13, 2010 decision can be obtained here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Great job by our friends from GEM, NYCORE and Class Struggle Education Workers protesting outside the opening night of the pro charter propaganda film called Waiting for Superman. Fox actually has some decent coverage of the protest but of course they follow it with an ad for Waiting for Superman. Post article wasn't bad either. Norm Scott reports at Ed Notes that while protesters were rehearsing to perform "Will the Real Ed Reformers Please Stand Up" before the event, our friends ran into Michael Moore.

It felt good for me to be a part of this protest-street theater. I witnessed young public school advocates together with veterans last night. We were all standing up for great public schools for everyone. Public school teachers have been demonized by many of the charter supporters who have devolved into a movement that wants to privatize education, bust the unions and take public dollars. The tragedy is that so many young children are being exploited terribly in the process.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Inconvenient Truth About Waiting for Superman

Tornado had my internet connection down so I have been working from cell phone for a week. Glad to see our friends at GEM and others are protesting the new pro charter propaganda film called Waiting for Superman. They are also producing a response. Here is a link to the trailer to an Inconvenient Truth About Waiting for Superman.

Tomorrow, protestors will be at the Lincoln Center premiere of Superman. Join them if you can. Norm had a reviewer write a column at Ed Notes.

Charter advocates in New York and Michelle Rhee in DC got destroyed in last week's primary election. Let that be a lesson to us; we don't have to sit back and take the punches and appease the crowd that wants to destroy public schools. We're defending fairness for all of the children. There's no need to be shy about that.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Staff from the Former Island Academy at Rikers Island Need Your Help

Dear Friends,

During the 2009-2010 school year our school paid The School Development Program at Yale University, Comer Institute a reported $35,000 for a comprehensive report wherein teachers were interviewed extensively.

This comprehensive report discussed and analyzed the various aspects of Island Academy. The administration had promised on several occasions throughout the process that after a brief review by District 79 administration, the entire contents of this report would be available to staff. The document has been completed and sent to Island Academy's administration, but District 79 refused to share it with staff.

The school administration disagrees with the report claiming that "It undermines the rationale for closing the school." The report can be requested per the Freedom of Information Act from the DOE at The title of the report is "Contextual Analysis for Austin H. MacCormick - Island Academy, Rikers Island, June 29, 2010."

We encourage everyone to request the report so that the DOE will release it. Thanks for your help in this matter.

Very truly,


Don Murphy

Former Chapter Leader, Island Academy at Rikers Island

Friday, September 10, 2010


Fighting Closure: A Report from William H. Maxwell HS (CTE):
by Seung OK

The legacy of Mayor Bloomberg and his reforms on education may very well be a footnote vilifying the extent of damage impacted on a generation of students in New York City. The story of Maxwell HS should be a canary in the mines of what’s to come for the rest of the city. Situated in East New York, Brooklyn - arguably one of the most difficult neighborhoods to learn and teach in – the school proudly ran vocational programs that actually placed students in viable careers.

The students in the optics program ran a free eyeglass clinic for all the students and staff in the building. Anyone who needed to replace their glasses came with their prescription or old frame. The students measured the lenses, cut new lenses, fitted them into new frames – and instead of paying 200 dollars, one received a new pair of glasses free of charge. Not only were students learning a valuable professional skill, but they were helping those in a community who may desperately need a new pair of glasses.

The students in the cosmetology program were not the most academically minded. If you remember the musical Grease, beauty school may not attract the next generation of Nobel peace prize winners. But that program was doing something that very few schools can claim – keeping struggling kids interested and motivated to come to school. The attendance of cosmetology students were among the highest at Maxwell. These same students that might otherwise shun a high school degree, could be seen hard at work in the barbering and nail technology labs. They would attend academic classes with their mannequin heads in hand and struggle through tough courses so they could continue what they loved to do.

Our health care students boasted of having the New York State president of the Health Occupations Students of America – a national student organization. Through internships in hospitals and instruction under a practicing physical therapist – our students have enrolled in medical and nursing programs throughout New York.

Just as in the case of Jamaica High School, all these programs are being abandoned by Mayor Bloomberg. Since our freshmen enrollment is down to 60 students – 30 teachers had to be excessed. At one point there were 300 students slated for our school, until the city violated the spirit of the judge’s ruling and sent out reselection letters to these students “in case” the city won the appeal. Our excessed cosmetology teacher is being replaced with a wood shop teacher from another school. There are not enough vision students to keep up the program. What was once a legitimate career alternative and stepping stone to college is now on the brink of vanishing.

Ironically, the mantra always touted by the mayor’s DOE is, “putting children first”. By not hearing the pleas of the students, parents and teachers in these “failing schools”, the mayor is putting his ego first. He has said as much in his radio program – where he denigrated the desires of parents to keep these schools open. The mayor’s seems intent on breaking the teacher’s union, and if that means putting the 1 million plus students in harms way, disenfranchising parents and their voices, and vilifying thousands of dedicated teachers – so be it. If the reformers win, it will be a pyrrhic victory – and history will show, there were will be very few winners to show for it.

Thursday, September 09, 2010


The school year opened this week with great uncertainty at the 19 schools that the city tried to close last year but were saved by six judges. The Daily News and NY 1 did stories that featured Jamaica High School as part of their coverage of the opening day of the school year. Since I am the chapter leader at Jamaica and know the situation very well, I think it would be informative to explain what is going on at our facility so that people can understand how kids in closing schools are the casualties of school reform.

Back in December 2009 the Department of Education introduced proposals to phase out 19 schools but their plan was flawed because they wrote inadequate Educational Impact Statements. After the Panel for Educational Policy voted at 3:00 a.m. on January 27, 2010 to close all of these schools, the UFT (with the complete support of ICE), NAACP and others sued and won to prevent the closings.

Judge Joan Lobis decided on March 26, 2010 that the UFT was right when she ruled that the 19 schools should remain open. On July 1, an appeals court agreed 5-0 with the original decision. What was left unclear was whether new schools could still start in our buildings even though the old schools still existed. We believed they could not and wanted the UFT to go back to court on the issue to prevent the new schools from invading our space. I spoke with the chapter leader from Beach Channel and he agreed with me on this issue. I also emailed President Michael Mulgrew to no avail.

We thought we had a strong case by just looking at the flawed Educational Impact Statements. For Jamaica, the impact statement said that by phasing out Jamaica it would create space for the two new schools. No phase out equals no space for the new schools right? Well the UFT disagreed and on July 14 they basically sold out many of the nineteen schools by agreeing to allow the new schools to start in our buildings. In exchange we were supposed to get support.

Not only have we not received any help from either UFT or DOE after their July 14 agreement, our pupils have had to suffer the indignity of returning to school and being squeezed into the middle of the building in an area that looks antiquated while two new schools and an expanding third on the east and west wings install modern equipment for their small schools. It's appalling how conditions in the same building are so vastly different between schools.

Then to hear the mayor and chancellor say on the first school day that schools such as Jamaica don't deserve support is unconscionable. The corporate mindset has gone overboard. Bloomberg and Klein want to close our school so they will compromise the education of our students to prove their point. Even I am having trouble believing that people can be that vindictive against innocent children.

If anyone is thinking that someone should have told Judge Lobis about how her decision has been violated by DOE and UFT, we did. A Jamaica teacher named Debbie Saal, and I along with a student and parent wrote up something called an Order to Show Cause asking the judge to intervene as opening up new schools appeared to us to be a violation of her decision. In our petition, we asked the judge to stop two new schools from opening in our building since the Educational Impact Statement that created these schools was flawed as their existence was predicated on Jamaica phasing out, which it no longer is. We had many strong arguments saying that Jamaica’s pupils were suffering irreparable harm because we were losing so much space and funding.

Unfortunately, Judge Lobis, when she saw our papers, said because the case was closed our papers were therefore not timely. Translation, when the UFT made their deal with the DOE to let the new schools co-locate in our facility, we had no legal recourse. Since it is up to the judge to decide whether or not to intervene in a case, it means our legal options are very limited.

That's where it stands right now. Our school is open as an entity but with very few freshmen and no help coming from anywhere. Our programs are either nonexistent or a shell of their former selves. Some Advanced Placement classes have been dropped; there are no music classes; science classes meet one fewer period per week, many electives no longer exist and all ninth graders in general education, whether they are in our Gateway Honors program, Law program or are English Language Learners, are all in the same subject classes. 25 teachers out of 84 were placed in excess and Absent Teacher Reserves who don't know our school are being sent here to cover classes while our excessed teachers are sent packing all over Queens.

We have been abandoned by Michael Bloomberg, Joel Klein, Michael Mulgrew and Judge Lobis.

Our students and staff are casualties of school reform. Can anyone help us?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Sex, Lies and Videotapes

By Loretta Prisco

I don't know about the sex, but there are plenty of lies, and videotapes to prove it!

Using rising test scores, Klein/Bloomberg have insisted that schools are improving and went to Washington to brag about the "miracle" of NY.
The recent realistic NYS calibrations of the standardized test scores nixed that miracle. People of faith know that turning water into wine and curing leprosy requires Divine intervention. Educating children first requires an understanding of what it means to be educated. And that bears no relation to raising test scores.

  • Klein/Bloomberg are still boasting about the increase in HS graduation rates.
Another farce. As mentioned before in these columns, in addition to the dumbing down of the Regents, woefully poor scores have been calibrated (a 38 has been made into a passing 65!). A feat easily accomplished by guessing some multiple choice questions. In addition, students who have been failing courses, even truant for the semester, are given a passing grade if they do a make up project. Voila – a graduate onto college! The result: CUNY must offer more remedial classes for incoming students from NYC high school graduates and SAT scores continue to go down.
  • Another boast (or can we call it a lie?): the achievement gap between White and African American students is narrowing. 
According to the National Assessment of Academic Performance, (NAEP), the gold standard of tests, there has been no significant closing of the achievement gap among NYC students, in any grade or in any subject since 2003. As a matter of fact, the NYS tests results show that the gap between White and Black students in ELA grew from 22 percentage points in 2009 to 30 points in 2010, and in Math the gap grew to 30 points from 17 points.
  • Another boast: Klein/Bloomberg claim to have recommitted the schools to the arts and offer the proof that they have hired139 music and art teachers in the last 3 years.  
The materials budget for art has been cut by 68%. Teachers without materials are like surgeons without scalpels. Though known for their creativity, this challenges the best of art teachers. In 1997, Project ARTS had earmarked funding for the arts. Under the current regime, this money can be moved, and is, to areas evaluated by high stakes tests. 
  • In response to questions raised in a weeklong series on NY 1, "Bars to Education", the DOE said that it didn't have the funds for summer school for incarcerated youth, yet maintains that one of its major goals for this population is "education". 
Definitely a "liar, liar, your pants are on fire". Rikers Academy alone was $485,270 in the black at the end of the 2009-10 school year. Check it out online at NY1.
  • One more for this column: The DOE claims it is "accountable, transparent and open to parents".
Oh – those noses are growing right before our eyes. You've just got to go to the videotape here. Go to ednotesonline. Watch the Chairperson of the PEP (sitting right next to Klein) refuse to allow parents to ask questions about the changed test scores and shut down the meeting. Watch the guards escort a young child, who was attempting to ask a question, right off the stage and down the stairs.

And there must be some sex in all of this – we just haven't heard about it.

Saturday, September 04, 2010


There is controversy between's Anna Phillips, whom I respect, and the Wall Street Journal over how many excessed teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve pool have actually pounded the pavement to look for jobs. The two news organizations also disagree on whether Joel Klein is offering to keep ATR's forever. Our take is that both the Journal and Gotham need to read the UFT contract.

The Wall Street Journal editorial page is not totally wrong (OK right there that might be unusual). Klein wants principals to be able to hire their staff and then be held accountable for the school's results just as the Journal says. If a teacher is forced out of a school because a school closed or a program shrank, the Journal is saying that Klein wants to offer job protection for that teacher. That is what has happened since 2005 and will keep going forever unless there is a change in the contract that the UFT will never agree to so the Journal is basically correct.

Anna Phillips from Gothamschools says Klein wants to get rid of the ATR's but is being forced to keep them because of the UFT contract. Anna is kind of right too but she doesn't mention that Klein is the one who agreed to this system in 2005 so he is stuck with it.

Because we have the Taylor Law, the UFT contract that expired in October of 2009 stays in effect until there is a new one. The UFT is a very weak union for sure. I know first hand because of the way the UFT sold out Jamaica High School after winning the law suit to keep us open, but subsequently they allowed two new schools to illegally take over our space so we are de facto phasing out anyway. Yes, it is a weak union but they are not suicidal.

Since the Department of Education closes schools in droves these days, it would mean that the UFT would basically be killing off its veteran membership if they agreed to allow ATR's to be terminated if they can't find a job after a year as Klein wants. As many have pointed out, there is a financial disincentive for principals to hire veteran teachers so thousands would be let go as has happened in other cities.

UFT will not set this precedent by giving up seniority rights for ATR's as the entire municipal labor movement would soon be asked to do the same because of pattern bargaining. Imagine the city closing sanitation garages to get rid of veteran sanitation workers. I don't forsee the UFT selling out the entire municipal labor movement so basically the Journal is right as the UFT can go forever without a new contract which means Klein is essentially offering ATR's jobs indefinitely. Both the Journal and Gotham are vindicated; successful mediation by the ICE blog.

On the issue of why there are ATR's, all sides miss this one by a wide margin.

Klein is making a big deal out of the actual number of ATR's who have looked for jobs. Anna Phillips has the facts clearly on her side over the Wall Street Journal concerning the percentage of ATR's who have applied for jobs, but the whole argument doesn't address the main issue at all. ATR's contractually have no obligation to look for any jobs. If they wait to be placed in a regular or ATR position, they are doing absolutely nothing wrong.

The ATR crisis is completely made up by Joel Klein and his friends at the UFT. If they were to follow the UFT contract, then it would be up to the Board of Education (official title of DOE) to place teachers.

Let's go to the actual contract where Article 17B Rule 4 states: "Teachers in excess in a school unit or office under the juristiction of a community district must be placed in vacancies within the district to the fullest degree possible. For school units, districts, or other organizational units under the juristiction of the central board, teachers in excess must be placed in appropriate vacancies within the district or central office." That is pretty clear language that puts the responsibility to place excessed teachers on the Board of Education.

In the horrible 2005 contract, the Board and the UFT added a Rule 11 to Article 17B that says: "Unless a principal denies the placement, an excessed teacher will be placed by the Board into a vacancy within his/her district/superintendency. The Board will place the excessed teacher who is not so placed in an ATR position in the school from which he/she is excessed, or in another school in the same district or superintendency."

These are the only changes from Rule 4 that were added by the new Rule 11:

First, to the fullest degree possible is out so excessed people must stay in their district/superintendency.

Second, now principals can deny placements and then the teacher becomes an ATR who has to stay in his/her district.

Where in the contract does it say that an excessed teacher has to call principals, go door to door, check on line for vacancies, apply and give demonstration lessons as if they are a new hire? It doesn't; the responsibility to place teachers belongs to the Board of Education, not the teacher. Case closed. It says it in the contract.

The fact that the Board no longer places excessed employees but instead tells people in excess to go to job fairs or pound the pavement as if these are laid off workers or new people looking for a job is a violation of the contract. The Board is supposed to place excessed employees. The fact that the UFT allows this to go on and gives classes to veteran teachers in polishing up their resumes shows how the UFT is basically in sync with the Board of Ed.

This is how it should work according to the contract. A teacher is placed in excess and is sent to a new school inside the district. The principal can accept that teacher or deny placement. If the teacher is accepted, then he/she is part of that new school. If the principal says no, then the person can become an ATR or be sent to another school in the district.

Teachers who want to transfer should apply for openings as it gives them more options which we are not against. However if someone is excessed and chooses to wait to be placed, it is a contractual right to be placed by the employer just as the city places firefighters when firehouses close or police officers when they clear out precints. How many jobs an excessed teacher has applied for is completely irrelevant. Joel Klein has authority to place all of the excessed teachers and he chooses to scapegoat them instead of finding them teaching positions. He has no right to force them to look for positions.