Sunday, September 21, 2008

Claims Of Age Discrimination At Graphic Communication High School Prevail

UPDATE 2 (Sept. 24) : Mggie Wallace sent an updated version of her letter.

UPDATE 1 : I received a phone call this morning from one of the plaintiffs confirming the story on Friday's court victory.

On July 13, Jeff Kaufman posted a story on the ICE blog about the age discrimination law suit at Graphic Arts HS (Manhattan) which finally went to a jury trial on Sept. 8 and led to a victory by 3 of the 7 teachers.

This comment was left on the ICE blog in July by one of the ultimate winners.

Dear Teachers,

I am a litigant in the Graphics Age Discrimination Suit. I would like to share that we are going to federal court Monday, September 8, 2008 for 10 business/school days.

Let me verify that we have paid dearly from our own pockets to get there. We are fortunate to have a creative and motivated triad of lawyers who will not get rich, nor will we, from a win. This is about justice and reputation, and our rights to teach as we have always enjoyed. It is also about getting fair pay and professional treatment for teachers who have studied and worked hard to earn senior tenure and status.

Support outside Judge Jed Rakoff's courthouse in Southern District would be a joy to behold. The era of Bloomberg/Klein/Resnic needs a serious challenge by educators with backbone.

Thank you, and best regards.

Diana Friedline

Congratulations to Diana and the other teachers who won. To those who didn't: fight on. The story of the teachers sent to the rubber room to cover for administrative failure is particularly disturbing. See a report from Maggie Wallace below.

Our interest is in the role the UFT played at the chapter level and at 52 Broadway. Kaufman reported in his July 13 post:

Back in 2005 forty-five teachers filed a complaint with the EEOC that the DOE had discriminated against them because they were over 40 years old. The Daily News reported the filing and Randi Weingarten announced at the time that "88% of teachers brought up on disciplinary charges in the last three years were over 40."

In July 2007 I wrote this:

Remember the supposed Age Discrimination suit? The entire purpose was to deflect people from taking action on their own. When people inquire about it with the UFT’s Sherry Boxer, she says she has no info and refers them to the EEOC. Call the EEOC and they tell you Sherry Boxer knows exactly what is going on. If you try to get added on the case, they say “NO Dice.” Of course, why would the UFT want hundreds and maybe thousands of people listed? The might actually win and then how would they explain it to Bloomberg?

I've heard various reports since then that the EEOC complaint went nowhere. There were lots of derogatory comments about the UFT related to the ICE posting of the story. Did the UFT play any role at all in the lawsuit? Or did the teachers pay out of their own pocket? Will the UFT now claim a share of the credit for the victory and parade the winners in front of a Delegate Assembly? That's exactly what they did when teachers at Brooklyn Tech won a suit. One of them told me he has to spend $50,000 out of his won pocket.

Here's what I hear about Patti Crispino, the UFT chapter leadership at Graphic Arts:

Unity Caucus loyalist and hack, known to be more concerned about keeping literature critical of the leadership out of teachers' mailboxes (witnesses confirm her doing this) than fighting for teachers' rights in the school. Known for high level of cooperation with the administration. Provided no help at all for these teachers. Often viewed as an agent of the principal. Crispino is an example of the Unity people your dues pay for to got to conventions and get union gigs galore.

I'm shocked, shocked to find out age discrimination is going on here

I first raised the age discrimination issue at a UFT Executive Board meeting in the fall of 2004 in a case at John Adams HS in Queens, where the administration targeted older teachers. A number of teachers at Adams felt the UFT was protecting the principal after the leadership killed a story in the NY Teacher.

A back story here is that this incident led to a series of events that resulted in Betsy Combier getting a job at the UFT as part of the rubber room SWAT team in exchange for not revealing certain information about a high level UFT official suspected in the John Adams cover up. But that's a story for another time.

The leadership acted like it was the first they had heard of age discrimination. At the Nov. 2004 Delegate Assembly a few days later, Michael Mendel mentioned it and asked people to contact the union. Again, feigning ignorance. Randi Weingarten even emailed me asking for names. Eventually they held that press conference in January 2005.

I felt it was the usual public relations stunt from the very beginning, with good reason.

The UFT reaction riled an insider at the UFT who sent me a package of news articles from a local paper in Bay Ridge from 2003 discussing an earlier age discrimination suit by teachers in District 20 (Bay Ridge) against Superintendent Vinnie Grippo that was totally ignored by the UFT. Later, I was contacted by some of the teachers who told me the UFT was not only uncooperative in assisting them with gathering information, but actually obstructive. So much for their "surprise" that there was age discrimination. UFT leaders are deciding who will play Captain Renault in the remake of Casablanca.

Maggie Wallace sent this report this morning:

September 21, 2008 (modified Sept. 24)

A jury of 7 found the New York City Department of Education and the principal of Graphic Communication High School in Manhattan, guilty of age discrimination in the case of three out of the seven teachers who brought the charges with federal court. Two of the teachers remain in the school organization. A third teacher was forced to retire 2 years ago.

Jerod Resnick, the principal of HSGCA, was found to have discriminated against Midge Maroni, 60, Diana Friedline,57, and Anthony Ferraro 71, teachers of English, Commercial Art and Design, respectively. Ferraro was forced to retire two years ago while Maroni and Friedline still work in the school.

Judge Jed Rakoff of the Southern District Federal Court located in downtown Manhattan concluded that the DOE and Principal Resnick may be liable for other types of discrimination. Other claims of wrongful termination, harassment and retaliation were dismissed because they were not “directly related” to age discrimination.

Judge Rakoff denied the claims of two Spanish teachers who have spent two years in the Teachers Reassignment Center (also known as the “Rubber Room”). The teachers were accused of wrongful actions related to Regents testing by Judith Silverman, an assistant principal who admitted her own responsibility for the failure in court. The teachers testfied that the school had not provided the department with the required testing materials.

While Silverman was not disciplined, the three tenured teachers who comprised the Spanish department were “reassigned” for failing to administer the oral portion of the Spanish Regents in January 2006. However, according to Rakoff, the evidence presented by the plaintiffs lawyers, although supportive of the teachers claims, was not “directly related to age discrimination.” Further evidence could indeed prove the DOE and the principal of HSGCA are liable for other discriminatory practices based on ethnicity or race. The members of the jury acknowledged that the educators who brought the lawsuit had indeed been submitted to unfair labor practices which pointed to “all kinds of discrimination.”

“My heart goes out to these two teachers”, said Judge Rakoff of the teachers who remain in the infamous “Rubber Room”. In recent past Principal Resnick has sent at least 9 other teachers to the DOE confinement center. His hostility against teachers have earned him the “bully principal” title by local newspaper including the United Federation of Teachers newspaper, The New York Teacher.

Elaine Jackson, a tenured teacher, was hired in 2004 by Resnick as an assistant principal for the English Department. Ms Jackson was soon replaced by a younger male administrator, one of the administrators accused of ageism by English teacher Midge Maroni.

Elaine Jackson was asked to leave the school by principal Resnick after a semester of harassment and retaliatory actions, because “things just didn’t work out between us.” Ms. Jackson was never paid as an assistant principal and was demoted to teacher status. She was forced to transfer to another school even though she was willing to stay at Graphics as a teacher.

Anthony Ferraro, an experienced senior teacher who was targeted by Resnick and several assistant principals, stated in the lawsuit that he was forced to leave the system (DOE). He testified that the ordeal caused him a great deal of anguish and anxiety, and made his daily life miserable.

During their testimony, Josefina Cruz and Gloria Chavez told the jury the school administration ignored the protocol, violated the rules of Regents testing by scheduling freshmen Spanish dominant students to take an advanced exam designed for Spanish learners.

The claimants said the school administration didn’t provide the Spanish teachers with the required materials to test the students, according to Regents requirements. . They further testified that according to the testing procedures, it was the responsibility of the regents coordinator, the assistant principal and the principal to distribute the materials. The claimants reported the testing violations to the New York State Board of Regents but none of the administrators responsible for the Regents’ violations at Graphics were disciplined. Instead, the Comission of Special Investigation (CSI) and Office of Special Investigation(OSI) both investigative arms of the New York City Department of Education conducted their own investigation based solely on the principal’s claims.

When questioned by Ambrose Wotorson, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, why Resnick’s school had been in the School Under Review Report (SURR) list for the six years he had been principal of Graphics he responded that the school was being investigated because of claims of Regents testing violations.

The trial which lasted two weeks, started September 8, 2008 and concluded on September 19, 2008 documented the ordeal of the 7 teachers who brought claims of discrimination before the court in 2006. One of the allegations claimed that Jerod Resnick rated at least 19 teachers unsatisfactory during the school year 2004-2005 so that he could make room for younger teachers. Most tenured teachers left the school and sought positions in other schools. retired or left the system. They were replaced by younger, untenured and unlicensed teachers.

The plaintiffs who were found to be discriminated against were awarded various sums of money. Other claims found not to be age related could still be discriminatory in nature and the DOE and Principal Resnick Could be liable for other discriminatory practice.

Here are some posts from the Ed Notes archives on age discrimination:

October 24, 2007
What happened to the Age Discrimination lawsuit?

The UFT has been making the rounds of the Reassignment Centers.
UFT Rep Jeff Huart was asked this question:

What happened to the Age Discrimination lawsuit?

Jeff Huart: The UFT is going forward with the lawsuit. People who believe they qualify should get their information in to the union.
Question: But information is out there that the UFT is not going forward with it.
Huart: The UFT is going forward with that one and the one for the people in the Reassignment Centers.
Question: Do teachers know about the general age discrimination lawsuit. Many teachers claim never to have heard about it.
Huart: District reps went to all the schools to tell about it.

How many schools do District Reps reach a week? Might as well use a milk carton and string to deliver the message. Not in the NY Teacher. Not in the UFT Weekly Updates to chapter leaders. Not a flyer handed out at the Delegate Assembly, or even an announcement to have senior teachers contact the union. But whispers from District Reps (those that are competent or awake). That's showing you are serious about age discrimination.

Remember: watch what they do, not what they say!

July 28, 2007
UFT: Masters of Deflection

The UFT response to teachers asking for help has been “Wait till September.” It could be a song:

Wait till September
We hope you won’t remember

Just how much you’ve been screw-ew-ed.

Even when people get some attention, they often don’t realize the UFT leadership tries to deflect people from taking action either on their own or even worse (for the leadership), in concert with others. It takes some people years to realize this. The goal is to stop anything from getting organized and if the threat is serious enough they may actually do something (or give the impression they are doing something.)

Remember the supposed Age Discrimination suit? The entire purpose was to deflect people from taking action on their own. When people inquire about it with the UFT’s Sherry Boxer, she says she has no info and refers them to the EEOC. Call the EEOC and they tell you Sherry Boxer knows exactly what is going on. If you try to get added on the case, they say “NO Dice.” Of course, why would the UFT want hundreds and maybe thousands of people listed? The might actually win and then how would they explain it to Bloomberg?


  1. Thanks for the post. People have to circulate it.

  2. Great story. I hope someone tells the papers.

  3. Dear Norm,

    Thank you once again for putting my name out in cyberspace, however as usual you are simply incorrect and misinformed.

    Please take a deep breath, do some meditation, and find a way to stop attacking/belittling the wrong people. Your energies could serve the teachers of New York City much more productively if you would focus on reforms of the New York City BOE and the Department of Investigation that will lead to fairness, transparency, and accountability.
    Betsy Combier

  4. Betsy
    If you feel belittled, that is in the mind of the beholder. Telling what really happened on how you got your job does not belittle you.

    You were kind enough to keep me informed throughout the negotiations, even sending me documentation. How they asked questions about your Freedom of information request, etc. Remember our conversations - I'm sure you still have tapes (since you tape so many conversations that people are not aware of) - where Randi called you homophobic and you called me to ask how to respond. I could go on. But don''t worry, I'm not going to ask you for a cut of your salary.

    And how are those people doing in the rubber room a year after you came on board?

  5. Why can't people, especially educators stand back and be objective? If someone was harmed by discriminatory practices the perpetrator will pay. There are 2 options for youngsters, fix the problem (age dis) before it affects you or die young.

  6. Carl, I have no idea what you mean by your last sentence, but presuming it actually meant something (and thinking I'll be embarrassed if you meant it as a spoof):

    As a vet ATR, my career as a teacher of my subject is over. Done. Finished. Kaput. The kids lost out on my talent (yes, some of us are talented and skilled, did you know that?), while the "perpetrators" have not paid, and will never pay, a single thing. In fact, in KleinWorld, they get bonuses and big contracts.

    Jump in and join the labor movement, why don't you.


Comments are welcome. Irrelevant and abusive comments will be deleted, as will all commercial links. Comment moderation is on, so if your comment does not appear it is because I have not been at my computer (I do not do cell phone moderating). Or because your comment is irrelevant or idiotic.