Thursday, July 3, 2008

Stories of the Day

Updated 7/4/08

Rubber rooms: UFT makes deal with DOE
Check out the ICE analysis of the deal which comes up smelling of public relations
One would ask why there had to be a deal to hire more arbitrators to speed cases as an alternative to letting people rot in rubber rooms when it seems it would be in the interest of the DOE to get these things done as quickly as possible. So why haven't they? Is it due to the numerous cases of people being railroaded by principals with vendettas? Has the DOE been using the rubber rooms as holding pens to support principals who wanted to keep political opponents or people who were "negative" when they tried to push programs that looked ridiculous to educators? Knowing full-well that many of these cases would not hold up, they chose to pay people. Maybe the political pressure grew too great.

By the way, when I made a suggestion to do this at an Executive Board meeting back in 2005, Randi Weingarten attacked me. And when Jeff Kaufman called on the UFT in June 2006 to hire people to do independent investigations, he was similarly attacked.

It was ICE people that consistently drove the UFT to take action on the rubber rooms, which they did not want to know about until we raised it and began bringing people to Executive Board meetings to speak out. What we ended up with was a useless UFT SWAT rubber room team where the infighting is worthy of Kabuki theater.

Michelle Rhee Targets Seniority, Tenure
Rhee wants to bribe people with high salaries to give up seniority and tenure and be willing to undergo a yearly review, based on the ability to raise test scores. People in it for the short term might take the deal, as might people near retirement (bet these people get reviewed out of the system in a heart beat.) Anyone looking for a teaching career in Washington DC better not be tempted.

And here's a good one because of some old friends:
Miami/Dade County Teachers locked in battle with district
They want to cancel promised raises due to budget cuts. So NYC teachers who expect automatic raises should be aware that this can happen. It did to us back in the 70's and 80's (I think.)

Former NYC Chancellor Rudy Crew (forced out by Giuliani) is the Miami superintendent and former long-time NYCDOE personal director Howie Tames is a labor consultant.

Labor consultant Howard Tames said the district hoped to reach a compromise with the teachers. ''It's the district's position that all employees are important and we want to give money to them,'' Tames said. "But by law, the budget gap has to be filled before we can give out the raises.''

Crew said he will not take his raise either. Crew and Tames still look like gold compared to the crew we got at Tweed.

Howie was a former chapter chairman Unity Caucus member in District 14 who rose quickly though the ranks at the DOE in the mid -70's to head the DOE personnel department, becoming a mainstay and dominant figure through multiple chancellors. Howie knew everyone and knew which buttons to push and he did a lot of favors for a lot of people. He didn't fit the corporate model and was purged under BloomKlein (though he will deny it.)

Howie is also one of my fraternity brothers. We went through some rough times in the 70's when the opposition group "Another View in District 14" (members were amongst the founders of ICE a generation later) battled the local political gang and city-wide Unity Caucus machine. Some of my colleagues still have resentments but Howie and I buried the hatchet a long time ago. Bet he has some fun Tweedle stories. Can't wait for him to write his memoirs.


  1. If eliminating tenure and seniority for higher pay were suggested here, the Teaching Fellows and Teach for America gang would fall over each other to take it. Only with the DOE, you wouldn't have the option for one or the other.

  2. I don’t see the Daily News article as any major breakthrough. The issue is how they will be choosing the arbitrators. The Union has maintained that the city’s insistence on anti-teacher arbitrators has slowed the process. Did Weisberg have a change of heart? I think not. It probably means that the anti-rubber room press has outweighed the union’s protection of its members. That is certainly not news.

    On the next to last day of school I had to attend a student’s superintendant’s suspension hearing so I wandered over to the Chapel Street rubber room. The place is exploding with teachers. There was no empty space or chairs and some teachers were sitting on the floor. This group is not known for their perfect attendance so one could only assume that there were many absent teachers as well.

    Also, how many of these teachers are being brought up for incompetence? The ones I know (not a scientific sample) are called incompetent because of attendance, corporal punishment, sex abuse allegations. This is not what incompetent means in the statute and surely not what most people believe it to mean.

  3. Under the DOE regime imcompetence means when you are a senior teacher and make good make. As a result they want to get rid of you.

  4. UFT should force the DoE to reduce the number of teachers being charged, instead of helping DoE to get rid of more teachers.

  5. Re: The "Rubber Rooms"

    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

  6. Senior teachers dissapearing = they make to much money. = Bloomklein.

  7. David, thanks for the long account. Would that the saga of the detention centers had never reached such mythical proportions.

    But also thanks for the specific Klein connection you make, about him being "a former Federal Prosecutor whose job was to . . . 'prosecute' people." I'm amazed I hadn't really tuned into this before you said it. I was always focused on how incredibly unqualified he was for the job of chancellor, needing a waiver to even do it. All this time I should have been equally focused on what he was experienced in, which you've just hammered home for me: prosecution.

  8. _________________________________

    To Woodlass:

    Thanks for your very kind remarks re my own comment, above. I am delighted you "got the message".

    By the way I am a great admirer of your own insightful writings which I have followed with keen interest for some time. Send me your private email and I will add you to my mail list.

    On Joel Klein, Esq.'s last day at Tweed I have a bottle of Don Perignon set aside to celebrate his well deserved and long awaited removal to the "Scrap Heap of Failed Chancellors of Education History"


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