Monday, October 29, 2007

Rubber Room Movie and Harlem RR Report - UPDATE

Filmmaker and former teacher Jeremy Garrett a filmmaker and former teacher, who got the idea for the Rubber Room Movie when a colleague was unfairly assigned there, asked me to post a message that someone from the movie will be outside 52 Broadway at 4pm to ask people their opinions. I will try to be there with them to assist.

The movie has been long in the making and kudos to Five Boroughs Productions for being on the case before anyone else. The UFT gave them permission to film a discussion at an Executive Board meeting and they attended an ICE meeting to film one of our discussions. Check out their site at where a trailer will be posted soon.

Also, see a report from the Harlem Rubber Room by David Pakter below Jeremy Garrett's as David refuses to remove Van Gogh prints he bought and hung to liven up a windowless, drab space. David will be at the UFT meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 30 and it should be a lively event.

We want to point out that while we remain skeptical, we support the attention being paid at long last to this issue by the UFT leadership, which all too often gave RR people the impression they felt they were guilty, giving one the sense the UFT only wanted to touch them with a 20 foot pole. Now that the mainstream press has picked up the story with some level of sympathy for a change (began when ICE's Jeff Kaufman's stint in the RR was featured in the NY Times and the NY Post), the UFT is trying to take the lead. They are welcome to the struggle and hopefully their advocacy and the pressure of the press will embarrass the DOE into changes.

Greetings Norm,

I have tried to contact the UFT in order to be granted permission to shoot at the Rubber Room Summit meeting that is taking place tomorrow (Tues, Oct. 30 at 4pm). I have e-mailed Randi Weingarten and spoken with [UFT Public Relations chief] Chris Policano but I have yet to receive a response.

Could you please post this notice on your blog to let people know that Five Boroughs Productions will be outside 52 Broadway tomorrow if we are not granted permission to shoot inside? We wish to speak with folks both before and after the meeting to address issues surrounding the Rubber Room and discuss what the UFT is finally doing to address the needs which are specific to reassigned teachers.

Obviously we are aware of the sensitivity surrounding reassignment, so we can grant anonymity to those individuals who have something to say but fear retribution.

Thanks for your continued support,

Jeremy Garrett
Executive Producer
Five Boroughs Productions

Rubber Room Update from David Pakter

As of today it was ordered that the Metropolitan Museum Prints be removed from the prison like walls of the Harlem Rubber Room. I have refused to comply. Can you possibly get this IMPROVED VERSION published all over the universe tonight because Randi Weingarten is holding a special meeting at the UFT, tomorrow, Tues at 4 PM for all 700 prisoners of the various Rubber Rooms. I want as many members of the press and public AS POSSIBLE to know about the situation in the Harlem Rubber Room before that massive UFT meeting begins tomorrow at 4 PM. The order to remove the Van Gogh prints is totally "Arbitrary and Capricious" and intended to make the RR's as painful/oppressive/uncomfortable as possible.

LATEST- Breaking NYC DOE Education News

For Immediate Press Release - Monday, October 29, 2007

Attention: Museum Art Curators, UNESCO, Cultural Organizations Worldwide

The New York City Dept of Education "Art Police" Demand

Metropolitan Museum Vincent Van Gogh Prints Be Removed

From A New York City Dept. of Education "Rubber Room".

Is It Because the Flowers Are Nude?

Please see previous Press Release attached below.
Regarding: The New York City Board/Dept. of Education
"From Inside the Harlem Rubber Room"
Open Letter To Chancellor Joel Klein, Esq.
Will A Teacher Be Charged With Hanging A Museum Poster?
Picture a small room without windows or even a water cooler on the 6th floor of a nondescript government building on West 125th Street in Harlem in New York City. Now imagine that you cannot reach that floor without being accompanied by a uniformed Security Guard and that once you enter that small windowless room, you are greeted by two uniformed Security Guards with badges, shoulder patches and the whole nine yards.

Is this a secret FBI uptown office or a local branch of the Homeland Security Administration? Hardly. Just one of the ten, (going on one hundred, at the present rate of expansion), NYC DOE teacher "reassignment centers", better known as "Rubber Rooms". These are centers set up by the NYC Board of Education to warehouse teachers who the DOE, in their infinite wisdom, has decided should not be in a school setting.

Some may perhaps deserve to be removed from their schools. But more often than not a huge percentage of these "reassigned educators" end up there for political reasons. In short removed from their positions due to being Whistle-blowers or having some type of disagreement with their immediate supervisor about what is in the best interest of the children in their care and who they have a fiduciary obligation to nurture, educate and protect.

In the NYC Dept of Education those in charge expect teachers to accept the premise that you surrender your First Amendment Rights once you pass through a school's front door. Most NYC schools now have metal detectors which can detect when a student is attempting to smuggle a knife or a loaded pistol into a school building.

Presumably, the way things are going, the NYC Board of Education may soon be installing "First Amendment Rights" detectors at the entrance to every school building just to ensure that no teacher becomes audacious enough to believe that he/she can successfully get away with smuggling a "First Amendment Right" into a school.

But getting back to the business at hand, it must be said that the term "Rubber Room", referring to the padded holding rooms in hospital psychiatric wards, (for the incarcerated person's own protection of course), is a term that was never so appropriate and fitting, as it is used by the NYC Board of Education. In particular to the teacher Rubber Room in New York's Harlem, which is in a space so absolutely perfect, whether by intentional design or not, to get the incarcerated teachers there to sooner or later start feeling claustrophobic, utterly cut off from the world and hence likely to start bouncing off the walls, sooner or later, figuratively speaking.

And to think the NYC DOE totally forgot to install the obligatory Federally Approved rubber padding that rubber rooms are required by law to contain, permanently affixed to the walls with Federally Approved, non-toxic glue and/or other approved adhesive material.
I realized this past week, as I enter my second year as an inmate of the 125th Street Harlem Rubber Room, that those four barren walls, with no windows, were definitely beginning to play tricks on my brain. At times there were days when I was even beginning to think that Chancellor Joel Klein, Esq. and the NYC Dept of Education did not like me. Was I becoming paranoid? Or what? Maybe I really did belong in a Rubber Room, medically speaking.

But then I had to remind myself that two years before, the Director of the NYC DOE Medical Office had tried to advance such an idea by knowingly claiming I was medically "not fit for duty" only to later incur a massive degree of public humiliation when the City's own hand picked Final Binding Medical Arbitrator, quickly saw through the knowingly false claims of the NYC DOE Medical Office. In fact the NYC DOE was forced to compensate me a full year's salary plus interest for that very foolish indiscretion and the last I heard the Medical Director involved has taken a "leave of absence for 'personal reasons' ".

(Sadly, I have been informed, however, that this same DOE Medical Office is continuing to Railroad innocent teachers out of the system on knowingly false Medical claims. This will all be leading to a $ 30,000,000 Lawsuit in due course. The "Official Notice of Claim" has already been filed with three separate government offices).

But returning to the question of whether the Harlem Rubber Room was beginning to take a toll on its inhabitants, that thought alone was sufficient to make me realize I had better take action before I went over the edge and got sucked into a Black Hole in DOE inner or outer space from whence there is no escape, ever.

I made the decision that I either had to paint, (as an experienced artist, see ) virtual windows on those four barren walls. Or else have real window frames installed, with built in flat screen monitors, continuously showing refreshing French Riviera scenes of gorgeous beaches with their foaming waves lapping at the sands or perhaps views of Venice with romantic gondolas, gracefully gliding by on azure waters.
But then common sense and a reality check rudely stepped in and made me realize that I might very well go over the edge long before I completed such an ambitious project. Then I recalled that my residence was just a two minute walk, (passing Mayor Michael Bloomberg's stately townhouse at 17 East 79th Street), from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, whose many gift shops offer no end of ravishingly beautiful, full color, luxury posters of paintings from their immense Art collection.

But there was one glitch in my anticipated solution to making the 125th Street windowless Harlem Rubber Room relatively inhabitable. Just recently one of the building custodians who is responsible for our Rubber Room, a gentleman named "Caesar", (no-you cannot make these things up), had informed the inmates that no person was to hang anything on our Rubber Room's pristine and glaringly barren walls, "under penalty of death", or worse still, having yet another charge added to his/her Official 3020-a Specifications, thus leading even more swiftly to that teacher's permamnent termination.

But it seems to me, coming from a long line of first rate lawyers, that there really is such a thing as "cruel and unusual punishment". Did not the United States Supreme Court issue such a finding just this very week? Are there not times and situations in Life when the punishment does not fit the crime and where the punishment imposed is so far in excess of what the alleged perpetrator, (in this instance- educators), deserves, that exception must be made lest our entire system of American Law become a mockery of Justice in the eyes of the entire civilized world.

So this past Friday afternoon, when all those teachers who are incarcerated in the 125th Street Rubber Room departed for the weekend, having more or less survived another week of "cruel and unusual/inhumane punishment", I put my survival plan into action.

I carefully unrolled the stunningly beautiful, large full color posters of paintings by Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Paul Gauguin, et al which I had purchased at The Metropolitan Museum gift shop and proceeded to install the high quality prints on the barren, (nervous breakdown inducing) walls of the NYC DOE 125th Street Rubber Room.

I could hardly believe my tired Rubber Room eyes. Suddenly I felt I had been magicly transported to Southern France to a kinder, gentler, lovelier, more peaceful age. Each wall in that formerly drab and barren Rubber Room seemed to have come alive as if they now contained real windows, looking out on beautiful green cypress trees being kissed by the wind and blue skies and floating gardens punctuated with shimmering, iridescent water lilies of every imaginable kind and color. All the flora of the world greeted one's eyes as one turned his gaze from one Rubber Room wall to the next.

North, South, East and West, has suddenly been transformed into a world that a reassigned teacher could live in, and even survive in, and miracle of wonders, even thrive in as they waited for months or even years for their "Trials" to begin.

"Was it a vision or a waking Dream- fled is that Music. Do I wake or sleep." as a great poet once said.

But that was late Friday afternoon and early on Monday morning, Caesar and two uniformed Security Guards, assigned to be our full time "KGB like minders", will make the astounding discovery that an inmate of the 125th Street Rubber Room has done "the unthinkable". That one of the prisoners has taken it upon himself to make that NYC DOE gulag liveable- just as millions of detained prisoners in US prisons do all the time by hanging whatever it is they paste on their own prison cell walls.

Will Caesar and the NYC DOE uniformed Security Guards be so cold hearted and such unforgivable cultural Philistines as to remove the greatest glories of French Art from the walls of that formerly barren and "cruel and unusal punishment" windowless incarceration room?
And will Chancellor Joel Klein, Esq. and the NYC Dept/Board of Education decide that in addition to the already insane and preposterous charges already leveled against a former "Teacher of the Year", including SPECIFICATION 6, which violates the United States Constitution and The Bill of Rights, yet one more preposterous charge.

Shall I not save them the time and expense of paying high priced lawyers, (at tax payer expense), the trouble of drafting the new and additional charge against me, that of posting prints of famous paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, on the walls of my/our prison cell.

SPECIFICATION X : Respondent, David Pakter, did knowingly and willfully, on or about October 26, 2007, cause a barren, drab, windowless, NYC DOE Rubber Room, (on the 6th floor of a building on 125th Street in Harlem), to become a moderately, liveable space in which to reside, six to seven hours per day, by posting and/or hanging on the four walls of that formerly cold and uninhabitable room, full color prints of famous and celebrated European paintings from the permanent collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
David Pakter, M.A., M.F.A.
New York City, October 27, 2007
"Teacher of the Year", Decorated by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in New York's City Hall
for "Exceptional Achievement in Education"
For further information see:


Under Assault said...

Odd that what's hanging on the walls in the rubber room should come up just now, a day after I wrote something myself on what the DOE has determined is the optimum visual environment for students.

If there were more Van Goghs in classrooms and less of the detritus they make you hang up, we'd all be better educators, learners, and thinkers.

Anonymous said...

Did Van Gogh have a rubric? If not, then it's perfectly natural that his sunflowers would be discredited.