SOUTH BRONX SCHOOL: The Plight of Lydia Howrilka

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Plight of Lydia Howrilka

Chaz the Blogger had an interesting piece yesterday about how new chancellor Carmen Farina must clean house of the approximately 700 attorneys and 300 accountability "experts" that permeate and suck money out of the DOE. But Chaz stated the obvious;
...presently, the DOE acts as a "bully" when it comes to the teaching staff.  Carmen Farina can't simply"rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic"and expect that the very same people who treated the schools and the teachers with disrespect and as disposable cogs and the students as widgets in a perverse business model to earn the trust of parents, students, or teachers.   Only a complete "spring cleaning" by the Chancellor is necessary and instead of a staff of non-educators, only long-term successful educators should be at the highest levels at the DOE.  

This leads into the plight of Lydia Howrilka, former teacher at the Academy for Language and Technology in the Bronx. Wait! You say that school sounds familiar? It should. The principal, Arisleyda Ureña, was featured in a New York Post article just last month in which she allegedly went against chancellor's regulations and had students participate in raffles for wonderful prizes such as iPads, mini-laptops, sporting goods, and various other prizes. Principal Ureña and ALT were also mentioned in the Post in September of 2013 for as the Post claims, "dubious make-up work."

Lydia wrote a letter to Chancellor Farina which fell into the hands of the Queens Time Ledger on March 11, 2014. It is a moving and stirring letter written by a young lady that really wants to give of herself to the students and communities of New York City. I have met Lydia and in my opinion any school, any student, any parent, and any community that comes into contact with her will benefit from her involvement in their lives.

Lydia's open letter to Chancellor Farina; 

This letter is in regard to my investigations with the Office of Special Investigations in the city Department of Education and my still pending investigation and charges from a school-based investigation.

I was a teacher for the DOE. Teaching had been my passion since I was a young girl, and I am a proud graduate of Hunter College’s School of Education. I worked in District 9, at the Academy for Language and Technology in the Bronx.

Principal Arisleyda Ureña hired me in August 2012 to teach social studies. I stayed late almost every day crafting rigorous and engaging lessons, working with my colleagues to improve the outcomes for our English language learners and organizing school-wide events in my role as student government faculty adviser.

On June 17, 2013, I received a letter from Cristina Jimenez stating that I had been reassigned from my position. I spent the final eight school days of the academic year sitting in a reassignment center at 1 Fordham Plaza. Neither Ureña, any staff member from ALT’s Children First Network, any investigator from the Office of Special Investigations, nor any lawyer from DOE told me why I was reassigned. I did not speak with an investigator upon arrival or during my stay there.

On July 15, 2013, I was discontinued from probationary service. Prior to this discontinuance, I had received a job offer from a secondary school outside District 9 in early July 2013. The new principal’s CFN human resources manager was unable to attach me to the job and informed me that I had been “red flagged” in the system.

I went to OSI July 25, 2013, and spoke to Henry Gomez as a walk-in when Gomez was doing intake. I wanted to know whether I was under investigation. Gomez was professional and looked up the case to see which OSI investigator was handling my case. Gomez informed me that OSI had no information as to what is going on with my case because it had been downgraded to a local, school-based investigation.

It has been more than seven months since an investigation was first opened on me. I have not received any charges to date. I have neither spoken to Ureña, interim acting Principal Jose Viñales, Superintendent Carron Staple, any DOE investigator regarding my case, nor Senior Field Counsel Gillian Kost. On Nov. 1, 2013, Ureña resigned from her position as principal of the Academy for Language and Technology.

How does this affect my case? Is it still open? Were my “charges” found to be unsubstantiated or not?

On Nov. 8, 2013, Katherine Rodi sent me an e-mail explaining to me that my termination from the DOE will “trigger” a review if I have a “valid job offer.” A copy of Rodi’s e-mail reads as follows:

“Ms. Howrilka,

“Mr. Hearn and Mr. Condon are not involved with the clearance process within the DOE.
“As I have told you and your representatives before, your termination from the DOE will trigger a review if you have a valid job offer. Until you have a valid job offer, your file will not be reviewed. There is no “flag” on your record beyond your termination.


“Katherine Rodi

“Director of Employee Relations


Rodi; Lawrence Becker, the chief executive officer of the Division of Human Resources and Talent; and the Office of Personnel Investigation are unwilling to respond to my questions regarding my school-based investigation, but during an interview with OPI Investigator Laurie Vazquez, she informed me that the reason why I had been unable to accept a job with another DOE school in early July was because of the OSI/school-based investigation which had placed a “block” on my record and prevented the second principal from hiring me.

This “block” made it impossible for the principal to enter my credentials through Galaxy and trigger OPI to re-open and re-evaluate my case.

I am requesting a meeting with you and other appropriate school officials regarding my OSI and school-based investigations. What charges had I been accused of that warranted my removal from ALT June 17, 2013, in the middle of proctoring a Regents exam?

Since I have neither met with an investigator, an administrator, nor another DOE official regarding my charges in seven months, this removal and subsequent silence are violations of my constitutional right to due process.

Lydia Howrilka

What an amazing letter from an amazing person. The Crack Team hopes that things work out for Lydia. This looks like a problem where if the people involved just sit down and talk they can find a mutually beneficial agreement. 

Communication can stop so many problems.

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