SOUTH BRONX SCHOOL: Open Letter to Chancellor Fariña

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Open Letter to Chancellor Fariña

 I went to the PEP meeting (I'm at about 19:40 in) this past Thursday at Murry Bergtraum High School and had the pleasure of addressing the PEP. Unfortunately I was unable to fulfill my 2 minutes since the matter was a personal issue. In light of that, I am writing this open letter to Chancellor Fariña to share the gist of what I had planned on speaking about.

Dear Chancellor Fariña;

Thank you so much for allowing me the time to address you this past Thursday night at the PEP meeting. I apologize for bringing up a personal matter before the PEP. I had never done something like this before and was not aware of the protocol.

The lady, Ms X, who spoke to me privately about my concerns was gracious and seemed genuinely concerned, and shocked as I shared my story. I know both of you have been busy since and she might not have had the time to share with you what I had with her so please allow me to briefly share with you what I told her and what I had attempted to share with you at the PEP meeting.

I had been teaching for 18 years when before the 2012-2013 school year began Dr Alison Coviello, Principal of PS 154 in the Bronx, had decided before the school year started that I would be found incompetent.

Dr Coviello had also already scheduled me for 2 formal evaluations even before I had my first.

I, and neither does any teacher, have no problem being judged on their merits. But I ask you respectfully Chancellor Fariña, how can we be properly judged or evaluated when what his being dealt to us comes from the bottom of the deck? All we want is the same chance, an equal chance of every teacher in our building or the city.

Even if the argument is that Dr Coviello has a right to consult with XXXXXX to do her job, the question must be asked, what was shared about me,  with XXXXXX? Was he told that I had already been U-rated and had unsatisfactory observations in the 2011-2012 school year? Or was he told that I must be "gotten" at all costs. Either way, the parties acted in an unethical manner.

If Dr Coviello told XXXXX that I had been U-rated and the previous year, that would be untrue and unethical. If Dr Coviello told XXXXXX that I must be "gotten" at all costs that would be just as unethical unethical and just plain wrong.

But this calls into question who initiated the contact with XXXXX? Was it Dr Coviello? Was it a third party? Was it XXXXXXX? See how this seems like a conspiracy?

But even if Dr Coviello says that this was a consultation which is her right to be informed and that she at no time was planning on finding me incompetent, why then was I scheduled for 2 formal observation before I even had my first? A reasonable person can see that this shows intent to find me incompetent ahead of time, before the school year had even started.

Is it ethical for XXXXXXX to not only assist principals in how to U-rate teachers but to sit on a panel and render and/or assist in decisions to determine if U-rated teachers were wronged?

Is it ethical for a principal to determine before hand that a teacher would be rated incompetent? Should not a principal do everything in their power to raise the level of a teacher's pedagogy? To do everything to help a teacher thrive?

From what you know of this situation Chancellor Fariña, does this all fall into the Frameworks that you have espoused?

Would a principal in Roslyn, in White Plains, or in my town of Harrison, NY engage in such behavior? Would a school board in any of those towns when informed of the truth of something that had befallen myself, and probably countless other NYC teachers, not be shocked and indignant at such transgressions?

I love working with kids, I miss working with kids.

One of the great joys of being a teacher is seeing the growth in our students as people. We want them to be the best possible person they can be. We as teachers want the students to have ethics and morals yet the way most of us are treated nearly everyday is contradictory to what we are trying to impart.

Does this "gotcha" mentality directed at teachers actually do the students any good? The time and the money spent on me and the other 8 teachers at PS 154 that were U-rated in 2012-2013, how did that benefit the students? How does the constant harassment of ATR's help the educational process?

Everything directed at teachers appears to be punitive in nature. Why must it be that way? Must every matter involving a teacher that has done something incorrect have a figurative hammer applied to it? What ever happened to talking problems out? Is this not what we want to impart on our students? 

Thank you for your time. 


Francesco Portelos said...

I watched as Courtenaye Jackson-Chase interrupted your free speech and then say she was trying not to impede on your " free speech."

You should have continued anyway. She couldn't really stop you or Sasha, who spoke after you, from speaking.

That's OK. Let's all go in November and exercise our Freedom of Speech.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. Not cool what C J-C did to you. You had every right to talk like those anti-tenure parents from Forest Hills did.

Anonymous said...

The following two articles seem relevant:

There is a distinction between "personal issues" and "personnel issues."

You were seeking to discuss a "personnel issue."

In New York, §105(1) of the Open Meetings Law specifies certain criteria for the entering into executive session by a public body.


§105. Conduct of executive sessions.

1. Upon a majority vote of its total membership, taken in an open meeting pursuant to a motion identifying the general area or areas of the subject or subjects to be considered, a public body may conduct an executive session for the below enumerated purposes only, provided, however, that no action by formal vote shall be taken to appropriate public moneys:

a. matters which will imperil the public safety if disclosed;

b. any matter which may disclose the identity of a law enforcement agent or informer;

c. information relating to current or future investigation or prosecution of a criminal offense which would imperil effective law enforcement if disclosed;

d. discussions regarding proposed, pending or current litigation;

e. collective negotiations pursuant to article fourteen of the civil service law;

f. the medical, financial, credit or employment history of a particular person or corporation, or matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person or corporation;

g. the preparation, grading or administration of examinations; and

h. the proposed acquisition, sale or lease of real property or the proposed acquisition of securities, or sale or exchange of securities held by such public body, but only when publicity would substantially affect the value thereof.

In my opinion, §105(f) should not be interpreted as meaning that a member of the public is barred from discussing a "personnel issue" in public.

The public body can, and should, respectfully listen to what the member of the public has to say.

And if it's a matter that falls into the category of §105(f), then the public body may take a vote to enter into executive session if they wish to discuss it privately among the members. They can even permit the member of the public to attend the executive session.

See the following for the full text of the New York Open Meetings Law:

Francesco Portelos said...

Rest assured that the top DOE attorney knew exactly who you were and what you were about to share. She reads your blog!

paul hogan said...

I get no audio on that PEP clip.

Anyone else?