Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Dr. Marcus A. Winters Believe That Putting ATRs Back Into the Classroom Is a Terrible Thing, Worse Than a Rubber Room

Carmen FariƱa, the schools chancellor, and Mayor Bill de Blasio at a hearing in Albany last year. The city is spending $150 million on salaries for employees in the Absent Teacher Reserve. CreditMike Groll/Associated Press
In the article below, Dr. Winters, the author, writes that putting the "bad" teachers who are Absent Teacher Reservists (ATRs) back into the classroom is the one thing worse than paying their salary while they sit in a rubber room.

How uninformed he is. No one can generalize about all ATRs as he did, because the individuals who are in the ATR pool are as diverse as you could make any large group. Some are not good teachers, it is true. But some are excellent teachers, the best there is, and should have the respect they deserve rather than a label that belittles decades of hard work.

Betsy Combier
Editor, ADVOCATZ.com
Editor, Parentadvocates.org
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials 

There’s One Thing Worse Than Paying Bad Teachers Not to Work

Bill de Blasio’s New York has started putting them back in the classroom, especially in poor areas.

What should a city do with poor teachers who, thanks to union rules, cannot be fired? For years New York has let them linger on its Absent Teacher Reserve, where they are paid without having a permanent spot in any school. But now the city is taking the opposite approach: putting them back into classrooms.
The ATR is an example of what happens when reform runs up against inflexible labor rules. In 2005 Mayor Michael Bloomberg ended the practice of filling teaching slots in New York’s public schools by seniority. Instead, he gave principals increased power to hire the teachers they thought best. The complication was the union contract. Laid-off teachers could either look for a position elsewhere or join the ATR, where they receive full salary and benefits as they move across schools doing short-term work, often as substitutes.
The ATR differs from the notorious “rubber rooms,” or reassignment centers, where suspended teachers accused of misconduct once awaited adjudication of their cases. Teachers aren’t placed on the ATR because they are facing dismissal. They just can’t (or won’t) persuade a principal to hire them. Some have received ineffective teaching ratings. Others have records of disciplinary problems like absenteeism or sleeping on the job.
As the Bloomberg administration closed the city’s worst schools, the ATR pool grew. On the first day of school in 2013 it included 1,957 teachers. Since Bill de Blasio became mayor in 2014, his administration has offered ATR teachers buyouts and given principals an incentive to hire them by having the city cover part of their salaries for the first two to three years. By the end of the 2016-17 school year there were 822 teachers left in the pool; that year paying ATR teachers cost the city about $150 million.
Then last summer the city announced it would simply place some 400 ATR teachers into classrooms without giving principals any say. As of early December, only 41 placements had been made. Still, the administration has shown its willingness to reduce the ATR with forced teacher placements, meaning more will doubtless come as vacancies arise.
Neither the union-friendly de Blasio administration nor the antagonistic Bloomberg administration has been able to strike a deal imposing limits on how long teachers can remain on the ATR. The United Federation of Teachers opposes any deadline, even on teachers who haven’t found a principal willing to hire them after five years. Today that’s the case for one-quarter of ATR teachers.
Rather than admitting defeat, the de Blasio administration has joined with the union to spin the placements as a better way to allocate resources. The argument is that at hard-to-staff schools with high turnover, permanently hiring a teacher from the ATR is better than relying on substitutes. “What we’re trying to do is give a more stable educational environment to the students,” the union’s president, Michael Mulgrew, said last year.
The most difficult-to-staff schools are often those that serve low-income and heavily minority populations. As expected, a disproportionate number of the ATR placements have been at such schools. The city says it is holding the teachers accountable. ATR teachers have one year to show their effectiveness, after which the city says it will remove the low performers and in some cases follow the required process to fire them. But the fact that it’s nearly impossible to do so is the reason the ATR exists in the first place.
And here is where the political calculus becomes clear: Some struggling schools won’t get any ATR teachers forced on them. In 2014 the city designated 94 of the worst schools as Renewal Schools, singling them out for extra money and attention. The point was to demonstrate that with enough resources, the current system could improve. Now these Renewal Schools have been made exempt from taking ATR teachers. In other words, the de Blasio administration is perfectly willing to put poor teachers in disadvantaged schools, just not the ones in which the mayor has a political interest.
The ATR debacle is the latest illustration of how hard it is to create lasting change in urban public school systems. No wonder, then, that so many parents in struggling districts are trying to get their children admitted to charter schools. Operating outside collective-bargaining agreements, charters don’t have to hire teachers based on seniority or pay bad ones not to teach.
study last year from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that New York City’s charter students made gains equivalent to an additional 23 days of learning in reading and 63 days in math, compared with their peers in traditional public schools. The researchers have found similar results for charters in other cities. As New York puts ATR teachers back to work, it’s clearer than ever that the best hope for change in urban public schools isn’t to reform the current system, but to circumvent it.
Mr. Winters is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and an associate professor at the Boston University School of Education. This essay was adapted from the winter issue of City Journal.
Appeared in the February 10, 2018, print edition.

City Will Move Sidelined Teachers From Limbo to Classrooms

Randy Asher, a senior administrator at the department of education, is behind the initiative to put teachers
from the Absent Teacher Reserve back into classrooms full time.CreditCaitlin Ochs for The New York Times
For a dozen years, hundreds of New York City teachers have been paid despite not having permanent jobs, sidelined in most cases because of disciplinary problems or bad teaching records or because they had worked in poorly performing schools that were closed or where enrollment declined.

This limbo was largely the result of a deal that the Bloomberg administration struck with the teachers’ union to give principals more control over who worked in their schools. Under the deal, teachers could not simply be fired, so they were put in a pool known as the Absent Teacher Reserve.

But now, saying the city cannot afford expenditures like the $150 million it spent on salaries and benefits for those in the reserve in the last school year, the education department plans to place roughly 400 teachers in classrooms full time, possibly permanently. They will be placed in schools that still have jobs unfilled by mid-October. Principals will have little, if any, say in the placements. Neither will the teachers.

The department, which announced the plan in July, has in the past deflected questions about the makeup of the pool. But on Friday, it released some data. Of the 822 teachers in the reserve at the end of the last school year, 25 percent had also been in it five years earlier. Nearly half had been in it at the end of the 2014-15 school year. The average salary was $94,000 a year, $10,000 more than the average salary of teachers across the school system.

Close to a third of the teachers in the pool were there because they had faced legal or disciplinary charges. Others worked in schools that were closed for poor performance or lost their jobs because of declining enrollments. Twelve percent had received the lowest possible ratings of effectiveness in the 2015-16 school year; only 1 percent of all teachers in the system scored so low.

With the beginning of the school year weeks away, principals and others who work in education are wary.

Harry Sherman, the principal of Junior High School 127, Castle Hill Middle School, in the Bronx, said that while some teachers in the pool, often referred to as A.T.R.s, are unfairly stigmatized, “There are also A.T.R.s who are A.T.R.s because we have had the choice of whether or not we want to take them. And sometimes those people are not good fits for schools.”

Daniel Weisberg, the chief executive officer of the New Teacher Project, who worked for the education department under former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, said: “We’ve got this group of teachers who either can’t find a job or won’t find a job. That’s the group we’re dealing with.”

Education experts are worried that a disproportionate number of the teachers will be placed in schools in poorer areas, like the South Bronx, which have difficulty attracting and retaining teachers. Some may be placed in schools in the Renewal Schools program, one of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature education initiatives, which is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to turn around low-performing schools.

The principal of a high school in Manhattan, who did not want to be named out of fear of reprisal from supervisors in the department, was blunt about the effect: “You’re going to force the worst teachers in the system into the schools that are struggling the most.”

But the city described the plan as a “common-sense solution” to the problems of both vacancies and the cost of paying unassigned teachers.

“My role is to drive down the A.T.R. and to help take these resources and put them back in schools,” said Randy Asher, the senior adviser to the chancellor for talent management and innovation, and the former principal of Brooklyn Technical High School.

The number of teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve increased dramatically after the deal made in 2005 by the Bloomberg administration, which was seeking to close failing schools, and the United Federation of Teachers. Before then, teachers with seniority could claim whatever job they wanted, displacing novice teachers without so much as having to interview with a principal. And teachers without assignments were involuntarily placed in whatever positions were open.

The deal ended that system and let principals decide whom to hire. Teachers who could not find jobs or were not happy with ones available went into the A.T.R., at full salary.

Reserve teachers do monthlong rotations in schools, frequently serving as substitutes, and some get longer temporary assignments. In last few years, the department has offered principals incentives to hire teachers from the pool by picking up all or part of their salaries for the first two or three years. It has also offered teachers in the pool buyouts. As result, on the first day of school last year — traditionally the point in the year when the pool is largest — there were 1,494 teachers in the pool, down from 1,957 on the first day of school in 2013.

The department says the new policy of placing teachers in vacancies is expected to reduce the size of the pool by half.

In interviews, Mr. Asher and Michael Mulgrew, the president of the teachers’ union, used similar language to defend the plan, saying that it was better for students to have a permanent teacher with the appropriate license than to have a rotation of substitutes.

“We’re talking about being five, six weeks into the semester where they still don’t have a permanent teacher,” Mr. Asher said. “We need to provide stability in these learning environments.”

Mr. Mulgrew said, “What we’re trying to do is give a more stable educational environment for the students.”

A recently retired principal of a school in a hard-to-staff district disputed the idea that putting any teacher into a vacancy was better than other possible solutions. “I have had over the past five years a lot of A.T.R.s come in,” said the principal, who spoke anonymously for fear of repercussions for the school. “And I have to say, less than 10 percent of them — way less, maybe 5 percent of them — would I hire.”

Lynette Guastaferro, the executive director of Teaching Matters, said that in high-poverty schools, it was particularly important that principals be able to choose teachers carefully.

“Kids living in poverty need schools led by strong teams with shared cultures and the best teaching possible,” she wrote in an email.

Principals who are forced to take the teachers will observe them over the course of the year. Teachers who earn an “effective” rating from the principal at the end of the year will then, in most cases, be placed in their positions permanently.

Asked what would happen to teachers who at the end of the year received a less than effective rating, Mr. Asher said the department would, in some cases, start the legal process to remove them.

Nicholas Weber, a special-education teacher who has been in the Absent Teacher Reserve for three years after losing his job at Murry Bergtraum High School for Business Careers because of declining enrollment, said he thought the policy would motivate principals to give bad ratings to teachers so as to not have to hire them permanently.

“It questions the legitimacy of the ratings,” he said.

Mr. Weisberg, who helped negotiate the 2005 deal when he was at the education department, said that one problem with the new policy was that, once principals can no longer choose their teachers, it becomes harder to hold them accountable for their school’s performance.

“The idea that principals get final say over which teachers get selected to work in their buildings should not be thought of as a crazy radical notion,” he said. “This is common sense.”

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The NYC Department of Education Makes 11-year Old Jonathan Lopez into A Sexual Predator

I represented children who were given Superintendent's Suspensions for 9 years. What a despicable process I saw at the West 125th Street NYC DOE Suspension Office!!! Once a child is suspended, the parents can declare no contest and the child goes right back to his/her school, scarred for life, or the parent can say they want to go forward to a hearing, and, in most cases, the child is found guilty and sent to a remote location where no meaningful learning takes place, and no services are provided, if the child has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

In the 9 years I assisted parents whenever requested, I never saw a  child with a white face. Yep, that is right.  Twice I saw a white face belonging to a lawyer who was at the hearing office to defend a child. 99% of the students were African-American or Hispanic. They were not informed of their rights, and the parents were clueless as well. All charges were never investigated, only substantiated.

The NYC Department of Education never appropriately addressed or investigated any of the charges in a case I was asked to work on. There is an institutionalized failure in the NYC DOE to look fairly into charges against a child. No rules or Regulations are followed, and if you bring the rules and regs not followed, you are attacked and vilified. This must change.

Betsy Combier
Editor, Advocatz
Editor, Parentadvocates.org
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

This 11-year-old got wrongly caught up in Pervnado

December 30, 2017, NYPOST, Susan Edelman

Jonathan Lopez with dad Mahoma, was disciplined for "sexual" conduct at MS 88
Jonathan Lopez, a Brooklyn sixth-grader in a schoolyard tussle with two girls, got caught up in the sex-harassment tornado.
Jonathan insists he only tried to grab the water bottle and backpack of classmates who had tossed his stuff during lunchtime horseplay.
But the school charged him with “conduct of a sexual nature.” He was accused of trying to touch one girl’s breast and kiss her and of “humping” another girl from behind.
“Like, I’m not sexual,” the baby-faced 11-year-old wrote in a city Department of Education statement. “I do dumb thing [sic] but I’m not sexual to girls.”
The dean at MS 88 in Park Slope pressured him to admit lewd behavior or plead “no contest” and waive his right to a hearing, Jonathan told The Post.
“After what you did, I don’t want to see you in my school,” he said the dean, John Roumbeas, told him.
Jonathan refused. “I told him ‘I’m not going to admit to it because I didn’t do it.’ ”
MS 88 Principal Ailene Altman Mitchell (left) with NYC
Chancellor Carmen Farina
That day, the school banished Jonathan to a distant suspension center, populated by tough older kids who “bring knives,” he said. “They roamed around the halls and didn’t listen to the teacher.”
In the end, a suspension judge found no evidence of breast-touching, kissing or humping and ordered Jonathan’s “immediate reinstatement.”
But he missed 16 days of classes.
“They treated him like a criminal,” fumed his dad, Mahoma Lopez.
The tsunami of sex-harassment allegations in the news “escalated things” against his prepubescent son, Lopez suspects.
“They’re real predators,” he said of Harvey Weinstein and other offenders. “The school is making an example of my son. He’s an innocent kid who just wants to play.”
Maria Chickedantz, a feminist lawyer who has known Jonathan since he was 6 and took up his case, described him as sweet and friendly. “The kid hasn’t even hit puberty yet. He’s little and immature,” Chickedantz said.
Jonathan’s troubles started on Nov. 22, when a girl classmate complained that Jonathan had harassed her.
“He comes up to me (2 inches away) and pretends to sqush [sic] my chest. Then he runs away. I chase him to tell him to stop,” her written statement says. “After he takes my water bottle and I have to chase him up and down and I chased him for 10 minutes. And he said, ‘You should be my girlfriend. We can forget about what happened’ ” and he leaned in and tryed [sic] to kiss me. And he was about 1 foot away.”
She said Jonathan had harassed her friend days earlier. That girl gave a statement: “I was walking with my friends when Jonathan comes out of no were [sic] and he lifts up my bag and he is touching my back and he starts humping me. I tell him to stop but he keeps doing it four more times. He humped me one last time and I almost fall down the stairs.”
The Dec. 13 hearing was a bust. Roumbeas, the dean, did not show up, so the statements he took were not admitted as evidence.
The first girl who accused Jonathan also did not show. The second girl testified that Jonathan grabbed her waist but she never mentioned “humping.”
Hearing officer Anthony Jordan sustained a sole charge that Jonathan “placed his hands” on the girl’s waist. He ordered that records of the matter be expunged at the school year’s end.
But Jonathan was still treated like a sex offender. On his first day back, the dean warned he was “in more trouble” for not confessing, Chickedantz wrote in an e-mail to Principal Ailene Altman Mitchell.
“Faculty, staff and students now see him as some sort of sexual predator, which is so unfair,” Chickedantz wrote. “Even if the accusations were true, the manner in which the school . . . treated an 11-year old like a dangerous criminal was absolutely unacceptable.”
Mitchell and Roumbeas did not return messages. DOE spokeswoman Miranda Barbot said, “The school followed protocol in reporting, investigating and addressing these incidents.”

Monday, December 11, 2017

F.B.I. is Investigating the Payroll of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo

Andrew Cuomo
This is not the first time that we have read about the corruption of Andrew Cuomo and inside his administration. Far from it:

Ex-Cuomo Aides Charged in Federal Corruption Inquiry

Federal investigators have interviewed several people who work in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, but are
paid by other state agencies. CreditBryan Bedder/Getty Images for Unicef
but he won't be held accountable for anything. The Cuomo political bus is stronger and bigger than anyone else's, reaching into all areas of New York State media and business.

Betsy Combier
Editor, Advocatz
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, Parentadvocates.org
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials
Cuomo Administration Faces an F.B.I. Investigation Into Payroll Practices
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s hiring practices are under investigation, as F.B.I. agents and federal prosecutors have begun examining how staff members working in the governor’s office are being paid by other New York State authorities and agencies.

The governor’s office received a “document subpoena” months ago, according to Richard Azzopardi, a Cuomo spokesman. “We have cooperated, providing necessary documents,” he said.

Mr. Azzopardi called the line of inquiry “absurd.”

“The agencies are all part of the same executive branch, and this administration follows the exact same lawful hiring process we inherited from previous administrations stretching back decades,” he said. “If there are questions about it, call George Pataki,” referring to the three-term former Republican governor.

The F.B.I. inquiry was first reported by The Times-Union in Albany, which said that agents had interviewed “a number of people” who work in the governor’s office, even though their salaries are carried on the budgets of other state agencies and authorities.

The investigation is being conducted by an F.B.I. agent in upstate New York, in conjunction with prosecutors in the United States attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, according to a person with knowledge of the matter, who could not explain the unusual arrangement.

John Marzulli, a spokesman for the United States attorney’s office, would neither confirm nor deny the investigation. It was also unclear what law, if any, may have been broken.

F.B.I. investigations are nothing new in Albany, where the previous four leaders of the State Senate, two Democrats and two Republicans, have been indicted. The former United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, had previously investigated the Cuomo administration in a different matter, but never brought charges. And in January, one of Mr. Cuomo’s closest former advisers, Joe Percoco, is scheduled to go on federal trial for corruption.

Although the timing of another federal investigation would seem inopportune for Mr. Cuomo, who is running for re-election next year, political observers seemed skeptical the investigation would lead to criminal charges.

“What’s new here?” said Hank Sheinkopf, the longtime Democratic political strategist. “This tactic has gone on since the beginning of politics,” he said, joking that they would need to interview aides to former governors as far back as Al Smith in the early 20th century.

Mr. Azzopardi went so far as to call it a “charade.”

“In this environment, anyone can ask about anything,” Mr. Azzopardi said, “but the fact is the longstanding practice of detailing staff from agencies to work in the executive chamber dates back over 50 years to at least the Rockefeller administration and extends to the White House and the Justice Department.

“Given that the federal Department of Justice and the White House have a long history of utilizing this practice, perhaps the F.B.I. can investigate them when this is charade is over,” he added.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Shola Olatoye, Chairwoman of the New York City Housing Authority, Lied To the Federal Government

Shola Olatoye
New Yorkers are fed up with the corruption of Mayor Bill DeBlasio, but have 4 more years to cry over him.

Yep, he was re-elected. He is part of the well-oiled Clinton political machine, after all, so there are globs of immunity attached to him, his office, and the people who work with and for him. The DeBlasio culture is "play-if-you-pay" and "deny, deny, deny" if you are asked questions.

So sad to see the New York City stuck in such sewage.

Betsy Combier
Editor, Advocatz
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, Parentadvocates.org
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

City Filed False Paperwork on Lead Paint Inspections, Inquiry Finds

The chairwoman of the New York City Housing Authority knew in the middle of 2016 that the agency’s inspectors had not been checking apartments for lead paint, in violation of federal rules and local law. But in the fall, city investigators found, she signed off on paperwork certifying that the inspections had been completed.

The finding came Tuesday in a short but damning report from the city’s Investigation Department that described how the agency, which runs the city’s 180,000 units of public housing, had for years failed to inspect for lead paint, but told the federal authorities that it was doing so.

And even after the chairwoman, Shola Olatoye, learned of the lack of compliance, the agency filed paperwork stating that it abided by the requirements, which are tied to federal funding.

“Although Chair Olatoye, the general manager and other senior executives were aware that Nycha was out of compliance,” the report said, “Nycha nonetheless submitted a false certification in October 2016, and had no reasonable explanation why this was acceptable.”

The issue of lead paint in city public housing is an element of an expansive and continuing federal investigation by the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York that came to light last March, and appears to include whether the agency filed false claims for payment from the federal government.

A spokeswoman for the Investigation Department, Diane Struzzi, said the findings had been referred to federal prosecutors, who ultimately decide whether or not charges would be appropriate. A spokesman for the Southern District declined to comment.

Asked of the federal inquiry last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the administration would “fully cooperate” with the investigation, “and anything we find, we will fix immediately.”

The housing authority is struggling with the costly job of maintaining its sprawling network of aging buildings, and, after reaching a settlement with residents in late 2013, is already under supervision by a court-appointed special master to address mold.

Lead poisoning is less common in public housing than in private apartments, according to city officials, and the number of children with lead poisoning has declined by about two-thirds since 2005.

“Under Chair Olatoye, Nycha identified gaps in its lead-based paint inspections and is making operational changes to prevent lapses like this,” said Melissa Grace, a spokeswoman for Mayor de Blasio. “We do not believe there’s any evidence that anyone intentionally made any misstatements to H.U.D.”

According to the eight-page report, the city ceased conducting annual inspections of apartments for general conditions after the Department of Housing and Urban Development relaxed its rules for doing so in 2012; it was in the course of those checks that the authority looked for lead paint, which can cause serious health and developmental problems, particularly in young children.

The federal government did not end its requirement for annual inspection of all apartments where the possible presence of lead paint has not been ruled out. But the city did not institute a new plan for lead paint inspections. About 55,000 apartments in the city’s public housing system fall under the federal rules for annual inspection; of those, roughly 4,200 have children under 6 years old and must be inspected each year for lead paint under city law.

The city did not meet those requirements after 2012, according to the report, but filed paperwork saying that it had from 2013 to 2016 — the last year of the Bloomberg administration and the first three years of Mr. de Blasio’s tenure. The housing authority acknowledged as much in an amendment to its filing with federal officials in July 2017, after the Investigation Department and federal prosecutors had begun inquiries into lead paint in the city’s public housing.

But long before that public acknowledgment, the report said, senior officials in May 2015 were aware that the required checks under local law were not being done and were meeting to come up with a plan. It was not until the following spring, the report said, that Ms. Olatoye learned of the violation of local law, and not until the summer of 2016 that the agency determined it was not complying with federal rules.

During that time, investigators determined that “Nycha failed to put in place a system to confirm the accuracy of federal forms before they were submitted.”

A spokeswoman for the agency, Jean Weinberg, said in an email that the agency “began addressing these issues more than a year ago” in connection with the federal investigation. “Nycha has acknowledged not only gaps in lead compliance,” she said, “but gaps in communications between senior Nycha officials and Nycha’s top leadership, which resulted in incorrect certifications to HUD”

She said that after the agency understood “the full scope of the issue,” and after consulting with the U.S. attorney’s office and federal housing authorities, the agency in July told residents of the issues, “along with the plan to address them.”

A spokesman for the federal housing department said in a statement that officials there were aware of the “deficiencies,” and that they had “requested that Nycha account for its noncompliance and provide an action plan” to ensure it meets and abides by the rules.

NYCHA lied about doing lead paint inspections, shocking report claims

NYCHA boss hides behind NYPD 'bodyguard' after explosive report