Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Randi does the Maury Povich show

UPDATED: Oct. 31 8pm with a 2nd RR reporter (below)

Here is a report from RRR - our Rubber Room Resident correspondent about last night's meeting (I didn't attend but was outside with someone from the Rubber Room Movie who would like to get some more video or audio reactions from people to the meeting. Anonymity guaranteed if requested.)

Catching Maury -- I mean, Randy. Tonight's meeting regarding the Rubber Room.
I knew we were in trouble when Randy walked in and asked us how we wanted to run the meeting -- did we want to hear her ten point plan or talk first? I didn't know how to respond to this, but my colleagues had better manners and did their best impressions of good students anxious to hear what the teacher has to say.

The Ten points were themselves reasonable. We weren't given copies, but here's what I remember.

1. That the arbitration process should be expedited in a fair, but fast manner. That we should have the 20 arbitrators the contract calls for as soon as possible.
2. That whistle-blowers should be protected and people should have access to all their rights under the law --- the disabled, to the protection of disability laws, for example.
3. That teachers should receive their charges within two days of removal from the classroom.
4. That a committee be convened including the teacher's peers to determine IF the person needed to be removed from the school.
5. That while there would not be UFT rep's at each site, there would be liaisons assigned to each center so that cases could receive more attention and be better managed.
6. That the centers not be warehouse-like in themselves.
7. That a suspended teacher remains on the school's payroll so he/she can't be replaced.
8. That people facing criminal charges who are exonerated in criminal court don't have to endure another trial from the DOE.

I would ask others at the meeting to add what they remember and impressions.

What disturbed me even about the presentation of the ten points was the feeling of "rough draft" to the whole process. It seemed that Randy intended this to create a kind of feeling of open dialogue (or, at least, that was her given intention). She asked if we thought these points were "on the right track." I guess, I would have preferred to have a sense that these points were part of a proposal to be made on a specific date with the intention of implementing them quickly. Frankly, also, I'd have preferred to be given copies of the proposal before the meeting so that I could've come in with specific questions. I realize that Randy is very busy -- these points were apparently hot off her notepad this afternoon.

What followed was mostly a long, dirge of a session, with person after person relating his or her story. A few of the speakers made specific suggestions -- one which very importantly related to untenured teachers. She pointed out that keeping the untenured teacher on the principal's payroll would just give the principal incentive to fire/excess the untenured teacher. Randy, at first, dodged the question, but finally said she would then have to re-think the suggestion on the proposal.

The microphone then passed among the crowd like a special edition of a morning talk show, with teachers telling their stories, some sadder than the others. There was almost a feeling of people bringing their stories to some sort of papal figure, as if something could be done for them at the moment. Randy did gesture to her SWAT team -- Betsy Combier, Jim Callahan, etc. that they pay attention to some of these and even directed one woman to the legal department.
I am sure some people, particularly those speaking, felt satisfied for their opportunity to vent/get some sense of immediate redress. For those of us who didn't speak, there was the opportunity to listen to some terrible, but not unfamiliar injustices. A colleague of mine suggested that perhaps Randy had no idea how many people would come and that is why she had no more formal system than passing the microphone around.

What happened, as the meeting moved closer and closer to seven pm (having started around five), was that the NYSUT lawyers began passing notes in the back, people started flitting around to talk with their lawyers or other people they knew, and the circle of keening became a small one with Randy slumped behind it.

Maybe this meeting will help Randy to see badly people have been treated. It was probably far more contact with the masses than she intended and she did listen, even when she might have been the only one still listening. But, it's unclear to me if any of the larger stories will help shape the proposal. For all the demands and re-demands that "two days is too long to wait" for your charges and insistences that principals, and even sometimes union reps, do not behave fairly, I had a feeling that Randy's rough draft was meant to be fairly close to final and that the negotiable points were really meant to be fine tuning -- not core re-shapings that, for example, insisting that people get their charges before they are removed would necessitate.

I'd be curious to see what other's thought -- which points other people remember. A lot was also mentioned in passing. Randy alluded to wanting to have five cases like those of David Pakter and Lenny Brown -- and I took this to mean five "poster children" to be used as test cases, for stories in the press/help give a public face to the rubber room.

Randy also made clear that the UFT lost its age discrimination suit -- that the EEOC rejected the case as a whole as unworthy, though individual cases had merit. Somehow this loss blurred into a general answer about lawsuits -- implying that the union might not sue for discrimination against the disabled, for example as a whole, or might do so individually. She made clear she didn't want to take on the case of teachers who might be discriminated against because of their accents (a point raised in a RR resident's question) in the cold-hearted environment of Bloomberg and Klein, who might argue that the teacher could not be understood by the students. It will be up to the individual, it seemed to me, to bring his/her case to the union's attention and raise the issue of discrimination.

And then, all sorts of random facts some of us might not have known came out. I didn't know that if you have two "u" ratings you can get an independent person to evaluate you in your third year. It almost seemed as though Randy had been on a bone-up course/overdrive of "u" rating/3020a info and was just teeming with thoughts about it. That can happen both when you study hard and when you pull an "all-nighter" and get your paper done ten minutes before presentation. This is not to say she didn't have good intentions or ideas.

I just wished that things had been a bit more organized and objectives clearer. Maybe this is the fault of having been a teacher for too long.
RR Resident

Randi called a meeting of all the school systems' teachers reassigned to the rubber room.It was scheduled for 4:15 on Tuesday October 30th 2007. Over two hundred fifty people in rubber rooms from the five boroughs, as well as the entire nysut legal staff and many union district representatives were in attendance. Randi did not come to the meeting place until 4:30. No staff member said a word about the delay. Staff milled around and talked for one half hour. Randi then arrived and said that she could not get started because she was waiting for a power point presentation to be given to her. We waited another 15 minutes. She then began by explaining the reason she was late. A crisis had occurred due to a bomb threat at a Bronx school.
A teacher who came to class 30 minutes late would get a letter in his or her file. If a teacher arrived at a class and kept the class waiting for 15 minutes because he or she was unprepared, it would mean another letter for the file. Why was Randi involved in resolving a bomb threat in the Bronx? If a Union presence was necessary couldn't she have delegated someone to take care of it?
The experience of the first hour and fifteen minutes of a meeting with Randi was a crystalization of the problem. She was rude to the participants by showing up late. When she showed up she was not prepared. Finally, with a huge paid staff, she was unable to delegate responsibility meaningfully and as a result we, all of us in the school system, both in and out of rubber rooms are in the mess we are in.
Denizen of the RR


Anonymous said...

The "etc" mentioned in reference to the "SWAT Team" is Ron Isaac.

Anonymous said...

You must mean Ron "the back-stabber" Isaac.

Anonymous said...

Norman Anonymous: I have turned my back on your malicious shenanigans, so stabbing you in the back is impossible, being that I'm not a contortionist as you are. Norm,this post has more than your usual number of comments: congratulations!

Anonymous said...

aka redhog or from the trenches

ed notes online said...

Poor Ron the backstabber redhog - being called an etc. The unkindest cut of all.

Anonymous said...

A was one of the "rubber Room" teachers who asked a question that Randi refused to answer. I asked her why do you allow the DOE to file 3020a charges based upon a minor incident. Further, I asked why the union is not 0bjecting to DOE's expansion of the "Probable Cause" section which was based upon crimes and sexual misconduct. (Sexual touching & repeated sexual talk).

She also said she wanted to add temporary ARBITRATORS TO CLEAR UP THE BACKLOG. This is buying into the DOE and allowing them to continue the abuse of the 3020a process.

Anonymous said...

I am a teacher in a RR and attended the meeting. Why was it necessary for Randi to go to a school with a bomb threat? Does this mean that the administration and staff lacked the ability to handle the situation? She began the meeting by saying she is outraged by the situation. Here is what I want to say, Randi, I am outraged that over 700 teachers were in Rubber Rooms when I was removed in February of this year. Your office did not bother to call me back or write a letter when I called you. I was crying and quite hysterical! Shame on you! You are outraged! Could it be that the media and public are finally becoming aware of what is really going on? Are you trying to wipe the egg off your face?

A Dedicated Teacher