It was a pleasure meeting the teacher's family - her mother, a retired NYC high school teacher, grown daughter and husband, there to support her. In addition, Paul Hogan and Pete Zucker, now on suspension, were there too. And we met other teachers and their families under assault.
I pointed out yesterday that this case should send up major warning alarms at the UFT.
Cases like this must not be treated the same as a non chapter leader, since employers often target union officials as a way to shut down union activity at the workplace -- and in many ways the DOE over the past 14 years has succeeded in doing just that. That the UFT is not blasting this all over the place is a perfect example of the union's accepting its role as as a head with little body.After speaking to the teacher yesterday I am more convinced than ever that this is a case that the UFT should be using to make a major point. Her daughter told me that her 2nd grade kids were successful and it was the observations that are being used against the teacher. The real guts of this case are not the observations and charges of incompetence, but the political attack on a chapter leader doing her job.
My worry is that the lawyers, who often think on the narrowest of issues, will focus on responding to the charges without emphasizing that this is a case of political persecution due to union activities.
This is not to say that filing a lawsuit outside the system if you can afford it is not a good way to go. It seems that these lawsuits are piling up and the DOE and Legal is nervous
My advice to the teacher was to point out the duties of the CL and how she executed those duties -- and how the principal used that. She has been in the school for quite a while. How did she suddenly turn incompetent? What is going on is the principal is taking advantage of the new teacher rating system.
The teacher is not using a NYSUT lawyer and is paying on her own -- a lot of people are buying the line, sometimes put out by people with a business model, that they are incompetent on the whole. So far the people I've seen from NYSUT have been very competent and they have presented a political argument, some openly and some subtly. In my mind the fact that Portelos and Zucker still have a job is due to the case that they were targets. And the over-zealous DOE legals often help make that case.
Zucker was a cluster teacher in an elementary school seeing 300 kids a week, no more than once or twice. Let's face it - I was a cluster for a decade - it is often a form of babysitting to cover a prep - though most people do what they can with the job given its limits -- like being pulled for subbing, coverage, mass preps, etc.
The charges of incompetence were a joke. The job was specially created for him to try to make him fail. Like if I were to be put in a kindergartgen class I wouldn't have a clue and it would take me a year or 2, even as an experienced teacher, to figure it out. Of course I would exhibit evidence of not being competent at times.
Zucker is/was a computer/tech specialist. The principal left the computer lab, which he was instrumental in getting for the school, empty and put him in a job they branded, "Character education with literacy." Sure, spend 45 minutes a week with a class and expect results?
The principal, Allison Coviello, testified for 4 days - and the overkill was obvious. Here was a former colleague and first year principal spending an enormous amount of time focusing on cluster teacher Zucker. Didn't she have a school to run? Clearly an obsessive compulsive and it came through. Even the DOE lawyer seemed worn out.
The best part of the Zucker case for me was the claim that he didn't treat kids of parents well by Coviello, who tried to come across was a saint.
A parent came in to testify for Peter and she said he was the only teacher in the school who reached out to her admittedly difficult son and to her. When DOE Legal asked her did she talk to Coviello, the parent responded that she had 3 appointments with Coviello, who cancelled two of them and ended up getting into an argument with her at the other one.
Saint Coviello didn't look like much of a saint.
And I'm hoping that at the end of the day, the Chapter Leader's principal will be exposed for what she is.
There are 3 hearing dates next week and I only can make the last one next Friday and will probably miss the principal's testimony --- this is a case of DOE legal wasting an enormous amount of money and that the UFT doesn't scream this from every rooftop is why the union is a head with no body.