Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dueling Rubber Room Op-Eds Fail to Protect Students and Teachers

The New York Post has decided to become the cheerleader for Rubber Room reform and while the paper has publicized some of the more egregious cases they have left up to Mulgrew and Klein to come up with solutions. Predictably both miss essential points.

First, the record needs to be cleared.

Remember when the words "Rubber Room" were too awful to say and we were cajoled into renaming this area as the teacher reassignment center? Well, it is obviously ok for everybody to go back to calling it the rubber room because Mulgrew calls it that. In any case the Post has highlighted six claimed abuses of the rubber room system which both Klein and Mulgrew agree is a symptom of a complex, evolved system that needs to be changed.

Where does the abuse lie?

For years the DOE has removed teachers from their classrooms based solely on unsubstantiated allegations and forced students to be taught by day to day substitutes. As principals were given greater authority over hiring and firing thanks to UFT contract complicity the rubber room, predictably, became a dumping ground for teachers and other staff that principals and other administrators simply did not like. The numbers grew and the UFT stood silent.

The UFT refused to hire investigators or supplement teacher defense strategy except to assign a couple of untrained people to act as a liaison to an already overwhelmed and under-funded NYSUT attorney defense team. As a result new rubber room occupants know as little about their case and are ill-prepared for arbitration hearings as they have always been.

The DOE hasn't done much better either. Knowing that UFT attorneys will gladly delay cases there is little pressure on them to move cases along. Both Mulgrew and Klein cite the lack of arbitrators as one of the main causes of rubber room expansion but the dirty little secret allows both DOE and UFT incompetence to delay cases. DOE attorneys have no authority or discretion, unlike other agency prosecutors, to withdraw cases and are generally forced to, at least, seek some plea agreement so that principals don't have to take the removed teacher back. The pleas, for the most part, involve monetary fines, but almost always require the agreeing teacher to become an ATR. Even totally exonerated teachers are forced to become ATRs.

Who is in the rubber room?

Klein wants you believe (and Mulgrew tacitly, by his silence, agrees) that the rubber room is made of totally incompetent teachers. Nothing could be further from the truth. The vast majority of teachers in the rubber are senior teachers with misconduct allegations, with a sizeable portion of the allegations coming from outside of the school system. Administrators have known for a long time that removing allegedly incompetent teachers from the classroom via charges of incompetence was extremely difficult because it required that these administrators actually prove their incompetence. While it easy to "U" rate a lesson thankfully most arbitrators recognize that 3020-a incompetence is not just a series of bad observations.

The Klein/Mulgrew Solution

Reading their op-eds you would think the rubber room "problem" (as they term it) could be easily solved. They want to suspend the accused (they already have this power in sexual allegation and felony cases conceded to by the UFT), hire more arbitrators or make them full time and put them to work doing administrative assignments (we will finally get those lunch forms in).

Just how would these "solutions" have changed the Post's so-called dirty dozen? Almost imperceptibly. They can't be suspended because they all had their hearings…just the DOE didn't like the outcome. More arbitrators would do nothing as they had timely hearings (unless you mean more arbitrators that didn't bother to listen to the facts) and putting them to work in administrative assignments is something that is routinely done for certain removed teachers and except for DOE ineptness could have been done for the teachers cited by the Post.

It is clear both the DOE and the UFT don't really care about the disruption to students' education or due process for tenured employees. The removal process is too swift and effectively unchallengeable. As long as the DOE permits principals to remove less favored employees and as long as the UFT refuses to effectively represent them the rubber room or whatever you want to call it will remain. It's a shame and we all lose.



Anonymous said...

Jeff are you writing all these wonderful thoughts to the papers??

Anonymous said...

The Post is hanging our members.

The following educators were legally cleared to return to the classroom after facing accusations of wrongdoing but remain idle in “rubber rooms” at the chancellor’s discretion, at a cost to taxpayers of millions.


Typing, IS 347, Queens

Got a wrist slap for making lewd comments. Since 2001, he has been overseeing a $7.8 million real-estate portfolio and his law practice in the rubber room.

Salary: $100,049


Guidance counselor, Long Island City HS, Queens

Served a three-day suspension after he was accused of fondling a learning-disabled student at his home. A witness was found not credible. In a rubber room since 2003.

Salary: $102,852


Music, Hillcrest HS, Queens, Admitted making lewd comments, but an arbitrator said he was not informed of his rights. In a rubber room since 2003.

Salary: $85,426


Biology, Jamaica HS, Queens, In a rubber room since 2002, he was accused of sexually assaulting a child, but the alleged victim recanted the allegation, sources said.

Salary: $78,039


Math, IS 61, Queens, Allegedly impregnated and married a 16-year-old student. He allegedly sexually molested two 12-year-old pupils a decade later. In a rubber room since 2003.

Salary: $94,145

NYC Educator said...

This problem is really just a continuation of standard practice--find a few supposed bad apples and condemn the entire group as guilt by association. And never mind that these are unproven allegations, because that's good enough for the anti-union, anti-teacher New York tabloids.

Hey, if they're guilty, do what you will. But there's that whole "innocent till proven guilty" concept, even if lawyer Joel Klein doesn't quite yet grasp it.

Chaz said...


You forgot to include the corrupt investigations by OSI & SCI who will substantiate the most ridiculous of charges because the Principal does not like the teacher.

Philip Nobile said...

The UFT actually colludes with the DOE in condemning teachers to the rubber room. How so? By failing to resist corrupt OSI probes. It is UFT policy to advise teachers to remain silent during OSI interrogations, thus leaving the investigators free to manipulate witnesses and evidence.

UFT special reps are much too cozy with Klein's cops. Take Arthur Solomon of the Brooklyn office. He went so far as to cover up proof of OSI hanky-panky. Specifically, OSI investigator Joe Fiorello,who
stormed out of our interview when I
questioned his prosecutorial stance regarding four Obama XMAS cards that I sent to chapter members at my school, added and subtracted witnesses between the interview and the substantiated report. Solomon's interview notes documented the unexplained switch. But when I asked him for a copy of his notes, he refused,insisting that the notes were his property.

UFT Secretary Michael Mendel and Borough Rep Howie Schoor backed Solomon. Schoor defended the UFT's pathetic betrayal of solidarity saying only that, "Arthur doesn't have to give you his notes."

Surely, if the UFT fought OSI at the earliest stage of investigations, fewer teachers would end up reassigned.

Anonymous said...

Who would have thought the above poster has his own Wiki page...


A published author and he didn't take his own notes? Something doesn't jive with his story.

Philip Nobile said...

Good point, Anonymous. In fact, I did take notes throughout my interview with OSI investigator Joe Fiorello ... as long as it lasted. As explained in an earlier comment, the not too bright interrogator freaked out when I punctured his equilibrium. Consequently, he stormed out of the interview before explaining the full complaint.

Later, UFT special rep Arthur Solomon renewed the conversation with Fiorello out of my presence and took notes on the complaint.
These are the notes containing evidence of OSI tampering that Solomon and his UFT bosses have denied me.

Anonymous said...

Great post Jeff. Pitch it to Gotham as an oped.

Anonymous said...

What happened to Joe Fiorello? I know for a fact that he is no longer with DoE as he is unavailable to testify at my hearing.

Anonymous said...

Many people in the Rubber Rooms are cleared of their "outside case." Their charges are dropped, or they were arrested but never charged, or found not guilty, but the DOE refuses to let them return to the classrooms.

Moriah Untamed said...

Tomorrow, the end of midwinter break, I go back to the rubber room where I have been assigned since April of last year. My blog is a detailed description of how I got here--including transcripts from meetings, hearings, and an OSI interrogation.

Anyone can be sent to the rubber room. No one is safe. It is not about good teachers vs bad teachers or those who deserve to be there vs. those who don't. It's about diverting millions of dollars of public funds into private hands. It's about the destruction of public education.

Bloomberg will push every teacher with seniority out of the system any way he can. If the only way to do it is to have a kid say you touched him or her, he will make that happen.

There is no such thing as a perfect teacher. No one is safe.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, you are right.

Anonymous said...

Mulgrew already started campaigning! Flyer were found in our mail boxes telling us to
vote for him and the untiy team! Where are the flyers for ICE? I have printed up articles in the ICE blog and put them in mail boxes so that teachers know that there
is another choice, so that they know what ICE is and what it is about! But James, you have start campaigning! We have done our best to let people know about ICE and you, but you have to start putting out flyers of your own in school mail boxes! Do something!
Get you campagin team working, or all will be lost! Mulgrew is Vulnerable now, we will never get another chance like this again!!!!!! What are you waiting for! I told you before
if you want to save Jamaica High School and all the our schools and teachers you must start campaigning now! Only when ICE wins some elections will we be able to stop this!
If you don't campaigning hard, then all that work that you did to save Jamaica will be for nothing! Mulgrew will chance his tune when he wins and he will be just like Randi! Just read his flyer in your mail box tomorrow!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Why wasn't the "rubber room situation" ever appealed to either previous Commissioner of Education Mills or current Commissioner of Education Steiner via Education Law §310?

The filing fee is only $20.

Class action status could be requested.


Anonymous said...

James why did you delete your
post of feb 22?