SOUTH BRONX SCHOOL

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Autism Speaks at District 75

I got a summer school gig again this summer. Same school as last year, different building, but still in District 75.

I am happy.

Last year I did phys ed. and this year, I am teaching technology. Got a great computer room and finally able to do what I do best.

The students are fantastic. I know it is hard and a challenge to work with autistic children and students with emotional disabilities. But, there is so much support from the top down, it makes not only my job easier, but the entire staff as well.

I feel the students are so blessed to be in this school, to be in a situation where I see the students truly come first for the first time in my career. That those who wish to demean and belittle the teachers of the NYCDOE, need to open their eyes and see what great work is done not only at the school I am at, but all District 75 school across the city. I guarantee that not one single charter school can do anything that any District 75 school can do.

For the autistic students (for this blog post I am just going to concentrate on them. I have only 1 class that is standardized), I am both in awe of them and sad for them at the same time. I'm in awe that they have the ability to navigate not only going to school every day, but the joy I see in their face and hear in their voices when they accomplish something, or that there is a teacher or para that is there for them each and every day to guide and to facilitate their growth.

It is fascinating to learn about each and every student, and find out what their likes and dislikes are. There is a student that has a fascination with maps (I myself have always loved maps). When his class is done with what we are doing and it is choice time, he goes on Google Maps and I watch him. There is a pattern to what he is searching and looking at, I wish I knew, but he knows. In fact one day I was watching him and with his eyes still fixated on Maps he just blurted out, "Personal space!" I moved back a bit.

In fact on the first day of school, on July 5, he asked me what the zip code is of where I live. Today, almost three weeks later when I ask him what is my zip code, he nails it.
One day a student started just rubbing my arm out of the blue. I looked at the para to get their attention at this. The para told me that the student feels comfortable with me. Best recommendation I ever got.
I am saddened knowing that some of our most needy students are trapped inside of their bodies, not able to communicate their fears, their anxieties, their dreams, like you and I can.

When I hear a student screaming out and hearing their pain, it just hurts to hear. I know, the staff knows, that they will be all right, but at that very moment, that student doesn't.

But these students are in great hands. I see what this school is about. It is just not about the ABC's. It's about giving these students a gift, a gift of being independent, of living their lives as fulfilled as can be possible.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

The 400

Wow! It has been over a month since I last blogged. Been busy.


A lot has happened in that time. But what really stands out is the new (old?) ATR system.

Chaz has written several blog posts (here and here) on what is new again. In fact I had a nice conversation with him about who these lucky 400 ATR's will be that will be sent to a school and if they pass the talent portion (rated highly effective or effective) will permanently placed, without any say from the principal, in that school.

Chaz, and I agree, said that the 400 will be those ATR's that were excessed. ATR's who were naughty and did not play well with others will still be rotated, though no one knows how long the rotations will be.

The way the DOE is going about placing 400 out of, let's say for arguments sake, 1000 ATR's (give or take a hundred) really is not a fun nor clever way of choosing who gets a chance at the grand prize of being permanently placed. Myself and The Crack Team have come up with fairer, even better methods of choosing these lucky 400.

Rent out Ichan Stadium on Randall's Island (The irony!) and have Romanesque gladiator battles to the death amongst ATR's. When there are 400 left, these will be the ATR's that are placed. In case of a match that does not end in the death of an ATR Chancellor Fariña will be in her box Caesar like and gave give a thumbs up or down. Or just release the lions until there are 400 ATR's still standing.

During the last two months of August have all principals wine and dine ATR's, cavort with them in romantic and risque situations. Go bike riding, long walks along the East River, etc... You know just like in The Bachelor. On the last day of August have a show at Radio City in which all the ATR's will be on stage and principals will give the ATR's they have selected a rose. The rest of the ATR's can leave and cry and say bitchy things about the 400 ATR's that were chosen.

Infect, or alter the DNA, of 400 ATR's with Pon Farr. Instead of wanting to mate with Stonn, the ATR's will be wanting to be permanently placed. However, they must fight to the death 400 other ATR's selected by principals. Who's ever left alive will be permanently place. Chancellor Fariña will serve as T'Pau for each match. Oh, and there will be no "tri-ox compound" allowed to be administered.

Go up to The Apollo on 125th and have a real live amateur talent show. When The Sandman got rid of 600 ATR's the 400 left will be permanently placed.

Lord of the Flies meets ATRS. Put the 1000 ATR's on North Brother Island in the East River beginning August 1. When 400 are left the contest is over.

Or you can have a demolition derby like that desert scene in Smokey and the Bandit II.

Or the best idea we thought of. The DOE can be fair and place the ATR's based on merit, respect, and honor and get rid of the bogus fair student funding, let ATR's go on true interviews and let the principals do what's best for the students and the communities.

And our union could have our backs. For real this time. 

It's that simple.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The $50,000 ATR Question

We've been offered $50,000 to go away and not be to heard from again.

As many know by now, there is a new ATR agreement bestowed upon the unsuspecting, the injured, the desperate, and the pissed done in secret by the powers that be of our wonderful union, the United Federation of Teachers (Yeah, I know I am a little late to the game in sharing).

To tell you the truth, I stopped and thought about it. That's a lot of money. Figure about $15k is taken off the top and that would leave me $35k. There is this deli or something on NY 203 in Spencertown (Columbia County) NY that used to be a general store. I have a small dream of buying this place when I retire and living up there full time. I could be another Sam Drucker. Sadly, I am 53, not eligible for a full pension until 2021 and my son graduates high school in 2019. So there goes that dream, for now.

But no one is going to take the offer unless they are thisclose to retirement or thisclose to being fed up. Want to delete the ATR pool? Offer early retirement. It's been done before.

But I have some question and/or concerns about the rest of the agreement.

Some of the highlights/lowlights:

After October 15, ATRs will be given a temporary provisional assignment to a school with a vacancy in their license area where available.

So what is it we do up until October 15? But even after October 15, here is a problem.

Say they put you provisionally in school after that date. You are a common branch teacher and you have been in the ATR pool since 2012. When do you think the last time a teacher in this situation had any true professional development? When was the last time such a teacher was trained on the latest and newest curricula? When was such a teacher trained in Danielson, or had any real meaningful feedback? 

Oh please, we will hear, "You are a teacher, that means you teach!" Well, I have a friend who is a doctor of proctology, I'm not going to see him about heart murmurs, am I? I mean, he is a DOCTOR? Using the DOE's logic he should be able to transfer is knowledge of colons and rectums to the heart.

But here is another problem. Instead of just plopping an ATR provisionally into any school, why not meet and/or interview the ATR and find out what their strengths are so they can be placed properly. Make it a win-win situation for all? How difficult can this be? 

The DOE, at its sole discretion, may choose not to assign an ATR to a temporary provisional assignment who have been penalized (as a result of a finding of guilt or by stipulation) in conjunction with §3020-a charges based on the circumstances of each case.

OK.

The DOE shall not be required to send more than one (1) ATR at a time to a school per vacancy for a temporary provisional assignment. These assignments will first be made within district and then within borough.

This is good and bad. It's good if your district is in Western Queens or Brooklyn and you live on Long Island, or the South Bronx like I do and live in the Hudson Valley. Put me in District 10 or 11. It'll chop 20-30 minutes off my commute.

But, if it all comes down to it I would much rather stay in District 7. I know the neighborhoods, I know the schools. I know the teachers. This year I have been lucky enough to know a few teachers in each school I have been at. It makes the transition easier. 

But it will affect more ATR's than it won't and this is not a fair.

It is understood that at any time after a temporary provisional assignment is made, a principal can request the removal of the ATR from this assignment and the ATR can be returned to the ATR pool and be subject to the terms and conditions of employment then applicable to ATRs pursuant to this Agreement.

This should be good. Don't like the school you are at show up wearing a dress or a pro Donald Trump shirt and boom! You go back in the pool.  

What this agreement does not mention though is for those who are still being rotated, how long will the rotations be? 

But there are other problems with this agreement, most of all the secrecy in which it was done and which James Eterno, Arthur Goldstein, Chaz, and Norm Scott  have written about.

When ATR's received the email concerning the new ATR there is a link that takes us to a online form if we have any questions (ATR's should have some fun with this form and inundate it with REAL COMMENTS, wink, wink, nudge, nudge) for the UFT.

What is perplexing is why after the genie has packed up and left the bottle is there a way to talk to the UFT about the agreement?  Why at no time did UFT leadership, re: Mulgrew and Barr take the time and play make believe and treat the ATR's as if we are retired members who live in Southeast Florida and come to us? Five borough UFT offices, five meet and greets, five question and answers, five separate days of at the very least pretending to give a shit what is on the minds of the ATR! If Mulgew was so afraid of meeting with ATR's get some tech geek to set up Survey Monkey and blast the poll out to ATR's.

I know James Eterno was working on getting ATR's recognized as a chapter and I have lost track of what the current status of that struggle is but is time to take a big step in my opinion. The fact that a few people are making the decision for about 2,000 teachers is beyond the pale and patently unethical. The ATR's should have a chapter, should have a seat(s) in the delegate assembly, and should have a seat on the executive board. The worst part is this agreement is rammed down our throats without even having a chance to vote on it!

The UFT is figuratively emasculating the ATR's by not being proactive to what we want and need. It is time that our leadership stops being reactive and try being proactive and hear what we want and need. All it will take is a little listening and a lot of empathy. How difficult can this be?

In the meantime something needs to be done. Can a complaint be filed with the National Labor Relations Board, NYS or US Department of Labor, or PERB?

Please don't tell me or any ATR that our Chapter Leaders in our schools are there for us. Many of them don't know who we are, don't care, too inexperienced, or bought. An ATR and the CL are two ships passing in the night.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

EXCLUSIVE! Central Park East 1 3020-a Decision!!

This just came into the SBSB newsroom due to the hard work and vigilance of The Crack Team.

For the first time ever a 3020-a of one of the teachers embroiled in the inanity and insanity at Central Park East 1 is being published.

Reading through this decision is stomach turning. The bullshit charges, the waste of taxpayer money, the wasteful year of the teacher's students, the time consumed, shows that the teacher discipline system is completely out of whack and the UFT if not complicit turns a blind eye to the kangaroo court that is the 3020-a process.

Again, this teacher was lucky and in the right school at the right time. The teacher had support from the teachers of CPE 1, MORE, and most importantly the parents and the community of CPE 1. Who gets charges, what the charges are, etc...are all dependent on a bunch of hacks in the DOE's legal department, SCI, and OSI, who decide on who is gulity and who should be charged using only this method to decide who shall be so blessed.

Another thing. This teacher was blessed to have Jordan Harlow as a lawyer. If you are a teacher that wants or needs legal representation and wish to avail yourself to outside counsel, run and do not walk, and get on the phone and contact Jordan post haste!

Read here for the 3020-a decision (UPDATE 9:38 PM EDT: Forgot to add the decision when first published!)...


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Catlin Preston of Central Park East 1 is Exonerated!

Lots going on at CPE 1. Last week I mentioned how CL Marilyn Martinez was exonerated of all charges and now another teacher at her school, Catlin Preston, has been exonerated of all charges as well in his 3020-a case.

I can't yet go into details of what Catlin's case. Now is not the time.

This I can tell you. The charges against Catlin were bullshit. A sham. But Catlin got through it.

I spoke to Catlin on the phone back in January before his hearing started. Jia Lee had put me in touch with him and wanted me to share my experience, give advice, support, and whatever else I can give to him.

It's not that I needed to talk him down from the ceiling or anything, but of course he was anxious and apprehensive. I gave it to him straight. Best of all I gave him some coping skills (Which I think anyone going through a 3020-a hearing needs!).

It would be easy for anyone who has been in my situation to just have an agenda and project their own anger and fears onto someone. You know, have an agenda as some people do. But that would not have served Catlin or anyone in his situation any good.

Catlin needed the process demystified. I hope it helped. I think it helped.

But Catlin had someone better than me, or Jia, or MORE on his side. He had Jordan Harlow as an attorney. Then and now Catlin said that was the best money he had ever spent.

Catlin was fortunate as is any teacher in his situation to hire Jordan. Would things have turned out the same if Catlin hired someone else? Maybe. Maybe not. There are a lot of flim flam artists out there.

It's too bad that Catlin and his students were separated nearly 18 months.

FYI, Catlin is back at CPE 1 and the students and the community could not be luckier.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

You and Your 3020-a Attorney

First, Mozel Tov to Marilyn Martinez and an actual WIN (Yes, I know, if you keep your job it
is a type of win, but Marilyn's is a true win) in her 3020-a hearing. False charges were brought against Marilyn by her principal at  Central Park East 1, Monika Garg. Norm Scott, who time and time again is at the forefront and one of the few people that I know who put their money where his mouth (Norm does what he does for complete selfless reasons. He is a true Mensch! If there is one person other than a actual attorney I want in my corner it is Norm!) is in helping teachers has much more about the mishagas that has been going on at CPE 1 and with Marylin over at his Ednotes blog.

So Marylin I was told had herself a NYSUT attorney. This was shared with me and though that person forgot the attorney's name he was described to me. I'm 99% sure it was my first NYSUT attorney. I can't give his name, but for today we will call him Bruce Wayne.

I'll tell you this about Bruce Wayne. He was on top of me. He cared. He returned phone calls. He listened to my ideas. He got incredulous when I was to appear on Howard Stern's Howard 101Sirius channel. So incredulous he sent me a certified letter and called me several times begging me not to do the show (He was concerned that I would say something ungood or get into a fight with High Pitched Erik).

But Bruce Wayne passed the baton to, in my opinion, a great lawyer and this lawyer saved worked her butt off. Bruce would have worked his butt off too I am convinced. I know he did for other teachers. Bruce Wayne is damn good.

So what is the point I am trying to make? My point is that don't let anyone fool you when they say to watch out for all NYSUT attorneys. That they don't care, that they don't want to go to trial. That they want you to resign.

Yes, I am sure, I have heard of, and know of NYSUT lawyers that don't care, don't return phone calls or emails, aren't prepared, etc... And yes I have heard and and know of teachers who were screwed over by their NYSUT attorneys and I feel for these teachers. . But I believe in my heart of hearts that such NYSUT attorneys are the exception rather than the rule.

Any legal representative telling you will win your case, is doing you a great disservice and being unethical. Don't believe anyone who tells you that they will win or your case is easy. Any lawyer, or for that matter anyone, who does not share with you offers from the DOE lawyer is doing you a disservice and is being unethical.

Heck, my second lawyer told me that I was given offers to resign and all that, but never was I told that I must. I was given the pros and cons of each offer that was made. In fact I tried to see if I can resign but do it in 18 months so I can retire with 20 years in. I forget whether or not if that offer was accepted. But that was the state I was in. But as anyone knows who reads this blog or knows me I decided to go feet first into the 3020-a abyss and it was scary.

What saved me was that as good great as my lawyer is the one person that is my best advocate, and is anyone's best advocate, was myself. I was not a spectator in my 3020-a. I was involved. I was involved in organizing papers, researching, taking copious notes during my hearing, brainstorming (Even when my ideas were out of left field!), and letting others, such as Norm, help out as well. 

Yeah, I was suspended for 4 months and it sucked! But guess what? I could have been terminated and that would have sucked a whole lot more! For four months I delivered auto parts, at $9.75 an hour. I worked 60 hours a week. I did what I had to do. I learned a lot about myself during my two years in exile and during the suspension(I also learned what a rip-off the mark up at your local garage is on parts). If I had another arbitrator it is entirely possible I could have been terminated. There but for the grace of God.

The whole point of this post is to tell anyone going through the hell of a 3020-a hearing is to be your best advocate. Roll up your sleeves and jump in and be your NYSUT, or if you go outside NYSUT, attorney's partner. At your first meeting ask any question that pops into your mind. Demand to know your attorney's background, their law school, etc... Every question is relevant.

Do not accept lack of communication. Do not accept anything other than your attorney's best effort. Come across as strong. You will not be hated but rather respected. And if you feel you are getting nowhere with your NYSUT attorney, go up the chain of command.

And if you decide that you don't want a NYSUT attorney for your 3020-a, as is your right, contact Jordan Harlow (Read his reviews here) ASAP!! Here is his contact information.

Again, you will not go wrong with Jordan.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

90 Days of Portelos

This post is not an attempt at a reconciliation, nor am I looking for any gain. I just want to state what I feel. My opinion about something that happened to Francesco Portelos.

I have always felt that those who I have written about in what some might call a negative manner that if they do something right, or get screwed, I have no problem writing about them in a positive manner. I have done this with with Mulgrew, and I am sure I have done it with others.

To refresh. In June 2016 Portelos wrote a blog post outlining grade changing at DeWitt Clinton High School that seemed to be condoned, if not spearheaded by Principal Santiago Taveras. In June of 2016 Portelos posted copies of scores, grade changes, etc... I will not link directly to the page, just to the the UFT Solidarity site. Yes, names were redacted, but in my honest opinion not enough information was redacted. There was too much identifying clues,scores, teachers, etc... that if someone wanted to put real effort and roll u there sleeves a person can find out who is who.

I think he was wrong. I discussed this with a follow blogger and he agreed with me. But our conversation soon turned to what the DOE did.

To the best of my knowledge and from what I heard through the grapvine Portelos had a meeting with OSI concerning this breach if student records in or around October 2016. From the best of my knowledge he received a disciplinary letter concerning the incident in March of this year. Three months past the date of the meeting with OSI.

According to UFT Contract, Article 2, Section A, paragraph 1, it is stated....
However, an incident which has not been reduced to writing within three months of its occurrence, exclusive of the summer vacation period, may not later be added to the file...
This is grievable. This is wrong. I know exactly what this is like. In 2007 my principal wrote me up June for something that had occurred in January. We grieved it and before the hearing started the AP who came to the Chambers St told the hearing officer that they were not going to fight it. It was dismissed. My hunch tells me that the DOE did not want to set precedence.

This is winnable by Portelos. I heard he might go article 75, but I think he should grieve this. They screwed up and this is not winnable by DOE.

I might be missing some thing here and there in this post. I can be wrong about some thing. But 3 months is 3 months anyway you slice it.

But again, no student records or anything identifiable concerning students on a blog. I know another blogger who go a bit in hot water for this.

That's why when I write about students I give them Jewish names like Shlomo Rabinowitz. Avi Klein. What's the chance of a student in South Bronx having those names.