By David Pambianchi, Guest Contributor
Every education issue in the press put out by New York's Mayor, his administrative stooges or Yellow Journalist puppets is fallacious, misleading and corrupt.
The media releases a daily tirade of opinions and articles, spewing false information to unwitting readers who trust the papers, believing that they are being served by proponents of Liberty and a Free Press. The Media have become the proponents of Fraud and Free Gibberish.
The Student Standardized Test Score
The New York Post requested through the Freedom of Information Act the names of teachers whose students failed the state's Standardized Tests. The implication is that they are helping parents and students by exposing "Bad" teachers and giving the Department Of Education grounds for firing them.
The readers get brief arguments about test flaws and unfairness with an overwhelming slant that it is all a Union cover-up. The Logical Truth: Through no fault of his own, if Dr. Martin Luther King taught in a "rough" school and was given up to 150 students, many highly disruptive, disrespectful and emotionally disturbed that told him to "Shut the F... up or I'll kill your mother," and these students refused to do any work and subsequently failed Standardized Tests, Dr. King would be branded publicly as a Bad Teacher, Bum, Dead Beat and the like by the DOE and newspapers.
Bottom line for publishing names: Another excuse to print worthless news and stir up public support to fire teachers.
"Good New Teachers" vs. "Bad Old Teachers"
What exactly is Merit? Converse to common sense, it has nothing to do with ability.
By their own admission, the DOE "Good Teacher" is one that draws the least pay and uses the least benefits. Just out of school and less likely to use medical benefits due to illness, and less likely to have a family, dependents, mortgage and the like, the DOE calls this type of person a "Good" more efficient teacher with "Merit." By DOE definition, every year the teachers work, they are becoming "Bad", less efficient teachers. They draw more money, gain rights and experience and once they secure benefits and pensions, they are unfit for our children. They have less "Merit" and have become "Bad."
Under the new Tier 5 contract, a teacher does not become vested for 10 years (Pensionable), and needs 15 years to secure medical benefits for future retirement. Therefore, a new teacher is a "Good" teacher if he quits or is laid off (fired), before be completes 10 years. The DOE owes him and the family and life he started, nothing; no medical benefits or pension. A decade of his life has passed, his career ended and his license is not even helpful for a street vendor's permit to sell balloons. Seniority and Last in First out is his only protection.
With no logical and ethical alternative to seniority based systems that protect fundamental employee rights around the globe, insider and "specially funded" groups like Education Reform Now and Educators 4 Excellence still oppose seniority. With a false sense of security, they presuppose themselves "Excellent" and more caring of children than other educators, magically more effective, and naturally believe more deserving of remaining on the payroll as they age and become "Bad" teachers.
The Fraud of Charter Schools and School Closings Smokescreen
Last fall, the DOE revved up their attack on public school teachers eagerly anticipating high state test scores for Charter Schools. Nothing less than a miraculous odyssey, the Charter Schools that had hand-picked "New Good" mostly duped nonunion teachers, cherry-picked top level 3 and 4 students and had extensive tax payer money pumped into them. They were OUT SCORED by regular under-funded public schools with "Bad Old Union Teachers" who were left with lower functioning 1 and 2 level students, English as a Second language learners and anyone else the Charter Schools rejected.
We do not hear the outcry every day in the press to close them, that the children and public have been deceived. No. We hear the call for MORE Charter Schools. Bottom line: Continue to squeeze out so called "Bad Old Union Teachers" by dumping them into the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR). The DOE wants to keep hiring new teachers, coming and going with revolving door policy, wants them coming in from Teach Across America to stay a few years and disappear, wants any NYC Universities to be able to claim they have high college placement for their graduating students, by temporarily dumping them in the school system despite half of them leaving within the first year.
More and more schools MUST be closed in order to get rid of union teachers and redirect the subsequent savings to fund the vast, useless and ever growing administrator positions and outside agencies. (Not to mention their benefits and larger pensions. Teacher pensions average $39,000 of those who can make it to retirement before being hounded until they quit or are forced and coerced out.)
["I counted 22 DOE administrators who earned at least $180,000 as of last June - most of whom I have never heard of; and 74 who made $150,000 or over. What's most interesting is how many administrators there are - including hourly workers: 11,796! More than 10,800 are listed with annual salaries."]
With a 3 to 4 ratio, these administrative salaries equal 30,000 to 40,000 teachers, teachers that could be in the classroom with smaller class sizes and more individualized instruction. (Remember the number of teachers in the entire system; 80,000.) Meanwhile, instead of having teachers already in the system become Principals and Assistant Principals, the Leadership Academy is pumping out principals by the hundreds that have as much to do with NYC Education as Chancellor Cathie Black.
In addition to the above numbers, multiple storey schools (similar to recent phasing-out Jamaica H.S.), staffed a Principal and around 5 Assistant Principals (APs). These schools were closed and replaced with 5 new schools, one for each floor. That means at least 5 Principals and 10 or more Assistant Principals. (They have to find someplace to put the ever increasing number of administrators.) The additional salaries of these administrators equal what could have been another 15 teachers or more in the classrooms of the building.
Furthermore, the strangulation of low achieving "Close Out" schools by deliberately funneling away funds, making false evaluations and comparisons to other schools and withholding support is nothing less than Racism.
Ethically, Often the Best Schools are the Close Out schools
Obviously, Close Out schools are not fudging data. If anything, they are honest in their struggle. Unfortunately in MOST schools, fearful of retribution for having an "Academically" failing school and being targeted for teacher "U" ratings or "Excessed" into the ATR pool, teachers protect their livelihood and forgo ethics. Suddenly, students pass Regents and classes after tests are "Scrubbed" (reexamined through special interpretation), or worse, and students who can barely read, nor do a simple math equation, graduate. Students tossed into the local college to make the High School look "Good," discover they need remedial courses. Many soon drop out.
Some principals manage an "A" School Rating this way. Sometimes these principals and some of those aforementioned administrators, who never stepped foot in a school building get bonuses upward of $25,000. That's more than halfway to hiring a new teacher for a year. For hard working teachers, this is simply an extra slap in the face.
The Absent Teacher Reserve
If the DOE cannot move public opinion and the legislature to overturn Seniority rights, the ATR system (that the DOE created and wasted a fortune on), is another avenue to accomplish teacher removal with the Open Market Scam. Rather than veteran teachers choosing new schools to work by seniority after a school downsizes or closes, Principals now have "Discretion" in hiring. They are "inclined" not to hire ATRs. They hire the aforementioned "New Good Teachers" and not "Bad Old Teachers."
First, "Starve the Beast." Bloomberg's administration mismanaged the budget in order to create a hungry, monstrous deficit, now they want to use the ensuing financial crisis as an excuse to "Feed this Beast" the salaries, benefits and pensions of fired veteran teachers and cover some financial loses. Year to year, ATRs are bounced around the system like ping pong balls (even if they have the skills of Aristotle), and still teach classes usually relieving the parent-school's teachers of their workload by getting a newly formed class-mix of aforementioned Dr King's disruptive students. (ATRs can also fill in as daily substitutes if a teacher is out sick.)
How to fire a "Senior Tenured Teacher:" Blackmail and Criminal Harassment
In essence, Tenure means Due Process and almost every American knows the meaning of "Due Process." It is the core of our justice system and the backbone of freedom and the American spirit. The 80,000 teachers of NYC do not argue that a teacher convicted of a criminal sex act against a child or a drunken buffoon (front page news for certain), should remain in the system. Tenure does NOT protect this type of employee. But the DOE has a different definition of Tenure. Due Process is a hindrance to removing employees that draw higher salaries and benefits.
The newspapers finally published a rare view of what a NYC school has become. An unstable Staten Island Principal made headlines for ranting and raving, threatening to garnish wages over teachers being 5 minutes late who car pooled and managed to struggle to work after a snow storm. But here is what the public does not know. That incident is not even the tip, of the top, of the iceberg. Imagine what the daily animosity between teachers and administrators and the abuse of authority that goes on in this school must be like and then realize that this is becoming the norm in the school system.
Principals are openly blackmailed by the Bloomberg Administration into giving teachers "U" ratings. They must find fault in teachers (preferably those drawing higher salary), or THEY are getting an "Unsatisfactory" rating. Administrators that are a product of the NYC Leadership Academy are more inclined to act accordingly and like the Staten Island Administrator would be considered by the DOE as a "Strong, GOOD principal with vision for the children."
The Principal's "Discretion" translates into Principal's "Discrimination and usually involves Criminal Harassment with impunity."
Once marked for an "Unsatisfactory" rating, the innocent victim can expect any or all of the following:
A. No matter how many years of experience, how well a teacher plans or how excellent their lesson or teaching ability may be, the result will be "Unsatisfactory" observation after observation.
B. Letter after letter of problems with the teacher will be placed on file, some absurd and petty as to stagger thought (like the Staten Island Incident, but the publicity probably saved them that letter)
C. Continuous harassment of various sorts, computer removed from the teacher's room and given to another teacher, along with furniture, or supplies
D. constant walk-ins and class disruptions
E. Threatened with a "U" rating unless he or she transfers or threats they will be brought up on some kind of "charge" if they do not resign E. Classes with disruptive students disciplined for some teachers, but not for the marked teacher left to fend for his or her self causing indirect encouragement of student disrespect toward marked teachers
F. Public humiliation and reprimands before fellow teachers and/or students, even over the loud speaker
The school can expect:
A. A hostile work atmosphere
B. Most teachers afraid to speak out in general
C. Teachers siding with administrators against other teachers in an attempt to look "Good" and avoid targeting
D. A teaching and working staff that hold contempt for the NYC teaching profession
E. Students that sense all of the above
I have seen a highly qualified and intelligent elderly English teacher go through the gauntlet. This teacher took a normally a tough disruptive group of students, using his dramatic style and the fact they respected his age, he got them to do class work and they learned about Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. But he was given the harassment treatment and the more he resisted, the more inflamed the principal became. Some students referred to him as grandpa, and he would buy a birthday cake and take a few "school photos" for students now and then. The principal used one of these "cake photo episodes" to report that the teacher was some kind of pervert to be investigated, and had him sent to the infamous Rubber Room. The principal even coerced a female student to tell investigators that "She felt uncomfortable." She later told investigators she was coerced by the principal. The teacher was exonerated after a year or so and made it back into the school system, but not all teachers are as fortunate.
I have seen a teacher blamed for students starting fires in the class when he turned his back to write on the board.
I have seen a principal and AP, badger a physics teacher over her lesson, once she was marked for a "U" Rating. If she were Albert Einstein, it would have made no difference. Neither administrator had the intellectual capacity to determine anything going on in the room, on or off the board. The teacher was lucky enough to get a transfer.
On and on, just ask a teacher. There are countless stories.
Tenure and Seniority is the only barrier between racism, bias, nepotism, harassment and corruption.
Why does someone become a teacher?
Usually someone first becomes a teacher because he or she believes they can make a difference in a child's life. Second, they discover, what an idea? To make this endeavor an honorable career, have a family, children and retire with dignity. But now in New York, knowing how the current system works, only an insane person would become a teacher. After 6 plus years of college, degrees, certificates, subsequent training and testing, as soon as they put in time and start to draw benefits and salary increases, the DOE by definition determines they are old and "Bad" and must be fired.
All that is left is your children
Tainted press and phony politicians chant the mantra that they care about your children. But from the beginning, it has always been the teachers who care about spreading knowledge to children. They know what is best, and what children need. Teachers must be given the tools, the authority and respect to do their jobs.
Visit David's Website: "Writer's Edge"