Friday, April 16, 2010

Report from the Rubber Room

By Philip Nobile
April 16, 2010

“Everytime Klein gets in trouble, he trots out the rubber room,” thundered Brooklyn Borough Rep. Howie Schoor yesterday in the 25 Chapel St. TRC. He denounced the DOE’s archipelago of Devil Islands as “a tool to attack the UFT.”

His tirade was introduction to the grand announcement that rubber rooms, Klein’s Bay of Pigs, were history. No longer would the Chancellor have us to kick around when things went bad for him.

Oozing solidarity, Schoor lamented the fates of many of us who have sat around for weeks, months, and years waiting. as in pre-Magna Carta times, to learn the nature of our crimes and to confront our accusers in a due process hearing.

He said that the agreement to streamline the investigation and prosecution of UFT members was opposed by Klein but embraced by the Mayor. Why? Because the TRCs became a public scandal. Full pay for no work, costing the city $50 million a year, was too crazy to last.

Schoor listed the key reforms. For us already reassigned, we would be offered mediation without possibility of termination (a miraculous concession) or a hearing guaranteed to finish by December 31 (enabled by hiring more arbitrators).

Alleged malefactors in the future would be guaranteed inquiries of no more than 60 days. Teachers accused of incompetence would be charged within 10 days. If not, they would be returned to their classrooms.

Starting in September, all reassigned members would be put to work in some fashion in schools or DOE offices. Further details, Schoor said, would be available in the text of the agreement posted on the UFT website.

The not entirely unexpected news aroused the expected gamut of emotions—liberation from a space of official disgrace, relief from threat of termination, apprehension that speeded up reforms would come at the expense of fairness, and anger that the UFT had allowed TRC to flourish without much resistance.

During the Q & A, this correspondent asked Schoor why the UFT did not protect teachers from the corruption of OSI investigators in league with hostile principles who are primarily responsible for condemning members to reassignment (though the DOE is the ultimate decider). Schoor was reminded that the DA passed a resolution against “biased” OSI probes last May and that Schoor himself had said that most rubber roommates were victims of “trumped up charges.”

Schoor passed the query on to Special Rep Arthur Solomon who handles all OSI cases in Brooklyn. Before Solomon spoke, he was reminded of his past lectures to chapter leaders, saying OSI was stocked with rogues and should not be trusted. Yet he and Special Reps like him offer little real advocacy at the earliest, delicate stages of investigation when our fates are set in motion.

Solomon routinely advises members to keep quiet during OSI interviews and refuses to share copies his interview notes until hearings.

Solomon was defensive in reply. He revealed that two OSI cops were recently fired and hinted that he was to blame. “I am vocal and articulate in the interviews,” he said. "I have been active with the Director [Candace McClaren] and have made some inroads. Anyone represented by me knows that my job is to protect your job.”

Tell that to Peter Principe, a former Brooklyn dean repped by Solomon during a strange corporal punishment interview with OSI investigator Dennis Boyles. According to Principe, Boyles said “It’s my job to find you guilty. You don’t pay my mortgage. The DOE does.” Solomon testified at Principe’s 3020a hearing last year that Boyles had chilled their conversation with an a priori declaration of his client’s guilt. But Solomon’s witness counted for nothing against Boyles’s denial and his own neglect to produce incriminating notes or any other exculpatory evidence like a contemporary letter of protest to Director McClaren. No inroad in this case. Consequently, and perhaps unnecessarily, Principe was terminated.

In sum, the disappearance of rubber rooms is a revolutionary achievement for the UFT, but as Diderot would say if he were a member, teachers will never be free until the last rogue DOE gendarme is strangled with the entrails of the last cruel Chancellor.

1 comment:

  1. These are excellent comments and you've given an essential analysis of the situation. Thank you for pointing out the hidden truth: the investigations are routinely biased. I have written a post on the features of the general denial of essential legal procedure, and how the UFT agreement does not deal with this scandalous miscarriage of justice.:
    http://nycityeye.blogspot.com/2010/04/after-rubber-room-closings-essential.html

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