Friday, July 24, 2009


When Pedro Payano, a para assigned to P.S. 205 in the Bronx was fired from his position by Principal Maria Pietrosanti he must have thought that at least the Union would be there to protect his rights.
Boy, was he wrong. Payano's case illustrates just how our Union treats paraprofessionals as second-class citizens.

In order to terminate a tenured teacher most of us know that the Board must serve written charges and, if the teacher so requests, an arbitration is held pursuant to Education Law 3020-a. The hearing offers the teacher an opportunity to cross-examine witness against him and while difficult to appeal, due process is afforded.

Paraprofessionals do not come under the provisions of 3020-a. As non-competitive civil servants the rights against unjust termination are contained in their contract. The para contract provides "the discharge of an employee should be based on good and sufficient reason and that such action should be taken by the supervisor having such authority only after he/she has given due consideration to the matter." Article 23.

Any challenge to a firing must go through the grievance procedure…, step 1, principal; step 2, chancellor; step 3 arbitration. Article 22.

Payano was charged with abandoning a special needs child. He challenged the termination at step 1 and step 2, which was denied. He sought to appeal to step 3, arbitration but the Union denied taking the matter further. Payano was left without any real remedy.

Para terminations are not treated properly by our Union. Unlike 3020-a's when a teacher is represented by a lawyer paras get a teacher. The teachers selected to represent paras at these hearings have little formal training (a couple of weekends at a hotel) and no formal legal background. For the most part they read from scripts prepared by "more experienced" teachers. The hearings can take place long after the para has been fired. In short, totally inadequate representation is provided for these dues paying members.

Payano didn't even get this sham representation which would have cost the Union next to nothing and would have demonstrated that we stand by our members.

We can assure you this would not happen under an Eterno lead UFT.


Anonymous said...

How? How would an Eterno lead UFT be different? No theoretical b.s., how specifically?

Is the para contract going to be renegotiated? How is Eterno going to do that and what makes you think that the BOE would allow for a different Para termination processs without wanting something in return? Or is it that Eterno plans on hiring educational attorneys for all union arbitrations?

Let's hear specifics and not just lip service.

Anonymous said...

This is so sad. Another outrageous example of how the UFT is not aggressively advocating for it's most vulnerable members. To anonymous and others who believe that the UFT is doing all it can: I find it amazingly hard to believe that the UFT has so little negotiating savvy with all the powerful people they are connected to in the DOE and elsewhere, that they can't get something without giving something away? After all these years that they don't understand the value of interest based negotiations which is part the national positive labor relations movement? They keep saying the same thing..that they can't get anything without giving something away. Nonsense! I just think they are not trying hard enough or maybe they don't care enough to do everything in their power to protect teachers.
Ah.. and what of the most vulnerable members..substitute teachers? They were totally shafted by the implementation of the Sub Central registry that is now terminating subs based on an arbitrary "do not call list". Subs who have worked for many years have all of a sudden become "incompetant" after Sub Central was implemented? Are they all "sleeping in the classroom" as one UFT rep commented about an unspecified number of them? The "do not call letters" sent to subs many times after the three month time line,(a clear violation of the contract) list ambiguous infractions like "uncomfortable with the population", did not create the proper classroom setting",(whatever that means) and the most insidious one, "poor classroom management", especially when they are sent at a random on a cold call to some of the most difficult schools in the city where the head teacher cannot even manage the students, let alone the administration. Sub Central is requiring subs to manage students that they are unfamiliar, just show up and gain immediate control of the classroom, when many teachers struggle with students they have for the entire year. Many people do not realize that when a sub loses their sub certificate their career as a teacher in general is over. What is the union doing to negotiate due process protections for sub teachers in this or any contract for that matter? We will soon see, won't we. Subs have their own contract, and we will see if this finally gets done for this inhumane injustice against untenured teachers must end.

Anonymous said...

Assuming "the para contract going to be renegotiated?" - has any though be given to abandoning the "contract disciplinary procedure" in favor of reverting to Section 75 of the Civil Service Law with respect disciplinary action involving employees in the non-competitive class?

Eterno4Pres said...

I can't believe that our multi-million dollar contributions to this bogus union doesn't even get a lawyer for a fired union member! How dare they. And this case not giving them a chance at an arbitration. Unbelievable!

Anonymous said...

An ICE led union would take every case of a pra termination to arbitration and represent the person with a lawyer, no exceptions. That would be quite a bit different to what we have now. How could the UFT not even take the case to a neutral arbitrator?

Anonymous said...

That last comment should say para termination. Not pra.

Anonymous said...

This para should sue the DOE, then the UFT.

Anonymous said...

Worth stating. There's absolutely no mention here as to what lead to the termination.

Big chunk of the story missing. So what was it?????????????

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:58. reread the post."Payano was charged with abandoning a special needs child."

Anonymous said...

But what does that mean?

Unitymustgo! said...

who knows, maybe it was a serious case of negligence, but at the same time it could be one of a 100 different versions of BS trumped up garbage. Maybe it was already 2:00, still hadn't gotten lunch and she stood up for herself and left the child at the office and went to eat. Maybe she needed the bathroom and asked someone to keep an eye on the kid for a minute while she went wee-wee. Use your imagination just a little and you can see how "abandoning a special needs child" could be about just about anything.

If you were the teacher in the classroom and you stepped out into the hallway for 15 seconds for whatever reason, and administration just happened to round the corner, you could be charged with "abandonment." The Para's in my building are faced with messed up unfair situations all the time. With budget cuts schools are short Para's all over. One or two call out sick, especially if they are a 1/1 for a kid and the other Para's days can be thrown into a frenzy.

The issue here isn't one of guilt or innocence, it's about representation and due process. When you consider how much money the union collects in dues. How many employees the union has. The special events and costly events. The seemingly low cost negotiation expenses of our contracts. Why is it when it comes to the actual benefit to the membership our union skimps. I mean they really skimp. They are slow and unresponsive, often you don't even get a real lawyer. You cll to ask questions and/or get advice and they act as if they've never faced such issues before? Like my situation is completely unique? 80,000+ teachers and you can't clearly explain just what my rights are? No I'm sorry, but our union is pathetic.



Anonymous said...

There must be more to this story. In my experience the UFT attorneys are pretty fearless.

Anonymous said...

In my case they were relentless. My NYSUT attorney really helped me. I faced such overwhelming fabricated BS that I really thought that there was a chance I was going to be fired. The attorney saved my job. I am eternally thankful for my union.

Anonymous said...

You were very lucky. This poor para didn't even get a NYSUT attorney, nor would he ever be able to get one since they use teachers to represent them when they get to arbitration. Of course in this para's case the union decided not to even take it to arbitration. What a shame.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:54

Since you actually received a NYSUT attorney you are one up on the para in question.

What were the negative consequences, for the BOE, for filing completely BS charges? Have you gone public with the charges? Have any administrators or BOE attorneys been disciplined?
I would be interested in knowing the names of the folks involved in this misconduct and I imagine NYSUT and the UFT would aggressively move against those who made false charges against you. Further, publicity would warn your UFT brethren of the actions of these particular folks so they can plan accordingly. And, should these folks who committed misconduct in your issue be involved in false 3020a's, their past misconduct could be used to discredit them.

I know NYSUT and the UFT mysteriously urge silence...but silence protects those BOE employees (administrators and attorneys) who engage in professional misconduct.

Anonymous said...

The para got a raw deal, no matter how you slice it. The fact that the UFT didn't take this to arbitration says a great deal. The issue as Unity Must Go said is due process.

PedroNicolasPayano said...

I am very surprised (honored) to find an article written about me. As many are aware, I was terminated from my employment as a paraprofessional because I was accused of abandoning my assigned child. I completely denied the allegations, but was, subsequently, terminated from my post. Effectively, I made my appeal to the Chancellor's office, but was denied, as well.

After considering my options, I commenced an Article 78 proceeding in the state court. In it, I allege that my termination violated several articles of the paraprofessional contract. Therefore, I petitioned that I be reinstated immediately. Upon receipt of their copy of the lawsuit, the City Corporation moved that my petition be denied on its entirety because the four-month statute of limitations had expired.

As many of you might be speculating whether my termination was justified or not, the court never got a chance to judge my case. While I was, patiently, waiting for the UFT to decide whether they were going to take my case to arbitration, my four-month window of opportunity for filing my lawsuit was passing me by. Their members kept entertaining me that I would have to go through them, first, before taking legal matters. In the end, I was told that my case would not be strong enough to take to arbitration, and that their funds was limited.

As expected, the City Corporation has won its initial victory. The judge made the ruling based on the argument that the statute of limitations had expired. However, it is still within my domain to file an appeal on that decision. It is my intention to pursue any legal means available to me.

In case you are, still, wondering whether I abandoned the child I was supposed to take care of, I will, subjectively, say, “I did not.” When I express “subjectively,” it is because it comes from my point of view, as the opposing parties will have different points of view on the matter. Still, I profess my innocence even unto this day.

Since my case is very complicated, I wish to share every single detail with those that can appreciate it. In my next postings, I will share a detailed time-line of everything regarding my case. I will include the following: accusation letters, termination letter, chancellor's decision, union decision, and court decision. After that, I hope that some of you might share ideas with me on how to proceed to the next level.

Until then, my fellow readers...

James Eterno said...

Glad to hear from you and keep up the fight. ICE

PedroNicolasPayano said...

Since my Article 78 lawsuit was dismissed on a technicality based on the statute of limitations, I have, now, proceeded to appeal that decision. I have taken my lawsuit to the Appellate Division, First Department. My appeal will be based on errors of the law that was used in order to come to the decision.
I will keep you posted.

Anonymous said...

Wow Pedro I am so sorry to hear what happened to you and at the same time pleased to see that for once I hear news about how the UFT treats para's. I was a paraprofessional at PS32 in the Bronx, a few blocks from PS205 and after I as a Mandated reporter found myself in a very confusing position, of whether to report the teacher that I was assisting for violently shoving a 10 year old special needs child or not. I came home and read many rules and regulations and found that if I did not report the incident and the child told his parents that I was a witness and said nothing, I would go to jail and with this in mind and after three days I reported the teacher. Sure enough, two weeks later I was sent to the infamous "Rubber room," and told that "I" was under investigation. Come to find out, the teacher and Assistant principal who knew this teacher was violent made up so phony stories and used three students who feared the teacher the most to sign a document filled with lies about me. Two months later, I was fired. Three months after that two of the students came to me and my lawyer and under oathe they told us that the teacher and AP promised them graduation with honors if they signed that statement full of lies against me. This all happened Feb. 2008 and I was fired Sept. 2008. Since then, I am on the DOE's infamous ineligible list and can't seem to find another job anywhere because employers do employee background checks and find that I was supposedly terminated for "Employee misconduct." My case is being heard in Federal Court and in the mean time, they have taken my livelihood away. The UFT did nothing for me. I gave them three years of services and I got fired just like that. No due process and they have me on this list. I wish you much luck and hope that you get your job back.