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Sunday, May 1, 2016

The 3020-a Arbitration Newswire: Digging Up The Garbage on the DOE Lawyers -Shareema Abel

Attorney Shareema Abel
The lawyers I have watched who prosecute 3020-a Respondents are a motley crew, ranging from "I am trying-my-best to terminate this employee with quiet professionalism" to "this Respondent is scum and I'm gonna prove it even if I have to scream and yell."

I believe that the NYC 3020-a Arbitrators are in an impossible moral and ethical conflict, where they must overlook obvious violations of law and regulations, even the lies of their witnesses, to satisfy the DOE policy of terminating tenured teachers in order to stay on the panel. Is the $1400/day worth the risks to reputation and future cases? The Arbitrators on the NYC panel must say yes.

Are you an Attorney ready to defend the NYC DOE administrators as they wrongfully attack teachers and other staff? You must be willing to keep secret the failures of the charging agents (the Gotcha Squad, DOE "legal", principals, Assistant principals, whomever) to put two teachers in an ICT class; to give 'specials' (art-music-dance teachers) to special education children who have service providers listed on their IEPs; to provide state mandated SAVE or TIME OUT Rooms; to properly discipline and report rowdy and/or dangerous students who assault other students, teachers, staff. The list is long of the coverups you must do. But the pay is good. Below is an application:

Administrative Trials Unit Attorney
Tracking Code
9652
Job Description
 (Those who previously applied need not re-apply)

Position Summary:  Under the direction of the Deputy Counsel of the Administrative Trials Unit, with wide latitude for independent action, the Administrative Trials Unit Attorney will serve as a legal representative of the Chancellor performing sophisticated legal work in disciplinary proceedings. Performs related work.

Reports to: Director of the Administrative Trials Unit

Direct Reports: N/A
  
Key Relationships:  Director of the Administrative Trials Unit, Superintendents, and Principals.

Responsibilities

  • Handles legal issues and cases, including recommendations concerning the soundness of charges, preparing specification of charges, coordinating the gathering of evidence, and briefing witnesses.
  • Responsible for legal cases that are complex and high profile in nature.
  • Represents the Department of Education (DOE) in Education Law 3020-A proceedings and hearings pursuant to Section 75 of the Civil Service Law.
  • Provides legal counsel and training to Superintendents and Principals on disciplinary procedures.
  • Acts as a liaison to executives within the agency and to other City agencies.

Qualification Requirements:

Minimum

Admission to the New York State Bar and three (3) years of progressively responsible United States legal experience subsequent to admission to any state bar.

NOTE: Selected candidates must remain members of the New York State Bar in good standing for the duration of their employment.

Preferred

  • Minimum three (3) years litigation experience.
  • Ability to rapidly understand provisions of applicable laws and regulations.
  • Ability to write clearly and concisely.
  • Ability to conduct legal research efficiently.

 Salary: $85,000+

Applicants must submit a cover letter and resume to be considered for this position.

Resumes will be reviewed on an ongoing basis. We encourage applicants to apply as soon as possible.
  
NOTE: The filling of all positions is subject to budget availability and/or grant funding.

AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER
It is the policy of the Department of Education of the City of New York to provide educational and employment opportunities without regard to race, color, religion, creed, ethnicity, national origin, alienage, citizenship status, age, marital status, partnership status, disability, sexual orientation, gender (sex), military status, prior record of arrest or conviction (except as permitted by law), predisposing genetic characteristics, or status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual offenses and stalking, and to maintain an environment free of harassment on any of the above-noted grounds, including sexual harassment or retaliation.  Inquiries regarding compliance with this equal opportunity policy may be directed to: Office of Equal Opportunity, 65 Court Street, Room 1102, Brooklyn, New York 11201, or visit the OEO website at http://schools.nyc.gov/OEO
Job Location
NEW YORK, New York, United States
Position Type
Full-Time/Regular

Each NYC Department of Education Attorney assigned to a 3020-a arbitration case is under the Office of General Counsel and must abide by the rules and the mandate of the Administrative Trials Unit ("ATU" - Laura Brantley, Director, and, rumor has it,  Karen Antoine, Deputy Director) or the Teacher Performance Unit ("TPU" - Naeemah Lamont, Director and Dennis Da Costa,


Deputy Director) to terminate the person charged, no matter what the charges are. They change the rules to fit their whim-of-the-day, as they can.


Gotcha Squad Attorney Ian Nikol (on the left)
And one of the denial of rights for all charged UFT members of the DOE in New York City can be seen in the fact that no charged, tenured teacher may assist in choosing his/her arbitrator, as mandated by the NYS Commissioner's Regulations and Education Law 3020-a(3)(a)(b). NYSUT and the DOE did away with that right, leaving the appointment of arbitrators to the attorneys in the Gotcha Squad TPU or ATU. This is one reason why anyone falsely accused and found guilty of any specification must file (within 10-days) an Appeal (Article 75). This is why I filed a Freedom of Information request to New York State for all the vouchers of the Arbitrators, to show that the TPU and ATU have to reach out to lawyers in Chicago (i.e. Doyle O'Connor, in my opinion the worst arbitrator on the NYC panel). NY State Ed Department (NYSED) pays for the daily rate in hearing days and study time, but the NY City DOE pays for the travel. The DOE maintains their control over the arbitrator this way.

If a Principal is charged with 3020-a, he/she may, with his/her CSA Attorney, choose an arbitrator. We did, in the cases where a Principal hired me and one of my attorneys. Outside of New York City when I and/or my services and an Attorney are hired to do 3020-a, we get a list of arbitrators and, with the school district lawyer on the case, mutually agree on a single arbitrator. Not in NYC. The arbitrator is assigned by Dennis Da Costa, Naeemah Lamont (TPU incompetency cases) or Laura Brantley (ATU misconduct cases). Thus if you have ever observed a 3020-a as a member of the public, been charged or have been a legal professional and/or witness at these arbitration hearings, you may have seen the arbitrator give deference to the DOE Attorney on the case. The arbitrator who wants to remain on the permanent panel does what Da Costa, Lamont, or Brantley want them to do, so that they are not fired.

Gotcha Squad Attorneys Naeemah Lamont, Ian Nikol, Rishona Fleishman
In NYC most, not all, of the arbitrators cannot be neutral. But cases can still be won on the defense. A strong defense, where all the school's violations of law and procedure are put on the table, can win the case. If the Respondent wants to Appeal - and I believe that all charged educators must Appeal - the Appeal is imbedded in the transcripts and the 60+-page closing argument.

I have seen this at work many times, and the "persuasion" techniques used by Da Costa are reprehensible. In one case, the Arbitrator found a science teacher guilty of such minor charges that she gave the teacher a small fine and wrote in her decision that the teacher must return to her position at the school she had been teaching in. The TPU told the arbitrator after the decision had been sent out to all parties that there had to be another hearing. The Arbitrator travelled from Maryland and we went, only to hear Dennis Da Costa scream at this arbitrator that she had to modify her decision, as no teacher found guilty of anything can return to the school at which she was charged. The arbitrator agreed to remove that part from her Award, the teacher was made an ATR, and the Arbitrator left, humbled and disgusted with the attack of Da Costa (my opinion).


Shareema Abel
This post is about the behavior of one very strange former DOE attorney/prosecutor, Attorney Shareema Abel. She was an Attorney assigned to the TPU when I observed her at several 3020-a proceedings, one of which I was hired to be the paralegal. More about her career is below.

In the case I worked on, Respondent teacher was a UFT delegate in addition to her position as a full time teacher who had never been disciplined in 3020-a before she received charges in 2013 for incompetency. The case was not ripe for arbitration, because when the hearing started, the Principal who had charged her, Angela Whitehurst of MS334, had resigned, under charges that  she - Principal Whitehurst - had altered records. When we received the discovery documents, and the Appeal of the Respondent's U-rating to the Office of Appeals and Reviews (OAR), we - I and the Attorney - noticed that almost all the documents were not signed, by anyone.

My client said that she had not been able to see her file for almost 4 years, and had not been given a copy of the observations nor had she been asked to sign all but one. Principal Whitehurst, in her testimony, said that she destroyed all files and papers in her office when she was found guilty of wrongdoing, resigned, and became Principal of National Heritage Academies, a Charter School.

We submitted a Motion To Remove Unsigned Documents From The Record based upon the UFT Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) Article 21:

" ARTICLE TWENTY-ONE: DUE PROCESS AND REVIEW PROCEDURES in the CBA states:

A. (1) "No material derogatory to a teacher's conduct, service, character or personality shall be placed in the [teacher] files unless the teacher has had an opportunity to read the material. The teacher shall acknowledge that he/she has read such material by affixing his/her signature on the actual copy to be filed, with the understanding that such signature merely signifies that he/she has read the material to be filed and does not necessarily indicate agreement with its content."
Almost immediately after Attorney Barrett gave the Arbitrator, Richard Williams, and Ms. Abel a copy of the Motion, Ms. Abel started acting in a strange way. Ms. Abel crumpled her copy of the Motion into as tiny a ball as she could make, and sat on it. Then a few minutes later she stuck her tongue out at me, and kept it out for as long as she could. About half an hour later Ms. Abel I guess saw me looking at her and she started saying "oh, I'm so beautiful, I'm so gorgeous...." while she wiped her forehead, her cheeks, her chin, over and over, as if to wipe something off of her face that was dirty or something. Attorney Barrett saw her wiping her face at the same time I did, and asked me what she was doing. We never figured this out.

When Ms. Abel started her cross-examination of my client she stood up, walked around the table, and stood right next to my client so that my client had to look up from her seat while answering the questions. Mr. Barrett asked the Arbitrator if he would tell Ms. Abel to sit down, and he did, but Ms. Abel would not move. So, Mr. Barrett stood between Ms. Abel and the client. The arbitrator told everyone that he would not allow any disruptive behavior in his hearing, so he asked everyone to sit down.

We won the case:

Decision of Arbitrator Williams:

 "The school administrations lack of compliance with the UFT MOA provisions on "due process" 
and ''teacher files" in this matter is simply astonishing and serves as credibility "dark cloud" over the entire proceeding against this Respondent....When a teacher is denied the right to view their own personnel file, they are essentially denied notice and the opportunity to be heard; when documents appear from an employer that set forth performance deficiencies in writing (electronic or otherwise) but contrary to express language in the MOA, no signature appears from a teacher acknowledging the document was shown to them, that teacher was denied notice and the opportunity to be heard; when an administrator testifies they spoke with a teacher concerning performance deficiencies that were noted during an observation but the teacher denies that either observations or discussions took place, and neither the administrations' written notations of those observations nor any other corroborative evidence of the observations or discussion is produced, and where there is no written acknowledgement of receipt, the conclusion that the teacher was denied proper notice and the opportunity to be heard is the more plausible conclusion...It is also true however, that in a disciplinary context, the failure to provide a teacher with the protective rights to which they are entitled pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement, will negatively affect any disciplinary action brought in contravention of those rights. As stated earlier, the failures related to the availability and maintenance of teacher files and the failures related to "lesson specific" pre-observation meetings in the context of Formal Observations, negatively affect the 'just cause" of certain specifications within this disciplinary action."

Within a week or two, Shareema Abel was gone from the NYC TPU/ATU Offices, and moved to Governor Cuomo's Office as special counsel to the Commissioner for Ethics, Risk and Compliance for Homes and Community Renewal. In my opinion, Shareema Abel should not be in that office. Not from what I saw at 49-51 Chambers Street, 6th Floor.

Betsy Combier
betsy.combier@gmail.com
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, Parentadvocates.org
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NY Public Voice



Shareema Abel
Shareema Abel (formerly Gadson-Shaw) is a 1996 Harpur College graduate. She received her JD from Hofstra University School of Law in 1999, where she was a member of the Labor and Employment Law Journal and the Trial Team. Shareema was appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as special counsel to the Commissioner for Ethics, Risk and Compliance for Homes and Community Renewal. She served as litigation attorney in the Teacher Performance Unit of the New York City Department of Education, where she was lead counsel on disciplinary hearings of tenured pedagogues. Formerly, she was an Assistant District Attorney for the Bronx District Attorney's Office. During her ten years at the District Attorney's Office she served as lead trial counsel on violent felony cases including homicide, robbery, burglary, and serious physical injury assault. Shareema also served as an Adjunct Professor at Hofstra University School of Law in the field of trial advocacy. She has been an instructor for the National Institute of Trial Techniques since 2004 and currently teaches the Building Trial Skills and Deposition Skills programs in Berkeley, San Diego and San Francisco, California.
Shareema Abel has been appointed Special Counsel to the Commissioner for Ethics, Risk and Compliance for Homes and Community Renewal. She currently serves as Litigation Attorney in the Teacher Performance Unit of the New York City Department of Education, where she was lead counsel on disciplinary hearings of tenured pedagogues. She previously served as an Assistant District Attorney in Gangs/Major Case/Homicide Bureau of the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office. Ms. Abel has a J.D. from Hofstra University School of Law and a B.A. from Binghamton University. 
LINKEDIN:







"Special Counsel for Ethics, Risk and Compliance

New York State
 – Present (1 year)New York City
As a gubernatorial appointee, I operate from within NYS Homes and Community Renewal to identify risk, areas of improvement and mitigation for identified risks. Review Agency initiatives and programs to identify risks and opportunities, ensure high ethical standards, track issues that affect significant agency operations and recommend risk-mitigation measures. Identify and prioritize training needs for Agency personnel. Address risk centered personnel issues with unionized employees. Work collaboratively with the agency's Commissioner, General Counsel, Internal Control Officer, Internal Audit Officer, Executive Level Management and others who have risk responsibilities within the agency to effectuate implementation of risk mitigation measures. Work as a team with Special Counsels in other State agencies, and liaise to ensure development and standardization of best practices across NYS agencies. Develop a State-wide system to manage identified risk and ensure compliance, develop and streamline risk-reduction measures across agencies, with particular focus on reducing fraud and abuse." 



    From me to the Governor:

Governor Cuomo: you must be kidding.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Carmen Farina Purging Strategy - Teachers, Parents, Children. Anyone Who Gets in Her Way

Carmen Farina
The news story posted below is a big yawn.


Carmen has been talking about 'bad' teachers and how she is getting rid of them since I first met her at PS 6 in 1997.

How does she do it? She harasses people she doesn't like so that they resign, transfer, move out of State, retire, anything. Carmen, in my opinion, is obsessive about success. I saw her scrubbing grades, giving the smartest kids double time on standardized tests so that PS 6 test results were the best and getting bester. She hates to be wrong or to fail at what she has set her heart to do, and if you get in her way, watch out.  I know. I did.
angry Carmen Farina
One of my fondest memories was, after I asked questions about where the $225,000 in arts money was, that she had control over but was not given to arts programs at PS 6 and our sister school PS 198, Carmen was removed from PS 6 in 2001.

Then I decided to run for PTA President against extremely unpopular Corporation Counsel Attorney and parent, Jane Gordon. We had a PTA meeting in the PS 6 auditorium so that Jane and I could discuss our platforms, and as I started to give my 'campaign speech', the door in the back of the auditorium opened, and at first I didnt know who the woman was who was screaming about me  and my "maligning her name". But as this woman got down to the front row of seats and sat down with her arms crossed and pouted as if she was a member of the kindergarten who was not allowed to have any cookies at recess, I realized it was Carmen. There was a silence in the room for several seconds....minutes? Until I said, "any questions?"...ready to have Carmen stand up and shout horrible things at me. She didnt. Jane won, then was removed by her own PTA Board mid-year. They hated her.

The attack on you will be deliberate, mean, and long. She wont give up until she has you in her crosshair and the arrows ready to shoot.

Being afraid of Carmen shouldnt be in your playbook. She thinks she is scary, but she is instead a grandmother trying to make chocolate cake out of vanilla beans.

Always tell the truth.

Betsy Combier
betsy.combier@gmail.com
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, Parentadvocates.org
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice

The Fariña method of purging bad teachers

Carmen Fariña has been talking a lot about bad teachers recently.
The schools chancellor, who defined her first year on the job as a mission to restore “joy” and “respect” to the classroom, has, of late, been encouraging hundreds of city principals to identify and get rid of their weakest teachers.
“The teachers who are not up to the job, you’ve got to get them out the door,” Fariña said to a large group of high school principals at a conference in late February.
“Who are the teachers, if you had this wonderful grandchild, you would not want to see your grandchild in that teachers’ classroom,” Fariña told an audience of elementary school principals a few days earlier.
In an interview with Capital last week, Fariña said asking principals to weed out their weakest teachers has been her “first statement when I get into any school visit. ... I repeat it over and over again."
Removing ineffective teachers has been one of the Department of Education’s most intractable problems, and decades of mayors and chancellors have advanced their own reforms on how to get it done with the looming presence of the United Federation of Teachers.
Fariña has repeatedly said she believes new provisions in the U.F.T. contract will help get weak teachers out of the classroom, including moving teachers out of the Absent Teacher Reserve (A.T.R.), a controversial pool of teachers who have been removed from the classroom but remain on the payroll. Separately, the U.F.T. contract includes a new definition of sexual misconduct aimed at getting potentially dangerous teachers fired.
She’s also repeatedly reminded principals that teachers with two “ineffective” ratings can be removed from teaching more quickly.
But she’s also been promoting her own tried and true method for getting rid of bad teachers—relentless monitoring of problem teachers and rounds of conversations convincing teachers they are in the wrong profession. The desired result is settling on inventive alternatives for teachers willing to be cajoled, or forcing out the ones who aren't.
"There is an opportunity to leave gracefully or not so gracefully," Fariña told Capital. 
According to Fariña, and to well-documented Upper East folklore, that method was effective at P.S. 6, the Manhattan school Fariña ran in the 1990s, which has long been considered one of the city’s best public schools.
Now, she’s telling principals it can work for the city’s roughly 1,799 other public schools, too.
“I had three teachers who I went for total removal with,” Fariña told Capital of her tenure at P.S. 6.
She rattled off examples of other teachers for whom she found creative solutions.
She managed to get a six-month suspension for one of her weakest teachers, she remembered, and then won another suspension with a series of letters about the teacher’s performance.
“Then I got her out of the system,” Fariña said.
Another problem teacher struggled with every subject except for science, so Fariña secured her a job as a science teacher at a middle school. And still another teacher was good with children but not moving the needle for them academically, so Fariña convinced her to retire, then hired her back to work two days a week.
Asked to describe the Fariña method for pushing out bad teachers, the chancellor said, “It means you, as an administrator, have to be in that teachers’ classroom on a regular basis, keeping records, taking notes.”
Fariña has appointed a D.O.E. official whose primary role is instructing principals on how to properly write letters about certain teachers to keep in their files.
“I don’t think most ineffective teachers want to fail,” Fariña said, adding that principals should try “being blunt with them and saying ‘we don’t think this is your career.’”
Fariña has brought her P.S. 6 tips and tricks to the chancellorship, picking out struggling teachers during her frequent school visits and advising her principals on how to remove them.
Referencing a recent school visit, Fariña said, “I literally told the principal, ‘I will be back at the end of April, and so-and-so better not be here.’”
Another principal invited Fariña back to her school to show that a teacher Fariña was worried about had recently resigned.
But Fariña’s critics have said that despite her rhetoric, the chancellor has not done enough to ensure that ineffective and dangerous teachers are removed quickly.
"If chancellor Fariña and Mayor de Blasio are serious about getting bad teachers out of city classrooms, there is a simple solution: support Governor [Andrew] Cuomo's proposed education reforms,” Jenny Sedlis, executive director of the group StudentsFirst, one of the administration’s most frequent critics, said in a statement on Monday. “Instead they are bowing to special interest pressures, which is why they need to use empty rhetoric instead of taking real action."
Cuomo has proposed an expedited process for 3020-a cases, the legal forums for teachers accused of ineffectiveness or misconduct to plead their side. The governor has called the 3020-a process "broken." In some instances, a single case can drag on for years and cost tens of thousands of dollars. Of the three teachers she had to force out of the profession, Fariña admitted, “that took a lot of time.”
The new U.F.T. contract does not contain any substantive changes to the 3020-a process. 
Reform and pro-charter groups have accused the administration of being too accommodating of the U.F.T.; Fariña insisted the union was not interfering with her plans for firing ineffective teachers. “We have worked very collaboratively with the U.F.T.,” she said, adding, “If I’m getting pushback from the U.F.T. [on individual teachers] I or someone on my team is going to get involved.”
“We know that our relationship is partners when necessary, adversaries when necessary,” she said of the union.
At the three recent conferences, Fariña plied principals with some creative ways of moving weak teachers into new roles. “For those of you who are at large middle schools, consider giving up a full-time teaching position, and get a part-time reading specialist or specialist on organizational skills,” she said.
Fariña asked principals to play to teachers’ strengths, and suggested one way to get inventive with U.F.T. work rules. “Teachers have to work six hours and twenty minutes, but no one says what those hours have to be,” she told the middle school principals. “If you have teachers that are particularly good at helping struggling kids, having some of them come in earlier for the kids start their school day and having them leave earlier is perfectly okay.” Fariña added that she had five teachers use flexible scheduling at P.S. 6.
But she has been blunt about the end goal. Speaking before elementary school principals in February, she said, “we’re working very hard to make sure that two “ineffectives” in a row move teachers in a different direction. But it's your paperwork that’s going to make that happen, because you don’t want to say five years from now ‘I wish I had done that then.’”

Friday, April 22, 2016

Suspensions Fall In Number, But a Lack of Discipline Brings Problems: the Real Story Behind John Adams High School

Senator Joseph Addabbo and Daniel Scanlon, Principal of John Adams High School

Daniel Scanlon, Principal of John Adams High School, is an example of a principal hired to close the school. Interestingly, on his Linkedin page he does not list his JD degree from Fordham University. One of the very first things he did a month after becoming principal was to charge the Dean/math teacher with incompetency and get him into a 3020-a to be terminated.

Here is Scanlon's testimony (3-26-2014) at the 3020-a of the Dean as to why he became principal of JAHS:

"A. It meant that it was on the list of
4 schools that the DOE had identified as not having the
5 students succeed. And as part of the turnaround
6 process, the principal was to be replaced and
7 interviews were to be held with staff members when
8 they reapplied for the positions. The idea was that
9 the old school was going to be done away with and a
10 new school created in its place. The new school was
11 supposed to be called, I believe, Future Leaders High
12 School."

This Dean/math teacher was considered the best Dean any school could ever have. This made no sense. Except if you know how the "DOE coverup to close schools" works - the process known as "Turnaround Schools" (now also called "Out of Time" schools) is a scam in New York City. The media assists the NYC DOE in publicizing all the efforts by Principals to turn around a school (when indeed the opposite is true, all covered up), and comes up with the school is beyond help, and all the teachers are excessed, but may apply to be re-hired. Dont you see that this is the goal, not improving the school?
Breina Lampert

A symptom of this cancerous process is to alter testing data, numbers of special education students, and any other hard data about the performance of any person, adult or child, within the walls of the school building. See the article posted below about Assistant Principal Breina Lampert altering Regents tests.

Parents are pawns in this scam. Senator Addabbo outlined in 2011 what was happening and put a stop to the closure of JAHS until this year. Teachers at John Adams were recently told to apply to be re-hired when the school closes.

Meanwhile, Scanlon set in motion a coverup of how he had, and continues to have, no management skills and/or control over the misconduct of students by charging teachers with incompetency or worse.

Patrick Wall, in the article posted here, writes:
"But some teachers argue that principals are declining to give out-of-school suspensions even when the discipline code calls for them because they doubt that department officials will give their approval. Instead, they rely on other consequences or shorter suspensions that typically keep students in school."

I know for a fact that Mr. Wall did not do his research. I assisted in representing students in their Superintendent Suspensions as their representative, for 9 years. At the West 125th Street hearing office I was the only white face there, for at least 7 of those 9 years. No advocacy groups were in attendance to help the parents on the days I was there.

I also research the data and facts behind each and every educator who hires me to do their 3020-a arbitration (the educator Respondent can go pro se and hire me to assist, or hire me and one of the Attorneys I work with, as the legal team). I always ask for the SOHO Reports (redacted from materials given to the attorney) in the Demand for Materials. I enjoy the DOE Attorney fighting to keep these reports out of consideration as evidence. The information gathered is presented to the Arbitrator, and if he/she will not allow the information into evidence, this still goes to an Article 75 Appeal of any arbitration decision. As far as I know, I and my team are the only people who actively seek introduction of all lawsuits, media, wrongdoing by administrators at 3020-a hearings.

The reason why Principals do not report student misconduct via out-of-school Superintendent Suspensions, is that first, student suspensions are reported to the New York State Education Department and are public information. This data can put a school on the VADIR list, which puts data about a school's safety environment out to the public. No principal wants this.

Second, principals get bonuses for charging teachers with student misconduct. See the case of Osman Couey. If a principal charges a teacher with misconduct, the teacher is immediately re-assigned, and then the so-called "investigation" begins, which is not an investigation at all. The agents of doom, OSI, SCI or OEO employees paid to set up the guilt of the teacher, starts and the teacher more often than not is found guilty of the actions lied about by the principal. The bonus: the teacher gets terminated, or becomes an ATR, and is off the payroll of the school. The Principal covers up the misconduct of the student(s), the parents are happy that their child/children are not labelled miscreants, and the issue is closed.

Third, without senior transfers, the only way that teachers can be removed from a school's payroll is by charging the teacher with 3020-a or with discontinuance of probation.

I think if the UFT brings back teacher transfers, we will see not only more accurate data on student suspensions, but more data on special education fraud and less 3020-a charges made up by the system which has no options but to ruin the life and career of a teacher in the name of protecting students out of control. To be continued....

Betsy Combier
betsy.combier@gmail.com
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, Parentadvocates.org
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice


John Adams High School

As New York City’s suspension rate falls, some educators see a parallel dip in discipline

A year after the de Blasio administration revised the discipline code, some schools are still struggling to adapt



From the outside, John Adams High School in Queens looks like a poster child for New York City’s new approach to student discipline.

The number of students given out-of-school suspensions plummeted from 382 in 2011 to just 28 in 2014, according to state records. A new behavior system rewards good deeds with bright green “Rack ‘Em Up” tickets, and fighting results in peer mediation and apology letters. Last year, a group of educators traveled from the Netherlands to observe the system.
 
Breina Lampert
But several teachers at the large Ozone Park school say the changes mask serious and persistent problems with student behavior. During a single week in March, one student was found unconscious on the school’s front steps after using drugs, another student was caught with a marijuana pipe, and several students erupted into a physical altercation in a hallway, according to a school log.

Though such incidents aren’t new or rare at many large high schools, some teachers at John Adams pin the misbehavior partly on recent changes in the city discipline code that restrict the use of suspensions. And as Mayor Bill de Blasio pushes schools to find alternative responses, the teachers say that administrators are increasingly wary about racking up high suspension counts.

At a meeting this week at John Adams, which is under city and state pressure to make major improvements, the school’s union representative told teachers said she believed the principal was not suspending students for serious infractions because “that makes their numbers look bad,” according to an audio recording. But she said the problem goes beyond Adams’ leaders.
Daniel Scanlon

“This is the problem right here: That the regulations are too lenient,” she said, holding up a copy of the city’s revised discipline code. “It does go from parent conferences to expulsion, but it’s never getting to the expulsion stage. It’s never even getting to the suspension stage.”

Such complaints by teachers at John Adams and elsewhere could spell trouble for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s effort to overhaul the way the school system handles misbehavior— a policy shift that must be enacted school by school, by individual educators, and which is already under assault by pro-charter school groups that say traditional schools have become more dangerous under de Blasio.
When the mayor announced the new discipline policies early last year, he insisted that schools could suspend fewer students while remaining safe and orderly. Since then, suspensions have fallen by nearly a third — a trend officials hold up as evidence that the discipline shift is taking root.

But some educators are questioning that narrative.

Teachers at a few schools say their principals won’t give suspensions even when warranted, inviting some students to act out and threatening their peers’ learning and even safety. Meanwhile, the principals union has suggested that the policies diminish principals’ discretion. And the head of the teachers union, the mayor’s staunch ally on most issues, has brought concerns about the policy’s rollout to the schools chancellor.

Even fierce proponents of the policy change worry that schools have not received the necessary support to transform their discipline practices.

“Schools need to stop the over-reliance on punitive discipline,” said Anna Bean, campaign coordinator for Teachers Unite, an educator-led advocacy group that backs the policy changes. “But a lot of schools are definitely struggling with what do we do instead.”

A message from the top

Cities across the country have pivoted away from suspensions and arrests for nonviolent school offenses in recent years, fueled by research showing such “zero-tolerance” policies tend to disproportionately affect students of color and often fail to improve student behavior. While those numbers have been on the decline in New York City for several years, the de Blasio administration has made clear that they must fall even further.

In February 2015, the city revised the discipline code so that principals now need approval before suspending students for insubordination. Out-of-school suspensions are no longer allowed in response to altercations that involve shoving, throwing objects, or spitting. Officials also vowed to restrict the use of suspensions and handcuffs on young children.

But even when the code permits suspensions, principals are said to be under pressure to consider other options. Teachers say that district officials are more frequently rejecting schools’ requests for more serious, out-of-school suspensions, and principals union leaders say schools’ overall suspension figures are under heightened scrutiny.

“There’s a heck of a lot closer attention being paid now to the numbers of suspensions that people are doing,” said Council of School Supervisors and Administrators Executive Vice President Mark Cannizzaro, adding that some principals feel their discretion has been “compromised.” “People are being called out when their numbers are at a point that someone determines as high.”

Advocates and even the union officials say that some oversight is justified, and that alternative responses can work better than suspensions.

But some teachers argue that principals are declining to give out-of-school suspensions even when the discipline code calls for them because they doubt that department officials will give their approval. Instead, they rely on other consequences or shorter suspensions that typically keep students in school.

During a fight at a small high school inside the Christopher Columbus campus in the Bronx last month, a student tried to stab another boy with a pair of scissors, according to a teacher there. The discipline code, which describes scissors as a “category II” weapon, lists an out-of-school suspension as the minimum recommended consequence for an attempted attack with such weapons.

However, the school recorded the incident as reckless behavior, a less serious infraction that allowed for an in-school suspension, according to the teacher. When challenged, the principal told the teacher that the district’s safety official would likely have rejected the request for an out-of-school suspension. Soon after, several teachers filed a safety complaint with their union. (An education department spokeswoman said she could not comment on the incident.)

Christine Montera, a teacher at East Bronx Academy for the Future, a different Bronx school that serves grades 6-12, said she knew of several instances where the district office had denied her school’s request to issue out-of-school suspensions. She doesn’t believe it is fair or effective to suspend students for minor misbehavior, she said, but the new restrictions are creating new discipline problems.

Students get the sense that “if I do something and I didn’t get suspended for it, now I can get away with stuff,” she said. “That sense is spreading.”

Lois Herrera, who heads the city education department’s Office of Safety and Youth Development, said the city does not factor the number of suspensions into principal or school ratings so that schools feel free to use them when appropriate. However, she said that district officials do inquire about the severity of a student’s misbehavior and the school’s other intervention attempts before approving longer suspensions.
“We don’t want an over-reliance on suspensions,” Herrera said, calling that “the old way of doing business and a very punitive way of doing business.”

Seeking support

In place of suspensions, the city is prodding schools to rely more on interventions such as counseling, peer mediation, and behavior contracts, which officials and advocates say are more effective at preventing misbehavior and treating its root causes.

But there’s a catch: those practices demand more time and training. Instead of just sending students to the office, a “restorative” approach calls for staffers to help students analyze poor decisions, develop a bank of better choices, and apologize for harm they’ve caused.

Teachers at several schools said they have yet to receive training or to see school-wide systems of interventions and consequences to replace suspensions. Citywide, only a subset of schools has received training on restorative practices.

Many teachers at Lehman High School in the Bronx are uncertain about how to respond to serious behavior problems in light of the policy changes, said math teacher and union representative Jeffrey Greenberg. Staffers at the low-performing school were told to give lists of students who require emotional or academic support to the school’s nonprofit partner, but they are less sure what to do when students break rules during class that previously would have triggered a call to the dean and a suspension.

“In the old days, the kid would cross the line and [the administration] would take care of it,” he said. Now, “the line is not really clear.”

Advocates have long called for the city to fund on-site coordinators at schools to oversee the conferences, training, and conflict-resolution classes that well-run alternative discipline systems demand. But only 15 schools have received funding from City Council for those positions, and city officials said they have no plans to significantly expand the number of those coordinators.

At a teachers union meeting in January, 62 percent of the 414 school representatives who participated in a survey said their schools do not have enough staffers to intervene when students misbehave, and 80 percent said misbehavior was disrupting learning at their schools, according to a union report.

Teachers union President Michael Mulgrew (center) has raised concerns with Chancellor Carmen Fariña (right) about principals who have nearly abandoned suspensions, as well as there being too little teacher training as schools transition to alternative discipline systems.

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew has relayed concerns to Chancellor Carmen Fariña about principals who have nearly abandoned suspensions, as well as there being too little teacher training as schools transition to alternative systems.

“What are you going to do differently to make sure this important work is getting done,” Mulgrew said in an interview, referring to the education department, “and not just throwing it at schools?”

Department spokeswoman Toya Holness, who noted that crime in schools is down along with suspensions, said the city has funded 250 new guidance counselors over the past two years along with teacher training. The mayor’s preliminary budget in January included $47 million for school discipline initiatives, such as adding mental-health services, full-time social workers, and “culture coordinators” to schools with the highest suspension rates.

“We believe that we are on the right course,” said Herrera, the school safety official, “in terms of moving away from suspensions.”

Growing pains
Where some critics see the pendulum swinging too fast and far away from suspensions, proponents of the change chalk up those concerns to unavoidable growing pains as the country’s largest school system takes a radically different stance on school discipline.

The restrictions on suspensions for insubordination — such as cursing at a teacher or refusing to leave a classroom — have been an especially difficult transition for teachers, some administrators say. The teachers see those incidents as undermining their authority and allowing a student to disrupt learning for an entire group. In such cases, a phone call home or a meeting strikes some teachers as insufficient.

“A common complaint is that kids don’t know consequences,” said Mike Dunson, an assistant principal at Harvest Collegiate High School in Manhattan, which emphasizes restorative practices rather than suspensions. An insubordinate student may eventually face a “fairness” panel made up of students and staff or a mediation, but some teachers would prefer a more immediate, decisive response.
“I ask them what consequences are you talking about,” Dunson said, “and they don’t want to say ‘I mean suspensions,’ but that’s kind of what they mean.”

New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman at a 2014 rally calling for reforms to the city’s school discipline policies.
Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union and a member of a city task force on school safety, said the city must still do “an enormous amount of work” to help schools rely less on suspensions. But she said schools were already making adjustments on account of the policy change.

“A system that is decades in the making, even with the best of intentions and all the resources in the world,” she said, “doesn’t change overnight.”

John Adams’ principal, Daniel Scanlon, did not respond to a request for comment. An education department spokeswoman said that the school administration follows protocol when responding to incidents, and that the department has provided training to help the school use “guidance interventions” and other alternatives to suspension.

Outside the school last week, several students said they generally feel safe at the school and have noticed fewer fights this year. A few teachers said that any large school will have some serious incidents, and that John Adams’ positive-behavior system leaves suspension on the table even as it offers an assortment of other options.

“Every student is an individual, and they have to be dealt with on an individual basis,” said a teacher who gave only her first name, Patricia. “And I think our faculty and our staff and our administration do very well with that.”

Comment








This reminds me of the story about the king not wearing any clothes. Suspensions are not only about the suspended student. Suspensions are to demonstrate to the other students and staff that there are consequences for dangerous and undisciplined behavior. Suspensions are also supposed to demonstrate that education and safety are the priorities in the schools. When students who disrupt the educational process, instill fear in students and staff, create an unsafe environment, are violent, sell illegal substances to the other students, etc. are not removed, chaos will ensue. When the rest of the school population understands that there are no consequences for violence, uncouth behavior, weapons, fights, selling drugs, threats, etc schools become inhumane and the children who attend school to learn end up suffering the most. Does anyone care about the students who attend school to learn? I find it sad and disgraceful that I even have to ask that question. I do not need a crystal ball to predict that discipline in the NYC schools will only get worse.








    Amendments to Student Safety Act Are a Win for School Discipline and Student Well-being
    LINK
    September 29, 2015 — The New York City Council is set to pass a set of sweeping reforms to the Student Safety Act that will result in increased data reporting on school discipline practices and their impact on our city’s children. The amendments will require, for the first time, reporting by both the NYPD and the Department of Education on the use of metal detectors, handcuffs and restraints in city schools.

    “Amending the Student Safety Act is an important step toward fair, safe and nurturing school environments for all of the city’s schoolchildren,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “Complete data transparency on school discipline and law enforcement practices is essential to evaluate current policies, 

    end unacceptable racial disparities, support kids with special needs, and ensure 

    that all children are treated with respect and dignity. No child should end up in the police precinct when what they really need is help from a guidance counselor or social worker.”

    For years, schoolchildren in New York City have been subject to overly aggressive practices by police in their schools. There are more police personnel in New York City public schools than there are on the streets of almost every major city in the United States. The NYPD admits its school safety officers, who are not trained as educators, use restraints and handcuffs on kids as young as 5-years-old. Moreover, over 100,000 students in the city are estimated to walk through metal detectors to enter school every day.

    The Student Safety Act, passed in 2011, addresses the lack of transparency about many overly aggressive disciplinary tactics. The Act requires quarterly reporting by the Department of Education and NYPD to the City Council on school safety and disciplinary issues, including incidents involving arrests and suspensions of students. It provides the public with raw data to study the impact of disciplinary practices and, since its enactment, has lead directly to the adoption of more effective alternatives.

    The amendments passed today will further increase transparency by closing loopholes in the Student Safety Act and improve public disclosure of comprehensive data on school suspensions and law enforcement activity in schools, including:
    The use of permanent and roving metal detectors;
    The use of handcuffs on students;
    Inappropriate use of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) for behavior and discipline-related incidents;
    Students who are repeatedly suspended in the same school year;
    Arrests and summonses issued by all NYPD personnel; and
    Schools that suspend zero students.

    All changes are set to take effect January 1, 2016.

    Since 2007, the NYCLU has published four major investigations of school discipline, documenting the disparate impact of zero tolerance and street policing tactics on children of color and those with special needs. The NYCLU also filed a federal class-action lawsuit on behalf of middle and high school students who were physically abused and wrongfully arrested at school by NYPD personnel. Currently, NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman is part of Mayor de Blasio’s Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline, which in July released a report that provided a roadmap to improving school climate while minimizing the use of suspensions, arrests, summonses and other excessively harsh discipline practices.

    “Today’s amendments build upon the reforms advocated by the New York Civil Liberties Union for nearly a decade that aim to make schools safer, more supportive learning environments for the city’s most vulnerable children,” said NYCLU Advocacy Director Johanna Miller. “We look forward to continuing our advocacy on behalf of New York’s 1 million school children, and our work with Mayor de Blasio’s Leadership Team. Today the City Council, the Mayor and advocates are working together to end the criminalization of school discipline, and promoting positive alternatives to keep kids in school.”
    Related Pages: 
    Testimony Regarding the Student Safety Act
    The School to Prison Pipeline: The Student Safety Act



    Assistant principal ‘helped’ students cheat on Regents

    During the Regents exam in August 2014, Breina Lampert, John Adams’ assistant principal for English as a Second Language, and ESL teacher Solomon Choudhury entered Room 249 while students were taking the test under the supervision of proctors, the letter said.

    The two stayed in the room for about 90 minutes, a witness who spoke to The Post confirmed.

    Afterward, a report listing how each student answered the multiple-choice questions showed that almost everyone in the room got No. 17 wrong — but nearly all the other answers right, the witness confirmed.

    “It’s a good thing that Mrs. Lampert came to our room to help us,” one student was overheard telling another, the whistleblower wrote.

    Then-assistant principal for security Adam Landman reported the apparent breach of protocol to principal Daniel Scanlon, who “chose to ignore” it, the whistleblower said.

    Instead, the principal transferred Landman to supervise an annex for ninth-graders several miles away.

    John Adams teachers reportedly scored the exams, despite rules forbidding teachers to grade tests from their own schools.

    In the second incident last January, students sitting closely in overcrowded English exam rooms shared answers, the whistleblower wrote. This time, outside graders noted “too many similarities” and refused to count the scores. Students had to retake the exam in June.

    This month, Lampert took 60 to 70 students — in summer school because of failing grades — on a bus trip into Manhattan to see Tom Cruise’s latest “Mission: Impossible” flick, a staffer said.

    DOE spokeswoman Devora Kaye would not answer any questions but said the alleged test tampering is under investigation.

    Lampert and Scanlon could not be reached for comment.