Sunday, July 6, 2008

NYC Chancellor Joel Klein, Esq.'s Dirty Secret For Purging Teachers

The New York City Board of Education's Infamous "Rubber Rooms"
by David Pakter
guest column

A highly respected commentator's remark about stopping by the Chapel Street Rubber Room recently certainly brought back many memories for me. I cannot refer to them as "bitter-sweet". Those heady days three years ago when I was stationed there (which now continues, somewhere else, by the way), defy placing any sort of understandable descriptive term to them, at least to the non Rubber Room detainee or graduate.

Like the Lotto, "You have to be in it- to win it", or at least comprehend it. Surrealistic, bizarre, self-contradictory, humorous, pathological. One or even all of these terms, alone or fused together in any which way one chooses, hardly can convey what it means to experience the process of being placed and then "surviving", in one of Chancellor Joel Klein, Esq.'s Rubber Room gulags.

During all the decades I taught, now approaching four decades, I, as all teachers were aware that from time to time a fellow teacher in a school would suddenly, as often occurred during Argentina's darkest years, be "disappeared".

Suddenly there is that "Space in the Air", as Jon Silkin once described it in a powerful poem, an empty vacumn, where a colleague, perhaps respected and/or beloved, once stood but stands no more. Wherever did he/she go?

Even thirty years ago teachers were from time to time suddenly "disappeared". But most teachers did not give it that much thought, at least not in the way they do today. Of course for a few days we all shared and passed on the ridiculous and predictable gossip and preposterous rumors that inevitably spread around the school when something out of the ordinary happens.

"Maybe Mr. Jones was caught kissing Miss Baker in the store room of the school Library"

( Note: The term "Ms." had not yet been invented.)

Lions and Tigers and Bears-oh my!

We imagined, so very long ago, that poor Mr. Jones was sitting in some district office at an empty corner desk next to some pathetic looking wilting potted plant, near the window, under the watchful eyes of some grey suited Assistant Superintendent, awaiting his well deserved Fate.

Obviously such types of fraternizing as "kissing" in a public building, no less a school, could not be tolerated.

What if children actually realized that grown adult human beings were capable of having real feelings? What would the world come to?

But certainly no teachers imagined that people were "disappeared" due to some dark and malevolent grand scheme hatched by high ranking school officials meeting behind dark oak paneled doors in Board of Education conference rooms "downtown",wherever"downtown"was supposed to be.

But now fast forward a few decades. And what a difference a few decades can make. As the years passed and the world continued to turn and change, things in the city's schools became quite different.

The frequency with which teachers became "disappeared" increased, at first slowly and then escalating ever more quickly, into a steady drumbeat. In schools where a teacher was at one time "disappeared" once in a blue moon, say once in ten years, it became once in five years, then once in two years, then every six months and then, was it even possible, once in three weeks.

Was it possible some virus had arrived on our American shores, that was suddenly causing so many teachers to start sneaking clandestine kisses in Library storage rooms. Or was the blame to be placed on all the spores of dust on those old library books, extolling the achievements of Christopher Columbus who had supposedly "discovered" The New World. Though I never quite figured out how you "discover" a place where people have already been residing for thousands of years.

But now here we are in the present. The newest age of Enlightenment in which whatever is sufficiently old- is now magicly "new". If the tactics of the Spanish Inquisition were good enough for the friends of Christopher Columbus, then they are surely good enough for we who live in these "modern times".

And thus "my friends", (if I may borrow a term from my friendly neighborhood library, often employed by a man who is convinced he is qualified and prepared to become President of the United States of America), behold the latest reincarnation of the largest urban school system in America.

Can anyone be surprised that so many more teachers are being "disappeared" at a time when the person appointed to be the Chancellor of the School System is a former Federal Prosecutor whose job was to- surprise of surprises-"prosecute" people.

And so any person, reporter and/ or curious visitor who happens to visit the now famous detainee center known as the "Chapel Street Rubber Room" cannot be surprised that this very large and long room, in spite of its generous dimensions, is bursting at the seams with its continuously ballooning prisoner population of "disappeared" former educators.

How ironic that when, from time to time, these "disappeared" teachers look out their prison windows, they find themselves staring down at an old historic Brooklyn Church whose claim to Fame is that a Pope once visited that ancient House of Worship. An engraved plaque next to the entrance says so.

"Get thee there to that Chapel, all ye teachers, with all due deliberate speed and ask, perhaps beg, for Forgiveness. And for all ye former educators who may have a tinge of guilt upon your Souls for having offended Mr. Chancellor/ Prosecutor and his countless stooges, lapdogs, lackeys, and assorted hatchet people, may the Good Lord, in his Mighty Mercy, have pity on your sinning Souls.

"There is yet time to repent of your Sins. Grovel and search for Redemption if ye have it in you to still do so, for you have sorely offended the New York City Board of Education."

And let us now bow our undeserving heads, and pray.

David Pakter, M.A., M.F.A. (Artist and Instructor of Medical Illustration)

Decorated by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in New York City Hall
as "Teacher of the Year" for Exceptional Achievement in Education

contact at:


  1. It seems that we are living in the Gestapo times with the Bloomklein regimen.

  2. One of the many problems the education system is facing is this:

    Current teachers, and teachers who have been teaching for, say, 10 years, are semiliterate people.

    Do you think you have any credibility in the eyes of the dwindling few of us who are literate?

    No matter how righteous your cause, you negate yourself by writing illiterate garbage.

    It is not a matter of "typos" or honest mistakes. Most of you simply cannot write intelligently. This stems from, among other things, engaging in little reading and/or scholarship, real trouble THINKING clearly, lack of patience, lack of ability to sit quietly.

    Example: "Anonymous" above opined that we are living in the "Bloomklein regimen."

    This is no honest mistake. This is blatant stupidity. The word for which they tried and failed was "regime." They are not even close to each other in meaning.

    The writer, sadly representative of most so-called educators these days, is in need of a stringent regimen of reading, grammar study, vocabulary drill.

    - a thoroughly disgusted and ashamed teacher

  3. Enough already. Stupid name calling degrading commments whether about Weingarten or people on the other side are going bye-bye.

  4. And you left the comment on grammer over whether the word is regimen or regime? That person is a genius. You are lucky that one of the few literate people condescend to comment on your blog. Tell him or her to pat themself on the back and say hellow to the other people on Mars. Oooh! Did I make a grammatical boo-boo?

    I would rather have my kid's teacher be semi-lit rather than a lunatic.

  5. _________________________________

    Re: Comments published above:

    While I fully expect there will be additional comments added to those already posted, I feel I must comment on what I have read thus far.

    Let me say first that anyone who knows me is well aware I try, to the best of my ability, to be a "staight arrow"- that is to say I aim for honesty at all times and am known to call "a spade a spade and not a perfumed shovel".

    Whether people agree with my own views and opinions or not, is of less importance to me than whether they hold themselves to the same standards of fairness and honesty that I attempt to hold myself to- at least to the best of my ability and accepting the reality that no one among us is infallible.

    I have never been happy with the custom of people employing the term "Anonymous" rather than signing their comments with their real name. If one believes he/she has a valid point to make, than why not give your opinion the added credibility of identifying who you are and accepting responsibility for what you have to say rather than hiding behind the cloak and/or curtain of anonymity.

    Why the fear of allowing people to know who you are?

    During the almost four decades I have dedicated to the field of Education, my name, address and phone number were always listed in the telephone book, as they are to this very hour. If a student or his parent/guardian wished to find me- they needed only to "let their fingers do the walking".

    I always made a habit of telling my countless thousands of students over the years, on the very first day of each new school year, to inform their parents of the above fact.

    In short, in all my years as an educator, during many of which years I taught in parts of New York City where few would wish to venture after sundown, (for example, the area of NYC that has come to be known as Fort Apache where I often was a personal witness to events of rather excessive violence), I never felt a need to go "underground".

    That is who I am, "warts and all".

    Turning attention now to some of the comments re my column, I feel I must address and respond to what "Anonymous" 1:29 PM had to say about the first posted comment by "Anonymous" 11:15 AM.

    "Anonymous" 1:29 PM posted some rather blistering criticism/s of teachers in general, which space considerations prevent me from addressing in their entirety.

    However, as an example of how people would be well advised to "look before they leap/attack", "Anonymous 1:29 PM accused", "Anonymous" 11:15 AM, a previous poster, of confusing the words "regimen" and "regime" and went so far as to attribute this to "blatant stupidity" and an example of "illiterate garbage".

    In point of truth, one need only refer to any edition of Webster's Dictionary to note that both "regimen" and "regime " are nouns, "regime" being defined as "a form of government or administration" and the word "regimen", which the accused poster was excoriated for using, is defined as "the characteristic behavior or orderly procedure of a process".

    I would challenge anyone to prove to me, that in so far as "teacher abuse and teacher cleansing" is concerned, that it would be incorrect to refer to the "orderly, (though othwise illegal), process" the NYC DOE has embarked on to purge the schools of senior teachers, as anything other than what could and should be described as the "Bloomklein regimen".

    As "Anonymous" 1:29 PM, (who fancies himself/herself, an expert of the English language), correctly noted, the two words "are not even close to each other in meaning". But that does not in any way negate the right of "Anonymous" 11:15 AM to employ the word of his/her choice.

    Does "Anonymous" 1:29 PM really know for certain which clearly correct term/noun, (depending on what meaning one wishes to convey), "Anonymous" 11:15 AM had in mind Sunday morning when writing his/her comment?

    As far as the comments posted by "Frunabulax" 12:45 PM, I find the ugly and unnecessary butchering of Randi Weingarten's last name rather distasteful, unnecessary and totally uncalled for, at least among civilized people.

    Equally offensive is the use of still another rather uncalled for epithet in referring to the UFT President. The use of such disparaging terms, in fact tells far more about "Frunabulax" than such terms could ever tell about Ms. Weingarten.

    Finally, "Frunabulax" you assert that Randi Weingarten "never lifted a finger to help" me. If only I could be as all knowing as you appear to be. You seem to be privy to each and every fact, human act and event that transpires in this very complicated world, perhaps even Universe, of ours.

    Congratulations. You are certainly to be envied for having achieved such a remarkable distinction in the course of just one lifetime. Would that we ordinary mortals could be as fortunate.

    As for whether UFT President Randi Weingarten,Esq., as well as the UFT and/or NYSUT has been engaging in "political spin" with regard to my ongoing quest to obtain Justice for the hideous and illegal wrongs perpetrated upon both my intellectually gifted Minority Medical Illustration students and myself, the "Jury is still out".

    Certainly I will not rest until this rather morally offensive affair, (involving a certain "credentials challenged" former Federal, Washington, DC, Prosecutor, plays itself out to the bitter end.

    Whether for better or for worse, I have never been capable of "turning the other cheek".

    Am I not my Father's son?

    As my upcoming 3020-a Hearings, (really a form of Teacher Trial) will commence in September and will be Officially Public, anyone curious as to the truthfulness of anything said above may and in fact is strongly encouraged, to attend. The dates of my Hearings will be clearly posted on this web site.

    I can assure all readers of Norman Scott's "Education Notes Online", as well as "The Chancellor's New Clothes" web site, et al, that in the end, as William Shakespeare's immortal character 'Pan', in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" famously spoke:

    "I shall tell it all, just as it fell out- Else am I no true Athenian".

    David Pakter, M.A., M.F.A.
    Still Standing

  6. _________________________________

    "Mea Culpa".

    Re that fabulous character created by the great Bard, I meant to type "Puck" not "Pan", in my comment above. Hope all you lovers of Shakespeare will forgive the typo.

    Just goes to show what horrible mistakes we simple mortals can make once we become too "sleep deprived". And perhaps try to type too quickly.

    Will you ever forgive me Puck, for being a mere mortal?

    D. Pakter

  7. I would venture a guess that the anonymous individual who attacked what he/she saw as grammatical mistakes is doing so out of anger at the truthfulness of the post. It would be very difficult to comment against the points being made without making oneself look like an insensitive clod. It is much easier to attack minuscule and perceived grammatical errors.
    Quite petty really.
    That being said, I found the post both moving and disturbing and eloquently written. It obviously moved me to write about it as well.
    Thank you for bringing such sensitivity to this horrendous topic.

  8. I have disturbing nightmares about returning to the Rubber Room in September. Until then, I have no recourse. My parents, boyfriend and friends cannot begin to understand the complexity of what I have been through since I have been reassigned. My personality has changed to the point where I have frequent anxiety attacks and headaches. I cannot help to resolve or defend myself until charges are brought against me. Taking action will only result in making matters worse...(still without charges after three and a half months)- As I have witnessed, there is little attempt by the DOE to resolve these cases during the year and zero attempt during the summer months. Even those who resolve their cases by accepting a settlement(five to ten thousand dollars in fines) are still left with the impossible task of finding a position in a system who will not hire them due to their salary level and age discrimination. I do not preach to be an expert on the written word, but do believe that we should all be held to follow the same moral jurisdiction. I thank David Pakter for his honesty and wisdom in his attempt to bring light to a situation that affects so many of us. For those of you who choose to pick on such petty points- (spelling and grammar) prove to be the reason why ignorance will always prevail.

  9. David Pakter is a true Renaissance man!

    Pakter for Chancellor!

    (Or Mayor!)

  10. Why don't you all kiss Lord Pakter on his royal ass. He is no sage or saint. He has never ever pointed out the role the UFT has in this abortion. Fidgety, you have no comprehension that you are never going to win or prove your point once you get to trial. As far as the amount of time spent in the Latex Latrine I could take the three and a half months that you have been incarcerated and lose it in my coin pocket.
    You are still wet behind the ears as far as being an inmate. The union will bury you. Their NYSUT lawyers are as much of the problem as are the DoE.
    I truly sympathize with your plight. The Packter types will not serve to help you. This individual thrives on the adulation that so many who know nothing of this matter give him so freely.
    You may want to ask yourself what he has truly done for you except pontificate about how truly fantastic he is. The fact is that an educator should be very careful about making mistakes when writing to others who have the ability to discern good writing when they see it.
    It is unfortunate that you are in this situation. You need to see a therapist and perhaps obtain anti-anxiety medication. Trust me, it only gets worse with time. You will never ever be able to go back to "normal", realize that your employer and your dues harvesting operation, union want to get rid of you.
    Please don't make the fatal error of believing that the arbitrator will give you a chance to clear your name. This is a truly warped kafkaesque situation that will never be anything resembling a fair and just process.
    Don't expect to be vindicated, don't expect anything approaching justice. This is a shakedown. You have stepped into a minefield. Expect the worst. Trust nobody from your old building. If they call to ask about you they are gathering information for their Gruppenfuhrer. They are co-workers and not your friends. The fact that you keep a blog may help you but it may also be used by the DoE against you when you are charged. Expect that the DoE
    will violate all of the 3020a law procedurally. They do it every time and the union will never do anything about it. If the OSI is investigating you they have 6 months from the date you were reassigned to charge you. If you are not charged by then you must grieve it. Don't listen to all the jailhouse lawyers in the same situation. If they knew what they were talking about they would not be in this situation.
    Stay strong and don't let these bastards live rent free inside your head. Explore litigation, you have nothing to lose. They are destroying a good career. So hit back and hit hard. Seek revenge through better living. Don't accept your predicament, fight.


  11. i am a rubber room detainee from 125th street and pakter- your art work is still on the walls! and in the fall if the art is gone i will put more up. i would like to tell you that i am proud of you and other teachers who are standing up for humanity, decency and due process. it takes a lot of guts to stand up - keep it up. my question is how are we going to get this information about the injustices of the rubber rooms to the general public? anyone have suggestions and strategies for getting this information to the much needed public?

  12. What Frun. said is absolutely right and insightful. No one is there to help you, not arbitrators, not DoE, not UFT, not NYSUT, and not even your private lawyer if you have one. Every one of them is there to make a living off you. They all thrive on the miseries of RR teachers.

    From what I have seen and heard, a private lawyer can cost you somewhere between 10 to 20 k, what is the possible return for that amount of money? Maybe a lesser fine and a shorter suspension! NYSUT lawyer probably will be able to do just as that as well for free.
    The only way and impact you can possibly have is to take DoE and your principal to court, it may take years, it may cost you 10 k, most likely you may not win by the end of the process. But you take them out of their comfort zone, you stand tall, you have a fighting chance. If every RR teacher takes DoE to court, they will have to stop this nonsense, DoE can possible keep the nonsense going. Teacher4action did and continue to do a great service for all of us by taking DoE/UFT to court.

    I have been in a RR for quite a few months, this is what I figured out and this is what I am going to do. Lawsuit or surrender! You are not going to win by playing their game.

  13. It is sometimes true as Randi said "Justice delayed is justice denied".

    Since she and eveyone else knew there was no justice at the end of 3020a proceeding, why hastened the deaths or the injuries of these rubber room teachers.

    I will say "Injustice delayed is injustice denied".

    Teacher4action did a brave thing by their lawsuit against DOE, UFT and everybody else who are in this illegal scheme.

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