Sunday, April 13, 2014

DOE Use Arrest Tactic to Stop Teachers Stop Teachers Who Fight Back Publicly

The nest of vipers that is DOE legal has grown like a cancer and infested the NYPD where cops arrest fellow unionists for protesting abusive administrator tactics.

We've been waiting for the LH case to go public since the Portelos arrest a few weeks ago for his satiric blog post. In many ways this is even more egregious -- a principal who ends a first year teacher's career with a Discontinue and then is repeatedly challenged by the teacher for doing so goes out and charges the teacher with harassment and the NYPD arrests the teacher. Even though the ridiculous charges are dropped, the chilling nature of this tactic must be exposed. Lydia spoke at the PEP the other day about her D without talking about her arrest (See speech at: LH Speech on DOE Discontinue Black List). She may go back next time to share the arrest story. Let Carmen Farina and the de Blasio PEP appointees hear these stories -- and note how the UFT buries them too.

By the way -- you can tell the Post is somewhat sympathetic to a teacher (for a change) by this wonderful photo of L - instead of trying to make her look like a criminal. Sue Edelman has been doing some good work -- though I still never trust the Post.

Bronx teacher thrown in jail after criticizing principal

By Susan Edelman
April 13, 2014 | 4:23am
LH was arrested for harassment and spent 14 hours in NYPD custody before charges were dropped.


A Bronx teacher who criticized her boss got a hard lesson recently when she was thrown in jail.
Lydia Howrilka, 24, of the Academy for Language and Technology HS, was fired last July by Principal Arisleyda Urena, who called her ineffective.
Howrilka sued and filed a complaint alleging Urena improperly raffled off iPads and other costly prizes for kids. The claim prompted a DOE probe.
Howrilka sent an e-mail asking about her treatment to Urena and Chancellor Carmen Fariña — and to some 40 other city and state education officials and city politicians.
She got a call from the NYPD asking her to surrender on Urena’s charge of aggravated harassment.
Howrilka spent seven hours in the 84th Precinct house before being moved to Brooklyn’s Central Booking.
After seven more hours, a court officer said the DA had dismissed the charge.
“I believe it was done to intimidate,” she said. “And I’m concerned it will have a chilling effect on other whistleblowers.”
Urena’s lawyer, Tim Parlatore, said his client called cops “because of repeated, unwanted e-mails and communications.”
Also tossed in the klink was Francesco Portelos, a technology teacher at IS 49 Berta A. Dreyfus on Staten Island, who was yanked from his classroom two years ago, after launching a blog accusing Principal Linda Hall of violating rules. The outcome of his termination hearing on charges of insubordination and other alleged misconduct is pending.
Portelos, 35, who collects a $75,796 salary, wrote a satirical blog post on Feb. 24 saying he had hacked into the DOE’s payroll system with the password “kittensRcute,” and given himself a raise.
“Ridiculous story? Yes it is,” he wrote in the same post, adding “the truth is I can’t hack and never have.”
But the DOE’s chief information security officer, Desmond White, filed a complaint of official misconduct.
The police report asks, “Is Victim fearful of their safety/life?” White apparently answered “YES.”
Portelos spent 33 hours in custody, sleeping on the floor of a crowded cell next to a toilet, he said, before the DA dropped the charge.
The DOE made no apology. “We believe Mr. Portelos acted inappropriately with a post on his blog, and we notified the NYPD out of an abundance of caution,” a spokesman said.


  1. That the DOE spokesperson responded with those words tells me all I need to know about Chancellor Fariña. One of the chancellor's first moves was to select her new PR staff. If those words were spoken by that staff, then it's clear that the sentiment came straight from the new chancellor's new staff.

    AND IN FACT: Given that these arrests have come SINCE January of 2014, it seems abundantly evident that this tactic comes straight from the new Chancellor's office -perhaps from the chancellor herself. Teachers under Klein, Black and Walcott were treated really bad, but never arrested in retaliation for going public. Yet now -only four months into the new administration- two (probably more, as I'm sure you're aware that many teachers don't go public) are arrested already. This is a horrifying way to treat someone who has gone public with his or her story. This is a deplorable way to treat one of your employees and this is an inexcusable way to treat a teacher.

    And as for the UFT, I don't think anyone in the world would be surprised to learn that they don't care. Norm,I am happy to know you to be the most honest and forthright union man I've ever met. If anyone else had ended a blog post the way you did I would have thought (s)he were trying to take advantage of a story like this and turn it into an opportunity to organize. As it stands, I have to say that I respectfully disagree with your inclination to connect a topic like this with the union. We all know they suck (heck, they know they suck), why bring it up?

  2. They don't suck -- they play a role. Do we think the UFT has no relevance to this story? They abandon D people -- if you were running the union you would have every one of our political hacks trying to pass a state law disallowing this. So why do they get immunity here? Of course I am using this to try to organize - what else is this blog all about? I am not doing this so I can spout off every day. There is a method to my madness. Use whatever means possible to educate, organize and mobilize by connecting the dots. Ask yourself why they are quiet? Because they don't care? Or because it is politically expedient not to do so?

    1. I am voting for politically expedient.

    2. I completely agree with everything you just wrote (and I sincerely hope you trust and believe that my sentiments are exactly the same as what you just expressed). Yet, the question of what to actually do about this actual teacher(s) and this actual pattern of arresting teachers remains completely unanswered when we change the subject to how do we fix our union. While I greatly respect what you do, I (and a whole lot of other regular classroom teachers) am not as idealistic as to believe that the union can be fixed -ever.

      So if it is beyond repair and if trying to fix it weren't on the agenda, then what's to be done about this seemingly new practice of arresting teachers?

    3. John,
      What exactly can "we" do that would make a difference - as individuals or even small groups of bloggers? But I am not saying we have to fix a union that maybe cannot be fixed. All we can do is build a movement large enough and with enough influence to begin to make a difference and get heard. I went from doing my thing with Ed Notes as an individual starting in 1997 - with the goal of influencing the union - mainly Randi Weingarten who was selling herself as a reformer. I had to give that a shot given she was an unknown and seemed to bring a different slant from the people who went before her. I was warned by my old political pals. But it was a necessary step in my evolution. I was about educating by sharing info, not organizing. Only around 2001 did I begin to see that organizing was necessary - and my old pals jumped on board by 2003 to join the new people that gravitated to Ed Notes and we formed ICE. ICE had some successes organizing but not enough. We morphed in 2009 as the attacks on teachers and public ed escalated and formed GEM which did not focus on the union but on defending public ed -- we met new people like Julie and spread our influence in alliances with parent, community, teachers -- our film was an educating and organizing force -- but not much amongst NYC teachers which was a major target. How can one deny that the actions of a GEM offshoot - Change the Stakes -- has not had an impact on the testing discussions? Even Farina's people met with them. With the UFT doing very little we also felt that GEM was not in a position to affect much in the union so the other branch of GEM morphed into MORE. MORE does not have to fix the union -- it has to grow into a force like CORE in Chicago that becomes strong enough to actually do something for these people. Imagine of we could put a thousand people in front of Tweed and the UFT demanding something be done? That is the only option to be able to do something. Until then we can only use social media to educate and to organize people. Lydia and Francesco are example of people who see the fight is not just about them but about building a movement. Thus he is on MORE steering and has been an immense positive for the group - always thinking, always coming up with new ideas. Imagine if one day we have hundreds of people like him and out other great organizers doing that? Unity may be in "power" but the union underneath them would begin to shift. There is no other way I know. It all may be for naught but the struggle is also internal in MORE to forge a strong organization - bumps and bruises at times, yes. But we forge on. I believe in evolution on all fronts -- biological and political.

  3. My son was a student at ALT and said your lessons made no sense and you would run out of the class room crying and banging your head against the wall. Maybe that's why they did not keep you as a teacher.

    1. Let's say you are a parent (though you just might be the principal or her agent). All the principal had to do was get rid of her - not stop any other principal from hiring her - which the principal did. I can't tell you how little my lessons made sense in my first year and how often i wanted to cry. My principal didn't want me back in my first year - I was terrible - but he gave me time off to look for other schools - that was a mensch -- not a vicious, back stabbing supposed school leader like we all too often have today -- mostly Leadership Acad grads.

    2. Dear Anonymous: you are despicable and the lowest of the low. We don't allow trolls!

      Maybe you should TRUST THE PROCESS, no?

    3. Whether you are a parent, student, Principal Urena, or one of her disciples: we do NOT tolerate trolling and disrespectful comments. Try to stand in Ms. Howrilka's shoes. How effective of a teacher would you be as a first year in a turbulent, stressful high-need school in the Bronx WITHOUT ANY SUPPORT from a mentor or the administration? Chew on that.

  4. #UFT2015 Chapter Leader Election
    #UFT2016 General Election

    Let's get cracking.

  5. I am a parent! And you people are sad!

    1. Excuse me, I'm confused. How are "(we) people sad"? Your comments are disrespectful and unprofessional.

  6. Hey, thanks to Anon12:44! I was afraid my comment came off making me sound cheerful and even happy.

    Norm, I will say again that I have a profound respect for you and for what you do. But if a DOE official is convincing the PD to arrest teachers for minor charges rathr than issue an appearance ticket, I do not believe our union or the caucus is what we should be talking about.

    1. John
      Are you saying that if a DOE official is talking to the NYPD about arresting a teacher for speaking out -- why even is a desk appearance OK? -- our bargaining agent has no role to play in this? And if they sit by and accept it we as critics should not go there? To me this calls for a major union response, not silence - on their or our part. What exactly is our role then?

    2. Norm I never said a desk appearance was ok. As you are aware, NYPD has a responsibility to take any police report very seriously. While I'm grateful for a PD like that (and you should be too), I'm also aware (as are you Norm) that PD has the discretion to issue pink desk appearance tickets in lieu of arresting the person and holding him or her in custody for hours and hours at a time. The problem, as I identified it, was that someone was convincing PD to hold the person in custody instead of issuing an appearance ticket.

      But you knew that.

      I also never meant to say that our bargaining agent has no role to play at all. I simply said that, since this is all happening, I did not and do not believe that the bargaining agent is all we should be talking about. We should be talking about the DOE. We should be talking about how the DOE is having its employees arrested. To my knowledge I, in this comment after discussion, am the only one talking about that. You are talking about the union and, as it appears to me, only the union. That's why my response is that while I have an enormous amount of respect for what you do, I respectfully disagree with your conclusion that this is an opportunity to discuss the uft.

      This is an opportunity to discuss how educated, reasonable men and women can find a way to make this stop. Does that discussion go through, at some point, how or why role of the uft in matters like this is minimal? Sure. But does that road begin with 'the uft needs to change', pass through 'the uft needs to change' and end with 'the uft needs to change'. No.

      Also I'm not sure why I just had to spend 70+ words fighting the straw man.

    3. John
      What does it mean for "we to be talking about this"? The 3 of us? I think you and I have different definitions of "we." I'd like to see how "reasonable men and women" that total single digits can make this stop. I see the bigger "we" which if it was big enough would actually have a chance to make it stop. Actually the NY post article does more to do that than any reasonable discussion we can have.
      I think it is absolutely relevant that the UFT covers this up. They are the ones with the power to even try to do anything about this - but they won't waste political capital on this.
      It is the role of Ed Notes to point this out at every opportunity. But given they won't do this it is also the role to build an alternative inside the UFT that can be strong enough to force them to act or act on its own. There is no small "we" but the bigger WE that can act because I don't believe "we" have the ability to do much -other than build a big "WE."
      As for the NYPD having to act -- If I called NYPD and claimed harassment because you have left comments are they obligated to arrest you or issue a desk appearance? That is exactly what the ex principal seems to have done. If a teacher was being hounded by a principal can that teacher call the NYPD? Sure they can take it seriously but they also have to use rational judgement.


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